Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel

My Photo
Location: Sitting inside a TV truck, Somewhere, more then likely in the Southeastern region, United States

I am a grouchy, bald headed old fart filled with opinions and not the least bit shy about sharing them.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Police chase and chopper crash

Friday brought a tragic end to a police chase. But unlike most tragically ended chases, the people killed were not hit by the fleeing vehicle. Helicopters belonging to KPNX and KTVK covering the chase collided in midair bringing both down in fiery crashes. There were two people in each chopper, all four people were killed on impact.

At the post chase press conference, the Chief of Police Jack Harris said he would pursue charges in the helicopter accident against the person the police were chasing.

I have a problem with that. Some of what we do in news gathering is risky. Driving toward an area that is being evacuated is just one example of the risks we take. We all accept that risk when we accept the job.

Flying in helicopters is also risky. My father introduced me to concept of helicopters with the words, "From the moment a helicopter takes off to the moment it lands, it is going to try to kill you. As pilot, your job is to keep it from accomplishing that goal."

As tricky as helicopters are, in this case there is only one possibility for the cause of the crash. One or both pilots failed to pay enough attention to where they were flying. The military phrase is "Situational Awareness."

Charging the fleeing suspect in a midair collision and crash is more then a stretch. It is a joke. As tragic as this event is, there is no criminal intent here. It was an accident. If the police chief wants to charge someone he should start with myself and everyone like me that watch those chases with rapt attention on television.

Rest in peace Jim, Scott, Craig and Rick. You left us too soon. May the people you behind heal quickly.


A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other. And if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying immediately and disastrously.
- Harry Reasoner

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A feline escort into the next life.

Oscar is the mascot on a locked ward for the terminally dementia patients at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, RI. Oscar got a write up in the New England Journal of Medicine this month for his uncanny ability to identify a patient that will die in the next few hours and then stay with that person until they pass.

Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. She is surrounded by photographs of her grandchildren and one from her wedding day. Despite these keepsakes, she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and again sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K.

One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar's presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.'s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.

Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, "What is the cat doing here?" The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, "He is here to help Grandma get to heaven." Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices.

The New England Journal of Medicine: A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat by David M. Dosa, M.D., M.P.H.

Oscar's sense for death is remarkable. In fact his record is so good that caregivers summon relatives when they find Oscar resting with a patient.

In the two years since Oscar was adopted into the third-floor dementia unit of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, he has maintained close vigil over the deaths of more than 25 patients, according to nursing staff, doctors who treat patients in the home, and an article in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine, written by Dosa.

When death is near, Oscar nearly always appears at the last hour or so. Yet he shows no special interest in patients who are simply in poor shape, or even patients who may be dying but who still have a few days. Animal behavior experts have no explanation for Oscar's ability to sense imminent death. They theorize that he might detect some subtle change in metabolism -- felines are as acutely sensitive to smells as dogs -- but are stumped as to why he would show interest.

"It may just come down to empathy," said Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, a leading behaviorist and professor at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, when told about Oscar's eerie knack.

In any event, when Oscar settles beside a patient on the bed, caregivers take it as sign that family members should be summoned immediately to bid their loved one farewell.

"We've come to recognize him hopping on the bed as one indicator the end is very near," said Mary Miranda, charge nurse in the Safe Haven Advanced Care Unit, the formal name of the surprisingly cheery floor that is home to 41 patients suffering in the final stages of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke, and other mentally debilitating diseases. "Oscar's been consistently right."Read on...

The Boston Globe: With a purr, death comes on little cat feet

The experts are all guessing as to how Oscar senses the end is near. Others are speculating as to why Oscar holds his vigils with dying patients.

How Does He Know?

Explaining Oscar's track record and seeming ability to "read" a resident's end-of-life stages and predict death is a mystery, Dosa and others at the nursing home acknowledge. "Your guess is as good as mine," Dosa says when asked how Oscar picks up the sense of impending death.

"We know from some objective findings when death is imminent," Dosa says. For instance, if respirations grow difficult in a very sick patient, he says, doctors may tell loved ones death will probably occur soon.

The cat, however, might be picking up on specific odors surrounding death, Dosa and other says.

"I think there are certain chemicals released when somene is dying, and he is smelling and sensing those," says Joan Teno, MD, professor of community health and medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, R.I., who also cares for Steere House residents.

Another possibility: "I think he is following the patterning behavior of the staff," Teno tells WebMD. "This is an excellent nursing home. If a dying person is alone, the staff will actually go in so the patient is not alone. They will hold a vigil."

