Sunday, March 27, 2011

Men Need Not Apply

Help Wanted
Garmisch Chapel is looking for
 additional nursery watchcare staff.
If you are a responsible female
 who loves kids, please call
Dawn at XXXXXXX for
 more information.

The above was an ad in the current base community newsletter with the phone number X'd out. It is wrong on so many levels. First of all, it appears to be discriminatory. I assume that because the chapel is a religious entity, it doesn't have to follow normal hiring rules, so there could be no real basis for a discrimination complaint by a man who wants to apply for the position. But there still seems to be anti-male discrimination.

The second, and more insidious, reason that this ad is very wrong is it reinforces people's fears that men cannot be trusted with children. Men, especially those who don't have kids, are automatically viewed as suspected child molesters. Why else would a man, especially one without children, want to work with young kids? The thought that a man simply loves children would never cross someone's mind. My husband suggested that a woman was wanted for that position in the chapel nursery because it probably involved changing diapers. I countered with, "Even religious dads change their babies' diapers." There is a big difference between touching a baby's private parts with a wipe to clean them off after a bowel movement and fondling them. If there wasn't that huge difference, every parent who changed a diaper would automatically be a child molester. 

The idea of men stereotyped as being child molesters is also being perpetuated by the British. Until recently, British Airways had a policy which forbade unaccompanied male travelers from sitting next to a child. Did BA really believe that a man would molest a child in a crowded airplane? Many unaccompanied men on a plane are fathers who would be sickened by the thought of molesting any child. The people who came up with that policy obviously never sat in the coach section, where there is no room to do anything, let alone molest a child. Seriously, most men on an airplane mind their own business. The last thing on their minds is, "I really wanted to watch the movie, but I think that I'll molest this child instead." 

While the majority of people on a sex offender registry are male, most "sex offenders" are not trenchcoat-wearing perverts. Most people on a sex offender registry in the States are on it because of public urination, mooning, streaking, or being 18 and having sex with an underage girlfriend. Very few people on a sex offender registry are actual child molesters. It's the people who aren't on sex offender registries who are the ones to watch out for. Most children are molested by people that they know. As someone on the Free Range Kids website wrote one time, "If you want to see what a sex offender looks like, open up the family photo album." 

If young children are only exposed to women, how will they find male role models? While a father is the most important male role model in a child's life, there should also be others. The more positive male role models that a child is exposed to, the better it is for him or her in the long run. To give the base where I work credit, some of the staff at the School Age and Teen Centers are men, most of whom don't have kids. My son's favorite School Age Center staff member is an older man with grown kids who happens to love children and is like a grandfather to the kids at the center.  Before moving to Garmisch, my husband and I would ski here and leave our son at the Child Development Center (CDC) on base. I recall that one of the people working at the CDC in either the infant, toddler, or preschool room was a man who was well-respected by the parents and other staff members. Now my son has some male teachers and really looks up to them. His all-time favorite teacher, the geography teacher from last year, has inspired him to want to become a teacher. In my opinion it is better for a child to be cared for by a man who truly loves kids than by a woman who is indifferent to them, no matter how "responsible" she is. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conspiracy Theories

Due to the unseasonably warm weather in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, the 2011 World Cup ski season ended with a whimper instead of a bang. Four out of the 8 races were canceled due to fog and slushy snow. Four of the titles: the women's overall, men's Super-G, women's giant slalom, and men's giant slalom were decided because of the cancelations. International Ski Federation (FIS) rules state that final races that are canceled because of weather cannot be made up. Therefore the skiers who had the lead before the canceled races were declared the winners. The women's overall race was the closest, with Maria Riesch of Germany winning by 3 points over American Lindsey Vonn.

