A thrilling book about one hospital in New Orleand during Katrina. A very cool video about the sound of rain. And Joe Torre with a beautiful Hall of Fame speech

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I’m on a bit of a book-reading binge this summer, as I try to finish as many as possible before our first child arrives sometime in early September and I no longer have time to read any books for the next, oh, five years or so.

So I’m going to be doing a couple of book review posts this week.

The first one I want to discuss, and a book that made me say “Wow!” a whole bunch of times while reading it, was Sheri Fink’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death at a storm-ravaged hospital.”

If you’ve never heard of the book (the New York Times named it one of the 10 best of 2013), it’s a meticulous examination of the horrors that occurred at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during 2005′s Hurricane Katrina.

Fink spent five years doing exhaustive research on the depravity, chaos and desperation felt by patients, doctors, nurses and administrators at Memorial, and takes us through the incredible decision of Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses to essentially “euthanize” nine of their sickest patients, injecting them with obscenely high amounts of Morphine and Versed.

The book gives incredible detail of the highly-controversial injections, which some saw as murder, others as mercy (while I’m a big proponent of euthanisia, I thought this was murder), and you find so many heroes in the narrative.

It is, and should be continue to forever be seen, as a disgrace at how the governments at all levels neglected the people of New Orleans. And from the prism of a hospital that lost power, generators and so much more, it looks even worse.

Fink is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, and this book is outstanding. Definitely read it if you can.

 

**Next up, this is quirky and weird and sorta mesmerizing, which makes it perfect for my blog.

The harmonizing, hypnotic sounds of raindrops, when all mixed together, sounds pretty darn cool.

 

**Finally today, I’m really happy to see Joe Torre, the best Yankees manager of the last 50 years, got inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. For Yankees fans of Generation X, who came of age in the 1980s and early 1990s, Torre was a godsend. He built on what Buck Showalter had built and finally brought the Yankees back to the World Series, winning in 1996 in what is still my favorite Yankees team ever.

Lots of people knocked Torre despite the Yankees’ success, saying he wasn’t a great manager prior to coming to New York, and the often-ridiculous “Anyone could’ve won with all that talent and payroll.” Which is parently absurd, since it’s rare that the team with the most talent and highest payroll wins every year in baseball.

Torre had a gift for getting the most out of his players, coaxing performances way above their level out of guys like Scott Brosius, Chuck Knoblach, Jorge Posada, and Jeff Nelson. He was tremendous in the post 9/11 New York chaos, and always came across as a regular guy in his dream job.

His speech Sunday was terrific, if a bit long; here’s a link to the whole speech, but his closing I wanted excerpt here:

 There is a power to both patience and persistence.  Baseball is a game of life.  It’s not perfect, but it feels like it is.  That’s the magic of it.  We are responsible for giving it the respect it deserves.  Our sport is part of the American soul, and it’s ours to borrow.  Just for a while.  To take care of it for a time and then pass it on to the next generation; when I say us, I mean as managers, as players.  If all of us who love baseball are doing our jobs, then those who get the game from us will be as proud to be a part of it as we were, and we are.
This game is a gift, and I am humbled, very humbled, to accept its greatest honor.  Thank you very much.

Good News Friday: Superhero window-washers visit sick kids. A tribute to Roger Angell as he enters the Hall. And the awesomeness of whales

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Man, if there’s ever a week where we’ve needed Good News Friday, this has gotta be it.
The world is going haywire. Unconscionable violence in the Middle East. Planes crashing or being shot down on what seems like a daily basis. Iraq in ruins. Civilization as we know it about to end because a gay man is playing with an NFL team (sorry, threw that in there to see if you were paying attention. Godspeed, Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams).

It’s been a miserable news week. But hopefully these stories will make you smile.

And how could you not smile at this? On Wednesday at a New York City hospital, window-washers dressed up as superheroes to entertain the sick children who unfortunately were patients inside.

The hospital staff got in the spirit too, as you can see by these photos. One small gesture made these kids’ whole week, I bet. Watch the video below of the scene…

**Next up, the greatest baseball writer of all time is Roger Angell of The New Yorker. This is pretty much universally agreed-upon, which is rare, because sports fans don’t ever universally agree on anything.

Angell is 93 and still writing, and this weekend he’s finally being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It’s an honor long, long overdue, and to celebrate him, one of the best sportswriters working today, Tom Verducci, has written a marvelous profile of Angell for Sports Illustrated.
It’s just about perfect.

**And finally, this was the coolest video I saw all week. You’ve got to love whales. This couple was kayaking on the coast of Argentina and came upon a whale. So naturally, they got closer and closer, and just watch what happens at around the 45-second mark here.

It’s the whales’ ocean, people. And don’t you forget it!

Andrew Cuomo, I had such high hopes for you, but this scandal may bring you down. Seinfeld and Stewart getting coffee, hilariously. And Bieber can prevent cancer! (sorta)

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Two quick notes: One, I’m sorry the pace of blogging has slowed down a bit in recent weeks; I’m dealing with a pretty irritating thumb/hand injury thing that makes it painful to type. I’m trying to get rid of it through physical therapy but so far, not much progress (I just started so I’m not blaming Pat, my cool therapist dude). And two, I have many, many, thoughts about the Israel-Hamas ongoing carnage, but they’re nowhere near organized enough to turn into a coherent post. Still, I wanted to link to what I thought was a remarkable essay from a journalist in Israel named David Horovitz, about the price, in morality and lives, both sides are paying right now.

OK, on with the show…

I try not to put too much faith in politicians anymore. I’ve been burned many times before; as Billy Bob Thornton says in the brilliant and underrated movie “Primary Colors,” I too easy come down with a case of TB (True Believerism).

Bill Clinton disappointed me time and time again. Lord knows the hours and effort I put into John Edwards’ presidential hopes only led to heartbreak. And Barack Obama, as much as I still support and appreciate having him as President, has also made me angry/sad/frustrated quite a few times over the past 5 1/2 years.

But still, I can’t help myself. I start to believe that another politician might have the goods, the goods to deliver what I’ve always wanted in a President. A couple years ago, I started to think Andrew Cuomo might be that guy. Socially liberal, forceful leader, able to forge consensus on some issues, a little too conservative financially for my taste but a man who seemed to be Presidential timber to me.

I was happy he was elected Governor in 2010 of my home state, think he’s done a pretty good job overall so far, and I believe him to be one of a handful of Dems who I’m hoping and praying derails the Hillary coronation of 2016 (or at least, gives her a fight for the nomination.)

Yep, Cuomo was my guy… which made it inevitable that this would happen. On Wednesday the N.Y. Times unleashed a stunning and wholly damning article that found that Cuomo and his office worked hard to derail the work of an ethics commission Cuomo himself set up to investigate corruption in N.Y. state government, once that commission started looking into the Gov’s friends and allies.

It’s a piece of fantastic investigative work by the Times, painting Cuomo in an awful light, and will likely severely damage his 2016 hopes.
Sigh. I’ll fall in love with someone else soon, I’m sure.

**Next up, haven’t linked to an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s great web show in a while, but this episode with Jon Stewart is just fantastic. Enjoy…

 

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**And finally, I present this without (too much) comment: Scientists believe that Justin Bieber’s original bangs haircut can help prevent skin cancer, if other boys wear their hair the same way.

Justin Bieber, you are the Dr. Jonas Salk of our time, my man. God bless you!

A 105-year-old woman throws out a great first pitch. “When Harry Met Sally” turns 25. And a great parody of Nike’s terrific Jeter commercial

Agnes McKee, I am in awe of you.

She’s 105 years old, lives in Oceanside, Calif., and Sunday she threw out the first pitch at a San Diego Padres game.

This woman was born in 1909. Teddy Roosevelt had just finished his second term as President, World War I was still years away, and radio wasn’t even a big deal then, much less television.

Amazing. She was asked what her secret to longevity was, and she replied “I have no idea.”

I love the windmill delivery, too.

