Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

This image, a watercolor by artist Steve Mumfort just brings home the meaning of Memorial Day for me. It pictures a cadre of soldiers who have just heard of the death of a colleague. Of course, scenes of sorrow will radiate outward from the battlefield hospital, to a city or town, to parents, significant others, wives, husbands, grandparents and on out into the community as a whole.
I can't remember where I heard it--it was a remark in passing, perhaps on the radio or on a blog, but someone was thinking of what Memorial Day meant. Noting that it was even hard to get people to go visit the graves of their family members who had passed, many neglected this day of thanks and remembrance for those who gave their lives to help preserve freedom for our country and to protect the innocent in other countries.

If we forget that war = death, and neglect the true meaning of Memorial Day, we might get just a little too casual about the making of war. This may have already happened; with the lack of a draft, a very tiny percentage of people end up serving in the armed forces. Thus we are not touched by the losses of life to the violence of war. The horror of war, even though often transmitted through vivid pictures and video, is distant. It seems like a video game, not something real. No, it is all too real. When people are killed in war, they bleed real blood, have real limbs torn off, and die real deaths--they are not here any more. We must realize that war can be the end of humanity to paraphrase JFK.

Never forgot what it costs to be free. That is what Memorial Day is for, to remind us not to forget.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's Sunday--After a Long Week--Therefore--Kittens!

Wayside Waifs and other animal shelters are full of kittens right now. I stopped in to visit on Friday this past week.

I have to say I have never seen so many cute, energetic and pretty kittens all in one place before.

It was a kittenpalooza there--and it's not just Wayside Waifs. All the shelters in the metro are reporting in with lots of kittens.

Here is the smallest "cone of shame" I have ever seen...probably weighed more then this little girl.

Alert tabby and white beguiles visitors with her charms. Note the ear tufts--nice flourish.

They are better in pairs really--if you have no pets now, and are considering adopting young ones, consider two...

They play with each other, not you so much. Cuts down on the kitten scratches and nibbles.

Wayside also have adorable puppies and grown cat and dogs. Most of the dogs are still very young--this shepherd mix is only two.

Animal rescues and shelters in our area have been helping out in the tornado zones by collecting animals that had been in the shelters and rescues in those areas--particularly Joplin, MO--and bringing them up here to KC for possible adoption. This frees up space in the shelters there for animals that are found in the process of rescue, recovery and clean up. In that way, reuniting owners with their beloved pets is more possible. Also supplies are being given out to pet owners in the damaged areas to help them feed and keep their animals healthy.

Wayside Waifs is at 3901 Martha Truman Road in south KC. On the web at Phone 816-761-8151.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What If?

What if this ticket had won in 2004 instead of Bush/Cheney returning to the White House? Would the excesses of the housing lending industry been caught and corrected? Would the economy have followed the course it did--or gone down sooner? Would we be in Iraq and Afghanistan still? How would the Kerry/Edwards White House done with the disaster of Katrina? Would they have been reelected in 2008? What about Mr. Edwards' problems with infidelity? Would it have happened? Would it have come to light sooner than 2007? Would taxes be really high and industry buried in "green" regulation? Would Congress have stayed republican in 2006? What would public discourse be like now? Would there be room for the "classical" republican--or would such people still be scorned as RINOs?

We will never know, but it's revealing to play the game of "what if"--to see where we've been and where we went, and where we could go from here.

Shameless Plug: If you are interested in other varieties of Nostalgia, I invite you to visit my new blog Little Attacks of Nostalgia. It will be home to any variety of old things that I find interesting. Maybe you will find them interesting too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Monitoring the Weather: Just Too Geeky For Words

This is what I was doing on my personal Facebook page this morning. I suppose if I was a true weather geek, I would have been chasing the baby funnels, camera in hand. All I was doing was sitting in my safe place with my scanner, my AM radio, and my Blackberry. I was looking at radar on the browser, listening to the reports from police and fire on the MERS channel, and updating Facebook by switching to the app after I figured out I could.

Yeah, that's geeky.

