As I clear the cobwebs from my eyes, I realize I am not alone. No fewer than ten people yesterday all agreed, some without prompting, that they all felt on the tired side. For me, waking at 5:45AM wasn’t easy—and it wasn’t easy rousing my wife and kids to begin their day.
The brief article “U.S. lost $433,982,548 because of Daylight Savings Time switch” helps beg the question: Why do we continue to change the clocks? The amount of lost money was calculated by SleepBetter.org who investigated, and created the Lost-Hour Economic Index. I was impressed at how an actual numeric figure could be derived from “Springing ahead one hour”, so I think it is important to quote this study’s methodology, direct from SleepB etter.org:
“These are the findings of Chmura Economics & Analytics in a study entitled “Estimating the Economic Loss of Daylight Saving Time for U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas” commissioned by the Carpenter Co. The study focused on only the aspects of economic losses where solid evidence from peer-reviewed academic journals could be obtained, showing how the DST change can lead to an increase in heart attacks, workplace injuries in the mining and construction sectors, and increased cyberloafing that reduces productivity for people who typically work in offices. A reasonable economic cost was then developed from the economic costs of heart attacks, workplace accidents and cyberloafing and applied to the more than 300 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in the U.S.”
The part that really grabs my attention is the increase in heart attacks, along with workplace accidents. I can understand having had to change clocks when the US was heavy into farming, but today? Why not keep the time where it is right now? Why risk people’s health? Wouldn’t an extra hour of daylight around dinnertime translate to more outdoor activity, less depression, less obesity, more social interaction, more walks for the dog, and in theory improve the economy? Each state has its own right to decide whether to participate with changing the clocks. Arizona and Hawaii are already on the ball and do not participate. Hopefully, PA, and the rest of the States, do what is best for businesses and their citizens’ health. It’s time to stop the madness.
It took me a couple of days to be able to get my bearings together enough to write this. I was first made aware of the travesty in Newtown, CT on Friday afternoon, while closing out of my internet mail. For a split second my brain seemed to pick up “Newtown” and “School shooting” from the barrage of news stories and links. You see, I have children who go to school in Newtown—Newtown PA. Then came a sudden sigh of relief, then within seconds I realized, or at least started to try to grasp, the magnitude of the tragedy. Not many words or even feelings can attempt to describe the hell that several families, a high school friend, and the US in general have to experience because of this single act of one warped mind.
No one will ever be able to know what went through the shooter’s mind, before, or during the massacre. This is only a couple of days later, so a lot of questions still remain. Apparently, one of the four guns used during the killings, was his mother’s semi-automatic gun.
Immediately, the mainstream press followed up with the issue of gun control. The US former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, was infamously quoted as saying “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” The argument from the left says guns should be banned, or these massacres will continue. Those on the right say, it’s people who kill, not the guns. So which side is right?
We have to meet somewhere in the middle on this one folks. The US has a 2nd amendment, which clearly says “we have the right to bear arms.” This is in the document to help prevent tyranny—which is the reason the US came about in the first place. This right needs to be acknowledged by all. The Constitution is a bit over 200 years old, and is, in my opinion, still a fresh, living, breathing document, and one of the greatest ever written. But those who took an oath, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg who said she would look to South Africa’s Constitution as a framework for a revised US Constitution, in my opinion, have committed treason. They should not have taken the oath. Before making a claim that banning guns is the solution, those on that side should study some history about gun control and where that has lead other countries. In fact, I can argue there are some statistics and examples that show gun ownership among citizens actually decreases crime and murder rates.
While hunting rifles, and handguns carried with the proper documentation are certainly within bounds, any argument made for people who possess semi-automatic weapons, will continue to ring hollow with most in the mainstream media. Perhaps it is time to take a look at the reasons for possessing certain weapons; and the reasons for not being able to buy them.
On this topic of violence and killing, we need to take a step back and look at the entire field—let’s not lose site of the ball. In this case we have a problem, which requires a solution. Politics need to be placed aside here. Banning some types of weapons could help, but taking away the rights of decent, tax-paying citizens to arm themselves is nothing short of tyranny. So what’s the answer?
I firmly believe the question to be raised here is not so much should guns be legal, but rather how much the mainstream media, Hollywood movie producers, professional entertainers, and video game producers contribute to the avalanche of violence and viral crap, that all US citizens, including young children, are subjected to. How long will the practice of desensitizing children to violence, over the years, through more and brutal violence continue? We can discuss the hypocrisy of the ratings system, but, heck, even the old Disney movies for General audiences could have been rated differently back in the day. From the Wicked Witch in Snow White, Oven Baking in Hansel and Gretal, and The Hungry Wolf in The 3 Little Pigs to the barrage of violence in video games, on U-tube, and on television, humans in the US seem to be provided a steady dose of violence, and hence stress/anxiety from cradle to grave.
It now seems like normal fare for 10 year old kids to play war games on their PC’s or X box’s. The games are intense with the graphics, sounds, and themes—quite “immersing” actually. I took my 12 year old son and some friends to see The Hobbit recently, rated PG-13, and the be-headings were quite graphic. I don’t see any difference between the violence offered in the R rated, Lord Of The Rings—same degree of violence. So why a more lax rating? It is called “desensitization.” When I was 12, seeing some of the violence such as that in The Hobbit would have shaken me. When I asked my son and friends how they felt about it, they all said “I’ve seen a lot worse.” What can be worse than a be-heading?
So the point here, is that before we even begin discussions on banning guns entirely, let’s look at the entire picture, which needs to include a frank discussion about the state of our entertainment industry, and how their material and works of art contribute to and fuel violence, distortions of reality, and mass killings. Of course in the end, we as free citizens have the right to choose what we watch and what we do for our entertainment. Perhaps on this front we should all be choosing more wisely…
The other day was one of the toughest I can remember. It is never easy putting our pet companions to sleep, particularly a special cat I knew for the past 18 years. As I write this, I very much miss hearing Anna snore under my desk; I miss her meow; I miss holding and caressing her, but most of all I miss her purring and nudging.
Back in 1994 I owned a cool little house that overlooked the Neshaminy Creek. From the street, the only way through my front door was to climb 52 stairs. My neighbor, Nina, who happened to be a retired Russian ballerina from the NYC ballet, had a penchant for felines; she had over 50 of them. She had given me a cat named Merlin, who was very special. He had not been “mixed in” with the others yet, and Nina found him on the streets of South Philly—so I used to tell folks that Merlin was an Italian cat. Merlin was extremely vocal, and polite. He had leukemia, and I had to put him to sleep when he was 7 years old; that was a tough time for sure.
About a month after I adopted Merlin, Nina came across a tiny black cat, who was found on the side of the road, sitting beside her dead mother; her mother had been hit by a car. Nina asked me if I wanted her, and I figured she would be good company for Merlin while I was away at work during the day. I asked her if she had a name and was told “Anastasia”, to which I replied “Anna.” Nina agreed that name suited her.
I can remember clear as day, when I would wake in the AM, and Anna would be in her cage, meowing. All I could see was a tiny red mouth, surrounded by a tiny ball of thick jet black fur. Anna, as most kittens, can be devious at night—they love to play, lick and chew a sleeping face, which is why I kept her in a cage at night—this only lasted 2 weeks. Most male cats are quite territorial. But Merlin actually allowed Anna to eat first, waiting until she finished before he ate. He would also groom her several times a day. They ended up being the best of pals, sharing their bed, playing inside and outside, and never, ever, fought. One special memory is when Merlin would be walking near the bed, and Anna would literally dive bomb Merlin. It was really something to see.
After I had to put Merlin to sleep, I was concerned about Anna. Do cats have feelings? Yes, they absolutely do! So I went to my local vet and took home a silver striped kitten we named Jake. While Jake is still with us today at 13 years of age, I should have waited longer. It wasn’t long before Jake would dominate Anna—jump all over her, etc.
By that time, my wife and I had a small child, and we were able to move into a larger house. For those 5 years, Anna mainly stayed in the basement, where I worked, in order to stay clear of Jake and people. Anna was always easily frightened, and would hide from guests. My brother even called her “Sasquatch” since most people heard about her, but didn’t actually get to see her.
Back in 2008, we relocated to an even bigger house, where I had an office where I could get some sunlight and not be in a basement 14 hours a day. I decided to keep Anna in my office, where she would be away from visitors and Jake the cat. She had it made—a clean litter box, food, water, and sunlight in a fair sized space. Since Anna was in indoor cat and seemed healthy, I decided that trips to the vet would only invite stress for her. In fact, my Dad and I had a cat that lived to be nearly 23—and Cinnamon had not visited the vet for several years.
Slowly, Anna lost weight, but I just assumed that’s what old cats do. She was still eating and drinking fine. Over time her stools became pebbly and dry, and I should have been more aware and placed her on a wet food diet. I had her mainly on a dry food diet.
Whenever my family would go on vacation, I would worry about Anna. She was usually different when I arrived home, but would warm back up fairly quickly. About a week ago, I noticed she was not leaving any stools in the box—or they were real small. Then I noticed she would have a problem getting comfortable—she would circle around several times before trying to lie down. Then I knew she was in pain, even though she still was eating a bit, drinking a lot, and peeing fine. I had hoped the trip to the vet would have been able to clear her constipation—that’s all I assumed was wrong with her.
First thing Monday morning (vet was closed on Sunday) I was able to get a 9:30 appointment. I held Anna in my arms for over an hour, and just cried. At the vet’s office, the Dr. asked me to leave her so they could run some tests, and that we may still have a good shot with her. Leaving her in that condition for over 2 hours was not easy—the fact that she may have felt abandoned, after losing her mother, then best pal, still haunts me. Then 2 hours later the call came—her kidneys were shot, she was anemic, and her quality of life could not be restored. Once I make up my mind, I can make and act on decisions quickly. I was able to get my mom to accompany me to the dreaded procedure within the hour. Yes, I am in my 40’s, but putting a companion down requires some support, and my wife was at work.
Holding Anna against my beating heart before the Dr. entered the room may have been the longest 10 minutes of my life. He was finally able to locate a decent vain, and I stroked her head and neck while she slowly laid her head down one final time. At this point, I am trying to remember all of the joy Anna bought me, and am trying to forget her last days. Could I have been a better owner? Looking back I wish I would have taken her to the vet perhaps every few years so they could get a baseline—but I chose not to in order to avoid stress. Even if I knew she had the failing kidneys (takes years, then won’t show up in full until the very end), a change in diet, may have only prolonged her life a bit. So I guess rather than beat myself up over what I maybe could or should have done, I should feel lucky that I was able to enjoy such a beautiful, special, and humble cat, these past 18 years. But, oh I miss her so…
Properly fueling the body before activities is essential. Too many take this lightly. Why pre-activity nutrition is important and should not be overlooked.
“Coach George, I think I’m going to be sick.” It was a Saturday morning game, one of those 8AM starts. Since it was still early in the hockey season, some of the other teammates were not present at the game, because of soccer commitments. So our team had a total of 10 skaters, which for ice hockey is about the bare minimum—2 full lines and 2 full defensive parings—and of course the goalie. Within seconds I watched the projection from the helpless 9 year old’s mouth, out through his metal face mask, and then trickle down his game jersey. I told him to just try to breathe normally, and that we would get him cleaned up. Then I looked to my left and my sole assistant coach for that game was holding onto the glass, contemplating whether or not to jump over the glass, and leave our player’s bench area so he could avoid the mess. So at that point I knew it was up to me to get my player cleaned up—in fact it is against USA hockey regulations for any player to be by himself in a locker room; the head coach could be fined or suspended. So here I was trying to run a game bench, and at the same time escorting a player into the locker room to get him cleaned up.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask: “What did you eat for breakfast?” “Nothing” was the reply. So after cleaning him up and returning to the bench, I figured I would take a brief poll. I walked behind the bench asking each and every player what they had for breakfast. “A donut.” “A Poptart” “Nothing.” “Juice.” “Goldfish.” Out of 10 players, only 3 said they ate a bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit. Ohhh, and this was a home game for us—most lived within 20 minutes of the rink.
It boggles the mind how good folks who want to do the right thing, outlay over a thousand dollars to enroll their child in ice hockey, purchase the best equipment, enroll in skills clinics, and make a seven month commitment so that their kids can be the best hockey players they can be. Then, the parents send their children to games without giving them the proper fuel to perform and heal properly. Since my wife is a dietitian, I guess I falsely assume that people know what to eat and feed their kids before activities.
So anyone who has children enrolled in sports activities, please don’t take proper nutrition lightly. Providing proper nutrition is the single best thing we can do to help our athletes perform to the best of their ability—and the single best thing to allow their bodies to heal.
Not only will proper nutritional choices provide a boost to the athlete’s performance, but the latest research shows that eating before activity increases healing and recovery. Nancy Clark is an expert who specializes in sports nutrition. Check out her blog site for an excellent resource of information.
And last but not least, here are my wife’s pre-activity nutrition tips in a nutshell:
- You can only compete at your best if you can train at your best
- Practice this pre-activity fueling to see what works best for your child
- Carbs are needed to refuel the muscles
- Protein builds and heals muscles
- Eat a ratio of 3 (carbs) to 1 (protein)
SUGGESTED Pre-game Food Ideas:
Yogurt and fruit
Bagel, toast, or bread, with peanut butter Cereal and milk (dry cereal and milk box is quick) Fruit and cheese, or hard-boiled egg (made the night before) Granola bar, milk
BAD Pre-game Food Ideas:
No high fat foods (i.e. donuts or pastry) No fried foods (i.e. donuts, French-fries) No refined sugar (i.e. candy, certain types of cookies, most pop tarts)
A couple months ago while taking my early morning stroll, I noticed a creature quietly sailing though the canal, as smooth as butter. I couldn’t get a close enough look, and could only see its snout. I had assumed it was possibly a fox, a possum, or a groundhog. It was cutting through the water, much like a river otter does, except that there are no river otters in my area. Then a few weeks ago, along the same trail (Delaware Canal Towpath, I noticed that my next door neighbor had a tree that had been gnawed down (yes I had to defer to the dictionary to spell gnawed). The tree was raw at its base, the bark stripped away first, then all of the sudden, it looked like a giant pencil sharpener had taken down, not one, but four trees!
So about two weeks ago as I was ready to contact the PA Park and/or Game Commission, I noticed two Game Commission trucks parked in front of my house. Apparently, others had called, and it was confirmed that there was a damn beaver problem. That would help explain why about ½ mile north on the canal, a blockage was preventing passage for kayaks and canoes—and the ducks! The Park Rangers from the Game Commission didn’t mind speaking with me at all, and were really friendly. They set four beaver traps in the water. As it turns out the den (is) located one house to my right—but most of the damage was performed one house to my left. Luckily, I have a fence along the canal, which has been there the last 29 years or so. Note that the new ordinance says no fences with 25 feet of the canal—so my fence is grandfathered in and legal. Lucky for me there was no damage, so far, to any of the large trees in my yard.
Apparently, as recently as a month ago, two beavers were trapped about a mile or so north of my home. Now, the Rangers were trying to trap an additional family. Last week while speaking with my wife, she halted and screamed “Ohhhh—look at thaaaat.” Walking across our front yard, there was a Ranger with a 27 inch, 8 pound beaver slung over his back, being carried by its tail. The tail made it look larger than it really was. I ran outside to get the details, and learned that the woman park Ranger had a penchant for beaver stew. Evidently, beaver meat tastes pretty good–not too gamey; I may never know. They said they didn’t know how many beavers were there, but that there could be up to eight! I had previously assumed it was a single beaver, but learned they live in groups. I had no idea beavers would somehow manage to travel ½ mile west from the river, and try to make the canal their new residence. Then the other day, I saw a Ranger hauling away another larger one. In chatting with him, I learned that was the mother beaver—about 6 -8 lbs.
The traps are placed under the water, and this one had been trapped only by its back webbed foot—just barely. The good news is that, apparently, beavers will hold their breath under water for a long time, before they immediately drown. So, luckily, there isn’t much suffering involved. That is the only reason I decided to include the photos for this post—otherwise, I don’t like seeing any creature suffer. While my family feels badly for the beaver family, we would feel a lot worse if a tree was gnawed down and ended up taking out a side of our home—or person. Now I know to be on the lookout for beavers, and realize the damage they can quickly cause. Previously I had no idea beavers would even opt to live in the Delaware Canal. Timberrrrrrr….
The recent article “Shunning Smarts” http://www.phillyburbs.com/blogs/reality/shunning-smarts/article_49eb9a2f-dae5-566a-a04b-05c939b71659.html written by high school Neshaminy student Juliette Rihl hits the nail right on the head! This is a topic that needs to be discussed further. To summarize the article, in (high) school classrooms, and throughout our culture, kids who are intelligent, or “nerdy” are often viewed by their peers as uncool, and hence are unpopular. This poor learning attitude, which occurs everywhere, including inner city schools, needs to be turned around ASAP. Why should any child who has a genuine interest to learn and progress, and who puts forth effort, succumb to bullying and those with poor attitudes who hold everyone else back? Which leaders have been speaking out about this? All of the talk about why public education doesn’t work (shown by test scores and some appalling high school graduation rates), that more money needs to be pumped into the system (this hasn’t worked), that more teacher training is required (they can only do so much), and that smaller classrooms will solve the problem (remove any disruptions from class) is simply a bunch of rubbish. The public education debacle can only be turned around when parents and students realize that success will arrive, not just for them, but for the entirety of society, when folks can get along with and accept others, develop an interest in learning, and put forth some effort that they can be proud of. The seeds for a proper attitude should be planted at home: working hard vs. hardly working are learned traits. Any education funding should make attitude change its primary goal.
In July 2009, I was preparing to coach the 11 year old girls travel soccer team. This was my first foray into the travel circle, and I had coached in-house teams for 6 years prior to that. Apparently, the former travel coach made a name for himself by making some of the girls cry, due to public humiliation. I was asked to step up to help–the alternative would have meant that the girls would not be able to play travel that season. So I accepted the job, and shortly thereafter the league decided to have a mandatory coaching clinic.
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Recently while taking a walk along the Canal, I saw a young chap about 40 yards in front of me, facing a tree, while holding 2 hands in front of him, down near his waist. Guess what he was doing? I figured I should at least let the chap have some privacy, but then thought about my privacy–so I yelled out “If you shake it twice you’re playing with it.” This way, he realized that he probably should have been more discreet, and hopefully learned his lesson. Then last week my wife spotted an older female couple–at least they were a couple of females, which may be more accurate. One of them started looking all around her, as she lowered her pants, and squatted, while the other stood guard. Luckily for them, my wife is very humble, and went back to her kitchen tasks. Here are a few tips when it comes to relieving yourself in public. First, try to pick a spot where there are no windows facing you. Second, you will have better luck off the the path. Third, try to master the use of one hand, and use the other to hold your mobile phone to your ears–this way it looks like you are busy doing your business.
“Coaching is a thankless job” I will always remember the President of my local soccer league addressing the room full of parent coaches. Boy, was she correct. I first volunteered to coach soccer when my daughter turned 5. I signed on as an assistant coach and can still remember the initial phone call from the head coach. He spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent, and had a nervousness in his voice “welcome to the team, and thanks for stepping up to help out.” He was a former MLB player, and had a certain intensity to him. Some of his after hours baseball stories were jaw droppers. Continue Reading →
Recently I got back into playing jazz standards. These tunes are timeless, the swing is second to none, there is room over the melodies to improvise, and there is some opportunity for decent pay at some local lounges. But in order to play this style of music, and perform gigs properly, an upright bass is often required—or is it? Continue Reading →