Good News Friday: Duke’s loss to Syracuse bummed me out, but it raised $175,000 for a great cause. A homeless man finds a check for $10,000, and it changes so many lives. And the app that locks your kid’s phone until they text you back.

And a Happy Friday, peeps! Hope you’re having a kick-ass day wherever you are; here in the Northeast we’re expecting a big ole’ snowstorm on Saturday night, so if nothing else, I’ll get to try out the new snow shovel I bought when we moved to suburbia a few months ago.

Want to start off Good News Friday talking about a Duke basketball game, but it’s not good news in the way I normally talk about my beloved Blue Devils.

Because this good news story comes not from me being excited about a Duke win, but what happened because of a fairly stunning Duke loss on Monday (hey, Duke was playing without two of its starters, it happens.)

A huge Syracuse fan and booster named Adam Weitsman made a promise on social media that if the Orange scored the upset Monday, he’d donate $150,000 to the Boys & Girls Club.

Well, the ‘Cuse got it done, winning 95-91, and Weitsman has agreed to pay up. This ESPN story says “Weitsman said he called officials with the Boys & Girl Club on Tuesday and made arrangements to deliver $50,000 apiece to three Boys & Girls Clubs in Owego, Binghamton and Syracuse. His buddies reminded him he’d forgotten to mention another club in Endicott, so he added another $25,000 donation for a grand total of $175,000 to charity after his favorite team’s upset of the Blue Devils.”

This guy Weitsman has quite a backstory: He’s a convicted felon who spent nearly a year in prison in 2004 for bank fraud. Since then, he has made a fortune as the owner of Upstate Shredding, a $1 billion scrap metal and recycling company. He reportedly owns a $30 million mansion on Skaneateles Lake in New York.

Good on him for making such a big donation; Boys & Girls Clubs do so much for so many kids who need a place to hang out, get a mentor, and learn about life.

**Next up today, this is a pretty remarkable story from Steve Hartman and CBS News. A homeless man named Elmer Alvarez found a $10,000 check on the street in New Haven, Conn., last year, and immediately, instead of trying to cash it, tried to track down the woman it belonged to.

Her name is Roberta Hoskie, a successful real estate broker in the state, and what she and Alvarez have done since their meeting is quite wonderful.

So much fate and luck involved in turning around someone’s life sometimes. So many people who you look down on for being homeless or poor, just need a chance. A chance like Elmer Alvarez was given.

**Finally today, my stepsister Lori pointed this out to me, and maybe it’s because she has a couple of teenagers it appealed to her. But I think this is an awesome idea even if your kids are young.

A father has made an app that locks children’s phones until they write back to their parent. Seriously, this is a thing.

The app, called ReplyASAP, makes text messages “unmissable between people that matter, since important messages shouldn’t be missed,” says its creator.

Nick Herbert created the app, which can freeze your child’s phone and even sound an alarm in silent mode. It essentially forces teenagers to stop what they are doing and reply to their worried parents.

Brilliant. Now no more Fortnite until you tell Mom when you’re coming home for dinner and who you’re with!

 

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Season 2 of “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was solid, until the last five minutes. Snoop Dogg does NHL play-by-play and it’s awesome. And the new Gillette ad is fantastic

You may remember I was very, very enthused when “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” debuted on Amazon Prime in 2017. Set in late-1950s New York, it starred Rachel Brosnahan as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a Jewish housewife with two kids who, in the first episode, impulsively gets up on stage at a comedy club her husband performs at, when he announces he’s leaving her for another woman.

Filled with wonderful acting and great scripts from one of my all-time faves, Amy Sherman-Palladino, “Mrs. Maisel” got huge plaudits from fans and critics.

So me and the wife were very excited to start watching season 2 a few weeks ago, even though we’d heard it wasn’t quite as good in its sophomore year.

Finished it the other night, and a spoiler-free review forthcoming:
First off, I liked the season as a whole… right up until the last five minutes. Honestly, everything I’m about to say was almost ruined by the final scene of the final episode of the season. That’s how much I hated the ending.

But first, season 2 is very different in some ways from Season 1. We finally do start to see Midge’s stand-up career take off a little, as she struggles to be taken seriously by NYC club owners, and other comics. Her manager, played by the awesome Alex Bornstein, is also great, as the streetwise, tough-talking Susie.

We spend much more time with Midge’s parents, Abe and Rose, and it’s mostly fabulous. Tony Shalhoub, who’s good in everything, gets much more screen time this season, and he’s perfect as the cantankerous brainiac professor who can’t understand why his little girl would get up on stage and tell jokes.

We also, regrettably, get a whole lot of Joel, Midge’s jerk of a husband, in Season 2. As what happened in “Gilmore Girls” when she ran that show, Sherman-Palladino just falls in love with these doofus characters and thinks the audience will too. Joel offers very little except providing us reasons to see his parents, played hilariously by Caroline Aaron and Kevin Pollak.

There are lots of high marks in the season; the comedy Midge does onstage is usually really funny. There are a few episodes in Paris, and a few in the Catskills, that don’t advance the story much but are beautifully shot and fun to look at.

And so I was feeling really good about season 2, until the last scene. I’m not going to give it away, I promise. But the choice the writers make when looking to end the season, really calls into question everywhere they’re going in season 3. And I’m worried, because I really like this show.

But what happens at the end is just so illogical, and not on a par with everything that’s happened before.

OK I better stop before I rant some more and give it away. Anyway, maybe you’ll have a different opinion.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” had a strong season 2, definitely watch it. And then tell me what you think of the ending, because oy vey.

**Next up today, this new ad from Gillette has gone viral in a huge way, and I’m very happy it has. Taking a break from their “The Best A Man Can Get” slogan that it has used for decades, Gillette has decided to hop aboard the #MeToo train and cut this striking commercial challenging “toxic masculinity.”

It’s appealing to men to be different, to stop all the caddish behavior so many of us unfortunately still do, and it’s really beautifully put-together.

Good for Gillette; this is one of the best ads I’ve seen in years. Very effective stuff.

**Finally today, you can always count on Snoop Dogg for two things: talking about weed, and hilarity. He gave us the latter this week, when he stopped by the Los Angeles Kings broadcast booth to do a little play by play.

I fast-forwarded to the best part, when the Kings get a power play and they let Snoop just talk for a bit. “Who wants that money?” is my favorite sentence, but really, it’s so great all the way through.

Ah, Snoop. There’s a broadcasting career ahead of you if you wanted it.

The NFL Playoffs gave us only one good game, but next Sunday should be awesome. A crazy-good clairvoyant act on “America’s Got Talent.” And the Australian Open is starting, yay!

Well, you could choose to look at the NFL divisional playoff weekend we just had in one of two ways.

You can take the view that I’m sure most people will, that what’s usually a terrific, close, competitive quartet of games was mostly a dud, as the Rams, Patriots and Chiefs had easy wins, and only the Saints-Eagles game Sunday was exciting. So you could conclude that it was a boring weekend.

Or, you can take an optimistic view, and say we’ve got two massively great games scheduled for the AFC and NFC championship games next Sunday, thanks to the teams who won.

Kansas City vs. New England at Arrowhead Stadium. New Orleans vs. the L.A. Rams down in Louisiana. Should be a whole lot of fun. Both games ought to be high-scoring and down to the wire. They’ve gotta be better than what we just saw, right?

See, I’m an optimist.

Some quick-hit thoughts on the weekend’s games…

— Let’s start with the only really good game. The Eagles pounced on the Saints, 14-0 in the first quarter and damned if I didn’t start thinking, “Is Nick Foles really going to do this again, get incredibly hot and lead his team back to the Super Bowl?”
Then, New Orleans woke up, and squeaked out a 20-14 win with just enough offense. If I’m the Saints, I’m not feeling that confident these days. Drew Brees and Co. have not looked nearly as explosive the last several weeks as they had prior, and they’ve got a huge test in the Rams next week.

— The Patriots looked scary, scary good on Sunday. That was a good Chargers team they walloped, and like everyone else, I’ve run out of ways to praise the dominance of New England. Do you realize they’re about to play in the their eighth straight AFC title game? That is insane.

— The Rams didn’t quite look as impossible-to-stop Saturday night as they did earlier in the season, but man it is fun to watch them on offense. So many weapons, so smooth, and Todd Gurley in the backfield is special.

— Why oh why do instant replays in football take forever? I particularly love when the “rules analyst” every network has in the booth definitely tells us the call should go one way, then the referee on the field goes the opposite way. As Al Michaels said a few weeks ago on a telecast, the refs really are just making it up as they go along.

— I’m picking with my heart and my head for the title games. Give me the Chiefs, with home-field being a big help, and the Rams, getting it done in New Orleans. That would give us one hell of a fun Super Bowl.

**Next up today, I’m starting to get sucked back into “America’s Got Talent” again, now that they’ve got this “Champions” season going on. And so the other night I watched in amazement this act called “The Clairvoyants,” two people named Tommy and Amelie who are pretty incredible at predicting the future.

This is beyond the usual “psychic down at the corner store” kind of stuff. I’m kind of blown away by this. Watch and then pick your jaw up off the floor.

