Tag Archives: adventure

Of ants and spiders.

I like to take pictures, especially of small insects. Doing macro photography is not easy and requires a lot of concentration, as well as luck and very little wind. But I love these small critters outside my house and not inside. This week, for the first time in several years, I was invaded by several ants no doubt in search of food and perhaps out for a stroll. I found four of them in my kitchen and one enterprising ant was found on my table.

I admired the skill of that ant in climbing the leg of my table, but in the end this excess of adventurism on its part finished in death and provoked my fury. I had to take action and so out came the ant bait traps that had lingered in limbo for the past 5 years.

I wondered if these traps would still work but I had nothing else and I wanted to act badly. After five years in a plastic bag tucked away I knew that this might not be good for the active ingredient inside the traps. But so far I have not seen another ant exploring my appartment. Whether there is a cause and effect between the absence of ants and the traps is unknown and will remain so.

I like spiders, especially jumping spiders. They are very small but with their two big eyes looking at you they seem very intelligent. In this case, the spider I discovered in my house was not a jumping spider but if it was, it did not jump very well or very high.

I was in the bathroom, sitting down for obvious reasons, when my gaze fell upon the white wall to my right. The spider was less than a quarter of an inch and black. And then it moved. I had to wait before jumping on the spider and then I thought, why not capture it.

I fished out an empty transparent holder and gently scooped up the spider. With a spy glass I was able to examine it and saw that its eyes seemed small. I had thoughts of taking out my camera and trying to take pictures but I knew that it was too small and I did not have enough lighting. I decided to spare its life by opening my door on the balcony and gently deposited it on the floor. As I am on the third floor I will assume that it gently descended. Last time I saw it was jumping on the floor in small jumps. I like spiders, but out in the great outdoors. And the ants can join them too!

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The marathon of life.

Last week was the Montreal marathon, a 26 miles running event. As they ran on my street, I was taken back 10 to 15 years in the past when I was still running these races. Nostalgia gripped me. Seeing all those runners grimacing in pain, I went straight to my closet and fished out all those medals that they give to the finishers. I pored over my diplomas certifying that I had indeed finished this mythical distance.

Most medals that I received have stood the test of time as they still look very good and were probably made with a bronze alloy. The medals that I had won afterwards fared a lot less well, as some of them darkened to a dark chocolate tint. This was no doubt due to the fact that the quality of the organization that organized the race declined somewhat. Money was tight.

Of course medals are nice but those who run these races do it for other reasons; to accomplish something that even today is considered hard or to exert persistence in the face of adversity. To show your mettle.

Once you finish the race you always think of next year, of setting new goals. However, I rarely was able to beat my times. But of course, one had to wait a sufficient amount of time for the pain to subside and the memory of it to diminish somewhat. The marathon is a beast that demands a lot and a good training for such an event demands 50 to 60 miles per week. A hard sell if you have to work physically hard as well, as was my situation for many years.

Of course I did my best, trying to cheat my way into better times by doing more cycling during my training period. But to improve in running you simply have to run more and more and better. No shortcuts there.

When you think about it, life is pretty much like a marathon race. You have to be in there for the long run. You have to persist in the face of pain, and despite all your best plans sometimes you do not make it to the finishing line.

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Walking in the footsteps of others.

I am an avid photographer but I will admit that winter in the eastern part of North America is no picnic. The snow and the cold can be taxing and your perseverance and endurance is often tested, as well as your equipment of course.

Naturally when I am walking I always look if someone else has walked in the same area that I am walking. It is always easier to walk in the footsteps of another person as they make my walking far easier and of course I exert less energy. Even the animals of the wild will do the same thing. I often see foxes quickly running on paths made by men instead of wading through deep snow. But of course, if I walk in the same paths that others have opened for me I will probably see what they have seen and nothing more. One could also add that a sense of adventure would be missing in walking in the footsteps of others so at times I will eschew the easy path and will try to open a new path. I know that it will cost me more in time and energy but I always hope that in doing so I will be rewarded by seeing something that others have not seen. Often just this act of opening a different path leads me to new discoveries, as for example discovering birds called cedar waxwings eating berries perched in a tree. Had I stuck to the usual path I would not have seen them, a missed opportunity.
In our lives, we often do this, picking the easy road and letting others dictate our path. At times we are simply too lazy.

