Thinking about Next Year’s Ride

June 9, 2009

Tour de Cure 100 mile Start

Except for a slightly sore butt I feel completely recovered from Saturday’s 100 km Tour de Cure bike ride.  Next year I think I’ll start training just a little earlier, and go for the 100-miler.

To everyone who donated on my behalf or for anyone else, thank you so much for the support.  The Tour de Cure is much more than a fund-raising event; it’s a festival, the first of many festivals held during our wonderful summer months, when the glorious weather brings out the best in us.

Last week was also the Greek Festival and this weekend it’s the Allentown Art Festival; then the Ride for Roswell; and shortly after that the Taste of Buffalo and the Italian Festival and many other great places to gather and celebrate.

Buffalo’s great for that kind of stuff.

My Dinner with Newt

October 16, 2008

Newt Gingrich was the keynote speaker at last night’s BioMed Upstate conference hosted by the Foundation for Healthy Living.  The moderately well-attended (but overly long) conference focused on the barriers our state imposes on the Life Sciences economy and solutions to overcoming those barriers to accelerate growth in Life Sciences.

The sessions drifted off-topic to the various ways the New York stifles economic growth in general and to the great divide between Upstate and Downstate, to which the attendees agreed “Change is needed“.   As to what that meant and who should take responsibility for leading it, those answers were not so clear.  Not so clear at all.  And the conference was pretty dry – academic in nature, almost dispassionate really, and IMHO was very poorly attended by industry representatives who are ultimately the ones who create jobs and/or leave the state.  Numerous academics and government officials were in attendance, but the one group that could really make a difference was way under-represented.

Anyway, Newt was pretty interesting.  He made a point about how poorly the Federal Government doesn’t understand the difference between investment and expense.  He cited that the Baby Boomer generation alone will cost the U.S. $1.6 trillion in health care costs just for treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.  But if treatments could be found that delayed the onset of severe symptoms for just 5 years, the costs would drop $600 billion.  Then he challenged the audience:  If you could save $600 billion over the next 20 years, how much would you spend today?  Newt’s implication was that far too often the government won’t budget for that kind of savings – they won’t make the investment – because today it’s just an expense with no short-term benefit.

Conferences like these raise important questions but rarely do the spawn that passionate white knight who can lead the charge to a new way of thinking, and actually persist long enough to stimulate real change.  How do we convince our political leaders to reach beyond the policies of the past 50 years to something that bears future fruit?  At the conference, we were at a loss to answer that question.

On Bicycles

July 7, 2008

The social popularity of any one particular athletic activity is fleeting at best.  It used to be that baseball and softball were so popular in Western New York that there weren’t enough diamonds to go around; today the number of leagues continues to decline.  I remember when racquetball was greatly in vogue; today the former Waterfront Racquet and Fitness Center is a post office. Recreational soccer reached its apex about 10 years ago and its numbers are slowly declining.

In this decade bicycling has picked up considerable steam, and in particular, this year there is no end to the number of articles and blog postings giving credence to its popularity.  It too will have its heyday, and then taper back down to the diehards as the next sport du jour gets press time.

I’ve been a serious cyclist for most of this decade.  My desire to cycle has to do with my inability to run long distances anymore – too many knee surgeries.  Cycling is therefore merely therapeutic for me, never meant to be a means to save fuel costs.  In fact, I would argue that consistent cycling is more expensive in the long run because

  • good bicycles, which you’ll need if you bike a lot of miles, are not cheap; and
  • the extra food that you consume because of your increased metabolism will bite your pocketbook as much as a tank of gas will.

Nonetheless, we may soon be reaching a tipping point where the popularity of cycling will induce changes to transportation infrastructure that will further encourage cycling, such as biking lanes or just wider, smoother shoulders on roadways.  As its popularity continues to increase I can only hope that drivers start paying a bit more attention to whom they share the road.  I mentioned this before:  I have no desire to become road kill, so vigilance is a very important part of my exercise.

