Archive | January, 2014

Another upside to being introverts: we don’t spread killer diseases like extroverts do

I may not have any friends but I’ll at least survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

These guys say they’ve discovered a small group of special individuals in a city that act as super-spreaders of disease. These people have unusually large numbers of contacts with others and so spread illness far and wide, when they become infected. That’s handy because these individuals should become infected first during any epidemic. So a system to monitor them would act as an important early warning indicator of an incipient epidemic and give authorities a crucial early warning of potential disaster.

It comes as some comfort knowing I wouldn’t be one of those people who likely would have their heads blown off at the first sign of turning zombie by the Singapore authorities.  In fact I find it even more comforting the notion that I could play my part in saving the world by embarking in the funsie activity of decapitating those obnoxious extroverts I’ve always hated because they got all the girls, and not just them, but all their obnoxious friends and girlfriends too.

Because you know, I gotta save the world.  Nothing personal, you see.

Wow, the south really are a bunch of pansies

Intriguing map of counties in the U.S. that indicates how much snow must fall before schools close:

Map of What Schools Close Depending on Snow Amount
See all that green? That’s for “any amount of snow.”

As in, if one special snowflake hits the ground, the world simply stops turning down there.

The dark blue is for 24 inches.  Yes, literally 2 feet of snow has to blanket the earth before they even think about canceling school.  Funny stuff, but I actually find this map quite instructive.  I love mountains, and I love a modest amount of snow (emphasis, MODEST) so I wouldn’t want to live in a state where it didn’t at least snow a few times a year on average.  That’s why I’m noting with interest that small sliver of light blue along the Tennessee/North Carolina borders where the Smokies are located, and gradually deepening in blue as you move up to West Virginia.  This was one of the few places east of the Mississippi that I thought about moving to, and it marks one of the rare areas of the South (or Mid-Atlantic) where I wouldn’t find myself cursing the humidity and the heat 12 months out of the year.

Due west there is of course Colorado, and I’m pleased to see some of my favorite travel destinations in that state have lighter shades of blue.  Montana though, lolz.  Arizona however turned out to be a surprise for me.  I had always written off the entire state as an arid, intolerably hot desert climate but as it turns out, from the central region where Flagstaff is located and going due north, it actually has a much more temperate climate, with sometimes significant amounts of snow during the winter.  I traveled Route 66 going east in Arizona last October, and I was amazed to see how the landscape morphed from brown and dead to a green and lively forest region as I approached the town of Williams.  For that reason I added Arizona to my list of potentials (my current tally is 13 possible states).

I’m not actually moving by the way, this is just stuff I like to think about as I await the day when I can finally leave New York for all time, forever and ever, amen and amen.

This was not the vortex I was looking for

When I hear the word vortex, the image that springs to mind is the Star Trekian type of vortex.  You know, a spinning funnel that hurtles your ship into a wormhole and sends you into the past/future/alternate universe.  A funsie kind of vortex, to which you can either undo mistakes of the past, see the wonders of the future, or settle into a mirror universe where red means go, green means stop, Elvis is still alive, and I’m an introverted millionaire living in a jewel encrusted cabin in Colorado with a sexy and God fearing Jessica Alba and our 32 kids.  Oh, and where such a thing as iOS 7 never happened.  And the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

Ok, scratch that last one.  There is no universe in which that would ever happen.

So what kind of vortex does real life give me?  Well, this one:

Polar Vortex Map

I could really use some of that global warming right about now.

I realize there’s a certain sense of irony where I groan like an old woman about the snow we’re getting in downstate New York while dreaming of living under the special snowflakes of Colorado, but I think I know why.  Because of the humid climate here, the snow never… goes… away.  It doesn’t evaporate, it doesn’t melt, it stays, and stays, and stays, until we pour 5 million tons of salt and sand all over the roads just to rid us of some of it so the entire suburbanplex that is Long Island doesn’t grind to an apocalyptic halt.

In Colorado, the arid climate ensures that whatever snow does hit the ground doesn’t overstay its welcome, even when facing subzero temps.  And while the mountainous terrain has a tendency to draw extremes out of the weather, it’s balanced out by 300+ days of sunny weather out of the year.

Of course, having yet to be trapped in a serious storm during my frequent visits there, my perception of the weather is probably still a little rose colored.  Still, it’s telling how deep my antipathy for New York must be when I rail like an unhinged madman against the snow here, while in contrast I prance around in it like a jubilant 5 year old when I’m in Colorado.

The parallels between the life of Harry Bosch and my own

Old Headquarters of the LAPDI was very pleased to hear the news that a TV series based on the Harry Bosch series written by Michael Connelly would soon pilot on Amazon Instant Video.   Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is a fictional detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, and a character I almost immediately identified with as my alter ego when I started reading the novels way back when.

Bosch was an orphan, a loner and a nonconformist, the kind of guy who had no tolerance for politics and a passionate zeal to clear his cases.  He was the square peg trying to fit into the round hole of the LAPD, navigating a world of constant corruption and bureaucratic ineptness.  It never ceased to amaze me how often Bosch landed in hot water in the course of investigating homicides, not because he had a knack for finding trouble, but that trouble always seemed to find him.

I can relate to that.

Intriguing to me as well was Bosch’s romantic life, a constant series of epic failures, but there was one in particular that would stay with him, a turbulent on and off relationship he had with an FBI agent named Eleanor Wish.  From the very beginning Bosch’s attraction and deep seated feelings for Eleanor proved near fatal, beginning with her betraying his trust, almost singlehandedly destroying his efforts to clear a homicide case, and concluding with… well go read the novels and you’ll see.  I can’t remember all the details, but he had married and tried to make it work with her, only to have the bottom fall out when she left him so she could pursue her career ambitions as a (wait for it):  professional gambler.

Yep, that sounds about right to me.

My favorite novel from the series would have to be The Last Coyote, where Bosch decks one of his superiors after he ruined Bosch’s chances to get a confession out of a suspect.  Suspended from duty, he is forced to see the department therapist, and from there we’re able to peel back a few more layers of his troubled psyche.  It was during this time that Bosch decided to dig into his past and find out the truth about his mother (a prostitute who lost custody of Bosch and was murdered only a year later).

One of the scenes in the book that continued to stick with me involved his visit to a records office to obtain crucial files while investigating his mother’s death.  The female clerk here was described as a portly gatekeeping hen so accustomed to routine and ritual that she could zoom to and from her desk despite a clearance of only a few inches for her wide girth.

Since Bosch was suspended, he had no official sway with the cantankerous woman,  so he  faked making a call to a reporter that would have landed her in a world of hurt if she didn’t cooperate:

He gave her the names and she got up angrily and silently to leave the room. She could barely fit around the desk but made the maneuver like a ballerina, the pattern instilled in her body’s memory by repeated practice.

“How long will this take?” he asked.

“As long as it takes,” she answered, regaining some of her bureaucratic bluster at the door.

“No, Mona, you got ten minutes. That’s all. After that, you better not come back ’cause Whitey’s gonna be sitting here waiting for you.”

She stopped and looked at him. He winked.

After she left he got up and went around the side of the desk. He pushed it about two inches closer to the opposite wall, narrowing her path back to her chair.

She was back in seven minutes, carrying a piece of paper. But Bosch could see it was trouble. She had a triumphant look on her face. He thought of that woman who had been tried a while back for cutting off her husband’s {privates}. Maybe it was the same face she had when she ran out the door with it.

“Well, Detective Borsch, you’ve got a little problem.”

“What is it?”

She started around the desk and immediately rammed her thick thigh into its Formica-topped corner. It looked more embarrassing than painful. She had to flail her arms for balance and the impact of the collision shook the desk and knocked her container over. The red liquid began leaking out of the straw onto the blotter.

“S***!!!!”

She quickly moved the rest of the way around the desk and righted the container. Before sitting down she looked at the desk, suspicious that it had been moved.

“Are you all right?” Bosch asked.

Classic.  I laughed so hard when I read this, knowingly nodding my head at Bosch’s mischievous side because it’s exactly the kind of thing I would have done as well.  I’m not sure what drives it, but I suspect beneath the sophomoric acts there’s an alluring urge to undermine the bureaucratic machinery Bosch and I must confront on a regular basis, or maybe a defense mechanism for dealing with the all around stupidity of the human race.

Just to name one example of my own, I once removed the wheels from a chair a coworker of mine sat on, who had a grating habit of wheeling everywhere in the office instead of just standing up and moving about.  He comes in the next day, sits down and begins to wheel… only to tip over and crash on the floor.

You can see why they love me at work.  (Although I’m relatively certain he never did find out who took the wheels.)

Anyhoo, it’ll be exciting to see how many of these same endearing traits I so identified with Bosch will carry over to a TV series, even though I’m not entirely thrilled who they picked to play him (Titus Welliver).  Not that I don’t think he’s a good actor, he just doesn’t immediately strike me as a hard boiled detective with a tormented soul, a smart mouth, and a proclivity for getting into all kinds of serious trouble, especially when I can’t get it out of my head that he was the creepy creepy black smoke thingie in the show, Lost.  But who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised.

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