My Favorite Toy of 60 Years

My parents told me that theyave him to me as a Christmas present in 1955, in Detroit, Michigan in a two-story flat on Dexter Avenue.

I've seen the grainy 8MM movies, but of course, I do not remember. After all, I was barely a year old, hardly old enough to know what was a "best friend," let alone that he would be it.

At night, I'd hold him until I fell sleep; his very presence banishing monsters that lived under the bed and the shadow creatures in the closet. When wind against the windows caused the curtains to pulsate and the panes to howl a ghostly, eerie, wail, my little yellow buddy with the dark black eyes and furry body watched over me until the sandman cast his magic upon me. He shared my pillow, his yellow, foam, and fur body with plastic face peering over the blankets to protect me, long after I dozed.

I would drag him from Kevin's to Joey's to Victor's during long vacations and hot muggy afternoons. He'd sit, floppy-necked, across from me on the kitchen table as I did sym lemonade and draw with crayons. While I did homework, he rested, never complaining, near my pencil jar. And when no one was to be found and there was nothing to do but let my imagination take over, I covered him in aluminum foil, wrapped saran wrap around his head, suspended him from the ceiling light, and pretended he was an astronaut.

"Commander Puppy," I said into my paper-cup microphone (adding the right amount of voice crackle to increase the realism), "This is Captain Scott Over. "

Together, we spent hours; daylight until dark. January through December. Childhood through adolescence.

As my world expanded and I played touch football in the alley with Richard and Mike and the super-nerdy Randy, Puppy waited on my bed for my arrival. To the outside world, I had outgrown him. But having him around, even if I was not, made me stronger. The consistency gave me a history, which made me feel older and wiser – and in some way, a little safer. I did not need to see Puppy to have that; I just needed to know he was around.

Rocket ships and football games and coloring books morphed into a whiz-bang whirl of deadlines and assignments, grocery shopping and homework helping, personal responsibilities and compromises. What remains of my tattered, torn, tired friend with the hole in his leg and the loose threads around his neck still sits on my bookcase. I no longer seem to have time for him, but he's never forgotten me.

In some strange way, he brings a consistency to me from my childhood until today. I lost most of my past in a divorce and via several moves around the state many years ago. Videos of my children and my yearbooks from high school are now to be found. However, I do not know whether it was circumstance or divine intervention, but I never lost Puppy – and the feeling he brings to this day. Quality. Spirit. A sense of well being that I do not want to lose.

I might be 61 years old and gray on top but, but we never grow up; we just become wrinkled kids. Having him around to this day makes my world a little better.

And that can never be a bad thing.

Mr Irrelevant is the Title (Name) Given to the Last Player Taken Every Year in the NFL Draft

Mr. Irrelevant is a title that gets discussed every April around the time of the annual NFL Draft because it is the dubious title given to the last player chosen in the draft. The title Mr. Irrelevant is given in a half joking manner because of the lack of faith that exists regarding the final player elected ever being worth mentioning again because his odds of succeeding in the NFL are seemingly so small.

For several years now the NFL Draft has had seven rounds with 32 teams. Although seven rounds with 32 teams comes out to a total of 224 picks the actual number of total picks is typically around 255. The reason that there are additional picks beyond the allotted one per round per team for seven rounds is because of something called "compensatory picks. " While a complete explanation of compensatory picks is beyond the scope of this article the gist is that there are additional picks designated for teams that lost more players to free agency than they gained. Thus compensatory picks help allow teams that are light on players to stock up a more full roster. It is not unusual for Mr. Irrelevant to be selected with the 255th overall pick at the very end of a drafting process that literally lasts days.

Although the NFL Draft began in 1936 it was not until forty years later in 1976 that the endearing phrase Mr. Irrelevant was popularized. The concept was actually the brainchild of a former NFL wide receiver and standout player for the University of Southern California named Paul Salata. At the age of 49, long after his playing days were behind him, Salata found what was to be known as Irrelevant Week near his home in Newport Beach, California.

Mr. Irrelevant Week is held in Orange County, California during the summer and among other events including a parade, golf tournament, and roast for the player lucky enough to be selected with the final pick in the NFL Draft held during the previous spring. The week long extravaganza concludes with the awarding of the Lowsman Trophy. The Lowsman Trophy mimics the Heisman Trophy (the most coveted individual award in college football) but instead of depicting a player striking a stiff arm pose a football player fumbling the ball adorns this piece of hardware.

Although it can be argued that the first Mr. Irrelevant was Phil Flanagan because he was taken with the last pick in the first NFL Draft in 1936 Kelvin Kirk is more widely recognized as the official first. Irrelevant. Kirk was selected with the 487th and final pick in the 1976 NFL Draft and there before landed an invitation for himself and his family to partake in the Newport Beach festivals that summer.

One of the more interesting career paths by a man selected with the last overall pick in the NFL Draft is probably Jimmy Walker who was chosen by the New Orleans Saints with the final pick of the 17th round (445 overall) in the 1967 draft. That same year Walker was taken with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Walker would go onto play nine years in NBA and make a couple of all-star teams before suddenly fathering a son named Jalen Rose. Rose would go onto play in the NBA and famously with the Michigan Fab squad in 1992 and 1993. Sadly, an estranged relationship resolved in Walker and Rose never meeting in person before Walker passed away in 2007.

On a lighter note casual sports fans may find it interesting that numerous players that have been named Mr. Irrelevant played for top tier college football programs like the University of Nebraska, LSU, Ohio State, and the University of Texas just to name a few.

"AI" Of Human-Kind

"AI" … of Human-kind!

"Which Came First, The Chicken Or The Egg?"

Several years ago, you may recall a publication describing our growing dependency upon machines, devices, and "AI." On several occasions, I've attempted to bring awareness to this phenomenon of artificial intelligence's abilities in creating and / or re-creating itself … over and over again. What once was a 'science-fiction' story has been brought to bear, in living color, a scientific fact.

The article, "Device Machine Dependent," has described instances and descriptions where robots or robots have been designed to emulate the actions, abilities, and appearance (s) of mankind … "Human-Like"; "The Image of Its' Creator!"

How many times have you been in your car and engaged in a shouting match or argumentative interaction with your 'GPS' or "onboard interface?" Aw, c'mon now … have not you gotten angry and screamed at the device when the voice behind it gives you screwed up or wrong directions? Sure you have.

Selene Yeager, a contributing author, spoke of a doctor student at Stanford University, who specializes in Human-Technology-Interaction.

"We (humans) get confused and angry because we do not know what the 'GPS' is" thinking, "David Miller says.

This author (yours truly), however, is and has been guilty of that particular type of behavior. I can remember keying in a direction (when that was not satisfactory, I tried to engage the voice command option), the damned thing told me; directed me to take a highway and exit … I followed suit. When I realized the directions where totally wrong – the accursed voice put us on "The Highway To Hell!"

We traveled sixty miles outside and away from our planned "Pocono Mountain" destination.

Well, I'm here to tell you, I momentarily (Oh, like so many) became insane and started screaming at the voice inside of the 'GPS system.' Miller went on to say, "In the future, when your GPS gives you directions, it may give you a rationeale, so that you will have a better two-way relationship."

… Yeah, right. I'm happy when and if the thing gets me to my unfamiliar destination (s) … via the correct route! I do not mean to be to hard on the device … it's a pretty good little tool when it works as expected.

"A Bite Of The Apple" addressed the 'IT' community on big issues relating Apple's stance on "covert and proprietary practices" in the world of technology; hardware and software – particularly its hardware products. Apple's 'IT' decision makers espouses an ergonomic flaw which reveals a preference, they've said "Apple-like" form over function, ie, the iMAC connectors on the rear of their machines are designed and / or determined by anal retention.

Their 'IT' management team describes one possible meaning of "Anal Retention." It's a point on a curve at which the curvature changes from convex to concave or vice-versa. It can also be called a "Flex Point" or "Point of Inflection." Apple management says its proprietary devices are putting more effect into business user marketing. Apples' devices are making their way into the enterprise arena because 'IT' managers, not users, like them.

The 'end-user' report stresses the fact, suggesting the product (s) being as good and excellent on ease of use, design, and reliability. Does anyone recall the definition of cloning?

Many of us have PC's in our homes today. And there are many others who feel they are, and believe they are a step ahead while utilizing home-robots like "Alexa" or IBM'S "Watson" and a myriad of cloned devices that clean, monitor, and coordinate their daily lives or lifestyles.

Where's your cell phone?

It used to be the desk-top computer that was the central 'Internet' connection. Then it was the 'Laptop.' The "Tablet" continues to be popular these days, but the "Smart-Phone" outshines them all. All one has to do is simply look around … Look and see how many people are walking, running, riding, driving, and flying … dependent upon those continuously unrelinquishing devices to sustain them in their existence, and their very lives on this planet.

Not long ago, a vicious computer virus wrestled control from some 400,00 computers across more than 160 countries in one of the worst international cyber attacks and computer infections.

The virus blocked all access to programs, files, mainframes, and networks without the computer's owner (s) paid a ransom. The elicitable funds could only be paid by "Bitcoin."

Bitcoin is online currency that is almost impossible to trace. The Bitcoin currency is traded for the purchase of a "ransom key." Often, victims have paid the money only to not get the key to unlock their computers (or) systems, losing both their money and their data.

This incident should serve as a major wake-up call to users with the much encouraged "must-do" procedure (s) on PCs and Internet devices in their care or usage and the prevention of viruses, botnets, web-crawlers, malware, worms, etc.

I certainly agree with author, Doug Shadel, in suggesting that users / owners regularly backup your important files to an external drive or remote storage service; have a pop-up blocker running on your web browser at all times; instantly leave websites you've been directed to without your consent; use a reputable antivirus program – keeping it updated at all times; make sure your software (and anti-virus software) is up to date; do not click on links or open attachments from email addresses you do not know; and buy only legitimate software – and register it.

Do you remember the scene in the movie "Star Wars," where the bar-tender shouts at 'Luke Skywalker' to get his droids out of his establishment?