I do not get a thrill from sucking exhaust and dodging traffic, so my trips take me into the back roads of Wales, Holland, Aurora, Colden, Cowlesville, Sheldon and other small country towns where I breathe fresh air, enjoy the scenery and take on the hill climbs.  I have no desire to commute to work on bike, even less desire to ride a long, flat street from one suburb to the next.

Biking will never save me money nor help me reduce my carbon footprint.  It will keep me fit, that’s all.


March 15, 2008

AHA HeartwalkThis year’s American Heart Association Heartwalk will be held in Buffalo on Saturday, September 20th.  My company will be participating and we hope to get virtually every employee to go.

Heart disease and stroke, the #1 and #3 killers in America, are more prevalent in the Western New York area than statewide – it probably has something to do with a combination of obesity, poor diet and poverty in this area.  The Heartwalk brings awareness to the issue of heart disease and also to the simple things – diet and exercise – that can rein it in.

Even if you’re not much of an athlete, it’s an easy 5K walk and a great way to celebrate the end of summer; and to perhaps think a little about wellness in general.

Health Insurance

February 25, 2008

I am not overweight.

I am, however, paying significant health insurance premiums subsidizing many less-healthy people who are so grossly overweight that they are experiencing chronic medical problems.  The obesifying of America is only going to make it worse as deaths from weight-related illnesses like diabetes are increasing at alarming rates.  As an employer I grow tired of paying out $4K+ for employee health insurance premiums and then, as an employee, another $4K+ for the remainder of my health insurance premiums.

Getting health insurance companies to recognize me as a healthy, low-risk individual and putting me into a low-risk pool (as good drivers are able to do with auto insurance) is not likely to become an option in the near future, while I am still healthy enough to take advantage of it.

So here’s my idea.  Add a surcharge to every restaurant and fast-food meal that is based on the average “health rating” for that restaurant.  The health rating is simply the total number of calories of food purchased by the restaurant, divided by the number of meals served – giving an average caloric count per meal.  The surcharge is to be collected as a direct reimbursement to lower overall insurance costs.  If we can’t get insurance companies to lower their premiums or health care providers to reduce their costs, then we can at least come up with a more creative way to pay those costs than simply increasing premiums by 20% year after year.  Think of it as a cigarette tax on gluttony.

This is not to penalize restaurants but rather to force people who are habitual gluttons (or simply bad eaters) to pay more for the health costs that we will all eventually incur for their bad habits. I imagine that McDonalds will need to add hefty surcharges, as well any place that sells chicken wings, pizza or Chinese food.

The hefty taxes added to cigarettes were certainly one reason that cigarette use has decreased in America.  Maybe charging us for choosing unhealthy eating will have the same effect on our consumption of stuff that is not good for us.


Death by Sneezing

January 28, 2008

SneezeI simultaneously strained my right pectoral and lateral muscles about 3 weeks ago, leaving me very uncomfortable and downing a lot of Aleve.  Sneezing was profoundly painful, as if the right side of my chest was about to explode, and it made me wonder if anyone ever died from sneezing by breaking ribs.  I imagined that frail, elderly people might be susceptible to this.

This is about as close as I could find.

Obesity Vs. Malnutrition

November 12, 2007

Obese childrenThere is a short but interesting article in today’s British press about obesity striking not just the U.S. but the rest of the world as well.  In fact, the article goes on to say that “There are more dangerously obese people in the world (over 1 billion) than there are people starving (800,000,000).”  This article backs that up with a reference to the World Health Organization’s web site, containing a plethora of reports and statistics.

In the midst of greed, politics, war and indifference the distribution of food is a real problem for those people lacking it, and barely on the radars of those getting fat.  [This should be yet another Pro-Life movement issue (see previous blog), since about 6 million children die from malnutrition every year.  Where are the Pro-lifers on this?]

Becoming fat, dumb and indifferent is no way to remain a world leader, and it appears that the rest of the world is learning some really bad habits from us.