Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Capella Science - Rolling in the Higgs (Adele Parody)




There's a collider under Geneva
Reaching new energies that we've never achieved before
Finally we can see with this machine
A brand new data peak at 125 GeV
See how gluons and vector bosons fuse
Muons and gamma rays emerge from something new
There's a collider under Geneva
Making one particle that we've never seen before

The complex scalar
Elusive boson
Escaped detection by the LEP and Tevatron
The complex scalar
What is its purpose?
It's got me thinking

Chorus:
We could have had a model (Particle breakthrough, at the LHC)
Without a scalar field (5-sigma result, could it be the Higgs)
But symmetry requires no mass (Particle breakthrough, at the LHC)
So we break it, with the Higgs (5-sigma result, could it be the Higgs)

Baby I have a theory to be told
The standard model used to discover our quantum world
SU(3), U(1), SU(2)'s our gauge
Make a transform and the equations shouldn't change

The particles then must all be massless
Cause mass terms vary under gauge transformation
The one solution is spontaneous
Symmetry breaking

Roll your vacuum to minimum potential
Break your SU(2) down to massless modes
Into mass terms of gauge bosons they go
Fermions sink in like skiers into snow

Lyrics and arrangement by Tim Blais and A Capella Science
Original music by Adele

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One Giant Leap


We Are Norma




 “You don’t recognize me at all, do you?” she asked and I hate it when a woman asks that question in that tone of voice.  But no. There wasn’t anything familiar about the woman at all. I didn’t just not remember her name I couldn’t remember anything at all about her.
“I’m Donna Lewis, from the gym”
I hadn’t seen Donna Lewis in the last five or so years. I had left one gym where she worked out and joined another across town. But there was Donna, in her sweats and an old tee shirt, and at first I didn’t recognize her at all. When she said her name it clicked and then I realize she had gained weight. Wow. So the gym wasn’t working? Geez, it’s a death sentence for a man to mention a woman’s weight.
“Yeah, I know, I got fat.”  She said.

Now I hated it even worse because either she saw that look on my face or she has really let herself go and hates herself for it, or both. My mind searched for something, anything, to change the subject.
“Hey!” Thank dog almighty there was an out! “You’re wearing a ring! Who did you get married to? And I remember she had a son. She and a friend of hers were always talking about what weird things their sons got into. Both were eighteen at the time and…
“I uh,” and she looked away, and then got a little red in the face. “Norma and I got married a year ago or so.”
That would be her friend with the son. Well, Mike, a woman who didn’t recognize at all because of her weight gain is coming out to her apparent switch in the batter’s box. I tried to think of another subject, like maybe the Ebola virus.
“She gained weight too.” Donna blurts out and I can see she wished she had never said that either.
I hear the sound of dogs barking and I wake up. I was asleep. All of this was a dream. I never knew anyone named Donna Lewis who had a friend named Norma.

Donna Lewis is the name of a Welch singer who had a hit that played on the radio for a while in the late 90’s. I remember the song because of the lyrics, “you’ve got…the most unbelievable blue eyes I’ve ever seen” and don’t ask me why that stuck in my head.  But that Donna Lewis is real. The Donna Lewis in the store isn’t.

I remember there being two women in the gym who hung out together and they were always talking about, Paul, the son one of them had. He had a friend who was a train wreck of a teenager who was always coming up with some scheme to win the battle of wits with the law, even though he was unarmed. He surmised the best way to get out of a DUI was to leap out of his car as soon as the cops stopped and immediately start guzzling whiskey straight out of the bottle in full view of their dashboard camera. The thought here was they couldn’t prove he was drunk before he started drinking right there on the spot.

I think the dream was based on those people from that time period of my life, but the physical appearance of the woman, the name, the relationship with the other woman, none of the details were right. Yet in the dream I “remembered” her. There was a reference to her in my mind. There was a shared past between us in the gym and memories of other people. I knew who Norma was. I remembered who they both were.

As disconcerting as it might be neither of these women exist outside my mind, it was just a dream, so I do realize my mind invented them for reasons I cannot explain.  We accept this sort of hallucinations because we aren’t walking around in the grocery store having memories that aren’t there.  But sometimes people do that sort of thing and the rest of us think they’re totally nuts.

I’m fairly sure I don’t talk in my sleep so the vocalization part of a dream doesn’t occur in that regions of the brain governing speech.  There is a clear difference in most of us between dreaming and being awake, and that difference is more than just the sleep mode. Yet we all know our minds do not work in the “normal” manner in which we believe the mind should work. We see things that are not there, we cannot remember names, we lost our train of thought and cannot through any sort of effort, remember why we walked into a room. These are not personal quirks but rather the human condition. At the same time, while recognizing all of this as true, we still cling to what is “normal” as a whole, even though we experience abnormal mind activity on a near hourly basis.