** Finally today, it’s a wonderful time of year for tennis fans like me, because after an offseason that felt like it lasted forever (OK it was only two months), pro tennis is back and more specifically, the Australian Open is here.

It began Sunday night, and the Aussie Open is notoriously hard to predict, since it’s the first Slam of the year, everyone’s healthy and fired up, and so anything can happen.

A ton of great storylines as usual this year in Melbourne, including: Can two-time defending champ Roger Federer win again, or is age finally catching up to him? Novak Djokovic dominated the second half of last season and already has won six Aussie Open titles, can anything stop him? Is Nadal healthy?

On the women’s side, things are wide open as usual. Can Naomi Osaka follow up her amazing U.S. Open title and win again? Is Serena ready to win again after losing two Slam finals last year? And is it time for Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys to triumph in Melbourne?

Nobody knows the answers. Which is why I love tennis so much.

We saw a huge upset that I was personally invested in Sunday night, as Reilly Opelka, a kid from Palm Coast, Fla., I wrote about when he was 11 and used to be taller than (he’s now a 7-footer), scored a huge upset and beat No. 9 seed John Isner.

Great kid from a great family. Very happy for him.

In my younger days I’d stay up most of the night during the Aussie Open, sacrificing sleep for tennis. Can’t do that anymore, but I’ll still love watching what I can see.

ESPN or ESPN 2, every night starting at 7. Can’t wait.

 

Good News Friday: The mayor of NYC says the city will provide free health care for ALL of its residents. An air traffic controller does something awesome for a crying passenger. And a schoolteacher has the flight of her life thanks to great kindnesses

And a Happy Friday, denizens of the Internet. Hope you are somewhere warm today, as we freeze our tushes off here in NYC. Have to be honest with you, not a whole lot of good news going on in America right now for me to bring to you on Good News Friday this week, or maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places.

Between this ridiculous, painful and wholly unnecessary government shutdown, and other events (poor Andy Murray has to retire from tennis because of injury, that bummed me out Thursday night) there’s a lot of bleakness.

But there’s plenty of goodness, too, which I want to share. First off, let’s start in my home state of New York, where our progressive mayor of NYC, Bill de Blasio, announced a pretty major and drastic program that will ensure that undocumented immigrants and low-income city residents who don’t qualify for insurance will still receive medical treatment.

According to this New York Times story, “New York City already provides health care to the uninsured and the undocumented through its hospital system, a roughly $8 billion behemoth whose history of service to the poor, regardless of an ability to pay, can be traced to the founding of Bellevue Hospital in the 18th century. A person without medical insurance has long been able to go to a city emergency room and get care, free of charge, or to seek a primary-care physician.

But the financially challenged system did not work well to connect patients to doctors, Mr. de Blasio said. He promised a streamlined approach — complete with a hotline and dedicated membership card — and one that would be focused on the primary-care doctor, rather than the emergency room.”

More details here:  “The mayor’s proposal is a mix of insurance and direct spending, and Mr. de Blasio said it would take about two years to get it fully running. The city already has a kind of public option for health insurance for low-income New Yorkers, through an insurance plan run by city hospitals known as MetroPlus.

The new proposal would improve that coverage, which already insures some 516,000 people, and aim to reach more of those who are eligible, such as the young and uninsured, and others who qualify but have not applied.

It would also provide additional direct city spending, at least $100 million per year when fully implemented, officials said, for the city’s hospital system to support care for those without insurance. “

This is outstanding. Health care should be a right, not a privilege in this country of so much wealth, and I’m glad New York City, and many other cities and states around the country, are finally starting to realize that.

I’ve been critical, as have many of my fellow liberals, of de Blasio’s, shall we say, less than inspiring five years as mayor. But this is a big step in the right direction.

 

**Next up today, I thought this was very awesome. Jahmaul Allen, a ramp agent for American Airlines, saw a child crying on the airplane right in front of him last week. So he decided to start dancing to try to cheer the kid up.

Hey, he had me laughing. Very cool little moment. Isn’t life really all about the cool little moments that occur in between what we call “the big stuff?”

To quote Linda Richman from “Saturday Night Live,” “Discuss.”

**And finally today, I love a good “people help out a teacher” story, and this one is definitely a little different. A public school teacher working in inner-city Chicago flew to Florida to visit her parents over the holidays, and had a life-changing trip on her flight.

Bermudez talked to her seatmate, a stranger, about life and funding in inner-city schools, and after a few minutes, the man asked to get her information; the company he works for likes to donate items to schools like hers, he explained. Maybe they could work something out.

The kind gesture already made her flight a heartening one. But then things really took a turn. Bermudez felt a tap on her shoulder.

The man sitting behind her apologized for having eavesdropped on her conversation — then handed her a stack of cash.

