Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! I'll be back next week with a new post. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis the season...

You better not pout, you better not cry. No matter how much the traffic and the mean people at the malls make you want to. At the very least you can read the stories in this post and maybe feel a little more jolly and a little less stabby.

If you're a parent, you're jumping for joy these days. It's the one time of the year children behave without being told to. :) The ever-powerful naughty or nice list has been looking over their heads for quite some time now, thanks to retailers starting the Christmas season in September. If you need a little reassurance that you're receiving something other than coal in your stocking this year, you can check Santa's Naughty or Nice List for yourself.

One of the traditions of Christmas is the annual tree hunt. When I was younger it used to include traipsing all over kingdom come to find the perfect tree. Lately, it involves my parents and a race to see if they can beat their time from last year. I believe they are down to 10 minutes, parking lot to tree to parking lot again. One of my favorite authors has this to say about her tree-hunting experience. Compare and contrast.

The Guardian reported a trend in the UK of purchasing replantable trees, calling them a "surprise hit." In fact, the demand has been so high, grocery market giant (and tree supplier) Tesco had to order more after running out the first week of December. The article touts their green and green-saving credentials.

Today is a big day around the country for office Christmas parties (or so the DJ on the radio told me this morning). Office Secret Santas are usually a yearly nightmare. Drawing names; landing someone you don't know, or worse, don't like; and then having to find that person a gift. But Yahoo! posted a story on the type of Secret Santa you can really get behind. An anonymous man in Kansas City had, at the time of the article, given away $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills to needy strangers - a police officer with terminal cancer, a homeless man, a woman who couldn't afford presents for her 27 grandchildren, and a woman who'd lost her entire family in the course of two years among others. The nameless giver doesn't talk about his own finances but expects to give away around $40,000 this year.

MSNBC had a story on a similar situation. A six year-old little girl in southwest Florida wrote a letter to Santa asking for just one present. Her family had been hit hard by the recession and, in an aborted attempted to find a job in New Jersey, had sold or given away nearly everything they owned. Postal workers were touched by the little girl's note and decided to provide a trimmed tree, presents and furniture to the family.

And finally, I was late with my Hanukkah presents to Jewish friends this year, so it follows I'm late posting a story about what one rabbi is calling a Hanukkah miracle. The Palm Beach Daily News wrote a story on the reunion of two women, old friends from neighboring Polish towns who had survived the Holocaust and subsequently lost touch for 65 years. The nephew of one of the women unknowingly attended the same temple as the other woman, and after a chance gift of a book to the temple's rabbi by that nephew, the two women reconnected.

I hope every has or has had a wonderful holiday! As a little gift to myself, I'm taking next week off from the blog and will return in the new year. So happy new year too!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

End of the year fun...

So it's the middle of December. Time for holiday travel, overspending and ugly sweaters. It's also the time of year for countdowns and montages. Today's post packs in a little of everything.

I was more than overjoyed with Southwest opened a terminal at Logan Airport when I lived in New England. The cheap fares, decent customer service and funny flight attendants usually made up for the long lines, minimal service extras and grumpy TSA agents that come with air travel. So I had to click on this link from the Today Show this morning, showing a "flash mob" of Southwest employees kicking it to Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Oh, those crazy kids... (Note: Those who cannot handle Saving Private Ryan-esque cinematography should avoid this link.)

VentureBeat reported on the "biggest shopping boom since before the recession." I joined about a billion other people doing their Christmas shopping online this year. Aided by really good deals (and the motivation to avoid crowds at all costs), I, and apparently many others, pretty quickly finished my shopping and then sat back and waited for the presents to come to me. In the first 43 days of the holiday shopping season, consumers spent 12 more than last year, or $23.82 billion dollars.

I found the above photo on Google Images. There were so many, each much worse than the last. *gleeful giggle * I had such a hard time picking...

And finally, the first "Best...of 2010" image gallery came to my attention this morning via NASA on Twitter. Yes, I follow NASA. Yes, I'm a giant nerd. Popular Science had the 72 (??) best science images of this year collected on its website. I didn't flip through all of them, but there's a pretty cool acorn squid-thing around image 35. Fair warning, Mom, you will not like image number 1.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Going to the chapel...


This weekend I'm attending the wedding of one of my childhood friends. I've known her for around 20 years (frightening thought we're that old but anyway...), and I'm very happy for her and her future husband and wish them the best of luck. :)

So as I was casting around for stories today (Google Alerts let me down for this week), I happened to see two separate video stories on MSNBC's website. The first is about a couple in Pennsylvania who was too poor to afford to print their wedding photos when they first got married. Their negatives remained in the photographer's storage until he died 45 years later. The couple was encouraged by the man's son to come look for their negatives and finally print them. Little did they know exactly how large a haystack it would be...

The Today Show's Natalie Morales reports on the second story, about the holiday generosity of strangers via those ubiquitous red Salvation Army kettles. She notes all the things of massive value people have dropped in this year, including an engagement ring and matching wedding band. The video can be found on the text link and in the box above.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hope and inspiration...

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I was going to put up a "Happy Thanksgiving!" post on the day, but it got away from me and all of a sudden football was on, the fire was going and I was asleep in a chair...

So yesterday was World AIDS Day. Every year for the past 22 years, this has been a day to lament the disease's progress and the staggeringly horrible statistics. But this year, for the first time ever, there was some good news to report. The Victoria Times Colonist and the Greater Binghamton Press both noted the 20 percent drop in reported cases, the promising progress on a vaccine, and the fact the Catholic Church has said condoms are morally justified in combating the disease - a massive turnaround on an earlier stance. All of these things give you hope that one of the most deadly epidemics on the planet might be getting closer to being controlled.

The Daily Mirror posted a story on a different sort of inspiration. The paper had a long story on the four winners of the Northern Ireland Youth Achievers Award. Honored at a banquet on Nov. 29, Blair Richie, Rachel McStravrick, David Meehan and Jamie Johnston were all recognized for not only their efforts at helping others but for the way they have turned their own lives around.

Today's final story comes from Yahoo! News. In an unprecedented step for democracy around the world, Icelandic citizens have chosen to elect their own countrymen to a special committee to re-write their constitution. Inspired by their country's descent into bankruptcy after the credit crisis deflated their economy, everyday Icelanders have the chance to be part of a major event in their national history.

(Photo courtesy of The Daily Mirror)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Inbox clean out...

I use Google Alerts to help me find the stories I post, and I can usually come up with a theme within a day or two, so I save the emails. But lately I've had a few orphans in my inbox, stories I thought were cool, but I couldn't come up with anything related to them. So I've decided to just put them all in this post. :)

Yahoo! News posted a story a little while ago that notes the stigmas attached with shopping at Goodwill or consignment and even using layaway are disappearing. Being budget-minded has apparently even caught on with the rich, Yahoo! noted, who are buying nearly a third more fast food than last year. People seem to finally have cottoned on to the idea that it's okay to say "I can't afford it."

Yahoo! also posted a story on what appears to be the oldest photo in existence of people. Granted it was taken in 1848, so that's not THAT long ago in the grand scheme of things but still pretty cool. The daguerreotype appears to show two men standing on a river's edge in Cincinnati. One man seems to have a foot resting on a wooden beam while the other is standing on the beam.

The last story is from CNN. While it dates from this past summer, it has only been sitting in the inbox for five weeks. :-P I promise. Four former Harvard students have found a way to harness the energy released from your foot when you kick a soccer ball. Their "Soccket" retains that energy and a plug in the ball allows you to power electronic devices like cell phones and lamps. The inventors believe it will do the most good in places like the Alexandria (South Africa) township where it was road-tested during the World Cup.

(Photo courtesy of Yahoo!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A salute to the military and veterans...

Veterans' Day is not necessarily a happy holiday but finding heartwarming and good stories was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I didn't even have to leave Yahoo! to find three of today's links.

Lt. Col. Chester E. Bear (ret.) is the subject of the first of two Yahoo! profiles in today's post. A veteran of three wars, Bear parachuted behind enemy lines in the Korean, Vietnam and Desert Storm conflicts. A gift from a little girl to her father's Air Force Reserves unit, the stuffed animal became a mascot, flying first on a humanitarian mission before moving on to combat, where he received many medals. Bear (above right and left) was even declared MIA for three weeks when the US Infantry found him after a jump and wouldn't give him back.

The second profile I read centered on a rifle squad composed of decorated veterans from two generations and three wars who attend the funerals of fallen vets to provide one last salute.  Grown from the original patchwork six members, today's squad features 128 former soldiers spanning 30 years and all branches of the military who are believed to be the nation's only all-volunteer rifle squad.

My Yahoo! email contained a message from First Lady Michelle Obama's office marking Veterans' Day with a message and a link to Serve.org. It's a website full of ways to help military families across the country. One of my six rules to life is the absolute truism that one of the most sure-fire ways to feel better in your own life when you feel low is to help someone who is worse off than yourself. Military families often struggle to get by because of their nomadic lifestyles regardless of whether all members are stateside. Serve.org is a great way to see how you can make your own and someone else's lives richer, often spending nothing but your time.

ESPN alerted me to this last story. The universities of Maryland, Texas Tech and Utah have teamed up with Under Armour to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project. All three teams wore or will wear custom camouflage uniforms in games last weekend and this which feature camouflage numbers and details. The players' last names are replaced with one of the core values of the armed services - duty, honor, freedom, courage, commitment, integrity, country and service. The jerseys will be auctioned off after the games in which they're worn, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Better late than never?...

Okay, so first of all, my apologies. This week got a little crazy for me, and I didn't managed to post on Thursday. I started this blog when I had little to do at work, and now, oddly, that I'm less employed and a part-time grad student, I actually have far more to do in life than I did when I had a full-time job.

I composed this post mainly of four stories that are pretty cool. The first is a YouTube video which my friend Katie sent me. It's billed as someone who actually walked across the United States, but regardless of whether that's actually true, the music and editing on this video makes the few minutes you waste on it totally worth it.

Yahoo! Sports' Rivals blog had a story highlighting the fact sometimes you can have two winners at the end of a game (even when you're not playing soccer). Jarod Claybourn, head coach of Sterling (N.J.) High School's football team, managed to break a two-year long losing streak. He did it against Mike Karp and Gateway High School. But in the process, Gateway's own losing streak extended to 17 games - the length that Sterling had reached before snapping the skid. So what did Claybourn do with his longed-for winning game ball? He gave it to Karp and Gateway High...

The last two stories are related in topic and come from MSNBC.com. In both cases, the articles tell of thieves who had a change of heart. In the first, a homeless man who was held up in front of his shelter received his belongings back. In the second, someone burglarized an art gallery but decided to give the items back, leaving them with a note at a local church.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reunion crazy...

So I had an entirely different theme planned for today and then three separate reunion stories popped up on my Google alerts. It depends on your entertainment proclivities, but I imagine these stories probably qualify as good news to some people. They do to me, at least. :)

Recently a book came past me at the library called "Totally Tubular '80s Toys". It is hot pink and highlights all the greatest '80s toys by year. It was a fantastic trip down memory lane. So when I saw this story from London's Daily Mail, it immediately caught my eye and was like a little detour off that lane. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, better known as Bill and Ted, were spotted out at the movies together and there is talk of a third installment of excellent adventures...

The cast of one of my favorite '80s flicks also reunited earlier this week. Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, and Lea Thompson - better known as Doc Brown, Marty McFly and Lorraine McFly - recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fabulous movie "Back to the Future". It grossed $380 million dollars and was the biggest hit of 1985, according to CBS. To commemorate the anniversary, BTTF is coming out on Blu-Ray with never-before-seen-footage. Those are four of my favorite words in entertainment... :)

The Daily Mail seems to be all over the reunion stories. This afternoon, 45 years after "The Sound of Music" debuted, the movie version of the Von Trapp family - including Dame Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer - joined Oprah on her show. The movie won five Oscars in 1965 and the enduring hatred of Plummer for its saccharin-y sweetness. But he seems to have softened in his old age, speaking (positively) about the movie for the first time in decades. The end of the article does little bios on what all the actors have been up to for the last almost-half century.

(Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Think pink...

Every October, the landscape is blanketed not only with leaves but with everything pink. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2010, the effort to remind everyone about the dangers of breast cancer and women in particular about the importance of early detection shows up in anything from pink ribbons to men's athletic gear.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month began as a collaboration between the American Association of Family Physicians and other sponsors to promote the importance of self- and physician examinations in the hope that fewer women will be caught off guard and fall victim to the cancer. As the years have passed the awareness activities have grown, and the treatment techniques have advanced. London's Daily Mirror posted an article highlighting some of those advances in techniques and treatments for diagnosing and treating breast cancer.

The idea of wearing ribbons for awareness is believed to have started when people wore yellow ribbons during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. It is then somewhat interesting (and really good for women there) that the pink ribbons and wearing of pink has spread to the Middle East.

My friend Matt publishes a blog called the Middle East Alliance, and in his last email, there was a post from a Saudi Arabian female hospital worker talking about breast cancer awareness in her country. The post comes complete with a photo of her custom pink ribbon-edged abaya and pink Coach purse.

Today's last story is from the Rockford, Ill. Register Star. It profiled a local small business owner, Terri Johnston, who uses her successful battle against breast cancer as inspiration in her efforts to help other women deal with the effects of treatment. The pain and nausea from chemotherapy can be dealt with, but Johnston helps women work through the maybe harder issue of losing self-identity with the hair loss.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sometimes they just write themselves...

Trapped since August 5, all 33 Chilean miners and six rescuers have emerged from nearly 2000 feet below the earth's surface. The rescue was originally thought to take place near Christmas, but serious international cooperation brought the miners back to their families two months sooner than expected.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes, the rescue took advantage of drills and workers from Canada, NASA experts who helped build the rescue capsule Phoenix II, a huge drilling tool from the US and a drilling expert from Australia who had until recently been in Afghanistan, drilling wells there.

The Phoenix II capsule carried the miners up to safety and fresh air, but those who went down the hole aren't receiving perhaps the attention they deserve. The Sydney Morning Herald did a piece on Manuel Gonzalez, the brave rescuer who served as guinea pig, descending first into the pit housing the miners. Coincidentally, the Phoenix II reunited two long-lost soccer rivals. Rescuer Gonzalez had played professional soccer against miner Franklin Lobos Ramirez 25 years ago, and the pair hadn't met since, according to the Mirror.

Irish Central summed up the feeling evoked from the nearly miraculous and totally successful rescue fairly well in this opinion piece. It focuses on how the world doesn't so much have stories like this to rally around that often. Many media watch outlets have already noted how intensely the world watched on TV and online as Chile hauled up its miners one by one. Some of the viewers weren't the average nightly news' demographic; they were children. CNN had a story on touching reactions by children around the world.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

(Un-) Earthly delights...

Today's post is a short one, featuring stories from both above and below Planet Earth. (Those DVDs, by the way, are phenomenal. Definitely worth a watch.)

MSNBC posted a story today saying the 33 trapped Chilean miners could be freed by Saturday. It seems they will finish drilling by this weekend and are contemplating putting in a steel sleeve through the hole before pulling up the miners. Originally estimated to be freed around Christmas, this is absolutely good news for the poor men stuck below ground and their anxious families above. 

The second story isn't so much strictly good news as pretty cool. My friend Stef posted this on Twitter (different article though) - scientists have found a planet not that far from Earth which could sustain life. Called a Goldilocks planet (get it?), Gilese 581g orbits a red dwarf and is one of six planets in its little system about 120 trillion miles away.

(Photo courtesy of USA Today)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts on charity...

As the Great Recession drags on, it can be hard to believe that people are doing anything other than keeping their own heads above water. But these three stories prove individuals and companies are keeping an eye out for others.

In a previous post, I mentioned Warren Buffett's and Bill Gates' "Giving Pledge" - the two billionaires calling on the richest Americans and other citizens of the world to contribute part of their fortunes to the less fortunate.

Recently, according to CNBC, the pair took their message on the road to what some consider to be the economic giant of the future - China. They met with 50 businessmen and philanthropists to find out about the charity work already going on there as well as talk about ways to get the traditionally skittish Chinese to develop their own methods of philanthropy.

MSNBC posted a story on the first-ever world-wide charity index. Australia and New Zealand tied for first, while the US tied for fifth (with 55 percent) in the ranking of 153 nations. The index measured the willingness of each country's citizens to donate time and/or money to charity. China ranked near the bottom, so perhaps Buffett and Gates can make some headway there...

Finally, in this time where companies are pinching pennies and slashing budgets, LEGO has taken a stand for its workers. The Wall Street Journal blogged that the Denmark-based company has begun holding an annual "Stress-Free Day" for its 600 employees in Connecticut. Workers there are encouraged to remember adults need playtime too by getting beauty treatments, playing sports or kicking back with video games. The day is capped off with a happy hour featuring a beer- and wine-tasting.

(Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grab bag!

Today's post is going to be a mixed bag - all sorts of different things. I want to start with a story on Scout.com.

The subject of the story is fans' behavior at University of Maryland - College Park football games. While not necessarily good news in and of itself, the fact it was written by my friend Sam, and featured on MSN.com absolutely is. Congrats, Sam!

MSNBC.com posted a feature on the newest world's oldest man. Walter Breuning, a 114 year-old Montana resident, recently addressed local dignitaries and representatives from Guinness Book of World Records, recalling his youth (which did not include electricity for 11 years) and imploring people to be more tolerant.

Finally, the photo on this post (courtesy of the BBC) is of the harvest moon. The BBC has a slideshow of images related to the moon, including some cool photos of a Chinese lantern festival celebrating the harvest. It's the brightest in over a decade and coincides with the actual fall equinox (which will not occur again until 2029).

What else is pretty cool is the fact the harvest moon coincides with an astronomical oddity - Jupiter and Uranus, though really very far from each other, are lined up right now. This article explains all the astronomy parts, but what it boils down to is there are some awesome things going on in the sky this week. Well, at least to my budding inner science geek.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Worldwide bulletin...

I guess the big news this week is the release of the American hiker Sarah Shourd from an Iranian prison, where she and her two friends were imprisoned last year for allegedly spying. They were hiking along the Iran/Iraq border and apparently strayed into Iranian territory.

According to ABC News, part of the condition of her release was the potential for deteriorated health due to a precancerous condition. The Shourd family was reunited in Oman and hope for the release of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer.

Iran isn't exactly known for its human rights record. But now, thanks to billionaire George Soros, The Human Rights Watch will be able to continue its fine work. Soros plans to give $100 million to the watchdog group to expand its work worldwide. It is the largest gift Soros has ever made and the largest ever received by the group. According to MSNBC, Soros has already donated $700 million this year to various charitable groups (including the gift to The Human Rights Watch).

On a completely unrelated note, everyone loves a party. Forgetting its drug issues for the moment, Mexico celebrated the 200th anniversary of its independence. The Washington Post blog has some incredible photos of the festivities, including the one that is featured in this blog. I'm particularly impressed by the "O".

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The boys of fall...


Kenny Chesney's new album, "Hemingway's Whiskey," dropped yesterday (yeah, I don't really understand the title either), but it has a song on it called "The Boys of Fall" about high school football. I think there was even a documentary made around the song as well. But it inspired my theme for today...

I picked up two of these stories through Facebook, via two friends who are in the sports info business. The Boston Herald profiled Boston College red-shirt freshman wide receiver Jonathan Coleman. As mentioned by everyone's favorite Boston broadsheet, Coleman has lived the hard-knock life - the NY Jets have nothing on this kid. Somehow, despite being sent back and forth between several states and in and out of the care of his drug-addicted mother, Coleman made it to one of the most highly respected schools and football programs in the country.

A former co-worker at Villanova posted a link to a profile he wrote of VU's senior men's soccer captain Nick Rouzier, who had a pretty cool answer to the question "What did you do this summer?" The engineering major interned with BKS, a company which builds major stadia around the world, including one of the stadia used in this summer's South African World Cup. Rouzier lived in SA and got the chance to see seven of the World Cup matches.

The Herald also had another story on a BC football player, this one slightly better known after his successful bout with Ewing's Sarcoma. Super-Senior Mark Herzlich missed all of last year, while he fought off cancer. He played video games through his chemo and took the field only as a student assistant. But through his battle, he became fast and strong friends with a very unlikely person - a Notre Dame nun...

(Photo courtesy of The Boston Herald)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Seeing red...and green...

It's probably one of the hottest days of the year and the East Coast is facing one of summer's favorite natural disasters - the hurricane - but for some reason Christmas colors came to mind today.

MSNBC has a video story today on the world's largest tomato toss, and it all goes for a cause. I'm not exactly sure how the money was raised but lots of people got together in Reno to throw tomatoes at one another, raising $20,000 for the American Cancer Society in the process.

In another bit of fun, RTT News reports the Smithsonian has acquired the original Kermit the Frog puppet. Jim Henson's widow Jane donated the world's most famous frog and nine of his cohorts from "Sam and Friends" to the National Museum of American History. Kermit got his start on the show in 1955 and transitioned to "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show" after "Sam and Friends" went off the air in 1961.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pint-size giants...

The bon mots and common sense wisdom spouted by small children can make them seem like mini-Buddhas to adults. Their miniature statures and simplistic worldviews can sometimes mask the fact little children are capable of doing big things.

Ten year-old Joey McGuire is perhaps the youngest successful CEO I've ever heard of. Inspired by one episode of "The Celebrity Apprentice", McGuire started not one but two businesses. He runs a shoe-shine venture that employs three part-time people, pays for his cell phone AND has allowed him to save $500 for college so far. Not content with the corporate world, McGuire is a budding media mogul as well. He writes and produces his own super-local news gazette. The original article on McGuire in the Chicago Sun-Times caught "The Donald's" eye, and while in town on business Donald Trump took time out to meet with the little boy he inspired.

This next story from AOL is definite evidence that children hear and digest what you say, even if you think it's over their heads. After her father accidentally took an incompatible combination of medicines at home, three year-old Alesaundra Tafoya toddled two blocks to the fire station to tell the firemen her father was "frozen". The reason she knew to do such a thing? Her parents had pointed out the fire house as a place to go in an emergency...

Nine year-old Logan Hearn took similar initiative when his mother found his younger brother floating face down in the family's backyard pool. According to JEMS.com, two year-old Brendan had sneaked outside and fallen in. When mom Tabitha tried to do CPR while on the phone with 911, Logan realized his mother was doing it wrong. He stepped in, used his life guard training skills and saved his little brother.

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Hi...I didn't manage a post yesterday (sorry about that) as I spent the day in the kitchen crafting my parents' anniversary cake - 10 layers of Smith Island cake goodness sandwiched with strawberry mousseline buttercream and frosted with chocolate buttercream.

But I will return next week with a new post full of fun, good news. :) Until then!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A world of good...

In an effort to counter-balance all the bad news from around the world of late (mudslides, earthquakes, floods, etc.), I've found three good news stories that span the globe.

MSNBC reported on "Crazy Bake", uniquely located in the Beijing Chaoyang District Mental Health Service Center. Six patients work with one instructor to churn out loaves of bread and bagels which are sold to area residents. The bakery was formed five years ago by two foreign volunteers who had also started an organic farm project. The bakers work every Friday to produce their wares; originally begun as a way to provide structure and activities for patients, all six workers have shown marked improvement in their health and are now able to live in assisted living facilities off of the health center's campus.

London's Daily Telegraph found a glimmer of hope amidst the tragedy literally flowing through Pakistan. Nearly 1600 people have died in the massive flooding there, but a mother and grandmother to 30, Zainab Bibi, was saved from flood waters by, of all things, her cow. Sleeping in the farmyard, the waters picked Bibi up and carried her away, but from out of nowhere, Bhoori the cow floated up beside her. The two were carried along until they found higher ground.

MSNBC also has this last story - hope for Haitians. The island nation is still suffering from the effects of that devastating earthquake this past January. But the LA Galaxy and the Tony Sanneh Foundation brought smiles back to the faces of some 14 and 15 year-old boys through the world's game. A Haitian boys team was brought to Minnesota to participate in the largest youth soccer tournament in the country. Welcomed into host families, the boys were able to find happiness both on and off the pitch.

(Photo courtesy of MSNBC)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Faster than a speeding bullet...

When you hear the word "hero", what immediately springs to mind? A figure in a military uniform, standing strong against the enemy? A man in a cape and tights, ready to take on the world with super-human powers? Well, today's post has both of those with a healthy dash of the world's most un-disgruntled postman thrown in there. Although "Un-Disgruntled Postman" sounds more like a band name then a member of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...

CBS News told the story of a group of heroes recently reunited after a stint in Iraq. However, this isn't your usual Army buddy story. National Guardsman Chris Duke befriended three Afghan mutts during his last tour of duty. But the dogs did a whole lot more than help him fend off homesickness. Serena, Rufus and Target set off a ruckus and attacked a suicide bomber when he tried to break into the barracks one night last February. Serena had to be be put down after suffering severe injuries, but Rufus and Target were nursed back to health and received tickets state-side to be reunited with Duke.

Asylum reported on the real-life rescue of a family by Superman. Well, a Superman comic, anyway. After the bank foreclosed on an anonymous family, it began to pack up its belongings for the move. Buried in the basement was an original Action Comics #1 issue - the first appearance of the Man of Steel. Expected to fetch $250,000 at auction, the family will now be able to keep the home which they have had since the 1950s.

And finally, the postal service has had its share of poor press with bankruptcy looming and unhappy employees - the latter of which inspired the phrase "going postal." But Keith McVey, a postal worker in Akron, Ohio, is both a model employee and human being. Over the last 20 years, McVey has saved three lives while on his route and each time, he has simply continued on with his day afterwards and delivered the mail. According to MSNBC, the most recent example of his derring-do was last week when he performed CPR on a man who wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse. Improbably, the man came to before the ambulance arrived.

(Photo courtesy of Asylum.com)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sources of inspiration...

Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert once gave a talk on the concept and history of "the muse." It was pretty eye-opening for me, and while it didn't inspire me to paint a masterpiece or churn out the Great American Novel, it did make me examine things from a new perspective. Which I suppose is a type of inspiration.

Today's blog examines a couple different sources of inspiration. The first is poverty. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the partnership between Tim Jahnigen, his wife Lisa Tarver and Sting to create One World Futbol after Jahnigen was dismayed by a CNN report on the children of Darfur who played soccer with anything but a real ball since those quickly went flat. One World Futbol produces soccer balls made out of the same stuff as Crocs. For each $39.50 ball sold, another goes to a child in need around the world. The couple's goal is to give out 1 million balls in the next three years.

The other theme is the wisdom of others. London's Daily Mail posted a story on its 10 most inspirational speeches. It, of course, skews heavily toward British politicians, but it does reference the great speeches from Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Winston Churchill. You will have to Google for the full text, but the story gives a nice abstract of each one. On a less world-beating note, each year colleges and universities bring in famous, infamous and everyday speakers in one last effort to propel their graduates to greatness. My own university's graduation speaker was more embittering than emboldening, but other schools do better. Harvard, for example. The following link is one speech that manages to be both entertaining and energizing.

(Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy birthday, Mr. (former) President...

I'm always a little slow to get on the bandwagon for things, particularly movies. I don't really go to the theaters anymore ($11 for a ticket, really?), so I have to wait for the movies to come out on Netflix.

So I just saw "Invictus" last night. Matt Damon is genius. That he can be a leading man and a character actor at the same time astonishes me. But what that movie really did for me was re-introduce me to a man I'd only been dimly aware of - Nelson Mandela.

I wasn't even in double digits when he was released from Robben Island, and really, the West's coverage of African news is pretty bad. So despite what a fantastic man and leader he is, Mandela made little impact on me. Clicking through stories for today, I found an article in The Guardian marking Mandela's 92nd birthday, which co-incided with Mandela Day - a day set aside to celebrate "Nelson Mandela’s life and a global call to action for people to recognize their individual ability to make an imprint and change the world around them."

As I'm sure everyone is aware by now, the movie title invokes the poem in which Mandela found inspiration during his 27 years of incarceration. He used the poem to survive prison, but I think it can be applied to anyone in need of inspiration for anything, particularly when trying to change the world.

I've pasted it below and linked to the original site (so I don't get sued). :) It's short but does pack a powerful punch...

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

- William Ernest Henley

(Photo courtesy of The Guardian.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday round up...

My mind has been a little scattered with all the changes going on in my life lately, so I thought it was the perfect time for a round up post. Much like my thoughts, these stories have nothing in common other than I thought they were interesting. :)


MSNBC reported on what it is callingthe biggest fundraising drive in history.” Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have joined their considerable forces to convince their fellow gazillionaires to give half their fortunes to charity. Begun as a secret dinner with the Buffetts, the Gates', George Soros, Oprah, Ted Turner, David Rockefeller and Michael Bloomberg, the Giving Pledge has now been extended to any of the other mega-rich members of society thought willing to explore charity of this magnitude.


This next story from the Belfast Telegraph is super-cute. The real-life story of Belfast zookeeper Denis Austin, who kept a baby elephant in her backyard during the blitz of 1941 has become the inspiration for a new children's story. Austin used to sneak nightly into the zoo to bring Shiela to the relative safety of her garden after the elephant escaped a ministry order to euthanize large animals who may wreak havoc should the city be attacked. Even after the arrangement was discovered, Austin used to visit Shiela every night during the Luftwaffe raids to rub the baby's ears to keep her calm.


And lastly, CNN posted a story on Palestinian female race car drivers. The story is a semi-profile of Noor Daoud, a 20 year-old woman who has been driving since she was 11. Daoud was one of seven women who recently raced in a field of 50 in Ramallah in the West Bank. She has the moral support of her male friends and has even fooled other men who think she's a man until she takes off her helmet.


(Photo courtesy of The Belfast Telegraph)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Out of Africa...II...

The World Cup is coming to a close; the final between Spain and The Netherlands is set for Sunday, July 11 after yesterday’s La Furia Roja victory over Germany in the second semi-final.

South Africa has drawn a lot of attention as the host of the world’s most popular sporting event (sorry, World Series/Superbowl). A lot of people were concerned about South Africa’s ability to host such an event. Worries about infrastructure, finances and security abounded. But most of what I’ve seen coming out of S. Africa has been stories like this one from MSNBC.

Poverty keeps townships kids from getting a lot of things those of us in the West deem essential to life, even a pair of sneakers. But a local organization started by a broadcast journalist and a man from the townships is aiming to make the kids’ soccer dreams come true - one uniform at a time.

I suppose all this attention on Africa has made me more sensitive to good news from that continent. Rwanda is one of the world’s poorest countries, known more for its 1994 genocide than anything else. But, according to Time, NYC cult hit Blue Marble Ice Cream has looked past the problem to help with the solution. Owners Alexie Miesen and Jennie Dundas have helped Odile Gakire Katese open Rwanda’s first ice cream shop as a way to bridge divides and remind Rwandans they deserve happiness along with their basic needs met.

Liberian Lovetta Conto fled her home country with her father when she was 18 months old and ended up in a Ghanaian refugee camp. An encounter with Cori Stern from the Strongheart Fellowship gave Conto a chance to make her fashion designing dreams come true. Her jewelry, made from bullet casings from the Liberian civil war, has adorned stars like Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pan-Pacific good news...

Today’s stories come from all over the Pacific - Hong Kong, North Korea, and Australia. Yep, that’s right, North Korea...

As with most things related to the pariah state, this news needs to be read between the lines and carefully parsed, but luckily, The Washington Post is all over that. The Post reported that according to sources inside the country and to watchdog groups, North Korea appears to have abandoned, in practice, Communism. Dictator Kim Jong-Il appears to have admitted his government is unable to solve the food shortage and has told his citizens to start relying on private markets for goods.

Australia has undergone a change in leadership more so than policy, but that may be in the offing as well. After a vote of no-confidence, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been ousted by former deputy PM Julia Gillard. She is the first woman Prime Minister in Australia’s history (and apparently the second redhead). Newsweek has a laudatory article on Gillard and how her personality and leadership skills could bring a breath of fresh air to Australia’s politics. Let’s hope she has better luck than the Socceroos.

Hong Kong does not have a team in the World Cup; if it did, it would be nearly as much of an long-shot as its neighbor North Korea’s team. But Hong Kong does have an inspirational underdog off the pitch, according to CNN. Gordon Wong abandoned a career in health diagnostic equipment to make wheelchairs for fellow Hongkongers when he noticed foreigners had far better equipment than his countrymen.

(Photo courtesy of Newsweek)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Red, white and blue...


This post was to be centered around good news stories from the Pacific Rim. No particular reason behind that other than a couple articles happened to wander past my line of sight. But then a couple of things happened in the wide world of sports I just had to note. My apologies to those who are non-athletic...

The small nation of Slovakia put together an incredible upset of defending World Cup champions Italy, 3-2, that sent the former republic of the Soviet Union to their first World Cup as an independent nation and the Azurri home to a very unhappy public. What turned out to be the game-winning goal came from Kamil Kopunek, a little-used substitute, who scored
in the 89th minute on his first touch. ESPN.com and the New York Time’s Goal blog have excellent coverage of the match.

Then I found out via ESPN the absolutely epic Wimbledon tennis match between American John Isner and France’s Nicholas Mahut had finally ended. Isner was the second American to stage a comeback on the international stage this week. He pulled out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 win in 11 hours spread over three days. Jim Caple has a funny article on ESPN.com on all that has changed since the match began “way back when.” The match set records for most games in a match (183), most games in a set (138), most combined aces (215), most individual aces (Isner 112) and, certainly, longest match. And get this, it was Isner’s first-ever win at Wimbledon...

And of course, one cannot help but mention the other (group of) American(s) who made a comeback yesterday. Striker Landon Donovan pulled the US back from the brink of despair by knocking in a goal in stoppage time to send the red, white and blue through to their first World Cup since 1930. I’m not even a soccer fan, and I may have cracked my knee on the bottom of my desk and yelled, albeit quietly, when I heard the “goooooooooal!” cry. 

I’m sure you can find an endless number of stories about the game, so I thought I’d include some YouTube videos of the reaction around the country to the “goal heard ‘round the world” here (shot in the style of “Saving Private Ryan”), here (love the woman in the pink) and here (my favorite part of this one might be the dude in the front who lifts a bar stool into the air and then sprays the people around him with a random drink from the bar).

And in case you're wondering why I've included Slovakia in a post entitled "Red, white and blue" and whose other stories center on the USA, check out this photo.

(Top photo courtesy of Suzanne Plunkett-Pool/Getty Images)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Daddy's girl...


Last year, I was late with my Fathers' Day post. This year, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Fathers' Day, I've made sure to be early.
Fathers' Day also came early for the families of the men rescued in Colombia. According to The Guardian, four former Farc hostages were reunited with their families, including one man who'd never met his two sons, this past Monday. The Colombian government sent 300 men to outnumber the guerrillas and raid the camp to bring the men home.

The Houston Chronicle's Lisa Falkenberg wrote her column yesterday on her daughter's "father favoritism." Falkenberg cites mountains of research to tell you things any Daddy's girl already knows - we're more "confident and independent" and we have "advantages over others in academic achievement, in dealing with authority and pursuing goals and are more likely to avoid teen pregnancy, abusive relationships, eating disorders and problems with drugs and alcohol." She also notes "... good fathers and father figures are a precious treasure." Her account of her child and husband's relationship is adorable, by the way...

So thanks to my personal precious treasure for being an excellent father. At my newly advanced age, I am perfectly fine with saying you were usually right, and I turned out great because of it (even if I would have been loathe to admit that then). Happy early Fathers' Day!

(Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To Sir, with love...


"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."
 
This is the definition of success coach John Wooden hit upon when frustrated by the grading system in place at the high school where he taught English. As definitions of broad topics go, this one is pretty succinct. However, in what became a hallmark of a storied life, Wooden was dissatisfied with it and strove to do better. He spent the next 14 years coming up with 25 behaviors he felt were essential to practice in order to reach success. He ordered them into a pyramid in 1948, and unlike so much in this world, that diagram has remains as relevant now as it was in the aftermath of World War II.
 
I am returning home to a small town to become a teacher and striving to find success in my life, but that is where the parallels between John Wooden and myself end. The man who single-handedly made thousands, if not millions of lives better, passed away a week ago at the age of 99. I sincerely doubt I, or anyone else in the near future, will make the kind of impact Mr. Wooden did. He was king of the sports world but never forgot he started out a peasant.
 
Many, many news organizations have eulogized Mr. Wooden, but the article I really feel captures how singular a life he led is Rick Reilly's from ESPN.com. Reilly's first line is about as accurate as a sentence could ever be - "The awful thing about knowing John Wooden was that when you left him, you realized how weak you were as a man."
 
The Wall Street Journal did a story on Mr. Wooden, which offers a little background on his life before winning 10 national basketball titles at UCLA. I think what I enjoyed learning the most from this article was that his nickname at Purdue was the India Rubber Man, because while he fell, apparently, a fair amount while dribbling - "He bounces back to his feet immediately and is away once more." That is a pretty good metaphor for how Mr. Wooden lived his life.
 
Mr. Wooden was known for his pithy but epically true suggestions on how to live your life, and ESPN.com listed ten of their favorites. My favorite from the list is no. 9 -"The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team." Take that, Kobe/LeBron/Jeter/Big Ben/etc...
 
The LA Times's TJ Simers appears to have been close to Mr. Wooden, and his article reflecting on Mr. Wooden's life is a nice twist on the usual bestowal of sainthood. While John Wooden would have my vote to be a secular saint, Simers focuses on the devilish good humor that colored Mr. Wooden's life, mentioning at the end of the article how he used the occasion of a nationally televised special to give the author a singing bass. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A grab bag of sorts...



Okay, so it has not been a good two weeks for the blog. Last week I just couldn't manage to get a post together, and this week I had Internet issues. But, not to be defeated, I have "try try again"-ed and am now posting.

Without further ado... As Geekologie says, this is your daily dose of awwww. It's a video of baby Jonathan having his cochlear implant activated and hearing his mother's voice for the first time. It's a short little video but watching his reaction is just adorable.

The Chicago Tribune had a story on someone at the other end of her life. Sister Charitas Prince, a Franciscan nun, recently celebrated her 80th year of service - a milestone reached by no other nun in the 166-year history of the order. The 99 year-old woman will be joined by 14 other sisters on June 19 to celebrate their jubilees. Together the 15 women have 900 years of service to the order.

Finally, Yahoo! posted an article on Indra Tamang, an Nepalese man who went from rags to riches - literally. After befriending a rich American at the hotel where he worked, Tamang faithfully served his patron and that patron's sister for nearly 40 years. With the deaths of both patrons, Tamang garnered headlines and attention all over New York when the news broke he had inherited their estate. As I read that, I thought, "Poor guy. He'll never see a penny of it. The family will fight for years." But the article went on to say the woman's estranged daughter wanted no part of her mother's estate and had not contested the gift.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A level playing field...

College and professional sports are very quick to abuse and distort words that otherwise would have a deeper meaning - inspirational, hero, warrior to name just a few. Growing up surrounded by sports, I didn't really notice it, but once I started working in college athletics, it became abundantly clear. Particularly when I was tempted to call a comeback effort heroic.

In contrast, today's stories do actually feature athletes who have done something inspirational, and it wasn't hitting a 32-foot jumper at the buzzer to send the game into a second overtime.

College golf doesn't garner that many headlines, especially if it's NAIA college golf. But Yahoo! Sports featured a golfer very worthy of the attention (thanks for the story tip-off, Blair). University of St. Francis' Grant Whybark had the opportunity to lock up individual and team spots in the NAIA National Championship. But Whybark did something completely against the competitive drive athletes are supposed to possess - he deliberately shanked a drive so Olivet Nazarene's Seth Doran could go to Nationals too.

Awhile back, I did a post on Natalie Randolph, the Calvin Coolidge Senior High School head football coach. She is one of a handful of women nationwide who head up high school football programs. Randolph has more than held her own in the tests administered by outsiders and a few of her own players. But what has caught the attention of the New York Times this time around is Randolph's commitment to her players in the classroom.

I'm a little sick of professional athletes who whine about how tough their lives are or who only give 10 percent a la Hanley Ramirez. They should take a page from Rafal Krolczyk, a high school boys gymnast on the Niles' West junior varsity team, featured by the Chicago Tribune. "No Fall" Rafal, a moniker he picked up from teammates, competes in the pommel horse for Niles West, an event regarded as one of the hardest events to master. None of this distinguishes Krolczyk from thousands of other high school gymnasts. What does make him stand out from the crowd is that he does this (with full support from family and teammates) despite having cerebral palsy.

A lot of athletes out there do overcome personal hardships to compete at a high level. They even made "The Blind Side" out of Baltimore Raven Michael Oher's story. Now, as a Hokie by association, I naturally view askance anything that comes out of the University of Miami. But this time I really appreciated the Miami Herald story on Saints rookie Jimmy Graham.

Signed away to a group home at 11, Graham survived a rocky childhood after being taken in by a woman who could barely afford it but couldn't walk away from him. He went on to earn dual degrees in five years from Miami while playing four years of basketball (and one year of football) where he was known for his tenacious rebounding and defense. Now with the Saints, Graham hopes to reach out to troubled kids in New Orleans.

(Photo courtesy of The Chicago Tribune)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Up in the air...

I have a tremendous fear of falling from heights. So I suppose it goes without saying that I hate flying and airplanes in general. The irony there is I love to travel. Perhaps I ought to try a cruise...Anyway, with this fact in mind, I also suppose today's blog topic is thus unlikely, at least for me.

Like a lot of people, I have a bucket list. Nothing formal, just things I keep in my head that I'd like to get done in my life. Needless to say sky-diving is not on that list, particularly not after this story. However, despite the outcome, Dave Hartsock can never be called anything but a hero.

According to CBS, Shirley Dygert hired him as a sky-diving instructor when she decided to shake up her life a little. Neither she nor Hartsock knew that trip out of the plane was going to change both their lives more than a little. After a parachute malfunction, Hartsock switched positions with Dygert before they hit the ground, taking the brunt of the impact and saving her from the paralysis he now suffers.

I've had enough issues in airports and on planes to know better than to jump out of one that functions perfectly well. Unfortunately the 92 passengers and 11 crew members of Flight 8U771 did not have a choice when their airbus failed to land properly at Tripoli International Airport on Wednesday.

But details are still emerging about the miraculous survival of eight year-old Ruben van Assouw, the sole survivor of yesterday's crash, according to CNN. The Dutch boy seems to have suffered only broken bones in his lower limbs.

(Photo courtesy of CBS News)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Way in advance of Memorial Day...

For once it seems like of all the current disasters in the world, none of the headlines are focused on the military. Which I suppose is a round about way of looking for good news. Over the last two weeks I found some actual, straight-up good news stories out of the US Armed Forces.

I wanted to use this first one last week since it came out on my blog day, but I didn't have anything related, so I held it.

The Boston Globe reported the US Navy has quietly allowed women to begin serving in the submarine forces. Recently I've been reading Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation," which honors folks who fought in World War II. Several of the chapters in that book focus on the women who wrought quite an upheaval on the policy of females in the military. Now, there weren't any women in subs then (or officially recognized as in combat for that matter), but women in the submarine service is one of the last barriers to be broken.

According to the Globe, "the Navy plans to start by assigning three female officers each in eight different crews of guided-missile attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines." The reasoning being these types of subs are the easiest (read: cheapest) to retro-fit to accommodate living quarters for women. I'm a little claustrophobic, so I would never want to do this, but good luck to 'em!

One thing the members of the Greatest Generation and today's military have in common is the call to serve. I mean, you'd really need a strong sense of duty to put yourself in the line of fire for others. And as you read profiles of soldiers and sailors and such, you find out exactly how many of the people who answered that call are genuinely good and decent human beings. One such good Samaritan found himself in the headlines a week or so back. The New York Daily News posted a story on Army medic and Iraq vet John Stone, who performed the Heimlich maneuver on Toby Weiss at a Yankees game and saved the rabbi's wife's life.

Clearly these men and women who do so much for us at home and abroad deserve as much as we can give them when they're done serving. The Houston Chronicle has a story on Meredith Iler, a fundraising superwoman who is contributing in a major way to easing those vets' transitions back to civilian life. She founded Helping a Hero, a company that raises money and collects land and work donations to build handicap-accessible homes for severely injured war veterans. The veterans end up being responsible for $50,000 of the purchase price. President of her own public relations firm, Iler donates 50 hours a week to Helping a Hero and has built 18 homes since 2005 and raised money for eight more.

(Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Child's play...

Something is called "child's play" if it requires minimal effort for adults. It's almost dismissive. Learning Spanish is child's play; try Croat. Now that was hard. Or Oh, you made roast duck with endive. That's child's play. I made spherical egg of white asparagus with false truffle.

It seems to me that children seem to have an easier time of things that are harder for adults. Like altruism. Take, for instance, a study published in the April issue of Psychological Science.

According to MSNBC, children as young as 21 months are more inclined to help people who also seem helpful. Kristen Dunfield and Valerie Kuhlmeier conducted experiments where children interacted with two women who varied in their ability and/or willingness to give the children a toy. The studies showed the children were much more likely to help the adult who shared their toys with the children.

Students in Salem, Mass., also seem ready and willing to help people they've never met. The Salem News reports children in Bates Elementary School have been donating their change to "Pennies for Peace," a program started by author Greg Mortenson. His non-profit has built over 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and has a special focus on girls' education in that region. The children were inspired by Mortenson's children's book "Listen to the Wind," which chronicled his experiences.

Long Beach Middle School in New York is another school in the news a bit recently. A few weeks ago teen singer Justin Bieber performed live there as a reward for students who collected donations for a food bank. More recently, as reported on MSNBC, seventh-grader Miriam Starobin performed the Heimlich maneuver on her friend and classmate Allyson Golden after she choked on a piece of gum. The kicker is, Starobin was spurred into action by remembering a similar scene from SpongeBob Squarepants.