As you read this you might agree with what I am saying or you might disagree with what I’m saying, but at the same time you do understand the words you’re reading. My mind has laid out in, I hope, an orderly fashion words that will convey what I am thinking. If I have done my job then your mind will be able to take these symbols and you’ll be able to think, “Gee, how many times have a forgotten a name, or lost my glasses while wearing them, or couldn’t remember something I knew I knew?” and we can have a discussion as to why this is and what it might mean.
Suppose we were to invent a new word. This word was to describe a slight and temporary mental illness which causes the sufferer to totally be unable to recall names, numbers, and the location of eyewear.  “Pseudo-amnesia” which would mean “false Amnesia” might be a nice term, but in this sense, why don’t we call it “Norma”?  We shall have everything right in the mind with the word “Normal” and when things go missing we lose the “l” and things are “Norma” Of course, those women, and likely a man or two with the name Norma might object but I suspect they are a minority and historically speaking, they’re going to lose this battle. Likely, somewhere in history, the Normas will rise up against the oppression and be free, but not until I stop walking around the house looking for my glasses while they are hiding on top of my head.
You know I am not serious in this but at the same time you do understand that Norma is a condition we all suffer from. Memory can be invented as well as deleted or hidden. What is supposed to be there isn’t and what is there is fiction of the most bizarre form.  We cannot tell one from the other without help from other people who are suffering from Norma also.

Can you remember the name of the singer who I mentioned earlier? Can you remember the name of the son? What name popped into your head as you tried to remember? If you closed the window on this essay and did not return to it until you remembered both names could you remember to return here to report how long it took?
We are Norma.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Cutting Ceiling.




Suppose you were to sit down and copy this paragraph, word for word, sentence for sentence, with all the errors and ugliness in it intact. You might discover some eternal flaw in its structure while you were copying it especially if you were writing it out longhand. You might look at one of the sentences and realize it could be have made better by adjusting a comma or the exit of a word or two or perhaps even made better by the simple deletion of the whole affair in total. That would be depressing for me at the very least but it would not be the first time axed words have been declared acceptable losses in the name of readability.

So what was that paragraph trying to tell you? What did it say? Dog forbid but suppose that paragraph was the last remains of the last document written in English left for some other civilization to find? Suppose some cryptologist of arcane languages happened upon the parchment and from that had to discern the intent of the author, long turned into moldy dust and sentence fragments. Hell, is there enough there for you to see where I am going, much less someone who has never seen the English language?

If writing is a lost art then editing is the Atlantis of the writing world these days. I will be the first to admit my editing skills are somewhere between a slow train wreck and a bad snake bite. I finally realized, very late in the game, that poorly edited work is the same as poorly written work. Being a good writer means being a good editor. Writing well means editing carefully and I have to confess I am not a very good editor at all, yet. Becoming a good editor isn’t as hard as being a good writer but editing isn’t as much fun as writing. Writing is the party and editing is the hangover.

We should be so lucky if our civilization is judged by the skill of someone like Mark Twain. Yet suppose all that was found was a bit of “Huckleberry Finn” where the eponymous character was engaged in conversation with his faithful companion, Jim, the slave. Without any knowledge of the English language the future archeologists might very well believe the dialect spoken was the standard by which all English was written or spoken. The depth of the writing would be revealed only if the researchers could in fact discern how well the piece was edited. We should quake for how our civilization is portrayed if my editing is how they judge us.

I am one of the few writers who is not only fully self taught in the craft of writing but who is also a self taught editor. I went for many years believing good writing made up for bad editing but the reality is that writing does not drag bad editing up but rather bad editing drags good writing down. A confused verb or a misspelled word can stick in the mind of a reader like someone watching a Shakespearean play noticing one of the actors wearing bright red running shoes and a Britney Spears tee shirt. How many readers have stopped reading an essay once they’ve mentally corrected the first few errors? As a writer I am here to tell you these people are the target audience of those who aspire to write well. The best readers demand and they deserve, the best writing. These are the connoisseurs of the written word, picky consumers of the craft, and those most likely to fall in love with the ideal.  No matter how hurried or tired or even impressed with what has been written, please remember that it will have to be read, and judged, not only by content but also by that last coat of paint, and perhaps, only by that. No matter how well your house is designed if the paint job looks like it was applied by evil space monkeys then selling that house will be a bit of a problem.

The last work I sent out to be looked at by a professional editor came back with fewer errors than I feared yet more than I had hoped. I thought it had been combed over very well and considering out of ten thousand or so words fewer than a half dozen were edited I thought it was still pretty good. The downside to this is I made what I thought was a heroic effort to edit the material. Six mistakes out of ten thousand words may not seem important but if only perfection will do then only perfection should be done.

I do not understand editors. I suspect a lot of them are failed writers but so are most writers. I also suspect many failed writers are failed editors in some way, too. Yet I do know people who like editing and have no real need to write. That’s mystifying to me but it is not my place in the Universe to comprehend what other people enjoy. I must admit dealing with an editor is much akin to dealing with a butcher who is supposed to be pet sitting a sacred cow. That person may claim to know who much you love the cow and that person may profess a knowledge of how much the cow means to you, but at the same time this is the person who is going to very matter of factly discuss trimming away, nay, hacking away, a good piece of your cow and then tell you the best parts are now what’s left.  

There are no famous documents with editing issues. No one ever discusses the spelling errors in the Declaration of Independence or the sentence fragments in “The Lord of the Rings”. No one speaks in glowing terms bestselling novels and then laments the lack of editing skills on the part of the writers.  The two go hand in hand; good writing means good editing. But do not confuse the issue here because good editing will not save bad writing. It can only condemn good writing to a discussion of what might have been.
Take Care,
Mike

The Demon Core

http://encyclopedia.tfd.com/Demon+core

The Demon Core was the nickname given to a 6.2-kilogram (14 lb) subcritical mass of plutonium that accidentally went critical on two separate instances at the Los Alamos laboratory in 1945 and 1946. Each incident resulted in the acute radiation poisoning and subsequent death of a scientist. After these incidents the mass of plutonium was referred to as the Demon Core.
The so-called Demon Core was used in an atomic bomb test in 1946, five weeks after the last accident with it, and proved in practice to have a slightly increased yield over similar cores which had not been subjected to criticality excursions.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mike Vick Takes A Hit!


Thank you, Todd Akin.

Back a couple of years ago there was a man who was going around in Austin Texas putting drugs into the drinks of other men and then raping them. A reporter for MSNBC wrote an article stating that men were more traumatized by sexual assault than women because women has a one in four chance of being sexually assault during their lifetimes and sexual assault rarely happened to men. I didn't have time enough to post the link to the story before they killed it but I do remember being truly stunned by the man's attitude. I really thought no one else was going to ever say anything that stupid again, but thank you Todd Akin. You've managed to top even that.

Updated:

"What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong, and for that, I apologize." excerpt from Todd Akin's apology where irony meets idiocy. But if his remarks were "ill conceived" does that mean he is legitimately sorry or does it mean those words were raped from him?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lucas, Lillith and Love




It’s hard for me to admit it but I am not a match for Lucas. I’m fifty-one years old and Lucas weighs over one hundred pounds, I have about sixty-five pounds on him but that is human mass not animal mass. A young man in his prime, might, just maybe, hold his own with a pissed off dog half his weight, but many things must go right, early and often.  A man my age trying to match muscle playing with a dog the size of Lucas is going to have to make some concessions.  The first of these will be if the dog suddenly gets serious theological questions will be answered.

I do well with dogs. I’ve been bitten before but it has always been my fault, and it usually is the fault of the human when dealing with a large dog. They are not toys. They are not slaves. They are not machines. They have emotions and souls. If you want to get down to the very heart of a dog you have to take some risks and you will lose some of your bets. Bert bit me. Sam has bitten me. Sabrina bit me. Spike bit me. Hell, with that evidence you’d think I didn’t know a damn thing about animals at all, but the truth is that is their way of swinging on you when you’ve pissed them off. I’ve been popped a few times by friends of mine, too. Most men have. But I would like to think that is part of my past, and now I’m getting to the point I can’t take as many chances with dogs either.

When Lucas and I played I could tell he was holding back and he was more or less using about a third of what he had. I could wear him out but I had to use everything I had and he had to have an off day. Lillith’s introduction into the pack was more than Michelle and I saving yet another dog. Lillith was meant to be a chew toy for Lucas. I was hoping they would bond, and in this Lucas would find someone he could be physical with and in that, find a little more exercise than I was giving him.

I like it when a plan comes together.

Lucas spent the first week or two hiding under the table. He was not sure what Lillith was, or why she was there, but he sure as hell didn’t like the idea of there being a puppy made entirely of the cute roaming free in the house. But she was demur as well as cute and even Sam fell in love with her. Lucas fell too, but it took a while for the two to really make some contact. I was hoping they would play. I was hoping they would romp. I was hoping Lucas wouldn’t just roll over her and hurt her, because she’s big, and I had hoped she could at the very least, hold her own.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Michelle came to visit for a month and about a week deep in that month Lucas and Lillith hit their stride. Maybe Lucas was just trying to find out how much she could take, or maybe he just wasn’t used to playing with a puppy, or maybe these things just take time, but all of a sudden those two started the biting of the faces and the making of wild hippo noises and the running rampant through the house and it was on. They discovered they would be shouted at running rampant through the house so they moved that part out into the yard and the woods.

When he was bitten by the Cottonmouth back on June the first, Lucas pushed the scales at one hundred seven pounds and he was, to be kind, stout. Now with Lillith pushing him, chasing him, running from him, Lucas has trimmed down a lot, and Lillith hasn’t hit her adult weight yet. Lucas has the puppy he always wanted and he has much more than that, too. Lillith isn’t some half sized version of a dog but a full hearted version of a Pibble. There is no quit in her. There is no fear in her. There isn’t an ounce of aggression and I wouldn’t allow it if there was, but Lucas is discovering that she can take much more than he can give, and she can give more than he can handle.

One sympathizes.

Lillith is a very sweet little girl. But she is what she is. There is within every dog someone who will fight kill and die in prot4ection of those they love. From the smallest yappy dog to the true giants of the canine world, you mess with the loved ones of the dogs at your own peril. A twenty pound mutt will attack a Grizzly bear and fight to win if there is a loved one in danger.  Lillith has the genetic makeup, if not the mass, to protect to the end. Relentless and energetic, she is everything Lucas wanted and then she is more. She leaps, launches, and run at angles that Lucas, with all his muscle, cannot manage.  Accustomed to wrestling with Sam and myself, Lucas has been set upon by someone much smaller, much lighter, much more agile, and much more driven than he has ever had to deal with.

Lucas, in a word, is in love.

So now Sam watches from the window as the two younger pack members roll around in the yard and play chase. I watch too. So passes from my hands to the paws of Lucas, to train and wear out, the puppy, and in turn she wears him down, also. I need large dogs. I want large dogs. But in this, I understand the need for them to exercise at a level I cannot do and still hope to walk the next day. Sam and I watch the puppies play. Lillith tackles Lucas and I can see he is surprised she’s managed to flatten him with such a small body.

One sympathizes.

Take Care,
Mike

Extreme slow motion photography at 1 trillion frames per second


Bird on a Wire!



(Thanks Bruce!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thirty Minute Philosophy On Sex and Writing.




You’d like to write but who has the time? Just thinking about what you want to write takes up most of your creative energy and then once you sit down to write all those ideas that were fluttering around in your head like drunk butterflies are now still fluttering around. It’s hard to capture the right one that will serve as a beginning, isn’t it? You can’t just launch a bunch of words and hope they land in a sentence, can you? They certainly will not line up to become a paragraph and even if they did what in the hell would you do with it anyway?

The thing to do is wait until the most right time and have the most right frame of mind and then have the right chair, and maybe a glass of wine nearby, but not too much wine, just the right amount. It has to be perfectly quiet or you can’t write or there has to be some good background music and may dog forbid there be a reality television program on at the time the right times swings around. There are the kids, the spouse, the dishes and the laundry. There is a text conversation to have with your sister over what her dog did today and there’s…

The creative is a lot like sex. If you want sex, and you want sex from someone you know is available, and you know that available person is going to be ready if you can make the effort to provide the readiness, then you’re going to get down and get it done. You, I suspect, are a lot like those guys who lay claim, no pun intended, to being studly, but deep down inside they have performance issues. If you only write when you have everything right then you’re a lot like those who claim to want sex but can’t do it with the lights on or with their socks off.

Good sex and good writing will knock your socks off.

When did it happen to you? When you were a child passion and curiosity appeared out of nowhere and you could get worked up over the sight of a bird in the sky or some different color you had never seen. When you were a teenager the wind could change direction and suddenly the air was filled with pheromones and your heartbeat drummed out a rhythm that could be heard by an interested party five feet away in a hurricane. Once upon a time in your life you would have done anything and everything to get someone’s pants off even if you had to do it in the backseat of a car and you only had thirty minutes before you had to take her home. You remember how it felt to want something that badly?

I’m not here to call you a coward or tell you what you have isn’t enough anymore. It could be you’re like one of those people who would like to run a marathon but you’re built to bench press three hundred pounds instead. Writing isn’t for everyone despite the fact there are a lot of people who know enough about it to put the period in the right place. I humbly submit to you there is a little bit more to the process than just the ability to type sixty words a minute and an idea that there is a difference between effect and affect.

If you can’t string together a simple sentence under the best conditions then when things get iffy you aren’t going to do much better, unless you’re one of those grace under pressure people who have to be twenty minutes late before they can get started. And hell, even the very best hit spots where whatever they write just isn’t right. But the idea that overall, in any given week, you can’t find time to write it better mean you’re on vacation at the beach or in jail or even kidnapped by natives. You do realize there are writers who have written well under those conditions, don’t you? You ought to consider the fact there are ways to get things done even under conditions those with less passion might hesitate to try.

