Monday, April 24, 2017

Something bugging you?

I’m neither a bug-lover nor a bug-hater.

Other than bedbugs – toward which I harbor both fear and loathing – most bugs don’t bother me all that much. Not that I’m St. Francis of Assisi all over them, mind you. No reverence for all living creatures and all that. I crush any silverfish I see in the bathroom and flush the remains down the toilet. I own (and know how to use) a flyswatter. I step on ants that I see indoors. If I spotted a cockroach, I would be setting off Raid bombs. But I don’t go nuts at the sight of an insect. Nonetheless, in terms of animal sympathy, mine lies with those further up the sentience scale. I would not, for instance, step on a dog or a bonobo. Instead, I would engage with them.

And, hey, I actively like fireflies and ladybugs.

Anyway, even if I had been a STEM type of gal, I wouldn’t have been drawn to a career in entomology. Fortunately, there are people who are drawn to the profession which, if you’re a public entomologist like Gale Ridge, who works for the state of Connecticut, is a lot more varied a job than collecting insects and labeling the jars you house them in.

Her clients enter [her lab] brandishing pill bottles, jam jars, and Tupperware containing roaches and weevils, meal moths and fabric moths, bedbugs and stinkbugs. Tiny mangled spiders come in on bits of Scotch tape; gypsy moth caterpillars by the wriggling bucketful. Some people even send in live beetles by mail: The envelopes arrive empty, with chew marks in the corner.

She has helped gardeners identify the scourges of their crops, she’s guided homeowners through the treacherous terrain of bedbug control, and she’s helped police investigate a murder by examining the maggots found writhing in the victim’s flesh.(Source: Bloomberg)

RIdge has definitely found the right profession. She even has empathy for bedbugs, allowing those from her lab an occasional feed on her blood by sucking on her thigh.

“There is nothing worse or more sad to see than a frustrated bedbug who can’t feed,” she told me when describing one of her experiments.

Well, I can think of just a few things that are worse and sadder than a frustrated bedbug, but I’m perhaps insufficiently kind and empathetic.

In addition to her regular bug-related duties, Ridge spends time as some type of hybrid physician-shrink for those coming her way who believe that their bodies have been invaded, and that they’re being eaten alive, by bugs:

She labels these cases DP, short for delusional parasitosis. Some entomologists prefer Ekbom syndrome, because it carries less stigma. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which most psychiatrists use, the condition is listed as one kind of delusional disorder, defined as an unshakeable belief that you are being attacked by bugs or parasites even when there is no evidence of infestation.

“Patients” Ridge has seen have gone to extremes to get rid of what’s bugging them. One fellow bathed in insecticide.

The folks who come to Ridge have already seen their doctor and a dermatologist. When they’re told that they need a psychiatrist, they take exception.

The patients believe that the proper medication is not an antipsychotic but an antiparasitic, that the correct expert is not a psychiatrist but an insect specialist.

For her own part, Ridge sees up to 200 cases a year, which seems really incredible to me. And she’s not alone.

“Every state has somebody like Gale or me,” said Nancy Hinkle, a professor of veterinary entomology at the University of Georgia, in Athens. She estimates that these inquiries take up about 20 percent of her time. “I tend to stay a couple of hours every day to deal with the invisible bugs.”

Countrywide, the number of cases is growing, and Ridge is collaborating on an initiative to come up diagnostic guidelines. Most, she’s trying “to prevent people’s lives from unraveling.”

I have a tiny bit of an idea what that unraveling might be like.

On a trip to NYC about five years ago, my husband and I both got what looked like a bedbug bite, which is distinguished by a three red dots pattern. We were pretty sure we were bitten at a weirdly charming but rundown little French bistro that we went to on each NYC trip. Not only were the menu and d├ęcor completely old school, they had a pianist playing Broadway show tunes, and the average age of the diners made us look like kids. (I just googled, and it closed about a year ago. Maybe the last regular patron passed on to the great French bistro in the sky.)

Anyway, for weeks after we returned home – with no signs of bedbugs in our luggage or on our clothing – I lived in complete fear that we were being infested. I bought some sort of natural anti-bedbug treatment. I bought a bedbug detector. I tossed and turned and regularly got out of bed in the wee small hours to toss and turn the mattress for signs that we had bedbugs. The fear of bedbug infestation didn’t bug my husband. What bugged him was my obsession. I finally went out and bought new pillows, anti-bedbug pillow cases, and an anti-bedbug mattress cover. Only then could I sleep.

So while I don’t exactly have DP, I do get the obsession with bugs.

Fortunately, there are entomologists out there to help DP sufferers, even if they can’t do much for them except get them to start taking anti-psychotics. Fortunately, there’s an anti-psychotic that one study shows is also an anti-parasitic. This gets some of the DP-ers to take a drug for what’s bugging them without having to acknowledge that they have a psychiatric disorder.

Me, I bet that there’s a reasonably good chance that at some point they’ll find that there really are teenie tiny parasites that are too miniscule to be identified with today’s microscopes.

Meanwhile, how’s entomologist for an interesting occupation?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Humans 1, IoT 0

Juicero is a heftily-backed little company that makes something called a juice machine. Well, I’ve got a blender, and that’s juice machine enough for me. But my blender is not part of the Internet of Things (IoT), so there’s obviously a lot I’m missing out on. My blender, however, does a number of handy things, like chop, whip, and  puree. And since I have neither the need nor the desire to order it around when I’m not in its presence, I guess I’m good with my old-fashioned blender. Plus when I want juice, mostly what I do is go to the fridge and take out whatever juice I have at the moment, which is apt to be orange, or grape, or apple, or cranberry.

But the Juicero juice machine, which costs $400 (over $300 more than the cost of my blender), is not just about any old juice. It’s a transformative device, and what it transforms (by squeezing) are:

…single-serving packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into a refreshing and healthy beverage. (Source: Bloomberg).

Well, refreshing and healthy both sound good. But why does it need it to be part of the good old I of T? Glad that you asked that question. The Juicero is all connected up so that it can read the code on the single-serving packet, check it against an online database, and let you know if the contents have expired or been recalled. Golly, that’s a swell idea. How many times have you looked up and down to find the expiration date on something? They print those in the damnedest places. But here’s Juicero, thinking outside of the juice box so that they can give us a head’s up that our chopped fruits and vegetables are expired and, thus, might not be as refreshing and healthy as one might have desired. Or as Gwyneth Paltrow might have desired, since, it will come as no surprise, she’s a big fan of Juicero founder Doug Evans, who prior to Juicero owned of a chain of juice bars that sold cold-pressed juice. In glass jars, natch.

Anyway, what Juicero does is provide consumers with a weekly supply of bags full of triple-washed and chopped fruits and veggies. (According to their web site, “each plant has a specific chop.” Gwyneth, I’m quite sure, would approve.) Consumers run it through the Juicero squeeze box, and voila: a glass full of cold and healthy.

Juicero has been dubbed the Keurig of juice, and that’s a subscription, razor/razorblade model that investors like. In the case of Juicero, investors including Google’s VC wing and Kleiner Perkins put $120M into the company.

But after the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands.

And you can squeeze your bags faster than the Juicero machine, although with a small loss of yield.

Reporters were able to wring 7.5 ounces of juice in a minute and a half. The machine yielded 8 ounces in about two minutes.

Sort of like John Henry, the steel-driving man who beat the steam-powered hammer. Except that John Henry died in the process, and squeezers presumably live to enjoy their cuppa.

Juicero maintains that its customers “prefer to use the machine because the process is more consistent and less messy.” Four hundred dollars worth of consistency and less mess. Okay. And don’t forget the IoT.

Founder Evans has:

…likened his work to the invention of a mainstream personal computer by Apple’s Jobs. “There are 400 custom parts in here,” Evans told Recode. “There’s a scanner; there’s a microprocessor; there’s a wireless chip, wireless antenna.”

400 custom parts – a buck per part! The human hand has only 29 bones and 34 muscles. Even times two, that’s a lot fewer parts than the Juicero has. So you’d think that the Juicero would go a little faster, wouldn’t you? (As for that comparison to the invention of the mainstream PC? RFLMAO. Or am I just suffering from a paucity of imagination in that I can’t see a future in which almost every home has an IoT juicer in it?)

Anyway:

Juicero didn’t broadly disclose to investors or employees that packs can be hand squeezed, said four people with knowledge of the matter.

Apparently none of them thought to try it for themselves. So some of them are a bit teed off.

Me? I’m with Kurt Jetta,

…who runs retail and consumer data firm Tabs Analytics. “Entrepreneurs may be tempted to have a technology angle when it’s not really there.”

Technology in search of a problem to solve, anyone?

Meanwhile, the product – the packs cost $5 to $8, which seems like a lot for a glass of juice, even before you factor in the machine cost (and they won’t sell you the packs if you don’t buy a juicer) – is only available in 17 states, none of which is Massachusetts.

Packs can’t be shipped long distances because the contents are perishable.

Now that’s what I call a flaw in the model.

Anyway, for $400, plus the cost of the packets, I could have had a V-8. A lot of them.

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A Pink Slip squeeze of affection to my sister Trish for pointing this story my way, and for suggesting the title.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Career derailment

Yesterday was a big news day for career derailment.

Annie Dookhan is/was a chemist. Oh, she’ll probably never work as a chemist again, not after her terrible stint working in a Massachusetts state lab that police departments and prosecutors relied on to test drugs. Unfortunately, Dookhan didn’t test all the drugs she claimed she had, sometimes substituting visual inspection for an actual lab test. Which doesn’t work all that well. Didn’t folks used to get duped into buying oregano thinking it was pot? But, hey, that powdered sugar could be cocaine.

Sometimes Dookhan forged her co-workers’ initials on forms. And sometimes she tried to cover up her activities by mixing drug samples.

For her troubles, Dookhan spent a couple of years in prison. (She was paroled last spring.) And prosecutors, it was announced yesterday, got to throw out 20,000 cases that relied on evidence that Annie Dookhan had her hand in on.

Of course, Dookhan derailed her career a number of years back, but yesterday’s announcement isn’t going to get it back on the right track any time soon.

It’s not clear what motivated Dookhan. Was she trying to get dealers off the street, whether they were dealing or not? Did she want gold stars and brownie points for getting her work done more speedily than her colleagues? Was she bored on the job? Or was it nothing to do with motivation and everything to do with mental illness?

In any case, it’s doubtful that Dookhan will ever work again at what had been her profession for more than a dozen years.

Former Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez was also in the news yesterday. On a day when a number of his former teammates were at the White House celebrating their Super Bowl win, Hernandez – who had been serving life without parole for murder – hung himself in his cell.

Last week, a jury failed to find Hernandez guilty of two counts of murder. It’s not that there’s all that much doubt that he was involved in those murders. It’s just that the state’s prime witness was a thug who struck a deal. The prosecutors might as well have been presenting evidence worked on by Annie Dookhan.

Anyway, it can be argued that Hernandez’ career was on the way to derailment early on, as he’d been in plenty of capital-T Trouble since he was a star athlete in college. But it began to serious derail in June 2013 when, shortly after signing a $40M contract with the Pats, he was arrested for what turned out to be murder #3. Speculation is that Odin Lloyd was killed because he knew that Hernandez was responsible for the deaths of those two other men.

Aaron Hernandez is now dead and gone, and while this is mostly a case of sigh of relief and good riddance, he added a complication – or was it an F-U? - on the way out the cell door. In Massachusetts, if you die while your conviction is being appealed (as his was for the Lloyd murder), you go back to “innocent until proven guilty status.” Because of this, the families of his victims will have a hard time pressing civil suits against his estate. I suspect that, given the two trials Hernandez had gone through, most of that estate is already in his attorneys’ hands. Still…

Some commenters argue that Hernandez, knowing about this quirk in the law, killed himself so that his family would get whatever’s left behind. I doubt that he was that smart, as there’s been not a scintilla of evidence that he had any intelligence whatsoever. I’d put my money on his realization that he really was in the stir for life and just couldn’t take it.

(The big excuse for Hernandez’ throwing away a lucrative career and opting for the thug, gang-banger life instead, is that his father died when he was a teenager. Yep. That’s plenty awful, plenty sad. But just off the top of my head, I can think of four people I know and love – my husband (11 years old), my father (11 years old), and my brothers (15 and 18) – who also lost their fathers young and who didn’t turn out to be punks. Just sayin’ this looks to me like a pretty BS excuse.)

Anyway, Aaron Hernandez is gone, and all that’s left are some remnants of his career: jerseys and autographs that collectors jumped on eBay to sell, now that their presumed value had increased.

Yesterday’s third career derailment story was, of course, that of Bill O’Reilly.

In the face of all those advertisers abandoning the not-so-good ship BillO, Fox decided that he would no longer factor in their network lineup, where he will be replaced by the smarmy and odious Tucker Carlson.

O’Reilly came of age in an era where versions of his office playbook, while never exactly acceptable, were accepted. Sure, O’Reilly’s behavior – given his power – was worse than that of most men. But harassment, crude banter, etc. were widespread. They were objectionable. They were irritating. But women mostly shrugged and figured it was the cost of entry into a man’s world. When Senator Orrin Hatch, during the Clarence Thomas hearings, said that he couldn’t imagine anyone uttering the words “pubic hair” in the workplace, everyone in my workplace just laughed.

But the times have been a changin’, and women no longer put up with this kind of crap.

The downfall of O’Reilly is pretty sweet, given his pious rants about how the world would be a better place if we could just hold the calendar steady at 1952. And his latest book in which, I gather – I certainly haven’t read it/won’t read it – he talks about the importance of gentlemen treating women like ladies.

Sorry, Bill. Old school is out. Forever.

He won’t starve. I’m sure he’ll set up some online presence for his audience. He’ll keep best-selling his books. But he’ll no longer be pontificating on Fox, which would apparently like to expand its audience beyond aging white males.

So. Annie Dookhan. Aaron Hernandez. Bill O’Reilly.

Three pretty good-sized career derailments for one day…

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rx? (Don’t take Taltz if you are allergic to Taltz…)

I am most fortunate in that, even at my great advanced age, I don’t take any prescription drugs. Oh, there’s some ear cream that I use sporadically, but I don’t think it has a real brand name. And it’s certainly not advertised. Maybe there aren’t all that many people plagued by psoriasis of the ear.

But there are plenty of folks with severe plaque psoriasis. At least I’m guessing that’s the case, given all the ads for different drugs for treating plaque psoriasis. (And a lot of the plaque psoriasis sufferers are apparently MSNBC news junkies, because that’s where I see most of the ads…)

Taltz. Humira. Ortezla.

I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that are top of mind.

But whether it’s a plaque psoriasis drug, or something else, I’m always amazed (and alarmed) by all the warnings that come along in the ads. In fact, once the ad is over, I tend to forget what the drug is supposed to treat. Instead I remember the lines like “Don’t take Taltz if you are allergic to Taltz.”

Okay. That sure makes sense.

But who would know whether they’re allergic to Taltz unless they’ve taken Taltz and broken out in hives or whatever?

We’re warned in drug ads about all sorts of bad things that can happen to you.

Tuberculosis. Lymphoma. Pancreatitis (which may prove fatal). Heart failure. Loss of vision or hearing. Suicidal thoughts. (And then there are the minor ones: diarrhea, headache.)

I get that the cure may end you up with some other terrible health problem. Three years ago this Sunday, my closest friend died from complications to a stem cell transplant that was treating a recurrence of lymphoma. Lymphoma which had been likely brought on by the drugs she had taken for years to treat lupus. So, there are tradeoffs, and if you’ve got something god-awful – like severe lupus – then they may well be worth making.

Still, those ads are just so dire.

There are ads that tell you to let your doctor know if you’ve ever been treated for cancer. Or had a liver transplant. I know that people switch physicians all the time, and that medical records don’t necessarily keep up (even when you’re seeing the same doctor, and when everything you’re doing, medical-wise, is within the same healthcare system). But how could you forget to tell your doctor that you’ve had a liver transplant? And if you’ve neglected to tell them, shouldn’t they have seen the scar and asked ‘what up?’

I can’t remember a time when there weren’t ads for OTC medications. (“Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself” was an infamous line in an Anacin (aspirin) ad. It even made it into a novelty song. And, of course,  “I’m not a doctor. I just play one on TV…”)

At some point in the 1980’s, we began to see ads for prescription drugs. Which is actually fairly odd (and somewhat insidious), given that, unlike other items that are advertised direct-to-consumer, we can’t go out and buy what’s being advertised. Prescription drugs aren’t like Ford F-150s or iPhones. We need to ask our doctor to prescribe the drug for us. So all of a sudden, once those ads started popping up, we had patients-as-consumers bugging their doctor to prescribe specific drugs that they wanted to pop.

I’m all for patients advocating for themselves and their loved ones. Doctors don’t know everything – there’s way to much to know – and you certainly have supreme interest in what it is that’s happening to you. Why not suggest avenues of exploration to your doctor?

But requesting branded drugs because you’ve seen them heavily advertised on TV (dire potential consequences or not)… Doctors are already being pressured by the pharma reps. Now they have their patients clamoring for the little purple pill.

Back to all those dire potential consequences…

If you do need to take a prescription medication, you really need to tune out the warnings or you wouldn’t take them.

Other than the one for a certain category of drug.

I’d say it is more than prudent to get medical help right away if you’re a fellow who’s experiencing an erection that’s lasted for more than four hours.

While you’re at it, tell your doctor if you’ve had a liver transplant. And don’t take Taltz if you’re allergic to Taltz.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Got stuff? Got a place to put it?

I always say that, every year, we should all pretend we’re pulling up stakes and use the “let’s pretend” to throw out all the stuff we’d toss if we really were moving.

I always say a lot of things, and this is just one of many that I always say and then proceed to ignore.

When I reno’d my condo in the fall of 2015, I did actually toss most of the stuff I would have thrown out if I were moving. Out went the old massive, mega BTU, energy-inefficient AC that we somehow hung onto when we moved from the carriage house we rented to the condo we owned- you know, the one with central HVAC. That old AC ran on the wrong kind of power – 220? 110? whatever it was, it wasn’t what we were wired for – not to mention that there isn’t a window in here that it would fit in. But hang on we did, for nearly 25 years, letting it take up precious storage space until I had the Brazilian junk hauling guy junk haul it away.

But I wasn’t ruthless enough when I went through things. The closet space that used to be taken up by the AC is now clogged with old PC’s and laptops. It’s on my “this year” list to do something about.

But what will I do with the space that’s freed up?

The plan is to move my Christmas decorations – now in a crawl space that I really do have to crawl into – into a quasi-walk-in closet that I can quasi-walk into. But I don’t plan on acquiring any new stuff to stuff into the crawl space. Stuff I still got plenty of. Or as much as fits into a 1250 square foot condo with limited storage, without making the place look like an episode of Hoarders.

If my footprint is small, I still have a lot of stuff. And even though I’m now hitting the Age of De-Acquisition, I’m like most modern Americans. I like stuff. And sometimes I fantasize that I have a big extra closet somewhere. Or that I have an outside storage unit. Where I could stow Christmas decorations. And things that I don’t exactly need or use, but that I want to hang on to for someday, for posterity, for my sisters and nieces to comb through, swearing under their breaths.

Which I won’t do. Who needs the extra monthly expense? Who needs the stored stuff?

But the storage problem is a real one for urban dwellers. We don’t have attics. We don’t have garages. We don’t have basements. So we either do without stuff (or periodically call in the Brazilian stuff-haulers), or we rent storage units. But some folks are starting to take a closer look at storage. Take NYC, where:

…as self-storage buildings have multiplied across the city, they are drawing increased scrutiny from city officials and community groups who say they take up space that could be used for something more productive. Now the city is proposing to restrict the development of new self-storage buildings in some industrial areas in the boroughs outside Manhattan, as part of a broader strategy to save more land for manufacturing and industry.

New York joins a small but growing number of communities, including San Francisco, Miami, and Charleston, S.C., that have moved to restrict or curb the spread of self-storage buildings, seeking to strike a balance between the demands for more storage with the needs of communities for other things such as jobs, housing, and grocery stores. (NYTimes, via the Boston Globe)

Self-storage is a relatively young industry, having started out in the 1960’s, when, I guess people became more mobile, and, I guess, had more discretionary money to spend on stuff.

