Earth Day 2010

April 22, 2010

There is a poll question asking: “Are you doing anything to mark Earth Day?” My answer is … no. Sorry, but I don’t need an artificial holiday to go out and do something in honor of the planet. Besides, it’s Thursday. By the time I get home from work, it will be too late to go outside to do anything (plus I’m tired and have my exercise challenge to address).

No, to me, Earth Day is an artificial holiday for people who don’t think about the planet the other 364 days out of the year or for environmentalists who need a “Christmas” of their own. For me, everyday is my Earth Day. As you know with my on-going landscaping project, I’m busy taking care of my lawn and plants. This has taken up more time that I would like on the weekends, but at least it is preserving the soil while cleaning the air. During the week days, I carpool with two others to save on gas as well as wear-and-tear on my car.

Forty years ago, when Earth Day was first established, I could see the purpose of the artificial holiday. The industrial side of our society had really left a scar on the land, in the air, as well as the water. We have come a long way. With a natural cultural shift to bring people in line with views held by groups such as the Boy Scouts, we are doing a much better job of living in harmony with our environment. There is still a lot of work to do, but I think we’re on the right track.

The Train vs. The Tornado

April 16, 2010

As you know, I love my trains.  I also love storms.  Here is a video showing what happens when you mix the two together.  From my understanding of this video, this tornado occurred in Illinois back in 2008.  There was no way for the train to avoid the powerful storm as it crossed its path.  The end result is predictable.

While watching the video, look at the upper right- and left-hand corners.  You can see how conditions change real quick by the way the trees suddenly wave out of control.  Very impressive!

I officially have no life.

April 15, 2010

Yes, you heard me correctly. While relaxing after a good session of rowing, I decided to play a few rounds of Hearts on the computer. Hearts is a card game where the object is to have the least amount of points when one of your competitors reach 100. During the game, the person with the 2 of clubs starts off the round. Whoever wins the hand determines which suit is played next. All suits are in play except for hearts.

Hearts have to be introduced by someone that does not have a card matching the suit leading off the hand. The goal is to avoid collecting any hearts or the queen of spades, since these cards increase your score. The queen of spades is worth 13 points while each card in the suit of hearts is worth 1. However, for the skilled player, you can intentionally collect all the hearts as well as the queen of spades. Doing so will award your challengers with 26 points each.

This brings me to the point of my article. I successfully went four straight rounds collecting all the hearts and the queen of spades. As you can see below, my challengers never had a chance, ending up with 104 points before they knew it.

Table games coming to Charles Town

April 13, 2010

For those on the East Coast, Charles Town is synonymous with horse racing and slot machines.  If you crave horse race betting or tackling one of the numerous varieties of slot machines that are out there, Charles Town has been your friend.  However, if you are like me, there wasn’t much to draw you out there.  But that is soon changing.

Charles Town Races & Slots will be rolling out table games this summer, giving people an alternative to Atlantic City for their gambling needs.  For me, the craps table is my game of choice, though there will be the classic casino games available, including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, Texas hold’em, and much more.  Plus, it will be an easier drive than trying to make your way out to New Jersey.  This is even better if you are planning a weekend get-away during the fall, as you can see all the beautiful colors of the season as the leaves begin to change (something that Atlantic City and the Boardwalk lack).

The 2nd six-week exercise challenge

April 13, 2010

As I announced the other day, I am starting a new six-week exercise challenge.  The goal for this challenge is the same as the last one: lose five pounds.  It sounds like an easy goal, but as we discovered with the first challenge, it is easier said than done.

After the first challenge, my weight stayed the same (at 202 lbs), I lost 1.5 inches around the stomach, lost 0.5 inches around the waist, but gained 0.5 inches around the groin/glutes.  Losing the 1.5 inches around the stomach was a nice trade-off to the lack in weight loss, but I still want to lose those pounds and get back under 200 lbs. 

Since May of last year, I have gained an inch around the stomach, an inch around the waist, and 0.5 inches around the groin/glutes, as well as put on two more pounds.  This is not where I expected to be, especially after the two blizzards we had this past Winter and all the hours of shoveling snow.  So the quest begins to correct all of that.

In this new challenge, I am going to be measuring four points compared to the three from last time.  The additional point in this challenge will be the chest.  Since rowing involves a lot of upper body work, I thought it would be a good measure point to track over the next six weeks.

I am doing something different this time around.  Instead of developing my own exercise routine, I am using a workout I discovered on the Concept 2 website (pdf format).  This routine consists of 24 separate workouts, which works perfectly for the challenge I have in mind.  I will be rowing Monday through Friday each week.  On Mondays through Thursdays, I will follow the next workout in the routine.  On Fridays, I will do a 2500 Meter race; recording the stats from these races to compare them with each other to see how well my performance improves over the six weeks.

Wish me luck!

Meaning of Life

April 12, 2010

What is the meaning of life?

I’m sure you’ve been asked that famous question at least once your life. I’m asked it at least once a year, for what reason I do not know. I’m not the old all-knowing guy sitting on top of a mountain somewhere after all.  Anyway, no matter how many times I’m asked, I always give the same response: suffering.

What would your life be without suffering? You would be “happy” all the time with no concern over your actions. Wonderful, right? Not really, since your life would be meaningless.

Think about it for a moment. Without suffering, you wouldn’t be able to know what happiness is, let alone appreciate it. And if you weren’t afraid of doing something that might result in you suffering, you wouldn’t be able to identify the tough choices in life nor their circumstances. I think the Lady Antebellum song “Need You Now” has a great one-liner that summarizes this perfectly. “Yes I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.”

A life without suffering would be almost numb, just like your mouth when you go to the dentist. When they numb your mouth, your lips can’t form a proper smile, you accidentally bite your cheek or tongue, and you can’t sense much of anything as far as feeling nor taste. Why would you want to live your life like that (if you could even call it “living”)?

Next time you find yourself feeling down, reflect on what made you happy in the past. And when you find yourself feeling happy, be thankful that you were down before so you can appreciate the positive emotions you are experiencing.

The new symbols of America

April 10, 2010

For the past 24 years (the time that I have been back to the mainland), I have noticed three waves of “symbols” in the United States.  By symbols I mean icons that appear in every major population center in all the states I have traveled through.  I wonder if they have something to say about they type of lives we live in.

The 80’s seemed to be the era of the 7-11.  For a time there, it seemed like there was a 7-11 on every-other street corner.  Some of these stores also had gas stations at their location, but for the most part it was just their main store.  You could walk in, get whatever quick snack or item you need, and then dash off to wherever you were heading next.  This met the need of our ever-growing fast-paced lifestyle.

In the 90’s you saw more fast food and chain restaurants popping up on street corners.  With people transitioning away from your standard sit-down meal (that went along with our on-the-move lifestyle of the 80’s), families could go out and have more meals away from home without breaking the bank.  This is because of the increased competition between the various chain restaurants who tried to draw as many people into their establishments as possible.

The turn of the century brought about a different symbol though.  Instead of more services to meet the fast-paced society that was developing over the prior two decades, this new symbol highlighted the materialism that occurred by those who fed the economic growth of the nation.  I’m talking about the self storage facilities.

These places were popping up everywhere I turned.  Some were in dense residential areas while others were in heavily commercial zones.  Some were even on the outskirts of town, where the price for the acreage of land needed to house the facilities were cheaper.  The need for these ever-increasing facilities only highlight the culture of materialism that expanded in the 2000’s, and might be why so many families were hit hard when the economic bubble collapsed at the end of the decade.

Maybe these three symbols were the warning signs that we overlooked, or maybe their existence were merely coincidental.  No matter what they are, we might want to pause when we see the next symbol that appears on the street corners, and project what they might mean and what impact they might have on our culture and our lives.