Tuesday, December 29, 2009
A later-than-expected start, combined with ski resort traffic returning to Denver, put us here at about 11:00 last night. The roads are in great shape so far, but I'm looking forward to seeing the monster snowdrifts that are rumored to exist further east.
A lead story in this morning's Denver Post is definitely worth reading if you're at all interested in the subject or profession of pre-hospital care. Those who have plied the trade are all too familiar with the "frequent flier". The reasons for people to use the EMS system for less than emergency situations can be as varied as the volume of calls themselves.
Putting paramedics into the role of a community health care provider seems to be an idea growing in popularity, in both urban and rural areas. I'm trying to think of problems and pitfalls, and all I can come up with is issues related to reimbursement, and along with potential territorial issues from the Home Health industry and the Nursing professions. In any case, it looks like lots of dialogue is happening out there, and I'm pleased that the Post took a look at the concept. The citizens of western Eagle County should also be pleased at the progressive nature of those in charge of their ambulance district.
Time to go. Have a great day.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Bob Silbernagel replied to my e-mail today. He attached the notification made on the Community site sometime last week. His comments included, "It really was the degrading nature of the discussion and the time it took to police the site that led to the decision. There were days when I deleted more than half of the comments over a several hour period because they were personal attacks."
Here's the post from last week. Thanks to Bob for his quick reply.
Beginning Thursday, Community.GJSentinel.com will be no more. There are several reasons for this change.
One is that we have received complaints from a number of letter writers who have asked that we not post their letters to the editor on the Community site. They are upfront enough to attach their names to the opinions they express in their letters, and they believe it is unfair that anonymous posters can engage in personal attacks on them through the Community site. It’s a valid argument. Although a few posters use their own names, most hide behind fictitious Web monikers.
However, by far the most important reason for eliminating Community is the degradation of public debate occurring there. When we launched Community, we hoped it would become a sort of online coffee shop, where readers could engage in reasoned discussions about issues of the day, both locally and nationally. Unfortunately, too often the Community site has been more akin to a saloon at closing time, where patrons shout opinions at each other, engage in personal attacks and repeat the same opinions over and over. That does nothing to enhance public debate.
We know there are readers who eagerly joined discussions on Community, only to leave in disgust over the tone of the debate. Some have vowed never to return to Community. Others continue to try to engage in reasoned debate, and continually get frustrated by the personal attacks and repetitious arguments. To them we can only say we also wish the tone of the discussions was different.
We will still have many more letters to the editor than we can publish in the print edition of The Daily Sentinel. We will post most of them in a special letters page under the “Opinion” section of GJSentinel.com.
We launched Community.GJSentinel.com nearly two years ago with high hopes that it would become a lively online discussion place with many voices being included. Now, there are only a handful who visit regularly. It’s time to close the doors.
It's kind of what I thought. It made me think of the same quote from Shakespeare that Murrow used at the end of his most famous commentary. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves".
I'm hitting the road for a week or so. After the most recent exploits with airline security over the Christmas holidays, opting to drive was a good decision, even if there is a higher statistical risk attached to it. Gene Kinsey had some musings on it this morning. I don't have time to explore the issue further right now, but I found some excellent insight in a blog from Esquire:
What the TSA has set up since 9/11 is an illusion — "security theater," it's often called. Responding to every perceived threat (shoe bombs, liquid bombs, ass bombs) by banning the offending vehicles of terror looks, initially, like prudence. But, in fact, it's ridiculous. And it induces foolish political panic. Which costs us a ton of money that we then cannot spend on efforts that will actually make us safer.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
As it happens, these links appear to herald the quiet and unceremonious demise of the Community site itself. The link remains on the Sentinel's website, but directs readers to the main Opinion page.
I wrote about the Community site twice in 2008, when it launched and when Sentinel staff had to intervene to attempt to quell some commentary in the Forums section that had devolved into a flame war. I wrote back then:
The Sentinel and its' parent company (whomever that may be in the future) are keenly aware of how the manner in which the Community site is used is a direct reflection on the reputation of the Sentinel and the domain GJSentinel.com. I applaud their level of tolerance and restraint up to this point in time, but I also feel that their recent action was necessary. The challenge now is to put some consistency and accountability behind the rhetoric.In the 14 months since that post, I didn't pay much attention to the Community site, save to review the Letters to the Editor. Ironically, I made a comment on one of those letters last week, the first time in a long while. My uneducated impression since last year was that the site was not growing, and the 'community' it was serving was just a niche group of heavily opinionated individuals. Not that there's a problem with that, but I can see the increased difficulty for the Sentinel to expend manhours to maintain a site in such a condition.
I sent an e-mail to Bob Silbernagel, who is in charge of the Sentinel's editorial content, asking for some insight as to why the site was disappeared without so much as a single-column obituary.
For those of you who may not follow Bob's online video series Over The Top, he's on a beach somewhere right now. I hope to hear from him when he returns.
The Community site's demise is not a matter of particular concern to me. The handwriting was on the wall a year ago. I'm more concerned about how these things affect mindsets and trends. I'm hoping that the mindset at the Sentinel in the Seaton era is not to back off of robust, interactive online content that affords the educated reader the ability to interact with those producing content, and that access to online content, and enhancement of the print experience through it, remains as available as it possibly can be. In other words, free.
I'm still a big fan of the YourHub site sponsored by the Denver Post, and the manner in which it allows members of numerous Metro Denver neighborhoods and communities to produce and moderate content specific to their areas. I still think that something like that has great potential for the Grand Junction metro area. End of sales pitch.
