Thanksgiving 2018!

On Thursday, November 22nd, we will celebrate Thanksgiving!  Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States and has been celebrated that way for over 150 years.  Obviously, the roots of Thanksgiving go back much further in time about 400 years ago.  Thanksgiving day and the long weekend is a great time for family and friends to get together and celebrate each other. What does the day and weekend mean to you?  I wanted to take a look at some of the statistics surrounding Thanksgiving, the travel surrounding Thanksgiving, the cost of your Thanksgiving meal, and of course NFL football!

On Thursday, the NFL takes center stage and plays 3 games.  Ever since I was young I can remember the Lions hosting a game and the Cowboys hosting a game.  I have plenty of great memories sitting around with family members watching games or even sleeping on the couch during a game.  This year might not be any different.  The Lions host the upstart Bears in the first game of the day.  The next game will be longtime rivals with the Redskins visiting the Cowboys.  In the final game of the day, we might be treated to a shootout with the Falcons visiting the Saints.  If you can hang in there for all 3 games you should be some pretty decent football.  Good luck!!

In 1863, President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a National Holiday.  Since that date many traditions have formed like a turkey getting a Presidential Pardon.  This infographic is great and shows some real fun facts. President Bush started pardoning turkeys in 1989.  As you can see, 2 turkeys are sent to the White House with one being pardoned.  I wonder what happens to the other?  It is estimated that 45 million turkeys will meet their end this Thanksgiving.  Over 100,000 questions are answered on the Butterball turkey hotline during the holiday period.  Wait, their is a turkey hotline?  The best statistic is that 96% of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in some fashion, what are the other 4% doing?

Thanksgiving also brings cost to families that are hosting.  Check out this great article showing the cost of Thanksgiving each year since 1947.  Obviously the cost will go up every year or almost every year.  Check out the inflation adjusted cost to get a real good idea.  It is pretty easy to say that the meal was $14 when you were born and the cost has gone way up, but inflation is what matters in this instance.  One other thing that is nice to see, the cost has started a downward trend over the last 8 years.

Finally, we have to talk about Thanksgiving travel. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be one of the busiest travel days of the year.  It is estimated that 54 million Americans will be traveling at least 50 miles from home this year.  This year is predicted to be the busiest in 13 years. Air travel is also predicted to be busier as well.  Whether you will be driving or flying, please take your time and have patience.

Every November my family celebrates Thanksgiving and I hope your does as well.  The day can have plenty of meaning for you and your family.  I have great memories dating all the way back to my youth that surround the Thanksgiving weekend.  The memories include football, food, traveling, and family.  I hope you are able to say the same and I wish for the memories to continue building regardless of what your family traditions may be.

—Victor Mandalawi

 

Interesting Facts About and the Business of Halloween!

Halloween is right around the corner as it is celebrated on October 31st.  There will be plenty of Halloween parties this weekend, for both children and adults.  Many kids will walk their neighborhoods while dressed up and collect candy.  Halloween is a very popular “holiday” and it has turned into big business, very big business!  I wanted to take a look at the statistics of Halloween and some interesting facts about the Holiday.  I also wanted to look at the origins of Halloween to see how the traditions may have started.

Halloween can be traced back 6000 years to Celtic speaking countries.  It shares a date with Samhain, which was a Gaelic festival held on October 31st and November 1st marking the end of the harvest season.  There are plenty of other influences on Halloween, but when did it become mainstream in the US?  The modern Halloween as we know it started in small Irish and Scottish immigrant communities during the mid 19th century.  By the early 20th century it had spread coast to coast and was celebrated by people of all backgrounds.  Many people would wear homemade costumes and it was not until the 1930’s that mass produced costumes were introduced.  Trick or Treating was stopped for a few years during World War II, but as soon as the war was over it started again and has picked up popularity ever since.

Here is a great post sharing plenty of interesting facts about Halloween.  The first Jack o’ Lanterns were made from turnips.  I mentioned it earlier, but Samhainophobia is considered the fear of Halloween.  The most popular candy for trick or treaters is chocolate.  The great magician, Harry Houdini, died on Halloween.  It is estimated that 75% of Americans will hand out candy.  Not all countries are as obsessed with Halloween as Australia and France believe the day to be overly commercialized.

