Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Well, hell. Now I’m all emotional and whatnot.

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Brazil: Marília and Matheus Pieroni were just beginning their tented São Paulo wedding ceremony when, instead of the bride herself, a stray dog who had wandered in from the storm outside marched down the aisle to the bridal chorus. The canine was removed as the young couple entered, but just as they prepared to read their vows, he returned – and laid down to sleep right on top of Marília’s veil. Some women may have gone into full Bridezilla mode at this point, but Marília insisted the pup be welcomed as an official guest, which he certainly was. “It was a very pleasant surprise for me, because I love animals,” Marília told The Dodo. As the night wound down, the newlyweds searched for their surprise acquaintance, but he had crept away unnoticed. Determined to take him in as their very own, a city-wide search commenced for the stray that stole everyone’s hearts. He was found and joined the newlyweds as their newest family member.

I have nothing to add to that, because it is AWESOME.

So some bro created a cloud lamp that reacts in real time to the tweets of Donald Trump, because of course he did. This connected lamp is capable of reacting in real time to messages posted on Twitter, creating a thunderstorm every time a hilarious, self-congratulatory, delusional Trump tweet is posted. It’s the perfect gift for those of us who’d like a warning before a Trump Tweet slaps us in the Twitter Face, or for those who enjoy and approve of The Donald’s wacky, childlike antics. As for me, I’m going to purchase one and have the Looney Tunes theme song play with every Trump Tweet.

Photos and video below.

ggggggggg

Sweet Lord Almighty.

I recently went on a short trip and spent a few days on the east coast, just hanging out at some beaches and visiting friends. It was nice to see some folks I haven’t seen in awhile, and with all the turmoil going on in our country it was nice to get away for awhile.

In addition, something happened on the way home that sort of restored my faith in humanity.

I didn’t really think ahead, and at one point I found myself coming up to a toll booth in Virginia with about $3.00 in change in my car. Oh, I had my ATM card and a couple credit cards, but the sign at the booth clearly said “CASH ONLY.” Since this toll was $2.00, I was good to go. However, I was worried about any more tolls on this particular turnpike. Once I got off I could hit an ATM and withdraw some cash for the rest of my trip.

With this in mind as I rolled up to the window and I saw an older African American woman working the booth. Then, the following conversation took place:

“Can you tell me if there are any more tolls up ahead? I don’t have any more cash.”

“Well, where are you headed?”

“I’m going to Ohio.”

See, what I didn’t understand was that she was thinking I was worried about tolls all the way home, not just on this turnpike. At the time, however, that didn’t occur to me. She was thinking about my whole trip, and I was just thinking about this turnpike. I could always hit up a ATM, but she thought I was broke and would be facing more tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike.

As I was still clueless regarding what was happening, she reached back, grabbed her purse and tried to hand me two twenty dollar bills. As she did she said this:

“Here honey. This should be enough to get you home.”

Yep. Here was a total stranger that I’d met 2-minutes ago trying to give me enough money for gas and tolls to get home. Incredible. I’m not sure what folks at toll booths earn by the hour, but $40 is $40. Hell, It just about brought tears to my eyes. And by “just about” I mean “it did.”

I then quickly explained my situation and told her to keep her money, and I also told her what I thought of her amazingly generous gesture.

She just smiled and waved me off, telling me to have a safe trip home. It wasn’t a big deal to her, but damn did it make me feel good.

And I wonder. If she tried to do it for me, how often did she actually do it for others?

Every teacher I know has experienced tough classes, those groups that were a little more difficult than others. One particular year I had a really troublesome group, and to make matters worse I had them the last period of the day. Any teacher will tell you that having a demanding group of kids at the end of the day is never a good combination.

Anyway, one year I had one such group, and when I say they were bad I mean bad. I had to constantly stay on top of them or the class would spiral into total chaos. There were one or two boys in particular that the rest of the class sort of fed off of, and it was just a difficult group to deal with all-around.

The year I had this particular class I was teaching Social Studies, and for the few years prior I’d been a part of our local Junior Achievement program, where local business men or women would come in and teach a class once a week for 8-weeks. They’d be given a lesson plan from the Junior Achievement folks and apply their knowledge and experience in teaching the class. As luck would have it, the Junior Achievement class was assigned to my last period.

Uh-oh.

Whatever poor schmuck was assigned to my class was in for a terrifyingly enlightening experience. Hell, I had some problems with this group and I rarely had problems with any class. There was simply no way this could end well.

Could the situation get any worse? Turns out it could. The businessman assigned to my class turned out to be . . . wait for it . . . my 75-year old retired father.

Dad had been the Purchasing Manager at the Mead Corporation for many years, he’d been asked to take part, and the woman running the program thought it would be nice to assign him to my class.

Oh boy. All I could envision was a bunch of 8th grade heathens running roughshod over my poor father. He’d never taught a day in his life and he’d just been handed the worst group of kids I’d ever had as an educator. I mean, I knew my Mom was a badass teacher, but Dad? I was worried.

As for Dad, I tried to warn him but he just sort of chuckled and shrugged it off. I also mentioned to my class that my father would be their Junior Achievement teacher, and they too sort of chuckled and shrugged it off. Man, did I dread seeing Dad walk through my classroom door on that first day. Poor guy was being fed to the lions and he had no idea.

Well, the day finally arrived and as I let Dad into my classroom the kids were, unsurprisingly, laughing and joking as I introduced him. I raised my voice at them and implored them to settle down. And then, my father began to speak . . .

He spoke quietly as he addressed the class. He never implored them to quiet down, never asked them to please pay attention. Incredibly, one by one the kids stopped talking, and one by one they slowly turned around, watched, and listened. There was something about his bearing, his attitude, that had the class in rapt attention.

And I swear to God he never raised his voice once.

Incredibly, this continued for 8-straight classes. Dad had them in the palm of his hand, man. They respected him simply because of the way he carried himself and the way he treated them. And boy, did I learn a lot from watching him.

Sure, teachers can learn a lot from in-services, education classes, and other resources. But I also think a lot of good teachers are simply born with that ability to relate, and to connect, with students. That first day I learned that my father was one of those people.

And I also learned to never, ever underestimate my Dad.

Life·Hack

– a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

We’ve all read about life hacks, those helpful bits of advice aimed at making our lives easier. And although Life Hack is a fairly new term, the actual act of coming up with better ways of doing things is as old as man himself. Or herself. You get the gist.

Hell, as a Southern Ohioan I’ve seen cars with wooden bumpers, duct taped windshields and cooking smokers made from filing cabinets, so I can relate to redneck ingenuity as much as the next guy.

Anyway, this whole “life hack” thing reminded me of a guy I knew in college we called Muggs. Dude was always bending the rules, sometimes in minor ways, other times in major ways. I’ll give you three examples.

First off, the Muggs was cheap as hell. He was so tight that when he smiled his kneecaps moved. Anyway, he never tipped and would never pay for anything, including stamps. When sending a letter, he’d put the address he wanted the letter to go to as the return address, then put his address as the main address. Then he’d go uptown and drop his letter in the mailbox without a stamp, which would then be returned to the person in which he intended to receive it in the first place. Diabolical. Incredibly, it worked. Keep in mind the cost of a stamp was 13¢ back then. Good God.

As for me, I’d always been taught you shouldn’t mess with the federal government, so I didn’t.*

*If you don’t count the mailbox killing spree I went on in high school with my idiot friends. 

Another life hack Muggs’ wild imagination came up with was the in-car bar. Hear me out on this one, because it’s ingenious, wildly inappropriate and probably illegal. Muggs went to an auto parts store and bought a new windshield washer container for his car, the one that sits under the hood. He bought new tubes that take the cleaning fluid to the windshield as well. Then he installed the new container and redirected the tubes under the dash and through the air vents in his dashboard.

See where this is going yet?

Next, Muggs filled the container with whiskey, so whenever he wanted a drink he’d simply put a cup under the vent, hit the button that turns on the windshield wiper cleaner, and let the booze poor into his cup. If he got pulled over he just closed the vent. That’s wild, man. I remember that before he told us about this I always wondered why he had a cooler of ice in his front seat with nothing else in it.

Bottom line, Muggs was an evil genius. Hell, I’m pretty sure that’s so original there’s no law against it.

Muggs was also in a frat (pretty sure it wasn’t sanctioned or anything) that held a yearly raffle to raise money for “charity”, and by “charity” I mean a big end-of-the-year bash with a live band, booze and plenty of co-eds. Of course Muggs was in charge of the raffle. I remember guys selling chances to win a used car for $5, and they’d sell these tickets for months. Problem was, nobody ever saw anything other than a photo of the car, and every year the big winner was somebody’s uncle from Bardstown, Kentucky or somewhere. Every year at the party the winner would be announced by Muggs:

“And the winner is . . .  drumroll please . . .  Charlie Starkweather of Saluda, North Carolina! That’s my uncle! I’ll see that he gets his 1973 Lincoln Continental Town Car!”

I can’t say this with certainty but I’m pretty sure there was never a car and that the big raffle was 100% profit, minus the cost of buying the tickets.

Muggs, man. God knows how much he pocketed for himself.

As for me, I was taught my own little life hack a couple years ago when I tried to cancel a hotel room in a small coastal town at the last minute. Here’s my phone conversation:

“Hello, Blue Surf Hotel. Charlie speaking.”

“Hey Charlie. This is Dave Shoemaker. I made reservations for Thursday night but I need to cancel. Something’s come up.”

Note: I could have said I had an emergency but I never tempt fate, which may have then handed me an actual emergency just for spite. Fate can be a real bitch. Anyway . . .

“Sorry old buddy, but cancellations have to made 7-days in advance. I know it’s a pain in the butt but the owners here are really strict about it.”

It was apparent to me I was talking to an older gentleman, as he had a raspy, deep voice with a slow southern drawl. Dude sounded exactly like I’d expect Old Man River to sound. Anyhoo . . .

“Seven days? I just made reservations yesterday! That makes no sense.”

“I know, I know. They make no exceptions though. Very strict folks. I’m very sorry.”

At this point I’d just kissed $155.79 goodbye since they had my credit card number and all. But then . . .

“Why don’t you reschedule, old buddy? Maybe sometime in August?”

“Not sure why I’d do that, Charlie. I’ll be long gone by then. That would do me no good at all.”

“You sure? You could reschedule ya know.”

Now I’m a little exasperated.

“Charlie, don’t you get it? I won’t be anywhere near Ocracoke on August 15th. I don’t want to reschedule.”

“Well, I’d think about rescheduling anyway, for say, August 15th. Then if something comes up you could cancel. You know, as long as you did it at least 7-days in advance.”

Realization . . . slowly . . . sinks  . . . in. My skull is a little thick, ya know.

“You know, Charlie, that’s a good idea. I  think I will reschedule. Let’s say August 15th.”

And so I did. And I also cancelled on August 7th. Life hack, man. Thanks Charlie.

Have you heard of Juliane Koepcke? Because her story is absolutely mind-boggling.

Koepcke was a German Peruvian high school senior studying in Lima, intending to become a zoologist like her parents. On December 24th, 1971, the 17-year old and her mother, ornithologist Maria Koepcke, were traveling to meet with her father, biologist Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke, who was working in the city of Pucallpa. She had no idea what lie ahead.

The  commercial airliner she was in was struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm and broke up, disintegrating at 10,000-feet in the freaking sky. Juliane spun toward the jungle and earth below still strapped into her seat row, which included 3-seats still attached together. She was in the middle row.

Miraculously, she survived the fall. She was seatbelted into her seat and thus somewhat shielded and cushioned, but it has also been theorized that the outer pair of seats on each side of her functioned like a parachute and slowed her fall. In addition, the impact may also have been lessened by thunderstorm updraft as well as the landing site’s thick rainforest foliage. So, the seat row, updraft and soft (relatively) landing saved her life.

Of the plane’s 92-passengers, all perished save for Juliane.

She passed out sometime after the plane broke apart, but she does remember spinning through the night sky and seeing the jungle hurtling towards her. When she woke up, she found that she had only a broken collarbone, a gash to her right arm, and a swollen shut right eye.

“I was definitely strapped in when I fell,” she said later. “It must have turned and buffered the crash, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived. After I landed my first thought was, ‘I just survived a plane crash.'”

Wearing only a sleeveless mini-dress and one shoe, she set out to make it back to civilization.

Her first priority was to find her mother who had been seated next to her, but her search was unsuccessful. She recalled that as the plane began breaking apart her mother had held her hand and said very calmly and simply:

“This is the end. It’s all over.”

She later found out her mother had initially survived the crash, but died from her injuries several days later.

For the next 9-days she wandered through the dense rainforest, and finally found a stream that she followed. Before she set off she’d found some sweets which were to become her only food. She waded through knee-high water downstream from the crash site, often relying on the survival principles her father had luckily taught her, one being that tracking downstream should eventually lead to civilization. The stream provided clean water and a natural path through the dense rainforest vegetation.

During the trip Juliane could not sleep at night because of insect bites, which eventually became infected. Finally, after the 9th day she found a boat moored near a shelter, and she utilized the boat’s fuel tank. Again relying on her father’s advice, Juliane poured gasoline on her wounds, which succeeded in removing thirty-five maggots from one arm. Tough chick, man.

At that point she waited for someone to return to the shelter or boat arrived. Amazingly, she didn’t take the boat. Her reasoning?

“I didn’t want to take the boat because I didn’t want to steal it.”

Yep, after surviving a 10,000-foot fall, breaking her collarbone, wandering through the jungle for 9-days on one shoe while being eaten alive by insects, Juliane Koepcke’s integrity was still intact.

Hours later, the Peruvian lumberjacks who used the shelter arrived and found her. At first they thought she was a water goddess but she explained what happened and they tended to her injuries and bug infestations. The next morning they took her via a seven-hour canoe ride down river to a lumber station. With the help of a local pilot, she was airlifted to a hospital in Pucallpa, where her astonished father awaited.

Incredible.

The crash and story of survival obviously took its toll, but considering what happened Juliane came out of the ordeal in great shape. In 2010, she said this:

“I had nightmares for a long time, for years, and of course the grief about my mother’s death and that of the other people came back again and again. The thought, ‘Why was I the only survivor?’ haunts me. It always will.”

Anyway, Juliane Koepcke? One badass lady.

 

Note 1: There’s a great story that was originally printed in the BBC News Magazine. Click here if you’re interested.

Note 2: Juliane also wrote a book entitled “When I Fell From the Sky.” I shall order it post-haste.

I like the Canadian Memorial Centre for Peace.

From his “Gorilla” album in the mid-70s. I always thought it described the power of music perfectly.

Listen, I’ve seen some good drummers in my time, but never have I seen a drummer whose command of the stage simply overshadows everyone else in his immediate vicinity, or dare I say not so immediate vicinity. Hell, this dude is a Black Hole of drumming, everyone in his wake is sucked in and disappears in the beauty of his awesomeness. This bro needs to be at the front of the stage, man. I’m mesmerized. You can put my man at the back of the stage but I’ll be damned if he’ll be ignored. Drum on, drummer.

Good God, man.

A vet from Hocking Hills Animal Clinic was recently pleasantly reminded why being a veterinarian is awesome. As she was walking in the forest, the woman was suddenly and unexpectedly reunited with an old patient – a turtle.

She posted a photo of the turtle with a peculiar shell and added the following caption:

Several years ago, a client brought me a box turtle that had been hit by a car. I used fiberglass to repair his broken shell and then released him in my woods. Recently, while walking on my hillside, I spotted an odd pattern in the leaves. To my amazement, there was my old patient with the fiberglass still on years later! Sometimes, being a vet is the best thing there is.”

Veterinarians ask people to be aware that if they see a turtle with a cracked shell, it’s best if they seek their assistance. In this case, it seems that the turtle was fully grown, so it was OK to leave it with the fiberglass. But if the turtle is still growing, it’s best to change its cast and apply a new one from time to time. Here’s the post:

Tasty dessert.

If you have an in-ground pool you know how little animals are always getting in there, only to die and end up in your skimmer. Now those days can come to end thanks to the FrogLog, an invention by a guy named Rich Mason. Check it out man. Buy a FrogLog, save many little lives. As Hippocrates said, “The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.”

[click to view, video below]

Good boy.

Gavel the puppy was facing a tough change when he flunked out of police dog academy for being too sociable.

Instead of tackling hardened criminals, the German shepherd pup liked to meet strangers, and police in Australia felt he “did not display the necessary aptitude for a life on the front line”.

So the governor gave his four-legged friend a brand new job – Pet of the Governor.

“He has outgrown four ceremonial coats, undergone a career change (his official title is now Gavel VRD, ‘Vice-Regal Dog’), and brought untold joy to the lives of the governor, Mrs de Jersey, Government House staff, and the thousands of Queenslanders who have since visited the estate,” the office of Governor Paul de Jersey said.

Citizens are assured that everything he lacks in crime-fighting aggression, he now makes up for in his duties of welcoming guests and tour groups to the grounds of Queensland’s Government House.

He also partakes in special ceremonial occasions – and the job comes with a custom-made uniform featuring the state emblems of Queensland.

“We hope Gavel’s with us for a long, long time into the future,” Governor de Jersey told 7 News Brisbane.

Hell yeah, you go Gavel! Dude was facing a life of chasing the ne’er-do-wells and thugs of Australia and is instead now greeting guests at the Governor’s House while wearing a custom-made uniform featuring the state emblems of Queensland. Hey, so he wasn’t cut out to be a mean dog. Big deal, man. Who came out on top anyway? Gavel did. Good boy, Gavel. Good boy.

Well, sure.

Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, a father of two, allowed Augusto Lima to go attend the birth of his first child, and Zalgiris still won the game, gaining a 2-1 lead in the best-of-three series. During the press conference, however, one “youngster” reporter, who is not a father, persisted questioning Jasikevicius about Lima’s absence. The coach defended his player from criticism and perfectly schooled the reporter about family values.

I know Sarunas Jasikevicius a little because he played at Maryland for Gary Williams. Love his reaction here.

They call it “The Chickle” and it is either fantastic of disgusting, depending on your culinary tastes. Anywho, The Chickle.

Combining two of the greats.

So I’m down at my parent’s house yesterday and my mother accidentally let her little poodle Jack out the back door. Jack immediately makes a run for it across the yard, the fields, and into the snake, bobcat and coyote inhabited woods behind their place. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little but believe me when I tell you that Jack would not fare well in the wilderness. Little bro has been raised by my 90-year old parents and would probably be overtaken and eaten by a colony of rabbits or something. Anywho, Jack had vamoosed. Scrammed. Hightailed it for parts unknown. He was gone.

At the time I was standing by the door talking to Mom and The Spark was out in the Jeep, where I’d left him earlier. Mom was a little panic-stricken, so I ran to the Jeep, let Spark out, and yelled, “Spark! Go get Jack!”

Honestly, I have no idea why I did it other than it seemed a good option at the time. I’ve seen Sparky do too many amazing things to doubt him.

At that point The Spark springs out of the Jeep, ears up, and makes a quick inventory of his surroundings. Then he bolts, nose to the ground, zig-zagging across their backyard as I gave chase.

Even with my impressive foot speed I couldn’t keep up, and the last thing I saw was Spark go halfway across the bridge over their lake, make a u-turn, and sprint towards the back part of their property and to the woods beyond.

All I could do was walk briskly towards where Sparky had gone, and for a couple minutes all was quiet. Finally I stopped and listened, but I heard nothing.

And then . . .

In the distance, bursting through the bush, here they came. Jack, with Spark close behind, headed my way. I swear to you that Sparky was herding Jack like a cow or sheep or something. Every time Jack tried to veer off or turn back, Sparky would give him a body bump or an occasional nip to keep him headed in the right direction.

Sparky continued this until Jack was basically corralled directly into my awaiting arms, at which point my flabbergasted mother met me with a leash so she could take Jack back inside.

Of course, my buddy proceeded to receive a ton of attention from both my parents, with ear rubs and plenty of “good boys” all-around. Spark, of course, acted like it was just another day at the office, even though he’d never rescued a poodle in his life.

Sparky, man. He never ceases to amaze me.

With alt legend and former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg.

Why not?

Maggi, Kara, Me, Noah, and Austin.

As a lot of you know, I have managers on my basketball team. They’re usually anywhere from 3rd grade to 6th grade. I carefully choose these managers, and they’re almost always the sons or daughters of players I’ve coached or kids I’ve taught in school. This is because being a manager of a high school basketball team can be a tough job, and my managers can sometimes get caught in the crossfire between my players and I. Trust me, it helps if my manager’s parents understand what goes on at practices and games, and more importantly it helps that they understand me.

That said, being a manager can be a rewarding, enriching experience. The kids learn to be responsible, perform many assigned tasks, be resourceful, and to deal with the various personalities of the team, including my players, my coaches, and myself.

By the end of the season, my managers have grown close with the team and coaching staff. And sometimes, it seems like they understand me better than anybody . . .

This past season was a good one, and we ended up playing in the district tournament at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio. We played a team with a 24-1 record, and we lost by 1-point in a loss as tough as any I’ve ever experienced. As you can imagine, after the game my team, my coaching staff and I were in the locker room, trying to deal with the disappointment. After I addressed my team and they all went to their lockers, I sat on a couch there in the locker room, sort of stunned, and thought about the game. Everything was quiet as could be, other than the muffled crying from some of our players.

Those of you who have been a part of a team and suffered disappointment know just how difficult it can be.

As I sat there, head down and my hands covering my eyes, I felt a little arm reach around my neck and a small head lay upon my shoulder. It was one of my managers. She never said a word, never had to, just stayed for a few minutes, letting me know she was there and that she cared. It was a simple gesture, and it was exactly what I needed.

And in that moment, it meant the world to me.

Thanks Maggi.

Excuse me for a second. I need to take a deep breath. OK, I’m fine now. It’s just that I almost passed out from merely looking at this heavenly, cheesy concoction. Good Lord almighty.