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Opinion: Skip today, hug and scoop tomorrow

Choose your partner, skip to m’lou,

Choose your partner, skip to m’lou,

Choose your partner, skip to m’lou,

Skip to m’lou, my darlin’.

— Skip to My Lou,

Traditional American Folk Song, 1844

Skip today.

That’s the advice from exercise experts.

Today is National Skipping Day, the one day each year when we’re reminded of the health benefits of skipping rope, also known as jumping rope. To get the best results from jumping rope, we are informed that skipping at a moderate pace for at least half an hour a day, five days a week, will work all of the muscles in our bodies and promote good health.

To lose weight, we may need to do more. According to the National Skipping Day website, the average person will burn 15 to 20 calories per minute jumping rope, so during a simple 15-minute workout, we expend enough energy to burn off between 200 and 300 calories. Of course, we put those calories back into our systems when we reward ourselves for exercising by eating that chocolate-chip cookie.

Skipping history

It may seem childish to be skipping rope, but the exercise has a long history. Ancient Egyptians used vines for jump ropes as a conditioning exercise for their warriors. They believed that the exercise improved their musculature and stamina, but it wasn’t all serious military training because jumping rope was also seen as a game.

In Asia, the practice can be traced back to the seventh century when Chinese rope makers introduced the Hundred Rope Jumping Game as part of the celebration of the New Year. Over time, jumping rope evolved into an art form as practitioners began adding tricks to skipping rope.

In 19th century America, the act of skipping without a rope was incorporated into dance. According to several folk-song books that I own, “Skip to My Lou” was Abraham Lincoln’s favorite song. It was a tune that provided a method of getting shy boys to join in dance with young girls. The boy would stand in the middle of a circle formed by the girls. When the music started, the girls would skip around the circle and as the boy’s “lou” passed by, he’d take her arm and skip with her. “Lou” was a variation on the Scottish word “loo,” for “love.”

Hug your plumber

Tomorrow is National Hug-a-Plumber Day. Honest. It’s a day to give recognition to those people who come to our rescue when pipes leak or drains are clogged. Consider, on this special day, how plumbers improve our lives and protect our health.

The National Hug-a-Plumber Day website reminds us that plumbers “have kept the water flowing since ancient Rome.” They are our “water specialists,” designing plumbing systems and helping to decide the right types of pipes to be used when planning a house or erecting a new business building.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that modern society could not have developed without plumbers. Their contributions have allowed people to congregate in densely-populated cities without fear of spreading morbid diseases. We can live in close proximity to one another because adequate plumbing protects our health.

The website poses an interesting question: Given a choice between using only a flush toilet or a smartphone for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

While you’re thanking your plumber for making your modern, urban life possible, you might also give a shout out to the people who collect your garbage, the municipal workers who operate water-supply and waste-removal systems, and all the first responders without whose services we could not enjoy the comforts that are afforded in the 21st century.

Scoop the poop

Tomorrow is the beginning of National Scoop-the-Poop Week. On a scale from one to one hundred of enjoyable things to do, picking up your pet’s poop is either zero of some negative number. But, especially in an urban environment, picking up after your pet after it has relieved itself is every bit as important as modern plumbing.

In 2002, the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists (APAWS) was organized to educate pet owners about the importance of cleaning up after their dogs or other pets. Its website states, “The doggie doo-doo is big business — estimated in the tens of millions of dollars — and more people are stepping in it every day.” Cute joke, but unfortunately the website does not elaborate on exactly what this “big business” is. However, you will create more business for your plumber if you try to flush doggie-poop bags down your toilet (see above).

It’s important to understand that dog droppings that are left on sidewalks or in gutters can contain heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. They can also spread diseases, including parvovirus, giardia, salmonella, and E. coli. These health hazards do not simply disintegrate over time or dissolve when it rains. In fact, bacteria will multiply and spread. So, make the disposal of your pet’s #2 your #1 priority.

While dog poop (without the collection bag) can be safely disposed of in your flush toilet, cat doo-doo cannot. The APAWS warns, “…cat feces should never be flushed, as it may contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can infect people and animals.” The problem is that most municipal water treatment systems do not always kill the parasite.

I hate to end today’s column on this crappy note, but I don’t make up these national days of recognition. I simply report them from time to time. So, remember: skip today, hug a plumber tomorrow, scoop the poop always, and don’t ever shoot the messenger.

• • •

Jim Glynn is Professor Emeritus of Sociology. He may be contacted at


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