Is Halloween overly commercialized?  Of course it is!  The reason is because Halloween spending will hit 9 billion this year. Huge chunks of that come in the form of costumes, decorations, and candy.  The most popular costumes for adults are witches, zombies, vampires, and pirates.  Children also love being witches along with superheroes and Star Wars Characters.  It is estimated that 20% of pet owners will purchase a costume for their pet.  The most popular pet costumes are pumpkins, hot dogs, and bumble bees.  The previous article mentions that Halloween is seen as affordable and most of the time people will spend entertainment dollars if something is seen as affordable and entertaining.

In my opinion, Halloween is overly commercialized.  It is recognized as the 2nd highest selling holiday behind Christmas.  Being over commercialized is not necessarily a bad thing though.  If you can spend a few dollars and have a great time with family and friends then it is worth it.  In many neighborhoods it is a great reason to get out and meet your neighbors and make new friends.  I know I will be out, will you?

 

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

Spring Break!

How long is winter going to last?  For some it is already over and for others it is getting very close.  The East Coast has been hit with a couple of rough storms in the last few weeks.  I would imagine they are tired of Winter and are dreaming of warm weather and sunny skies. As close as Summer is, you can get a head start by vacationing during Spring break.  Of course, the term Spring break is really only applicable for families with children in school and for college students.  Anyone can go on a vacation, but many use the week students get to escape the cold weather they have been subjected to. Over the next month there will be plenty of vacations taken and many will be to warm weather destinations.  Let’s take a look at the popular destinations this year and some destinations that are not necessarily as popular.

If you are a college student, I would think you are looking at a warm weather location somewhere on a beach.  Many students will leave the country and travel to destinations like Cancun, Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta all located in Mexico.  Students also like to travel to Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.  Florida is also a popular destination for college students.  Cities like Panama City, Daytona, and Key West are usually the hot spots for college spring breakers.  I know that they can get pretty rowdy at times, so it makes sense for families to go in another direction with their Spring Break.

The Travel Channel has listed these locations as the top family destinations for Spring Break.  When you think of Spring Break you always think of warm weather and beaches.  This list has a few locations that are not warm weather related and a few more that have nothing to do with the beach.  I would think that an indoor water park in Wisconsin is a great alternative to flying somewhere south for anyone in the upper Midwest.  I also do not think everyone wants to sit on a beach, so hitting up a ski lodge would be a great alternative for a family.

This article details “under the radar” destinations for families.  A family surf camp in Costa Rica sounds like it would be a great time, but does that fit in family budgets?  How about a family backpacking trip in the Smoky Mountains?  Would your family stay for a week at a ranch in Arizona or Texas?  The Grand Canyon rail trip seems to be a great idea.  Some of these ideas are really awesome and I certainly think they are great alternatives to sitting on a beach somewhere.

The month of March and early April will be a busy time for Spring Breakers of all ages.  Many college students will end up on a beach soaking in the sun and sand, can’t forget the beverages!  Families will probably be trying to avoid the college students, but many will end up on sandy beaches as well.  I would think that Orlando will be a hot destination for families because of the theme parks and warmer weather.  The destination of your choice should be one that makes sense for you or your family.  You do not have to sit on a beach to have fun, you do not have to spend a fortune to have fun, I think as long as you have good company it will not matter where you end up.

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

 

This Day in History!

History can be a topic that bores many people.  However, I find it fascinating.  Not in the sense of knowing exactly what date and time something happened, but just knowing that it happened.  The dates and times is most likely what becomes tedious for many. Really, you need to know the context of a historical event.  Every day history is made it is just a matter of how eventful or important it was.  From time to time I like to pick a day and learn what has happened on this date over time.  Today happens to be a somewhat “light” day in History, but there are still plenty of fascinating things that have happened.

On this date in 1904, the New York City subway was opened.  To think it is over 100 years old is quite the thought.  It is estimated that 4.5 million people use this system daily.  That is a staggering number of people.  The NYC subway was not the first in the United States, but it certainly became the largest when it was complete.  Imagine what life would be like for many New Yorkers if the subway was never built!  It clearly would have been built by now, but taking on that type of project over 100 years ago was an awesome vision and has held an immeasurable impact on the area.

I enjoy looking to see what famous people have been born on a certain day.  Today, October 27th, is the birth date of a few historical figures.  Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1858.  He is one of the more influential people ever to have lived in the eyes of many.  Some of his accomplishments include being a politician early in life and leading the “Rough Riders” in the Spanish American War.  That success led to a higher position in politics and eventually leading to becoming the youngest President of the United States.  As President, he was influential in Trust-Busting, building the Panama Canal, and being the first real champion of conservationism.  Roosevelt was also the first American to win a Nobel Prize.  He coined the term, “speak softly and swing a big stick”.  He was an awesome figure in our country’s history and his popularity led to him being immortalized on Mt. Rushmore.  Can you imagine if he was never born?

Here are some other influential figures that were born on this day.  Mob Boss, John Gotti, was born in 1940.  Gotti rose in power to become the “boss” of the Gambino crime family.    Influential and Trailblazing actress Ruby Dee was born in 1924.  The great poet, Sylvia Plath, was born in 1932.

Another moment that is historical for some was that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series on this day in 2004.  Normally, winning the World Series is not that big of a deal, but the Red Sox had not won in 86 years and many believed they were “cursed”.

As you can see History does not have to be boring or mundane.  History is made every day and it is in the eye of the beholder.  Not many can argue the importance of the birth of Teddy Roosevelt but many could care less about the Boston Red Sox winning.  That is what makes history great.  History is made every day and no matter how small or large the happening, just know that it happened and that makes it history!

 

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

The Week in News

Over the last few weeks a few news stories have dominated the landscape.  All of these stories are scary in their own right.  One story that can be or could be avoided is the state of relations in North Korea.  The other three stories are all in the category of natural disasters.  There was a major earthquake in Mexico just a couple of days ago.  Hurricane Irma which has since passed and Hurricane Maria which is still raging in the Caribbean.  As I get older, I tend to follow these stories more closely.  I am sure there are a few reasons for that but I would like to think technology and access is mostly the cause.

Clearly, North Korea has an issue with the United States.  What that hatred stems from is probably enough to fill an entire semester of learning.  The bottom line is the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jung Un, has major issues with the U.S. at this current moment.  He has made numerous threats over the last few years with many of them being ignored for the most part.  He has also started to test his missile capabilities and that is starting to gain some serious attention.  They are now discussing testing another bomb over the Pacific. At some point he will go away or this will escalate into something that nobody wants to happen, war of some sort.

The earthquake in Mexico on Tuesday registered as a 7.1.  There is a lot of footage starting to emerge from the region.  Some of the videos show people in their homes while items are rattling around. There are also videos that can be quite staggering to watch.  Those videos show buildings crumbling and falling.  While watching you have to think of not just the devastation but the loss of life that is occurring.  The death count is sitting at 286 with surely more to come.  As sad as that number is, moments like this bring hope that finding survivors is still possible.

Hurricane Irma made landfall in the U.S. on September 10th with sustained winds of 130mph.  It then made its way up through Florida wreaking havoc throughout the state.  The hurricane also made its way through the Caribbean tearing up many islands along its path.  It caused tons of destruction and at least 102 deaths.  The hurricane has passed, yet it is still causing issues in Florida like this.  There are countless many more issues that will take a long time to rebuild.  Currently, the Caribbean is again facing a hurricane as Hurricane Maria is terrorizing the islands throughout the Caribbean.  Puerto Rico had not recovered from Irma when Maria landed with category 4 force.  The hurricane is still churning but it is being projected to not make landfall in the U.S.  I hope that happens as it is being mentioned that the entire Island of Puerto Rico is without electricity and it could be months before that changes.

Clearly, all of these items are newsworthy.  All of these items can cause loss of life and destruction of property.  All of these items should not be taken lightly.  I just wonder how the coverage of these stories has changed over the years.  I know that technology has changed and it helps us better prepare for hurricanes.  It also helps live coverage of the storms.  We can now see these storms with live coverage and that has to change the way we view them.  I would also think it changes the way they are broadcast. In the end, I am just grateful to not be directly effected and my heart goes out to anyone that has been effected.

