If this is your first time visiting, welcome. If you are returning again, welcome back. While this blog was originally not going to be about me or my life, it seems to be morphing to include more of myself and experiences. I will still strive to add a different perspective to the news and events around the world that impact everyone's life,however, I will focus more attention on issues that relate more tangibly to our personal lives. We all live in a world that is increasingly interconnected yet it seems a lot of people are turning inwards, shying away from human interaction. Lets step away from ourselves and see what we can do to make a difference. There are ads on this page and 65 cents of every dollar earned will be donated towards helping the homeless. If you like what you are reading, please share it with your friends.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Hurricane's A Blowing

It was a little more than a year ago that Connecticut last got slammed with a tropical storm/hurricane.  There was massive coastal flooding in which a number of homes were completely destroyed and the power was knocked out for days.  That was a relatively quick storm that blew through, dumped an immense amount of rain, and left a wake of destruction behind it.  This time around, we are not expected to get the full head on collision that we had last year, but with the size of this storm, I don't think it really matters.  We won't get the absolute worst of the wind and rain, but with hurricane force winds extending some 170 miles out from the center of the storm and tropical force winds extending over 500 miles out from the center of the storm, we are essentially still in the path of this hurricane as is much of the eastern seaboard of the United States.  While officials are expecting 50-70% of the state to be without power come Tuesday morning, that is not the worst that the storm has to offer.  Due to the unusual track of the storm, veering out to sea before taking a westward turn and slamming head on into New Jersey, the storm surge coinciding with super high tides is expected to do the most damage.  One of the areas that is expected to see some of the highest water levels is Long Island Sound with water rising 6-11 feet above normal.  Take into account the waves and you have the potential for devastating flooding.  If you look at the radar and the storms track, it all makes sense.  In essence, Long Island will act as a giant funnel with much of the surge entering from the East end of Long Island and building as it heads west.  For anyone living along the coast, this is crunch time to get out and get to higher ground.  From what some forecasters are saying, the flooding from this storm could be record breaking, either meeting or exceeding the record set in a 1938 storm.  What we have could potentially be a 100 year storm. 

But enough of the doom and gloom.  While there is cause to be concerned, we should also be grateful that we have this much advanced notice to stock pile supplies, get out if necessary, and hunker down wherever we can.  And lets be perfectly honest, if you live near the ocean, you should expect a horrible storm to rumble through every so often.  Obviously we all hope that it never happens in our lifetime, but if there is one thing we have no control over, its the weather.  We can complain all we want, or we can simply prepare ourselves for the worst and hope for the best.  This isn't Armageddon that will leave people without power or food for months or years on end.  We may be without power for a week, or we may not.  One thing we can be sure of is that within a few weeks, provided that your house doesn't get washed out to sea (which I hope doesn't happen to anyone), life will return to normal.  While I understand the emergency preparedness that is necessary, I also think that the media creates a certain frenzy around storms like this that make it seem as if Armageddon is just around the corner.  Lets all take a minute and consider what it must have been like in 1938, the year of record flooding that this storm might exceed.  Nobody then had the capability of knowing a week in advance that a storm of this magnitude was going to hit them.  Especially with the unusual track of this storm, I am betting that anyone living back then would have been caught completely unaware and that the destruction and death associated with the storm would have been much worse.  Don't get me wrong, the population back then was a lot less than it is now, but at least we have modern technology that at least helps in predicting what a storm might do.  In the end, despite all the predictions, we do not know exactly what will happen.  Perhaps it is that unknown factor that completely unnerves people.  Who knows, I sure don't.  All I know is that I live on an inland hill far away from coastal flooding and that I am good to go.  I personally love hurricanes and large unpredictable storms.  Despite the mayhem that they cause, there is also something beautiful about watching nature unleash its fury. 

Please keep in mind that I do know a lot of people who live in flood prone areas along the coast and I hope that they don't suffer excessive damage.  Yet, I still can't help but notice the beauty in any storm like this.  To me, there is this raw energy that is unleashed with this type of storm.  I could sit for hours either in a car or in front of a window simply watching a storm like this unleash its fury.  To know we have no control over it is humbling, yet also in a sense, it is relieving.  It is relieving due to the fact that no matter what we do, we can't change the course of the storm or in any way curtail the damage it will inflict.  We are merely ants in a cage when it comes to a storm like this and all we can do is gather our nuts together, clamor for higher ground, and sit and wait it out.  Yes it will mean people won't be able to go to work or engage in their normal daily routine, but massive interruptions like this storm will cause into our daily lives isn't always a bad thing.  It makes us slow down a little, take stock of what we have, the loved ones we are with, and cherish them a little more.  At least it does for me.  In any case, the storm is upon us, or will be shortly, and all we can do now is hope for the best.  If the power goes out, lets hope it isn't out for too long.  Let's simply be thankful that it isn't 30 degrees outside.  If the power is still on tomorrow morning, I will be back on the computer writing.  If it isn't, I will be back when I can.  For all those living in the storm's wake, good luck.  Lets just hope that not too many homes get washed out to sea. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Baby Rhyme Time

Yes, I know the title of my post this morning may sound a little cheesy, but I actually stole the name from a weekly "activity" that is held in a neighboring town library.  Yesterday, as in previous weeks, was my day off to watch my son.  It started off as a rainy day as most people who live in Connecticut know, but that doesn't matter much to a 1 year old.  All my son really cares about is being able to walk around, play with his toys, eat his food, and take his naps.  That about sums it up.  Yesterday, though, we made an excursion that we hope to make on a regular basis to the Woodbridge Public Library.  At the library, if you couldn't guess already by the title of my post, they have "Baby Rhyme Time".  It is a short little activity where parents/guardians and their children between 6 and 18 months can gather together and enjoy some of the favorite rhymes that we used to enjoy when we were little.  Some of the rhymes are "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", "Patty cake, patty cake", "If your happy and you know it".  You get the point.  Some of the rhymes I was very familiar with as I sing them to our son and others I had completely forgotten about until the little old lady from the library started singing them.  In any case, I am getting ahead of myself a little, so let me backtrack.  My son and I were going to go last week, however, as I went to change his diaper before leaving, he had a little freak out moment due to his tiredness and I decided that it would be best if we waited till this week.  I got a little worried that we wouldn't make it this week either as he started exhibiting signs of tiredness due to his running around the house in the morning.  Despite the eye rubbing, the head scratching, and the ear pulling, he didn't freak out and we made our way to the library.  On our way there, he almost fell asleep in my Jeep (which is a feat in and of itself due to the rocky suspension) but managed to stay awake during the 10 minute ride.  We arrived a little early as I like to do when going anywhere, and he got to "meet" some of the other little kids who were there.  I say "meet" because as all the children are between the ages of 6 and 18 months, none of them actually talk to each other, they merely play in the same area, occasionally make eye contact, and try to take toys away from each other. 

When we walked into the children's area of the library, there were a good number of mothers and their children already seated around the carpet where the rhyme time would take place.  Not wanting to intrude, we made our way to the little table that had a toy train set up on it for children to play with.  He absolutely loved it and went right to work grabbing trains, showing them to me, and seeing how many he could fit in one hand.  He had his first interaction with another young boy a little younger than him right off the bat.  I must say, our son is very polite.  The other young boy went to go take a train away from him and he just let him take it, looked at him, and then went for a different train instead.  The mother of the other boy stopped him, which was nice, and our son tried to reach for the train back, but I only had to stop him once before he figured out that he couldn't take things from other children.  If only all the other children were as polite.  He played there for about 5 minutes before "rhyme time" started at which point he didn't want to leave the trains at all.  He didn't fight too hard or throw a fit thankfully and we made our way to the circle to join in.  It was a little awkward for me as I was the only father there and it seemed as if every else new each other at least a little from the "rhyme time".  I didn't care too much though and we had fun through the whole 10-15 minutes that it lasted.  Our son is usually a chatter box and animated, however, during the rhyme time, he just sat and looked around the circle at all the other children and their mothers.  All in all there were probably about 10-12 parents there with about as many children.  Most of the other children were animated and got into the rhyme time.  Our son, however, just took it all in yesterday and I think was more fascinated in the other children than the actual rhymes being sung.  I will definitely go back next week provided that he doesn't freak out because all in all, it was good to get our son out and amongst other little children his age.  Once the rhyme time concluded, he made his way over to some of the toys in the middle of the circle where we were sitting.  Despite all the fun colored "stuff", he chose a basket full of egg shakers and rattles.  As he loves to do for whatever reason, he started taking them all out, and putting them back in the basket.  He would make a pile in one spot, then move it to another all while some of the other children were just sitting there shaking the rattles.  He wanted nothing to do with the whole shaking part, he just wanted to sort and move things around.  At one point, I tried to get him to put all the eggs and rattles back in the basket so he could go play with some of the other children around the trains, but he almost lost it so I let him play a little more with the his piles of eggs and rattles. 

Eventually, I managed to coax him away and over to the trains again where he went right back to what he was doing before.  We were probably at the library for about an hour before most of the other children left and I decided that it was time to get our son home to feed him so food and get him down for a nap.  He didn't fall asleep on the way home luckily as that would mean going down for a nap afterward would be difficult.  Overall, he was in really good spirits yesterday and we both had fun playing together.  He is starting to walk more and more.  At the library, he rarely crawled at all, he just wanted to walk from place to place.  While he still wants to hold one of our hands from time to time, he is getting more ambitious with his walking and almost tried running yesterday without much success.  It was kind of funny to watch as he had the right idea.  He started walking and then tried moving his feet faster and leaning forward.  The leaning part did him in though as he leaned a little too far forward and went down.  I am thankful for that as our son running is the last thing I need right now.  What amazed me most about yesterday and the rhyme time was that our son didn't do much "talking" while at the library.  Most of the time he doesn't stop chattering away.  In any case, he was probably not used to being around that many other children and didn't quite know what to do.  He'll warm up to them though and get used to it.  Till next week, at least I had my fantastic day off with our son. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Political Quandry

There is officially less than two weeks left before election day in the United States and I honestly have no idea who I am voting for yet.  Its not simply the fact that I don't like either of the candidates, it has become more of an issue of deciding who will do the least amount of harm to this country.  It seems that whenever I lean a certain way in my decision, one of them says something that tips the scale in the other direction.  Whether it is Romney or Obama, neither one completely overshadows the other in my mind.  There are some policies of Romney's that I think would be better for this country and on the flip side, there are some policies of Obama's that I think would be better for this country.  If only we could take the good from both and combine them together to create an ideal president, perhaps we could finally start moving forward in this country instead of backwards.  I am not even going to get into what I like and dislike about both because it would take me forever to completely hash it out.   Both of them can be completely arrogant asses and I don't think either one is fully capable of telling the whole truth.   To digress a little, I read an article about presidential candidates in general and how they are unwilling to tell the truth about the problems we have in this country.  It essentially said that no candidate will ever completely tell the hard honest truth to the people because we can't handle it.  There is this notion in the United States that we are still number one across the board when the reality is that we are lagging in many areas.  We may have the biggest and the strongest military, but when you look at the real issues that plague our country, no one wants to talk about them.  To elaborate, I offer to you a few examples.  Who in this country knows what the childhood poverty rate is?  It is 23% give or take which places us 2nd after Romania that has a 25% childhood poverty rate.  Funny thing is, I haven't heard either presidential candidate talk about that.  Yet another example is education.  Did you know that we rank 85th in terms of boys going to grade school?  While 91% of boys in the country make it to grade school, that places us 85th in the world.  There are a few countries tied for first that actually have 100% going to grade school.  Candidates may talk about improving education, but none will provide you with the cold hard facts because frankly, people want to believe that we are still the best.  (Stats pulled from here).

Another issue that bothers me with both candidates and confounds my ability to make a decision as of yet is the fact that neither of them can give a direct answer to a question.  If you listen to their answers during a debate, they give a round about answer that in part slams their opponent for their plans.  Whats even funnier is that if they can't answer the question either because they don't have an answer or they know that we won't like the answer, they re-direct it towards another topic.  The two candidate's answers to one question during the second debate really ticked me off.  The question was about oil prices, lowering the price at the pump, and what the candidates planned on doing about it.   The question was focused more about lowering gas prices and neither candidate really laid out a plan on how to lower them.  Both talk about drilling more, opening up more land for drilling, blah, blah, blah.  First off, more drilling will not directly lower gas prices at the pump.  Maybe I am living in a bubble, but I was under the impression that the reason gas prices fluctuate like they do is because of speculators and the market, not because of a specific action by a president such as "more drilling".  Just because we are edging towards "energy independence" as they like to call it does not mean that gas prices will go down at the pump.  Is it likely to help?  Possibly, but nothing no one can say for sure if speculators will reflect that in their apparent pricing of oil.  Its all hogwash.  Even more annoying about the debates is the fact that neither candidate can fully act like a decent human being and respect their competitor.  Both feel the need at times to talk over their opponent or the moderator and paint themselves as the person with all the answers.  Neither one, however, has fully laid out a plan on what will happen should they get elected.  They talk in vague terms of plans they have, but they never give you the details.  Needless to say, I can not watch a single debate for more than 10 minutes without having the desire to pick up my TV and smash it against the wall. 

I guess I still have a lot of thinking to do in the next couple of weeks as to who I will actually vote for.  Trust me, I will be out there voting, I just don't know for who yet.  Its tough to pick someone that you want to run for office when almost every politician is an outright liar.  That's right, they are all liars and to find an ounce of truth in what they say takes too much effort.  I think what I will have to do is disregard the debates and simply do some outside research to see exactly where these to morons stand in respect to this country.  If I take into account the candidates as people, I wouldn't vote at all.  Rather, it all comes down to the issues this time around and which candidate I feel will deal with them better.  I just wish that there were at least some honesty emanating from them, but alas, I can't have everything I want.  What I would like to see is a plan on how they are going to get our country out of the fiscal hole we are currently in.  Neither of them can honestly address the big issues that stand in our way of becoming financially stable again.  To me, the biggest issues are the military budget, social security, and medicare.  They may talk about those issues, but neither wants to do anything about it.  At least Obama wants to scale back the military which Romney has no interest in doing.  Enough is enough, I am getting frustrated now just writing about the two of them and before I slip into expletives and vitriol, I will end my post for today.  Another cup of coffee and my son will get me out of my current doldrums. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sitting a Shorter Life

Yes, I know the title of my post today is a little ambiguous, but I assure you that it will all be clarified very shortly as to what it means.  Over the past week in my daily meanderings through the digital NYTimes, I have seen an article repeatedly appear in one of the columns on their main page.  The title of the article is "Get up. Get out. Don't Sit" by Gretchen Reynolds.  If your guessing that the main brunt of the article was about sitting and exercise, then you are correct, but not in the way that you might normally think about sitting and exercise.  Most of us know (I would hope that all of us would know) that we don't get the exercise we need while sitting.  Many people who have office jobs probably sit for extended periods of time without getting up and probably find it hard to fit in the amount of exercise needed.  Yet, the article doesn't necessarily deal with exercise per se.  The only issue the article really deals with is sitting and how much sitting we actually do.  So enough pandering around the issue at hand and time to get down to it.  The main message of the article, based on scientific studies, is that the more we sit, the shorter our life will be.  Is this even possible?  According to some scientists, it is.  The main study that the article uses as its basis was done in Australia that tracks the health of 12,000 Australians.  One of the questions that is asked on a regular basis in the survey is "how much TV do you watch on a daily basis".  As the article states, watching TV is not necessarily hazardous, however it is a fairly good indicator of how much sitting people actually do.  After accounting for various other health issues and using tables and equations to single out the effect of sitting on the participants, the scientists found that for every hour we sit, we lose approximately 21.8 minutes of our life.  Depending on how much TV we watch, that can add up pretty quickly.  Lets just figure that the average person watches about 2 hours of TV a day.  That two hours equals 43.6 minutes off the end of your life.  In a week, that would be 5 hours subtracted from your life.  It still doesn't seem to bad.  However, carry that out for a year and you lose about 265 hours or 11 days off your life.  What I'm getting at is that it all adds up. 

How can sitting watching TV be so bad for our health?  It isn't just the TV that does it, it is overall amount of sitting we do.  Regardless of whether we are at work or at home, sitting diminishes the overall time we have on this earth.  Also according the article, the average adult spends 50-70% of their time seated.  That doesn't make our prospects at a longer life look that good.  The scary part is that even if a person regularly exercises, the sitting will still shorter his or her life.   The true reason as to why this occurs is still being hashed out in laboratories but it appears one of the main reasons this holds true is that while sitting, we don't contract the major muscles in our body.  When we don't use the muscles in our body, they use less energy and the surplus accumulates, breaks down into sugars, and could lead to a variety of other health risks as well as shortening one's life.  So how do I feel about all this?  Frankly, I find it interesting, but at the same time, its not something I am going to overly worry about.  I am not going to worry about it for a couple of reasons, the first being that I don't really sit that much during the day. If I had to calculate my time sitting, I would have to say it is around 5-6 hours a day.  Now that is not solely TV time.  That time for me includes sitting in traffic, sitting for meals, and also watching a little TV in the evening.  I don't really feel too bad about that number.  Yes it may shorten my life by a few years in the end, but so could walking by a coal fired power plant while getting my daily exercise (I don't have a coal fired power plant near me, just an example).  The second reason, as you may have guessed, is that there are too many other things out there that could shorten my life for me to worry about sitting.  I guess if I sat more during the day I would have cause to be concerned, but I don't.  Part of me feels that there is sometimes too much for us to worry about when it comes to our health.  Granted, there are plenty of harmful things that could shorten our lives, but at what point does it become too much.  Overall, humans are living longer than ever before, and yet we have this overt concern with increasing the length of our life and beating out the person next to us.  For what?  It seems that the longer we live, the more problems we have with our health.  There are those in their 90's who are in excellent condition, don't get me wrong, but a majority of people in their 90's are plagued with health issues and often times need assistance.  So why be concerned with a few years off the end of our life?