When someone asks me how I came to be a writer I tell them I wrote. There is no other way. There are no secrets, no shortcuts, no tricks of the trade to learn that make it anything than hard work. Editing is even harder. I suck at editing but I am getting better because that is also part of the process that is called writing. It took me a very long time to realize that. Once you learn something you have to work at it to keep from unlearning it. Stay sharp by practice and stay clear by commitment. But this is work, hard work, and you’ll put as much into a thousand word essay as you would bringing  your partner to orgasm.

You will, that is, if you care.

You do have to know what you are going to write, kind of, to write. What you see before you was not planned or thought out; I sat down to write and this is what was there. I did know something was there. I was aroused with creativity and like getting together with someone who was just a second ago lying on the bed reading, the contents was spontaneous even if the act itself was not.

I write this during lunch at work. With an office full of people wandering around, shouting at one another, and banging into things, I managed to write because I wanted to write. I needed to write. I wrote because it is what I do rather than eating, shouting or banging into things. I write this for you because there are people who need to know that in less than an hour writing can be done to effect. The affect is has on people who are trying to write are dramatic. Why aren’t you writing? You do have time.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Fought The Lawn and The Lawn Won: August and Everything After






Summer in August can be a brutal thing here in South Georgia, and it usually is. Here recently it has been much wetter and far cooler than we’ve seen in years. A few years ago we had an August where the heat jammed into the triple digits and stayed there for most of the month. I can still remember pouring concrete at three thirty in the morning because the heat was so terrible during the day.  Days and days and weeks and weeks of steamy, hot, oppressive, and never ending heat pounded the whole of the region until a day in the upper nineties seemed like a cold snap.

 

But this is not the August I was expecting. The temperatures have stayed in the low nineties, and it has rained nearly every day this month, so far. It’s the twelfth of August already, and while this is by no means the end of the Summer, it isn’t really as brutal as it has been known to be. There have been times when the end of August has cooled and become milder, which is what we’re having now. Yes, August has also been known to last until the last part of September, and I never really look for a break in the heat until October, but even that benchmark is less than fifty days away. If things keep going like they have I will have to mow the yard only twice more this month.
Heat means more growth for grass and there is no denying that but the light of day has a say in the matter, also. Now, even in what should be some of the hottest days of the season, there are signs the days are getting shorter. The wild grapes are producing fruit and their leaves are turning gold. The lower branches of the Chinaberry trees are losing their leaves. These are the trees that just a couple of weeks ago were nearly blue-green with life and energy. Their leaves were thick, full, and very dark with color, yes, just a couple of weeks ago this was how it was, and the heat gripped South Georgia as always in Summer. The long range forecast, the ten day forecast that is, tells us the mild conditions will continue. In ten days we will be a month away from the Equinox. Summer is a long way from being over and no one denies that truth. Yet there is it right in front of us all; it is ending, slowly, but just as surely as last Summer did, and the Summer before that one.

 

At seven this morning it was still not light enough to see to mow, but by seven thirty I was out in the yard. The mornings are still hovering around the mid-seventies so the humidity makes it seem so much warmer. I’m nearly a quarter of the way done with the front yard when the first broad band of sunlight tears into the front yard, splitting the shadows like firewood. Despite the rain the grass seems less thick, not nearly as sturdy, and it is easier to mow than even last week’s crop. The mower is muted because I wear earplugs and I listen to the one word song of the two stroke engine as the sun rises and the heat tries to keep up.

 

There is a very young and very wayward Garter snake in my path so I catch him, and release him into the planted pines over the fence. Tine was when a new snake excited me but what was once exciting when I was a boy is now just another event of the day. The wonder of the world is muted from responsibilities and duties and chores and mowing. The day cannot begin for me, writing cannot begin for me, until this is work is done, and I know it will be hours before I am through. The sun continues to rise, I push the mower, it eats the grass, and time trickles away like the sweat on my back.

 

I need a new blade, but should I buy one this last in the season? These great questions and more drift in and out of my mind. A thorny and green vine has survived last week’s mowing and now it races across the yard fully two meters in length. The mower misses it again so I back up and again it lives through the spinning death above. These are the vines that choke young trees to death so they must go. I pull the thing up by the roots and make a note to get a new blade.

 

I head back towards the shed and the mower coughs and sputters as I arrive. The gas tank is empty and I have timed it well. I refuel and keep going. In hotter times I would take a break but I want to get done before the sun gets too high in the sky. By next week I may be thinking of letting it go until the following week, and by the next week I will certainly be able to let it go for ten days. The vines are coming up now, I see them with new eyes now that I have looked and this is one of the sure signs of a Summer in decay. The angle of the sunlight is not as conducive for trees and grass as it is for vines. I remind myself it is too soon to be optimistic about August but by this time next week it will be over half gone.

 

May was hot, June was hotter, July was brutal, and now August is almost one third of the way done. Where did it go? I look over the yard and it looks different for I have done a lot of work outside this season. There is a new dog in Lillith this Summer. Bert is no longer here. I worried so much about how he would handle the Summer and he never made it that far. The seasons come and go, the leaves begin to turn, the grass grows, the rain falls, and I wonder how the Summer of 2012 has begun to slip away from me, even as I welcome the end.

 

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dying Crazy

As a class of human beings writers have a history of both substance abuse and insanity. Suicide isn’t as rare among writers as I would like to see, but for that matter, it isn’t as rare as it could be either. But grab your razor because we’re about to go splitting hairs. I also think that suicide ought to be legal and if someone wants to check out early that is entirely up to that person. It may seem a contradiction to want to see less suicides and see suicide be legal, but I’m willing to bet it’s the tabooness of it, that black smoke in the middle of the day thing, that drives many people towards it.

 

Hunter S. Thompson shot himself at age 67. I suspect there were more than a few demons wrestling around in Thompson’s attic and the man had a history with firearms. Yet he was also in failing health. Thompson’s star had risen and now was beginning to fade. His legendary binges with drugs and alcohol were the stuff of both fiction and nonfiction but as a man growing older his body could not afford the time spent in a chemical state. Thompson may have shot himself because he was chemically imbalanced and who could doubt that? Yet he may have also opted to check out of a life he could no longer reinvent. Or it may have been some combination of the two. I would suggest none of us are capable of judging which is which and who is who.

 

So why would I legalize suicide? If Thompson could have been treated for mental illness should he have been? Suppose someone was sitting alongside the road with a broken leg and refused treatment? Would you, could you, compel that person to be treated? A co-worker with a sucking chest wound might prompt you to call 9-1-1 but if someone you work with strike up a conversation with an imaginary friend and you’re most likely to just ease away from the crazy person, aren’t you?  You might get bloody and all gory trying to stop the bleeding if someone was ravaged by a paper cut but let someone slip into depression and where are you then?

 

Certainly you would not advocate, and I am not advocating, anyone who has been bitten on the thigh by a Great White Shark be given a pistol so they might end the suffering they feel early. Now, do you see why there are razors and hairs? At first glance legal suicide seems an easy issue to decide but framed in the context of physical suffering then suddenly the water gets murky.

 

So what if you’re one of those never-say-die people who think no one has the right to end it all in any case? Someone dying of cancer ought to have the option if you ask me and you should ask me because I’ve watched people die before. Some wouldn’t. Some might. Some might ask if there was a way out and maybe they would not have if there wasn’t but I’ve seen people die of cancer and I think they should have that option. When there isn’t any other way but down then the person falling should decide when to land.

 

Conversely, there are people whose mental state of mind can’t be trusted. James Holmes walked into a crowded theater with malice aforethought and opened fire on helpless people bent on enjoying a movie. It’s not like Holmes was sitting in his living room when the cops came bursting in or he was walking away from the scene of the crime and they just decided to bust the first person they saw on the street. Holmes is guilty several times over and he hasn’t denied it yet. Experts are already lining up to discuss whether or not this man was same enough to understand what he was doing. They fact that he planned it in advance and went to a lot of trouble to hide the fact he was planning it tells me he knew exactly what he was doing, even if he doesn’t understand the suffering he caused.

 

I’ve got a fairly simple test for all of this. Indulge me in this one case and I will solve a lot of problems. Take Holmes out to that theater, put a .22 rifle to the back of his head, and fire two rounds into his brain. Justice is all about keeping bad things from happening to good people. I would suggest the Firesmith Plan would eliminate Holmes as a threat to other human beings.

 

But this is execution, not suicide, and I stopped advocating for execution in this country because we do it as poorly as anywhere on earth, and worse than anywhere but The Democratic Republic of Socialist Freedom Kingdom of Southeast Sudan. It’s not that we cannot kill people, dog knows we’re great at that, but killing the right people in a timely fashion escapes us entirely. The irony of the most violent county on earth not currently less than five years old who cannot find a way for just capital punishment isn’t lost on most.

 

What does it say about us that we will relieve our pets of suffering and not offer that same comfort to our parents? Surely and most certainly no one advocates letting dogs live in the pain and discomfort of old age yet we ask, nay demand, that human beings pay for every breath at the end. We will feed, clothe, house, treat, and entertain anyone who kills many other people yet we will leave alone to their own devices the sane and poor. We turn mass murderers into celebrities and philosophers and we hold in disdain those whose work provide the taxes so those who kill can be treated as prized zoo animals.

 

Put that razor in front of Holmes and see if he can pull it across his wrist and save us all some trouble. I will advocate his suicide, and never lose a moment of sleep for it. Yet I have to wonder if those we ignore who leave us aren’t more sane than those we pay attention to when they kill.

 

Or at least, more sane than the rest of us.

 

Take Care,

 

Mike

PS If you have no idea who the woman in the photograph is, yet at the same time you would recognize  James Holmes I would suggest you need to add some humanity to your diet of news stories.

This is never an issue with large dogs, really.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Fought The Lawn and The Lawn Won: Olives and Air Filters


If you’ve never mowed a yard with a push mower just ease on away from this conversation. This is a dialog between those of us who have suffered and you will not understand.  I will mention the archaic and the esoteric. I will bring forth from the distant past those creations which only a few of Jurassic yard keepers still possess. Yes, if you own a zero turn radius mower or have never felt the despair of a broken pull rope, please, move along. There is little reason for you to see this sort of thing anyway, unless you are one of those people who stop and stare at traffic accidents while the bodies are being piled up and burned.

I knew I was screwed when I set my sights on mowing at seven and when seven rolled around I had not finished the first cup of coffee. Seven thirty became the new seven and when I fueled up I realized I didn’t have enough to finish, nor to even begin really well, but there is always some wild hope against reason and logic when it comes to mowing. I thought it might snow last night and get me out of this but no. August and South Georgia mean there is as much chance of Zombie Apocalypse as snow and there were no walking dead in the yard except for me.  But I knew I was screwed. There was no way that little bit of fuel would last and it didn’t.
I’m married. There is no other condition where a man has to stand outside his own home and ring the doorbell. I left my wallets and keys inside and I knew better than to go inside when there is a woman doing housework and I’m all dirty.  I get my keys, my wallets, and orders to pick up olives while I am out. Olives? The woman is a master chef with great legs. Olives it is.

There is no way on earth the gas station has olives but I ask anyway. Olives? The clerk seems confused. Perhaps they do not have olives in the part of Georgia she is from. Olives you say? Let me ask, but I tell her not to bother. She does anyway and I can hear the manager ask “Olives?” for he too comes from a part of the world where that tone of voice is used to ask if there are olives in a store. Next stop, a dollar store, for I dare not try to get in and out of the one grocery store in town in less than an hour.

The dollar store has olives but it also has a woman in line that has a butt much wider than any chair she has ever owned. Or I have ever owned. Or you have ever owned. This is a massive structure, built on pig fat and thirty minute sit coms and white sugar. She’s arguing with the clerk about two lamp shade looking items she has declared were priced two dollars apiece on the table where she found them. I have seen this before. A customer comes in and hopes to argue long enough to wear the clerk down. She is hoping the long line of customers will force the clerk to concede but the clerk is having none of it. They both go look at the table where the lamp shade looking items were found and then the would -be customer declares she saw that price in a sales sheet so that has to be found before she will give up and just go the hell away.  I buy olives and go back to the yard. Somewhere I will see those olives again. They will be transformed.

The filter of the mower needs cleaning. I bet about ten percent of the people out there know what I am talking about here.  I have to take it off with a screwdriver and I bet there are only a few people who truly know where the air filter on a push mower is.  Fewer still remember the days when the rope had to be wound around the mower and pulled again and again and again. I have not evolved. I ought to be extinct.   I can tell by the engine noise of the mower when the filter is dirty and it is very dirty right now.  More fuel and a clean filter and hi ho hi ho it’s off to mow I go.
I’ve made in rows into the green areas of the woods and turned some of it into yard. The vines and wild bushes are trying to push back but they are no match for the mower, and a man who does not care what he mows over.  This is early August and the heat will continue unabated for at least another six weeks and maybe even eight weeks. Yet there are signs, very subtle signs, the Summer of 2012 is beginning to end. The wild grape vines are just starting to turn gold. The wild flower vines are beginning to come up en masse.  The longest day of the year is almost fifty days away now and in fifty days we’ll be past the Equinox.  For all the heat and hell that is left in this Summer there are signs it will not last forever, even if it seems that it will. I will have to mow at least three more times this month, at a minimum, but then fewer times  next month.  The afternoons are like dragon’s breath and the mornings are still very warm and the nights are still not cool, but the end is now nearer than the beginning.

There is something a little Zen about repetitious and mindless work. The mower becomes white noise and the yard gets smaller with each step, even though there is over an hour left in mowing. I find a sock that Lillith dragged out into the yard and I find an old puppy toy that belonged to Sam. I think about writing this and what I should put in or take away and I realize that even this mindless and soulless task has its place in writing.  The mower has a one word song, the heat picks up one degree at a time, and the yard gets smaller.

Lucas and I chase away the Jehovah’s Witnesses . I can sense their fear of him, and Sam, and so can Lucas and Sam. The dogs pick up my hostility towards the strangers, too. Take your expensive car and your nice clothes and your Watchtower and be gone! The yard gets smaller. There is a gourmet meal inside with the woman.  The mower runs out of fuel just as I am done and I take my shoes off to go inside.

Take Care,
Mike

Kill The Bees!




Or you could have just moved the colony and had a swarm of beneficial insects helping pollinate our food.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What's Her Name and I Get Out Of Africa

There I was, lying in bed, panting and really not thinking about movies, or anything else like that, and suddenly a line from the film, “The Hours” popped into my head when an actor whose name I could not remember said something like, “We thought that time was the beginning of happiness but looking back I see now it was happiness” and could not remember her name, but let’s face it; if you’re in bed happy and panting there are many things that will slip past your attention. The human mind is supercharged at that point and the moment is all that counts.
Later I was trying to remember the actor’s name and suddenly I realized I could remember half a dozen movies she had starred in. Drag out your mental stopwatch and see how long it takes you to tag her name with these titles; “Silkwood”, “Sophie’s Choice”, “Out of Africa”, “A Cry in the Dark” and some movie with Steve Martin that I do not remember the name to even now. Odd, isn’t it? I could remember Kurt Russell and Cher being in “Silkwood” and Steve Martin in the other movie, but that woman’s name escaped me entirely.

I vowed not to ask or search for the name but instead concentrated on the process by which I would conjure the name from my memory. I ran through the list of movies and who played in them, and that worked to bring forth other memories of things that had happened, and other co-stars, but not the name. Oddly, I didn’t remember Nicole Kidman’s name right off the bat but it surfaced very soon. Julianne Moore’s name escaped me for a longer time but then it popped up like a cork held under water released. But the other woman’s name stayed in the blackness, just on the very verge of recovery, yet unseen.

Do you write? Are you a poet? Perhaps you paint, or draw or create something with your mind. Have you ever had an idea lurking about on the edges, unformed and undefined, yet somehow real? This is how it felt trying to recover the name, and I believe trying to recover the name actually makes it worse. I think the human mind, lacking anything real to grasp, invents things to fill in the gaps. The name “Sophia” kept popping up. The bathrobe scene kept popping up. The window scene with Richard kept coming to mind, too, as well as that ridiculous scene from “The River Wild” where she claims she cannot run this river or some such.

It’s a trap of sorts. Trying to use your mind to remember something you have forgotten is like trying to draw water out of paper by setting it on fire. Creativity and memory are two very different animals; one flies and one burrows.  No matter how hard you try to remember you’re sabotaging your own efforts.  I vowed to fight the good fight and not ask and not look her name up.

The next morning she wasn’t there but the question remained the same. I could see her face, hear her voice, and oddly, I felt like I knew what her name felt like. I could feel the name. I could sense it. I knew how many syllables it had and how it was accented.  Everything was clear and perfect to me, except of course, the name herself. I felt like her name was flashing on a billboard behind my field of vision and I was seeing the shadow on the clouds above.

So how important is this? Do you remember her name or are you right there with me? You do realize you’re screwed if you can’t remember by now, don’t you? There isn’t a device in memory that allows recall that doesn’t surface in the first few seconds. I mean you just have to wait or use Google or sit there with some other lost soul and both of you will look at one another as if you’re both idiots because you both know you know but neither of you can come up with her name.

You do it all the time and you know it. Names get lost in the mental mail as if they’re third class packages and maybe they are. Maybe who someone is can’t be as important as what they’ve done. Can you imagine being able to recall Jodi Foster’s name and not remember that movie where she’s a FBI trainee who locks brains with a serial killer? What’s it like to be able to remember names and nothing that person ever did? Oh yeah, Neil Armstrong that name just popped out of nowhere and wasn’t he a sports figure or a high jumper or something?

We remember verbs and forget nouns.

I started trying to go through the alphabet and list names that started with every letter. Talk about a distraction! Start listing names like that and suddenly you remember Anna and the King with Jodi Foster and that reference to that movie leads to another with her in it. It gets worse when you get to the letter “I” and all you can come up with is ‘Ivy” then you remember Ingrid and damn, way back when she was really a great actor and suddenly you’re pinballing the straight hell out of every name that comes up.

Then she was there.


I had gotten seriously distracted with the letter “I” because of the Ingrid thing and out of the blue the first and last name was there all along, like ruby slippers with three Oscars and some seriously bad movies.

Are you there yet?

Seriously, can you remember her name? I can’t help you and you ought not accept it because that’s just wrong at this point and you know it. You have to figure this thing out alone or not at all. Surrender not to Google or some woman who can speak the dialog of “Out of Africa” between sobs.

Wretched waste of film, that movie, but not everyone agrees with me.

Take Care,
Mike