The Astonishing Train and the Huge Hole (Briefly Lucid Dream, 08/25/11)

This is a dream that I had this morning, perhaps around 5:30 AM. It was what they call a “Dream-Induced Lucid Dream”: DILD.

I’m in the back seat of a car. P—‘s driving, and somebody — the identity seemed to shift from M. to B. to an unfamiliar African-American man — is in the passenger seat of the front seat, “riding shotgun”. (Riding in a car as a passenger rather than as the driver happens to be one of my dream signs.)

P— is maneuvering through a parking lot, and then gets distracted by something. From my viewpoint, I see his head turned to the left, but he’s driving forward and I see that he’s going to hit the rear end of a parked car (which was white, distinctly recall). I yell “P—!!” but he ignores me… and he hits the car. Then he drives off out of the parking lot, apparently not taking responsibility for the accident.

Now we’re driving through a modern city with tall buildings, perhaps 20 stories high, so the streets in between feel like canyons. The city seems to have been built on a hilly area, because there are definite slopes to the streets. The passenger riding shotgun (at this point, I think it was B.) directs my attention down one of the streets, pointing out an ASTONISHING TRAIN. I can see only the part that’s not obscured by the buildings, but I can see that it’s enormous and that it seems to have been built from red bricks! So, it looks like a long three-story red-brick building that’s moving fast, down a street one or two blocks away. I marvel at this engineering achievement, and think how puny a “regular” train looks in comparison.

Then I notice that there’s a HUGE HOLE in the city, like they’re digging a big hole to make the foundations for a building. I am suddenly no longer in the car with other people, and I suddenly become lucid. I recognize that it’s “only a dream” and I jump into the hole to see whether I can fly. Unfortunately, I almost immediately lose the scene — it all goes black, and I fear that I am losing lucidity. I never hit the ground, but I also don’t get around to flying. Darn! I am not sure whether I proceeded to wake up at that point, or whether I slipped into a non-lucid dream or into a dreamless state.

(The non-lucid portion of the dream that led up to the moment of lucidity, the accident in the parking lot, may have been a separate dream, but I believe it was part of the same dream.)

Today’s Earthquake

It was a few minutes after 1:50 PM; some sources say it was 1:51 or 1:53 PM. Maybe the exact time depends on the location.

I was setting up some R code to assemble data for a fancy analysis when I felt a mild shaking. At first, I thought it was somebody in the hallway or perhaps in the floor immediately below us moving heavy equipment. But I couldn’t imagine what could be so big. Our building doesn’t have any wet labs — it’s all computers and office workers — so it couldn’t be, say, somebody moving in a new industrial-sized freezer or a centrifuge or an MRI scanner. I briefly entertained the thought that maybe it was a road crew on Executive Boulevard doing something rather destructive.

Then the shaking became too pronounced to be anything mundane, and I realized it was an earthquake. A co-worker wandered out of his cubicle with a puzzled look on his face and I said “Earthquake!” to him. We skedaddled down the staircase and out the building, along with everyone else. After about 20 minutes, we started filtering back into the building. Nobody was hurt, and there was no apparent damage to the building.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly quiet, partly because many people had left for the day. Federal employees had “liberal leave” and were allowed to go home. But we contractors didn’t have liberal leave, so we put in a full work day. At least, I did.

At home, I found only a few items out of place. Some DVDs had fallen off the top of my old TV, and a wooden statuette/mannequin had toppled off of its high perch.

Magnitude 5.8 – VIRGINIA

(the link I gave originally stopped working!)

Earthquake — red MTG card

The Things (2010)

In this short story, Peter Watts re-envisions the 1982 SF movie The Thing, from the point of view of the alien entity. As in his novel Blindsight, Mr. Watts shows an interest in neuroscience and the nature of consciousness. Maybe this subgenre could be called NSF – Neuroscience Fiction.

As an aside, there was a 1951 movie entitled The Thing from Another World, with a similar plot (alien creature discovered) and polar setting (but Arctic rather than Antarctic); the 1982 move was a re-make of this earlier movie. And yet another movie version, apparently a prequel, is due for release in mid-October this year.

As another aside, 1982 was the same year that the great SF movie Blade Runner, based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, was released.

