A difficult winter to endure

You know how you feel when that annoying relative or family member overstays his or her’s welcome at your house. Maybe you invite them over for dinner and they leave 4 hours after everyone else leaves. Of course, they need time to state their views on how they will fix all the problems in the world!! Finally, they leave and you feel a sense of relieve and peace not to mention your ears!! I feel the same way about winter weather. After awhile, usually in mid February, I want to show winter the door, but old man winter still has much life left. This is especially the case for many folks in this country including the region where I live.

Here in Minnesota, we have had one of the coldest winters in about 30 years. We have had nearly a record number of low temperatures below zero. On top of that, our snow fall total is above average and we still have our snowiest month ahead in March. Schools have closed several times because of the cold. The other day, we got a big snow storm which basically crippled my city and made driving or getting anywhere nearly impossible. To add insult to injury, our favorite pal, polar vortex is coming to town this week. We are looking forward to more cold and well below temperatures. In fact, several regions around the country have experienced a good old hardy winter as well. Just ask those poor folks down south. I will never forget the traffic scene from Atlanta with all those cars stuck on the freeway.

Sometimes you just have to ask yourself, when is this going to end? When is this cold weather and snow going to finally end? Here it is late February and we are still in the deep freeze. I thought this was not suppose to happen according to those global warming and environmental wackos? You can convince only a handful of people around here that global warming or climate change really exists. Heck, I could definitely go for some global warming right now!! I just want to go outside and experience the some warm rays of sun beating down on me.

Like many hardships in life, this winter will pass and warmer, more pleasant weather will arrive. Of course, we will probably complain just as loud in the summer when it is very hot and humid. I for one will not. I dream of those summer days at the beach and those pleasant, sunny evenings on the golf course. That is how I survive these brutal winters. I just sit back and think about all those warm weather fun things that I enjoy. In the meantime, I just wish that uncle winter would finally leave the party. Your visit is way too long. It is time for my favorite aunt, spring to arrive.





The wonderful and not so wonderful world of Twitter

Many of you out there have a particular favorite website that you just have to visit everyday. For many people, Facebook is at the top of the list. Or maybe, you have a blog that you like to follow like Mark’s Views, okay well maybe not!! There are literally thousands of great sites to visit for any internet junkie, however, the best one in my opinion is Twitter. No offense to other sites, but I find myself visiting Twitter before any other site. I have a nice convenient app on my smart phone to access Twitter, and with a simple touch, I can get all the latest breaking news, sports and information that I need. I could be out in some remote location on an island and still keep in touch with what is going on in the world.

Besides getting breaking information, it is always interesting to see what people are saying about a particular subject or event. Some of the tweets that people send out are totally amusing and creative. Everyone has an opinion and Twitter is a great way to express yourself in only 140 characters or less. I love to read other people’s tweets although I could care less if some celebrity tweets that they are going grocery shopping. Like I really need to know that!! I am more interested in people’s short opinions about some event. For a sports fan, Twitter is excellent for letting you vent after the big game. Does the coach need to be fired or this player need to be traded? Expressing your political thoughts is another great way to use Twitter. I have gotten into a few Twitter battles with people over various political topics. I certainly respect other people’s opinions, but I am not afraid to voice my opinion about certain policies. I think Twitter has really changed the landscape for politics. Any politician would be wise to incorporate Twitter in their campaigns. The holds true for companies who want to reach out to potential customers. I have some companies who started following me after I joined Twitter. I never heard of them prior to joining Twitter, but they certainly have made themselves know to me and other people through their tweets.

For all that is good with Twitter, there are certainly some negative things that Twitter can bring. As you might have guessed, giving people a public forum to express their views and opinions can get certain individuals in trouble. Is it just me or does Twitter really bring out the true idiots in this world? A few weeks ago, a local young person got arrested for tweeting that he was going to kill some cops. He was upset with a speeding ticket and decided to use social media to vent his frustrations. Not exactly the smartest thing in the world to do especially when you direct your tweet at the police department. I have heard about certain students getting suspended from school over tweets. Do these people realize that their little tirades can be viewed by everyone in the world? It is very unfortunate that some people use Twitter and other social media sites to tear down others and bully. It is one thing to criticize someone but when you purposely try to damage their reputation, that is really crossing the line. Unfortunately, Twitter is being used more and more as a way to damage and hurt people and that is just not right.

I have some own personal rules for using Twitter. There are certainly times when I like to vent and express my frustrations with certain things, people or organizations. I just do not like to Twitter strictly as a forum for constant whining and complaining about this world. Instead, I like to express praise and give out positive tweets. For example, our highway and road crews have taken a lot of heat lately over the poor conditions of the streets and highways after a recent storm. The conditions were totally out of their controls. All of them were working double shifts and doing their best, however, people were still criticizing the job they were doing. I sent out a tweet expressing my appreciation for their hard work. We like to rip athletes and politicians but what about some of the good things they do? Why not send out a tweet admiring their courage? If you do not agree with a certain political view, tweet out an alternative plan.

If you are not on Twitter, you should join asap. Despite some of the drawbacks, it is a wonderful site. I have really become addicted to it in the past few years. Very few sites offer so much up to date information and opinion as Twitter.  Just use it wisely and do not become one of those #knuckleheads on Twitter.



Nice alternatives to the same old televised sports

If you are a sports fan like myself, chances are that you probably spend a great deal in front of the tube watching several sporting events during the week. That is what us sports fans do. We do not spend time on Sunday afternoons in the fall watching reruns of Big Bang Theory or 30 Rock. Our day is donated to football period!! Nothing else matters to us. Outside of football, many of us watch basketball and believe me, television has way too many basketball games, especially college basketball. Of course, you have baseball to watch but what about curling? Or speed skating? bobsledding? How about hockey? How many of you people out there who call yourselves big sports enthusiasts are willing to sit down and watch those Winter Olympic sports? I actually have and quite frankly, have greatly enjoyed watching sports that do not always get the attention that normal mainstream sports like football and basketball get.

It takes a very special occasion to get this blogger out of bed at 6:30am on a cold, dreary Saturday morning, a day off for me. While most of my fellow Americans were sound asleep in bed, I got up early so I could watch the USA, Russia Olympic hockey game. I am somewhat of a lukewarm hockey fan; not exactly my favorite sport,but enough to get me out of bed to watch an important game. I made some breakfast and watched a totally thrilling game that kept me on the edge of my recliner all morning long. Our country prevailed in an overtime shootout that totally frazzled my nerves. It was one of the best games or events I had seen in many months. Forget about having that morning cup of coffee to help wake me up. The tension from that game was enough to wake me up and keep me up for hours. My decision to wake up early and watch the game was well worth it.

Besides hockey, I have enjoyed many other Winter Olympic sports. I very seldom watch any skiing but found myself glued to the television during the competition. The balance and speed that those athletes generate was phenomenal! I know very little about the sport but learned a lot from the outstanding broadcast. Besides the competition, the scenery was absolutely spectacular with the mountain backdrop and sun. Those things only added to my viewing enjoyment. Another sport that I enjoyed watching was the speed skating. Track and field has always been a passion of mine so speed skating would naturally fit in.

Some of the sports are somewhat difficult for me to get excited about but I still find myself watching. Figure skating is not exactly tops on my viewing list, but the more I watched, the more I enjoyed. The athletic ability of those skaters is just amazing. Those competitors are more than just a bunch of pretty people who are all dressed up. They have very good athletic ability as well. Curling is another sport which I have a hard time getting fired up for. It seems to be one of those sports that is much enjoyable to play than watch. I would love to curl sometime but watching it seems to be rather boring. Maybe if I was more involved and knew more about the sport, it would be more exciting.

The thing to me that is really fascinating about watching the Olympics is that it is a one shot deal for many of the athletes. All of them have trained for so long and now, they have that one shot at glory. In other sports, if you lose or have a bad game, you get another chances within the week. In the Olympics, that is very seldom the case. It is very heartbreaking to see some athlete train hard for hours a day and then lose out because they slipped or had a bad start to a race. On the flip side, it is always thrilling and inspiring to watch some athlete overcome some big obstacle to win a medal. Sometimes, I don’t even care if they are not from the United States. Those stories always make for good television viewing.

The Winter Olympic games will be over with in one week from today. I challenge anyone who considers themselves a sports fan to consider turning the channel from some meaningless college basketball game to the Winter Olympics. I have found myself not wanting to switch back to the normal old games. When you have national pride at stake and once in a lifetime athletes competing for their dreams of winning medals, the games should take precedent over other sports on television. I got somewhat hooked and you should too. Of course, if those curling finals are on at 6:30am, I might have a hard time getting out of bed to watch!!




A rather embarrassing Valentine’s Day for a guy

There were probably millions of very special women in this country who received flowers yesterday at their workplace. I know at my place of employment, a few lucky ladies were the beneficiaries of flowers sent to them by their husband or boyfriend. Each each one of them had to feel really good inside and they certainly did not hesitate to show off their beautiful flowers so everyone could see. I am sure their partners will probably get a little extra loving later on!! Women flat-out love getting flowers at work but what about guys? Very seldom do you ever hear about guys getting flowers at work. I mean seriously!! Unfortunately, I was one of those guys who did on Valentine’s Day 2008.

A few months earlier, I happened to meet a woman on one of those social networking sites. We exchanged a few emails at first and that led to a few phone and instant messaging conversations. She lives on the West Coast and I live in the Midwest so seeing her in person was going to be difficult. Nevertheless, I enjoyed talking to her and getting to know her. I felt sorry for her because she had lived a hard and difficult life. She lost her husband in a car accident on Christmas Eve about 4 years before we met. She no doubt had a lot of loneliness inside of her. I seemed to fill a big void in her life and she mentioned to me several times what I great friend I was. The distance between us probably prevented us from seeing each other more often and seeing if our friendship could develop into something more, which probably would not have happened.

On Valentine’s Day 2008, it was a calm, quiet morning at my workplace. A few women at my workplace received flowers and people were chit chatting about Valentine’s Day and plans for that evening. Several people were lounging around the cubicle of one of my female co-workers, who received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from her husband. Suddenly out of nowhere, a member of our shipping department came up to my work cubicle with a bouquet of flowers and some heart-shaped balloons. These are for you, Mark. Surely there must be a mistake!! The attention of our entire floor shifted over to my cubicle. OMG!!! I was so totally embarrassed. My face was probably 10 shades of red!! My buddies really started to razz me big time!! I just wanted to disappear through a hole in the floor. Here I was sitting at my cubicle with a big bouquet of flowers. Yes, this macho guy got flowers at work!! I would rather be caught wearing pink pants!!

In her note, my friend was very appreciative of me listening to her and being a good friend. I had mixed feelings at that point. Part of me wanted to kill her and part of me wanted to give her a big hug!! People were extremely curious about his mystery woman who sent me flowers. Nobody believed that she was just my friend. Eventually, my shift ended and it was time to take the flowers and balloons home. It was the very first time that I had ever received flowers in my life. How long would the flowers keep? What am I going to do with this huge base? Being a guy, these stupid questions kept going through my mind.

I still maintain some contact with her now. We talk every once in a while. She is seeing other people and I am very happy for her. I reminded her of that little episode yesterday during a text message exchange and we both laughed. I just hope she doesn’t send other guys flowers at their workplace. Maybe I am totally wrong but I find it hard to believe that guys like getting flowers send to them. Maybe a huge plate of hot chicken wings but flowers? I still have nightmares about that Valentine’s Day 6 years ago. My macho image took a huge hit that day!

Everyday should be Valentine’s Day

In case you were not aware (take note all you guys out there!!), Valentine’s Day is coming up this coming Friday. It really amazes me at this time of the year on the degree that guys will go to please that special woman in their lives. Some guys will try to find the most expensive gifts such as jewelry, or try to arrange a special romantic weekend getaway at a posh remote location. Of course, let’s not forget the flowers and yes, that box of candy! The sad truth is that most women will have to wait another year before they are even close to being treated like that again.

Personally, I think Valentine’s Day might be the most overrated holiday of the year. I am not saying this because I am some single guy without a woman to spoil this Valentine’s Day. I think the holiday is more a marketing gimmick meant to sell more cards, candy or jewelry. Sure it is a cute little romantic holiday meant to bring lovers together but my question is this, shouldn’t everyday be Valentine’s Day if you are in a relationship?

The only time that some guys ever consider buying flowers for their woman is at Valentine’s Day. Why not randomly give your sweetie flowers for other occasions such as when she gets a promotion at work or maybe if she is feeling down and out for some particular reason? A great idea is to send flowers to her workplace on her birthday. I would think that most women would be very pleasantly surprised if that happened. Recognizing her like that in front of her co-workers and friends is a sure way to score major brownie points. Of course, sending flowers to her workplace on Valentine’s Day is a solid idea as well. I strongly believe that most women would rather receive the flowers in front of their peers as opposed to receiving them while alone at home.

Many couples are sure to being planning big date nights for this upcoming weekend, especially Friday night. Why not do have a big date night at least once a week? It does not have to be very expensive at all. A simple thing like going to a movie or taking a spontaneous trip somewhere. For most couples who are not married, this is kind of a no-brainer but those who are married with children, this is a great idea. Why stop going out on dates with each other just because you are married? I think many married couples lose passion in their relationships because they stop going out on dates and spending quality time with each other. Couples like make excuses like the kids are in the way or I just do not have time. Being in a successful relationship does require time for each other.

All those things aside, I think just doing simple random acts of love each and everyday goes further than any Valentine’s Day gift. A gal who I recently dated, always used to text me and asked how my day went. It was a simple thing but her concern about me meant a lot. Just sending a simple uplifting text message that says you are thinking about the other person can go a long ways in any relationship. Another example would be texting your partner at work and telling him or her how much you miss or love them. I think many couples fail to realize how powerful words are both positive and negative in a relationship. It is great to treat and spoil your gal on Valentine’s Day, but is there really meaning behind the purchase? Are you just buying her flowers because it is the trendy thing to do? It does absolutely no good to buy someone flowers then turn around shortly after and tell them how fat or stupid they are. You are being absolutely hypocritical

If you are in committed relationship, married or not, everyday should be Valentine’s Day. You don’t always have to buy flowers everyday but just doing simple, daily, romantic things will keep your relationship going strong and long-lasting.




Why Sochi?

Quite often in life, you have to wonder what drives people, organizations or committees to make certain decisions. I am always curious to know why city A is picked to host the Olympics while cities B, C and D are left out. What criteria does the Olympic committee use to determine who hosts the Olympics? My curiosity has really increased after hearing some of the problems that Sochi is having with hosting the games. Why did the Olympic committee pick Sochi over several other cities?

The region where the games are being held has long been a hot bed for terrorism. I am sure that some of those terrorists are just waiting for the right opportunity to strike and disturb the games. What greater way to bring attention to your cause than to create problems with the whole world watching. I am sure that some of those Islamic terrorists will do anything in their power to wreak havoc. All it will take is one slip up by security to turn the games into another Munich nightmare. I often wonder how secure the athletes and the fans are over there. Sure terrorism can happen anyplace in the world, but this place has never been an ideal safe spot to visit for anybody. Did the Olympic committee even consider this possibility when selecting Sochi with terrorists lurking only 200 miles away? I would think that there are several cities around the world which are much safer than Sochi, and the athletes and spectators can feel a little more at ease. It just doesn’t seem like a great idea to hold the Olympics in such an unsafe part of the world.

Besides the issues with security, there have been numerous reports of bad and unsafe drinking water at the hotels. My stomach nearly churned when I saw pictures of glasses with brown water!! Some of the water is not even safe to wash your face with!! What is the deal with that? I thought staying at one of those overpriced chain motels was bad enough!! At least I can take a shower with clean water!. And lets not forget the issue with the bathrooms and the toilet paper; asking not to  flush toilet paper and putting it some container? Ewwww!! Come on!! this is the 21st century. I thought they did that kind of stuff in the 15th century? There have been reports of people getting hacked while online and being spied upon in the shower. I hate to ask what the food is like in some of those hotels. Hopefully the bugs are kept to a minimum in some of those meals. If your going to spend that kind of money to host the Olympics, the least you can do is give the athletes and visitors some decent living conditions. From the reports that I am hearing, that is far from the case. I would not expect to be staying some swanky hotel but please, give me some good clean drinking water and the ability to have good clean water to shower. I could care less if someone is spying on me, just give me non-dangerous water that will not harm my face. Once again, did the Olympic committee consider some of these issues with housing before making a decision? It is a travesty that athletes and visitors have to be subjected to those kind of living conditions.

I have been hearing about problems with warm weather and how it is affecting snow or should lack of it. Then I hear that Sochi is not exactly a cold weather area after all. One would think that a host city for the winter Olympics would have sub freezing highs to help the snow conditions. It makes about as much sense as having a city like San Francisco host the winter Olympics. Why a city in a cooler region was not selected is puzzling to me. Perhaps it is not as big of an issue as it seems, but I cannot believe that the warmer weather would not have any effect on the skiing and outdoor events.

I am hoping and praying that the Olympics will be a total success for the city of Sochi and the people of the region but I have deep concerns about the area and the safety and well being of the athletes and visitors. It is very puzzling to me as to why the Olympic committee would chose a risky city such as Sochi over safer, more convenient locations. I am sure there are a lot of people in that committee who are sweating heavily during the next few weeks in fear that something might happen. It would be a serious black eye to the Olympics and Russia is another Munich happened. I just hope the committee does not consider Kabul, Afghanistan or Baghdad, Iraq for future Olympic sites.

Thoughts on the Super Bowl and a bold prediction

I don’t know if it is just me, but I get the sense that this Super Bowl is more than just a battle between the top defensive team in the league, Seattle, versus one of the best offenses ever in the NFL, the Denver Broncos. It seems this game is more like a battle between the good guys versus the bad guys; somewhat like those pro wrestling bouts where there is a good character, who all the fans adore, versus the villain, who is much hated by the fans. The good guy in this wrestling match is the Denver Broncos and the villain is the Seattle Seahawks. You have the much adored quarterback of the Broncos, Peyton Manning going up against the hated, loud-mouth cocky villain named Richard Sherman.

In my own scientific poll, I have yet to come across anyone who will be cheering for the Seahawks. Maybe I am wrong but it seems as though the Denver Broncos are America’s choice to win the Super Bowl. After all, how can you not cheer for Peyton Manning in this game? The man went so through adversity to come back and perform at such a high level. A Super Bowl would only put the icing on the cake to a stunning comeback. Manning is one of the good athletes in pro sports and it is hard not to cheer for a guy like him. On the flip side, you have Richard Sherman, who in just about 30 seconds, turned many Americans against his team with his disgusting self-centered interview after the NFL championship game. I find it very hard to even consider rooting for some cocky player like Sherman. I hope Manning and his receivers make him look really bad. If it was not for Sherman, I might have been cheering for the Seahawks since they have never won a Super Bowl.

Trying to pick a winner for this game is indeed a very difficult task. Neither team really has a huge advantage in this game. Seattle has the type of team which is made to beat Denver, a very strong secondary and a good running game. If Marshawn Lynch can have a huge game, I believe Seattle will definitely win the game. I think their offense is just as important in this game as their defense in stopping Peyton Manning and the high-powered offense of Denver. Seattle needs to win the control the time of possession and keep Denver’s offense off the field. They also cannot afford to turn the ball over as well. In my opinion, I think Seattle’s offense more than anything will determine their fate. If they struggle and fail to pick up first downs, it could be a long afternoon for the Sea Chickens. Sure Seattle has a great defense but I don’t believe they will totally shut down Denver’s great offense. Denver has just too many good receivers and an elite, smart quarterback. That is why I think it is crucial for Seattle to control the clock and keep Denver’s offensive possessions to a minimum.

Before I make a bold prediction, I must warn everyone about my awful record of past predictions. It is hovering somewhere around 25 percent. So don’t take my word when placing a bet on this game. If you must, proceed with caution!! I was 0-2 in the conference championship games. Well maybe I am due for a change!! I like Denver to come out on top in this game 33-27 in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. The game will really boil down on the quarterback play and Denver really has big advantage at that position. I also look for a less heralded player like an Eric Decker to win the MVP. Oh, and the halftime show with Bruno Mars will be fantastic and of course, those commercials will be as corny as ever although I heard there was supposed to be a great dog commercial. Those are always my favorites!! I hope everyone enjoys the game and good luck to the fans of the teams. I think it will be a classic game for the ages.