I hope everyone got through today's little outbreak of F0 tornadoes without any damage. I personally would go for some totally boring sunshine, temperature around 80. Is there any hope for me?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Presidents and Disasters

Some have given President Barack Obama some grief for not going to the tornado scene in Joplin right away. He also got some mild push back for not going to Alabama until a number of days had passed. Those with memories will remember that President G.W.Bush got it six ways to Sunday about merely "flying over" New Orleans in the earliest days of recovery after hurricane Katrina. So, should the POTUS go to disaster areas? If so, when?

Now, I view this more from the point of the first responder. I could give a care about the "optics" of a situation. I think that President Bush was 100% right in his call to not go on the ground too soon after Katrina. I think President Obama hit just the right time in Alabama, after the majority, if not all, of rescue and recovery was completed, but before too much clean up had happened. He could do all of it: be a consoling presence, show leadership and get the really cool pictures in the rubble, without being disruptive to what was going on.

So here are my parameters: The visit must not complicate the lives of the fire service, EMS, or law enforcement at all. The president should be as "self contained" as possible--bringing as much of his own logistics as he can. Saving of life and property must always be the first priority; if a president's visit will slow that, it needs to wait. There are other ways to show that you care--videos, radio addresses, statements in speeches, etc. etc.--that can be used until a ground presence is not a major hindrance. People do appreciate the president coming by, I think that is true, but it must not take resources from the immediate task at hand.

We in Missouri will welcome Mr. Obama when he comes--currently scheduled for Sunday. It might be sooner if conditions in Missouri can tolerate it and the president has to return from Europe early due to the volcanic ash cloud's affects on air travel.

Addendum: I left this post and I was pretty satisfied with it. And then I wasn't. So I am adding this and modifying the last paragraph, which had suffered from an invasion of partisan snark. Because I am not going to pick at any president politically for how he handles going into disaster sites. Or not going, as the case may be. People who pick at this topic are incredibly inconsistent: Republicans defend Bush for not rushing to New Orleans, yet rake Obama over the coals for not going to Missouri. I am thinking you are better off sticking to general principles, and judging according to those principles, applying criticism evenly, regardless of political labels. Using disasters for political gain is incredibly distasteful to me. It is not a time to trot out nasty partisan politics--it is a time to pull together and help those who need help, both now and in the long term.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Joplin Hit By Tornado Sunday

The problem with tornadoes is that when they hit, they are close to 100% destructive. The bigger, stronger, wider and meaner they are, the more we need the advanced notice to do what we can to protect our lives. However, they do not give the lead time of hurricanes, and they are random in appearance. This "thunderstorm-complex-capable-of-producing-a-tornado" makes no twisters, this one makes a little F1 that stays on the ground for five minutes--and we are bitching because the local media interrupted programming for warnings and watches. Then this storm produces--not nothing or a piddling F1 but an F4 or F5 tornado that is big, strong, wide and stays on the ground for miles--and we are left standing there with our proverbial mouths open.

I have looked at a lot of post tornado photos lately. I decided to put the Ruskin stuff I have in an album on Facebook, and so posted 40 something images there. (Linked here if you'd like to see.) Then a tornado as big or bigger (and from the looks of things, I'd say this monster was wider than the 1957 twister) hits Joplin, and now I am looking at eerily familiar images again.

That day, Sunday, it was well known that conditions were favorable for the formation of strong storms that could be tornadic. I remember looking at radar around 2 pm and noting a line of severe storms that blew up starting in eastern Jackson County and lining up to the northeast. The line was building south and moving SSE. It was this line, extended south, that produced the tornado that hit Joplin, as well as a smaller twister near Higginsville.

For the emergency managers and the people at the National Weather Service, the question is whether and when to put out warnings for a given area. For us, the population at large, the question is what shall we do in response to the warnings if they appear. Most sources are saying that Joplin had a 20 minute notice or so that there was a tornado on the ground in their area. That is not enough time to move very far to shelter, but it is enough time to find shelter in the general area you are in. The general consensus of experts is that tornadoes move too fast and too unpredictably to give a long lead time that would give enough time to evacuate and move out of the way of a storm. The usual counsel is to shelter where you are. Some hospital people are saying they had about five minutes notice. My guess is that they had five minutes between the time they decided this was the real deal and the time the tornado hit.

