Things ‘Aint What They Use To Be

Things ‘Aint What They Use To Be, by Will Saunders


Being a parent is sure expensive. The costs are enormous. No, I’m not a parent. But I see what’s happening. The cost of caring for a child requires a lot of money, and I’m not even talking about just the basics of food, clothing, and shelter.

What this is all about is the high price of toys. I went to make a purchase for a ‘Toys for Tots” charitable toy collection drive. I was appalled. Perhaps my shock was due in large measure because I’m not a regular purchaser of toys. As I strolled up and down the toy aisle, I kept saying to myself, in my Robin voice, “Holy Toledo, Batman.” Things are much different than when I was a kid. They weren’t as expensive as they are today. They were, by today’s standards rather basic and ordinary. Some of the ones that immediately come to mind that were popular when I was a kid are G.I. Joe


the Tonka dump truck,


or Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.

All of those gadgets were phenomenal. My most treasured toy was the handheld Mattel Electronic Football game.


The Nerf basketball

was up there too. All of those items were virtually inexpensive, and gave kids hours of fun and enjoyment. The funny thing is, whenever I talk to young people about the kinds of toys from my childhood, they often think those toys sound pretty darned boring. I’m sure 20 years from now, those kids will look back to today and might possibly think toys of today are boring.

Many of today’s toys are much different. A lot are computer-based, with embedded chips and downloadable software, and a lot of them can be connected to your Mac or PC (or your TV), which help to bump up their costs. There are a lot of tablet-based toys, even for little kids (toddler age), and I know it must really break the bank. I know many parents want to accommodate their kids’ desires, especially at Christmas. Many want to shower their kids with gifts even if the kids didn’t ask for such gifts. Of course, these advanced, electronic gadgets do have a plus side: they help prepare the young’uns for tomorrow; computers are everywhere and in everything we do. Learning at a young age gets them ready for real life. Toys of today are definitely different than they once were. Toys used to be just toys. Now, they can be so much more. Things ‘aint what they used to be. Makes me think of that old Marvin Gaye song.

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30-Day Fitness Challenge

30-Day Challenge

30-Day Fitness Challenge, by Will Saunders

Saturday, December 1st is the day of my newest fitness challenge. I have done several challenges over the months and years. This one isn’t much different than the others I have done. The beginning stages seem very simple. Though, as it advances, it gets much more challenging.

But I can do it. It’s a 30-day challenge primarily intended to strengthen the core. Even though the first several days aren’t very challenging for me, I plan to still perform them as prescribed in the challenge. They get increasingly difficult. I’ve been advising people to do modified versions if they can’t do them as-is. For example, on day 10, the challenge includes 50 situps, 50 crunches, 30 leg raises, and a 38-second plank. If you can’t do all the situps and crunches at once, break them up. Do two sets each of 25 situps and crunches with a two-minute break in between. As the challenge increases in intensity, I’ll probably be doing lots of that.

As I get older, I find that I’m more interested in fitness and remaining healthy. Many older adult encounter problems, particularly with regard to balance and breaks fractures from a fall because they don’t usually maintain good levels of fitness as they age. Additionally, better levels of fitness can also impede the onset of type 2 diabetes and dementia. My former doctor (retired) Dr. Gabe Mirkin is 83 years old, but he’s still very active. He bikes, hikes, and does light strength training. When I look at his blog and see photos of he and his wife in various types of physical activities that he sometimes posts, it helps keep me motivated to remain physically active.

This challenge is part of my fitness regimen. I fell off the wagon over the past few weeks and failed to maintain the consistent workout routines as in the past, so this is the perfect thing to help get me back on track. If you need a boost, go on and give it a try too.

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Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Roasted Chestnuts

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, by Will Saunders

So, here’s what happened. The opening lyrics to that world famous Christmas song is what got me on this chestnut bandwagon. Today is the first time in my life I have eaten them. That surprises most people when I tell them this, because for some reason, people think I’m kind of pompous and hoity-toity. Bougie is a word some of them use, but I am not a big fan of that word.

Anyhow, I was a bit reluctant to try them. Long before I ever held one in my hand, probably ever since I was a kid, I thought chestnuts were just another name for acorns. You know acorns, right? Those naturally-growing nuts from the oak tree, a staple for squirrels and some birds. They look similarly. Silly me, though; I can plainly see they’re not an acorn. Additionally, a simple bit of research could have solved that confusion for me, had I bothered to look it up.

I’m surprised I never had them before, and knowing my mother (rest her soul), I’m doubly surprised she never brought them home. That’s where I get my bougieness from (lol). But I bought some and roasted them, and I’m sorry I didn’t buy them sooner. They are delicious. I think I’ll add them to my regular dietary regimen. It’s a nice change from the almonds and peanuts that I normally eat. Chestnuts have some benefits that I can’t get from eating other nuts.

To begin with, chestnuts are low in fat. In fact, they are only low-fat nut, with only 1 gram of fat per ounce. Second, they are low in calories. A serving is about 70 calories, approximately half the calories of most other nuts. They are low in sodium too. Additionally, did you know that chestnuts are the only nuts that contain vitamin C? I didn’t know till now. Just 3 ½ ounces of chestnuts supply about half of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Chestnuts also are a great source of dietary fiber. Doc tells me fiber is a great remedy to manage cholesterol levels. Chestnuts also are a good source of potassium.

Yes, chestnuts definitely are a better choice than snacking on other nuts or are a better choice than chips or crackers, which tend to be high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium, and sugars. Lastly, (which is one of the best benefits to these nuts), they taste good too. If you have never had them — and there’s a pretty good chance that you haven’t — you ought to get yourselves some. You’ll thank me later.  Meanwhile, enjoy The Christmas Song.

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All Victims Are Not Treated Equally, by Will Saunders


There sure have been a lot of people coming forth about harassment incidents and acts of sexual misconduct; some of them took place over several decades. The unsettling thing is, many outsiders  have judged the validity of the incidents based on who the accused person is. That bothers me. A lot. I put myself in the shoes of the victim. It’s hard enough to come forth; but it’s doubly hurtful when there are people who step up in support of the accused, most of whom were not even present when the incident took place. People are supporting the accused based solely on reputation.

For each perpetrator — more or less —  there have been a handful of supporters standing behind them. I get that a person’s reputation and their standing in the community could be sufficient enough grounds to add to or take away from a person’s credibility; reputation can also create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury members if the case ends up in a criminal or civil court. That’s one reason why it can take such a long time to select the jury panel in some cases. It can take weeks or even months in some instances to get the “right” jury panel. The prosecutor wants jury members who can empathize with the victim. The defense wants jury members who can empathize with the accused. Depending on the particular case, you can have thousands of potential jurors in the pool. To date, the largest jury pool was for the trial of James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado in 2015. The jury pool was 9000 people. He was convicted of multiple counts of murder for killing guests at a movie theater. By comparison, the O.J. Simpson case brought in 1000 potential jurors. He was acquitted of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

The identity of the perpetrator can have a huge impact on the jury selection process, because people have strong feelings of love or hate for them. When their minds are already made up even before they see or hear any evidence, it can be challenging to get the right mix of 12 people (and juror alternates).

I have heard many people speak out for and against Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, and most surprisingly, R. Kelly, surprising because his alleged victims were minors. In contrast, I have yet to hear anybody speak out to support Steve Harvey Steve Harvey Accused of Sexual Harassment. Some have said his personae is that of someone who likely had done what he was accused of doing. Others have said his book on relationships and intimacy reveals things about the way in which he has treated women in the past, which adds weight to the accusations launched against him. I didn’t read the book myself, so I can’t speak to it. (Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Expanded Edition: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment). But regardless – whether good or bad – I don’t believe a person’s life and past should play a role in believability.

It seems unfair treatment when a victim accuses someone with a “dog” reputation and that victim is immediately believed, but if an alleged abuser/harasser is someone who has a straight-laced background, there is a lot of scrutiny, skepticism, and doubt that the incidents really occurred. Imagine how the victims feel. Even someone trusted and respected can deceive you. The same is true of the victim. You have a victim who is well-respected, will that person be more quickly believed than someone who is of ill repute? Unfortunately, that’s how society functions. Your character and reputation carry a lot of weight, much more than it should. Even a seemingly good guy can be a predator — I suppose they call such folks a sociopath.

What if you were the victim and people said things like, “Nah, I don’t believe it.” How would you feel if your associate Michael had abused you and people were saying, “No, the Michael I know wouldn’t have done anything like that.” I’ve learned that we don’t always know people as well as we may think we do, even the ones closest to us. Just look at Judas. He was one of the 12 disciples, one of Jesus’ closest friends and advisors; he wasn’t the man Jesus thought he was. Judas betrayed him.

