The sad state of news these days

Like many folks, I constantly monitor the news like a hawk throughout the day. I am just one of those people who would be a complete nervous wreck if I got stuck on some deserted island without some source of media. If not watching the news on television, I stay tuned while listening to my car radio or checking my smartphone or logging onto my computer at home. I just HAVE to know what is going on both locally, nationally or worldwide. Lately I have noticed a trend in the news and it is not good. The stories have gotten more and more negative, probably more so in my lifetime. I don’t know if it is just a case of my imagination, maybe others feel the same way, but the news stories have gotten more and more graphic and disturbing.

A classic example occurred just a few days. A disturbed young man shot and killed one of his classmates in his school cafeteria and wounded a few others. It happened on a Friday afternoon, just before the start of the weekend. The major news cable networks were all over the story with breaking news about some kind of shooting. I had just come home and was in a great mood since the weekend started for me. Suddenly, my mood shifted nearly 180 degrees. Several years ago, news of school violence was very rare and far between. After Columbine, that all changed. There have been multiple school shooting incidents in the last 10 years with no end in sight. Who can forget the Newtown story where several young children lost their lives just a few weeks before Christmas? That tragic event put a damper on many people’s holidays.

There are very few evening news broadcasts that go without some mention of Ebola. It has dominated the news headlines for the past month. In my opinion, Ebola might be one of the most over-hyped news stories of this year. Anytime some individual is taking to the hospital with symptoms of the disease, the news networks are all over it like a cheap suit. Their fear mongering of the issue has reached new levels. Is it really necessary to have multiple hours of coverage after somebody has contracted the disease? There is only so much Ebola talk that I can stomach before I get sick!

We have seen some very disturbing stories of terrorism in Canada and a few incidents here in the United States. When was the last time you heard of someone getting beheaded at work in this country? Unbelievable!! There is no question in mind that there might be many of those dreaded ISIS terrorist already in the country. Random terrorist attacks might become a normal occurrence in this country. To be honest with you, I feel less safe living in this country than ever in my life. Much like Ebola, there are very few days when the t words does not become the main focus of a news show. We are seeing more and more stories about these random acts of violence which may lead up to some larger scale story in the very near future.

Sometimes the news becomes almost unbearable to watch so I turn on the sports for a little escape. However, the sports world has been a big part of the negative news as well with all the scandals concerning coaches, players, political correctness and several off the field incidents. Sadly, we have certain individuals like the Bob Costa’s of the world who use their position to lecture us on public policy and social issues. I just want to hear the commentator’s opinion of the game, not his stance on gun control.

There are certainly many good news stories to feature but let’s be real, they are too boring. People love dramatic stuff like terrorist acts. There are many people out there who are making this world a much better place to live. Their stories are often shoved under the rug so that we can here about some crazy radical terrorist and their awful plans for mankind.

Any good mental health doctor would be wise to recommend lower doses of daily news monitoring to his patients. The news of today can definitely be hazardous to one’s state of mental health. The way some of the news outlets cover those negative stories, it is like the world is going to end. There is only so much one can watch before it becomes totally unbearable. There are only so many stories that I can take about ISIS, Ebola, Ferguson, the many White House scandals or another school shooting. If you sit around and watch Fox News or CNN all day, you might lose all sense of what good is still in this world. We definitely need a greater amount of positive news stories to help digest the ever-increasing negative news of today’s world. The sky is not falling as fast as some in the media would want you to think.

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Hooray for the Kansas City Royals, America’s real team.

Let’s turn back the clock a few years, shall we. Suppose somebody came up to you and predicted that the Kansas City Royals would be playing in the 2014 World Series. Your reaction might have been like many. Perhaps this person making the bold prediction had just consumed too many adult beverages. Or maybe he or she is just insane and needs a mental evaluation ASAP. Yes, it was only a few years ago that this franchise was one of the laughing stalks in all of professional sports. Sure they won the World Series in 1985, but that was followed by nearly 30 years of futility. All those years of missing the playoffs is matched by very few organizations. The Royals defined what professional sports futility was all about. That is why their stunning sweep through the playoffs is so refreshing to see. Starting with their remarkable comeback in the play in playoff game, this team seems to be one of destiny.

