Calories Don’t Count for This Guy

I’m not always proud of my Congressional Representative, but I will say that, at age 70, Emanuel Cleaver looks pretty fit and healthy. On that count, I wouldn’t be quite so thrilled with having Rep. John Shimkus voting on my behalf in Washington. Why? Let me explain.

301_5-calorie-counting-myths_flashIn a recent hearing regarding a bill that would require multi-site restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus, Rep. Shimkus uttered these words for the ages.

“I don’t think I’ve ever looked for calorie numbers on anything I’ve consumed. And I betcha I’m in the majority of Americans,” Shimkus said. “This is the perfect example of nanny state, of a national government telling individual citizens and saying what is best for them.”

Take a look at the Congressman’s photo and you might be inclined to join me in saying, “Maybe you should!” But really that’s not fair. Shimkus looks, in some pictures, as if he’s carrying some extra pounds, but in others seems to be in reasonable shape. And in the final analysis, whether Shimkus is a porker or a rail should be irrelevant to whether this proposed bill is a good or bad idea.

While a bill that requires Hardee’s to post the calorie count of their Monster Burgers might be a nuisance, it is not nearly as intrusive (nor as silly) as the big-soda ban in New York. If seeing those numbers on a menu help me to make smarter choices or to persuade me to step away from the triple cheeseburger, then they’re worth the tiny bit of effort that the chains exert in coming up with them.

On the other hand, such signs won’t fit all situations. Think of the number of different combinations a person can have in a Chipotle lunch. Is a sign reading, “Calorie Count: 300-1300” really going to be the game-changer in fighting obesity?

Give me information, please, Rep. Shimkus. You won’t have to read the signs, but they’ll give me some power. Such power is good, but it doesn’t free me from the responsibility of having a bit of knowledge.


Curse of the Gradebook (Hebrews 2:2)

For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment (Hebrews 2:2)

I have taught English composition for almost my entire adult life. Doing so, one encounters a vast range of people with a vast range of ability and desire to do the work. Some of them complain that they don’t get to write about whatever they want. (Because professional life allows us to do whatever work we want to do, of course.) Some think it unreasonable that they have to continually write papers for a writing course. My favorites, though, are the ones I call the grade accountants.

A grade accountant comes to my office, graded paper in hand, and prepares to do battle. Or, to maintain the metaphor, to do an audit. The exchange usually begins something like this: “What is wrong with my paper?” Having counted up the red marks on the page, they attempt to convince me, the guy who has taught the class since before their births, that this collection of misplaced modifiers, run-on sentences, and other mechanical glitches does not warrant a C+. To their minds, every paper begins as a 100 with each mistake deducting points.

My point, more often than not, is that we should not be looking at “what is wrong” with the paper but “what is right.” Fairly frequently, I’ll encounter a virtually error-free essay that bores me so silly that it deserves a fairly poor grade. There’s nothing wrong with it except that there’s not enough right with it. In other words, every paper begins as a 0 with each positive move adding points.

The Law of Moses, referred to in the verse today, was a deduction system. The average person was assumed to be clean and blameless at the top of the morning. Touching a dead animal, eating the wrong thing, coveting your neighbor’s toaster oven, or any of a million other missteps could leave the person in a virtue deficit.

Frankly, I don’t want to live that way. Today’s verse is a sentence fragment, completed by the verse for next time. Today’s verse speaks of the lesser law and lesser message, the one spoken by angels. That message bound those who lived under it. The problem with it came in the grading system. A 99 out of 100 was failing grade. My grade accountants wouldn’t like that system.

I have no interest in grading in that manner, and I praise God that I don’t have to live under such a law. More on that next time.