My Visit to Dallas, Texas

I spent all of last week in Dallas, Texas for work. It was my first time in Dallas, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I try to explore the neighborhood around hotels when I visit a new town. If I have lots of extra time, I’ll explore the whole city as much as I am able. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time for much exploring.

I must say I was very impressed by this hotel, the Sheraton Dallas Hotel on N. Olive Street in the heart of downtown Dallas, which has been owned and managed by Marriott since 2016. Believe me, it takes a lot for a hotel to impress me. I have been in dozens of hotels, from east to west – from north to south. This hotel was huge. It took up an entire block with the sleeping rooms, conference rooms, business center, and enormous parking garage. But that’s not what impressed me.

First, nearly all of the employees treated me as if I were in their private home. Everywhere I went on the premises, I encountered a hotel employee who greeted me and offered assistance with anything I needed. I suspect that’s all a part of the training. I also think it’s more than just the training, though. Those are soft skills, innate, interpersonal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others in a natural manner. Everyone made me feel right at home.

The other thing that impressed me is the on-site gym. It is one of the most state-of-the-art hotel gyms I’ve ever seen. It made me feel as if I were in a Planet Fitness or other commercial fitness center. There were multiple treadmills, ellipticals, bicycles, weights, stability balls, resistance bands, and other fitness tools that customarily are found in a gym. There was also an on-site, full sized swimming pool adjacent to the gym, and yes. I went for a swim.

Lastly, I was impressed by the hotel’s response following the customer satisfaction survey/review I completed. I was asked to rate the facility using a 5-point scale of Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor – in the areas of cleanliness, dining, location, service, amenities, and value for the money. I rated the hotel Excellent in each category except dining. I rated dining as good, which isn’t a bad rating; however, good wasn’t good enough for Sheraton. I thought the hotel lacked sufficient healthy food items and vegetarian options. I think it would benefit not just me but many hotel guests. The Director of Food and Beverage, Ryan Littman, reached out to me the next day to follow-up and get more of my sentiments on what can be improved. That was special to me. I was glad to offer my point of view.

The other disappointing thing, which had nothing at all to do with the hotel, is that all of the restaurants within walking distance cater to commuters. So, they were closing around 4-5 pm. But that’s alright, though. Lyft took me everywhere I needed to go. One day I need to go back and see the town when I’m not working. I really wanted to go see the JFK Museum and the ATT&T Stadium. But I couldn’t work them in. But that gives me at least two good reasons to go back to Dallas.

I am already thinking about my next visit.

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Taco Flavor Doritos

 

Taco Flavor Doritos, by Will Saunders

When I was a kid, this was a popular flavor for Doritos. It definitely was my favorite. This was before some of the many flavors that exist today. In fact, at the time, the only other flavor that existed was a corn flavor, which wasn’t all that great.

Through the years, many flavors of Doritos have come and gone and come and gone again. This taco flavor is one of them. It was discontinued for many years. I didn’t realize it was discontinued. I figured the stores where I was shopping had merely sold out. After many months of looking for them, I finally forgot about them. Then, one day a couple of years ago, I began seeing them again, here and there. Now, they are everywhere…and I’m thankful. I don’t eat a lot of chips. You know they go right to the hips, so I try and avoid them; however, these are one of the few chip brands I’ll enjoy.

I am so glad Doritos began selling them again. They are the best. If you haven’t had them, give them a try. I think you’ll enjoy them too.

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Be Kind

Be Kind, by Will Saunders

You never know how you can impact others. I saw this first-hand the other day on my flight back home from my time in Dallas.

I was in my seat, watching an elderly man in the aisle across from me taking his time putting his things away before taking his seat. When I say he was taking his time, I mean he was maneuvering as if he were the only person on that flight. There was a man behind him, clearly impatient, evident by the exaggerated breathing and the heavy tapping of his foot. The elderly man eventually finished what he was doing and sat down.

As the impatient man passed, he leaned in to tell me he looked up and saw the hat I was wearing like the one up above, with the words, “Be Kind” across the top. He said that it helped encourage him not to be rude to the older gentleman.

Never underestimate the power you have over others, even if unintentional. The older guy didn’t even know he had dodged a bullet, for he was oblivious to everything around him. I was glad the guy told me that my hat inspired him to be kind. Probably, he had kindness already within his heart. My hat only reminded him of that. Be kind, folks. It’ll always come back to you in immeasurable ways.