Many baseball franchises seem to think that the only way to win a World Series is to go out and spend a fortune on free agents. The Royals did pick up a huge free agent in James Field who deserves a lot of credit for their turnaround, however, they have also developed a lot of young, upcoming talent through their farm system. Mike Moustakas is one of the brighter young stars in major league baseball. These playoffs have really been his coming out party. In addition to these budding young stars, the Royals have several unsung players responsible for their sudden turnaround. Their bullpen is arguably the best in baseball. Give that team a lead in the late innings and it is nearly impossible to beat them. It can said that the Royals turnaround can be a blueprint on how to turn a struggling franchise around. It is not necessarily about spending a lot on a bunch of underachieving free agents. The Royals payroll ranks near the middle of the pack, much lower than the team they will face in the World Series, the San Francisco Giants. Having a bunch of young upcoming players combined with a few free agent pickups, particularly if these free agents happen to be pitchers, can go a long ways in making a team very successful.

When I think of the Royals turnaround, I am the happiest for their long-suffering fans who have endured years of mediocrity. Imagine being a fan of a sports team that loses constantly, year after year. What makes you come back? I happen to be huge fan of our local NBA team who has pretty much the same track record as the Royals. Seeing what has happened to the Royals has given me hope that one in perhaps the near future, I will be joining thousands of rabid fans for a meaningful big game in late May. The Royals are a classic example that droughts in sports can only go on for so long. A team’s success goes in cycles. I do not care if my teams suffers through a few losing seasons as long as there are some good young players who can give us fans hope for the future. If you are a Royals fan, you have to be very excited about the future. This team is built for years of success.

No offense to fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers or the Atlanta Braves, but the Kansas City Royals are America’s real team right now. I am sorry to all you San Francisco Giants fans out there but how can you not root for the Kansas City Royals in the upcoming World Series? They are the darlings of professional sports at the current moment. Sports fans love rags to riches stories and there is no better example than what the Royals have accomplished. My only question is this, is there enough room left on the Kansas City Royals bandwagon? This sports fan from Minnesota wants to know if I can jump on, at least temporarily until next spring.

A company lifer

Many years ago, it was very common for a person to get hired at a company straight out of college or high school and remain at that company until he or she retired. These days, those so-called company lifers are becoming less and less frequent. According to many surveys, the average worker will now change jobs several times in their lifetime. I bring this topic up because I will celebrate a very significant anniversary at my company this week. Yes, I am one of those company lifers who has only worked at one company since graduating from college and I have no definite plans to jump ship and work for a different company anytime soon.

Several years ago, my goal was to find a good, well-paying job in a large metropolitan area. Since I was a lifetime native of Minnesota, the Minneapolis, St. Paul area seemed to be the logical place to move and try to find a job after I got my degree. The bigger cities have more job opportunities and I was willing to take any type of job just to get my feet in the door and get some work experience.

Initially, my job search was extremely frustrating, hundreds of resumes sent out to no avail. Similar to today, the job market for students with college degrees was extremely tight. Finally I got a phone call from a manufacturing company in St. Paul. They had a position open that required someone with a strong math and computer background. Since I studied mathematics in college, the position seemed like an ideal fit. I interviewed with the company and was soon offered the position. Despite the fact that I had a good educational background, the job was a huge struggle for me at first and quite frankly, very humbling. Much of the work as it turned out had very little to do with what I had studied in college. But I was able to adapt and learn on the go. I was happy to be working at a meaningful job, but it was not my dream job by any stretch of the imagination. I wanted an even better and bigger job so I continued sending out resumes. My plan was to use this job as a stepping stone to bigger and better opportunities. I had some job interviews with other companies but nothing prevailed. A few years after I started my new job, a few individuals from my department left and my responsibilities increased. Soon after, I became the lead person of my department and my duties continued to increase as well as my knowledge of the job. I became more and more content with the company. And the rest is history. Several years later, I am still working for that small company which is now growing and I continue to grow as an employee.

People have often asked me if I have ever considered leaving and pursuing more lucrative openings. My attitude is that grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. One of my co-workers took the bait and went to a bigger company which paid him more. About a year into his new job, he was laid off and sought to come back. Sure it is great to earn a lot of money at some company, but job security is much more important to me, especially these days in this bad economy. I like the fact that I am consistently pulling in a paycheck to pay my bills. My years of service can help in making my job secure. I also love the fact that I work with a good group of people who are very much like my second family. The relationships that I have built with many of my co-workers has been wonderful. We know each other better than many of our immediate families know each other. The comradory of my fellow co-workers is what makes my job even more special.

I also love the variety of work that my job requires. I understand why many people leave their positions. The job fails to become challenging to them. I have to admit that this is one area that I struggle with at work. I know many people who have worked at the same job forever can agree with me on that. Sometimes the job can become very boring, but I always look for new challenges at work such as training others to help develop their knowledge. Constantly setting new goals has always kept my job fresh and exciting.

My job is far from the being the perfect job, but what job is the perfect job? There are far more important things to consider than just making a whole lot of money at any particular company. My current company has several things going for it that would make any worker happy. It has been a great fit for me and hopefully for many years to come.

Can we handle a widespread outbreak of Ebola?

The other day while watching yet another news story about an individual infected with the Ebola virus, a rather sobering and scary thought came to my mind; what if this outbreak becomes wide-spread around the world, especially in the United States? Suppose an epidemic of mass proportions hit this country and thousands of people became infected with this horrible disease? How would our government and local hospital officials handle this crisis? Oh just relax Mark! It will never happen here. So what makes you so sure about that? Remember our President trying to reassure us that this disease will never hit America? Unfortunately the President was wrong and now, there have been a few reported cases with certainly more to come. Those few cases could turn into hundreds and perhaps thousands. Imagine what a widespread epidemic would do to this country?

I find it rather frightening that so little seems to be known about this virus and how it is spread. Up until just a few days ago, it was thought the disease was only spread from an infected person’s bodily fluids such as sweat. Now I hear there could be more ways of spreading the virus such as through coughing. If that is the case, this virus has the potential to spread like wildfire throughout the world and be one of the most devastating diseases of all time. I don’t claim to be a medical expert, but I know enough that virus tend to grown rapidly and spread easily. In this country, we have many people who have visited the African region just during the past year. All it takes is for a few infected people to enter this country and before you know it, people from all regions may be exposed to the virus, sort of like a domino effect.

Does anyone really have any faith that our government or the many hospitals in the country could handle a mass epidemic of Ebola. I for one am not very confident. Our political leaders probably would not have a clue as to what steps to take. It would become a big political game where each party would blame the other for the outbreak. The current administration is totally reactive rather than proactive on many crisis situations. Just look at the great plan for dealing with ISIS, oh wait a minute, I don’t have a plan yet!! Worse yet, how would hospitals and medical professionals be able to handle a mass of new patients? Many hospitals and clinics are stretched to the max right now. Will the personal be properly trained to be able to deal with this new and harmful disease? Since many doctors and nurses who have treated Ebola patients are now infected with the disease, will they be afraid to help people? As sad as it may seem, I can see a potential scenario where many nurses will end it quitting because they do not want to risk being infected themselves. Imagine that kind of nightmare scenario? Fortunately, many we have many good and dedicated nurses and doctors in this country who will give their last ounce of effort to help someone in need. I am just worried that we will not have enough properly trained medical personal or proper resources if an outbreak happens.

There is no question that we have the best medical professionals in the world here in the United States. That alone makes me feel a little bit better about a potential outbreak. However, dealing and coming up with a cure takes time. A lot is still unknown about this virus and sadly, it may take many cases of Ebola before doctors finally get a better handle on this awful virus. A major outbreak will put tremendous pressure on the medical community to find answers and those answers take time. Perhaps this disease be a spinoff for other more frightening diseases. People in this country often talk about terrorism as their biggest fear in this country. My biggest fear is having some deadly virus such as Ebola affect the whole country and really put people on edge. That would be worse that any terrorist attack. Can we handle a widespread outbreak of Ebola? If we deal with it now and become prepared, I think we can. If we wait until thousands are infected, it could be one of the worst nightmares that this country and the world has ever faced. The time to act is NOW!!

5 things that I refuse to talk about at work

I am fortunate enough to have a great bunch of co-workers at my office. They are like my second family. I have gotten to know many them personally and for the most part, we enjoy each other’s company and occasional conversations outside of the normal work related topics. For example, many of them, myself not included, love to play fantasy football and it is always a daily topic of conversation. We also love to discuss other sports, certain news events, our families, cars, home projects and certain high-tech gadgets that are coming out. I love to chat with my co-workers and friends about those things, however, there are certain topics that are completely off-limits to me. For instance, telling a dirty blonde joke or any other dirty joke at work is totally unprofessional. Sure it may amuse you or a select group of people, but it may offend some other co-worker or co-workers. This is especially true in a work environment of both sexes. Offensive comments or jokes can certainly create some friction between people at work and that is the last thing any company or business needs. I would like to share a few subjects that I try very hard to avoid talking about while at work.

1) Any health malady. Nearly every work place has someone who is not ashamed to discuss every little ailment that is bothering them. You know, the person who talks about how many times they had to run to the bathroom the previous night because of a stomach disorder (perhaps too much Mexican food!). Or the person who has some sort of nasal problem and they go into great detail for the entire office to hear. Some of those details belong and should stay at the doctor’s office.

2) Incompetence of a fellow employee or management. This is one subject that I really struggle with. It is so easy to chime in when one of your co-workers is ripping another employee or manager behind their back. Those words can get back to the co-worker or manager and you can get into a whole lot of trouble. Negative words about others can bring deep divisions in the work place and should be avoided at all costs. It could also cost you your job.

3) Sexual talk. Like I mentioned in my opening paragraph, any type of sexual talk or jokes has no place in the workplace unless you work in the sex industry. The same goes for intimate details about what you and your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or partner do in the bedroom. What goes on in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom!! The rest of us do not need to know all the details!

4) Religion. In any workplace, there are bound to be many who have very differing views towards religion or Christianity. This is a very sensitive and difficult subject to deal with. I have no problem with some expressing their faith, however, there are those who may not share your views towards your faith and become agitated with your words. In some ways, it is almost the direct opposite of the dirty joke comments issue. Religion is a highly personal issue that can cause conflict among people. Another issue that can bring unwanted divisions at work.

5) Political issues. I find it amazing how politics can get people’s blood pressures up so high! People tend to take it personally when someone does not agree with their stance on a political issue or issues. I don’t think there are too many things that divide people more than politics and therefore, I tend to stay hush on that topic. Of course, politics does come up at work and I try hard to take a very neutral position if the subject does comes up. For example, when someone starts ripping either the Republicans or Democrats, I point out that both parties are incompetent just to calm down the discussion. Being some crazy vocal wing nut is not very appealing to many people and could greatly hurt your popularity at work. I have strong opinions on many political issues, however, I try to mask my true opinions as best as possible. No sense creating a bunch of tension at work over something as silly as politics.

In summary, I tend to strongly watch saying things that will offend someone else. Much of it is just using some common sense. My relationship with my co-workers is very important to me and I will strive to respect who they are. Those idle words from the mouth can have devastating long-lasting effects at the workplace. It will just create much disharmony and divisions among workers and make work a very unenjoyable place to be. Sometimes the best way to effectively communicate at work is simply keeping your mouth shut!