Archive for May 22nd, 2007

Career Change

No, not me. This guy:

When he retired in 1993 after more than 30 years as a disguise specialist for the Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Barron wasn’t ready to stop doing the work he loved. The Bluemont resident founded Custom Prosthetic Designs in Ashburn.

The one-man shop specializes in lifelike silicone prosthetics for people with birth defects or missing features. Barron has sculpted an ear for a 5-year-old born without one, a nose for a cancer survivor and fingers for a survivor of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

If his work, shown in before-and-after photos on his Web site, appears startling in its verisimilitude, that’s because Barron worries the details, down to the hairs visible on an ear and the freckles on a nose. “It’s just like in the Agency,” he says. “I wouldn’t issue [agents] a disguise if their life would be in jeopardy” as the result of a less-than-perfect disguise.

Now that is an excellent repurposing of one’s skill set. Check out the photo gallery with the story – it looks like he really does love his work, and the detail is just amazing.

This guy could have made a fortune in Hollywood, but chose to help people instead. I’m sure he’s not exactly starving, but good on him anyway.

1 comment May 22nd, 2007 at 09:39pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Technology

Lincoln Thinkin’

This is ultimately kind of a pointless exercise, but I found it fascinating:

If Ford’s Theatre had been in Baltimore, if the patient had been taken to the state Shock Trauma Center and if 1865 were 2007 . . . Abraham Lincoln might have survived the gunshot wound to his head.

If he had lived, he would at the very least have been partially blind, unsteady on his feet, numb in certain regions of his body and inarticulate. Nevertheless, he might have been able to think and, after much rehabilitation, communicate.

What that might have meant to the United States at the dawn of reunification after the Civil War — well, the string of imaginary events can be unspooled forever.

In their annual examination with the flexible retrospectoscope, medical experts last week took on the case of Abraham Lincoln at the 13th Historical Clinicopathological Conference, sponsored by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Veterans Affairs hospital.

“We probably see a dozen gunshot wounds to the head each year where people survive. He had a non-fatal injury by 2007 standards,” said Thomas M. Scalea, a surgeon and the director of the Shock Trauma Center.

Though almost all previous analyses have called Lincoln’s wound unsurvivable under any circumstance, Scalea believes evidence to the contrary is in plain view. Lincoln survived for nine hours.

Lincoln was shot about 10:25 p.m. on April 14, 1865. He lived long past the “golden hour” when stabilization of vital functions — principally, respiration and blood pressure — is essential. Throughout the night his condition waxed and waned, until brain swelling and blood loss tipped him inevitably toward death, which occurred at 7:22 a.m. the next day.

“For him to have lived today would not be an extraordinary thing,” Scalea said.

John Wilkes Booth, the assassin, shot the 16th president with a muzzle-loading derringer pistol. The bullet — apparently a .41-caliber slug fired from the .44-caliber weapon — pierced the lower rear part of the skull, called the occipital bone, and traveled roughly straight forward.

It tore a path through the left side of the brain, including through the fluid-filled lateral ventricle. But it did not hit the brainstem, which controls such essential functions as breathing, did not cross the midline, and stopped before entering the frontal lobes, the seat of reason and emotional control.

The story has detailed descriptions of the (surprisingly good) treatment that Lincoln received, and of the treatment that he would have received had the shooting occurred today.

If that’s not enough, you can check out the chat session with the reporter, which touches on the other three assassinated presidents (Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy), and the fact that Lincoln’s bodyguard was in a bar across the street when Lincoln was shot(!) No mention of whether Reagan would have survived if he had been shot in the 19th century, which might be an interesting question in itself. It sure sounds like Secret Service agents trained to jump in front of bullets didn’t come along until much later…

And yes, a bunch of people pointed out that if Lincoln had been shot with a modern gun with the same range and location, he would have been toast.

There is also some discussion about what would have happened if Lincoln had survived in an incapacitated state, as there was not yet any Constitutional provision for transfer of powers.

May 22nd, 2007 at 07:04pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science

WTF Is Wrong With These People???

Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to get a restraining order against a prince of a guy like this:

BOSTON – A father told a would-be hit man he’d have no regrets about having his own family killed – even his 7-year-old daughter – but he did have some requests, authorities said.

John Orlowski wanted his estranged wife and mother-in-law shot twice in the head, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit. For his little girl, Orlowski wanted one shot to the chest so she could have an open-coffin funeral, court records said.

Orlowski appeared in federal court yesterday, charged in an attempted murder-for-hire plot uncovered last week when the mother of the gang member who was asked to do the killing called the FBI.

The gang member, who belongs to the Crips and has a long criminal record, was troubled by the plot, especially the prospect of killing a child, the FBI said.

Orlowski, 49, met the prospective hit man while in jail after his second arrest for violating a restraining order his wife had taken out on him.


Working with the FBI, the man met with Orlowski on Friday and taped a conversation in which Orlowski allegedly specified how many bullets he wanted in each victim.

That’s so sweet that he wanted his daughter to have an open coffin funeral. Nothing but the best for Daddy’s little girl, I guess. Arrrgh.

The fact that his wife had a restraining order on him and he wanted his own daughter dead makes me wonder if the full story might be even more horrible than reported. Not that I really want to know – I’m still recovering from the Ted Klaudt, “I’m not a gynecologist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express” story.

May 22nd, 2007 at 06:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

Books That I Must Have


The images arrayed here come from “The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss” (University of Chicago Press, 2007), by Claire Nouvian, a French journalist and film director. In its preface, Ms. Nouvian writes of an epiphany that began her undersea journey.

“It was as though a veil had been lifted,” she says, “revealing unexpected points of view, vaster and more promising.”

The photographs she has selected celebrate that sense of the unexpected. Bizarre species from as far down as four and half miles are shown in remarkable detail, their tentacles lashing, eyes bulging, lights flashing. The eerie translucence of many of the gelatinous creatures seems to defy common sense. They seem to be living water.

On page after page, it is as if aliens had descended from another world to amaze and delight. A small octopus looks like a child’s squeeze toy. A seadevil looks like something out of a bad dream. A Ping-Pong tree sponge rivals artwork that might be seen in an upscale gallery.


One shows a dense colony of brittle stars, their arms intertwined and overlapping, their masses in the distance merging with the blackness of the seabed, alive, inhabiting a place once thought to be a lifeless desert.

Craig M. Young of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology writes in the book that the diversity of life in the abyss “may exceed that of the Amazon Rain Forest and the Great Barrier Reef combined.”

Do be sure to click through to the review and check out the slideshow for more bizarre creatures. And tell me that the yellow dumbo octopus doesn’t look just like a Pokemon.

2 comments May 22nd, 2007 at 11:07am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Books,Coolness,Science,Weirdness

B&W Demolition Blogging

The only thing photographically cooler than construction is… demolition. You’ve got more chaos, more rough edges, more exposed guts, more pathos. Um, none of which is really on display in these photos.

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Some salvaged masonry.

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The doomed building itself.

May 22nd, 2007 at 07:38am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

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