Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Football Players

December 26, 2015

On Christmas day, Sony Pictures released the movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith and Alec Baldwin. Based on the 2009 GQ expose “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, the movie deals with not only the serious impact that concussions have on football players but also the scandalous claim that the National Football League has been doing everything possible to cover up the health issue for years.

Just days before the annual Thanksgiving marathon of three pro-football games televised from noon to midnight, former New York Giants star Frank Gifford’s family announced that he too, suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) before he passed away on August 9th of this year. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that is found in individuals who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. Yet, not once during the twelve hours of football games played on three different networks, did I hear any of the game announcers or studio analysts speak of Mr. Gifford’s injuries.

Having spent Thanksgiving with family, it is possible that one of the announcers did address this issue and I missed it, however, for the seriousness of the issue, a lengthy discussion during each game would have been hard to miss. Moreover, not once since then have I heard anyone involved in the televising of NFL games discuss the problem. With the movie raising the issue that the NFL has been covering up the issue for years, it does not take a conspiracy buff to deduce that the league has instructed everyone involved not to address the issue.

During the past five years, the PBS television network has aired two really good documentaries regarding the seriousness of injuries received by young men while playing what has become America’s new national pastime. During the first documentary, one person interviewed, and forgive me for not being able to recall what their occupation was, but they opined that when young children play organized football, when their helmets collide, which happens on every single play not only during games but also during every single practice, that their brains are being shaken around, similar to that of shaking a bowl of Jell-O. This is shocking. While watching these two documentaries, my thought was every parent who has children playing organized football should view these programs.

When growing up, I played football all the time. However, the only time I wore a uniform was my sophomore year in high school when I played on the reserves football team. Now days, children begin playing organized football at a very young age. Concussions are a very serious issue among football players; however, I was alarmed when the gentleman referred to children’s brains being shaken like a bowl of Jell-O.

My son played a couple of years of organized football when he was in middle school. Knowing what I now know, I like to think that peer pressure among my son’s friends would not have swayed my thoughts toward letting him play a sport he too, like me loved and that I would have had the cojones to just say no.

Steven H. Spring

Plattsburg Farm At Christmas #20D

Plattsburg Farm At Christmas #20DDecember 24, 2015

The original photograph was shot one Christmas between 1996 and 2001, down on the farm, with the key word being “original.” Any one who has viewed my photos over the years might say, “I’ve seen this one before,” however, they would be mistaken.

I must admit that thanks to a marvelous thing called digital photography, some drastic improvements to the original photograph were made. I’m no magician, but like one not giving away the secrets of his or her tricks, I will not disclose the changes that were performed. If someone were to speculate, I would confirm his or her guess. It’s not that I do not want to disclose any secrets, as I have already shown both before and after photos to several friends. Though the changes made were very simple to do, however, the end results were quite impressive.

I think the changes made would make Ansel Adams sit back and go, “Wow!” In no way am I comparing myself to Mr. Adams, I just think he would be amazed by the technology. Just imagine what the master could have done with digital photography.

Steven H. Spring

Lilies #1677AR, 1668AR, 2081AR & 1695BR

December 19, 2015

Lilies, whose scientific name is Lilium, has more than one hundred gorgeous species in its family. There are many plants that have lily in their common name; however, not all are true Lilies. Two examples of this misnomer are Day Lilies and Peace Lilies. True Lilies are mostly native throughout the temperate climate regions of the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, although their range can extend into the northern subtropics as well. This range extends across much of Europe, Asia, Japan and the Philippines and across southern Canada and throughout most of the United States.

Lilies are very easy to grow. They are not especially particular about soil neither type nor pH level. Their only requirement is well-drained soil. Lilies grow best in full sun; however, they may thrive in partial sun as well. An interesting fact about this plant is that most Lily bulbs have very thick roots that have the ability to pull the bulb down into the soil at a depth that is most optimum for their continued survival.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Flowers #333B, 329A, 313A & 322B

December 12, 2015

Bluebells, whose botanical name is Hyacinthoides, are a somewhat delicate, bulbous perennial flower in the Asparagaceae scientific family. With eleven species in the Hyacinthoide family, the two most common are the English Bluebells (Hyacinthoides Non-Scripta) and Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides Hispanica). Bluebells, which are also commonly called Wood Hyacinths, flower around the same time of the year as Tulips, Daffodils and Hyacinths, typically from April through mid May. Roots grown from the plant’s bulbs pull the bulbs down into its ideal depth, at approximately four-five inches. The plant’s ability to reproduce vegetatively is an indicator that they will spread very rapidly and may eventually be needed to be constrained, least they get out of control. A Google search of the plant shows many instances of Bluebells forming a massive carpet-like layer of blooms, which is very impressive.

English Bluebells are native to north-western Spain, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. They have been naturalized into Germany, Romania, Italy and to the Pacific Northwest and northeastern United States. Three-six linear, strap-shaped leaves grow up from each bulb, one-quarter to three-quarter inches wide. A cluster of six-twelve bell-shaped flowers sprout on each stem. Reaching a height up to a foot and a half tall, English Bluebell blooms are all on the same side of the stem, causing it to bend over at its tip. Each flower is one-half to three-quarter inches in length, with six tepals curving back at their tips. Its flowers are deep purple. The blooms have three cream-colored stamens which produce its pollen and have a very strong fragrance. English Bluebells are native to wooded areas. The thicker the canopy, the more suppressed the ground cover becomes which enables the Bluebells to take over, forming a very thick carpet of blooms. These flowers however, do like the full sun as well as partial shade.

Spanish Bluebells are native to Portugal, south-western Spain and north-western Africa. This specie is different from its English counterpart in that they mostly grow naturally in open areas, and are rarely found in wooded areas. Each bulb produces a clump of two-six strap-shaped leaves from which rises a stem up to eighteen inches tall. Each stem normally has up to sixteen hanging, bell-shaped flowers. Its larger, paler, flowers are more evenly attached to the stem, unlike that of the English Bluebells, thus not causing it to lean over. The blooms of this plant come in shades of blue, pink and white. The plant’s stamens have bluish filaments supporting cream-colored anthers. In addition to having broader leaves, its blooms have little or no fragrance. Like its English cousin, Spanish Bluebells like the full sun as well as partial shade too.

Both types of Bluebells are easily grown in medium, moist but well-drained soil, though they prefer a sandy, well-drained soil. The plants go dormant by early summer, and their leaves become somewhat unattractive. Neither specie has any serious insect or disease problems. These two species will hybridize with each other if planted too close. The type of flower in these photographs are English Bluebells.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Zinnias #105AR, 95AR, 98BR, 96BR & 104BR

December 5, 2015

Zinnias are a genus of twenty species of flowering plants of the Asteracea family. However more than one hundred different varieties have been cultivated since crossbreeding them began in the nineteenth century. Zinnias, which is also its botanical name, are native to the scrub and dry grasslands of southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. Noted for their long-stemmed flowers that come in a variety of bright colors, Zinnias are named for German professor of botany Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759).

A perennial flowering plant in frost-free climates, Zinnias are an annual everywhere else. With leaves opposite each other, their shapes range from linear to ovate, with colors from pale to middle green. The blooms come in different shapes as well, ranging from a single row of petals to a doom shape. Their colors range from purple, red, pink, orange, yellow and white to multicolored. There are many different types of this flower. They come in dwarf types, quill-leaf cactus types and spider types. Fully grown Zinnias range from six inches high with a bloom less than an inch in diameter to plants four feet tall with seven-inch blooms. This plant will grow in most soil types, but thrives in humus-rich, well-watered, well-drained soils. They like the direct sun at least six hours a day; however, they will tolerate just the afternoon sun.

