Monday, May 20, 2019

Cheating in Running Races is Becoming an Increasing Global Problem

Several years ago, a 61-year-old runner was caught cheating in the Marine Corps Marathon. Simply stated, he only ran the last 5 to 6 miles of the race, claiming he earned second place in his age group. However, there was evidence to show that he had indeed cheated, which lead to his admitting it. He said, "I messed up. There's no reason to do that. There's really nothing else to say. There's not a good explanation. I apologize to all the other runners."

The man said he had been a runner for most of his adult life, but in recent years his body struggled to make it through the 26.2 miles -- yet he still wanted to be known as a marathon runner. "I feel bad," he said. "There's no great back story to it. It's just wrong. I haven't been feeling that well, didn't do the proper training. Now, at the end of the day, what do I have? Nothing."

Cheating in long-distance running events has been going on for decades. Just last autumn there were 258 people found cheating in the Shenzhen Half-Marathon in China. There have been cheaters found at all distances, including cheaters running across the entire country. Why do they do it?

Some want the notoriety that comes with supposedly completing the distance. Gaining attention from family, friends, co-workers and others is often a driving force to cheating. Some cheat to qualify for larger races, such as the Boston Marathon -- which requires a qualified time in a qualifying marathon. They want to run in the Boston Marathon, but know they are not fast enough to qualify. So, some cheat. Then, there are those who cheat because they need a 'victory' in their life... to gain accolades. And then, there are those who cheat simply because they have a self-inflated ego and want to appear better than others. There are many reasons why some runners cheat, but ultimately they find that their cheating only leads to a great sense of personal failure, and ultimately depression can set in.

In my opinion, distance running is a sport of integrity. Those who choose to cheat by not taking every stride needed between the start and finish lines are truly cheating themselves. We live in a world where cheaters will always try to take a short cut to claim a victory at something. Those of us who put in the work to actually achieve our goals will always experience TRUE victory.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 17, 2019

Singapore is Helping to Keep Their Disabled and Elderly Safe

According to newly-released estimates by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian deaths in the United States has reached a 28-year high. The report determined that 6,227 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018, a 4 percent increase over 2017 and the highest mortality rate since 1990. Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas accounted for almost half (46 percent) of all deaths.

In Singapore, an initiative is underway by the Land Transport Authority to help increase the safety of two categories of pedestrians -- the disabled and elderly. As pedestrians, they can use identification cards to lengthen the time that traffic lights give them to reach the other side of the street. I think this is a great idea and one that other countries should consider implementing.

Disabled citizens use a white card and the elderly use a purple card. Here are the differences:

Elderly Card: The purple card isn't an identity card, it's a concession version of the public transport fare card system (called EZ-Link, used on buses and trains, and some ATM-type facilities also accept them). Senior citizens apply for them, which gets them subsidized fares. The "no $" in the photo is to indicate that it doesn't deduct any fare value to use the pedestrian crossing in such a manner, because that's how the card is used to pay fares on public transport. You just wave it in front of the reader at a crosswalk like a cashless card transaction.

Disabled Card: The white card is indeed a form of ID, called a DDR (Developmental Disability Registry) ID. The DDR is managed by the National Council of Social Service. It's available to vulnerable groups like special needs children, persons with disabilities, and people suffering from mental health issues. It can also be used for public transport concession.

Essentially, these two types of cards extend the time for crossing at junctions that have such readers.

In the United States, 27 percent of pedestrian fatalities (and 42 percent of bicyclist fatalities) occur at intersections. I've seen many disabled people and elderly needing more time to cross a street than a crossing signal typically gives. Singapore's technology is something that should seriously be considered, particularly in areas where there is a significant number of elderly.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, May 16, 2019

What Happens During One Hour of Riding Your Bicycle?

My wife recently gave me a new bike (see photo) for cruising around the neighborhood with she and my two youngest stepdaughters -- ages 11 and 14, and for short jaunts on the nearby American Discovery Trail.

Biking is an aerobic exercise that can help improve oxygen intake. Aerobic exercises can also provide cardiovascular benefits. I recently read the following online about the benefits that come from a one-hour bike ride:
  • First 10 Minutes: A sense of freedom hits your system. You immediately grin from the overwhelming joy you're feeling as you pedal faster and faster.
  • 20 Minutes: Your enjoyment spikes, causing a burst in activity. Your body is ridding itself of cortisol, the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep.
  • 40 Minutes: Blood flow and oxygen to the brain are boosted. Keep smiling, because if you're riding five days a week for this long you're likely to take half as many sick days as couch potatoes.
  • 45 Minutes: Serotonin and endorphins are released into the blood stream, helping improve your mood.
  • 60 Minutes: With every mile you tick off, you're helping reduce your risk of heart disease to less than half that of those who don't exercise at all.
The exact amount of calories you burn during one hour of biking depends on your starting weight. The more you weigh, the greater the number of calories you expend. A person who weighs 160 pounds will burn about 288 calories in one hour of cycling at a leisurely pace. Mountain biking is more strenuous because of off-road trails and hills. A 160-pound person burns about 614 calories during one hour of mountain biking.

Those of you who know my background are aware that for most of the past 45 years I've been a runner... pounding my body into the ground to the equivalent of a couple of laps of the planet. Bicycling was always my 'supplemental' exercise. However, since retiring from the ultra-running world nearly three years ago, I've aimed to get more into cycling. There are definitely benefits to be found in bicycling rather than running. Running is weight bearing – and therefore injury rates are higher. Cycling, by contrast, is not weight bearing. When scientists compared long distance runners and cyclists, they found the runners suffered up to 144 percent more muscle damage, 256 percent more inflammation, and their delayed onset muscle soreness (the pain and stiffness felt in muscles several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise) was 87 percent higher. However, the lack of weight bearing also means that cycling does not do as much to increase bone density as other sports – so as a cyclist it’s a good idea to add a little strength training into your program.

Happy riding!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ultra-endurance Sports: More People Are Going The Distance

In the world of running, an ultramarathon is any distance beyond the traditional 26.2-mile marathon distance. My first ultramarathon distance was accomplished when I was 20 years old (in 1985). I ran 35 miles. That was 34 years ago. Back then, ultrarunning was relatively unknown and few people did it. In fact, just ten years ago (in 2009) about 30,000 runners finished ultramarathons. In 2018, that number reached 110,000. Going beyond the 26.2-mile marathon distance is becoming more popular.

Many ultrarunners believe that the rise in popularity of the ultramarathon is happening because so many people have now completed marathons. Marathons are coming to be seen as something that is achievable by anyone, basically everyone knows someone who has run a marathon. Ultramarathons are the next step up, and now occupy the same place that marathons once occupied in people’s minds. Another factor in their rising popularity is social media. People see posts from friends who have done an ultramarathon and decide that they want to do one too. This increased exposure draws many people who might otherwise believe that an ultramarathon is beyond their ability.

