Sam Bauman: Why celebrate the Fourth of July?



It’s a federal holiday in the United States, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire. The Congress actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2. Amid all the barbecues, picnics, hiking and fireworks, this is why we celebrate the Fourth of July in the USA.

’The Handmaid’s Tale’

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood is a serious novelist and has many fine works to her credit. The most controversial of them is “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a despotic look at a Republic of Gilead, which replaced the United States after an unspecified disaster. It’s a far different state from the old USA, being a theocracy where women are the subjected class, not even having their original names but instead go by their lover’s names and give birth children for the state. They go by combinations of lover’s or husband’s names — “OfSteve” for Steve and “OfWilbur” for Wilbur.

Babies are taken by the state to be raised by workers or the state wives class.

The nation is based on extreme far-right ideals by the mono-theocratic government. The outcome is a nightmare for liberal or conservative women, with women strictly controlled, unable to take jobs, or have money and assigned to many classes; the chaste childless wives locked into state control. Tools of the state include housekeeping “Marthas” and the reproductive Handmaidens.

If you are locked into a political philosophy, you might find the book upsetting. Of course, “it couldn’t happen here,” could it? But books like this tend to make you question the status quo.

On the question of fitness trackers

Ever since they first came out a couple of years ago, I’ve often toyed with the idea of buying a fitness tracker. Seemed like a way to improve my daily 80-minute workout. The price isn’t daunting, according to a recent article in the Consumer Reports magazine, the cost for tested fitness trackers went from $80 to $250. As I was getting ready to write a check, I found in the Consumer Reports article a note that Ephones could be adapted to tracking by an easy app.

As usual, I turned my phone over to my software engineer son to make the fix. He pointed out the phone wouldn’t be as useful and sometimes I didn’t wear it, so I’m going ahead and buying one of the trackers the Consumer Reports suggests. That means heart beat accuracy, step-count accuracy, a touch screen and GPS positioning.

And I got it for $150, plus tax. I haven’t really given it a test hike, but I figure I’ll try Dead Man’s Creek, over by the Washoe park entrance. Rangers say it’s moderate and less than a mile, which I always thought underestimated the distance.

Consumer Reports also reports on using smart watches as trackers. The cost to adapt them ranges from $300 to $700, not a bargain.

I had a mechanical tracker years ago, but it was bulky and didn’t seem to really register steps. But today’s trackers fit on the wrist and mine feels comfy and reads even the few steps taken with it on. Consumer Reports has some tips on using a tracker, and I’ll report next on how good they are.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the Dead Man’s Creek hike. Washoe Lake is brim-full, reaching right out to the highway. And when I first came to Carson City there was no lake at all.

At the movies

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is a successful addition to the franchise. “Despicable Me 3” is animation fun. “Cars 3” is really exciting animation. “Wonder Woman” is fun, but lots of backstory has to be told.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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