Ubbo-Sathla, Gray Goo, and The Devouring Mother

Earlier, I had mentioned the fictional Outer God Ubbo-Sathla, a creation of writer Clark Ashton Smith and set in the same Lovecraftian universe as Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth. I find Ubbo-Sathla interesting because of a creepy similarity to certain vegetative goddesses of ancient mythology.

Ubbo-Sathla has been described as a great pool of gray protoplasm, seething and bubbling in a subterranean cave. He has very low sentience, if any at all. To touch him is instant death. He continuously sloughs off a flood of amoeba-like “proto-life,” creatures that wriggle away and over millenia perhaps evolve into other creatures such as insects, cats, and humans.

The creepy thing is, Ubbo-Sathla also re-absorbs living creatures. Sometimes he re-absorbs the “proto-life” creatures immediately after they are generated. Sometimes he re-absorbs more highly evolved creatures, like humans, perhaps learning whatever information these creatures might have gained during their lifetime (perhaps this is how he will regain the sentience he once had?). It is said that someday Ubbo-Sathla will re-absorb all life on Earth. The surface of the planet will then be one vast ocean of gray protoplasm.

The idea of an ocean of gray protoplasm taking over the earth brings to mind the hypothetical danger of nanotechnology leading to a Gray Goo scenario.

Maybe Ubbo-Sathla is the result of out-of-control nanotechnology? Eons ago, an alien civilization sent out nanotech spores to seed the universe with life, and Ubbo-Sathla and all earthly life is the result?

Gray Ooze (classic Dungeons and Dragons)

The Gray Ooze That Ate the Indonesian Villages
— Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2006

Ubbo-Sathla already starting to re-absorb all earthly life!

For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end. Before the coming of Zhothaqquah or Yok-Zothoth or Kthulhut from the stars, Ubbo-Sathla dwelt in the steaming fens of the newmade Earth: a mass without head or members, spawning the grey, formless efts of the prime and the grisly prototypes of terrene life . . . And all earthly life, it is told, shall go back at last through the great circle of time to Ubbo-Sathla.

— The Book of Eibon (quoted from the beginning of Clark Ashton Smith’s original story)

Ubbo-Sathla reminds me of a 1958 movie called The Blob and its 1988 remake. (Looks like there’s another remake in the works — I must see it.)

But Ubbo-Sathla reminds me especially of a 1985 movie called The Stuff. In this movie, a sinister white goo is found in an underground chamber. It tastes amazingly good, and once you eat it you want to keep eating it — and then it takes over your mind. See the underground scene starting at 4:55 in this YouTube clip. This huge underground pool of white bubbling goo is the spitting image of Ubbo-Sathla!

For an interesting short story involving Ubbo-Sathla, see Omega, by Gary Myers, in his book Dark Wisdom. This book is a collection of Lovecraftian short stories. Other memorable short stories in this collection are What Rough Beast and From Inner Egypt.

I am a big fan of The Teaching Company, which produces college-level courses on CD-ROM and DVD. One of my most favorite Teaching Company courses is Myth in Human History, by Professor Grant L. Voth. The lectures discuss (among other topics) myths about vegetative goddesses who not only create but also consume life; in some of these myths, the goddess is said to actually eat her own children. One example Dr. Voth gives is an Irish goddess named Danu, from whom all life came, and to whom all life must return. Underground temples like the ancient complex Newgrange (which is possibly a temple to Danu, and which is even older than the Egyptian pyramids) are thought to simultaneously represent wombs and tombs (“cradle to grave”). For more on ancient Irish goddesses and Newgrange, see A Womb Not a Tomb, an article by Geraldine Moane.

In his Jung-infused book The Living Labyrinth, Jeremy Taylor mentions the archetype of a mother goddess who gives birth to all life, but in time devours all. As an example, he gives the example of the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, who is described as having snapping mouths in all her joints. You can see a rather creepy drawing depicting Tonantzin, Mother and Devourer of All, the One to Whom All Paths Lead, here. Mr. Taylor references another book entitled The Hungry Woman, by John Bierhorst. (The Devouring Mother is a well-known Jungian archetype.)

Another Aztec goddess, similar to Tonantzin, is Coatlicue. Wikipedia says “She represents the devouring mother, in whom both the womb and the grave exist.” I am wondering whether Tonantzin and Coatlicue are two different names for the same goddess.

