Let's make this perfectly clear…

Jack is sitting on the couch with “Madagascar” just about to start. As you can imagine, this isn’t a great time to vie for the attention of a three-year-old. But Diane sees an opportunity when the opening credits are rolling, so she sits down and says, “How you doin’, Jack?”

“Good,” he says, just giving his head the slightest move in her direction.

Credits still rolling, Diane figures she’s still got a few minutes…

“Hey! How was Florida?” she asks, thinking this might get him to open up.

He turns his head toward her and says in the flattest intonation possible (which she swears was intended to send a very distinct message):

“It’s all good.”

Absolutely man's best friend

Morgan County sheriff’s Deputy Steve Hoffman was on a rural road near Centerton, Indiana, where he had just finished a routine traffic stop and turned to walk back to his car. Next to the road was a cornfield, filled this time of year with the detritus of last year’s crop… essentially stalks that rise out of the ground several inches and the expected furrows of each row.

But it wasn’t the cornstalks that caught Hoffman’s eye this night. It was, instead, a strange light emanating from the middle of the field; bouncing erratically across the ground and occasionally seeming to point right at him. Hoffman walked off the road and into the field to investigate this odd, flickering light.

What he found was certainly unusual:

Bill Burns, a diabetic, was lying unconscious on the ground. One of the dogs was lying across his chest, apparently trying to keep him warm. The other dog was sitting next his body with a flashlight in it’s mouth. Burns had been walking with the dogs when he collapsed. Hoffman noticed the bracelet warning of his diabetic condition, got Burns breathing again, and got him to the hosptial. He was released a few days later.

“It’s got to be just fate or faith, one or the other,” Burns said.

Hoffman said the dogs “definitely are the heroes in the story.”

“Had he not had the dogs with him that evening, I think the outcome would have been a lot worse,” Hoffman said.

[See the video]

The problem with NPR (and journalism in general)

NPR ran a “correction” of a story this morning. They said, “In a recent story about Judge Alito’s failure to recuse himself from a case involving Vanguard, we mistakenly reported that he owned extraordinary amounts of Vanguard stock. We should have said he owned Vanguard mutual funds.”

Now, this might seem like an error of semantics, but it’s really a much larger mistake. In fact, this mistake is so huge, and so central to the entire point of the story, that it renders the story pointless. Owning Vanguard stock makes you an owner of Vanguard; the mutual funds sold by Vanguard provide you ownership in other companies. The central premise of the story could have been: “Judge Alito failed to recuse himself from a case involving Vanguard when it was clearly shown he owned extraordinary amounts of stocks of other publicly traded companies.”

See the point? If that’s the premise, then there is no story. And this is not a difficult thing to understand, but the reporter who wrote the story, the fact-checker that is supposed to vet these things, the editor who approved running it, the engineer who helped record it… all of these people completely missed this crucial detail. So, while the original story was almost 7 minutes long, the retraction of this one detail took about 12 seconds.

Oh, and did I mention that all of this was brought up during Senate questioning by Sen. Kennedy? Seems like he has enough money in the coffers to understand the difference…

[Listen to the original NPR story]

January 9, 1999

In retrospect, I suppose planning to get married in early January in Indiana was probably tempting the fates. As it turned out, however, the snow was beautiful; flakes larger than I’d ever seen before or since, seeming to drop in inches. It was interesting, when about nine inches fell on the night of the rehearsal dinner, that the same storm that served to keep some folks away merely stiffened the resolve of others.

The wedding started at 12:30pm (keeping with tradition of good luck falling on the up-swing of the minute hand,) the reception started at 2:30pm, and by midnight we had asked the DJ to stick around to play a little longer… twice. By 2am we were sitting in one of the hotel rooms, laughing, talking, truly enjoying the company of friends who had too quickly moved away and family members who had always been too far. It was one of the finest moments of our lives and, though we had no idea what lay ahead of us, I was confident that it would be great.

Seven years and four kids later, it’s 2am on January 9 (technically, I guess, the tenth) and I’m driving back from an exhausting week in Florida. Several days with sand between our toes has taken a little of the edge off; left us all breathless and refreshed, that wonderful mix of not wanting to leave and yet still anxious to be home. The truck is quiet, nothing on the radio here in Georgia at this time of night, and with everyone else sleeping I can plainly hear the deep, heavy breathing of sleep above the rolling tires.

Everyone sleeping but Jack, that is, but I didn’t know he was awake until I heard his little voice ask, “Dad, who’s my fairy Godmother?”

“Mary Harbaugh, honey,” I replied. “You remember, Lucy’s mom?”

“Oh yeah. And Lucy’s dad is too, right?”

I smiled, thinking Joel would love to be known as ‘Jack’s other fairy Godmother.’

“Yes, Lucy’s dad is, too.”

Several minutes pass in silence, and I’m thinking he’s gone back to sleep. And then he says “Dad, cough drops are like mints, right?”

No, there was really no way to know what was in store for us seven years ago. And even though I thought it would be great; I really had no idea how great it could be, how great it would be, how absolutely wonderful it is…