Monthly Archives: May 2012

A 91-year-old vet thrown off Florida voter rolls. Maybe the best baseball catch ever. And the single guy with a unique way of getting dating feedback

It’s not exactly breaking news that single guys will do just about anything to improve their chances to get women.
But very few have ever taken it as far as this guy I heard about on NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” this week. My new hero Michael Stoler is a 24-year-old guy from Philadelphia who was having trouble figuring out why he wasn’t having success with women.
So he created a date questionairre that he began emailing women he’d gone out with, asking them if they’d be helpful and tell him what he’s doing wrong or right.

Hey, it’s hard for us men to figure out what the hell you women want. Of course, predictably, our man Mike hasn’t gotten the best responses.

“Mike dresses like an old man and wears suspenders more than he should,” one woman said. Another woman said he had the manners of a 5-year-old.

But Mike said he’s gotten a few new dates out of the publicity his “surveys” have gotten. So you know, it’s all good.

Not sure I’d ever have had the chutzpah (or the creepiness) to do what Mike did. But hey, a guy’s gotta try something new when it’s not working with the ladies.

**I have not seen every baseball catch in the history of the world. But there can’t have been more than five or six better than the effort turned in by Derrick Salberg of Lower Columbia (Wash.) College. Check out this incredible catch in the last inning of a game his team lead by two runs.

This catch saved the game. And will be a story Salberg tells for the rest of his life.

**Finally, the state of Florida, under the “leadership” of America’s worst governor, Rick Scott, has been trying for years now to throw voters off the rolls for completely invalid reasons. Politicians try to eliminate voters for one simple reason: They don’t like how those people would vote (and geez, what a surprise, it’s usually poor people and minorities whose voting eligibility is challenged)

But man, in the words of Balki from “Perfect Strangers,” Rick Scott has really stepped in something good this time.  Bill Internicola is a 91-year-old World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Bronze Star.

But he received a notice a few weeks ago telling him he wasn’t a U.S. citizen and therefore couldn’t vote.

His response? “Are you crazy?”

It’s disgusting what Scott is doing in Florida. But we don’t get outraged about this stuff anymore, because it’s so common.

The married couple whose clothing has matched for 35 straight years. A very cool day with the Stanley Cup. And a 6-year-old makes the Spelling Bee finals

I really don’t even know what to say about this story, except that it’s just wrong, what this couple does.
Meet Mel and Joey Schwanke, who have been married for 64 years. That’s awesome, and God bless them for being married that long.
But the Omaha, Neb. couple have a bit of a different marriage: For every day of the past 35 years, the fabric of Joey’s tie has exactly matched the color of Mel’s dress.
Every. Single. Day.
They have, according to this story, 146 different outfit combinations they can choose from.
I mean, what can you say? I’ve heard of older couples who start dressing alike after being together for a while, but this is a little ridiculous.
If you click the link above, there’s a video of Mel and Joey, too. Highly recommend it.

**The Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight, and even though I’m sad the Rangers aren’t in it, it still should be a pretty compelling Finals. But the star, as it always is in the hockey playoffs, is the Stanley Cup itself. It’s the greatest trophy in sports, one I’m proud to say I’ve touched once (one of the best days of my life, truthfully).

Chris Jones, the wildly talented Esquire and ESPN writer, had a great story idea, executed well. He asked the NHL if he could borrow the Stanley Cup for a day, and just take it around his small Canada hometown and see people’s reactions to it.

What happens to Jones (and to people who touch it) is truly a great read.

**Finally, the first of what may be numerous posts this week about the National Spelling Bee. I am an ENORMOUS National Spelling Bee fan (it starts Wednesday, with the finals at 8 p.m. on Thursday night on ESPN), which I just explained to my fiance tonight.

I got a horrified laugh followed by a look of utter puzzlement from her, but hopefully no reaction that will make her give back the ring.

Anyway, the Bee is must-see TV for me every year, because A, I love seeing smart kids get rewarded by being famous for a few hours, and 2, because spelling is so horrendous among America’s children these days (believe me, I just finished grading 7th graders’ work for four months, we have a spelling epidemic in this country) and I like being reminded that some people can still spell.

Anyway, so the Bee is this week and I’m excited. Especially after I read this story, about a 6-year-old girl named Lori Anne Madison who is the youngest National Spelling Bee contestant in history. Lori sounds awesome, I hope she goes far!

A newspaper near-death in New Orleans. A fantastic wedding proposal video. And the Little League ump who goes too far

Sorry there was no blog on Monday, loyal readers. I figured most of you had the day off so I took it, too. Actually, was too busy to blog after being knee-deep in wedding-venue selection hoopla (post on that to come soon). Suffice to say, if I never hear the words “bridal attendant will be an extra charge” in my life, I’m good.

The hits keep on coming for those of us who love and worship newspapers. Every week, every month, every year, as the slow decline of print comes faster and faster, there are new reasons to mourn.
The reasons for the death of newspapers have been enumerated thousands of times, and you would think after so many job losses, budget cuts, and outright folding of papers we’d get immune to it.
But nope, it still hurts quite a bit. The latest blow cuts pretty deeply. Owners of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the only paper in the Big Easy and a Pulitzer-Prize winner in 2006 for its fantastic Katrina coverage, has announced it will only publish a paper three days a week starting this fall.
The rest of the operation will be online, though of course there will be a ton of job cuts as well.

“A great town deserves a great paper,” said David Carr of the New York Times. He’s right. But you can’t blame the locals; 75 percent of New Orleanians read the paper. It’s just there’s not enough of ’em anymore, not after Katrina devastated the town’s population.

Such a crying shame.

**Maybe it’s because I just proposed myself, but I find myself loving these unusual and unique wedding proposal ideas more and more these days. This one knocked my socks off (my friend Jen M. pointed it out to me on Facebook); it’s a guy named Isaac and his proposal to his girlfriend Amy involving a Bruno Mars song and 60 of the couple’s closest friends. And a moving car. Watch and enjoy and be amazed at how perfect the choreography is … (the good stuff starts at the :50 mark, everything before that is just lead-up).

**Finally, this Little League umpire may have the most excited “strike three” call in the whole world.
And frankly, I don’t think that’s a good thing. Someone needs to put less caffeine in this guy’s Gatorade between innings.

Excerpts from some great grad speeches. Finally, a perfect ketchup bottle is invented. And a genius new way to meet women

As we hit the end of May, there’s a whole bunch of graduating going on. High school kids, college kids, heck, I even read about a nursery school graduation from one of my Facebook friends on Thursday (What, exactly, do you have to do to NOT graduate from nursery school? Eat the paint they want you to draw with?)

My favorite part of graduation season is reading some of the terrific speeches famous people give at colleges. Sure, some of them are hokey and filled with cliches, but many of them are beautiful elegys to the possibilities of the world. They inspire me, and probably thousands of others.

The great Peter King of Sports Illustrated is also a fan of grad speeches, and has made a tradition of reprinting some of the best each year in his column. Here’s a link to this year’s highlights, but I’ve picked out a passage from Ted Koppel’s speech at the University of Massachusetts that I particularly liked. I feel the same way, Ted.

. One day, most Americans will point at us in the news media and say: “Why didn’t you tell us? Why did you encourage all that bile and venom? Why did you feed us all that trivial crap, when so many terrible things were converging? And no one will be happy with the answer. Least of all, those of us who offer it. “What we gave you,” we will say, “is what you wanted.”

At this critical juncture in your lives, then, let me urge you — no, let me implore you to want more. More substance, more real information about important issues, more fairness, more objectivity, more tolerance for views that differ from your own. You have a truly magical array of media at your disposal. Use them well.

**I love it when some of the world’s thorniest problems get solved. World peace? Nah, that’s still pretty far off. Hunger? Nope, lots of people still need food.
I’m talking about an eternal issue that’s plagued all of us: Trying to get ketchup to come out of a bottle when it just won’t come out.
Fortunately some scientists at MIT (and really, it’s not like they have anything better to work on) have invented a brand-new, totally kick-ass ketchup bottle, that will solve our woes. Watch the video above.

Excellent news, and well-done, MIT!

**Finally, some may say this is hubris, but I say it’s genius. A dude named David Coppini has created a business card destined to catch the attention of women he just met. (9:30 a.m. update: I have been clued in my two smart, much more “with-it” women in my life, my beautiful fiance and my smart friend Amanda who works with teenagers, that this is actually a song. And a pretty huge one at that. Just shows you that I wasn’t lying when I’ve told you I know NOTHING about current music).

Check this out:

I love it; I give him full marks for originality. I hope he gets a bunch of dates from it.
Of course, maybe women would be a little skeeved out by it. I have no idea what they think, something I realize more and more as I get older.

The Rangers leave me spent, emotionally. A 3-year-old in China rides a scooter through traffic. And Norma, the bike-riding dog

Whew. I’m exhausted.

I paced and ranted and screamed and cheered and finally fell back onto my couch, defeated and upset.

Last night’s Rangers-Devils game was like three games in one. Amazingly, in a game the Rangers had to have, on their home ice, they fell behind 3-0 before 14 minutes were played.
Stunning doesn’t begin to describe it. I was at a loss for words, especially when the best goalie in the world (Henrik Lundqvist) gave up a rebound goal and a soft wrist shot goal in the same period!

Then, the Rangers started taking over the game. They dominated the second half of the first period, the entire second period, and half the third. They tied the score at 3, the Garden was rocking, and I was suddenly believing they’d complete this improbable comeback.

It was the best game the Rangers played all series. This was the team I’d been waiting four games for.

Only, the comeback didn’t end happily. The Devils finally got the momentum back, scored the go-ahead goal, and soon it was over, a 5-3 Rangers loss.

So now they’ve got to do what they did against Ottawa: Win Game 6 on the road, and then come home and win Game 7.

There’s hope in history: This was the exact situation in 1994, when the Rangers and Devils played the best hockey playoff series I’ve ever seen. In ’94, Blueshirts lost Game 5 at home, then the “Messier guarantee” game happened in a Game 6 win, and then Stephane Matteau became a legend in double OT in Game 7.

Can it happen again? Sure. But man, it’s going to be awfully hard for the Rangers come back, emotionally, from this devastating loss.
Me? I’m just wiped out.

**OK, this is incredible. A 3-year-old in China wandered away from his grandfather’s house and started riding his motorized scooter through the streets. And somehow didn’t get run over.

Watch this with your jaw dropped, as I did. Unbelievable luck that the kid didn’t get killed.

**Finally, here’s Norma, the dog that’s been taught to ride a bike.  Don’t know what to say except that dog deserves a whole lot of milkbones when he gets home.

And a nice human leg to, you know, go to town on.

What grade level Congressmen speak to us at. A message from America’s teachers (sort of). And the criminal who was caught by his homework.

This is one of those studies that won’t get a lot of attention, but that says a lot about our elected leaders.

A group called the Sunlight Foundation has again analyzed the grade level at which each member of Congress speaks to the public.

The results? Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago, with the most conservative members of Congress speaking on average at the lowest grade level.

Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005.

So yes, just as many of us suspected, our leaders are dumbing things down to speak to the least educated among us. That’s partly how we get a Tea Party movement in America; leaders speak simple, hateful, easy to digest words, pit one side against the other, and fear-monger until they get what they want. (If you think it’s not just a GOP thing, how about this: The lowest 14 scores were all from Republicans.)

I can see the argument some might make, that our leaders should speak to a level  the majority of people can understand (the average American speaks at a 9th grade level, which is very sad).
But is it too much to ask for our elected officials to be better than that?

Apparently so. The whole list from the Sunlight Foundation is here.

**This was from Jimmy Kimmel’s show two weeks ago, but I just saw it now (hat tip to my father on this one). It’s about National Teacher Appreciation Day, which of course should be every day but isn’t. And it contains some NSFW language, but it also is hilarious. Here’s what teachers wish we could say to parents.

**Finally, a story that will warm the heart of any parent of a teenager. An 18-year-old Utah boy was arrested for burglary last week. How was he caught?
He left his homework at the crime scene.

Police in Orem, Utah tracked a USB drive found at the home Dallas Naljahih had allegedly just robbed. When they put it in, Dallas’ homework was on it, with his name on it, of course.

Ah, Dallas. Always remember to take your homework home from school before starting a crime spree. It’s a lesson my Dad always taught me.

My final grad school class and “temporary” friends. Mark Zuckerberg’s wife has legally required “us” time.. And the Rangers stink yet again

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The end is near (and just because of the super-cool time-lapse eclipse video above).

No, not for the world. My one-year, super-speedy,  “graduate school on accelerated steroids” program is just about over.

After Monday night, I’ve now got one more class left this semester, and three more days of student teaching.
It’s been really interesting for many reasons, going back to school after a 15-year absence, but one thing hit me Monday night. My classmates and I took a final exam, and as I looked around the room during the test I saw people who I had never met a year ago at this time. But starting last July when we all started summer school, I saw these people every week for nine months, save for vacations.

We learned about each other’s lives, we struggled together, we laughed together, and we went through the joys and sorrows of any set of classmates. And then, as each person finished the final, I watched them walk out the door and thought, “I’ll probably never see them again.”

They’ll get a job in the teaching world, hopefully I’ll get one too. But outside of a few people I’ve become good friends with, these 35 folks who were such a regular part of my life will be gone forever.

It’s funny; you build attachments to people, but for the most part everyone we meet is temporary. They’re indispensable at the moment, but then a few months later you’re like “hey, whatever happened to that guy?”

I’m rambling. I just felt a little jolted upon realizing that this little group who was together for almost a year is pretty much broken apart now.

**It had to be a giant coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg got married a day after becoming a billionaire, right? Yeah, right. (I could just picture him telling his girlfriend years ago “honey, if I ever become a billionaire, then we’ll get hitched.”)
Yes, congratulations are in order to Zuck and Dr. Priscilla Chan. But that’s not why I’m writing about them today. No, I loved it when I found out that the new Mrs. Facebook has rules for her beau, such as “one date night a week, and 100 minutes of alone time each week, not in his apartment, and definitely not at Facebook.”

I love it. Now think she can get him to change a few more things, like all the damn ads on the site, and get him to switch back to the old look?

**Finally, the damn Rangers are back to making me tear my hair out again.
Monday night’s game sucked, in most ways a game could suck. Once again the Blueshirts came out at half-speed, and this time Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t bail them out again.
The Devils were faster, stronger and more determined, as they’ve been for most of the series. I really don’t know how the Rangers are 2-2 in this series, as they’ve been outplayed for most of the four games.
Pathetic play defensively by Michael Del Zotto in the first, no offense for most of the game, and just getting pushed around in front of the net by Jersey.

The Devils are better. But if the pattern holds, the Rangers will win Game 5, lose Game 6, and squeak out a Game 7 win at home.
I’ll sign for that tonight.


LeBron comes through big-time. A man opens a bottle of beer with a chainsaw. And dis-inviting the President from your wedding

**While we all marvel at pictures like the one above of the eclipse on Sunday, and remember a terrific sports weekend (Rangers win, a hugely exciting Preakness Stakes, and great NBA playoff action), a few words today about Mr. LeBron James…

Every once in a while, LeBron James has a game for the ages, one that reminds you that he has the ability to become the greatest basketball player of all time.
I don’t think he’ll ever get there, because I think he lacks that indescribable killer instinct that Michael Jordan had, but Sunday he showed just how special he can be.
In a game the Miami Heat had to win, LBJ scored 40 points, pulled down 18 rebounds, and dished out nine assists. It’s the kind of game you just shake your head at, that one person could be that good.
And it all speaks to the frustration those of us who love basketball, played purely and brilliantly, have with LeBron: If he could do all that, at such a clutch time in the playoffs, why can’t he do it all time? Why does he disappear so often in the biggest moments?
This season is a referendum on him as a player, and as a leader, and as an all-time great. It’s fascinating to see what the next chapter will be.

**Here’s something you don’t see every day: A man opening up a bottle of beer with a chainsaw.
As the great Andrew Sullivan said about this, it’s probably best to try this before you start drinking for the day.

**Finally, I’ve always admired the courage of Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, not just for being an openly gay man in politics, not because he calls out Tea Party lunatics at times, hilariously, but because he always says and does exactly what he thinks.
Frank is retiring this year, but more interestingly today is the fact that he’s marrying his longtime partner this summer.
When asked recently by C-Span whether President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama would be invited to his shindig, he replied,
“If he and Michelle wanted to come, I would be delighted and honored to have him, but he will bring the Secret Service. I would be flattered to have the president do that, but it would ruin the party to have the Secret Service. I’m not critical of them, but they can go take their layered protection of the president somewhere else. Not to my party.”

I love it. Barney wants to get married and doesn’t want his guests hassled. Good for him. The President has other things to do, I’m sure.

A sweet love story at the movies (but not on screen). An awesome surprise marriage proposal. And an 11-year-old girl is a world-class mountain climber

And a happy Friday to you. We start Good News Friday this week with a sweet love story that took place at the cinema, though nowhere near the screen. A Los Angeles man named Tom O’Connor was extremely, painfully shy around women. He loved movies, though, and one day bought a package of tickets to see great Oscar winners for weekly screenings at a theater near his house.
Each week, he’d see the same woman sitting nearby.
And the rest, well… it’s an extremely cute little story that I feel confident will put a smile on your face.
Everyone with me now… Love, exciting and new, come aboard, we’ve been waiting for you … (that’s my new cell ringtone, and I’m not even kidding).

**As I’ve said many times on here, I’m a sucker for a creative, interesting marriage proposal. So I totally tip my (commencement) cap to Sam Miller, who used the occasion of his girlfriend Sarah Cooper’s graduation from American University last week to pop the question on stage.

Well done Sam. I also love how surprised Sarah is that she sort of doesn’t answer right away at first.

** Finally today, a girl who’s 11 years old and who has more bravery than most people five times her age.  Ashima Shiraishi is a tiny little thing from Texas who climbs the most unbelievable rocks and mountains, reaching a world-class level before she even hits puberty.
Check her out (there’s a video of her climbing, too) and be amazed at what she can do.

A very cool ad tests the buttered bread/cat theory. The Rangers drive me crazy, again. And a “Wheel of Fortune” contestant makes me very sad

It’s a question as old as time itself: If a cat always lands on its feet, and a piece of buttered bread always lands butter-side down, what happens if you strap a piece of bread to the back of a cat?
I know, I know, you’ve spent hours pondering it. Well, a Brazilian ad agency has solved the problem with this creatively awesome ad for an energy drink.

**Rangers-Devils, Game 2. Once again, my beloved Blueshirts fail to take command of a series. Three times this playoff season they’ve been up 1-0, and now all three times they’ve blown Game 2 at home.

Lot of wacky stuff happened Wednesday, especially when there was a 10-minute delay in the second period when the penalty-box door broke and, hilariously, they tried to fix it by having a MSG crew guy kick the door really hard, three or four times (that never works at my apartment, not sure why it would work there).

In the end , my boys blew it again. They’re just trying to make me sweat. Or, they’re just not that much better than any of these teams, so every series, every game is going to be a struggle.
Some quickie thoughts from another very entertaining game:
— Henrik Lundqvist is the best goalie in the world, and it’s obvious even on a night he lets in a few. He made two or three ridiculous saves Wednesday night.
— Chris Kreider, wow. That kid is going to be a superstar for the Rangers with a capital S.
—  Because it’s a Rangers-Devils series, I feel obligated to link to this David Puddy clip from “Seinfeld” at least once. It has to be done.
— MSG crowd was dead most of the night. Why? Because real fans, who know when to cheer and when to boo, can’t afford the insanely-priced playoff tickets. It’s a damn shame that real sports fans can hardly afford to go see their teams play.

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**Finally, I love 1980s music as much as the next guy. OK, way, way more than the next guy. Which is why this woman playing “Wheel of Fortune” and guessing what she guessed makes me really, really sad.
Come on lady, really????