NASCAR: Safety Not First

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Unbelievable.

That’s about the only word that comes to mind after reading about the horrendous crash on the Daytona International Speedway on February 23, 2013 during the Nationwide Series.  Fourteen of those fans had to be carted off to the hospital for medical assistance.  Fortunately, by the evening hours, the fans’ conditions were upgraded from “critical.”

During the final lap of the race, Kyle Larson’s car was launched into the air as part of the 12-car crash, shearing off the front end.  The debris from Larson’s car flew through the catch-fence and into the stands, injuring many people, including children.  His burning engine went through a gaping hole in the fence while a tire cleared the fence and landed in the grandstand, injuring fans.

The big question of the day is, are fans really safe at the Speedway if car parts are able to fly through the catch-fence.  The catch-fence apparently doesn’t have the ability to catch debris, nor fence-in the debris, causing NASCAR spectators to be in danger every single race.  I guess “catch-fence” is just a name but doesn’t actually describe its function.

The thing that boggles my mind even more is that the Daytona International Speedway president, Joie Chitwood III, mentioned that crews were going to be fixing part of the damage to get ready for Sunday’s NASCAR season opener, the Daytona 500, but fans will not be moved from the damaged area.  So, after what happened on the eve of the big season opener with 28 fans being injured from flying car parts, the entire damaged area is NOT going to get fully fixed AND fans will not be moved.

Is money all that important for NASCAR that safety has to take a back seat?  It seems that if the damage is not going to be able to get fixed overnight, that fans should be moved.

Money…it has to do with money.  Danica Patrick is slated to be the first woman to ever take the pole position in a NASCAR season opener.  Why else would a race continue when the damage has yet to be fixed fully?

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On a final note…after Dale Earnhardt died on the Daytona Speedway in 2001, NASCAR has gone through extensive measures to make sure their drivers are safe.  In yesterday’s 12-car wreck, every single driver walked away uninjured.  I can’t say that NASCAR cares as much about their fans.  After all, the response from Kyle Larson after the crash was, “I took a couple big hits there and saw my engine was gone.  Just hope everybody’s all right.”  That was it.

The race goes on as planned.  Good luck, fans!

400,000 Stolen Toothpicks. Really?

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On June 9, 2012, 400K toothpicks were stolen in Athens, GA.  Now, why on earth would anyone want to steal that many toothpicks?  That’s more than a lifetime supply for most people.  Even with the numerous uses of toothpicks out there in the world, it seems odd that anyone would steal that many.  Was it simply the rush of stealing something that the thief or thieves was after?

The Empire State Building built with toothpicks by Steven J. Backman.

I have wracked my brain and can come up with the following reasons why there might be a need for 400K toothpicks.  Perhaps one of them is spot on?!?

  • Construction workers stole thetoothpicks because they just won the bid to build The Littles their new, dream house.
  • The 2012 London Olympics Party Planners stole the toothpicks because they found out the main food served at most of this year’s events will be cocktail sausages.
  • A production company pulled off the toothpick burglary because they have plans to film a remake of “Rain Man” and are anticipating multiple takes to perfect the toothpick scene.
  • A production company stole the toothpicks to film “House of Toothpicks”, the sequel to “House of Cards”.
  • A delivery pizza restaurant’s owner stole the toothpicks because they just received an extra-large, non-refundable shipment of pie boxes that, when folded up, are not tall enough for their thick, pan pizzas, thus requiring them to poke the little sticks into the pies to keep cheese from sticking to the lid.
  • A toothpick artist stole the toothpicks because s/he had a grand idea and couldn’t afford all the little sticks needed to create his piece of toothpick art.

Why else would anyone want 400,000 toothpicks?

Foosball: Soccer on a Table

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I am sitting in Magusto’s in Minturn, CO watching a bunch of guys super-focused on armless men hanging on bars, chasing after a little ball.  Serious foosball players can spend hour after hour smashing that ball into the goal.  When the ball is slammed, most of the time you can’t even see where it is and where it’s heading.

Also known as table soccer, foosball was played as early as the late 1800’s, although an exact date is unknown.  The very first documented foosball table was made by Frenchman by the name of Lucien Rosengart.  He was an employee of the Citroen automobile company but had many hobbies on the side, including coming up with some lucrative inventions.  In addition to creating the first foosball table, he also invented the mini-car, front wheel drive, and the seat belt.

Foosball addiction didn’t come about until after World War II.  It was once said that foosball was invented to help rehabilitate war veterans.  In truth, it wasn’t invented for that purpose, but has been used successfully for rehab.  It is currently an international game as foosball fever has spread all over the world…and it continues to grow.

When I first started watching these guys play, I didn’t quite understand why the game was such an attraction.  I have now figured out that it’s the adrenaline rush associated with foosball that is addictive.  There isn’t a single foosball player who can stand to play just one game.  These guys at Magusto’s play every single Friday night, without fail.  Every now and then, new players join in, but there is a core of diehard players who look forward to Friday nights when they can get together with some friends, consume some pizza and beer, and have a grand old time hitting that little ball around on a table.  Every now and then, there is a loud “bam” as the balls are smacked into the goals, but most of the time, there is so much focus that the night is rather silent.

The Olympic Flame: En route to London

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The Olympic Games 2012 in London, England are just around the corner.  The one thing that I’ve always been intrigued about is the Olympic Flame and the way it is carried  via the Torch Relay from Greece to the host country.  During the Ancient Games, a continual flame was burned on the altar of Hera, calling for a sacred truce through the duration of the Games.

Today, the Flame begins  from the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece, travels through the ruins of the Ancient Games, and is transferred to the Games’ host country at the Panathenaiko Stadium in Athens during a ritualistic ceremony.

When it arrives at its destination or host country it is then relayed around the region to electrify and excite the fans.  The flame is then used to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremonies, where it rests for the duration of the event.  The Flame is then extinguished on the last day of the Olympic Games at the Closing Ceremony.

The Olympic Flame signifies peace, unity, and friendship.  When all is said and done, it will have been carried by 8,000 people who have inspired the world in one way or the other, through over 1,000 cities, towns, and villages in the United Kingdom.

If you’re interested in tracking the 2012 Flame and its route, you can do so on the official London Olympic Games Website.

Body Fat: Obesity in the United States

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I just finished reading a news article about obesity in America.  I wasn’t surprised to find that a very large number of people, roughly 78 million, are carrying around excess body fat with them.  To give the problem some perspective, approximately 65 million people live in France.  Yes, the entire country of France.

In my humble opinion, one of the reasons many Americans have weight issues is simply the large portion sizes served when eating out.  This is true for all restaurants ranging from fast food to steakhouses.  When I was in Italy and France, I noticed that even McDonald’s sizes are different.  Small beverages in the United States are the same size as the mediums in Europe.  When you go to a fancy restaurant, the same is true.  In the United States, it is standard fare to serve such large portions that leftovers or doggy bags are the norm.  In Europe, just-right portions are served and no food is taken home or wasted.

Although there may be other reasons Americans are obese, such as consumption of processed foods, fatty foods, etc., I strongly believe that portion size pays a huge factor in the cause.

It’s Summer Time!

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I’ve always wondered why most kids look forward to the summer and cannot wait to run free without homework restraints while others dread the time off.  In schools, teachers notice this a few weeks before summer officially begins.  Those who are dying to get out have mentally checked out, but those who don’t look forward to being home all summer begin to act out in ways teachers have never seen before.

I have a hunch about what’s going on, but it’s only that…a hunch.

Children innately crave structure and stability.  School environments provide students with the needed order in their lives, especially if it’s chaotic at home.  When summer approaches and they start to realize that the safe, orderly place called school will be closed for a couple of months, they start to wig out.  I suspect that much of the time, students don’t even quite know why they are acting out.  It’s the anxiety and anticipation that get to them…at least that’s what I think.

Summer time should be for relaxing, playing, and learning life’s skills outside the classroom in a less structured manner.  Children should not be worried about how they are going to spend their summers.  They should be focused on what they might want to explore and discover as they learn outside of the four walls they call their classroom.