Oscar has seen that pattern repeated many times, she says, and may be mimicking it.

"Animals are intuitive," she says. "We don't give them enough credit."

One of the first cases, Teno says, involved a resident who had a blood clot in her leg. "Her leg was ice cold," Teno says. "Oscar wrapped his body around her leg," she says, and stayed until the woman died.

Animal Experts Weigh In

Three animal behavior experts say the explanation about Oscar sensing a smell associated with dying is a plausible one.

"I suspect he is smelling some chemical released just before dying," says Margie Scherk, DVM, president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, an organization devoted to improving the health and well-being of cats, and a veterinarian in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Cats can smell a lot of things we can't," she says. "And cats can certainly detect

"Cats have a superb sense of smell," adds Jill Goldman, PhD, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Laguna Beach, Calif. In Oscar's case, she says, keeping a dying resident company may also be learned behavior. "There has been ample opportunity for him to make an association between 'that' smell [and death]," she says.

While the sense of smell may be one explanation, there could be another, says Daniel Estep, PhD, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colo. "One of the things that happen with people who are dying is that they are not moving around much. Maybe the cat is picking up on the fact that the person on the bed is very quiet. It may not be smell or sounds, but just the lack of movement."

CBS News: Cat's "Sixth Sense" Predicting Death?

We know so little about what goes on inside the mind of an Animal. Animals know so much more then we could ever guess. Imagine what they could teach us if they could talk.

But would we have the wisdom to listen and learn?

- 30 -

I have it on good authority that Death likes cats and brings Oscar a Kitty Treat (tm) every time he stops by.
- Uplinktruck

Labels: ,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Nextel/Sprint did what?

Daytona Beach, FL - According to numerous reports Sprint has finally found a way to deal with their most "squeaky wheel" consumers. Recently, Sprint fired those consumers that continually pestered Sprint's stunningly incompetent customer service to fix repeated and ongoing billing errors, technical problems, service issues.

That's right, as of the end of this July, many of those squeaky wheels will have to be with another carrier. Check it out:

If you persistently insist that Sprint fix their numerous errors you will be dropped as a customer, according to reader Michael. He's been having trouble with Sprint but instead of resolving his problem, they've decided to drop him as a customer according to a letter he received yesterday. The letter reads:

"Our records indicate that over the past year, we have received frequent calls from you regarding your billing or other general account information. While we have worked to resolve your issues and questions to the best of our ability, the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs..."

The Consumerist: Sprint Drops You Because You Call Customer Service Too Much

What happened to the good old days where the consumer fired the company for bad service?

Never have liked Sprint/Nextel, never will.


A significant set of companies do not see customer care as strategic to their companies and will need to change.
- Sanjay Kumar


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

If this isn't a scam, why is it legal?

Morrisville, NC - A good friend of mine went through her credit card statements only to discovered that the interest on her Amazon sponsored credit card through Chase Bank had been jacked up to 22.24% annually. Puzzled, as she had in introductory rate of 5.9% that was still well within the allotted period she called to have the mistake corrected.

The telephone clerk explained that Chase had determined she was carrying "too much debt" so (apparently in order to insure it stays that way) they jacked her interest rate up by over 300%. The clerk claims she was sent a notice telling her that was coming, but my friend can't find it in any of the mail she received from them. If you knew this Lady you would know how she saves every little piece of paper, no matter how obscure, so I believe her.

I have several problems with this latest dump on the basic consumer. The first and foremost of which appears to be a mystery. No one seems to be able to define what yard stick Chase is using to decide who is carrying too much debt. My friend always makes more then the minimum payment and has a sterling on time pay record. Does someone get up in the morning and randomly draw names over their morning coffee?

Another problem is an arbitrary 14% plus jack in rates with little or no notice. What if the consumer wants time to move the debt to an account with a reasonable interest rate? What if Chase's debt load determination is in error? According to my friend, the Chase's clerk stated their findings are not up for debate.

Last, but clearly of major concern is this: Why would a credit card company set a consumer up to fail like that? Is the goal to keep that consumer in debt for the rest of his/her life? The new interest rate at the payments she has been making will keep her chained to this debt well into the middle of the next decade.

So if you are considering one of those generous interest rate credit card offers from Amazon.com, take a really good look at the fine print and consider this horror story.

Note: Chase absolutely refused to discuss the "too much debt interest rate" with me. The person with no name at the home office said they did not have time for bloggers and hung up on me.

- 30 -

You want 21 percent risk free? Pay off your credit cards.
- Andrew Tobias

Labels: ,

Monday, July 09, 2007

Laws and rules gone wild...

Durham, NC - From the national news briefs in today's Durham, NC Herald-Sun...

A 70 year old woman was arrested and suffered a broken nose at the hands of an Orem, UT police officer. Her crime: failing to properly maintain her lawn.

Two days after Independence Day, 70-year-old Betty Perry experienced an ordeal she said shouldn't be happening in America.

The retired military and U.S. government employee answered the door at her home Friday morning to talk with a police officer about her bone-dry lawn and ended up getting arrested and suffering a bloody nose.

"What have I done?" she asked. "I'm old now. I can't believe this."

The Orem police officer, as yet unnamed by city officials, cited Perry for violating a city ordinance with her "sadly neglected and dying landscape," which resembles dry hay.

When Perry refused to give her name and tried to walk inside to call her son, the officer tried to arrest her, police say. According to a police news release, while she was struggling, she tripped and fell on her doorstop, cutting open the bridge of her nose.

But Perry maintains the officer split her nose when he hit her with the set of handcuffs he was trying to restrain her with.

"As far as I'm concerned, he really abused me - he brutally abused me," Perry said. "For what?"

The officer called for backup, because he was driving a truck, and the now-handcuffed Perry was taken to a holding facility in Orem. She was not given water or allowed to wash her hands or call her son, she said.

"After being booked, supervisors became aware of the circumstances and immediately released the woman and returned her to her home on the basis that there were other options available to handle this situation besides making an arrest and holding the woman in jail," Orem police Lt. Doug Edwards wrote in the news release.

The Salt Lake City Tribune: Bloody nose for having a dry lawn

And a sixth grade student got a four month sentence to an alternative school for writing "I love Alex" in an already graffiti infested area. That's four months with the gang banger want-to-be, drug using, gun toting kids.

Shelby Sendelbach, a sixth-grader in the Katy Independent School District, was read her rights, ticketed and punished with a mandatory four-month assignment to an alternative school because she wrote "I love Alex" on a gymnasium wall with a baby blue Sharpie.

The graffiti offense is a Level 4 infraction in the district's discipline plan, along with making terroristic threats, possessing dangerous drugs, and assaulting with bodily injury. Only a Level 5 — for murder, possessing firearms, committing aggravated or sexual assault, arson or other felonies — is more severe.

The Houston Chronicle: Writing on school wall gets Katy sixth-grader pulled

What has gone so terribly wrong in this country that a 70 year old woman can be injured, handcuffed and dragged from her home over a badly maintained lawn. What has happened to our school systems that resolving discipline problems frequently involves the police department and the politically correct version of reform school?

This has got to stop...

- 30 -

For some reason, I seem to be bothered whenever I see acts of injustice and assaults on people's civil liberties. I imagine what I write in the future will follow in that vein. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction.
- Iris Chang

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 02, 2007

One more stupid law we don't need...

Fayetteville, NC - I stumbled across this via Slashdot and it really got me to thinking.

Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks.

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.

Julianne Cho, assistant commissioner of the film office, said the rules were not intended to apply to families on vacation or amateur filmmakers or photographers.

Nevertheless, the New York Civil Liberties Union says the proposed rules, as strictly interpreted, could have that effect. The group also warns that the rules set the stage for selective and perhaps discriminatory enforcement by police.

“These rules will apply to a huge range of casual photography and filming, including tourists taking snapshots and people making short videos for YouTube,” said Christopher Dunn, the group’s associate legal director.

The New York Times: City May Seek Permit and Insurance for Many Kinds of Public Photography

That's just not right. There are already way to many police officers, security guards and just plain folk that think they can stop you from taking pictures from public streets, sidewalks and on public property.*

Now the City of New York wants to codify a permit law that "is not intended" to apply to your basic tourist, but we all know that it will. As vague as the rules are it will simply be used as an excuse to hassle and harass anyone with a camera.

What is it with government on every level always thinking they need another law to solve problems that do not exist?

*Before anyone starts taking this farther then intended, public property is just that: property owned by the public. Shopping malls, amusement parks, theaters, etc are private property that invites the public in. However while you are on their property, you have to obey their rules. So don't go taking pictures inside your local mall and start arguing public property law with a security troll unless you want to be banned from the mall and possibly arrested.

- 30 -

For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished freedom is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while there was still time.
- George Sutherland

Labels: ,