Carnage does not end even with Christmas in sight!



Christmas is less than a week away. The news should be dominated by stories of weather, shopping, and heart warming stories of family.  I would expect to turn the news on this time of year and see stories about the next big storm dropping 8-12″ of snow on an area of our country.  You would think there will be news crews at the local shopping center showing the hustle and bustle of Holiday shopping.  You would also love to see stories about families persevering through some type of issue.  You would also see people volunteering at soup kitchens and warming shelters for the less fortunate. Unfortunately, that is not the case.  There are three stories that are quite troubling that have dominated the news the last few days.

The first story seems to be an accident of devastating consequences.  In Tultepec, Mexico, there was a large explosion in a fireworks market. In the news story I posted, there are photos and videos of the incident.  It is quite terrifying to watch that video and think of the people that were in that area as it was happening.  The latest reports are that 32 people have died because of the blast and many more are injured.  Getting past the loss of life, the survivors will have to deal with loss of property as well.  It was said that only 10 out of 300 structures are still standing.  Obviously, the fireworks they were selling are mostly gone as well.  It will not be easy for these people to rebuild their lives and that is sad.

How about the news out of Berlin?  A large truck was driven into a crowd of people in a Christmas market.  At least 12 people have passed as a result of this accident.  Unfortunately, this was an accident that could have been avoided.  It is being reported that this was yet another act of terror!  When will it end?  An ISIS “soldier” apparently hi-jacked the truck and killed the driver.  Then drove the truck into the crowd to cause the damage.  The authorities seem to know who the person is and a massive manhunt is underway. Hopefully, they catch the criminal before more damage is done.  The people that have needlessly passed leave behind many loved ones that should not have to be burying their family and friends.

There is also the story from Turkey.  A Russian ambassador was shot and killed while giving a speech in an art gallery in Turkey.  He was shot by his Turkish Envoy.  This is obviously some type of political issue between the countries and the envoy felt the need to end a man’s life over it.  There were some journalists in the room when it happened and they were able to take some chilling pictures and video.  You can watch the video on the link I gave, but it is graphic and upsetting.  Here is yet another needless death that will leave people in tears instead of celebrating the Holiday season.

Some accidents and deaths can not be avoided.  However, there are plenty that can be.  Just because it is the Holiday season , it should not make these incidents appear greater than any other time of year.  However, when reflecting over a long year it seems this time of year should be a joyous celebration of many beliefs and ideologies.  It is apparent that might never be the case as life as we know it will not cease because of the time of year.

Happy Holidays!

—Victor Mandalawi

Do they need rest?



The NBA recently came to an agreement with their players union.  They are admitting that it is a great time to be in the NBA.  They have a monster TV contract and the teams are making plenty of money.  The players are also reaping the rewards of the monster TV deals.  So who is losing in the deal?  I would argue the fan is losing.  Ticket prices, concessions, memorabilia, and many other items have increased as well.  Even if you do not go to a game you are paying more if you watch. The networks now have to charge subscribers more for their service.  They also have to charge their advertisers more for the ad spots and I would think that gets passed onto the consumer(us).  If you are able to put that aside and decide to spend your money and go to an NBA game it could be a great experience.  Maybe once in a lifetime for some people.  What happens if you spend your time and money and the team does not play their best players?  Would that be an issue?  That is becoming more prevalent and I am not sure there is an easy answer for it.

So your favorite player is Lebron James and his team is coming to play your local team.  You decide to buy tickets to the game.  You notice that they are more expensive than other regular season games and you wonder why.  It is called dynamic pricing!  It is a ticket pricing structure that has been happening for a few years.  It stinks as a fan to have to pay more for a ticket based on the team being played or the day or date of the game.  However, it makes perfect sense for the organization. It is simple supply and demand business!

You still have tickets and are excited to get to the game.  When you get there you realize your favorite player is not playing, as well as the other two stars on the team.  You figure injuries are a part of the game and you deal with it.  However, you learn that they are not playing just because they are “resting”.  According to Forbes, it is the NBA’s number one problem.  Many teams have been doing this for a few years, rest your players to keep them fresh throughout the year and try to avoid injuries.  Does that make it easier on Average Joe that spent a lot of money to get his family to the game? The simple answer is no!

The Cavaliers front office seems more than at peace with this.  They should be, they rested their players at an away game and did not anger their season ticket holders.  They are keeping their players “rested” for a playoff push.  So according to the GM, “There’s just no reason to push anything”.  Even though the fans are losing in this situation, how can we argue with it?  If a Dr. tells a coach that if he rests a player, he will be better later in the season it makes sense to rest him.  After all, most coaches will get paid based on their playoff performance, not if they win or lose 1-2 games more in the regular season.  I do not understand why they rested all 3 stars.  Would it not make more sense to rest one at a time?  Would that give you a better chance at winning those games vs. a “forfeit”?

