My 10 New Year’s Resolutions

The end of the year is typically a time when that r word comes up. You know what I’m talking about!! Yes, it is time for people to start talking about their New Year’s resolutions. I hear the same old resolutions every year. People often talk about how they are going to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more and so on.  But come February,  most people have already forgotten about their resolutions.  I probably break most of mine as well. I was able to keep some of mine from last such as drinking more water and eating more broccoli. This year, I am being a bit ambitious by listing ten resolutions but hey, why not set the bar high for yourself? The following are ten of my personal resolutions.

1.  Go to bed earlier.  I am one of these people who likes to stay up late. And believe me, if I stay up too late, I really pay for it the next day. The times when I go to bed around 9-10 o’clock are when I feel the best and most rested.

2.  Cut out half of the sugar in my diet.  Admittedly,  I am a sweet tooth.  There is not a cookie or piece of cake that I will pass up.  However, excess sugar in one’s diet can be very harmful. I plan on limiting my intake too much smaller portions.

3.  Better time management.  Raise your hand if you tend to waste too much time during the day. I know I do!! Setting a daily schedule will be more of priority for me in the next year.

4.  Meet at least 10 new people. I would like to increase my circle of  friends in the upcoming year.

5.  Go to more movies.  Sure I have cable with plenty of movie channels but there is nothing like going to a movie theater and watching a great new release. Nothing beats the sound and great picture.  I live very close to a nice movie theater so there is no excuse for not fulfilling this resolution.

6.  Run a mile in under 6 minutes.  I am a somewhat of a fitness geek and always looking for new ways of challenging myself. For the typical good distance runner who only weighs 150 lbs, this would be a rather simple goal. However, for guys like myself who are built more for football, this is a challenging achievement.

7.  Find creative ways to cook. I am a bachelor and most of my meals come in the frozen variety. It is always fun to experiment with cooking various things and probably cheaper as well.

8.  Give more to charities.  I think this is a resolution that everyone should have on their list.

9.  Write 100 blogs.  I would have to average roughly 2 posts a week which is doable.  There is always a lot going on in the world and a lot of topics to write about. I would like to mix in more stuff like dating and fitness besides the normal current issues.

10.  Travel to the north shore of Minnesota. I enjoy traveling to places that I have never been to.  People who have been there tell me how spectacular the scenery is.

Those are just some of many resolutions I have for the upcoming year. I will write a status report on my progress near the end of June. I want to wish everyone a happy New Year’s and good luck with all your resolutions and goals for the upcoming year.  May 2013 be the best year of your life.

 

My 2012 People of the Year

In any year, there is bound to be many people who deserve recognition for great inspirational acts or simply making a difference in the world. 2012 was no exception. It is difficult to write a blog without missing some people who richly deserve credit. Many folks who deserve consideration are common, ordinary people who feel the need to change the world for the better. It could be your neighbor or friend down the street who spends countless hours volunteering at a homeless shelter. Their efforts could make life a lot better for hundreds of people. The ten people on my list have gained national recognition for their particular acts and in my opinion, deserve a heap of praise.

1. New York police officer Lawrence DePrimo.  DePrimo is the police office made famous when he saw a homeless man laying on the street without shoes and promptly went out of his way to buy the man a pair.  Those random acts of kindness towards strangers can go a long ways in making this world a better place to live.

2.  Mala Yousafzai.  She was the young Pakistani teen shot by the Taliban because she stood up for girl’s rights and giving young women more opportunities to advance their education.

3.  Peyton Manning.  After taking a year off from football and having several neck surgeries which threatened his career, Manning is leading the Denver Broncos to one of the best records in the league and a possible spot in the Superbowl.

4.  Oscar Pistorius (the blade runner from the Olympics).  One of the athletes who really caught my attention at the 2012 summer was Pistorius. He did not let his disability get into the way of qualifying for the Olympic games. Even though he did not pick up a medal, his heart and determination deserves a gold.

5. Scott Walker.  I admire a politician who sticks with his principles and does not cave from opposition pressure. Governor Walker faced enormous pressure from labor unions in Wisconsin but came out victorious and his plans have worked in that state.  I wish more politicians in Washington were like him.

6. Jeremy Lin.  I do not think there is a better inspirational sports story of 2012 than Lin’s. A very fringe NBA player who finally got his big opportunity and made the most of it. How can anyone forget that Febuarary game against the Lakers at MSG when Lin put on that memorable coming out performance.

7.  Alex Teves.  Teves on one of the Colorado movie shootings victims. What makes his story so special is that he protected his girlfriend while being shot by the gunman. How many guys would take a bullet for their loved ones like that?

8.  Adrian Peterson.  Last year at this time, Peterson went down with a very serious knee injury and there was some concern about him ever playing again. Well if you follow the NFL, Peterson came back a little strong I must say!! Only 208 yards from the single season rushing record. I have never seen a comeback like that!

9.  Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.  These guys lost their lives during the Bengazhi attack. Woods ignored orders to stay put and went ahead to save many American lives. Their acts of bravery represent what the Navy Seals is all about.

10.  Victoria Soto.  Soto is one of the teachers killed during the Sandy Hook school shooting and her unselfish act of protecting her students should not go unnoticed. I would encourage any teacher or anybody to read her story about how she saved many students in her class. She is definitely my person of the year for her bravery and thoughtfulness during this tragic event. I do not know how anyone could pass her over for being the 2012 person of the year. She is a true American hero.

There are many other people who have done extraordinary things in the past year as well. I think of all those Hurricane Sandy volunteers who took the time and effort to help those in need. There were many unsung heroes in those highly publicized shootings in Colorado and Connecticut. Besides those brave Navy Seals, there are countless military people who give their lives everyday so that we can enjoy our freedoms. Many perform several acts of heroism that goes unnoticed. We always hear about the bad people in the news but these people deserve credit for their deeds and being inspirational to others.

The worst time to be on a diet

The other day, as I was preparing to join my co-workers for our annual catered Christmas lunch, a rather sobering thought came to mind. Suppose that I was on some strict diet and could not join my fellow employees in devouring all that nice selection of food. Would I show a moment of weakness and forget about my daily commitment to my beloved slim fast shakes? After all, a little indulgence could not hurt, right? I will just pile my plate full of those delicious ribs, chicken, cheesy potatoes and for good measure, top it off with a few Christmas cookies. I will make up for it by fasting for the next few days. Well good luck with that!! Unfortunately, many thousands of people who are on weight loss or medical diets have to go through this every year about this time and my heart goes out to them. If being on a diet during the holidays is not a true test of self-discipline, I do not know what is!!

The season of hell for those people on a diet starts around Thanksgiving. The family dinners with tons of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie with whipped cream are sure to test even the most strict dieters. How can you not overeat when there is so much good food to go around? Well maybe I can just skip dessert, seriously? How can anyone resist that homemade pie especially if someone next to you at the table is enjoying a nice big slice? And of course many families are faced with a ton of leftovers and plenty more calories to consume.

The food temptations do not go away after Thanksgiving, in fact they tend to get worse. The Christmas season and days leading up to Christmas bring many holiday parties with many high caloried foods and opportunities to expand that stomach and waist line. There are plenty of Christmas cookies, fudge and candies to feast on. People who say that they are just going to have one cookie are only deceiving themselves. Usually that one cookie leads to 4 or 5!! Family gatherings and parties bring about the worst in people’s eating habits.

Reality sets in shortly after Christmas. Besides the shock of getting those new credit card bills online or in the mail, another shock is stepping onto the scale and seeing a very high, unfamiliar number show up. Even those active people like myself have problems with weight gain during the holiday season. It is nearly impossible to lose weight unless you are very sick.  I admire those who can still stick with their diets during this time of the year. They deserve a big gold star for a great deal of self-discipline. In the meantime, I have to finish up this plate of Christmas cookies and chocolate fudge. Anyone want some?

 

The unfortunate growing trend of school shootings

Usually when you send your children off to school, it is assumed that they are in the good hands of trained teachers and school administrators determined to make your child’s experience at school a safe and pleasant one. However, with the events of last week’s Sandy Hook school shootings, the question of school safety is certainly a hot topic and needs to be addressed.

The sad truth about school shootings is that is seems to be a growing trend and more common these days. Back when I was in school, the thought of someone showing up a school with a gun was very far fetched. Sure there were some weirdos in my classes but I never, never ever felt like I was in danger at any moment in my schools, even during my college days.

But that was then and things are totally different now. Since the school shooting in Connecticut, there have been 3 incidents in my state of Minnesota with students getting arrested for making threats of shooting up the school. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that some mentally disturbed kid is probably planning for the next school shooting and let’s hope and pray that this person will get caught before they follow through on their plan. These incidents seem to inspire a certain group of individuals and they would like nothing more than going out with their 15 minutes of fame.

So what can be done to prevent these shootings and bring safety to our school children? If I knew the answer, I would probably be appointed to some commission. I am not a school administrator but I think there are certain steps and procedures that can help ensure that any carnage is kept to a bare minimum.

First of all, I strongly believe that a gun or guns should be available at a school for officials to use in case of an emergency. They could be properly trained on how to use a firearm and what to do if certain situations occur like a shooter or shooters enters the school. I do not think all schools need an armed security guard or police officer but that could certainly help as well. I would gladly being willing to pay a few more property tax dollars so that my school district has the money to hire these people and make our schools a little safer. It is a proven fact that places where people are allowed to have guns are far less of a target for thugs than those place where guns are banned.

I also strongly believe that any warning signs of an individual should not be taken lightly. A common denominator in all these school shootings is some warning sign. If a kid writes a paper about his or her fascination with guns, shooting people or violence, that should certainly raise a red flag about someone. In the Columbine incident, those signs were ignored and unfortunately, it led to the deaths and injuries of many innocent people. Also school officials should have a hotline number for students or people to leave tips about what they here from other students. These people are with any potential killers the most and are probably most in tune with their behavior. Nobody knows a classmate or friend more than a person who actually hangs out or socializes with them. Students should be encouraged to call authorities if they see something alarming.

Parents obviously have a crucial role in preventing these tragedies. They are also around these people a lot and can see things about their children that most people cannot. They should immediately take action if they see any of the warning signs. Sadly, many parents just ignore their children until it is too late. I often wonder how a kid gets access to a high powered assault weapon as well or just any gun. Do the parents have some place locked for those guns? I guess common sense dictates that keeping weapons away their children is the proper thing to do especially if their kids seem to be not right mentally.

I really hope that we can have some good dialogue in the near future about this growing problem in our country. What happened last week in Connecticut is totally unacceptable as well as the other shootings. There will always outcasts in our society who want to do harm and take out their shortcomings on other people. This should not happen in a place where we send our kids to be educated. This type of violence could occur anywhere and your kid could be the next victim. Let’s take some steps before another incident takes place and another group of people lose their lives way too soon.

 

 

Tighter gun control is not necessarily the solution

Yes! That topic is back! It seems like whenever there is a mass shooting in this country, the topic of gun control surfaces. People are very outraged over the latest tragedy in Newton and many want all guns to be banned and the NRA to disband forever. Somebody has to be the scapegoat and it seems the NRA is a prime target of many people. I doubt that organization will be getting many Christmas cards this week! Many people have the immediate knee jerk reaction that we need tighter gun control laws but is that the solution to these mass shootings? I have my doubts and think there are a number of things that contribute. I will just discuss a few.

First of all, let’s look at the facts behind gun control. In states with strict gun control laws like Illinois, crime has actually increased in the past year. Just look at the violence taking place daily on the streets of Chicago and tell me how that strict gun control is working out. Colorado is another example and look what happened last summer with the theater shootings. There is absolutely no proof that increased gun control will cut down on the violence. None whatsoever. States with less gun control actually have less crime.

It is sad that many people in the media are not discussing our changing society as the reason behind many of these shootings. Look at the video games on the market these days. So many are filled with nothing but violence and kids start to get influenced at such an early age and it builds throughout their teenage years. Kids get the idea that a human life is about as valuable as some ant crawling across the floor. There is no question that video games along with many of the increasingly violent movies have a very negative impact on a person’s view of life and the world.

I find it very interesting that many of these mass shootings started as the internet started to take off in the mid 90’s. The first big publicized school shooting was the Joneboro, Arkansas event in 1998 and the Columbine shooting in 1999. I personally believe the internet plays a huge factor in influencing violence. Don’t get me wrong, I think the internet is a wonderful thing but it can be equally harmful for many people with all the negative stuff that is out there. People especially kids are very curious about things and the net can totally destroy the mind of a young person.

Lost in all this talk about gun control and violence is the role of families in this country. In any good society are people of good character and values. How do they achieve those good values and character? It is usually comes from being raised in a strong, stable family where the parents teach the children about right and wrong and discipline them when they go astray. It seems like more and more families are being split up these days and that will have a terrible impact on our society. Show me any gang member who commits violent acts and I will show you an individual who comes from a broken home. We all need to do our part in raising our kids the right way so they grow up to be good law abiding citizens. Even if you do not have children, you can always be a mentor to some kid. It is very unfortunate that many parents simply do not bother to spend time with their children because they are too busy pursuing their own interests or agendas.

Gun control certainly will be a hot topic in the next few weeks but let’s remember this. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. You can ban all the guns you want but if anybody thinks that tighter controls will stop the violence, they are highly delusional. Criminals and people bent on causing destruction will always get their weapons. The real issues that should be discussed are the lack of morals, broken families, violent video games and movies in our country. Those are the real problems, not having too many guns or easy access to them.

 

 

The heart-wrenching Newtown school shooting

There will always be sad stories in the news no matter what day it is. As certain as death and taxes are, there is always some event that really makes you sad. Perhaps it is some domestic violence story with a double homicide. Or a horrific car accident that kills a number of people. Yesterday’s events in Newtown Connecticut might have been the most heart-wrenching news story I have ever seen in all my years on this earth.

School shootings are becoming more and more frequent in this day and age. Usually you associate a high school or college with a school shooting. Typically, some student or students have a grudge and carries it out against the school. But for a school shooting to take place in an elementary school of all places? That is totally unthinkable!! What did those poor, young children do to deserve that? I have never seen a more cowardly act in my life!! Those kids were totally defenseless and some lunatic decided to carry out his problems on a bunch of innocent kids. And for this to happen just before Christmas even adds more sadness to this awful story.

My heart goes out to all the parents who had to experience this trauma yesterday. I do not have any kids but I can just imagine the horror those people experienced when they got the news about the shooting and went to go to the fire hall to see if their son or daughter had survived the shooting. Unfortunately for parents of 20 children, that trip was a very unforgettable journey. My heart really goes out to those parents. I hope everyone in America keeps them in your thoughts and prayer. Nobody should have to go through something like this just before the holidays. Absolutely nobody!!

Unfortunately, this will probably not be the last tragic event like this. Some crazy person out there is probably inspired by what just happened and will want to do the same horrific thing. If you are that person, my question to you is why? Do you really think going around and killing innocent, defenseless children and people will make you famous? In my mind, you will be remembered as just some crazy, cowardly, selfish person. There is not an act more selfish than taking your life after killing a bunch of innocent people. Go get help please!! You can turn your life around.

If anything positive can come out of this, it is that many Americans now realize how much we value our children and how special they are. I’m sure they can be a pain in the butt at times but they make our lives happy. Even if you do not have children like myself, you probably have nieces and nephews who you love and cherish. I have several. We need to appreciate and not take them for granted. And that goes for any of our loved ones. Nobody is guaranteed of seeing our families for Christmas. We could be the next victim of some senseless crime like yesterday’s shootings. My deepest thoughts and condolences go out to all the families affected by this gut-wrenching tragedy. I encourage everyone in the world to pray for the families and the community. It is terribly sad to think about those poor little kids who will not be opening their gifts with their families this Christmas.

The Michigan right to work law

On December 11th, the governor of Michigan, Rick Synder signed into law, the right to work bill which bans workers from being forced to join a union or pay union dues. In a state as unionized as Michigan, I found the passage of this piece of legislation to be quite remarkable and it may be a sign of things to come in other states. It might also be the beginning of the end to many unions in this country.

I have mixed feelings about the right to work law. I cannot imagine a union workplace where half of the people are union members who pay union dues and the other half are not members who do not pay dues. And yet they all get the same benefits and pay? Imagine the morale at one of those companies? The lunchroom probably consists of separate sections for those union members and those who are not.  The back biting and bickering among workers must be enormous. A successful company involves people working together in harmony and having this kind of division could prove to be troublesome to some companies.

On the other hand, suppose that I am a new teacher just out of college and I am forced to pay union dues at my first job. Why should anybody be forced to pay anything while being employed? Nobody forces me to buy my company’s health insurance, dental or 401k plan. I should have the right to choose where to put my money.  I often wonder what happens to those union dues. It has been know that some of those dues goes towards political contributions and that is totally unacceptable!! Why should I contribute money to a party that I do not support? Does the money really go towards helping out the rank and file union members of just another way of adding to the coffers of some fat cat union boss? If I want to contribute money to union, then my hard-earned money should be used to benefit me and my co-workers, every single penny. Does that happen? I highly doubt it!!

I am not totally against unions but sometimes I question how effective they really are.  Sure they may help some guy pushing a broom to get an unreasonable salary of 20-25 bucks an hour or prevent some ineffective senior person from getting fired.  But are their demands really in the best interests of the company?  A lot of companies just cannot keep up with those type of demands and just go belly up. Public unions drain state’s coffers with their pension demands.

If I am a good, highly skilled worker, my company will pay me for what I am worth. I do not need some union boss to be the middle man and take money out of my pocket.  If they do not pay me for my worth, then I will go somewhere else and the company will be hurt. That is the way it should be.  Companies, not union people should dictate the wages and benefits of workers. Unions always talk about their members getting higher wages and benefits but at what cost to the company? How many of these companies are still in business in this day and age when companies have more choices to move to non-unionized places. Forget about higher wages and benefits. I want job security and I am sure many of those workers in Detroit feel the same way.

It is a proven fact that right to work states have better economic growth and lower unemployment, and in these times, this law could prove to be a big boost  for many states especially Michigan. The state is a wonderful place to live and this new legislation could be just the right recipe to get the state’s economy moving again.  It has worked in other state’s and there is no reason it can’t happen in Michigan.