 

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

Hurricane Harvey!

I assume most people have heard of Hurricane Harvey by now?  If you look at the picture above it warns of a storm, well, it formed and it is bearing down on Texas.  The thought of any hurricane is a scary, but when you read a little about this storm it certainly is frightening.  The outer bands have already made landfall and it is predicted to make landfall tonight or tomorrow morning.  Some would think the wind speeds are the most important or most dangerous part of a hurricane.  That is not always the case, in this instance it will be the water that causes the damage.

A hurricane warning is in effect for 1.5 million people and another 16 million are under a tropical storm warning.  That is a lot of people!  The storm should not be taken lightly.  Many of the counties on the coast have issued evacuation orders.  Of course, evacuations will lead to major traffic issues.  I can imagine it would be hard to leave your home and sit in traffic jams, but your life is more important and that has to take priority.

Many, including myself, associate hurricanes with strong winds.  Hurricane Harvey is being predicted to strengthen to a category 3.  What does that mean? A category 3 will have winds of at least 111+ mph. Clearly, wind of that speed is very scary. It could possibly tear your house apart, it will destroy plenty of trees, and it will knock down plenty of power poles.  All of that will lead to a rough recovery by itself.  However, it is being predicted that the worst part of the storm will be the amount of water that is present.  This storm could bring a storm surge of 6-12 feet in some areas.  Storm surge is the rise of sea water that would not normally happen.  So anything on the coast that is not above that height will probably be flooded. If you combine the wind speed and surge it can be scary.  Now, add it to an estimated 35″ of rain in areas and think about the devastation!  That’s right, 35″ of rain is being forecasted for certain areas. New York City averages 42″ of rain in an entire year.  Imagine getting 80% of that amount in 3-4 days!

Wrapping my mind around the possibility of 35″ of rain is not easy.  All of the damage caused by the wind, surge, and rain will be catastrophic.  There will be people that are out of their homes for a long time.  Quite honestly, some people might not ever go back to their homes.  There may be nothing left of some homes.  Hopefully, the evacuations will lower the population to a point that our first responders are not risking their own lives needlessly.  As sad as it is losing your home and possessions, they can be replaced.  You can not replace a life!  Please be safe and we will hope for the best possible outcome.

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

CTE Delivers Another Blow!

CTE is back in the news.  I would imagine it is because football is starting back up.  So what is CTE and how do you get it?  Is it limited to just football players?  There are plenty of questions about CTE in football, but why does it receive so much more publicity than other injuries?  Recent studies show that it is highly probable that if you play in the NFL, you will have CTE when you die. Should that be a worry to players?  Many players are retiring at a younger age than their predecessors. We also have players willing to die on the field.  Where do you stand?

CTE is a degenerative disease in the brain, caused by repeated blows to the head.  Many athletes in football, boxing, rugby, and many more contact sports are believed to have CTE.  I am not a physician so explaining CTE is difficult, but I can read and it sure seems to be a terrible disease.  You can not find CTE until after death.  Studies are being conducted and a recent finding suggests that 99% of deceased NFL players suffered from CTE.  That is a pretty staggering number! However, if you read this article, it tells you that it is nothing that was not already known.  In fact, it would even argue that the numbers are flawed because the brains were donated or referred by family members that had a suspicion of CTE.  What about the players that did not show any symptoms, their brain was not studied so the numbers do reflect that.  The film Concussion was based on Dr. Omalu and his findings on head trauma. Even he believes that the obsession with CTE is taking away from head trauma as a whole.

Ever since football was invented players have retired and they have retired for various reasons. However, in recent years players have been retiring at a younger age than in years past.  Most of these players are citing future health as a reason.  I do not think they are referring to knee health, it would most likely be referring to brain health.  The most recent was the Ravens player, John Urschel.  What makes Urschel different from other players is that he is literally a genius.  He has plenty of other options available to him outside of football.  Many other players do not have the same options. Football is their life.  A NY Jets rookie, Jamal Adams, recently stated that the field is a perfectly good place to die.  He is clearly referring to his love for the game. A recent article about Jim Plunkett mentions that he is miserable in life.  It seems he has plenty of ailments, but it does not mention anything about his brain.  This will not be as newsworthy as the brain, I am not sure why though.

