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

"Just Because You're Fit, Doesn't Necessarily Mean You're Healthy!"

Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray sent me a note of encouragement in 2006 as I began my solo run across America. His words were very appreciated and I have always respected what he has accomplished as a runner for the past 50 years. Next Monday, Dave will run in his 47th consecutive Boston Marathon, but just six months ago he was in a hospital bed after having open-heart triple bypass surgery. In a recent interview he said, "Just because you're fit, doesn't necessarily mean you're healthy!"

Dave, age 64, has run about 150,000 miles in his life and even completed The World Marathon Challenge last year, which involved running 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. Last autumn he experienced chest pain and shortness of breath while running and doctors found that he needed bypass surgery due to severe coronary artery disease. His words to others: "If you feel something, do something -- act on it, and you can get a second chance like I have."

Dave, good luck in the 2019 Boston Marathon!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 11, 2019

New Alarm Clock Has Cats Giving Me Curious Looks Late At Night

Many years ago, my parents gave me a projection alarm clock -- which projects the time on the ceiling or wall so that I could simply open my eyes in bed and see what time it is. "Cool invention," I thought, and it woke me up for years. Move the clock forward many years and I was in need of a new projection clock, which my wife thoughtfully purchased last week. I set the clock alarm to go off at 6:15 a.m., directed the projection on the wall, and went to sleep.

As I was in a deep slumber, the alarm went off and I tried to turn it off -- but clearly was hitting the wrong buttons. I had the entire clock flashing with the wrong time, making our bedroom look like a disco studio! Suffice it to say, I unplugged the clock in the dark... trying to allow Kelley to sleep a little longer as I got ready for the work day. I was very tired as I slowly walked downstairs to turn on the living room light, check the heat setting, and say good morning to our two cats -- which were curled up and looking at me as though I was disturbing them. As I was about to go back upstairs, I glanced outside and was impressed that the decorative solar lights we had placed along the bushes at the front of our house were still bright, thinking that we purchased good ones that can really hold a charge.

I wandered upstairs, being quiet to not wake Kelley or my stepdaughters. I went into the bathroom to shave and shower when I glanced at the clock on the wall, which read 12:05 A.M.! WHAT?! How in the world could it only be midnight? I checked my cell phone and sure enough... it was midnight! No wonder the solar lights were still shining so brightly, and that the cats were not of their usual excitement to see me in the morning. As it turns out, the new alarm clock has actually two alarm settings, and although I had set the first alarm to go off at 6:15 a.m., I had somehow activated the second alarm setting, which was defaulted to 12:00 a.m.

I went back downstairs and said goodnight (again) to our cats, shutting off the living room light. I crawled back into bed and set the alarm on my cell phone. I'll have to get the knack of our new projection alarm clock! Like the average person, I sleep nearly 3,000 hours per year (8 hours per night), or 121 days. Since one-third of my year is spent asleep, I want to make sure that I'm not getting up needlessly to do my 6 a.m. routine at midnight!

Finally, sleep researchers have found that 85 percent of people use an alarm clock to wake for work. A little more than one third (35 percent) of women and 43 percent of men say they never hit snooze, with the rest admitting to hitting snooze at least once.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Can Old Bicycle Tires Be Recycled?

I recently read that each year there are 15 million bicycles thrown away globally. That's a lot of bikes! In Germany, some 10 million bicycle tires (and even more inner tubes) are discarded each year. The problem of bike tires piling up in landfills worldwide is no small problem. Some companies recycle used bike tires and inner tubes to make other items -- such as new tires, rubber mats and playgrounds. Unfortunately, the cost to recycle bicycle tires is high, so there are not many recycling centers that accept bike tires and inner tubes. If you don't live near a bike tire collection station, it can be challenging to find a location to take your old bike tires. Here are some ideas:
  • Contact your local waste-disposal company, and ask them if they recycle bike tires or know of any companies in your area that do.
  • Ask the local bicycle shops in your area if they have a bicycle tire recycling program. Some bicycle shops collect used bicycle tires and ship them to recycling companies. If none of the bike shops in your area have a bicycle tire recycling program, ask them to consider starting one; it may be an option they haven't considered.
  • Hold a bicycle tire recycling drive to make up for the mailing costs to out-of-area recyclers. Ask your local bike shops to sponsor your drive by paying for the mailing costs to send the tires to the recycling center and setting out a collection box for customers to drop their tires into. For your part, you can post fliers around town advertising the recycling drive.
Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

What Are The Top Social Media Networks For U.S. Teens?