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Say My Name: Tyrone, by Will Saunders

The things I write here usually are serious topics that strike me or are relevant to society or a subset of our community, or I write something of major significance in some way, larger than just me I like to say. Today, this post is none of that. I remembered a funny little anectdote that I want to share.

Several years ago, there was a lady at work who would always called me Tyrone. Doris Robb was her name. I have no idea why I remember her name, for it was a really long time ago. I was a sophomore in college then, around 1988 or 1989. I also have no idea why she called me Tyrone. She was a very sweet middle-aged Chinese-American woman. We were responsible for managing the reviews of discretionary government research grants submitted to the agency, but we worked on different programs.

Anyhow, I told Doris my name wasn’t Tyrone and that it was Will. Twice. But it never sunk in. After the second correction, I stopped telling her. Frankly, I liked her accent and the way she pronounced Tyrone. Almost a year had passed and she, as I was told, was having a conversation with a third party about me. When Doris mentioned  Tyrone this and Tyrone that to the third party, that other person evidently asked who she was talking about. She told Doris Tyrone wasn’t correct. Doris came up to me the next day and apologized for the name faux pas. She said she thought I was joking when I had told her my name was Will.

I never did find out what they were saying about me that day. I was always very curious. I was hoping they would have voluntarily told me. I figured it might have been a little rude to ask, don’t you?

 

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Since I Fell For You, by Will Saunders

I love how closely you can connect to a song and be deeply moved because of how it speaks to things, people, or situations you have faced. That’s something that is universal and everyone I know can relate to that feeling. Some songs hit you solely because of the beat and the tune. But other songs have a message that very poignantly slaps you in the face and in your soul and hits your spirit the way a tiger in the wild strikes its prey.

 One old song has done that for me, Since I Fell For You. I first heard it when I was in college on the Bob James and David Sanborn album, Double Vision. Al Jarreau made a cameo on the album to sing this song. I later discovered that many artists recorded it prior to and after this production.

 Some other versions I’ve enjoyed through the years include renditions by, Gladys Knight, Nicole Henry, Lenny Welch (you probably don’t know much about him…but you need to learn if you don’t know), Dinah Washington, and Barbara Streisand. Lots of others have also done it. I hadn’t heard it in years. I recently was looking around within the iTunes Music repository searching for other artists who might have recorded it, and I found another old version I had never heard before by Natalie Cole & Reba McEntire. As much of a Natalie fan as I am, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t know about it, until I realized it was on Reba’s album, not Natalie’s. I am not much of a Reba fan, but I enjoyed that rendition. They performed a great duet. It grazed my heart.

 This song reminded me of something I had recently endured. The basic theme of the song is falling for someone who doesn’t feel the same – unrequited love with someone who is no longer around. It proves how you can still feel deeply for someone even when they are no longer a part of your life. Perhaps it’s true that absence does make the heart grow fonder. This song is all about that life. Music can tell a story better than any other medium.

 Although the lyrics vary slightly depending on who is singing it, here are the basic words — followed by the James, Sanborn, and Jarreau recording:

Since I Fell for You 
When you just give love, and never get love
You’d better let love depart
I know it’s so, and yet I know
I can’t get you out of my heart
 
You made me leave my happy home
You took my love, and now you’re gone
Since I fell for you
 
Love can bring such misery and pain
I guess I’ll never be the same
Since I fell for you
 
Well it’s too bad, and it’s too sad
That I’m in love with you
You loved me, and then you snubbed me
But what can I do, I’m still in love with you
 
Well, I guess I’ll never see the light
I get these blues most every night
Since I fell for you

 

 

 

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Health Matters, by Will Saunders

The recent illnesses or deaths of some notable celebrities – with the exception of Larry King, all of whom are middle-age men, highlight the need to pay more attention to our minds, bodies, and our overall health, including our mental health. John Singleton, Luke Perry, and Kristoff St. John each faced a sudden death due to physical or mental health issues; Larry King, Kurtis Blow, and Peabo Bryson were hospitalized due a cardiac episode and as of this writing, are still in the hospital.

We can all do simple little things by ensuring we address any health problems as soon as we become aware of them. There’s a tendency for people to put it off or ignore important signs. But early detection and treatment are key.

The first thing is to be aware of your body and pay attention to even the subtlest of changes, not only physical changes but to your mind and ability to remember things too. Everything is connected in some way. Changes to or problems with your mind might not be just a mind problem in a vacuum. Changes with your mind can mean a vitamin B12 deficiency, early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, a tumor or blood clot in the brain, or alcohol abuse or drug addiction. A loss of memory could also indicate an early warning sign of depression too. I’ve heard some people say, “I’m not 20 years old anymore.” to explain away forgetfulness. Yes, forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. But there might be issues going on that are more serious than merely having a bad memory.

Second, seek a medical consultation regularly and not just when you feel sick or have a problem. This is particularly important when you’re not taking care of yourself. A middle-aged man where I work never goes to the doctor, and he maintains a very unhealthy lifestyle. Specifically, he (1) never gets any exercise; (2) follows a poor diet that is high in saturated fats and sugars; (3) and his activities away from the office are so plentiful that he seldom gets sufficient amounts of sleep. Any one of those things is bad by itself. But when you’re doing all three, it is doubly important to get a check-up. This man says it’s been about 20 years since he went to see a doctor. He, like many other people, uses the Internet to research health matters. That can be a good thing. I do that too. But most of the problems you might have could be a symptom of many different things, so you’ll want to have a medical professional check it out to be sure. I understand you not wanting go to the doctor, especially when there’s a co-pay involved only to tell you it’s nothing serious. An alternative is to check to see if your health insurer has an advice line where you can call to speak with an advice nurse. Most insurers have such a service. I have Blue Cross Blue Shield. That’s a great benefit, and the nurse can talk you through your symptoms to try and identify if it could be a serious matter in need of further examination or something you can treat yourself at home.

Third, move more. That was First Lady Michelle Obama’s mantra. If the expense of a gym and a costly monthly membership is too much, you can workout at home. There are dozens of body weight exercises  you can do to challenge your muscles. You can find many vie a basic Internet search or look for videos on Youtube. Additionally, both Netflix and Prime have a plethora of exercise videos. If you have cable, there are exercise and fitness channels there too. Some of them are cardio while others are strength. You can easily incorporate them all from the comfort of your home. If all that is still overwhelming for you, get yourself a couple of small 2 or 5 pound dumbbells and go walking a few days each week. Don’t say you’re too busy. There’s always time to squeeze in 30 minutes of exercise 2-3 days each week. If nothing else, it’ll alleviate any stress you may be feeling.

Lastly, look at your diet. You know what I mean. If you need help, look for a good food, health, and fitness Web site or fitness app that you like. Two that I recommend are Myfitness Pal and Sparkpeople; however, there are dozens of them out there. Look around and test drive a few. These sites can help you monitor your meals and plan them out in advance. They also help to track things such as calories, sodium, fat, or other things you may need to track. The other thing I like about these apps is you can connect to other like-minded folk and be a source of non-judgmental accountability for each other.

So, there you have it. We can fix our lives and get a little healthier. We can do this in small steps and make a huge difference.

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Mass Shootings In America, by Will Saunders

 

 There are many examples of mass shootings across the United States, many of which result in the deaths of victims. I won’t list them or single any of them out here. You can look that up for yourselves if you are so inclined. Following each one, there is an increased awareness of these senseless acts with a call to tighten up gun policies.

Our politicians seem to act concerned and unified and speak out staunchly for a moment, then they get quiet until it happens again. Then they act concerned again for a moment and get quiet again until it happens again. It goes that way over and over again. That’s the cycle. Violence, outrage, silence. Repeat.

 Although many of these incidents occur at grade schools, there are victims in other settings too. We see this at many places, including places of worship, in workplace settings, shopping centers, and on college campuses.

 While these mass shootings are tragic, all types of gun violence need to stop. On average, there are roughly 30,000 deaths lost every year due to gun violence. The discourse often focuses on ways to stop it.

 It’s probably not likely that it will be stopped completely, but I have some ideas that might help reduce the number of guns that get into the hands of people who should not have them. These are my own personal recommendations, recommendations I believe would make a difference.

 First, fix the private sale exemption, otherwise known as the gun show loophole. This is a provision in gun laws that allow gun sales without the requisite background check if it is a private-party sale to an unlicensed resident of the same state. This occurs a lot at gun shows. As long as the seller has a reasonable belief the purchaser is legally authorized to own or possess a firearm, namely, that the purchaser is not a felon or that the purchaser is not prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a court order. So, here’s the thing. If I am a gun seller, how in the friggin’ hell am I supposed to know this without the benefit of a background check? I’m certain that many people who shouldn’t have a gun obtain one via this method more often than we’d like to envision. Gun sellers want to make a profit, so I imagine they look at customers with blinders on, evaluating them in a vague and overbroad manner, a manner that’s just as vague and overbroad as the gun law is. This needs to be fixed. All gun purchasers need a background check.

