ORRINGTON, Maine — Jim Miekka of Surry lost his eyesight 24 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped him from watching the stock market for indicators of trouble or picking up a rifle and heading out to the gun range.
Since the home chemistry accident that took his sight, Miekka, now 50, has developed an artificial vision device that allows him to accurately shoot his bolt-action target rifle. He also has created a financial calculation formula, dubbed the Hindenburg Omen, that he and other stock market watchers use to forecast possible stock market crashes.
Warning metrics in the Hindenburg Omen were triggered last week, and many people in the financial world are saying a stock market crash is imminent.
“That’s what my indicator says,” Miekka said Tuesday while seated at the Orrington Rod & Gun Club, taking aim at a target some 200 yards away. “I think the worst of it will not happen until September.”
The Hindenburg Omen, created by Miekka in the 1990s and named after the disastrous 1937 explosion and crash of the German zeppelin Hindenburg in New Jersey, monitors the stock market’s economic health by analyzing the highs and lows over the course of a year and calculating a slew of other technical market information, he said.
After developing the Hindenburg Omen, Miekka used it to see how many downturns it might have predicted going back to 1978, and found that “there has never been a major market decline” that it wouldn’t have forecast, he said.
Miekka said that on Tuesday he sold all of his stocks after the Hindenburg Omen had been triggered twice in the preceding week and had almost been triggered a third time.
“I’m very confident being out of the market today,” he said.
Miekka, who lives off his stock market earnings, is a snowbird and lives in Surry only during the summer. He lives in Homosassa, Fla., with his girlfriend, Susan Tate, during the rest of the year and publishes a weekly stock market newsletter titled the Sudbury Bull & Bear Report, which he started in 1991.
Market research is what he is known for, and “[target shooting] is what I do for fun,” the mathematician said Tuesday.
He was seated behind a .223-caliber Savage Long Range Precision Varminter with a large modified Bushnell spotting scope mounted on top.
His goal was to shoot a 15-inch-tall and 5-inch-wide bowling pin from 200 yards away using an artificial vision system he designed himself. His previous record was 130 yards.
“I believe this is the first time it’s ever been done,” Miekka said. “There aren’t a lot of us [blind shooters] out there.”
Miekka was a physics teacher at Brawley High School in Brawley, Calif., in 1986 when he decided to use his summer vacation to work on a chemical patent used in mining. He traveled to Massachusetts and was working on the project in his kitchen when it exploded and damaged his hands and eyes, which led to the loss of his eyesight.
As a high school educator he taught his students how the eye worked, and “I decided I would see if I could create an electric eye so I could see,” he said. “I started with a camera” and later experimented with a telescope.
His artificial vision device has evolved over time to its current form, which uses silicon photocells, “exactly like the ones made for photo generation,” to read contrasting black and white targets, the inventor said.
Miekka hopes that his invention can be applied to other uses in the future.
“If you can sight a gun on a target and make it go where you want it to, maybe you can make a car go where you want it to,” he said.
For target shooting, the device is attached to the viewing end of the massive black scope mounted on Miekka’s rifle and is connected to a small box with an exposed 9-volt battery that has two earpieces.
When Miekka first sat down Tuesday at the rifle range, gun club president and Orrington Selectmen James “Jimmy” Goody and Miekka’s friend Michael O’Rourke, 10, placed his two checkerboard targets along the range, one at 100 yards and one at 200 yards.
The checkerboards have four squares, colored black and white, that his artificial vision device can read.
“It focuses the image on these photocells and converts it to electricity, like a photocell,” Miekka said.
When he places the contrasting target between his gun’s crosshairs, his invention lets him know where he is aiming by buzzing in his ears.
“If you [point] it too far right, the left ear buzzes and if you [point] it too far left, my right ear buzzes,” he said. Miekka said he uses the sounds “to calculate the point of impact.”
What was easy to see on Tuesday was the stock market analyst’s excitement when he found his target.
“Hot diggity dog!” he exclaimed and pulled the trigger. He hit the bowling pin more than once.
Whether his aim is on target with the stock market is something only time will tell.