Monday, July 25, 2016

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Controversies

This year’s Winter Olympic Games are scheduled to run February 7-23, 2014. Athletes and spectators from around the world have descended on the seaport town and adjacent mountains of Sochi, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending the games along with global leaders who packed the Open Ceremonies to cheer on national teams comprised of world-class athletes who have trained long and hard to compete for the Gold.

Drama Unfolds Behind the Scenes at this Year’s Olympic Games

Instead of a stunning display of athletic achievement and derring-do, this year’s Winter Olympics is overshadowed by geopolitics, human rights charges, and more. Indeed, the real story has yet to be told of these 2014 Winter Olympic Games, an event already tarnished by questions of Sochi’s readiness for the games, terrorism, freedom of assembly, speech, and the press, and more. As athletes take to the ice and slopes, who knows what’s happening in the lives of everyday Russians as authorities work overtime to shield the Western press from actions taken to ensure a perfectly orchestrated international sporting event? Who knows whose lives, families and local businesses have been touched by strong arm tactics amid the swelling crowds at this year’s Winter Olympics?

Already, Human Rights Watch has reported on the arrest of human rights activist Anastasia Smirnova as she carried a banner trumpeting Article 6 of the Olympic Charter which asserts, “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.” This arrest took place on the same day as Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Games. Amnesty International has also decried the arrest of environmental activist Yevgeniy Vitishko who was summarily charged and found guilty of “petty hooliganism” for allegedly “swearing at a bus stop.” I’m sure there are many more incidents that have yet to be reported.

Undermining the Spirit of the Olympic Games

No doubt, the spirit of the games has been adversely impacted by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) selection of Sochi, Russia for this year’s Winter Games. Sochi itself is located not too far from a terrorist stronghold and hotspot. Russian laws restrict rights of LGBT and other citizens. Eavesdropping is commonplace by Russian authorities. While Russia boasts a beautiful landscape, culture and citizenry, its government is autocratic and corruption is reportedly rampant. Combined with civil unrest in the Caucasus and former Soviet Republics, it may not have been the best time for Russia to host these Winter Olympic Games.

Broadcast, print and social media seem particularly challenged in their efforts to present balanced coverage of the athletes and competitions amid more serious questions of human rights, safety and security of the Games, computer hacking and eavesdropping, and so much more. Caught in the middle, members of the Fourth Estate and blogosphere have found themselves in a Catch 22 of Olympic-sized proportions. In the meantime, you can’t help but feel sorry for the athletes and teams who have worked so diligently over many years time to make it to the Olympics.

Forecast for 2018 Winter Olympic Games: Stormy Skies

The IOC’s selection of Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games will do little to quell controversy. While I appreciate that the Olympics shines a bright light of freedom for so many cultures and countries around the world, I’m just not sure holding this event on the Korean Peninsula amid ongoing tensions with the North is particularly prudent. (Hopefully, I’m wrong here.)

In the meantime, I will watch the 2014 Winter Games with great interest and fanfare, as will millions of other spectators around the world. But, I’m also thinking it’s time for the IOC to be more sensitive to the political and social realities of nations under consideration to host these Olympic events. It’s also high time the global community of nations worked a little harder for peace, understanding and justice for all.

(Note to IOC: Looking for non-controversial locales for these games? Check out Jack Frost and Camelback (Poconos) or the Laurel Highlands (Western Pennsylvania). Or, Big Sky and Jackson Hole (Wyoming) or Girdwood (Alaska) or Zermatt (Switzerland). I’m sure there are plenty of other quiet communities, stunning winter landscapes and potential Olympic venues out there. Just sayin’!)


Sochi Olympics countdown sees Russia jailing second prisoner of conscience this week
Amnesty International Online (February 5, 2014)

Dispatches: As Sochi Opens, So Does Russia’s Sad Reality
By Minky Worden in Human Rights Watch (February 7, 2014)

Power, Politics, and the Olympic Games: A History of the Power Brokers, Events, and Controversies that Shaped the Games
Alfred Erich Senn. Champaign, Illinois (Human Kinetics, 1999)

Official Website of Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

Team USA

Tags:2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Controversies

2014 NFL Fantasy Studs, Duds and Sleepers. (AFC North)

2014 NFL Fantasy Studs, Duds and Sleepers. (AFC North)

The AFC North is home to the AFC’s toughest defenses. The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

This division is notorious for its competiveness and low scoring bouts. However still manages to produce some pretty solid performers year in and year out.

There has been some coaching changes and a ton of player movement this off-season, impacting these teams in a large way. It should shape up to be another dogfight for the division title in 2014. Let’s see if we can’t pin point who will play a large roll in that fight and who we should be leave riding the pine.



  • 1. (CIN) AJ Green WR
  • 2. (CLE) Josh Gordon WR
  • 3. (PIT) Antonio Brown WR
  • 4. (BAL) Torrey Smith WR
  • 5. (PIT) Le’Veon Bell RB
  • 6. (CIN) Andy Dalton QB
  • 7. (CLE) Jordan Cameron TE
  • 8. (PIT) Ben Roethlisberger QB
  • 9. (BAL) Steve Smith WR
  • 10. (PIT) Heath Miller TE

AJ Green. He has only been in the league for three seasons. In those three seasons he has seen an increase in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. All while NEVER having missed a game due to injury.

The emergence of wide receiver Marvin Jones as a threat, only helped AJ complete the best season of his young career. With almost the exact same starting offense from a year ago, look for the Cincinnati Bengals to achieve similar success and for Green to experience another increase in his numbers.

Antonio Brown. He caught 110 passes for 1,499 yards in 2013. Only 7 WR’s have caught at least 110 balls in a season since 2008. Only twice did they not reach that mark the very next year.

Also, since 2008 Only 6 WR’s have surpassed the 1,499 yd mark in a single season. Of those 6, not a single one failed to eclipse 1,000 yards the following year.


  • 1. (PIT) LeGarrette Blount RB
  • 2. (BAL) Ray Rice RB
  • 3. (CLE) Greg Little WR
  • 4. (CIN) BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB
  • 5. (BAL) Dennis Pitta TE
  • 6. (CIN) Jermaine Gresham TE
  • 7. (PIT) Darrius Heyward-Bey WR
  • 8. (BAL) Marlon Brown WR
  • 9. (CLE) Travis Benjamin WR
  • 10. (BAL) Jacoby Jones WR

Ray Rice. Over the past 4 seasons he has seen a yearly decrease in his carries from 307 attempts back in 2010, to only 214 in 2013. The Baltimore Ravens have slowly but surely, changed their identity from a strong defensive team that will run the ball and control the clock, to a pass first, run second and hope we outscore you kind of team.

They only solidified that mindset when they signed Steve Smith and Owen Daniels in the off-season. The Ravens look as if they will be throwing the ball even more in 2014 than they did the previous year. Not good news if you’re a Ray Rice fan.

Rice has also had some off the field incidents, primarily his domestic violence charge against his wife in Atlantic City. The reason I acknowledge this situation is because since the year 2000, 8 different RB’s have been arrested for domestic violence.

Of those 8 RB’s, 7 were either cut or traded and only 1 proceeded to put up better numbers in the season following the incident. (Michael Pittman, 2003) Be very cautious when considering Rice as your #1 back.

Greg Little. With QB Brian Hoyer returning from injury and the acquisition of Ben Tate. Many browns fans as well as people within the Browns organization are excited for the possibilities of 2014.

The only person that I think should not be as excited, is WR Greg Little. We have witnessed a gradual decrease in receptions and yards for Little since his rookie season of 2011.

QB Brian Hoyer only played 3 games for the Browns in 2013. Yet he led them to three straight victories. During those 3 games Hoyer targeted Little only 14 times while completing only 6 of those 14 passes.

WR Davone Bess who currently isn’t even on an NFL Roster, caught 11 passes on 21 targets from Hoyer in those same 3 games. With the addition of WR Nate Burleson and the apparent lack of chemistry between Little and his QB, don’t expect very big things out of the former second round pick in 2014.


  • 1. (BAL) Joe Flacco QB
  • 2. (CIN) Giovani Bernard RB
  • 3. (CLE) Brian Hoyer QB
  • 4. (CIN) Marvin Jones WR
  • 5. (CLE) Ben Tate RB
  • 6. (PIT) Lance Moore WR
  • 7. (CLE) Nate Burleson WR
  • 8. (CIN) Tyler Eifert TE
  • 9. (BAL) Owen Daniels TE
  • 10. (PIT) Markus Wheaton WR

Lance Moore. The ex New Orleans Saint was signed by Pittsburgh this off-season to help fill the void left by the departure of Jerricho Cotchery. He is fresh off his worst statistical season since 2007, but no need to worry if you’re a Steeler fan.

From 2010-2012. Moore averaged 61 REC per season as arguably the Saints third and sometimes fourth option. Ranging from 2008-2012 (Moore’s most productive time span) he saw the end zone 34 times! The man he is there to replace (Cotchery) only caught 12 TD’s during that same stretch.

Moore is also two years younger than Cotchery and has more career TD’s as well as better YPG (yards per game) average. He will be Pittsburgh’s clear-cut slot receiver and should be on your radar as a plug in at WR #3.

Ben Tate. After years of searching for and coming up empty. The Cleveland Browns have finally found their RB. The former Houston Texans backup has been nothing shy than spectacular when he is on the field.

When Tate plays 14 or more games he averages 178 rushing attempts for 857 yards. The league average for starting RB’s was 220 attempts. If Tate only meets the average in 2014 his estimated stat line (based on past performance) will be 220 ATT, 1,071 yds and 6 TD’s.

That would have made him the 12th ranked fantasy RB in 2013. Let’s face it, the Browns have ZERO other options at RB this season. New Head Coach Mike Pettine comes from Buffalo where his RB’s (Fred Jackson and CJ Spillar) had tremendous success.

New Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan comes from calling plays for Alfred Morris in Washington the last 3 seasons and we all know the numbers Morris posted. This all is very good news for not only Tate but for those of us who get stuck with a mid round pick.

Ben Tate will be a top 10 RB in 2014 and he should be high on your radar come draft day.

Tags:2014 NFL Fantasy Studs, Duds and Sleepers. (AFC North)

2014 Chevy Z/28 (No Air Conditioning)?

The New Z/28 is one of the fastest road course cars of its it kind. The Camaro went under major reconstruction to shave weight and boost performance times at the track. With a $75.000.00 price tag, most people would claim it is well worth what you pay for it.

Unfortunately there is a lot of squabbling on the Internet about how it is so disappointing that for that much money you don’t even get an air conditioner with the purchase.

First-off, the Z/28 can be ordered with an air conditioner. Although it does not come with one, if you specify that you want one they will put in on at the factory. Anyone, including dealerships has this option.

Lets say you buy one used and it never came with one from the factory. An aftermarket air condition can be bought and installed pretty easy. In fact, if you have some semi-knowledge of auto repair and have some tools, you could install one in your own driveway.

What’s the logic behind no air conditioning?

It’s simple: it cuts weight and it frees up horsepower. And for a car that is race ready, Chevy just doesn’t see the reason for the air conditioner.

And for all of you Ford fans out there that enjoy pointing out the missing air conditioning, as if it was some kind of flaw. Let us not forget a special Mustang that Ford came out with in 2000. A Cobra R with a huge, ugly, senseless wing, no radio, no A/C, and a lot of space behind the front seats; that’s because it came with no back seats. You could receive all of that for a price tag of $54,995.

Tags:2014 Chevy Z/28 (No Air Conditioning)?

2014 WR Keeper Rankings - Fantasy Football

2014 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver WR Keeper Rankings are based on a three year outlook for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 fantasy football seasons. 2014 WR Keeper Rankings are established for a standard fantasy football scoring system, with scoring categories including: Passing Yards: 1 point = 20 passing yards, Rushing Yards: 1 point = 10 rushing yards, Receiving Yards: 1 point = 10 receiving yards, Passing Touchdown: 4 points, Rushing/Receiving Touchdown: 6 points

A *RISING* / *FALLING* / *SLEEPER* status is included after specific players based on their potential change in ranking heading into the 2014 season.

Updated: December 4, 2012

1. Calvin Johnson – Det =

2. AJ Green – Cin =

3. Dez Bryant – Dal =

4. Demaryius Thomas – Den =

5. Josh Gordon – Cle = *RISING*

6. Randall Cobb – GB =

7. Brandon Marshall – Chi =

8. Julio Jones – Atl =

9. Torrey Smith – Bal =

10. Alshon Jeffery – Chi = *RISING*

11. Pierre Garcon – Was =

12. Antonio Brown – Pit =

13. Jordy Nelson – GB =

14. Percy Harvin – Sea =

15. Victor Cruz – NYG =

16. DeSean Jackson – Phi =

17. Larry Fitzgerald – Ari =

18. Andre Johnson – Hou = *FALLING*

19. TY Hilton – Ind = *RISING*

20. Eric Decker – Den =

21. Vincent Jackson – TB =

22. Mike Wallace – Mia =

23. Keenan Allen – SD =

24. Kendall Wright – Ten = *RISING*

25. DeAndre Hopkins – Hou =

26. Jeremy Maclin – Phi =

27. Cordarrelle Patterson – Min = *RISING*

28. Roddy White – Atl =

29. Wes Welker – Den =

30. Michael Crabtree – SF =

31. Danny Amendola – NE =

32. Hakeem Nicks – NYG = *FALLING*

33. Michael Floyd – Ari =

34. Tavon Austin – StL = *RISING*

35. Justin Blackmon – Jac = *FALLING*

36. Cecil Shorts – Jac =

37. Rueben Randle – NYG =

38. James Jones – GB =

39. Miles Austin – Dal =

40. Denairus Moore – Oak =

41. Aaron Dobson – NE =

42. Terrance Williams – Dal =

43. Robert Woods – Buf = *SLEEPER*

44. Justin Hunter – Ten =

45. Kenny Stills – NO = *SLEEPER*

46. Kenbrell Thompkins – NE =

47. Mike Williams – TB =

48. Marques Colston – NO =

49. Greg Jennings – Min =

50. Dwayne Bowe – KC = *FALLING*

51. Reggie Wayne – Ind =

52. Steve Smith – Car =

53. Jarrett Boykin – GB = *SLEEPER*

54. Kenny Britt – Ten = *FALLING*

55. Stevie Johnson – Buf =

56. Golden Tate – Sea =

57. Harry Douglas – Atl =

58. Riley Cooper – Phi =

59. Emmanuel Sanders – Pit =

60. Chris Givens – StL =

61. Marlon Brown – Bal =

62. Vincent Brown – SD =

63. Stephen Hill – NYJ =

64. Marvin Jones – Cin =

65. Rishard Matthews – Mia =

66. Darrius Heyward-Bey – Ind =

67. Santonio Holmes – NYJ =

68. Brian Hartline – Mia =

69. Markus Wheaton – Pit =

70. Anquan Boldin – SF =

71. Andre Roberts – Ari =

72. Greg Little – Cle =

73. Mohammed Sanu – Cin =

74. Doug Baldwin – Sea = *RISING*

75. Lance Moore – NO =

76. Brandon LaFell – Car =

77. Donnie Avery – KC =

78. Jeremy Kerley – NYJ =

79. Nate Washington – Ten =

80. Santana Moss – Was =

81. Nate Burleson – Det =

82. Brandon Gibson – Mia =

83. Mario Manningham – SF =

84. Brian Quick – StL =

85. TJ Graham – Buf =

86. Rod Streater – Oak =

87. Eddie Royal – SD =

88. Ted Ginn Jr – Car =

89. Dwayne Harris – Dal =

90. Jacoby Jones – Bal =

91. Jerome Simpson – Min =

92. Robert Meachem – NO =

93. Leonard Hankerson – Was =

94. Austin Collie – NE =

95. Josh Boyce – NE =

96. Jon Baldwin – SF =

97. Danario Alexander – SD = *SLEEPER*

98. Ryan Broyles – Det =

99. Sidney Rice – Sea =

100. Malcom Floyd – SD =

Tags:2014 WR Keeper Rankings - Fantasy Football

2014 FIFA World Cup Preview: Australia

Sports are meant to be a pleasant release from the stresses and turmoil that so many people living on the planet Earth face day-in-and-day-out. And while individual temperaments might flare from time to time, there is no question that sports are meant to be uplifting, exciting, and peaceful. They too are often disappointing, especially for fans frequently being let down by the team they support.

Perhaps there is no bigger stage in sport than the FIFA World Cup; the tournament, set every four years, has been nothing short of a spectacle worth celebrating since its inception in 1930. 32 teams have qualified for the finals tournament set to take place in Brazil this summer, and many diehard and casual fans alike will set their gaze at the happenings at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Amongst the field of 32 is a team representing the land down under: Australia.

Group B may be difficult for the Aussies

This will be the fourth time Australia has reached the finals of the World Cup tournament, with their best finish being in 2006 when they made the Round of 16. The 2014 edition of the tournament may prove to be more challenging for the socceroos to make it to the knockout stage, however, as they find themselves in a very loaded group.

Fans of the Australian national team must have put their hands in their face when the World Cup draw took place, pitting them in a group that includes Spain, Netherlands, and Chile. All these opponents will be a challenge, with Spain being the reigning World Cup and Euro champions and the squads from Netherlands and Chile being nothing short of quality themselves. If the Aussies want to stir things up, they’ll look for quick counterattacks and an exciting attacking style of play. It may seem unlikely for them to advance, but the Aussies have made it to the knockout stage before.

Who to watch

Tim Cahill is a veteran for the socceroos and if they are to have any success at the World Cup, he’ll have to shine. He is the all-time leading goal scorer for Australia and has scored three World Cup goals for the squad in 2006 and 2010 combined. He may be getting up there in age, but Mr. Cahill can still prove to be vital for Australia. The team may be pegged as one of the weaker in the tournament, but the matches still need to be played and the Aussies will come out fighting.

Group Schedule

June 13 versus Chile in Cuiaba

June 18 versus Netherlands in Porto Alegre

June 23 versus Spain in Curitiba


Tags:2014 FIFA World Cup Preview: Australia

20th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

“…We’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another “independence day,” one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom. As I look around at all these joyous faces, I remember clearly how many years of dedicated commitment have gone into making this historic new civil rights act a reality.”

President George Bush
Remarks at the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act
July 26, 1990

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the The ADA. A comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. The law says, “disability is a natural part of the human experience that in no way diminishes the right of individuals to:

• Live independently

• Enjoy self-determination

• Make choices

• Contribute to society

• Pursue meaningful careers

• Enjoy full inclusion and integration

We are unable to legislate people’s attitudes. However, by changing our behavior, we hope that our attitudes will also become one that is more inclusive of people with disabilities so that everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy all that America has to offer.

The 20th anniversary is also a time to remember all the nameless hero’s who fought and continue to fight for disability rights. Those who boycotted, picketed, lobbied, wrote letters,stood up, sat down, and filed lawsuits. Since the enactment of ADA, America’s perception and understanding of people with disabilities has evolved as more people with disabilities are empowered to be independent, active, highly contributing members of society. Despite some major improvements, unfortunetly, discrimination still persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, education, and recreation.

The 20th anniversary marks a historical landmark. It is important to recognize that America is a better place for the disabled, but the work is far from over. The fight for equality continues.

Tags:20th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

21: The Movie Review

21: The Movie is all about card playing and numbers, but do the numbers add up in this movie to worthwhile entertainment?

21 was directed by Robert Luketic and stars Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, and Lawrence Fishburne. It is based on the true tale of some MIT students who spent their weekends in Las Vegas making cash from playing blackjack. The secret to their success was a mathematical system of card counting, hand signals, and disguises.

There is an uproar amongst a few people of the world in the fact that this reality based movie is less reality and more Hollywood, with many events of pure fiction and a white guy cast in the lead role which in real life was an Asian man. However, let’s imagine they are not advertising this as a true story and just pick it apart and/or enjoy it as a movie meant to entertain.

21 is a by the numbers plot in reality and out of, with every beat so predictable that you will have felt like you have seen this all before. Every cliché in the book is here, with the one really irking me being the jealousy of one guy who is the hot shot being replaced by the new guy; you know the drill. However, the card playing scenes are handled well and overall the directing keeps things fairly interesting regardless. The acting works fine and the soundtrack is excellent.

I would have figured a movie based on a true story would have less plotholes or logical errors than a from scratch blockbuster of comic proportions, but there were many questions popping into my mind while watching it. An example is their hand signals they use when taking down a card table. They use the same arm motions every time, yet they are always concerned about using fake names and disguises to not get caught; yet they use the same repetitive signals every time which would stand out one would think once they became regulars; visiting the same casinos every weekend. Maybe in real life they were actually morons then?

The ending to the movie, though once again fully predictable is cute and fun; not to mention a complete work of fiction. yes, it is kind of hard to ignore and stop comparing it to reality when the advertising campaign is making that one of the major points of interest.

21 is going to ultimately be forgettable to me, having watched it at the movie theater, it is my opinion that it is a decent watch if you seek to be entertained. However, it is more of a rental type of movie and even then if you are looking for a new experience this isn’t really going to provide it. If you have seen the movie trailer, you’ve pretty much seen the movie.

Tags:21: The Movie Review

20th Street Grooming in Houston, Texas: A Review

20th Street Grooming in Houston, Texas, is so close to my house that I can actually walk there, so when it was time for Euri, my English Cocker Spaniel, to be groomed, we took a stroll (more like a run) over there. Euri had no idea what hit him; he was running as fast as he could on our journey – stopping to sniff along the way – and then suddenly we were inside a converted house. I could tell Euri liked the owner and the groomer but once they took him away from me, his enthusiasm waned. Yes, Euri is a mamma’s boy.

A few hours later after dropping Euri off, 20th Street Grooming phoned to let me know that Euri would be ready in 30 minutes. When I walked in, I saw my beautiful Euri. The groomer somehow managed to file his nails despite his displeasure with this particular beauty regime, and I was told he only screamed once. The term they used was yodeled, but I’ve heard Euri and I know it was probably more like a scream. Funnily enough he yodeled when he was being bathed – another activity he strongly dislikes – not when he was having his nails trimmed.

It was hard for me to see all of Euri’s haircut with him jumping all over me – you’d think he was in prison and was being let out for the first time in 20 years – but I finally managed to get him on his back. His belly fur had been trimmed nicely, his leg fur was trimmed as requested, and his groin area was shaved. Hmm, I’d never seen that before. I didn’t request that the entire inside of his back legs be shaved but I was told it was common practice to prevent rashes. I can see how keeping that area shaved would be beneficial since that’s where fleas like to hide; we found one on Euri in that very same area just a few months ago.

Euri no longer smelled like a dog and even his breath was tolerable – is that even possible for a dog? The owner, told me to come back if I wasn’t happy with anything, and made a note to not shave as much on his inner thigh for next time; however, now that I’ve had a chance to brush him, I think it’s OK. This is Houston after all, and with spring just around the corner it will soon be hot again. Next time I go to 20th Street Grooming, I think I’ll ask them to shave the inside of his front legs as well. The groomer has years of experience and has a way with dogs, so even my nervous Euri was OK getting his nails filed – now if that isn’t proof of a good groomer, I don’t know what is.

20th Street Grooming is an example of what makes the Heights so great. It’s a small, family owned business that makes dogs feel at home. In addition to grooming, they have doggy daycare with separate rooms for small and large dogs, and even an outdoor area for the more energetic dogs.

20th Street Grooming is located at 636 West 20th Street, Houston, Texas, 77008. For more information visit their web site at or call 713-868-9050. They are open from 7 AM – 6 PM Monday through Friday, and 9 AM – 3 PM on Saturday.

Tags:20th Street Grooming in Houston, Texas: A Review

2014 Is the Year to Buy a New Car

It’s 2014 and for some it’s time for a new vehicle. There are many things to think about when choosing a car. With all of the questions that come up the most important question for families is: How safe is this vehicle? So let’s talk the top five cars for families for 2014.

If you are interested in being friendly to the earth the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid is great choice. The price ranges from $25,852-$31,855 which is still pretty affordable. The MPG is 47 City/47 Hwy. Safety wise this car is golden. It includes five different locations for air bags including the driver, passenger, rear head, etc. It also includes child safety locks, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control.

The 2014 Honda Odyssey is a little more on the pricy side ranging from $27,384-$41,788, but it makes up for it in style and class. As far as minivans are concerned it gets great mileage estimating at about 19 city and 28 highway. In addition to being nice to look at it also offers a larger more comfortable feel with its flexible cargo area and three rows of seating. It’s sure to be a very popular car.

Looking for luxury? Try out the 2014 Acura MDX. This SUV comes equipped with three rows of seating, a six-speed automatic transmission and a smooth ride. With enough room for family it’s sure to be a comfortable ride for those long trips to grandmas. Now in order to gain luxury you must pay the price and it can be steep as it ranges from $41,735-$55,998. But what’s wrong with spending a little extra coins to ride in style and safety.

Want to talk affordable? The 204 Mazda Mazda3 gives you sleek and chic for a great price. Ranging from $17,224-$26,442 it’s the most affordable car on this list. It also has the great miles per gallon ranging from 30 mpg for city and 41 mpg for highway. Safety wise this model offers brake assist, 4-wheel dis brakes, and 5 different air bags.

Last, but not least, the 2014 Subaru Outback is sure to get a lot of buyers due to its 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway stats. Its price is pretty nice too ranging from $22,864-$30,777. Ranked number one out of nine wagons by USA News it’s a great choice for families looking to travel comfortably and safely.

Tags:2014 Is the Year to Buy a New Car

20/20 Gets into the 'Bachelor' Game with 'Inside the Bachelor: Stories Behind the Rose'

Still need Your Bachelor Fix? Following the enormous success of the ABC series The Bachelor, it looks like the network is milking a bit more out of it to tide fans over until Ali Fedotowsky’s turn as The Bachelorette airs later this spring. While The Bachelor Season 14 finale aired March 1st (Jake Pavelka picked Vienna , in case you haven’t heard) , last week the network aired the first Bachelor wedding in a 2- hour special, The Bachelor: Jason and Molly’s Wedding. Now, in the same Monday night time slot, ABC News is getting involved with 20/20’s investigative report on Inside The Bachelor: Stories Behind the Rose.

So what can viewers expect in this seemingly never-ending Bachelor installment? Based on the previews, looks like the show will contain interviews and updates on past contestants and couples and give viewers a behind the scenes look at the show, which will include “the most shocking and memorable moments in Bachelor history”.

It will be hosted by 20/20’s Deborah Roberts and Chris Connelly. According to TV Grapevine , some of the interviews featured will include Bachelors Bob Guiney, Dr. Travis Stork, Andrew Firestone, Brad Womack and Charlie O’Connell.

And what are some of the biggest “moments” in Bachelor land? While there’s no guarantee that these stories will be addressed, it would be a surprise if 20/20 didn’t include segments on these Bachelor shockers:

On Season 4, Bachelor Bob Guiney broke things off with his final lady, Estella Gardinier, only to hook up with ABC Family host and All My Children Star, Rebecca Budig, whom he met through Bachelor-related hosting gigs. The two married in 2004 but separated this year.

Season 11 Bachelor Brad Womack decided not to give his last rose to either of the two final girls. In a jaw dropper finale, he dumped both DeAnna Pappas and Jenni Croft. In Bachelor –speak, that move is now called “pulling a Womack”. No other Bachelor has done it since.

And Season 13 Bachelor Jason Mesnick notoriously changed his mind on his final pick. At the After the Final Rose taping, Mesnick officially ended things with Melissa Rycroft and asked Molly Malaney for another chance. Mesnick and Malaney were married last month.

If you find this all to be a bit laughable, keep in mind that The Bachelor is big business. As for its newsworthiness, maybe not so much– but it sure makes for some mindless drama.

You can catch 20/20’s Inside the Bachelor: Stories Behind the Rose on Monday, March 15th at 8:00 PM ET/PT on ABC.


Tags:20/20 Gets into the ‘Bachelor’ Game with 'Inside the Bachelor: Stories Behind the Rose’

2016 Will Be Governors for Prez: Chris Christie Blasts House Republicans

COMMENTARY | First it was Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal blasting his own political party, criticizing fellow Republicans for displaying dumbed-down conservatism in the 2012 presidential campaign, as reported in the Washington Post . Most of the vocal conservatives, of course, were members of Congress, specifically the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor reaped blame from critics during the 2012 campaign as turning the GOP into the “party of no” for their refusal to play ball and compromise with congressional Democrats. And now, according to CNN , a second prominent Republican governor has spoken out against his own club: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a GOP rising star, blasted Boehner for not voting on aid for Hurricane Sandy destruction, claiming this is “why the American people hate Congress.”

First Jindal criticizes the GOP status quo, then the fiscal cliff gets citizens annoyed with both parties, then Christie takes the fight directly to Congress. If America didn’t like Washington before, it really hates it now. Plus, with Democratic 2016 front-runner Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just now recovering from her concussion-plus-blood-clot injury, as explained by the New York Times , voters may look to state governors, not D.C., to provide presidential leadership next time around. Clinton’s brain injury, especially at her mature age, may make her a less viable 2016 presidential candidate, and the whole of Congress is tainted by the fiscal cliff conundrum. Governors like Jindal and Christie are taking to the media and providing upset politicos with breaths of fresh air.

The public likes the story of an underdog taking on the vast powers of Washington, and Christie fits the bill. A firebrand conservative who becomes more thoughtfully moderate when faced with the trauma of Hurricane Sandy, he has a change of heart and ends up taking on the staunch Republicans in Congress who would rather focus on slashing taxes for the wealthy than helping New York and New Jersey recover from the storm. You can practically see the movie poster. In a political scene where image is everything, Christie and Jindal, both governors who have struggled through natural/environmental disasters, have a story that outmatches anything Congress has to offer.

Tags:2016 Will Be Governors for Prez: Chris Christie Blasts House Republicans

20th Century Composers : A Quick History and My Personal Top 10

By the turn of the century and for the next few decades, artists of all nationalities were searching for exciting and different modes of expression. Composers such as Arnold Schoenberg explored unusual and unorthodox harmonies and tonal schemes. French composer Claude Debussy was fascinated by Eastern music and the whole-tone scale, and created a style of music named after the movement in French painting called Impressionism.

Hungarian composer Béla Barták continued in the traditions of the still strong Nationalist movement and fused the music of Hungarian peasants with twentieth century forms. Avant-garde composers such as Edgard Varèse explored the manipulation of rhythms rather than the usual melodic/harmonic schemes.

The tried and true genre of the symphony, albeit somewhat modified by this time, attracted such masters as Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich, while Igor Stravinsky gave full rein to his manipulation of kaleidoscopic rhythms and instrumental colors throughout his extremely long and varied career.

While many composers throughout the twentieth-century experimented in new ways with traditional instruments such as the “prepared piano” used by American composer John Cage, many of the twentieth-century’s greatest composers, such as Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini and the Russian pianist/composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, remained true to the traditional forms of music history.

In addition to new and eclectic styles of musical trends, the twentieth century boasts numerous composers whose harmonic and melodic styles an average listener can still easily appreciate and enjoy. The advance of technology has also had an enormous impact on the evolution of music in this century, with some composers using, for instance, the cassette player as a compositional tool or electronically generated sounds alongside classical instruments, the use of computers to compose music, and so on.

Here are is my personal top ten, if you are interested in checking them out, as well as others, go here:

10. Claude Debussy 1862-1918

9. George Gershwin 1898-1937

8. Richard Strauss 1864-1949

7. Aaron Copland 1900-1990

6. Arnold Schönberg 1874-1951

5. Igor Stravinsky 1882-1971

4. Béla Barták 1881-1945

3. Sergei Rachmaninoff 1873-1943

2. Kurt Weill 1900-1950

1. John Cage 1912-1992

Tags:20th Century Composers : A Quick History and My Personal Top 10

21 Top Inexpensive Budget Stocking Stuffers for Women

The sky is the limit when it comes to inexpensive budget stocking stuffers for women. Many small items are used daily (or almost daily) that work well for the Christmas stockings. Stockings should be lighthearted and fun.

If you aren’t sure what inexpensive budget stocking stuffers to buy for women this list is riding to your rescue. With it, you’ll get that stocking filled in no time.

What better stocking stuffers are there than stockings? Women can always use an extra pair for work or church. An inexpensive set of knee-highs can be kept in the glove compartment of the car for fashion emergencies. Consult with the woman in your life for brands and styles well ahead of the holiday.

Winter air dries skin. Lotions and hand cream are always helpful. Small tubes can be tucked into purses or backpacks. Pick these up in the health and beauty section of the grocery store or discount retail store.

Manicure kits
Small manicure kits can be found for around $5 or less. These are great for stuffers. Women can always use a second kit for traveling. Find these at a drugstore or discount retail store like Wal-Mart or Target.

Pens are always needed. A small set of pretty pens can often be picked up at the office supply store.

Lip balm
Winter air is as hard on the lips as it is on hands. Buy a small tube of lip balm from the beauty section of the grocery store.

Gift cards
Gift cards in small amounts can be a perfect gift. That $5 Starbucks card may be the perfect stocking stuffer addition for the woman in your life.

If you can’t buy Godiva then Hershey’s will do. Fun size or full size. There’s something about chocolate that makes almost every girl smile.

Christmas music
Inexpensive CDs can be found at dollar stores or discount retail stores. Choose from peppy sing-a-longs to soothing instrumental tunes.

A tiny flashlight can be a jewel at times. It can be carried in a purse, backpack or left in the glove compartment of a car. These can be found almost anywhere from dollar stores to grocery stores.

Speaking of jewels, they can be great in a stocking. A boxed holiday bracelet or pin fits well into a stocking. Visit the mall, a Christmas shop or your local Wal-Mart.

Begin a new tradition or continue an old one. A small Christmas ornament can bring joy for years to come. These can be found in the Christmas section of just about any store. Don’t wait too late in the season. Supplies will be picked over fast.

Memory cards
Is there anyone who can’t use an extra flash drive or memory card?

Hard candy, mints, gum or small packages of nuts or crackers can fill in space. They’re also good for in between meetings or days spent on the go.

Stress relievers
Toss in a small foam ball, hand held massager, tiny stuffed animal or other stress reliever and add it to the mix. Not only will these items bring a smile but they’ll ease stress later.

Hobby items
Items for a favorite hobby are almost always welcome. Pick the items up from an arts and crafts store. If you know what hobby is best but aren’t sure of which products to get, ask. Chances are high that a friendly clerk will be glad to help.

Fun office supplies
Small packages of decorative push pens, paper clips, pretty sticky notes or other fun office supplies can add a touch of fun to the workday. Any office supply store should have plenty to choose from.

Uncirculated dollar coins
An uncirculated dollar coin can be a fun stocking stuffer. Newer ones are gold in color and make an interesting conversation piece. You’ll need to make a trip to the bank for one (or more) of these.

Nail polish
Clear is always a good choice. At one time or another almost every woman will need a small bottle. It can be used on fingernails, to stop runs or for craft needs.

Sample size products
A sample size hairspray and toothbrush can be tossed into the glove compartment. Lotions, soaps and gels are great additions for women who love to travel. You can find these items in just about any grocery or drug store.

Small sewing kit
These are perfect for sewing on small buttons or doing a quick seam repair. Pick these up in a craft store or fabric department of your favorite discount retailer.

Handwritten note
Nothing is more inexpensive or says “I love you” more than a thoughtfully written note. Buy a blank card from the stationery store and write your personal note. This is a treasure that may be kept for a lifetime.

Personal experience

Tags:21 Top Inexpensive Budget Stocking Stuffers for Women

20th Anniversary of Northwest Hillsborough County Road Construction Projects

As a follower of the Hillsborough County (Florida) Metropolitan Planning Organization, I stay pretty up-to-date with what is going on with Hillsborough County’s roadways. As a resident of Northwest Hillsborough County for most of my life, I have an especially vested interest in how the roads are taking shape in my neck of the woods.

Up until the recent economic woes, it seemed there was always something being built somewhere in Hillsborough County. For a good part of my young years, that growth was largely centered in Northwest Hillsborough County, which includes areas of Carrollwood, Northdale, Forest Hills, and Town & Country (for all unfamiliar with Tampa, these are suburbs north and west of Tampa International Airport and Raymond James Stadium — where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL professional football team plays).

Coincidentally enough, I was not only a young boy at the time, I was a young boy who loved the construction and road-widening activity that was popping up all along Northwest Hillsborough County during the late 1980s: North Dale Mabry Highway, Pine Crest Manor Boulevard, Gunn Highway, West Waters Avenue, West Fletcher Avenue, and West Bearss Avenue — all major arteries of Northwest Hillsborough County that turned orange and yellow with barricades, cones, and work equipment.

Why Mark the “Anniversary” of Road Construction?

I was going through some old photographs of mine just the other day and came across a couple packets of old photographs of the construction projects from the time. It immediately popped into my head that it was 1989 when Northwest Hillsborough County road construction projects were in their peak of madness.

Certainly, anyone reading this who knows Tampa-area traffic can attest that the traffic problems still exist today, even with the multi-million dollar road construction projects that were all abuzz twenty years ago. But then, where would we be without a six-lane, double-left-turn Dale Mabry Highway (just a two-and-four-lane road before then)?

We could forget east-west travel throughout Northwest Hillsborough County had West Fletcher and Bearss Avenues remained two-lane winding, neighborhood roads. Whose mind does not fall into a vice grip at the mere thought of Lake Magdelene Boulevard and Country Club Drive being practically the main roads in Carrollwood/Forest Hills/Lake Magdalene neighborhoods? (Longtime residents know exactly what I’m talking about!).

I am certain few of us here are fans of sprawl, and many will say it was these very projects, along with the Veteran’s Expressway which was originally completed in by 1994, that helped feed the monstrous suburban growth that marked the 1980s and 1990s in Northwest Hillsborough County. Citrus Park Mall, Westchase, and “west” Lutz would have been virtually impossible without the expansion of the Northwest Hillsborough County roadway system which underwent massive makeovers and widening during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But its fair to say the growth — seemingly uncontrollable growth — would have come anyway, had these Northwest Hillsborough County roads been widened or not.

So let’s mark the 20th anniversary of Northwest Hillsborough County road construction not with a collective “ugh,” but a contemplative “hmm…” as we wonder where we would be today as commuters, as shoppers, as Tampans, without the massive road construction projects we courageously endured (and I very much enjoyed) twenty years ago….


Personal experience

Tags:20th Anniversary of Northwest Hillsborough County Road Construction Projects

2014 Texas Primary Roundup

COMMENTARY | There are a number of takeaways to consider from the results of the 2014 Texas Primaries. Quite a few races have already been decided for the fall, but there were at least two interesting runoffs that resulted as well.

For Texas governor, not surprisingly, Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, was nominated as was State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat. Even though Davis is well funded and has some national recognition, thanks to her pro abortion filibuster, Abbott is heavily favored to win.

David Dewhurst, the current lt. governor, is in some trouble, having found himself in a runoff with the fiery conservative state senator, Dan Patrick. Dewhurst seems to have been wounded by his unsuccessful race for the United States Senate against Ted Cruz. Patrick actually tallied more votes than Dewhurst, despite a decidedly negative campaign waged against him in the closing weeks of the campaign. Dewhurst’s political career is now in doubt.

On the other hand Sen. John Cornyn easily beat Rep. Steve Stockman, who ran a decidedly lack luster campaign after quixotically giving up a safe seat in Congress. On the Democratic side, businessman Dan Alameel will face Kesha Rogers, a Lyndon LaRouche acolyte who favors impeaching Obama, repealing Obamacare, and exploring the moon and Mars. If nothing else, this runoff will have some entertainment value as state Democrats scramble to make sure that Rogers does not embarrass them by winning.

The primary featured the victory of one George P. Bush in the race for Texas Land Commissioner. It is a small but important state wide office and is considered the first step in a modern day cursus honorum that could lead just about anywhere. Bush the Youngest is heavily favored to win in the fall.

As National Review notes, Katrina Pearson, who received a number of endorsements from tea party politicians, including Sarah Palin, lost handily to Rep. Pete Sessions, an establishment politicians, albeit one with impeccable conservative credentials.

The upshot is that going into the fall, it looks like Republican dominance of Texas will continue with the GOP heavily favored to hold on to all statewide offices.

Tags:2014 Texas Primary Roundup

21st Century Magic: Candle Colors Part 2 of 2

Only for informational and entertainment purposes. In this article about Magic in the 21st Century, I am referring to the various candle colors and their meaning in spell-casting. In other words I give you the right candle color for every situation/spell. This is Part 2 of 2.

Orange: A misunderstood color as it is a key color for candle spells. You can use orange candles alone or along with other colors to increase the overall energy of the spell. Orange helps you discover who you really are. It helps in love spells, career and communication spells.

Brown: A very strong and meaningful color. It can be used for grounding spells or spells involving the healing of a wounded self-esteem. Brown is also associated with the five senses in magic and it can be used to enhance these senses.

Copper: You might confuse this color with something else. Remember that copper is shiny like silver and gold. These colored candles are so powerful in spell casting. It can help you visualizing your goals better, ideal for career spells.

Magenta: A rare color for candles. But when you own such candle you can increase the energy of the spell by 100 times or more! It is used in special cases/spells. For example when immediate spiritual healing is needed for severe wounds.

Indigo: This is a truly magical color for candles. This is ideal for spells to get rid of unwanted situations and people. Many spell-casters use these candles to reach the deepest levels of the occult world by relaxation/meditation.

Lavender: If you find such colored candle purchase a few. They are ideal to empower your protection shields. Also, very good to improve your 6th sense (instinct), your intuition…

Royal Blue: This is the color of happiness and harmony. Burn a candle colored with Royal Blue to cause all sorts of wonderful situations and people to appear in your reality. Ideal to increase your influence on people.

Emerald Green: This is a shiny Green color and candles with this color can be used in money spells but most of all to heal infertility in both men and women.

Light Blue: As you can see in 21st century magic we use a variety of blue colored candles. If you happen to find light blue candles then use them for any spiritual purpose or to increase your own spirituality in unimaginable levels…

Grey: This is considered the color of Balance in Magic. As a result it is used to neutralize complex situations, issues and people. Burn it to fight any negative influences and to “see” more clearly…

Dark Green: Another dominative color in the magical world of candles (Green). As a result we find more than one shades/types of Green candles. Dark Green can be used to bring back lost money, it can also show you what money is. A lot of spell-casters use Dark Green candles to fight jealousy and greed.

So, here ends the second part of this article. If you want to read part 1, please see my yahoo writer’s profile. I also recommend this free love spell in printable pdf format. It is supposed to help you rebuild or resolve your love matters and live your love life to the fullest. Study it carefully.

Tags:21st Century Magic: Candle Colors Part 2 of 2

21 Simple Ways to Enhance Your Happiness

“What you focus on enhances”.

These simple and fun ways will help you focus on the good things in life, and will help you achieve your birthright to be happy.

1. The things you love – Every one of you have things that make you feel happy, things that you really love doing. Go do yours. Take a dance lesson, watch a comedy show, go to the cinema, play the piano, eat a gourmet dinner, anything that makes you feel happy and great.

2. Treats – Treat yourself to a pleasure – you deserve it.Take a bath, have a massage, do a pedicure, eat a good healthy meal and enjoy it. Give yourself a gift and treat yourself with love.

3. People – Spend time with people you love, spend time with people who are happy and have good energy, join a group of people who share the same interests as you do.Spend time with highly motivated people who can uplift you and motivate you.

4. Music – Listen to good and uplifting music, music that makes you happy, music of the kind that as you listen to it, takes your soul to a place that wants to that makes you enjoy every minute.Increase the amount of music in your life and you will enjoy your lives immensely.

5. Television – Choose to watch good TV. TV that raises your spirit and makes you smile, you can choose to watch some kind of a comedy show, or perhaps a documentary about famous leaders, people who have made it to the top of their achievements.

6. News – Stop watching the news. Who needs to listen to the news dozens of times a day?No one, it’s just a waste of time. Choose doing something better with your time.

7. Magazines – Subscribe to inspiring magazines, in print or online, there is a great variety to choose from. Subscribe to newsletter that focuses on good and happy things. Enrich your world with things that will nurture you.

8. Internet – Make your internet homepage one of a good website.There are so many great websites that focus on good things, Google the word happiness or joy, find a website you like and make it your homepage.

9. Events – Go to inspiring and uplifting events, attend a workshop or a lecture about the things you love or the things you want to achieve, go to a party. Go to events that are for your highest good, it will benefit you and you will meet lovely people.

10. Photographs – Open your photo album and take out the photos that best capture the joyful moments in your life. Find a way to display your favorite photos in a place where you can see them all the time.It’s a great way to focus on the happy times you have experienced in your life.

11. Movies – Watch inspiring movies, movies that are filled with love and serenity,watch funny movies that makes you laugh, take your family and go watch a Disney Pixar movie, these movies are great way to have fun and spend time with family, friends and even by with yourself.

12. Books – Books can be a great source of inspiration and motivation. Read books about people who succeeded in the area, in which you want to succeed, read great men/women biographies, read self-help books. Choose to read whatever serves your highest good.

13. Radio – Listen to good radio shows, I highly recommend Hay house Radio, or Opera Radio.

14. The happy journal – Buy yourself a notebook and write in it every day/week all the great things that happened to you during that day/week. It is very powerful and it will help you focus on the good things in your life.

15. Letters and emails – Send yourself an email or a letter, saying to yourself how wonderful and great you are. Send yourself reminder that you are important and that it is time to do something to enhance your happiness.

16. Physical activity – Do some kind of physical activity, like: power walk, run, dance, and swim, find the type of exercise you like.You will feel and be more energetic, more vital, and healthier.

17. Food – Eat healthy good food, which will nurture your body with good ingredients, so you will be healthier and have more vitality.

18. Good Morning Open the Day with things that raise your Spirits. Pray and think of the great day you are about to have, imagining yourself doing things you love. Give thanks about the good things you are blessed with. Play some music and dance for few minutes, read a chapter from your inspiring book, or your magazine, anything to open the day focusing on the good side of life. You will notice how your days will suddenly turn good.

19. Good Night – Fall asleep with something relaxing, and it better be positive. Meditation or a relaxing music can be great ways to close the day. Your sleep will improve tremendously and will be deeper and more relaxing.

20. Compliments – Compliment yourself for taking control of your life and for doing all these things that enhance your happiness. You are an amazing lovable person and you deserve to be happy.

21. Pay it forward – Last but not list; send this to your family and friends, so they can enhance their happiness too.

These things are so fun, simple and easy to do.

Doing these things will help you focus on Goodness, Love, Joy, Abundance, Growth, Health, Happiness, Wealth, Pleasure,Success, Fulfillment, Wholeness, Peace, Openness, Friendship, Family, Beauty, Excitement, Power, Creativity, Inspiration, Courage, Awareness, Fun, Celebration and more.

Try it to see for yourself and simply enjoy life.

Happy and healthy living,

Hagit Dayan

Life, Love,Joy

Hagit Dayan – Creator, writer, artist, entrepreneur, a happy & healthy person

Author of the book “Love, Life, Joy” Co-Author of the cook book “Tasty and Healthy”

Creator, writer, painter, entrepreneur, a happy person Founder of the website that was founded to fulfil a dream of creating a place that is all about good, loving, joyful and healthy living. Author of the book “Love, Life, Joy”, Co-Author of the cook book “Tasty and Healthy”

Tags:21 Simple Ways to Enhance Your Happiness

21st Birthday Speeches

Traditionally every 21st birthday in punctuated by friends and family of the lucky birthday boy or girl making the infamous 21st birthday speech.

Planning a speech can be a daunting task. You want your speech to be memorable for all the good reasons, not the bad ones. I good 21st speech should:

  • Not go on forever
  • Make the audience laugh or smile
  • Embarrass somebody.
  • Describe a classical moment from the birthday boy/girl’s life
  • Thank everyone for being there
  • Toast
  • Let them eat cake.

If it’s not your birthday then a good anecdote may be how you first met the birthday boy/girl (or their childhood if you’re a parent). If you can’t remember anything suitable, then try to remember a moment that really defined the birthday boy/girl’s character. Perhaps they did something particularly brave, kind or creative and you think that moment clearly displayed what sort of person they truly are.

If you can’t think of a character defining moment, then perhaps a memorable anecdote or something profound that they once said. Do they have a unique accomplishment? Perhaps they wrote poetry in their teens, or worked for charity, or nearly died doing something stupid. All could be worth mentioning if they may make your audience smile.

Do keep your story short and sweet- guests don’t want you to go on forever. Some people chose to say “I have prepared only a short speech” before pulling reams of notes out of their pockets. Personally, after a dozen 21st birthdays this joke gets old, but it’s a personal choice.

Don’t forget to allow other people to speak. They may not have planned speeches, but something you’ve said may have reminded them of something hilarious, touching or memorable.

If it’s your birthday then you must remember to thank everyone for coming, especially if it’s a surprise party, whether you wanted it or not! Surely you were aware that your birthday was coming, it’s on the same day every year. You may chose to correct an important detail in a previous speaker’s version of events, especially if it makes it less embarrassing for you and more embarrassing for them. Generally you don’t tell funny stories about other people – wait until their birthday.

Even if you didn’t particularly like what people have said, thank them for speaking anyway. It takes courage to stand up in front of a gathering and praise someone. Thank them for speaking (thank them for stopping if you must) and invite everyone to continue having fun.

Tags:21st Birthday Speeches

22 Fun Ways to Upcycle Plastic Detergent Bottles

Are you trying to go green? You’ve traded your convenient paper towels for washable towels. You’re hanging clothes on the line, stopped using paper plates, and are composting everything you can possibly feed to your new container of worms. You are to be commended my friend!

It’s a challenge to change old habits and the challenge can be heightened when you live in a ‘non- recycling friendly’ area. When finding an appropriate recycling bin for your waste is difficult, you’re more likely to just toss it in the trash bin. The other choice, is to store them like nuts to a chipmunk and end up with a garage full of cans and detergent bottles. No longer shall your shed be packed with laundry detergent and dish detergent bottles!

After searching through blogs and twitter friends I found 22 great ways to re-use your detergent bottles. (please remember to always rinse these bottles thoroughly!)

For crafting:

1.Use for storage of beads or other small craft item. Fun foam beads are great for this! Little kids get a kick out of seeing what color will come out next!
2. For larger bottles, gently remove the spout and stuff your skein of yarn into the bottle. Feed your strand through the spout and you have a great way to hold your yarn tangle free while you knit or crochet! (and it does not get dirty rolling around on the floor)You can also carefully cut a little ‘door’ on the side to input larger skeins, or to store your needle.
3. On less round bottles, the sides can be cut out and used to create custom templates. Paper card stock templates change in size every time you trace around them. These make great templates for quilting – you get the same size every time.
4. Dishwasher detergent bottles are a great size for storing bottles of craft glue. Simply cut down the bottle roughly 4 inches tall. You could easily store 3-4 bottles of glue. Leave one upside down for easy dispensing!

Organizational Helpers:

5. Dish detergent bottles and dish washer detergent bottles make great soap dishes! Just cut an inch or so off the bottom and poke a small drain hole- voila!
6. Start using Make Your Own (MYO) laundry detergent and store it in your old yucky detergents bottle (after you clean out all those bad chemicals)
7. Store your weekly supply of baby wipe solution for easy dispensing when the wipes warmer gets low. A little tea tree oil will keep the solution fresh all week.
8. Large containers, such as bulk detergent or coffee containers, make excellent storage devices. Many coffee companies are using square shaped plastic containers that stack wonderfully.
9. Cut off the tops of large detergent containers to get a great handled desk or drawer organizer for just about anything!
10. Keep one by the washer as a Lost Penny Piggy Bank. Any lose change found in pockets or wash tubs become fair game for mommy’s piggy bank! (And no one will think to look in the bottle!)
11. Take out that messy bag of sand or cat litter in your trunk and pour it into your detergent bottle. Much cleaner and easier to handle while still keeping you prepared for roadside emergencies!
12. While your at it, fill one with water for that hot radiator.

Just for fun:

13. Cut out a scoop shape for scooping snow or sand! (Great tip from a great mom!)
14. Let the kids use it as a toy in the bath tub! Small children love to pour water from one container to another. It can even double as a rinse bucket for hair washes.
15. Easy watering can for indoor and outdoor plants. Turn it into an automatic watering pot by poking a couple holes at the bottom and setting it, filled with water, next to one of your garden plants.
16. Remember that part you cut off for your soap dish? Use the other side as a handy funnel!
17. Easily turn your scoop into a dog food or cat food scooper.
18. Fill with water and stash in your toilet tank to conserve water.
19. Tie to your boat as a dock bumper for extra protection.
20. Never forget where you caught that big fish! Use your washed bottle as a buoy!
21. Fill with a variety of items to make musical instruments. Great for home schooling! Let the kids test to see what sound beads make versus beans or marsh mallows!
22. Use the bottoms as starter planters for your spring time herb garden.

It is hard to totally eliminate the use of plastic products. Especially when we are so accustomed to the products contained within them. Sometimes the best we can do it to use it as many times as we can for as long as we can. Make the most of your refuse and share with us what YOU can do with your bottles.

Tags:22 Fun Ways to Upcycle Plastic Detergent Bottles

21st Anniversary of Tracing the Roots of Raising Children in Contemporary Society

The Guardian reported on April 7 the 21st Anniversary of the ongoing research, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The study, also called Children of the 90s, started in 1991 in Bristol, England, to understand childhood, raising children and teenage years. Since no research exists in the U.S. on as detailed a study of growth and development, U.S. scientists use the database from ALSPAC. More than 650 academic centers from around the world tap into the database with most of the scientists representing the U.S.

Mothers signed up their children starting in April 1991 until 13,988 children entered the study. Due to individuals dropping out of the study, only about 8,500 subjects remain in 2012. As people’s lives become busy, members of the study group drop participation, which is a normal event in long-term studies. The number of subjects in the study continues to represent a group of significant size for research.

Both mothers and their children undergo detailed assessment to obtain the data for the study. Regular healthcare visits collect physical measurements like height, weight and blood pressure. Separate questionnaires obtain information on social and psychological subject matter such as drugs, smoking and alcohol. Discrete administrative data records school, work or criminal information. Finally, researchers collect biological samples of blood, saliva, urine, baby teeth and hair. DNA comprises 10,000 specimens from mothers and children each. The subjects deserve accolades for their ongoing commitment to science.

The University of Bristol houses the Children of the 90s study. To date, scientists produced over 700 papers and published over 300 articles based on this ongoing research. The scientific studies vary from basic research using DNA sequencing for association with disease to recording daily intake of food to reveal the effect of diet on obesity.

What are some of the key findings? The Wellcome Trust, a financial supporter of Children of the 90s, highlighted some of the valuable research obtained from ALSPAC. Projects found that 15 minutes of moderate exercise per day reduces childhood obesity, that many common genes generate a small but distinct impact on weight, height and other aspects of growth, that owning a dog encourages pregnant women to exercise and that young people have too much salt in their diets. Another study found almost a third more infants suffered diarrhea and ear infections in homes where parents used air fresheners daily compared with homes with only once a week use.

The research continues and the study hopes to answer some of the contemporary questions such as autism, home environment influence on asthma, accidents and violence in the home and the effects of working mothers on child development to name a few. Stay tuned for more thought-provoking breakthroughs on early health and development in the future from the Children of the 90s.

Tags:21st Anniversary of Tracing the Roots of Raising Children in Contemporary Society

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