The bill on top was $100.

One thing has led to another, and other passengers got involved, and the story went viral, and Bermudez’s school has gotten $4,000 in donations from total strangers.

It’s really a beautiful story; read the rest here.

A library on the U.S.-Canada border shines a light on U.S. in 2018. The sad life of an NFL punter on a great offense. And a new Netflix show you’ve never heard of is totally awesome

I’m not going to waste any of your time talking about the angry white racist in the White House’s “speech” last night, because it’s not worth the gunk on the bottom of your shoe that accrues as you walk down the sidewalk. Needless to say, rarely in American politics has one man’s ego and stubbornness caused so many hundreds of thousands of people to go without pay. But here we are.

Instead, I want to start today with this wonderful little radio story from “This American Life.” It’s by producer Zoe Chace, and it’s about a remarkable place in Derby Line, Vermont, that straddles the border between the U.S. and Canada. Literally, the town library is divided between the two countries, located partly in Derby Line and partly in Stanstead, Quebec. Flower pots are aligned at one point to indicate the border.

What “This American Life” explores about this place is how it’s been used by Iranian students living in America trying to reunite with their families, and how this one little library, at least the Canada part, has been a lifeline.

It’s seven minutes of fascinating listening, showing the extreme lengths families have to go to these days, thanks to the xenophobic policies of this administration. Take a listen here; it’s quite a window into our current world.

**Next up today, I thought this was hilarious. The Kansas City Chiefs have been the highest-scoring offense in the NFL this year, and have a great shot at winning the Super Bowl. They play the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, and once again, the Chief with the most boring job on the team has to be punter Dustin Colquitt. Because he never gets to play. Because the Chiefs hardly ever punt.

The Kansas City social media team put together this video showing Colquitt, and how he spends most games.

I love it. Poor punters, no respect.

**Finally today, when someone I trust, like my friend Steve M., tells me to watch a show, that I’m sure to love it and if I watch it, I’ll definitely be blogging about it, then of course I need to give it a try. I trust Steve’s opinion on most things, and despite his fatal flaw of being a fan of the North Carolina men’s basketball team, he’s generally a good fellow.

And of course, he was absolutely right on this one.

On the surface, the new show “Derry Girls” on Netflix doesn’t exactly seem like my cup of tea. It’s about a group of teenage friends growing up in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, dealing with The Troubles and bomb scares and life at a strict Catholic high school and parents and all of that.

But instead of it being a trite, cliche-filled show, it’s freaking brilliant. And hilarious. And raucous.

The characters, from constantly anxiety-riddled Clare to foul-mouthed and sex-crazed Michelle to sad British boy and butt of all jokes James, are all perfectly drawn, and the writing is whip-smart. You may need subtitles at first because the Irish accents are gravy-thick, but you’ll pick up on the language soon enough.

“Derry Girls” is only six episodes long, and each one is only about 22 minutes, so it won’t take you long to get through it. But I’m telling you, it’s just about the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s better than a “British comedy,” and even the grownups don’t seem like caricatures, and they have some wicked funny lines, too.

I’m telling you, I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Give “Derry Girls” a try on Netflix. Any show that can refer to John Travolta as “the disco dancer from Look Who’s Talking” is worth a shot.


							

An entertaining night at the Golden Globes, with some surprise winners. And NFL wild-card weekend was boring until the end, as the Eagles survive a thriller

Every year the Golden Globe awards kind of sneak up on me. I know they’re in early January, I’m aware the calendar has turned, and then a day or two before they’re held I read something and I’m like “Oh yeah, the Globes are this Sunday!”

You know I love awards shows, even when they’re bad, so of course I have many thoughts on Sunday night’s long telecast, which I mostly enjoyed.

— OK, gotta start with the major award winners. Can someone please explain to me how a movie about Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” wins the best picture award for drama, and not musical or comedy, and “Green Book,” which I loved, wins best musical or comedy when it’s really pretty much a drama?
I know the Globes are weird, like the crazy uncle at everyone’s Thanksgiving, but that’s really, really weird.

— OK, got that off my chest. On to other stuff; I surprisingly enjoyed the hosts, Andy Sanberg and Sandra Oh. I’m not a Sanberg fan at all, but he and Oh were funny. The monologue curveball of telling the famous actors and actresses in the audience how great they were was good, as was Oh’s declaration to all the people of color in the crowd that this moment, when so much of their work was being recognized, was real.

— My favorite thing from the hosts was the skit where they gave free flu shots to all the celebs. The fact that they kept inexplicably showing Jim Carrey all night made me wonder; He’s an anti-vaxxer, do you think he refused the flu shot? I also laughed hard at the “Inspiring Globe moments” montage featuring just clips of Oh and Sanberg winning.

— Still, as I say every year, why can’t Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host everything? They’re amazing.

— Winners I was thrilled about: Of course the highlight of the night for me was seeing “The Americans” finally get rewarded, as it is one of the five best shows of all time. I also very much enjoyed “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” winning for best actress for Rachel Brosnahan (I’m not loving Season 2 as much as Season 1, but much more on that in a post once I’m finished with Season 2), loved that “Green Book” got showered with love, and was very pleased to see Regina King win, because she’s great in everything.

I was shocked “Black Panther” and “A Star is Born” got shut out, just because they were so huge this year.

— Great speeches: Glenn Close (above) had the speech of the night, about empowering women, while Regina King’s was great, and oh yes Miss Carol Burnett, the amazing Carol Burnett, gave a heartfelt and sweet speech after getting a lifetime achievement award.

— I always find it interesting that even with so much amazing work being done on TV, at the Globes it always feels like TV shows and actors get second-class billing, that the movies get the last awards, and are treated with so much more prestige.

— Best dressed: Idris Elba, as always, is crazy handsome; my wife literally gasped when he walked out on stage and then started speaking (sure, he’s got lots of things I don’t, but does he know exactly how to get my wife’s coffee and bagel? I didn’t think so. I don’t feel threatened!) Allison Janney was stunning, as was Taraji P. Henson and Julianne Moore, who I adore.

— Worst-dressed: The wife says Darren Criss looked silly, while I want to know what was living under Rachel Weisz’ dress.

— Finally, the line of the night definitely goes to Christian Bale, who won for playing Dick Cheney in “Vice.”: Thank you to Satan for giving me inspiration to play this role.”

Even Satan be like “Nah, Dick Cheney is way worse than me.”

**And now to the NFL, where wild-card weekend, as sometimes happens, was fairly boring until the end of the two Sunday games, and suddenly things got pretty darn exciting.

The final game of the weekend was the most dramatic, and I must say that that horseshoe that’s been planted up the Philadelphia Eagles’ rear end for the past two playoffs is clearly still up there. After scoring a dramatic, fourth-down go-ahead touchdown in the final minute, the Eagles allowed the Chicago Bears to drive down the field, setting up a final play 43-yard field goal attempt from Cody Parkey.

Improbably, impossibly, Parkey’s field goal hit the upright, THEN hit the crossbar, and instead of bouncing over the bar for a successful kick, it bounced back toward the field. And the Eagles, somehow, had survived again.

Poor Parkey. Guy has been getting destroyed, predictably, on social media over the miss, but he’s a human being and people should not take sports so seriously. No one player in football is ever totally responsible for a loss; the great Bears D allowed Philly a TD drive in the final minutes, they get some blame, too.

— Meanwhile,  Nick Foles, two years in a row, as a backup QB has come on and led the Eagles to a playoff win. Methinks maybe that guy gets a starting gig somewhere soon.

— I am all aboard the Los Angeles Chargers (still feels really strange to write that “Los Angeles” part) bandwagon! I love, love, love their defense, they ran the ball just well enough to win Sunday at Baltimore, and Philip Rivers is a playoff-tested, bad-ass QB who is fun to root for. It also kills me that their head coach, Anthony Lynn, is so good, since he was a Jets assistant for years and they never seriously considered making him the head coach.

I am absolutely picking the Chargers to beat New England next week. But maybe that’s my heart talking.

— It’s been a long, long time since the Dallas Cowboys have been really good. That was a solid win over the Seahawks Saturday night but for all the hype about Dak Prescott a few years back when he burst onto the scene, I just don’t know if he’s really all that elite. Guy makes a lot of bad throws.

— Andrew Luck vs. Pat Mahomes next week? Yes please. Luck is a really easy guy to root for; I’m really happy he’s healthy again and playing well. I think the game of next weekend is Chargers-Pats, but Cowboys-Rams could be entertaining as well.

 

A new edition of the Daddy Chronicles, starring a 4-year-old who is not exactly “tough,” and a 14-month old smiling destroyer

All right, it’s the first Friday of 2019, and I’m in the mood to share some family joys and triumphs, some frustrations and some laughs, some details that will surely embarrass my offspring a decade from now when their friends discover this on the Internet.

Yep that’s right, time for another edition of the Daddy Chronicles. I was just looking and noticed that the last two kid posts have been letters to my boys on their birthday, so it’s been quite a while since I’ve written about their lives. And oh boy, there’s a lot to share, as my 4-year-old, Nate has firmly reinforced his reputation in some ways and invented new behaviors in others, while 14-month -old Theo is becoming a little boy way too fast, and loves to smile while he destroys things.

— OK, so let’s start with the big brother, Nate. He’s shown great progress in so many ways the last six months or so; his vocabulary continues to grow by leaps and bounds, he’s actually doing some addition and subtraction in his head now (go, preschool teachers, they’re doing a great job!) his handwriting may already be better than mine (not saying much, I know) and he’s an all-around great kid.

But the tears. Oh, the tears. He cries over everything. I’m telling you, Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice” didn’t cry as much in the whole movie as my 4-year-old does in a week. Every little thing, whether he’s mildly hurt himself, is angry about not getting his way about something, or just is upset in general, leads to weeping.

Parents of older kids tell us they’ll outgrow this. I sure hope so, otherwise I’m buying a whole lotta stock in Kleenex.

— Nate is a wonderful big brother, a caring and sensitive friend to all, and most of the time a really obedient son. But man, when he digs in and doesn’t want to do something, the army of a mid-sized nation couldn’t get him to budge.

Back in the fall he came down with an ear infection. Not a big deal for 99 percent of 4-year-olds. We went to the doctor, she prescribed an antibiotic, take it for a week, boom, you’re done.
Except my first-born only likes certain medicines, like Claritin or Benadryl. Hates almost everything else. So he absolutely refused to take the antibiotic, throwing an enormous fit each time we tried to have him take it.

I had them make it grape-flavored, just like he likes it. Wouldn’t drink it. We tried putting it into his milk, and his food, and hoping he wouldn’t notice.
Nope, he refused. We bribed him, we begged, we tried the “sneak-attack” routine where I snuck up on him and tried to shoot it into his mouth, we pleaded, we even (and I’m not proud of this) literally held him down, pinched his nose, and tried to force the medicine down his throat.

Nothing worked. And his ear still hurt a lot. Finally, after we were seriously considering having the doctor give him an “antibiotics shot” which is like a last resort, the infection went away, and he’s been fine since.

But man oh man, I do not want to go through that again. Hoping and praying he matures in this area before the next illness.

— So I’m sure most of you have heard of Alexa, the Amazon intercom/information device that millions of people, including me, have bought and ingratiated into their lives. We’ve got a bunch of them in our house (much better than screaming from the ground floor to the top) and it really has almost become a family member, so much so that the little guy Theo points at it sometimes and says “eh, eh” because he knows it talks.

We use it for so many things, but nobody loves it like Nate. He plays his favorite songs on Alexa, uses it as a timer (when I tell him he has five more minutes to play before coming up for dinner, he’ll tell Alexa “Alexa, set timer for five minutes,” and, in my absolute favorite use, every morning before getting dressed, he asks Alexa what day it is.

This is so he knows which pair of his Days of The Week underwear to put on. (He can’t read the words, but he’s memorized which color goes with which day).

Ah, Alexa. Who knew you’d be used for such an important piece of info?

— The other really funny thing about Nate lately is his confusion about Christmas lights. We live in a mixed neighborhood; lots of Jews, lots of Christians. And we have some friends whose Christmas tree we always help decorate every year, and this year he was happy to take part.

But then on the way home from doing that, as we saw lights up around our neighborhood, he blurted out “We have to put up OUR Christmas lights soon!”

We tried to explain to him that, see, that menorah we have in our window? That’s our version of Christmas lights. I think he got it. But he sure does love Christmas lights.

— OK, on to the little guy. Theo is crawling like a speed demon these days, doing everything involved in walking except, you know, actually doing it (he takes a few sideways steps, then falls down). He’s the happiest little guy we’ve ever seen, whether it’s eating (still a champ at that, and we’re still waiting to discover the first food he doesn’t like) and he’s a joy to be around.

— But the destruction and havoc he causes. So much destruction. He loves knocking down everything in his path, reaching and destroying things we didn’t know he could reach, and hitting his parents and his brother while smiling and giggling so much.

And the first few times he did it, hitting us in the face while laughing, it was funny. But the little pisher weighs 25 pounds now, and is getting stronger every day, and getting conked by him constantly has ceased being enjoyable. He’s loosened my teeth with a few “head raises to my jaw” and his hits seem to be getting harder.
We try scolding/correcting him, we try ignoring it, but he just keeps doing it. He’s just so darn happy to get a reaction out of us, my wife thinks, that he keeps doing it.
Fortunately, he hasn’t truly hurt anyone yet. But while I know the destroying stuff in our house phase will last a while, I really wish the hitting would go away soon.

— Finally, it’s been heartwarming and a little strange seeing our second child start to illustrate the same behaviors as our first at the same stage. Simple things like Theo waving at every person he sees, starting to hand me his bottle or cup when he’s done with it, or suddenly becoming obsessed with shoes, are all behaviors we saw with Nate. It’s like we’ve created a little factory of tiny blonde boys who all act the same.

It’s kinda cool. But a little weird, too.

Happy New Year! As we head to 2019, Dave Barry’s Year in Review is always a must-read. “Springsteen on Broadway” was phenomenal, especially “Thunder Road.” And the funniest and truest marriage tweets ever.

Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope 2019 turns out to be the best year of our lives, or at least, you know, a good one. We Lewises rang out the old year in fun fashion, spending most of the day at the home of some very close friends and their adorable children, then after our kids went to bed my wife and I spent a quiet night watching TV and missing the old CNN NYE shows where Kathy Griffin would humiliate and embarrass Anderson Cooper.

Wanted to start off 2019 with the inimitable, and always hilarious, Dave Barry. Every year the multi-best selling author and humorist from the Miami Herald takes a look back at the last 12 months as only he can. Truly, Barry may be the funniest man in America.

Some highlights from his as-always fantastic column:

January… In youth fads, the American Association of Poison Control Centers continues to receive reports of young people suffering ill effects from eating Tide detergent pods. Asked to explain why young people would persist in eating something that tastes terrible and makes them sick, an AAPCC spokesperson says, “As far as we can determine, it’s because they’re stupid.”

March: In entertainment news, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, seeking to atone for the 2017 envelope fiasco, return to the Academy Awards stage and triumphantly announce that the winner of the Oscar for best picture is “Gone With the Wind.” Fortunately by then nobody is watching.

May: The biggest story by far is the wedding of American ex-actress Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, who is in the direct line of succession to the British throne behind Prince Louis of Cambridge, who is behind Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, who is behind Prince George of Cambridge, who is behind Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who is behind Charles, Prince of Wales, who is 70, but any year now could get his shot at becoming the anachronistic ceremonial figurehead of one of the world’s most second-rate powers. With the stakes so high, the media giddiness level soars to Defcon 1; the wedding cake alone gets more media coverage than Africa and global climate change combined.

Augusta Virginia jury finds former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty of tax evasion, bank fraud and having a name that can be rearranged to spell “Fart Upon Lama.” Only minutes later, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleads guilty in New York to various charges, including arranging hush-money payments in 2016 to Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal “at the direction of a candidate for federal office” who is not named but was obviously Bernie Sanders.

December: In a more positive story, NASA’s interplanetary InSight lander proves to be a technological success and an inspiration to all Americans, distracting us from our petty political squabbles and uniting us in admiration of the stunning pictures it transmits back to Earth from the Martian surface, including a remarkably clear image of what a NASA spokesperson says “appears to be a large mound of uncounted ballots from Broward County, Florida.”

The whole Dave Barry column is brilliant; read the rest here.

**Next up, over the holidays we got a chance to watch “Springsteen on Broadway,” the legendary Bruce Springsteen’s one-man show he performed for six months in New York City in 2018.

It was… spectacular. Intimate, haunting, funny, (at one point he mocks that he spent his whole life writing songs about the working man when he’s never had a 5-days-a-week job “until now, doing this show. And I hate it!”) revelatory; Springsteen tells beautiful stories and of course, his music is extraordinary as well. My favorite part of the special by far, though, is this terrific slow version of his classic “Thunder Road.”

I’ve heard this song, oh, 100 times in my life, but never quite like this. Enjoy. And if you’re any kind of Springsteen fan at all, check out the Netflix special. So, so good.

**And finally today, there’s always some fine people on the Internet who occasionally collect the best and funniest Tweets about marriage over the past months, and as always they’re hilarious.

My wife and I have been married almost six years, and some of these are so dead-on we both were like “Yep, that’s us” on many of these.

The Best 50 of the year are here, but these are a few of my favorites.

 

As we leave 2018, remembering 3 more great acts of kindness: A school cafeteria worker gets an amazing surprise. A woman at Starbucks buys a stranger a drink, and it makes a huge difference. And neighbors helping neighbors in a Utah community

And happy last day of 2018, everyone! It’s been, well, it’s been a miserable year in some respects (politics, and sports for my favorite teams) but an amazing year for others. As we leave this year behind, one last post highlighting some of the good stuff I saw and was uplifted by in this year.

First, from a July Good News Friday: Debra Davis is an angel of a woman living in San Diego, who not only serves lunch to hungry high school kids there, but drives around after that in a beat-up old car serving food (paid for by herself) to homeless people.

Ms. Davis has been beloved for years, but finally the community got together and showed her love in a tangible way. As always, Steve Hartman of “CBS Sunday Morning” delivers the beautiful goods.

What a woman. Her reaction at the end is just priceless.