People just didn’t use to accumulate as much crap as they once did. My grandmother Rogers lived in the same place for more than sixty years. As any of her grandchildren can bear witness, Nanny had a lot of stuff. There wasn’t an inch of space that wasn’t covered by some knickknack or another. Yet her stuff never spread beyond the confines of her flat.

Nanny lived in (and owned) a large three-family house. We moved out of our flat in 1956. The other renters had moved out a few years earlier. Despite the fact that she could have use the money, my grandmother never rented out either of those flats. She didn’t want tenants, period. But her stuff never spread out to encroach on either of those apartments. Nor did she ever use the cellar for storage. Her spillover storage was a hall closet just off the back entrance.

While Nanny was an accumulator, she was a small thing accumulator: bird figurines, decorative plates, her own water colors. She had the same furniture forever (some of which I now possess).

My mother lived for 45 years in the house we moved to around the corner from Nanny’s. Like Nanny, she was an accumulator, and there was stuff on every surface. Mostly small things: bird figurines, decorative plates, craft projects.

But her closets weren’t stuffed Fibber McGee, and, while there was plenty of junk in her cellar that we needed to get rid of before she moved out shortly before she died – stuff like old figure skates and bikes – the cellar was by no means packed to the gills.

Nanny and my mother were typical of their generations: stuff but not stuff. Certainly not stuff that would merit using a storage facility. Not like the current inhabitants of Planet America, where we all have 7.2 square feet per person of storage space. Okay, you can’t store much in 7.2 square feet, which is really just a small closet. But, in the aggregate, there’s a ton of self-storage space out there, taking up space that some cities believe is a more productive use.

I really don’t see manufacturing coming back to the heart of cities, but, sure, stores, gyms, and apartments are certainly more productive than places to store old Christmas ornaments.

But where are we going to put all of our stuff? And what happens to the economy if and when we stop accumulating it? First world, 21st century problems, I guess.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thank you, Kathrine Switzer

Pink Slip generally celebrates Patriots’ Day with a paean to our quirky little holiday. Last year’s post was no exception.

I really love this holiday, and this year the forecast is for beautiful weather. And, once again, I have tickets to see the Red Sox play. The Marathon runs nearby, so when we spill out of Fenway, we’ll spill into the less-competitive runners. Post-game, I may go to a post-Marathon party at Kennedy Brothers PT, when we’ll fete the runners who ran on behalf of KBPT’s charity, Christmas in the City. All in all, it promises to be an excellent day. But, other than this one paragraph, this year’s post isn’t a tribute to Patriots’ Day. It’s a tribute to Kathrine Switzer.

I don’t recall reading the news about Kathrine’s attempt to be the first woman to officially run Boston. That was in 1967, and I was spending the week in NYC with my friend Kathy – the week I fell head-over-heels in love with MarathonManhattan. So I missed the news about Kathrine – who used her initials K.V. to register – getting chased by race official Jock Semple. There’s Jock in hot pursuit, trying to pull the numbered bib off of Kathrine’s sweatshirt – and screaming at her to “get the hell out of my race.” Not to be outdone, Will Cloney, who was the head of the Boston Athletic Association (which runs the Marathon), was quoted as saying, “If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her.”

The nerve of a “girl” – Kathrine was a twenty-year old Syracuse student at the time – trying to run the boys-only Marathon.

Admittedly, fifty years is a long time. But for those of us who were there and then, it’s just yesterday.

And that was a yesterday when there were far fewer athletic opportunities for women. My high school (all girls) had one sport: basketball, which was played old-style: half-court, with two stationary forwards, two stationary guards, and two rovers. I didn’t play on the inter-scholastic team, but I did play intramural. Again, basketball was the only sport for intramural. The uniforms (which were our gym uniforms) ooked like waitress dresses. Each class had different colored waitress gym uniform. My class was Dawn Yellow. The “real” team’s uniforms were similar, but I don’t think they had starched white collars, which our gym unis did.

Phys ed, by the way, was mostly about doing wand drill and playing Squirrel in a Cage, supervised by the ancient Miss Foley. We didn’t shower after gym, because no one worked up a sweat.

These days, my high school is something of an athletic powerhouse, and has teams for cross country, field hockey, soccer, swimming & diving, alpine ski, basketball, winter track, golf, lacrosse, softball, spring track, and tennis.

What a difference fifty years make.

And that difference was made in no small part due to women like Kathrine Switzer.

This year, the Boston Athletic Association is retiring the number – 261 – that she wore way back in 1967. The BAA doesn’t retire numbers lightly. The only other retired number is 61, in honor of the 61 races run by Johnny Kelley. (When I first came to Boston – fall of 1967 – I went quite often to watch the finish of the Marathon. It wasn’t a big deal back in those days. You could walk about to the finish line at the last moment, and you stayed until Johnny Kelley had crossed the finish line. Johnny Kelley would have been sixty the first time I saw him race in 1968.)

By the way, at age 70, Kathrine will be running Boston again to commemorate her 50th marathon-i-versary. She’ll be in good company. Last year, out of the more than 30,000 numbered racers, 46% were women.

Although I love sports, I’m no athlete. When I was younger, I skied a bit, played tennis a bit, but never seriously took up any sport. I suspect if I were in high school now, I would be doing something. My father was a superb, multi-sport athlete, and both of my brothers played sports. One of my brother was a chip off the old block, athletic-wise. It’s even irritating to play mini-golf with him, as he just has that natural athlete confidence and sense. I’m typically okay on the first nine, but then get in my head and blow up on the back nine. Nonetheless, I did stand a 50-50 chance of inheriting the athlete gene. So who knows?

Anyway, here’s a shout out to Kathrine Switzer, Marathon Woman, still running after all these years.

At 70, she won’t be finishing among the elite runners. Maybe when the game is over, I’ll see her legging it through Kenmore Square. Go, Kathrine.

A few years ago, I stopped Gloria Steinem on the street to thank her for all that she had done for the women of my era.

I’ve got another thanks in me.

Thank you, Kathrine Switzer.

 

 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Goats to the left of me, goats to the right of me

You know, I can go days, maybe even weeks, without giving goats first, let alone a second, thought. And then, what do you know? Goats to the left of me, goats to the right of me…

Goats, apparently, are a thing.

And given that I didn’t get around to finishing up my taxes until 11 p.m. last night – and was confronted with the I-O-them realization that I had neglected to factor in Social Security – oops - when I made my estimated payments; and thus owed a chunk of changes – I was way in need of a some goat news to put me in a cheerier frame of mind.

First there was the wonderful video of goats doing what looked a lot like parkour, which the Huffington Post (and more than 10 million viewers) picked up on. Watching kids of the human variety parkour their way up the sides of buildings and do a parkour leap from roof to roof makes me nervous. Watching kids of the caprine variety, well, that just me smile and give a tiny little bleat of joy.

While goat parkour filled me with joy and ooh-aah wonderment, a news article on goat yoga filled me with puzzlement, the puzzlement perhaps stemming from insufficient knowledge and appreciation of either goats or yoga.

Anyway, a yoga studio in Western Mass is holding a special class “Goat Yoga For Charity” next week.

 “It’s just yoga with baby goats running around,” explains Shae Blaisdell, who co-owns the studio. “They jump on people’s backs, lie on people’s mats — they just play.” (Source: Boston Globe) 

“Just yoga with baby goats running around”? Oh. Just that.

Participants – and the event is sold out – have been warned that they should only wear and bring gear that they’re not afraid to get a bit of pee or poop on, as that’s what happens when you “blend movements and gentle stretches with the playful antics of live kid goats.”

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of mixing goats and yoga.To me, yoga – despite pose names like Downward Dog - always seems kind of humorless. Having a bunch of goats scampering around might lighten things up quite a bit.

Goat yoga isn’t just happening in Western Mass, of course. It truly is a thing. There’s even an outfit in – no surprise here – Oregon that combines goat yoga with wine tasting. Do you taste the wine before or after the goats crap on your yoga mat? Just wondering…

With Easter upon us, it’s kind of fun to think about an animal other than Easter bunnies and Easter chicks. Maybe next year there’ll be goat Peeps. Not that yoga practitioners would ever let a bite of Peep pass their lips. Still…

So, Happy Easter.

May there be a gift certificate to a goat yoga session in your Easter basket.