Online article exploring the origins of the womb-tomb/cradle-to-grave idea: Mother Earth-Mother Death: The Womb and the Tomb

The temples of vegetative Earth goddesses tend to be underground, like Newgrange. Descending into the underworld is simultaneously symbolic of a return to a womb, and of entering a tomb. The underground location is like Ubbo-Sathla’s subterranean location. Ubbo-Sathla thus has a lot more in common with the vegetative Earth goddesses and chthonic deities than, say, with sky gods like Zeus or Thor.

Here’s a broken link that went to a related story; maybe the website is only temporarily down? (I keep the link here in the hope that it might some day be working again.)

Papers on PubMed regarding filial cannabilism (eating one’s own young).

The idea of the cyclicity of life is reminiscent of the Ash Wednesday incantation: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return”, a quote from Genesis 3:19. Also of the idea of reincarnation.

Huge hidden biomass lives deep beneath the oceans — New Scientist, May 23, 2008.

Ubbo-Sathla lives!

The Tower Of The Mighty God Ubbo-Sathla
— photo on Flickr by Midnight-digital

Mother Nothingness (The Triumph Of Ubbo Sathla)
— heavy metal by The Vision Bleak (2010). Listen to the lyrics. It’s interesting that the non-parenthetical portion of the song’s title is “Mother Nothingness” rather than “Father Nothingness,” suggesting the vegetative goddesses and the devouring mother archetype.

— electronic music by Flint Glass (2007)

— spooky music by Endura (2008)

Review of Mr. Smith’s original tale, by Dr. Hermes:
Why is Ubbo-Sathla particularly heinous?

I think that Clark Ashton Smith knew about the goddesses who devour their own children, so the similarity between Ubbo-Sathla and these mythological figures may not be accidental. At the very beginning of the original story, the protagonist is browsing in a curio shop and finds a magic crystal that leads to his adventures. Right next to this crystal was a figurine of an Aztec god. Although the figurine doesn’t play any role in the story, maybe, just maybe, it is a very tangential reference to Tonantzin/Coatlicue? (OK, that’s a stretch. More likely, the null hypothesis is true, and it was just chance.)

I think it might have been cooler had Mr. Smith made Ubbo-Sathla female rather than male, to leave open the possibility of equation with the ancient goddesses.

For verisimilitude, it also might have been cooler had he given Ubbo-Sathla a name similar to one of these ancient goddesses, as if it were a corruption of the original name, in the same way that he corrupted the names of Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu in his quote from The Book of Eibon (see quoted text above). E.g., a name similar to Danu or Coatlicue, like Danugah or Kwat-Lagu. (Yes, the names Danu or Coatlicue may themselves be corruptions of original names.) Well, I’m sure Mr. Smith had a reason for settling on Ubbo-Sathla.

Addendum (11/27/11): Here are a pair of recent MetaFilter posts that seem relevant:
My name is LUCA, I live on the ocean floor
Did Life Begin As A Ocean-Sized Lifeform?

The latter post in particular has two comments that reference Ubbo-Sathla.

New Job, to start May 16, 2011

OK, I have landed a new job, to start May 16. This is a job as a biostatistician at a Rockville-based contracting/consulting company named GLOTECH. I gather that the bulk of GLOTECH’s business is providing IT support to the federal government. But one of their contracts is to provide statistical consulting for the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research Branch (DESPR) in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH, and it is under this contract that I’ll be working.

So, I will be a statistical consultant! One of the last courses that I took in my Master’s was on statistical consulting. It occurred to me during that course that I might find statistical consulting very enjoyable. This is my chance to test that hypothesis.

Here’s a short account of my job search. I don’t claim to be particularly good at searching for jobs, but this is how it unfolded.

For about one to one-and-a-half years before I was laid off, I already had an inkling that things weren’t going well in my division of the company. Sales were down, we were missing deadlines, and our major client was grumbling. I was expecting something Big and Bad to happen — perhaps layoffs, a wholesale shutting down of my division, or the loss of our big contract. During this time I was constantly worrying: suppose I was laid off tomorrow? Would I have enough cash socked away in my savings account to tide me over for 3-6 months while I conducted a job search? Would I then have enough money left over to move to another part of the country, if my new employer didn’t provide support for moving? How badly would the current recession affect my job search? I started saving up money in my bank account preparing for the Big Bad Event.

On November 17, 2010, a research scientist that I know from my NIH days, B.G., emailed me out of the blue. B.G. is now working at a research hospital in D.C., and was asking me whether I’d be interested in working at the hospital as an MRI Scientist. I was still employed at the time, so I declined pursuing the job opening, but I kept it in mind.

Then the Big Bad Event occurred on February 3. It manifested as layoffs of about 25% of the people in my division, and I was one of the people who were cut. I immediately started my job search. I decided to first restrict my search to the D.C. area, and if that failed then I would expand my search to the rest of the country.

The first thing I did was to contact B.G. regarding the MRI Scientist position at the D.C. hospital. It was still open! After some time, I landed an interview there. As part of this interview, I gave a scientific talk via slide presentation, which is the usual custom with academic/research type positions. Unfortunately, this job interview didn’t result in a job offer.

I also contacted my thesis advisor, G.L., and asked him whether he knew of any job opportunities. Almost immediately, he put me in contact with a Bethesda-based consulting company that specializes in health economics, and after some time I landed an interview there. Unfortunately, this job interview didn’t result in a job offer, either.

I also aggressively searched several job boards and job board aggregators, including,,, and I also tried three job boards specific to quantitative analysis,,, and Using these various sources, I forwarded my résumé (actually, it’s more like an academic/research C.V.) to about twenty places, mostly in the D.C. area.

Now unemployed, I had no income, a stash of cash in the bank, and lots of free time — sort of like being retired. I took advantage of the free time to travel. I visited my parents in Florida for three weeks, from February 21 through March 14, and during the second week (February 27 – March 5) we were in Orlando, visiting Disney World. On March 4, I had a telephone screening interview with GLOTECH, one of the companies which I had applied to via online job listings (, via the aggregator After I returned home from Florida, I proceeded to two in-person interviews, on March 16 and March 24; the first was with GLOTECH staff, and the second was with our NICHD clients. I received the formal job offer via email on April 8.

Then I was in Hawaii from April 9 through April 24, attending a lucid dreaming workshop hosted by The Lucidity Institute, held at a wonderful retreat named Kalani Oceanside Retreat Village . (I will have to devote a whole other post to this important experience). I faxed my acceptance of the job offer to GLOTECH while in Kalani, on Tax Day, April 15. I start the new job on May 16; I am looking forward to it very much.

Since I had saved up a lot of money in my bank account in preparation for the Big Bad Event, I didn’t feel particularly rushed or pressured in this job search. Certainly there was a sense of urgency, but not panic. Actually, I mostly had a feeling of exhilaration, potentialities, optimism, and expansiveness, reminiscent of the feeling of driving that Chevy Impala.

As part of my severance package, my former employer included three-months use of a career counselling service, Lee Hecht Harrison. Because of my trip to Florida, I decided to delay the start of this career counselling service, and didn’t actually start it until I was well into my job search. But I was pleased with the services that Lee Hecht Harrison provided, however briefly. If I ever find myself in job search mode once more, I would certainly consider using Lee Hecht Harrison’s services again.

Here are some things that I learned from this job search:

  1. There’s a difference between résumés and C.V.s.
  2. In academia/research, a multi-page C.V. is expected. In most of the rest of the world, a one- to two-page résumé is standard, but this may be changing.
  3. In your résumé, it might be advisable to avoid dating yourself, because some industries (I think infotech, especially) practice age discrimination, sometimes not so subtly. For example, maybe you shouldn’t list the dates of your education. And instead of saying something like “nineteen years experience” like I did, say instead “fifteen years plus of experience”. Apparently, fifteen years is the maximum you should own up to; it’s sizable enough to be impressive without being so large that you look like a dinosaur.
  4. In academia/research, a job talk is expected, but in most of the rest of the world it’s not. I learned from one of my colleagues at Lee Hecht Harrison that sometimes they give job talks in advertising and marketing.
  5. Currently, about 75% of all job interviews are landed via personal contacts. The remaining 25% were through job listings. (Lee Hecht Harrison statistic.) I myself landed two job interviews through personal contacts and one through job listings.
  6. Despite the statistic in #5 above, it is still very worthwhile to pursue job listings, as my own experience attests — my job offer actually came via the job interview I landed via job listings. So, it’s probably best to expend a large chunk of one’s time in pursuing jobs through personal contacts, but also spend some effort pursuing jobs through listings. My analogy is with diversifying a stock portfolio — typically it’s advised to place some funds in stocks and some in bonds.
  7. One of the most valuable components of the Lee Hecht Harrison program is the weekly Job Search Work Team meeting.
  8. LinkedIn (not to be confused with has become an important tool for conducting a job search. Here are some things about LinkedIn that I learned.
    • It’s a good idea to post your photo in your profile, although some disadvantaged groups (women, minorities, older people) are sometimes reluctant to do so for fear of discrimination. I felt comfortable posting my own photo.
    • It’s also a good idea to bring your profile to 100% complete. This includes getting at least three recommendations.
    • One should expend some effort building one’s professional network on LinkedIn.
    • One should join relevant professional groups on LinkedIn.
  9. On March 28, I attended a 2.5-hour class on how to be an independent consultant, via First Class, Inc. The class was taught by an independent consultant and small business owner named Steve Veltkamp. In this class, I learned of three websites for freelance work:,, and
  10. I actually didn’t fare too badly in this job search. From layoff on February 3 to job offer on April 8 was two months and five days, and I had constrained my job search mostly to the rather restricted region of the D.C. metropolitan area. I thought I was doing only a mediocre job with my job search, but one of my Lee Hecht Harrison colleagues said that converting twenty job applications to three job interviews and one job offer was actually pretty good. I must consider myself very fortunate; some of my Lee Hecht Harrison colleagues have been conducting their job search for a much longer period of time.

Laid Off

This morning, the company went through a big round of lay offs, and I was one of the people who didn’t survive the cut. I heard that my boss is also no longer with the company; somebody else is now managing the group. My former boss is a C++ expert and was integral to the computer code that we have been developing, and without him it’s not clear that the remaining group can survive.

It was abrupt, but not entirely unexpected. We all knew from the inside that there were problems. (Actually, I had expected the Big Chop to come from a different direction, not from headquarters. I thought our main customer would drop the big contract.) Also, a few weeks ago my former boss had a staff meeting in which he warned us that lay offs were probably in the works. In a way, it’s a relief that it has finally happened; now I can make concrete plans.

I have a lot of stuff at the office, mostly books. I brought back a few boxes of books and stuff, but I’ll need to make a few more trips back to the office to completely empty it out. Right now I’ll eat lunch, but later in the afternoon I’ll return to the office to pick up more stuff. Then I’ll start my job search.

Adventure beckons.

Published in: on 3 February 2011 at 2:53 pm  Comments (4)  

Some Thoughts For T.

I would be very interested in hearing the views of the person who commented with a comparison of traditional doctors practicing trad and holistic medicines. Your views on that as well – if this is something you can share.

Hi T., thanks for your comment. I think I can share some of my thoughts, but first I need to admit that I have received some training as a “traditional doctor” and have an M.D. (although I abandoned clinical medicine as a career over a decade ago), have worked in mainstream science as a research scientist, and am currently employed as an imaging scientist / scientific programmer / software engineer. I have also finished a Master’s program in biostatistics about a year ago! So, I might have some natural bias towards mainstream science and medicine.

That said, I am most definitely not a fundamentalist Materialist. By “materialist”, I mean that philosophy — sometimes it seems to me to be a full-blown religion unto itself — that contends that there exists nothing except matter and the four forces of nature. Once can make these minimalist assumptions (Occam’s Razor; the Wikipedia entry has some interesting stuff about Controversial Aspects of the Razor and Anti-Razors) and go quite far, but just because you assume something doesn’t make it true. For example, they are now beginning to consider the possibility that there are actually five forces of nature; so the assumption that are are only four forces of nature might actually be incorrect.

I have friends who are true-believers in materialism. Their argument in support of materialism often seems to be as follows.

  1. Based on the materialist philosophy, science has accomplished impressive things: computers, modern medicine, the NASA space program, etc.
  2. Therefore, the materialist philosophy is correct.

I hope you can see the fallacy of this argument. An analogy might be negative numbers (or irrational numbers, or transcendental numbers, or imaginary numbers) in mathematics; one can derive a lot of true theorems based on the assumption that there are no negative numbers (or irrational numbers, etc.), but that doesn’t make the assumption correct.

Another argument in support of materialism that my friends seem to use is:

  1. All smart people believe in the materialist philosophy.
  2. Therefore, the materialist philosophy is correct.

I hope you can see the fallacy of this argument as well.

Another thing that I have noticed my materialist friends doing is mistaking a scientific model for reality itself. They are forgetting that The Map Is Not The Territory.

I would consider myself an open-minded skeptic; open-minded enough to consider the possibility that there’s more to reality than physical matter and the four (five?) forces of nature. Still, I have become a little pessimistic about the ability of the human mind to understand certain things, especially consciousness itself; in this respect, I think my sympathies lie with “the New Mysterians”. This doesn’t mean that I think that no research should be done on consciousness, or that you should abandon your investigation of the relation between consciousness and BodyTalk; it just means that I think it quite possible that the human mind cannot understand how the human mind works. My friends who have a strong faith in materialism (they are, after all, true-believers) insist that science will some day explain everything; this sounds to me like promissory materialism.

See also my recent post about the Decline Effect; just because something makes it into the scientific literature doesn’t mean that it’s true. Also, something that always bugged me during my medical training was that some of the things being taught didn’t seem to have any basis in science; instead, they seemed to be traditions that were foisted onto mainstream medicine by strong-willed — but wrong — scientists/physicians in positions of power.
See, e.g., this recent online article about spinal fusion. This reminds me of an old saying: “If you go to a barber, he’ll tell you that you need a haircut.”

For some thoughts about the problems with materialism,
I strongly suggest the book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith
by Stephen Barr, who is a practicing physicist. Another book of potential interest is Charles Tart’s The End of Materialism, but I have to admit that I haven’t finished that one yet.

Installing Magic The Gathering Under Windows 7

M.F. notified me that it’s possible to install MTG on a Windows 7 system by simply copying over the installation folder. But you still need to set the Compatibility as follows. Here are his notes.

  1. Find the Magic.exe file and right click on it and select properties.
  2. Select the Compatibility tab
  3. In the setting box check
    • Disable visual themes
    • Disable desktop composition
    • Disable display scaling on high DPI settings

It will still run if you don’t do the above but it will look ‘pixelated’

This is important stuff.

Published in: on 14 January 2011 at 8:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

The Decline Effect (The New Yorker)
Shades of publication bias, regression to the mean, and the “file drawer” problem.
Like the Flynn Effect, — but in the wrong direction.

Paper on publication bias and the “file drawer” problem (PDF), published in an interesting magazine.
I wonder whether the bias towards positive rather than negative results is related to the different behavior of stock markets going up (in general, gradually) vs. going down (in general, precipitously).

J. Ioannidis’ paper: Why Most Published Research Findings Are False (with link to PDF)

Published in: on 14 January 2011 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Deer Strike, November 21, 2010

A week ago, Sunday, November 21, 2010, around 6:00 PM, I hit a deer! I had spent the weekend at my sister’s new house out in Loudoun County to help her and her husband with moving and unpacking boxes. That Sunday, I excused myself to attend a 2 PM ragtime piano concert, hosted by the Northern Virginia Ragtime Society, with Perfessor Bill Edwards performing. After the concert, the plan was for me to return to my sister’s house.

I had been driving back to my sister’s new house and was just about to get off Route 7 when I hit the deer. At that point, Route 7 is two lanes going east and two going west, and I had been headed west in the right lane. There was another car in the left lane right next to me, and we were about head-to-head. Suddenly, the deer appeared just to my right, appearing to be moving from left to right. There was no time to react. I clipped it with the right front corner of my CRV; I believed I saw a spray of stuff upon impact, but I’m not sure whether the stuff was plastic material from the car or organic material from the deer. I suspect that the car to my left was lucky, and the deer had gotten out of the left lane into my lane.

For about a second I thought of just driving all the way to my sister’s house and inspecting the damage there, but within a second or two I realized that I didn’t have brakes; when I tried mashing on the brakes, there was strong resistance and no response with the brakes. Then I realized I didn’t have acceleration either! I was just coasting. So the only thing left to do was to maneuver the car to the side of the road before it lost momentum (mass times velocity). I brought the car to a stop at the intersection between West Loudoun Road and Route 7, facing west.

Here’s a street-level view of that intersection; it’s from the perspective of the Google Van in the street, but I was off the road, on the shoulder. Looking up through my windshield, I could see a street sign labeled “W LOUDOUN ST”, which is not seen in Google’s street-level view. Perhaps the street sign is a relatively new addition.

I didn’t see the deer after that; maybe it hobbled off into the woods. I myself was uninjured. No other cars or people were involved, so this was thankfully a relatively simple case.

I used my cell phone to telephone my sister to let her know what had happened. I was then fumbling about with my wallet, looking for my AAA card when the blue flashing lights of a police car show up in my rear view mirror. I would estimate that barely five minutes had elapsed between hitting the deer and the police showing up.

The policeman, a deputy sheriff, took my driver’s license and insurance information, and filed an accident report. He then kindly offered to summon a towing truck for me, explaining that if I did it myself (e.g., perhaps through AAA) it might take longer. I guess towing companies are a little more responsive when the request comes from the sheriff! I took him up on the offer. And indeed, the towing truck appeared extremely promptly, probably within ten minutes. To my amusement, the towing truck’s license plate was REPO GOD. The deputy sheriff then gave me a ride to my sister’s new house; with a chuckle, he said that if it helped me feel any better, I had made it almost all of the way to my destination before hitting the deer. And as he dropped me off, he gave another chuckle — he told me that the neighbors are now wondering about this new family that just moved into town, and that are now having a police car show up on their driveway. (There go the property values!)

Monday morning, I telephoned my insurance company, State Farm, and gave them information regarding the accident, including the accident case number. I also had to give the approval to have the towing company bring my car to Craftsman Auto Body in Purcellville. I could have had them tow it to Arlington so that if/when my car was repaired it would be close by, but I thought that towing my car all the way from the Purcellville area to Arlington wasn’t such a good idea.

Most everything went surprisingly smoothly, from the appearance of the deputy sheriff and the towing truck to State Farm’s handling of the matter. I think it’s because deer collisions are very common in Loudoun County, at this time of year. Indeed, this very timely article appeared in the Loudoun-Times-Mirror on November 24. Maybe if my case weren’t so cut-and-dry, e.g., if a second automobile were involved, things wouldn’t have gone so smoothly.

The only glitch in the whole process, and it is a very minor one, really, was with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I had telephoned them on Monday to reserve a mid-sized car, which I wanted pick up on Tuesday morning. I didn’t want too large a car because the parking spaces at River Place are rather narrow, and because the $900 that my insurance covers towards rental cars might last long with a larger vehicle (which incur a higher daily rate). When I showed up to Enterprise on Tuesday morning, there had been a small error — they thought I had wanted the car on Wednesday morning. The car they assigned to me was a Chevy Impala, which I don’t think is mid-sized; actually, it seems rather full-sized. I suspect that I wasn’t given a true mid-sized car because of the clerical error. Again, this was really a very minor error (in case you’re wondering, I am not being charged the rate of a larger vehicle). In fact, sometimes I enjoy using these minor errors in life to try something different. For example, if the waitress at a restaurant accidentally gives me the wrong dish and it isn’t a totally ridiculous error, I accept the dish anyway use it as an opportunity to try something that I might not otherwise have ordered. Here, I was given the opportunity to try driving a Chevy Impala, and am currently greatly enjoying this car.

Wednesday morning, November 24, I stopped by the auto body shop to get some things out of my CRV, including the parking hang tag for my parking garage, as well as some of my favorite CDs. While there, I took a few photos of the CRV with my cell phone camera.

Poor Fats Waller Has A Black Eye and a Broken Nose

Oblique View of Fats' Black Eye

Green Goop Dribbling Out Of Fat's Broken Nose (Probably Radiator Fluid)

Green Slime! Don’t Touch It! It is Certain Death! Look Out! It’s Dripping!
Green Slime — the movie
Ex-Nickelodeon Stars Relate Horrors Of Green Slime Syndrome

Deer Fur Stuck To Fats' Chin

En Face View of Fats' Broken Nose

Close-Up Of Black Eye

Fats' Profile, from Right

Right Superior Oblique View Of Fats' Forehead

Rental Car, a Chevy Impala

At the time of this writing/typing (Sunday afternoon, November 28, 2010), I haven’t yet heard from State Farm about their assessment of the damages. I think everybody was off on vacation for the Thanksgiving Holiday. So, I think I’ll hear about the damage assessment maybe tomorrow or Tuesday.

A final note on the Chevy Impala. The four previous cars that I have driven, a Mitsubishi Colt, a Nissan Sentra, a Nissan Maxima, and my current Honda CRV, have all been Japanese. All had a techy, perhaps slightly geeky engineerish feel to them. NOT SO with this Impala. In contrast, this car has a very masculine, very American, bold, brash, confident, expansive, romantic, optimistic, adventurous feel to it. It’s the kind of car that a wealthy older retired couple (probably named Marge and Herbie) would take on a cross-country tour, going through the Great Plains and the West and the Grand Canyon. It’s the kind of car that a teen-ager might commandeer without his parents’ approval and go drag racing with, and maybe he’d fool around with his girlfriend in the back seat on prom night. It’s the kind of car that a big fish in a small pond (maybe a small-town judge or a small business owner) might drive. This car is a cowboy! I can imagine a cool twenty-something dude buying such a car second-hand, and souping it up into a muscle car, a la Greased Lightnin’.

(As an aside, ragtime composer Joseph Lamb wrote a piece entitled Greased Lightening [sic].)

While the musical Grease evokes the 1950’s, this Impala evokes nostalgia for the Seventies and the big cars that you’d see on TV shows and movies of that era. Even the fonts on the dashboard (sans serif, italicized) feel 70-ish. It is no accident that the legendary JATO Rocket Car is traditionally said to have been a Chevy Impala. From page 4 of the Rocket Car story:

One aspect of the Rocket Car legend that always tickles me is that no matter how much the story varies, the make, model and year of the car is always specified. Sure this is a nice detail to have on hand, but considering the details left out of the description, it looks… sorta silly. In the Darwin Award version, there’s no mention of which highway the car was on, or even whereabouts in Arizona the story took place. And Arizona is a pretty big place. There’s also no mention of any investigation that took place afterwards. But despite all these oversights, the story did specify that the car was a 1967 Chevy Impala. I think the reason this detail is always supplied is because it’s critical to make the listener think the test pilot at least looked cool when he flew into the cliff. You’ll never hear someone tell a story about a guy in a rocket-powered K-car or a Volkswagen Beetle. It has to be a car that deserves to have a rocket attached to it.

Addendum (11/30/10):
It could have been worse: Road fatalities involving animals (USA Today)

Addendum (12/18/10): Stayed overnight at R. & K.’s. This morning, helped them move boxes from their garage to the basement. Then I drove the rental Impala — which K.C. dubbed “Jerry” — to Craftsman Auto Body, while R. & K. (& S.) followed in their van. I picked up the key for Fats, and then R. and I transfered stuff from Jerry to Fats. Fats looked good as new!

Then I drove Jerry to an Enterprise location very nearby, and again R. & K. followed. I surrendered Jerry’s keys to Enterprise, and discovered that I didn’t have Fats’ key, even though I just had it back at Craftsman. After checking with R., my hunch was that I had accidentally left it in Fats’s trunk along with stuff had transfered there from Jerry. We returned to Fats in Craftsman’s lot and indeed the key was there, in Fats’ trunk!

We then drove to Ford’s Fish Shack in Ashburn and had lunch. I had their root beer float, a cup of New England style clam chowder, and their Ipswich clam dinner. (The New England theme — how about a Dunwich or Innsmouth clam dinner? — and the current Christmas season made me think of this Lovecraft-inspired video.) R. and I also split an order of deviled eggs. From there, R. & K. had to split off to do an errand, while I went home. On my way home, I stopped by a Trader Joe’s in Falls Church and bought their macaroni and cheese (because it was highly rated here), as well as a bottle of cherry juice. Then I stopped by a Dunkin Donuts to pick up a medium coffee, and then stopped at a gas station to refuel Fats.

Addendum (09/03/11): Deer ‘pill’ curbs aggressive mating. “The aggressive mating causes an estimated $1bn (£600m) in damage to property each year and an upsurge in collisions with cars.”