To me the most amusing thing about the World Cup finals are the conspiracy theories. I have been reading various German, Austrian, US, and international websites and the comments that people have posted about the women's final. My favorite is that the FIS and Germans conspired so that Riesch would win the overall title, which Vonn had won the past 3 seasons. It wasn't through the weather because even the FIS and Germans can't control it. So how did they do it? Maria Riesch's coach was the course setter for the slalom race. Yes, that must be it. But wait! Course setters are assigned for each race before the season starts. It just happened that the German coach was the course setter for the final slalom race. The other part of the German/FIS conspiracy was that the same course was used for both parts of the slalom. Normally there are two different courses set by different coaches. But because of the delay of the first run, there was no time to set a new course and have a proper inspection. The second run happened immediately after the first finished instead of after a two to three hour pause. The athletes and coaches accepted this situation. Nobody complained about it until after Riesch was declared the overall winner.

Another part of the German/FIS conspiracy involves the start order for the final slalom race. Riesch drew #2 and Vonn was #16. Earlier starters in slalom races have an advantage because the course deteriorates and gets more rutted with each skier. Those who believe in behind the scenes intrigue have stated that Riesch got the earlier start number because of German/FIS collusion to make her the overall winner. There was nothing of the sort going on. According to FIS rules, start numbers are determined by a skier's ranking in a discipline. In the slalom, the top 15 ranked skiers get numbers 1 to 15, with the top 7 ranked getting numbers 1 to 7. The numbers are given out in a random draw the night before the race. Riesch drew #2 because she is ranked 3rd in slalom. Vonn got #16 because she is ranked out of the top 15; she is ranked 19th in slalom. In that race Riesch ended up 4th and Vonn 13th. The interesting thing about the final race is that the skier who drew #15, Tina Maze of Slovenia, won the race.

The other conspiracy theory involves the race cancelations. That must be another European/FIS conspiracy because most of the FIS leadership is European and also because Vonn's strongest event, the Super-G, was canceled. The slalom, which favored Riesch, was allowed to go on but the giant slalom (which slightly favored Riesch) was canceled. Conspiracy theorists want to believe that the races were canceled to prevent Vonn from going for Annemarie Moser-Proell's record of 5 overall titles in a row. If Vonn had won the overall this year, it would have been 4 in a row for her. If the conspiracy theorists are to be believed, the FIS wanted to keep Moser-Proell's record intact because she's Austrian. If someone had a shot of tying or breaking the record, the FIS would want a European skier to do it. The FIS's "pro-European bias" can't be true because US skier Ted Ligety won the giant slalom title because the final GS race was canceled. The real reason the races were canceled was because of the weather and snow condition. There was a lot of rain, fog, and above freezing temperatures. The snow was okay for a slalom race, which is slower and shorter than the others. The men who did the slalom race said that with the heavy fog they could only see two gates ahead of them. That would have been dangerous for the faster races.

Lindsey Vonn's fans, who are upset about her being second by such a slim margin, wanted the giant slalom race rescheduled. But to be fair to everyone, if one race is rescheduled, then the other canceled races must be too. Some even went so far as to say that the races should be held immediately in another venue. Those people don't realize the logistical planning that goes into a professional ski race: travel arrangements, lodging and meals, recruiting local volunteers, and course preparation.

I also found it ironic that Vonn and her fans were the loudest complainers about the cancelations. The skiers who had mathematical chances of winning individual titles all seemed to be good sports about the cancelations and accepted them. Vonn was happy last season when she won the super combined title by very few points due to a cancelation. She said that it was the nature of skiing that sometimes races need to be canceled in the interest of athlete safety. She also said that sometimes the calls go your way and sometimes they don't, but the athletes need to accept them. Vonn also talked about skier safety during the 2010 Olympics and the recent World Championships. But it seemed like when the FIS went against her wishes, she demanded that the rules about canceled races be changed. Maybe the FIS will change the rules in the off-season and maybe it won't. But the FIS certainly won't change its rules on the final race weekend or to suit a particular skier.

I'm looking forward to next season. In addition to my old favorites, there are a lot of young skiers who are ready to take over the reins from their older competitors: Lara Gut (Switzerland), Anna Fenninger (Austria), Frederika Brignone (Italy), Tessa Worley (France), Lotte Smithest Sejersted (Norway), Nolan Kasper (USA), Beat Feuz (Switzerland), Joachim Puchner (Austria), Adrian Theaux (France), and Reto Schmidiger (Switzerland).

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Mojo is Back

Now that my calf injuries have healed, I've been starting to build my distance again. I'm up to about 6 km on my shorter runs and 7-8 on my longer ones. I've been good about slowly increasing my mileage to avoid reinjury. Even though the ice where I run has all melted, I have still been (at least by my standards) excruciatingly slow. Like Austin Powers, I had lost my mojo. But I found it today on a 6 km flat run. I normally run that route in about 32 minutes. When peaking for races, I have even run it in under 31:30. Today's time was 32:09, which was about 1.5 minutes faster than my time on that same route last week. That's my "normal"  time, so I'm happy that my speed is back. I was a bit worried that my speed wouldn't come back, but it has. 

Maybe the cross-training that I did this week helped with the speed. I rode my bike to work three days in the past week. Cycling to work isn't exactly a great aerobic workout because my work is so close to my house. But I'm getting fresh air and a little bit of exercise that I wouldn't get from driving. I also did the elliptical trainer in the gym yesterday because it was raining heavily. I've gotten back into doing my post-run Pilates routine, which benefits my posture. Maybe the Pilates was also a factor in the speed and mojo coming back.

Now it's time to start incorporating some hill work. I haven't done any in a while because of being injured. But the skiing that I've done this season has helped to strengthen my quads. I don't expect to have too much trouble with hills once I get back to running them. I'm one of those rare people who loves running hills. One of my favorite races is the San Dieguito Half-Marathon, which has a lot of rolling hills. Most people groan or swear when they see a hill on a course map. I give a little cheer because hill running has always been one of my strengths.

Ski season here is pretty much over, which means getting back to my four days a week of running. We're due for more spring-like weather, which means being able to shed a layer or two. I feel like the Michelin Man's wife when I'm in my full winter running gear. I'm looking forward to being able to run in my shorts.

I'm still undecided on whether I'll do the Munich City Run Half-Marathon in June. I have over three months to decide. I'll evaluate where I'm at in May and take it from there. If I opt not to do the City Run, I may do some local races in the 5 to 10 km range for a change of pace. Or maybe this year I won't race at all and just run for the joy of it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cleanliness is Next to OCD

Maybe I've been in Europe too long, but I don't understand the Stateside obsession with germs. Kids in the States bring tubes of hand sanitizer to school with them. Even mothers carry hand sanitizer with them. I've been told to use hand sanitizer before holding a friend's baby. Having clean hands wasn't good enough for that particular person. Toys must be sterilized between children handling them. Playing in the dirt seems to be verboten these days because dirt has germs. The same goes for playing outside because there are insects, which could carry disease. Stores now have special disinfectant wipes for cleaning off shopping cart handles. Antibacterial soaps are the norm everywhere. Heaven forbid if something drops on the ground. It must be boiled to ensure that it's sterilized.

There was a recent article on the Free Range Kids website about a preschool where the kids must wash their hands after getting out of the sandbox if they want to play with a ball or ride a bike. Their cubbies must also be sterilized if the kids put their jackets into them before washing their hands. Here is the link:  It seems like this school is trying to give these young children obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or at least severe skin problems, with all of the hand washing that they must do. I can't imagine how the teachers could keep track of which kids were doing which activities and if they washed their hands or not.

There are times when a lot of hand washing is appropriate. For example, I want the surgeon who's operating on me to have washed his hands with antibacterial soap. My family doctor should wash his hands between patients. The chef who's cooking my restaurant meals should have clean hands. But a child washing his hands after touching a toy in the sandbox strikes me as being over the top. I couldn't imagine how that could work in a typical German preschool situation, where the kids are outside for a good part of the day. Kids move from the sandbox to other areas, then back to the sandbox again. Those poor kids would have raw, chapped hands by the end of the day if they were required to wash their hands between activities. If I were a preschool teacher, I would have the kids wash their hands after using the toilet, before snack or lunch time, and if they had glue or other sticky stuff on their hands after doing an art project. Also, sterilizing a cubby because a child touched it with dirty hands is too much. As the person who sent in the article said, kids are touching dirty jackets with clean hands, which makes the hand washing pointless (unless the kids wash their hands again after putting their jackets into their cubbies).

My teachers would have had a field day with me if I was in school now. I was notorious for chewing on my pens. If I was sent to wash my hands after handling a pen that I had chewed on, I would have washed away my outer layer of skin. It's a good thing they didn't have hand sanitizers back in those days because I would have developed severe eczema from using it. I also had friends who chewed on their pens. If my pen ran out of ink, I'd borrow a pen that a friend had chewed on.  Somehow my friends and I survived.

The paranoia about germs in the States is also having an unintended effect: breeding resistant bacteria. Antibacterial cleansers are justified in a hospital or doctor's office, where patients have a lowered resistance to infection and bacteria needs to be killed. But home use of antibacterial soaps and cleansers, and overuse of hand sanitizers, does not kill all of the bacteria on a surface. The surviving bacteria then pass on their genes for resistance to the next generation. Within a short period of time, all of the bacteria become resistant to the antibacterial soap. Antibacterial soaps may also kill off good bacteria that keeps harmful germs in check.

It seems like the germophobes in the States don't realize that our bodies are full of bacteria. We have harmful bacteria in our throats, lungs, digestive tracts, and on our skin. Bacteria also play an important role in digestion. What keeps the harmful bacteria from making us constantly sick is the good bacteria in our bodies. I wonder what some of the people who are into sterilizing their environment would think if they knew that their bodies were full of germs.

When I was growing up, and I got dirty, my mother always told me that there were two things called soap and water that would get rid of dirt. They worked very well. I wonder if this generation of kids growing up with germ phobic parents will be afraid to venture out into the world because they think that everything around them is contaminated. Will they develop OCD because of the constant hand washing or use of hand sanitizers? Will there be even more problems with resistant bacteria because of the overuse of hand sanitizers? Only time will tell. I think I'd rather stay in Europe where kids can get dirty and people aren't so paranoid about germs.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Injury Status

I've been writing more about life than running lately. That's because there hasn't been anything noteworthy going on with my running. A couple of months ago I hurt my left calf muscle. As soon as it healed, I hurt the same muscle in my right leg. That has finally healed and now I'm back to normal again. It has been about a two month span between the time I got the first injury and when the second finally healed.

The one good thing about both injuries is that I was able to ski and walk without any problems, which meant that I got some exercise. Now I'm up to running between 5 and 6 kilometers at a slow pace. Even though I'm slow, it still feels good to be able to run. The ice and snow that's still on the ground is forcing me into a slower pace, which is preventing another reinjury due to excessive speed. In the last week I've been able to increase my speed in the last 200 meters of my runs; but I haven't done my usual full sprint. I've been running outdoors, but without my ice spikes. I decided not to use my spikes because my injuries happened when I used them.

This is the first time in a long time that I've had an injury that affected my running. I've had problems with hamstrings that cleared up after a day of rest or with using my massage stick. They didn't affect my workout schedule. I'm leaning toward skipping the Munich City Run half-marathon in June. I'll have to see how far I've progressed in the next month or two before making any decisions. I know that the half-marathon that accompanies the Munich Marathon in October will be a no-go because I'll be in the States for 3 to 4 weeks in August and September. Since I tend not to get in much running on my Stateside trips, mainly due to the hot weather, I won't be able to put in the proper amount of training time. That would be the time that I would be doing my longest runs to prepare my body for the rigors of the race. Maybe the timing will be right and I'll find a race to do while I'm in the States.

This coming week will be a running week with no skiing. It's the Fasching break and the ski hills are even more crowded than they are during the Christmas holidays. This will give me a good opportunity to evaluate my injury and fitness status. Hopefully everything will continue to improve.