“When Harry Met Sally” was the best romantic comedy ever, says me. But it makes me feel old to read on Mental Floss’ website today that it came out 25 years ago.
As they do with a lot of classic movies and TV shows, Mentalm Floss gives us 15 facts you probably didn’t know about the flick, including that the original ideas for casting included Albert Brooks and Molly Ringwald (Man, would that have been a different movie!), and that Nora Ephron absolutely hated the title, and that Bruno Kirby’s character was based on Rob Reiner in real life.

Check out more about “When Harry met Sally” here, and of course, above is my favorite part of the movie, the love stories of the older couples (“I rode up nine extra floors just to keep talking to her. Nine extra floors.”)

**Next up, Nike has put together a goosebump-inducing commercial to honor Derek Jeter’s final season in major league baseball. It’s been airing since the All-Star Game, and it’s fantastic.

And of course, because there are awesome people who do stuff like this on the Internet, there’s now a parody commercial starring the much-less beloved (downright loathed, I’d say) Alex Rodriguez. (Definitely NSFW, by the way). Hilarious.

 

“Boyhood” is like no other movie I’ve ever seen. How classrooms around the world look compared to America’s schools. And a LeBron essay that moved me

Probably only a handful of times in my life have I left a movie theater saying, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Happened at “Schindler’s List.” Happened at “Avatar.” Maybe a few others, like when I saw “Return of the Jedi” as a kid.

Walking out of the theater Saturday afternoon with my wife, I concluded I’d never seen anything like “Boyhood,” the new Richard Linklater flick that literally every major critic in America has raved about (“Boyhood” has a 99 percent fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com).

Go see this film if it comes anywhere within 60 miles of you (Here’s a list of everywhere it’s playing and now, and where it’ll be soon).

Fight traffic, hire a babysitter, use whatever means you have: go see this film. It’s extraordinary. Linklater spent 12 years on it, filming the same actors for a few days a year, and the movie is simply incredible to behold: The story of a family, specifically a 6-year-old boy who grows into an 18-year-old man. Ethan Hawke is superb, so is Patricia Arquette, and the star, young Mason, is played by Ellar Coltrane to perfection.

There are no dramatic plot twists, no explosions or car crashes, no incredible revelations (Even Linklater said that when studio execs ask him what happens in the movie, he replied “Not much.”)

It’ simply the story of life, and the most realistic depiction of adolescence in any movie I’ve ever seen. The little triumphs, the little heartbreaks, love, loss, a great soundtrack… it’s all here in a 2 1/2 hour film that positively flies by.

I really, really hope that because it’s being released in the summer it doesn’t get overlooked at Oscars time, because I’ll be stunned if I see a better movie this year.
Man, it was so good. I may just spend 12 bucks and see it again this week.

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**Next up, I love photo essays like this one that show you places you’ve probably never seen before. The website GlobalCitizen.org has compiled 16 photos of different classrooms from around the world (the one above is from Malawi).
Two things struck me immediately upon looking through them: 1, American teachers who complain about class size should look at these pics; the one from Cambodia must have 65 kids in it!
And two, the look on these kids faces proves that in education, some things universal: Several kids look bored, several look excited, and several are just goofing off. Kids are kids, whereever you go.

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**Finally today, I haven’t written here about LeBron James’ decision to return to Cleveland, the biggest sports story of this or most years, because it happened on a Friday, I don’t blog over the weekend, and by Monday it seemed like everything that had to be said, had been said.
I think it’s a fantastic move for him, his SI letter (crafted with the immensely talented Lee Jenkins) was mature and heartfelt, and the sports fans of Cleveland sure as hell deserve some good news.

So like I said, most everyone has weighed in on this, but I read this over the weekend and it was quite different, because the author was quite different. Longtime readers of mine might remember me raving about an essay in Esquire three years ago written by a Cleveland dockworker and part-time writer named John Hyduk; dude was eloquent, touching and deeply affecting for anyone, much less someone who spends eight hours a day loading soda in a beverage warehouse.

He wrote this piece for the New York Times last week about LeBron coming home, and it was probably the best thing about King James I read. Truly a fantastic writer, I highly recommend this piece.

(P.S.: I also wanted to write something about LeBron so I could put up that amazing illustration of him, done by Robert Carter for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. How incredible is that?)

Good News Friday: Weird Al Yankovic is back with a hilarious video about grammar. A great cancer fundraising idea. And Winnie Cooper is (sigh) getting married

And a happy Friday to all of you! We start Good News Friday with a man who I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned in five years of this blog: the great Weird Al Yankovic.

Loved Weird Al in the ’80s, when he was doing parodies like “Eat It” and “Fat” and then into the 1990s with “Amish Paradise,” my all-time favorite of his.

Well, after fading away for the last several years, the bizarre Mr. Yankovic is back and as funny as ever, which is good news, I think. My favorite of the new videos he released this week is “Word Crimes,” a parody of “Blurred Lines” that skewers all the idiots who don’t know how to spell or use proper grammar (Yes I’m an English nerd, but I’m not the only one who this drives nuts. Although having once stopped eating at a good restaurant because of the rampant misspellings on their sandwich board does paint me as a bit of a nut, I admit.)

Check it out, I think it’s brilliant:

 

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** Next up, a very cool breakthrough idea in the manner of diabetes care.

According to this Washington Post story, the founders of Sproutel,  a start-up in Providence, R.I., want to raise $3 million dollars to give kids teddy bears. But their efforts are more than just warm and fuzzy: Jerry the Bear is a personal robot for children with Type 1 Diabetes, and he’s helped 250 of them come to terms with, learn about, and manage their chronic illness. In a move that even Sproutel’s founders call “incredibly audacious,” they’re aiming to put a bear in the hands of every U.S. child diagnosed with diabetes next year.

Kids can check Jerry’s blood sugar, give him insulin, and help with other real-life diabetes situations.

Terrific idea, and terrific story. To help fund the project, click here.

**And finally, sad news for “Wonder Years” fanatics like me: Winnie Cooper is off the market.

Danica McKellar, the math whiz/actress/all-time 1980s boy crush, is marrying her lawyer boyfriend, she announced Thursday.

Ah, Winnie. Good for you. But sad for those of us who always hoped to end up with you. We’ll always have our 1989 fantasties…

 

A White Sox giveaway goes hilariously wrong. John Oliver on President Harding’s sex letters. And the worst Comcast rep of all time!

Let me see if I’ve got this straight: The Republican Party has spent the better part of five years ranting and raving about President Obama’s health care law. They have tried to repeal it in the House of Representatives dozens of times, and have run two separate national elections against it. It gets implemented, and at their demands, Obama delays part of the law’s implementation that affects small businesses. And NOW the GOP Congress is suing Obama for delaying part of a law they loathe? 
Sure. Makes perfect sense.

You know, the Chicago White Sox had the best of intentions with a promotion last week. They gave out thousands of free ponchos to their fans, and what do you know, it started raining.
The ponchos were white. And they had hoods. And when 30,000 people wore them, it sorta looked like this…

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Yikes! Has the Ku Klux Klan suddenly decided to have meetings at baseball games? Because that’s what a whole lot of people thought it looked like. Here’s another photo:

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Aww man, I’d hate to be the marketing guy whose idea this was. I hope he still has a job.
Too funny. (Then again, I’m guessing the KKK would like baseball. The ball and all the bases are pure white.)

You may have heard about the kerfuffle involving former President Warren G. Harding’s steamy sex letters being released last week. HBO’s John Oliver, continuing an amazing start to his “Last Week Tonight” show with this take on Harding’s hard-on (sorry, that was too easy) for his neighbor’s wife.

Check out Oliver’s equally-brilliant take on income inequality here. 

**And finally, this has been listened to more than 3 million times in the past week, but if you’re like me and hadn’t seen it yet, it’s truly remarkable. A guy named Ryan Block calls Comcast to try to cancel his cable service, and the rep refuses to let him do it, arguing, turning belligerent, and basically being a complete jerk.

As much as I hate Time Warner (and I do so, so hate them), I’ve never quite had this experience. The best parts are the first five minutes; the customer had WAY more patience than I would’ve. (Check out an update on the story here.)

**

 

Another disgraceful handling of a campus rape. Louis CK with wise words on fatherhood. And “Masters of Sex” is back!

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You would like to think that with the epidemic of college campus rape being so well-known, and so exhaustively written about and explored, that schools would be better at dealing with it by now.
You would think ALL schools would realize how stacked the deck always is against the victim, how especially when it’s a young woman’s words and version of events, and indisputable medical proof, against varsity football players who have lied and changed their story through the course an investigation, that some form of justice would be done.

You would think that maybe, just maybe, campus police would be more thorough, that judicial panels of university administrators wouldn’t be so callous and clueless in conducting a “trial” of sorts. But sadly once again, you’d be wrong.

In the latest despicable act of “justice,” I read this story in the Sunday New York Times about a freshman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges named Anna, her harrowing experience of being raped, and the horrendously bad conduct of the school in looking into it.

Needless to say, the three assailants got away pretty much scot-free, Anna is scarred for life, and Hobart and William Smith appear to have not a clue as to how to look at this.

As you read this story (and it’s long, but excellent), think about this from a letter to the editor Tuesday, about the story:

“Rape is a serious violent crime. College administrations have shown themselves time and again to be completely incompetent when addressing charges of sexual assault. Why do we allow this process in the first place? Would we allow a college administration to investigate a kidnapping? Would we allow it to adjudicate a murder charge? Of course not.”

**Next up, Louis CK made these comments about fatherhood back in 2010, but I just ran across them on Upworthy.com this week.

For once, Louie isn’t strictly trying to just be funny, but actually offers some pretty sound advice, advice I definitely plan on following.

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**Finally, so happy that one of my favorite shows of last year, one that surprised the hell out of me with how good it was, is back to save us from this TV wasteland of summer.

If you’re not already watching “Masters of Sex” on Showtime, I highly, highly recommend it. Telling the story of real-life groundbreaking sex researchers (and eventual lovers) William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the 1950s, this show gives us the complex dynamics of two people who were dedicated to their work, mocked by the medical establishment, yet keep pressing on.

The acting is tremendous; Michael Sheen (who in real life is now dating Sarah Silverman, which just seems so odd, those 2 together) and Lizzy Caplan are fantastic, and the supporting cast is great too (Beau Bridges and Allison Janney, as a couple struggling with a whole lot more than I can briefly explain here, both just got Emmy nominations for their roles in “Masters of Sex”).

The writing is sharp, sometimes funny, and always interesting. Season 2 started off with a great episode Sunday night (you can watch it for free here); definitely a good time to get into this show if you haven’t already.

Sure, there’s lots of sex and nudity in it (rarely a bad thing), but that’s almost banal and beside the point in this show. It’s just terrific.

New Roger Ebert movie is fantastic. Germany wins the World Cup (thankfully not in PKs). And a dog gives a baby a bath

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Roger Ebert did not get cheated by life. Not at all.
Sure, you could say he died too young, and that he suffered greatly in the last several years, enduring surgery after surgery to try to remove the cancer from his mouth and jaw, surgeries that eventually left him unable to speak, eat or drink except through a tube.

But Ebert packed so much living into the years he was on Earth, that when he died in 2013, he had a tremendous legacy to leave. He was, of course, one of the best and most-loved film critics of all time; he was a tremendous author, and lived live to the fullest, for better or for worse. He packed so much living into his years that he truly was content when he died.

The new documentary opening across the country this week about his life, directed by Steve James (of “Hoop Dreams” fame) and called “Life Itself,” shows Ebert in all his glory, warts and all.

I saw the film last week and loved it. James was given permission by Ebert to film the last few months of his life, and while some of the hospital care scenes are hard to watch, they’re necessary to show Ebert’s fighting spirit.

The interviews with Ebert’s friends, Bill Nack and Gene Siskel’s widow Melanie were especially terrific), are wonderful in showing what a garrulous personality he was, and how marrying his wife Chaz in 1991 changed his life for the better.

It’s really a well-done, poignant movie. Highly recommend it.

 

**Next up today, this is such a cute little video, sent to me by
loyal blog reader Sanford. It’s a girl and her dog named Bixby, hanging out, and Mom capturing one of the sweet little moments that make up life: Bixby giving his best buddy a “bath” one night last week.

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**And so the World Cup is finally over, as Germany, who pretty much dominated the game possession-wise, scored late in overtime (sorry, “extra time”) to beat Argentina, 1-0 and win the title for the first time since 1990.

The result is apparently at least a little bit of good news for Brazil fans, who hate Argentina passionately (apparently it’s like Yankees-Red Sox times 10), but the real story now is, and should be, the incredibly wasteful spending on World Cup and Olympic venues by Brazil, while the sanitation, schools and hospitals in the country go criminally neglected.

I’m currently reading a terrific book “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil,” by sportswriter Dave Zirin, about the awful state of Brazil’s economy and infrastructure and the protests surrounding these two world events, and it’s truly disgraceful the way these two world events were “won” by the Brazilian government.

For a fantastic story about life for “regular people” in Brazil during the Cup, and why we didn’t see massive protests on TV, check out this fantastic Wright Thompson piece from ESPN.com.

Good News Friday: I celebrate my 5-year blogiversary! The best school bus driver of all time shares his secrets. And a classic “first kiss” video makes me smile

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On July 11, 2009, World Wide of Stuff was born.

These were the first words I wrote on the site you’re now reading:

**So as I sat in my eight-bedroom mansion by the lake the other night (actually, my two bedroom apartment near a fake pond, but whatever), I thought, “how can I help my fellow man today? Can I give my time to a worthy charity? Should I try to make a difference in the life of a child?”

Nah. There’s plenty of time for that in the future. So I decided to start a blog.

Does the world need another blog, especially one by a 33-year-old sports writer? Of course not. But then again, we didn’t need a reality show about housewives in New Jersey, but we got one.

All right, so it wasn’t exactly Updike or Fitzgerald.

So much in my life has changed since this site started. For one, I no longer live in a two-bedroom apartment in Florida; now I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.
I was married then, and I’m married now, but to a different woman than I was back then (hey, life is complicated).
I left one career (newspaper journalism), started another (teaching), and am about to embark on the hardest and most rewarding job of them all: Being a father.

I truly had no idea what this site would evolve into, or if anyone would ever read it. At its best it’s been a conversation, and hopefully some of the issues I’ve ranted about, or linked to, have made you think, laugh, or cry just a little bit.

I’ve written 1,467 posts (I just looked it up), which sounds like a lot but is basically a little less than one a day), and I still get a little thrill when someone in real life or in cyberspace tells me they read my post that day and liked it.

I said a few months ago when “announcing” that our first baby will be born in September that I have no idea what that will mean for the blog; I’m thinking my daily weekday pace may slow down (infants suck up a whole of time, I’ve heard!) but who knows, maybe I’ll need to blog more to keep myself sane.

I promise that the blog will continue in some form, and that it won’t ever devolve into daily  posts of “let me tell you about the adorable thing my kid did today!” (Because other than my parents, nobody really wants to read that).

I’ve had so much fun writing this for the last five years, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for stopping by.

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**OK, time for some real good news. There’s a line in the movie “The Color of Money” (which I love but so many people dislike) where Paul Newman talks about how he invests in and appreciates excellence, wherever he finds it.

That’s how I feel about Larry Hannon of Westminster, Pa., who might be the best school bus driver of all time.
He’s won 8 NSTA International Safety Competitions, or “roadeos,” this story reports (who knew there were bus driver Olympics?), more than anybody else ever has.

Listening to Hannon talk about his job, you can just feel the joy he gets out of it.

“I just like to drive the buses and it’s fun with the kids and all,” he said.

Hannon added that his favorite part of the job is “trying to get a good rapport with the students on the bus, trying to be a positive influence on them … That’s the neatest part of it, the kids on the bus.”

Good on ya, Larry Hannon. Keep doing what you love.

**And finally, on this blogiversary, I wanted to finish with one of my favorite videos I’ve ever posted on here. It’s a simple little scene of a little boy, a little girl, and first love, and it makes me smile every time I watch.

Hope you smile at it again, too. Take it away, Elliott and Bowie… (Click here to see them one year later).