Sunday, January 30, 2005

Firefox Conversion

I finally took the advice of many local bloggers who have raved about the new web browser Firefox. It was free, and it downloads and installs quickly.

Firefox seems to emulate various features of IE and Netscape, but it adds a few new wrinkles of its own, such as a user-friendly page that alphabetizes all sites recently visited. If Firefox cuts down on spyware traffic as it (and many users) claim, I will be a dedicated convert.



Kristen and I watched Confidence last night on a DVD loaned to us by the Gate Keeper. The cast is outstanding, and the performances are worthy of a slightly dark script that feels like an update of The Sting. The movie is a short, but worth your time, and I think you will find it available on most rental shelves or at Netflix.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

All Is Quiet, For Now

It is 5:30pm, January 29, in the eastern part of the US.

It is 4:00am, January 30, in Iraq. Election Day has arrived.

Nobody should expect an Iraqi election day as safe as the one the US had two months ago. In fact, the attack on the US Embassy could be just the beginning of a day of violence, but I pray that will not be the case.

I have wondered what constitutes a victory for the US' military campaign in Iraq. I cannot adequately define the criteria for a victory, but I am sure that a relatively safe, fair, participatory election in Iraq is a step in the right direction.

I think January 30 in Iraq is one of those hope for the best kind of days, but I fear the worst will occur instead.


Thinking Out Loud

Allen Johnson, editorial page editor of the News & Record, has fired up his blog, Thinking Out Loud. He promises insight into the editorial process and the opportunity to participate in that process: "But instead of waiting for your reactions after we've published that editorial, we'd ask for your input in advance."

It appears that Johnson's blog falls right in line with the Public Square philosophy that is driving the N&R's transformation.


Double Shot of Humor

From LUX.ET.UMBRA, enjoy two funny links:

A screen shot of Dubya's Hotmail account and a Budweiser commercial banned by the FCC. Michael Powell really is a bastard.


Chain Reaction

I maintain Diary Of A Soldier, a modest blog whose content is provided by a friend who is deployed in Iraq. A typical day brings a few dozen visitors to the Soldier's blog, mostly the Soldier's friends and family.

Yesterday, Ed Cone noted that the Soldier had posted a long, upbeat post that described events most of us would find unnerving. Ed is several levels higher on the blogging food chain than both the Soldier and me, and he caught the attention of Instapundit, a premier conservative blogger. Instapundit noted the Soldier's most recent post. Later in the day, MSNBC got in on the action.

This is one of those days when I am glad I use Blogger and am not paying for the bandwidth.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Women Are Smarter Than Men

Or, at least my wife is smarter than I am.

Kristen called me at 6pm, just as I was leaving my office. She said she needed me to pick up a couple of items: skim milk, whole milk, and French bread. I teased her about saying a couple of items, then listing three, so I got a chuckle over her attempt to be clever with me. I did not realize how clever she was.

Twenty minutes later, as I approached the Adams Farm Harris-Teeter, it finally hit me: she tricked me into going to the store for bread and milk the night before a winter storm. The full realization of what she did registered as I parked 200 yards from the store, almost on Mackay Road.

So, I admit it. Her diversionary tactic allowed me to feel superior for a few minutes, but I turned out to be the dope standing in line with bread and milk.

I surrender.


Take A Bow

Local blog ACC Hoops gets well-deserved notice from Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl here. The blog is the creation of established local bloggers Sam Hieb and Ed Cone. Congratulations on the positive pub, guys.

The majority of existing blogs focus either on politics or current events. Is ACC Hoops on the leading edge of a new wave of blogs dedicated to specific topics? My guess is yes, and we will see more blogs devoted to dogs, wine appreciation, raising children, etc.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Soldiering On

"I spoke to an American civilian whose mission was to establish police academies in the country...It was his experience that when the Iraqis receive positions of authority, they perceive it as a right to profit from that position and from those they are to lead."