A balance has to be kept. People need warning so they can take the action they can. Warning without hazard makes people lackadaisical in their preparation and action. No warning, or late warning in the face of hazard creates unprepared people, and perhaps casualties that could have been avoided. Generally, warnings are issued erring on the side of safety. People need to help out what the NWS and emergency managers do by having an awareness of the world around them, both in terms of being in touch with media and in looking out the dadgum window every so often.

Photos--tornado clean up, separated by 54 years--both from the Kansas City Star.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

54th Ruskin Twister Anniversary

In all the build up about the world ending, I missed the exact date of a day that many in south Kansas City thought the world really was ending--the May 20, 1957 tornado that hit many spots in the south part of the metro. It's ironic that today, while severe weather warnings are blooming to the north and west of the metro, that we should stop and think about what many call a severe F5 tornado went right through the metro.

The storm went through the Ruskin Heights neighborhood sometime between 7 and 8 pm, perhaps around 7:20 or so. Before that the tornado hit Spring Hill, KS and Martin City.

Whenever I see really bad tornado damage pictures, I think of many of the archived photos I have seen of the Ruskin tornado--trees with their bark peeled off, cars flipped over, houses just piles of sticks. Probably the most impressive is the photo shown on the Kansas City Star's front page--the photo shows the path of the tornado as it made its destructive way from the southwest, moving northeast through the neighborhood of modest single family homes.

Even though the number of people who have first hand experience of this storm gets smaller as the years go by, each year yields a tornadic storm that reminds us all of the power of nature. Photos from top to bottom--the morning Kansas City Times of May 21, 1957, the afternoon Kansas City Star of May 21, 1957 and that week's Jackson County Advocate, May 23, 1957.

Friday, May 20, 2011

See You May 22!

One of the items in the news this week has been the prediction by a Christian preacher, Harold Camping, that the process of God ending the world will begin tomorrow, May 21. People far more sophisticated than myself have taken on the topic. Allow me a few unsophisticated words here.

The setting of dates by individuals claiming to have knowledge goes against the biblical record. Jesus Himself takes up the topic of His return more than once and His thoughts were recorded in Scripture. Matthew 24 in particular records the Lord's thoughts on the matter. My favorite verse, because it creates a picture that we all can relate to, is 40 and following. In v. 36 Jesus tells the disciples: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." He follows that with this illustration. "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (NIV) Believers must be careful about any teaching that claims to know any specifics about the end times. It appears to this simple Christian that such go against the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes similarly in 1 Thessalonians 5. I like the image of the thief. If we know when a thief might come, we would be prepared. Since we do not have any idea when--or even if--a thief will come, we prepare as if he could come this day. We lock our door every day, because this might be the day someone tries to turn the knob. So it is with spiritual preparation for Christ's return.

I have trouble thinking of some of the subtle damage this sort of thing will do. People who believed and then witness it not happening will be hurt spiritually, hurt in their faith in ways that are both obvious and subtle. The trust is shattered in so many ways. There is also fear--maybe I am still here because I am not good enough for God? The scrupulous soul may live in anxiety of not measuring up to God's requirements--a position completely opposite to the reality of God's forgiveness and grace.

The Lord's Prayer also rings in my ears: Our Lord taught us to pray in this way, as recorded by Matthew 6:9-13 NIV:
This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.'"

Note that His Kingdom and His will are to come and be done on earth as in heaven--that's what we are supposed to be praying for! When all the emphasis goes to the hereafter, all too human believers are ready to drop working in this difficult sinful world to help bring it closer to God's Kingdom--becoming all heavenly minded and no earthly good.

While a Christian should not decide to be willfully ignorant about Christ's return, I personally do not find it a compelling issue in my day to day Christian walk. If I ask God daily for the power to live life in a way that is Kingdom-bringing and Kingdom-proclaiming; if I am faithful to follow His will; if I seek to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God (cf. Micah 6:8); if I keep, with God's grace and power enabling me, the two great commandments Jesus gave in Mark 12--to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and second, to love my neighbor as my self. If I do and seek these things, the exact time of the Lord's second coming is not an urgent interest for me. He can come for me tomorrow if He'd like--I'm ready--or He can tarry longer if He wishes. Like Paul, I will press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (cf. Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

KCPD Needs a New Chief

Subtitle: Should we care what color the new police chief is?

