The new Doritos bag that can tell if you’re drunk. A 6-year-old aces the NHL All-Star Game. And the raven that swooped in and stole a parking ticket

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I need a breather. I need some time away from the insanity of the last few days in politics and in our world. A break from screaming at my fellow Democrats on Twitter and elsewhere to grow a spine and filibuster the ever-loving hell out Cheetos Jesus’ Supreme Court pick, who is being described as another Scalia clone (because that’s what we need). Only thing I’ll say today is I was wildly encouraged by this short video of the UK Parliament discussing our President’s upcoming visit, and the bluntness and strong points made by so many of them.

So a few fun/bizarre stories today that won’t tax your brain too much.

First up, and this absolutely sounds like a fake thing but apparently it’s real: Pretty soon your bag of snack chips will be able to tell you if you’re drunk.

According to this story in Fortune.com, in a partnership with Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Frito-Lay’s Tostitos has created a limited time “Party Safe” bag—one that is equipped with sensors and can detect any trace of alcohol on a person’s breath, USA Today reports. If the bag detects alcohol, a red light will flash below the Tostitos logo on the bag, and the message “don’t drink and drive” will appear. If a snacker is good to go, the light will flash green.

That’s pretty freaking amazing, right? I mean, sure most people can drive if they’ve had one or two beers, but a bag of chips telling you if you’re a little wasted?

Nuts. Wait, there’s more.

If the bag flashes red, it will also display a $10 Uber discount code to help get that person home, according to USA Today. The bags also are fitted with a technology called near-field communications (NFC), which means users can touch their phone to the bag to call Uber.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have entered “The Jetsons” territory. I think this is a brilliant idea and could lead to some wonderful arguments at the Super Bowl.

“All right, I’m leaving. Thanks for having us over.”
“Excuse me, you’re not going anywhere. Go blow into that bag of chips.”

Then two guys argue over whether the light went on or not. What a time to be alive!

Then again, as the Lawrence, Kan. police department Tweeted, “If you can only tell if you’re drunk or not by blowing into a bag, FOR ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON’T DRIVE!”

**Next up, this was all kinds of adorable. NHL star forward Ryan Kesler’s 6-year-old son Ryker is a pretty good little hockey player, and at the otherwise-useless NHL All-Star-Game last weekend, Ryker got a chance to participate in the skills competition. He went 1-on-1 with top goalie Carey Price, and scored. The celebration is the best part.

**Finally today, this is the best excuse to get out of a parking ticket I’ve ever heard. A Canadian town is making a driver pay for a ticket despite, and I’m not making this up, a security camera in the lot showing a raven swooping down and snatching the ticket before destroying it.

Yep, the town of Yellowknife has some mighty fierce birds who are fed up with the citizens of that burg having to pay parking tickets.

So a raven swooped down and took care of it.

Check this out.

 

Anger, joy, sadness: So many thoughts from another Trump-ruined weekend. A Monty Python video to make you laugh. And an epic Aussie Open ends with Federer and Serena on top

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I really don’t even know where to begin.

Since Friday afternoon, when the current leader of our country signed an incredibly cruel, stupid and inhumane executive order barring citizens from seven nations from entering the U.S., and also inexplicably banned legal residents with green cards, until Sunday night, when I beamed with pride looking at all of the protests (and one big ACLU legal victory) across America at what that president has done, I’ve had so many emotions and thoughts running through me.

Fear. Anger. Sadness. Pure joy (that’s when I was watching the Australian Open tennis, more on that later). Frustration.

I don’t know how coherent any of this is in my head right now, but the only way I think I can try to be semi-intelligent on this is through some bullet-points thoughts.

So here goes, on yet another almost-unprecedented weekend (I’m imagining this is a little bit like what the mid-1960s felt like, and not I’m not equating the two eras .. yet)

— The first thing I could not get over Friday was how fast this executive order from the White House was implemented and had its effect. Do you realize that government never, ever works this fast? I mean, it takes days, weeks, months to get anything done, whether it’s legislation, or just a trip to the DMV. Yet somehow at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday the President signs a piece of paper and suddenly the entire federal government apparatus at airports and other border checkpoints springs to life and begins detaining anyone from those nations on Trump’s order, as well as legal green-card residents trying to get back into the country.

The speed and power of how this happened should frighten the hell out of any American.
One other quick point: I see lots of people calling this a “Muslim ban.” Trump is not banning ALL Muslims from entering the U.S. It’s not a Muslim ban. No need to make it worse than it is when it’s already terrible.
Besides, the full “Muslim ban” is probably still ahead of us from Trump.

— One of the many unbelievable parts of the executive order was that legal green-card U.S. residents were detained, including 88 and 83-year-old Iranian green card holders who were detained for 17 hours at the airport. You have a new administration refusing to allow people who are LEGALLY allowed to be in America access. It took 48 hours but the Homeland Security secretary, John Kelly, said Friday night that green-card holders should be allowed back in.

Wow, what a hell of a compassionate stance. Put him up for sainthood.

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— Two quick facts that help to illustrate how ridiculous Trump and Bannon’s “this will keep us safe from terrorism” bullshit is:

1. It’s worth noting that South Carolina born terrorists killed more Americans on US soil in last decade than terrorists from the 7 named countries.

2. There have been 3.2 million refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. 0.00062% of them committed terrorist acts, killing a total of three Americans.

So, you know, those are my “alternative facts.”

— The airport protests were fantastic, all across the country, Americans coming together to protest the grotesque and inhumane treatment refugees were receiving, and protesting that so many people here legally (there’s that pesky word again). I loved the passion, the chanting, the sheer “we can’t let them get away with this” attitude.

I wonder if this is what it’s going to be like for a while, every week a new Trump administration atrocity, and every week new protests.  As an anonymous Twitter person said Sunday: “If you’re looking for something to invest in during the Trump presidency, I think the poster board market is going to hold up pretty well.”

— So oh yeah, while everyone was rightfully pissed at the executive order, two other huge and awful things happened from the White House. First, and this is pretty inexplicable, the White House didn’t mention Jews in their statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day because, and I quote spokeswoman Hope Hicks here, “because we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all those who suffered.”

Wow. I mean… wow. Six million Jews killed, and you don’t mention them on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Shameful. The other huge deal that is getting less attention is that Stephen Bannon, the white supremicist (sorry, “nationalist”) who is basically running the White House has been named to the National Security Council while two other high-ranking security officials are told they can only go to some meetings. This is unprecedented, and wildly dangerous. For why, read this and get chills.

–Finally, I don’t ever wanna hear a Republican talk about a Democratic president overreaching, ever again in my life. That was the one of their huge complaints about Obama. Go ahead and tell me how Trump/Bannon aren’t acting like dictators right about now.

**And now, because I think we ALL need something completely pointless and hysterical today, I give you my favorite Monty Python sketch ever, the iconic “Black Knight.” I’ve seen it 100 times, still makes me laugh every time. “OK, we’ll call it a draw then.”

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**Finally today, this weekend’s Australian Open finals, as I alluded to earlier, brought me much joy. Sure, I was rooting for older sister Venus to beat Serena on Saturday morning in the women’s final, but it was a competitive match and hey, Serena is an incredible player and as I’ve said before, clearly now the greatest female to ever play this sport.

Sunday morning, my goodness, what a match. I don’t want to gush on too long about the great Roger Federer because this post is super-long already, but what a tremendous show he and Rafael Nadal, his greatest rival, put on. Five sets, back and forth, one of their best matches ever, plot twists aplenty in the fifth set, Federer getting down 3-1 and me getting pretty upset as I paced the room… and then somehow the Swiss master found a way.

The greatest men’s player ever won five straight games over as good a competitor as the sport has right now. Somehow, despite being 35, coming off a six-month layoff and being deep in the fifth set, Federer pulled it out.

There’s so much about him to admire, but how about this quote from Federer: “Tennis is a tough sport and we don’t have draws but if I could have shared it today with Rafa I would have taken a draw.
“Keep playing Rafa, please. Tennis needs you. Thank you for everything you do.”

We are so, so fortunate to be tennis fans in this age of Federer and Nadal, two supreme sportsmen who have a wonderful rivalry and are both thoroughly decent human beings.

Eighteen Grand Slam singles titles for Roger Federer. What a champion.

The miracle of the Williams sisters ought to be celebrated more. A hilarious commercial from the Netherlands directed at America’s new President. And a note from a neighbor warms a Muslim’s heart

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The outstanding sportswriter (and, full disclosure, friend of mine) L. Jon Wertheim often says that Venus and Serena Williams’ remarkable rise to the top of the tennis world is the most under-covered story in sports.

The first time he wrote that, I scoffed. Come on, who doesn’t know about the Williams sisters? Even non-tennis fans I know are good on the basics: Two young African-American girls, raised in gang-infested Compton, Calif. and coached by their Dad, rise up together and become two of the greatest players in the history of a lily-white sport, inspiring thousands of young people and becoming legends.

Everybody knows that, right? Sure. But the longer their careers have gone, and the more championships they’ve won and long absences they’ve taken from the court due to injuries or illness, the story has only gotten more astonishing.

These two women, these two sisters, individually have had two of the greatest tennis careers ever. But the fact that they’ve played each other 27 times, and have 29 Grand Slam singles titles between them, and their first meeting was in 1997 when most of us were still learning what the Internet was… I mean, how is this not a bigger story?

Can you imagine if LeBron James had a slightly younger brother, and they competed against each other for championships all the time? Or if Tom Brady’s sibling went against him in the Super Bowl once or twice? It’d be the biggest story in America for 20 years.

But because tennis is sadly not a major spectator sport in the U.S., I think Wertheim’s right: The enormity of what these 2 have accomplished is not talked about enough.

I’m an odd duck when it comes to the Williams sisters, in that I’ve always liked and admired Venus while I find Serena repellent and an awful sportsman, though her behavior and off-court attitude have improved in recent years. They play for an Australian Open title Saturday night, improbably, and it feels like a delicious treat because most of us tennis fans never thought we’d see it again.

Venus has always struck me as a thoughtful, intelligent observer of tennis and sports, and what she said following her semifinal win Thursday has stayed with me. Check out this quote about why we watch sports:

“What I will say about sport, I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there’s no do-over, no re-take, no voice-over. It’s triumph and disaster measured in real time. This is why people live and die for sport, because you can’t fake it. You can’t. You either do or you don’t.”

Triumph and disaster measured in real-time. I love that.

I don’t expect you to wake up at 3:30 a.m. Eastern time to watch their match in the wee hours Saturday morning. But ESPN2 is showing the final at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tune in, and see history we’ll likely never see again, from two remarkable champions who were born to the same parents.

**Next up, this is all kinds of fantastic. A comedy show in the Netherlands decided to make a welcome video for Donald Trump, telling him all the wonderful things about their country. It’s hilarious and brilliant; fast forward to the 36-second mark for the beginning of the piece.

You go, Dutchmen.

**Finally today,  this is a good news story that warmed my heart. A Muslim woman in Cincinnati, Ohio named Hend Amry was concerned the morning after Donald Trump was inaugurated. She and her family have always been OK in her community, but still, this was a possibly life-altering event.

A white neighbor of hers thought she might be upset. So he wrote this amazing note and put it on her uncle’s front door:

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Know hope.

“Fences” was fabulous, and hey, the Oscars aren’t so white this year! Aziz Ansari really brought it on “SNL.” And Roger Federer turning back the clock at Aussie Open

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I love, love, love movies that are beautifully written, with monologues that go on for minutes, acted out by thespians who are at the top of their craft, with a cast that is as good as they are.

Sitting in a movie theater while a screen legend brings the fire, the pain, the heart, and the love, using words that were written by master craftsmen, just inspires me so much.

I felt that way when I sat mesmerized in a theater last week by “Fences,” the new movie Denzel Washington and Viola Davis burned through the screen in. Based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning play by August Wilson, “Fences” tells us a simple story of a married couple in 1950s Pittsburgh, with Denzel’s Troy character the hero of his own world as a garbageman still bitter about not getting the chance to play baseball in the major leagues. He’s a flawed man raging at slights, real and imagined, but he’s trying to do his best by his family and his son.

Denzel is phenomenal in this role, especially in the scenes where he’s just riffing to his buddies and his wife. Oh yeah, that wife is played by the fantastic Viola Davis, who more than holds her own as Rose, Troy’s long-suffering wife who indulges his crazy talk because she knows he’s, deep down, a good man.

Until we learn, maybe he isn’t. Davis lights up when she finally gets a chance at a few good monologues of her own, tearing into Troy as she asserts herself for the strong, independent woman she is.

The supporting cast is great, too, especially Mykelti Williamson as Troy’s brother, who suffered a serious head injury in World War II and has been radically altered in more ways than one.

“Fences” is terrific filmmaking, which is why I’m thrilled it got nominated for Best Picture on Tuesday, with Davis and Washington deservedly getting acting nods as well.

Oh yeah, the Oscars nominations came out Tuesday! And some non-white people got picked in the big categories, whoo-hoo! After two years of the Oscar picks being paler than a Trump rally, we got some welcome change.

All kinds of people of color are up this year, including Washington, Davis, Dev Patel for “Lion” and director Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight.”

We’ll see if any of these people actually win, but hey, at least you gotta give the Academy credit for finally realizing that non-white people occasionally do good stuff.

**Next up, I wrote here last year about my newfound appreciation for Aziz Ansari, who created and starred in the Netflix show “Masters of None,” which ought to be coming back for Season 2 soon.

Ansari is also a fabulous stand-up comic, and over the weekend he did a really strong opening monologue (apparently that’s the word of the day here at Wide World of Stuff) on “Saturday Night Live.”

Stay through to the end, that’s the best part.

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**And finally today, it’s feeling an awful lot like 2006 at the Australian Open, and it’s so great.

Venus Williams, age 36, making one hell of a resurgent run and reaching the semifinals, where she’s one win away from probably playing her sister Serena in the finals (wouldn’t that be something?)

And my man Roger Federer, given up for dead in terms of him ever winning another major, just two wins away from Slam title No. 18 in his first major tournament since missing six months with a knee injury last year.

Federer is playing out-of-his-mind right now, hitting winners and moving about the court like a guy who’s 25, not 35. He has to play Stan Wawrinka in the semis, which will be no cakewalk, and then maybe, could it be… Rafa Nadal in the finals?

The tennis Gods have been so good to us the last 10 years or so. Is it too much to ask for one final Williams-Williams championship match, followed a day later by one more Federer-Nadal match? I mean, come ON tennis Gods, we’re stuck with President Trump, can’t we at least get this?

Jason Gay at the Wall Street Journal has a fabulous article up on the Federer resurgence, and what so many of us tennis fans are feeling right now.

Why I have mixed feelings about Saturday’s enormous marches across U.S. A hockey coach’s Dad does 100 straight push-ups and I’m in awe. And the Falcons and Patriots are feeling Super

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This was a pretty remarkable weekend in the history of the United States.

On Friday, the 45th President of America painted a horribly dark and vile portrait of our current-day 50 state union that seems at odds with reality.

Then on Saturday, millions upon millions of women, white, black and brown, old and young, marched in cities large and small across this nation that’s already great in opposition to the vile man who was just elected, vowing to fight him every step of the way. Men marched as well, and bless them too, but this was overwhelmingly a female statement.

Saturday night the new President and his press secretary chose not to usher in a fresh start and offer a new vision, but instead bitched and moaned at the press, then uttered bald-faced lies.

I don’t want to talk about Trump and his “alternative facts” today, there’ll be plenty of time for that.

I want to talk about the Women’s March, and why it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was amazing, beautiful, sensational and moving. I’m thrilled beyond belief that so many individuals availed themselves of our right to protest, and spoke loudly and clearly that the new President has many, many opponents.

I just … I just wish the millions who marched Saturday also stayed active and called their local representatives, and lobbied Congress, and ran for office themselves. Because as wonderful as Saturday was, it doesn’t change that the GOP controls 68 out of 100 state legislatures right now, and 31 governorships, and have both houses of Congress and the Presidency.

And that’s where the sausage gets made, the laws that restrict voting rights and have done a powerful job denying women’s rights to their own bodies, and have completely corrupted campaign finance reform, and horribly mismanaged our criminal justice system so a guy is in jail for 40 years for selling an ounce of pot.

That’s where the long-lasting impact of Saturday can lie. The march will be for naught unless we effect small, incremental changes at the lowest levels, and build from the way up. That’s what the Koch brothers realized in the 1980s, and look what they’ve wrought.

Don’t just be fired up and involved in political change once every four years. Come out to vote in 2018’s midterms. Lobby your local officials and don’t let draconian policies that greatly affect you fly under your radar.

Fighting for your rights shouldn’t be a once in a while thing when millions of others are doing it on the same day. It needs to be an every day thing if things are going to change.

 

**So this is pretty fantastic: Most every NHL team has a “Dad’s road trip” each season, where player’s Pops get to come on the road for a week or so, hang out with their famous kids, and watch a lot of games and beam with pride. It’s a really cool quirk and new tradition in the best sport in the world.

This, though, I’ve never seen. A man named Kenichi Ohashi, father of a Caps’ assistant coach, told the team he’d do 100 pushups if they won on Saturday. They won, so he did.

I’m in awe, Mr. Ohashi. Absolute awe.

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**Finally today, the Super Bowl is set, and it’s a matchup we’ve never seen before, which is always nice. But the bleepin’ New England Patriots are in it, which for me isn’t so nice.

A team that hasn’t been in the big game for 18 years, the Atlanta Falcons, destroyed Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon, 44-21, and it wasn’t that close.

I’m happy for Matt Ryan, who has presided over some pretty terrible playoff losses in his career and finally has won a big one. I’m happy for two guys I used to cover or write about, Eric Weems and Ricardo Allen, both from Daytona Beach, Fla., who will get the awesome experience of playing in the Super Bowl.

The Falcons offense is pretty sensational; yeah the Packers had won eight in a row and had lots of injuries on defense, but Atlanta just carved them up. Julio Jones, Ryan, a fierce offensive line… the Falcons are dangerous.

And then, the Patriots. This is their, what, 34th Super Bowl in the last 10 years or something? They just keep winning and winning, and Tom Brady made a deal with the devil to stay young forever, and Coach Hoodie keeps finding these undrafted dudes who no one else likes and turns them into Jerry Rice at wide receiver (Chris Hogan, it’s your turn) and it just gets tiring rooting for this team to fail year after year.

I have no idea who’ll win the Super Bowl yet; maybe Atlanta’s offense can light up the scoreboard and make this a great game after what’s been a pretty terrible NFL postseason.

Nobody outside of New England wants to see the Pats win a fifth title. For the next two weeks, we are ALL Falcons fans, right?

Good News Friday (Yeah, I’m ignoring the inauguration): An incredible heroic feet in an Indian snowstorm. An oldie-but-goodie marriage proposal that may give you a big smile. And a woman’s dying wish to see UNC-Duke will come true.

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I usually start these weekly posts with a “Happy Friday” greeting, but I can’t do it today because of,  you know, the Orange Man being inaugurated.

I will just say this: I hope so many of us are wrong about him.

OK, on to the first story, and this is pretty amazing. In the small village of Bhont, located in the northern hills of India, a 23-year-old woman named Kamini was nine months pregnant. Last week an enormous snowstorm hit her village, downing power lines and blocking roads. During the outages Kamini began feeling labor pains, and was prepared for the possibility of giving birth at home, with no one with any medical training available to help her.

Kamini’s parents were somehow able to walk to the local church, and found six policemen there. Telling them what the situation was, the policemen sprung into action.

