Friday, January 29, 2016

Give the people what they want!




Here we go again, yet another sports figure being investigated for using a banned substance. It makes me shake my head in absolute wonder. When will the sports governing bodies realize that the average Joe sitting on the sidelines simply doesn’t care if the athlete is a roid-enhanced machine? They simply want to see the athlete perform in such a manner that is amazing.

DENVER (AP) -- The NFL says it is conducting a comprehensive review of allegations that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had human growth hormone delivered to his house.

When football players collide, those of us watching want to hear our guy smash the bones of the other guy, Dick Butkus style. Of course, after the Sports Medicine people finally get the guy on his feet, we want to cheer their bravery with giddy abandon. Geeze, we don’t want the guy to die, you know what I mean? We just want him out of the game and if he’s on the other team and really a threat to us winning, we want him out for the season… unless he’s one of our fantasy footballers!

“I'm not so mean. I wouldn't ever go out to hurt anybody deliberately - unless it was, you know, important, like a league game or something.” Dick Butkus

To me the real issue with Peyton Manning isn’t his (supposed) human growth hormone use; it’s the threat of him losing his lucrative advertisement deals. Talk about a hit below the belt! Geeze, that could be catastrophic! What? You didn’t know all these organized sporting events are about money for investors?

All of it is money driven, so why not give the audience what they want? Bigger, faster athletes who hit harder, jump further, throw longer, and can do feats worthy of our dollars, because that is what we want to see. We crave icons to worship and discuss our heroes ad nauseum at work and in the sports bars. As a sidebar, I used to listen to the guys at work spew out their intimate knowledge of players, games, and strategies and wonder why they were wasting their time only making a hundred thousand dollars a year at a chemical plant.

I say level the playing field and reinstall the 300 plus world class athletes who have been banned for “performance-enhancing drugs” that many of us take every day. Yea, that nose-inhaler you must have every day would bump you onto this list. That over the counter drug you bought last week to help open up your lungs so you can breath? Blam! You’re out and… disgraced!

Here it is and it has disqualified a number of athletes: Pseudoephedrine is a sympathomimetic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine chemical classes. It may be used as a nasal/sinus decongestant, as a stimulant, or as a wakefulness-promoting agent. 

When Lance Armstrong was dethroned, I asked my cousin in law, who is a Nordic cycler from Denmark about it and he told me straight-up that “they all do it in one form or another, or they can’t remain competitive at that level.” I say open it up.  Let them all do it. Of course, that would put many people out of business, as sports is a big business – but –it would open up new avenues to make money and just think about the toy industry action figures that would come out of this new phenomenon!

Mixed martial arts and Wrestle Mania type venues have proved that people want to see monsters in sports. They don’t care if they are good people; nope, not one bit. They want to see violence and in excessive amounts. That’s why the program America’s Funniest Home Videos is so popular. People doing stupid things in such an excessive manner that they get hurt. The more violent they fall, the higher the pleasure meter goes it seems.

Take the recent K/O of Rhonda Rousey as an example. There she was, queen of the Mixed Martial Arts Octagon until she got her hiney handed to her by Holly Holm in about 15 seconds. All the Rousey worshipers dropped her faster than Holm’s did. People don’t care about these athletes when they fail; they just want to see dramatic action. If steroids will bump up this action, bring it on!

The day when JJ Watt can no longer perform, he will be just another failed athlete and folks will be looking at the next super hero. Would it make a dimes worth of difference if all these athletes were using performance-enhancing drugs for the last 3 years? I say no. Not a dimes worth. As long as they can amaze people with their athletic skill, people wouldn’t care.

All these disqualifying substances are so last century anyway and doomed when neural implants begin to be introduced into athletes and the general population. Remember when The Matrix’s Neo learned karate, kung-fu, jujitsu, boxing, etc in about ten seconds? All he really needed was the conditioning to pull it off. When a baseball batter knows every pitch that is coming at him and can calculate his reaction, the idea of a performance-enhancing drug giving him an advantage sounds pretty silly and antiquated.

The truth is we are drug obsessed in this country. This latest news of Peyton Manning is just one more example of how out of touch with reality we are. Probably 75% of us would be banned from organized sports for something we are taking, either from the doctor, or over the counter. I say let em have em. The time has come.
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Friday, January 22, 2016

Keep on keepin’on? Nope, not me.


Is this your idea of retirement?

 The easy road.  Man, I wish the easy road was reality…  I really do.  It would make life less complicated – or maybe not. The easy road. What a wonderful concept! Roll on, oh silver lining. I guess there really is a silver lining in every dark dirty cloud we accept as our life. Seeing your life as a dark cloud of misfortunes is strictly a matter of choice.

Taunting yourself that everyone seems to have it easier or better than you is self-flagellation at its worst. Poor pitiful Pearl.

I’m a senior citizen.  Yea, I know.  I don’t feel like one.  I feel like life is really opening up opportunities. Of course, real opportunities don’t come to us by winning the lottery, or Publishers Clearing House winnings. Opportunities come with sweat, blood, and often tears. Real opportunities require that four letter word – work and let’s not forget that other bad word, sacrifice.

That peaceful easy feeling Glenn Frey wrote about is not so peaceful or easy when it comes to getting something worth having.  It’s a struggle brother. It’s suffragette city.  Its sunrise on the wrong side of the city, sky high, and six thousand miles away. Yes, it’s real work and there is no easy living. You want it? You work for it, or wait a lifetime for something that will most likely never happen.

I’m retired. Life should be the life of Riley, right? Wrong. Life is a battlefield sister. Let someone else have that hammock and glass of ice tea. You watch that fellow run a marathon in Houston and think you could never do that. Wrong. You can do it, just not in the time they did it. You have to get your buns off the couch and start moving those gams. Get a plan and stick to it.

Jimmy Buffet has it all wrong for the most part. Lying around on the beach drinking tequila and thumping lime slices into the Gulf all the time is for delusional slackers and drunks. All you will end up with is perpetual sunburn and parrot poop on your clothes. Anything worth having is worth working for, remember? That sandy island retreat is a reward and should be a very short one - not a long term existence.

I read an obituary of a man of 86. His 60-something son wrote it and was extolling the work ethic virtues of his father. In the Obit he said his dad was learning Chinese at the time of his death. The list of disciplines he had subjected himself to over the years was amazing. He never let up. To me he is an example of what I should attempt, not that I have a history of taking it easy or anything. I just think there is more and I want it and am willing to work for it.

Sure I play the lotto now and again, but like my youngest brother told me the other day, “Even if you won the Powerball, you would find a way to go back to work”. What he meant was that I would find another discipline to tackle, not go back into the chemical plants. I took this as a compliment.

Physically, there is nothing I am doing harder than the Group X classes at the gym named after the clock.  Boot Camp Monday, cycling (Spin) Tuesday, Les Mills Body Pump Wednesday, cycling again on Thursday, and finishing up with another Body Pump on Saturday. It is hard exhausting work and like my Tuesday Spin instructor Page Morton said the other day, “If this was easy, the place would be packed.”

Do we who push so hard do it because we like to abuse ourselves? Maybe, but the truth is we want short and long term benefits and results and we can’t get them by watching TV or videos of people playing sports. You can’t become a millionaire by watching poker players on TV either. How many times have we said, “Boy, I sure wish I could…” but we are not willing to go the extra mile to make it happen? I know I am guilty.

That silver lining is unreachable for us simply because we are not motivated enough to go after it.  It hurts to admit that to ourselves, but it’s true. Living below our potential is a lifestyle choice. Complacency is the result of those choices. Accepting these low standards becomes what we are. If you don’t like where you are – change it.

That forest full of trees can be cut down one tree at a time, so telling yourself the problem is too large is simply getting back on the hamster wheel you have allowed yourself to traverse. To be honest, I don’t always write such uplifting motivational stuff as this, but we all have areas in our lives that need to be visited now and again. Remember folks, your life is what you make it, so make it or keep dreaming.
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Friday, January 15, 2016

An apple a day for a snob.



