Dave Stancliff 2010-10-31 blogarama.com

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oh the Horror! What Makes People Pass Out at the Movies

“If you’re nervous about blood or claustrophobic, or if you commonly cover your eyes during a movie, then 127 Hours will feel at least twice that long to you.

The film is among this year’s top Oscar contenders, featuring a performance from James Franco that’s revelatory, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Franco plays Aron Ralston, the hiker who in 2003 was trapped for four days under a boulder and had to amputate his own arm with a dull knife to survive. At early showings of the film, between 13 and 16 people fainted, two reportedly became lightheaded, and three had seizures, according to a survey on Movieline.”

Read the rest of the review here.

Carl’s Corner: Happy Birthday Emily Rose!

20101104_36362Proud grandfather Carl Young snapped these pics of his granddaughter’s first birthday party recently. Grandma Charyl beams happily as Emily Rose takes in her surroundings.

20101104_36367As It Stands, may you have many more birthday parties Emily Rose! You cutie…

Daylight savings Time: How time flies! Where to see the world's clocks

Image: Big Ben

Watching the hours fly by from London's Big Ben to NYC's Grand Central

Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends at 2 a.m. Sunday morning when we “fall back” to standard time by turning our clocks back one hour. As you reset the clocks on the microwave, the TV and the bedside alarm, imagine yourself watching time fly in one of these clock-worthy cities.

                                                    Iconic Ben Ben (right) is a London landmark.

Image: Clock at Grand Central Terminal

New York City's Grand Central Terminal

  • For decades, the clock over the information booth at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal has served as both easy-to-spot timepiece and iconic meeting point. Like all clocks at Grand Central, the 1913 four-sided, ball clock is set by the atomic clock in the Naval Observatory in Bethesda, Md., and is accurate to within 1 second every 20 billion years. But the information booth clock is not just accurate; it’s extremely valuable. “The ball clock has been valued at between $10 and $20 million dollars,” said Metro-North Railroad spokesperson Dan Brucker, “That’s because every face of that four-faced clock is made out of a precious jewel: opal.”

    Where to watch this clock: Grand Central TerminalImage: Waldorf-Astoria clock

  • The intricately carved bronze clock at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City was originally a gift from Queen Victoria to the United States for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

  • Standing nine feet tall and weighing in at two tons, the clock has an octagonal base made from marble and mahogany and is decorated with animal sculptures, plaques displaying sporting scenes and portraits of Ben Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria and other historical figures. Chimes, identical to those heard at Westminster Cathedral, play every 15 minutes. And according to hotel tour guide and historian Karen Stockbridge, a copy of the French-made Statue of Liberty was added to the top of the clock by the hotel in 1897. “The English were upset that we put a French statue on an English clock and tried to ask for it back,” said Stockbridge.

  • GO HERE TO SEE MORE

Friday, November 5, 2010

HBO Documentary "War Torn" to air on Nov. 11

I highly recommend viewing this documentary. As a combat vet with PTSD, it’s encouraging to see more information getting to the general public.

If you have a loved one currently in the military, or ex-military, that suffers from depression related to their experiences, this documentary offers insights.

Take a minute and read the following and you’ll see why I think this is a must read for all Americans – especially on Veterans Day. 

Civil War doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity. During the First World War it was known as shell-shock. By World War II, it became combat fatigue. Today, it is clinically known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a crippling anxiety that results from exposure to life-threatening situations such as combat.

With suicide rates among active military servicemen and veterans currently on the rise, the HBO special WARTORN 1861-2010 brings urgent attention to the invisible wounds of war. Drawing on personal stories of American soldiers whose lives and psyches were torn asunder by the horrors of battle and PTSD, the documentary chronicles the lingering effects of combat stress and post-traumatic stress on military personnel and their families throughout American history, from the Civil War through today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The HBO Documentary Films presentation debuts on Veterans Day, THURSDAY, NOV. 11 (9:00-10:15 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

Executive produced by James Gandolfini (HBO’s “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq”), Wartorn 1861-2010 is directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent and produced by Alpert, Goosenberg Kent and Matthew O’Neill, the award-winning producers behind the HBO documentary “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.” Alpert and O’Neill also produced and directed the HBO documentaries “Section 60:  Arlington National Cemetery” and the Emmy®-winning “Baghdad ER.” The documentary is co-produced by Lori Shinseki.

