Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That's just wrong...

I've mentioned before that every Wednesday bands come and play in City Center during lunchtime. Today was a pretty good band that sounded like a sort of Punk/Ska/Reggae mix from what little I heard as I walked through.

They finished up their set with "No Woman No Cry" by Bob Marley and did a pretty good job of it. Yes they were white, but it worked. No slo-mo-Irwin happened on stage from what I saw.

What I did get to witness though were two obviously gay guys dancing along and enjoying the song a just little too much...

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm not racist.

I'm not racist. Not by any means. I realize that every race has its fair share of idiots that makes it look bad. Me, I have to claim that idiots like the Klan and Hitler, among many many others make the "white" race look like a bunch of morons. That and the fact that we can't dance, but that's for another posting altogether.

Now the reason that I bring my non-racist mentality up is to pad the real point of this post. It was just one of my random thoughts that I had today that lead to another thought...

As I was walking to Starbucks this morning, I passed a black guy wearing an Obama sweatshirt. This isn't much of a surprise as I'm in Oakland, less than a block away from what I was told is Obama's campaign headquarters. (While I doubt it is/was his main headquarters, I don't doubt that he has/had an office here.)

It started me thinking; how many people are going to vote for Obama just because he's black? On that same note, how many people would have voted for Hillary because she's a woman?

I seriously think that we're going to see a large increase in votes from the black community this election. While it's awesome that people who have never been motivated to vote before are going to get up, go to the polls and make their voice be heard, I'm afraid it'll be for the wrong reason. I'm afraid that people won't be voting for him on the basis of what he stands for or what he hopes to accomplish, but that they will be voting for him because of the color of his skin.

For that matter, I worry about people voting for McCain just because he's white. Actually those people scare me.

The color of a person's skin says nothing about what they can do to help or harm our country. I honestly think that the United States might gain a little favor in the eyes of the rest of the world if we were to vote a black man or a woman (or a black woman!) into office, if for nothing more than showing our country's true diversity and equality among all people.

Friday, July 18, 2008

protest chants

Yesterday a couple friends and I went to Lucky & Lucky (Chinese, surprised?) for lunch.  Directly across the street is the main office for the University of CA.  The maintenance people are outside on strike.  I honestly couldn't tell what for though.

There was the obligatory call and answer chants being lead by someone with a megaphone.  What I heard went something like this:

"Mmhhmmfhala lada bladador!"

"We want Jews!"

Now, the croud was shouting, so they may have been thirsty and I didn't see any iron crosses or swastikas, so they may have been shouting "We want juice," but that's not what it sounded like.

I have nothing against voicing your opinion and making known unfair working conditions.  After all, that's what this country is about:  freedom and rights. 

All I'm saying is that if you're going to protest and have a mass group chant, you need to have a spotter.  Someone who can walk down the street a couple hundred yards or so and come back to tell you "We really need to change this up or we're not going to get a pay raise, we're going to get rabbis and yalmukas."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

White people + reggae = funny!

Every Wednesday, City Center in Oakland, CA hosts a live band to play during lunch.  Today it was a reggae band from San Francisco.

Reggae music makes you want to move.

White people can't dance.

Fortunately I was able to escape with just a few taps of the toe.  Unfortunately there were several of my fair-skinned bretheren who fell victim and were ensnared by the rhythm.  It reminded me of Steve Irwin dodging the attacks of a dangerous pit viper played back at about 1/4 speed. 

I need to remember to bring my video camera on Wednesdays...

I survived...

I survived watching a whole episode of "I Survived a Japanese Game Show."  Honestly, I don't know how.  Or for that matter why.

I guess it was the same sort of morbid fascination that we all have when we pass an accident on the freeway.  You know the kind:  You're stuck in traffic for hours (more like five minutes, but it seems like hours when you're there), getting grumpy and thinking to yourself, "C'mon people.  It's an accident.  Quite looking and drive!"  Then when it's your turn to pass, you find yourself drawn to it.  You have to look.  Your frustration comes to a head when you realize that it's nothing more than a flat tire, there's no gory mess to make you gag, and there's no longer anyone ahead of you and that you've just become one more rubbernecker that's making the freeway look like a parking lot.

It was like that.

I hate "reality" shows.  I've never watched a full episode of Survivor or Big Brother.

Japanese game shows get to me too.  Added to the fact that I don't understand the Japanese language, I also fail to understand why they dress up like chickens or babies and run around falling all over themselves while the host screams like he just got bit in the butt by a rabid dog.

This show combines the worst of both.  You end up having American constestants dressed up like babies (diapers, bibs and all) running around like morons while the host screams in a language they don't understand.  Then when they're done with the game show part, they go back to their living quarters and whine about how great they are individually, but how bad everyone else on their team sucks, before they kick their best teammate out of the game.

The Japanese have an amazing culture, a colorful history and a beautiful country.  For their sake though, someone needs to mount some sort of raid by an elite covert military group to remove all video cameras from the country.  Forcefully if necessary.  For their own good.