There is no question that CTE is a bad thing.  Many players might not have played if they would have known about the risks of brain trauma.  However, players clearly know that they can have numerous injuries including paralysis.  Yet, they still play so I am not sure if the numbers would change greatly.  They play for the love of the game in most instances.  They also play as a way to better their lives.  I do not think the obsession with CTE will change, at least not anytime soon.  So be prepared to see many more studies concerning the disease.

The Allure of a Carnival

Throughout our country, in most areas, you will be able to find a carnival, fair, or amusement park. Depending on where you live will determine what you have available and what time of the year they are available.  Many churches and schools have carnivals as fundraisers. Counties throughout the country have fairs, even states have fairs.  You can also find amusement parks ranging from tiny to massive.  What makes these destinations so popular?  There are plenty of rides, games, food options, and entertainment.  Any child that sees the lights and hears the sounds of the event will be hooked immediately.  I would imagine many adults have stirring memories of events like this from your youth.

Some people attend carnivals and fairs just for the selection of food options.  You can always find the tried and true options like pizza, hot dogs, and corn dogs.  I would like to think that if you are at a fair you should be a little more adventurous.  Have you ever had fried cheese curds?  They are delicious! How about fried pickles or fried vegetables?  For the most part, you can not go wrong when frying foods.  I would imagine you have heard of deep fried Twinkies or Oreos? Those are the exciting foods that I recommend getting while at a fair.  Instead of getting a hot dog, get a giant turkey leg or some sort of exotic food like deep fried alligator! If you are at a small carnival and the food options are not exotic, you can always settle for cotton candy, funnel cakes, and ears of corn.  One thing is certain, no matter what food is being made it will smell great!

Another reason to attend is for the rides.  I would think most adults have some great memories of their youth being on a Tilt-A-Whirl or something similar.  How about the rides like the Himalaya? They were great if you had a girlfriend with you on the ride.  It was inevitable that you would smash each other.  Other great rides were the Gravitron, Bumper Cars, the Pirate Ship, and even something as simple as a Carousel. Kids are drawn to a carousel at night.  The lights are enticing!

Games and other live entertainment are another reason to come to a carnival or fair.  Seeing a favorite music act or watching a demolition derby would be a great highlight for many.  You can also see events like tractor pulls, rodeo events, or even smaller entertainment like magicians.  How about the games at these events? You can have games of chance, games of skill, and rigged games. Although, I would think the rigged games do not exist as often anymore.  I can remember trying to make a free throw into a hoop that seemed much smaller or trying to guess the speed of your pitch. How about throwing darts, the milk jug game, or the ring toss?  All of these games are staples at these events and certainly bring plenty of memories.

Regardless of the reason you attend, it is pretty certain that kids will have a blast.  I would think even the adults can let loose a little and enjoy themselves.  At the end of the day you are eating food that is out of normal for you, playing games, riding rides, and watching entertainment.  Even if you are the type of person that cant stand this stuff, be honest with yourself and realize that if you take a child they will have fun. Making memories with family and friends has to take precedent!

 

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

The Juice is Loose!

I would assume most people are familiar with O.J. Simpson, if you are not you are likely to be a young person.  I would recommend looking him up.  He was a great football player at USC and later in the NFL.  He ended up in the College and NFL Hall of Fame.  He may be more known for the “trial of the century” in which he was charged with the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. He was acquitted of the charges, but later was found guilty in a civil suit on the same charges.  Roughly 10 years later he was convicted on more charges, he was found guilty and sentenced to 33 years with a minimum of 9 years to serve.  O.J. is in the news now because those 9 years are up and he was eligible for parole. Was he paroled?