I do not think there is a simple answer to the issue.  I certainly would hate to be the fan that loses on this end of the deal.  However, the team has to protect their assets and do whatever they think helps them win it all.  The only way this changes is if the fans stop buying tickets, but that’s really not possible because you have no idea who will be resting and when they are resting.  Basically, the situation stinks and would love to see it corrected somehow.

Wish List!



The Holidays are right around the corner and I am sure you are looking to give the best gifts you possibly can. There will be a few people that are already done shopping, but the majority has some shopping left.  I would imagine people have all different types of methods to get their shopping finished as well as not having a method at all and just “winging” it.  Some people operate better that way, but I have to have a plan.  Without one, it can be a daunting task.  Online shopping has become quite a bit more popular over the years and I utilize this option quite a lot.  However, no matter how easy it is, I feel that it takes away from some of the nostalgia of shopping for gifts.  Fighting people, weather, and your loved ones is part of the “charm” of shopping.  As always there are a few items that seem to be unattainable due to popularity or a lack of production. Also, the Holidays would not be complete without mentioning toys that are dangerous!

Picture this scene, your child wants a hatchimal and you are unable to find one online or at any store you have checked.  Their website even starts with a notice about the demand being great and they can not keep up.  However, one day you read that your local store will be getting a shipment and decide to go get it.  When you get to the store you see a line of 100 people.  You realize that the people are there for the same item you are.  You might as well go home, but you stay.  When the store opens they only have 5 and are sold before the line even realizes.  So the next time you decide to get in line earlier.  You spend 4 hours in a line to have a chance to get a toy for your child.  This time you are the 7th person in line and you feel pretty good about getting the item.  The store opens and they have 6.  You are out of luck!  That can be awfully daunting for some. However, I think some people love the thrill of the hunt.  I personally could find something better to do with my time!

There are plenty of other gifts available and here is a list compiled by USA Today.  Some people have no budget and that is their right.  However, I have a budget and would have a hard time spending $400 on a blow dryer or $100 on slippers.  Also, who compiles this list.  So a great gift idea is a cheese board shaped like a dog. What is you do not like dogs?  Another thing I find crazy would be the amount of money spent on coffee makers and coffee in general. I would think a $200 coffee maker makes it the same as a $25 one?

People are free to do what they want with their money and time.  You can see all kinds of things that you deem crazy but other people find to be perfectly normal.  Maybe that is what makes the Holiday season a magical journey?  I hope you find your loved one the perfect gift!

—Victor Mandalawi





Is that a terrifying site?  It certainly is to me.  I would assume many are familiar with the ongoing wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains.  There has been loss of life, loss of property, and of course just simply being moved from your home can be quite scary.  Many times when disasters occur you take notice but maybe not as much as you should.  This has shaken me a little more than others because I have been to this area for vacation.  It is a beautiful area, full of natural wonder and rich history.  Of course, it has become quite the tourist area over the years, but it still has plenty of scenic offerings.

The Red Cross has a great website that covers wildfires.  It shows where current fires are and there containment level.  As you can see on the map, there is quite a large concentration of them in the Smoky Mountain region.  The website also gives really solid information on the stages of a wildfire.  They have it broken down into categories like: about, prepare, recover, rebuild.  It is not something I ever want to have to use for my own help as it is sad to think about the devastation that can occur.

In this article from CNN,  you will see the image of a status of Jesus as the only thing left standing in a house that was burned by wildfire.  There is also the story of a worker at DollyWood theme park finding a burned page of the Bible. You can think what you want of those items, but for some it will give strength and purpose to their fight.

Ultimately, as bad as it hurts your personal items can be replaced.  The loss of life cannot be replaced and that has happened 7 times as of now.  Losing your home or keepsakes is bad enough, but a family member or friend is very hard to deal with.  You would like to think that it would be avoidable, but fire can be very unpredictable.  Dolly Parton is a local icon and she has vowed to help the affected with sizeable donations.  She has also set up a fund for the victims and I would think that she will make sure the money is used properly.

This page has a video of an evacuee leaving the area.  There is some poor language so be careful when viewing, however, it also shows just how intense the situation was.  I am not sure how I would react to this and I sure I hope I do not have to.  I feel awful for those effected.  I am sure the community will rebuild as strong as ever, but the loss of life will sting many for years to come.