The half-dozen officers walked back to Kamini’s house and carried her to the hospital, on a cot, for six miles on their shoulders. The trip took 3 1/2 hours, but they made it.

And a baby girl was born healthy. Six miles. In a snowstorm. On their shoulders.

Just fantastic. So much more good than evil in the world.

**Next up, I very rarely repeat videos from past posts, but some are so special that I like sharing them every once in a while. This might be my favorite video I’ve shared, and you may remember it since it went viral in 2012. Isaac in Portland, Ore., proposing to his wife, through a phenomenal lip-sync performance put on by he and their friends and family.

I’ve probably watched this 30 times, and I get choked up every single time. So great.

**And finally today, I know that 98 percent of people in America who follow sports hate Mike Krzyzewski and Duke, and even though I’m in the other 2 percent who think he’s an amazing man and coach, I recognize that there are lots of reasons people can dislike him.

But in the hopes of showing his softer side, I present this really sweet story.

A former Brigham Young University women’s basketball player named Melanie Pearson Day has terminal breast cancer, and may only have another year or two to live.

“Living life to the fullest is kind of my mantra now,” Day said. “I don’t know how much time I have, so I’m just going to do the most that I can with what I have.

She made a bucket list on her blog recently, and No. 1 was attending a Duke-North Carolina basketball game in Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke.

She added “no one gets tickets to that,” and it is one of the toughest tickets in sports every year.

But the world of sports is sometimes small and mean, but sometimes it’s wonderful. A BYU coach contacted Duke and told them about Day, and a short time later, with the help of Duke and donations from the BYU men’s and women’s basketball players and coaches, Day and her husband would be going to the Duke-North Carolina game on Feb. 9.

“I was in shock,” Day said. “I’m not outwardly emotional and I usually hold it inside. I was screaming and crying and jumping up and down inside but I just couldn’t get it out. I can’t believe it. It’s not going to really hit me until I’m there — and even then it’s going to feel surreal.”

Good job, Coach K. Now get healthy and help the team win, eh?

 

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The Obama era ends: A few thoughts on how history will see him, and how much we’ll miss him. The greatest TV program guide description ever, from Australia. And thoughts on Joe Biden, whose reputation has changed so much in eight years.

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People are very quick to pronounce that something or other is “the end of an era.”

Friends say it all the time, when a buddy gets married, or when people go off to college and leave all their childhood friends behind. Sports commentators are the worst offenders, always declaring one team’s run of success “the end of an era” when it ends.

But as much as I hate that overused and hackneyed term, I gotta tell ya: This week really does feel like the end of an era. Barack Hussein Obama, a Hawaii-born mixed-race kid who was blessed with the kind of charisma we see once every 40-50 years in politics, is leaving his job as President of the United States.

And he did an outstanding job. You could go by the numbers and facts: Incredible economic growth, lowest unemployment (under 5 percent) in decades, two big election wins, passing universal health care, saving General Motors while killing Osama Bin Laden.

You could go by the less-tangible successes: How decent, how kind, how funny this man was; how he went eight years in the White House without a major scandal. How he signed a historic climate change agreement that finally, finally forces the world to take this problem seriously. How he gave us Michelle Obama, the coolest and smartest First Lady (not to mention, most beautiful) maybe ever.

Or you could go by what he didn’t do: Never stooped to the lowest levels of slime thrown at him from the right; never bemoaned his fate upon inheriting a catastrophic economic situation in 2009, never failed to blame himself at least partially when things didn’t go the way he or the Democrats.

No, he wasn’t perfect: He wasn’t the liberal hero many of us wanted/hoped he’d be; his Justice Dept. spent way too much time going after journalists who wouldn’t reveal their sources; he never had quite enough fire in his belly to fight down and dirty with the GOP, and he never did get around to making his administration as transparent as he claimed it would be.

But this man from Chicago, this “skinny kid with a funny name” accomplished some extraordinary things in this era of polarization and hate. He brought hope back. He showed African-Americans, and all Americans, what’s possible in a leader. He brought respect and grace and intelligence back to the White House, and tried his best to keep on being optimistic about America.

And when you contrast him with the next guy who’ll be in the Oval Office… let’s just say I’m already nostalgic for the last eight years.

Thank you, Barack Obama, for all that you have done for this country. You deserve a few months of sleep, the ability to play pick-up basketball whenever you want, and a rich and rewarding life outside Washington, D.C.

We will miss him greatly. Will.i.am, take us out…

**Next up, I laughed really, really hard at this TV guide-like synopsis of this week’s programming from a newspaper called the Scotland Herald.

It’s about a certain event happening in America on Friday. Bravo to whoever at the newspaper wrote this, for creativity.

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**And finally today, let’s not forget that Joe Biden is leaving the stage this week, too. He’s been an excellent vice-president, it appears, pushing Obama to the left on some issues and continuing to use his status for good. He has suffered many tragedies over the years, including of course losing his son Beau in 2015, but he has always maintained his humor and his passion.

I was thinking, watching that incredible speech he gave when Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom the other day, how much Biden’s reputation in the public eye has changed in eight years. In 2008, he was “Crazy Uncle Joe” of the Senate, the proud Delawarean who made verbal gaffes, wasn’t really taken seriously as a Presidential candidate both times he ran, and wasn’t considered by most people a major political figure.

Now look at him: Most Democrats think he would’ve beaten Trump, he’s considered a statesman and a great partner to Obama; a guy who has been completely at ease in his own skin the last eight years, after often seeming like someone trying to impress.

There’s talk about Biden 2020, but I think he’s done. He’s going out on top, and man, what a great public speaker he turned out to be.

 

Remembering Steven McDonald, a NYPD legend who just died. Harry Truman’s grandson goes back to Japan, movingly. And Aaron Rodgers cannot be stopped; neither can the Packers

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Friday was a very emotional day in New York City, especially if you’ve lived here for a while or grew up in the city or on Long Island, as I did.

In 1986 a 29-year-old police officer named Steven McDonald, whose wife was pregnant with their son Conor, was shot and paralyzed by a teenage robber in Central Park. McDonald instantly became a tragic hero, not just because he was a quadriplegic, but because a year after the shooting McDonald forgave the shooter.

“I’m sometimes angry at the teen-age boy who shot me,” McDonald’s wife Patti Ann said then, reading a letter Steven had dictated. “But more often I feel sorry for him. I only hope that he can turn his life into helping and not hurting people. I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life.”

McDonald spent the rest of his life preaching peace and forgiveness all over the world. He became an inspiration to millions, and each year appeared on the ice at the penultimate New York Rangers game of the year to give out the “Steven McDonald Courage Award.”

He made public appearances, his son grew up to be an NYPD officer, and he stood for so much that was good, and just, in the world. If Steven McDonald could forgive the man who took away his legs, and his ability to breathe on his own, what right did any of the rest of us have to hold grudges?

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Twelve thousand police officers came to McDonald’s funeral Friday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

Twelve. Thousand. I was at the Rangers game Friday night and the team made several tributes to McDonald, including a beautiful video honoring him during the game.

At the end of it, Conor and Patti Ann were given a standing ovation,  they embraced and cried after what must have been an incredibly difficult day. The crowd stayed on their feet and chanted Steven McDonald’s name, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one at the rink with goosebumps.

A great man was lost. But he will always, always be remembered.

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**I’ve written here before about my love for the fantastic NPR story-telling series “The Moth,” which I listen to on its podcast regularly.

Actually, check that: What I usually end up doing is let a bunch of stories pile up, then listen to them all at once when I need a lift. Every once in a while I’m gobsmacked by one of these fantastic tales, as I was last week when I heard this phenomenal tale by Clifton Truman Daniel.

Clifton Daniel is the oldest grandson of Harry Truman (I think I actually met Clifton, a distinguished journalist, when I first started working at the Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News in 1997), and as such has had to live his life dealing with his grandfather’s complicated legacy.

On no issue is that legacy more complicated than the President’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. Clifton Daniel has had varying feelings about the historic attack, and in this moving story he tells of how Japanese people in America have approached him to discuss it.

But it’s only when he goes to Japan as an invited guest, to a memorial service about the bombings, that true understanding comes. Listen to this beautiful story, about forgiveness, age-old memories, and how strong people can be. This one really knocked my socks off.

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**Finally today, the NFL playoffs finally gave us some decent games after a dreadful opening weekend.

OK, they gave us three decent games and one great game, starring Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packer quarterback who is pretty freaking unstoppable right now.

The Dallas Cowboys had a terrific season, and their defense has been great, but the Packers and Rodgers just picked ’em apart Sunday. Rodgers just waited, waited, waited and then hit an open receiver time and again. I have no idea how he’ll be stopped, by Atlanta next week or in the Super Bowl.

Green Bay jumped way ahead 21-3, the Cowboys and their fabulous rookie QB Dak Prescott came all the way back to tie the game at 28, then the kickers took over. Mason Crosby of Green Bay nailed a 56-yarder, then a minute later after one of the most clutch catches you’ll ever see (Jared Cook, pictured above) he nailed a 51-yarder.

The game was terrific, Rodgers is raising his “all-time NFL QB” ranking a few notches every week, and I’m just glad the Cowboys got beat.

Couple other NFL playoff notes…

— Oh, Andy Reid. Andy, Andy, Andy. Once again, your team has a great regular season, a playoff bye, a raucous home crowd… and yet once again you come up short. All credit to the Steelers, who have a terrific team peaking at the right time. But boy did the Chiefs lay an egg. From Travis Kelce’s drops to so many stupid penalties to (wait for it) clock and timeout mismanagement from Reid, Kansas City gave this one away.

As I said on Twitter after the game: “It’s stunning to see a favored Andy Reid team lose  in the playoffs.” — said no one, ever.

— I briefly got excited when, while at a birthday party Saturday night at a restaurant, I checked my phone and saw “Pats 14, Texans 13.” But then I realized there’s no way Tom Brady is losing a playoff game to Brock Osweiler. Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.

— Atlanta looked great on offense, but I have no idea how their defense will stop Rodgers next week. We’re looking at a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl and man oh man that will be fun.

A new edition of “The Daddy Chronicles,” featuring a bike-riding, waiter-ordering, fun-loving 2.25-year-old

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And a Happy Friday to all of you, it’s Friday the 13th and also the last Friday before the end of the world as we know it, since next Friday is Inauguration Day. (I’m very confused: It was 60 degrees in NYC Thursday, but hell is going to freeze over next Friday. Weather is confusing.)

Anyway, I haven’t done a “Daddy Chronicles” installment since last October, which surprised me that it’d been that long when I looked it up, so I thought it was time to update you all on my little fella. He’s changed quite a lot since my last post on him; heck, he’s changed quite a bit since Monday.

Some highlights from life with my energetic boy..

— First of all, any fears that my child would be shy have completely evaporated. Two quick examples: We’re in a Japanese restaurant near our apartment about six weeks ago, and Nate is happily drinking from his milk sippy cup. Our waiter, who spoke very little English and had to repeat our order several times, brought my wife and I our drinks at one point while we were waiting for the food.

Moments later when he returned, without a word Nate takes his now-empty sippy cup and thrusts it at the waiter, who was as befuddled as a Buddhist monk on the Las Vegas Strip. A, they don’t sell milk at a Japanese restaurant, and B, the waiter had likely never filled a sippy cup in his life. But hey, to Nate it made sense: This man is bringing drinks to Mommy and Daddy, I’m out of my drink, I should give him my cup and he’ll bring me more milk!

We laughed and laughed as we explained to the boy that I’d go get him some more milk next door.
Second example: A few weeks ago we were at brunch on Long Island with lots of family celebrating my Mom’s 70th birthday. I told him we needed to go change his diaper, and took him out of his high-chair. Before I could do anything else, he ran up to a waiter 10 feet away, tapped him on the sleeve and said “Where bathroom?”

Yeah, he’s definitely my kid.

–Hanukkah and the holiday season were wildly exciting to him. We saw the Rockefeller Center tree (“whoa!” he said many times), saw some crazy-cool light displays, but Hanukkah was definitely the highlight. For eight straight nights, he got used to a great routine: Dinner, light candles, open fun presents. Poor guy expected it to go on forever; for the next 4-5 nights after the holiday ended, he kept saying “Candles? Presents?” right after dinner. We had to explain that the holiday was over, it would come around again next year.

He did not seem satisfied with that answer. Hanukkah should be celebrated year-round!

— One big worry has been solved since I last wrote about him: We pretty painlessly got through the pre-school process. I tried hard not to faint from shock when I saw some of the NYC pre-schools cost more per year than I made in salary my first year as a journalist. It is truly amazing how you can, with a straight face, charge Manhattan parents $30,000 a year for your kids to play with blocks and hear stories for a few hours a day. It’s quite a racket.

We applied to about six schools, toured four of them, and ended up going with a school that is half the price of the “elite” ones, didn’t require us to be accepted (as soon as we said we were in and gave them a deposit, we were done) and has a nice long day to start him out, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

They also didn’t require a “playdate audition” which we did at two schools, which is pretty hilarious that a 2-year-old is auditioning to be allowed into preschool. I’m sitting there thinking “OK, as long as he doesn’t burn the place down or stab another kid, he passes the audition, right?”

Anyway, I’m already missing him and school doesn’t start till September.

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— His vocabulary and language grow so fast, every day. A few weeks ago he was still just finishing the last words on a page of his favorite books; now he’s finishing entire sentences. He’s saying words like “underneath” and telling one of his grandpas, “Papa, you go get car. We meet you downstairs.” I swear at least 2-3 times per week I’m amazed at a new word or phrase he’s learned (OK, so maybe he knows “Oy yoy yoy” because I’ve said it a few times!)

— The kid made out pretty well at Hanukkah; his favorite presents are his new tricycle (which he pedals for a few moments, then realizes it’s more fun to just Fred Flinstone it and walk really fast while leaning on the bike) and his little home kitchen, which he pretends to cook on. He freaking loves this kitchen, and all the little plastic food in it. He baked me a pizza the other day and I swear it’s at least as good as some of the pies I’ve had outside of N.Y.

— So after pretty much prohibiting TV for him for the first 2 years of life, we’ve slowly waded into it. So far he’s just watching “Sesame Street” and some Elmo clips on  YouTube. Nate had his first ‘TV tantrum” the other day; I’d let him watch 20 minutes in the morning, and he turned it off no problem when I asked.

Then a few hours later he wanted to watch more and I said no, so he stamped his feet and balled up his fists and shouted “I want to watch ‘Sesame Street!” I didn’t cave, but compromised with a few YouTube videos.

But oy, the TV fits are a coming…

— Finally, my son has many skills already, but he makes a terrible lookout. He’s gotten in the habit of going to the front door and opening it and waiting there patiently when I tell him Mommy is on her way home. I’m in the kitchen getting dinner ready and at least 6-7 times in 10 minutes he’ll say “I hear elevator, Mommy!” And I’ll ask him if she’s really here and 10 seconds later I hear a sad “Noooo.” Finally he gets it right when she, you know, actually appears.

Let’s just say if Paul Revere were as accurate as my tyke, we’d all still be under colonial rule.

 

The most thin-skinned famous person ever is about to become President, and I’m terrified. Bill Walton is a national treasure. And “The Front Page” a great night at the theater

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OK, so there was a HUGE amount of information that broke last night about Donald Trump, the Russians, some really sordid sex behavior, and about 14 other things. I have said on this blog numerous times that I don’t like to “knee-jerk” react to things, and quite honestly there’s way too much to digest to write a coherent post right now. So I’m just going to take one small piece of the Donald Trump pie, something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and look at at that today.

“Golden showers,” my goodness. And we thought the Ken Starr report on Bill Clinton was salacious…

OK, on with the show.

When I was a college sportswriter at the University of Delaware, the football team was coached by a man named Tubby Raymond.

Tubby was a fun guy to be around (guys named ‘Tubby” usually are), a real rascal and a pretty good coach, too. He always had our Blue Hens in the Division I-AA playoffs, gave great quotes to us media, and generally comported himself well. (Tubby was getting up there in years when I covered him and his memory was fading; to this day I’m convinced they announced which players were sitting next to him at the weekly press luncheon because otherwise he wouldn’t recognize who was with him.)

But if you ever dared to question his strategy or decision-making, Tubby’s face turned red. He sometimes exploded or mocked the question, and seemed to take great offense at any suggestion that what he did or said wasn’t right. He was, still to this day, the most thin-skinned “celebrity” I’d ever seen, and I always wondered that if us, the little Delaware press corps, got him upset with his questions, what would happen if Tubby ever coached in a bigger city? He’d implode, that’s what.

I was thinking about Tubby the other night because once again, the man who in just a few days will be the leader of the free world couldn’t handle being criticized by an actor.

The easiest thing to predict in the entire world was that after Meryl Streep criticized Trump at the Golden Globes, that he would lash out on Twitter and attack her back.
This fits his entire pattern of behavior. He’s gotten mad at Vanity Fair magazine for a review of his restaurant that was negative. He just last week criticized Arnold Schwarzenegger for not getting as high ratings as The Donald did on “The Apprentice.”

There is no slight too small, no alleged critique too tiny, for this small man to fire back at. He is the most thin-skinned celebrity in the history of the world, and he’s about to have the nuclear codes.

Of all the things that scare me about a President Trump, the idea that an offhand remark by a world leader about him, or to him, will start a nuclear war.

God save us all. Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post wrote about this idea yesterday, his column is excellent.

**Next up, I thought about writing a long screed about Barack Obama, who gave a farewell speech last night that was moving, heartfelt and smart, and contrasting him in a thousand ways with the guy about to inherit the big chair in the Oval Office.

But there’ll be time for that next week; I don’t want the stench of Trump to mix with the appreciation of Obama. So instead, I present a true American treasure, Mr. Bill Walton.

Because they can, ESPN didn’t just show the exhilarating college football championship game on one channel Monday night; they gave viewers about 10 different types of coverage to watch, including one featuring Walton and other non-football people watching the Alabama-Clemson tilt sitting around talking.

Walton, dressed as Uncle Sam (of course) has some great questions and comments, especially when he asks what city Clemson is in.

God I love Bill Walton.

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**Finally today, my wife and I don’t get to the theater that much despite, you know, living less than a mile from Broadway, but when I heard there was a play about newspaper reporters from the 1930s being revived and coming here, I immediately knew I’d be seeing it.

So last Friday night we saw “The Front Page,” based on Ben Hecht’s play about one night in a Chicago-area courthouse press room, when a bunch of tabloid scribes are waiting around for a scheduled hanging of a convicted murderer.

I was pretty certain I would love the play, which starred a huge number of major actors, including Nathan Lane, John Slattery, John Goodman, and Holland Taylor. And it was sensational.

The rapid-fire dialogue made Aaron Sorkin’s characters seem like they had slow Southern drawls; the acting, especially by Slattery and Lane (who really is a force of nature as a soul-less, no morals editor) was superb, and it was pretty damn hilarious, too.

It was a long, long show (2:45, with two intermissions) and honestly sometimes so many people were cross-talking on stage that I missed some of the great one-liners.

But there were so many actors working at the top of their craft, and having so much fun (John Goodman always looks like he’s having a good time, doesn’t he?) that I didn’t mind. With newspapers in such bad shape these days, and me being a dyed-in-the-wool ink-stained wretch, it was fun to step back into a time when reporters were true characters, had very few scruples, and what they wrote really mattered.

“The Front Page” is only going to be on Broadway for a few months, but if you’re here anytime soon, I highly, highly recommend seeing it.