Saturday, April 26, 2014

‘Allo, Grandma!

This is still not me, but grandmas rock.
 Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut
I don’t mean to brag (OK, maybe a little), but though I am approaching 50, I work out 4-6 times a week, cranking the elliptical trainer to its maximum incline (5) and resistance (20) and running, according to the machine, 7 miles.

Here’s the thing: when I was younger with young children, I would still go to the gym several times a week and I’d still set the incline and resistance till it felt “right,” but those settings would be, at best, somewhere in the mid-range, and I thought I was doing good if I went 2 miles.

What changed?

I think I am getting ready to be a kick-ass grandma.

I first came across “the grandma hypothesis” in the books of anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. The grandma hypothesis is the idea that human women survive well past the age when they themselves can reproduce because the help they provided back when we were hunter-gatherers, in child-care and food-gathering, made a huge difference in their community’s survival. Anthropologists like Hrdy found that children in hunter-gatherer communities with an involved grandma are twice as likely to survive. Others found that women over the age of 40 were just as strong as 20-year-old women and were much better at foraging (they were more knowledgeable and, perhaps, they were also less ditzy than the hormone-addled young-uns). For all the talk of men as hunters, the "haul" these grandmas brought in often represented the bulk of the group’s calories.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I’m going to get some serious shit done.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why Are Women’s Clothes So Uncomfortable?

Don't even get me started
about these shoes.
I was recently in an office tower, not a place I generally frequent. And there were women in business attire: unflattering pants made of synthetic material, straining where the woman was rounded, short tight skirt that affected the woman’s stride, worn bare-legged with her feet jammed into high-heeled shoes with pointy little compartments where the toes are supposed to, somehow, fit, a drapey, see-through blouse with a weird bow, again made of synthetic material, hot and unbreathable and shiny, bizarre clunky jewelry meant to “accessorize.”

Meanwhile, here come the men. Suits. So, OK, ties are not the most practical piece of clothing ever invented, but other than those, a man in a suit is wearing pants, jacket, shirt, shoes that fit his feet and allow him to walk. And many of the men were in khakis and button-downs, without ties.

Why are women’s clothes so uncomfortable, impractical and hard to put together? In interviews, President Obama explains he has only gray suits and blue suits in his closet. He’s got enough decisions to make, he said, he doesn’t want to "be distracted by trivia." But how easy would it be for a female president to find such easy yet professional outfits?

A childhood friend of mine refused to consider any career that required her to wear panty hose. (She became a teacher, then a lawyer.)

Honestly, I think it’s a conspiracy. When you have to concentrate on how you walk (so you don’t fall over), how you sit (so you don’t flash someone), whether your mascara is running or your lipstick is on your teeth or the waves (or straightness) you spent an hour putting into your hair that morning are disappearing, you can’t concentrate on more important things.
But why do women conspire against themselves like this?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Easier Read Than Done

Shh, it's a surprise for my dad.
I bought my dad a building kit.

Final product: a robot that waddles like a duck.

It will be right up my dad’s alley.

He likes working with his hands. And he is not averse to reading the instructions.

I don’t mind reading instructions … Well, I don’t like reading product instructions, since they often read like they were translated from Japanese into English by someone who only speaks Portuguese … But I love reading how-to’s. I went through a long spate where I read books (as in multiple) about how to be more efficient and organized. My husband referred to those books as my “productivity porn.”

What I don’t like is the doing.

It is never as easy as the reading.

Step 1 will be perfectly straight-forward. Say you are reading about how to change a tire. The first step might read, “Remove the hubcap.” But how do you do that, exactly? They don’t say, assuming that every idiot knows how to remove a hubcap which, umm, I don’t. Then you need to loosen the lug nuts, but they are all impossibly tight and you are getting sweaty leaning all your weight on the wrench (or as the directions I’ve cited suggest, hitting it with a god-damned rock). It’s actually pretty decent of these directions to acknowledge that you are going to have difficulty. Most don’t.

I think it’s interesting that my husband far prefers how-to videos (found on YouTube) over written how-to’s, even for something like a food recipe.

However, I lack the patience to sit and watch a 20-minute video. Perhaps I am fooling myself, but reading seems to zip along so much faster.

Ultimately, I realize, that’s my problem: no patience.

Hey! Maybe I can read up on that.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Were We Thinking?

How are humans different from other animals?

Our brains are big, at least in relation to our bodies, right?

And we use those brains to make tools, right?

But when was the last time you made a tool?

You hear a lot about how our present environment is not what our bodies evolved for. High-fat, high-sugar food is way too plentiful for us, whose bodies evolved to be driven to hunt and gather when food was scarce. Also, our environment does not force us to move – I read recently that the average amount of time Americans spent in vigorous physical activity is less than 2 minutes per day – for obese adult women, it is mere secondswhen it should be, at a bare minimum, 30 minutes per day. Our bodies are meant to move; it’s been speculated we evolved to be long-distance runners, with our ancestors routinely covering 20+ miles at a time, literally running other animals to death.

I think the same is true of our brains: we live now in vastly different environments than the ones our brains evolved for. However, the present-day environment might be pushing our brains to perform better, not worse.

There’s the Flynn Effect. Dr. Flynn discovered that IQs have increased dramatically over the last 100 years. Basically, IQ tests are always being normed; that is, a group of people will take the test and the average of that group will be declared to be 100 or average IQ. But Flynn compared test results from the past and present. A person who scored a 100 in the past would, today, be considered borderline retarded (70), while a person who scored 100 today would have scored 130 (cusp of genius) back in the day.
Makes you want to go back in time and be the smart one, right?