The documentary shares stories through soldiers’ revealing letters and journals; photographs and combat footage; first-person interviews with veterans of WWII (who are speaking about their PTSD for the first time), the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom; and interviews with family members of soldiers with PTSD. Also included are insightful conversations between Gandolfini and top U.S. military personnel (General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and General Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army), enlisted men in Iraq, and medical experts working at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Gen. Chiarelli, who is working to reduce the rising suicide rate in the Army comments, “You’re fighting a culture that doesn’t believe that injuries you can’t see can be as serious as injuries that you can see.”

Bookended by haunting montages of emotionally battered American soldiers through the years, Wartorn 1861-2010 explores the very real wounds that occur as a result of combat stress, or PTSD. Among the segments of the film are:

Angelo Crapsey: In 1861, 18-year-old Angelo Crapsey enlisted in the Union Army. His commanding officer called him the “ideal of a youthful patriot.” In letters sent over the course of two years, Crapsey’s attitude toward the Civil War darkened after he experienced combat and witnessed the deaths of countless soldiers, including several by suicide. By 1863, Crapsey, was hospitalized, feverish and delirious; eventually he was sent home to Roulette, Pa. Becoming paranoid and violent, he killed himself in 1864 at age 21. His father John wrote, “If ever a man’s mental disorder was caused by hardships endured in the service of his country, this was the case with my son.” A postscript reveals, “After the Civil War, over half of the patients in mental institutions were veterans.”

Noah Pierce: More than a century after Crapsey’s suicide, 23-year-old Noah Pierce got in his truck, put a handgun to his head, placed his dog tag next to his temple and shot himself. Pierce’s mother Cheryl recalls how her son changed following two tours of Iraq, showing a photo of him “filled with hate and disillusionment.” Cheryl Pierce says, “The United States Army turned my son into a killer,” adding, “They forgot to un-train him.” In a letter he left in the truck, Pierce wrote, “I’m freeing myself from the desert once and for all…I have taken lives, now it’s time to take mine.”

World War II vets: “Combat fatigue” was considered a character flaw in World War II. In a famous story, Gen. George S. Patton slapped a soldier hospitalized with nervous exhaustion, ordering “that yellow SOB” back to the front. It took 50 years for WWII vets to be diagnosed with PTSD. Today, in the documentary, a group opens up publicly about their traumas for the first time.

Al Maher, who was a Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, laments the toll his war experience took on his family life – he became abusive and took to drinking. As a result, he has not spoken to his sons in 25 years. Abner Greenberg, a corporal in the Marines who lost two best friends in Iwo Jima, kept his wartime traumas pent up and never shared them with his children until he joined a PTSD group and discovered what was wrong with him. Former Army sergeant Bill Thomas remembers shooting four Germans, and being moved when the sole survivor showed him a family photo. “How do you explain the horrors?” Greenberg asks. “It consumes you.”

Akinsanya Kambon: Marine combat illustrator Kambon served as a corporal in Vietnam for nine months. “The Marine Corps teaches you to be like an animal,” he says, adding he turned into “a mad dog.” One of his nightmarish drawings is of a soldier, eyes still flickering, whose lower torso is blown away. “It’s one of the images that I wake up screaming about,” he says, “but it won’t go away.”

Gen. Ray Odierno: In Baghdad, James Gandolfini meets with Gen. Ray Odierno, Commander of Allied Forces in Iraq, who says that 30% of service men and women report symptoms of PTSD and explains how Vietnam helped inform today’s understanding of combat trauma. “Nobody is immune,” says Odierno, relating how his own enlisted son lost his left arm when a rocket-propelled grenade ripped through his vehicle, killing the driver. Later, at nearby Camp Slater, Gandolfini visits with U.S. Army Sgt. John Wesley Matthews, who speaks candidly about his bouts of depression, reliance on sleeping pills and contemplation of suicide.