If grown as an annual, they can be started early indoors around mid April. Any earlier and they just might grow too large to manage as the plant germinates in only five to seven days. However, these plants are said to dislike being transplanted. If seeding is done outdoors, they should be sown in late May, after the threat of the last frost, when the soil is above sixty degrees. They will reseed themselves each year. Plant the seeds a quarter-inch deep, covered with loose soil. For bushier plants, pinch off an inch from the tips of the main stems while the plant is still young.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Gun Ownership In Itself Is Not A Second Amendment Right

December 4, 2015

I hate to keep posting updated versions of my original post, which was first posted on July 28, 2012 after the horrific shooting at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that left twelve dead and fifty-eight wounded, however, once again a mass shooting has shaken America to its knees, and those who lost their lives and their families cry out for me to do what little I can actually do about it, that being to put into writing my disgust with the gun culture and industry in this nation.  It was just a few weeks ago that I posted this rant after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon that resulted in ten deaths and another seven wounded. This time, fourteen innocent people lost their lives with another seventeen wounded at the Inland Regional Center, a social services facility in San Bernardino, California that assists people with developmental disabilities. What makes this mass shooting unique is that it was carried out by a husband and wife.

Since the couple are both Muslim, investigators have yet to determine if the attack was workplace related or an act of radical Islamic terrorism. I’m no investigator, and far from knowledgeable, but it would not surprise me if it turns out that the Chicago-born husband became radicalized after coming home from a trip last year to his Pakistani homeland with a new wife, and it was she who turned him. With a bomb-making device in the garage, I believe the couple had elaborate plans to conduct some sort of terrorist attack, but those plans prematurely turned into an act of workplace violence.

Because these mass shootings seem to happened all the time in Second Amendment America, I decided to update the criteria for making the below list of mass shootings in America since the Columbine shootings, upping the minimum deaths from three to four in order to limit the size of the post. The really sad thing is that my list includes only a fraction of mass shootings that occur on average every single day in America. Most of these shootings never make the national news and thus go unnoticed. So far this year, there have been three hundred and fifty-five shootings in this nation in which four or more people were murdered.

Despite these senseless tragedies occurring quite often, I can already hear gun rights advocates opining that now is not the time to discuss new, effective national gun control laws, as they always do after every horrendous shooting. If not now, in the wake of fourteen innocent lives shot dead, and let us not forget seventeen people were wounded, when is the time to properly discuss gun control? Proponents of gun ownership and the firearms industry cite the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution as the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms. However, these folks all seem to leave out the extremely significant first four words of the actual amendment. The Second Amendment, as passed by Congress on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill Of Rights states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” A well-regulated militia, in this day and age, to me and I think most every educated person would agree would refer to the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the National Guard. Yet, this very important phrase of the Second Amendment is never mentioned by gun advocates. It’s as if those first four words do not exist.

America’s fascination with firearms has evolved into becoming the most violent nation on Earth, with the possible exception of those countries who are presently engaged in actual warfare, which it seems would include this nation as we have been at war (or wars) for twenty-five of the past thirty years. And, even more incredibly, America, which was founded on the mass genocide of its indigenous people, have been engaged in some sort of military conflict two hundred and twenty-two years out of our two hundred and thirty-nine year existence. We are arguably the most violent nation in our planet’s history.

There is no excuse for any person to own a military assault weapon or a high-capacity magazine clip, yet our politicians who dare have the courage to speak up for sensible gun laws quiver in fear of reprisal from the National Rifle Association. Politicians who do speak out in favor of new gun control legislation face the wrath of the NRA come their next election. To believe that arming every citizen is the answer to curbing gun violence, as the NRA espouses is just preposterous. Growing up during the hay-day of Westerns ruling television networks, the image I always remember is that the very first thing the town sheriff did when cowboys came into town after a long, hard cattle drive to visit the local saloons was to take away their guns. However, just the opposite is occurring throughout America as more and more cities and states are allowing the concealed carrying of firearms into drinking establishments.

The following is a partial list of mass murders that have taken place in the United States just since the horrendous tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 that resulted in the death of fourteen students, one teacher and wounding twenty others:

Twelve dead in Atlanta, Georgia in 1999,
Six dead in Fort Worth, Texas in 1999,
Five dead in Wichita, Kansas in 2000,
Seven dead in Wakefield, Massachusetts in 2000,
Five dead in Queens, New York in 2000,
Ten dead in Washington, D.C. in 2002,
Six dead in Chicago, Illinois in 2003,
Six dead in Birchwood, Wisconsin in 2004,
Seven dead in Brookfield, Wisconsin in 2005,
Ten dead in Red Lake, Minnesota in 2005,
Six dead in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006,
Six dead in Seattle, Washington in 2006,
Six dead in Carnation, Washington in 2007,
Five dead in Crandon, Wisconsin in 2007,
Thirty-two dead at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007,
Nine dead in Omaha, Nebraska in 2007,
Six dead at Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois in 2008,
Six dead in Alger, Washington in 2008,
Thirteen dead (thirty-two wounded) at Ft. Hood, Texas in 2009,
Nine dead in Geneva County, Alabama in 2009,
Ten dead in Covina, California in 2009,
Thirteen dead in Binghamton, New York in 2009,
Six dead in Santa Clara, California in 2009,
Eight dead in Carthage, North Carolina in 2009,
Eight dead in Appomattox, Virginia in 2010,
Nine dead in Hartford, Connecticut in 2010,
Eight dead in Seal Beach, California in 2011
Seven dead in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2011,
Six dead (thirteen wounded) in Tucson, Arizona in 2011,
Six dead in Seattle, Washington in 2012,
Five dead in San Francisco, California in 2012,
Seven dead at Oikos University in Oakland, California in 2012,
Seven dead at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012,
Twelve dead (seventy wounded) in Aurora, Colorado in 2012,
Six dead in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2012,
Twenty-six dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, 2012
Five dead in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2013,
Four dead in Tustin, California in 2013,
Five dead in Federal Way, Washington in 2013,
Five dead in Manchester, Illinois in 2013,
Five dead at Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, California in 2013,
Four dead in DeSoto, Texas in 2013,
Six dead in Hialeah, Florida in 2013,
Thirteen dead at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. in 2013,
Four dead in Lockport, Louisiana in 2013,
Five dead in Spanish Fork, Utah in 2014,
Four dead at Ft. Hood, Texas in 2014,
Five dead in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2014,
Six dead in Spring, Texas in 2014,
Eight dead (grandfather/daughter/grandchildren murder/suicide) in Bell, Florida in 2014
Four dead in Bucyrus, Ohio in 2014,
Five dead at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Marysville, Washington in 2014,
Four dead in Cleveland, Ohio in 2014,
Four dead on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, South Dakota in 2014,
Four dead (a mother and her three children) in Tabernacle, New Jersey in 2014,
Five dead in Morgantown, West Virginia in 2014,
Six dead in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2014,
Four dead in San Francisco, California in 2015,
Four dead in Queens, New York in 2015,
Eight dead in Tyrone, Missouri in 2015,
Four dead in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2015,
Four dead in Washington, D.C. in 2015,
Nine dead in Waco, Texas in 2015,
Four dead in Columbus, Ohio in 2015,
Nine dead in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015,
Six dead in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2015,
Four dead in Berlin, Vermont in 2015,
Eight dead (six children) in Houston, Texas in 2015,
Six dead (single-family murder/suicide) in Platte, South Dakota in 2015,
And ten dead at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon in 2015

This is a staggering list of senseless murders and families’ lives shattered, and does not detail the total numbers of incidents along with the considerable number of wounded in the carnage. What is alarming is that the percentage of Americans who believe we need stricter gun control laws is decreasing. What does it take a nation to realize that something is desperately wrong with our culture of guns and violence?  The NRA has convinced a good number of Americans that President Obama’s hidden agenda is to take away all their firearms. Yet, in the only two firearm bills signed into law by this president during his presidency lessons current restrictions on gun control, contrary to popular opinion. If a person wants to own a firearm, fine, join a well-regulated militia as required by the Second Amendment. We, as a country always seem to be at war, so there will always be a need for someone who aspires to shoot something. I see nothing wrong with a hunter owning a few rifles, and have many friends who hunt, but as a general rule, hunters do not shoot their prey with assault rifles capable of firing hundreds of rounds automatically without having to reload. For anyone to have the ability to purchase military assault weapons capable of creating the type of massacre seen in this country time and again over the past fifteen years is asinine.

Be it this latest, senseless mass shooting, tens of thousands of murders committed every year in America’s inner cities or our seemingly endless wars, this is a violent, violent nation.

Steven H. Spring