I am an apple snob and it is not entirely my fault.  It is because I spent my early pre-teen and a few later years living in Ohio and Michigan. Up in that part of the USA, apples grow everywhere and some trees have so many large apples on them, they break the limbs due to the extra weight.

Apples are like people in that there are many varieties and some are sweeter, larger, crisper, sourer, disgusting… etcetera. Recently an ex-councilman decided because he knows me that I would be a prime target to buy apples from him and a whole case at that. I think it is noble that one of the many clubs he belongs to sells apples to raise money for whatever they raise money for, but like I told him, “I don’t like the apples they sell because I am an apple snob.”

I know this was a direct, honest, and possibly unwanted answer, but what in the world am I going to do with all those apples I don’t like… give them away? I reckon that would have been a kinder gesture than my straight forward answer. Let me explain about why I am an apple snob. In the Buckeye State when I was a child, kids carried salt shakers in their pockets and after about 3 baseball games, we would ride our bikes to the orchards, climb up in the trees and eat green apples.

If you’ve seen the movie “Sandlot”, this was my childhood. Now, if you think we were putting a dent in the number of apples on these trees, you’ve never seen apple trees loaded with fruit. It’s practically impossible to exaggerate their numbers. Imagine a Granny Smith apple (not one that was picked two weeks before it was ready to be picked so it could be shipped to a grocery store) that is a just about ready to begin sweetening, but still sour and sprinkle salt on it until it has just the right amount.

The salt makes it bearable to eat without your jaws contracting (you know what I mean) and is so delicious that you eat the entire apple, core, *seeds, and all tossing the stem to the ground. It is so juicy and delicious; it’s like eating meat, sweets, and juice in each bite. After about 6 or 7 big fat juicy apples, you lick your fingers and carefully place the small patch of wax paper over the top of the shaker, and screw the lid back on it. Now you have had lunch and can resume the game.

Fuji Apples
I can’t remember ever going home for lunch when playing baseball in Ohio. We always ate apples. I loved to eat pears and cherries too, but let me tell you something about wild cherry trees you may not know. Most non-nursery trees are large and dangerous to climb and each cherry you can reach, you do so at risk of breaking your arms, legs, and maybe your neck, as gravity is not your friend.

Pear trees are finicky and the same tree, depending on the rain it gets and when it gets it, can bear a wide variation in the quality of the fruit. Just when you think you have found the perfect tree, the next year it is tasteless, too hard, or yucky. In Hillsdale, Michigan, we had (if I remember right) 12 apple trees and a cloned apple/pear tree. This particular tree would grow one fruit one ear and the next, the other, but it always had some of both.

These days I don’t eat many apples and it’s mainly because I don’t have enough teeth left to chew them up completely, but if I did, I would buy the Fuji and the Honey crisp varieties because they taste real good and are crisp.  Because I know the difference, I would be willing to bet they would be many times better if I could get them off the tree. When I lived in Southeast Asia, I would eat the pineapple right after it ripened on the bush and it was like eating candy. It was non-acidic and totally pleasing. The same went for the watermelon and the indigenous fruit.

Honey Crisp
Our measly selection of bananas is due to what holds up the best when shipped. I remember finger bananas right off the tree that although they were white-meated, they were buttery and sweet like sugar. We get about 3 of the over 1000 varieties of bananas in our stores. Can you imagine trying even 100 different bananas to see which ones you liked the most?

In my high school years in Georgia we would wade in the creeks and pick black berries which were larger than a big man’s thumb. That red clay soil and the water made them so big that a couple dozen was all you needed to make a small pie. Of course each berry was picked knowing the plentiful snakes also eat berries.

When I lived in Utah, we ate enough wild plumbs to feed a small army of chiren. In California, we again ate bananas and tangerines off the many trees and occasionally lemons. Now days, we eat what the grocery stores sell and that is one poor substitute for tree-ripened fruit.

I don’t know what got me on this subject today, but I do miss those Ohio apple orchards.