I feel bad that Community.GJSentinel.com didn't work out. I know there are better ideas out there that may make more sense in lots of ways.
Have a good day.
We put luminaria out on Christmas Eve again this year. I found better candles this time, and they lasted all evening and well past midnight. I went to the 11 P.M. service at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, a beautiful and joyous change of pace.
I made a turkey roast for dinner with stuffing, gravy, and green bean casserole. Evan just toasted two pieces of french bread with butter and honey. A simple snack to cap off a decent day.
What would make it complete is the company of the woman I love.
Hitting the road next week for Pittsburgh and other places. I hope that everyone had a blessed Christmas, and that wherever you are you will be safe and in the company of loved ones.
Have a great weekend.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The first event was a potluck hosted by the Downtown Vineyard church, held at the Lincoln Park Barn. This meal was in lieu of a more 'formal' service, and was the second year the church has done this. Pastor Paul Watson gave a brief talk after everyone had eaten, and referenced Acts 2, specifically the section where "all the church gathered together, and all of their needs were met".
Pastor Paul added that one reason he loves the church is that people come together with both their gifts and their needs, and as the church comes together they work as a community to meet those needs with their gifts. He concluded with a familiar admonition; "We are the church".
This was illustrated in a profound way later that afternoon, when the homeless advocacy group Housing First! No More Deaths! conducted a march remembering those homeless persons in the Grand Valley who have died in recent years. Many of the marchers carried crosses with the names of these deceased persons written on them.
In covering the activities of this group in the past, I have felt and sensed some uneasiness on the part of myself and others as to the seemingly militant approach of this group to what is by definition a community issue, one that must be solved by cooperation and consensus. This time around I got the distinct impression that, despite their symbolism, this group is committed to working with other, similarly-minded groups in improving the situation for those without homes in the Grand Valley, along with rousing sufficient rabble when called to do so.
The march went from Whitman Park in the heart of Downtown to Hawthorne Park near my house, and received a good amount of local media coverage, including an excellent photo on the front page of Monday's Sentinel.
After the march, the regular Sunday meal for the homeless was being set up at Hawthorne Park. Different churches in the community assist with the provision of food and manpower each week; members of Bookcliff Baptist Church were there this day.
Near the park's northwest corner, the annual memorial observance for those homeless who have died was taking place at the tree and granite marker dedicated to that purpose.
There was a significant amount of activity in the park for a chilly winter afternoon, and I was impressed and humbled by the amount of dedication and organization present in the providing of collective gifts for those with needs to match.
There is always a place to do more to help those with similar needs in whatever area of the country or the world you may reside. I don't have much more to add in words, so I'll let some of the scripture that Pastor Paul was referring, and a few photos, do the rest.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Best wishes for safe travels and joyous moments with families and loved ones this week ahead.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Outside of what has been reported, I don't know much about this. My interest in the country of Uganda and the continent of Africa has admittedly been anecdotal, and largely detached from the realities of life there.
I know, or know of, people who have lived in Africa that have recently returned, including Doug and Suzan Scott, Assemblies of God missionaries to South Africa, and former KREX reporter Kate Renner, who has returned from 3 months in Uganda under the auspices of Light Gives Heat, which is based in Western Colorado. One of my former neighbors in the Pittsburgh area is an Episcopal priest, currently serving as Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University.
It's heartening to see the level of commitment and faith necessary to engage in something like this. The recent controversy concerning this proposed law led me to think a little bit about the nature of the gay rights movement outside of the US, and the inherent conflict that results from the challenges to established institutions by those who seek to legitimize their sexual orientation. No religious institution has been impacted greater in this area than the Anglican church.
Outside of this particular denomination, the furor that resulted over the Uganda legislation has also touched several evangelical and otherwise conservative Christian leaders here in the US. Most notable among these is Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, known in part for his best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life". Pastor Warren issued a statement last week condemning the Ugandan legislation, and attempting to distance himself from the efforts of those that have been associated with him in the past. From the looks of it, Pastor Warren's contrition is not enough for many gay rights organizations that are still seething over his support of California's Proposition 8 last year.
By far the most comprehensive coverage from the mainstream media came from Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. Ms. Maddow, one of the few openly gay members of the MSM, and her staff not only delved into the involvement of American evangelicals in mentoring those in Uganda who have put their weight behind the proposed legislation, but also a group of Americans who believe that homosexuals can be converted to a heterosexual lifestyle, or stop identifying themselves as a member of the gay community. Ms. Maddow interviewed one such individual on her show; I don't think he was too pleased with the outcome.
As a human being, and therefore a sinner, I am not comfortable passing any kind of judgment on an individual based solely on their sexual orientation. I can also see the disdain in our society toward granting civil-rights status to a particular group of people based solely on what they choose to do behind closed doors with a consenting adult. This, to me, is just another consequence of fear without understanding.
Instead, I believe that we need to focus on the actions (or the lack thereof) of individuals in deciding for ourselves what we may think about them. Any number of us can find significant cause to doubt those who we may interact with daily. For me, that starts with the person I look at in the mirror every morning.
If we purport to live a life guided by faith, the tenets of many religions require that we look at our fellow man as God's children, equally deserving of love and compassion as much as anyone else. For Christians, there is plenty of scripture to support this.
The circumstances that we find ourselves or others in, and our level of responsiveness to others in time of need, helps to define who we are as individuals and as a community.
For those in Uganda that I will never know or understand properly, this attempt to label and vilify those first by the nature of who they are is unfortunate and wrong. Yesterday I read that the Ugandan parliament passed legislation outlawing the ritual practice of forced female circumcision. I'm hoping that this law, long overdue, is not just window dressing to try to appease certain people into believing that progress in one area equates to understanding in another.
This travesty is made even more of one when it has been spurned forward by the words and actions, both direct and indirect, of those in our own supposedly civilized country whose personal agendas here have been thwarted by common sense, the earthly rights conveyed to us and protected by our forefathers, and the influence of God's love in its purest form.
As it happens I have a lot of other things on my mind, not the least of which is Leslie's daughter Michaela, who as I write this is headed back to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh with a lot of abdominal pain and vomiting. Your thoughts and prayers for comfort and healing, as well as strength for Leslie and her family as Michaela continues the fight against cancer that has taken up half of her young life, are greatly appreciated.
Along with other struggles that seem trivial in comparison to life in an impoverished African nation, or in a fight against a deadly disease, I am nonetheless feeling a sense of hope and understanding that appears to be gaining a foothold in the battle against fear that I struggle with far too often. I hope I can be an instrument of God's peace in the face of these differences and obstacles.
May the Lord's peace be with you as we celebrate His presence in many different ways this month. Have a good week ahead.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Judging from the ruminations of Grand Junction natives on Facebook and elsewhere, this is the largest snowfall in GJ since 1986 or 1987. The weather service says anywhere from 6 to 9 1/2 inches have fallen, but I shoveled at least a foot off of all the walks and driveway this morning.
Like many other things in life, it is beautiful and interesting - I especially enjoy the muffling of the ambient noise so that things not normally heard come through loud and clear, like a conversation between two women over half a block away, or the class bell at Grand Junction High School.
And as Leslie pointed out, snow like today's needs to be managed as much as it is enjoyed. Too much of it can be an impediment to the appropriate progress needed to be made in one's life. Clearing it aside allows you to continue on the path that you need to follow, while still being able to enjoy the experience and the beauty of the surroundings.
The applicability of this to other things going on in life was not lost on me. Time to continue to make sure that there remains a clear path to my life, and that I can manage the obstacles to it just like I did this morning with the walk and the driveway.
The weekend in Pittsburgh was quiet, enjoyable, and too short. It was cold but pleasant, with a few flurries trying to make their presence known. Considering what happened to Pitt and the Steelers while I was there (the Pens lost too), it was still a nice time.
Another interesting thing I noted today was this excerpt from a Daily Sentinel breaking news story this morning:
I admire the level of coordination and response that the City puts forward in dealing with something that in all honesty is an infrequent occurrence, that being a snowfall of this magnitude.
Public works spokeswoman Kristin Winn said crews began spreading magnesium chloride Monday afternoon in preparation for the late-autumn storm. She said a second crew came on at midnight this morning and that all eight city snowplows will be out 24 hours a day. City crews are working alternating 12-hour shifts.
She said snow plow drivers are concentrating on clearing major arterial roads and feeder streets and high-priority locations like hospitals.
Still, as of 9:30 a.m., several major roads in town, including Broadway, Riverside Parkway, Ute and Pitkin avenues and Seventh Street, appeared as though they hadn’t been plowed in several hours or at all. Many streets had so much snow and slush piled up on them that lines marking the lanes and shoulders weren’t visible.
“We’ve got a snow plan that we follow, but eight snowplows with the size of the city we have is a challenge,” Winn said.
(City Solid Waste and Streets Manager Darren) Starr acknowledged crews haven’t yet plowed downtown streets because they don’t have anywhere to put the snow. He said it’s usually better to plow downtown at night when crews can pile the snow in the middle of the street, then scoop it into dump trucks and haul it off.
He said he doesn’t expect the city to plow residential streets for some time.
“We don’t have the resources to be doing that,” he said.
I also admire their candor in stating very matter-of-factly what the limitations are regarding the ability to get to residential streets cleared, along with the main arterials that help to keep traffic volumes moving across the entire valley.
As I look at my own un-plowed street at almost 2:30 in the afternoon, I am in full understanding of the City's limitations in providing complete snow removal service in the wake of the priorities for traffic movement and public safety.
However, I am more than a little concerned about how that level of service would be impacted by large swatches of established residential areas of unincorporated Mesa County being annexed by petition, especially when the City, with equivalent candor, states in no uncertain terms the budget issues they have.
When "eight snowplows with the size of the city we have is a challenge", how much more of a challenge will it be to plow newly-annexed sections of Fruitvale and Clifton, when financial constraints may prevent the procurement of additional equipment or personnel?
The mandatory annexations under the Persigo agreement are bad enough. Council should reject any annexation petition until the financial resources necessary to procure infrastructure to provide additional services are solidly available.
Enjoy the snow. Have a great day.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Prior to starting dinner I helped to deliver Thanksgiving dinners as part of Canyon View Vineyard's efforts to feed over 800 shut-ins and others in need of a meal that day. As was the case last year, the logistics of this effort appeared to go off without a hitch.
Sunday I attended church at the Downtown Vineyard, in their new location at the Avalon Theater. I'm still getting used to going to church in the same theater where I saw Towelhead, but the message is what matters, not the venue. And the message is a good one.
Pastor Paul Watson gave an excellent message around the concept of spiritual gifts, and how they can take hold of a church community to such an extent that the unifying and love-centered message of Christ can be corrupted and forgotten. This was the main theme of 1 Corinthians 13,
where St. Paul admonished the church at Corinth about the value, or lack thereof, of gifts such as prophecy or faith in the absence of love.
On the way out to the car I noticed the familiar red plastic bags covering the parking meters, meaning that the city has waived feeding the meters for the holiday shopping season. While I understand that the City and the Downtown Partnership want to do everything they can to encourage downtown shopping during what will likely be a lean holiday for retailers, I still feel that an opportunity was missed to provide better services for those without homes, or unable to provide for themselves or their families. I wrote about this earlier in the year. I hope they'll think about this for next year.
During the service my cell phone messaging kept going off. Afterward I read about the senseless killing of four police officers in Washington State. My prayers and thoughts go out to those affected by this tragic and truly evil act. In the context of this, and the fickle nature of the 24-hour news cycle, shame on those media outlets that made a spectacle of the misadventures of a billionaire golfer.
This week my co-producer Linda and I recorded 93 more students for the Words program. This was our second trip to the school in the last 2 months, and we got to see some of the fun that our first group of kids had with being part of the experience. A large wall display in the 7th grade section of Grand Mesa Middle School heralded some of this excitement.
It's been a good few days working with these kids. Speaking to them about their interests and favorite things to do, and helping to craft an experience that reflects who they are, has been enjoyable and rewarding in an intangible way for the last 3 years. The staff at KAFM has been supportive and accommodating as well.
Airfares are interesting things to track. Sometimes all it takes is something to do in Denver to create an opportunity that is met by a favorable price. I have an interview in Denver on Monday, but have managed to parlay that into a long weekend in Pittsburgh, thanks in part to jetBlue and Southwest Airlines.
As a result, I get to see Leslie for a few days, and may try to get some cheap seats to see the Pens on Saturday night. I would like to see one more game in the Igloo before it goes away next season. The Pens host the Avs tonight. Enough said; there are still people around here that are a little sore over the Steeler victory in Denver almost a month ago.
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
& thro' great griefs surviving to this feast
sober & still, with the children unborn and born,
among brave friends, Lord, we stand again in debt
and find ourselves in the glad position: Gratitude.
We praise our ancestors who delivered us here
within warm walls all safe, aware of music,
likely toward ample & attractive meat
with whatever accompaniment
Kate in her kind ingenuity has seen fit to devise,
and we hope - across the most strange year to come -
continually to do them and You not sufficient honour
but such as we become able to devise
out of decent or joyful conscience & thanksgiving.
Bless then, as Thou wilt, this wilderness board.
"Minnesota Thanksgiving" by John Berryman, from Collected Poems 1937-1971
© The Noonday Press.
"Homeless Christ" by Deb Hoeffner. Used with permission of artist.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I arrived back in Grand Junction in the wee hours of Nov. 4, and got about 3 hours of sleep before beginning the better part of three days of recording about 160 middle schoolers for the Words program. Post-production begins in earnest this week, with no real end in sight, as we will be recording another large group of kids in December. Despite some at times tenuous logistical and other challenges, this is a lot of fun, and has helped to keep stressful times in their place.
Since returning from Pittsburgh, I've been decidedly more reflective about things as they are, and about how they may turn in certain ways in the foreseeable future. I use this term almost laughingly; if, six years ago, I could have foreseen what was going to happen to my family and career, I would not have believed it.
In any case, the written word has been hard to come by of late, and I chalk this up to something that I can't put my finger on, save that I've been more peaceful and quiet than I can remember in a long time. For the most part, it's been a good thing. I hope that I can hold on to that feeling while I try to bring this electronic journal up to speed, along with managing the process of getting a new job in a tough economy.
The Air Medical Transport Conference in San Jose was kind of what I expected; many of these trade conferences are somewhat formulaic in their organization and presentation, and the venues are typically some cavernous convention facility that all look painfully similar, save for the unique metropolitan canvas that has been painted around each one.
The differences with this conference, aside from all of the nice helicopters in the exhibit hall, seemed to center around unspoken differences, discomforts, and uncertainties coming from those who ply their trade in the air medical industry, or who supply hard goods and/or services to it.
Some of the presentations that I attended were straightforward and very informative. An overview of proposed and pending FAA regulation of air medical services operating under Part 135 of the FAA's rules seemed to be fairly well-received by the numerous attendees present.
Some of the recent NTSB recommendations were discussed at greater length than others, but I came away from the session with what I had traveled in part to hear; that there will be a greater emphasis placed on operational control by the FAA with HEMS operators who have more than 10 aircraft operating. This means the potential for a greater number of people trained as I am to be working as part of the industry.
A presentation on dealing with "difficult" employees was interesting, but in retrospect was somewhat off the mark in my mind. The presenter had plenty of anecdotal information about different situations involving what he perceived as difficult employees, and some of the things he recounted were truly egregious. I thought he needed to more discerning between an employee who causes a specific and significant problem, and an employee who is truly difficult to manage, for whatever reason. Having at times been labeled this myself, I think it has more to do with personal mismanagement of job-related knowledge, pre-conceived notions and/or agendas, combined with just the right amount of attitude.
By far the most interesting session was conducted by Dr. Ira Blumen of the University of Chicago, on HEMS accidents. Dr. Blumen subtitled his presentation "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" to relate his session to the famous 60's spaghetti western of the same name.
Part of his stated reasoning for this was that the three main characters of the film (played by Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach) were Civil War veterans. He related this to his view of what he called a "civil war" among those engaged in the provision of air medical services. He cited the various business models, both for profit and non-profit, hospital-based and stand-alone, along with numerous organizations of physicians, pilots, nurses, paramedics, and others, some with agendas that may conflict with those of others.
Dr. Blumen and his colleagues have conducted exhaustive data collection and research into accidents involving air medical services. The NTSB and FAA have referenced his research as part of their investigation into the inordinate number of HEMS accidents during 2008. One interesting trend that is being seen is an increase in the use of single-engine aircraft, presumably due to reduced operating costs.
Another impressive part of the conference was the emphasis on safety being promulgated from many different corners. One such effort is the Vision Zero initiative, sponsored by several trade organizations along with AAMS.
I saw a lot of familiar faces, from my days in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. I saw equal measures of people who have been in the business a long time and seemed to be growing weary, and young, healthy, idealistic hard workers who had reached the top of their game and were ready to get busy.
I left San Jose with the impression that the industry was in the midst of systemic change, and while uncomfortable it is inevitable and somewhat necessary if this expensive and critical resource is to remain credible and accessible to those who need it most.
The underlying theme of systemic change is also making its way known in my personal life as well. While I was in Pittsburgh at the beginning of the month, I proposed to Leslie. She said yes.
Leslie is a strong, intelligent, independent, driven Christian woman that I've known for a long time. Those of you who have been here for a while know that she has two daughters. Gianna will turn 17 at the end of the month.
Michaela, who just turned 8, has been fighting cancer for almost 4 years now. There are new developments in her treatment course that are beginning to take shape. I'll have more about those later.
I have no other words right now other than I know what I feel when I am with Leslie. It is a mixture of calm, peace, and confidence in the face of life challenges for both of us.
As many are much more aware than I am, there are many obstacles to bringing two lives together. Family issues are unfortunately a big part of this. I'm hopeful that the gratitude we all have for being in homes, with ample food and good people both around us and thinking of us from afar, will nurture understanding as this joining of lives and hearts moves toward becoming a reality.
Leslie recommended a good movie that I found in the Redbox and watched yesterday. Not Easily Broken is an excellent story about how life can be good and joyful, even when it's challenging from more than a few fronts, expected and otherwise. If you're interested further, grab it up.
I was out getting a turkey and other things for Thursday's meal today, and one other thing I did was to take up Ralph D'Andrea's suggestion from a few days ago, and drop off a 21 lb. turkey at the Salvation Army offices on 4th Street. It will be used to feed the many in our community who are in need of a good meal on Thanksgiving Day.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I know it's been a while, and I'm almost done with a post that will hopefully fill in some of the gap of the last few weeks. That will be here tomorrow, I hope.
Yesterday's sermon at Canyon View Vineyard highlighted the work of Convoy of Hope, a non-profit group that specializes in providing water, food, supplies, and personnel to people in need. Their work appears to be responsive, effective, and efficient. You may want to consider them in your end-of-year charitable giving.
Yesterday also marked the end of the NASCAR season, which means I am thankful (and hopeful) for the end of those ridiculous NASCAR Raceday ads on nearly every Bresnan channel I watch.
That was the start of what I hope will be a good week of giving thanks in a simple, direct way. I hope to have more examples as the week progresses, and while I bear no ill will toward the retail sector, it seems appropriate for me this year to hope that this Friday's convocation of the First Church of My Stuff will be smaller in size and bad craziness, and that we can enjoy something akin to what Father Guido Sarducci called a "Little Christmas".
Today's installment of The Writer's Almanac included the excerpt below, which touched me as one reason to give thanks for the stability we enjoy in this country, regardless of who is in charge, or how much we make of the comparatively small problems and issues we may encounter each day.
Today is the 29th birthday of Ishmael Beah, (books by this author) born in the fishing town of Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone (1980). He's the author of the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007), published when he was 26 years old and chosen as No. 3 on Time magazine's list of 10 best nonfiction books of 2007. That year, Starbucks chose Beah's memoir as its Featured Book and displayed it at thousands of coffeehouses around the country.Enjoy your week ahead.
When Beah was 12, Sierra Leone was in the midst of a brutal civil war, but his town seemed far removed from it, and he was busy memorizing Shakespeare and performing in a dance and rap ensemble. Then the rebel army came into his town and started shooting. His parents and brothers were killed. He recounted: "I ran away, along paths and roads that were littered with dead bodies, some mutilated in ways so horrible that looking at them left a permanent scar on my memory. I ran for days, weeks and months, and I couldn't believe that the simple and precious world I had known, where nights were celebrated with storytelling and dancing and mornings greeted with the singing of birds and cock crows, was now a place where only guns spoke and sometimes it seemed even the sun hesitated to shine."
The Sierra Leone government army conscripted him; by the time he was 13 he was carrying an AK-47 and constantly high on drugs — speed pills and also "brown-brown," a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder that the child soldiers were given to sniff. For two years, he fought constantly in bloody battles.
Then, there came a directive to disarm child soldiers, and he was chosen by the army to go to a UNICEF-sponsored rehabilitation center, where he spent eight months.
He got in touch with a woman in New York who worked for an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), whom he'd met when he'd been invited to speak at a UN conference earlier. He asked her if he could live with her. She agreed and sent him some money and clothes. He narrowly escaped from Sierra Leone into Guinea, and then went on to New York, where the Brooklyn Jewish woman officially adopted him. He finished high school in New York, graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a political science degree in 2004, and wrote his memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.
Ishmael Beah, who said, "I believe children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance."
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
After finishing Aircraft Dispatcher school, I found an opportunity to do kind of the same thing, while getting the latest information on an industry that has long been of interest to me, and made up a good portion of the best part of my career.
The Air Medical Transport Conference, here through this evening, is the annual gathering of the Association of Air Medical Services. Back in the 80's, the organization was known as ASHBEAMS (American Society of Hospital-Based Emergency Air Medical Services), and changed their name to AAMS in the early 90's. It's certainly more reflective of the international scope of the profession, as well as the varied ways that these services are delivered around the world.
I wanted to see how the industry has changed, how it compares to other segments of EMS that I've been more familiar with from recent work experience, and what challenges exist from a financial, regulatory, and operational perspective. This is of particular interest, given some significant changes in business models, service delivery modalities, and the attention of government to the manner that the industry operates in the wake of one of the worst years for accidents and fatalities in recent memory.
I had a pretty good time here; it was about par with most conference trips I've taken since that loss leader tour over 20 years ago. I'll have much more about what I saw and found out over the next few days.
In the meantime, I'm glad that I'm not flying back to Denver tonight. I would likely not be getting there. It looks like when I do return early next week, the snow flying tonight will be melting like crazy, as temperatures are forecast to be in the 60's.
Have a good rest of the week.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Due to scheduling issues, my FAA oral and practical exam was moved from last weekend to yesterday. Despite having to slug my way through the manual flight plan from hell, things went very well, and I now have my FAA Aircraft Dispatcher license. I drove back to Grand Junction last night.
There's lots to get caught up with, and I'm going to have a very busy few days before getting on the road again next week. School was an interesting and fairly intense experience, considering the body of knowledge and the need to be able to combine all of the study areas into the ability to exercise what is known as Operational Control in some segments of the aviation industry.
There are some segments of the industry in which I have an ongoing interest and considerable experience, and I'm going to try to pursue those avenues as much as possible. The location of those opportunities will probably play a big role in where I go, but for now I'm interested in getting into an aviation-related business somewhere close.
It's the beginning of another interesting road. The journey is what makes it worthwhile.
Have a great evening.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
That's about as far as I'll go into speculating about the sad end to the life of a husband, father, police officer. The loud headlines and reporting told everything else that will sell newspapers and boost the almighty ratings book, but told precious little about what was going on with this man, and what his real story might have been.
I knew this man, not well enough to say anything profound about his final days or his motives. I certainly did read enough about his missteps, alleged and otherwise, under the byline of the Daily Sentinel's new crime dog, Paul Shockley. He has certainly taken the bull by the horns in reporting on numerous stories of late involving crime, prosecutors, and the court system.
In recent weeks, Mr. Shockley explored the alleged criminal activity of Mr. Coyne and former officer Courtney Crooks with a fervor and diligence that calls up something between a James Ellroy potboiler and the latest exploits of Nancy Grace. I was riveted, I tell you, by the sordid account of then-Deputy Coyne of the Santa Rosa County (FL) Sheriff's Department crashing his patrol car. Wow....
I believe that the jury is still out on whether this latest reporting will contribute to substantive improvements in our community's impression of law enforcement. In the meantime, I'm visualizing Mr. Shockley hunched over an old Underwood portable, clacking away like Danny DeVito, "on the Q.T, and very hush-hush".
To his credit, Mr. Shockley has also taken an approach to crime reporting that I haven't seen in a long while. When a member of the media mentions the "recommended bond schedule" that judges follow when deciding how much bail to assign a defendant for release from jail pending trial, it's a unique occurrence. Considering the largely unreported number of outstanding warrants in our court system, this line of reporting could definitely be some interesting reading, especially when judicial retention elections are on the horizon. Keep it up.
As the other paper in town opined recently, in GJPD we still trust. Having been part of that department for a lot of years, and having spent my share of that time in management's doghouse, I can appreciate the extraordinary amount of diligence and effort that goes into assuring that whoever represents the department as an employee is capable of that role from all manner of perspectives and requirements. Due diligence in these areas makes a lot of sense, and Chief Camper's request for an outside audit can certainly help sharpen those processes, and/or bring some of the realities of trying to find qualified people into sharp perspective.
Here's to success in those future efforts, along with a wish for measured, careful, diligent reporting of crime and punishment in the local media.
I take my FAA oral and practical examination this weekend, and if successful I will walk away a licensed Aircraft Dispatcher. Then the real fun will start.
Have a good week ahead.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Nobody wants to change themselves.
I'm not going to delve into the particulars of the individuals accused, and subsequently separated from the department. The mainstream media will handle all of that very well. My concern lies with the remainder of the employees of the GJPD, and how the culture of that organization functions as a mechanism of support for those trying to ply the trade in the wake of another wave of negative publicity.
Ralph D'Andrea had a thoughtful post yesterday on the nature of the investigation. He brought up the idea of a civilian review board, and increased transparency when it comes to these types of investigations. It's worth a read.
From my perspective, I think that you have to have the ability to laugh at yourself to survive some of the stressors of the job. One factor that affects communications people is maintaining readiness when all the work is caught up, and you're just manning the phones and radios waiting for the next call.
Early on in my tenure at GJRCC, I once compared a dispatcher's cross-stitch project to a black velvet Elvis painting. The following shift, the inside of my locker was plastered with magazine photos of "The King". I kept those up until the day I left for good, in part to laugh at myself, and in part to remind myself of the need to express myself judiciously and carefully.
Here are some pictures of the Fruita Police Department's entry in the Bed Races at last month's Fruita Fall Festival. Pig noses, pink pajama bottoms, and an exquisitely decorated chariot with the team's name on the side.
To quote the Fruita officer's Facebook page where these pictures came from, "I think we cover almost all the cliches we could think of". And yes, that appears to be a donut on the end of a fishing line.
This is what I mean by being able to let loose a little bit and laugh at yourself. Public Safety is a serious business, but the human factors need to be addressed as well, perhaps over and above tangible items like compensation and benefits.
I can certainly see not only the public relations benefits of these types of activities, but also the positive effects on those doing the job, perhaps to keep them from taking themselves too seriously. Well done.
In previous posts I've mentioned the activities of Housing First! No More Deaths!, a homeless advocacy group that had its genesis over this past summer. Apparently the group continues to meet on Tuesdays in Whitman Park. According to a post on Facebook and several independent media websites:
Mr. Richards' supporters conducted a call-in campaign on October 1, targeting GJPD officials, Mayor Bruce Hill, and District Attorney Pete Hautzinger. Mr. Richards was released the following day. In a comment on colorado.indymedia.org, Mr. Richards admitted that he did have a warrant for his arrest, and also stated that "the way it was handled speaks to political retribution and/or intimidation".
"An organizer of the Housing First! No More Deaths! campaign was arrested 09/29/09 during the group's weekly meeting, in an act of politically targeted police abuse of power. Housing First! No More Deaths! is committed to empowering people to actively and collectively work to address root causes of houselessness and create grassroots solutions.
The arrest of Jacob Richards was an obvious act of retribution for his political activities. On 9/28/09, Richards assisted local houseless community members who were being harassed in a public park by two officers from the Grand Junction Police Department. The same two officers returned on 9/29/09 during the publicly advertised campaign meeting, asked Richards to identify himself, and arrested him on an unrelated petty matter."
Sounds to me that the police did their job, albeit with a sense of timing and decorum that can best be described as questionable. As I said back in July, this group is probably not going to go away, and it is their stated intent to educate the homeless population as to their rights as citizens, and work proactively toward providing shelter and other services for those that may not otherwise have access to them.
This will likely continue to grate at those who seek to gentrify the south downtown area, and put the homeless out of sight. I've walked the 16th Street Mall in Denver in the late evening, and if they can't put them out of sight there, what chance does Grand Junction think they have?
Regardless of what your opinion is of this segment of our population, it's getting cold and lives are at stake. As CNN and other news outlets across the country are reporting almost daily, this is a nationwide trend, and not limited to large metro areas. The next iteration of this trend is starting to impact those cities; hopefully this is something that the Grand Valley can avoid in the future.
Both sides in this need to continue what I thought was a reasonable attempt at dialogue. If the above account is accurate as to the facts, then Mr. Richards should pay his fines, and the GJPD should exercise their statutory authority with a little more of an ear toward diplomacy.
Now run along and play nice...
Light Gives Heat's mission statement is "Empowering Africans through the encouragement of economic stability and creative endeavors. Motivating people in the West to 'be the change they want to see in the world'". Those in GJ may remember the group selling necklaces made in Uganda at a few Farmer's Markets this past summer.
The quote at the top of this page came from their website, and it's given me pause as I embark on an unknown path after school is finished. Leslie would like this.
Kate is documenting her experience in a blog, which can be read here. I'll feature it in the Favorite Blogs sidebar as well. I'm thinking that regardless of the trappings of a career path, this experience will likely be more rewarding for Kate than being a weather girl in Albuquerque.
Best wishes and godspeed in your travels, Kate.
It's yet unclear if the City of Englewood will appeal. More information is available via the ACLU of Colorado's website. An editorial in today's Denver Post embellished the point even further. Congratulations to the appellants on their hopefully permanent victory.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
For those unfamiliar, the Tech Center is a large complex of office buildings, southeast of downtown Denver along the Interstate 25 corridor. It houses among other things numerous media companies that call the Denver area home, and benefit from its location along the 105 Degree Meridian, which optimizes satellite transmission to many parts of the world.
The streets that traverse the Tech Center are largely unlit at night, owing perhaps to its mostly weekday, 9-to-5 population. Combined with the darkness of the streets and the surrounding buildings, driving through it is an eerie, dark experience for an area with so many people and activity around it. This is even true when there are significant numbers within the complex, enjoying a show at Fiddler's Green Amphitheater as was the case last night.
From South Quebec Street, the directional signs to the Village Shops at the Landmark are unlit and difficult to see; once in this large high-end residential and retail area, the subdued nature of it was still evident. Like Fiddler's Green, the complex feels out of place in the sterile environment of the glass box office towers, kind of like wildflowers sprouting between the cracks in a shopping mall parking lot. Among plenty of parked cars, mostly-shuttered retail shops and a few scattered bars and restaurants between two large high-rise condominium buildings, the only discernible noise was the constant drone of traffic on I-25.
I was there to see a movie at the Landmark Theatres complex there, specifically Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story. This was a unique experience for me, beginning with the theatre itself; the movie cost $12, but all the popcorn and soft drinks you want are included. There is also a full bar that serves some unique appetizers if you are so inclined. I was reminded of the line in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta's character says that you can go to a movie in Amsterdam and buy a beer, "and I don't mean a cup, I mean a glass of beer".
For long-time readers here it should come as no surprise that I am a fan of Mr. Moore and his work. This latest film is more personal than his most recent movies, as he used many references to his own childhood in the Flint, Michigan area, and included his own father and several catholic priests of his acquaintance.
Some of his antics were overly simple and predictable, but in the end rather effective in delivering a message. He fires salvos at Democrats and Republicans alike, and speaks with the American equivalent of Tony Benn, the former British M.P. who made such a splash in Sicko.
And don't get me started on dead peasants...
The parts that I enjoyed the most were those that lent historical perspective to what has happened in recent months. Specifically, the Flint Sit-Down Strike, and the use of archival, previously unseen newsreel footage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt calling for a "Second Bill of Rights" after the end of World War II, which he did not live to see. My favorite part of the movie was a too-short homage to Dr. Jonas Salk. I'm wondering what Big Pharma was thinking back then...
If you have a vested interest in the financial forces that influence our government (and if you lost money as a result of the near-crash and bailout, you do), I would strongly recommend taking a couple of hours to see this. Many of you will no doubt disagree with some of Mr. Moore's conclusions and assertions, but he does put on a good show, and regardless of how you personally feel about Mr. Moore or his politics, you will come away with a better appreciation of the nature of the beast.
As with most of Mr. Moore's latest work, the enlightenment extends through the credits, so if you do go, stick around for them. His choice of music to run behind those credits is very interesting.
Time for bed.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Denver - This past week at school was as advertised; heavy on math, procedures, and understanding manual processes that have been largely computerized across the aviation industry. Nevertheless, the work is challenging, I understand the reasons behind it, and I appear to be holding my own. All of my test scores have been 90 or above so far.
We get into navigation this week, which doesn't look like a picnic either. While this is going on I'll be starting to review the material from previous weeks in preparation for the class final and FAA written exam in just under two weeks. I'll be here until at least then.
I apologize in advance for having to limit myself in the frequency of my posts while I'm at school, but it's necessary. Here's some things that caught my eye over the last week:
Senator Russ Feingold introduced the JUSTICE Act (Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts) last week. According to an excellent overview by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this bill is "the perfect vehicle for reform of the surveillance powers in the PATRIOT Act, as well as the much broader and more dangerous FISA Amendments Act (FAA), the warrantless surveillance law that was passed by Congress last summer". More information is available through the Good Law Tracker in the sidebar of this blog.
It seemed less than coincidental to me that the government would announce arrests in five separate, reportedly unrelated terrorism cases during the same week that this legislation was introduced. This included the Najibullah Zazi case that made so much of last week's news here in Denver and elsewhere. Sunday's Denver Post also included a Page 1 story about some of the tools that may have been used to monitor Zazi and his activities.
Regardless of what tools were used and to what level of success they achieved, they require additional scrutiny and control when they are used, especially if they involve the lawful activities of U.S. citizens. The JUSTICE Act will also remove the telecom company immunity included in the FAA last year, so that they can be held accountable for their actions in supporting surveillance of citizens that has been held as unconstitutional.
The act deserves serious consideration and support from those on all sides of the political spectrum who value individual liberty.
The canal roads are truly beautiful in places, but the provincial nature of the irrigation companies to deny access to them, and legally thwart the City's efforts to use them for other purposes, is kind of ridiculous.
Gene's post today about the Regional Center combined his personal knowledge as a volunteer and parent of a special-needs child with his passion for assuring that these all too easily forgotten members of our society receive the care they deserve.
Gene made a bold assertion - that moving some of these patients will cost them their lives - but I think he knows about what he speaks, at least about this topic. I also think it's great that Libby is a therapy dog. She's a little sweetheart.
The G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh went off without a hitch, but the surrounding protest activities will likely keep lawyers, courts, and bureaucrats busy for some time.
The protests were both innovative (hanging a banner from the West End Bridge - nice) and confrontational. The police exercised restraint in some areas and stupidity in others. As Denver experienced with police handling of the DNC last year, it appears that some of the rules of engagement (for lack of a more acceptable term) include subdue and arrest first, settle out of court later.
It has been reported by several media outlets that students at Pitt and other passers-by were taken down, tear gassed, and shot with bean bag rounds for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bad form...
The backlash has already started, and doesn't look as if it will quiet down until some form of punitive action against over-reacting police is secured, as well as substantive change in local tactical planning for these types of events. Being familiar with some of the players, such as the Thomas Merton Center and a very potent local ACLU chapter, there won't be any letting up.
But he who perverts his ways will become known.
Matt and Meredith on NBC were blathering on about Roman Polanski while I was reading this, so I guess that inane morning television contributed to this line of thinking on my part. It could have been worse; Fox and Friends, who needs enemies?
Anyway, I tried to think about what motivates someone to try to become predatory in the way that Polanski did, or Johnnie Walker thought he was doing. I came up empty. It's just not worth the time or effort to me to try to figure these people out.
Polanski certainly had it harder than most, with his pregnant wife being murdered and all, and I certainly couldn't do the job of the District Attorney in continuing to pursue this after 30-plus years. I guess it comes down to what you really want in the end.
Leslie asks me that question all the time - what do you want? Peace, tranquility, and fulfillment, being with her, and seeing our children grow up around us honorably, is definitely part of it, but otherwise I haven't a clue. All I know is that the path I've found myself on is sometimes a hell of a way to go about it.