I will ask again, was he paroled?  Take a look at the picture and let me know if you need an answer.  I will admit that I watched some of the parole hearing.  I can honestly say I have never seen one before and I most likely will never see another.  So why watch this one?  Quite frankly, the O.J. “story” has always fascinated me. I am clearly not the only one as the hearing was broadcast live on most news outlets.  I watched and formulated my own opinion.  Things I saw may not be interpreted the same way by another person.  The Goldman Family feels that he is not a changed man. They are clearly biased but they raise very valid points.  O.J. seemed to avoid answering certain questions and they did not follow up.  He was apologetic at times for the crime in Nevada, but he also at times seemed to not take any responsibility.  When asked about attending AA, O.J. was clear that he did not have much free time while in prison.  After all, he was the commissioner of the softball league.

What is next for O.J.?  He will be on parole when he gets out of prison for roughly 5 more years.  Parole is a very strict regimen.  Leaving the State will not be allowed, possessing a firearm is not allowed, taking illegal drugs is not allowed and all of those seem to be pretty reasonable.  One thing that will be very difficult is not drinking alcohol.  He will be subject to random tests and searches.  He will need to stay out of trouble if he wants to remain a free man.  Going back to prison can’t be on his agenda.

O.J.Simpson will not necessarily be a free man,but he will not be in prison.  He will earn quite a large pension in most people’s eyes.  You would think he will live out the remainder of his years playing golf and visiting with family and friends.  The State of Nevada has moved him to an isolated cell, that seems to be a punishment but it is actually for his own safety.  I do not think this will be the end of the O.J. saga.  Clearly, the public can not get enough of him.  He will be newsworthy until his death. But for now, O.J. thinks that he has done his time.

—Victor Mandalawi

The Aftermath!

Last week I wrote about Independence Day.  I sure hope everyone had a wonderful few days as I know I did.  I mentioned loving fireworks and putting on a display for many years.  However, in recent years I had a few close calls and decided to stop for safety reasons.  Unfortunately, many people still put on displays and injuries do occur.  Even the professional displays can have issues from time to time.  I am going to highlight a few of the instances.

I found a list of injuries and deaths related to fireworks accidents.  NewsWeek is certainly a credible news source, but I would think there are plenty more accidents that are not listed.  I also think that the accidents listed are major accidents.  You will not see the slight burns and minor injuries or even the injuries that did not require professional care.  This is not even highlighting the loss of property from fires and such.

In Chicago, a man lost his life after an incident with a firework.  He reportedly leaned over a firework that was previously lit and did not detonate.  As he leaned over, the firework did explode and it cost the man his life.  Obviously, the story is tragic enough, but it happened directly in front of his young son.  That is clearly not something a child needs to see.  In another incident, an Indiana man died in a fireworks accident in Kentucky.  It is reported that a firework did not detonate and he leaned over the device.  When he did, it went off and it hit him in the chest.  The device hit with such force it stopped his heart and cost him his life.  In Maryland, a teenage boy is in danger of losing his hand after a fireworks accident.  It is reported that the firework went off in his hand causing extensive damage to his hand and burning his face and torso.  You will even see damage caused by professional shows.  In Nashville, a large firework went haywire and caused major damage to the Titans football stadium. If you look at the pictures you can see seats that are blown up.  That shows you the awesome power that fireworks contain. These stories are all so similar that they blend in.  The injuries happen in every state and city in every year.  They really are tragic and I would like to think they are preventable.

Here are a few accidents that involve fireworks and the Independence Day celebration, but not from the act of lighting fireworks.  In Northwest Indiana, a teenager was injured by a bullet.  The bullet was not fired directly at the teen but it was fired into the air and on the way down it struck him. I am not sure why anyone would think it is a good idea to fire a gun into the air, especially in a crowded area. What goes up, must come down!  In New York, an SUV burst into flames when a trunk full of fireworks were ignited by an electrical problem.  5 people were harmed and the car is toast.

It is obvious that fireworks displays are an awesome site to behold, especially around the 4th of July. However, it is also obvious that they are extremely dangerous.  Injuries and deaths are bound to happen just because of the nature of fireworks.  Explosions and fire usually claim their share of victims.  Even if you are very careful, injuries can happen.  As shown above, even professional displays can have issues.  Sometimes, you do not even need to light fireworks to cause serious injuries.  The bottom line is to have fun, but at some point you have to weight the good vs. bad.

 

—Victor Mandalawi