Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It keeps getting better as days go by...

"There might be a little dust on the bottle/but don't let it fool you about what's inside/ There might be a little dust on the bottle/It's one of those things that get sweeter with time."

That's the chorus to David Lee Murphy's "Dust on the Bottle;" I heard it the other day when I was driving home from work. The point of the song (it's a country song, so I'm almost positive most of you have never heard it) is, of course, that some things only get better with age. The metaphor Murphy uses is a bottle of homemade wine, but today I want to share stories of people and an organization who've seen and done quite a lot in their many years on earth.

The Epoch Times has a little article on the reunion of the world's oldest living set of twins. The 104 year-old Chinese women were born in 1905 and live in nearby villages; however due to their age, this reunion, timed to fit the tradition of visiting relatives after the harvest, is one of the few times a year they get to see each other.

The Wilson County News out of South Texas has a profile on Lela Rosenberg, a 102 year-old woman who taught for years on Indian reservations and fought to improve the lives of the indigenous population with education and fresh foods. There are some fabulous pictures of her when she was younger in the .pdf

The last is about Rotary International. Growing up the extent of my knowledge of the Rotary was I knew old people were involved, and the club gave out scholarships for college if you wrote an essay. I found a story on the Rotary's 100th convention which explained in great detail its concerns with eradicating polio and bringing clean water and sanitation to villages around the world. I legitimately had no clue that since the club committed to getting rid of polio in 1985, worldwide cases are down 99 percent. The president-elect, a Scottish lawyer who is the first Scotsman in the Rotary's 105-year history to be president, is pushing to finally end polio in the next couple of years. That's way cooler than people just sitting around playing bridge. 

(Photo courtesy of The Rotary Club)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mish-mash Monday...

I had a really good weekend, highlighted by a spontaneous trip to Newport, R.I. on Saturday - the first truly gorgeous day we've had in recently memory. My weekend was a little of this - the Cliff Walk, shopping - and a little of that - errands, puzzle-doing - and today's blog follows in that vein. 

Within the last year or so, I've become a little obsessed with Arts & Crafts architecture. This should be a surprise to no one, considering the name of the style. : ) But I came across a blog post on wired.com about Frank Lloyd Wright legos. He's not generally my style, but I loved Legos as a kid and thought it was pretty cool to have Lego sets that let you build actual architectural gems like the Getty Museum, etc. 

The current crisis in Iran has overshadowed another attempted political revolution that made news months ago after the cyclone that devastated Burma/Myanmar exposed just how badly the people there were suffering under a dictator. Protests led by Buddhist monks and nuns and populated by ordinary citizens were brutally crushed. According to Google News, some of the opposition members fled and had been looking for asylum until the tiny island of Palau took them in and promised to keep them safe.

The last story for today is about an inspirational three year-old. Olivia Curcuru had an accident not that far from her home and was paralyzed from the upper abdomen down. But she has not let that stop her. Like any three year-old, Olivia plays games with her mom and participates in sports. She competed in her first triathlon one month after coming home from rehabilitation, according to The Explorer News out of Tucson, Ariz. 

(Photo courtesy of The Explorer News)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Funny ha-ha...

One job ago I was chatting with my friend Joel and made a reference to the Keystone Kops. He looked at me and said, "Let me guess. Someone from British comedy?" 

My first thought was, "Wow, this kid has my humor pegged." My second was, "Man, I'm old if he did not get my reference." The Keystone Kops are not, in fact, British, but are a series of silent film comedies about inept policemen produced in the early 1900s in America. 

My theme for today was inspired by a story I received from my Aussie friend Tom. It reminded me how funny that clever and sharp-witted British/Aussie sense of humor is to me. For whatever reason, I have been missing it recently, so the article from the BBC on the wallabies in Tasmania who are getting into poppy fields and creating crop circles after eating the harvest was just what I needed. But what made me laugh out loud were the comments below the story from individual readers.

I searched in vain for the clip I wanted, but eventually found a family-friendly-ish clip from my absolute favorite British TV show, "Coupling." I do not in any way mean the US version of that show. The transformation of "The Office" from Great Britain to America was fantastic, but "Coupling" failed completely. The British version is far superior. In this YouTube clip, one of the core characters, who is known for his insane theories which are just crazy enough to make sense, explains the dangers of "The Giggle Loop."

The last two stories I included mainly because they're British. : ) The first is from the Daily Telegraph, and it details the honorary degree Oxford University bestowed on a street sweeper. Allan Brigham came to the city intending to train as a teacher but ended up in street cleaning and eventually started giving tours around the city. He was honored for his length of service to the town of Oxford. 

News.com out of Australia returned the favor to the BBC and reported on an occurrence on the Piccadilly Line of the Underground. As part of an initiative to promote art and literature, the train drivers have been give books of inspirational quotes to read over the PA. They are encouraged to read ones that are timely to the situation at hand, but I'm sincerely hoping they stick to doing that while the train is not in motion. 

(Photo courtesy of the Daily Telegraph)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

California dreamin'...

As I write this, the sun is straining to get through a solid white curtain of clouds. It's brighter than it has been in days, and there is the rumor of sunshine and temperatures in the 70's this afternoon. I know I've been a little (and by a little, I mean a lot) obsessed with the weather lately, but I have seriously never experienced three straight weeks of rain before. It was very disconcerting. 

So in celebration of the potential end of dreary, I have found some stories about the Golden State and/or its citizens. I have only been there once - to San Francisco/Stanford for an NCAA women's tennis regional - but I really liked it and plan to go back to San Francisco. Sorry, Mom. Between pit bulls and earthquakes, you just can't win. : )

While Mrs. Obama was in the city by the Bay to promote the President's new national volunteering initiative, Sasha and Malia inaugurated a new cable car with their grandmother. According to msnbc.com, they rode from Nob Hill to Lombard Street, the "crookedest street in the world." 

The San Diego Union-Tribune had a cute little piece on a recent dog surfing competition that was part of the Purina Challenge. Sadly their weather looks like ours, but the story was adorable, with little features on some of the dogs competing in each of the size categories. 

A man who can make an unwashed, eye-liner-wearing pirate hot is certainly something. Turns out actor Johnny Depp is also living proof you can be really, really ridiculously good-looking and a nice person. In Chicago to celebrate the premiere of his latest movie, he and a group of co-stars and other movie people went out to dinner until the wee hours of the morning at a steakhouse. To compensate his waiter for working so late, Depp gave the man a $4000 tip on a $4400 bill (Yahoo! News)

The LA Times has a great, three-page story on Khadijah Williams, a homeless student who used her own initiative and intelligence to get herself a spot at Harvard for the fall. This young woman has an inner strength and drive that people three times her age should admire. To be that self-aware so young and to make the connections between her goals and how to get there is phenomenal. 

(Photo courtesy of the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I got sunshine, on a cloudy day...

I woke up this morning and once again, it was raining. In fact, I just looked out my office window, and it's still raining. It's that sneaky kind of rain where you have to unfocus your eyes to see it, like you're looking at one of those optical illusion posters. Since the constant rain (and the whole unfocusing my eyes thing) is giving me a headache, I thought I'd look for a little sunshine. 

While posting about the little girl who gave the Yankees player a bracelet the day he hit an inside-the-park home run, I stumbled across the organization who coordinated the visit between the player and the children, Project Sunshine

This is basically a group of over 10,000 volunteers who offer their time, their talents and themselves to children and their families who are coping with serious medical challenges like cancer, HIV/AIDS and other chronic and life-threatening illnesses. These volunteers create the materials and go to the sites (in 100 cities in the US and five around the world) to help children laugh and feel like a kid again, even if it's just for a few hours or an afternoon. 

Children in the program can participate in arts and crafts to help them express their feelings about being sick and in a care facility. Those who love to read can be part of the Book Buddies program where they are paired with volunteers to read books or they can join the book club and meet the authors of the books they read. Volunteers are encouraged to sew Surgi-Dolls, so children can better understand (by coloring and decorating the dolls themselves) the procedures they will have. Even the parents receive some TLC with spa days at the facilities. Parents and caregivers who are relaxed in turn help the children stay relaxed and get better faster. 

Call me a soft touch (and lord knows most charity organizations certainly seem to think so given the amount of mail I get), but this is an organization I really feel like I need to support in some way. Just skimming their website while writing this post made me feel better about life...and ignore the rain falling outside my window. 

(Photo courtesy of Project Sunshine)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fashionably late...

It seems I am never on time. I have the best of intentions, but aside from the things that have hard and fast deadlines - flights, staff meetings with my former boss - I almost never get there when I'm supposed to. Like this morning. I was 10 minutes late for work. No traffic, I just didn't make it. One of my friends actually operates on "Megan Time" - 10-15 later than EST. 

Another case in point - my Father's Day card arrived yesterday. I called my dad on Sunday, but his card and present did not show up until a day later. So in that spirit of "better late than never," here is my salute to fathers - two days late. 

The Pocono Record had a column on the origins of Father's Day as a national holiday. Back in 1909 a woman who was raised by a widower Civil War veteran was inspired to celebrate her father's sacrifices for her and her four siblings. She picked June since it was her father's birth month. Father's Day was celebrated locally until 1924 when organizations began lobbying President Calvin Coolidge to make it a national holiday. President Lyndon Johnson was the one to officially designate the third Sunday in June as Father's Day 42 years later.

Northwest Florida News reported on a reunion of a father and a daughter made possible by MySpace. The mother and father had dated a brief time before breaking up. The woman did tell her former boyfriend about the baby but never gave him further details. Without the other knowing it, the father and daughter searched for each other for years before connecting on the social networking site.

NESN.com has a nice little story on the connection between fathers and their children fostered by sports. There are even links in the story to other stories that are referenced in the main one (if that makes any sense...). MLSnet.com posted a story on the 10 players currently playing in Major League Soccer who are the products of former soccer greats. It also talks about the players whose fathers were successful athletes in other sports. 

 The Worcester Telegram had a column this past weekend that included contributions and memories of individual fathers who never made headlines. Simple stories of men who did their best for their families. 

My mother has always been clear on who she thinks my favorite parent is. Her favorite source to cite is me, circa 1983. Upon asking me "Who loves you, Megan?", she got the following as an answer - "Daddy." Growing up she told me a lot how I was like my father, and I accepted it pretty much at face value, since physically we are very similar - dark hair, tall, perpetually skinny, athletic. But lately the similarities in our personalities are coming out, at least to me. How calm I can be in other people's emergencies, the emotion that exists under a lack of effusiveness, that stubborn streak of logic that pops out when I'm otherwise being crazy. 

Over the past couple of years (as most of you know), my dad fought and beat cancer. It was tough for all of us, and I found myself with long-forgotten memories of me and my dad bubbling up. Like how he never missed a field hockey game or tennis match and often showed up with McDonalds for me for dinner, eliciting jealousy from more than one teammate. Or how he came in the middle of the day, suitcase-sized video camera at the ready (remember, this was 1992), to my fifth grade play that me and some of my classmates wrote. Or even sitting watching Maryland men's basketball with the TV sound down and Johnny Holiday's voice on the radio.

When I played sports, often the only voice I could hear from the crowd was my dad, encouraging or suggesting a better course of action. I don't play sports competitively anymore, but I am thankful that when I need advice on buying a car or the safest way to save money but still get a good return, I can still hear my dad encouraging me or suggesting a better course of action. So happy Father's Day, Daddy...again. I love you!

Monday, June 22, 2009

New to you...