**Next up, this was from August, and just was so sweet. A woman named Mackenzie bought coffee for the stranger behind her at Starbucks one day, and this small act of generosity brought forth this incredible thank-you note.

Because it was no small thing for this woman. You never, ever know how desperately some people need a kind gesture that day.

Just great.

**And finally, this story, from September, moved me and gave me all the feels.

About 10 years ago Kathy Felt of Sandy, Utah was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and is confined to a wheelchair. Kathy needs a lot of help with daily tasks, and besides her two sons helping out, she’s got a crack staff of dozens of helpers.

Her neighbors. For a decade they’ve volunteered in shifts and done amazing work to help Kathy. Watch (below) Steve Hartman investigate and realize how much good there still is in the world…

Best of Good News Friday: An entire schoolkids’ worth of lunch debt wiped out by a great charity. A Wilmington, N.C. bar owner does an amazing thing for a customer and a thief who robbed her. And a 4-year-old superhero feeds the homeless.

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you all are reading this while relaxing on a beach somewhere warm, with a pina colada in your hands. If not, well, we can always dream.

Continuing my end-of-the-year theme in posting the Best Good News Friday items I’ve highlighted the past 12 months, have three more from earlier this year that I just absolutely love, and am thrilled to share again.

First up, this one was from March: I’ve written about this disgusting practice of “lunch-shaming,” before, where students whose parents have unpaid debt to the school are refused lunch in the school cafeteria or have their food thrown away when given to them.

Slowly, more and more schools are stopping this practice, and here’s a unique one: A charity run in the name of the late Philando Castile has erased the debt of every student in 56 Minneapolis-area schools, including the school Castile had worked at.

Castile, you may remember, was killed by police in 2016 at a traffic  stop, and as has been the case in so many of these police killings, the officer was acquitted.

But Castile, who worked as a cafeteria supervisor for J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, often reached into his own pocket to help kids pay for school lunch, so the charity felt this would be a wonderful way to pay tribute to him.

The charity, called Philando Feeds The Children, gave a check for a little more than $35,000 to the St. Paul School District, making sure every child can eat lunch without a stigma.

“Philando is STILL reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out. One by one,” the charity announced on the YouCaring.com fund-raising site this week.

Very, very well done.

**Next up, from May, this is one incredible story, once again from my man Steve Hartman of CBS News. A bar owner in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. (a town I used to live about two miles from, a really beautiful place) learned that a customer, a total stranger, had lost her wallet and wedding ring in his establishment one night last month.

What Jimmy Gilleece did next completely changed the lives of two people. Remarkable stuff considering how far he went to not only get the ring and wallet back, but to reach out to the troubled soul who took it.

Jimmy, if I’m ever in Wrighstville Beach again (shout out to Caroline’s bar there, where I used to do really bad but enthusiastic karaoke of Prince, Bruce Springsteen and others!), I’m buying everyone in your establishment a drink. And you too.

Finally today, this is my favorite person I “met” all year. I love this kid so much.

Meet Austin Perine of Birmingham, Ala., a 4-year-old boy turned superhero who has an amazing power: He feeds homeless people. Once a week, he and his Dad drive around the city and, using money from Austin’s allowance, give chicken sandwiches to hungry folks.

Asked by Steve Hartman of CBS News why he does it, he replies: “You know what Mr. Steve? It’s just the right thing to do,” Austin says with a smile.

Followed by his slogan he uses after feeding a homeless person, dressed in his “President Austin” garb.

“Don’t forget to show love!” he says.

I mean, come on! Is he not the cutest thing ever??? You’ll be happy to know that since this piece first aired in May, Burger King has offered to give Austin all the chicken sandwiches he needs to keep feeding strangers, and a GoFundMe page set up for Austin has raised $54,000..

Austin and his Dad T.J. plan to use the money raised to open a rehab facility to help re-integrate struggling homeless people back into society.

“Feeding the homeless is the highlight of my life!” Austin exclaims in the update video.

Watching this kid… man, how can you not be hopeful about the future of America?

UPDATE:  According to this story from a Birmingham site published last week, in addition to Perine’s accolades (he was recently named to a CNN “Most Influential People of 2018” list), he has raised $87, 254 toward conquering homelessness in 2018.  The latest numbers show that he is less than $750 away from his goal of $88,000.

According to Austin’s father, the GoFundMe fundraiser will do the following:

“Austin’s show love project is a nonprofit movement that will involve traveling and fighting hunger and establishing a facility that will help with food, toiletries, drug rehabilitation and shelter integration. The nonprofit organization is called the Show Love foundation.”

Visit the Show Love Fight Hunger GoFundMe page – HERE.