Monday, August 31, 2009

The more boys I meet, the more I love my dog...

I first heard that Carrie Underwood song on a few months back, and it makes me laugh because of the whole "funny 'cause it's true" aspect. With another good weekend gone too quickly and another return to the grind, this week with the boss present, I found myself having an "I hate people" morning that only intensified with the morning commute and the realization it's back to school this week, which means more traffic and more clueless/careless pedestrians. 

So I thought I'd turn my thoughts to the one species who has never let me down - dogs. Last week I found a story on a furry, four-legged Iraqi refugee who finally found a happy ending. Laia, a stray from Basra, was adopted by Major Steven Hutchinson after he shared a lunch with her while away from his base. Maj. Hutchinson adopted her despite the Army's policy on pets. Laia rode in trucks with him and slept on his feet at night. On May 10, 2009 Maj. Hutchinson was killed by a roadside bomb. He'd left Laia at the base that morning. Sgt. Andrew Hunt, a friend of the late major, stepped up and worked with the US Embassy and the SPCA to send Laia to the States where she now has a loving home with a man who worked with Maj. Hutchinson in Iraq, according to the Charleston Examiner. 

The Tulsa World had a story on a local rescue dog who made the top 10 in Purina's "Rally to Rescue" contest, which tipped me to the contest in the first place. People can go to the website and vote for their favorite rescue story. The contest was created to honor rescue pets and the organizations who dedicate their time and resources to helping animals. The winning pet, owner and rescue organization win a trip to the National Dog Show and the winning rescue group will get $5,000 in Purina products. 

And finally, one last plug for the strays - my favorite animals on the planet. The Animal Rescue Site donates 0.6 bowls of food to rescued animals for every click at their website. They also have a gift shop that donates part of its proceeds to rescues (if you are so inclined or have a friend/relative who is into animals).

(Photo courtesy of the Examiner)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Attention, Grey's Anatomy producers...

After the glut of hospital/doctor shows in the late '90s, I refused to catch the tidal wave that is Grey's Anatomy. I personally do not feel like I've lost anything by not keeping up with Meredith and McDreamy, but the look on people's faces when they realize their breathless retelling of the best parts of last night's Grey's made absolutely no sense to me is preciously comical. 

However, the three stories I have today all involve kidney transplants and have all the elements of being "made for TV." 

My college roomie Michelle sent this first one my way from Rita Van Loenen, a 63 year-old woman from Arizona, made trips to her dialysis appointments in Tom Chappell's taxi after she was diagnosed with kidney disease and one transplant had already been rejected. Chappell decided to put his name on the list to be tested for a match after several of Van Loenen's family members tested negative. He turned out to be a perfect match and will give his long-time passenger a kidney. Chappell's employers are so pleased with his decision, they are covering his wages for the entire, four-to-six week recovery time. 

MSNBC had a story awhile back on a massive, 14-person kidney swap. Dr. J. Keith Melancon performed a "domino transplant" between six males and eight females over a four-day period. Most of the participants who donated were involved because a loved one of theirs needed a transplant. Two people were "altruistic donors" and knew none of the recipients personally. 

Dr. Melancon performed his surgery at Georgetown Hospital, but doctors at UCSD Medical Center recently performed San Diego County's first paired donor kidney swap. Patti Ford had been on the national waiting list for four years and was receiving dialysis, while Paul Bryan had been waiting six months and was about to start dialysis. Ford's husband, Patrick, donated a kidney to Paul, while Bryan's wife, Robyn, donated one of hers to Patti. All four are doing fine, according to their physicians and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

(Photo courtesy of MSNBC)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Age ain't nuthin' but a number...

My roommate got "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" from Netflix the other day. I read the original story on Project Gutenberg, and the premise of a man aging backwards intrigued me. It does seem a little unfair that the simplest and sometimes easiest parts of life are when you're too young to appreciate them, and when you've finally earned the right to relax, you have health problems and other issues that aren't fun. 

Thankfully, today's stories all refuse to conform to that standard.

The New York Daily News posted a story on Marty Alvey, a 90 year-old great-great grandfather, who suddenly got his sight back after being declared legally blind for many years. Doctors are at a loss to explain what happened, but Alvey is treasuring the chance to look at photos of his family and say hi to friends and neighbors. I love his quote at the very end of the story - so dear. 

Alvey's overwhelming appreciation for getting his sight back and all the little things that come with that is certainly an example of this next article. Studies released by the American Psychological Association has shown that happiness and mental health improve with time. According to a US News article, older adults are better able to limit negative influences and are less likely to let negative comments affect them, thus limiting stressful situations. 

South Carolinian Solomon Jackson, Jr. will likely not have to worry about negativity. The 63 year-old retired state employee recently won a $260M Powerball jackpot, according to Yahoo! News. Beating the odds of 1 in 195 million, Jackson has won the largest jackpot won by a ticket bought in South Carolina. Despite now being very, very, very rich, Jackson seems to fit right in with the spirit of the previous two articles - happy, healthy, humble and enjoying his life

(Photo courtesy of Yahoo!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A true public servant...

I believe Socrates once said something along the lines of "the man best suited for public office is usually the one who has no interest in running." I do not have the patience to Google search for the exact quote, but what he meant was those who can do the most good in public service are the ones who do not have the temperament to handle all the nonsense that goes with it. 

Thankfully the late Senator Ted Kennedy did. Through a series of misfortunes and incidents he somehow managed to end up exactly where he needed to be - in the legislature. He did some amazing things and had a large hand in shaping American foreign and domestic policy for nearly 50 years. He worked on both sides of the aisle and was a relentless champion for his causes. has a brilliant article on his life and accomplishments and all the good he did for other people. I'm from after his political prime (and not particularly political unless you get me riled up), so I didn't know a whole lot about the man until today. But I'm glad he was around. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Opposite day...

When I (and I imagine most people) were little, my friends and I would periodically declare it "Opposite Day" - when you meant the opposite of everything you said. It gave you license to say the most horrible or ridiculous things and get a pass. Someone must have forgotten to tell me today had been declared such a day since the two stories I have definitely turn perspective sideways. In fact the second one might actually be considered a sign of the apocalypse. 

Recently I have become obsessed with a TV show on TNT called "Leverage." It's basically about a band of thieves who have turned into modern day Robin Hoods, helping everyday people who have been taken advantage of by the rich and powerful. I have absolutely no idea why I started watching it now since the first season and half of the second had passed without me noticing. But now I'm absolutely hooked. So the story in the Calgary Herald about "putpocketers" made me laugh out loud. Sponsored by TalkTalk, a broadband station in London, 20 former pick-pockets are putting 100,000 English pounds INTO unsuspecting citizens' pockets and purses. The random acts of kindness will continue in London until the end of August before rolling out to the rest of the nation. 

In a double-example of Opposite Day, my second story is both the aforementioned apocalyptic indicator as well as a feature on a reality TV show. This is now twice in the last couple of weeks I am highlighting a genre I totally abhor. Which I guess is another sign of impending doom... But YouTube has a video of the latest Susan Boyle-type success from "The X-Factor" - Great Britain's version of American Idol. Only Danyl Johnson, a 27 year-old teacher from Reading, is extremely good-looking and much more self-assured. Salty curmudgeon Simon Cowell called Johnson's audition "the best first audition I have ever heard" and actually seemed to enjoy himself during the performance, giving Johnson a standing ovation at the end. 

(Photo courtesy of Pop Culture Madness)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sources of inspiration...

I get inspired by both the oddest and most mundane things. And usually one will inspire an idea of the opposite extreme. For example, watching an HGTV episode on redoing an Arts & Crafts house inspired me to replicate some typical stained glass designs from the period in cookies. Or a puzzle I picked up on a sort-of whim gave me the idea to completely do over a bathroom in my future home with a San Francisco theme (yeah, I know, but I have no idea what to tell you). Or a passing remark or random observation while out on a walk develops into my latest children's story. 

For artist Bill Guffey, his inspiration is Google. More specifically, Google Street View. The Christian Science Monitor reports Guffey is based out of rural Kentucky but frequently paints scenes from London, Paris and all other fancy cosmopolitan cities. He does it by typing in random locations in Google Maps and using the Street Views that come up as the scene. He recently finished a series on all 50 states. The photo for today's post comes from his blog. It's a scene from Burkesville, Ky. 

Some people find inspiration in popular media - books, music and movies. For me these usually provide a form of comfort or escapism, but whatever floats your boat. has a story on a movie character come to life - Ricky "Bobby" James. If you draw inspiration from "Talladega Nights," I'd worry about you, but Ricky James is definitely someone worth looking up to. The 20 year-old car racer is a paraplegic after breaking the T7 bone in his spine at 16. He has since competed in all sorts of competitions I wouldn't try as a person with full use of her extremities and has won the 2008 West Coast Pro Truck Championship. 

So keep a weather eye out. Maybe the smallest thing you notice today will send you off in a completely different direction. Happens to me all the time...that explains a lot actually. ; )

Friday, August 21, 2009

Forget Six Flags...I want to go here...

One of my first outings when I moved in with my last set of roommates was to Six Flags. I'm not a huge roller coaster fan, but I enjoyed the water rides and other mechanical brushes with danger. When my cohorts decided to get on any large coasters, I merely hung back with the toddler we had in tow. During one rendezvous with their mortality, I took the tot up to the Wiggles area of the park and bopped along with grown ups dressed like over-sized dogs and other miscellaneous creatures that may only exist in Wiggle World.

When I was little, I used to love to go to Dutch Wonderland. It is a kiddie theme park in Lancaster, PA. Lots of miniaturized rides for wee ones all set in a kingdom setting with castles, princesses, knights and dragons. My other favorite park was Sesame Place. I am unashamed to say it - I was a Sesame Street groupie. My favorite is Ernie of Bert and Ernie fame. In a quick Google search for the link, I am a little surprised to see it is an Anheuser-Busch park. Something about a beer company sponsoring a children's park is vaguely off, but if boogying down with Elmo is wrong, I don't want to be right.

However, the following video from YouTube blows both of these out of the water. This is the 60th anniversary of my favorite childhood board game - Candy Land. How could a child not like an entire little world made out of candy?? Apparently the game was invented in San Francisco in 1949 by a woman recovering from polio. So in honor of those beginnings, Hasbro has turned Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world - major kudos to the genius who thought of using all those switchbacks for this) into life-size version of Candy Land. I love San Francisco, and I only wish I could make it out there while this was still happening.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas...

I first heard that song a few years ago on a Christmas cd a co-worker had going in her car. Apparently it's from the fifties, which makes it all the more incredible that I haven't heard it. But I immediately loved it and downloaded it from iTunes. You really can get pretty much anything there. Every time it comes on when I have the settings on shuffle, it makes me smile and ponder how exactly one would get a hippopotamus for Christmas. 

I know a hippo is not a pachyderm, but for some reason my thoughts shift from hippos to elephants when I ponder one or the other (which I promise isn't that often). I found the following story on NECN regarding Motala, an elephant injured by a landmine 10 years ago. The elephant lost part of its left front leg and was recently fitted for a prosthesis. The 48 year-old elephant lives at The Friends of Asian Elephants Foundation and became the poster elephant for those injured by landmines. The video is without commentary but very dear. You can see the elephant hesitant at first to use the leg, but by the end, it's walking fairly normally.

Awhile back I did a story on baby turtles being nesting in and around a Thai military base then being released back into the wild. I recently found a few more good news stories on turtles and figured I'd make it an Animal Kingdom-type post today. The next story comes off someone's SCUBA blog. The writer was part of a conservation effort in Mexico, and (I'm assuming it's a) her post is really sweet, the passion for the work very evident. They helped 92 baby turtles hatch and make it into the sea for the first time. 

Hopefully none of those turtles ever end up at the place highlighted in this story. In the middle of the Florida Keys sits The Turtle Hospital - a converted strip club that has become one of the few veterinary clinics around for wild turtles. The hospital treats turtles who have been attack or have developed tumors or other illnesses and releases as many as possible back into the wild. IT all started when the owner bought a hotel and wanted to keep turtles. The state of Florida said the only way he could keep endangered animals was to rehabilitate them, so the hospital was started. The staff have had to learn as they go along, but all the turtles who pass through here, and the ones who stay because they are too sick to be released, are treated with the best medicine they have and a lot of TLC.

(Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Baking for the cure...

Over this past weekend, I baked my first treats in my new kitchen, which may or may not be 64 square feet. I made cupcakes for my old roommate's birthday as well as a Baltimore peach cake (minus the peaches due to them having turned). 

It was nice having counter space, but in no way does this kitchen resemble the one of my dreams that has marble counter tops that are high enough for me to use with out bending over too far, lots of work space, a huge double door refrigerator/freezer, lots of natural light and a whole wall devoted to a pegboard that holds all my pots/pans/cookie cutters/misc tools. 

Clearly, I watch too much HGTV.

While deemed delicious by the eaters, my baked goods in no way resembled the one featured in the Vail Daily (shout out to my friend Anja who put this on Facebook). A cupcake measuring 1224 pounds has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest in the world. The triple vanilla cake with pink frosting took 12 hours to make and has 800 eggs and 200 lbs of both flour and sugar. The sweetest part (sorry) is the slices were given away in exchange for a donation to Susan G. Kommen for the Cure. 

Special occasions to me = cake. Or some other yumminess favored by the honorees of the day. Living so far from my parents limits my sending of baked goods to those that are sturdy and less perishable than others. Thus, the cupcake in the picture is the closest I'm going to get this year to sending them cake on their special day. Happy Anniversary, Mama and Daddy! 

(Photo courtesy of Vail Daily)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bouncing baby boy...

Not long ago, I put up a post of some treats I made for a co-worker's baby shower. She wasn't due until September, but the little guy had other plans and announced himself on Sunday. In honor of my co-worker and her new baby boy, I've decided to make this post all about children. 

The Times-Standard in Eureka, Calif., had a story a little while back on a local woman who won the Dreyer's Slow Churned Neighborhood Salute contest. On a whim Lori Arias entered the essay contest, on why her community needed a little positivity, writing about how a local mill's closing had put her husband and about 200 others out of work. She had to go back to work to support the family, and a local day care took in her children. When she found out she won the ice cream block party, she threw the shindig at the day care center as a way to say thank you. 

Max Jones, a 12 year-old from Orlando, Fla., may be catching the next wave of journalism ahead of everyone else. Sick of all the bad news, Jones turned his closet in to an Internet good news TV studio and began writing stories and chasing down leads to broadcast online. According to Google News, his site has 5,000 hits a day, and he has a staff of unpaid interns across the country who work with him to produce stories. Jones was very active in the freeing of the two journalists from North Korea, and upon her return, received a phone call from Ling herself. 

Despite my brother and the Greek Olympic baseball team's mock war with Rick Reilly over his comments on their Greekness or lack thereof, I usually enjoy reading Reilly's column. He's not a ranter, and he can be relied on to shine a light on people who do good things away from the camera lights. In this case, he highlights a group of children who need to stay away from lights of any kind. 

Camp Sundown, a place for children with xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) in Craryville, N.Y., recently had a night under little light at Yankee Stadium. Kids with XP cannot be exposed to even fluorescent lights; exposure to UV light causes cancerous tumors. Reilly wrote a wonderful article for ESPN the Mag about all the children live with and the precautions they had to take just to be able to play with the big-leaguers at 3 a.m.

An athletically inclined TV superhero inspired another child across the Atlantic. The Sun, an English paper, tells of Harley, a four year-old quadruple amputee who lost all his arms and legs after contracting meningitis. Harley is a huge fan of Lazytown, a UK children's show, and The Sun arranged for Sportacus, aka Icelander Magnus Scheving, to fly to Manchester to spend an hour playing with the boy. Scheving was accompanied by representatives of an Icelandic firm that produces prosthetic limbs. The company has offered the family a free pair of hi-tech "sprinting feet" for Harley. 

(Photo courtesy of the Times-Standard)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The odd time when I miss something by not watching reality tv...

[Interior: late afternoon, early evening; in an apartment, a man and a woman sit facing one another on opposite couches; each has a laptop open]

Roommate: Hey, do you watch "America's Got Talent?"

Me: No. 

Roommate: Well, I'm sending you this anyway. 

[Roommate types (you can hear clicking noises)]

Roommate: It's a video of the winner of the Ukrainian version of that show. 

[I look up, one eyebrow raised]

Roommate: She paints with sand. She does this whole thing about the Nazis invading the Ukraine during World War II.

[Both of my eyebrows are now raised as high as physiologically possible]

Me: Seriously?

Roommate: Just watch it. It's mesmerizing.

And darned if he wasn't right. This video is 8:33 long but worth every second. I was immediately tempted to make a joke along the lines of "The Ukraine has talent?" but after watching this video...I mean, wow. She is good. I do have to tell you one thing about the end (and no, this does not give anything away). What she writes translates to, "You are always near."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Honesty is the best policy...

Mark Twain once said, "when in doubt, tell the truth." It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But there are so many shades of truth, and many different types of lies. 

The truth can be harsh, and, in an effort to shield someone, a lie is born. However, with so much else, the phrase, "give him/her an inch and s/he'll take a mile" often comes into play here. Human nature is a funny thing. Enough people have been burned by its vagaries and become jaded enough that the following stories evoke more surprise than anything else.

The New York Daily News reported on a cabbie who may be the most honest man in New York. When a vacationing Canadian family left a bag containing nearly $2000 in his cab, Mohammed Bhuiyan didn't hesitate. Having fortuitously given the passengers his cell phone number before the Shaw family departed his cab, Bhuiyan held onto the money until the Shaws returned to the city three days later. 

I'm really not sure why more people have not heard of traveler's checks, but a Good Samaritan committed an almost identical act of kindness in London, according to the London Evening Standard. Sri Lankan tourist Suranganie Joseph left a bag containing $3800 and her family's passports and plane tickets on a train in the London Underground. It was not until after she changed trains a second time Joseph realized it was gone. Through the help of a persistent station manager, her bag was located at another station - with valuables completely intact.

CBS News' Assignment America highlighted a vacation town on Lake Erie which the reporter has termed the "Most Honest Town in America." The profile highlights how people in the town don't lock their bikes, much less their doors. Store-owners even leave merchandise out all night and come back to find payment for the bought items. Even the candy store is "help yourself." Children go in, pick out their goodies, and leave correct change in the cash register. 

To these published stories, I'd like to add my own little anecdote. When I was studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in 2003 I lost my cell phone. They were expensive since Europe does more of a pay-as-you-go system and thus cannot get you on the service plan charges. It was also my only way of communicating with America outside of school hours. 

I'd fallen asleep on the bus ride back from town, and the phone must have fallen out of my jacket pocket. Luckily I lived on the end of a bus line, so I was able to (frantically) search each bus as it came back around from the end-point. No joy. Desolate, I went back to my house-stay and confessed to my house-parents what had happened. The father suggested calling it to see if anyone answered. 

Dubiously, I did so, and to my surprise, an elderly woman answered my phone with "Oh, I was wondering if anyone would call." She proceeded to give me her home address and a cup of tea (and my phone) when I got there. I couldn't believe it. We had a nice little visit, and then I proceeded home. Six years later that memory still gives me little fuzzies. : ) 

(Photo courtesy of the London Evening Standard)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Four-legged and furry...

As most of you know, I volunteer at a local humane society to satisfy my jones for having a dog while living in a no-pet apartment building. But for the last couple of weekends a bridal shower and moving house have kept me occupied on the weekends. As a result, I found myself ogling a dog park this morning on the way to work. About six or seven people were out with about as many dogs, tossing sticks and balls or just having a cuddle. I really wanted to pull over and go play too, but I soldiered on, to the relief, I'm sure, of both my boss and a bunch of pet-owners who would have found my dog-less presence suspicious. 

While at the shelter, I'm constantly amazed at the intellectual abilities of the dogs there. The fact our pits are among the smartest (while family favorites like labs and retrievers are the dumbest) is usually one of the selling points I use when talking to dubious visitors (or my mother). Recently I went through training, so I could start clicker training with the dogs. That's basically when you use a little metal clicker to get animals to get used to the following process: clicker sound ->good behavior -> cookie. 

My enthusiasm for animal intelligence is usually treated with the verbal pat on the head, but now Yahoo! News has published  story to back me up. Stanley Coren, a leading dog expert at the University of British Columbia found that dogs have the overall intelligence of a two year-old human in terms of language and have better math and socializing skills than three to four year -olds

The dog in the following story used his intelligence to save a boy's life (thanks, Michelle, for passing this along). The Segovias took in a stray dog initially for a day, but when no one claimed him, he stayed and became somewhat attached to Yolanda Segovia's 10 and 21 year-old sons. Her elder son suffers from severe Down Syndrome. One afternoon while Yolanda was outside, the dog came crashing through the screen barking up a storm. Raelee the dog led her back to the elder son's room, where he was having an epileptic seizure. Segovia's neurologist said the young man would have died if no one had found him. (The story on is the third one down...)

Some people think pets are just dumb animals, but I think that dog and the cat in this next story might go a little ways to disproving that. The photo from today's post is of Casper, a 12 year-old British cat who has caught the No. 3 bus at 10:55 a.m. once a day for four years. According to the Daily Telegraph, Casper hops on at the stop in front of his house and rides the whole 11-mile circuit before being deposited back at his stop. He has become such a regular that drivers in the company are told to look out for the little one, making sure he gets off at the right stop in his advanced age. Apparently Casper gets on and likes to curl up in the back seat during the ride.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A few flowers poking out of scorched earth...

It is perhaps ironic that the first proponent of the "scorched earth" policy in warfare, William Tecumseh Sherman, is the one who said "war is hell." War is also an unusual topic for a good news blog, but might as well face it since we're surrounded by it daily in all parts of the world, whether it's a war of words between neighbors, a war of ideals like the controversy swirling around Burma/Myanmar's recent sentencing of Suu Kyi or actual war in "insert a Middle Eastern/African nation here."

All of these wars have obvious effects, but the stories I have for this morning shine the spotlight on a few little-examined or even forgotten "side effects" to war. posted a story on a man named Brad Blauser, a Texan who went to Iraq as a civilian contractor and stayed as an angel for children. Bartering security consulting for room and board (read: no income), Blauser works with charitable organizations to distribute pediatric wheelchairs to disabled children. Most of these children were not injured by bombs or guns; they simply suffer from physical handicaps from birth or resulting from disease. They are stigmatized and receive little help due to the health care shortage from the war. Blauser has provided over 650 wheelchairs to children and their families over the last four years. 

Wheelchairs are a frequent sight around the American Links Veterans' golf course. Staffed and run entirely by donations and volunteers (who average 72 years of age), the golf course is a haven for soldiers who come home from battle to combat physical and emotional injuries. posted a video awhile back that profiled the golf course; its resident pro, Korean war vet Pepper Roberts; and some of the former soldiers who now play there. 

According to, a 13 year-old bar mitzvah boy from New York has donated the $40,000 he received from his celebration to the town of Sderot, Israel. Better known as "Missile City," Sderot sits on the Israeli border and has been hit by tens of thousands of Gazan rockets during the war. Benjamin Sternklar Davis traveled to Israel to present the donation to the town, which he has asked be used to build a playground for Sderot's children, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

(Photo courtesy of

Monday, August 10, 2009

There's no place like home...

I moved yesterday for the eighth time in nine years. 

Just let that sink in for a second. 

And with any luck, next summer I will move for the ninth time in 10 years. In fact, as I watched my furniture enter my newest apartment, I mentally inventoried what would not be coming with me next year. It was comforting.

Our place still looks like a bomb went off, even after two days of organizing. Granted, now it looks more like it was a poorly constructed homemade bomb rather than one of the atomic variety, but still, more chaos than I'm totally comfortable with.

However, karma came down on me like an anvil this morning (the timing!). I remembered I should be grateful for having a roof over my head when I found two stories about homeless individuals. Oddly enough they both involved those people having more personal wealth than I will probably see in a lifetime. 

Zee News reported on the donation of $100,000 to Hebrew University in Jerusalem from the estate of a homeless woman in Manhattan. The woman, a Holocaust survivor, died two years ago at the age of 92 and requested her donation be used for scholarships for medical research students. Her last known job was for a New Yorker who paid her in room and board for moving his car around to avoid parking tickets. 

In the other story, a homeless man named Richard Walters left an unexpected $4 million in gifts to charities in Phoenix, Ariz. Walters, also deceased in 2007, was a retired engineer and apparently renounced worldly goods when he left the working world. According to a friend at the Catholic Mission, he slept on the mission's grounds, used its telephone and ate in its cafeteria. Among his few possessions was a radio; he enjoyed NPR's programming and included the station in his will, according to the NPR website. 

(Photo courtesy of

Friday, August 7, 2009

Child's play...

As some of you know, I have been sick for the last week. I only made it to work for four hours before today, so that would be the reason behind the uncharacteristically sporadic blogging this week. Most of my time has been spent watching re-runs of "The Big Bang Theory" and "Gilmore Girls," eating juice popsicles and throwing horizontal and rather pathetic temper tantrums. 

I'm not the best sick person; I am in no way stoic. And when forced to take care of myself while ill, I tend to revert back to childhood, spicing my whining and kicking the bedcovers with some decidedly grown-up swear words. In fact I had a bit of a temper tantrum this morning (vertically) when I realized I was better enough to go back to work. 

So it amused me when several of the stories I had for today involved children's stories and toys. 

The photo for the post today came from the accompanying Yahoo! News story about the possibility one of Aesop's fables may have been true. Famous more for their moral lessons than their veracity, one of Aesop's tales - "The Thirsty Crow" - may actually have been based in fact. The aptly named Christopher Bird of Cambridge University in England completed an experiment with three rooks and published the results in yesterday's issue of "Current Biology." Turns out rooks are capable of dropping stones into a tube of water to make the water level rise, just like in the fable...

The Fort Worth, Tex. Star-Telegram had a snippet in Wednesday's paper regarding a recession angel who, by investing in a toy store just before it closed, saved not only a woman's livelihood but brought joy to the area children. Sandy Challinor had decided to close her toy store due to economic worries and high operating costs, but on the second day of a three-day, going-out-of-business sale that brought browsing children to tears, an anonymous investor contacted Challinor and offered to help keep her going. posted a story a little while ago on American veterans who are bringing joy to foreign children. Former US military living in a retirement home near Denver, Colo., have banded together with a charity to make toys to send to children in some of the poorest regions in the world. This video highlights the distribution of toys by the Georgia National Guard to a destitute region just outside Kabul, Afghanistan. The smiles on the little boys' faces at the 2:05 and 2:13 marks are beyond precious. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I'm really too sick to come up with a clever title...

I don't often put "hard" news on this blog, usually because the media bias leans toward bad news. But today's main story on Yahoo! News was that of the return of the two US journalists - Lisa Ling and Euna Lee - who were held in North Korea for over four months. Former President Bill Clinton held historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il who then pardoned the two women for "entering the country illegally" and remitted their sentence of 12 years hard labor. 

Today's post is going to be a bit of a hash - I'm still wicked sick. Normally I hate using "wicked," but in this case it is actually very appropriate. As in I feel like I've been cursed by the Wicked Witch... had a story last week on a decidedly delicious development in the mobile lunch phenomenon. In Charlotte, N.C., Harvest Moon Grille has started offering locally-sourced, high-quality lunch-on-the-go two days a week in the downtown area. All the menu items are based on what farmers have available and fresh. All food sources are listed on that day's menu, and staff is available to answer diners' questions about the food. 

On another food-related note, the Today Show had a story last week on a woman who baked herself out of foreclosure. Being a baker myself, this one caught my eye right away. Angela Logan, deceived by a contractor and denied payment after her agent went bankrupt, nearly lost her New Jersey home until she started selling her family's favorite apple cake. She figured if she sold 100 cakes at $40 apiece she could pay off part of her mortgage and qualify for a government program to help with the rest of it. Word spread, and she received orders for 500 cakes. Logan has made her first payment on time and expects to do the same with the next two, which will qualify her for a renegotiated loan that will save her $1000 a month on her payments. And she has teamed up with a charity to give a portion of her sales to people in need

(Photo courtesy of Yahoo! News)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mimosas and Michelle...

So this past weekend I got a much-needed break from Boston and hopped in the car with a couple of girlfriends for a road-trip. But this wasn't just any road-trip. We were the Boston Bridesmaids, and we were headed for the wedding shower of one of our very best friends from college. 

I will not go into the details of the drive since this is a good news blog, but I can report that a fantastic time was had by all once we got there (due not entirely to the two-fer drink special at Chili's). 

It was so wonderful to see all of us together in one place again (it's been almost a year), and we were so happy to be there to celebrate Michelle's (and Chris') big day. The food at the shower was excellent, and the company even better. I can't wait for the wedding!

This post is a short one, as I've taken the day off from work (to enjoy the sunshine and not being in a seated position for hours on end!).  I hope you all enjoy your days as much as I am enjoying this one!