Giving, getting, hoping

While Christmas shopping I came across a moisturizer called “hope in a jar.” Packaged in a cute ornament box with a tag, it was ready for giving — presumably to someone in need of hope. The manufacturer, Philosophy, sells other moisturizers with similar tongue-in-cheek names: “full of promise,” “take a deep breath,” and “keep the peace.” Philosophy twists the famous Scripture often read at weddings to state on its package, “Where there is hope there can be faith, and where there is faith miracles can occur.” While some people may take offense at this, or even at the concept that a product designed to smooth the skin is really providing hope, I take it as one company’s attempt to differentiate itself from the crowd.

Hope-in-a-Jar-ornamentGiving hope

Hope in a jar” inhabits the same category of marketing language as “Hope Peace Jewelry,” a saying I saw in a store window, or “Inner Peas,” the name of a dried peas and sea salt snack at Trader Joe’s. It continues a long tradition of optimistic product names, such as “Miracle-Gro” plant food, “Joy” dishwashing liquid, and “CoverGirl” makeup. While we take many of these items’ names for granted, examples of hope-inspiring product names abound. What about “S.O.S” steel wool pads? Steel wool addresses a need, but is a dirty pan really cause to send up an S.O.S.? (The Clorox company notes that the official product name drops the final period and actually means Save Our Saucepans . . .) And, when all is said and done, how do you “bust dust?” The one that makes me wonder, however, is “Twenty Mule Team Borax Detergent Booster and Multi-purpose Household Cleaner.” I know our clothes get dirty, but twenty mules are more than we need, and they are definitely not going to fit in my laundry room!

 Giving_Inner Peas

 

Product names like these give hints at the item’s benefits, sometimes even offer their target consumers an inside joke. With a wink and a nod, they acknowledge that, while everyone knows you can’t package “hope” or “joyful dish washing,” isn’t it witty to say that we did?

Giving benefits the giver

Yet at the same time, products called things like “hope in a jar” subtly play into desires that surface, especially around the holidays, for things to be better — for our loved ones, ourselves, the world around us. Marketers know we have such goals in mind when choosing gifts for others, even if we don’t know it ourselves. For example, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal identified, among other things, that giving another person a gift requiring great thought on your part accrues a benefit mainly to yourself as the giver, but not to the receiver. To benefit the one who’s getting the gift, it’s recommended to “give them what they want.”

 

Science_behind_Gifting_WSJ


WSJ “The Science Behind Gifting” Dec 3, 2012

 

A lot more psychology, including giving expectations and “re-gifting” norms, goes into why people give the gifts we do. (As an aside, when did “gifting” become a real word? Does every noun in American English have to become a verb? What’s wrong with “giving?”) The fact remains, however, that a lot of cash and money on credit cards flows through the economy at this time of year.

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Why’s exercise walking so tough?

I love to walk. It’s a chance to get outdoors, breathe fresh air, clear my mind. Exercise walking takes no special equipment, just some decent shoes and for those of us who are fair-skinned, sunscreen. I can walk my dog, walk with a friend, or my personal favorite, walk by myself. I can catch up on podcasts, an audiobook, music or just think my own thoughts in silence.

So what’s the problem?

In a word, self-judgment.

 

Stanford Dish Oct 2012 - 3 - exercise-walking

 

I can’t walk just for the pleasure of it. I worry about whether I’m walking briskly, burning enough calories, keeping my heart rate up. Add to that the mental distractions. If I walk in our neighborhood, I brood over how many people are remodeling their homes. I start to worry when, if ever, my husband and I will replace our fifty-year-old shower, drafty windows, etc. At the same time, I hesitate to drive to a woodsy trail twenty minutes away — that lengthens my workout, plus it’s steep, and it’s dusty. After all, I just got my car washed.

Exercise Walking at The Dish

There’s a terrific walking trail near my home on Stanford land that locals refer to as “The Dish,” because it houses a large radiotelescope belonging to the University. It’s a looping, up-and-down pedestrian trail about 3.5 miles long. The Dish trail doesn’t allow dogs or bikes, and it’s entirely paved. Like lots of others, I enjoy walking in the Stanford hills, away from traffic. The views are spectacular, affording vistas over Silcon Valley’s foothills, Stanford and the San Francisco Bay.

 

Stanford Dish Oct 2012 - 5 - exercise-walking

 

Correction: please notice the views, they’re spectacular. I myself have trouble enjoying them while trying to keep my heart rate up. I pay attention to the ground ahead of me. While I walk the Dish, I’m usually bothered by an internal conversation that goes something like this:

What? Who are those women who just went around me, and on an uphill part, too? Oh no, I know that one — I played her in a USTA match. Well, no wonder she’s a 3.5 now and I’m not. Is she seriously MY AGE? I can’t believe that. What’s wrong with me? I have to walk faster, this is ridiculous.

Exercise Walking and the Dreaded VoJ

It’s that Voice of Judgment again. Only this time it nails me on a walking path where I’m supposed to be communing with nature, clearing my mind. Seems that I can’t stop competing, can’t stop evaluating my own performance and finding it deficient.

I don’t think I can silence my VoJ, at least not anytime soon. Maybe I can get it to quiet down a bit, though. If I temper my concerns about walking fast and burning calories with appreciation and gratitude for being able to enjoy a nice day, maybe that’s the best I can hope for right now.