Perhaps we should be more adventurous and pick our own paths. We might have to exert ourselves more but at least it would be more interesting and of course, it will be our paths and not the paths of others. We would be following our own genius and no one else.

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The fall of (a) man.

A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago, something that reminded me that we are all subject to the laws of gravity even if we blithely forget. They sometimes have a way of reminding us that they exist and that we must pay attention to them.

I was walking in my favourite park as the skies were blue and the temperature that day was mild. I like to take pictures so I had my monopod and my camera with me. I was proceeding slowly across a frozen pond, using a small bridge that unites one pond to another. Once safely across I would have been able to continue my walk on the other side. Unfortunately it was very sunny and this made the snow on this small cement bridge highly reflective. No, I did not have tinted glasses as I look foolish enough without them but with them I would probably draw fits of laughter from passers-by. Enough said. I am simply not the epitome of cool.

So here I am, with my camera in my right hand and my camera bag safely on my back. I must have looked down at my feet and thought that it was a no-brainer for me. Two quick steps and I was to be on the other side. Unfortunately that is not what happened as when I put my right foot on this snow bridge I fell down and saw the snow bridge rise precipitously towards my lovely face. Now I know what a tree feels when it is chopped down and it slams into the ground. Not much fun.

At first I remained in this position; I was eagle spread on the bridge, with my left arm out over the edge and my right hand still holding the camera with my face inches out of the snow. I felt like a bug that had been squashed on the windshield of a car. Not a pretty sight. Needless to say that I was in shock. How could this have happened I wondered ? I also felt scared, more for my camera than for my pretty face. The first thing I did was to slowly rise and check the camera and the lens that was on it. Everything looked fine and I was so relieved at that. I then noticed that my right leg had scraped the cement bridge and that despite the snow I had hurt myself, but not severely. Nothing was broken except of course, my pride. As I had risen I had looked around to see if anyone had seen the fall but luckily no one had. We all do that; we fall and then look around to see if people are snickering at us. Happily I was alone on that day.

I gingerly got up and began moving again over the snow bridge but very slowly, giving it as much respect as a boxer who has been knocked-out by another boxer. I was not going down for the count again, no sir.
I knew that my right shin had been injured as I felt a throbbing there but I continued my walk on the other side and even walked for another hour afterwards. It is only when I arrived home that I inspected the damage. It looked bad as there was a red gash of about two inches long right across my shin and it was very red with blood but luckily it was only a good scraping and nothing was opened. I knew that I had been lucky. Just a good cleaning was necessary and that was all but for at least a week I felt some pain in that area.

The lesson was clear to me. The last time I fell must have been several years ago on my icy stairs. This was a remainder from the gods of Winter to not only look up, but down as well. The laws of gravity will apply even to those who forget them, as I had.

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Chapter 36.

The shadow, Horn and Strong.

 

 

The professor had been taken aback at how quickly detective Strong had exited the trap. He had hoped for a signal of some sorts but none had come. And then, as he was watching the scene on his screen, the shadow had appeared with Horn. There was definitely a presence with him but it was not yet solid. The professor put his hand up to Strong and pointed at the machine indicating that it was not the time to take Horn out. Within a few seconds the shadow assumed a corporeal form just as Horn had indicated that it could. The professor was astonished at what he saw on his screen.

“Now! Get him out!” shouted the professor at Strong. The three other policeman present had assumed a defensive position at the entrance of the machine, prepared to counteract the shadow with their canisters of nitrogen.

Strong opened the hatch rapidly, surprising Horn as he was looking at the shadow. He grabbed Horn by the arm and violently threw him out. The shadow had not moved in the few seconds that all that had taken place, still immobile in the center of the machine but looking in a puzzling way when Strong and Horn had exited the trap. Strong and the others quickly closed the door and sealed the hatch signalling immediately to the professor to start the pumps. The liquid nitrogen began to pour into the machine from the top and the sides, attacking the being who was still in its solid state. The professor looked at the screen to see what was going on but a heavy cloud obscured what he could see. He only saw arms flailing here and there but not the head of the being.

The pumps had done the job and liquid nitrogen was poured in for many minutes until the egg shaped machine was deemed to be full. Still the professor could not see inside as too much vapor was present. He left the liquid nitrogen settle in the machine for 15 minutes and began to wait. Meanwhile Horn and Strong were talking near the professor by the screen, both apprehensive about what would happen next.

“Its a dirty trick that you pulled there, getting me all worked up against you.” said Horn, still shocked at the turn of events.

“I didn’t have much choice. I had to get you angry at me at the right moment. Had I told you about the plan and warned you it might not have worked as your anger might not have risen high enough.” replied Strong smiling.

“Still, you risked my life. What if the shadow had seized me before you did, then what?” asked a still shaken Horn.

“I guess we’ll never know and that’s a good thing in my opinion.” said Strong, grinning.

“Gentleman”, said the professor, ” I will now operate the pumps in reverse to evacuate the nitrogen still in the machine and we’ll see if the being has been vitrified or if it did have the time to escape as a gas.” the professor said. The hum of the machines began to be heard again and slowly the machine was emptied of its deadly liquid. The screen showed that slowly the fog was dissipating being evacuated by the pumps. The three men were avidly looking at the screen, trying hard to discern what had happened to the being. Slowly the fog lifted and a head, and then the whole body of the being was visible. Clearly it had been vitrified by the liquid as it was still upright with its arms extended. Its face had an expression of surprise and horror, but it was still without any features and still looked as black as the night.

The machine continued to evacuate the liquid for another 15 minutes and by then everyone knew that the being was dead, without a doubt. To be sure of this, they had to open the hatch and let air from outside come in. That would probably shatter the being in a million pieces due to the difference in pressure between the inside of the machine and the outside according to the professor.

Strong indicated to the other policeman to stand around the hatch just in case the being had not been neutralized. The professor slowly opened the hatch and as it opened they heard a loud shattering noise. The hatch was then completely opened and what they saw confirmed the death of the being; a million pieces of glass littered the floor of the machine. Just as the professor had expected the body of the being had shattered. Everywhere one looked inside the machine shiny pieces of glass were present. At the sight of this the policeman retreated knowing full well that they were not required anymore. The professor looked at Strong who looked back at him. Relief was in his eyes.

“You know, pulling out Mr. Horn at the last minute as you did was fraught with danger. The being could have retained you and Mr.Horn inside, and the pumps could not have been activated.”

“Yes, I know, I was lucky that the being just froze. I guess it was caught by surprise and probably didn’t understand what I was doing, or why.” said Strong.

Everyone was looking at the pieces of the being laying on the floor. Everyone looked at it in awe. The being had been defeated by the ingenuity of many men pulling their minds together. It was not a certainty that the being could be killed, but the attempt had to be made and it worked.

Fisher approached Strong and congratulated him on ending this nightmare. “Yes indeed, it is finished. But who could have predicted that such a thing could happen, and what else lies in store for us. Humanity may still be at risk from totally unknown beings that could threaten it. I find this a sobering thought.” said Strong.

“Tell me detective Strong, what are we to do with the remains of the being, you know, all those lovely pieces of reflecting glass containing body parts?” asked the professor, who obviously in the name of science wanted to be the custodian of them.

Strong looked at him and at the pieces lying on the floor and said, “Professor, they are all yours. Let science examine what is left of this being and study him. It might become useful someday if another of these beings reappears.”

The professor smiled and put his hands together happy that he had what he wanted. He looked at the floor of the machine and bent down to pick up one of the pieces of the being. It was the left eye. It was looking straight up at the professor as he was examining it and then turned left as it saw Horn approach. The professor was shocked by this and promptly dropped the eye, shattering it to another million pieces. He looked to see where detective Strong was to alert him but he was walking towards the exit along with Fisher oblivious to what had happened.

The end.

 

 

Well this is the final installment of my book and I hope that you have liked it. My next book is not quite ready so for  the next few weeks I will start putting up some essays that reflect some of my thinking on life and society in general. See you next week!

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Chapter 28.

The test.

 

 

Before the test Strong took the time to visit Horn and to explain to him the ramifications of what was going on. If the test failed Horn would have to be rendered unconscious for some days as Strong could not risk him becoming upset at someone and having his shadow kill again using the negative emotions that were in him. Obviously Horn was not pleased with all this but since he had agreed that he would do it he had no choice. He knew that his shadow killed because of him and his hostile emotions.

After the visit Strong took the car and went straight to the university where the test was to be held. He parked and went to the office of Grugen.

“Hello Detective. Ready for the test?” asked the professor.

“Yes of course. What have you selected for your test subject?” asked Strong.

“Very simply, a cat. One can find stray cats everywhere you know, and this one will donate its life in the name of science. Shall we proceed?”

“Yes. Let’s see this.” said Strong, eager to see how it would all work out.

The detective and the professor walked towards a long corridor and then took the stairs till they reached the bottom floor of the university which was basically the cellar. As they exited another corridor they came face to face with a big metallic door with a small window straight in the center. The professor introduced a card in the security mechanism and the door popped open.

“This is the research lab detective and in the center of the lab is the trap.” said professor Grugen.

The detective walked carefully through the room letting his eyes roam around it. Rows of computers were deployed on his left as well as his right looking as an army in full formation before the attack. A few students, sitting here and there at the various desks and working at their computers, barely lifted their heads when the two men entered. Whispers were heard about the two men as all knew that it was the detective and the professor.

As Strong advanced towards the center of the room he came face to face with the trap. It was a sort of bell, but rather elongated and tapered at the top end and looking more like a test tube than anything else. Pumps were distributed all around the tube but at a good distance from it. On a desk near the tube he saw the sacrificial lamb inside a small pen.

Strong approached the cat and was about to extend his hand to pet it but recoiled when the cat hissed at him.

“Careful now detective, it’s a stray cat and it might carry all sort of diseases. A bite could be nasty business.” said the professor.

Strong smiled and wisely kept his hands away from the pen as the cat still looked nervously at him. He then turned around to embrace the scene and turned towards the professor. “Please professor, explain to me what the trap is and what will happen.”

“It’s really simple. The tube in the middle is where the cat will be. Imagine the cat to be this strange being that you are pursuing. Once the being is in the tube the door would close. Then, the liquid nitrogen will be pumped in as a gas by the three pumps that you see surrounding the trap. The liquid nitrogen will then collect inside the jar and as it is a gas, if the being is vapor it will solidify on contact with the nitrogen. As it solidifies it will crystallize and we will have turned a vaporous being into a solid being, killing it in the process.”

“How sure are you that the nitrogen will kill it?” asked Strong.

“Well if this being can turn into a solid at will or into a vapor, the nitrogen will fix it and kill it in the state that it is in. If we presume that it will enter the trap as a vapor then it would solidify immediately. If it is already in its solid state the result will be the same but quicker, assuming this being is warm blooded. But even if it is not a living breathing animal, it will solidify if it is real. If it is not real but a trick or an hallucination then we will know.”

“So the real challenge will be to get the being to enter the trap. Its a mighty small trap that you have there you know.” Strong could already see the problems in getting this mysterious being inside the trap willingly. A small room would have been better but probably more costly to construct, and time was of the essence here.

“Alright. When do we start this test.” asked Strong.

“Right away. We simply have to take the cat, put it into the trap and release the gasses.” The professor went to the pen and handling the cat with gloves, took the cat to the trap. There, the trap was opened on the side as it had a small door. The cat was unceremoniously pushed into the trap and immediately it began to meow.

“Now as you can see the subject is in the trap. Now look what happens.” said the professor.

The professor nodded to one of the students and the pumps were activated. Immediately a roar was heard which then diminished to a low hum. “What you are hearing is the pumps transforming the liquid nitrogen as a gas.” Strong was looking with interest at the trap and observing the gas being pumped in. The gas slowly fell to the bottom of the trap and as it did it made contact with the warm body of the cat and this in turn elicited a short scream. The cat who previously was on its four legs was now on its back, but frozen and stiff, obviously dead. All this took a mere 30 seconds to occur and Strong was impressed with what he saw and the speed of it all.

The professor then nodded again to the students and again the pumps were heard, but this time to take out all the nitrogen that was still in the trap. After a while, a green light appeared and that was the signal that the trap could be opened.

“Come here detective and let us examine this cat.” said the professor. They both approached the jar. The professor, wearing protective gloves, took the cat by the tail but when he wanted to put it on a examination table the tail broke off and shattered in a million pieces.

“Careful now!” cried out the professor to the detective. The remains of the tail littered the floor.

“This is incredible. So the cat on contact with the nitrogen vapors crystallized right?” asked Strong.

“Yes indeed. With a warm being the contact with the vapors will have this effect. But even if the being is not warm blooded the nitrogen vapor will act in the same way except of course if the being is neither warm nor cold blooded. If its physiology is very different from what we know I cannot predict what will happen.”

“What do you mean? Is it possible that there would be no effect on the being?” asked Strong, concerned at the consequences of not being able to neutralize the shadow.

“It is possible you know. If this being is neither cold nor warm, there might be no effect at all. The vapors might not affect it like it affected the cat.”

Strong looked at the cat who was thoroughly dead. He had to be sure that this would work on the shadow but now, with what was said by the professor, he had doubts about continuing in that vein. Maybe another solution would be better than this one he thought.

“Professor, what about a gravity field, could it imprison a being such as I have described to you?”

“So you do have second doubts about the nitrogen have you?”

“Yes I do. This being is probably not a warm being. Maybe it isn’t alive in the sense that we understand it.”

“Well in that case if it is not alive in the normal sense this scheme of ours would not work. We must find something else. As for a strong gravity field it is possible, but to construct something like this would be costly with no guarantee that it too would work.”

After listening to the professor, Strong thanked him for the test and asked him to continue investigating the case to find a solution, if not a gravity field then something else. Strong decided to leave the professor to his drawing board while he decided to return to the station. As he was about to leave the room the phone rang and one of the students picked it up.

“Detective Strong, its Detective Fisher for you.”

“Thanks. Fisher, what’s going on?”

“Another murder. This time its one of our own, a policeman assigned to watch the Horn’s house.”

“I’m coming.”

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Chapter 27.

First, I want to wish a Happy New Year to all my subscribers.

 

The professor assembles his team.

 

Jerry Grugen wasted no time in assembling his team, picking the best and brightest of the biology department, the physics department as well as the engineering department. Two students from each department were chosen, the best and the brightest, and as soon as they were assembled they began to attack the problem.

“Well Mr.Grugen, how will we adapt the chamber that will hold the being?” asked Susan Price, a top engineer student.

“The chamber really doesn’t require much adaptation, only perhaps putting in three large nozzles in the chamber; one at the top and two others on the sides. The chamber would then be flooded by the gas and this in turn will solidify the being.”

“Will it kill it?” asked Tom Pratts, another stellar student from the physics department.

“Most probably. If we use liquid nitrogen on contact parts of the being would crystallize and shatter. I think that we have to calculate how much liquid nitrogen will be needed. I am in favor of this gas.”

“But what about dry ice? Didn’t you say that it could also work in this case?” asked Susan.

“Most probably. But there are complications in both cases. Let us first examine the chamber and see where the modifications are needed.” said the professor.

Grugen and his team began looking over the chamber. It was small, about 8 feet tall and two feet wide. It basically looked like a jar that was mostly made of metal with one window directly in the middle of it. Adapting it to the task required three more holes to be bored in the chamber so that the nozzles could be connected. The liquid or gas would then flow through the nozzles and into the chamber, killing the being hopefully.

The transformation of the chamber was easy enough and in less than a few days the adjustments had been made. The delicate task of deciding on the liquid was reserved to the two physics students and the professor. Eventually, all agreed that liquid nitrogen would be the best option. It would have to be compressed into a gas and then injected into the chamber through the three nozzles once the being was known to be there.

It took another day before the compressor and the nitrogen needed for a test was assembled, but finally they were ready for the test. The chamber had been modified, the three nozzles installed and enough liquid nitrogen had been bought. The professor now had to notify Detective Strong.

“Detective, this is Jerry Grugen. We are ready when you are.” said the professor, satisfied of his work.

“Well done Jerry!” exulted Strong. “So now we are ready for the test. Can we do it this afternoon?”

“Sure we can. How about 13:00?”

“Perfect. I’ll be there.” Strong hung up and looked at his watch; it was 10:45. Just enough time to pay a visit to Horn and then a quick lunch before the test.

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