Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Win one for the Gipper!

I'm probably about to induce the revocation of my sports fan card, but I have no idea who the Gipper is. However, he has been invoked more times than is probably known as coaches exhort their players to try their hardest.

Today's blog is about inspirational moments in sports. I apologize here for the lack of clever transitions in today's post, but the amount of rain I'm currently getting makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth, muttering to myself. It does not make me want to channel Steinbeck or Hemingway. At least not Hemingway's writing talent.

Cornell's men's basketball team made a fabulous run in this year's barely controlled chaos known as the NCAA Tournament. A friend of mine is responsible for generating media coverage for the team, so I'm fairly certain he's responsible for getting this little nugget out into the Interwebs. Remember Jason McElwain, the autistic teenager who played just four minutes in the very last game of his high school career and knocked down six threes on the way to 20 points? Well, it turns out he bonded with Cornell's head coach Steve Donahue, who has an autistic son. According to ABC, McElwain served as an advisor and source of inspiration for the Big Red throughout their tourney run.

Tonic provides a list of the top 10 most inspirational coaching moments on film and in real life. Ethan Zohn's column touches on everything from Jim Valvano's touching "Don't ever give up" speech at the ESPY's to Jim Belushi's rousing rant in Animal House. Zohn even managed to find Knute Rockne's famous "Inside 'em and outside 'em" speech (which may or may include the Gipper reference - the rain is making my Internet too slow to load a video).

Finally, this last item appeared in the Boston Globe this morning after I heard about it on the radio on the commute in. The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Mass., and the Perkins School for the Blind held the first known fencing competition among the blind yesterday. Coach Cesar Morales champions fencing for the blind students as a way to help them develop skills they'll need in every day life. Fencing aids the students in orientation, balance and navigation. Fencing has been taught at the Carroll Center since it opened in 1954 as the first civilian residential rehab center for the newly blind.

(Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Mashup...

A light news day and rainy weather has led me to the conclusion its time for a grab bag post.

The saving grace of this rainy weather nonsense is that since it is rain (and not snow), I can be grateful it's spring and no longer winter. Flowers are starting to bloom; the daffodils at the MSPCA are abundant despite the constant visits from dogs' lifted legs. And it's always this time of year I wish I had some green space of my own. I want a garden. Badly.

I grew up in the country and got to see the wonders of plants shooting out of the ground and bearing either blooms or something yummy to eat. A lot of kids don't get that experience nowadays, which is sad. What is cool is kids at Princeton Public High School are now getting physical education credits for gardening. According to the Green Inc. blog on the New York Times, students have the choice between gardening in one of the 16 raised beds built last fall or participating in a traditional P.E. activity. The departments of the school have gotten into the act, each taking a bed and planting seeds that relate to their subject. The science department is planning to study which plants prevent erosion, while, get this, the guidance office is planting aromatics known for their calming powers...

The encouragement of gardening in schools would probably be something that would factor into the next story from The Walrus. Bhutan's king declared in 1987 that "gross national happiness is more important that gross national product." He has since abdicated in favor of a constitutional monarchy, and Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley has taken up the mantle of promoting national happiness. Thinley enlisted two dozen holistic educators from around the world to design a Gross National Happiness (GNH)-based curriculum for the school system. Thinley hopes this new system turns out graduates who are “more human beings, with human values, that give importance to relationships, that are eco-literate, contemplative, analytical" who know that their happiness is tied up with the happiness of the rest of the world.

The reason Thinley convened the workshop of educators was to ground the curriculum without the use of partisan politics. Now I usually avoid politics and religion with a passion on this site since they the capacity to make people very unhappy. But I wanted to post this last story, from the New York Times, about the Seder in the White House since Passover starts tonight at sundown.

I liked that the White House Seder tradition started with Jewish men on the campaign trail but has expanded to include members of the staff who are not Jewish. I think this is a nice story of people of different faiths coming together to both celebrate and learn more about religion.

(My apologies on the lack of photo; Blogger simply was not cooperating.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mmmmm, doughnuts...

According to Wikipedia, the origins of doughnuts (or donuts if you prefer) in the USA are murky. Some credit Dutch settlers with importing them, one remarkably bold fellow claimed he created the fried dough goodness in 1847, but an 1803 English cookbook lists the doughnut in its appendix of American recipes. So who knows, really?

What I do know is doughnuts may be a "sometimes" food, but they are a very, very yummy "sometimes" food. Twenty-ten is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the glorious institution known as Dunkin' Donuts. And while I, and pretty much anyone else not born in New England, do not believe "America runs on Dunkin'," I will grant you DD's coffee pretty much has been the only thing keeping me awake some days. My addiction did get to the point where I would enter my usual spot, and my coffee would be in the process of being made by the time I got to the counter.

So I read with interest the ode to Dunkin's written by Christopher Borrell in the Chicago Tribune. In his search to sort out why Dunks has lasted so long, he touches on the company's history and somewhat-adorably time-warped logo before settling on the fact that for all the change in America's recent food history, Dunkin' Donuts has remained pretty much the same.

For most of its existence, the doughnut has been pretty much the same - either cruller/bear claw shaped or round - regardless of who is serving it. Or where, for that matter. Worldwar1.com has a page devoted to The Salvation Army's doughnut girls, who brought a taste of home to America's soldiers serving in France during "the war to end all wars." Necessity really was the mother of invention here, when Ensign Helen Purviance wanted to make a treat for her "boys" but was limited by the ingredients she had on hand. A little creativity back in 1917 led to a Salvation Army tradition carried on today on battlefields and at disaster sites everywhere.

But lately, as with everything else food-related it seems, doughnuts are getting a makeover. Some trend-watchers are even calling them the "new cupcakes." No longer content to color the icing slathered on top or inject different fillings, doughnuts have gone designer. Shops like Frost Doughnuts in Washington State are popping up all over with, as Cakespy notes, flavors like Wedding Cake, Red Velvet and German Chocolate.

(Photo courtesy of www.worldwar1.com)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"You have 'em, I'll entertain 'em"...

And Dr. Seuss did just that, during his long life and continues to do so after his death. The "'em" in question, of course, is children. A lot of my friends and people I know who are my age are now having kids, as evidenced by them using photos of their kids as Facebook profile pictures (a personal pet peeve, btw).

Anyhoo, a quick troll around the Interwebs today found me three stories related to caring for children, and now you are brought up to speed on my method for finding today's theme. : ) I hope you enjoy regardless of whether you have kids at the moment.

In a nod to those out there my age and older (and those who are not the oldest child in the family), Northwestern University professors have found that exposure to and ingestion of dirt may not be the worst thing in the world, according to the Chicago Tribune. Their study of Filipino children who were exposed to a "healthy" amount of dirt and pathogens in childhood actually developed less of a chance of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood and thus had less of a risk for heart attacks and the like. I'm not sure what a healthy amount of microbes is, but it does make me feel better about being an early adopter of the five-second rule...

Did you ever have to do that parenting simulation exercise in school where they give you a baby doll which is able to cry - at unexpected times - so you get the idea of what having an infant is like? I did, but I'm pretty sure my pretend infant had nothing on the Simbaby. The Chicago Trib reported on a recent alumnae donation to Elmhurst College's nursing program. The $50,000 gift allowed the program to purchase a Simbaby to better prepare its nursing students for the challenges in treating young children. "Baby Boo" allows the student nurses to get a feel for making their own decisions without the possibility of actually hurting a child if they make a mistake.

A much more low-tech version of soothing a baby has gone viral online. Anderson Cooper on CNN featured this video on his "The Shot" segment. The clip shows an Akita-like dog next to a baby bassinet or carriage, whose howls actually sooth the crying child in the bassinet, though I'm not sure which becomes more nerve-wracking, the crying or the howling...

(Photo courtesy of The University of Southern Mississippi)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Protect and Serve...

Today's title is the motto of police departments pretty much everywhere. And even though each branch of the military has its own tagline - "Be all that you can be;" "The few, The proud, The Marines;" etc. - I feel like "Protect and Serve" pretty much sums it up regardless.

The Philadelphia Daily News spotlights one of NJ's finest and his rather excellent sense of smell. Monroe Township officer Thomas Lucasiewicz was on patrol when he thought he detected the smell of marijuana. He followed his nose to a smoking chimney, called for back-up and uncovered the biggest marijuana-growing operation in New Jersey history. A ring of six homes contained over $10 million of cannabis growing indoors under artificial lights.

Going by the number of puns in the article, I'm sure Officer Lucasiewicz has since endured his fair share of jokes. Lance Corporal Katrina Hodge is no stranger to the British media's humor as well. Nicknamed Combat Barbie, Hodge has served in the British army for six years while competing in the Miss England pageant. According to CBS News, Hodge is one of only 10 women in her unit to be posted in Iraq, where she detained and disarmed a suspected militant with her bare hands. Her latest opponent is decidedly less formidable. With the backing of the pageant organizers, Hodge has succeeded in having the swimwear portion of the contest replaced by an athletic challenge.

Lately there has been a push to replace well-traveled fruits and veggies with their locally grown and organic, if possible, counterparts. Apparently this extends, in some measure, to the Indian army. Yahoo! News reported on development of a new non-toxic weapon against terrorism - spiciness. After field tests, the Indian military has decided to debut its ghost chili grenade. Made from The Guinness Book of World Records' world's spiciest chili, the grenades are supposed to smoke out militants from their hiding places by means of pungency.

Lastly, I found a quirky story/blog post from The Washington Post on how US military mission names are chosen. I suppose this came about after the recent release of the name of the end of the Iraq War - Operation New Dawn. Christian Davenport's post shows that thought does go into it, beyond "What sounds really, really cool?" Well, most of the time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink...

In honor of World Water Day, I've decided to do a post on gratitude since the abundance of clean water we have should make those of us in the West extremely grateful we live here.

Aussie web news site The Mosman Daily profiled 94 year-old Anne Parcell. The grandmother of five is completely independent and even drives to her local nursing home to visit the residents there. Parcell began her volunteering back in 1955 as a social hostess before moving on to work with the blind and deaf, the homeless and the Red Cross. A quote from the story notes she is grateful for her volunteer work as it gives her a "new lease on life." Some of us nearly three-quarters her age should be shamed by that.

As math has never been my strong suit, I won't even try to figure out the fraction of Anne Parcell's age represented by the middle school students in the following Tampa Bay Online article. As part of Lenten festivities, Catholic school students in sixth and eighth grades participated in Operation Rice Bowl. Catholic Charities organizes this every year: Instead of a regular meal, substitute a meat-less meal and donate what you would have spent on the regular meal to Operation Rice Bowl. And the lesson is not lost on the pre- and teenagers: student Jodie Anderson said, "I'm eating this meal for lunch today, and it may not be much, but at least I know I'll have a regular meal for dinner tonight. Other kids won't be so lucky. I've learned not to take what I have for granted."

In professional sports, you tend to see an even split between spoiled athletes and grateful ones. However, as Yahoo! reported, former New Orleans Saint Scott Fujita just scored one for Team Grateful. Traded to the Cleveland Browns after winning the Superbowl, Fujita donated half his championship check to Haitian relief efforts and to coastal restoration in New Orleans. He and his family wanted to "protect" the city and residents they cared so much about.

(Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's a mad March...

Yesterday was the start of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tourney. Which means people will be mentally and physically checking out of work for the next few weeks. Research firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas estimate $1.8 billion will be lost to US companies in productivity as people tune into scores and games via ESPN or March Madness on Demand on CBS Sports online.

MLive.com posted a story on a way to recoup some of that productivity and not miss a minute of the action. Peppino's Sports Lounge in Grand Rapids, Mich., hosted a "work-in," where people could reserve a table for a few hours or the afternoon and bring their laptops while they watched. The proceeds of the event, around $4000, went to a local parks organization to refurbish the city's basketball courts.

Those of you watching Murray State/Vanderbilt yesterday definitely got your money's worth. A buzzer-beater by Danero Thomas turned into a bracket-buster for most people (myself included). Thomas's shot was one of three last-second salvage bids that helped turn yesterday into a tourney opening-day for the ages. But I'm willing to bet very few people know anything about Murray State. Dennis Dodd's column on CBSSports.com gives the reader a view into one of the country's tiniest programs in Nowhere, Kentucky. As they say and as you'll see, Murray State has a lot of heart.

And for those of you who don't have any interest in sports but like the competitive element, I offer Jezebel's version of March Madness: Cake vs. Pie. Site visitors are encouraged to vote for each match up daily, until only one pie and one cake remain. They will then battle for the title of...duh duh duh...Favorite Dessert.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy American Chocolate Week!...

According to the National Confectioners Association, this week (March 14-20) is American Chocolate Week. Other desserts have their days - for example, Nov. 26 is National Cake Day - but chocolate deservedly gets seven in a row to itself. Alice Medrich and Jacques Torres went a little farther, each thinking enough of the sweet to devote a whole cookbook to a year's worth of recipes.

I read cookbooks like most people read novels, but I also frequent several blogs about desserts. One of my hands-down favorites is Cakespy, the award-winning Seattle-based blog by Jessie Oleson. She recently posted a list of chocolate-themed links and facts in honor of American Chocolate Week.

Now, some people list coffee as high as chocolate on their list of vices. For them, the French company Le Whif (I kid you not) may have found the answer, according to the Digital Journal. Last week, the organization introduced breathable chocolate powder, and this week has put breathable coffee on the market. Perhaps this gives new meaning to the phrase "coffee/chocolate is like crack to me." :-P

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!...

Top o' the afternoon to you. : ) Today everyone is Irish or so they say. It's Evacuation Day here in Boston, which I think is just an excuse to give city employees the day off for St. Patrick's Day. And I'm sure those same employees, along with a good majority of the rest of the city, will be taking a personal day tomorrow as well.

The Dropkick Murphys are an Irish American rock group closely associated with the Boston Red Sox. Closer Jonathan Papelbon did his famous/infamous jig to their song "Shipping Up to Boston." They make the list Lehigh Valley Live posted a list of Irish or Irish-themed music to put on your iTunes as you kick back with that green beer... There's also a list of movies on there too.

Salon.com columnist Francis Lam examines the controversy which swirls around corned beef and cabbage this time every year. The Irish on both sides of the Atlantic are split on whether this is a national food. I remember no such dish being served in non-tourist restaurants when I lived in Dublin, but Lam manages to come down right in the middle with his explanation.

I'll leave you today with a photo gallery from Huffington Post on the most ridiculous things spotted dyed green. And yes, folks, that is green crack... And no, I don't mean the Irish craic (good fun). Although some people might disagree with me on that one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back to school...

It's Spring Break time for a lot of schools around my area. Most colleges and universities were closed either last week or this one, and I'm sure the elementary and secondary schools are heading for school vacation soon. So with education on the brain, I decided to do a post on good news coming out of high schools.

CBS News reported on Natalie Robinson, the new head football coach at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in Washington, D.C. The biology and environmental sciences teacher used to play wide receiver and special teams for the D.C. Divas, the capital's pro women's football team. Robinson's students, athletes and school community seems to be behind her so far. So is her fiance, a football coach at a rival area school...

There is good news coming out of President Obama's hometown of Chicago as well. All 107 members of the Urban Prep Academy for Young Men senior class have been accepted to college. According to the Chicago Tribune, the academy is the city's only public, all-male, all African-American high school, and graduating its students to college has long been central to its mission statement. Urban Prep Academy's students come from the poorest neighborhoods in the area and are kids for whom college was simply a noun, not a goal. But incoming freshmen are assigned a college counselor immediately, and before even starting their first year, they are required to take a field trip to nearby Northwestern.

Urban Prep Academy has extended school hours and requires more English credits than most high schools in order to graduate. Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Calif., also demands its students go above and beyond. In order to graduate, the students are required to do 150 hours of community service. Over the years, the school has donated millions of hours to the area, so much so, as NBC Nightly News notes, the charities, schools, and public service organizations have come to depend on the kids' help for essential tasks.

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune)

Friday, March 12, 2010

In (way) advance of Earth Day...

I'm currently fostering a 4 month old kitten from our local MSPCA. That's her to the left, in the cone of shame. Poor little thing came to the shelter with chemical burns down her back. She has healed up pretty rapidly but is in the cone to keep her from damaging her new skin (and licking off all the triple anti-biotic ointment I have to slather her in.

I've never had a kitten before. I do have a cat, but when I adopted her, she was already a year and a half old and way past any zany kitten tricks. Having this foster has been an absolute delight (beyond her waking me up every hour on the hour because she is lonely/bored) and has taught me some of the previously unknown (to me) sides of a cat.

In today's stories, scientists and civilians alike are introduced to new or nearly/thought extinct species. I realize a kitten is neither of those things in general, but as one of the TV stations used to say "it's new to me."

A recent rash of Disney/DreamWorks movies exposed movie-goers to the cuteness of penguins. I do love me some "Happy Feet," in which, the main character, Mumble, is a penguin of a different sort. He doesn't sing to find a mate, he tap dances. However, a real, live King Penguin may be attempting to one-up the animated dear. According to Yahoo!, a National Geographic photographer spotted a "one in a zillion" all-black penguin in a species known for their formal wear.

It is also not very often someone spots a species which has been thought to be extinct for decades. But that's just what Australian Luke Pearce did, as reported by the AP. The fisheries conservation officer was out looking for a rare perch when he stumbled on a colony of yellow-spotted bell frogs, which officials thought died out 30 years ago.

And in the United States, the bald eagle was on the brink of extinction nearly 50 years ago. DDT and habitat decimation nearly did in the national symbol in the 1960s, but a series of measures, including the banning of DDT and passing the Endangered Species Act has helped the bald eagle mount a comeback. The Contra Costa Times has a nice overview story on the return of Old Baldie. : )

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all...

Founded in 1910, International Women's Day marked its 100th anniversary this past Monday. Begun by Clara Zetkin at the Conference for Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark, the holiday has evolved into a day to mark the progress women have made and to call attention to the work that still needs to be done.

To that end, I have a couple stories today marking women's progress and achievements. The first comes from Good Housekeeping. As part of the magazine's 125th anniversary (anniversaries all around this week, I guess), the editorial staff chose to recognize and celebrate 125 years of influential women in the April issue. The website Tonic quoted a press release that said the event GH is hosting, called "'Shine On,' will salute icons, visionaries, goddesses, and even 'hellraisers,'" including Susan B. Anthony, Sally Ride and Madonna. "Shine On" will be held to raise money to build the first-ever permanent location of the National Women's History Museum in Washington, D.C.

International Women's Day (which is a national holiday in places like Vietnam, China and Bulgaria...) was observed in D.C. by a number of organizations. Congress was not about to miss out on the action. The Boston Globe reported the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor, in a ceremony today. WASPs flew non-combat missions during World War II to free up male pilots for combat duties overseas. Thirty-eight of the more than 1000 women pilots were killed in the service of their country, yet never received military honors or recognition for their sacrifice since they were technically civilians.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hanging out the shingle...

Once upon a time (so I'm told), doctors not only worked out of their homes but made house calls. The doctors knew everyone in town, especially the younger people since they helped deliver them. If you were short on money, a basket of eggs or some homemade bread worked as payment until you were flush again.

I'm not entirely sure when this ceased to be, but now insurance companies and lawyers have gotten into the middle of the doctor-patient relationship. I was informed of my PCP's resignation for family reasons via form letter, but at least that was better than finding out by accident my health insurance changed my dental insurance without telling me.

The following two stories reminded me the conceit of small town doctoring is still out there, whether you are in the big city or the country.

CNN profiled the Moore family in Lexington, Ky. Like their philanthropic father before them, three of the Moore brothers are doctors and provide free outpatient surgical care for the uninsured on the third Sunday of every month. The Moore brothers have treated over 3100 people since starting their free services in 2005. On an average Sunday, they care for 25-30 patients with the help of volunteer doctors and nurses.

Dan Ivankovich is the Lone Ranger of service-oriented docs. The seven foot-tall, blues-playing, head-to-toe leather-wearing Chicagoan orthopedic surgeon does over 800 surgeries a year, nearly all for patients living below the poverty line. One of his quotes from this CBS News video sums it up perfectly - "You see a child that's crippled. You see a 50 year-old in wheelchair, and I can fix it. Why wouldn't I?"

(Photo courtesy of CBS News)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One year later...

Hi everyone. Just a quick message this afternoon. It snuck up on me, but today is my blog's one year birthday.

My little corner of the Interwebs has changed quite a bit in the last 365 days, and I'd like to think for the better.

A lot of that is due to you. Thank you for the comments - both over email and in the comments section of the posts - as well as for the story ideas. :)

I hope you've enjoyed reading my happy thoughts as much as I've enjoyed (and benefited from) writing them.

I'll be back tomorrow with actual links, but for today I just wanted to say thank you. :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pop! goes the weasel...

The rise of social networking gave birth to flash mobs. The next generation of raves (and the next-next generation of '60s Happenings), flash mobs organize on Facebook or Twitter or through email; all the participants show up at a given place at the given time and do whatever activity was planned. This YouTube video of a crowd of Romans singing a song from "Glee" in a mall is proof that, while usually benign, flash mobs are also usually a little pointless.

However, the New York Times Magazine profiled a group called a "crop mob" that is actually very handy. Run on the same premise as a flash mob, crop mobs mobilize to aid young, small farmers in getting specific tasks done. Forty to 50 20-somethings gather at the chosen farm for a day to box thousands of pounds of produce or prep greenhouses or even to clear rocks and brush from a field. The volunteers focus on building a community, and the only thing it costs the farmer is lunch.

Something akin to the flash mob but is decidedly more bourgeois is the pop up. Be it a store or a restaurant, the new trend in launching a business or testing out its feasibility is to "pop up" in someone else's spot. Practically always unannounced and often changing spots nightly, the pop up appeals to those who aspire to be "in the know." The LA Times published an article on the rules for finding pop ups as well as highlighting some of the more popular ones in New York. Hint: to find 'em, you gotta follow 'em. Score another for social networking...

(Photo courtesy of The New York Times Magazine)

Friday, March 5, 2010

The coolest women you've probably never heard of...

Someone once said history is written by the winners. I'd like to make a minor correction - it is written by the winning side's major players. Nearly all of the "little people" involved in the big events get lost in the chronological shuffle. All three of my stories today examine the smaller players in macro themes or events.

A 12 year-old Chilean girl saved hundreds of her countrymen and women when she sounded a town alarm just before the tsunami struck her archipelago. The Latin American Herald Tribune reported on Martina Maturana, who learned of the earthquake from her grandfather who lived on the mainland. Just before the ensuing wave hit Robinson Crusoe Island, Maturana ran to the town square, rang the gong to wake up the residents and get them to move to higher ground.

Forbes posted an article on 20 inspiring women to follow on Twitter. I'm on Twitter, but I've yet to see the usefulness of it. I follow a few witty people, but the whole thing is a bit lackluster to me. Perhaps with the addition of a few of these women, I will find the site more relevant to real life. The article highlights women who have made positive contributions to the discussion of race, gender equality in traditionally male fields, healthy eating habits for children and space travel.

Speaking of gender equality in traditionally male fields, Rick Reilly has a column on ESPN.com profiling Kelly Kulick. Featured on ESPN and still don't know who she is? You're not alone. Kulick became the first woman to win a men's Professional Bowling Association tour title, and the only attention she's gotten over it was a free hair coloring at a local salon. Her achievement has never happened in the history of ball sports, and yet I don't remember a mention of it anywhere when it happened.

(Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Michael M. Lewis wrote the 2003 book of the same title about the Oakland Athletics, who used close analysis of statistics to help itself assemble competitive teams despite a financial disadvantage.

While that may be a very tiny niche - no one I know personally needs to assemble a professional baseball team, let alone do it on a "budget" - but the idea speaks to the general population. Most citizens of the US are not Rockefellers or Vanderbilts. We have to do a lot on a little. And it would, probably, serve us well if we used researched facts to do it.

Lewis is back with another money-focused book. An excerpt of it is published in this month's issue of Vanity Fair. It's incredibly long - eight web pages - but the story he tells of Mike Burry is fascinating. Burry is one of the few men in America, and possibly the world, who saw the sub-prime mortgage crisis and subsequent economic collapse coming. And due to a market wrinkle he invented, he made a lot of people rich.

The stock market is a funny creature. Some might call it a terrible beast when it doesn't go their way, but it seems to me, in all my limited knowledge of it, that you can really do something if you have the guts to ride it out.

Grace Groner sat on an $180 investment made in 1935 and turned it into a $7 million gift to her alma mater on her death. A survivor of the original Great Depression, Groner lived frugally her entire life. According to the Chicago Tribune, when she died at 100, Groner left a tiny house with a few pieces of furniture and a fortune nearly no one knew she had. She had made a small bequest to her college and had funded anonymous charitable gifts in the past, but the president of Lake Forest College was stunned when he received word of the donation.

Perhaps it is the Midwest monetary restraint that served Groner and another world famous investor well. Warren Buffett has made billions by being a value investor - something touched on in the first story of this post - and buying up stocks from incredibly undervalued companies while those stocks are cheap. Once the company "makes it," Buffett's portfolio shows an often significant bump. A lot of people have tried to imitate him, but no one has ever really succeeded. Nevertheless, Yahoo! has posted five rules that Buffett uses to guide his own investing. While I have no idea how I would use them, they do seem to make a great deal of sense.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Good news from where?...

A week or so ago, I wanted to do a post on good news out of the Middle East. I had a couple of stories that bordered on good news, but nothing I really felt strongly enough to post. So I scrapped it.

Today I'm trying again.

My first story was the tipping point for this second attempt. Google News hosted an AP story which profiles Abdullah Qazi, an Afghani immigrant to the United States who was frustrated by the lack of good news about his old country in his new one. He got sick of the suicide bombs, the fallen soldiers and families ripped apart and set up www.goodafghannews.com. Some of the headlines Qazi has up right now include the inauguration of a rebuilt runway, the on-going success of a campaign against opium, and the export of pomegranate juice.

Monsters and Critics, a site I have to admit I've never been to before reading the following story, posted a story on the Olympic women's alpine event. Columnist David Hein stuck around with dozens of other members of the international press between runs to talk to the second-to-last finisher - Iranian Marjan Kalhor. The 21 year-old was her country's flag bearer and is the first woman Iran has ever sent to the Winter Olympics.

Finally, WFIE 14 (out of who knows where) posted the AP story on a rare archaeological and biblical find. Two pieces of the Song of the Sea, a Jewish scroll from the "silent period," were reunited after centuries of separation. The 1300 year-old fragments make up the text of the song the Israelites sang after fleeing slavery in Egypt. Scholars are ecstatic to have the pieces together to give them a glimpse of the time between the third and 10th centuries, from which we have no extant writings.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oh, the places you'll go...

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Theodor Geisel took his readers to all sorts of magical, wonderful places inhabited by creatures only found in the imagination. The Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, Brown Bar-ba-loots, and Foo Foo the Snoo to name just a few (sorry, I had to).

March 2 is Geisel's birthday and this year he would have been 106 (Dr. Seuss died in 1991.). The National Education Association (NEA) has tied its Read Across America awareness and motivation program to this day, with educators and students from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. reading Dr. Seuss books and participating in Seussian activities.

The Christian Science Monitor has a brief article that outlines the NEA's program and gives a basic overview of Dr. Seuss and his works. I love his quote at the end...

In honor of Dr. Seuss, the Huffington Post has an article listing 15 of Theodor Geisel's more memorable quotes. Some of them I'm very familiar with, but I didn't realize he said them originally. My favorite just might be "I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!"

And finally, I would be remiss if I did not include a link to his website. Seussville.com is a great resource for all things Geisel, including a biography, resources, book catalog and fun music. There is a Dr. Seuss sculptural garden in western Massachusetts, created by his step-daughter, which I think I will visit once the plants reappear. You can check that out here. The sculptures are all bronze, but I want some nice greenery in the background of my photos. :)

(Photo courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor)