May 29, 2008
Recently, I proudly proclaimed that I was going to drop a ton of weight before June 14th. The goal is to get my weight down to a poundage that I thought would help me achieve a preferred time in a half marathon, which is on June 14th in Chicago. I handled the personal challenge with my typical appealing compulsion, including creating weekly goals that I even entered onto a calendar.
I am hungry – very – and have been for a long time now. Plus, I’m fatigued from exercising more than is appropriate with so little caloric intake. Knowing this, a friend – really, a former friend – challenged me to a bet. This cruel challenge revealed my friend’s shocking ability to assess another person’s psychological weakness.
As I suspect my friend knew would happen, there was a rise in my competitive juices. (Mmm. Juices.) The bet was on. Yes, I’m a sucker. (Mmm. Sucker.)
The bet was who could lose five pounds by June 1. At the time of the bet, that gave me about a month. The really dumb part is that I needed to lose six pounds by June 14th to reach the original ridiculous goal. So I essentially agreed to reach my already difficult target weight 14 days early. But I wasn’t going to beef about a couple of weeks. (Mmm. Beef.)
This past weekend, however, it was made clear to me that we hadn’t actually bet anything. So I now get it. This really was an experiment to see how a man’s senses are dulled by hunger. I’m a lab rat for my friend’s amusement. (Mmm. Rat.)
I’d assumed, since we hadn’t bet money or anything, that this was all for the glory of achieving a desired result. Or maybe avoiding the horror of losing something as important as a bet about weight.
Instead, it was to watch me waste away mentally and physically – although not as much physically as I’d like.
I don’t think my antagonist is really even dieting.
(As I write this, I’m 1.4 pounds from the June 1 goal and, therefore, 2.4 pounds from the June 14 goal. And it’s not a sign of obsession to count weight in tenths of a pound. It’s being high-tech.)
A couple of pieces of news came out this week on air quality in Central Texas, one good and one that’s, well, pretty mediocre for my taste.
The good news is that the Clean AIR Force of Central Texas turned 15-years-old this week – just old enough to learn how to drive a low-emissions car. The group honored me this week with its Leadership Award.
This is a very good, very important non-profit group of business leaders, environmentalists, and policy makers that works to improve air quality through education, outreach, and voluntary programs. I’m proud to say that I helped start the Clean AIR Force back in 1993, when I was Governor Ann Richards’ appointee as Chair of the Texas Air Control Board. The Board was a predecessor to what’s now the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Back then, Central Texas was in danger of falling out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. Today, thanks in part to the group’s great efforts . . . Central Texas is still in danger of falling out of compliance with the Clean Air Act.
That sounds funny, but it’s really a big deal. Dozens of metropolitan areas are now known as “non-compliant” with federal standards, meaning the health of their citizens and economy is at risk, their transportation funding could be taken away, and they have to follow strict federal requirements to clean up their air. Meanwhile, federal air standards have actually become stricter, our region’s population has practically doubled, and our economy has prospered – all factors that would tend to worsen air quality and push borderline regions into non-compliance.
The bottom line is that we’re better off than we were 15 years ago, in part because of this group’s work. That really is something this community should feel good about.
Of course, it’s not all good news. We still have big challenges. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has recently made health standards more strict, and we don’t have a lot of time to meet them.
Then there’s the most recent downer: the Brookings Institution came out with a report this week that ranked our nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas based on per-capita greenhouse gas emissions. The Austin area ranked 55th – not as great as most of us in this green region might have expected. Apparently, people who live in Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso all do better with greenhouse gases than we do.
The study itself had some good news, though, particularly regarding transportation. Per-person transportation emissions actually dropped in Central Texas between 2000 and 2005, whereas they rose nationwide. Again, however, we’re not ranked nearly as well as we should be and want to be.
It’s interesting to note that most of the regions with the best rankings – places such as Portland, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego – are thought of as incredibly desirable places to live.
These are the places that attract smart, creative workers, who in turn attract businesses to a region. They’re innovative hubs that embrace new technologies. And they boast truly comprehensive transportation systems.
That’s a list that all of Central Texas should badly want to be on.