However, ultra-endurance pursuits are not limited to running. Road cyclists, mountain bikers, adventure racers, and even stand-up paddleboarders (SUP) are joining the ultra-endurance world. The distance in each discipline to be considered an 'ultra' varies. For instance, most people consider anything over 100 miles the start of endurance cycling. Ultra-endurance adventure racing can range from eight hours to several weeks. SUP ultra events can go for hundreds of miles.

Several years ago, I read this about the comparison between ultramarathons and marathons:
"Surprisingly, some consider ultramarathons to be easier even than standard marathons, given that they take place on more varied terrain and that the challenge, rather than finishing in as fast a time as possible, is to merely complete the course. Whereas regular marathons demand that participants put themselves through 26 plus miles of unforgiving tarmac, a softer, more irregular ultramarathon track places less stress on your joints. What’s more, whereas walking in a marathon triggers encouragements from the watching crowd to ‘keep going’, walking in an ultramarathon is something everyone competing must come to terms with. Without going into any great depth, ultramarathons are an entirely different kind of beast."
Ultras are truly a different kind of beast! So, there are marathoners, ultramarathoners, and then the category that has very few participants in it -- the solo journey runners (those who run across states and countries... who run to the horizon and keep going). I was a solo journey runner for many years and unlike ultramarathon and marathon races where there are aid stations and support personnel, you have no such assistance in solo running across states/countries. To say it succinctly, it is the ultimate in "cross country" running. You have to be self sufficient in every way. No crew... no crowds... no award at the finish line. Solo journey running is simply one person against all of the elements -- running from one border to another, one ocean to another, one country to another... alone. Very few people in the world do that type of running.

Last year, there were 110,000 people who finished ultramarathon running races. Last year, there were less than 10 people who finished a run across the United States.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"NO SELFIE ZONE" -- Is The 'Perfect' Photo Worth Risking Your Life?

Last week, a woman in Russia climbed onto an electricity transformer to take a selfie. She ended up electrocuted and burned to death. Selfie-related deaths have been in the headlines with some regularity in recent years and they have become "an emerging problem," according to research published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.

As an increasing number of people die due to selfie-related accidents, researchers are calling for "no-selfie zones" at tourist locations across the globe to prevent people from partaking in risky behavior for the sake of a perfect photo.

According to a new study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, at least 259 people died from October 2011 to November 2017 while snapping selfies, with the highest number occurring amongst 20 to 29-year-olds (with 72 percent being male). But that number is "just the tip of the iceberg," say the study’s authors, because such deaths are underreported and often attributed to other causes. The study also found that selfie deaths are becoming more common, increasing from just three in 2011 to 93 in 2017. Researchers attribute the jump in selfie fatalities to increased cell phone usage, enhanced selfie features, and more widespread use of selfie sticks.

Of the 259 selfie-related deaths the researchers identified, more than half (a total of 159) occurred in India, followed by Russia (16), the United States (14) and Pakistan (11). The most common type of death was drowning (70 deaths), which often occurred after the selfie-taker was washed away by waves on a beach or capsized a boat. Next were "transport" deaths (51), which most frequently happened when someone was taking a selfie too close to a moving train. Those were followed by deaths from falls (48), fires (48), firearms (11), animals (8), and "other" (7). Most of the firearm-related selfie deaths occurred in the United States -- most often people posing with a gun to their head and accidentally shooting themselves. The study also found that the people who died while taking selfies were overwhelmingly male (about 72 percent) and under the age of 30 (86 percent).

As a result, "No Selfie Zones" are being declared at some tourist areas globally, especially such places as bodies of water; canyon rims; mountain peaks; and, on tall buildings -- all in an effort to decrease the incidence of selfie-related deaths.

Some experts are suggesting that smartphone technology that uses global positioning system location, or measures altitude, could potentially be harnessed to try and help prevent selfie deaths. In a letter published in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, doctors from the National University of Ireland Galway, explain how cell phones could potentially be used to transmit verbal safety warnings to users who are about to take photographs in dangerous locations. The letter states:
"Based on the GPS location or altitude of the tourist, we propose that there may be scope for providing verbal safety messages to individuals with their phone in camera mode, warning them that they are too close to a vertical drop. In such cases, the camera function may be disabled until the person moves away from the dangerous no selfie zone."
Yes, locations around the world could post "No Selfie Zone" signs to try and encourage people to avoid dangerous situations with their smartphones, but is that really going to have an impact? I do believe there is some merit to the idea of having a phone's camera function disabled based on GPS location or altitude. Sadly, even with such disabling I don't believe that deaths from foolish 'selfie' taking will ever be completely eliminated.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, May 13, 2019

Playing 6-String and 12-String Guitars Since 1975... And Still Loving It

When I was 10 years of age, in 1975, my parents gave me my first guitar. At that time, John Denver was soaring in popularity and was the musical artist I listened to the most. In fact, his music was the first that I learned to play on guitar.

I'm self taught, never having taken guitar lessons. As a boy, I would sit in my bedroom and listen to the radio, trying to play along with the songs I heard while studying a piece of paper that had basic guitar chords written on it. I literally learned the guitar by ear, listening to notes in songs and working at identifying which notes they were and then trying to recreate the sound on my guitar. That was 44 years ago. Since then, I've played my guitar at church, for weddings, and other events -- but have still not taken any guitar lessons. In fact, last year I enjoyed playing a 12-string guitar at my own wedding.

When I was a senior in high school, I was in a 'garage band' called Tempest. I and three other guys made our best attempt at playing some popular songs of the time (1982-1983). Once we graduated, we went our separate ways and the sounds of Tempest were silenced forever. Since then, I've played guitar with two other 'bands' -- as a part of a small group of musicians who played weekly at a college Christian gathering (mid-1980's), and on a church worship team for many years in the 1990's. Currently, two of my children are teaching themselves how to play the guitar... my 21-year-old son, Kyler, and my 25-year-old daughter, Jenna. It's wonderful to know that they're working toward learning the guitar.

Did you know that there are only two guitar chords needed to play Bruce Springsteen's song "Born In The U.S.A.?" Yep, that's it. Two chords... repeated throughout the song. However, Springsteen is not the only musician with a two-chord song. Other artists have released songs that only require two chords to play, such as Billy Ray Cyrus' Achy Breaky Heart; The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby; and, Fleetwood Mac's Dreams. So, those who think that they can't teach themselves how to play the guitar are wrong! Learn some basic chords and strum out some tunes!

This past weekend, I had the honor of playing my 12-string acoustic guitar during a mother's day luncheon. The greatest honor was playing several songs that my eldest step-daughter, Rachel, sang at the event. She has a beautiful voice and it was an occasion I will always remember.

According to the National Association of Music Merchants, about 2.5 million guitars (electric and acoustic) are sold annually in the United States. Guitar sales are expected to stay on the upswing for at least the next few years. If you're interested in learning the guitar, pick yourself up one that is affordable for a beginner, around the $100 to $150 range. The 12-string guitar I currently play is priced at $450. I was in a music store a few years ago and had an opportunity to play a $5,000 guitar. Let me tell you, I really couldn't hear much difference in the sound of it compared to my $450 guitar. Higher cost doesn't necessarily equate to higher quality. The real 'cost' is in how willing you are to spend the time needed to learn the instrument well. If you put in the time, you can make even a $20 thrift store guitar sound great!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 10, 2019

Photoshop: How Image Manipulation Manipulates Our Perspective

We live in a world where all too often you simply cannot believe what you see.

Today, the altering of photos is so widespread that it's difficult to know for certain if what you're seeing is real.

My experience with photography dates back to 1977 when I was first introduced to a Minolta XG7 35mm SLR Camera for a photography class I took in junior high school. Back then, we took pictures on film and developed the film in a darkroom, where we would then print black and white photos using a Beseler photo enlarger -- the 'old style' technique. It was truly an art to create a quality image, using burning and dodging techniques, and knowing precisely how long to keep the exposed image in the various chemicals needed for processing. Of course, that was 42 years ago and today everyone can see their images instantly on their phones, editing and publishing photos quickly to social media.

In 1990, Photoshop hit the market -- the leading software for image manipulation. The before and after photos accompanying this writing (of the woman in high heels) is an example of what Photoshop can do. Photoshop has changed photography, fashion, and advertising faster than legislation has been able to keep up. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has been enforcing truth-in-advertising laws for over a hundred years, but they've been slow to respond to image retouching. However, that's starting to change.

In countries around the world, legislators and regulators are beginning to take action. Laws are being passed -- like the Photoshop Law in Israel which requires models to be at least an 18.5 BMI (body mass index) and for advertisers to label retouched images. In France, an October 2017 law went into effect requiring a "photographie retouchée" label on photos that have been digitally altered to make a model's silhouette narrower or wider. It also requires an every other year health exam for models, to medically certify that they are healthy enough to work.

As a result of the increasing popularity of photo manipulation, the globally recognized stock photography group called Getty Images banned "any creative content depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner or larger," according to an email sent out to all customers. Getty stated, "It’s important to be clear that altering a model’s body shape as described by the new French law is quite rare in commercial stock photography (it is time consuming and is also against the increasing trend towards more authentic imagery)."

Lawmakers and enforcers are motivated primarily by unrealistic depictions of the female body, and the potential harm retouched images are causing to the self-esteem of impressionable youth. The American Medical Association released a statement condemning excessive image alteration that included this excerpt:
"The appearance of advertisements with extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image. In one image, a model's waist was slimmed so severely, her head appeared to be wider than her waist. We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software."
In October 2015, teen star Zendaya was applauded for calling out Modeliste Magazine for what she felt was heavy-handed Photoshopping of her images. On her Instagram account, she explained that she was was “shocked when I found my 19 year old hips and torso quite manipulated,” and that images edited in this way “create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have.”

In 2013, Beyonce protested against clothing retailer H&M, refusing to allow them to make alterations to her body after a photoshoot for H&M’s swimwear line. That same year Lady Gaga spoke out against her Glamour cover photo because she felt her “skin looked too perfect” and her “hair looked too soft.”

In April 2016, Scandal star Kerry Washington took to her Instagram to respond to Adweek’s heavy Photoshop job of her cover, explaining that “it felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror.”

In January 2018, CVS unveiled a campaign to create new standards for beauty ads in their stores — namely, phasing out airbrushing and other digital alterations. Part of that included the debut of the CVS Beauty Mark, a watermark placed on advertisements confirming to customers that the images weren’t digitally altered or retouched (which CVS defined as "changing or enhancing a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics"). Additionally, CVS also asked beauty brands sold there to adhere to these new standards by 2020. They increased their efforts a few months later with their new ad campaign, "Beauty in Real Life," for which the company cast a diverse group of real women from all over the U.S. for un-retouched print and video imagery.

Sadly, image manipulation is not something that is reserved only for celebrities. In fact, today anyone can manipulate their images with one of many image manipulation apps or software available. Studies show that an increasing number of teens are manipulating photographs before posting online so that they can appear thinner, have a larger butt, enhanced bust size, or wider hips. Facial makeovers can be done within seconds and flaws/blemishes removed. The before and after images of the teen's face accompanying this writing is the result of a manipulation app for a phone. Notice the enhancement of the lips and eyes, and the narrowing of the jaw structure. Her ears have been slightly narrowed, her eyebrows darkened, and her neck made to appear thinner. There are endless ways of manipulating photographs and many teens are learning and applying these techniques.

No, you cannot always believe what you see in a photograph. The days of waiting to see a photo for the first time in a darkroom environment are long gone, as are the days of being able to trust with greater certainty what your eyes actually see in a photograph.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Can a Strong Woman be a Feminine Woman?

I am blessed to be married to a strong, feminine woman. There is not a day that goes by when I don't see, appreciate and acknowledge the true beauty radiating from my wife in so many ways. I recently read, “Women were created to be strong and powerful and formidable, not in spite of their sex, but because of it. The source of true feminine beauty comes from deep inside a woman’s being and is manifested when their thoughts, words, actions and emotions are in perfect harmony with the purpose of a woman."

Before you read any more, I'm going to give you the answer to the question which headlines today's blog writing. YES! A strong woman can be a feminine woman. How do I know? Because I am fortunate to open my eyes each day to see such a woman at my side. My wife is a shining example of just how beautiful a woman can be when she has complete confidence in who she is, what she wants, and what she's worth. However, her beauty is not wrapped in arrogance, superiority, a demanding demeanor, or insistence on equality in every way. She is my PARTNER in life and we truly compliment one another.

I recently read, "A little known fact that is not spoken about today is that women actually have held power and influenced households, local and global events since the dawn of time... If you’re a woman who understands her true feminine power and uses it to her own advantage, you know exactly what I mean. The look in his eyes. The willingness to please you and do anything to win your attention, time and your presence. His care. His soft touch. His complete surrender to your feminine gifts. The magic that lures him in that he can’t even explain. This is just an example of how a woman can influence or have power over a man -- and "power" over men is a tremendous resource. The trick is to use it wisely and with great care."

I will admit that my wife has true feminine power in our marriage, and she indeed uses it wisely and with great care. In fact, I find everything about my wife attractive -- from her faith to her personality, from the way she cares for our family to her strong work ethic. She is indeed a strong woman in so many of life's arenas, but she also maintains her femininity and the combination is simply intoxicating to me. Unfortunately, some women believe that being 'feminine' equates to a degree of weakness. Personally, I believe that most men find femininity a positive and strong trait in a woman.

Research has shown that men remain, on average, larger and stronger than women, possessing 26 pounds of skeletal muscle, 40 percent more upper-body strength, and 33 percent more lower body strength. From purely a physical standpoint, men tend to have larger frames and possess more strength than women. Yet, there are certainly some women who are stronger than some men! However, this blog post is not about a woman's muscular strength or body build. This is about a woman being strong and confident in who she is; what she believes in; where she's going; and, her worth in a relationship. Such strength, used wisely and with care, is incredibly attractive to men and when joined with femininity, a woman of any age or body type can be both strong and feminine.

