ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I would assume most, if not all of us remember the Ice Bucket Challenge that took place a couple of years ago.  You can find all kinds of videos on YouTube showing people taking the challenge.  There are videos of celebrities taking the challenge, videos of young children taking the challenge,  and even compilation videos of “ice bucket fails“.  Personally, those fails are my favorites.  It does not matter really what your favorite is because they were all for a great cause.

The premise of the Ice Bucket Challenge was to nominate three people to dump ice water over their heads. They could decline and donate or accept the challenge and take the bucket.  The great part is that many people accepted the challenge and donated, which is the best part about this.  The donations were being made mostly to the ALS association.  Numbers can vary, but I have seen estimates of roughly 100 million dollars being donated during the challenge.  That is a staggering number and surely a great help to the ALS association.

What the association did with the money is very important as well.  It seems that the contributions to various research groups might already be starting to pay off!  A gene was found to be linked to the disease.  That is certainly a step in the right direction.  Every step counts when trying to find a cure for the terrible disease.

 

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How did the Ice Bucket Challenge Begin?  It seems that the challenge was not initially tied to a certain charity.  However, after someone mentioned the charity of choice being the ALS assication it was sent to a few groups pertaining to ALS.  Once it reached Pete Frates and his large group of supporters it really took off and became the phenomenon of the summer.  Sometimes you can feel as if your vote or act will not mean anything or it will go unnoticed,  I think that is normal.  You have to see the big picture and think how much your act combined with millions of other acts can add up to.  No matter what you feel about the challenge, you can not argue that it did not work.  It helped raise plenty of funds and those funds will be used to help find a treatment or cure.

-Victor Mandalawi

Seven Seas Lagoon and a Child Lost

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News of a terrible story broke last night, when we heard that a two year old child was snatched by an alligator behind the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World.  The young child was splashing in water roughly a foot deep with his father when a seven to eight foot alligator took the boy.  The father immediately went for the alligator, but was unable to get the child.  It is truly a terrible story, and it has been an unfathomable week of tragedy in the Orlando area with the killing of Christina Grimmie from the Voice while she was signing autographs for fans.  It goes without saying that we also had the worst mass shooting in our country’s history when a man opened fire and killed over 50 people in a night club Saturday night.

I have been to Disney World plenty of times, as mentioned on this site, my first memory of Disney is when I was roughly five years old and my parents took me to River Country, which was a water park of sorts.  It was the first time I had laid eyes on anything like a water park and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my young life.  While it was great, the whole experience kind of slipped my mind until I was walking on the beach at the Polynesian Village Resort six years ago.

Both the Polynesian and the Grand have beaches with chairs, however there are signs posted everywhere that you are not allowed in the water.  This seemed a bit strange to me.  Why would you have this beach with sand, but not allow people into the water.  Disney is the happiest place on earth, so couldn’t they make sure that the water is clean?  When I got home from that trip I did some research, and found out that the water in the Seven Seas Lagoon wasn’t clean at all, and an 11 year old boy had died from a brain disease linked to swimming in that water.  It wasn’t just swimming in Seven Seas Lagoon, but also the fresh water at the River Country water park.  Disney decided to shut down the first of its kind water park permanently in 2002, after the attacks of 9/11.  Shockingly, they haven’t torn it down completely, and a ghost town of sorts still exists today.

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Thus it makes sense that Disney would not want people swimming in the Seven Seas Lagoon, when there is the potential for someone to get sick and even die from the bacteria in the lake.  They also save the expense of life guards, as well as liability from the fear of someone drowning.  Therefore, it gave me a much better idea as to why Disney did not allow people into the Seven Seas Lagoon.

When I heard the terrible news last night, it never even dawned on me that something like an alligator attack would even be possible at Disney World.  I’ve golfed time and time again in Florida and have seen many an alligator, but the thought of one attacking a child at a lake in Disney World didn’t seem to be fathomable.  It is Florida after all, so you would have to think that alligators could be in these waters, and maybe that added to the reasoning behind why Disney does not allow swimming in the lagoon?  Experts believe that the alligator confused the child for a raccoon or small dog as alligators aren’t known to attack humans.  Sure, the family shouldn’t have been in the water because of the posted signs, but it isn’t intuitive to think you can swim in water when your hotel has a beach.  At the end, it is a tragic situation, and central Florida is going through a horrible time, and our hearts are with them.

Comedy Still Running Strong in an Era of Political Correctness

THE OSCARS(r) - THEATRE - The 88th Oscars, held on Sunday, February 28, at the Dolby Theatre(r) at Hollywood & Highland Center(r) in Hollywood, are televised live by the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST. (ABC/Image Group LA) CHRIS ROCK

Times change, there is no question about that.  Our world has become a much more politically correct place, and while some people may have a problem with that, it isn’t the worst thing.  I vividly remember around the age of 13 watching the Eddie Murphy comedy special, Delirious which was filmed in 1983. If you were go to back and watch the first 15 minutes of that special in 2016, you would be mouth agape shocked with how offensive it was.  There is no way in the world a comedian could get away with that kind of material these days.  That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing, but we are in an interesting time when it comes to comedy.  We are more politically correct that ever, we have instant analysis tools like Twitter to judge everything and everything people say, and lastly there is a cottage industry of sorts built around public shaming people.

Last Sunday, Chris Rock hosted the Oscars.  I’m not sure I’ve ever set aside the time to watch an Oscars broadcast, but I was there in front of the TV strictly to see how he would take on the cloud that has been hanging over the Academy Awards since the nominees were released.  There were so few African Americans nominated that the hashtag of #OscarsSoWhite has been used frequently over the last month.  There were people who boycotted the Oscars, and it was unsure as to whether Rock would do the same and step down as the host.  From his standpoint, it would have been a terrible idea.  This was his stage in front of more than 80 million people to give the most important stand up comedy routine in recent memory.  He sure didn’t shy away from the controversy, laying in line after line after poking at Hollywood, with his one line of

Yes, Hollywood is racist, but in more of a ‘sorority’ type way, and not in a ‘burning cross’ way.

I sat there wondering if the stars themselves rehearsed their facial reactions at home waiting for what Rock was going to say?  He gave a biting commentary, but also put some levity to it.  It was a great example on how comedy could be used to open up our eyes to real issues in the world.  There wasn’t a person who watched that broadcast that came away from it not thinking about the injustice of no African Americans being nominated, and at the end of the day, that was Chris Rock’s job, and he accomplished it well.

The best piece of television I have watched in a long time was the Triumph Election Special that ran on Hulu.  It was 90 minutes of pure uncomfortable comedy genius, and is highly recommended.  The best segment was a meeting with a group of college students speaking about ‘Micro Aggressions’ and how what we call people now should be updated.  It is a perfect snapshot as to where we are as a society, and made me laugh like I haven’t in a long time.

At the end of the day, we are constantly evolving as a society, we can go back to when women weren’t allowed to vote, and now a woman is a favorite to be elected to the White House.  We went from the insanity of slavery to President Obama.  Even something like the Eddie Murphy special, 33 years later you won’t find anyone speaking like that.  It is all progression, and our society and country moving in the right direction.  All of that said, comedy is an important tool to make us face the issues out there, and I have to hand it to both Chris Rock and ‘Triumph’ for taking it head on.

Interesting Entrepreneurial Success Story

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You often hear of fun entrepreneurial stories about how someone started a business in their basement or something of that nature.  I also wrote about the disruption in the mattress vertical over the last 18 months, and what an exciting business that seems to be in an industry that has been around for hundreds of years.  I have to say though, I really like the story of the guys who have put together Ring.com, which is a wi-fi enabled doorbell.

What makes their story so interesting is that the founder, Jamie Siminoff, was filmed on an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank in September of 2013, under their previous name of DoorBot.  The premise of the product is that it mounts outside of your front door and has a 180 degree motion sensor camera.  When someone approaches the door it sends a message to your phone where you then can see and speak to whomever is at your door, whether you are on the couch or in Costa Rica.

While the team had high hopes for Shark Tank, all of the ‘sharks’ dropped out minus one who wanted to extend a loan for future holdings in the company, Siminoff politely declined, and walked away a bit rejected.  I’m assuming that felt a bit like the end of the road for Siminoff and their team, but they decided to go back to the drawing board and work on the product.  Sales were growing, as they stated they brought in over $250K in sales the month of the taping.  Two months later they received the call as to when the show was going to air.  The episode did finally air later that year in November and gave the company the exposure they so desperately needed.  Orders were coming in like crazy, and while there were no true interested investors on the show, Siminoff received a call that changed his life forever.

Virgin Airlines founder, Richard Branson was vacationing in the Caribbean and a person next to him was using the Doorbot software to speak to a delivery person.  Branson was astonished with the product and reached out right away in effort to become an investor.  At this same time, they decided to invest in the domain of Ring.com, and rebrand a bit to look more professional.  The name change and the spot on television provided increased credibility and they were now being sold in both Lowes and Home Depot.  Branson joined a group of investors and the company was now valued at $60M.  All of this took place in a matter of months after the show airing!  Now the product is appearing on many of the holiday gadget gift lists, and the company is set for even more growth.

Its almost hard to believe how quickly the company took off after the Shark Tank episode aired, but also a sign for all entrepreneurs out there, that you just need that one break, you never know where it is going to come from, but when it happens, you need to take advantage of it.  I’ll be keeping a close eye on the team at Ring.com for years to come, and congrats on your successes.

How Can You NOT Find the Prison Escape Compelling?

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By now, unless you have been living under a rock (well the escapees may be), you have heard about the unfathomable escape of two inmates from a Caddyville, New York maximum security prison on June 6.  This prison has been around for over 170 years and has never had a successful escape, so that in itself is amazing, but the fact that the two men have still not been apprehended almost three weeks later, is mind blowing.

I have to admit, I’ve been reading quite a bit about the story, and it brings me back to nearly 100 years ago where criminals were looked at as celebrities of sort.  You had someone like Al Capone in the 1920s, who was a known thief, but was more of a legend than the athletes of the day by a landslide.  My grandfather constantly told me a story about how he saw John Dillinger escape from a Crown Point, Indiana jail with his own eyes in 1934.  As he was running down the street brandishing a gun and then jumping in a car.  He told that story as if he saw the President of the United States.  I can’t imaging our present society now having any feelings of that sort, or even recognizing a known criminal, but this story is quite intriguing.

Of course, by no means can anyone forget why these two men were in prison in the first place.  48 year old Richard Matt has been a lifelong criminal and was serving a sentence for not just murdering his boss, but dismembering him as well.  Meanwhile, 34 year old David Sweat murdered and ran over a police officer after a robbery.  Therefore, these men should be kept behind bars.

However, from a high level view, this is turning into a sappy LifeTime movie.  You have two men escape from a maximum security prison supposedly with the help of a female guard, 51 year old Joyce Mitchell, who is at least rumored to be sleeping with the both of them.  She smuggled in two hacksaws, chisels, and a screwdriver.  She was able to get it to these men in frozen hamburger meat.  One news show quipped, ‘She was their hamburger helper’.

Governor Cuomo tours Dannemora correctional facility where Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped.

Governor Cuomo tours Dannemora correctional facility where Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped.

The men cut through walls, a labyrinth of pipes, and eventually escaped through through a drain pipe sometime around midnight.  Within a couple of days, Joyce Mitchell was put under address and was charged with a felony for assisting the criminals.  She admitted that the plan was to pick up the criminals, and they told her if she did not pick them up, that they would kill her husband.

Then Michell’s husband decided to go on the Today Show to say that he did not believe his wife had any romantic relationship with the criminals, but was forced into her role in the escape by intimidation.  There is no question that the story gets more and more strange as the days go by.

It came out earlier this week that the DNA of the escapees was found at a hunting cabin, that randomly happened to be owned by a guard at the prison, but he does not seem to be involved.  We have had plenty of strange crimes in this country, but the fact that those two men have been able to escape a maximum security prison and somehow allude capture for almost three weeks seems like it would be too good to be true for a movie script.  All that says, when the movie is made, I’m sure I will be watching.

Attempting a New Hobby

I’ve always been a fan of technology.  Whether it was my first walkman, an Apple 2GS, a tower full of CDs, or smart thermostats, its fun to watch technology brings us next.  I’ve also loved photography, not that I’ve ever been exactly skilled with taking pictures, but I’ve had an appreciation for interesting vantage points that photographers take.  Therefore, I’m trying to combine the two and see if I can get the skills and repetitions together to fly a drone to take arial photos.  The way I look at it, I’m too old to drive a remote control car, and especially don’t want to end up like this guy.  So a drone could be seen as an expensive flying camera and not a ‘toy’.  At least that is what I’m trying to tell myself.

From everything I have read, the worst thing you can do is go out and buy an expensive drone off the bat, and crash it before you know what you are doing.  Therefore, I did a little research and purchased little guy from Amazon last week for around $50.

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The weight on the U818A is less than a pound, so if there is any wind at all, this thing can get blown off course in a hurry.  Thus far, I’ve only crashed it roughly 37 times, so quite glad I didn’t go out and buy something nice right away.  I’ve had to replace a prop after flying it into a tree,  but other than that, this little bird is pretty darn tough.  One downside is that the battery only lasts roughly 6-7 minutes of flight time, so I picked up an extra battery.  I have to say, its been a lot of fun to fool around with.  For some reason, when I plug it into my Macbook, I’m unable to view the photos and videos I have taken with it.  What I found out is that I should get a mirco SD to SD card adapter so I can put the card directly into the computer.  I ordered that, so hopefully by the end of week I can check out the videos I recorded, even though the camera is said to be shaky at best.