Note: Yes, we ate the seeds and lots of them.
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Friday, January 08, 2016

Is owning a gun really a bad thing?



Come and take it.

I grew up in a gun-owning family.  As far as I know, I am the only one of us 7 who has ever pointed a real gun at someone with the intention of pulling the trigger. My first firearm was a single shot 12 gauge Savage shotgun my Dad or Mom won at a turkey shoot in Woodstock, Georgia.  I was 14. My brother Gordon was one year younger than me and they bought him one identical to the one I got.

At the onset I want to clarify something. If you are anti-gun and agree that Americans shouldn’t have the Constitutional right to own a firearm or form a militia, then this column won’t change your mind. However, if you sit on that one inch of board and could fall to one side of the voting fence or the other, then read on.

Owning a firearm is an amazing right. It is not something that should be taken lightly.  A right by definition is a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.

It’s a privilege also, which by definition is a special advantage, immunity or benefit not enjoyed by all. You see, if you are a convicted felon, you cannot own a firearm, albeit with a few exceptions. But for the most part, you have lost that right and that privilege.

But let’s say for arguments sake that for the most part you are a law-abiding citizen. Occasionally you drive faster than the speed limit or jaywalk, but within the scope of this line of thought, you are not a criminal. Our constitution allows you to own a firearm and this is in the second amendment: A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the Right of the People to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

The amazing thing about this amendment is how it addresses our future government’s possible ability to try and nullify it. "Any and all laws, rules, regulations, proclamations, etc., Pro or Con, which may be entered in the record, addressing these freedoms are unconstitutional". This was put into our constitution to protect us from a tyrannical government. What?

Indeed. We have finally arrived at a place where the government does not represent the bulk of voting America. Once in office, they do everything in their power to support the party they are affiliated with, regardless of what their voter’s desire may be. Donald Trump is gaining velocity because he will not align himself with this self-serving single party nonsense.
Hillary protected by men with guns, but is anti-gun for you and I.
On January 5th, he is quoted as telling Hillary Clinton that if she feels so strongly against citizens having guns, then she should dismiss her bevy of secret service agents. She won’t do it because her life matters, but according to her, yours apparently don’t. I have stressed this same logic many times over.

Now here’s the real kicker.  All of this talk about gun ownership and whether law-abiding citizens can own and carry guns has no effect whatsoever on organized crime, common violent criminals, and people who are just angry bat crazy.  Tightening gun laws will have no effect on them and only serve to disarm those of us who want a first line of defense to protect our families and ourselves.

But let’s back up a bit.  As a long time martial artist, I want to bring out a point about resisting an attacker.  Owning a gun and having a permit to carry it is only half of the equation and the second half can’t be purchased or tested in a classroom.  This is the terrible truth of carrying a legal firearm or having it for home defense when confronted by an attacker.

The time may just come when someone will call your bluff and break into the house you’ve told everyone you will defend with a gun.  “I’ll blow them away!” may just be put to the ultimate test of taking another human’s life and folks; this is not something you ever want to have happen to you.  But if that time comes, you better make danged sure you can pull that trigger, or put that gun away right now and get a Rottweiler.

This cannot be taught and tested in a open carry, boxing, mixed martial art, or karate class.  You can either do it, or you can’t and waiting to find out when you need to do it is a might weak strategy.  Most of us live under a moral code of conduct which a crazed person or a criminal does not. In my mind’s eye I have envisioned bracing this kind of person so many times I cannot number them and I believe I can pass that horrifying test, but maybe not. I have before, but what about next time, or the time after that?

However, I still want the constitutional right and privilege to decide if I can own and carry a firearm. I do not want the Federal government making that decision for me. In the meantime I can keep my firearm safely on my hip or in my home and no one is harmed by my possession of the gun and it will stay that way.