I actually thought that phrase was fairly clever when whatever TV station unveiled it as a way to palatably serve up repeats. I didn't have a whole lot of time to watch TV in my old job, and I didn't have a TIVO or DVR (still don't actually), so I missed a lot of episodes of my shows. To get sidetracked, yes, I am aware my parents have TIVO and I don't, but my rationale is that I really won't get to the old episodes by the time the new ones come around again, so I might as well just wait for the season to come out on Netflix

Anyway, I'm aware that most of you have far more to do at work than read my little old blog, so you may have missed some stories I've posted in the past. Now, I'm not actually re-posting those articles, but I have found follow ups in the papers on the original stories that I thought I would link to. I personally enjoy finding out "where they are now" so I thought you might too.

In my post entitled "It's a Small World," I had a story on Henry Allingham, who was Great Britain's oldest living WWI vet after he celebrated his 113th birthday. Yahoo! News has now reported he has become the world's oldest man after the previous title holder passed away. Allingham has seen three centuries turn, six monarchs and has five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great-grandchild. 

In a similar vein (and this is actually new to you), a Ukrainian family separated by World War II was set to be reunited by the Red Cross two weeks ago according to the Citizen in Laconia, N.H. The siblings had been separated first by foster care then again by the Nazis. All are in their late 80's and early 90's and were looking forward to the reunion.

My post last week called "Mmmmmmm...," was food-centered mainly because I am. : ) I have absolutely no idea what sparked it, but about six months ago I completely changed my diet to fresh, seasonal foods. The day after I posted on that topic, I found a story on msnbc.com about the White House's vegetable garden. Mrs. Obama invited the elementary school students who helped plant the garden back to the mansion to help harvest what they sowed. The kids were then invited to help prepare and then share in a meal created from and consisting of the produce from the garden. 

MSNBC.com also had a lovely little story that caught my eye. The headline was "Lottery winner plans to grow better carrots". How can you not click on that? It seems the 74 year-old lotto winner in the UK is an amateur gardener who has never been able to grow carrots in a part of his garden. With part of the $41 million prize, Brian Caswell is going to hire a professional to sort it out. How cute is that?

(Photo credit: www.citizen.com)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Two by two...

We're in the midst of Noah rain up here, and there is no end in sight. Last year we had two days of spring - TWO. This year it appears spring will last until July. Really? Seriously? I mean, come on. 

But the expression "Noah rain" got me thinking about the ark and the whole pair of animals thing. So I decided to look for animal stories to brighten my gray, cloudy and, oddly enough, humid day. 

I tried to embed the following video from the AP, but Blogger was having none of it. It's a little two-minute piece on an elephant sanctuary out in San Andreas, Calif., which houses former performing pachyderms. 

The columnist Ask Ollie in the Chicago Post-Tribune had a column last week on a happy ending at a rescue shelter. It seems a runaway dog found his way to the shelter, and through a series of adoptions and returns, the dog actually his way back home. 

My last four stories all come from MSNBC.com. Clicking on one tale about turtles led me to the mother lode of animal videos. These are all brief clips (usually 30 seconds) on cute little animals. : ) The first is a short on how the Thai navy is doing its part to save endangered baby turtles. The next is a rather ingenious solution to both saving money and keeping up on lawncare - wallabies. The last two both concern penguins. One is a little clip on the newest residents of a Milwaukee zoo, while the other is actually rather timely considering last weekend was Gay Pride around the country. It seems there is a pair of gay penguins in a German zoo who have been raising a chick together after a heterosexual penguin couple abandoned it. 

(Photo credit: MSNBC.com)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Affair to Remember...

The 1957 picture starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr centered on a chance meeting. Two engaged people fall in love with someone other than their intended and agree to meet up again in six months. The rest of the movie is about all the things that happen to them in those ensuing six months and culminates in another chance meeting. 

None of my stories today are epic romances like this movie, but both do hinge on random meetings. The New York Daily News followed up on a story I posted a while ago regarding the ill teen who gave Brett Gardner a Project Sunshine bracelet on the morning before he hit the first inside-the-park home run, and she got the heart transplant she needed. I think both of them benefited from the luck and hope that bracelet symbolized.

Britain's Daily Mirror ran (hee hee) a story on Jeffrey Balogun, whose sprinting talent was discovered one morning several years ago when he ran for a bus. The budding sprinter had wanted to break into sprinting on the national scene but didn't know how. His dash for the bus, which he ironically missed, caught the attention of a girl who ran for a club headed by a man with connections to Great Britain's track governing body. Balogun now has his eye on the 2012 Olympics.

(Photo credit: Photobucket.com)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I grew up in the country, eating corn straight off the stalk and enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables from neighbors' gardens and field all summer long. As an adult I've learned to appreciate eating fresh, local and seasonally, and I am a weekly visitor at a local fruit and vegetable wholesale market that I adore. 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to hit up the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. The photo at left is from a vegetable stand inside the market. This place has everything from delis and salumerias to a creperie, chocolate stalls and ice cream stands. You can find pretty much everything there. 

The New York Times had a story last Thursday about the 1000 fresh produce carts that hit the streets in the poorest neighborhoods of the five boroughs - places food and health experts called "food deserts" for their dearth of fresh and non-packaged foods. The fruit and veg are low-priced, and customers are already lining up daily to purchase a healthy alternative to the fast-food joints that line the blocks. 

The Houston Business Journal reported on the city's third-annual Lemonade Day, which raised over $500,000 for local charities by selling over two million glasses of lemonade. The event is hosted by Prepared 4 Life and sponsored by Imperial Sugar as a way to reach at-risk kids and teach basic business principles. Organizers said there were 27,400 stands this year compared to 11,200 in 2008. 

And lastly, I know this is not fresh food or even probably nutritious, but when I was in a pharmacy on Monday looking for dog treats to promote the learning of sit, stay and lay down by my favorite Akita/black lab/German shepherd mix I saw beef jerky. This falls into the category of "Food That Is Gross But I Have A Strange Fondness For." I did resist the urge to purchase them, so the following story on KTIV.com, out of Iowa, on the company Beef'n Up the Troops caught my eye. Ted and Dee Ann Paulsrud have sent over 64,000 beef sticks to troops in Iraq over the last two years. Dee Ann noted that what keeps her going is the personal thank yous and emails she gets from the grateful troops.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have no idea when acronyms first started showing up in written languages, but in today's fast-paced, take-no-prisoners lifestyle, they are everywhere. It began for me during university at, where else, BU. 

I started freshman year doing a program called FYSOP (First-Year Student Outreach Program). Then I started class in CAS (College of Arts & Sciences) before transferring to COM (College of Communication - yeah, I know the letters don't work out...). Then I started working in sports, and I had to calculate things like GAA (goals against average) and 3FG (3-point field goals). And the acronyms flowed from the athletes themselves. I had one women's lacrosse player who seemed to only speak in them - BGT (big game today), LGT (let's go Tigers), etc. Some student-athletes used them so they could swear without getting in trouble - FH (f***ing h***).

One day my old roommate from college emailed me a link to a website called FML (F*** My Life) where people post short bursts of experiences that were the worst things to happen to them that day, week, month, year... Some of them were funny enough to make me laugh out loud in a "dude, that really sucks, but I'm glad it wasn't me" way. Others were kinda sad/pathetic. But eventually I had to stop reading because some of them were just mean. So I was glad to find a story on pr.com yesterday about a new website called GMH started to counter FML. Givemehope.org is the same concept, but it is only for positive stories. Inspirational or grateful messages left by people who had random acts of goodness/kindness show up in their lives. I may add this to my daily troll through the Internet.

Another nice story I read came from the LA Times. It was more of an opinion piece, one more voice adding to the din surrounding the President and Mrs. Obama's "date night" in New York. But this woman took the angle that the Obamas were just doing a classed up version of what every American does or should do with his/her sweetheart - a night out in a dress or suit jacket with good food and quality entertainment. You don't have to do the Met or a restaurant you need to mortgage your house just to pay the bill, but dusting off your heels and opening the door for your lady isn't something you should neglect these days. My hat's off to the First Couple for making time for each other even while he's running the West. 

This past weekend was the anniversary of D-Day, or a large reason why the West is not speaking Russian/German. The Tennessean posted a story featuring a local WWII veteran and his connection to Normandy and its beaches. William Simpkins landed on Utah Beach June 6, 1944 and was one of the few members of his unit to survive the invasion. Simpkins has been back to Normandy six times since crashing the beaches and has a real connection to the French citizens and towns on the coast.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I cheered up when I just realized it's not Monday...

I am a very sleepy girl today despite the fact a train could have chugged through my room last night, and I would not have heard it. I guess it doesn't help the weather is kinda gross, but I have been dragging more and more as the day has gone on. You, my unfortunate readers, now have to put up with my lacklusterness (yes, I did just make that up), which will probably come through your computer in bits and bytes. For that, I apologize.

Nevertheless, skimming through my stories to pick which ones to post today did lift my spirits somewhat. The adorable little boy at left is featured in theislandpacket.com's story about him receiving a specially designed tryke to help him negotiate his way in the world. He was born with all sorts of medical problems, but "L.B." has gained confidence and improved in motor skills and learning because of this little bike.

Another remarkable young boy recently graduated from a Los Angelos college...at age 11. I'm pretty sure I still hadn't learned to type by then. The story on NBC Los Angelos' website talks about how Moshe Kai Cavalin started classes at East LA Community College at 8 and then began tutoring his classmates (19 and 20 year-olds) shortly thereafter. He's also a martial arts whiz.

You all know I'm a sucker for a good news story about animals. WWLTV.com in New Orleans posted a story last week about a man and his dog. Jessie Pullins and J.J. were separated when Katrina rolled into town, and Pullins was forced to leave J.J. behind. He left food and put the dog up high thinking, like most other residents of Louisiana, that he'd be back in a day or two. Four years later, Pullins and J.J. were reunited after the dog was rescued and accidentally put up for adoption in California.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It's a small world...

That was my favorite ride at Disney World when I was little. I must have made my dad get on that with me at least four times on our first trip to Mickey Mouse's house. Probably back-to-back. Now, the song is teeth-gratingly annoying to listen to, but for some reason lost to my adult brain, I loved getting in that little boat and very slowly "circumnavigating the globe" looking at all the dolls in native dress. 

However, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph, Walt Disney World has some competition in the Happiest Place on Earth category. In an ironic twist to anyone who knows Aussie-Kiwi relations, the Australia-based Global Peace Index recently named New Zealand the world's most peaceful nation due to its low crime rate, political stability and respect for human rights among 20 other criteria.

Two other stories come from the British Isle, or The Place that Populated Australia with Convicts. : ) The Daily Mail reports on a reunion of Pentillie Castle babies. During the Blitz, an entire town's maternity ward was shipped off to a local castle to ensure safe delivery of the town's babies during the bombings. At least 200 children were born at the castle during World War II and for the first time in 50 years they, and some of the mothers, came together to meet. 

Finally, England's oldest living World War I veteran recently celebrated his 113th birthday. Henry Allingham, one of two WWI vets left in Britain,  had his cake delivered by Royal Marines and received a flyover from the Royal Navy, according to Yahoo!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fun in the sun...

Recently I was trying to explain a uniquely Baltimore concept to someone who had never been there - "Hons." I eventually had to show the movie "Hairspray" to help illustrate my point. But that "hon" discussion led to a chat about Baltimore accents with examples. The one I have actually been guilty of, despite never having lived in "Bawlmer" proper, is telling someone I'm "goin' downy ocean." 

