Those unknown American heroes

As a society, we tend to loosely label someone a hero. A prime example is in the sporting world. If someone makes a fantastic play to win their team the league championship, they are referred to as a hero. While those athletic feats may be special and heroic to some, they pale in comparison to what many brave men and women do everyday in order to protect our freedoms and liberties. In doing so, many have paid the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but a real hero in my eyes is someone who sacrifices his or her own life to make the lives of others better. And that is why Memorial Day should be looked upon as such a special holiday. Throughout the course of this nation’s history, there have been countless number of individuals who have served and died serving this country and so many have done so very anonymously. Raise your hand if you can name one person who died in serving this country. The average person probably could not name one even though these brave individuals helped ensure all of us a better life now and in the future.

When you look at the profiles of these great unknown heroes, it is really amazing to see how unlikely many of them are heroes. Many of these people who died in serving our country are very young men and women in their late teens and early twenties. We like to bash young people for being lazy and unambitious, but how can you ignore the fact that so many of unknown heroes are people just starting out in life. They didn’t have to join our military except in a few remote cases. They joined because they felt a great love for this country. It really breaks my heart when I hear about some young  20-year-old who lost his or her life over in Iraq or Afghanistan. They had the rest of their life and in front of them along with many big dreams for the future.  Suddenly, that life was taken away all because they wanted to defend something that is so valuable to all of us. How special is that?!! That is what a true hero is all about.

I find it rather disturbing to see the rather casual attitude that people have towards the Memorial Day holiday on Monday. People are all excited because it is just another day off from work or is known as the unofficial start to the summer season. How many people can really appreciate what this day is all about? I encourage everyone to take some time on Monday and think about what this day really means to our country. Maybe we should all sit back and give thanks to some 20 year young kid who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedom of barbecuing and having cookouts with our families on Memorial Day.


More reasons why I hate to fly

One of my greatest ambitions as I grown older is to visit various places that I have never been to including several foreign countries. I would love to visit European cities such as London and Paris. However, there is one problem with that rather huge plan, I hate traveling by plane. The recent events of the past week only reaffirmed my lack of enthusiasm for purchasing a plane ticket anytime soon.

There have been numerous recent stories in the news about long lines at airports for security issues. I can certainly appreciate the TSA staff doing their jobs to keep the travelers safe, but for crying out loud, isn’t there a more efficient way of getting people through security? The fact that people have to wait for 3 hours in line is absolutely appalling! For me to travel by plane from my place in Minneapolis/St.Paul to Chicago should be only about 1 hour. Now if I have to go through all those security issues with the long lines and such on top of the 1 hour trip, that is about 4-5 hours. I could easily drive the 400 miles and do it much cheaper than flying. Someone at these airports needs to get their head out of their rear ends and find some answers to this dilemma soon!

The recent story of the Egyptian airliner has to send shock waves to anyone considering traveling via plane in Europe. At the present time, there is no known cause of this accident, but it really seems highly likely that this is another cowardly terrorist attack. You can be absolutely certain that somewhere in this world right now, there are a bunch of terrorists trying to figure out how to pull off another 9/11 and fly a plane into another building. My biggest nightmare is being on one of those planes. With the rise of terrorism around the world in recent weeks, how safe can one feel about flying?

I certainly believe that as a whole, flying is still relatively safe. If you look at the thousands and thousands of flights that take off every day in the world, the number of incidents are extremely small. Will that continue is anyones guess. I have huge concerns not on the mechanics of the plane, but terrorists having access to those planes or taking them down with missiles.

The airline industry is vital to not only our economy,but the world’s as well. We have a number of brilliant people who should be able to figure out how to keep us safe in the most efficient way. Sadly this is not being done at the current time. The terrorists have succeeded in causing flight issues. We cannot let them win. In the meantime, I think I might just use my car to travel around the country. At least I won’t have to worry about losing my luggage and waiting in long lines as well.

A few thoughts on the NBA/NHL playoffs

It seemed like just yesterday when both the NBA and NHL kicked off their regular season. Now we are nearing the finals in both leagues and quite frankly, I am ready for both leagues to crown their champions. I find it rather ridiculous for the season in both leagues to stretch into June, but hey, money talks. The only ice I want to see in June is in my cold beverage by the pool, not on television watching some hockey game. Well anyways, I have a few thoughts about the playoffs so far which will hopefully end by July 4th.

1) No Canadian team makes it to the NHL playoffs. They take their hockey very seriously up there in Canada and I have to believe that there is a ton of very disgruntled hockey fans up there because not one team from the great hockey hotbed of Canada made it to the playoffs. That just does not seem right!

2) A Canadian NBA team makes it to the Eastern Conference finals. Further proof that this world is becoming stranger every minute, the Toronto Raptors, an NBA team is the last hope for any playoff hope in Canada. Does anyone in Canada even care? Furthermore, I thought Toronto was supposed to be hockey central in Canada and here an NBA team is stealing the show. Once again, that ain’t right!!!

3) Biggest surprise of the playoffs in both leagues. I know many fans might argue with me, but I was extremely surprised to see the sudden and shocking collapse of the San Antonio Spurs. In game 1, they absolutely destroyed Oklahoma City only to lose the series in 6 games. How can a team that won 67 games during the regular season collapse like that? It will go down as one of the bigger surprises in recent NBA playoff history. I just did not see that coming.

4) Nervous sports executives at NBC. There is a real possibility that the NHL may have this barn burner of a finals, San Jose against Tampa Bay. I am sure that potential series would generate record ratings! No offense to the fans of those cities, but wouldn’t you rather watch Pittsburgh and Sidney Crosby play in the finals? I know the sports executives at NBC are deeply sweating out the Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay series.

5) A potential great NBA finals matchup. I would absolutely love to see a rematch between Golden State and Cleveland. Cleveland is healthy this year and might be playing better than anyone else in the playoffs. Furthermore, it would be a matchup between the 2 best players in the league right now, Steph Curry and LeBron James. Recent comments by LBJ regarding Curry’s MVP selection might add some more fuel to the fire.

As far as predictions go, I like Pittsburgh to win the NHL playoffs and Cleveland to win the NBA title. I have to say this in closing. I would absolutely be thrilled if Toronto somehow won the NBA championship. If that unlikely scenario happened, It would be interesting to see how the country as a whole would react. Maybe this is a new age when the NBA starts converting some of those passionate hockey fans up there in Canada.

A few words of advice to college graduates

A few weeks ago, I attended a college graduation ceremony, and of course, the commencement speaker spoke about the future and offered up some rather good advice for the students to follow their passions and dreams. So what would you say if you had to give a commencement speech to hundred of graduating students? I think if you asked a hundred different people, you would probably get a very diverse number of responses. Regardless, I have a few words of advice to the many young people who will be venturing out in the workplace. I can offer up these words of advice because I was once in your shoes. The day I graduated from college was one of the happiest days in my life and I know how excited these graduates are to start a new chapter in their lives. So here are a just a few words of advice from Uncle Mark.

1) Work on your people skills-  Just because you are some 4.0 straight A student does not mean jack if you are some condescending, hard to get along person who thinks they know all the answers. People who tend to succeed in the workplace are very often those who can work with others, respect other people’s ideas and can accept responsibility for their actions without making excuses or pointing fingers. I know this sounds like a very simple thing to work on, but having worked with a number of very bright people in my life, it is amazing how so many people lack these skills.

2) Keep learning-  If you have just graduated and think that your days in the classroom are finished, you might want to think again. Why not even add to that degree by picking up more classes and making yourself even more marketable? There is never a finite amount that you can learn. In fact, many people who have been out of school for 20 years are going back to brush up on their skills or take new classes. The business world is constantly changing and your skills need to keep getting updated.

3) Money management-  The post-graduate days are when many young people will be out on their own. It is the first time that many will purchase a new car, townhouse or rent an apartment. Along with those purchases comes that annoying debt that most students pile up. This is a good time to develop a plan for managing your finances or even better yet, talk to a financial planner. They can probably give you some very good advice on how to spend or save those first few paychecks. I also want to add that it would be a great time to start a 401k.

4) Keep an open mind-  Many graduates are very closed-minded about their first job after graduation. Just because you are Business major specializing in finance does not mean that should neglect other job openings outside your field. It is amazing how many people actually are working in fields totally outside of their major. After graduating from college, I accepted a position at a company that was very unrelated to what I studied in college. I grew into the job and really enjoyed doing it. That first job doesn’t have to be your career job; it is just something to bolster that resume.

5) A company owes you nothing- Some graduates walk into a company expecting the world to be given to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you expect that, then you might have a rude awaking coming. A better attitude is to have is to remain humble, ask many questions and then those good things will start coming to you. Remember to have this attitude “It is not what the company can do for you, but what can you do for the company”

There are obviously many other words of advice that could be given, but those are some important things that I learned shortly after graduating. In the meantime, I certainly want to congratulate any new college graduate on a job well done and best of luck with any future plans and goals.





Those special single mothers

This Sunday, May 8th, is Mother’s Day here in the United States and many will show their appreciation to mom in some way or another. The overwhelming theme for this weekend is to give mothers the much deserved praise that they richly deserve and the countless sacrifices they make for us. A good many mothers in this country are married and have a partner to ease the burden of caring for their children. However, a large number of mothers in this country are not married and do not have the luxury of having that extra help. Many of these women deserve extremely high praise this Mother’s Day for a very difficult job.

Just to set the record straight, I have am not dating a single mother right now, but I have a deep appreciation for what they have to go through. We often look upon single mothers in a very negative way, as being extremely irresponsible and yes, some are. But many are the victims of an abusive relationship or a rotten guy who cheats on her and leaves the relationship. In the many cases, the man does not want any responsibility for raising the child or children. The woman is left to fend for herself. Besides the huge task of taking care of her children and the emotional stress of doing that, there are often financial concerns as well. Try putting yourself in the shoes of one of these single mothers for a day. I think your appreciation for them would drastically change.

A very common word that is thrown out this Mother’s Day weekend is the word sacrifice. Most mothers make a great deal of sacrifices for their families, but for a single mother, the word sacrifice takes on an even deeper meaning. As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, there is no husband that she can rely on to take a timeout and have “me time”. She is very limited on the amount of freedom that she has. Her life has to center 100 percent around her kids. I get stressed out from just being with kids for an afternoon! I cannot imagine how stressful it would be to do that everyday.

I am in no ways an advocate of single parenthood. I strongly believe that a child needs both a mother and father to raise them in their lives. So many problems arise in our society from broken families and children coming from single family homes. But there are women out there who give 100 percent under the most adverse conditions to ensure that their kids are raised the right way. These women certainly have my respect and appreciation on this Mother’s Day. Your efforts are making this world a better place to live.

A huge challenge ahead for Donald Trump

Now that Donald Trump has unofficially locked up the Republican nomination in the 2016 race, his biggest challenge may not even be Hillary Clinton. It will be convincing people of his own party that he will not be some loose cannon, fly by the seat of his pants leader of the most powerful nation on earth. It is really amazing to see how a nominee of a party could have such unfavorable ratings among, not only the general public, but members of his own party as well.

The next 3 months will prove crucial to Trump’s chances of winning this November. Now is the time to show the world what kind of leader he will be. Good leaders have an ability to unite people with differences and he has a golden opportunity to unite the very fractured Republican party before the party convention in July. If Trump is able to convince those doubters of his party that he is worthy, then that will be a huge feather in his cap.

Many conservatives of the party have made it very clear that they are not happy with his all but certain nomination. I have heard people say that they will never vote for Trump and just stay home. Other conservatives have said that they will cross party line and vote for Clinton. How foolish is that! If you are a true conservative and you vote for Hillary Clinton, you ought to be tried for treason! Seriously! If you just stay home, that is nearly as bad. It is indirectly a vote of Clinton.

So what can Trump do to help garner support of those bitter conservatives who were huge supporters of Ted Cruz? Why not reach out to him to be his Vice President? I know that sounds like a very radical idea and no, I am not smoking something right now! In my opinion, Cruz is probably the most qualified person out there for that position and he is also the most popular. A Trump-Cruz ticket would be a very strong ticket. If I were Mr. Trump, I would seriously consider mending fences with your bitter rival. It certainly does not seem possible right now, but hey, in politics, anything can happen!

I am not about to make my official endorsement yet for president, that will come in a post sometime this fall and I am sure that both Trump and Clinton will be pressuring me for my endorsement, well not really! I have to admit that Mr. Trump is not my first choice for the nomination. I have serious questions about whether a guy with no political office experience can just walk into the office of the president. Furthermore, I have concerns about his temperament. Good leaders do not go around insulting people who are their enemies. That will not go down very well with members of Congress if he becomes president. This country does not need that. Having said that, there are things that I really like about Trump. His business background is really a plus and the fact that he seems to stress the importance of having  good people around him. So I would not rule out voting for him at all. I am willing to give him a chance and further evaluate him.

On the other side, I am also will to give Hillary a listen, but judging from what I initially see, she will be just another extension of the Obama presidency. Our country cannot afford another 4 years of that crap. If Hillary has any chance at all, she will try to separate herself from the Obama presidency. I would greatly respect her if she went after some of President Obama’s mistakes during the past 7 years and articulated in great detail what she would do differently.

Donald Trump has a great opportunity right now to be the president, however, his biggest challenge may prove tougher than beating 16 very well qualified candidates for the nomination. It may be just winning over his own party. This voter is willing to give him a chance. What are the alternatives? Why should I vote for someone who appears to be supporting the same failed policies that have hurt this country? There has to be a better way and just maybe, Mr. Trump will have a better way.

That’s why we love to watch our sports

A few days ago, someone asked me a rather simple question that caused me some to pause for a moment. “Mark, why do you like to spend time watching sports on television? Giving an answer such as “It is just fun to watch” is simply not articulate enough. After thinking about it for a moment, I went into my normal rambling assessment of answering a question which I will share shortly. The truth is, all of us sports fans have a certain reason why we invest so much time into watching a particular sporting event or game. There are perhaps a hundred different reasons why people are so into sports on television, but I would like to give 5 main reasons why I truly love to watch.

1) The unpredictability, suspense and pure emotion factor. There is nothing better than watching a couple of teams go tooth and nail in a title game. Even better yet if one of the teams is a heavy underdog in the game. The noise of the crowd, the emotions of the players, and the pure drama of the game is entertainment that is second to none. Unlike drama movies which normally have a very predictable end (the good guy always comes out on top), sporting events have a very unpredictable and sometimes very crazy outcome that will be talked about for years.

2) The ex-athlete factor. Many of us who sit on our couches watching games are former athletes ourselves. As one of them, I can really relate to what’s going on during a game. Furthermore, we have deep appreciation for people who perform at the highest level. It is fun to watch someone who plays the same sport that you do or did play make it look so easy. Also many young players can learn from watching the best play.

3) A welcome escape from the normal negative news and politics. Sometimes I reach a point when I say enough whenever I watch the news on television. There is nothing but constant bad news about something or the same old political bickering. I mean, how many times does one have to see Donald Trump on television? Sports is a welcome relief to all of the problems that are happening in this world. Yes, sports sometimes become the news, but when there is a big game on, all of those worldly problems are forgotten, at least for a few hours.

4) The social factor. There is no better way to have fun with your buddies than getting together and watching a good ballgame together. Sporting events has a way of bringing people together like no other event. Many families have long-standing traditions of gathering around on Sunday afternoon to watch the NFL. What other event can bring that many people together like the Super Bowl?

5) Fantasy sports. Let’s face it, the NFL would not be half as popular if it were not for fantasy sports. Why else would some meaningless NFL game on Monday night get such high ratings? People want to see how their players are doing. The same concept really applies to the NCAA basketball tournament. The game inside the game among fans makes the games even more enticing to watch.

Don’t get we wrong, I am not a guy who has no life and spends all weekend watching sports. I enjoy watching news programs and movies just as much as watching sports. But there is just something special about turning on the television and watching a hotly contested game that catches my soul. Sports viewing is a welcome therapy to our crazy world. It’s funny how having a bunch of grown men running around a field beating each other up can have such an effect on our country isn’t it. If it wasn’t for sports on television, I think our country would go completely insane. Televised sports are big business and getting bigger. It will never change because we love our sports and will always love our sports. It is love affair that will never be broken.




A stupid PR move by Target

In response to the growing transgender bathroom debate, Target (a major retail store chain) decided to join the grandstanding by several companies in announcing that all employees and customers are free to use the store’s bathrooms based on their own personal gender identity, not based on what is on their birth certificate. As you can only imagine, this announcement by the retail chain has only added fuel to the already hot button transgender bathroom debate. Last week, it was announced that nearly a million people signed a petition stating that they are going to boycott the store. As a long time shopper at Target, I must confess that I am close to boycotting the store as well and spending my hard-earned money somewhere else. This announcement by Target might go down as one of the all-time worst public relations moves ever by any retail store and I would not feel one bit of sorrow if this costed Target dearly. They rightly deserve to take a hit.

Just think for a minute about what their statement means. So essentially that means that if I have to go pee and the men’s room is too crowded or perhaps not clean enough for my liking, I am free to use the women’s restroom by stating that I currently identify as a woman. I clearly look like a male, but because of this new policy statement, I am now free to use the women’s restroom if I just happened to feel like a woman on a particular day while I am shopping at Target. How ridiculous of a policy is that?!! So how are they going to stop men and especially perverts from entering the women’s bathrooms? After all, they may just feel like a woman at a particular moment and claim they identify as a woman.

Target beats their chest in talking about how they refuse to discriminate against anyone. I can certainly appreciate their concerns and efforts to be inclusive and fair to everyone. But what about the women and children who are now put at risk because of their stupid decision. Is it really worth risking the well-being of perhaps your biggest big customer base, women, in an effort to kiss the rear ends of maybe 1 out of 1000 of your employees who may be transgender? Any pervert can now claim to be a transgender and walk into a women’s bathroom with a cell phone and have a field day.

I can certainly understand and appreciate the outrage over this statement by Target. Would you want your daughter sharing a bathroom with some creepy guy who claims to a woman? Furthermore, I find it rather interesting that a store like Target who boasts so much about being accepting towards LGBT people have products on many of their shelves which are produced in countries that have some of the worst atrocities towards those same members. Talks about a double standard!

As a consumer, I have many other options besides Target. There are a couple of Wal-Mart stores within a 5 mile radius of my home.  The products that I buy at Target can easily be bought somewhere else. It is not like they are some sort of speciality retail store. This latest controversy may be the final straw for this very loyal Target customer. I am sick of them pandering to a few special interest groups at the expense of a majority of their shoppers. Shame on you Target! Wake up!