Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Keep goin' bro.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because I wouldn’t cross that line but because I don’t know how to steal a car. Do you actually “hotwire” it? What, take two wires under the steering wheel and touch them together?

I don’t know anything about that kind of stuff.

And also I slept until 2pm.

Why hasn’t he come crashing through the door yet?

I peeked through smoke-stained curtains into the courtyard. Just a few cars in the parking lot. My rental and his SUV were parked about 50 feet apart. I dashed. As I ran, I clicked the key chain to unlock the doors and the trunk opened. Clicked another button and the car alarm went off. Come on.

Hammer down, ripping out of the parking lot and I saw the effer in my rear view bombing towards his truck. I had maybe 30 seconds on him.

And then things just…got…quiet. There was no racing engine, no car horns or tire shriek, just trees and telephone poles blurring past me and a kind of humming vibration in my head.

How on effing earth did I end up here? What seeds did I sow to be reaping all of this? I haven’t been living recklessly. I try to make good choices. I work hard. I try to do the right things.

And all of this…

And all of this.

I was snapped back into time by a flash in my rear view mirror. A deer, I think, making a run for the other side of the road thought better of it and froze. In the middle of the street.

It stood statue-still and I saw my guy bank hard to the right to avoid hitting it. For a moment, all of the momentum and weight of his truck balanced on the front drivers side wheel. Then the back of the truck lifted into the air and he went over.

Holy shit. My heart raced. My mind raced. Fate finally throws me a bone.

I drove a few miles, slowed and pulled a U-turn. I pulled onto the shoulder and lifted the hood of my car. Just a guy with engine trouble. The first car that passed pulled over and offered a ride.

All of my instincts told me to go the other way. Get far away fast. But I noticed something about myself. Something new. I was thinking clearly. Hyper-focused. I was going to ride right past this guy and head back into town. The last thing he would ever expect.

It’s time for me to go home.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's him.

I got off the highway and found a place to stay. I checked in under an assumed name and paid cash.

I don’t dare use credit cards or my cell phone. I’m trying to stay off the grid and become as invisible as I can.

So I can’t understand how he found me but he’s here.

So now I’m holed up in a shitty room with the doors triple locked. I can’t run any more without getting some sleep. I just need a couple of hours and then I might be able to sneak away in the middle of the night.

I can’t believe it but I’m seriously thinking about stealing a car for the first time in my life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm being followed...

I first noticed him at baggage claim. Maybe he was on my flight…I don’t know.

I saw him again in the parking garage and he followed me out of the airport. I floored the rental car and took off. I was driving with a death-wish, changing lanes, speeding up and slowing down, faking exits and hiding behind trucks. I doubled back on my route…

…and he was gone.

I’ve got to get some sleep.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So I called “D&W Sealcoating.” And I recorded the call. All I can say is that everything has changed.

I don’t think I should stay here. I don’t think I can afford to wait...to just let them come and get me. I’m…I mean…I’ve got to go somehow. Lay low somewhere…where it’s safe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that someone isn’t following me…

This Saturday, for the second time in the past week or two, someone, ostensibly from “D&W Sealcoating”, left a business card in my mailbox with the same mysterious message handwritten on the back.

“325 or 298 9-15 only”

Either there is some kind of promotional offer available only on September 15 or something more sinister is afoot.

I mean, my driveway is in good shape. I’m not a candidate for sealcoating so why would they put this in my mailbox? Unless it’s a coded message.

In this day and age, it pays to be cautious. After all, today’s Homeland Security threat level is “Yellow” which means “Elevated.”


One thing I can tell you for sure, I’m not sticking my head out until I know just what the hell is going on. What price freedom? Eternal vigilance.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Variety of Life

This is Ruby. She’s a rescue dog. I don't mean that she'll save you in the event of an avalanche or anything, just that she came from of those animal rescue outfits. She came to live with us about three months ago and endeared herself to us in short order.

We’re told that in her former life she belonged to an elderly couple. While the wife was in the hospital for surgery, the husband was driving to visit her when he had a terrible car accident and was hospitalized himself. There was no one to take care of Ruby and so adoption was the only choice.

That absolutely must be the story they tell everyone about every dog. I mean, no way right? That one just reeks of urban legend and I’m not buying it.*

Whatever her story, my guess is that her past was not abusive as much as it was neglectful. She doesn’t flinch when you go to pet her like some abused dogs. She just wants to be around people. Always. Every second. And right under foot too.

So everything is going well and after about three months we go to the vet for some routine medical stuff including a heart worm test. And the test comes back positive. Somehow, between the time that the rescue outfit tested her and got her onto preventative meds, Ruby was infected.

Just rotten luck really.

Anyway, she’s being treated and the vet is optimistic about her chances. But heart worm is a pretty serious disease and it will kill a dog if left untreated. And the treatment itself carries a weird risk also.

But what’s really crazy is the life cycle of these parasitic roundworms.

To become infected with heart worm (dirofilaria immitis), a dog (or cat, wolf, fox, ferret or sea lion) MUST be bitten by an infected mosquito. That bite will cause the larval stage of the heart worm to infect the dog.

As the larvae mature, they migrate to the muscles of the chest and abdomen, concentrating typically in the heart and arteries around the heart. They simply bathe in the blood flow absorbing the nutrients they need to survive. At full maturity, they are about the size of a piece of spaghetti.

They bear baby heart worms called microfilariae by the thousands. Every day. The host’s bloodstream becomes crowded with them. But at this stage, the microfilariae don’t any damage. Until another mosquito bites the dog.

The microfilariae then infect the new mosquito, molt into a new life stage and migrate to the mosquito’s salivary glands and wait. The mosquito then bites another dog and injects the larvae where they migrate to the heart, grow to the size of spaghetti, produce tens of thousands of young and then another mosquito comes along…

The fact is, they must spend two to six weeks inside of a mosquito in order to advance to the next life stage and become infectious..

Isn’t that insane? The bottom-up design strategy of evolution makes for some crazy shit!

So that’s what we’re up against with Ruby. The treatment involves the injection of Immiticide…a nasty compound that kills the mature worms. The risk of the treatment is that once the worms die, they can detach from the heart, get into the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism and the dog dies.

To reduce this risk, you have to keep the dog inside and as calm as possible. No exercise whatsoever. The heavy blood flow associated with increased activity greatly increases the chance of embolism.

After five weeks of trying to keep a three year old lab calm and inactive, you go back for another shot of Immiticide. Then the next day you go and hit ‘em again with a third shot of Immiticide – One-two-Bam-Bam. And then they give a second medication to kill off the microfilariae. Five more weeks of calm and quiet living and, hopefully, your dog is heart worm and microfilariae free and good to go.

So far so good. I’ll keep you in the loop with our progress.

*One quick note about the rescue agency we dealt with, PAWS New England. They are good people doing good work and they have been completely upstanding about all of this. They are paying for Ruby’s treatment. You could do a lot worse than sending some of your charitable contributions their way.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

To lighten it up a bit...

I present two signs that I saw with my own eyes during my travels in the last year...

And this sign which isn't real at all...

Enough with the science!

You're right. You are definitely right. Just one more.

Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, has an amazing post about a gamma ray burst that caught the earth full-on, dead-center this past March. It was the "single most luminous event ever witnessed by humans."

And gamma ray bursts are the baddest beasts in the universe. Thankfully this one happened 7.5 billion light years away.

Had we been much, much closer, like a thousand light years away, the energy from the beam would have torn our atmosphere away, boiled our oceans, and irradiated
the planet with a million times the lethal dose of high-energy gamma and X-rays.
Nice huh? Talk about wrong place at the wrong time. Usually, the chances of being hit by such a narrow beam of energy are pretty low. But we defied the odds on this one. Hit us right in the forehead.

Anyway, Plait's post tells you all you need to know about GRB's so check it out if you're interested.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Large Hadron Collider day!

On Wednesday, the LHC outside of Geneva, Switzerland goes live. It’s the biggest particle accelerator (or “atom smasher”) ever built and scientists hope it will teach them about the conditions immediately following the big bang.

Inside the 17 mile underground tunnel, giant magnets will accelerate protons up to 99.99999% of the speed of light. When they collide, they will generate concentrations of energy similar to those that existed during the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

On a tiny scale then, scientists hope to recreate whatever kinds of primordial forces, energy and matter existed 14 billion years ago before the universe cooled down.

It is hoped that we can confirm the existence of the mysterious Higgs boson, a particle thought to endow all other particles with mass. (I know. Me neither.) But if we don’t find it, some serious work is going to have to be done on the standard model of physics.

We may also learn more about dark energy and dark matter. This is the stuff that makes up 94% of our universe and we have no idea what it is or how it behaves. All we know is that its accelerating the expansion of the universe.

Think of that. 94% of the stuff in the universe is a total effing mystery. Until recently, we didn’t even think to think of it!

What you can be certain about is that the universe is not going to evaporate once the collider gets turned on.

In fact the LHC may very well produce tiny little black holes that wink in and out of existence. That freaky possibility is very real because they will be cramming a whole lot of energy into a very small space and Einstein showed that it is energy and not mass that governs gravitational attraction for moving particles. So when two particles go racing past each other at extremely high energy levels…maybe they create a black hole.

But if it is possible for these black holes to be created inside the LHC, then hundreds of black holes must be produced every single day due to high-energy cosmic rays bombarding the earth.

So one of two things will happen. Either black holes will not be produced at all or they will decay very quickly. Either way, we’ll all be around on Thursday to talk about it.

(In fact, yesterday Stephen Hawking weighed in on the subject and reassures:

"The LHC is absolutely safe. If the collisions in the LHC produced a micro black hole - and this is unlikely - it would just evaporate away again, producing a correctoristic pattern of particles,"
There now. Nothing to worry about, just a correctoristic pattern of particles. Interestingly, Hawking also said that he has placed a $100 bet that scientists will not find the Higgs boson.)

It’s likely to be months or even years before the experiments at the LHC produce useful knowledge and understanding. What they hope to achieve are extremely rare events – maybe one collision in a billion. But it’s also likely that we will reshape our thinking about the most fundamental questions in physics.

It’s a cool thing…to be alive and know that we are stretching mankind’s understanding of the universe. That we are probing mysteries that were absolutely unknowable until now.

Our picture of the universe is about to come into a slightly sharper focus. What a human achievement!

If this subject is of any interest to you at all, you might check out these links to learn more:

5 Part BBC Series on the LHC

Brian Cox talk at TED

Monday, September 8, 2008

The best catalog ever...

When the mail came on Friday I didn’t even look at it. Bills, crap, magazine, catalogs. Just threw it a pile and moved on.

On Sunday, in that very pile, I discovered something wonderful. It’s the 2008 Holiday Gift Preview catalog from Entertainment Earth. It has a big warning on the front that reads “For Mature Readers Only.”

As a mature reader myself, I was intrigued. The cover featured statues of Freddie Mercury, Bettie Page, Joey Ramone, Scott Ian from Anthrax and even an “Alfred Hitchcock The Birds” Barbie Doll.

Inside were all kinds of collectibles – mostly statues and action figures but also animation cells, games, lunchboxes and other memorabilia. There were lots of music figurines and lots of movie stuff as well. Star Wars and Star Trek were particularly well represented but there were lots of surprises too.

Herewith, some of the best - including photos and actual copy from the website!

Keith Emerson Rock Iconz of ELP Statue

  • Fans of Keith Emerson and ELP, rejoice!
  • A true rock icon, authentically portrayed!
  • 12-inches tall, in painstaking detail.

Combining unearthly sounds with classical influences, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) carved out his standing as a true rock icon. Emerson is authentically portrayed with his signature keyboard in this astounding sculpture. The superlative 1:9 scale Keith Emerson Statue is created in painstaking detail by artists who have hand painted and hand numbered this collectible. Standing just under 12-inches tall, it's a polyresin limited edition of only 3,000 pieces, worldwide. If Keith's your man, you simply must have one of these! $148.99

(Note from Tim: This is the best. I had a very serious “Brain Salad Surgery” era fixation on ELP. I know all the words to Karn Evil 9 by heart. Really. And if I’m not mistaken, “Karn Evil 9” in its entirety took up the last track on side one and ALL of side two. And oh, by the way, I just checked Wikipedia real quick to see if I was right and I was. Subsequent releases put the whole thing on one side but I had the first pressing baby! That’s right kid. Got to have my ELP! And for even more fun, get this, the song consists of three movements, or "Impressions," with the First Impression divided into two parts:

First Impression, Part 1 (0:00 to 8:41)
First Impression, Part 2 (8:42 to 13:22)
Second Impression (13:23 to 20:30)
Third Impression (20:31 to 29:37)

C’mon, was it REALLY necessary to break the First Impression into two parts? The lesson here: punk was inevitable.)

Alfred Hitchcock The Birds Barbie Doll

This Barbie is for The Birds! Actually, this Barbie from The Birds is for you! Celebrating Alfred Hitchcock's classic film, this incredible collector's doll features our heroine being attacked by a trio of fine feathered foes, just like in the movie. Will these plastic birds damage her delightful handbag or her carefully styled hair? We certainly hope not! Be sure to let Barbie into your home and pray that the birds don't come in with her! Stands about 11 1/2-inches tall. $44.99

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Rock Iconz Statue

This Jimmy Page Limited Edition Statue features the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist in his white "poppy suit" with the dragon and poppy embroidery sculpted in intricate detail. It seizes a moment in time from 1977 during the performance of "Dazed and Confused" with the bow held overhead. This 9-inch tall, fine-arts piece is a remarkably lifelike resin sculpture, and each collectible is individually hand painted and hand numbered. A limited edition of 3,000 pieces, it comes with a certificate of authenticity. "Get the Led out" and bring Jimmy Page to your house! $114.99

The Dude (Unemployed) 8-Inch Action Figure

Don't miss The Dude-- Unemployed! You'll flip for our Comic-Con Exclusive Action Figure of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Dressed in his bathrobe and sandals, he stands 8-inches tall and comes with loads of hilarious accessories: sunglasses, robe, White Russian, milk carton, ID card, and genuine cloth rug! Achieve your desires by buying this character today!

Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski is a real laid-back kind of guy. He enjoys "bowling, driving, (and having) the occasional acid flashback." In the classic film The Big Lebowski, this humble pacifist and his bowling buddies become entangled in a web of embezzlement, supposed kidnapping, and White Russians.$24.99

(Note from Tim: I love how they specify that this is The Dude during his unemployed period...)

Star Wars Life Size Yoda Monument

He's actual size! And he's glorious! Standing tall and proud, this magnificent 37-inch tall x 55-inch wide mixed-media sculpture of Yoda features real hair, real cloth, and a light-up lightsaber that makes realistic sounds from the movie. Plug him in and enjoy the closest thing to a real live Jedi Master in your very own home or office. Watch your friends do a double take when they enter the room and find this fellow waiting for them. You just gotta have this one! Runs on AC power or 6 x "AA" batteries, included. $824.99

(Note from Tim: this one happens to be sold out - at $824.99!)

Star Wars Princess Leia as Jabba's Slave Statue

Have mercy, Leia! Seriously now, folks… could you ask for anything more? Who can forget Princess Leia-- adorned in a golden bikini-- captive of the disgusting but powerful Jabba the Hutt? Gentle Giant brings this memorable scene to life in a stunning and seductive piece, masterfully crafted in the exacting detail discerning collectors demand. Measuring 6 3/4-inches tall x 11-inches wide and made of polyresin, Leia comes with a certificate of authenticity. Limited edition of 5,500 pieces. Come and get her! $179.99

Ozzy Osbourne 3 ¼ inch Plate

The Ozzy Osbourne 3 1/4-inch Plate features the famous rocker in numerous poses that showcase various stages of his solo career. Black Sabbath's leading front man, Ozzy Osbourne has been captured in a stunning likeness on this porcelain plate. Down to his tattoos, these depictions of Ozzy by artist Michael Taylor are amazingly true to life. Too good to miss, order yours now! $19.99

(Note from Tim: Consider this on the merits of the art alone. This is right out of the notebook of some kid in junior high. I hope he got paid for it because the thing is out-of-stock!)

Freddie Mercury Rock Iconz Queen Statue

  • The fabulously flamboyant Freddie!
  • Exquisitely hand painted.
  • You're sure to love this!

This exciting statue of Freddie Mercury is officially licensed by Queen Productions. It features the fabulously flamboyant Freddie in a clearly identifiable frontman pose. A limited edition of 3,000 pieces, the exquisitely hand painted and numbered polyresin piece stands 9-inches tall and comes on a Queen-themed base with a certificate of authenticity. If you love Freddie or you love Queen, you're sure to love this! Stands 9-inches tall. $114.99

Dr. Laura 11-Inch Talking Action Figure

Homesick and missing mommy? Well, now you have Dr. Laura to preach, teach, and nag you instead! This Dr. Laura talking action figure stands 11-inches tall and says 23 different phrases when you press her button. She comes packaged in a display box that features her biography and photos from her personal collection. This Dr. Laura doll even has the stamp of approval from the real Dr. Laura herself! Batteries included. Phrases include:

  • "Proud mother of an American Soldier"
  • "Now, go and do the right thing."
  • "Argue with me. It makes me testy."
  • "Be the kind of person you'd like to come home to every day."
  • "This is the hill you want me to die on?"
  • "I am my kids mom."
  • And more.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is not only one of the most popular radio personalities in America, she is also a best selling author of 14 books, including 4 children's books. Best known for her no-nonsense approach to parenting and her unwavering commitment to children, Dr. Laura always believes everyone should "go do the right thing." $29.99

It's never too early to start dropping holiday hints!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Half the size of my head...

WAY back on July 22, The New York Times published an article about mirrors. It wasn't very good. This paragraph should give you a sense of what the article was about and, at the same time, how confusing it was.

With their capacity to reflect back nearly all incident light upon them and so recapitulate the scene they face, mirrors are like pieces of dreams, their images hyper-real and profoundly fake. Mirrors reveal truths you may not want to see. Give them a little smoke and a house to call their own, and mirrors will tell you nothing but lies.

Uhh, pieces of dreams? From there the article discusses how mirrors are helping scientists understand self awareness and how it influences our behavior.

But, if you had the patience to soldier through, there were a couple of cool, counter-intuitive tidbits about mirrors and the reflections we see.

For example, there are just a few non-human species that have been found to recognize themselves in a mirror - chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, dolphins and Asian elephants. Interestingly, all animals that live in extremely sophisticated social groups.

Even cooler, consider this: Imagine you are standing in front of a bathroom mirror; how big do you think the image of your face is on the mirror?

About life size, wouldn't you say? More or less the same size as your own face and head.

And what would happen to the size of the reflected image if you moved farther and farther away from the mirror?

It would shrink right? As you move farther away from the mirror, the reflection of your face gets smaller.

These are the most intuitive answers but the fact is, the reflection of your face is exactly half the size of your actual face. Exactly half. And it's exactly half the size no matter where you stand. Get up close and it's half the size. Walk back and back and back and it's always half the size of your actual face.

The reason for this is that no matter how close or how far you are from the mirror, the mirror is always half way between your real self and the reflected you.

But wait. There's more.

This "rule of half" only applies to you. If you stand still in front of the mirror and a friend approaches, the size of the reflection of their face will grow larger! And if they back away, their reflection shrinks!

The article suggests...

...imagining that you had an identical twin, that you were both six feet tall and that you were standing in a room with a movable partition between you. How tall would a window in the partition have to be to allow you to see all six feet of your twin?

The window needs to allow light from the top of your
twin’s head and from the bottom of your twin’s feet to reach you. These two light sources start six feet apart and converge at your eye. If the partition is close to your twin, the upper and lower light points have just begun to converge, so the opening has to be nearly six feet tall to allow you a full-body view. If the partition is close to you, the light has nearly finished
converging, so the window can be quite small. If the partition were halfway between you and your twin, the aperture would have to be — three feet tall.

Optically, a mirror is similar except that instead of lighting coming from your twin directly through a window, you see yourself in the mirror with light from your head and your feet being reflected off the mirror into your eye.

Got that? Thankfully they included this helpful graphic.

The lesson is that the tools that we use to perceive the world have limitations. What we think we see and what we think we know aren't always real. Magicians regularly take advantage of these limitations. So do psychics. Seeing it with your own two eyes doesn't always make it so!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Miles per...gulp.

September, 2008 marks the 100th birthday for both the Ford Model-T and General Motors. In light of that milestone and the cost of fuel, here are a couple of interesting factoids from the September, '08 issue of Fast Company...

  • Ford produced more than 15,000,000 Model-T automobiles.

  • The Model-T averaged 21 miles per gallon.

  • The average fuel economy of all new cars in 2007 was 26.7 mpg.

  • In 1908, a gallon of gas cost around $0.18. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $3.90 per gallon.

They also note that GM lost $38.7 billion in 2007. B-B-B-Billion!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

You can't put toothpaste back in the tube.

I just sent out an email telling people about the blog. First time I’ve really opened it up to anyone except a few close friends. Pressure’s really on now to keep it fresh and keep the posts coming and keep them good.

Ye gads.

I started doing this in mid-July but I didn’t want to tell anybody about it until I was sure that it was something I really wanted to do. Now I know.

Thanks for looking in. Tell a friend if you think they’re of like mind. Or even if they’re not. I have a real rush of anticipation but at the same time I have no idea what to expect.

Feels good!

Surely you’ve noticed. The sun is sitting lower in the sky.

Here on the Atlantic coast, the ocean has turned a bit. Nothing too dramatic yet, just choppier. Surly maybe.

And Labor Day has passed meaning that summer is kind of symbolically over. The temptation to hunker down for the winter is great.

But don’t. Not yet anyway. Around here, September and October are great months. The air changes. It smells good. The nights cool off and make for great sleeping. The leaves change and, where we live, the marsh changes also. It’s really beautiful.

But when the ocean turns battleship-gray, it’s time to move the coolers and barbecues from the beach to the football stadium.

I don't follow football that closely (I'm strictly a homer) but I do read one football column every week - ”Tuesday Morning Quarterback” by Gregg Easterbrook.

Easterbrook is a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic and The Washington Monthly, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist for ESPN.com.

His football column is an unconventional look at the previous week in the NFL. He views the game from atypical perspectives and curious angles which makes for an insightful, surprising and funny read.

Which is good because each column runs about 12-15 pages.

His NFL preview this year continues his tradition of making predictions for each team in haiku.

Front office is the
Bear Stearns of the NFL.
The Cincy Bengals.

He regularly peppers the column with observations on the space program, science, politics and scantily clad cheerleaders. He’s got a kind of “smartest guy in the room” thing about him but all (or most) of his thoughts are very well reasoned and supported by logic.

I like it because it keeps me alive at cocktail parties. If you get caught in a conversation about the NFL, Easterbrook will keep you afloat until you can turn the conversation to that new Brian Eno record…