Our Soldier has traveled around Iraq and to Kuwait. Read about his experiences over the past week here.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Gate's Lair

On Saturday, I went over to the Gate Keeper's to assist with some modifications to his blog. Gate has a nice place. It was neat and nicely decorated, without looking like the Queer Eye guys had been by.

He gets extra points for having our 2004 Christmas card with a picture of Sarah up. Gate also has a picture of a Nobel Peace Prize winner hanging out with him. Not too shabby.

After a quick lunch, we got to work on Gate's new Dell. It is a nice machine and hums along at a pretty good clip. But, Gate, you have got to get high speed internet access. Dial up may be better than nothing, but so is a passenger pigeon, and you don't want that, do you?

We added links to other blogs to Gate's template. As an html novice, this was not as easy as it would have been for many of you, but we got through it. We also added a site counter for his blog, so be sure to visit him often and pump up his numbers.

Setting up a news reader was a little problematic. AOL does not seem to grasp syndication as well as most other servers. Perhaps it is time to get something other than AOL for web access, Gate. Hoggard can give you tips on making that switch.

Finally, we installed software that allows Gate to post pictures to his blog, and we promptly posted a picture of a page 3 girl from Yes! Weekly. I had to test the software to be sure it worked, you know?

Considering freezing rain was falling outside, we made the best of the day. Good lunch, good blog, and good friends.


Hello, Is Anyone Home?

I really did not want to find more obvious goofs in the current Yes! Weekly. I thought that the mistakes in their second edition were a one-time thing.

A headline reads "The Contogiannis family has served lunch and dinner for 38" Okay, is that 38 people, 38 years, or something else?

This week's blog lift is from Hogg's Blog. They identify Hogg as David Hoggart. This one is unforgivable. David Hoggard gives you the correct spelling at the top of the page where you lifted the blog post and comments.

I swear I did not read the current copy of Yes! Weekly looking for more mistakes. They were so obvious, they found me.

Perhaps they should start setting aside a little more space for their correction box.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

New Digs

Local blogging hero Billy the Blogging Poet has a new blogging home. You can visit there by clicking here.

Check out his new space and send him a house warming gift while you are at it.


No More Laughs

Johnny Carson has died at age 79.

Carson gave rise to many young stand-up comedians, and in some ways popularized that genre by including a stand-up segment on many shows. Carson maintained such an unspoken bond with his viewers that he could make them laugh out loud in their living rooms with a simple turn of his head or wiggle of his eyebrow.

This is one celebrity whose passing I will mourn, and I suspect the outpouring of love and shared memories across the country will be large.

Johnny, we will miss you.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Missing Ingredient

Of this year's Wolfpack basketball team, Julius Hodge says "Believe it or not, I really believe this year's team is special." (via ACC Hoops)

Julius, Julius, Julius. One thing all special teams have is a mature, capable leader. Despite what you think, you are not that leader.

A leader recognizes that some nights he is the man. Some nights he is not.
A leader recognizes that often his best contribution is to draw defenders to himself, then give up the ball.
A leader models appropriate behavior on the court, even when frustrated.
A leader never gives a forearm shiver to the back of an opponent's head.
A leader does not hit an opponent in the face with the ball.


Last Word On Nick Sowers

Nick Sowers has asked me to remove the posts from the past two weeks that deal with recent events in Iraq. Everything I posted came directly from him, so I have honored his wishes and removed the information he provided.

I am disappointed to remove this information, as it is clear from the increased site traffic, comments, and emails that readers are interested in his story. It was always my intention to provide an authentic look at life in this war. Perhaps that look became too authentic for some people's comfort.

I will continue to post information from another friend stationed in Iraq at Diary Of A Soldier.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Remember Our Friends

Today has been a particularly tough week for two of Greensboro's best bloggers. I hope you will keep them in mind this week.

On Tuesday, jw lost a dear friend and co-worker, Tim. She wrote a fitting tribute to such a special person.

Yesterday, Michael Christopher lost his dad. Michael was fortunate enough to see his father in Denver just before he passed, and he written eloquently of his father before.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Nick Sowers Article

The News & Record ran a front-page article today on a recent attack in Iraq that Nick Sowers documented in an email sent home. Regular readers of this blog first saw that email a little over a week ago. The N&R article included an information box directing readers to two blogs I maintain, including this one.

If you are visiting this blog for the first time, you can see additional posts related to Nick here, here and here, and an additional picture of Nick's burned humvee. If you want to visit the second blog mentioned by the N&R, Diary Of A Soldier, click here or click on that blog title in the left side bar.

Below each post you will find a comment tab. Click on it if you wish to make a comment on the post or send a message to Nick.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Mr. Sun! To The Rescue

"Keep an emergency kit in your car trunk with a flashlight, blanket, flares, a battery-powered CD player with Barry White CD, and condoms."

These and other helpful tips for dealing with winter can be found at Mr. Sun!.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Wolfpack Rebound

The NC State men's basketball team got a much needed victory last night over #8 Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech was missing its leader, B.J. Elder, so perhaps the win was not as big as it might seem at first glance.

What was impressive was that State's so-called leader, Julius Hodge, finally played like one. On a night when his shot was not falling, he took fewer shots, played defense, grabbed ten boards, and got the rest of the team involved.

It remains to be seen if Hodge has turned over a new leaf or if he accidentally did something right. Time will tell, but I think we will see the old Hodge - the ball-hogging, me-centered, sometimes nasty - return sooner rather than later.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Wishful Thinking

Snow flurries are falling now, and it is beautiful in the night sky. For once, I wish it would snow a foot unexpectedly.

My daughter's daycare is closed tomorrow for MLK Day, and wifey is a CPA in season (tax, that is), so the little girl and I have a date all day tomorrow. Making snow angels with her sounds like fun, but I think it is probably just wishful thinking.


US Soldier Settling In

About the unit he is replacing, the US Soldier says: "They spent a year here, accomplished their mission and every one of them is going to make it back home safely. This is exactly what I want my successor to say about us." Read the rest of his post here.

To clarify, I am relating stories from two friends currently in Iraq. One is the US Soldier, who is in the Army and remains anonymous. All of his posts are at US Soldier, although I will supply links to those stories at this blog. The other is Marine Nick Sowers, and I am posting some of his experiences and pictures at this blog.


Wolfpack Land The Big Fish

NC State football coach Chuck Amato landed his biggest recruit to date yesterday for the Wolfpack. Toney Baker, the third leading rusher in US high school history, declared his intention to play in Raleigh this fall.

The collective sigh of relief among Amato and his staff could be heard all the way in San Antonio, where Baker made the announcement at a high school all star game. During his five year tenure, Chuck Amato has managed to produce only a 0.500 record in ACC play, despite having all-everything Philip Rivers leading the team for four of those years.

Amato has talked a good game since he arrive in Raleigh, and he has raised tens of millions of dollars for facilities upgrades. With Baker's pending arrival comes renewed hope that the Wolfpack can improve quickly. And with that hope comes more pressure on Amato to deliver a return on the fans' investment.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

More About Cpl Nick Sowers

This post previously contained an email and picture from Nick Sowers. I have removed this post at his request.

If you are interested in reading another soldier's first-hand report from Iraq, click here.


Nick's Humvee

This post previously contained a picture provided by Nick Sowers. I have removed the picture at his request.

If you are interested in reading another soldier's first-hand report from Iraq, click here.


Nick's Humvee II

This post previously contained a picture from Nick Sowers. I have removed this post at his request.

If you are interested in reading another soldier's first-hand report from Iraq, click here.


Wake/Carolina Redux

Wake Forest men's basketball team got a huge victory over Carolina today. Both teams are ranked in the top five. Here are a few things we learned from the game:

Wake Forest is for real. They went head to head with the hottest team in the country and won.

