Thursday, November 14, 2019

My Son, Kyler, is Pursuing His Dream of a Career in the Music Industry

This past summer, my wife and three step daughters had an opportunity to travel out of state to visit my eldest son, Kyler, and learn more about the music production and recording school he is attending. We had a great time and I got to play guitar in a sound studio for the first time in my life.

Kyler got into mixing music in his teen years and also started to write instrumental pieces, which he made available online for download. You might say that I'm bias, but I believe he is quite gifted in music writing, mixing, recording and production. I'll never forget walking into the studio at his school and looking at the sound board. To me, it looked like a control panel on a 747 jet!

Kyler is in his early 20's and definitely has an ear for music. It has been a passion of his for nearly 10 years. He's even teaching himself how to play the guitar.

Recently, the Recording Industry Association of America reported that music revenues grew 18 percent (to $5.4 billion) in the first half of 2019. Paid streaming services added more than 1 million new subscriptions a month -- meaning that there are now more than 60 million total paid subscriptions. Thanks to that rapid growth, plus continued modest drops in digital downloads and physical sales, streaming now generates 80 percent of music business revenues and has truly reshaped how fans find, share and listen to the songs and artists they enjoy.

Online engagement around music and musical artists powers much of the popularity of many social media and technology platforms, and musicians are among the most followed users on social media. In the United States, there are more than 157,000 music-related businesses and nearly 2 million jobs in the music industry. Twenty percent of a major label's roster of artists are signed fresh each year.

Kyler has made it his goal to pursue a career in the music industry. I believe he'll succeed at doing that!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Stay Away From Smartphone Apps Claiming to Measure Blood Pressure

Today, I had my annual physical exam at a local medical center. Those of you who have read this blog in years past know that I typically post a writing about my annual exam. It's always the same thing... the doctor examines me and tells me that he wishes that all men my age would come through his door in such good condition. I don't have to take any medications and my weight, heart, and other things checked out just fine... including my blood pressure, which was normal.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.

I recently read that many people are believing in smartphone apps that supposedly perform blood pressure measurements. These apps have quite a professional appearance and may seem legitimate; however, they are highly inaccurate and can actually be quite dangerous due to false readings.

There are two types of blood measuring apps that can be found on the app stores. One type uses your phone’s camera and flashlight to do the measurements. You hold your index finger on the camera while the flashlight is shining on it and 10-15 seconds later you get a blood pressure reading. There are also apps that aren’t even trying to look legitimate. These apps simply tell you to press your finger at an arbitrary part of the display and hold it there while it's supposedly "measuring" your blood pressure. After that, these apps spill out what is nothing more than random numbers within certain limits that are acceptable for a person in good health.

Before the procedure, users may be asked to input their gender, age, height and weight for "extra accuracy." Of course, "extra accuracy" is laughable since there’s no real accuracy to begin with. Scientists from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine extensively tested one of the most popular blood pressure apps to see if the measurements it gives are accurate. The results? For some measurements, the values given were within a reasonable accuracy range only 24 percent of the time. The conclusion was that the app was "highly inaccurate" and that "four-fifths of individuals with hypertensive BP levels will be falsely reassured that their BP is in the non-hypertensive range."

Stay away from smartphone apps that supposedly read your blood pressure. See a physician and have it done properly and accurately.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Saint Francis de Sales ("The Gentleman Saint") is an Inspirational Saint

Saint Francis de Sales is the Patron Saint of authors, journalists and writers -- which I can relate to since I have a Bachelor's degree in journalism and enjoy writing this blog -- as well as engaging in other writing endeavors. Honored as a saint in the Catholic Church (since Pope Pius XI named him patron saint in 1923), Francis became known for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. Francis is also known for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.

He was born August 21, 1567 in Chateau de Sales (what is today Thorens-Glières, Haute-Savoie, France) in the Kingdom of Savoy near Geneva, Switzerland and died December 28, 1622 in Lyon, France at the age of 55 as a result of suffering a stroke.

As he was nearing his 20's, his father wanted him to pursue a career in law. As a result, Francis formally studied law -- but he also studied theology. I can relate to this part of his life in that I began working in the law field at the age of 28, and obtained a Bachelor's degree in Religion while in my 20's. Francis was admitted as a lawyer, but his true heart was to enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1593.

Francis witnessed the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which was a religious, social, economic, and political revolution that was sparked when a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of his local church (the Theses being a list of questions and propositions for debate). Luther came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church -- believing it was corrupt -- and sought to reform it.

During the time of the Protestant reformation, Francis lived close to Calvinist territory. Those who followed John Calvin's teachings were called 'Calvinists' -- people who affirm the sovereignty of God and believe God predestines individuals to salvation. To explain this complex doctrine, theologians use the acronym T.U.L.I.P. to highlight Calvin's five main tenets: total depravity (all humans are sinful and are born with an inherent sin nature); unconditional election (God predestined individuals for salvation, and individuals cannot choose God without God enabling them to do so); limited atonement (God sent Jesus Christ to die for the sins of his chosen saints only, and not for the sins of those who are unbelievers); irresistible grace (God's chosen elect cannot resist God's grace in their lives); and, perseverance of the saints (once an individual is saved, he or she can never lose his or her salvation because he or she is eternally bound to Christ).

Francis decided he should lead an expedition to bring the 60,000 Calvinists back to the Catholic Church. For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. Once, Francis was in the woods when he heard a pack of wolves howling after him. He had just enough time to climb a huge chestnut tree to save himself from the wolves and tied himself to a branch so that he wouldn't fall. The next morning, some farmers found him extremely cold and untied him. They took Francis to their home, warmed him up, and cared for him.With all of the journeys across states and countries that I've done on foot, I can relate (to a degree) with what Francis felt as he trudged endless miles through the countryside, having some people treat him unkindly, and pushing forward to the point of having his feet bleed. I experienced similar moments as I aimed to encourage young people toward a healthier lifestyle. I also experienced the kindness of people who cared for me when I needed help, as Francis experienced from farmers who found him.

Francis' unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So, Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote little pamphlets to explain true Catholic doctrine and slipped them under doors. It is one of the first records of religious tracts being used to communicate the true Catholic faith to people who had fallen away from the Church.

Since the parents wouldn't come to him, Francis went to the children. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with the children, they began to talk to him. I, too, went to the children with my message -- which was on health and fitness, speaking to thousands of school children through school assemblies. By the time Francis returned home, it is believed that he brought 40,000 people back to the Catholic Church. Through the success of Francis' efforts, Catholics who had just about given up on their faith returned to it.

During Francis' time, it was wrongly thought that achieving real holiness of life was a task reserved for only for the clergy and those in religious life, and not for lay men and women. It was believed that only contemplatives (people who withdraw from active participation in the world) could really achieve holiness. Francis insisted that every Christian was called to holiness and sanctity, no matter what their career or state in life. In holding that belief, Francis reflected the teachings of Jesus and the early Church Fathers. Essentially, in every career and every state in life, Christians can become more like Jesus Christ. That is what holiness really means.

Francis gave spiritual direction to lay people who were living real lives in the real world. He had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. Francis also recognized that Christian marriage and family life is itself a call to holiness.

At the age of 35, Francis became bishop of Geneva. He is known as "the Gentleman Saint" because of his patience and gentleness. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates Saint Francis de Sales' Feast Day on January 24.

I want to share some of Francis' writings with you. These have been gleaned from his collected letters, homilies, conferences and publications.

  • Those who run best in the race do not think of the crowd which is looking at them.
  • Take care of your health that it may serve you to serve God.
  • God never permits anything to come upon us as a trial or test of our virtue without desiring that we should profit by it.
  • When God sends inspirations into a person's heart, one of the first that is given is obedience.
  • You must choose: is it better that there should be thorns in your garden in order to have roses, or that there should be no roses in your garden in order to have no thorns?
  • Great works do not always come our way but every moment presents us with opportunities to do little ones with excellence.
  • Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.
  • Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.
  • Be who you are and be that well.
  • Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections.
  • Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.
  • When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.
  • Through devotion, your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

Hebrews 12:1 reads: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Saint Francis de Sales is one of those witnesses. In fact, all of the saints are the "witnesses" who envelop the throne of God and embrace Jesus Christ's example of faith. They ran the race of life while keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus. I've aimed to keep my eyes on Jesus as I've run life's course, and I've certainly had moments of stumbling along the way. However, God has continually been gracious to me.

Saint Francis de Sales inspires me and my faith. He was steadfast in his faith; persevered in the face of trials; endured difficult conditions; had conviction of heart; was good with children; was a gentleman; wrote thought-provoking and influential words; was brave enough to embark on a long journey on foot for what he believed in; and, not only lived his faith, but shared it through words and actions.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Federal Board Recommends Mandatory Bike Helmet Laws in All States

The following chart shows the main reasons that bicyclists are dying in increasing numbers on American roadways (up from 806 in 2017 to 857 in 2018). Bike fatality rates have risen steadily since 2009.


Recently, the federal safety board issued a recommendation for mandatory bike helmet laws in all 50 states. The National Transportation Safety Board voted 3-0 to recommend helmet laws even as staff members reminded panelists that such laws may reduce overall cycling, and lead to the “unintended consequence” of more road fatalities because fewer cyclists will mean less pressure on local officials to build the kind of protected infrastructure that is said to improve cyclist safety.

Numerous studies show that helmet use reduces the likelihood of injuries by 48 percent, reduces serious injuries by 60 percent, and reduces traumatic injuries by 53 percent. In fact, between 2014 and 2017 a disturbing 62 percent of bike-related fatalities were from head injuries, and there were 541,000 head injuries to cyclists overall between 2014 and 2017.

The next step is for the Federal Highway Administration to act on the recommendation that mandatory bicycle helmet laws be enacted in all 50 states.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

12 Percent of Kids Have Suffered Hearing Loss Due To This...

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 12 percent of children have suffered hearing loss because of excessive exposure to noise. Sound is measured in decibels -- a measure of sound intensity. Normal conversational speech is around 60 to 70 decibels while whispers are 30 decibels. Sound can start to get dangerous (actually causing a problem with hearing) at levels greater than 85 decibels.