I also recently read, "Ironically, a strong woman is not what society tells us it is. No woman is a strong woman because she got a degree. No woman is a strong woman because she got promoted. No woman is a strong woman because of her intellect. No woman is a strong woman because she can do something just as well as a man can or even better than them. No woman is strong because she’s an athlete. No woman is strong because she can lift heavy weights at the gym, or run fast. True strength lies in her ability to embrace her feminine core, and whilst she may be a high achiever, and whilst she may be very intelligent – her real strength is in her true femininity... and in her character. Can she care for others? Can she care not only when it’s easy, but when it’s hard? Can she truly feel, rather than hide her feelings? Can she tell the truth, and influence people for the better? Can she influence without aggression? Can she influence without ego? Can she give without expecting anything back? Can she accept a man, without trying to change him?"

Finally, I came across these words and want to share them with you:

A strong woman is one who feels deeply and loves fiercely.
Her tears flow just as abundantly as her laughter.
A strong woman is both soft and powerful.
She is both Practical and Spiritual.
A strong woman in her essence is a gift to all the world.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Attending My Stepdaughter's College Graduation Was Very Special

I recently had the honor of attending my stepdaughter's graduation from Indiana University. Rachel looked lovely and her smile was beaming. For the past four years, she has diligently pursued her bachelor's degree while working a part-time job and maintaining her own home. In my opinion, Rachel is the epitome of what today's young adult should be doing -- setting goals and achieving them through hard work, perseverance and desire.

At Rachel's graduation ceremony, the Chancellor commended students for their personal commitment to excellence and challenged them to become leaders in their professions and communities, saying: "Hard work, dedication, and commitment have played a role in your success. Now with that success comes responsibility. We will look to you for leadership. Society will look to you to make a difference in all the challenges we’re going to face in this country and in the world."

Those words had me wondering just how many students graduate from college in the United States each year to embark on a life of such responsibility. The Census Bureau has said that 34 percent of Americans have completed a bachelor's degree or higher. The college graduation rate is at around 60% (in other words, 60% of those who start college actually attain their degree -- but only 36% of those students finish within 4 years). There are approximately 19 million college students in the United States (in undergraduate programs) and about 4 million enrolled in graduate or professional programs. So, there are around 23 million students pursuing higher education in the U.S. annually -- which is 7 percent of the U.S. population.

Data in the last twenty years shows the general trend of girls outperforming boys in academic achievement in terms of class grades across all subjects and college graduation rates, but boys scoring higher on standardized tests and being better represented in the higher-paying and more prestigious STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Annually, more American women are earning bachelor's degrees than men, and I'm so proud of my stepdaughter for not only pursuing her degree, but attaining it! Congratulations Rachel!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, May 3, 2019

What's in a Name? I Decided to Explore my Surname, STASO.

My last name is Staso, pronounced with a long 'A' sound (like STAY-SO). There are 642 immigration records available for the last name Staso, and although it is not a common surname it can most often be found in the U.S. in Pennsylvania. Ukraine is the country where the surname 'Staso' is most common, with the United States coming in second and Russia third. It is said that globally, fewer than 500 people have the surname Staso.

Several popular surname resource websites state that the meaning of "Staso" is unknown. However, I did find one website which had this to say about those bearing the Staso surname: "You are spiritually intense and can sting or charm. Your name brings love and new starts into life and attracts money. You are bold, independent, inquisitive and interested in research. You know what you want and why you want it. You are basically a peacemaker. You understand the law of harmony and desire to balance your life with those around you. You may feel incomplete without someone to share your love, ideals, wealth or work. You have developed intuition, patience and the ability to nurture others. You can achieve the state of happiness if you're willing to accept your needs in a complimentary relationship and go to create them." I also read that the surname Staso conjures benevolence, keenness and diplomacy.

I don't take stock in astrology or numerology, so I won't share what I saw about the surname 'Staso' in those categories.

Perhaps the most humorous thing I've read that includes 'Staso' is the meaning of "Stasophobia," which is a fear of standing or walking (the origin of the word staso is Latin [meaning standing] and phobia is Greek [meaning fear]). It's ironic that my surname appears in a phobia term regarding being on your feet -- especially since I've run across states and countries!

Finally, I used a research database and found out that there are currently two other men in the United States with the name Paul Staso -- one older than I am, and one younger.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Yale/Oxford Research Shows Exercise Makes You Happier Than Money

Are you living at the corner of Health Avenue and Happiness Street? Last month, "The World Happiness Report" was released — which is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The report focuses on happiness and the community: how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes. The World Happiness Report is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in partnership with the Ernesto Illy Foundation.

The report shows that the citizens of Finland are the happiest, while the citizens of South Sudan are the least happy. Out of the 156 countries named in the study, the United States is listed as the 19th happiest country — slightly behind the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany and Belgium. The rankings of country happiness are based on the pooled results from Gallup World Poll surveys from 2016-2018.

Recently, researchers at Yale and Oxford collected data about the physical behavior and mental mood of more than 1.2 million Americans. Participants were asked to answer the following question: "How many times have you felt mentally unwell in the past 30 days, for example, due to stress, depression, or emotional problems?" The participants were also asked about their income and physical activities. They were able to choose from 75 types of physical activity — from mowing the lawn, taking care of children, and doing housework to weight lifting, cycling, and running.

The scientists found that while those who exercised regularly tended to feel bad for 35 days a year, nonactive participants felt bad for 18 days more, on average. In addition, the researchers found that physically active people feel just as good as those who don't do sports but who earn about $25,000 more a year. Essentially, you'd have to earn a lot more to get yourself the same happiness-boosting effect that sport has. However, it doesn't mean that the more sport activity you do the happier you are!

The study's author says that the relationship between sport duration and mental load is U-shaped. The study found that physical activity contributes to better mental well-being only when it falls within a certain time frame. According to the study, three to five training sessions, each lasting between 30 to 60 minutes, are ideal per week. The mental health of those participants who exercised for longer than three hours a day suffered more than that of those who weren't particularly physically active.

The researchers also noticed that certain sports that involve socializing (such as team sports) can have more of a positive effect on your mental health than others. Despite the fact that neither cycling nor aerobics and fitness technically counts as team sports, these activities were found to also have a considerable positive effect on mental health.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

My Stepdaughter Made Me Cry While I Was Surrounded By Moms

My 14-year-old stepdaughter, Hannah, is a ballet dancer. She has been taking classes for 10 years and every time I watch her practice, I am in awe of her grace, strength, flexibility and enthusiasm. Earlier this week I was watching her at dance class (being the only man there surrounded by other girls' Moms) and... my eyes welled up with tears. I haven't shared that with Hannah, but I was emotionally moved as I watched her. After driving home she got out of the car and I told her how impressed I am with her abilities. It was then that she said that she's not like some kids at her school -- an "athlete" -- but that she enjoys dance. Her words got me thinking.

I spent over 30 years of my adult life as a long-distance runner. My legs carried me to many finish lines and across states and countries as I pursued extreme ultra-endurance challenges. Being an "athlete" is something I'm very familiar with and I know what it takes to be one. Hannah is truly an athlete in every sense of the word.

What attributes define "athlete?" An athlete is a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength (a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill). The physical ability and disciplines expected of a dancer can be easily related to those of an athlete and dance critics are increasingly describing dancers as being athletic.

I recently read this about ballet dancers...
A ballet dancer must certainly achieve physical agility, stamina and strength in their profession and physical skill must be mastered. Daily training involves repetition of exercises to achieve the physical attributes necessary to execute movements required of a dancer, however the focus is not on sport or games. Whilst many dancers will compete in contests and will audition against other dancers for a place in a company, the real emphasis in dance is on the performance itself. There is an element of competition across the dance profession but the reward is a particular role in a company or a promotion from chorus to soloist rather than a gold medal.
Hannah attends dance classes many hours each week throughout the school year and has certainly achieved physical ability, stamina and strength to be one of the best 14-year-old dancers I've ever seen -- and I don't say that out of a bias of being her step-dad. I see an ability in Hannah that could truly take her to some wonderful stages and experiences. Her aim is to be a professional ballerina and I believe she will achieve her goal.

In many respects dancers are athletes, but they are also artists and it is this combination that makes for a stunning emotional and physical performance. Yes, Hannah is indeed an athlete -- a beautiful athlete with strength, flexibility, grace, stamina, rhythm and dedication. It's truly a blessing to see her excel at what she loves and no matter where her abilities take her, her mother and I will be cheering her on... likely with a tear in my eye.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Have You Gotten Your Kicks on Route 66? If Not, You Should!

U.S. Route 66 (also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, and The Mother Road) was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System -- extending 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was established on November 11, 1926, and while officially Route 66 no longer exists, the majority of it remains to be driven and enjoyed through eight states.

I've had the pleasure of running portions of Route 66. In some places the physical road is unpaved and virtually impassable. In many states, Route 66 parallels the interstate highway, and in some areas you can see signs calling it "Historic Route 66."

Route 66 represents a true piece of Americana. Because this road wound through so many tiny towns, hundreds of odd little trading posts, motels and attractions popped up along the way. However, by 1970 nearly all segments of original Route 66 were bypassed by a modern four-lane highway. Although Route 66 faded into a memory, many of its pit stops remain -- frozen in time like ghost towns.

Route 66 truly holds a special place in American history. It provided an economic and social link between the West and the Midwest of the U.S., offering an artery for millions of people to relocate and change their lives. Route 66 assisted in transforming the West from a wild frontier to a modern community. Route 66 also showcases some of the most beautiful scenery in America.

If you haven't yet checked out Route 66, I highly recommend it. As the song says, "Get your kicks on Route 66!"

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 26, 2019

14 Years Later... Elementary Students Are Still Running Across America

It was nearly 14 years ago when I challenged the 4th and 5th grade students at a Montana elementary school to be two teams in a friendly competition to try and complete a virtual 3,200-mile run across America during the 2005-2006 school year -- cumulatively adding up each student's walking and running mileage acquired through physical education class, playground time, and other in-school opportunities. I've written about that several times over the years, and have always been so proud of both groups of students... who became the first in America to have a documented crossing of America from coast to coast via an online website updated daily. Today, it's nice to see that there are still elementary schools taking on a run/walk across America challenge and giving students a chance to try and cross the country as a team.

For instance, Mandalay Elementary School in Wantagh, New York, has taken on the challenge this school year -- thanks to it's P.E. teacher, Robyn Pastuch. In an interview last autumn, Ms. Pastuch said, "We are looking forward to seeing what our school can achieve when we set a goal together centered on fitness."

Over the years since I challenged the Montana students to virtually cross the country, there have been several schools in America that have posed similar challenges to students, including: Ramona-Alessandro Elementary School in San Bernardino, California; Deer Park Elementary School in Centreville, Virginia; and, Carmel River Elementary School in Carmel, California. Unfortunately, there are not as many elementary schools taking on the challenge as I hoped there would be nearly 14 years after I started encouraging schools in the U.S. to consider the opportunity to combine the fitness benefits of a virtual cross-country run with learning about different states during such a challenge. This type of program does not need additional P.E. funding and simply requires P.E. teachers to create a virtual route across America and to provide some regional and state facts as students make progress.

Sadly, in recent years there have been school districts that have felt the need to cut physical education programs, passing exercise instruction on to classroom teachers -- who have plenty of other topics to address in their limited time frames. In contrast to that, aims by some school districts to increase the frequency of physical education have fallen flat. Earlier this year. The Atlantic published an article with the headline: "Gym Class Is So Bad, Kids Are Skipping School to Avoid It." A massive P.E. initiative in Texas -- called the "Texas Fitness Now" program (a $37 million endeavor) -- was aimed to improve middle schoolers’ fitness, academic achievement, and behavior by requiring them to participate in physical education daily. Researchers concluded that the daily mandate didn’t have any positive impact on kids’ health or educational outcome. On the contrary, they found that the program actually had detrimental effects, correlating with a rise in discipline and absence rates.

Why would kids want to skip middle school P.E. class? Some say a potential reason is because students are more likely to be bullied in middle school than at any other point in their academic careers, and P.E. presents a particularly ripe opportunity for abuse -- whether because the class forces them to use a locker room (where adult supervision is limited) or because it facilitates the teasing of overweight or nonathletic kids. According to the study, the program resulted in a roughly 16 percent increase in the number of disciplinary actions for each student. The study also found that the proportion of misbehaving students went up by more than 7 percent.

Cutting physical education isn't the answer. Making physical education a daily requirement isn't the answer. In my opinion, a healthy balance needs to be reached between academics and physical education. A virtual run across America program combines fitness with learning and can be a creative and fun way to get kids moving while at the same time tracking their progress as a group. In such a challenge, everyone contributes to the overall group goal -- and it certainly does not have to occur daily. I hope that more P.E. teachers see the benefits of a coast-to-coast running and walking challenge for their students, and implement a challenge that will open the minds of students to what is possible with a strong and healthy body... perhaps even sharing with students stories of people who have actually run all the way across America.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 25, 2019

65 Years of Marriage is Quite a Milestone! Congratulations Mom & Dad!

My parents recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. What a wonderful milestone! According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, only about 7 percent of married couples ever achieve even a 50th anniversary.

They were married in 1954 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and John F. Kennedy was a freshman senator. The Supreme Court had just passed its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregating public schools. The New York Giants won the World Series (the team moved to San Francisco in 1958 to become the San Francisco Giants). Gas was 21 cents per gallon. A stamp cost three cents. The minimum wage was 75 cents per hour and the average annual income was $4,000. The average cost of a new car was $1,700 and a new house was $10,250. Times have certainly changed!

In 1954, the top-rated film was Rear Window. It's a mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and featuring such stars as James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Raymond Burr. The film is considered by many critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best and one of the greatest films ever made. My wife and I enjoyed watching this film and despite the age, it is truly one to add to your list of movies to watch!

Since I want to be respectful to my parents' privacy, I am not sharing any other information than what year they were married — 1954. Recently, I read an interview that was conducted with a woman who had been married for 65 years, and the following is what she said is important for creating a long and happy marriage.
1. Love takes many forms
“Love plays an important role in my relationship — and it’s manifested in many ways. Of course, I’ve always been physically attracted to my husband. That’s romantic love. We have four children, and the love we share for them is a supportive, sacrificing love. As we’ve grown together, we now find we show our love in a caregiving capacity. Love changes with time. It needs room to adjust to the ups and the downs.” 
2. Speak kindly or not at all
“Be careful how you speak to each other. Over the years I’ve found that if you want to say something unkind — wait a day! Tomorrow comes, and odds are you won’t want to say it anymore. You can’t take back unkind words; they are the things that break people up.” 
3. Be flexible
“My mother said marriage is about two people giving 100 percent. Sometimes the husband gives 90 and you give 10; the next time, you try to give 90 and let him give 10. That kind of give-and-take is essential.” 
4. Share hobbies
“My husband and I prioritize friendship. Relationships work best when you have certain things in common and enjoy each other’s company. We both like to travel, garden, hike in the woods, play board games and go to our cottage.” 
5. Surprise each other
“It’s all about the little things. Pay attention to each other. Every time one of my children was born, my husband brought me a bouquet of yellow roses. He knows how much I like surprises too. Once, we saw a pink hardtop convertible in a showroom window. I told my husband how much I loved it. The next day we walked past, and it wasn’t there. I forgot all about it, but he didn’t. Turns out he had bought the car and stored it in a garage. Then on Christmas morning he got up at 1 a.m. and parked it in front of the house. I’ve never forgotten that.” 
6. Give each other space
“Freedom is important. You have to be left to be yourself. I am a writer, and my husband always understood if I had to work late to get an assignment in on time. He loves to golf and curl, and I always let him go to championship games without making a fuss. We trust each other when we’re together or apart.”
Those are some wise words! I love my parents very much and it is such a blessing to see them enjoying life side by side after 65 years of marriage!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Surprising Health Facts That May Make You Say "WOW!"

It seems like every week there’s a new headline about what’s good and bad for us, along with advice about how to change our lifestyles to be healthier and happier. Often these are the fairly obvious, from doing more exercise to eating more fruit and vegetables. However, occasionally there are surprising health facts that come to light. Today's blog writing will focus on a few that I've recently read.

Researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi published the results of a study that looked at four main areas that constitute a "healthy lifestyle," those being "a good diet, moderate exercise, a recommended body fat percentage and being a non-smoker." Almost all Americans failed the four-point test. The headline figure from the study is that a mere 2.7% of Americans actually hit all four markers of living a healthy lifestyle. That means that 2.7% of Americans don’t smoke; eat a healthy diet; exercise; and, have a body fat percentage within a normal range. Sadly, the percentage of people who didn’t pass any category was 11%.

Research by Arizona State University found that one in six females would rather be blind than obese. Alongside giving up their eyesight, many said they would prefer alcoholism or herpes to being overweight, while a quarter would rather suffer from depression.

According to research results published in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 48 percent of the women surveyed would definitely be interested in going under the knife, with a further 23 percent possibly interested in surgical intervention. The corresponding figures for men were 23 percent and 17 percent respectively, which would appear to suggest that negative body image is something that is now crossing genders.

Northumbria University has found that smoking can have a serious effect on day to day memory during the lifetime of a smoker. In tests, people who smoked were found to lose one third of their everyday memory. According to the study, smokers performed significantly worse in memory tests than those who did not smoke; however, they found that kicking the habit restored their ability to recollect information.

You may be taking in more sugar than you know. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, food companies have been increasing the sugar content of processed foods to make them more appetizing. As a result, many people are unaware of how much sugar they are eating. The study showed that some people are unknowingly eating up to 46 teaspoons of sugar each day!

Four out of every ten premature deaths may be caused by cancer, but the World Health Organization issued a report stating that a third of all the different types of cancer could be prevented by changes in people’s behavior. Typical causes of cancer which could be eliminated include: tobacco consumption; a sedentary lifestyle; being overweight; drinking alcohol; bacterial infection; and, polluted environments.

Americans are the biggest consumer of weight loss products (80%) in the world, yet still lead the world in obesity and unhealthy lifestyle.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

While in Germany, I Was in the Crosshairs of Automatic Weapons

There's a story from my 2010 solo run across Germany that I've never shared before in this blog -- although some family and friends have heard the story. Today, I thought I'd share it with you. Overall, I ran 19 marathons in 21 days from Grafenwoehr, a small town in eastern Bavaria, to Landstuhl, Germany, on the north-western edge of the Palatinate forest. Over 22,000 school children from 9 countries virtually ran with me, logging miles at their schools and tracking my progress through an online website that I maintained. I must admit, I had a couple of close calls on that run!

It would be on this March 2010 run through a bitter cold German countryside that I would have automatic weapons pointed at me, ready to fire.

While running alone across Germany, I was using a GPS system for identifying the best daily route. One day, in the heart of the run, my GPS directed me onto a dirt road through a forest. I had run on many dirt roads and paths through the forest landscape, so it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary. However, on that particular day I would end up running right into the armed German military... and I barely spoke their language!

As I ran down the dirt road, I could hear gunshots. I wasn't quite sure where the shots were coming from since I was surrounded by trees and hills, which seemed to create an echo effect. The dirt road turned into a trail, which then went through a passageway of a fence (not a broken fence portion, but a purposefully created gap of about 6 feet in width). The trail then emptied onto a paved road, which I continued to follow. I knew something wasn't right when the gunshots were getting louder, and then I saw a parked military vehicle with German flags. I stopped running and was walking slowly when it dawned on me -- as buildings suddenly came into view -- that I was actually on a German military base.

Chain link fencing with barbwire appeared on one side of the road, and about one-quarter mile ahead of me was a shooting range. Right when I was about to turn around, two men armed with automatic weapons yelled something at me. I couldn't understand them and was barely walking when they started to come toward me from about 70 yards away. The man in the lead raised his gun and locked me in his sights as he marched toward me, and then the man behind did the same. I stopped in my tracks and was pretty terrified at the situation. As they were approaching, three soldiers appeared on the roadway in front of me, only one of them able to speak a slight amount of English. I asked for the weapons to please be lowered, and although one of the soldiers on the road appeared to understand my request, the guns stayed pointed at me. The two men stood about 50 feet away with me in their sights while the three other soldiers surrounded me.

I showed them my GPS coordinates and tried to explain that I accidentally wandered onto the base from a dirt trail. They looked over my stroller and read a card I had explaining the mission of the run -- which was written in German. I was told that I was on a military base and very close to their shooting range and that I would be escorted out. There was actually very little conversation due to lack of language understanding on both sides. The two men lowered their automatic weapons and the soldiers lead me off of the base, directing me to run down a particular road -- which I did quickly. However, the altered route added 10 additional miles to my day. Regardless, I was safe and wasn't detained for further questioning. It was indeed a very nerve wracking situation and I was fortunate to be released.

Afterward, I couldn't help but to think of my grandfather, who passed away many years before my 2010 Germany run. He had fought in Germany during World War II as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was shot while serving for his country and was awarded the Purple Heart. He and I share our first and middle names, as well as both having military guns pointed at us in Germany. However, his encounter was for service to his country and he paid a great price. Mine was simply out of following a GPS line on a screen which lead me into an unfortunate situation.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, April 22, 2019

Parents, What Apps Are On Your Child's Phone? You Should Know!

Every 40 seconds a child goes missing somewhere in the United States. There are more than 400,000 missing children each year. Of those missing children, almost 1,500 of them are kidnapped (this kidnapped number being an estimate since not every case gets reported, especially as it pertains to family member abductions).

According to the FBI, in 2018 there were 424,066 National Crime Information Center entries for missing children. Also, in 2018 the CyberTipline received more than 18.4 million reports, most of which related to: apparent child sexual abuse images; online enticement, including "sextortion;" child sex trafficking; and, child sexual molestation. Females aged 12-17 were the most commonly abducted group by strangers. Among those females, a majority of them did not live with two parents (either biological or adopted)Children age 12 and over are the victims of kidnapping in more than 80% of cases.

As many as 2.8 million teens run away from home each year. The typical age of runaways is between the ages of 10 and 18, and more than 75 percent of teen runaways are female.

Today, the world is filled with child predators, especially online. These predators aim to establish contact with kids through conversations in chat rooms, instant messaging, e-mail or discussion boards. Many teens use "peer support" online forums to deal with their problems. Predators, however, often go to these online areas to look for vulnerable victims.

Online predators try to gradually seduce their targets through attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts, and often devote considerable time, money and energy to this effort. They are aware of the latest music and hobbies likely to interest kids. They listen to and sympathize with kids' problems. They also try to ease young people's inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual content into their conversations or by showing them sexually explicit material.

Some predators work faster than others, engaging in sexually explicit conversations immediately. This more direct approach may include harassment or stalking. Predators may also evaluate the kids they meet online for future face-to-face contact. Kids feel they are aware of the dangers of predators, but in reality they are quite naive about online relationships. In focus groups conducted by the Media Awareness Network, girls aged 11 to 14 initially said they disguised their identities in chat rooms. They admitted, however, that it was impossible to maintain a false identity for long and eventually revealed personal information when they felt they could "trust a person." Building this "trust" took from 15 minutes to several weeks -- not a long time for a skillful predator to wait.

Several U.S. police departments have circulated a list of 14 Apps that parents should know about. Here is the list and information/warnings that police departments are sharing about each:

BUMBLE: It is similar to the popular dating app "Tinder." However, it requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to use Bumble to create fake accounts and falsify their age.

LIVE.ME: It is a live-streaming video app that uses geolocation to share videos so users can find out a broadcaster's exact location. Users can earn "coins" as a way to "pay" minors for photos.

ASK.FM: It is known for cyber bullying. The app encourages users to allow anonymous people to ask them questions.

SNAPCHAT: It is one of the most popular apps. While the app promises users can take a photo/video and it will disappear, recent features include "stories" which allows users to view content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location. (In addition, screenshots of content can be taken and saved.)

HOLLA: It is a self-proclaimed "addicting" video chat app that allows users to meet people all over the world in just seconds. Reviewers say they have been confronted with racial slurs, explicit content, and more.

CALCULATOR%: It is only one of several secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files, and browser history.

KIK: It allows anyone to contact and direct message your child. Kids can bypass traditional text messaging features. KIK gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

WHISPER: It is an anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user's location so people can meet up.

HOT OR NOT: It encourages users to rate your profile, check out people in their area, and chat with strangers. The goal of this app is to hook up.

OMEGLE: A free online chat website that promotes chatting anonymously to strangers.

YELLOW: This app is designed to allow teens to flirt with each other in a Tinder-like atmosphere.

BURN BOOK: Allows anyone to post anonymous rumors about people through audio, messages, texts and photos.

WISHBONE: An app that allows users to compare kids against each other and rate them on a scale.

INSTAGRAM: Many kids are now creating fake accounts to hid content from parents. Kids also like to text using Instagram because messages are deleted once a user leaves the conversation.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 19, 2019

Eggs, Eggs, and More Eggs -- Easter in a Nutshell (actually, Eggshell)!

Those who have read this blog for any amount of time have learned that I'm a Christian. With the Easter season upon us (today being Good Friday), I am giving thanks to God for my salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, His resurrection, and His promise... and my acceptance of His gift of eternal life through Him. That is truly what Easter is about. So, where do all of the eggs come in?

It's impossible to go through the Easter season without seeing eggs everywhere. Sure, there are countless appearances of the 'Easter Bunny' in stores and at egg hunts. However, eggs seem to be around every corner this time of year. It's estimated that about 180 million eggs are purchased each year in the United States for Easter. That's a lot of eggs!

In many cultures, giving of eggs is considered a symbol of rebirth. Numerous sources state that the custom of the decorated Easter egg originated with the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ. Other sources note that the Easter egg originated in the Ukraine, with the art of painting eggs being called "pysanka."

Interestingly, the record for the largest Easter egg tree was set by the Rostock Zoo in Germany, which in 2007 decorated a tree with 76,596 painted hen's eggs. Whew... that's a lot of eggs!

Finally, a bit of egg-prep advice. When boiling your eggs, add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water. This will ensure that your eggs are easier to peel when it's time to actually eat them. Happy Easter!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Due to Irresponsible Parents, Some Kids Are Falling Out of Vehicles!

Earlier this year, a dash cam video captured a two-year-old girl in a car seat tumbling out onto a busy Minnesota roadway due to the mother failing to strap the car seat down and allowing the unlocked door handle to be in reach of the child. This is not an isolated incident. There have been other reports of children falling out of moving vehicles due to irresponsible parents. Sadly, falling from a moving vehicle isn't something that only infants and toddlers are experiencing.

Last week, a 10-year-old boy was taken to a Los Angeles children's hospital in critical condition  after "car surfing" on top of a car with one of his parents behind the wheel. Unfortunately, he fell off and got run over by the same car! Car surfing basically entails standing on top (or hanging off of) a moving car, riding it like a surfboard. Last month, a 23-year-old woman was hanging out of a rear passenger window of a moving vehicle while on spring break in Florida when she suddenly fell out of the car and landed on the highway as the driver was changing lanes. Another driver could not avoid her and crushed her to death. Accidents happen, but there are certainly times when responsible parenting and some basic common sense could prevent careless and reckless accidents.

The danger of falling out of a moving vehicle came to my attention quite strongly yesterday while I was driving back to the office from lunch. An old white car pulled up alongside me at a stoplight. In the vehicle to my left was an overweight woman behind the wheel with a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In the passenger seat was a 20-something man with extensive tattoos who was smoking a cigarette. In the backseat, on the driver's side, was a young girl who couldn't have been older than age 6. She was not in a seat belt (and she didn't have a child/booster seat) and was actually hanging halfway out of her rolled down window -- reaching towards, and slapping, a parked car next to their vehicle.

In Indiana (where I reside), the law states that all occupants of a vehicle must be wearing a seat belt. I could not believe the absolute danger that I was seeing of this little girl hanging halfway out of the window (balancing on her waist!), hitting parked cars. I rolled down my window and said to the man sitting in the passenger seat with his window down, "Excuse me, but do you see that the little girl is hitting other cars and close to falling out of the window?" He glanced back at the girl, and then looked at me and said: "F_ck off!" Just then, the light turned green and the woman poured on the gas, the little girl still hanging out of the window with her head getting very close to other parked cars along the roadway. They shot down a one way street as I was in another lane and I lost sight of them, failing to capture their vehicle's make/model and license plate number (to call 911) because I was so focused on the little girl and whether she would fall out. It truly made me angry to see such irresponsibility and direct disregard for the law and for the safety of a child.

Too often I see young children who are acting inappropriately and are with adults who don't seem to care -- as I witnessed yesterday. There is nothing wrong with correcting and disciplining a child -- particularly for his or her well being! In fact, it's Biblical -- Proverbs 13:24, "... the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them." Often, parents forget that the point of disciplining children is to give them firm guidelines and limits so that they don't need to experience a negative consequence for poor choices/actions. Disciplining means setting up boundaries and expectations so that kids know what is expected of them. The primary goal is to have kids learn to eventually regulate themselves so that they don't need to be corrected or disciplined. Sadly, there are parents that don't want to put in the consistent effort of parenting. Regardless, when I see a child who is in genuine danger while with an inattentive and/or unconcerned parent, I will always say something. What I witnessed yesterday was nothing short of child endangerment -- it being a crime to endanger the health or life of a child through an adult's recklessness or indifference.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Our "100,000" Bodies -- Amazing To Think About!

I recently read that in today's world the average person will walk about 100,000 miles in his or her lifetime. I'm 54 years old (young!) and I can tell you for certain that I've already surpassed that amount. Just in my running career I've logged over 50,000 miles. As I began to think about the number -- 100,000 -- I realized that the number is also applicable to other parts of the human body:
  • The average human head has 100,000 hair follicles.
  • Your heart beats an average of 100,000 times a day
  • There are up to 100,000 miles of blood vessels in an adult human body.
  • The muscles that control your eyes contract about 100,000 times a day
  • A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons.
  • In an average lifetime, a human body processes about 100,000 pounds of food.
A few years ago, Forbes magazine aimed to answer the question: "What will we look like 100,000 years from now, assuming we still exist that far in the future?" An organismic and evolutionary biologist attempted to answer the question and simply stated, "Even if we ignore new technologies, moving off the earth, and various selection pressures, evolution still holds surprises just by chance mutation." Personally, I believe that whether it's 100,000 years... or less... or more... that God will continue to allow for the existence of men and women on earth in His grand plan, for His divine purposes, and within His timing for such existence -- and our appearance will be just as His plan calls for. Nope, that's not an 'evolution' perspective, but a spiritual one.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Homeownership Benefits -- Personal Health, Net Worth, Content Kids

I recently read an article in Forbes magazine titled "Why Homeownership Matters." Last year, I married my beautiful wife, Kelley, and purchased a new home (see photos). We have truly made the house our 'home.' It is exactly what we both wanted, a little in the country, and will be the last home of our lifetime. We are very blessed!

Forbes' article notes that the homeownership rate in the U.S. has fallen to a 50-year low -- with only about 64 percent of households being "homeowners." In the Housing Opportunity and Market Experience survey, 87 percent said homeownership is part of their American Dream.

The article went on to say that sustainable homeownership has provided wealth accumulation for owners. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, a typical homeowner’s net worth was $195,400, while that of renter’s was $5,400. A typical homeowner will be ahead of a typical renter by a multiple of 45 on a lifetime financial achievement scale. The results are based on a median figure and not an average so as to better reflect the middle point and not be skewed by a small percentage of super wealthy families.

Research has shown that homeownership provides social benefits beyond pure financial and economic benefits. Studies have found that, other things being equal, children of homeowners do better in school (higher test scores and lower anti-social behaviors). Lower crime and lower drug usage were also among the findings for the children of homeowners. Homeowners are more likely to be involved in community civic engagements, local elections, and volunteer work compared to renters – again with other things being equal. Health outcomes are also better with homeowners. This result could arise from a better sense of self-control and self-worth among homeowners versus renters, as academic studies have shown.

There are multiple positive benefits of homeownership. However, it has to be sustainable. Homeowners must understand the responsibility of ownership and take on a mortgage that is manageable and not overstretch their budget. In 2018, there were nearly 128 million households in the United States -- of which, 64 percent own and 36 percent rent. The median price of a house in America is currently $218,000. Several years ago I relocated to Indiana (where the average purchase price of a home is $214,000) from Montana (where the average price is $316,000). Where in the country you choose to live can certainly be a factor in the cost of a home. The most expensive location is California where the average home price is $713,000. The least expensive is Iowa, with an average home price of $181,000.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 12, 2019

"Cursive Writing" or "Curse of Writing" -- Texas is Bringing Cursive Back

I attended my elementary school years from 1970 through 1976. In those days, cursive writing was as much a part of the curriculum as math, science and history. As the decades have gone by, cursive writing in schools has -- for the most part -- gone by the wayside. However, many news outlets are reporting that Texas will reintroduce cursive writing to the state curriculum for elementary students beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Second graders will learn how to write cursive letters, and third graders will be expected to "write complete words, thoughts, and answers legibly in cursive writing leaving appropriate spaces between words," according to the updated Texas Education Code. By the time they reach the fourth grade, students will be required to write legibly and complete assignments in cursive.

The Texas State Board of Education modified the "English Language Arts and Reading" section of its standard education requirements. Some argue that if teachers are required to teach cursive, there is less time available to instruct students on other subjects -- because there's only so much time in the day. The majority of school districts in Texas currently do not teach students how to write in cursive. Beginning this September, elementary students in every Texas school district will be instructed in cursive writing.

The practical argument is that cursive is faster. The pen doesn’t leave the paper until the end of the word. Formal cursive is generally joined, but casual cursive is a combination of joins and pen lifts. Those against cursive writing say that it's hard to read when in fact there are only a few lowercase letters that are noticeably different from their block counterparts, and they are easily made out in context. However, do many people actually write in cursive anymore? I graduated from high school in 1983 and since then I haven't been asked to write anything in cursive other than my name on checks and contracts. When I started teaching 5th grade back in 1990, I taught my students how to write in cursive. I recall that several students, primarily boys, were not happy about having to carefully create 'fancy' letters. Generally, a child should begin learning cursive writing at age 7, and by age 10 should be fairly proficient -- able to write in cursive without assistance.

The term 'cursive' originates from the 18th century Italian 'corsivo' (from Medieval Latin 'cursivus'), which literally means running. Well, I may have been a runner since the age of 10, but I certainly have not been 'running' with my writing during my adult years. Some would say that cursive writing is the curse of writing, but I do see benefits, such as: cursive handwriting stimulates the brain in a way that typing cannot; improves fine motor skills; and, improves spelling ability due to muscle memory -- the hand acquiring memory of spelling patterns through fluid movements. Also, learning cursive is said to prompt kids to develop self-discipline, a useful skill in all areas of life.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso