A Plea for Some Male Sartorial Sense

Once upon a time, women wore their pants on their waists and men wore their pants on their hips. In recent years, however, the craze for low-rise pants struck both women and men. Women’s fashion now includes pants and skirts that sit on one’s hips as well as styles that sit on one’s waist.

Since men’s pants already sit on the hips, there really was no place for the low-rise craze to go. Or so one might think.

Not to be outdone by the women’s sinking waistband, males began wearing their pants lower on the hips. And even lower. And now, you’ll see boys (I deliberately use “boys” here because I don’t think that any man in his right mind would dress like this) who wear their pants below their butt cheeks so that their boxer shorts are visible.

The “style” has gone from super-baggy pants to slim-fit pants but the results remain the same – ridiculous. It is made even more ridiculous when the visible boxer shorts don’t match the shirt. And even more ridiculous that that is if the boy is wearing a belt with that pair of pants. What’s the purpose of that belt? To keep the pants cinched underneath those boxer-covered butt cheeks?

What makes these boys think that anyone wants to see their underwear? And if they really think that someone wants to see their underwear, then why bother wearing pants that just cover their legs? Why not just go out in their boxer shorts and tube socks? I suppose one positive of this “style” is that these boys need to make sure they have clean underwear. I hope so, at any rate!

I can’t even go into how this silly “style” affects one’s stride and gait. This “style” certainly makes it easier for police to win foot chases. Although I’ve noticed that this silly “style” is gaining traction in work pants as well as dress pants.

It really can’t be comfortable for the boys who wear their pants this way. I can’t imagine that constantly adjusting and tugging on the pants to make sure that they don’t just fall off completely would be a comfortable way to spend the day.

So here’s my plea – please, please, please, boys, pull your pants back up to your hips. At least. I don’t want to see your underwear. No one but your mother and your significant other wants to see your underwear or your butt cheeks (boxer-covered or not). There’s an appropriate place and time for that and in public is not that place and time.

I’d like to take my plea one step further and ask for long-sleeve button-down shirts with ties (very sexy, in my opinion) but I know that’s too much to expect. So for now, please just pull your pants up, boys!

The thought processor churns on . . .

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Volunteer or “Voluntold”

Volunteering is an interesting concept. It’s doing a task or a job for a company or an organization willingly and without getting paid.

Volunteering – both time and money – seems to be a uniquely American concept. When disaster strikes around the world, Americans are first in line to go to the disaster site to provide whatever help is needed and generally first to start donation drives for money and items to send. That’s not to say that other nations don’t volunteer but it seems that Americans are front and center in any discussion on volunteerism.

In recent years, volunteering has become more woven into the fabric of our lives as Americans. Is it because we are becoming a more altruistic society? Is it because we feel an obligation as one of the more developed nations in the world? Is it because we want to polish what may be a tarnished image in the world?

The simple answer is that in the last decade or so, high schools and colleges began to require that students perform a certain number of community service hours in order to graduate. And now there are companies that are strongly encouraging their employees to perform community service. In some companies, the encouragement is simply a message from senior management. In other companies, the encouragement comes in the form of an evaluation category on performance evaluations.

This raises the question – if it’s required, is it still volunteering?

The company I work for is one of those that has an evaluation category on our annual performance evaluation forms. It doesn’t ask about general volunteerism, it asks about volunteering for the university specifically. When I fill out this evaluation for my employees, my answer is rather passive aggressive because I don’t believe that it’s an appropriate category for an employee evaluation. It’s self-serving and frankly, irrelevant. It calls into question the employee’s loyalty to the company. That would be fine if we rewarded employees for their loyalty. But we don’t. There have been no raises for four years – no cost-of-living adjustments and certainly no merit raises. I feel uncomfortable evaluating an employee’s loyalty when I know that the company isn’t rewarding that loyalty.

If it’s required, is it still volunteering?

This weekend was commencement. When I first started working at the university, there was never a problem getting enough volunteers to staff the event. This could be because our commencement ceremonies were simpler in those early years. But I think it’s also because people felt more valued in those early years, they felt like they had more of an impact in the daily workings of the university, and they wanted to see the results of their work – commencement.

About four years ago they began to have problems getting volunteers to staff the event. They made do that year but the next year, they resorted to strongly encouraging management employees to volunteer for the event. The following year, all management employees were contacted by their managers to volunteer for the event. This year, the pressure intensified with HR providing lists of management employees to the event organizers who in turn provided senior management with lists of management employees who had volunteered and who had not yet signed up to volunteer for the event.

If you’re coerced, is it still volunteering?

In the current employment environment, that kind of pressure can be likened to coercion. People are afraid to lose their jobs and so they will do what they need to do in order to keep their jobs. Knowing that they will be evaluated on their spirit of volunteerism, they sign up to volunteer for commencement. It was so bad this year that we coined the term “voluntold” in that we were told to volunteer.

Volunteering is doing work willingly and without the expectation or anticipation of getting paid. I do quite a bit of volunteer work in my hours away from work. I enjoy volunteering. But I want to choose who I give my time to away from work. The organizations that I volunteer with appreciate my time and my skills and I know that I’m helping them further their mission.

When we require high school students to work a certain number of community service hours as a prerequisite to graduate from high school, when we require college students to work a certain number of community service hours as a prerequisite to graduate from college, when we evaluate employees on the basis of volunteering either for the company or outside of the company, it takes away the spirit of volunteering.

The thought processor churns on . . .

Race Report – PAL Artichoke Festival 5k

The PAL Artichoke Festival 5k/10k is run every Mother’s Day and benefits the Monterey County Police Activities League. It’s a small (about 100 to 200 participants) local run that goes through the artichoke fields.  The race is usually held a week before the Artichoke Festival and registered runners get an entry to the Artichoke Festival plus a t-shirt and, harvest permitting, a bag of artichokes for each finisher.

I was signed up for the 10k but ended up dropping down to the 5k. Physically, I could have finished the 6.2 miles. Mentally, it would have been a miserable 6.2 miles. I would have spent the entire time worrying about being a slow runner and being the last runner to cross the finish line. Because the 10k field was so small, I most likely would have won an age group medal even if I finished last! That’s the beauty of smaller races.

The crowd was a mixture of families, couples, moms and children, and friends. The check-in desk was staffed by children in the PAL program. All check-in issues were handled promptly and with a friendly smile. The event organizers might want to make sure they have more medium and small t-shirts on hand next year.

The course is an out-and-back course that starts with a stretch of paved road and then turns off into the artichoke fields. Once in the fields, runners are on agricultural roads, which are rocky dirt roads. Footing is a bit treacherous because the rocks are too big to be considered gravel and too small to be considered obstacles. The course runs along Highway 1 and then goes under the Highway 1 overpass and into more artichoke fields.

The race started on time and we took off quickly. I had to concentrate much more once we turned onto the agricultural road because I didn’t want to twist my ankle on the loose stones. It was a perfect day for a race – slightly overcast and chilly with the sun peeking out midway through the race. Once I turned to go under the overpass, I could see the 5k turnaround – a fire truck was parked on the side of the road and a water station was set up there.

I decided that I wasn’t going to get water and would just turn around and head back to the starting line. As I watched a couple of runners continue past the turnaround, I knew I had made the right decision in dropping down to the 5k. It looked lonely out there.

Post-race goodies included bananas, oranges, bagels, and water. Women were given a pot of petunias for Mother’s Day and all racers got a bag of artichokes (3 big artichokes in each bag).

I tried to wait around for the awards ceremony because, just like at my first race of 2011, I had a feeling that I had won an age group prize. I had watched the returning runners on my way to the turnaround and I didn’t see very many women who looked like they were in my age group so I was fairly confident that I would at least be 3rd in my age group. But, knowing that my mom had a great breakfast in the works won out over waiting for the awards ceremony. I learned today that I did win a prize in my age group but haven’t confirmed if it was 2nd or 3rd. Gotta love being older!

I was able to give my mom her traditional Mother’s Day gift – an entry to the Artichoke Festival and a bag of artichokes – plus a pot of petunias. This is a great little local race and I definitely recommend it.

Happy running!

With a Little Bit of Luck

On 16 October 2011, the 8th running of the Nike Women’s Marathon will take place in San Francisco. Over the years, the Nike Women’s Marathon has exploded in popularity so much so that you can no longer simply register to participate in the event. Registration is via random draw only.

On 11 April, I received an email from the Nike Women’s Marathon announcing that registration for the random draw opened. Knowing how popular the event was and still feeling good from last fall’s half-marathons, I decided to register for the event. I chose the full marathon instead of the half-marathon primarily because I didn’t think my name would be drawn. If I had thought it through, I would have looked at my race schedule and noticed that I was already registered for the San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon on 2 October 2011 and the Big Sur International Half-Marathon on 20 November. No one in their right mind would have put a full marathon in between those two half-marathons. Apparently I wasn’t in my right mind because I submitted my registration and then forgot all about it.

Tuesday the 26th of April was the day the Nike Women’s Marathon announced the winners of the random draw. I knew this not because it was marked on my calendar but because I saw some posts on Facebook from people who had registered and hadn’t been chosen. So I switched tabs to check my email and discovered an email from the Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM). I was in.

First excitement, then trepidation. Excitement because I was chosen. Trepidation because I truly believe that the half-marathon is my distance and I’m not convinced that I have the mental toughness to handle a full marathon. I know that physically I can finish the distance but my mental toughness is my challenge. Trepidation also because my fall race schedule already has two half-marathons, one two weeks before the NWM and one three weeks after the NWM.

The good news is that I have 5 months to work on both my mental toughness and my physical conditioning. It will definitely be an interesting journey.

Happy running!