I’ve decided if I can truly get the hang of this thing over the next 60 days, I’m going to step up my game and buy a nice flying machine.  I have my eye on the Parrot Bebop, which based on this video is incredible.

The controller for the Bebop, integrated with an iPad looks to be great.  You can also program the copter using GPS, which would come in handy for flying to destinations and taking video.  Another feature that is amazing is the “return home” option.  If your drone gets in a rough situation, you can hit the return home button and it will immediately begin flying your way and hovering eight feet in the air from where it took off.  If used properly, I’m sure this guy can take some amazing photos and video.  That said, with a price tag of nearly $900, one better be darn sure they are comfortable flying a drone before stepping it up to something like this.  I will be sure to check back in when the Bebop takes her first flight!

Spring Break Is Here

 

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There is nothing quite like the snow finally melting away, and the thought that there will soon be leaves on the trees and flowers blooming.  Since we aren’t there just yet, I’ve decided to take a trip next week to a bit of a warmer climate.

The destination is somewhere I’ve never been before, but its a quick 90 minute flight from JFK.  I’m heading to Anna Maria Island, Florida.  You actually fly into Sarasota, and from what I’ve heard, have a beautiful 30 minute drive along the Gulf of Mexico before arriving on the island.  Ironically the island is roughly the size of Manhattan, but as you can imagine, quite a few less people.  Since the spot is on the west coast of Florida, or the gulf of Mexico, the water looks incredible.  The island was actually voted the third best island in the United States last year.

From my research, it appears that there is some sort of ordinance on the island in which no property can be built higher than the tallest palm tree.  This leads to absolutely no high rises of condos, and in reality not much commercialization either.  There also is only one chain restaurant on the entire island, a Subway.  Other than that, it appears each and every place simply serves the local seafood in an unpretentious fashion.

On restaurant that I am going to be sure to visit is the Rod & Reel restaurant.  As you can see in the above photo, the water is spectacular and on a clear day, I’m told you can see Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays play all the way out in St. Petersberg.

Things are going better than ever at Choice Home Warranty, but everyone needs time away, and I’m looking forward to a little rest and relaxation.  I’ve also done some reading and discovered that there is a free trolley that goes across the entire island.  I love the idea of never having to get in the car.  While this area, like many places in Florida, was hurt by the economic downturn in 2008, there seems to be plenty of construction and updated restaurants.  I’ve been told it is considered a ‘hidden gem’, and what ‘Old Florida’ used to look like.  The weather forecast looks to be just about perfect, and while I’m sure it could be a little annoying to hear about the warm weather right now, while we are sitting in 40 degree rainy weather, I couldn’t be more excited about my trip and look forward to reporting back.

Considering Getting a Puppy

I’ve never had a dog before, but I’m finally at a point in my life where I would like to have someone to jog with, play in the yard, and basically be a buddy.  I’ve been doing some research over the last few months at the various breeds, and since it would be my first dog, I want something not super powerful, but more mellow, happy go lucky.  As of today, I think I’m pretty set on getting a labrador retriever.  In researching, I’ve also found that there are now different colors of labs other than the standard black and yellow labs.

It seems there are now, chocolate, silver, charcoal and champagne.  Below is a good picture showing various colors.

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From left to right, the colors of the pups are chocolate, charcoal, black and silver.  From everything I have read, they all have the same labrador type attributes, its simply a cosmetic difference, but something that you don’t see very often.  Obviously bringing a puppy home would be a huge undertaking, and I work plenty of hours at Choice Home Warranty, but I have a great family who can keep an eye on the guy while I am at work.

Even though I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, I’ve spent way too many hours watching episodes of The Dog Whisperer.  If you haven’t seen the show, a Mexican immigrant named Cesar Millan helps out of control dogs.  Well, he actually says, ‘I rehabilitate dogs, I train humans’.  Training humans is right because its taught me how important it is to walk a dog to drain their energy.  A dog with drained energy is much less likely to misbehave around the house.  I’ve also read a few of Cesar’s books, so I think I’m just about ready to make a decision.

When looking for these interesting colors of labrador retrievers, I came across what appears to be a great breeder in rural Ohio.  The place is called Silver Mist Labradors and they have shipped their labs all over the world, so having one sent to New Jersey wouldn’t be the end of the world by any means.  Unfortunately it seems the wait time is pretty long to get a puppy from them right now.  Within the next 30 days, I am going to try to make a decision.  They say that dogs are a man’s best friend.   I am excited to find that out for myself.  I will update on the situation if I’m finally able to to take the plunge into the responsibility of owning a dog.