I should get some sort of prize for making it through the whole episode.  I didn't even gag.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More from the Search and Rescue front:

This was just posted to our Wilderness Squad mailing list and is important enough that it should be brought to light for the general public.  Not to mention, it's more along the lines of my usual posts.

First a little background:  Two serious conditions that one can face when traveling to high altitude (8000+ feet) locations are known as HAPE and HACE, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and High Altitude Cerebral Edema respectively.  Both are conditions that are caused by the body's reaction to an increase in altitude without proper acclimitization. 

HAPE is the accumulation of fluid outside the blood vessels in your lungs which leads to shortness of breath, coughing (and pink, foamy sputum), increased heart rate and decreased oxygen levels in the bloodstream and can occur within a few hours of ascent. 

HACE is the swelling of the brain tissue due to the same fluids leaking from the bloodstream into the brain.  Symptoms include headache, decrease in alertness and coordination, weakness, loss of consciousness and coma.  HACE is most likely to occur after a week or more at altitude, but can occur as rapidly as within a few days.

Both are serious and can be fatal if not treated.  The two easiest forms of treatment are rapid descent and administration of oxygen.

Rick Kovar can be proud.  I paid attention in class (which is good since I was serving as the Medical Overhead person on one of the team's High Altitude trainings.)

Proper acclimitization helps in preventing both HAPE and HACE.  Basically once you get above 8,000 to 10,000 feet, you should "climb high, sleep low."  Don't sleep more than 1,000 feet above where you slept the night before.  It's also best to stay a few days at a base camp to let your body become used to the altitude before starting any strenuous activities such as hiking.

So, with all the wonderfulness that comes with altitude sicknesses behind us, let's move on to the reason behind this post:

Excerpts from the Western Journal of Medicine, 1981 February 134(2), pages 173-4:

High Altitude Flatus Expulsion (HAFE)

To the Editor: We would like to report our observations upon a new gastrointestinal syndrome which we will refer to by the acronym HAFE (high altitude flatus expulsion). This phenomenon was most recently witnessed by us during an expedition in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, with similar experiences during excursions past. The syndrome is strictly associated with ascent, and is characterized by an increase in both the volume and the frequency of flatus, which spontaneously occurs while climbing to altitudes of 11,000 feet or greater. The eructations (known to veteran backpackers as “Rocky Mountain barking spiders”) do not appear to vary with exercise, but may well be closely linked to diet…

While not as catastrophic as barotraumas nor as debilitating as HAPE, HAFE nonetheless represents a significant inconvenience for those who prefer to hike in company… At present, we can advise victims that the offense is more sociologic than physiologic.

HAFE should be added to the growing list of medical disorders that are associated with exposure to high altitude. We are planning a prospective study for the summer of 1981.

Paul Auerbach, MD and York E. Miller, MD
You really have got to admire some people and their creative excuses to get away from the office.

A peek into Search and Rescue

Last weekend's plans, for what they were worth went out the window. I don't mind it a bit. It was actually better than the boredom that I was enduring starting on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, my Search and Rescue team got called out to Yolo County to search for a missing 77 year old woman that was discovered missing on Thursday. She was last seen at on CA-16 after leaving Cache Creek Casino. After two full days searching in 100+ degree heat, our team members were burnt out and new crews from other teams were slated to arrive starting at 0600 on Monday. A third call went out to our team requesting members who had not previously responded. Later that night, another call went out cancelling the call, stating that the subject had been found deceased.

While not the outcome that we had hoped and worked so hard for, we had finally found her and brought some closure for the family and for the personnel that had worked so hard for the past couple of days.

One of the harder things that a searcher faces is the lack of closure that we face in some searches. A subject will go missing, either on purpose or accidentally, and we will put many, many man-hours into locating them. Clues may be found, either physical articles that the subject has left behind, such as a jacket, a food wrapper or a cigarette butt. Witnesses may come forward claiming to have seen the person at this or that location. Footprints may be found and confirmed to be matching those of our subject. The dogs may have hit a definite trail and followed it to where it disappears. The subject's profile will have already been compared to statistical information showing what they are most likely to do, what direction they are most likely to travel and the clues we have found will be compared to that to help us decide if the subject is acting "normally."

Even though we have all this information, the subject can still remain missing; their location a mystery, as though they have been plucked from the planet. The search may carry on for days, weeks. It may have to be suspended, but it will not be stopped until the subject has been located. It's these "suspended" searches that can really wear on you. Fortunately the one last weekend did not have to be indefinitely suspended. Though our subject was deceased, she was located.

You will hear about the local Sheriff's department or the coroner continuing the investigation to determine cause and time of death, but what you won't ever hear is that the SAR teams involved are still doing their investigation as well. Regardless of the outcome, maps, travel routes, terrain features, evidence locations, sightings, resource deployment and much more will all be re-evaluated. The entire search will be evaluated to determine what went right, what didn't go so well, what we could have done better. We will learn what we can from the information that we have collected so we can hopefully do a better job the next time.

One thing that many people don't realize is that as a member of a SAR team, while we are out on a search, you may actually have more information about the case as a whole than we do. That is to prevent us from forming theories about where the subject is or where they were most likely going. If we do that, then we may not focus on our particular search assignment. If a searcher's assignment is in a low priority area heading away from the last known direction of travel and they're 14 hours into a search, their mind may not be fully focused on what they're doing if they've been convinced that the subject was last seen three miles behind them heading in the opposite direction. Fatigue, both mental and physical will come in to play. They won't be as inclined to climb up that steep embankment and dig through the poison oak. It would be much easier to circumnavigate the thicket and try to look into it. After all, the subject is miles away from here. The better option is to give the searchers their assignment and the information that pertains to completing that assignment. That way they can focus directly on their job at hand and not have to filter out all the unnecessary and distracting information.

Also, we are generally not privy to any information about the case after our assignments have been completed and we are released from the scene. The information that we get is usually from the same sources as the rest of the world. We watch the news and read the papers. If any of us find anything, we usually email the entire team to share what we find.

One case that has been bothering me and has constantly been in the back of my mind is a high-profile case that made the news several times last year. The subject's name is Nina Reiser. She went missing after dropping her children off at her estranged husband's house and was not heard from since. Several pieces of evidence were found to indicate foul-play and her husband Hans Reiser was convicted of first degree murder even though her body had not been found. We had spent several days at different times searching the Oakland hills for evidence that may show us where she could have been buried, but continued to come up empty handed.

I ran across this news report today while searching for information about last weekend's search:

This helps bring a lot of thoughts to an end, suspicions confirmed and denied. I emailed the link to the team not that long ago. I already have had people respond back to me with a "thank you, I've been thinking about that search for a while now, wondering if they ever found anything more." I know that I'm not alone in these thoughts and concerns.

Now that little part in the back of my mind can rest, knowing that Nina's not lost any more.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


If I had to guess, I'd say that right about now Beth and Nick are driving over the Grapevine on I-5, heading to San Diego with Grammie and Grandpa to visit Becky, Tony and the girls for the Fourth of July weekend.  I'm here at work (obviously not too busy today) feeling kind of bummed and not totally patriotic. 

I'm thinking that I'm just going to stay home tomorrow night, probably watch a movie or two, get some more time into Legos Star Wars (addictive!) and maybe play radio a little bit.  It'll probably be an excellent time to try to get some antenna wires up in the trees since nobody should be around.  I might drive up the hill a little bit to a spot where I can see the river and watch the fireworks, but I don't know.  It just doesn't have the same appeal this year without Beth and Nick there to celebrate with.

Anyhow, have a happy Fourth!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Have you ever just wanted to be a jerk?

I'm getting so tired of getting hit up for change every time I leave or enter my office building.  Being in downtown Oakland, I'm not surprised that I have people asking for change, it's just the sheer number of times I'm asked each day.  I don't want to be a jerk about it, but the desire to be polite is almost completely gone, so instead of going off on someone down on the street, I'll vent here.  Below are my musings and repressed responses, wrapped in a thin coating of bitterness. 

Boy, aren't you lucky?

I've noticed that people are no longer asking for just any amount that you can/will spare.  They're specifying how much they want from you.  Apparently inflation knows no bounds either.  I've noticed that the amount keeps growing however slightly. 

It used to be "Hey buddy, do you have any change you can spare?"  Then it became a quarter.  Once I was asked specifically for 28 cents.  Today it was thirty.  Now, I can understand asking for a quarter.  It's not much and it's an easy amount to gather. 

I once was tempted to answer the quarter request with a "Sorry, no.  All I have is a nickel and two dimes.  Sorry."  I figured that that would get me a black eye, so I refrained.  Today when asked for thirty cents, I was tempted to say that I had fifty, but if he had two dimes, we'd be square.  Again the thought of a black eye helped me hold my tongue.

A couple of weeks ago, my Seattle counterpart was down to help me install new network switches after hours one night.  We left the office at about 5 to go grab dinner while the rest of everyone finished what they were doing and cleared out for the evening.  On our way back from dinner I got hit up for 50 cents.  This guy was obviously a high roller.  I couldn't help but chuckle because this was about the hundredth time I'd been asked for money that day.

"No!" I said as I walked by.

"Would you have it if I was white?"  I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

"I might have it if you weren't wearing hundred dollar shoes, a gold chain and standing outside a tobacco shop," I thought loudly.  This time the guy asking had three friends.  I know that there were two of us, but we weren't armed.  I felt lucky to get away without a black eye telling just for him no.

After getting hit up for 30 cents on my way into the building after grabbing lunch, my mind went into its usual "what if" scenario loop.  I started wondering what reaction people would have if they asked for 25/28/30/76/(whatever) cents and I pull out a huge handful of change, count out what they asked for and shove the rest back into my pocket.  If I ever get brave enough and find someone stupid enough to help me out, I might have to actually try this one out and film it to put on YouTube.  I think I'd have to pick a safer city.  I don't want to try that here in Oakland and film my death.