 Second, everyone who owns a firearm must be required by law to (a) attend and successfully complete a government-sanctioned gun safety awareness program, and (b) safely secure their firearm at all times either via a gun lock or a lock box. Quite often, guns are “borrowed” from a friend or family member who everyone knows keeps their firearm in a shoebox on the closet shelf or in the dresser drawer. Gun owners who do not comply with these two requirements should be held civilly and criminally liable if their firearm is used by someone to commit a crime.

 Finally, police agencies need to have monthly “no questions asked” gun turn-in, buy back events. Many agencies do have them, but not on a monthly basis. Doing this monthly would be a big step in getting guns off the street. The first reported program of this nature occurred in Baltimore, Maryland in 1974. (Parry, Robert (December 8, 1974). “Guns of Baltimore: Why Did Bounty Stop?” The Blade. Toledo, Ohio: Toledo Blade Company. Associated Press). In that event, Baltimore purchased more than 13,000 firearms from citizens at $50 per gun. The current national average is around 925. Agencies need to budget for this. Many smaller police agencies most likely work with over-stretched budgets already. Moreover, agencies don’t realize the funding that is available from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (a component of the US Department of Justice), in the form of grants earmarked for criminal justice agencies. These funds could help stretch an agency’s operating budget exponentially.

 There are probably many other things that could be done to help curtain gun violence. But now, not much at all is being done. So, we can expect to see many more mass shootings before it gets better. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer. But, you know how it is.

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Comfort Zone or Growth Zone, by Will Saunders

“Walk by faith, not by sight”

One of the greatest challenges to my comfort zone is attending a social event when I only know the person who invited me. If you ever invite me somewhere and that is the case, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll probably not go. I realize the host can’t spend all their time babysitting me when there is a room full of other guests. My level of anxiety skyrockets in those circumstances. I’ve been categorizing them as either comfort zones, where you have a mundane simple life – or growth zones, where you live the fabulous life you were meant to live. After all, nothing horrible has ever happened to me by stepping out of my comfort zone. But that hasn’t stopped me from hiding in the darkness.

A small handful of people are aware of this about me. I suppose I could always take a date. But, finding someone suitable is a challenge. I wish I were like Blanche Devereaux, with a little black book full of steady potential names I could call. But there can only be one Blanche. Occasionally, someone who knows this about me will reach out to me after the initial invite and encourage me to go if my presence at the event is especially important to them. Funny thing is though, once in a while, I’ll go somewhere and see a familiar face that I hadn’t expected to see there. I’ve also have made a new friend. But those two things don’t happen very often.

In June, I’ll be pushing myself. I was invited to an event, and I don’t expect to know anybody else there besides the person who invited me. I’m going. I didn’t RSVP right away. I took time to think on it and sleep on it. I’m glad the invite came early. The advance notice gives me plenty of time to prepare myself to go. Often I have missed out on what I know to be some really good times by avoiding things just because I won’t know anybody there. One of the many of life’s purposes is to grow, right? It reminds me of that line from that old Sheila E. song, The Glamorous Life, “She’s got big thoughts, big dreams.” Can’t do much with big thoughts and dreams in a comfort zone. Although I still have room for much improvement in this area, I’m getting much better at going places by myself. I’ll keep pushing myself. To paraphrase with a little embellishment an old Wintley Phipps quote, it is in the midst of our private sufferings and tense moments that we face our most enduring progress.

Since I mentioned it, lets play The Glamorous Life.

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Gratitude, by Will Saunders

 

I love receiving gifts. I’m always the biggest kid in the room when I get a gift. Getting them for no reason is always nice, but I like getting them also for special occasions, such as my birthday. Happy Birthday to Me! When it comes to gifts though, the only thing I love more than receiving them is showing gratitude to the giver.

I received this nice plant for my birthday, a plant that I adore immensely. It’s an Asian Dish Garden plant. I vow to care for it and make it last a long time. But I am unable to show gratitude to anyone. As you can see, It’s from You Know Who; only thing is, I don’t know who. But I appreciate it more than words can say. If you want to remain anonymous, I understand. Thank you.

I have matured in the way in which I care for plants. I used to treat them all the same: give them some water and a little sunlight, talk to them throughout the day, and sit back and let them grow. Until, they started to die on me. Plants are just like people. You cannot treat them all the same and expect the same thing from them all. Each one has different requirements. Once I realized this, the lifespan of my plants improved. My poinsettia from this past Christmas is still thriving. Those suckers are the most challenging of any plant I ever had. The blooms die, but the green leaves live on. If you have cared for them correctly, the blooms will come back. They call it re-blooming. Most people, myself included, don’t have the proper conditions in their homes for a poinsettia plat to re-bloom. A hothouse, or greenhouse, is needed. Some people use plastic bags to mimic a greenhouse effect. But I don’t have the patience for all that. So, I’ll have to be content with just the green.

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Bigfoot: Real or Fiction? by Will Saunders

Lots of people believe Bigfoot is real. There are many delegations that go on expeditions looking for this creature that, I think, is nothing but mythical-level folklore. But many don’t view it as folklore. Whether they call it Bigfoot, Yeti, Sasquatch, or the Abominable Snowman, a whole lot of people believe the creature is real. Other names I have heard ascribed to this creature include Skunk Ape, Yeren, Yowie, Mande Burung (or alternatively Barung), Orang Pendik, Almas, and Barmanou. Aficionados of the species will note differences in these terms, primarily surrounding regions of the world where they may inhabit and subtle differences in their appearance; but for the purposes of this article, these terms are being used interchangeably. Personally, I prefer Yeti. There’s something inherently sexy about that one.

There have been several documentaries about Bigfoot: Finding Bigfoot, Bigfoot Files, Bigfoot Odyssey, Discovering Bigfoot, Chasing Bigfoot, and Expedition Sasquatch. There may be others, but these are the top ones that I found. All of these documentaries – along with the many scripted movies and television shows – are indicative of the interest that lies with this furry beast. The most authentic, believable account I’ve seen was in the 1961writings of Ivan T. Sanderson titled, Abominable Snowmen: LEGEND COME TO LIFESanderson uses bone samples and footprints as his proof that this creature is more than just a myth. That’s the only type of tangible evidence I’ve seen in the last 50 plus years. If Yeti was alive then, it likely is dead now, in my humble assessment of things. But alas, diehard believers still press on, even without any current physical evidence.

I was surprised to learn that Skamania County in Washington State has a law against killing Bigfoot. They classify the killing of the Yeti in this 1984 court document as either a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor, the former yielding a maximum penalty upon conviction of 6 months in jail and a $500 fine, with the latter being 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. I initially thought this was a joke. But my research disclosed the seriousness of the ordinance. It was originally promulgated in 1969, and revisited in 1984, reaffirming its validity. The revised 1984 law downgraded the offense from a felony, thereby reducing the maximum penalty from a $10,000 fine and a five year prison sentence. Neither the original nor the revised law criminalize accidental killing of the Yeti. The law addresses the “premeditated, willful, or wanton slaying” of the beast, declaring it an endangered species, thus making the county an official Sasquatch Refuge.

I think it’s kind of silly. The Bald Eagle is an endangered species, but there is a lot of evidence of its existence, also true for the Bengal Tiger, the Black Spider Monkey, the Asian Elephant, the Chimpanzee, and the Giant Panda. As rare as these animals may be, you can still set your eyes on them. A believer in Bigfoot argued this is why we need to have more resources to protect them, because they are disappearing and are almost extinct. Well, I’m not sure I would categorize the Yeti similarly as those other endangered animals. It’s fictitious. Isn’t it? If it isn’t, then surely its extinct like the unicorn. Like I always say, why is the Yeti so elusive? Doesn’t it leave footprints? Aren’t there any Yeti carcasses or does the Yeti disintegrate once it dies? Does it ever leave DNA in its travels? What about Yeti’s bodily waste?

Lastly, why can’t anybody capture any high-quality images of the Yeti? We always see old, grainy images. Sometimes, people claiming recent Bigfoot sightings use old images trying to pass them off as new ones. Doing a simple reverse image search can easily reveal that. I learned that trick from the TV show, Catfish. If the Yeti really does exist, then I’ll argue that leprechauns, vampires, the Lochness Monster, and werewolves are real too.

 

 

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