Wake's allegedly poor free throw shooting was a myth, at least today. 32-32 is among the greatest performances by any team.

It sucks that they will not meet again in Chapel Hill. This is where the ACC's money grab expansion hurts.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Get On The Blogging Train

The Business Journal has a front page feature article on the revolution taking place at the News & Record. I applaud the Business Journal for covering changes at a competitor, but I wonder if they should buy a ticket for this train, instead of watching it leave the station.


Blogfather No More

In the same Business Journal article, Ed Cone is called a "blogging evangelist." I am sure he will be thrilled with that new title.

Can I get a witness?? Amen!!


Which Is Worse?

An interesting comparison between Dan Rather's woes and the search for WMD.

Note: Thanks to Blog on the Run for this lead.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Little Big Man

Julius Hodge, the reigning ACC men's basketball player of the year, came up lame in another big game tonight. He was a non-factor in a game when some of the lesser stars on the team came up big.

The Wolfpack lost its fourth straight game to Duke. And Julius, hitting Daniel Ewing in the face with the ball was a cheap shot. But, let's not forget that Julius has a history of cheap shots, particularly when he is being outplayed.

This team is spinning out of control, and its coach and supposed team leader seem to be powerless to stop the skid.


YES! Weekly Needs A Proofreader

Greensboro's newest newspaper, YES! Weekly, is in need of a proofreader. In its second issue, staff reporter Jordan Green's article on US Rep. Mel Watt refers to the Congressman as Watts multiple time. The headline writer also got in the game by using the name Watts. Uh, guys your office is in the district of Mel Watt. You might want to get his name right.

Alex, I will take subject-verb disagreement in headlines for $1,000: "Rocker make a racial slur..." I know this is a free paper, and it is just getting started, but either of these mistakes would have cost me two letter grades in English 101 as a freshman at State.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Follow Up

This post previously contained information from Nick Sowers. I have removed this post at his request.

If you are interested in reading another soldier's first-hand report from Iraq, click here.


Junky Lungs

I thought that I have been feeling bad with a respiratory bug for the last four weeks. But now my baby Sarah has decided to outdo me again by contracting pneumonia.

You just haven't lived until you have forced a mask onto your infant's face for a breathing treatment.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Details From The Soldier

The US Soldier has arrived at his compound in Iraq. Read about his trip over and being welcomed by mortars here. Note the last paragraph, a touching story about comforting a younger soldier.

Monday, January 10, 2005

More From Iraq

This post previously contained an email from Nick Sowers. I have removed his email at his request.

If you are interested in reading another soldier's first-hand report from Iraq, click here.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Bad News From Iraq

This post previously contained information related to me about Nick Sowers. I have removed this post at his request.

If you are interested in reading another soldier's first-hand report from Iraq, click here.


The Vultures Are Circling

Coach Herb Sendek's NC State Wolfpack dropped yet another game to a team they were supposed to beat. The vultures are circling, Herb.


Good News From Iraq

The US Soldier made it to his supply compound ousted Fallujah without incident. I look forward to his posts from his court side seat, and I pray for his safety.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

White House Trash

Is it take out the trash week at the White House? Seriously, is it?

1) Armstrong Williams admitted to being paid $240,000 by the federal Department of Education to pimp Bush's No Child Left Behind program. Williams played the role of whore well, advocating for the program without ever disclosing his advocacy had been purchased.

The GAO has twice ruled that the Bush administration has engaged in "covert propaganda" by producing opinion videos that do not disclose they are government produced and funded. This Williams fiasco amounts to the same thing, again demonstrating that the Bush administration thumbs its collective nose at anyone who disagrees with it.

2) A January 2002 memo from AG-nominee Alberto Gonzales advised that terrorists captured overseas by Americans do not merit the protections of the Geneva Conventions and argued for a narrow interpretation of torture as "excruciating and agonizing pain."

But in confirmation hearings this week, he said "Torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration...I will ensure the Department of Justice aggressively pursues those responsible for such abhorrent actions."

Alberto, I have a question for you. How will you sit at both the prosecution and defense tables at the trials for those involved in these crimes of torture?

3) The Bush administration is considering making permanent the imprisonment of suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They are suggesting that these men be given life in prison with no legal counsel, no hearing, no trial, and no appeal of that sentence.

I understand that many of these people may be guilty, and I do not believe they are eligible for the same rights I have as a citizen. However, I do not think our government should lock anyone up for life without some form of due process. If they are so sure the men are guilty, then certainly they have enough evidence to win a conviction at trial.

If the US wants to claim the high ground when it comes to human rights and treatment of our POW's, it cannot develop narrow interpretations of existing laws as grounds to do the bare minimum for those we capture. The US must read its laws in the spirit they were written and treat everyone, including our enemies, with basic humanity and fairness.

Some past president have courted the religious right for its vote, but this is the first time in our nation's history that our president is the leader of the religious right. So now that Bush is in the position to teach his values by example, his administration has used propaganda to deceive the public about an important domestic program, abused prisoners by denying them basic human and legal rights, and promoted an individual who tried to justify those abuses.

How can a person be so cynical and be the leader of the party that claims to have cornered the market on morality and values?

Friday, January 07, 2005


A few weeks ago, a CBS analyst called Krispy Kreme CEO Scott Livengood the nation's worst CEO in 2005. Now, he gets some more love from Business Week, making their list of worst managers in the country.

I am not qualified to judge Livengood, but I know that you do not want to keep company on this list with the presidents/chairmen of Merck, Sinclair Broadcast, Fanny Mae (ousted, that is), the NHL, and Michael Eisner of Disney.


Hop To It

The Greensboro Grasshoppers launched their new web site today. As I said here two months ago, I think Hoppers is catchy mascot, and I note their web site is at

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Friend Departs

Ed Carson died on Tuesday. We knew each other for the past seven years through our common membership in Crescent Rotary. Ed's obituary covers the standard information, but there is more to his story.

Ed was the only D-Day survivor I ever knew. He was later a POW in Germany. Even though these topics came up every now and then, Ed never sought acclaim or acted like anyone owed him a debt. He just served.

Ed volunteered thousands of hours at Greensboro Urban Ministry and hundreds more raising money and awareness for the Guilford County Veterans Memorial. When I congratulated Ed for being honored as the volunteer of the week in the News & Record, he just looked down at his feet in humility.

A lot has been written and said about America's greatest generation. Ed was a member of that group, and he exemplified the very best of their values.

I will miss you dear friend.


Goodnight, Crossfire

Tucker Carlson was shown the door at CNN yesterday (via Blog on the Run), and apparently Crossfire is going kaput, too. I sure won't miss him or the show.

Carlson is clearly bright, and he is articulate much of the time. Somehow, I never could get the past the fact that he seemed like an Alex P. Keaton wannabe.


Talking Bout A Revolution

I have been snowed under with work for a couple of days, but I finally read Lex Alexander's report tonight. I have one word, and it's WOW!

I was impressed when News & Record editor John Robinson publicly asked Lex for his thoughts. That was a demonstration of true commitment to finding better ways of doing things. And then Lex asked for public input and got loads of it. But, I had no idea that the final product would be so visionary, wide-ranging, and posted for all of us to see.

Among Lex's recommendations:

invite area bloggers to blog budget and editorial board meetings
make archives available on line free of charge
provide revenue to bloggers who work with the N&R a la long tail
interactive assignment editor who responds to story ideas from the public

A small minority of local bloggers have convinced themselves that the N&R is working against their interests. I do not share their views, and I think if they still fell that way after reading Lex's report, they probably need a drug test.

Just the fact that the N&R is having this kind of conversation, and is doing it transparently, is a sign there is a revolution going on in Greensboro. The N&R has invited all of us to be a part of redefining journalism. Let's take them up on their offer.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Whitmire Not Very Witty

I was driving to work this morning listening to Brad and Britt on WZTK. They were discussing words and phrases that need to be retired to misuse or overuse, and they finally got to the word blog.

I know some people are already tired of the word, and I have a few conservative friends who are actually repelled by the thought of blogs - until I remind them what bloggers did to Dan Rather. Then they think blogs are a good thing.

Britt Whitmire described bloggers as "People in pajamas typing in..." Maybe it was simply another failed attempt at humor, but it struck me as an uninformed comment, unfortunate for a show that is supposed to inform its audience.


That Was Bad

What a terrible halftime show at last night's pseudo-national title football game.

Kelly Clarkson: Kelly, the tape has not started yet. Please stop mouthing the words. And someone might want to turn down microphone 2 - his backing vocals are completely covering this American Phony.

Trace Adkins: This country music star's action is so good that he makes Mickey Mouse dance in the middle of the field like he is on acid.

Ashlee Simpson: Well, that would just be piling on. Let's just say she earned all the boos from the crowd.

U2: Please go away. I do not care that you have a new video. And the quick cuts from Bono to USC kicking Oklahoma's ass back to the Edge were riveting.

Next year, could we have something less annoying at halftime? Anything. Carrot Top would be better.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tax Season Is Here

It's only January 4, and Kristen is working at the office until at least 11pm tonight. I guess I should be thankful she is working part-time for her firm.


Orange Bowl Observations

Briquille O'Neal performed the coin toss prior to the Orange Bowl tonight. He looked at the coin on his thumb for a moment like he was not quite sure he could handle that simple duty.

And what is with that damn shirt he is wearing? How much fabric does it take to make a shirt that when untucked goes down to Briq's knees? You would think he could dress like a grown up for an honor like coin clipper at the pseudo-national title game.

And for all you protectors of the national anthem, you had to enjoy that edition prior to the game. State students should not yell "Red," but it's okay for some punk to sing off key and add her own little jazz interpretation of our sacred song.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Get Your Blog On

If you are a blogger and you play well with others, there are some events coming up.

You can go to the meetup of Greensboro bloggers on January 19. It is tentatively set for the Green Bean downtown, but this might change. Stay tuned for more info.

On February 12, you can go to the Triangle Bloggers Conference at UNC-CH. I know what you are thinking, but even as a State alum I am going. Maybe you should, too.


A Good Read

During our trip to Emerald Isle, I started reading Angels & Demons. The book was fast paced, and I read it in a few days, a record for me. Angels is similar to The Da Vinci Code. In both novels, Brown mixes history, legends, Catholicism, and mystery to write an effective thriller. I give the nod to Angels over Da Vinci.

Next up is something lighter, Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction.


Good Movies

This is always a tough time of year for me as a film buff. I never go to the cinema anymore, since it is too big a hassle with an 18-month old. So, while all of you enjoy the best films of the year debuting now, I will watch them on DVD in six months.

That requires me to work hard now to find good movies from earlier this year. Luckily, Kristen and I watched three movies this week.

The Manchurian Candidate was a well-done, if cynical, look at politics. The rights to this remake are held by Frank Sinatra's estate, and he would not allow the new version during his lifetime, because it had enough similarities to Bobby Kennedy's story.

Super Size Me was a great documentary of what a high fat diet does to the human body. I give Morgan Spurlock's movie the nod over the more heralded Fahrenheit 9/11. Super Size Me was made on the cheap, but it has a big message - America's obesity is tied directly to its love of fast food.

You can tell Collateral is a Michael Mann film without seeing the credits. The film is beautifully shot to make downtown Los Angeles a character in the film. Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise are great in their duel of cabbie and hit man.


Necessary Pain

The NC State men's basketball team experienced a humiliating defeat Thursday night. Although it was a road game, the Wolfpack lost to a bad St. John's squad in what was supposed to be a triumphant homecoming for senior Julius Hodge, a Harlem native. Here are a few stats that tell how poorly the State played:

scored only 10 points in the first half on 3-23 shooting
missed their first 11 shots in the second half to drop to 3-34 (9%) shooting
only one player made more than two shots in the entire game

This performance was pitiful, and it may have been enough to call head coach Herb Sendek's job into question. If so, then the loss was a necessary step toward long-term improvement, which will only occur after head coach Herb Sendek vacates his office.

Sendek has had just enough success to keep enough Wolfpack fans happy, and he has been lucky that expectations for his teams have been relatively low. Until this year.

Sendek is a bright guy and an effective recruiter. He is probably quite capable when it comes to studying film and providing analysis. I think he could be a good assistant coach somewhere (else).

However, coaching college basketball is more art than science. His recruiting and the mechanics of his job may be in place, but talking to players (and the media) as if he were giving a valedictory address does not lead to a winning result.

At his press conference just after being hired, Sendek was asked how he felt about being State's second choice for head coach. He responded by saying "Hell, I was my wife's third choice." That was a funny line. It's too bad that his ability to communicate effectively peaked in his first day on the job.



My dad and stepmom rented a great house at Emerald Isle from Christmas to New Year's. All the siblings, siblings-in-law, girlfriends, nieces, and nephews were there. The house is brand new, and it was able to handle all 15 of us with ease. It has three floors, six bedrooms, two dishwashers, ample parking, and an elevator.

Everything was going smoothly until Wednesday morning. I awoke to the screams of children not far from my bedroom door. That is not terrible unusual when a family of 15 gets together, so I rolled over and stuck my head under my pillow.

But the screams became shrieks, and I decided I better check it out. It turns out that my niece and older nephew managed to get stuck in the elevator, probably from the little man jumping up and down. Since they are five and almost three years of age and had already spent a half hour stuck, they were justifiably scared.

While smaller than a commercial unit, this elevator was the real deal. The doors into the house from the elevator are magnetically sealed. It works on a motorized pulley system with 1" diameter steel cables.

Eventually, we found a security key. With this key, along with some patience and brute strength, I was able to open the magnetically sealed first floor door. All I could see was the bottom of the elevator. I got the second floor door open - same view. Finally, the third floor door was open, and I could see into the top 24" of the elevator car.

That allowed me to make eye contact with the little folks, who seemed to calm down a bit. The sliding door on the elevator opened easily enough, so now I could reach into the elevator car. Of course, that is when it hit me that if the elevator started to move down, anyone straddling the line between the elevator world and the house world would find himself with a foot in each one - permanently.

I explained the risks to my sister, their mom. She did not really give me a thumbs up or down on extracting her children through the narrow opening. Finally, I reached into the car, my legs still in the house, my waist hanging into the elevator car. First I pulled out my niece, who seemed thankful to get out. Then, I pulled out my nephew, who grinned the entire time and yelled "Wheeeee" as he slid into the house.

At this moment, I realized I was sweating profusely. But, of course, my work was not done.

I slid into the elevator, hoping that 200 pounds falling from 10' would not exceed the static load maximum or knock anything off track. I managed to hit the right combination of buttons to get the elevator moving again, and the elevator worked fine until we departed the house.

I hope I never have to do that again.


Praise Vicodin

I have had a head and chest cold for the last two and a half weeks. This is my second bout with this bug in the last two months, so I was glad to be on the downside of the illness late last week.... or so I thought.

New Year's Eve, after we had a lovely meal and some fantastic wine, I started coughing. It seemed like I coughed for the next three hours until the damn apple fell. I knew I had to do something.

My wife mentioned that she had some vicodin cough syrup. I took a teaspoon. That vicodin is good stuff - it knocked me out cold. When I got up on Jan 1, I stumbled into the furniture a few times before I got my bearings. Perhaps it was the combination of wine and vicodin.

Either way, I took it again last night, and it knocked me out again. I know vicodin is highly addictive, but I thought people liked it for its euphoric properties. So far, all I have gotten is good sleep and sore shins.

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