What does 3 months & 1 tank of gas mean?

It means that although I made sure I continued riding my motorcycle at least once each month – December 2012 through March 2013, I haven’t been able to ride it as much as I prefer due to a condition known as freakin’ cold, snowy, salty, wet WINTER.

How low can I go? 33 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything colder, although I have figured out the right combo of clothing, is not too much fun on a 460 pound motorcycle. The needle tips too far toward Cautious and away from Crazy Fun.

But…… all that is about to change (hopefully) by the end of this month!

Yes, that’s right, SPRINGTIME is almost here in Northern Illinois.

Can’t wait. Been prepping and polishing, getting ready to rock and roll once the weather dries out and warms up. My trustworthy steed - Breitback, IA - Sep 02, 2012

Then I’ll be experiencing places like this: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Or this: DSCF5411

But not that: DSCF1020

[A friend took this from the woman’s bathroom at the top of the John Hancock. A twist on “a room with a view”.]

Getting away from the daily grind should mean taking a break from the daily commute, not abstaining from coffee.

Can’t wait!

Getting ready to ride again

Here in the northern latitudes, we are still waiting for the weather to improve and warm up so we can get back on our bikes and ride. Soon, maybe just weeks away – hopefully sooner. Doing some maintenance and prep while I wait.

I already have a couple trips planned for this year, one to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the other one out West. That one is still taking shape, sorting through all the variables…

Last weekend was the annual International Motorcycle Show in Chicago. Always fun and interesting, provoking as much desire and fantasy as I suppose reading the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue would. Always inspirational for thinking about the upcoming riding season.

Here are a couple photos of some of the many bikes that were at the show:

IMG-20130209-00007I ride a liter-class sport-tourer bike, but this Indian sure does look pretty. All I need is $35k to take her home, so she’ll have to wait – like maybe forever.

Here are two others that caught my eye:

IMG-20130209-00005IMG-20130209-00002

 

So until riding season resumes, I theoretically have more time to write, edit, and work on my other projects. However, because I have a laptop, there is no reason why I can’t combine a fun ride with some quality writing time somewhere within a 3 hour radius of home base.

Wow. I just figured out a new way to be motivated to write more often. Plus ride without feeling guilty. Now I have to ride in order to get more writing/production done. Cool.

How about you? What are you gonna do when winter is in the rearview mirror?

CHRIS KYLE & Chad Littlefield: Thank you.

It is sad and disturbing that Chris, a highly decorated Navy SEAL, was killed a week ago.

Chris made and his wife and family accepted the sacrifice of his time away from his family to serve our nation – all of us, whether we know it or appreciate it – as a soldier.

He also wrote his autobiography, American Sniper. You can read about it here at Amazon or any other online book seller.

My prayers are for him and his family, as well as for the accused shooter, E.R. Routh, and that guy’s family.

Also killed was Chad Littlefield. He and his family are in my prayers, as well.

Chris and Chad were trying to help the accused killer with that guy’s mental health problems developed as a result of also fighting as a US Marine for us, whether we know of it or care.

Here is just one of many articles about the killings: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/us/chris-kyle-american-sniper-author-reported-killed.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

Chris founded the Fitco Cares Foundation to help veterans who struggle to heal from PTSD. Please consider making a donation to Fitco Cares or directly to his family – information on how to do that is at the bottom of the Fitco Cares Foundation splash page.

Please take a moment to read the Fitco Cares Director’s statement on the killings and the restated commitment of Fitco Cares to help our veterans:

PROMISE TO FIGHT PTSD

by Travis A. Cox

http://fitcocares.org/promise-to-fight-ptsd/

News or coverage of Chris Kyle’s funeral, today, February 11, 2013:

http://twitchy.com/2013/02/11/beautiful-thousands-gather-at-cowboys-stadium-to-remember-slain-hero-chris-kyle-photos-video/?year=2013&monthnum=02&day=11&like=1&_wpnonce=56e2646746

Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

THE COUGH

Growing up, I heard stories about my great grandparents back in the twenties. How people died because of tuberculosis. Mass outbreaks. Shipping you off sanitariums to drown in your own blood as the bacteria ruptured your own blood vessels. Hundreds of thousands of all ages died all around the world. But that was nothing compared to now.

I was there, right at Ground Zero as the CDC called it later in one of their reports. Right there when the first infected person coughed his brains out in the Northwestern Train Station in downtown Chicago. Well, not quite his brains, his lungs maybe.

I was working late that night and ran down to the McDonald’s to get a Coke. As I was paying the cashier, then waiting a moment while she filled a medium cup size with a half and half mix of regular and diet Coke, a fat guy standing in front of the Arby’s counter coughed. Didn’t even notice it the first time or two. But then he kept coughing, louder, faster, more chokingly. Continuously. His fat face got bright read. Then frantic gasps for air, struggling to breath in, getting louder and louder.

People looked up from whatever crappy food they were eating, conversations stopped in mid-sentence. All eyes on the guy coughing and choking. For a moment, it was like a frozen moment of time. No one moved or even breathed except for the fat guy choking, coughing, dying in front of us like bad dinner theater.

The few others in the immediate area shifted away from him, trying to act like they hadn’t noticed. I grabbed a napkin, held it up to my face and took a deep breath and held it. I walked toward the escalators as quickly as I could.

Near the edge of the food court, I turned to look one last time. One woman foolishly stepped forward to offer help. That’s when whatever disease or sickness, whatever evil was in him, spewed out in tiny droplets of mucus and spit. Propelled by the man’s lungs, the droplets sailed across the food court. Everyone in the food court was presumed to have been exposed.

I called my team leader right away as I stood on the up-escalator, watching everyone in the food court. I realized what it was and what needed to be done, so no, I don’t feel guilty about calling it in. I did the right thing. But…I, ah, I didn’t know that they’d really round everyone up and incinerate them. After they collected tissue samples, of course.

No, I feel guilty because I never told them that I was right there. Technically, I should have been sampled and incinerated, too, but I wasn’t. But — why should I if I’m not infected? I don’t have the Cough. If I did, it would have shown up by now.

And I’m not a carrier. I’m pretty certain of that. But really, nothings for sure any more. Not since they cultured whatever it is that grows inside our bodies then bursts forth.

The Rescue of Lindsay M. — a couple of thoughts

In the course of researching and outlining the original novel-length story that I then re-worked into the present short story, I learned many interesting things relating to Christian End Times theology; Israeli cattle production; a little bit about Jerusalem’s history; the desire to rebuild the Jewish temple; and the Al Asqa mosque. You can read about the temple, the temple mount and the mosque here: http://www.seetheholyland.net/al-aqsa-mosque/  — in addition to 1,000 other sites on the Internet.

But perhaps one of the best things I discovered while conducting research is that I “found” the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, an Israeli poet. He moved to Israel at the age of 12 with his parents to escape the Holocaust. Out of all of his poems I’ve enjoyed (and there are many I still need to discover), the one entitled The Ecology of Jerusalem is my favorite. He writes with the boredom and fatigue of a person who lives at a tourist destination where the spectacular is part of his everyday life.

And of course, because it is Jerusalem, is isn’t just another tourist destination. It is THE DESTINATION for every Jew and Christian who takes their faith seriously. I would have loved to ask him what specifically prompted him to write the poem. If it was a slow building feeling or realization, or if certain events perhaps seen repeatedly over the years – some tourists sadly developing the Jerusalem Syndrome, hatred and violence between Jews and Muslims – prompted him to write it. Perhaps Yehuda was simply reflecting on the 5,000 years of the city’s history. According to Wikipedia (it corresponds with other sources; it’s late, I just grabbed the wiki URL), “… Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.”

THE ECOLOGY OF JERUSALEM

The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams

like the air over industrial cities.

It’s hard to breathe.

And from time to time a new shipment of history arrives

and the houses and towers are its packing materials.

Later these are discarded and piled up in dumps.

You can read the complete poem here: http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2009/04/ecology-of-jerusalem-by-yehuda-amichai.html

 

It is this sort of feverish hope or twisted desire, inspiring real efforts by real people, to rebuild the temple that gave me the main plot and setting for the story. I’d originally entitled it (when it was novel-length), Abraham’s Children — thinking of the Jews, Christians and Muslims in the story, each fighting the other for their own religion’s vision of messiah (mahdi).

The Rescue of Lindsay M.

First of all, I apologize to my current blog readers. Both of them deserve an explanation as to why I am posting on Wednesday instead of “by Monday evening”.  But I won’t give it to them. Instead, I’ll launch straight into this blog post. This way, I won’t risk complaining about how my day job got in the way for a few days.

* * * * *

This short story is actually a re-imagining of the story from a novel I wrote a few years ago. The Islamic attacks of Sept 11, 2001 as well as learning of the existence of over 30 jihadi training camps inside the United States prompted me to shelve the novel and work on other things.

But the key elements of the story wouldn’t let me go. It is fascinating that US Evangelicals have been working closely with Orthodox rabbis from Israel to hopefully create a red heifer – a 3-year-old female cow that is completely red-haired (no a single white hair as often occurs on red cows) for rabbinical use to cleanse the temple mount in Jerusalem.

Once the temple mount is cleansed, the building of the Third Temple can begin. And that is believed by many Jews and Christians to set a clock ticking for the end of history as we live & know it – for either the appearance or the return of the Messiah. Of course, for a Jew to set foot back on the temple mount risks a hysterical reaction and even war due to the Muslim claim to an area that overlaps the Jewish temple mount. Al-Asqa mosque sits on part of the temple mount.

Since 9/11, it is difficult to find a lot of info on the Internet about the US ranchers helping the rabbis. I believe some were considering or did try cloning a red heifer. Being a writer, it was a very easy leap to spin a story about a rancher cloning a red heifer using the hair gene from a red-haired girl. Human and bovine hair genes are almost identical so using a red hair from a person to engineer a red cow is not that far off from happening, if it hasn’t already been tried.

It bothers me a bit that some people are willing to do almost anything in the name of their God in order to make his prophecy (and hence, God Himself) real and valid. My God doesn’t need my help to make Him appear more real or to help prophecy along.

Interwoven with this main story thread are a few allusions to one of my favorite movies, North By Northwest, written by Ernest Lehman at the suggestion or request of director Alfred Hitchcock. There are at least six references to either the movie or another Hitchcock film, to the director and the writer, and even to the location of the story: North by Northwest of Mt. Rushmore. Can you find at least six?

A couple comments about LOSING FACE

Unless you’ve been held hostage inside a Toyota Corolla car trunk for the past 10-15 years (or similar dire living conditions), its been impossible to not be aware of the impact of modern forensics on crime scene analysis. The TV show franchise CSI on TV and the novels of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs come to mind as representative of our collective cultural obsession with forensics, especially trace evidence forensics.

However, I bet few people know that trace evidence information, collection, and analysis techniques have been around for at least 100 years. Dr. Locard is credited as having said, “Every contact leaves a trace.” He set up the first known forensics lab in Lyon, France in 1910. First extensively articulated and systematically explored, catalogued, and used by Dr Locard, trace evidence is now often a deciding factor for whether law enforcement successfully arrest and convict a person or  people for a crime — or the suspect is exonerated and set free.

LOSING FACE deals with the effects  of a nano-biotechnology “tool” that is disruptive to the effectiveness of trace evidence forensics.

The thought occurred to me a couple years ago that a scientist could probably create a nano-machine that could be “tuned” to cut or dissemble strands of DNA or even larger items such as human hair of a specific person. So I imagined and wrote the story.

After writing this short story, I looked online to see if there might be a nano product that would attack or dissolve a person’s DNA. This search led me to Dr. Ravi Kane and his pioneering nano research. http://homepages.rpi.edu/~kaner/ .

Added to this, here is an article published just last week by Rice University regarding the ability to use a pulsed laser light to selectively heat gold nanoparticles: http://news.rice.edu/2013/01/03/nanoparticles-reach-new-peaks-2/ .

In the story, the killer uses a laser to activate or energize the nano-wipe, the nano-biotech “machine” that is tuned to his own DNA. The purpose is to eliminate his trace evidence that would be present at the crime scene.

If this nano-biotech machine gets developed, it will be truly disruptive to law enforcement unless they can figure out some sort of counter technology.

To learn more about forensics, check out these two sites:  Dr. D.P. Lyle has a great forensics site: http://www.dplylemd.com/DPLyleMD/Art-FS_TIMELINE.html .You can also learn about forensics here: The History of Forensics: http://historyofforensics.com .

If you have any comments after reading the story, please share them below.

The Bicycle Path: Why I wrote it & what would you do?

My inspiration to write The Bicycle Path came from an Autumn bicycle ride. It was a beautiful late afternoon on a Sunday, a little misty because it had been raining earlier that day.

The late afternoon sunlight filtered through a hazy atmosphere making everything look like a Monet painting. There were still plenty of full color leaves on the trees, while many other trees had already dropped all their leaves for the year. Naked trees are interesting, even beautiful, black limbs against grey sky.

In the forest preserve, as I pedaled around on the bicycle/jogging path, I passed three gang members or wanna-be’s and then I rode past a lone female jogger. Thought it was risky for her to be out there by herself. I prayed for her protection as I continued on the 3+ mile loop.

I completed the loop and headed toward the park exit. A Cook County sheriff had arrived in his squad car waiting to close the park at sunset. After a quick debate in my mind, I stopped and told him about jogger just so someone would know she was there. I suggested that maybe if she didn’t appear in the parking lot before he closed the park, he should look for her.

Seemed like the right thing to do. If that woman was foolish enough to run on the back side of the mostly deserted park on a Sunday afternoon close to sunset, maybe she was foolish enough to not have told anyone where she was.

As I pedaled back home, I wondered if I had done the right thing, if what I did really mattered or if I was just overly concerned. That’s when I realized that if anything did happen to the jogger, the cop would remember me!

What I did still bothers me a little bit because of that, but I also still think that I did the right thing. I just didn’t think about the potential exposure to myself very much or dismissed it when alerted the police officer.  It also required trust in the police to not manufacture evidence against me if anything happened to the girl and they didn’t have a suspect in hand.

On my way back home, my writer’s imagination kicked in. I entertained myself all the way. By the time I got home, I had a short story.

Another reason I wrote this story is to explore the ambiguity of apparent guilt or innocence that sometimes pops up. OJ Simpson comes to mind. Or so-called Black Widows – women whose husbands mysteriously die (Would you like some Glycol in your orange juice?). SIDS. The list of situations sadly goes on and on. These matters are troubling, more so when the accused seems like an average or decent person.

So, what would you have done? Would you have told the cop about the woman in an effort to help her  if she didn’t show up? She’d get help sooner than waiting hours or a day or two before someone reported her missing. Or would you have just trusted (who?) that she would be OK and would exit the backside of the lonely path? Or does it depend on the circumstances too much to say what you’d do?