Recent Essays

Posted in Hard Things

Not As It First Appeared

The call out came by email. That was typical. I would get an email from a detective trying to get more evidence and needing video found that would possibly show the crime as it happened or at least something related to it. In this case, the crime had happened outside a local diner. It was a sex assault and apparently the three men who’d done it seemed not to like women very much. Maybe they were weak, maybe they were unsure of who they were when it came to women, or maybe they were just junkyard dogs. Mean and dark inside, deciding that night to take it out on someone…anyone…as long as it was a woman.

Posted in Hard Things

Crash V: Three More

The second car, equally as destroyed and crumpled as the first, had to be pulled out of a large step pyramid of wreckage, the specific makeup of which was impossible to discern. It was just metal and scrap that once held a logical shape covered with gleaming paint, enclosed a comfortable interior, and was an ordered conglomerations of glass, rubber and steel. Now, the fire had consumed everything it could and what was left was the raw frame and under layer that no one ever sees except in pictures and videos of automobile assembly lines. Even in those images there is order. This was chaos.

Posted in Hard Things

Crash IV: Respect

The small talk was a way to avoid the inevitable. Those around me included Melissa, the coroner investigator; first-responders; and highway workers. Most had already seen a lot, but this was going to be different. The small talk had concluded and Melissa got right to it.

Posted in Humanity

The Restaurant

The locations from which video evidence has to be collected vary. A lot of the time it is motels, the seedy ones, where people let their guard down to shower, sleep, and eat; things required by the human body there’s no getting away from regardless of where you are in your life and the world. But there are other places, like fine restaurants. There was one restaurant where expensive steaks and lobster are served. A place where there are tables near the windows with spectacular views of the valley below, the skyline of the city in the distance; white table cloths, candles, carpeting, and a rich wood interior. They offered me a drink… Two fingers of whiskey. Neat.

Posted in Hard Things

Crash III: Wreckage

It took about a minute to cover the distance to the accident site. As we approached, it loomed larger and larger. The two semis that had been involved slowly gained their full height in our vision and the enormity of the scene took on a hard edge. Seeing a semi seemingly dwarfed by the rest of the wreckage brought the sheer magnitude of what I was seeing into sharp focus. I tried to breathe deeply; in, out, in out.

Posted in Humanity

Pitbull

One of the first times I went on a field call, Cortney went with me.  I was still in training for the most part and still needed introduction to the nuances of acquiring video evidence and the places I’d be going to do it.  On this particular occasion we needed a lot of video.  Days of it.  So, the plan was to pull the hard drive from the DVR and bring it back to the lab where I could process it.  The location was a particularly nasty motel along the strip and having the two of us there was better than being alone.   Oftentimes with places like this one, the protocol would be to call for “back”; the man or woman with a uniform and, more importantly, a gun.  Two people is good, but two people and a gun was better when you had meth-heads, heroin addicts, or whatever other…

Posted in Big Numbers

The Lottery

There is the old saw that says the lottery is a tax on people who don’t understand math.  And, to be honest, that is the absolute truth, albeit a bit harsh.   Sure, people win.  But considering that most of the time it’s a single person and there are millions who play, those are pretty long odds.  Besides, it’s not about how many people play.   You knew that right?  I’ll get to that in a minute. But there has been a recent uptick in the revenues that lotteries across the country are seeing.   It’s really no surprise with the economy in the tank like it is.   People just want a little of that magic to take away the sting of the headlines or that mortgage bill or the feeling that their retirement savings are just not going to cut it in the end. But what about that math? Wait, time out! …

Posted in Family

The Myth of Quality Time

About a year ago, I wrote an essay called Living the Hyperopic Life.   It was a dissertation on the ideas of balance, living for now, living on purpose and making sure, when you looked back at the end, you are certain in your heart that it was a life well-lived.  One part dealt with taking time and making it worth something.   Blocks of time, snippets of time, anything you could carve out between the important things and responsibilities you had.   These little bits of time, strung together, would weave the tapestry of your life.  The more meaningful the time spent, the tighter the weave. If you could paint a picture of this tapestry, it would not be pretty.  It isn’t one of those neatly woven, ornate fabrics you see in stores.  The resemblance is more like a rag but with different kinds of thread and materials all woven together in…

Posted in Hard Things

Crash II: The Invitation

It was a Friday in March and the Spring was just trying to scrub the cold bleakness of Winter from the world. Cooler days would come back in a last-ditch attempt to keep Winter’s grip. But it would be without vigor as the inevitability of warmer weather made any real effort futile. Spring was going to win in the end anyway. It always did. The skies were clear and bright with the sunlight that had become decidedly more yellow and warm, promising the awakening that I liked so much about Spring when it wasn’t raining or gray as Springtime in Colorado often is.

Posted in Humanity

The Cat and the Camera

The bag in my inbox was different than what I was used to seeing.  It wasn’t flat and it wasn’t a small manila envelope with tape around it.  This was a real piece of evidence in a bigger bag with red tape and marker over the tape to indicate tampering should it be opened.  There was a barcode label as well; official, clean, intimidating. As the new guy in the lab, there was still much that I needed to learn.  I knew the basics but I could sense on a daily basis that there were things I needed to know but didn’t yet.  It was unsettling but exciting at the same time.  A life-long learner, I never get tired of finding out something new.  Especially when I was interested in the subject from which that information flowed.  But, I felt tentative whenever handling something I wasn’t quite sure I should…

Posted in Hard Things

Crash I: Cracks in the Armor

I was not expecting to break down when Diane and I came to Home Depot, but I did. We were there to pick up wall hooks or shelving or some such minor item to fulfill an equally minor need. When it happened it felt strange, sudden, and utterly foreign in the moment. I had cried before; I wasn’t immune to feeling emotion. But there was the oddity of being in that place, so public, hard, and yet feeling such a surge of raw emotion was seismic in its duality.

Posted in Food

Like Alfredo? Eat This!

My 11-year-old has taken a keen interest in cooking and one day announced he wanted to make fettuccine Alfredo (these pronouncements have come often of late…always something new.) So we did. What we didn’t expect was how incredibly delicious it would be. It is, by far, the best I have ever had and this coming from someone who in younger years actively sought out a better and better source of fettuccine Alfredo…some search for ribs, for me it’s flat pasta in cheesy cream sauce. And it’s finally here. At last we can get that silence which comes with the main stream media looking around and asking themselves, “what now?” And as you watch the returns of the election or if you are reading this after things have been written in stone, I have something for you.  It is a symphony for your tongue, a celebration of flavor, a soothing salve…

Posted in Big Numbers

Do You Really Know What a Billion Looks Like?

Many years ago, the U.S. government, after the big crash of 2008, was trying to stop the bleeding in the financial system. The number most bandied about was seven hundred billion which everyone knows is a large number. But do we really understand how very large that number is? It seems it starts sounding like 200 billion or 800 billion or 500 billion. All those zeros kind of run together in a person’s mind. A few years back I wrote a piece about having everything and nothing in which I mentioned the odds of winning the lottery. Those odds basically  approached zero which is a really small number. That’s not hard to conceptualize. You have some money, it gets siphoned off by greedy executives running some company, you have zero dollars. Simple. Hey, Bernie Ebbers, prison going ok for you? No? Good! But what about the other end of the…

Posted in Humanity

A Hard Lesson Learned

There is that saying that if it doesn’t kill you it only makes you stronger.   That’s what people say, anyway, right?  And if you learned from a bad experience, at least you got something out of it…yeah, that’s cool, but when you’re in the midst of that hard lesson and you DO nearly get killed, I’m not sure that’s in the forefront of your mind. So, as experiences go, getting punched in the face is one of the more unpleasant ones and one of those times where you’re not thinking, “ah, can’t wait to find out what I learn from this.” A punch in any general proximity to your head is fairly crappy and multiple hits takes it beyond horrible.   Your head’s hard and for a reason.  The brain is an important organ and needs a lot of protection.   Thus the up-armored nature of the skull bone.  I guess, too,…

Posted in Humanity

On Being Poisoned for Profit

This is a bit of a rant, so if you’re one of those who takes things personally, or gets all hot and bothered by things people write, well, maybe just pass on this one. I do a mental exercise every so often.  If  a commercial comes on while I’m watching TV, I try to put myself at a remove from it.   The goal here is to be more an observer than the passive participant that is often how we experience TV.  Doing this allows for evaluating the commercial more objectively and I can tease out the subtle message the marketers are trying to send.  Sometimes I do it for fun, sometimes to tell my kids so they understand that it is not reality, just marketing to separate people from their money. One group who has mastered the ability to manipulate us by preying on the phobias, inadequacies and especially desires…

Posted in Bits & Pieces

The Geek’s Creed

This is my computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My computer is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life. My computer, without me, is useless. Without my computer, I am useless. I must operate my computer true. I must code cleaner than my competition. I must out-code him before he out-codes me. I will…. My computer and myself know that what counts in technology is not what it looks like, the marketing hype, nor the claims we make. We know that it is the code that counts. We will code… My computer is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weakness, its strength, its parts, its interfaces, its keyboard, and its display. I will keep my computer clean and ready, even as…

Posted in Holidays Love

A Love Story

It was the early nineties and the first time I saw Cortni, I was kinda stunned. She had eyes like a cat with a regal aire that commanded the attention of the young men in the office. Carla, a co-worker, and I were across the room one day watching this phenomenon. She leaned over to me and whispered , “look at those wolves.” I turned to her and said “I’ll get her.” And as it turned out I did “get” her.

Posted in Holidays

Santa Physics – A Rebuttal

Originally posited by Jim Mantle, Waterloo Maple Software Come on, ya gotta believe! I mean, if you can handle flying furry animals, then it’s only a small step to the rest. For example: As admitted, it is possible that a flying reindeer can be found. I would agree that it would be quite an unusual find, but they might exist. You’ve relied on cascading assumptions. For example, you have assumed a uniform distribution of children across homes. Toronto/Yorkville, or Toronto/Cabbagetown, or other yuppie neighbourhoods, have probably less than the average (and don’t forget the DINK and SINK homes (Double Income No Kids, Single Income No Kids)), while the families with 748 starving children that they keep showing on Vision TV while trying to pick my pocket would skew that 15% of homes down a few percent. You’ve also assumed that each home that has kids would have at least one…

Posted in Holidays

Santa Physics

A note about this essay: It’s not mine. And it’s been around for quite some time. If I recall correctly, I’ve known about this from the early 90s when email kinda first became main stream. But I haven’t seen it around lately, always liked it for its mix of serious physical principles and dry humor and so I thought I’d dredge it up and post it for anyone who might not have read it before (although that might not be possible with all the chain mail that has gone around over the last 15 odd years.) We’ll see. If you’ve read it…enjoy it again, if not, have fun. No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen….

Posted in Family Humanity

Living the Hyperopic Life

About fifteen years ago, in a former life, I worked with Josephine and Josephine had a plan.   She was driven by a single goal which was to work as hard as she could, climb the corporate ladder and make enough money so she and her husband could retire at forty-five and live the rest of their days in relaxed splendor. Jasmine planned to begin working part time about two years ago.   In her mid forties, she felt it time to spend more time with the kids who had, up to this point, been brought up by nannies.   She was considering going freelance and starting her own consulting business.  Her  time would become her own and she’d made enough money that she and her family were pretty well off. Hunter has worked extremely hard for the last several years trying to grow his company and build a solid nest egg.   He…

Posted in Humanity

Happiness Served Here

“It’s ‘The Decade of Discontent’,” I said a few years ago during a conversation about being in your forties.  And it occurred to me this very well could be.   Professionally, people of this vintage are often on the cusp of deciding to chase the money, continue to chase it, stop chasing it or do something completely different in an effort to find that which fulfills them most.  The children are grown, but not all the way so there is still that dependence but independence has crept in so parents aren’t “needed” as much.  The body starts talking back too, asking “what exactly are you doing working me like this and why is coffee not involved?”  And then there’s the big stuff.  Shocking and unexpected news, friends divorcing, cancer and people who have life smoke a curveball they just weren’t expecting or didn’t really deserve. I had a former friend tell…

Posted in Essays

Driving Drunk with Both Hands on the Wheel

I wonder what the woman was thinking as she sat on her motorcycle at a stoplight in suburban Chicago a few weekends ago. She might have been thinking of her kids, where she was headed or maybe nothing at all. No one knows but I bet it wasn’t about the car coming up behind her, at speed, as it plowed in and took her life.

The woman who hit her was putting nail polish on.

Posted in Big Numbers

A Number Beyond Imagination

I am a numbers person. Having studied math in college, I have always found all different manner of numbers, equations and formulas fascinating. From time to time, the US government bandies about big numbers.  There is lots of pearl clutching and gasping but despite that, they still get what they need done and that numbers usually end up with dollar signs bolted on to the front.  So, I got to thinking about how big those numbers are. During all the talk about a decade or more ago about the $700 billion dollar bailout package, I wrote about how big the number one billion is, what a billion dollars could buy and a few ways you could use to visualize such a number. It was The Stimulus Package; the $780 billion that was meant to pull our collective a$$es out of the fire in which we found ourselves since the complete…

Posted in Humanity

I am a Human Tesla Coil

It happens every year. As we descend into shorter days and longer nights. As the earth’s axis tilts the northern hemisphere away from the sun and the light and radiant heat strike the U.S. at a more oblique angle, things change. The air cools, water condenses and when the temperature gets cold enough, it freezes and floats to the ground robbing the air of moisture and humidity. Dryer means more static electricity. And more static electricity means more getting lit up any time I touch a remotely conductive surface. Albert Einstein once posited that if we evolved properly we would eventually exist as pure energy. Imagine that, all of us just blobs of light or sparkling spheres floating around. The fashionistas would certainly figure out a way for us to change our colors and we wouldn’t need to drive any more, we’d just float to where we needed to go….

Posted in Essays

Void the Warranty

I’m not a big fan of branding. I have a tendency to try to remove, cover or otherwise erase the brand names and logos that appear on the things I have, wear, or buy. I’m not a big fan of items that do just one thing either. What if that one thing is something you only do once in a while. That appliance or tool or whatever is just taking up space the rest of the time. Seems a waste to me. So, there are very few items in our kitchen that do just one thing (despite all those infomercials telling me I need this or that that does just this one thing, allegedly, the best and only way it can be done.) I remove the little plastic plate or sticker that has the car dealer’s name on it. I remove the license plate frame the dealer automatically puts on…

Posted in Essays

A Question of Faith

Steve is a boy of six. He is a nice boy by all accounts and isn’t one to get into trouble. I don’t know him. I just know someone who does. But who he is isn’t important. What happened is. It was after school on a typical Spring afternoon. Steve was finishing up his day and getting ready to go. Looking at the clock he realized it was later than he’d thought. He was going to miss his bus, so he darted out of the school toward the bus loop. Just as he arrived, he saw his bus pulling out of the parking lot. Worry stole over him because he knew his mother would be mad if he was late coming home. She might even be mad he’d missed the bus even if it was an honest mistake. His only alternative was to get home on foot and get there…

Posted in Humanity

Sex, Violence, and the Imbalance of It All

You’re watching TV. An attractive couple lies in a bed breathless and obviously happy. They hold each other and whisper sweet nothings. Planting a quick kiss on her lover’s cheek, the woman says she’ll be right back, pulls to comforter to cover her nakedness and slides out of bed. On the way out of the room the comforter slips revealing her bare backside. People are up in arms. Two performers are singing a song with subtle erotic intent. It is a song about a man desiring the woman and promising her they’ll be together before the song finishes. With the final assertion that he’ll have her naked by the end of it, he reaches over and strips away part of her bodice to reveal a bare breast, a star covers her nipple. People lose their freakin’ minds! A man is being chased by the evil doppleganger of a female character….

Posted in Humanity

After 30 Years, I Finally Understand

There are some things in life that you experience young but only fully understand when the wisdom of age has layered enough of it’s dust upon your heart. Over the past decade, there have been more than just a few times which, for me, bear this consideration out. One such instance has to do with newspapers, AT&T, a money changer and a 12-year-old, toe-headed boy who was just not aware enough because he just wasn’t old enough. From the time I sold newspapers at the old AT&T building in downtown Wayne, PA until now in my current self-employment and business ownership, I have only been fired once. And it was from that paper selling job (I wouldn’t call it a paper route because I just stood there and sold papers, no route to follow.) Of the 15-20 positions I have held, I have always kept myself to a standard of…

Posted in Damage

Damage III

In the end, it’s all about either making yourself better or stronger or more fit or just more of something than you were. All that means is staying around a little or a lot longer because when it come down to it, we’re here to either make more of us, survive or both. All the rest is just window dressing. And don’t be fooled. It’s not the person who dies with the most toys who wins, it’s the person who dies last. So we join health clubs, buy home gyms, make buckets of money for those morons who stick two aluminum poles together, rivet a braided steel cable to it and call it “the greatest weight loss machine eva.” To what end? Lighter bank accounts and larger bellies. But sometimes a person will hit upon something that works, something they can both feel the passion for and actually manage to…

Posted in Humanity

Foot Traffic

Imagine this! You’re walking North on Wilcox heading to dinner at the Castle Cafe, or maybe breakfast at B&B. About half way down the block a new business is setting up shop. They have boxes and equipment outside up against the front of their store. It’s mostly moved out of the way, but there’s a lot there so it’s kind of crowded. Because the sidewalk is not very wide and there are parking meters at the curb, the path to get by has become just wide enough for one person. The pedestrian traffic is not all that heavy, but there are a few people on the walkway. As you approach the narrowing of the sidewalk you move to your left to pass the store front and avoid running into their stuff, you suddenly sense a presence off your left shoulder and before you can think, someone has cut in front…

Posted in Damage

Damage II

You can recover mostly from trashing yourself skiing. Or at least after taking down a few pin up calendars from the wall; but sometimes things just keep coming back once you’re to that place called Damage. The human shoulder, for example, is the one joint in the body that moves the most. It is mandatory that it be flexible enough to handle the wide range of motion required of it. The compromise price we pay is the large number of problems not faced by other joints such as the hip (that just blows out and requires replacement later on down the road). A little more than a decade after the mountain shook me loose and a decade before my hands went partially numb (what?…later), I worked at a sports supplement company. It was the company in the industry at the time and known as the gold standard of product lines…

Posted in Damage

Damage I

When you’re young, you do whatever you feel like. You are ten feet tall and bulletproof and nothing can stop or touch you. At least that’s the perception…and maybe it was just my perception. I haven’t taken a poll but from what I have observed, I am not the only one who rowed that boat. So you go out and drink a lot, eat very spicy food as much as you want, play any sport that strikes your fancy and generally do things that tend to put you on your backside every so often. But back then, you could dust yourself off and go chase down the mutt who knocked you flat for a little payback. All in good fun and sport. There are few second thoughts about what effects these things might have on you later. Whether consciously or not you believe your physical endeavors aren’t supposed to have…

Posted in Family

Who Knew? A Tale of Irony and Coincidence

I didn’t know him at all, but from what I have heard, life for Joseph John Janson was not all that kind to him.  Before he was married. Before he had two sons. Before he tragically slipped and fell in a bathtub, drowning at the age of 57, and before life had thrown its curve balls, he was just a young man of 22 years, living his life when he took to the open road. I grew up in an old Victorian house on the Main Line of Eastern Pennsylvania. It was the “wrong side of the tracks” but it was still a nice big house with lots of cool places to hide. A few years ago, I was rummaging around in the third floor storage room and I happened upon three old black journals. They were the kind that were flimsy and bound with thin, black leather. About the…

Posted in Big Numbers Humanity

Having Everything and Having Nothing

We were passing through Vail the other day on the way to a camping trip and stopped off at a 7-Eleven to stretch our legs and see what the big 7 had to offer (not much). On a whim, while purchasing a few comics for the boys, I threw two dollars on the counter and said “two, quick picks.” This is a silly but entertaining thing I do maybe once every 2 years. Part teaching opportunity, part mental exercise, the purchase of a lottery ticket always sparks conversations that evolve in interesting ways. This year, with the hurricane in Texas, I was able to think in two realms. Having a lot and having nothing. Having a Lot Being able to buy anything you want is always — or at least most times — the fantasy of those purchasing lottery tickets. I would venture to say most people aren’t walking away…

Posted in Essays

A Victim of the Murderous Mob

“Dear Father, I don’t know that the sun will ever rise and set for me again, but I trust in God and his mercy. At eight o’clock, I sit in court. The mob have me under guard. There is no cowardice in me, Father. I am worthy of you in this respect. I am, in this one respect, like Him who died for all: I die, if die I must, for law, order, and principle; and too, I stand alone.” My family and I, one Saturday when we were looking for something different to do, decided to head to the cemetery on Wolfensberger Road. It seemed a peculiar thing to me, the whole burial ritual being a bit of a mystery, but my boys had heard about people doing rubbings of epitaphs on markers and having just acquired sketch pads, they wanted to give it a try. So it was…

Posted in Family

Laundry Forensics

Jerry Seinfeld has a bit about what happens to the missing socks in the laundry. They had to go somewhere right? That’s the law of conservation of matter and energy. But for some reason, they disappear. Never to be seen again. We have a bundle of socks tied together in our laundry basket. It rides along every time the laundry is done and never does anything but sit there. The intention is to, at some point in the future, match them up with their mates once they come home to roost, but that hope is never realized. So what is there for this lonely bundle of singles to do? No matches to any of the socks exist. But there are close to 10 of them in there that have accumulated over the last few years. My question is, why do we keep ’em? Shouldn’t there be, maybe, someplace where they…

Posted in Bits & Pieces

Useless Information

Not really useless, or maybe useless but at least a little interesting. As you start reading the below paragraph, you’ll notice something odd…but you can still read it. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Not sure where this came from, but it’s been floating around the net for many years.

Posted in Essays

Dandelion Break

Way back in the 80s there was a cartoon named Bloom County. And one of the ideas they came up with was the Dandelion Break. It essentially consisted of Milo Bloom, Opus and any number of other characters heading out to the meadow to sit amongst the dandelions in order to recharge from a particularly bad day. We all need a break, here are 13 or so minutes of a Dandelion Break. A recorded Colorado thunderstorm fresh off the Rocky Mountains in June of 2007. With Music: right click to “save as…” Just nature: right click to “save as…” Load it on your mp3 player, sit back and just imagine being somewhere else. Photo by Viridi Green

Posted in Essays

Busy Signals

I heard a busy signal the other day for the first time in, well, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s been a while. Until I heard it, I hadn’t realized that it was a dying thing. Something that now seems superfluous. It occurred the other day when calling a business. I don’t think this is a common thing. I think it is on its way out and is gasping for its last breath. I miss the busy signal. It is virtually disappearing. You can make a call now and have someone answer. Someone, something, voicemail, ACDs, VRUs, recordings, whatever. No more, or at least rarely, do you get the burnk, burnk, burnk letting you know it’s the end of the line. You’re not going anywhere until the line is free. Without the busy signal, no more do you feel the finality of being denied access. Voice mail, call waiting, call…