*Quote from Wikipedia
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Monday, January 04, 2016

Stupid Facebook challenges

It seems like everyday, someone will post a rustic cabin in the woods photo or maybe one on a tropical paradise and it will "challenge" all their friends by asking if they could stay there for one year without the Internet, television, cable, or their smartphones.  Here is an actual screen grab to back up my statement.
You have to stay in this cabin for the entire month of January. You have all the food and water you'll need. You have enough firewood to keep a fire going until the 31st. You have no access to Internet , cell phones or TV. On the 31st of January, you walk out of the door with $100,000. Would you do it?
Can you believe that 1,947, 882 idiots all "liked" this nonsense?  On top of that, 244, 655 morons shared it. 
Here is another one.
 I have a challenge that makes a wee bit more sense.
 
You have to stay in this hole for the entire month of January. You have all the food and water you'll need. You will be naked. You have total access to Internet , cell phones and tv. On the 31st of January, you will be water-boarded by trained CIA agents.  You will then be given $100,000 in unmarked $20 bills.  Will you accept a real challenge??

So far, not a single like or share?
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Friday, January 01, 2016

I want to believe



I remember being fifteen years old and carefree like it was yesterday. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. I was living in Woodstock, Georgia with my family and at an age where I still liked playing cars in the dirt and shooting squirrels with my Savage 12-guage shotgun. I didn’t want to grow up – that would come a year later when I got a driver’s license and began pursuing girls and listening to the news about Vietnam. 

The year was 1967 and it was a tumultuous time, as I’ve mentioned numerous times in other columns. Half of me knew it and half of me was happy to let other people worry about it. Like now I was optimistic about a new year and a new beginning and I really believed times would get better. Now, I’m not so sure, but an ember of hope still shines.

I always heard that the future is what you make it and on an individual level, I still believe this, at least to a certain extent. I want to believe. Please Lord, make it so. I’m a news junkie, again as I’ve stated before. I don’t listen to any political pundits for my take on current events, but troll Drudge and Google News, mainly to get feeds. I read and read and read. The news I hear sounds down right scary. A panacea to the plethora of bad news is I also pay attention to another plane of existence.

I believe in God and believe he was manifested in the man Jesus the Christ. I also believe that God in all his omniscience and omnipotence is fully capable of having a firm grip on everything, or he wouldn’t be God, right? This isn’t probably a universal dogma, but I can’t and won’t limit my God to a place of finite capabilities. I believe in miracles.

My future is dictated by my beliefs, but also my free will and I choose to direct as much of it as I can. I believe a whole lot of it is in a spiritual realm I am only slightly aware of, but what I can see and control is important and I want to direct it as positively as possible – and have fun along the way.

So, I geocache, do community service by picking up litter, and write for the newspaper. I exercise and teach classes and try to give back to my community by donating blood and helping those I can. I attend religious services and truly be nice to people I care about. I win, I fail, and I try to do well. I want to believe I am making a difference. I want to believe I am leaving a legacy I can be proud of.

I want to believe that this next year is going to be the greatest positive experience of my life, even better than when I was 15 years old. However, experience and years like 2009 are always looming in the back of my mind, overshadowing that optimism. All of us live one second from falling to our knees and crying out to whichever god we choose to follow. I want to fall to my knees voluntarily, not by being knocked on them by happenstance, bad judgment, inconsiderate behavior, or accident.

When I was 15 I just knew everything would miraculously fall into place for me. At my current advanced age, I wonder every day when something bad is going to be suddenly revealed. I’m told the sharpened skill of worrying comes with age and I am experiencing it daily to back that up.

Until that final day comes, I want to look at the future like it’s my box of chocolates and every one of them is good in some way or other. This new year I want to have a major paradigm shift from the past and try to see people the same way as those chocolates. I’ve became cynical toward strangers over the years as people have been rude and uncaring especially while driving. This may be one of my greatest challenges, as daily I am exposed to this inconsiderate behavior.

Outside of their cars, I’ve found most everyone to be rational and friendly and this is my hope. I want to work on myself this next year, because I can’t change that person’s attitude positively in the cars I encounter. I can however be more understanding when driving and less critical.

2016 might just be the best year I’ve ever experienced.  I want to believe.
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I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.

Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with ...