When looking at life expectancy of either ourselves or someone else, the main factor that we must consider is that we never know how long we will live.  We could live either a few more days or a few more decades, we just don't know.  When you take into account the effect that sitting has along with all the other detrimental things we can do to diminish our health, then maybe there is cause to be concerned.  If a person smokes, drinks excessively, works in a coal mine, and sits for extended periods of times, then maybe they should cut something out to extend their life.  Sitting is one of the easiest actions to reverse.  Even in the work place, people can choose to take a few extra walks around the block of cubicles or make an extra trip to the water cooler or copier.  If it really comes down to it and we find we can't live without TV, we could always set up an exercise bike or a treadmill in front of our TV and exercise while watching.  There are ways to combat the horrible action of sitting, so don't get too worried about shortening your life.  Who knows what study will come out next showing another action or non-action that will shorten our lives.  I sure don't.  For now, though, I should probably stop writing as I am sitting while doing so and go run a few laps around my house for good measure.  (Trust me, I will be doing no running around my house, just saying).  Anyway, watch how much you sit or you could be sitting your way to a shorter life. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Little Man Walking

What my wife and I thought would happen months ago finally happened this past Friday, our son started walking.  It started a few weeks ago with small stints of walking on his own.  He would gather his energy together at a couch, stare at the floor, then at where he was going, and then make the five or six foot trip without falling.  Friday it began full bore.  After my wife changed our son's diaper, she put him on the floor next to an ottoman in our living room.  She went to go put the dirty diaper in the bathroom at the opposite end of our house.  When she turned around in the bathroom to go get our son, he was walking through the door of the dining room (which our bathroom is off of).  From there, she went into the kitchen (also connected to the living room and dining room).  I bet everyone can guess what happened next.  That's correct, our son walked from the dining room into the kitchen.  It seems that all bets are off now.  Baby proofing a house is one thing when a baby is crawling.  All of a sudden when a child starts walking, it becomes "oh crap, oh crap, oh crap".   Mind you, those were the words coming out of my mouth on Saturday when I finally got to see our son's walking accomplishment.  It becomes not only about keeping things out of reach, but now includes looking out for sharp corners, open doors, bowls of water for our animals, etc, etc, etc.  We thought we had done a good job baby proofing, and for the most part we did, but there is now a whole new list of potential dangers that we have to guard our wobbly son against.  Trust me, we are not going to wrap every little corner of our house with bubble wrap and duct tape.  Rather, we will be going for the most dangerous obstacles to our son's well being such as our entertainment center that has sharp corners just about the height of his head.  Regardless of what we have to do to keep our son safe, it is well worth it. 

It is awesome to see our son walk around, and I must add, quite hilarious especially since he is still figuring his balance out.  Every time he sets out to walk, his arms seem to do a dance of their own in mid air.  They flail slowly up and down, back and forth, twist a little here and there, all in correspondence to his wavering upper body as he tries to keep it centered above his feet.  Then there is the look on his face which is priceless in its never ending contortions going from a look of shock to concentration to determination and everything in between.  He is even able to navigate most obstacles in his way.  What we would normally consider an easy maneuver to step around an obstacle takes thought and planning on his part especially if there is very little room on either side of the obstacle.  When he approaches the obstacle, he goes straight towards it, pauses when he gets there to turn his little body, then walks a few more steps before pausing again to turn, and then finally continues on past.  It is fairly evident that it still takes a good amount of concentration to walk around our house as when he gets distracted, his balance wavers and he occasionally drops down to his but or knees.  Despite the fact that he loves to walk around our house now, he does not walk alone a hundred percent of the time.  There are still plenty of times where he will reach for one our hands to help him get from point A to point B or just to walk in a never ending circle around our house.  And there is still the issue of getting himself to his feet without the assistance of either one of us or a sturdy object that he can grab on to.  He tries occasionally to get to his feet without any assistance, he is just not there yet.  It is cute to watch though as he gets up on a knee, puts his other foot flat, and when he can't lift himself up, scoot along the floor with one knee and his foot reaching for either one of our hands or some other assistance. 

As much as it will be a challenge now to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't wander off and get into some sort of trouble, it is also an amazing event to watch as a parent.  To see every little blunder, every little fall, and then finally to see all his efforts come to fruition is indescribable.  To be honest, it is tough to describe exactly what its like watching our son grow and develop.  Its almost like watching an open book that is as yet unwritten.  As every day unfolds, so a new chapter is written.  There are pauses, revisions, editing, and so forth, but at the end of every day there is more to add to that book.  Its quite amazing to see him figure out the world around him from allocating shapes and colors to their likeness to stacking cups to walking.  I would probably be amazed watching any child go through it, but as I don't run a day care or spend days on end with other babies, my son is my only point of comparison.  There is something special about seeing development on a day to day basis that makes everything "worth it".   Despite my long hours at work or the endless projects that now take longer around the house, watching our son makes everything better.   In association with all this development, but especially his walking, I have noticed that he is developing a mind of his own.  It seemed that when he was still crawling (which he still does from time to time)  it was easier to keep him away from certain things or to change his course.  Now that he is walking, I believe he thinks he can go wherever he wants whenever he wants.  If he wants to go walking outside, he will walk up to the back door and start banging on it.  Now the real fun begins, setting boundaries and rules.  I would like to think it will be easier when he can talk, but for some reason, I am filled with pangs of doubt at that thought.  In the end, everything will work out.  But for now, we have little man walking!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Ruff Day

Yes, today is going to be long and ruff.  I know I spelled rough wrong, I don't know why, but it happened and I am not changing it now.  Its kind of ironic that I chose yesterday to talk about getting enough sleep when I definitely did not get enough sleep last night.  On top of being a long work day, it was also dart night.  Every Thursday night from now till April will be consumed by darts.  Usually, dart night is not that big of an issue.  The match starts around 8ish and usually ends by 1030 the latest.  Last night, however, play was a little slower and the match didn't end till after 11.  And if that wasn't enough, my buddy Dave is moving to California and I wanted to swing by Bar 140 in Shelton see him before he disappeared for a few more months.  With all that craziness yesterday and only about an hour home for dinner in between work and darts, I didn't get home till midnight.  You might think that I would sleep past my alarm clock after a night like last night, however, you would be wrong.  Instead, I woke up around 3:45, not necessarily ready to get out of bed, but I did for the sake of not oversleeping. 

Today would be an ideal day to get a nap in at some point.  I don't know if I would rather do that in the morning or afternoon.  I guess it all depends on how I am feeling during the next few hours and how my body seems to be working.  Right now, I can tell its going to be a long day unless I get a nap in.  Such is life.  It seems that I am currently forcing my brain into a higher functioning mode by writing this morning.  As such, I apologize if something doesn't make sense or if the words seem to come out like gibberish.  (OK, no gibberish because there is a lovely spell check feature that I utilize).  Anyhoo, its time for me to get my but into gear, finish off this blog post, and get ready for the long day ahead.  I really should take a nap today.  Somehow I am thinking that the more I say I need a nap, the more likely it will be that I will take one.  Coffee, eggs, water, that's what I need right now.  That and sleep and I will be good as gold.  As for the nap, nap, nap I need; that will have to wait, maybe....

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sleeping Enough?

Once again, the topic for my blog today was inspired by an op-ed piece I read in the NYTimes this morning.  Believe it or not, I actually picked up an physical paper, flipped the pages and read the whole article without retreating to the comfort of my computer.  Anyway, on to the topic at hand, sleeping.  According to the article, "Rethinking Sleep" by David Randall, about 41 million Americans suffer from sleep deprivation or lack of sleep.  That's just the working adults, not to mention anyone else who has issues with sleeping through the night.  The major question that the article brings up is, "Why are we so tied to the notion of 8 straight hours of sleep at night?"  The question isn't verbatim, but it essentially what the article is asking.  So why are we in essence "wed" to this notion of sleeping 8 hours at night.  Looking back into history, the notion of an 8 hour stretch of sleep is a relatively new idea.  There are a number of historical documents which mention a first sleep and a second sleep.  Even culturally, countries differ with what is the norm when it comes to sleeping.  There are currently countries from Spain to India whose populations are more likely to take naps during the afternoon.  So why is there this overwhelming pressure in our society to get our 8 hours of sleep at night and not split it into different segments?   Part of it probably stems from our workaholic culture where we must press on throughout the day without a break and get as much done as possible.  Another reason this notion persists is due to doctors and the medical profession urging everyone to get their 8 hours, not say 6 and 2 hours.  There is evidence, however, that this notion may be changing somewhat.  There have been recent studies done that show people are actually more productive when they are allowed to respond to their bodies needs and take an afternoon nap.  It is posited that sleep allows us to process all the new information we received during our waking our hours and prepare for our next stint at wakefulness.  The studies also show that people are more likely to remember important information and function at a higher level after a break in the work day.  Sounds good to me. 

Google is one of the companies that is slowly changing the trend by allowing employees to take naps if they wish to rejuvenate and get themselves back in the game so to speak.  They believe that napping will increase productivity and allow for a more positive work environment.  While they may be leading the way in the United States, I somehow have trouble envisioning Wall Street setting up cots in a back room so traders can take naps at will.  I for one, fully support the idea of segmented sleep.  I normally get an average of 6 hours of sleep at night.  I could definitely use an afternoon nap every day, however, I often times don't take one because along with the majority of the American population, I believe in working hard without breaks and getting as much done as possible.  The question is, would I get more done if I took that nap versus not taking the nap?  I don't know, I guess it all depends on how long the nap is.  Now, don't get me wrong, I have taken short naps at work before.  They usually occur after lunch while my body is processing all the food I just ate.  As I don't have a desk, I simply retreat to my van, recline the seat a little, and close my eyes for 20-30 minutes.   I rarely nap for more than 30 minutes at work, yet regardless of how long I nap, I do feel better after waking and once the fog of sleep wears off, I function better as well.  Even on days off, on weekends, or whenever, I am usually tempted to take an afternoon nap despite the rarity of my actually doing so.  Perhaps I should start making it part of my week, the afternoon nap.  In fact, I might actually do a test run next week and see how the afternoon nap actually works for me.  I think I will try it every day and see how my afternoons go.  I find that when I don't take a nap, which is pretty much every day, I hit a point in the afternoon where my body says "enough" and wants to shut down for a bit.  True to the American psyche, I push on and wear my body down a little bit more before finally ending work for the day.  Maybe its time to start changing our notions of sleep.

I think the only way we could feasibly alter America's notion of sleep is to focus on the productivity aspect of it.  As we are a driven society, hell bent on making as much money as possible and fitting every activity we can into a single day, if we can increase productivity with an afternoon nap, then people might actually be on board.  The biggest obstacle we would face would be the large corporations that look down upon people resting their heads on their desks and nodding off for a bit.  Anything is possible if you get enough people behind an idea.  (Yeah, lets try and get Americans behind one single idea, right, that will happen (note sarcasm)).  Maybe one day things will change, but I am pretty sure it won't happen anytime soon.  I still remember the first time I was exposed to a different sleep pattern, or lifestyle if you will.  It was when I traveled to Spain in high school and witnessed their siesta.  I instantly fell in love with the idea.  I thought it was the greatest thing that everything shut down in the afternoon for a few hours while people went and spent time with their families, took naps, and rejuvenated themselves for the rest of the work day.  Yet, as soon as I came home, it was right back to the old 8 hours at night, push all day culture.  Since that trip I took back in high school, I have always wanted to incorporate the siesta into American life, but was never able to.  Maybe this coming week, as I mentioned above, I will start it for myself and see how it goes.  It won't be a true siesta with a few hour break, but at least it will be a nap where I can rejuvenate myself a little bit.  Hell, I might even start it today and see how it goes.  There is nothing wrong in my mind with a little afternoon nap, take one yourself and see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Flying Fingers

No, my fingers don't actually fly as they are attached to my body.  Rather, I am talking about my fingers flying over a keyboard.  I have our regular computer back and everything is working quite smoothly.  The virus or malware is gone and none of our data or saved information was compromised.  Perhaps the best part of getting the regular computer back is the speed with which I can type again.  I really don't know what is wrong with my other computer.  It could be the fact that it has a slower processor or is so packed full of programs and saved information that it can't function as quickly as it used to.  I guess one other option would be that I need to update certain programs in order to get the best functionality out of the computer.  Whatever the cause is, it was a real test trying to type the past two days when I couldn't see what I was typing instantaneously.  I am sure that most people reading this haven't even thought too much about typing without seeing the text appear on the screen right away.  Most of us are used to the quick response of our computers and our ability to quickly correct any mistakes that we make while typing.  The past two days made me infinitely more conscious of what keys I was actually hitting while typing.  I wasn't concerned with how it came out on the screen as I couldn't see and a few times actually closed my eyes while typing.  To be perfectly honest, I made fewer mistakes over the past two days than I am making right now.  The last two days reminded me of being back in high school in a class devoted entirely to learning how to type on a computer without looking at the keyboard.  For some reason, I loved the class and became one of the quickest typers in there.  I guess at the time I viewed it as a challenge, a game almost, in which my only opponent was myself.  I remember trying to beat my own "words per minute" score and get the highest possible.  Even being quite fast back then, I was never as quick as some people that I knew, one of them being my dad.  But anyway, the way I learned to type in that class has stayed with me for over a decade now and I can still fly along without glancing once at the keyboard. 

Typing for me is actually enjoyable most of the time as I don't really have to think about what keys I am hitting or look down every few seconds to re-align my fingers to hit the proper keys.  The only thing I have to do while typing is actually think about what I am writing.  Creatively speaking, sometimes it is harder to think and type on the computer than it is to think and write something by hand.  While typing on the computer, I often times exceed my thought process with my typing speed and have to go back and consider what exactly it is that I am typing.  Its either that or I have to pause mid-sentence to finish thinking before finishing typing.  I don't know if any of that made sense, but that's the way it works for me.  The obvious benefit of typing over writing by hand is that if you mess up, it is a lot easier to just hit the backspace button and quickly correct any errors.  Everyone knows that though.  Seeing as most people know the benefits of typing over writing, I will not go through a list comparing both.  I do, however, still enjoy writing creatively by hand as it forces me to put more thought into what is going down on the paper.  Knowing that I don't have the ability to correct something when using a pen and paper makes me take more time when writing.  The only problem with actually using a pen and paper for extended periods of time is that my hand gets a cramp from writing.  As most of my "writing" is now done on a computer, my hand is not used to holding a pen for long periods and executing the fine movements needed to write something on a piece of paper.  One day, I am sure, there will be no more pens (maybe still pencils), and paper will be a valuable commodity traded on various exchanges.  That is the way of the world, however, and there is nothing we can do to change it. 

In any case, my fingers will continue to fly over my keyboard, typing away till the thoughts disappear from my head and end up on the screen in front of me.  If you think about it, typing will probably be a thing of the past one day as voice recognition software improves and spreads in usage.  One day, maybe, we won't even have to talk into a device in order to write something, all we will have to do is think.  I am not entirely sure how that would work yet, but it would be cool to just stare at a screen, think of a sentence, and then see it appear.  They already have mind controlled games out there, not very many and not available to the masses, but they are out there.  I would be interested to see how they would come up with a device that distinctly takes what you want to say and translates it into the typed words on a computer.  That, by the way, is way above my pay grade and far beyond my brain's meager ability to understand technology.  Speaking of technology and writing, I saw a cool device on Facebook the other day that I would love to get.  There is a page on Facebook called "Interesting Engineering" that posts really cool, new, gadgets along with other awesome ideas.  The device I want to get is a pen that recognizes what you write on paper, records it on a USB built into the pen, and then transcribes it into typed words on a computer when you plug the pen in.  Now that is what I call awesome.  Anyway, I need to get my but in gear for the day, get my son out of bed, and get breakfast cranking.  So till tomorrow when I will not be writing about writing, enjoy the day. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Getting Sucked In

There are times when I forget to take a step back and look at the big picture.  I am not talking about a picture hanging in a museum, rather I am talking about life.  But I am guessing that most of you figured that out without my telling you.  Anyway, whenever I get sucked into the nitty gritty of life, there seems to be a loss of perspective and anything that goes awry tends to get to me.  It burrows in like a mole into soft loam and drives me to anger.  Anger for me is toxic; it's like a slow creeping tidal wave, slowly sucking the life away, building up out of sight, and then crashing down on top of you.  I hate it when I am angry.  Once anger sets in, its like a black cloud that envelopes me, grips me tight, and blocks my view of anything and everyone around me.  Over the past week there have been a few different instances where I have gotten  angry over stupid, small, and inconsequential events.  It literally takes me hours sometimes to dispell the fog of anger, and sometimes even that angers me.   Luckily, I don't go through bouts of anger too often (luckily for me, but more for those around me).  Also, I have gotten better at talking myself out of it, essentially breaking through the black cloud that seeks to hold me in its grasp forever.  Many times, I find that my anger stems from my judgement of others, my unrealistic expectations that I hold others to, and my complete and utter disatisfaction when things don't go my way.  At times, I don't have problems with anger, other times, like this past week, I have a horrible times scrubbing the shadow from my life.  But I guess that is what life is about; the ups and the downs, and hopefully learning through it all.  It seems every times I go through one of those dips in life, I do manage to learn something about myself and how to improve.  Yet, even though I might learn lessons along the way, the real test is putting what I learned into action the next time a dip comes.  Sometimes I am more successful than others at applying the lessons I learned previously.   It seems this past week I forgot most of the lessons I learned and had to re-learn some of them.  I think I am past it though, ready for the next up swing in life (hopefully), and ready to get back into the game.  Its funny sometimes when I look back and realize that everything I got angry about really didn't matter in the long run.  Nothing that happened over the past week had any bearing on how the future will turn out, yet at the time, it seemed like the future hinged on the outcome of certain events.  How foolish we can be.  Oh well.  For now, its time for me to sign off and wait for my faster computer to come home.  Look for a longer post tomorrow, hopefully, and if it doesn't come, I won't get angry about it. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Damn Trojans

So I am going to make this short and quick today as the computer I normally use was infected by the latest trojan.  I don't know what the name of the trojan is, but it is the one that mimics an FBI computer lockdown page.  I went to go open up my internet browser yesterday and as soon as I typed in the URL and hit enter, a white screen with the FBI logo popped up and wouldn't go away.  It looked legitimate except I had done nothing illegal like it said I had and it mandated I pay $200 within 72 hours or face criminal prosecution.  After my wife did some research on her phone, she found out that it was just the latest virus/scam to get a person's credit card information in a convoluted sort of way.  Essentially, you must go buy a pre-paid card from a store and then enter the code from the card on the lockout screen.  Somehow, these scumbags who created this virus can then back track and figure out the credit card you used to buy the pre-paid card and either rack up charges on your card or debilitate you financially in some other twisted malevolent fashion.  Needless to say, I was pissed.  Hopefully we can get the computer taken care of today as my other computer is super slow and takes forever to load anything or relfect what you are typing.  As I type right now, I can not see what I am typing.  I must wait about 30 seconds for the computer to process my key strokes (or longer depending on how fast I am typing) before I see if I made any mistakes or not.  In a way, it is good practice in typing blindly, however, it is very frustrating and makes me realize that I need to get this computer sped up somehow.  It used to be fast, but alas, time has taken its toll and drained this computer of any vitality it used to have.  As my frustration level is now peaking, I am going to end this post very shortly or else my computer might end up in my driveway after being thrown through the window right next to me.  I want to say I am done with technology, but that wouldn't be true.  I do abhor those twisted, inverted, scumbag's who create these damn viruses, but there is nothing I can do about that either.  Consequently, this will be my last sentance for today before I post this and go drink more cofee.  Good bye for today. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

How Quickly 1 Year Passes

It seems like just yesterday, a year ago, that I was holding a new born baby boy in my arms.  Yes, my little man turned one year old yesterday and I can't believe how time has flown.  I still remember vividly sitting with my wife playing SkipBo as we waited, sometimes patiently, to go the hospital.  I still remember our dogs getting closer and closer to my wife as her contractions increased and grew closer together.  Then there was the car ride, when one of my favorite moments happened.  As we were stopped at a red light behind another car, my wife said, "just go through the red light, I can't sit here anymore."  My response was, "honey, I can't drive through or over the car in front of me, so we will just have to wait a few more seconds."  Ha.  At least we can both look back now and laugh.  Almost every detail about the day leading up to my son's birth, the labor, and the birth itself is still burned into my memory.  I look at my son now and wonder how the hell did he once fit inside my wife.  He has grown and changed so much that when I look at pictures from when he was a newby, I almost don't recognize him.  Of course I know its him, but so much has changed in just one year its quite remarkable.  Perhaps my favorite change out of everything is the growth of his personality.  In just a year he has gone from this lump of breathing flesh to a babbling, essentially walking, one year old who just wants to keep moving, exploring, and growing.  While I can't wait to see what this next year will bring, I can also wait as long as necessary to watch him grow.  I am glad I took extra time off this past year to spend with my son, watch him grow, and just be there for him.  While he probably won't remember most of his first year, I know I will, and I will share every little moment with him as he grows older.

Speaking of walking, he has started taking steps on his own.  I think he is following in my footsteps in one respect; that is he defies what everyone says he is going to do.  He first started walking with assistance almost 4 months ago now.  While it has taken him quite some time to get his balance together and gain the confidence necessary to walk on his own, he is getting there bit by bit.  Every time people would see him walking while holding our hands, they said it would by any day now that he would be off and running.  Well, 3.5 months of people saying he will be walking any day now has come and gone.  Then people said as soon as he took his first steps, he would be running.  To be honest, I thought the same thing.  I had visions (and still do) of him just running across the living room, through the kitchen, and out the back door into the yard.  Well, even after a few times of consciously walking on his own, there has been no running yet to speak of.  Rather, he is choosing to take it easy, not rush into the whole walking thing, and enjoy the benefit of holding someone's hands while walking (except not being able to go everywhere he wants because there is an adult guiding him).  I do feel bad for my wife in regards to our son's walking.  The first time he took about ten steps on his own, my wife was in the bathroom.  There was no warning from our son.  He was waving a newspaper in his hand while holding on to the couch when all of a sudden he paused, looked at the ground, then at a gate about 5-6 feet away, and thought about his next move.  It was almost as if he was building up his courage to take those first steps on his own.  After a few seconds, he let go of the couch and with the newspaper still gripped in his hand over his head, he walked (or waddled) over to the gate without falling.  So my wife unfortunately missed that one and despite our attempts to recreate it, he wasn't feeling it.  The second time occurred with my mother in law and guess where my wife was; that's right, the bathroom.  So she has so far missed the first two real walking missions of our son.  Soon, however, she will be seeing him running circles around her I am sure.

All in all, this first year has been a good one.  Our son hasn't been sick despite runny noses due to teething, and he is as happy a baby as any parent could want.  He eats almost every solid food we give him and loves to say "hallo" to people.  He has had no shots of any kind and no vaccinations, nothing, and we plan on keeping it that way.  I couldn't ask for a healthier baby or a better tempered one (not that I would ask for a trade in if that wasn't the case).  To put it simply, he is the light of my world, after my wife, and puts a smile on my face every time I see him smile.  Even when he puts his pouty face on and starts to cry either from over exhaustion or hunger, I still can't help but smile just because he is so cute.  But then again, what parent wouldn't smile when their child does almost anything.  (OK, I wasn't smiling when he took a plastic tray and accidentally slammed it into my eye, but hey, he's one year old).  I have a feeling this next year will be crazier than his first, especially with him walking around as I am sure he will be soon, but isn't that what parenting is all about, going a little crazy?  Hey, I was halfway there before we even had our son, so I guess I am in pretty good shape.  One year down, many more to go and I am sure they will be exciting.  For now, however, I can't wait to get our son out of his crib this morning, kiss him on the cheek and hear him say "hallo" to me as he always does.  He even says "hallo" when you are leaving.  For this next year, I will hold on to my same mantra that I have always had, "Carpe Diem"; "Seize the Day"!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Weekend In Vermont

Once again, by the end of this past weekend in Vermont, I did not want to come home.  Trust me, I wanted to see my wife and son, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time alone with the dogs.  Some people might question why I would want to get away from my wife and son and spend time alone in the woods.  Well, its not because I don't love them and want nothing to do with them; that couldn't be farther from the truth.  Rather, my sole purpose in going to Vermont was to get away from responsibility, worries, and the stresses of everyday life.  At home, I am constantly thinking about things I need to do, things I should have done, and everything else in between.  In Vermont, none of that enters my mind.  I don't care if all the paint I applied to a house came peeling off and I need to start all over again.  I don't care if my ladders were stolen off a job site.  I don't care about my counter top sitting in my driveway still waiting for me to finish it.  I think you get the point.  There is nothing I can do about anything back home while in Vermont, so as such, I don't worry or think about it.  I have things I should do in Vermont, mostly just cut and split wood, but even that isn't that big of a priority as our wood pile is still pretty full.  I essentially had a weekend to do what I wanted, which wasn't much, and relax.  I left Saturday morning with the dogs and made amazing time getting up to Vermont as there was no traffic to speak of.  It took me exactly 3 hours door to door which was quite nice.  The only thing I forgot to bring with me, which I realized once I was 2.5 hours into the trip was the key to the shed.  There was no turning back at that point, so I continued on, plotting how I was going to break in.  Luckily I had my work van with a variety of tools, one of them being a hack saw, and was able to cut off the latch once I got up there.  I arrived just as it started raining, was able to cut the latch off fairly easily, and was then able to park myself in the opening of the shed in a chair with a beer.  That was the brunt of my afternoon on Saturday; sitting in a chair in my shed, throwing a tennis ball to Aspen (my younger dog), and sipping on beer.  I did make one foray during a brief break in the rain to alter the course of the stream running through my property.  Beyond that however, and the nap in my chair, I didn't do too much. 

The rain cleared out by about 4 and allowed me to get a nice fire started to ward off the chill quickly invading the air.  It was quite amazing to me how quickly the temperature dropped.  As I mentioned, I took an hour nap in my chair after lunch and when I woke up, it felt like the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees.  All that meant was that I needed to add another layer to keep warm.  And of course get a nice hot fire started.  If you couldn't guess by now, my evening was spent in the chair in front of the fire, drinking beer, and keeping warm.  So on to Saturday, another exciting day filled with a whole lot of nothing.  I woke up around 6:15 and it was still pretty cold and dark outside.  My first order of business was getting the fire going again.  I ended up sitting in front of the blazing fire for about an hour before I even made coffee or thought about starting breakfast.  My whole morning routine of fire, coffee, and breakfast took about 3 hours and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I then decided to go re-route another part of the stream and ended up moving some pretty massive boulders.  Now, you may be wondering why I am constantly messing with nature, adjusting the course of a stream, and moving massive boulders.  There is a method to my madness (maybe).  The stream in a few places curves and runs into the base of the little hill that my shed sits on.  In order to keep erosion at bay and my shed on solid ground, I have made it my mission to alter the stream wherever necessary.  That's the whole method to my madness, nothing extravagant.  So after messing with nature for a while, I decided that I was hungry and made myself some lunch.  After that I ventured out into the world for more beer, ice, and to call home to see how everything was going.  That lasted about 45 minutes before I retreated to my enclave in the woods to do more of nothing.  I ended up getting the fire going again by 4 in the afternoon and essentially didn't move till about 830 when I went to bed.  That afternoon, the dogs went to bed by 430, skipped dinner, and didn't wake up till the morning.  Another good day.

Then came Monday and the necessity of going home.  I had to dry out a few things, which took forever because it decided to sprinkle on and off in the morning, before I could finally leave.  My original plan was to leave between 10 and 11 in the morning.  Instead, I didn't leave till about 1230 in the afternoon.  I could have stayed there and continued my nothingness for a week.  That would mean two things, however.  First, I wouldn't see my wife or son for that long and secondly, I would have to cut and split more wood because I would surely run out.  All in all, the weekend was rejuvenating.  It didn't inspire me to get back to work and work harder; it was simply a nice break from the routine of everyday life.  I always struggle on the first day back to work after a weekend away.  Perhaps it is because I would still rather be camping, or perhaps it is because my mind just isn't with it.  Whatever the case may be, it happens every time.  I am planning one more camping trip for this year in November.  I have never been up camping in Vermont at that time of year and I think it should be interesting.  This past weekend the temperature didn't get out of the 50's during the day and sank into the low 30's at night.  I wonder what November will hold for me.  On top of it being cold, it will also be getting dark a lot earlier which simply means more time in front of the fire.  I only hope it doesn't snow before I head up so that I can actually get up to my campsite.  Only time will tell what will happen.  For now, I will continue working, enjoying the time with my wife and son, and looking forward to my next weekend away. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Funding Pills, Not Schools

I was going to write about my weekend in Vermont today, but I saw an article in the NYTimes this morning that completely and irreversibly changed my mind.  At least for today that is.  It was simply the title of the article that immediately sucked me in, "Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School".  Does anything seem wrong with this title to anybody else?  Does this not raise a million red flags at once about a serious problem we are having in this country?  Even if no one else seems particularly interested or alarmed about this topic, I am as I have 1 year old son who will eventually be entering a school.  If anyone else ever reads the NYTimes or other news source, you have probably seen a headline related to pills for ADD or ADHD and students abuse of them in school.  A slew of articles have been written talking about how students in good schools are using the pills to treat these disorders to help with school work, tests, studying;  in essence, to help them get better grades and get into better colleges.  It doesn't simply stop at the high school level, the abuse continues into college at this point.  Prescriptions for the drugs, Adderall being the most common, have skyrocketed in recent years.  Five years ago in 2007, the number of children age 4-17 that were diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and consequently prescribed a drug to treat it was at 5.4 million children.  That was five years ago.  Imagine the number now?  Yet, ADD and ADHD diagnoses aside, the pills prescribed to treat those disorders will surely jump astronomically.  Here is why; doctors have taken to prescribing those pills simply to help children in school, even if they are perfectly fine otherwise and don't meet any of the criteria necessary for a diagnoses of one of the disorders mentioned above. 

The main issue here is that doctors have now taken it upon themselves (not all doctors mind you) to help children in school who are not receiving the help they need.  The doctor's version of help is to prescribe pills for these children to boost their grades.   They claim they are doing a service to these children and families because the schools are incapable of helping the children.  Essentially, doctors are taking it upon themselves to reform the schools because there is not enough money flowing to the schools.  What a load of crap.  What has our country come to when we decide that it is more efficient to drug the kids going to school than to make meaningful reforms in the schools themselves.  If you look at our health care system (or should I say sick care system) and education system in this country, you wouldn't be that surprised.  Most of these pill that are prescribed are covered under one type of insurance or another, so for a family to have pills prescribed to every one of their children it is cheaper, and easier, than working with the schools and students to get to the bottom of any issue their children are having.  Do the pills help in the short term?  The evidence would say that they do, however, no one really knows what the long term effects on the children are.  There is already a growing body of evidence that suggests these pills can be linked to growth suppression, increased risk of high blood pressure, and in some cases, psychotic episodes.  I have an issue with the over diagnoses of ADD and ADHD to begin with.  Add this new wave of presriptions to help children in school and I am done.  All I know is, if my son ever has any issues in school, whether or not he ever displays signs of these two disorders, he will never be prescribed a pill to help with it.  There are other methods that work to help children through their school years but most importantly, I will not show my son that the way to improve anything in life is through a pill. 

We have an issue in this country; we are pill poppers galore.  No matter what type of ailment we have, imaginary or real, there is a pill to take care of it, send us off to never never land, and keep reality at bay.  By taking a pill for anything, we are never curing anything, we are merely covering up symptoms.  When was the last time you heard of a person who was put on blood pressure medication and their blood pressure returned to the point where they could be taken off of it, all because of the medication.  The answer is, you haven't because it has not happened to anyone.  The only time a person is taken off of blood pressure medication is when they alter their lifestyle to naturally lower their blood pressure, the pill never does it.  The same goes with ADD and ADHD.  While the disorder may fade once a child reaches adulthood, the disorder isn't "reversed" or "treated" by taking any one of the pills available, rather, the pills alter the brain in such a way that the child is able to "function" properly.  (That calls into question what we consider "functioning properly" when associated with children.   But that's another topic for another day.)  Carrying this line on, by drugging our kids to counteract an inferior school and to allow them to get better grades, we are not improving the school system, we are merely putting a sugar coating on it and making things seem OK because all of a sudden kids are getting better grades.  To me, it was scary to just look at the picture at the head of the article.  It shows a mother and one of her sons sitting together and her son with her looks totally zonked out, his eyes are baggy, red underneath, and he doesn't really look "with it".  Yet he is getting good grades so everything must be just fine.  To note, all of this mother's children are prescribed some sort of pill to help them in school.  Its no longer "mother's little helper" it has now become, "little Johnny's helper"  (or "little Suzie's helper" to make sure I am gender neutral or whatever).  Our pill popping culture has gone too far and unfortunately it doesn't look like it will turn around any time soon.  Oh, by the way, does anyone know of a pill to help me make money without working?  If there is, I want it....(I hope you know I am being overly sarcastic by this point).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Record Breaking Leap

We have all heard of dare devils jumping off of bridges, buildings, cliffs, and anything else tall enough to allow a parachute to be deployed.  Those crazy enough have even strapped on a type of flying suit and soared amazingly close to cliff faces, trees, the ground; all in an attempt to get their adrenaline rushing and to do what no man has done before.  Well, there is a record that has been held for 52 years without being broken and if all goes well today, it will be broken.  What is the record you ask?  The record is for the highest jump or longest free fall, whichever you decide you like better.  The last record was set in 1960 by Joe Kittinger, a retired air force colonel, who jumped out of a capsule 19 miles above the face of the earth and landed successfully with a parachute.  His jump was not without perils, though, and neither will this one be.  Anything could potentially go wrong from the special pressurized suit depressurizing, to spinning out of control as Mr. Kittinger did, to the balloon carrying the capsule deflating prematurely.  Put simply, this jump is not for the faint of heart.  The record that will hopefully be set today will be a jump from 22 miles above a New Mexico desert.  In addition to an old record being broken, a new record will be set.  That new record is for a human being breaking the sound barrier and going super sonic at over 700 miles per hour.  To me, that is absolutely insane.  No one person has ever broken the sound barrier without an aircraft surrounding them and even scientists will admit that they have no clue what could happen to this man's body in the process of going from subsonic to super sonic.  Oh, and by the way, this man's name is Felix Baumgartner.  (Article about jump here.)

Felix has gone through extensive training for the last five years in order to make this jump a reality.  Already a dare devil, nothing could quite prepare him for this leap.  According the article that I read this morning detailing his training and the feat he will hopefully accomplish today, his biggest obstacle has been his claustrophobia.  Its the pressurized suit that he has to wear all the way up and consequently all the way down that is inducing this fear.  However, he has been working with the previous record holder Joe Kittinger to work through this fear and overcome it.  Mr. Kittinger is amazed that Felix has been able to overcome, or at least work through, his claustrophobia.  Hopefully all goes well for Felix and by the end of today he will be a record holder and setter.  As for myself, I don't know if I could ever jump out of a capsule 22 miles above the earth and free fall for over 5 minutes.  Its not that I am afraid of heights, rather I am quite fond of heights.  I don't even think it would be the potential claustrophobia that would get to me as I have been in super tight spaces in caves and have not been freaked out.  So I guess I don't know what would stop me except for the thought that if anything did go wrong, I probably wouldn't live through it.  That, I think, would be the thought that would stop me from going through with something like this.  After all, I have a wife and son, never mind parents and other relatives, but mostly a wife and son.  But that is neither here nor there as I am not the one who will be jumping or setting any records. 

These articles about dare devils breaking records always catch my attention for some reason.  Perhaps it is the aspect of humans pushing the limits that draws my attention in.  Or maybe it is the fact that I can see a part of myself doing some of these feats that makes me read about them.  I don't really know, but all other articles fade away when my eye catches one like the 22 mile jump happening today.  I have never jumped out of a plane, gone bungee jumping, base jumping, or anything involving a parachute.  Its not that I don't have an interest in it, which I do, I have just never had the opportunity to partake in any type of jump.  I guess what would be more my style, if I even have one when it comes to dare deviling, would be spelunking, or cave exploring.  Caves, as well as heights, have always fascinated me.  Whenever I have visited a cave, I always want to go farther than they officially let you go.  I want to go crawling through the tight spaces to see what is on the other side, to go where few men or women have gone before.  I don't want to do these things so that I can boast, I just want to do them because they interest me.  Yet, even though my interest lies underground or high up in the air, I have done very little spelunking on my own and obviously no jumping.  There is still time left for me though.  For today, though, I will live vicariously through Felix and try to imagine what it is like to jump out of a capsule and plummet 22 miles back down to earth.  Amazing!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Home Today With My Son

Its been over a week since I got to spend the day watching my son.  Last week was a little bit of an anomaly with my wife having a day off from work leaving me with the ability to work all week on getting jobs done.  While I got more work done, I didn't get to watch my son.  I could have, but opted not to.  Well, today I get him all to myself and I can't wait to see what he will be doing.  One thing I have noticed in the mornings when I am leaving is that he is getting a lot more "clingy".  In my final moments of getting my stuff together to leave, (my cooler of food for the day, my large container of water, coffee, etc.) he will make his way over to me and want to be held.  Yesterday when I picked up him to say goodbye, he didn't want to be handed off to anyone.  He didn't want to be held by my wife or either of my parents who were gracious enough to take the day off and watch him.  It was tough on both our parts I am sure for me to get out the door.  The only good part so far in regards to the "clinginess" is that he hasn't started crying when I leave.  If he did, I probably wouldn't leave for an extra 10 minutes or so.  My wife noticed yesterday as well that he was getting clingy with my dad.  When she got home from work, he was excited to see her, but then went right back to my dad.  I don't know what exactly to make of it, but I am not complaining in the least.  He is my little man and never ceases to amaze me, make me smile, and make me laugh. 

Luckily the weather is supposed to break today and we should actually see some sun which has been hiding most of the week.  As today is the unofficial start of the labor day weekend, my son, our dogs, and I were supposed to be headed up to Vermont to go camping.  Similar to labor day weekend, we were going to head up this morning and my wife was going to meet us up there after she got out of work.  However, the weather in Vermont is a little too cold at night for us to be perfectly comfortable with our son sleeping outdoors with us.  After all, he is only a year old (not quite, his birthday is next week) and he has no sleeping bag or blankets to speak of.  My wife did make a fleece sleeping pouch for him, but with the temperatures sinking into the lower 30's, we decided it is just too much of a risk.  So instead, I will spend today with my son and head up alone with the dogs tomorrow morning.  Why am I still going up even though my wife and son won't be?  Pretty much because I have been going non-stop for the past month without a break and I really need one.  I haven't only been working 10-12 hour days, but after I get home, eat dinner, and spend a little time with my wife, I start working on projects for the house (concrete counter top and cabinet doors) for a few hours.  I have pretty much been burning the candle from both ends and those two ends are about to meet in the middle.  Despite the fact that it is supposed to be a mildly rainy weekend up there, I will be in the middle of the woods with peace and quiet; just the recipe to add some more wick and wax to my candle. 

Back to my son, however, and our plans for the day.  As I have my meeting this morning, I will be dropping my son off with my dad to watch him for a few hours.  I am guessing he will probably see his great grandmother while he is there and might not get a nap in.  Seeing as it is supposed to be a mostly beautiful day, I was thinking of bringing him down to the beach for a while to play in the sand and get some fresh air.  After that, who knows, we might just have to go for a walk or just play around our house.  Regardless of what we do, I will enjoy every minute of it.  I am glad that I work for myself and have the ability to take off whatever day I need to, especially when it comes down to spending a day with my son.  I know there are weeks when I opt to work instead, but there is a balance that must be struck between bringing in enough money to help support us and spending time with my son.  I can't simply focus on work (we would have more money) and I can't simply focus on my son despite my desire to do so (we would have no money).  I am simply taking it week by week and letting the cards fall where they may.  As my grandmother, Baba, would say, "Life is not so simple".  Amen to that.  The older you get, the more complicated life gets.  To bad it doesn't get easier as you get older, but such is life.  For now, I need to get my but in gear as my son and I need to leave the house by ten after 6 this morning.  Crazy morning, crazy life, love my son, that's all folks. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Voting, Our Duty

The day on which we pick our new president is less than a month away at this point and I am personally wondering how many voters will actually go to the polls this year.  I am not a big fan of our choices, however, I will still get my rear end to the voting center and cast my ballot for one of the two contenders.  I am still undecided at this point as to who I will vote for, but I know one thing, I will vote.  What I find alarming in some respects is the amount of apathy that a good number of people have towards voting in general.  I have heard every excuse from "my vote doesn't really matter", to "I hate politics", to "I just don't care".  Regardless of how much or how little every vote matters, we have the privilege of helping to pick who will run our country for the next four years.  There are many countries in this world where public voting is either a farce or non-existent.  We should consider ourselves lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.  Do I think that the process is always fair?  Absolutely not.  Do I think the whole process to become a candidate for president is fair?  Definitely not.  Despite my dissatisfaction with certain aspects of our electoral process, the only way to effect change is to get out, vote, and make your voice heard.  If everyone in this country sat back on their laurels and simply waited to see what would happen, our country could spiral in directions that would probably surprise most people.  I don't want to see that happen to our country and as such, I will be voting in November.  Perhaps what surprises me most about those that decide not to vote or don't even know when they should vote, is the absolute apathy exhibited.  Granted, the last few presidential elections have seen voter turnout over 50%, but that is far from where it should be to accurately depict the general feelings people have about our government and the way its running. 

This morning I decided to see exactly what the percentage was for the last presidential election.  (The info I am relaying can be found by following this link here!)  The last presidential election saw a voter turnout of 56.8% of the eligible voting population (132,618,580 out of 231,229,580).  That was the highest percentage this country has seen come out for a presidential election since 1968 which saw 60.8% of the eligible voting population come out (73,211,875 out of 120,328,186).  For whatever reason, there is a good percentage of the population that either can't make it out to vote, isn't registered to vote, or doesn't care enough to.  I hope this year we are able to break the 60% mark for voter turnout, yet, I have my doubts.  Now, let me pose a mostly rhetorical question; who truly has the power in this country?  Is it the president or the Congress?  While the president has the overall say, suggests policy moves, can accept or veto any legislation brought to him by Congress, it is the Congressional body that does a good part of the work as it relates to our personal lives.  Yet, in non-presidential election years, we haven't risen above 40% since 1970.  While these other voting years aren't as important as the presidential election, they are very important in their own right.  I have heard a very large number of people say that they will vote every one of the cronies currently in congress out, yet with not even 40% of the people turning out to vote during these years, "voting these cronies" out won't happen.  Has it really been 40 years since people cared in this country?  Our population has greatly increased, yet our voter turnout has decreased.  There is obviously something wrong with our system when nearly a hundred million people can't find their way to a polling station to vote.  There are solutions, but it will take time to turn things around. 

Perhaps the first and best option to increase voter turnout is education.  It seems to me that we need to spend more time educating people on the necessity of voting and how if we don't vote, things could go in a direction that is displeasing for all of us.  I don't want to simply get people out to vote, I want educated voters at the polling stations.  There is nothing worse than someone who has no idea what the issues at stake are or who is actually running for office.  These voters are a detriment to the system and I would rather see them stay home than just come to vote in attempt to raise the percentage of people voting.  We can't just focus on educating the young students in school on the importance of voting.  What we need to do is also focus on the immigrants in this country and ensuring that they know how important it is that they vote as well.  Everyone who is a citizen above the age of 18 has the right to vote (excluding convicted felons).  Yet, I consider voting more of a duty than a right.  While we have the choice to vote or not to vote, we should all consider it a duty.  It is our duty to perpetuate freedom in this country and our right to voice our opinion and have a say in who will run our country.  We too often take for granted our freedoms.  If we continue to take these freedoms for granted, they could be stripped away.  (Highly unlikely, but possible).  So let us make an effort to talk to our friends, convince them to get out and vote, and lets make a difference for once.  I know that every presidential election offers us the possibility to make a difference, but lets do it this year.  Lets not wait for our freedoms to slowly disappear, lets take matters into our own hands and show the scum in Washington that the citizens of the United States mean business. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Class Difference

I mentioned a while ago in a blog that I think there is a definite class system in the United States.   Depending on who you talk to, there are varying number of "classes" within our country.  The number doesn't matter so much as the fact that it is hard to move up in the class system.  It is relatively easy to move down, yet moving up is always a struggle for people.  But I don't necessarily want to talk about the class system again today.  I simply wanted to bring that up as part of an intro.  Coinciding with the class system is people's perception of those within the different classes.  I am sure that almost everyone who is reading this is familiar with the Occupy Movement which in large part has fizzled out due to lack of direction and purpose.  Part of the Occupy mantra was differentiating between the 99% and the 1% in the United States.   While I think it is almost impossible to infiltrate, if you will, the top 1%, I have a problem with how the differentiating process characterizes, or at least seems to, those who have too much money.  People essentially take those in the 1% and cast them as greedy, over zealous, elite individuals who are not in touch with the reality of the 99%.  This is probably true in part due to the amount of money they have and the lack of financial issues that they have to deal with, however, if we take away the dollar sign from the labeling of the 1% and simply look at them as people, we will find a whole different picture awaiting us.  Our society, for those who live in seclusion, is largely driven by money, those who have a lot, and those who don't.  People draw different conclusions about the people who are associated either with a lot of money or a little.  There seems to be a general consensus that those with excessive amounts of money are stuck up, removed from society, and don't want to associate with those individuals who have very little.  On the flip side, we also view those who have very little as worthless, having a lack of drive, and overall destitute.  While there is some grain of truth to those perceptions, to take it as indicative of the whole would be like taking a pinch of sand from the beach, putting it in your hand, and calling that pinch of sand the whole beach; it just flies in the face of reality. 

As a contractor, I have the somewhat unique ability to travel between the classes, not so much as move between them, but rather pay visits to different classes.  I have worked for those with way too much money and also for those with a lot less.  Unfortunately, I have never worked for those with very little as they can not afford my work, but I have volunteered and helped out with community outreach campaigns to help those in need.  So having dealt with people from all walks of life, from those who own private islands to those who live on the streets, I can honestly say that there is not that much difference between anyone (except for money and possessions).  The impression that anyone with a lot of money is stuck up is flat out wrong.  There are those in the upper class who want nothing to do with people who make less than them, do not travel in their circle, and do not drive a Mercedes; however those do not represent everyone who has money.  I have run into many more people with money who are down to earth, friendly, and willing to have a conversation with me.  Similarly, the perception that people who have almost nothing are all screwed up is also not true.  Having volunteered in soup kitchens and handing out essentials on the streets of Bridgeport, I have come to see that what these people need most is someone to talk to.  When you strip away money, possessions, and all the worldly things we like to label people with, it turns out that we all have similar struggles and we all just want someone to talk to.  All it takes to get people to open up is to treat them as humans, not as someone from a different class, but simply as humans.  If we have a preconceived notion about how someone will act when we meet them, then they will most likely act that we because we ourselves have not opened ourselves up and stripped away our assumptions.  I have had down to earth conversations with people who frequent the soup kitchens to those who own the private islands.  There is very little difference between who they are other than what they wear and the amount of money they have.  Despite that, they are the same. 

I was going to say that its amazing that people still have this view of the way people should be based upon what they own, how much money they have, and where they live.  However, its really not amazing when you look at society and the way people act.  I think it would be beneficial to our society if we all took some time to meet people who are different than us.  I have been fortunate enough to see a little of all the classes, yet I know that I am an anomaly when it comes to that.  Not everyone can just drive up to a mansion and start having a conversation with someone.  I occasionally get a call and do just that.  However, everyone can and should volunteer their time to help those in need and when helping them, engage them in a conversation.  Most people, especially those with very little, just need someone to talk to about what their lives and what they are going through.  Oddly enough, its the same way with those who have money; often times they just want someone with an open ear to talk to and share their story with.  The struggles are essentially the same when you boil it down.  Everyone deals with stress and everyone needs help to get through it.  What we really need to do is cast aside our class system and get back to treating each other as equals.  Unfortunately, I don't see that happening any time soon.  For now, I will do my part and listen to people when they need to talk, ask them questions about their lives, and do my traveling between the classes. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stupid Football Refs

Now that the replacement refs are gone, I feel I need to comment on the ridiculous nature of the whole ordeal.  First of all, let me just state that I have never been a big fan of football.  I watch the superbowl once a year (or I at least attend a superbowl party) and that is pretty much about it.  I don't keep track of who is doing what, what team is winning, what players are even out there; its just not my cup of tea.  So with that said, I think it is pretty fair to say that all my comments here are from an outsider looking in.  From my understanding of the whole issue, garnered mostly from listening to the radio in the morning and seeing the latest on Facebook and what not, a big part of the ordeal was over money and how much the regular refs were getting paid.   The top earning officials make over $100,000 a year for a part time job.  It all came down to the fact that they wanted more money and the NFL didn't want to pay them more money.  On top of that, the refs apparently wanted to receive a pension for their work reffing football games.  Pensions?  For part time work?  If only the rest of the country could be so lucky to get pensions for working a part time job.  To be perfectly honest, this whole mess between making more for reffing a game and receiving a pension for a part time job when most of the refs have well paying full time jobs is just ridiculous.  This issue just goes to show how out of touch with reality this culture of football really is.  When there are thousands of people without work and struggling to make ends meet, the refs don't want to work their part time job because they are not making enough and not getting a pension (or whatever the stupid issues really are, I don't care).  What it all boils down to is greed and another stupid union getting in the way.  Football, as we have seen over the past few weeks, is obviously far more important than any war or upcoming presidential election.  After all, when you have the replacement refs getting more press time than Obama or Romney, you know something is wrong with this country. 

What bothers me even more about this whole ordeal is the anger exhibited over the replacement refs.  As I mentioned above, I don't watch any regular football games, the only one I watch is the superbowl.  However, I feel like I have watched a few games over the past few weeks just by the comments I have heard and seen about the replacement refs.  I have heard about some of the botched calls, the stolen game, the blah, blah, blah.  I remember when I used to play sports when I was younger and we had to deal with a bad ref.  I had a big temper back then and used to start yelling and cussing when bad calls were made.  I know things are different now, but back then, the coach used to tell me to get past the refs and play the game.  Granted, you make money to play football in the NFL, but it is still a game.  Regardless of whether you win or lose (obviously teams like to win), you still get paid at the end of the day unless you perform horribly over the course of the season (and then you still get paid because your under contract).  Let me say that one more time, football is a game, it is not life despite what some people may think.  Perhaps if everyone took a little time to remember that, there would be a little less stress and anxiety when a team that should have won, loses or vice versa.  Yet all this hyper reaction to replacement refs and this super fan fanaticism doesn't really surprise me.  When I see football fans devote an enormous amount of their time to watching football, playing fantasy football, and immersing themselves into a team that just wants their money, it kind of makes me sick.  All we are doing are creating a false crew of icons for younger children to look up to.  The more young kids see their parents talk about and admire these football players, the more their children will follow their lead and get immersed into the whole football culture.  If you want to be realistic about it, the chances of any one person actually playing for the NFL are slim to none and yet it attracts so many fans its ridiculous. 

OK, so I know I went off a little and I know that football is merely a diversion for many people from real life, but I still think that whole culture is a little ridiculous.  There are so many more worthwhile activities that one could potentially participate in, yet two to three maybe four times a week (I honestly don't know how many football games are played in a week), people gather themselves in front of a big black rectangle and sit entranced for three hours as two teams throw a football and run up and down the field in short spurts.  If you think about the actually game and all the rules involved, it is one of the slowest moving games there is.  I feel that I have said enough on this topic, probably angered too many die-hard fans, and wasted enough of my IQ actually thinking about football.  But before I go, I just want to reiterate my biggest issue I had with the whole replacement ref scandal.  That issue is that it took precedence over every other meaningful issue that we are dealing with.  It took the headlines from the economy, the upcoming election (which is a farce), and turmoil around the world.  I know, we can't necessarily do anything about the big issues, but we could at least educate ourselves as to what is going on around the world and in our own country rather than stare and cheer at a TV showing meat heads crashing into each other at full tilt.  On second thought, there is a way we could improve the football game so that I would actually watch.  Here is my thought.  We build higher walls around the field, perhaps 12 feet tall, and place one starved lion on the field with the football players and see what happens.  They would have to play the game as normal except with a lion trying to eat them.  Now that would be entertainment.