This chart (from Statista.com) shows the popularity rise and decline of various social media networks among U.S. teenagers from 2012 through 2018. Snapchat is the most important social network for 46 percent of U.S. teens. Facebook comes in fourth with only six percent of American teenagers ranking it as their favorite.

A recent survey shows that 95 percent of teenagers have a cell phone. When it comes to social media, teenagers spend a lot of daily time interacting with friends and family, posting statuses, pictures, music and videos, or playing games. Many have profiles on different platforms for different purposes and enjoy the flexibly of using specific features according to their needs.

At the top of the popularity chart is Snapchat, a private messaging app known for photos and short videos that are automatically deleted after they've been viewed. For teens, this "self-destructing" feature is a big part of what makes Snapchat so appealing, encouraging teens to interact more frequently, safe in the knowledge that all their previous snaps disappear -- unless a screen capture is performed!

Facebook may have ruled social photo-sharing on the Web, but Instagram rules over it on mobile devices. Instagram is the second most popular social media network with teens. Also, teens like the Twitter social network, which is a hub for real-time news and connecting with high-profile individuals and celebrities. Twitter's visual component of embedded multimedia (such as photos, articles, and videos in tweets) attracts most teens.

Not included in the chart is YouTube, but it cannot be dismissed! In 2018, YouTube became the most popular social app among American 13- to 18-year-old teens.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, April 5, 2019

Wireless Networks Always Surround Us. What Does That Look Like?

Luis Hernan, from Newcastle University, created a means of visually showing how the various specters of Wi-Fi sweep and swirl around us. This came about from a Digital Ethereal project, which aims to bring the invisible world around us to life. The instrument used to capture the images scans continuously for wireless networks, and transforms the signal strength to color LEDs. The photo accompanying this writing is one of those images, showing a cell phone on a floor and the various specters of Wi-Fi swirling around it. Even though you cannot see it with the human eye, it is there. Mr. Hernan notes that something as seemingly inconsequential as walking around the house will interfere with and reshape the propagation and strength field.

Is there any potential harm from all of these wireless network specters sweeping and swirling around us? Some people believe there is. Some believe that those who have a wireless-enabled device on them around the clock (such as a Fitbit on the wrist) are unnecessarily exposing themselves to electric and magnetic fields (EMF) radiation. Sure, it's quite difficult to get away from the constant exposure of wireless radiation while at work or in a public place. However, some say that we should have time in our day when we are less exposed to EMF. While sleeping would be an optimal time.

Sleep and good health are so inextricably linked that many holistic medical practitioners recommend turning all wireless sources off at night, with some going so far as to recommend flipping the entire house breaker until morning. The reason? Many holistic medical practitioners say that EMF radiation swirling around you may negatively affect sleep in a very profound way over the long term and as such people should not be sleeping at night with Fitbits on their body. Personally, I don't use Fitbit devices. There is also a Fitbit scale, which measures body mass index, body fat, and other health statistics by sending an electrical signal through the body. While the companies making the scale insist the signal shot through the body to gather the data is safe, the scale isn’t recommended for pregnant women, children under 10, or anyone with an implanted medical device. Some users of the Fitbit scale have apparently reported feeling light headed and fatigued after having their health statistics gathered by the scale.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences state that bluetooth devices, cell phones, Wi-Fi networks, and computers are all classified as non-ionizing radiation types, meaning that they emit low to mid-frequency radiation -- which is generally perceived as harmless due to its lack of potency. However, there are those who continue to be concerned about possible connections between EMF and adverse health effects. These exposures are actively being studied by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which recommends continued education on practical ways of reducing exposures to EMFs.

The telecommunication and electronics industry have a major conflict of interest against consumers becoming aware of health effects from EMF exposure. Their safety claims are typically reinforced by government agencies as it can be quite expensive for them to make things "safer." Currently, the claims that the low frequency EMF exposure is safe are based on the fact that there is no direct evidence showing the contrary. Chronic high levels of low frequency EMF exposure can result in:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Frequent illnesses
  • HPA axis dysfunction (also known as adrenal fatigue)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Cancer or increase in cancer risk

It may not be possible to avoid using devices that generate EMFs, but it is possible to reduce EMF exposure. This is particularly important in bedrooms or when sleeping. I located the following list of ways to reduce EMF exposure:

  • Keep appliances and devices off, or on airplane mode as much as possible.
  • Hard wire internet connections, rather than using Wi-Fi.
  • If Wi-Fi use is necessary, only turn it on when in use and turn off the Wi-Fi router at night.
  • Hard wire computer peripherals rather than using wireless or bluetooth connections.
  • Ensure that your home's electrical wiring is done properly to minimize EMFs.
  • Keep electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, and computers) away from your body. This includes using head phones to make calls instead of placing the phone near your ear to speak.
  • Sleep away from circuit breakers or large appliances that run overnight, including if the appliance is on the other side of the wall.
  • Use protection tools such as Defender Pad under your laptop, and EMF shields for cell phone.
  • Filter out dirty electricity using dirty electricity filters.
  • Minimize use of digital devices when possible.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, April 4, 2019

54 Years and Counting... and Loving Life!

In golf, a score of 54 is referred to as a "perfect round" on a par 72 course. I must say, life is feeling pretty perfect as I reach the 54 mark today.

Exactly 19,723 days ago, my mother and father watched my arrival on earth in a hospital located in Syracuse, New York. I'm blessed to still have them in my life -- although now they are watching me age in pictures from quite a distance... at their cabin in Alaska (about 3,500 miles away from where I live in Indiana).

My birthday is actually on a day of some significant moments in history, such as: Francis Drake completing a circumnavigation of the world in 1581; the U.S. Congress adopting the flag of the United States in 1818; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) treaty being signed in Washington, D.C. in 1949; Bill Gates and Paul Allen creating Microsoft in 1975; and, the space shuttle Challenger roaring into orbit on its maiden voyage in 1983 -- the year I graduated from high school.

Another year older, and another year grateful. I'm going to make 54 a good one!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, April 1, 2019

Was I a "World Class" Runner and Didn't Know It?

By definition, to be "world class" refers to someone with a skill or attribute that puts him or her in the highest class in the world. Essentially, it means that the person ranks among the best of people for a particular skill or ability.

In the book "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that to become an expert in a field requires putting in 10,000 hours of practice (or approximately 10 years). Olympian Jeff Galloway, who ran the 10,000 meters in the 1972 Olympics, wrote an article on what it takes to become a "world class" runner. He shared just a few elements of what it takes, such as training seven days per week and being committed to running 10 hours every week (or 520 hours per year). At that pace, it would take about 20 years before a person became an 'expert' in running. However, there is far more than just time that goes into becoming "world class." There is also the mental focus, the persistent drive to improve, and a relentless spirit to keep pursuing the goal. My running between 2005 and 2011 definitely met that criteria -- not to mention the 30 years of running that I did leading up to that point.

When I was 21 years old, I was sponsored by an array of companies for my long-distance running, including such well-known names as New Balance; Gatorade; Duracell; and, Oakley eye wear. In the late 1980's, I stepped away from being a sponsored runner and decided to run without any company sponsorships. When I ran across America in 2006 at the age of 41, I had only one corporate sponsor -- B.O.B. Gear (which provided a jogging stroller for my solo, self-supported crossing). Of course, after that adventure I also ran solo across Montana (2008), Alaska (2009), Germany (2010), and the Mojave Desert (2011). I typically ran between 30 to 45 miles per day as I crossed states and countries, all while pushing a 70 to 100-pound jogging stroller filled with gear, food and water. So, was I actually a "world class" runner when I was doing all of those coast-to-coast and border-to-border runs?

The question came to me recently when I reviewed a search engine report for my website, www.theUSArunner.com. The report showed that someone had done a search engine query for "Paul Staso World Class Athlete." I sort of chuckled when I read that because I've never considered myself "world class." I was just a guy who enjoyed solo adventure running while trying to promote youth fitness through school assemblies and a website I maintained to chronicle my endeavors. Of course, this search engine query got me wondering. I've been mentioned in books, magazines and online articles by authors, and did become the fifth person in history to ever run solo across the United States. I was also the first person to run all alone from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to Badwater Basin in Death Valley. Between 2006 and 2011 I successfully completed some big running endeavors, but did all of that qualify me for a "world class" title?

If "world class" truly refers to a person with a skill or ability that places them among the best in the world, then perhaps from 2006 to 2011 I was one of the best in the world for the type of journey running I was doing. I don't have any official designation for having been a "world class" athlete, but I can live with that. For me, I didn't do any of my running for titles or accolades. That's not what it was about. So, if I was ever "world class"... I ran into that category without ever knowing it.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso