Are Citibikes a good idea or a pain in the ass?

You can hate the Citibike program because the docking stations are eyesores, but you also have to admit that there's an upside as well. Anything that makes the subways and roads less congested while giving New Yorkers a chance to be more active can't be all that bad. Will using a shared bike save you money and make your life easier? Filmmaker Casey Neistat attempts to answer the question in this unscientific, slightly tongue-in-cheek video. His overall impression: although not perfect, it's the best way to get around the city.

Flu season... it's gettin' ugly

shotIf you've been noticing fewer people at work or at the gym, it's not your imagination. We're getting nailed with a particularly bad flu season this winter. (If you want to see how scary it is, go here and see how the map changes in the past two months.) It's gotten so bad that Boston has declared a public health emergency. There are several theories as to why the spread of the virus is so severe. Many are not getting vaccinated, either due to unfounded fears that it's toxic or simply due to complacency from a mild flu season last year. Furthermore, each season's vaccine only immunizes against a handful of strains, and it appears the strains that were chosen are not matching up well with the strains currently infecting people in huge numbers.

So you can eat healthy, get exercise, and get plenty of rest, but if a booger-covered child sneezes on your subway car, you're getting sick. The single best thing you can do to protect yourself is to get vaccinated, even if the vaccine isn't perfect. Remember, it isn't a decision that only affects you. It's a decision that affects your community, especially in a city as tightly packed as New York.

Well done, NYSC.

From the NYSC website: "Our doors are open to help anyone impacted by Hurricane Sandy. All of our clubs are opening their doors to Hurricane Sandy victims allowing full use of our facilities. If you need to take a hot shower, charge your cell phone, or recharge your body with a stress-reducing workout, our club is your club. All we ask is that nonmembers bring a towel."

Not sure if other clubs in the city are offering this service, but either way, kudos to NYSC for opening their doors to those in need. Spread the word to your non-member friends without power.

When bottled isn't good enough....

If you find yourself thirsty in the East Village and you have $2.50 burning a hole in your pocket , stop in to Molecule for a to-go cup of... water. New York city water, which is some of the best you can get when it comes to tap water, is simply not good enough for the folks at Molecule. They run it through a huge, expensive filtration system and serve the final product to its customers.

"It's about treating water a little more consciously, mindfully and respectfully," says a co-owner of the "water cafe." If only they treated their customers the same way.

Nanny Bloomberg

Bloomberg is at it again. He is hellbent on making New Yorkers healthier, first by going after smoking and then after trans fats. (He even tried to go after salt in restaurants. Much to the relief of city chefs, he was unsuccessful.) Now large sugary drinks are in the crosshairs. In particular, he wants to make it illegal for food establishments to serve drinks larger than 16 ounces.

Needless to say, the soft drink industry is none too pleased. To quote an ad they placed in the New York Times, "Nanny Bloomberg has taken his strange obsession with what you eat one step further.... What’s next? Limits on the width of a pizza slice, size of a hamburger or amount of cream cheese on your bagel?"

In Bloomberg's defense, you can still order 32 ounces of soda at a restaurant. You just have to order two 16 ounce drinks. (The hope is that by doing so, people will better realize just how much they are consuming.)

Step aerobics back in fashion

Good news, everyone. We're cool again! According to the New York Times, "this seemingly faded fad from the 1990s is far from dead." You have to hand it to NYSC. One thing it has gotten right over the years is that it offers many more step classes than other gyms in the city, and instead of calling them gimmicky names like "Climb-Max" and "Snow Bunnies," it calls them "Step." NYSC has been loyal to step over the years, while other clubs have been fair-weather friends, offering a handful of step classes only when they're supposedly in vogue. The article, however, mentions only these other clubs and leaves NYSC out. Where's the love, New York Times?

Thanks to Lukas for the heads-up on this article.

Salt ban?

In a bill currently being considered by our competent state legislature: "No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant." Not surprisingly, chefs are up in arms over this heavy-handed and totally unreasonable proposal to lower the sodium intake of restaurant-goers.

This bill is an unfortunately consequence of the smoking and trans fat bans having passed so successfully and with such good results. Our lawmakers are starting to think it's their responsibility to monitor every aspect of our health.

This time, it appears, they've gone way too far.

Vajazzlin'!

You can bedazzle your sweater. You can bedazzle a pair of jeans. But have you ever considered bedazzling your privates? Enter the latest fashion trend: Vajazzling! New York City's Completely Bare Spa offers a special waxing service, "followed by a Swarovski crystal tattoo design in starburst, butterfly, heart and other shapes." According to Jennifer Love Hewitt, getting her "precious lady" covered in crystals was just what she needed to get over a breakup. "It shined like a disco ball."

It's vaccination time!

Good news. From the New York State website:

Governor David A. Paterson today announced that, effective immediately, health care providers may make the H1N1 flu vaccine available to all New Yorkers who want the vaccine, including those who are not in priority groups established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you don't have health insurance, get thee to a clinic this weekend. This is the last weekend you'll be able to get an H1N1 shot for free. Clinics will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, 12/12, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, 12/13.

Personal Space Protector

img_3590"PERSONAL SPACE is an object classified as 'functional art', created by the Brazilian artist and inventor Vivian Puxian. It ensures your personal space is always kept safe, and protects you against infectious and contagious diseases, such as the swine flu." Get onto the subway during rush hour with one of these things, and swine flu will be the least of your worries.

Tracking the Swine Flu


Are we headed for another 1918 pandemic? Let's hope to God not. Perhaps it's too soon to be worried, but we definitely should be concerned.

To view a regularly updated (and somewhat disturbing) map of all the reported cases of H1N1 infections, check out Google Maps. New York City is shown above, but you can zoom out to see how the country and the rest of the world is being affected.

Update: According to Google, "Due to the increasing amount of data, we have moved to a more scalable mapping/data tracking system provided by Rhiza Labs at this URL: http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com."

The fittest and the fattest

fat miamiMen's Health just completed its 11th annual survey of 50 of the most populated U.S. cities to rank them by how fit or fat they are. The fittest? Salt Lake City. This is surprising until you check out its "report card" and see that it has a large amount of park space, a low obesity rate, and a high level of sport participation.

The fattest? Miami. Why? To quote the article, "The area also has 79% more gyms and health clubs than average, but residents are less likely than average to regularly use their memberships."

How did New York City fare? Surprisingly badly. It's the 5th fattest city. With a huge park, lots of dining options, and people walking everywhere, you'd think we'd score better than that. It turns out than per capita, we're quite low on park space and health food stores, and our commutes are much more stressful than average. (Thank you, MTA!)