That scene is a result of human prejudices against machines or robot-kind. Detroit, Michigan's automobile industry and workforce is all but totally manned by robots (or robotics). Robots are doing major operations on humans and animals alike. Robots are preparing foods, packing and shipping items, driving cars, and diagnosing human ailments and diseases. Robots are answering telephones and redirecting calls. Robots are calling you on your phones, reminding you of past due bills, appointments, prescription pick-ups, and making attempts at selling you goods and other services. Robots are building bridges, buildings, and homes. Robots are doing just about anything and everything a human-being or animal can and has been doing. Ask yourself … how many jobs have been lost and are being lost to robots?

"Many companies are using sentiment analysis to gauge the mood (s) on social networks and / or the web … but getting insight takes new tactics and skills," said Doug Henschen of 'Techweb.'

"It definitely takes new tactics and skill-sets in order to acquire a position in the new world of IT, BI, Communications, and Analytics." This conclusion is postulated via the published article, "Destruction and Creation – A New Jobs Hyperbole." No one can deny the massive and major changes that have occurred in the 'New World Economy' of this century. What's going to happen in the centuries to come – will we be "Star-Trek-Like?" How about a world and future like that of "Logan's Run?" Will robots become the new judges, lawyers, congressional appointees, senators, or president? Those of us who are aware, interested, and / or motivated in or towards the continuation of mannish's reign over machines, must become the master of both sides of IT / BI.

AI: Artificial Intelligence … is in contrast to the natural (Human / Animal-like) intelligence … the ability of a computer or robot doing what is normally or commonly done by humans or animals – with intelligence or intelligent abilities .. the ability to think.

How long will it be before humans (man-kind) are completely out-thought by "AI" – becoming completely and utterly our replacements as opposed to being our once-upon-a-time servants?

"How Long? Not Long!"

Now, this argument does not make you wonder …

"AI" … of Human-kind?

"Which Came First, The Chicken Or The Egg?"

Til Next Time …

'G'

Why You Should Pursue a Career in Commercial Truck Driving

Why should you pursue a career in commercial truck driving? That is a very good question. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have enough valuable information to answer it yourself. So, why should anyone pursue a career in commercial truck driving? Let me start by giving you some fascinating statistics about the trucking industry.

Did you know that of all the modes of shipment in the commercial transportation industry, the trucking sector dominates the field with 83.7% of the revenue? The rail industry comes in at a distant second with only 5.6% of the total revenue. The air sector is third with 3.2%, and the oceanic freight sector is barely in the running with only 1.4% of all revenue being transported by ships. As you can see, the trucking industry isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the trucking industry alone collects 650 billion dollars in annual revenue each year. That’s 5% of the nation’s GDP! The trucking industry also pays out 35 billion dollars in federal, state, and highway use taxes per year and will grow by 21% over the next ten years. Not many career fields can promise you such great job security without a four year college degree like the trucking industry can.

Speaking of job security, in May of 2013 there was an estimated 1.5 million heavy truck and tractor trailer drivers earning an average median salary of $38,700 a year, which calculates to roughly $18.61 an hour. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that truck drivers who were at the lower end of the pay scale still made $25,330 a year and truck drivers who were at the high end of the pay scale made $59,620 per year. How many other jobs can boast such a wide range of salaries without a four-year or two-year college degree? Not many. So, where are more truck drivers employed than anywhere else? Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois. The state of Texas hired 157, 260 truckers in 2013 while Illinois employed an estimated 66,050 truck drivers. But, don’t think you will have to relocate to one of these five states in order to find a decent truck driving job. The entire east coast is full of states that have an average 40,210 to 157,260 working truck drivers. If you’re looking for the states with the highest concentration of truck driving jobs in the U.S. look no further. North Dakota boasts 15,310 trucking jobs with an average median salary of $47,580 while Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wyoming follow closely. Truck drivers in Alaska have the highest median salary at $53,440, while truckers in North Dakota, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, and Wyoming make an average $47,000 a year. If you were to look at a map of the United States showing the areas where the most truck drivers are employed, you would see that truck drivers are heavily employed from Texas all the way over to Pennsylvania and Florida, and all the way up to Michigan. Califonia and the Pacific Northwest also employ many truck drivers. Which areas have the least amount of working truck drivers? The midwestern states. That is why truck drivers in these states make more per year. Here’s one more thing to consider. U.S. intracontinental truck driving jobs cannot be outsourced.

Here are some more fascinating facts about truckers. The total distance traveled by truck drivers per year is 93.5 million highway miles? To put that in perspective, that’s 256,197,260 miles per day, 2,965 milers per second, and 3.7 million times around the earth or 195,713 round trips to the moon! That’s a lot of truckin’! Of course, with all those miles it would be nice to get good gas mileage. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. On average, long haul trukcs can carry 300 gallons of fuel, but can only travel eight miles per gallon. That’s about 6.8 gallons of fuel an hour at 55 miles per hour. That means it would take a class 8 tractor trailer 44 hours and 347 gallons of fuel to travel from Los Angeles to New York City. Of course, with a 300 gallon fuel tank, you would only have to stop for gas one time. With all those miles to travel, one of the perks of long haul truck driving is being able to see the beauty and splendor of the United States countryside and getting paid to do so!

Now that you know just how important the trucking industry is to the U.S. economy, how much the average truck driver makes a year, and how many total miles truck drivers travel on average per year, I want to end this article with one last statistic. The value of shipped goods that the commercial trucking industry transports per year is $139,463,000,000. That’s $382,090,411 per day and $4,422 per second! That is how valuable the trucking industry and the truck drivers themselves are to the citizens of the United States. Think about this, if you will. Almost every facet of our economy is dependent upon the trucking industry, from food to fuel, medicine to machinery, cars to clothing, and construction to manufacturing, they are all delivered and dependent upon the commercial trucking industry. To put it another way, if it wasn’t for truck drivers, you wouldn’t have a bed to sleep on, soap and shampoo to clean yourself with, clothes to get dressed in, food to eat for breakfast, a toothbrush and toothpaste to brush your teeth with, a car to drive to work in, gas to fuel that car, a computer to work on, food to eat for lunch, a car to drive back home in, a refrigerator, stove and microwave to store and cook dinner with, plates and utensils and a table to eat on, chairs to sit on, and a television to watch the game on while you sit in your sofa and drink your ice cold beer that was transported by truck drivers. Of course, I left a lot of stuff out but, you get the picture. Oh, I almost forgot, you wouldn’t have a house to live in either, unless it was made out of something other than bricks, concrete, wood, metal, or stone. Remember, if you bought it, a truck brought it.

So, back to the original question. Why should you pursue a career in commercial truck driving? Well, now that you know how important the commercial trucking industry is to the U.S. economy, how good the job market is, and how much truck drivers can make without a college degree, maybe the real question you should be asking yourself is, “why shouldn’t I pursue a career in commercial truck driving?”. That’s a question that only you can answer. If you do decide that you want to pursue a career in commercial truck driving, getting the proper training is your first step. Not only is the commercial truck driving job market ripe with possibilities, the steps you have to take to enter the job market are easier than you might think. To be certified to operate a commercial motor vehicle, all you need is a commercial drivers license, adequate physical health, and the ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle. That’s it. Of course, getting your CDL is a whole different story. It takes specialized knowledge and training to pass the required tests, and that training is usually obtained at a private or company-sponsored truck driving school. Most truck driving schools will give you the CDL training you need to pass the required CDL tests and obtain your commercial drivers license within a few months.

I hope this article has helped to answer the basic questions you may have about pursuing a career in commercial truck driving.

GMC Trucks – 100 Years of Heavy-Duty Trucks

History of GMC Trucks

When it comes to trucks, GMC is known the world over for its production of a variety of trucks from service trucks and commercial vehicles to pickup trucks. It had its beginnings with a commercial hauling truck company created in 1902 by Max Grabowsky called the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company.

Seven years later, General Motors bought out Grabowsky's business because they wanted to form their own trucking company, which was called General Motors Truck Company. They added Reliance Motors to their inventory in 1911, and in 1912 GMC (General Motors Corporation) Trucks was born out of those two acquisitions.

GMC – The Early Years

GMC produced a mere 372 trucks out of the nationwide total of 22,000 trucks that first year, which pales in comparison to the millions of commercial vehicles they produce today. An interesting note though is that GMC was a forerunner in battery-powered electric model trucks and made nine different models varying from one-half to six tons capacity.

In an effort to bring up their popularity, GMC Trucks put on a public stunt in 1916 featuring one of their truck models. William Warwick drve a loaded GMC 1-1 / 2-ton truck from Seattle to New York and back, making it the very first truck to cross the entire USA in less than 32 days.

GMC During World War I

The venture may have worked, as that same year the Army went with t ton GMC trucks as part of their fleet of vehicles. In fact, WWI bought major breakthroughs for their business, as 90 percent of all its production was bought by the military from 1917 and 1919. GMC delivered 8,500 vehicles to the Army during those years.

GMC Trucks After World War I

The next few years bought more innovation in the GMC Truck production as pneumatic tires replaced solid rubber tires in 1920, and their K model trucks came out that year as well with a capacity between and and five tons. The following year electric lights replaced what had been oil lamps as standard gear on all trucks as well and seven speed transmissions became the standard for heavyweight trucks.

By 1923, GMC trucks had capacities ranged up to 10 tons if you count the trailer. Rear wheel brakes were starting to be used on some models by 1925.The company expanded by 1927 when they built a truck assembly plant in Pontiac, Michigan which was the largest truck building plant in the world then at 26 acres of property.

That same year the company bought out their T model of trucks with a t ton panel express truck and a screen side express truck and "Cannon Ball" Baker drve a T model 40 GMC tank truck full of water from the Atlantic Ocean all the way from New York to San Francisco in under six days, which set a speed record for heavy-duty trucks.

GMC continued its innovative strategies when it started providing tandem driving rear axles for their heavyweight service trucks in 1930 and the following year it was a GMC T-95 model truck that filled a refrigerated GMC trailer full of fresh produce from Los Angeles to New York, setting another record.

Between 1931 and 1940 GMC Trucks were producing more than 20 models of truck trailer chassis, 15 new models of different weight trucks, and it had added several models of heavy weight trucks to its lines.

GMC During World War II

The next war also seemed to benefit GMC as their production numbers continued to escalate with all of its trucks going to the war effort by 1942. GMC built 600,000 trucks during this time frame for the military. In fact, GMC trucks were presented the E Award for Excellence in 1944 because of its help in the war effort.

GMC After the War

The company was back to making trucks for the civil market by then, but had some issues with a six-month long strike by its workers in 1946 that briefly slowed things down. Even so, by 1950 it proudly had 75 models of trucks going through its production lines.

In 1954 GMC Trucks offered power steering for the first time on some models and in 1956 tubeless tires were standard, and they were the first to put air suspension on front and rear axles on some of their heavy weight model trucks.

GMC Trucks continues to Grow

Between the 50s and the 60s GMC grown even larger and by 1968 they were considered the third largest truck producer in the world. Once again they prospered in the war effort and produced more than 9,000 trucks for the military in 1951. They were M-135 series that had the ability to ford deep water, so being very useful for military operations.

The company again showed how GMC was first in implementing innovative features when in 1967 they produced trucks with energy absorbing steering columns, instrument panel pads and dual brake systems well before they were required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

GMC Trucks Between 1970 and 2012

GMC continued its truck production over the next several decades, weathering many difficulties changes in production lines, increasing production costs, competition from foreign companies, problems with the fuel shortages in the middle 1970s and deregulation and recession issues in 1980s. The problems were so severe, that some trucking companies went out of business. The production plant in Pontiac was also torn down in late 1980s and the production was moved to Janesville, Wisconsin.

GMC's high points include placing third in the production of trucks in the US, being displaced as the official truck of the 1984 Olympics and in 1988 they stopped making heavyweight trucks, in 1990 electronic fuel injection became the norm, and by 1996 the name was shortened to just GMC, instead of GMC Trucks and they merged with Pontiac Motor Division to form Pontiac GMC Division of General Motors.

The following year all of its commercial vehicles production was moved to Flint, Michigan. Since then, GMC Trucks has continued to grow and produce award-winning trucks of all kinds with production and distribution all over the globe.

GMC Trucks will celebrate a milestone anniversary in 2012 – 100 years of truck manufacturing.

Between Standard and High: The Latest on Videos

Admit it or not, anyone with an affordable android tablet uses it to watch some videos. Whether you are watching through a streaming website like YouTube or upload your own videos from another source, you would most definitely have used your tablet to view a movie, music video, or even just a snippet of a Vine video or something posted on your Facebook wall.

But then, like much of technology, videos have also progressed much, and you have come across "HD". For those who are in the dark about HD video and are afraid to ask for fear of being laughed at, here are some answers to questions that are certainly bugging you about the topic.

What is high definition video?

This is a term we often hear nowdays. There is no clear definition of what it is but what we know is that it reflects to any video that has a higher resolution than the normal. It is usually a video that has a resolution of 720p or 1080p. Format is also usually widescreen and has a display of between 24 to 60 frames per second. This is becoming a standard among video formats that are being released.

How is HD different from standard video? Is there really a huge difference?

There is a big difference between the HD and standard video when it comes to the specifications. Since HD video has a higher rate of frames per second, the video quality is definitely much better. The number of lines is also higher compared to the standard videos that we are used to. The video becomes seamless because of this and is less pixelated. You can definitely feel the difference if you watch a non-HD video in a wide-screen television as the pixels become more visible.

What are the pros and cons of having videos on HD?

Of course, there are 2 sides to every story and the same goes with HD videos. The great thing about this type of video is that the quality is high so if you have a big screen television, your viewing experience will be much better as it is formatted to view in a widescreen format. The downside of this is that the file is quite large so if you are planning to download it from the Internet, you would need a large capacity hard drive to be able to accommodate the files. Transferring them can also be a test of patience.

Can any tablet or screen show HD video? Are there any particular gadgets that can do justice to HD video?

There are a lot of affordable Android tablet computers models that can already accommodate HD video since this is becoming the standard when it comes to the videos that are produced slowly. The demand for such videos are increasing steadily that even streaming videos are submitted as HD. There are even some brands that already have HD-capable screens as well as having HD-capable cameras.

The Ardell Wellness Stress Test Self-Assessment

My first book, "High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease" (Rodale, 1977), contained a chapter on stress. In it was a short stress test or self-assessment. Nearly 35 years have passed since I wrote this and devised a scoring system for interpreting it. The exercise was intended to give a sense of the range of factors that can be potential stressors. Too many stress factors not managed well can cause health and other troubles ranging from misery to ruin. My stress test, a self-assessment tool, is a self-report instrument intended for personal insights. It is not, of course, a test in any technical sense. Unlike a true test, it is not validated against a criterion or otherwise in accord with standards for scientific rigor.

Many books have been written about the phenomenon of stress. It is a popular term in our culture and receives much attention in varied worksite health promotion programs. Among humans, there are major individual differences in how people respond to and manage stressors at different times under varied circumstances. What stresses you might delight me and vice-versa. People thrive with and also suffer from stress in their lives. Any test that raises awareness and then helps fewer suffer and more thrive seems a good thing.

My little wellness stress test is a consciousness-raising, self-assessment life satisfaction survey. I want to assist readers embark upon or add to their wellness mindsets and lifestyles. To do that, it helps to evaluate a number of important life areas. I want everyone to enjoy the process of mastering stress factors as much as possible. Stress can be serious when present to excess. Anyone working with an individual in a wellness setting may consider the self-assessment and interpretation that follows as an aide, useful for exploring issues and concerns in greater depth towards the goal of positive resolutions.

The old 1977 Ardell Wellness Stress Test remains popular to this day, particularly at university wellness centers and health promotion courses. In addition, I still receive requests for permission to reproduce the test in books and brochures. So, it seems time for an update. After all, what are the chances that the events and circumstances of the 70's are still stressing people today? However, I should recognize that most of the factors listed then are generic, not dated to an era (eg, job and career stresses). Thus, most of the original test questions should still apply, especially after a little touch-up to account for my having learned a thing or two in the intervening decades. I'd at least like to think I know more in 2018 about REAL wellness than I did in 1976 while writing "High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease." That fact in itself invited this update.

The "Ardell Wellness Stress Test" then and now incorporates physical, mental, emotional, "spiritual" (ie, meaning and purpose) and social aspects of health. This is one reason many users report finding the test useful – it offers a balanced assessment of varied stress sources. In this updated version, I retain that broad scope. I also retain the scanning system. I recommend that you print this test in order to allow marking answers or number ratings to each of the 25 topic areas. As in the original version, I'm offering a six-point scale, plus a neutral choice that indicates no positive or negative emissions associated with the item.

Here is the rating scale to apply as you read and consider each factor in the 25 question assessment. Simply rate your satisfaction in degrees positive or negative for each item.

* Enter "+3" if your situation, that is, your satisfaction with how your life is currently going regarding the category listed, is "exuberant to ecstatic" – as good or positive as it could reasonably be expected or hoped for.

* Enter "+2" if your satisfaction level in the category is "very happy to quite pleased."

* Enter "+1" if your satisfaction is "OK to mildly satisfying."

* Enter "0" if your most accurate sense is "not sure" to "no problem."

* Enter "-1" if the most accurate response seems to be "mildly disappointed" to "not quite right."

* Enter "-2" if the most best answer is "very disappointed" to "quite unhappy about this."

* Enter "-3" if your feeling about the issue at hand is "I'm on the road to Nowhere" to "I think I'm about to go over a cliff."

With this scoring system, enter a number to the left of each factor regarding how much positive or negative stress it engenders. When you have completed all 25, please add your score and read my assessment of your stress situation. After that, of course, a REAL wellness mindset / lifestyle is highly recommended, no matter how high (good) or low (time to reorganizate) your score on this stress assessment might be.

_____ 1. Choice of profession or career

_____ 2. Present job or capacity to make a satisfactory living

_____ 3. Marital or partner status

_____ 4. Primary relationships (family and best friends)

_____ 5. Ability to have fun and the amount to which you experience good times regularly

_____ 6. Amount of recent occasions when you felt exuberant, filled with a sense that "life is good"

_____ 7. Financial situation and future prospects

_____ 8. Sense of who you are and how evolving (self-respect and confidence)

_____ 9. Meaning and purpose in life (includes "spirituality")

_____ 10. Level of self-worth and estimation of how others view you

_____ 11. Prospects for having impact on those who know you and possibly others

_____ 12. Sex life

_____ 13. Body, how it looks and performances

_____ 14. Home life, including range of interests and passions

_____ 15. Life skills and education – awareness of issues and facts unrelated to your job or profession

_____ 16. Capacities for dealing with change, crises, setbacks and all manner of unexpected situations

_____ 17. Nutritional knowledge, attitudes and consumption patterns

_____ 18. Ability to recover from disappointments, hurts and tragedies

_____ 19. Potentials

_____ 20. A range of interests and a balanced quality in your life

_____ 21. Sense that life for you is on an upward curve, getting better and fuller all the time

_____ 22. Level of participation in issues and concerns beyond your immediate interests

_____ 23. Choices about parenting and styles / principles for the guidance of children

_____ 24. Role with network of friends, relatives and / or others

_____ 25. Emotional acceptance of the inescapable reality of aging, decline and death

Please add the plus number and subtract the minus numbers. Write the total in this space: ______

Ardell Wellness Stress Test Interpretation

+ 60 to + 75 – You are in a very good place overall, and illegally to be significantly bothered by stressors on a consistent basis. You have a lot of positive factors in your life which, more than any stress management technique (eg, deep breathing, meditation and so on), will render you large immune from the adverse effects of negative emotions in dealing with what life serves up. There are few challenges likely to untrack you from a continuing sense of near wellbeing so long as your satisfaction level remains as high as indicated in this assessment.

+ 36 to + 59 – You are doing well, much better than most. You should find the information available about the wellness concept attractive and consistent with your movement towards effective and healthy living. You already have a well-tuned capacity to deal creatively and efficiently with events and circumstances. Additional allowances should come easily for you. All good wishes in moving forward while learning new skills, particularly in areas of critical thinking, the experience of exuberant living, physical fitness and expanding your personal freedoms and choices.

+ 20 to + 35 – You have a well-founded appreciation for the importance of lifestyle choices in affecting the quality of your life. You know the value of personal responsibility, a supportive environment and the cumulative positive effects of little changes, over time. In the months to come, invest additional energies in learning ways to strengthen certain areas. You can boost your satisfactions while reducing your stressors.

0 to +19 – You can clearly benefit from a modest investment in learning ways to reduce stress and increase pleasures. A flurry of negative circumstances could spark emotional setbacks. Take steps now to avoid slowing your steady progress towards mastery of good living and self-efficiency.

0 to -19 – Stress of a daily nature that interferes will good living seems to be a problem – and it describes your attention. Stress of a consistent negative nature will jeopardize your motivation to choose wisely and sustain energy levels needed for good health and an enjoyable life. You are a candidate for counseling. You are either too pessimistic or have severe problems in dealing with stress.

-20 to – 37 – There is almost certainly too much stress to support exuberant living, with generous instances of pleasure and joy, positive excitment for fun things to do and delights in diversions and purposes. Consider a wide range of ways to boost your happiness quotient.

-38 to – 75 – Oh my goodness. What do you do for a living – are you North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, ruling dictator of the Hermit Kingdom? Something, lots of things, must be done to lighten the load, to eliminate much of the stress load from your life. Let's look on the bright side for a moment – you are still alive, you managed to complete the test without suffering a cardiac event and you probably have a sense of humor, more or less. But seriously, if you truly are as stressed as this little consciousness-raising set of questions would indicate, it's time for a chat with a wellness professional. I recommend that you start now to look after yourself with more loving attention.

The single best way to deal with negative stress is to prevent it in the first place. Too late for that. Next, take the surest path to stress reduction – find ways to enjoy life daily. It also helps to find work that challenges and allows expression of your talents. In addition, find a cause or project or two that gives added meaning. Service to others is also a proven way of improving your own situation. All that uplifts and inspires tend to diminish anxiety, stress and fears. Do whatever you can to boost your experience of little joys and delights. There are many paths to increased happiness. Few have offered a better, more succinct formula for happiness than Robert Green Ingersoll (1833 – 1899), the great 19th century orator of the golden age of freethought. Ingersoll believed happiness was a great value. Many today are familiar with his words on the subject: "The place to be happy is here, the time to be happy is now and the way to be happy is to make others so."

Thanks for taking the self-assessment test.

All best wishes. Be well.

The Benefits of Martial Arts Training

As any martial artist will tell you, there are multiple benefits in martial arts training. Of course, the most obvious benefit is a knowledge of self defense which is one of the major reasons why systems were developed in the first place. Knowing how to defend oneself and loved ones in a potentially dangerous situation is an asset in today's world just as it was hundreds of years ago. Unlike often depicted in the movies, training is not just about fighting. Many people take up martial arts for the fitness benefits as well. Training in karate, tae kwon do, kung fu and other styles will improve one's cardiovascular fitness as well as tone the muscular system. Strength will increase from the calisthenics usually employed within training but although not to the same extent as working out with weights. But overall power of one's body will definitely increase since the techniques teach how to use strength effectively.

Most people will also improve their flexibility significantly while training since entire ranges of motion from the body are exercised. This is especially true with styles such as tae kwon do, Thai kickboxing as well as some schools of karate and kung fu where high kicks are used. All martial art styles will result in an improvement of one's coordination as well.

Unlike many other forms of physical activity, martial arts also have a mental and sometimes spiritual element which not only improves the mind's focus but also helps in self control. Emotions such as anger and fear are better controlled through training. Many martial artists can find an inner peace through their training. In today's hectic world, these particular benefits translate into one of the most effective stress management tools available. When training in a session or in a group class, all the day to day problems of the world seem to be forgotten. People come out refreshed, energized and ready to tackle the big world out there.

Training in martial arts usually involves many little steps and progressions. As one advances, the feeling of accomplishment comes with added confidence. This is especially beneficial for children who were not very confident in the first place. An increase in self confidence for kids (as well as adults) will have a cross over effect in other areas of life such as in other sports and general self esteem. Other challenges in life, both physical and mental, will be met with much less fear.

An important benefit of martial arts training for parents to note is that children will generally become more disciplined than the unique formalities of martial arts classes. This is one benefit that is often lacking in other sports. Former 'problem' kids with bad attitudes could become well behaved and respectful as a result of taking classes a few times per week. Respect is something that all instructors place great importance during their classes. Martial arts kids are often very well behaved children no matter what social economic backgrounds they come from.

Martial arts training has so many great benefits covering physical, mental and emotional aspects that it's no wonder why it has become one of the most popular activities for both adults and children. However, it is important to point out that not all programs will produce the range of benefits discussed. Programs that teach just combat fighting techniques may not result in the desired mental and spiritual benefits so it is important to search around for the right school that will offer the benefits one wishes to achieve.