Jason Scheuerman: A member of the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, Scheuerman grew up in a family of soldiers. His father Chris recalls how Jason went to see an Army psychiatrist, and filled out a questionnaire admitting that he had thought about killing himself. After a ten-minute evaluation, he was told to “man up” and was ordered back to his barracks to clean his weapon. Instead, he shot himself. “It’s not just the soldier that’s in combat that comes down with PTSD,” says Chris Jr., who served in Afghanistan. “It’s the entire family.”

Nathan Damigo: In San Jose, Marine Lance Cpl. Nathan Damigo got a hero’s welcome when he returned home from Iraq. A month later, he was arrested for attacking a Middle Eastern taxi driver at gunpoint. As his mother Charilyn explains, Damigo was drunk and confused, and went into “combat mode” as he assaulted the cabbie. After a final night of freedom, Damigo makes a court appearance where he is sentenced to six years in jail. “They took him when he was 18 and put him through a paper shredder,” says his heartbroken mother. “We get to try to put all the pieces back together. Sometimes they don’t go back together.”

Herbert B. Hayden: In 1921, Col. Herbert Hayden’s Atlantic Monthly story “Shell-Shocked and After” described the “perfect hell” of being sent to the front in WWI. His nightmare continued even after he returned home six months later “back and yet not back at all.” Suicidal, Hayden checked into Walter Reed Hospital, “searching for a spark in the emptiness,” but found only newspaper clippings of tormented ex-soldiers who were not being cared for. “What was wrong with my country?” he asked.

William Fraas Jr.: Two years after his return from the current Iraq conflict, Billy Fraas is trapped by memories, transfixed by computerized photos taken over 29 months and three tours of duty. The leader of a reconnaissance team, he was sent home after PTSD symptoms surfaced, and his leg still shakes uncontrollably when he sits at the computer. Fraas’ wife Marie is frustrated by what’s become of her husband. “Even though he wasn’t shot,” she says, “he still died over there.” Adds Fraas, “I’ve seen humanity at its worst. And I struggle with that on a daily basis.”

HBO Documentary Films in association with Attaboy Films presents WARTORN: 1861-2010. Directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent; produced by Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Matthew O’Neill; co-producer, Lori Shinseki; co-producer, archival segments, Caroline Waterlow; edited by Geof Bartz, A.C.E., Andrew Morreale, and Jay Sterrenberg; supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive produced by James Gandolfini and Sheila Nevins.

Weird energizers: Runners share 7 secret food weapons

My friend (former employee, and newspaper columnist) Woody Woodburn is a long distance runner. He’s competing in the Boston marathon this year. I’m not sure if Woody drinks pickle juice, beet juice, or what his secret supercharger is.

His son Greg is a long distance runner for USC. With a dad like Woody this comes as no surprise to me. He’s an extremely positive and motivated person who inspires others. I hope he meets his personal goals this year.

From the news today…

‘From pickle juice to coconut water, marathoners reveal the quirky ways they fuel up for the long haul’

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Believe it or not: Ripley’s gives dog new ‘leash’ on life

Ripley

Company offering donation to new owners of poodle found in ditch with cockroaches in fur

Its hair was so matted and overgrown, the poodle had to be sedated just to be groomed. Veterinarians found live and dead cockroaches snared in the 2.5 pounds of fur they cut from the dog.

The dog was skinny but not malnourished, and no one could figure out how he ate because his mouth was blocked by overgrown hair. He has packed on a half pound since his rescue and now weighs 5.5 pounds.

Quote For The Day: Taliban Commander Mullah Aminullah

“Look, the Americans call us terrorists; what terrorist act did we ever commit?

They traveled 10,000 miles to us and forced us to wage jihad against the Russians, who were their enemies, and now they are waging a war against us.

We are Afghans and Afghanistan is our country. All we want is for the Americans to leave us alone; only then will there be peace in Afghanistan.” 

--- Mullah Aminullah (right), a close aide of the movement’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar.

Read story here.

Welcome to the Big Top, formally known as the House of Representatives

 The top Congressional clown, John Boehner, is set to be the Ringmaster at the newly christened “Big Top.” 

Image source 

Repugs BRING IN THE CLOWNS. The show can start now. 

The newly elected gaggle of clowns will make it a real circus in Washington, but they’ll be up against a tough public to please. You can only keep ‘em laughing for so long!

rncclowns

Republican clown McConnell says defeating Obama in 2012 is his top priorty–not serving his constituents

 You’d think the Senate’s minority leader would have enough sense to concentrate on getting legislations passed, but HELL NO…he’s continuing his partisan pandering and plans to do everything he can to be an obstructionist in the next two years.

Twenty-four hours after Speaker-to-be Boehner and President Obama talked about the need to work together, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is taking a different tack.

In a speech to be delivered at 11:00 am ET in DC, NBC’s Ken Strickland reports, McConnell will defend his statement that defeating President Obama in 2012 is his top priority -- a comment that drew criticism from Democrats, especially with unemployment near 10%. "Some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office.”

Prop 19: Down, But Not Burnt Out–Advocates See Hope for the Future

20101007_34654

California’s Prop 19 may have failed, but advocates say 2010 was a turning point in the fight for marijuana-law reform. Here’s what’s next for the pro-pot movement

On Tuesday, despite last-ditch advertising efforts and a generous donation, the California initiative to legalize pot squeaked to a stop—garnering just 46 percent of the vote. The measure would have allowed for personal possession of up to an ounce of pot, small-scale cultivation, and the ability for local governments to tax the sale of the drug. Yet despite Prop 19’s failure, the first-of-its-kind measure received the highest level of support to date for a statewide legalization initiative. Advocates say victory or failure, this election will go down in history as a turning point in the fight for pot reform—and one that changed the national discourse for good. “Prop 19's loss was incidental compared to its monumentally positive role in elevating and legitimizing the national debate," Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, tells NEWSWEEK. “This thing has transformed the dialogue about marijuana, here and around the world.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Studies suggest it’s time to kick the multivitamin habit because it could cause some harm…say what?

Don’t you just love it? After all these years of stuffing down daily supplements (some the size of horse pills) just to be on the safe side scientists say we’ve been wasting our time! I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve spent on those little helpers over the years. It appears I might as well have wadded my money up into little balls, soaked them in gasoline, and then lit each one on fire. At least that would have been entertaining.

Moving on…

Daily supplements don't help prevent disease and may actually cause some harm

Excerpt:

“But today, a tsunami of scientific data has resulted in a reversal in thinking among many experts in the health and nutrition community, including Miriam Nelson, PhD, director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity at Tufts University. "The multivitamin as insurance policy is an old wives' tale, and we need to debunk it," she says.”

Mid term election circus over–time to take down the damn signs!

Image: Jerry Brown

The first order of the day…take down all the eye-polluting campaign signs that have sprouted up on people’s lawns and everywhere else you look.

It looks like Meg Whitman wasn’t able to BUY the governorship of California and Prop 19 failed to make history. It’s time to bow to Aqua Budda in Kentucky as Rand Paul won. No one was interested in having an ex-witch so Christine O’Donnell lost to Democrat Chris Coons in Delaware.

In Nevada, Reid defeated one of the Tea Party's most competitive candidates, Sharron Angle. We won’t get the final tally for weeks, but it looks like Tea Party candidate Joe Miller lost to write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Those associating with the Tea Party voted overwhelmingly Republican this year, backing GOP candidates over Democrats by a margin of 87 percent to 11 percent.

Local Election Results

Voters Lose

FROM THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA THIS MORNING:

 New Congress faces tough economic choices -

In bruising Calif. race, Democrat Brown takes statehouse

'Hurricane' ends Democrats' control of House

Alaska Senate race is one big mystery

National overview

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Voting Oddities, Irregularities Across the Nation

 Election Day 2010 ushers in a variety of problems with balloting

From Delaware to California, Election Day 2010 ushered in a variety of voting problems and irregularities.

In Los Angeles, about two dozen California residents received Spanish-language robocalls and mailers instructing them to vote a day after Election Day, a polling watchdog group said Tuesday.

Election Protection said the Hispanic voters in central and southern parts of the city received the reminders telling them to vote on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

U.S. Justice Department officials were investigating the complaints, the group's Los Angeles hotline director Kathay Feng said.

Election Protection said it has received more than 11,000 requests for assistance nationwide, with more than 2,500 of them coming from California voters.

In Delaware, the Christine O'Donnell campaign was asked to "cease and desist" from rallying so loudly outside Kent County polling places that voters inside could hear them, The News Journal of Wilmington reported. The noisy rallies were a technical violation of the election code, State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove told the paper.

O’Donnell campaign spokesman, Doug Sachtleben told the News Journal the campaign was glad “supporters are passionate and that when told to be a little quieter they gladly did so.”

Manlove said she received a complaint this morning about advance teams for the Republican U.S. Senate candidate arriving at polling places just before the candidate. The group stood beyond the 50-foot line of the polling place but were clapping and talking loud enough to have committed the violation, the paper reported.

Manlove reached an O’Donnell staffer from Delaware Republican headquarters and asked them to stop and was assured ralliers would, the News Journal said.

Incidents were reported at a couple of polling places in Kent County, but Manlove said she didn't know the exact locations, the paper said.

READ MORE HERE

A humanoid robot will travel to the international space station this week on the final flight of the shuttle Discovery

robonaut-2

Almost 200 people from 15 countries have visited the international space station, but until now all the crew have been human. This week the station will get its first humanoid robot.

Robonaut 2 (nicknamed, inevitably, R2) will ride on the final flight of space shuttle Discovery this week and spend the next decade helping astronauts on the space station with scientific research and mundane chores.

The $2.5m (£1.6m) robot, made from aluminium and nickel-plated carbon fibre, stands almost a metre tall and weighs 136kg (300lb). Among more than 40 sensors used to detect its surroundings are four visible-light cameras in its golden head sitting in place of eyes, and a fifth in its mouth to measure infrared light and help with depth perception. R2's 38 computer processors fill up the stomach area, firing commands to its highly dexterous arms and fingers.”

After this election: say hello to gridlock ... and goodbye to recovery

I think what bothers me the most, beside the negative campaigning during these mid term elections, is that no matter what happens…the American people are going to be the losers.

There won’t be change with the election of new faces. We’ll have a firmly entrenched partisan Congress and House that will be unable to pass a single law to help the economy.

I feel for those poor souls who think these elections will change anything. Now, we have to prepare for a new nasty campaign for president in 2012. The presidential campaign will basically start tomorrow. The next two years we’re going to be battered with lies as the country sinks further into political polarization.

 Post-election inaction in D.C. probably won't bode well for the economy

“A standoff between the Obama administration and emboldened Republicans will probably block any new help for an economy squeezed by slow growth and high unemployment. Congress might also create paralyzing uncertainty for investors and businesses by fighting over taxes, deficits, health care and financial regulation.

"We expect massive gridlock and little cooperation," writes Brian Gardner, Washington analyst for the financial firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.”

I always suspected that you have to be crazy to run for office

Well, not crazy, but there are certain types of personalities who may be more likely to seek office.

Excerpt: “What we do know about these people, says Dietz president of the forensic consulting firm Park Dietz & Associates, Inc., is that they may often play two general qualities: extroversion and narcissism.”

Excerpt:

Narcissistic traits are more problematic, of course. These can include a grandiose sense of self-importance, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited power, and believing he or she is “special.”

Narcissistic people may require excessive admiration, and possess senses of entitlement, envy, and arrogance. They also tend to exploit others and lack empathy. Narcissism may be more prevalent among pols than in the general population, Dietz says, but, he adds, it’s at least as prevalent among news anchors, Hollywood stars, and top trial lawyers as well. “It’s hard to stay humble at the top,” he says.

“Narcissism helps drive achievement and is also fed by uninterrupted success.” Politicians who are exposed for corruption may have their own problems, possibly antisocial traits such as deceptiveness, failure to plan ahead, recklessness, irresponsibility, and lack of remorse, says Dietz. “Most of the politicians who are exposed for corruption have prominent narcissistic and/or antisocial traits.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

A tribute to the beauty of Paper Art surviving in a digital age

PaperArt63 in The Beauty of Paper Art PaperArt117 in The Beauty of Paper Art

Helen Musselwhite: Romany Caravan 

 

 

 

 

Indian Tree

 

Lost At E Minor

PaperArt104 in The Beauty of Paper Art

Paper Drummer

PaperArt38 in The Beauty of Paper Art

See MORE EXAMPLES HERE

Balloon filled with ground coffee makes ideal robotic gripper

Grip2 Grip1Graduate student John Amend, left, and associate professor Hod Lipson with the universal robotic gripper. Watch the gripper in action. Robert Barker/University Photography

The human hand is an amazing machine that can pick up, move and place objects easily, but for a robot, this "gripping" mechanism is a vexing challenge. Opting for simple elegance, researchers from Cornell, the University of Chicago and iRobot Corp. have created a versatile gripper using everyday ground coffee and a latex party balloon, bypassing traditional designs based on the human hand and fingers.

Study: Alcohol more dangerous than heroin, cocaine

It’s not news that marijuana was made illegal for racists reasons. Therefore it should come as no surprise there’s no credible reason to outlaw pot. This study points out what we’ve known all along…marijuana is less harmful than booze, heroin, crack cocaine, and crystal meth.

'What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science'

“Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamines, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects and harm to others, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

As It Stands: Once upon a Halloween there was this haunted house

Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 10/31/2010 01:13:36 AM PDT

The days of young children roaming neighborhoods (without parental escorts) in search of high candy yields on Halloween are long gone. They're just memories.

When I was a kid in the fifties, we didn't worry about apples spiked with razor blades or candies laced with LSD, crack, or cyanide. Or being kidnapped. Without bodyguards, we roamed the autumn night with other small skeletons and monsters seeking free candy.

I recall Halloween in 1959, when a group of us set out to make a mega-haul of goodies. We carried brown shopping bags and each vowed to fill at least two of them before the night's end.

It meant traveling beyond last year's borders, but we were determined. Our little group included Gunther, the class clown. He was twice our size, stuttered constantly and let us boss him around.

Our group consisted of two pirates (I was one of them), a cowboy, an Indian chief and a railroad conductor (Gunther). We all agreed to pass up our regular pranks, like letting the air out of old man Switzer's Ford pickup tires, so we'd have more time to collect candy.

We were all supposed to be home by 10 o'clock. Boys will be boys, and we decided to stay out until midnight, and damn the consequences. Our efforts paid off, and our second bags were nearly full by 11:30. The first bags were stashed safely in the cowboy's backyard shed.

Then we saw the haunted house. We were in an unfamiliar neighborhood but instantly recognized it from the rumors at school. A monstrous old oak tree stood in the front yard and its gnarly limbs seemed to twist and writhe with lives of their own.

A full harvest moon cast an eerie glow on the mansion from a bygone era. Shadows slunk along the porch and one of the shutters beat a mournful dirge in the wind. We were terrified, just looking at it.

Gunther broke the spell, “Tititi...immmmm...eee to g..go ho...omme!” he stuttered in his terror. But no. The rest of us were of one mind. We would enter that huge old Victorian or die trying.

Good old Gunther was selected to lead the way. It took a lot of name-calling and physical threats to get him to agree, but he finally did. We picked our way through the knee-high grass and weeds and carefully padded up the rickety steps of the front porch. The front door was locked.

Gunther saw this as a sign and suggested we give it up. We weren't having any of that. There was a broken window on the side of the house. Our other pirate located it while answering the call of nature.

 It took all of us to boost Gunther high enough to get through the window. He disappeared inside with a loud crash and a scream of absolute horror! We stood riveted beneath the window, goose bumps crawling up and down our bodies. Then his screams abruptly stopped.

We went back to the front porch and milled around trying to decide what to do. None of us was eager to beat down the front door and look for him. Our Indian chief informed us it was almost the witching hour of midnight.

We finally rallied our courage and forced the front door open and went inside. There was no sign of Gunther. “Who's going to tell his mom?” the cowboy wondered. It was clearly time to leave.

When we got to the cowboy's yard, we discovered our first bags of candy were gone. Our carefully stashed bags brimming with sweets had mysteriously disappeared. We went to bed that night wondering what happened to Gunther and who stole the candy?

Interestingly enough, when we went to school on Monday, Gunther surfaced. He didn't seem any the worse for wear. Even more interesting was his new-found sly smile!

As It Stands, have a happy, creepy, and safe Halloween tonight!