See you later. I think I’ll take a walk.

 

Stanford Dish Oct 2012 - 7 - exercise-walking

Platelet Rich Plasma: if it helped A-Rod, Kobe and Tiger, could it help me?

We’ve heard about professional athletes who’ve had miraculous reductions in pain after receiving injections of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) — for example, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the Super Bowl in 2009 only a short time after undergoing this innovative treatment. While PRP is new enough that health insurance companies still aren’t reimbursing for it, it’s becoming more widely available to recreational athletes through sports medicine clinics. And the results are promising.

The Platelet Rich Plasma treatment involves removing a syringe of the patient’s own blood and then spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out “platelet-rich plasma” from the blood’s other components. Just the PRP is injected back into the patient. At this point, PRP’s principal use among recreational athletes has been for situations involving tendonitis — such as Achilles tendon issues or tennis elbow.

 

V-Band on arm1

 

Tennis elbow. When I experienced tennis elbow five years ago, I was fortunate to be able to rid myself of the problem by taking several months off, getting accupuncture, physical therapy and Graston. This time, however, I just couldn’t shake it. My doctor and I decided it was time for either elbow surgery or PRP.   [Read more…]

Davis Cup, Buenos Aires: tennis or fútbol?

This week the Tennis Channel was replaying Davis Cup matches from a few days before, when the Czech Republic defeated Argentina 3-2 in Buenos Aires.

I noticed several things onscreen that made me happy. First, the red clay and green walls brought to mind the French Open, and I remembered exciting matches I had enjoyed watching during this year’s tournament in Paris. Second, although it’s still early spring in Buenos Aires, the sun was shining and fans were dressed in short sleeves. Weather data on the internet said it had been 75 degrees last weekend, so I made a mental note to look for off-season airfare to Argentina– maybe I’d find a bargain.

But what intrigued me most was the Argentine spectators’ passion. They voiced approval and encouragement throughout the match. After every point there was applause, shouting and horn-blowing. Some fans even beat drums or blew whistles. Occasionally spectator emotion erupted between first and second serves, or on an impressive shot, even though it didn’t end a rally. See for yourself in these highlights from Juan Del Potro’s match vs. Radek Stepanek.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EKHCiYiMN4

 

The sound of the Argentine horns resembled the vuvuzelas that garnered notoriety during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. I don’t know whether they were actual vuvuzelas, but they certainly lent the tennis matches in Buenos Aires a rowdier atmosphere than would have been tolerated, for example, at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. New York fans are sometimes criticized for brashness and noise at the US Open, but Argentines bring the concept of spectator participation in tennis to new levels.

 

vuvuzela2jpg

 

The difference between New York and Buenos Aires fans, as I see it, lies in the fact that the Argentines appear totally engrossed in the match itself, and their cheering stems from their passion for the sport and the players. While a lot of US Open spectators are there to see great tennis, quite a few come mainly to enjoy a good party.  [Read more…]

Nike+ FuelBand: real stats or just marketing?

The Nike+ FuelBand is a high-priced, high-tech toy you wear on your wrist to collect data about energy, or “fuel,” that you burn throughout the day. It’s about output, pure and simple — not what you’re eating or how you’re expending energy. While FuelBand data may be imperfect, the concept fits perfectly with the company’s “Just Do It” mantra.

You wear the FuelBand on your wrist.  It has a unisex, sporty look that works with casual attire — although I’ll admit, it’s not the best fashion combination with the bracelets I always wear on my other wrist.  The FuelBand’s clasp is a USB plug, which is how you charge its battery, and also how you sync it to your computer.  If you have an iPhone, you can  sync wirelessly so you are always within reach of your FuelBand data.

One hundred white and twenty red, yellow and green LEDs communicate your progress throughout the day. You press a button on the band to toggle through its settings: Fuel, Calories, Steps, Time. Time is time of day, so the FuelBand replaces your need for a watch. Steps — that’s obvious. Calories are an approximate measure of calories burned through physical activity.

NikeFuel is a proprietary calculation based on Nike’s “sport-tested accelerometer,” whose algorithms translate your movement into “fuel points.” You set your own goal — 2000 for an “average day,” 3000+ for days with greater levels of activity.

In my first three weeks of wearing the band, I’ve found the NikeFuel calculations associated with different activities to be rather misleading. Here’s a sample from my own experience (“fps” = “fuel points”):

  • Ride stationary bike (at target heart rate) 30 min: 145 fps
  • Walk from bedroom to kitchen, feed dog, make coffee, eat fried egg and homemade doughnut: 242 fps
  • Fold 3 baskets laundry 45 min: 400 fps
  • Make and serve dinner 1 hr: 750 fps
  • Walk dog 1 hr: 800 fp
  • Play doubles tennis 2 hrs: 1800 fps
  • Play singles tennis 1.75 hr: 2800 fps
  • Hike 1 hr 45 min at brisk pace: 3000 fps
  • Sex: my husband wanted to collect data here, but sorry, this is a G-rated blog . . .

The band awards more points for moving forward through space than it does for things like riding a stationary bike. If I were to live according to my FuelBand’s data, though, I would spend more time folding laundry, making dinner and eating doughnuts than I do at present.

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