So I was delighted this morning to read a story in the Baltimore Business Journal on Ocean City, Maryland having its largest-ever May crowd. I have many fond family vacation memories of the real OC - take that California and New Jersey! It is terribly kitsch and probably bordering on seedy in some parts, but I used to love goin' downy ocean with all my family for a week.

Something I have been dragged - often kicking and screaming - into doing since moving to New England is going hiking. Despite being an athlete, I have never been what you call an "outdoorsy" girl. I am a country girl at heart, but I like me some 600 thread count sheets, unlimited hot water and central AC. Don't get me wrong; I love the outdoors. But I like to love them from a chaise with an umbrella drink in my hand, preferably brought and made by someone else. However, in the past two summers I have been guilted or cajoled into going hiking in and around the area, so when I saw in the LA Times the national parks will be free for three weekends this summer, I was tempted to search a little deeper to see if any of them included parks around my area. I then concluded that I would simply mention this to my hiking friends and let them do the "leg" work. : ) 

The last story has absolutely nothing to do with summer activities, but was just too darn cute to pass up. MSNBC.com had a story about an Australian Shepherd in South Dakota who took over mothering duties for four newborn kittens after their kitty-mom was struck by a car and killed. The seven year-old dog feeds and bathes the kittens, and, in an example of her dog heritage shining through, tries to herd the itteh bitteh kitteh committeh around the house.

(Photo credit: msnbc.com)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wacky and Wonderful...

A few days ago I was extolling the virtues of the mysterious force on the Interweb that seemed to make themes appear whenever I went looking for happy news. That was not the first time I've marveled at this phenomenon on my blog.

Today is not one of those days. But they're all pretty cool.

I know it's June and Opening Day was ages ago, but I just stumbled onto this video on ESPN.com that shows Charlie Brown throwing out the first pitch at a Pirates game. While Charlie's struggles lay with kicking a football, the metaphor is apt for the Pirates, whose struggles often lay in both pitching and hitting. My old boss two schools ago was a huge Pirates fan, so I was kept up-to-date on baseball's buccaneers all summer regardless of whether I cared, but now I will admit to not having a clue how they are faring this season. Everyone loves Charlie Brown, so maybe some of his universal appreciation will rub off on the Pirates.

When I clicked on the following story, I thought it was the Metro paper that is ubiquitous to T stops all over Boston.  One of my roommates was actually featured in a "man on the street" survey months ago. But this link turned out to be to a Metro newspaper from the UK, and it had a story on a man who suffered a stroke six years ago, becoming an art genius after ensuing surgical treatment. The man says he couldn't draw so much as a stick figure before his stroke, and now he's, in his words, "Michelangelo." 

The Toronto Star had a neat story on May 31 about a class project , and the link to the story was "Boy writes to Heaven, receives response." That just begs to be clicked on. Turns out as part of a class project, the Canadian equivalent of fifth-graders were directed to write letters to God and tie them to helium balloons before releasing them. Bailey Pinto's letter landed in the yard of a lawyer a few towns away who was so touched by the contents, he wrote back in a "Yes, Bailey, there is a God" theme. 

(Photo credit: Metro.co.uk)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Back to the Future...

Up until last summer I lived my life in academic years. Both my parents were teachers and from when I was three on, I went to school. I graduated college and started working at the university level in athletics, so I basically just stayed in school. Ten months into my current 9-5, corporate setting job I finally feel like I'm living in a normal calendar year. But 23 years of school - God that's a frightening thought - have left me with a fondness for the month of June and that "last day of school" feeling. 

It is graduation season, and ABC News' website had a story on this year's crop of graduation speakers who have the challenge of coming up with something to say to college grads who are facing the worst job market/economy in many, many years. That is not a task I would want. My speaker, way back in 2004 when the getting was still good, spent 20 minutes of my life talking about his research on the Human Genome Project (for which he did not get credit, he was keen to note) with bitterness dripping from every word, much like the monsoon that was falling on our heads. I would have preferred JK Rowling or Big Bird. The speakers this year seem to have struck a good balance of realism and optimism.

This next story is a follow-up to one I had recently on Myron Rolle. He too travels around the country speaking to high-schoolers about his life and the choices he made to get to be a star safety and Rhodes Scholar. The Wisconsin State Journal details a speech he gave to African-American high-school seniors in Madison about the necessity of education in reaching your goals. The child of two teachers and a fan of learning myself, I don't care what color you are or if you play a sport...Rolle's message is a good one.

Both the graduation speakers and Myron Rolle talk about having hope for and in your future. One little Iraqi girl is on the road to having a hopeful future herself after being blinded in a roadside bombing that killed her mother. She and her father flew to England, according to the Palestine Telegraph, to for her to have reconstructive surgery and receive prosthetic eyes. For all the PC-ness in the US we forget the rest of the world still views disfigurement and disability as something akin to leprosy. Because of the generosity of Sunday Times readers who donated money, the little girl can now have a chance to be a productive member of Iraqi society.

(Photo Credit: AP)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reunited and it feels so good...

I'm sorry; I've been trying to avoid using that title for pretty much as long as I had this blog. But this morning I'm sleepy and my defenses are down. I'm...powerless...to...resist. You will have guessed by now my theme for today is reunions. It still makes me marvel even this far into doing this blog how stories sort of seem to show up in themed groups even though they almost always come from different sources. 

The first one today is from the Times Online in Britain. In 1982 a woman lost her son after her ex-husband took him for the day, supposedly to the zoo. In reality the man fled with the boy to Hungary. Since that country was, at that time, on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, the woman had little recourse in tracking down her boy, but with the fall of Communism and the rise of social media, an aunt reconnected her and her son via Facebook.

Part of the fallout from the economic crisis I see on occasion at the animal shelter where I volunteer is people having to give up their pets due to finances or losing a home. KPHO.com in Phoenix, Ariz., featured a story on a man who was evicted and was forced to board his two cats since he was living in his car. The owner of the pet resort where the cats were staying heard about the man's situation and offered him a job working the night shift. The man has gotten a daytime job since and is working toward finding a place to live.

My uncle was a state trooper for years and at one point adopted a former police dog who had "retired." The Visalia Times-Delta reported on a local K-9 policeman who did something similar. Detective Andy Garcia worked with German shepherd Tigar for three years before being promoted out of the K-9 unit. Tigar rode everywhere with the officer during patrols. When the dog suffered an injury in training and was forced into early retirement, Officer Garcia bought the dog from the department and brought him home as the family pet. 

(Photo credit: Visalia Times-Delta)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Morning Potluck...

All of the stories I found on this lovely, if chilly, late spring morning are in no way connected to each other, but they are all fun in different ways.

Cnn.com reports that the state of Maryland "hired" 40 bearded goats to work for the state highway administration, trimming grass along the highways in an effort to make the MD bureaucracy more green and to save the bog turtles who live in the area and are listed as a threatened species. 

English businessman Jeremy Taylor foiled a robbery attempt on his own lumber company over the weekend. What really makes this unusual is that he did it in a helicopter. The AOPA Online website states Taylor had just taken off in his private craft when he spotted the robber leaving his lumber yard. Taylor flew after it and enlisted family help in trailing the van. The robber was eventually caught and punished. 

Last but not least, when I saw the headline of this next story I could not resist clicking on it - "Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals." NRC Handelsbad relates the story of how just 20 years ago the Netherlands had a shortage of prison cells, but now, due to a trend of declining crime, the Dutch will be closing eight prisons. And this is the country that legalized prostitution and marijuana...hmmm. :-P

(Photo credit: cnn.com)