Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Lotto

Last night as I hastily cleaned my house in preparation of a Halloween Party, I was inspired to get a large diet Coke. I stopped at Lowe's and picked up two shower heads and some tile grout - went to Sac n Pac and poured the big drink. And at the register, the enticingly fronted TV screen said "Jackpot $19 Million". Crap - OK, so I bought five quick picks - three for the "Powerball" and two for the "Texas Lotto". This morning, after getting some coffee and after painting my kitchen cabinets, I checked my numbers. WOW......I did not get a single number - not one. And since that was my objective, I WIN! In fact, it seems that the odds were with me last night beneath the crescent moon.

But really, to put these things in perspective, the odds of drawing any winning sequence is about one in 195,249,054. Even though the odds of flipping heads on a quarter is one in two, I don't win that one very much either. And check out this cool fact - with 400,000,000 tickets in play, the probability that one winning combination exists is 0.0132%. And if you should win a grand prize, 38% goes to taxes. Given all of the prize options, the probability exists that you will get a return of 0.1358 cents per dollar invested. But then, of course, you could always never win for the odds of that are exactly the same - and that would just be the statistical luck of the draw. 

Odds that a person between the age of 18 and 29 does NOT read a newspaper regularly: 3 to 1
Odds that an American adult does not want to live to age 120 under any circumstances: 3 to 2
Odds of injury from fireworks: 19,556 to 1
Odds of injury from shaving: 6,585 to 1
Odds of injury from using a chain saw: 4,464 to 1
Odds of injury from mowing the lawn: 3,623 to 1
Odds of fatally slipping in bath or shower: 2,232 to 1
Odds of drowning in a bathtub: 685,000 to 1
Odds of being killed on a 5-mile bus trip: 500,000,000 to 1
Odds of being killed sometime in the next year in any sort of transportation accident: 77 to 1
Odds of being killed in any sort of non-transportation accident: 69 to 1
Odds of being struck by lightning: 576,000 to 1
Odds of being killed by lightning: 2,320,000 to 1
Odds of being murdered: 18,000 to 1
Odds of getting away with murder: 2 to 1
Odds of being the victim of serious crime in your lifetime: 20 to 1
Odds of dating a supermodel: 88,000 to 1
Odds of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1
Odds that a first marriage will survive without separation or divorce for 15 years: 1.3 to 1
Odds that a celebrity marriage will last a lifetime: 3 to 1
Odds of getting hemorrhoids: 25 to 1
Odds of being born a twin in North America: 90 to 1
Odds of being on plane with a drunken pilot: 117 to 1
Odds of being audited by the IRS: 175 to 1
Odds of having your identity stolen: 200 to 1
Odds of dating a millionaire: 215 to 1
Odds of dating a supermodel: 88,000 to 1
Odds of writing a New York Times best seller: 220 to 1
Odds of finding out your child is a genius: 250 to 1
Odds of catching a ball at a major league ballgame: 563 to 1
Odds of becoming a pro athlete: 22,000 to 1

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Little "Deal"

Affordable Neon

In my museum like house, I possess and display a uniquely cool neon sign, "Carl Deal Photography", which in bright red both lights my house as if a Bordello or "Amsterdam Alley", and can also been seen in the living room from the street. It is both art and ad I suppose. Alas, this past week, enough molecules of NEON escaped from the tube to compromise the circuit of the sign. And so I was forced to call the Doctor - the King of Neon himself, Ray Lynch - proprietor of "Affordable Neon." Ray by the way happens to be one among a small clan of the most interesting people in the World - but then that's another story. Yesterday morning long before the sun crested the horizon I transported my little "Deal" to downtown San Antonio. As a cursive glass sign, it is built into four parts - each requiring the stability to maintain the electric plasma arc circuit through all four pieces.

Ray was waiting at the warehouse door - the last hot day of the year - smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone. Little "Deal" went inside and waited on the workbench. "Ahhhh" he says, making an analytical observation that it was not in fact the demise of Neon in the tube but perchance a bit of dust and detritus which over time vibrated its way to an electrode - cooking like spilt milk on a stove. A quick fix he says.

With a small file he breaks off each blackened electrode and burns a new one on. Not so easy it turns out - these strange twists and turns only a "Deal" can make - even a misadventure or two. But in the end, my little "Deal" was whole again - absent a charge of gas. For me, science really is a cool thing and so I could not be a very good Republican - ignoring all the those meaningful fantastic facts. And so the process for sustaining a plasma arc inside of a glass tube really is the shiznit. And I'm not a science dork and so I was able to keep pace with the process intellectually - asking some good questions. I thought of course that just filling the tube with neon was adequate. It turns out that not only must you burn the tube clean with blazing voltage, but the neon presence must be far below atmospheric pressure.

Ray attached my "little "Deal" to a transformer, the likes of which you might find on a telephone pole. He'd attached small flakes of Mica in places the forthcoming charge might lurch out through the glass. Not only is it a big charge, but it seems it carries a hefty magnetic field as well - skewing electronic devices like expensive Canon cameras and Android phones - and so I stood back.

With a normal Oxygen and Nitrogen content, the tube glowed a bright green white light. I imagined this was not unlike the red and green of an Aurora but at a much higher energy. The point of course was to cook the insides out of the glass in anticipation of it being evacuated of atmoshere. Attached to a vacuum, it was soon void of gas. With a small charge of Neon, the tube was melted shut - glowing again in its familiar red.

It was still morning in Downtown San Antonio, and along the river walk there was the most magnificent aroma of onion, grilled chorizo, pepper - and breakfast taco in the air. After a long drive home, a few wire twists - the little "Deal" was back home.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

George Gries Photography

This blog is nearly always dedicated to my own writing and photography. Yesterday afternoon my friend George Gries drove up upon a chance - a rare, rare chance to photograph a mountain lion in the wild. He's lived on his ranch for decades and seen signs of a lion's range - and even hunted a few back in the day with a team of tracking dogs. George would much rather see one living and in the wild now as he no longer has to tend to his sheep. This image - one of six or seven - is a great find. George said it was a male and both huge and healthy.

Carl Deal - Halloween

Our test image of "Hydropyrotechnics" for the Halloween Party Invite. Mastered in three shots whilst disassembling an old mortar shell for powder. Iso 100, 2 seconds, F-11.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Dilemma

It's a Sunday and a pleasant cool morning. Alas, I have arrived at a point in life where sleeping much past 6:30 is a chore - but I do get to witness the birth of the day and so it's OK. After eating a bit of left over calzone and running a load of laundry, I headed out for a cup of brew at the Wake the Dead coffee shop. As I meandered back home, I saw this guy out in his cactus garden across from the Sac n Pac there at Sarah Dr and so I stopped to chat with him. He complained about his hoarse voice and allergies. I complimented his garden and then.rolled slowly down Ranch Road 12 toward home along the long iron fence of the cemetery. At the entrance there on the side of the road was a beautiful red shouldered hawk sitting on the railing seemingly unconcerned by my slow trek by. I turned in to see if I could get a closer look. Holy Crap - there was a whole show underway. A screech owl was on the ground with his wings outstretched guarding what looking like a small squirrel. The hawk was watching the owl - swooping off the railing toward the owl and then flapping furiously up to a nearby branch - the own growling and curling his wings around his head like a big fan. Mocking birds - the name - and there were about ten of them hooting and hollering, jumping around while heckling the entire affair. And here I was with no camera - 30 feet away from all of this and no camera. Dammit - I was torn. Should I sit here quietly and watch this fantastic spectacle play out and put it to my memory, or should I sneak home and back - a seven minute trip and capture the expressions on their faces for posterity's sake? It's like being the fourth guy in line at the register during an armed robbery and having left your Sig out in the car next to the driver's seat. You feel a little bit anxious, a little bit dumb, a little bit "shoulda woulda coulda". And then, from up the hill came a long line of bicyclers - all dressed to the nines with shiny helmets - fifteen or eighteen of them I think - all peddling up a storm. You could hear that high pitched race bike sound as they passed - almost a whistle. And back lit by the sun, long shadows ahead of the glistening racers - even the hawk looked up as they passed. And there it was - the opportunity to make the break. The owl flapped up off the ground and sailed away with squirrel in foot - one mocking bird chattering all the way - and it was over. The hawk was caught watching the racing team. He sat around for a bit longer, and then sailed across the street to the phone line. I took a sip from my coffee and went on home. Hmmm...I said, good thing it wasn't the hold up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Alex came by today complaining that he couldn't turn his head, couldn't sleep and was "sick as fuck". When I checked his lyphnodes, he winced in pain. And so with flashlight and spoon and glasses, I looked inside. Holy Crap!! - a gross swollen adenoid with gewey pustules. Where have you had your mouth I said. He smiled...
Cephalexin for ten days little Chav - that should knock out whatever you have. I could not resist the opportunity to practice marco-photography.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Economy

I have just returned from a trip to West Texas - far West Texas. My purpose in going there was two pronged. "Tex" left his car here in San Marcos for repairs and I drove it out to him in Marfa. It's a long drive out there - about seven hours or so. Even though the speed limit on I-10 is 80, it can tire you out and makes for a long day. I had my camera with me too, and I seldom go anywhere without my camera.

That part of Texas is the high desert - about a mile high - with magnificent light and big sky. It's no wonder that the small town of Marfa has attracted an odd and eclectic set of visitors and/or transient residents who live among the lesser population of cowboys and ranch hands and oil service folks and poorer Hispanics. And there is the Border Patrol people too. But times are hard in this country right now and in this distant patch of grass and trees and adobe houses, there is a lull there too. Although I could easily imagine living in a place like Marfa in a small warehouse with a loft and garage, wood shop and gallery space, I can see its tattered edges. Life is going on there - like it is everywhere - but the margins are thin. In far West Texas people are just barely getting along. And as far away as they are from everywhere else, there isn't much rescue in store for them either.

There is the drought, which seems to be the aggravated circumstance to it all. Trees have died, lawns are dry, and ranchers have sold off a good bit of their livestock. But people just aren't going places like they used to, and they aren't spending a lot of their money either. Every place I went to spend the little bit of money I had, conversations were afoot about who was having a hard time, who was just breaking even, and who was going to lose their business. In Washington of course, there is the jobs bill, and the angry republicans, and so little constructive, intellectually based, long term thinking underway that any rescue is a long way off. I suppose that our system facilitates a culture of short term thinking and short term gratification for those whose grasp on power is at risk every four years. How possibly, when your objective is to stay in office - and absent the high moral sense of duty and honor these offices call for, can one think of anything that is not going to benefit you within that term. How sad that the real World doesn't work that way. It's no wonder that the loudest voices in Washington are the ones who walk in there with the deepest pockets.

As long as our Domestic multi-national corporations are allegiant to themselves and not to the country from which they were born, and Wall Street, banks and insurance companies, energy producers and automobile manufacturers are allegiant only to their stock holders, and cities and counties and states continue to pursue their economic objectives by raising funds by ever more imaginative means - bleeding the turnip and trekking forth into debt on the promise of future growth, and when we just print more money on the printing press to pay the light bill, and when across the land the stock holder has the power and the absence for foresight to plunder the customer, we are all sadly doomed and "Camelot" will fall into rusted ruins.