Parents need to know how to protect their child's hearing. First, turn the volume down. The professional recommendation is to turn it down to about 60 percent max volume and only be exposed to that level for no more than 60 minutes. By doing that, you are reducing the intensity of the sound and reducing the length you are exposed to it. Audiologists agree that listening to a device at its max can damage hearing in just two minutes.

Parents can also go into the settings on many devices and set the sound max at 60 percent. Parents should also purchase headphones that fit their child properly. Many doctors believe that isolating headphones are best (or the headphones that block out ambient sound at a lower volume). You can enjoy music without having to hear background noise, and you're not putting yourself at any risk.

Noise induced hearing loss is often permanent; however, it is preventable.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, November 4, 2019

None of My Solo Runs Across States and Countries Were "Stunts"

When I was doing all of my solo runs across states and countries pushing a jogging stroller of gear, food and water, I had many forms of media report on my endeavors. I never once sought out media attention, but would grant interviews if I was approached. One of my B.A. degrees is in journalism and I found it rather surprising (and disappointing) how many reporters wrongly reported information about me. I had instances when my name was reported completely wrong. I had my hometown listed incorrectly, and my occupation inaccurately stated. Often, the facts of my mileage and route were wrong, and quotes attributed to me were not quite what I actually said. In other words, I was the topic of some rather sloppy reporting as I ran thousands of miles here, there and everywhere. However, I always brushed it off because I wasn't on the roads to gain publicity.

I often found it interesting what words reporters would choose to describe my running endeavors. They used such words as epic, adventurous, amazing, and unbelievable. They would report my running as being challenging, unfathomable and super-human. Yet, there was one reporter who opted for a word that I didn't care for at all, and everything in me wanted to contact that reporter and tell him that his descriptive word was completely wrong, but I resisted. That reporter called my running across states and countries a "stunt."

A "stunt" is something done to show off, to gain attention, or to seek publicity. I wasn't aiming to do any of those things. In fact, the reporter who used the "stunt" word contacted me for an interview. I didn't knock on his door with the aim of showing off, gaining attention, or seeking publicity. The readers of that particular newspaper were painted a picture of a "stunt" by a long-distance runner pushing a bright yellow jogging stroller along the highway. I felt that it belittled my efforts and presented my running as nothing more than a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other spectacle.

There are certainly "stunt" runners in the world... such as "Doctor Dribble" who dribbled a basketball throughout the entirety of the 2014 Seattle Half Marathon, or "Tony The Fridge" who ran the length of Britain in 2013 with a fridge on his back -- only to be taken to a hospital with spinal injuries. However, I never sought publicity and was certainly not attempting to show off. I simply pushed a yellow jogging stroller every step of my journeys because it was an effective way to be self-supported as I ran from border-to-border, or ocean-to-ocean.

I certainly hope that as the years go by my running endeavors to promote youth health and fitness don't simply fall into the category of a "stunt." My efforts were far from that and my genuine heart for each endeavor was to place attention on declining youth wellness. I can only hope that is how my journeys will be remembered.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Secret to Having Happy, Healthy Kids is Not Really a Secret!

This week, the Miami Herald printed an article and the headline caught my attention: "Want happy, healthy kids? Spend more time with them, less money on them."

As I read past the headline, it stated that raising happy children boils down to a few things: love, comfort, and emotional and physical habits. Being the father of four adult children (ages 19, 21, 25, 26), and a step-dad to four children (ages 11, 14, 21, 22), I can tell you that the words I read resonate with me and echo the goals I've held to as a parent. Kids truly need to feel, and genuinely be, loved. It was nice to see that at the top of the list. Today, I want to share with you the ways the Miami Herald article outlines for guiding your child to a joyful life:

Love them. Give hugs and a listening ear. Kids just want to know they're understood, wanted, acknowledged and loved.

Focus on the positives. By adopting the "glass half full" scenario you're encouraging kids to look at situations in a different way.

Foster connections. Kids who feel a connection not only to you but to other family members, friends, neighbors, and even pets, are better protected against emotional distress.

Encourage play time, not screen time. Simple pleasures like climbing trees, digging in the dirt or just sitting on the front porch doing homework can help boost your child's mood. Ensure they're learning the art of conversation and the importance of downtime.

Practice gratitude. Discuss (regularly!) the things you feel grateful for or nice things someone did -- or you did for them.

Eat meals together. Family mealtime -- whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner -- is one of the best things you can do to raise happy kids. Children who regularly eat with their parents are less likely to be overweight or have eating disorders. And teens are less likely to experience behavior problems or substance abuse.

Don’t spoil your kids. Those who've been handed everything tend to grow up materialistic with high expectations. Instead, help them learn the art of appreciation by making them earn privileges. Similarly, focus on experiences rather than things. Creating memories as opposed to collecting more "stuff" is where true happiness lies.

Help others. When kids feel they’re making a difference -- whether it’s picking up trash at a local park or taking cookies to a nursing home -- they feel more confident.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso