Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Axes grind and maces clash as wounded fighters fall to the ground
Severed limbs and fatal woundings bloody corpses lay all around

Cheery lyrics, I know.  You can thank Iron Maiden for that. The song, Invaders, chronicles the Saxon collapse at the hands of the Vikings.  While you could Google "severed limbs", you don't need to, I imagine.  Axes? Nah, you have too, I bet.

Mace? What the hell is a mace?  Sure, you can cook with it, but how exactly do you kill someone with a cooking spice derived from nutmeg?

You don't.  This is a mace.

As you can see, getting hit with such a weapon would just suck bad.  About the length of a baseball bat but much heavier, the weight would collapse armor while the spikes could penetrate it.  In the end, the combination of the two would simply be the end of a warrior if the hit was clean and solid.

Nature has invaders, too.

Teasel (or teazel) is an invasive plant species from Europe.  If you haven't seen it, you will soon enough. No, it is not a new problem as it has been here for decades - you'll just be looking for it now.  Look for it around disturbed soils.  Fields, train track right-of-aways, and the shoulders of dirt roads are perfect for it.

Now, tell me it doesn't look like a mace.  I see the resemblance for sure.

Imagine that.  The song Invaders mentions invaders using weapons that look like our invaders.  



Thursday, July 30, 2015


For most of us, we lead complicated lives. Even if you think you lead a simple life, you don't.  

You have to have food, water, and space to live. I get that. But you also have to have the means to provide them, right? That means a job (or some other means of income).  You have to buy  your food, make sure your home doesn't become something on a Discovery Channel show about filth and mental illness, and basically move forward making the best decisions we can for ourselves and those around us that are important.  Complex decisions indeed, right?

Then there's Quill.

Lets review those requirements.  

Food.  Umm, we provide that. In fact, we have to feed him twice a day but in two phases. Phase 1 involves one-sixth of can of special kidney-friendly food and half of a crushed tummy pill ('cause he urps now and then (especially when he eats too fast)). Phase 2 involves the second one-sixth of a can (30 minutes later) and his insulin ('cause he is diabetic). On top of all that, we have to make sure his dry food bowl has food. If its empty, he pitches a major bitch.

Water.  Yup, we do that, too.  It's in a bowl next to his food. Once upon a time, he used to drink from the toilet bowl but he doesn't do that anymore.  Natalie also has him, I said that wrong...Quill has Natalie trained to make sure there is a glass of water available next to the bed. That would be our bed, by the way... 

...which brings us to space. Our space is his space, but he has his space that we don't use and yet we provide.  For example, I don't use a litter box. I don't clean it either (Natalie has to do that; its a long story).   I can't fit under the couch for my mid-day siestas and I don't occupy the Federal installation known as Fort Quill (seen by most as nothing more than a chair with sweatshirts draped across the seat to form a three-sided hiding spot).  

So he gets it all, those important provisions.  Food. Water. Space to live.  Everybody needs them. He's no different. He just gets them all from us.  

His biggest decision?  "Where should I nap? In the sun on the floor or on Paul's guitar case?"  

We wouldn't have it any other way.

Now if he would just stop letting those poops stick to his butt. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

If Surfers Were Insects

If you watched the news a few days ago, you may have seen the story about the surfer who was attacked by a shark on national television.  Mick Fanning was not bitten but it was damned close. The shark severed the leash that tethers him to his surfboard.  As might you might imagine, he was a bit shaken up by the incident but he has already returned to the water.

So, once again, the world gets its underwear collectively knotted up and discusses how aggressive a hunter sharks can be and how they are soooooo efficient as a predator.

Ladies and gentleman, ounce for ounce, statistic for statistic, dragonflies make sharks look like novices.

Don't get me wrong:  sharks can delivery devastating injuries. But they have to get you first.  Statistics have shown that they miss their intended target more than half of the time.  While that is certainly better than a lion on the African plains (who miss...alot), they just don't bag dinner as often as one might be led to believe.

Dragonflies, on the other hand, rarely miss.  Statistics have shown that they catch their intended prey 90-95% of the time. For all intents and purposes, they don't miss.  It has been demonstrated that they are able to more or less concentrate on a single prey item among a swarm of potential prey items (as opposed to other animals that are easily distracted by outside forces (like Republicans)). Once a target has been identified, a quick swoop and a grab with a net, if you will, of its six legs, and the prey is secure.  Launch.  Grab.  Munch.  Once a minute.  That's pretty damned good.

I photographed the dragonfly in the above photo at Hayes State Park near Jackson last weekend. Each time it returned, I could literally see the jaws moving as it devoured a little prey item.  

If surfers where tiny insects in a meadow, Mr. Fanning would never have lived to tell his tale.  In fact, every surfer in the entire competition would have been dragonfly chow. 


Yeah, woop-dee-do. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Oooooohs and Aaaaaaaahhhhhhssss (2015)

The tradition continues - Trenton fireworks on the 4th of July. Natalie and I (at least) head to the secret spot on Grosse Ile to watch the show.  This year, it was just the two us with Sue (Nat's mom).  Like last year's show, it was pretty impressive and a far cry  from what I remember as a kid watching the city's show.

This year was a bit different.  It was the first real photo session with my new lens. Sure, I could have put some money into retirement, credit cards, tuition or some other worthy assignment but I secured quite a deal.  I  really needed this lens. No really.  I neeeeeeeded it as I didn't have a mid-range lens.  

I managed the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS lens.  Fancy, huh?  Almost as neat as the fireworks themselves.  In fact, there are three neat parts.  IS stands for "internally stabilized."  That scores me the chance to get sharp images with slower shutter speeds as the components in the lens literally shift to keep the image focused on the camera's sensor.  Generally, the slower the speed, the better your chances of walking away with a blurry image as the camera is not motionless.  This feature was turned off, by the way, for the fireworks as the camera was a on tripod (basically the ultimate stabilization) but it is will be great feature when I'm hand-holding the lens.

The second neat neat part is the f/4 reference.  This lens is a prime lens.  For many zoom lens, as you "zoom in", your aperture gets smaller. That's a problem because you are letting in less light. With this lens, I can shoot at f/4 and stay at that aperture all the way to 105mm. Pretty nifty.  

The third neat part is the "L."  That is Canon's way of saying "high quality glass."  While the downsized photos on this dump blog might not show it, the images are really quite sharp.  I'm diggin' it.

Anyhow, below are some pics. Enjoy!!!

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Fibula Fib

A few days ago, Dave Grohl, the singer and guitar player for the mega-band Foo Fighters, took a spill off the stage during a concert.  Falling into the security zone that separates the crowd from the band, his leg broke. Specifically, it was his fibula.  He later had the EMT hold his temporarily bandaged leg so he could finish the show.  A cast and six screws were added later.  The image below is the x-ray of Grohl's leg that he released on Twitter.

Interestingly, he knew right away he broke his leg. In fact, with his image projected on the concert's jumbo screen, he admitted to a stadium packed with thousands of fans that he "...really broke..." his leg.  

He knew immediately.  

So, lets go back in time. Specifically, the evening of April 15, 1865.  There was a show.  A shot.  A slump.  A jump.  An actor limping across the stage to his get away horse.

But did it really happen that way?

No one can dispute the fact that John Wilkes Booth, in a most cowardly fashion, plowed a lead ball into the back of Abraham Lincoln's noggin.  After all, Booth admitted it and thought it was the coolest thing he had ever done.  As we have all heard since childhood, he  broke his leg jumping from the Presidential Suite to the stage below in the middle of Our American Cousin.  We all know he broke his leg. After all, Dr. Sam Mudd tended to it a few days later.  

But did he break it jumping onto the stage after the fatal shot?  Are we sure?

In a word, no.

When all else fails, consult two things: witnesses and science.

Booth is not necessarily a reliable witness. As an actor, he had a flair for stories.  Yes, he was there but he apparently lied about the event.  His own journal entries have him yelling "Sic Semper Tyrannus!" before he shot Lincoln.  That's odd. In a packed theater, no one heard him scream that before he pulled the trigger.  Maybe he was like Brian Williams and blurred the line between confused facts and flat-out bull-puckies.

Booth went on to claim that he broke his leg jumping to the stage, but this is where it gets interesting....

In the grand tradition of murder investigations, there are witnesses that have to be interviewed.  As fate would have it, we still have the testimonies of folks who where there that night.  13 of them make references to Booth "running", "rushing" or "rapidly running" across the stage.  No one makes a reference to pain or a hobbled gait.  No one.

Just for a moment, go back to Grohl.  A scary drop and snap goes the fibula. He immediately knew what occurred. Oh sure, you can talk about Booth's adrenaline or whatnot, but once that fibula goes, the vast majority of people are going to know it. 

If I still don't have your attention, now get this....

Booth's path from the Ford's Theatre to his bullet-through-the-neck death in Maryland is not a mystery.  There were several stops and he met and spoke with several people along the way (not just the aforementioned Dr. Mudd).  There is a distinct lineage of witnesses that state he was in no distress only to be followed by a line of witnesses who say he was an achy son-of-a-bitch.  

John Wilkes Booth

Silas Cobb might be the fulcrum, if you will.  He was the guard on the bridge  to Maryland who conversed with Booth after the assassination.   (Cut the guy some slack here - he did not know Booth had just killed Lincoln as the info had not yet reached him but he knew Booth was the famous actor.) There is NO reference to Booth being in pain. Cobb, however, makes a reference in his testimony that Booth's horse was "restive". That is fancy horse speak for "crotchety pain in the ass."

All witnesses AFTER the bridge report that when they saw Booth he was in pain.  It was noted by John Lloyd at the Surratt Tavern (where he did not dismount - hard to do with a broken leg, huh?) and it was noted by David Herrold, one of Booth's co-conspirators.  

In fact, according to Lloyd, Herrold, and Mudd, Booth told them that he busted his ankle when his finicky horse dumped him.


There you have it.  Booth told at least THREE people that the horse threw him.

Plus, the barn attendants on the Mudd farm stated that Booth's horse had injuries consistent with a fall.  

So where does the science get into this?  The break itself.

After Booth's fatal shooting in the early morning hours of April 26, 1865, an autopsy was done.  The break in his leg was examined.  It is what pathologists call a transverse break.  It snapped like pencil cleanly across the shaft of the bone.

When a individual falls from a height and lands on their feet only to have a long bone break, the break is what is called oblique.  The force downward on the bone snaps it on the diagonal.  The two broken ends are pointed as opposed to the two blunt ends one would find on a transverse break.  

As science has shown repeatedly over the years, the transverse break in John Wilkes Booth's leg is not consistent with a fall from a height and landing on one's feet - it is consistent with a horse falling and rolling on top of the leg as the foot is trapped in the stirrup.  The forces are lateral across the bone, not vertical.  

This brings us back to Dave Grohl. His break is from lateral pressure. It's a transverse fracture.  I know this because I spent three years in Harvard Medical School read alot.  Does this mean he did not fall off a stage? No. 52,000 people saw it happen.   It simply means that I believe he did not land on his feet.  Somehow, someway, in the acrobatics of his fall, there was a lateral force on his leg strong enough to break it.  Had he landed straight down on his feet and broken his leg, the fracture should have been oblique.  Given the force and pointed nature of such a break, a compound fracture of the tibia and/or the fibula was easily possible.  (I recall a story growing up of a fellow falling from a ladder.  The broken leg came out of his knee.  You would expect that, I suspect, with an oblique fracture caused fall from a height.)  

Any way you cut it, transverse or oblique or whatever, Grohl is a very lucky man. Realistically, he could have died had he struck his head.

Booth? Well, he wasn't so lucky.  I'm not sure how much luck one should expect when they assassinate a President. 

I am, however, pretty damned sure of this - Booth's broken fibula following his erratic stage jump is more than likely a fib....