5 personal items that I can’t live without

Several years ago, the transmission on my car went out and I was without a vehicle for a few days. It made me realize how much I actually rely on my car. I live in a major metropolitan area and having a dependable car is pretty crucial for getting around. Many of us have certain personal items that we simply cannot live without. Oh sure, life does not come to a screeching halt if we do have them available. Nothing is so important that we cannot find a substitute for those precious items. Many of us depend heavily on our smartphones in our daily lives, but suppose for a minute that you accidentally dropped your phone in the toilet and it was not operating. What would you do? Many people, especially those under 25, would have a nervous breakdown and require immediate counseling! I would like to share a few personal items that I have a tough time going without.

1. My toothbrush. Imagine a world without toothbrushes? How would we clean our teeth? Trying to visualize a world without toothbrushes sends shivers up my spine!! Imagine talking to someone who has not brushed their teeth in days, ewwww!!! My electric toothbrush is a must thing for my daily hygiene. I totally hate the feeling of having bad breath, food slime on my teeth and poor oral hygiene.

2. My car. As I mentioned above, a car is a very important part of my lifestyle. In fact, it is the most important personal possession that I have. I feel very trapped in my home if I do not have my car. I think we all can relate to how I feel. Just about everyone has experienced a time when that reliable car has suddenly failed and you know how much of a wrench that situation puts you in your life.

3. My smartphone. About a year ago, I bought a fancy smartphone and that thing is like my baby! Interestingly, I use it more for taking photos and accessing the net rather than making phone calls or text messages. It is so convenient have when I am out and about and want some quick info. Remember several years ago when nobody had a smartphone? How did we survive as a society?

4. My microwave. Oh sure Mark, you have a regular oven don’t you? The problem is that it takes way too long to prepare a meal using a regular conventional oven. For busy folks like myself, a microwave is a must. Who has time anymore to stick a meal in the oven and let it cook for an hour? A microwave is very important in our new, busy society.

5. My comb and razor. I decided to lump these together because everyone has certain grooming items that they cannot go without. I have been blessed to have plenty of hair on my scalp and not having a comb available would cause me great emotionally trauma! I have an addiction for looking neat whenever I go out in public. The same applies to razors. Imagine if razors were banned from this world? How would us guys shave? We would all look like a bunch of apes! I have a hard time going a day without shaving.

Those are just a few items that I cannot live without. What are some of yours? Funny how we take many of these personal items for granted. I know I certainly do!

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Blame Hamas not Israel

The news reports of Israeli military involvement in Gaza has really created a firestorm of response from people all over the world. This is one of the most passionate news topics on social media. People see video and pictures of dead children and normal civilians and automatically assume that it is all Israel’s fault. It is safe to say right now that Israel is not exactly the most popular country in the world. Judging by all the protests that are going on, the comments on social media and so forth, Israel is deemed to be some sort of evil empire and must be forced to stop their so-called aggressions. So this is all Israel’s fault? I totally beg to differ. In fact, I find it totally appalling that many folks fail to mention the role that a very ruthless terrorist group, Hamas, has in all of this.

Does a country not have the right to defend themselves? Hamas started this conflict in the first place. They have launched thousands of missiles into Israel in the last year. If some country decided to shoot a bunch of missiles at the United States, I would expect our military to do whatever means possible to stop this aggression. If that means going over to the country and wiping out their capabilities, then so be it. Those responsible for shooting missiles are totally disturbing the lives of many Israeli’s and putting their families at great risk. Those who are condemning the actions of Israel might want to live over there in Israel for a while and see how it is to be living in constant fear of being attacked by a missile or a possible suicide bomber. No free and democratic country such as Israel should have to go through being attacked that like. Hamas also has it written in their charter that they want to get rid of all Jews. Essentially that means totally wiping out Israel. That written statement alone would give me chills if I was a citizen of Israel. In fact, anybody who lives in a free and democratic society should be alarmed by terrorist groups such as Hamas. They need to be wiped off the face of the earth ASAP!! They want to establish a total Islamic state in Israel with no tolerance for any other religion. That is a total slap in the face for Jews and Christians all around the world. Jerusalem is the birthplace of Christianity and as a Christian, I would be insulted if an Islamic state took over.

It is very tragic to see so many civilians in Gaza lose their lives in this conflict. But what is also tragic is the apparent way that Hamas are using people of Gaza in this conflict. Using people as human shields is an unthinkable war crime that needs to be addressed. Hamas is using schools, residential homes and highly dense areas to shoot off their rockets. Israel on the other hand is doing every thing possible to avoid any type of civilian deaths. They are warning residents to leave their homes by making phone calls, dropping leaflets and sending text messages. That is totally unprecedented in a war area. Hamas on the other hand is lying to their residents that it is okay to go back home. They want as many civilians to be killed as possible so they can win the world propaganda war. It probably delights their leaders to see images of bloody children and women in the hospitals. They can use it as PR to show the world what a bunch of evil thugs the Israelis are. Hamas has absolutely no care in the world for civilian deaths, the more the better. They also use money sent to help the citizens of Gaza for their own benefits. Instead of using the money to help build schools and improve the lives of people there, they use it to build tunnels for military purposes.

In the next few days, there will be a lot of talk about cease fires and ending the conflict, but the only way for this conflict to end is for Gaza to get new leadership and kick out the terrorists. Is anybody out there naïve enough to think that a terrorist group will follow the rules of a cease-fire? Sadly, this conflict will continue to go on for months, maybe years. I can just see other countries get involved as well. It is a real tense situation over there that promises only to get worse. The only way it will get better is if Hamas loses control of Gaza or gets destroyed. They will always be a threat to Israel if they are still in control and operating.

Israel is one of our key allies in the Middle East and have been for many years. We definitely need to stand with them right now. They are basically a sitting duck over there in the Middle East and we both share the same enemies. Those groups such as Hamas who want to wipe out Israel also want to totally wipe out the United States. I just wish those anti-Israel folks who are living in this country will wake up one day and realize this!! Maybe if they take off their Hamas sun glasses and look at the situation closer, they will see that Hamas. not Israel are the true bad guys in this conflict.

Age difference in relationships

While attending a baseball game the other night, My focus shifted from the game to a couple sitting in front of me. At first glance, I assumed it was a father and his daughter. The woman was a young, stunningly attractive blonde. I am by no means a good judge at guessing people’s ages, but I figured she was about 25 years old. The man looked to be in his late 50’s. He has a receding hairline and was slightly overweight. I suddenly realized that this was no father, daughter thing going on when the man put his arm around her and they started to cuddle, then they exchanged a few small kisses. My emotions quickly changed from astonishment to pure jealously after seeing that!

It is not uncommon to see huge age gaps in relationships. You see it all the time in Hollywood. Some actor will announce that he marrying a woman who is 20-30 years younger. Even common day folks tend to rob the cradle. I know a 54-year-old guy who recently got engaged to a 27-year-old. The writer of this blog had a relationship with a much younger woman just a few years ago. To be honest with you, I never ever thought of the age difference. She acted much older than her age and I act much younger, so age was not really an issue.

There is kind of an unwritten rule in our society that people should date others who are within 10 years max of their age. I can certainly understand why people think this way. Take for example a young 25-year-old single woman who is actively dating and looking for a life time partner. Ideally, she would probably be looking for some guy who is around her age and relatively at the same stage in life. By that I mean no kids, never been married and just starting a career. If she expanded her search to middle-aged men, she would run into guys with a ton of baggage such as an ex-wife to deal with, kids and so on. Not only that but suppose she found an older guy, say about 20 years older and they fell in love and got married. Flash ahead about 25 years. She runs the risk of being a widow at a very early age. People often do not think about this when they date older people. They only think about the present, not the future. And what about kids?, If you are that many years apart, chances are the older person in the relationship is not really willing to have more children. Not always, but this is an issue that has to be discussed and thought of.

I find it interesting that men are usually the ones robbing the cradle, not the other way around. Very seldom do you see some 27-year-old guy marrying a 54-year-old woman. Why is this? I think a lot of younger women are attracted to an older man’s sensitivity and manners. Men on the other hand are attracted to physical beauty that a younger woman can bring. That combination helps produce those unlikely couples such the one at the baseball game. I am sure that money plays a huge factor too. A guy’s bank account can make him a thousand times more attractive!!

I tend to date women who are younger than me for a number of reasons. First of all, I am very unique for my age, I have never been married and have no children. I just do not feel comfortable dating a woman who was previously married for 20 years and has several kids. Heavy baggage including emotional baggage from a previous relationship is a huge turnoff for me. The young woman who I dated a few years ago did not have any of those problems and that was very appealing to me. Admittedly, I am like most guys who view a women’s appearance as important. Far too many women my age fail to take of their health and body. They put on way too much weight and stop being active. It is often forgotten that a huge key for looking younger is staying active and fit. Finally, I think I can speak for a lot of people both men and women. When you are dating someone much younger, you feel younger yourself.

Having said those things, most older woman are far more sensitive and appreciative than younger ones. Sure they might not have the same beauty as they did at 25, but what they lose on the outside, they gain on the inside. Unfortunately, some guys neglect this with older women who could make them much happier. Instead they would rather date a younger women who uses them.

The whole idea of dating someone near your age is just some meaningless unwritten society rule. There are many couples who are many years apart in age but very happy in their relationships. My uncle married a woman 15 years older than him and they have been happily married for nearly 40 years. Sure there are many risks involved, but why should someone limit themselves to a certain age range? Branching out might just bring you to that someone special and lifetime happiness.

Airliner shot down, what is next?

The very tragic downing of a Malaysian plane by a missile in Ukraine certainly has to rank as one of the most saddest stories of the year. 298 innocent people lost their lives in a split second. This is the second high-profile case involving a Malaysian plane this year. Earlier this year, one of their planes disappeared and still has not been found. It is presumed that the plane is sitting at the bottom of the Indian Ocean with no survivors among the 200+ passengers. It seems to be rather coincidental that these two events involved a Malaysian airplane. Perhaps there is more to the story that will be revealed in the near future. Already, there is a lot of finger-pointing going on between Russia and the Ukraine over whose fault this was. One thing is for sure, someone needs to be held accountable for this heinous act and be brought to justice as soon as possible.

This tragedy has the finger prints of Russia all over. The region where the plane went down is controlled by pro-Russian fighters. It is safe to assume that those responsible mistook the airliner for a military plane and unleashed the missile. My question is this, are these fighters so poorly trained that they cannot identify the difference between the two? Why was the plane flying in the area in the first place? If a mistake was indeed made and the airliners was taken down by the Russian fighters, will the Russian government and Mr. Putin admit that they made a mistake? I tend to think not! They certainly will put the blame on the Ukraine and wipe their hands of any responsibility. An international investigation into this event has to take place and it will interesting to see how cooperative Russia is. I wonder if evidence is being taken from the crash site in an effort to protect Russia from being held accountable. Does anybody doubt that Russia would do that?

It should be interesting as well to see how our president handles this situation as well. Suppose that there is clear evidence that Russia is completely behind this missile attack on innocent humans and they continue to deny any involvement? What will Obama do? Judging from his past actions, I have very little confidence in his ability to come down hard on Russia. Oh sure, he may stand in front of a television camera and talk tough, but will he lead the international community into some sort of reprisal against Russia? Maybe he has more fundraising trips to take and does not have time to get involved in this situation. Imagine if this event happened while Ronald Reagan was in office? We need to send a message to the rest of the world that these careless acts against humanity will not be tolerated and do have consequences.

My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives on this plane. It was a totally senseless act. A person should be able to fly anywhere in the world without having to worry about having their plane shot down. This could happen anyplace in the world. The next airliner that gets shot down could have your loved ones on board. People need to demand that those responsible face swift justice immediately. This is no time to point fingers. Somebody screwed up big time and needs to be held accountable. I have a sad feeling that this will be just another episode in the ongoing Ukraine, Russia dispute. Putin will probably just sweep this event under the rug and try to make the world forget that this ever happened. For 298 families of the deceased, this is no event to sweep under the rug. Somebody has to have the courage to stand up to Putin and demand answers for what happened. If he is not willing to be cooperative, then he has to understand that there will be consequences for his country. I hope I am wrong but I think this event will be viewed upon as just another sad reminder of the consequences of conflicts and wars. It might be easier to find a needle in a hay stack than to find someone willing to take responsibility for this tragic event. How sad that is!

Thoughts on LeBron’s return to Cleveland

Hey all you sports fans, especially NBA fans. Remember that summer night 4 years ago when LeBron held that self-serving press conference and announced that he was going to take his talents to South Beach? Remember the reaction of Cleveland fans to that announcement? It was like the world had ended in Cleveland. I still remember the ceremony when a bunch of disgruntled fans held a ceremony and threw their LeBron jerseys into a bon fire. He was labeled a traitor among other things. The owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers even got into the mix by writing a very sour grapes message about his departure. In that letter, he proclaimed that his Cavs would win a title before LeBron’s team. Well that prediction turned out to be rather wrong! Now flashback 4 years later; did anyone see this coming? All of sudden, LeBron is now a hero in Cleveland. People love him and want him to run for mayor! Funny how sports fans can be so fickle! All is forgiven I guess for now!

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with one of my co-workers during the lunch hour. It was shortly after Miami (LeBron’s new team) had won their first title. The topic of LeBron James came up and how many titles the Miami Heat would win. I felt the Heat would win a few more before LBJ would move on and sign with another team. My co-worker strongly felt that he was going to sign with the Knicks or the Lakers when his opt out came up in a couple of years. I made a bold predication that LeBron was going back to Cleveland. My co-worker nearly choked on his sandwich! “What have you been smoking, Mark?” “Are you crazy?” was his reply. Why would LeBron go back to a small market place which totally hates him and labels him a traitor for big timing them? He felt LeBron would consider the bigger markets for more endorsement opportunities. We even made a small wager. I look forward to picking up my prize this week! Sorry about patting myself on the back but I could just see this coming.

It should really come as no surprise that LeBron decided to opt out of his contract and return to Cleveland. It became very apparent that this would happen early this summer when the Heat were trounced in the NBA finals. Why would LeBron return to Miami? They are were a very aging and overrated team this year. The fact that they played in the weak Eastern Conference only made them look better than they actually were. If they played in the Western Conference, they may not have survived the first round of the playoffs. Dwayne Wade is near the end of his career, Chris Bosh is a nice player but not a superstar and the rest? Who really scares you outside of those three? Ray Allen is still a solid player but isn’t he like 50 years old? Resigning with an old and aging team cannot be very appealing to any free agent.

Talk of him signing with either New York or the Lakers is just some sort of far-fetched dream which has nothing to do with winning. If a player is really concerned about winning, why would they play for either franchises? Sure it would look sexy to have James playing with either Kobe or Carmelo, but that would not automatically bring titles to either teams. Kobe is nearly at the end of his career and is there enough basketballs on the court to keep Carmelo Anthony and LeBron happy? The supporting talent with those teams is mediocre as well, similar to Miami.

Now look at Cleveland, James can play with one of the best young point guards in the league, a position that is becoming very important to any team’s success. Kyrie Irving is one of the best young players in the league and will only get better from playing with LeBron. They drafted a promising young player in Andrew Wiggins who could also benefit greatly from playing with James. The Cavs are a young, upcoming and fresh team. If I were an established free agent such as James, I would rather go to an upcoming and young team as opposed to an aging team. The future looks very bright in Cleveland for the next 5 years. LeBron can end his career with a chance to win a few more titles, play in his home state and mentor younger superstar players. It is a win, win situation for him. It is also a fresh start for him and another set of new challenges which could help him emotionally and mentally.

I personally think it is great that James is debunking the myth that NBA players are only interested in going to big markets instead of playing for smaller ones like Cleveland. LeBron showed a lot of courage and maturity by choosing Cleveland. He could have remembered the way he was booed and mistreated after he left and said “screw you Cleveland” But he forgave and remembered where his true roots are. In my opinion, he made the right choice and Cleveland fans will soon be rewarded. This story would have been totally unthinkable just 4 years ago. Miami was supposed to be a dynasty for the next decade and win all those titles. Why would LeBron even think about returning to Cleveland and the owner who condemned him? This is a perfect example of why you can never say never in sports.

The southern border crisis

Whenever a story concerning illegal immigration pops up in the news, I usually brush it aside as another national issue that our fabulous politicians in Washington cannot get a grip on. Neither side seems to have a real definite plan on how to deal with the issue. The recent stories of the usually high influx of illegal immigrants, many of them children, trying to cross our borders alone has really caught my attention and should be a deep concern for all Americans.

The fact that children have been traveling alone is alarming enough. Many of them have not made it here alive. Bodies of young children, some as young as 6 years old, have been found near the Mexican, United States border. The most obvious question any rational person should have is why would any parent allow their son or daughter to travel without their own supervision and guidance? The parents pay a person to help smuggle their child across the border, yet many of these so-called smugglers abandon the kids and leave them to fend for themselves. They are left in harsh and very dangerous conditions. The flight of these children is what makes this crisis even more troubling. This is more than just another illegal immigration story; it is also an issue with child endangerment. The parents of these children should be thrown in prison if you ask me! I also believe the governments of the countries where these children are coming from, Central American and Mexico, need to be held accountable with allowing this child endangerment to happen. It is THEIR PEOPLE and they need to be held responsible for their fates.

President Obama recently asked Congress to approve 3.7 billion dollars of tax payers money to help deal with this issue. The sad thing about dealing with that unbelievable amount of money is that it should be used to help people who are actually citizens of this country. When I hear stories of VA hospitals running out of money and not being to help our veterans, I question where our spending priorities are. These countries who allow children to migrate over here should help foot the bill as well. Isn’t that only fair? We have many pressing issues in this country for people who are living here LEGALLY! Don’t get me wrong, I think we have a strong moral obligation to help these poor kids, but why should we be paying for the incompetence of other countries and their governments? We need to draw the line somewhere! After we help these poor children, the right thing to do is send them back to their countries to be reunited with their mothers and fathers. If they want to come back to the United States, they should have to do it legally like some many families and individuals have done in the past. It is that simple. There is a process involved in becoming a citizen of this country and NO ONE should feel that they are exempt from following that process.

Perhaps this crisis will serve as a wakeup call to Republicans and Democrats to start finding a solution to this problem. I believe many politicians are afraid of tackling this issue for fear of losing votes among minorities. This issue is more than just allowing a bunch of undocumented workers to enter this country. It is also about national security. Any talk of immigration reform should ABSOLUTELY include securing our borders, NO EXCEPTIONS! If a bunch of kids from Central America can enter sneak into this country, what about a bunch of terrorists? One would only assume that a terrorist or group of terrorists would look at the Mexican border as a great way to enter this country. Or what about the drug cartels who ship drugs to our streets?

Maybe this crisis will end soon if we just send all these illegals to the White House! I am sure this situation would get solved really soon! But seriously, people who enter this country illegally put a burden on all of us Americans, not only financially, but with our safety. Other countries need to do a better job of taking care of THEIR PEOPLE!!

My dream celebrity golf foursomes

Hey all you golfers out there, suppose you happened to win the grand prize of some golfer magazine’s big contest. The award is a free round of golf at any course in the world along with choosing your dream celebrity foursome. Who would you pick and what course would you play at? Being an avid golfer, I would have to pick Augusta National as my dream course with Pebble Beach coming in at a close second. Some of the courses in Scotland would also get serious consideration. Now the hard part, who would I pick to fill out my foursome? Surprisingly, Tiger Woods would not be one of my first picks. I have no definite reason why. After all, why wouldn’t anyone want to play a round with arguably, the greatest golfer in the history of the game? I guess maybe I would be way too self conscience with my game to enjoy playing with Woods, or as a matter of fact, any pro. However, there is one exception on my list. Without any further delay, I have listed a couple of dream foursomes that I would pick.

1. President Barack Obama. We are miles apart in our political views, but I actually think the President is a decent man who would be a fun playing partner. Him and I actually have a few things in common such as our love for basketball and other sports. After our round, we could go to the gym and play a little pickup basketball. I would be interested to see if the President makes as many excuses on the golf course as he does in office. Perhaps he would blame some Republican for missing that 3 foot putt! Any golfer should relish the chance to play a round with the President whether you agree with his policies or not.

2. Justin Timberlake. I love his music and he seems like a really cool, down to earth celebrity to enjoy a round with.

3. Natalie Gulbis. What male would not want a hot babe to round out his foursome? She is a pro which breaks my rule about playing with professionals, but as they say, there is an exception to every rule. She is one of the reasons that I occasionally watch women’s golf.

Now for my second foursome:

1. Former President George W. Bush. I was not necessarily his biggest fan, but like Obama, playing golf with any president, past or present would be a special treat. He seems like a very likable and friendly guy as well, someone who you would like, not only play golf with, but have dinner as well.

2. Charles Barkley. Barkley would be fun to play with because he is very articulate about many topics and doesn’t seem to take himself too serious, especially his golf game. The fact that he is a fellow basketball lover and former player does help in my decision to include him in one of my foursomes. We could talk plenty of hoops during our round.

3. Cameron Diaz. Another hottie who happens to play golf. I am just worried that Barkley would pay too much attention to her and neglect GW and myself!!

Both Barkley and Diaz are lousy golfers so this round might take forever!

So who would round out your celebrity foursome? Some day 20 years from now, you can look back and remember the day when you teed it up with the president or some famous actor or singer. How great would that be! In the meantime, I will just have to settle playing with normal Joe’s and Jane’s at my golf course. Oh well, it is always nice to dream a little.