SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS

December 24, 2018


I would definitely like to thank all of those individuals who follow my site and those looking while “clicking” through the Internet. As you all know, my site is not for everyone. I generally concentrate on the STEM professions, travel, and great restaurants my wife and I frequent in Chattanooga and during any travels we undertake. For all of you “out there”:

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Let’s hope 2019 brings health and happiness to everyone and PEACE ON EARTH for the billions of people living on this wonderful “blue dot”.

This past week, my wife and I traveled to Dallas to spend time with our son and his family.   Driving through their neighborhood, we were taken to one house that definitely stands out.  I’m going to give you a pictorial of the house and grounds right now.  Take a look at this one.

 

As you can see, the name of the hose is Lizzyland. Named for the owner.  She is obviously really into decorating for Christmas. Given below, is the view from the street.

You would not believe the traffic trying to take a look. People stopping with cameras and walking around the entire house.

While we were there, two local camera crews were filming for their late-night news programs.  Apparently, the word had spread far and wide about the efforts put in by Lizzy.  We discovered that she had hosting an open house during December for the entire neighborhood and wanted to welcome her guests in style.  I think this did it.

Again—a very MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.  Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to post more frequently in 2019. 2018 was another very busy year.  Take care. See you in 2019.

 

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HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

December 15, 2018


How many “screen-time” hours do you spend each day?  Any idea? Now, let’s face facts, an adult working a full-time job requiring daily hour-long screen time may be a necessity.  We all know that but how about our children and grandchildren?

I’m old enough to remember when television was a laboratory novelty and telephones were “ringer-types” affixed to the cleanest wall in the house.  No laptops, no desktops, no cell phones, no Gameboys, etc etc.  You get the picture.  That, as we all know, is a far cry from where we are today.

Today’s children have grown up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. They can’t imagine a world without smartphones, tablets, and the internet.  If you do not believe this just ask them. One of my younger grandkids asked me what we did before the internet.  ANSWER: we played outside, did our chores, called our friends and family members.

The advances in technology mean today’s parents are the first generation who have to figure out how to limit screen-time for children.  This is a growing requirement for reasons we will discuss later.  While digital devices can provide endless hours of entertainment and they can offer educational content, unlimited screen time can be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents place a reasonable limit on entertainment media. Despite those recommendations, children between the ages of eight (8) and eighteen (18) average seven and one-half (7 ½) hours of entertainment media per day, according to a 2010 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.  Can you imagine over seven (7) hours per day?  When I read this it just blew my mind.

But it’s not just kids who are getting too much screen time. Many parents struggle to impose healthy limits on themselves too. The average adult spends over eleven (11) hours per day behind a screen, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  I’m very sure that most of this is job related but most people do not work eleven hours behind their desk each day.

Let’s now look at what the experts say:

  • Childrenunder age two (2) spend about forty-two (42) minutes, children ages two (2) to four (4) spend two (2) hours and forty (40) minutes, and kids ages five (5) to eight (8) spend nearly three (3) hours (2:58) with screen media daily. About thirty-five (35) percent of children’s screen time is spent with a mobile device, compared to four (4) percent in 2011. Oct 19, 2017
  • Children aged eighteen (18) monthsto two (2) years can watch or use high-quality programs or apps if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they’re seeing. children aged two to five (2-5) years should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines on how much screen timeis appropriate for children. … Excessive screen time can also lead to “Computer Vision Syndrome” which is a combination of headaches, eye strain, fatigue, blurry vision for distance, and excessive dry eyes. August 21, 2017
  • Pediatricians: No More than two (2) HoursScreen Time Daily for Kids. Children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and shouldn’t have TVs or Internet access in their bedrooms, according to new guidelines from pediatricians. October 28, 2013

OK, why?

  • Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.
  • Sleep Problems:  Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.
  • Behavioral Problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than two hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems. Excessive TV viewing has even been linked to increased bullying behavior.
  • Educational problems: Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms do worse on academic testing.  This is an established fact—established.  At this time in our history we need educated adults that can get the job done.  We do not need dummies.
  • Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

Between birth and age three, for example, our brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around us. In medical circles, this is called the critical period, because the changes that happen in the brain during these first tender years become the permanent foundation upon which all later brain function is built. In order for the brain’s neural networks to develop normally during the critical period, a child needs specific stimuli from the outside environment. These are rules that have evolved over centuries of human evolution, but—not surprisingly—these essential stimuli are not found on today’s tablet screens. When a young child spends too much time in front of a screen and not enough getting required stimuli from the real world, her development becomes stunted.

CONCLUSION: This digital age is wonderful if used properly and recognized as having hazards that may create lasting negative effects.  Use wisely.

JUMPER—THE BOOK

December 8, 2018


Jumper begins with Davey, a child who has spent the entirety of his life being verbally and physically abused by his alcoholic father. When reading the book, I immediately took a very sympathetic stance relative to Davey’s situation. I cannot imagine growing up on a household with this atmosphere.  He and his mother were routinely pummeled by the “man of the house” and the brutality at times was graphic.   When I say graphic, I mean Davey’s mother had to have reconstructive surgery after her last beating.  This is when she left.  When she did leave, unable to deal with the abuse she suffered, it only got worse for him. He was abandoned by the only person in the world who ever cared for him.   He was left with the man who frequently beat him bloody, Davey finally finds escape when he discovers his ability to Jump, or teleport, to any place that he has previously been, and can remember well enough to picture in his mind. He discovers this ability quite by accident.  His mother lies comatose on the kitchen floor, having been beaten by her husband and Davey is lying on the floor with his father on top of him throwing punches.  He visualizes the only safe place he knows—the local public library.  That’s when he first jumps.  He has no idea as to how he did this.  After the beating, he runs away and tries to make a new life for himself. It is definitely not easy for a seventeen-year-old out on his own, with no money, no drivers’ license, no passport, no Social Security number and no birth certificate.  No identification at all. Out of desperation, he finally decides the only way he can survive is to rob a bank using his powers. This happens in the movie as well but is one of the few similarities between the two—very few.  However, where Davey’s desperate circumstances and real need are deeply delved into in the book.   He is forced to steal the money just to survive, promising to himself one day to pay it back, something he actually, eventually does.  With the money he is able to improve his living standards and actually begin to enjoy his young life not having to worry about the abuse.

He meets a girl named Millie, falls in love, and over the course of the novel finds someone who is willing to listen to his story.  This includes all of the horrible, terrible things that he has had to live through, and has kept pent up inside himself his entire life. She urges him to seek out his mother, and he does just that but the result is a terrible event that determines, to some extent, his future.

In my opinion, the book is much much better than the movie.  The characters are vivid and compelling with Davy and Millie trying to determine the method by which Davy is able to teleport. (NOTE: Teleportation is the theoretical transfer of matter or energy from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them.) The book does NOT come to any conclusions but they do establish the fact that there is a portal through which Davy leaps when he jumps.

What Others Think:

I think this is a terrific book but I would like you to read the book and judge for yourself. I also would like to give you what others think.

Mar 17, 2014  Gavin rated it really liked it

I’ve wanted to read this ever since I watched the Jumper movie. Teleportation movies and books are always fun. The biggest surprise is that this book was nothing like the movie. The only thing they had in common was the teleporting main character.

This was a surprisingly dark sci-fi that spent more time pondering moral dilemmas and exploring Davey’s emotional reaction to the various mishaps that befell him than it did on action sequences. The action and the pace did pick up a bit towards the end.

Davey was a tortured soul with a bit of bitterness about him, but for all his faults he was mostly likable.

Overall this was an enjoyable sci-fi read worth a 4-star rating. I’ll definitely read the rest of the books in the series at some point.

Nov 21, 2013  Eric Allen rated it it was amazing

Jumper
By Steven Gould

A Retroview by Eric Allen

When this book came out, back in 1992, I was in my teens, had just finished the latest installment of The Wheel of Time, and I was looking for something else to read. So, I did the thing that all geeks do, and asked the librarian for a recommendation. She handed me Jumper with a wink and told me that I had better hurry because the book was about to be banned at that library. Being a teenaged boy at the time, these were the exact words needed to sell me on it. And I must say, I was really blown away by it. It was a book written for someone my age, that wasn’t afraid to treat me like an adult, showing such things as homosexual child rape, child abuse, alcoholism, graphic terrorist attacks, and it even used the dreaded F word like FOUR WHOLE TIMES!!! No wonder that behind Catcher in the Rye, it is the most banned children’s book in history. A fact that the author is extraordinarily proud of.

Dec 05, 2017  Skip rated it really liked it

Davy Rice has a special gift: the ability to transport himself to any spot he wants, which he discovers when being beaten by his abusive father or about to be raped by a long-haul trucker. He flees his small town, moving to NY, where he settles down after jumping into a bank and taking almost $1 million. He falls in love with a college student in Oklahoma, and eventually decides to find his mother, who deserted him. But disaster strikes and Davy begins to use his gift to find the culprit, drawing the unwanted attention of the NSA and NY Police Department. Improbable, of course, but Davy is a moral, sensitive protagonist, dealing with complex issues.

Sherwood Smith rated it it was amazing

I call it science fiction though the jumping is probably fantasy, but the book is treated like SF. The original book, not the novelisation for the movie, was heart-wrenching, funny, fast-paced, poignant, and so very real in all the good ways, as the teen protagonist discovers he can teleport from place to place, at first to escape his abusive dad. Then he wants to do good . . . and discovers that there are consequences–from both sides.

I’m sorry that the movie appears to have removed all the heart from it, leaving just the violence, without much motivation, judging from the novelization that appeared afterward. No doubt many readers liked it, but that was not my cup of tea.

CONCLUSIONS:

As I mentioned above, read the book and determine for yourself if it’s a winner.  Easy to read, three hundred and forty-five (345) pages double-spaced.  Good night’s work.

SEVENTEEN INCHES

December 1, 2018


I received the following article from a good friend of mine detailing a speech given by Mr. John Scolinos.  I thought it was a very important speech and decided it was very worthy of posting and you might enjoy the read.  Take a look.

Twenty years ago, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend.  One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare. ” Who is John Scolinos, I wondered.  No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948.  He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.  Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches.  Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.  Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible.  I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.  “I may be old, but I’m not crazy.   I stand before you today to share with you what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room.  “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”    After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than an answer. “That’s right,” he said.

“How about in Babe Ruth’s day?  Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?” Another long pause.  “Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos.

“Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?”  Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.  “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked.

“And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here?  How wide is home plate in pro ball?”………..

“Seventeen inches!” they responded.

“RIGHT!  And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!” came the reply.

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.  “And what do they do with a Big-League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches” Pause.  “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy.  If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target?  We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches.   We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it.  If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

“Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice?  Or when our team rules forbid facial hair, and a guy shows up unshaven?  What if he gets caught drinking?  Do we hold him accountable?  Or do we change the rules to fit him?  Do we widen home plate? ”

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.  He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something.  When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows.

“This is the problem in our homes today.  With our marriages, with the way, we parent our kids.  With our discipline.  We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards.  We just widen the plate!”

Then, to the point at the top of the house, he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today.  The quality of our education is going downhill fast, and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate, and discipline our young people.  We are allowing others to widen home plate!  Where is that getting us?”

Silence.  He replaced the flag with a Cross.  “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years.  Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves!  And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government.  Our so-called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries.  They no longer serve us.  And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed.  At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable.  From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader.  I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today.  It is this: If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools, & synagogues & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, “…We have dark days ahead!”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine.  Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches.  He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.  His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”

And this is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today, and now we should go out there and fix it!

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