The Observer Jan. 26 

Our 37-cent stamps are out of fashion, and we needed to stay out of debtors’ prison, so The Observer dropped in at the U.S. Post Office. We asked for a roll of the new stamps and some 2-centers for our old so we could quickly dispatch a few bill payments. The post-lady at the counter got our stamps together and asked, “Would you like a stuffed animal, a phone card, some packaging materials or framed art with that?”

The question was so odd we asked her to repeat it. She obliged.

Then we asked her if she felt like she was working at Burger King. Yes, she said, under her breath. If she doesn’t ask everyone who comes to her counter to buy stamps about the other items, she’ll lose her job, she said. And she gets mighty tired of repeating it.

Why is the post office selling stuffed animals? Is it now a gallery? Will someone buy packaging and ask, “Could you supersize that?” Will the post-lady one day be asking, “Would you like stamps with that?”

The postal higher-ups need to know: We don’t go to the post office to buy stuffed animals or framed art. We want to mail something, and we don’t want to dally, and we don’t want the P.O. to dally. It’s enough to make you, well, go postal.

When Jermain Taylor slipped into the back door of Nu for a party honoring his selection as Arkansan of the Year by this paper, The Observer nudged our way through the cocktail-carrying crowd to see him. We stopped short of knocking people down, which meant we couldn’t get closer than five feet, but from that vantage we could see that a woman next to him was rubbing the middleweight champ’s head. That’s sort of fresh, we thought. We inquired of the person next to us who she might be.

His elementary school teacher, came the answer; fourth grade, maybe? She was weeping over her successful student. Taylor looked proud and happy to be having his head rubbed.

Teachers can get away with that stuff. Especially elementary school teachers.

The Observer’s always had an overactive sense of fairness — we even once divided up our little sister’s haul from Santa right down the middle, half for her and half for us — and it’s been mightily offended this week.

We decided to get scientific about losing the extra junk in our truck, and put fingers to calculator to figure out the numbers behind our personal butt-reduction goals.

The first: To lose a mere pound a week, we’d have to burn 500 more calories a day than we took in. That’s, well, a lot. And a lot unfair: 500 calories is dessert and a glass of wine on the way in, 90 minutes walking uphill at 3.5 mph on the way out. (Though just an hour playing wallyball, according to the website we found. We’d gladly give it a try if we had a clue what it was.)

But here’s what has us ready to go all Norma Rae: The Observer’s friend and uphill-walking partner found a formula for computing exactly how many calories a day you burn just being you, taking into account your age, weight, height and activity level (desk job = sedentary, no matter what you do after 5 p.m.).

Our magic number? 1,559. Anything above that has to come off on the treadmill.

That’s not much, y’all. Every food label in existence pretends we all get 2,000 calories a day. And the skinnier we get, the fewer calories we’re allowed. There should really be an appeals process here.

On the bright side, 1,559 calories means we could have dessert and a glass of wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and not gain an ounce. As long as we ate nary a carrot stick in between.

If you’re a glutton for bad news, here’s the formula:

655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) — (4.7 x age in years) = your basal metabolic rate, or how many calories you’d burn every day if you didn’t get out of bed. Multiply that by 1.1 if you work a desk job, 1.2 if your job entails light activity, 1.3 for medium (an athlete, according to our source), 1.4 for heavy (say, lumberjack). The result is your active metabolic rate. Any exercise you get outside of work counts extra.



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