As an aside, let me throw this in here. There are instances in which people get falsely accused of heinous acts. Therefore, I can understand people’s hesitance to always believe someone who presents themselves as a victim. Just look at the Tawana Brawley case. She falsely accused some men of assaulting her, raping her. If you don’t know about or can’t remember that case, do a search. Then there was the case of Susan Smith, a Caucasian woman who fabricated a story about a black man carjacking her and ultimately causing the deaths of her children when she in fact was the sole cause of her own children’s death. There are plenty other similar cases of people being falsely blamed for things.

The moral of my post here is, don’t be so quick to condemn someone – or to support someone – before you have all the facts. We talk about the concept of having blind justice, meaning embracing fairness and equity when it comes to vetting out accusations of those funneled through the criminal justice system. That’s the context of how that term surfaced. But it’s funny how we don’t embrace that notion in our day-to-day lives. What a hypocrisy. I’ve found that many people are superb liars. They’re great at it. They may try and twist the truth and have you question your own memory. But don’t get sucked in. Let the facts speak for themselves. Make Lady Justice keep her blindfold on.


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Everybody Has An Opinion, by Will Saunders

Image courtesy of (c)

I recall a popular mantra from my childhood. It went something like, “Opinions are like elbows and assholes; everybody has them.” That’s certainly the truth when it comes to job hunting advice.  There are a variety of ideas and suggestions out there, some of which are contradictory.

One of them that prompted this post is the question about the number of resumes/applications you should submit while job hunting. It varies depending on who you ask. A few weeks ago, I read an article advising applicants to keep applying. Right after you apply to a vacancy, keep looking for a new one and apply. I agree with that. That’s the advice I would give too. Let it be a continual process of what I call SEAP: Search, Evaluate the vacancy, and APply. Everybody makes up acronyms for stuff, so I figured I would too. SEAP, and SEAP again. Repeat. Feel free to quote me if you like.

That makes sense to me. That strategy has been effective for me through the years. Getting a job isn’t like tossing a boomerang. They all aren’t going to immediately fly back at you. The truth is, most won’t fly back. Your resume is going to end up in an HR abyss and only the truly remarkable applicants – well, at least the remarkable resumes that is – will catch the hiring manager’s attention. That’s why, thinking back to my Probability and Statistics class in grad school, your desired outcome becomes more likely (or more probable) the more often you do it. Volume gives you a greater probability that your resume will get to someone who wants to take a closer look at you.

But if you aren’t casting a large enough net, your chances of getting someone to bite goes way down. If you’re lucky you may get a rejection letter or email. I once got a postcard. You probably will never hear from most of them, though.  But keep on aggressively sending out resumes to places where you want to work.

In contrast to that advice, I read a different article today with another viewpoint. Today’s article advised against sending out multiple resumes, claiming it’s a waste of time, since it’ll likely end up in a black hole. In fact, this author suggests you shouldn’t even bother responding to vacancy announcements. Instead, you should target your applications. Target your resume by (1) identifying where you want to work; (2) gathering as much information as you can about the organization and the department within that organization where you want to work; (3) identifying the hiring manager, and send your information to him or her. This method, the author says, is best, much better than sending out your resume to 10 or 16 or 30 organizations in response to vacancy announcements. But that’s just his point of view.

I prefer the blast approach. That’s the one that has worked for me. The one that is the best really does depend on who you ask. But as I scour the literature – (my grad school allows alumni to retain access to its library and large collection of scientific research journals and periodicals) – the consensus seems to be more is better. The first thing you should do after applying to a position is to locate another one for which you are qualified and that interests you then apply: SEAP. Repeat. They don’t call it SEAP – that’s my word – but the strategy seems abundant in the things I have read. If you also want to target your application, let that be a part of your blast strategy and not instead of it. If you still never get any hits to your resume, perhaps it’s the resume that’s the problem. That’s a topic for another day.







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Make Your Random Ideas A Reality, by Will Saunders

Back around the year 2000 when I got my first WMATA SmarTrip card, I got a random idea that could have been very profitable for me if I had the business acumen to make it happen then. But alas, here I sit.

Here’s what happened: a coworker either lost her purse or had it stolen; I cannot recall which at this time. Consequently, she also lost her wallet along with her identification and credit cards. I remember thinking how nice it would be to have all your personal information installed on SmarTrip-type technology. That way, you won’t have to carry around all your sensitive items, using only the SmarTrip card to pay for things and identify who you are. My idea also would have worked for law enforcement too; you give the officer your card and your license can come up in their computer. If you should lose it, you only have to get a new SmarTrip card, re-register it, and you’re all good to go. That’s much better than having to remember which cards were in your wallet and having to go through the trouble of calling to cancel each one of them.

But that idea was only a whimsical idea, as I thought little more about it. . . that is until these similar types of systems emerged, like Goggle Pay and Apple Pay. It’s really ingenious. If I had furthered my idea back then, I would singing the song, Easy Street (as I hum the tune to a song of that title from my favorite musical, Annie.)

My confidence level is much better today than it was back then. If I get a good idea like that now, I’ll definitely do something with it.

Meanwhile, this is the Annie song I’d be singing, the best version from the original Broadway cast recording.

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Shopping Fiends, by Will Saunders

Some people are weak when it comes to shopping. I am one of those people. Not as weak as I once was, but still. I’m very weak.

I did some birthday shopping recently for myself. The big day is April 24th – Taurus in the house!!! Two of my regular sites sent me a “Thank You” discount code for a use on a new order: Tastee Treasures and Best Buy.

In addition to the thank you discount, Tastee Treasures carrotted me by offering a 15% discount for a future purchase if I completed a customer satisfaction survey, which I completed. That same site often has specials (i.e., Tuesday special – buy before midnight; March Madness special; special Easter sale, etc). These sites use some good data analytics algorithms, because I got follow-up emails reminding me to use the discounts before their expiration dates. They knew I hadn’t yet used them.

I don’t need much encouragement to shop. I particularly do not need any help when I get free money. I haven’t use those discounts, not yet. I may not ever use them. One thing is certain, I shop at both sites regularly, so they know I won’t need a carrot to lure me to buy. I’ll go back. But the bad thing is, Tastee Treasures tends to sell out of the things I most want. My size is the mean for its main demographic. If you don’t know, Tastee Treasures is to men what Victoria’s Secret is to women. You see men all the time post their selfies wearing their gear. So, I don’t buy Tastee stuff as often as I might buy, as they’re often out of my size. I would complete a survey about that, but the survey they offer me is always about how I like the things I actually bought, not the things I tried to buy but couldn’t.

C’est la vie!  The bad thing in this situation is kind of a good thing, though. Being sold out helps me achieve my goal to shop less frequently.

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Cruising Pregnant, by Will Saunders

Sometimes, things can hit you hard when you first find out about them. But then after you take a moment, step back, and deprogram, you tend to view things differently. I’m speaking about a family that was ejected from a Disney cruise ship over a woman’s pregnancy.

Did you know that if you’re pregnant, cruise lines have specific restrictions that apply to you? Not only are there limitations on how far along in the pregnancy you can be in order to sail, but you may also be required to provide a medical certification that you’re healthy enough to travel. I didn’t know. Did you? The rules vary from one company to the next, and there’s a site with rules of all the major cruise ships.

Evidently, 24 weeks is the common timeframe. That’s what many of the cruise lines stipulate. In this instance, Emily Jackson from Missouri, was 25 weeks pregnant and traveling with her family, including some children, when she got the devastating news that she exceeded the limit.

I’m still a little miffed that the family in this story  was escorted off the ship by an armed officer and a K-9 officer. I wasn’t there and I don’t know whether the family was behaving in an aggressive manner, but it seems that this treatment was a bit extreme, in my opinion. But I’m only a tiny bit miffed. The more I delved into this story, I came to realize the woman was apparently aware of the “pregnancy” rule, because she had the medical certification stating she was okay to travel despite being past the 24th week. She knew yet she’s upset at the cruise company for ejecting her. Maybe she’s one of those people who is used to always getting what they want.

So, while I’m sad about what happened and the way in which the woman and her family was treated, it’s not like it was a surprise. She knew the rules, and she thought she was going to be clever and convince them to let her go anyway by presenting a note from her physician. But no dice. When you try and skirt around established rules that everyone else has to follow and you get burnt, I have no pity for you. I just feel bad for the others traveling with her. Oh well,  This is one additional thing families and single travelers need to consider when planning a cruise.