Vegetarian Athletes – 10 Olympic Champions

It's a myth that muscles, strength and endurance require the consumption of large quantities of animal-based foods. This myth began before anyone even talked about protein. During the Olympics, it's a good time to take a look at some amazing athletes who are champions and vegetarians:

  1. Charlene Wong is a champion figure skater who represented Canada in the 1988 Calgary Olympics. She began competitiveness at the age of 6 and in 1980 was named to the Canadian Team and represented Canada in the Junior World Championships. She was highlighted in The Vegetarian Sports Nutrition Guide by Lisa Dorfman.
  2. Paavo Nurmi , a Finnish runner, was a vegetarian since the age of 12. He is often considered the greatest track and field athlete of all time. A long-distance runner, he competed in the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Olympics, winning 12 Olympic medals.
  3. Chris Campbell , wrestler, trained for the 1980 Olympics but did not compete as the American team boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. At age 37, he began training again and secured a place on the US team, winning a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics, becoming the oldest American to medal in Olympic wrestling. He says, "I take care of my body. I do not eat meat, and I do yoga every day. It makes a difference."
  4. Carl Lewis , vegan athlete, won 10 Olympic medals, including 9 golds, in a career that spanned from 1979 to 1996, competing for the US. He said, "most athletes have the worst diet in the world, and they compete in spite of it."
  5. Surya Bonaly , professional figure skater, represented France in the Olympics of 1992, 1994, and 1998. She is also now a US citizen. A vegetarian, she has appeared in PETA ads protesting Canada's baby seal hunt and English and French fur trade.
  6. Debbie Lawrence , vegetarian racewalker, has been a three-time Olympian (1992, 1996, and 2000) and is the world record holder for the women's 5K racewalk event. She attributes her success to hard work and a vegetarian diet.
  7. Murray Rose , a vegetarian since birth, has six Olympic medals. He was born in 1939 in Nairn, Scotland, but he moved to Australia with his family at an early age. He was an Olympic champion at age seventeen. He was known for his vegetarianism during his career, approaching him the nickname, "The Seaweed Streak." He competed in the Olympics from 1956 through 1960, winning six medals.
  8. Al Oerter , discus drawer , won four Olympic gold medals for the US – in 1956, 1960, 1964. He was also an abstract painter.
  9. Edwin Moses , hurdler for the US, is a gold medalist who went eight years without losing the 400-meter hurdle. Over his career, he won two Olympic gold medals. After retirement from track, he in completed in a 1990 World Cup bobsled race in Germany and won the two-man bronze medal with US Olympian Brian Shimer. Edwin Moses is a vegetarian.
  10. Leroy Burrell , sprinter, twice set the world record for the 100 meter sprint. He won a gold medal for the US in 1992 in Barcelona. He is a vegetarian.

As stated in "Vegetarian Diets" by the International Center for Sports Nutrition, Olympic Coach Magazine, Winter 1997:

"If care is taken to include a wide variety of foods, vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate to support athletic performance."

"Whether an individual is a recreational or world-class athlete, being a vegetarian does not diminish natural talent or athletic performance.

Looking at these 10 vegetarian Olympic athletes, it's clear that the need to eat meat to be strong and a champion is a myth. A whole foods, plant-based diet will give an athlete all the excellent nutrition he or she needs to be a winner.

History of the BCS Championship Bowl Game

If you are a college football fanatic you probably already know how this came to be. You were probably watching the first games that led up to the creation. For you it was a history making event that you did not want to miss. For everyone else that does not know the history of the BCS championship bowl game there are a few things that brought the bowl game into existence.

The very first bowl championship series was played in 1998 at the end of the college football season. People were clamoring for a way to crown one team as the very best out of all others for the year. If it could be done on the professional level why could not it be done on the college level as well? Each team wanted bragging rights to be the best. The only problem was that unlike with professional football you have just a fraction of teams and your players will constantly change up as some graduate or accept the draft. One team that won last year may not have any returning senior players.

Prior to the game in 1998 there were some attempts at a national game however, the big ten teams did not participate, so in actuality it was not a true championship game. All of the various bowls that are out now were rotated to change up the final location of the championship bowl game. There were four actual bowls which rotated each year. They were the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. Other additional bowls are provided to other teams that are not in the playoffs for the championship title. People still want to be able to see a final game or ranking for their favorite college team. This was an appeasement for those that would not make the final cut. This is something akin to a regional championship in the professional league.

Now that this system has been implemented a lot of colleges and fans are complaining about how the teams are chosen for the top spots. Unfortunately it is not decided upon how a team performances or plays on the field but by polls and computer rankings. Many feel that it provides an unfair advantage to the larger schools which have larger endowments and more funding to acquire better players. The USA Today newspaper combines the coaches' poll. And former players, media and coaches get a say for the Harris Interactive Poll. Finally, an average of six computers provides ratings on the college football teams. This is an intricate design that was created for the championship bowl game.

As the season comes to a close each year in January, people root and cheer for their favorite teams. Everyone has an opinion on how it should be fixed or updated. As this is still a relatively new system in place it will take a long time to get updated. And it will not be scrapped for another system until enough people complain about it. But with that in mind it is not easy to set up and maintain a system that will be liked by everyone.