Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I have an entire rant going about journalistic ethics, and the lack there of, but this is more of a strange coincidence.

Both from the UK's "Daily Mail" newspaper.

New male contraceptive Pill with no side effects

By JULIE WHELDON Last updated at 15:48pm on 31st October 2006

Trials of a new contraceptive for men could begin within a few years

Men could soon be able to use a 'male Pill' that has no side effects, scientists have revealed.

The chemical implant acts as a contraceptive but does not change the balance of a man's sex hormones.

See also:
Would you trust your man to take the male pill?

Scientists have discovered a substance that can temporarily block the development of sperm without altering testosterone levels and without causing unwanted side effects….

This is just an excerpt of the whole story but you get the idea.

Adjacent to this story was the headline:

'Friendly fire' RAF bomber jet had faulty defence system, inquest hears

By TAHIRA YAQOOB Last updated at 22:00pm on 30th October 2006

No, there is nothing funny whatsoever about the death of two pilots and perhaps there is something wrong with my brain, but I automatically combined the two stories.

Wouldn't an unintended pregnancy be considered "friendly fire" also?


Or if it was caused at a Duke Lacrosse team party I guess it would be "taking one for the team."

Monday, October 30, 2006

REMIX: Ancient Chinese Secret



Once upon a time, so long ago that I don’t remember the exact year except that it was between 1988 and 1993, my best friend Terri and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant in Anchorage, China Garden, for an after-work meal.

It was not our favorite Chinese restaurant because of the quality of the food (Good Lord no) but because it was open until 4 o’clock in the morning and it was cheap. I worked until 11pm at a hotel and I think Terri might have worked a late shift at Fred Meyer but for whatever reason we were out late that night, telling stories and venting about our crappy jobs and crappy lives (although neither of us had it all that bad, really).

All Chinese restaurants in Anchorage are owned and run by wicked Korean women. Usually they hide their wickedness under a gallon of paint-scraper applied makeup and a vocabulary which consists entirely of phrases like “Hello, honey,” “That good, you like that,” and “You funny man.”* The service is usually pretty crappy for fine-dining standards but there are no fine-dining Chinese restaurants so you don’t expect outstanding service. Also, if you order a soda they are going to deliver you a tiny glass of ice and slam a single can of soda on your table. They will also charge you about $2.00 for that 12oz portion of liquid refreshment.

This is all part of the social contract between Chinese restaurants and their customers in my home town. We expect this. What we don’t expect is what happened at this particular meal.

I ordered a combination meal, one of the six or so combination meals on the menu. The combination comes with whatever entrée you select accompanied by pork fried rice and an egg roll. I vaguely remember ordering Combination B (or whatever its designation) which was Kung-Pao chicken. Terri looked the menu over and pointed to the combination section and said she would like the breaded almond chicken.

Minutes later our order arrived and was thudded down onto our table by the waitress/hostess/owner who spun quickly and returned to her opium den or illegal gambling parlor or whatever she runs in the back room of the restaurant. My plate of food was as ordered: chicken, rice, and the perfect looking but utterly inedible egg roll. Terri’s plate was piled high with breaded almond chicken but no rice and no egg roll.

Terri is very articulate and is not afraid to speak up when an incorrect order is delivered. She waited to get the attention of the evil Korean woman and, upon doing so, flagged her over to our table.

“I ordered the breaded almond chicken but I did not get my rice and egg roll.”

“You order a la carte.”

“Well, I pointed to the combination but I guess there was a misunderstanding. I’d like the breaded almond chicken combina-“

The evil Korean woman stopped her with an evil glare, bent over so as to get inches from Terri’s face (so much so that Terri shrank back a little) and nearly screamed, “THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU ORDER!” She then spun around and returned to her opium gambling operation in back.

Most folks would describe Terri as unflappable but that night I witnessed her being flapped by a Korean woman. Shaking off the flapping, Terri’s posture returned to normal – although a very angry normal. Very quietly and very calmly she locked eyes with me and said “you are NOT leaving that woman a tip.”

For dog’s sake, I worked at a hotel where many of my coworkers relied heavily on tips so I usually tip very well for good service and no less than 15% for reasonably bad service. Plus I am not one to make a scene. Looking Terri in the eye, however, I knew that I was not leaving the woman a tip even if it meant she followed us into the parking lot screaming and chasing us with a cleaver, which at one o’clock in the morning was a distinct possibility. I thought of the cleaver wielding evil Korean woman and I knew that any amount of cleaver damage inflicted upon me would pale in comparison to what Terri would do to me if I put a single rusty dime on the table.

We ate our meal and we skeedaddled out of there. Okay, I skeedaddled and Terri walked slowly and purposefully out. If anything Terri wanted it abundantly clear there was no tip on the table, daring anyone to comment on it or even look at us wrong. I didn’t know what was going to happen if there was a scene but I imagined a full-on hair-pulling cleaver fight which would end in my best friend going to jail, the evil Korean woman going to the hospital, and me being burned by a hurled bowl of hot and sour soup.

I hate hot and sour soup.

There was no scene and we never ate at that restaurant again. I did learn a valuable lesson though: Order carefully at restaurants – using the appropriate number or letter if they have them on the menu. Also: flap Terri once and it’s on her, flap her twice and you might very well kiss your gyoza goodbye.


This was only one of my restaurant adventures with Terri. Next time: The fickle finger of fate at the pancake house.


* This reminds me of a shorter but equally funny story which involves Korean hostesses and Chinese restaurants in Anchorage. I went with my parents to the Asia Gardens restaurant. What is it with those folks and gardens anyway? After being seated, the waitress/hostess/owner/opium den proprietor asked my dad what beverage he preferred by saying "And you sir?" My dad, in his charming way, told her that she didn't have to call him "sir." Without missing a beat, the hostess said "Oh, radda I call you ass-ho? Ha-ha!" We were all flapped on that one. Silence hung in the air until my mom and I, followed quickly by dad, burst into uproarious laughter. I think I nearly passed out. Now that restaurant earned many return visits.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Martha Stewart, Zombies, and Hostile Workplaces

Did I mention you need to get yourself a copy of "World War Z" ?

It's such a great social commentary that I think it fits right up on the same shelf as "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin deBecker, "Blink" and "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell, and "The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson - all of which are as non-fiction as non-fiction gets. But World War Z makes you think (or made me think) many many non-fiction thoughts.

By the time it was over I was trying NOT to suggest to people things about "when the zombie war comes..."

Such as:

A conversation at work (not involving me in the slightest except for our time honored "no private conversations rule" - which by the way applies to everyone, not just me):

Person A: Have you seen those Martha Stewart pumpkin carving tool kits? Sheesh, they have everything.

Person B: I know.

Person A: I mean really, I've always used a spoon and it works just fine. I don't really see the point of special tools.

Person B: Well, you know, I don't have the Martha Stewart variety but I have some plastic pumpkin carving tools that I bought a few years ago and they work pretty well.

Person C (proving my point about 'no private conversations): I actually have some pumpking carving tools too.

Person A: I'm not criticizing you guys, I'm just telling you - if it requires more than a spoon, my kids are going without.

It was at this point that, well let's call me Person E - just to continue the theme - typed a message to the terminals of all three conversationalists:

"Y'know - when the Zombie War comes, it will be the folks who can use a spoon to carve pumpkins who will survive. Those who require specialized tools for everything are going to have a difficult time adjusting to a world without them. I'm just sayin'..."

Which got a laugh, which is nice because I didn't have to actually yell across the room and interrupt their conversation to get one (not that I'm above that sort of thing). But it also made us all think: substitute the words "bird flu" or "nuclear war" or - dog forbid* - "The Tribulation**," and it will be the 'spoon folks' who will become our leaders.

Not that it's going to change my life. My knowledge of how a car engine works still can be summed but with: gasoline, um, oil, um, valves are involved (I know this because once I bought an expensive camera and it caused my car to spontaneously bend some valves... long story but you'll have to trust me) and the rest I think is PFM. ***

To recap:

Spoons = Good.

Zombies = Bad.

Internal Combustion Engine Theory = might as well be particle physics. Although my nuclear engineer brother could probably explain more about the latter than the former so I think it really is a bigger mystery that anyone very talks about.


* I am so used to saying "for the love of dog" that I was giving a little presentation to dispatchers about mental illness a couple of weeks ago and said something like "if you or someone you know has these symptoms for more than a couple of days, for the love of dog get help, it's out there!" At that point I was onto the next topic but someone in the class sort of stage-whispered "did he say 'for the love of dog?'" (like she never works with me... well perhaps she's never been required to pay attention before - which makes a lot of sense). Without missing a beat (which I will rephase to "without any thought to the consequences, your Honor" at any future hearing) I said, without looking directly at anyone in the group and in a total throw-away line fashion: "oh and I apologize to anyone in this class who doesn't believe in dog," and went about my merry way. The tricky part is that there is such a thing as creating a hostile workplace and, though it's not my intention to do so, I do have to be careful about what I say. That "Dispatch Tourette's Syndrome" excuse will only fly so far. The only thing good which could possibly come out of that stupid, stupid comment of mine is that I can, and do, tell the story as often as possible so I can get the most mileage out of it before it leads to my undoing.

** I say "the Tribulation" instead of "The Rapture" because, quite frankly, the Rapture could happen and no one at work would know anything about it - possibly for days. We might get a hint of something being wrong when the janitors stop coming to pick up the trash. And since we are not "spoon people" we'll let the trash just sit in the individual cans. Well, except for Person A.

*** Pure Fucking Magic

Friday, October 27, 2006

No Love Today

More Chris Smither:

Why had I never heard of his guy? He is brilliant.

I need to see this guy play live someday. J-Bro, keep your eyes open. I'll fly down. Seriously. Through the magic of iTunes and XMNPR thru Audible.com I have both live and studio versions of a lot of his songs. The live, single guitar and sing voice is just so great.

I seriously doubt Stacy Ferguson (oops, I'm sorry, "Fergie") could even sing a song like this. But maybe I just haven’t heard her emotional range. I'm sure when she and Mario Lopez and Jennifer Love Hewitt were on Kids Incorporated they did some soulful, plaintive love-gone-wrong songs. And maybe the acapella version "London Bridge" is sort of a Billie Holiday thing. Or then again, perhaps not.

Back to Chris Smither and "No Love Today"

Here's the story to the song:

Back in Chris' home town of New Orleans there was this fruit and vegetable vendor who'd walk down the street singing in a loud basso profundo voice about what he had to sell while being followed by his son who drove the fruit truck.

So the song is about being heartbroken and looking for love in the wrong places. The narrator (what do you call the principle voice in a character study song anyway?) sings the lines but the chorus is the produce man's voice.

You can read Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Robert Hunter, and Lou Reed lyrics all day long and you won't find many songs better than this one (and I feel the silly need to supply italics and boldness because some of this is extra-brilliant... I guess I'm the type who might highlight or underline passages of his Bible, if I had a bible):

No Love Today

I don't know much, when I knew less,
And I was heartbroke for the first time,
I was drowning in my tears,
I went looking for a lifeline,
Trying to find some comfort,
A simple tender touch,
Searching for some little cure
That would not cost too much,
And I could hear that produce wagon on the street,
I could hear that farmer singing,
As I cried myself to sleep


I got ba-na-na, watermelon,
peaches by the pound,
Sweet corn, mirliton,
mo' better than in town,
I got okra, enough to choke ya,
Beans of every kind,
If hungry is what's eatin' you
I'll sell you peace of mind,
But this ain't what you came to hear me say,
And I hate to disappoint you,
But I got no love today,
I got no love today,
I got no love today,
No love today

I could not love to save myself
From lonesome desperation.
Everything I thought was love
Was worthless imitation.
My concept of commitment
Was just to take all you could give,
I thought the cheapest thrills I loved
Were teachin' me to live,
But nothin' seemed to last or see me through
Nothin' but that little song
That I still sing for you.


No love today, none tomorrow,
Not now, not forever.
You can't see what comes for free,
I think you much too clever,
For your own good I will tell you
What's right before your eyes,
Intelligence is no defense
Against what this implies,
In the end no one will sell you what you need,
You can't buy it off the shelf,
You got to grow it from the seed.


No love today,
nah, fresh out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

YouTube, Evolution, XNPR, and Chris Smither

Today I heard an interview with Chris Smither on the Bob Edwards show on XNPR.

Remember "Morning Edition" with Bob Edwards on regular ol' NPR?

Well he's living well and prospering on XNPR on XM radio.

Alaska doesn't get XM (bastard spherical Earth) but I subscribe to The Bob Edwards Show on Audible.com.

Apparently Chris Smither has been finger-picking and writing songs and singing since the 1960's but no one ever bothered to tell me. You'd think in 40 years he'd have had time to send a postcard, but noooooo.

He's fantastic, a very clever lyricist and a great guitar player. His style is a cross between Bob Dylan and Randy Newman.

Couple of fun facts:

On-stage they mic his feet. His boot-tapping provide the percussion for the songs.

He's done several Bob Dylan covers over the years. His newest is "Visions of Johanna" but instead of 4/4 time, he does it in 6/8 time. I wouldn’t have known the reason for the difference but you can hear it and it works perfectly.

Your mission: go to www.youtube.com and search for "Chris Smither."

Then click on "Origin of Species," sit back, turn up the volume on your speakers and hit "play."

Oh, and it goes by kind of quickly the first time through so here are the lyrics.

If you have a slow-speed connection, disapprove of YouTube on moral or ethical grounds, disapprove of accepting my missions because of injuries or incarcerations incurred last time you did so, or if you are just plain lazy then read the lyrics anyway.

You'll have to admit they are clever.

Origin of Species

by Chris Smither

from the album "Leave the Light On," 2006.

Well Eve told Adam
"Snakes, I've had 'em!
Let's get out of here
go raise this family someplace out of town."
They left the garden just in time
with the landlord cussing right behind
they headed east and finally settled down.

One thing lead to another
a bunch of sons, one killed his brother.
They kicked him out with nothing but his clothes
The human race survives
cuz those brothers all found wives
But where they came from aint nobody knows.

Then came the flood, go figure,
just like New Orleans, only bigger.
No one who couldn't swim would make it through.
Well the lucky ones were on a boat
think "circus" and then make it float
and hope nobody pulls the plug on you.

How they fed that crowd is a mystery
it aint down in the history
but it's a cinch they didn’t live on cakes and jams.
Lions don’t eat cabbage
and in spite of that old adage
you'll never see one lie down with a lamb.

Well Charlie Darwin
looked so far in
to the way things are.
He caught a glimpse of God's unfolding plan.
God said "I'll make some DNA,
they can use it anyway
they want, from paramecium right up to man.

"They'll have sex and mix up sections
of the code, they'll have mutations.
The whole thing works like clockwork over time.
I'll just sit back in the shade
while everyone gets laid
that's what I call 'intelligent design.'"

Yeah, you and your cat named Felix
you're both wrapped up in that double helix.
That's what we call intelligent design.

Well Said !!!

If you

a) Think Riverdancer Michael Flatley is an overhyped pompous fool

and /or

b) want to read something hilarious

go here: Michael Flatley, Simon Cowell, and Godzilla
from the NoingNoing blog.

Bonus points if you mention I sent you!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fiber Optic Light Project

It began with seeing a tacky baseball hat with an embroidered american flag on it which had fiber optic lights hidden it it and a switch inside which one would turn on to make it light up.


Tacky tacky tacky.

Yet I picked up the hat and looked inside and thought "Hey, if you can thread fiber optics into a hat, why not clay projects or whatnot?"

I found some kits on the internet (which included the light source and the cable) and began playing with lights in clay. My first attempt was pretty poor and I'm not going to share it here until I figure out how to present it better.

But this poster came out much better.

I saw the original poster at a thrift store and knew it was perfect.

Initially I thought I'd keep the frame and mat but the frame had no glass or plastic front and the mat was stained pretty badly.

So I bought a poster frame at the Wal-Mart and used some scrapbook paper for background (instead of using a mat).

Then I started adding the light fibers.

All in all I think it came out looking pretty cool.

You can hang it on your wall and never know it has any lights in it until you turn it on.

I'm giving it to one of my bosses at work who is from New York (shout-out to L Rod!). I'm sure she'll at least be gracious if she hates it!

get your own tacky American Flag hat (but why bother?)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Oh, It's ON now!

Fla. Boater Stabbed in Chest by Stingray

Oct 19, 10:41 AM (ET)

LIGHTHOUSE POINT, Fla. (AP) - An 81-year-old boater was in critical condition Thursday after a stingray flopped onto his boat and stung him, leaving a foot-long barb in his chest, authorities said.

"It was a freak accident," said Lighthouse Point acting fire Chief David Donzella. "It's very odd that the thing jumped out of the water and stung him. We still can't believe it."

Fatal stingray attacks like the one that killed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin last month are rare, marine experts say. Rays reflexively deploy a sharp spine in their tails when frightened, but the venom coating the barb usually causes just a painful sting for humans.

James Bertakis of Lighthouse Point was on the water with his granddaughter and a friend Wednesday when the stingray flopped onto the boat and stung Bertakis. The women steered the boat to shore and called 911.

Surgeons were able to remove some of the barb, and Bertakis, who also suffered a collapsed lung, underwent surgery late Wednesday and early Thursday, the Miami Herald reported on its web site.

Ellen Pikitch, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, who has been studying stingrays for decades, said they are generally docile.

"Something like this is really, really extraordinarily rare," she said. "Even when they are under duress, they don't usually attack."

Three times in the space of a 217 word story they mentioned that being stabbed by a stingray is very rare.

I'm throwing the BS flag right here and now.

Steve Irwin gets killed by a stingray. Crikey, that's unusual (and tragic).

Now this guy gets nearly killed in the very same fashion except, more horrifying, the stingray jumped into the guy's boat and stabbed him. This wasn’t "Mr Irwin got too close and scared the little bugger which was just protecting itself." This was "Joe citizen critically stabbed by senseless stingray violence."

The ray jumped out of the water to stab him. I cannot stress this point enough. Who needs horror movies this Halloween when we have true stories like this? This sounds like the enemy has the gift of brief flight added to its gift of a big ass barb on a whip.

I'll never sleep again.

I'm not normally an alarmist but I'm tellin' ya right here and now: If'n I see a stingray cross my property line, I'm taking 'im out. I'm locked and loaded, baby, and I'm fightin' back.

I'm about *this* close to burying some anti-ray mines in the yard.

Gotta run, I need to scrouge up some Kevlar pajamas for me and my honey (can't wear the vest all day long, right?).

Phil Lynott and YouTube

I'm a sheep so I reintroduced myself to YouTube after seeing the "Evil Beaver" ad and some music videos presented on The Smussyolay.

I'm glad I checked YouTube out again. It has greatly improved.

Firefox has a plug-in which allows one to save the YouTube videos for later playback on your computer, which is handy. And no Mr Copyright Man, I'm not going to distribute crappy YouTube FLV files. I can't even use YouTube's own "blog this video" feature because I'm on Blogger Beta, thank you very little. Yes, it's my fault for going "beta" when history shows you should wait for the bugs to get worked out.

Back to the point, and there is one:

Thin Lizzy is the one of the best, if not THE best, rock band of the 1970's / Early 1980's. Think I'm exaggerating? Search for and watch them do "Emerald" live. Watch and listen to them perform "Cold Sweat" in a pub in Ireland. – Yes, in a pub. This was a band capable of rocking a huge stadium and was still willing to bang out some great music on a stage so small Phil's bass threatened to smash his bandmate's heads if he wasn’t careful.

Watch them perform "Holy War" and "Rosalie" and "The Rocker." You can even watch them perform "The Boys Are Back In Town" if you want (although I like this song and it's by far their biggest hit, it's not as good as "Vagabond of the Western World" or "Waiting for An Alibi" or two dozen other tracks from their vast catalog).

You can watch Phil's last interview before he died of complications from heroin addiction in January of 1986.

And you can watch the actual music videos of the later songs.

You see, once upon a time there was a cable channel called "Music Television" which played nothing but music videos. If you are under 25 you might be saying to yourself, "wait a minute, MTV is still around plus MTV2, MTVHits, VH1, VH1Classics, etc."

Oh, dear child, you are not to blame for your ignorance. MTV used to actually play videos ALL THE TIME. Granted, you had to watch a lot of "Uptown Girl" and "Papa Don't Preach" to see a video by The Clash or even Dire Straits. But still. And, here's my bone to pick with the hippity-hoppity crowd, they didn't bleep every other word because (and here's a thought) bands either could do without swearing or could live with the single being edited for radio and video.

I love bad words. I really do. But I feel like an old man because I can remember that when the MC5 screamed out the intro to their most famous song with the words: "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!" it was actually shocking. It was all "Oooh, those potty-mouthed guys are so naughty they must certainly be about to rock our socks off; yes please I'd like some of that if you don't mind."

But back to Thin Lizzy. Phil Lynott had a great voice. He and Jim Morrison both wished they had the voice of Elvis Presley and, considering their work, I think they both came pretty close.

Technical Thin Lizzy notes: their twin lead guitar harmony style, while not the first, lead directly to the styles of later heavy-metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. If you hear modern versions of two guitarists fighting out a complimentary solo, think of Scott Gorham and Gary Moore.

YouTube is a pathway to the past, my friends. Like Wikipedia and other parts of "the Long Tail" it's not the place to end a history lesson but it's an excellent place to start one.

Check it out. Even if you want to find those hippity-hoppity videos. It don't make no nevermind to me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

World War Z

Imagine a dream audiobook:

The author is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. He's also a great writer in his own right. Great. I don't use that term lightly.

The novel is set up as "an oral history" and uses the device of interviews with eyewitnesses to the war. The characters are vividly written and offer their own forms of social and political commentary about the war as well as their searches within their own souls.

The cast of voice actors is simply staggering:

Alan Alda

Henry Rollins

John Turturro

Carl Reiner

Rob Reiner

Mark Hamill

Jay O. Sanders

Jürgen Prochnow

and as they say, many more….

including the author Max Brooks.

Oh yeah, and Z stands for zombie.

It's a war against zombies. Nearly killt us, yes it did.

Yet if you are expecting a slasher horror novel / audiobook, you will be disappointed. There is very little violence depicted in this book. This is a social commentary / satire.

It's a great book. Best I've heard in a long while, maybe ever.

Which is why Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio had a bidding war for the film rights. Mr Jolie won, in case you were interested.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

So Crazy It's Brilliant

Let me say I love the products at www.stupid.com

I really do.

This is one of my favorite new gadgets which we all need to get our moms and dads ( and grandma and granddads) for whichever is your favorite winter gift giving holiday.

Let me introduce the startling revolutionary development in cellular phone technology:

The Please Hold cell phone handset

I cannot make this up.

It will cost you $19.99 and I get nothing for suggesting it but, really, don't we all know someone who needs this (if only ourselves) ?

Assistance Required

I'm looking for a list of songs which appear in the movie "Man of the Year" (y'know, Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, et al.)

The internet seems to be able to tell me everything ELSE. Someone has to know where I can find a list.

Anyone, anyone?

Crisis Intervention Team explained

I have given the first two of six 2-hour "intro to CIT" training sessions for dispatchers. The first was laid back and fun-filled. At the second I had some technical difficulties and as a result went randomly off-script. Upon reflection, the second group probably got the message I was trying to deliver but through a bigger cloud of pessimism or cynicism than I intended.


For everyone who is not a dispatcher at my agency and is curious about this CIT thing I'm always referring to, here's the short version of the dealio:

You will either experience a period of mental illness in your lifetime or will have a friend, family member, co-worker who does. Guaranteed or your money back.

Jocelyn from The Smussolay sums it up best:

"You're less than six degrees of separation from someone who suffers or is diagnosed with a major mental illness, whether you actually know it or not (we don't talk about these things because they're SHAMEFUL and SECRET and PRIVATE and DIRTY). [they'll be a] close family member, co-worker, buddy's girlfriend, cousin, neighbor, mailperson, that hot chick on the train.

"We're not mutants. We're just normal people who need a little help. Just like the insulin dependant diabetic, the breast cancer survivor who needed chemo, the guy who lost his leg. Maybe you don't personally *gain* anything from us, but you might not have any idea what you're -missing.-"

Mental illnesses are not character flaws, not the result of bad parenting, and not something people can overcome through just "sucking it up" or "getting over themselves." This stuff is real and sometimes it's real bad. Sanity is a continuum. Feel fortunate if you never stray out of the bracket deemed "normal."

Simply admitting to yourself that you have a mental problem is difficult and having to admit to your boss and coworkers (okay, now imagine working for… oh I don't know… the POLICE DEPARTMENT!). Yeah, that's a conversation you want to have over and over and over while you get it all sorted out.

Dealing with mental illness is not easy for the patient or their family and friends. Medication often works but it is expensive (think super-duper expensive) and those who need to take them most desperately are often the least able to afford them. For those who are in crisis or are deep into the worst kinds of symptoms (everything from psychotic episodes with hallucinations to issues like profound depression and suicidal ideation) the hospitalization they might need is also very expensive.

Plus such serious symptoms are frightening and potentially dangerous to others besides the consumer. And if you don't understand or agree that you are mentally ill then... well then your family is indeed plotting against you, the goverment is watching you, and you might actually be kidnapped and held against your will at a hospital. The hospital will also force you to take drugs which make everything go a little fuzzier around the edges.

Oh quick note: the acceptable term these days for the mentally ill is "mental health consumers" which sounds a little too politically correct at first but is much preferable to the metaphoric "wing-nut" or the bluntly clinical "crazy as a bedbug."

What is generally deemed to be mental illnesses are classified (at least by me) into 5 groups (DSM-IV mileage might vary):

Major depression,

Bipolar Disorder,


Borderline Personality Disorder and Dissociative Personality Disorder,

Anxiety Disorders,

and Everything Else (OCD, ADD, ADHD, and all those things which almost never become police matters).

Yeah, it's not a perfect set of pigeonholes but since I'm not a clinician or a medical professional of any kind I feel I can make up my own rules to introduce laypeople to the different wonderful world of mental illness.

My police department, and many others around the country, have created a Crisis Intervention Team with the purpose of better helping mental health consumers. Police department are generally very conservative with regard to "touchy-feely" programs so I consider my department pretty enlightened. That being said, I'd like to see more money for continuing education but that too is a digression.

The goal of CIT is simple: To treat mental health consumers with respect and dignity and to always remember that "I am a whole person, I'm not just the symptoms you might be seeing now" and "I'm mentally ill, I'm not stupid."

While I think all police employees should have some basic CIT introduction (which is what I'm doing with these 2 hour classes as part of a bigger in-service refresher training for dispatchers) not everyone has the temperament nor the interest in being a member of the team itself. The officer who is our driving force describes it this way, "I don't want to be a sniper. I don't want to be on the SWAT team. Not everyone does and not everyone is qualified for those teams." Neither is everyone suited to be a CIT officer or dispatcher.

Which is why you have to ask/fight to be trained as a CIT officer or dispatcher. That's a good thing in my opinion.

CIT officers and dispatchers are given 40 hours of classroom training so that they better understand the illnesses themselves, the medications and their effects, the fears/concerns of the consumers and their families, and the resources available in the community. They get to tour the various facilities and (separately) to hear from and speak with consumers who are by far the best able to describe their situations and how things have worked well or poorly for them during their police contact. 40 hours isn't a whole lot but it inspires team members to seek further education on their own and then share what they can with the whole team. Remember: we wanted to get the extra training. Now we are obligated to use it when appropriate and keep ourselves educated.

As far as being "touchy-feely" we all have the primary job to do first and foremost.

Officer safety always comes first. Someone who has a weapon will be disarmed, quickly and if necessary forcefully.

Dispatchers answering phone calls, seldom customer service super-stars in the first place, have to collect all pertinent information to get a clear picture of the situation and it express it to the dispatchers on the radios (and thereby to the responding officers) quickly and thoroughly.

In practice the difference between a CIT officer or dispatcher response might only differ from that of their other coworkers in that they spend a little more time and patience with each consumer.

This might seem simple but it makes both officers and dispatchers (on the phones in this case) take a bit more time and spend a little more patience on people having a mental health crisis. Time affects productivity. In the case of an officer this means calls in his 'beat' will stack up while he takes extra time with a consumer. In the case of a dispatcher it means that while one dispatcher is on the phone with a consumer everyone else who is staffing the phones has to field more calls.

So everyone not on the team must be "on-board" in order for the CIT to work best.


The benefit to the department is potentially great: Developing appropriate relationships with consumers and their families will likely result in less police contacts in the future and those contacts will likely be less dangerous and more welcoming.

The benefit to the community is potentially great as well: dispatchers can occasionally spend a couple minutes on the phone and eliminate the need for officer response entirely. No officer response means other citizens will get their officers faster. Officers who have the extra training to at least recognize when a person might be in crisis and speak "their language " in a reassuring but not patronizing manner can eliminate the need for 'tactical' responses which might injure or kill the consumer.

No officer wants to kill anyone and certainly not someone who is not a criminal. And I'm not just talking about shooting folks or Tazering folks unnecessarily.

One of the topics discussed in the most recent advanced CIT training was naked people.

A consumer experiencing a severe psychotic break can get into a very dangerous medical situation called "excited delirium." Excited delirium causes the subject's core body temperature to spike (therefore the nakedness) as his body is being flooded with adrenaline and other hormones in toxic levels. Think Lou Ferrigno's Incredible Hulk without the greenness and who is likely (and this is the important part) going to crash and die right there very soon.

And officer who recognizes that a subject is in excited delirium will notify dispatch to send paramedics lights and sirens because, when the person gets handcuffed – likely after a brief but intense struggle – they are going to need an ambulance and a hospital or they will die.

An officer who doesn't know to look for this might very well put a handcuffed (and hobbled probably) subject in the back of their patrol car to be taken either to jail or to the hospital. The consumer has a good chance of dying in the back of that patrol car.

Did I mention officers don't want to kill mentally ill folks? Yeah, well neither does the chief of police or the mayor. Some dies in the back of a police car and the media will become involved. Nothing good comes of that. Oh yeah, and someone has died too.


So that's a brief introduction to CIT. It's not costing the tax-payer much if anything (it's not a funded program and no one will be called in from off-duty to respond to such a call, unlike negotiators, SWAT team members, detectives, etc.) and it has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of folks in crisis.

Which is why I like being a dispatcher. Oh the stories are great and it's always fun when the sierra hits the foxtrot and you can ride that adrenaline wave yourself while showing your high level of talent. When things go right, it's fantastic.

But the real reason I like being a dispatcher is that I know that a caller who gets me or one of my recruits (or 99% of my coworkers) will be treated well. As I mentioned before, our customers are not always right and we're probably ruined from working in any customer service job in the future but all of my callers are treated with respect and with dignity no matter if they are mentally ill, intoxicated, belligerent, nearly unintelligible for whatever reason, children, or just plain not thinking clearly due to whatever their crisis is.

I could be belittling or rude back but what's the percentage in that? After all, you pay my salary. You've told me so.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

It takes more than a little ointment to clear up some things

Funny thing. I'm changing meds for my anxiety issues and I can definitely notice the difference during the adjustment period. For instance I am terribly terribly verbose when commenting on other folk's blogs or sending email.

Sorry folks!

I'm glad I'm on vacation and don’t have to write any important work emails until I get back.

It's not like I'm totally off the rails but the "Dispatcher Tourette's" is in full gear and I have not applied many filters to my spoken words. The trouble is that things which might seem terribly funny and witty at the time could be construed as offensive (well, okay, ARE sometimes offensive but I have only the best of intentions, your honor).

I had an anxiety experience (not really a panic attack because I knew what I was dealing with) at a packed movie theater today.

Tangent: See "Man of the Year" with Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Lewis Black, Laura Linney, et al. It's great and actually two-two-two movies in one – a comedy and a thriller. And (without giving anything away) it doesn’t present a world which is wholly unbelievable.

I'm expecting my whole anxiety level to get back to normal in a couple of weeks but it's going to be interesting to say the least. I'm so blessed having Kelli here with me. During the days when things were out of control and I didn't know the real problem and I lived alone… well, those days seem darker now that I have Kelli's light in my life.

Thanks Kelli. My love for you is wider than any ocean and deeper than all the bullshit in the United States Congress.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Instant Karma and Stealing from Sarah Silverman

More news:

Teen Faces Litter Charge for Bra Antenna

Oct 12, 6:57 PM (ET)
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A teenager who put her bra on a car antenna before it flew off and led to a highway accident will be charged with littering, a prosecutor said. Emily Davis, 17, of Bowling Green, told investigators she took her bra off while her friend was driving on Interstate 75.

James Campbell, who was driving behind the girls, said he swerved to avoid the bra and his car flipped several times. Campbell, 37, broke a vertebra in his neck during the Sept. 26 accident. His passenger, Jeff Long, 40, broke several ribs.

A State Highway Patrol crash report, obtained by The Blade, said that the girls told investigators that before the accident the men were motioning to them to lift up their shirts. Both men denied making the gestures.

Davis will be charged next week with misdemeanor littering, said Tim Atkins, a juvenile prosecutor in Wood County. Atkins said he'll meet with troopers before filing the charge.

The girl's friend, Tabitha Adams, 17, of Bowling Green, said she told Davis not to hang her bra outside because she knew it would fly away, according to the report.

Atkins said no other charges were expected.

A littering charge for the teens? Yeah, what-ev-er*

Flipping your car and literally breaking your neck as the result of trying to get some teenaged girls to show you their mammalian protuberances? Oh that's instant karma, baby.

And I now have a whole new appreciation for Toledo. No wonder Max Klinger wanted to get back there so desperately that he wore women's clothing for several season of M*A*S*H. I must have missed the "Girls Gone Wild: Toledo" ads on the TV.

* What's the best group of letters to indicate the smacking of chewing gum? Anyone? Anyone?


Man Who Urinated in Soda Has Shy Bladder

Oct 12, 6:27 PM (ET)

DELAND, Fla. (AP) - A man who was jailed for urinating in a drink that was consumed by and sickened a convenience store customer could be in trouble again, this time because he can't produce that bodily fluid.

Anthony Mesa, 22, was sentenced to six months in jail and two years of a form of house arrest for urinating in the bottle of Mountain Dew and must also periodically take a urine drug test. Mesa said Wednesday, however, that he has a condition called shy bladder which affects his ability to urinate in public and therefore to take the drug test. He had failed to take a court-ordered test Sept. 19, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"Anthony's little prank has taught him a great deal, and the irony of it all is that peeing was what got him trouble in the first place, and now not being able to is getting him trouble again," Mesa's mother, Denise Hislop, wrote to court officials.

Mesa has offered to take the test another way, including with a blood sample.

Mesa, a former convenience store clerk at a Pix store in Deltona, pleaded no contest to tampering with a consumer product. A construction worker who purchased the drink he urinated in began vomiting after drinking the product.

Deltona Police reported that the construction worker did not take into consideration that convenience store clerk Anthony Mesa might consider himself to be "Chinese" and therefore be apt to "play joke."

Okay, so that bit of politically incorrect humor was stolen directly from Sarah Silverman, although she was referring to an entirely different incident.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's All Fun And Games… Until It's Not

Alternate Title: Shit like this leads to shit like THIS.

Mo. Chief's Son Charged With Playing Cop

Oct 11, 11:51 PM (ET)

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. (AP) - A suburban St. Louis police chief's son was charged with impersonating an officer, more than a week after being arrested for sporting police clothes and pulling motorists over in his dad's unmarked police car.

Ballwin Police Chief James Biederman's son, Paul Biederman, 23, was charged Tuesday with a misdemeanor count of impersonating a police officer, avoiding a more serious charge of felony tampering because the city of Ballwin, which owns the police car, refused to press charges, said St. Charles Country Prosecutor Jack Banas.

If found guilty, Biederman could face up to a year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine.

Banas said his department was still reviewing the case against an 18-year-old who accompanied Biederman when they were pulling over cars.

Authorities said the two men were using the car's siren and lights to pull over motorists and check their licenses on Oct. 1. They both wore cargo pants and shirts with police logos. The chief's son even wore a gun belt with an air pistol that resembled a .40-caliber Glock, police said.

Their fun ended when they pulled over an off-duty St. Charles County sheriff's detective, who didn't believe their story that they were on special assignment with the Ballwin police department.

The two fled and were later arrested at Biederman's home.


Armchair psychology (my favorite kind, and one might suggest is a little like pretending to be a cop, but I digress) leads me to think that Mr. Biederman, who I will remind you is an adult, was playing these little reindeer games for the thrill of power.

It's one thing to dress up like a cop.

It's another to go joyriding in a police car.

It's an entirely other and higher level of thing to start doing traffic stops with your "borrowed" police car.

That is scary.

Okay, so let's just imagine the thrill of doing traffic stops on unsuspecting citizens who are encouraged to follow the directions of law enforcement personnel stops being so exciting after several successful outings.

What do you suppose the next step might be?

Perhaps this?

Fake police officer sought in reservation rapes

By Amanda Lee Myers

Associated Press Writer

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.05.2006

WHITERIVER — At least 10 girls and women have been raped on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation by a man who poses as a police officer, federal authorities said.

Since March, nine girls and one young woman — all American Indian — have been attacked on a trail between two housing projects between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., said officials with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The attacks began in March, but the bureau became aware of them only in August. The agency formed a task force of 10 agents to investigate.

"Once they saw it was involving someone posing as law enforcement, the BIA made this a high priority," said BIA agent Warren Youngman.

Bureau officials said Wednesday they had identified the four newest victims after the task force canvassed the neighborhood where the attacks occurred.

The panel found victims who did not come forward because they thought their attacker was a police officer, Youngman said.

"It has created an atmosphere of fear," Youngman said. "When we did our neighborhood canvassing, we had people afraid of our officers."

According to victims, the attacker wears a dark shirt and a dark baseball cap, both bearing "police." White Mountain tribal police officers' uniforms do include black shirts, but the shirts should show a badge above the left breast pocket and a U.S. flag above the right breast pocket, Youngman said.

There is a $10,000 reward in the case, Youngman said.

The reservation is about 80 miles northeast of Phoenix.


To be clear: I'm not suggesting Paul Biederman has anything to do with sexual assaults on Fort
Apache Indian Reservation.

But I'm very happy that Mr. Biederman's little adventure ended before someone got seriously hurt.

And I'm more than a little sad about what's happened (and might be continuing to happen) in Fort Apache. There are no easy ways out for that one. There are likely more victims who have not come forward. There are likely victims who will not cooperate with tribal police because, well heck, someone claiming to be a tribal police officer sexually assaulted them. I don't think I'd be all that trusting of the police either.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

I’m a bleeding heart

Normally I try to be completely emotionally detached from my job. Not like sociopathic but just compartmentalized. I can’t cry for every caller because then I’d be always in tears.

Yet some folks have rough lives. While I’ll agree with other police/medic dispatcher blogs that most callers would not exactly qualify as Jeopardy returning champions, people don’t always get into bad situations due to their own bad decisions.

I’ll type it again so all the young Republicans can understand me:
Someone who has a sucky life is not always the victim of their bad decisions.

Or to put a finer point on it: if every bad decision YOU ever made came back to bite you, I guarantee you a sucky life.

But back to my pathetic caller of the day. I felt bad for this guy.

He called me from the business line of a video store to report he’d been robbed. He sounded perhaps a little developmentally disabled or mentally ill. And he wasn’t a victim of robbery, he was a victim of theft. He’d been a passenger in a van of a friend. This friend stopped to give a ride to another acquaintance (using the term loosely). The acquaintance saw that our complainant’s cell phone and some cash had fallen from his pocket. The acquaintance grabbed the money and the cell phone and bailed out of the van, running off into the lower-class neighborhood approximately $25 and a cell phone richer.

Unfortunately, the victim is homeless. I don’t know why this plucked at my heartstrings because he didn’t give me a big sob story about it or anything, but this is going to have a huge impact on his lifestyle.

Imagine it: $25 and my cellphone isn’t going to do anything but piss me off. I’m lucky. I got a lot of breaks in my life and when I screwed up it didn’t prevent me from moving forward in society. $25 and a cellphone isn’t going to impact me at all.

This guy. I suspect it’s going to temporarily cripple him. He’s lost his only method of communication. I don’t know whether he’s “riding the couch circuit” kind of homeless or “living in the woods with winter approaching” homeless but either way $25 buys a lot of crappy food or ice beer or whatever this guy subsists on.

I don’t know. It wouldn’t be any more “right” if the bad guy had taken money from Bill Gates.

But as I’m reminded lately, life is a continuum. One persons inconvenience is another persons major malfunction.

And as to the suspect: fucker. People are no damn good.

Happy Holidays!

Mythic is Terrific !

Two quickies for you today (and I think I told the first story before here but it’s worth repeating):


Calltakers (business lines as well as 911 lines) have to know everything about everything. This is because people from all over the world will call the police for the strangest questions.

Case in point: A calltaker recruit was being monitored by a Field Training Officer (well, the correct title is probably Communication Training Instructor but everyone calls them FTO’s). Since the recruit was doing well, the FTO was plugged in and listening peripherally but having a conversation with another employee across the room (with her headset cord stretched across to the other employee’s desk). Suddenly the FTO cocked her head, stopped her personal conversation in mid sentence and quickly scoot-rolled her chair back to her recruit while saying in slow motion (like Kurt Russell in Tombstone) “nooooooooooo!” And then the FTO just stopped, slump shouldered, and turned to me.

She said, “Eric, what would you do if an older male called from someplace in Wisconsin and told you his grandson was doing a report for school and wanted to know if jackalopes existed?”

“You mean a rabbit with horns, that kind of jackalope?” I clarified.


“Oh no,” was all I could say.

“Oh yes. My recruit told this guy that there were indeed jackalopes and that she’d seen one stuffed and mounted at a restaurant in town. The guy said ‘thank you’ and hung up before I could correct my recruit. I don’t think she believes me that they are not real animals. Can you step over and verify that jackalopes are not real?”

“Jesus wept.”

“Yes, yes he did.”



One of my favorite coworkers is the Queen of Malapropism. When she orders a gyro sandwich, she asks for extra “jujitsu” sauce.

Recently the conversation of hairy men came up (look, I work nearly exclusively with women so these things come up and I mostly listen and stay out of the way… although maybe I’m a big fat liar because I vaguely recall pointing out that as a guy gets older, he’s liable to get hair in places where he’s appalled to have hair and it’s through no fault of his own). Anyway, Q of M, is describing her husband who is apparently quite hairy and she says, “he’s almost like a …, like a…, like a Saskatchewan!”

My apologies to our neighbors to the East (North to you lower 48’ers).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Latest Before and After Pics

This is Kelli before her weight loss surgery and this morning. Both photos were taken at her doctor's office. She's lost 183 lbs and is about two pounds from her "goal weight." She'd like some tummy tuck surgery to get rid of some excess skin but she's done a remarkable job.

This surgery is by no means "the easy way out." She has to be very careful to get proper nutrition and to not backslide to those easy calories (think regular Pepsi).

I'm quite proud and love her immensely (pardon the pun).

Good Job, Special K!