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How Do You Do It, by Will Saunders

 That’s a question I often get from people who ask me how I stay motivated to keep up with my health, fitness, and nutrition goals. Let me begin by telling you it’s a challenge – struggle – it’s not always easy. It is truly quite difficult to follow a consistent, structured, healthy eating plan and remain on target. If you really know me, you’ll know I try to plan and organize most things. When it comes to food, it’s hard for everybody.

But I have a few tips and tricks that I like to use, and you may like some of them too. So, here you are:

• Pay attention to and keep track of everything. I happen to use MyFitnessPal, have been using it for about seven years or so, but you can use another method if you choose. Some people I know use the old fashioned methods, such as pen and paper. But do what works for you. I like MyFitnessPal because you can tailor it to your own eating and set your goals for calories, protein, carbs, fiber, etc., and it tells you how you’re doing throughout the day. When you keep track of it, you realize how easy it is to go overboard. If you’re not paying attention, you can quickly rack up hundreds of empty calories. So, track everything, even a 5 calorie stick of gum.

• Plan all of your meals ahead of time. Some people call it meal prep. But whatever you call it, just do it. I know, I know. You’re thinking how that’s easier said than done, right? Well speaking from experience, I agree that it definitely can be easier said than done. But I also know that the reason most things are easier said than done is because we don’t do them often enough. The more we do things, the better we get at doing them — the easier they become. People sometimes laugh at me because I’m always thinking about or talking about food. If you and I are having lunch, it’s not uncommon for me to say something about dinner.  That’s because I like to plan out all my meals and snacks ahead of time. On most days, when I first get up in the morning, I already know what I’ll be eating for the rest of the day, including my between meal snacks. Usually in the morning, if you were connected to me on MyFitnessPal, you’d see I have entered everything for each meal. Sometimes I may alter it, but generally I have it mapped out. If I don’t plan it, I’ll grab the wrong things in a mindless, rote sort of way. You get me? Also, be not deceived. MyFitnessPal is good for tracking your meals and nutrition. Don’t let the name fool you. It isn’t only for fitness.

• Next, keep healthy snacks with you. Raisins, nuts, or grapes are good snacks. One of my favorite snacks is blueberries. I also am into cherry tomatoes.  Just one cup is filled with fiber, iron, niacin, vitamin K and loads of antioxidants. How about that: snacks that are good and good for you. You can’t beat that.

• It’s also important to focus on portion sizes, particularly snacks. I portion out a serving size of various things and keep them in baggies in the fridge or the pantry – or in my desk at work. Here’s another tip: you don’t have to have a full serving in order to be fulfilled. One of my favorite crackers list a serving size as 15 crackers. I usually have half that amount and I’m satisfied. The full serving is 150 calories. By having only half a serving, I free up 75 calories. That may not sound like much, but believe me, calories add up.

• If you really need to visit a vending machine, be careful at what you choose. Nowadays, many vending machines have a section dedicated to healthier items (i.e., the top row, the left side, row B, etc.). Other times, healthier items are dispersed throughout. Look out for those items, and be sure to portion them out.

• Don’t eat as soon as you feel hungry. You won’t pass out from starvation if you hold off for a half hour or so. Drink a cup of water or green tea, do some stretching, or go for a walk. If you eat as soon as you feel hungry, you’re more likely to overeat or eat the wrong things.

• Last but not least, don’t allow friends and family members to derail your progress. I don’t talk about it a lot, so not many people realize this, but I’m a vegetarian. Truth be told, I follow a vegan diet most of the time. I’ve been eating this way since 2004. In the beginning, people weren’t very supportive. They teased me, scoffed and ridiculed me, and if I weren’t a very confident, thick-skinned chap, I might have given up. I’m not advocating for you to take the vegan plunge. But, just be aware if you choose a grilled, boneless, skinless chicken with a garden salad. You might find your friends or family members mock you while they munch on a cheese steak with cheese fries. Those closest to you can be very discouraging or uninspiring. Many people trying to embark on a healthy life have to face the challenge of an unsupportive inner circle on a daily basis. If those in your inner circle are not being supportive, shame on them. When they try to impede your progress and say things to hinder you, try to just let it go – like water off of a duck’s back. It’s up to YOU to follow your plan.

Give these things a try. If they don’t work for you develop your own. The important thing is to find ways to help you succeed and keep achieving your goals. Don’t give up just because you didn’t make it today. So what if you ate three donuts this morning. That doesn’t mean you should just say “never mind” and eat whatever you see the rest of the day. It’s never too late to begin again. It just requires a little effort.

Stealing the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”

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