Chief Corwin will retire in September and the Kansas City Police Department will need a new police chief. What kind of qualifications and qualities should the new KCPD chief have?

A steady record of skill in day to day policing. He/she should not have been too far from the streets these past years. No RMFs.
Improvement in performance of whatever division/department they have been in charge of in the recent past. No one who just "held the fort."
A history of innovation and introducing new ideas, concepts and changes in department culture.
A total dislike of criminals of all colors and no history of coddling them with political correctness.
An empty disciplinary jacket.
A thick skin, willing to listen to the whining of various groups who think they are entitled, but really aren't.

I don't see anything about color, sex, race, etc. etc. Just find the best person for the job that you can get.

I would go outside the department in my search and be very open to new blood, someone who can, after an appropriate assessment period (usually you wait at least six months to make changes in an organization if you are taking leadership from outside the company), make any needed changes. I mean if there is someone inside who is the best choice, fine, but I would not close off the idea of an outsider.

The very best person available. I don't care if they are purple with pink dots.

Bannister Mall Site Gets Tax Break

Well the amateur developers--oh, the City Council--have decided that Lane 4's plan for the area formerly the Bannister Mall is an acceptable plan and have voted to give a super TIF of around $200 million to the developer. The area will be developed in office space and retail at an estimated cost of $590 million.

It seems like the method of choice in this town to pass things of questionable merit is to first introduce the issue in a low key under publicized kind of way, then not talk about it for a while, then suddenly take it up again, and then vote on it before anyone really takes in the degree of flimflam going on. They followed the exact same pattern with the MAST/KCFD merger issue--I should have recognized it.

There are multiple problems with this plan in my view: Too big a tax break, wrong development type, both the reality and perception of a crime problem in the area, poor overall economy. Like one TKC commenter said, if the private sector isn't a believer without the government handout, er, help, maybe this is not such a good idea?

I would prefer that the City Council and Mayor spend more time and treasure looking after basic services instead of playing amateur developers. KCPD needs a new chief, KCFD EMS is a mess, water pipes break and streets crumble...oh, but that isn't as much fun as ground breakings and ribbon cuttings now is it?

Monday, May 16, 2011

IMF Nasty!

New York City is riddled with people with diplomatic immunity. From parking tickets to murder, foreign nationals under the umbrella of diplomatic immunity cannot be prosecuted. They like to flaunt it too, letting parking tickets accumulate under the wipers of their cars and parking in front of fire plugs. When I lived there, the state of New York issued these tags, but evidently the feds issue them now.
So it surprises this observer that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF, is actually being charged, and held without bail for an accusation of rape and sexual assault. Seems as if this ugly old geezer (allegedly) chase the help around a ritzy NY hotel and (allegedly) had the young lady perform sex acts on him. I am just surprised he was not covered by diplomatic immunity.

Not that I am sorry we are prosecuting him for a felony charge. Oh, no, no. Have at it, Mr. D.A. Incidently, kudos to the judge for recognizing him as a flight risk!

Sunday Sunset

Last night's sunset. When I saw this I knew today would be a great weather day. I was not disappointed. Hope you all got out in the sun a little bit today.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Night Ramblings

So how is everyone this chilly Saturday night? It is cold out there! These temperatures would have been OK to be out in if there was a bit of sun, or the wind was less.

We have all these big events out there--fall out from Osama bin Laden's death, continued unrest in the Middle East. In Egypt even the cops are afraid to confront the criminals that have been out being bad. Greece is still going broke and Spain might not be far behind.

Here in the U.S., we have a mixed economic picture that is very uncertain. A few aspects of the economy are even picking up. However, inflation is very real, the debt ceiling debate is getting wound up, housing prices are still falling, and the job situation is one step forward and one step back. Meantime the crayzee weather will impact the economy, from pressures on prices for building material to losses of soybean, corn and cotton crops in Mississippi River valley flooding.

Locally, three lives were lost when an inexperienced driver lost control of an SUV he was driving when it had a tire blow out. During the ensuring rollover, unbelted passengers were ejected from the vehicle. Two were dead on scene and one at the hospital. Please, people, with few and rare exceptions, you are much better off belted and staying in the vehicle during a crash. Just sayin' There were a lot of crashes today, despite it being dry out. There was at least one other fatality.

Rockfest did not turn into mudfest this year, but the endless parade of people requiring emergency medical service was and is truly amazing. There were ambulances coming and going from Penn Valley Park all afternoon and probably through the evening. Luckily this did not start in earnest until after the 4-ambulance-requiring crash in the northland was taken care of, otherwise the snap of a system overstretched might have been heard.

So have a safe Sunday everyone--drive carefully tonight. I just assume everyone is intoxicated starting at about 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and after 10 p.m. on other days. It's better than the alternative--everyone is stupid. Substances wear off, but stupid is forever.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Down!

As you perhaps might have heard, the Blogger platform was down for a number of hours during Thursday and early Friday, finally returning sometime around 1200 Kansas City time Friday.

I've been blogging and actively following blogs since 2009--I'd heard of the phenomenon before that but never thought I'd be interested in it. Between radio appearance's by Tony of TKC and getting involved in MAST/KCFD issue, I ended up jumping in with both feet.

What did I miss not having Blogger working? Not so much my own blogging and opinionating, but the posts and comments of writers both here and in other places whose updates, news, opinions, photos and stories have become a part of my day. They inform me, as Tony does. They are in places I can't be, as Hyperblogal was yesterday at the big fire at Prospect and Independence Aves. They make me laugh, as Dr. Grumpy does regularly when he is in the house. They help me look through the fire captain's eyes, hear the ER nurse's thoughts, see what life is like in other towns.

Capt. Schmoe, Bob G., Dr. Grumpy, Hyper, Mo Rage, Tony, and everyone--it is good to be back with you. Now, let's get back to work--there are awesome tips to pass on, rabble to rouse, strong opinions to share, stories to tell, photos to post and community to build.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Car Show and Cruising Season Is ON!

I think Kansas City is one of the best places for old cars. Its history of manufacturing and engineering causes an appreciation for the old school around here. Couple that with weather that is reasonably agreeable to preserving automobiles--there are just a few months that driving an antique is ill advised and there is no salt air to corrode metal--and we have a feast of old autos to look at. Here are some pictures from a couple Friday night cruises at the Long Branch, 91st and Metcalf in Overland Park, KS.

For listings of all things automotive, I recommend visiting Craig Hover over at Hover Motor Co. for a run down of all things old car happening in the KC and surrounding areas. Linked here, or permanently over on one of the blog rolls to the left. He has lots of other cool stuff too.

Two dates on my calendar are the Mopar Family Reunion Car Show & Swap June 11 and 12 at the Bass Pro in Olathe, KS and UM Church of the Resurrection Car Show July 9 at the church in Leawood (137th and Roe). Also remember the Long Branch cruise every Friday night and for you MOPAR people, the HPAC cruise every third Saturday at Carver's in Olathe (135th St just west of US 69). See you at the show!

Listen and React: Merrill Whines

Chris Merrill is the latest talker to take on the 09-11 slot at KMBZ radio these days. I am still trying to figure out if I like him or not. Some days he is OK, even informative and/or entertaining. Other days, he gets turned off, abandoned for scanner traffic or music. Monday morning, he whined in a most irritating way. He should count his blessings that I have to pay for texting on my phone plan--I would have given him an earful, er, an eyeful.

The topic at hand, coincidentally, was texting while driving. He was whining that he found driving to be a waste of time. He was sniveling that that he hated it when he had to turn off his phone when he was on an airplane. He kept saying he had to be "socially connected" or it was not productive or interesting time.

I was completely appalled. Maybe I'm just getting old, but driving in the car with just music, talk radio or even...silence is refreshing to me. Yes, I've driven repetitive commutes. I took the commute time, typically around 30 minutes, as a time to prepare mentally for my work day. I was attentive to the driving task, actually looked around as I went, noting new things, the change of seasons, etc. and arrived ready to go to work. As to riding in airplanes, well, there's books, music, writing, sleeping and, even, talking to your seat mate.

It seems as if the younger set has lost two important skills. One is living in this very moment, the place you are right now, breathing this air, sitting in this space, seeing these things that are around you, noticing these people who are near you. The other is being comfortable just being you by yourself without having someone else around to validate you by interacting with you. Many younger people seem unable to amuse themselves without outside aids these days, whether they be technological or human.

I felt a little sorry for Mr. Merrill, that he was so uncomfortable being by himself that he can't enjoy it or gain from it. It is not a good thing not to be your own best company.

Monday, May 9, 2011

KCFD EMS: Best It Can Be?

I am becoming convinced that a vital part of life is dealing with failure and defeat. Failure is something that will happen to us as we live our lives. Some things we do will not work. We will exhibit bad judgement. We will commit, we will omit. It is going to happen. I wanted to follow up with part two of KCTV 5's report on the death of Frank Nigro. Mr. Nigro died while being transported between hospitals in inclement weather in January of this year

Dana Wright interviewed Dr. Joseph Salamone, Kansas City's EMS medical director. I found this interview troubling in many ways. However, this exchange really bothered me. First of all, Ms. Wright had to really chase Dr. Salamone around for an answer--he kept hiding behind not being able to discuss "this case."
"Give me a general example of how someone dies and a paramedic sitting a few inches away doesn’t notice he's dead," Wright said.

"I think that there are a variety of things that can happen, just as in a health care setting and depending on the degree of illness, the patient who has been medicated and appears to be comfortably sleeping," Salamone said. "You know we're not watching every, every heartbeat and respiration ...."

"Don't you think people will be surprised, though, that if you're in an ambulance someone's not necessarily paying attention to you?" Wright asked.

"Continuously paying attention to you? I don't think that's any different unfortunately than any health care setting in the country today, if not the world," Salamone said. "Nurses may sit at your bedside and document. They may not be watching you absolutely every second. And that's just part of medicine because unfortunately medicine is actually practiced by humans, too."

Wright: "I wanna know this won't happen again."
I can't guarantee that (it won't happen again)," Salamone said. "I couldn't guarantee that in my hospital, unfortunately."
When Wright pressed the issue of protocols that might prevent such failures in the future, an off camera voice interceded.
Wright: "There's no protocol that would prevent this from happening."
Then a voice comes from off camera--the camera backs out so you can see the person talking. No doubt, he's a lawyer.
Off camera lawyer: "You're saying that can happen and that leads to this specific case."
Wright's response: "I can't change the fact that a man died in the back of an ambulance and no one noticed," Wright said. "There's no protocol that would prevent that from happening."
Salamone: "I cannot discuss that case."..."...or how protocols may apply or be changed..." [snippets from Salamone's last statements.]

Watch for yourself--here's the link to the KCTV5 report. I wanted to quote that exchange exactly, not just taking the written report off the web, because I think it says something important about dealing with failure, first this failure and then failure as a whole. Because, as I said, it's gonna happen. The problem is when health care has fails, usually somebody gets hurt. It's disturbing to me that instead of going into a problem solving mode--Dr. Salamone goes into CYA mode after opening the door to the reality of human failure. Here we have a tragic case of an individual human failure and the medical director is too bound to the doctrine of CYA (with the help of Mr. OffCamera) to say well, yes, we might have an issue with protocols here--to say either the protocols need changing or we need training to make sure they are followed. If this is the best he can do, perhaps he should not have given this interview or at least not have given it right now (and no, throwing the individual paramedic under the bus, while tempting and rational sounding, will not address any systemic problem that is present.)

This is the EMS system we have right now--as political and ill advised as its conception was. Perhaps it is time to make it the best it can be--or evaluate different models for its administration if need be. If this sad case, a case which due to privacy laws (our old friend HIPAA) and possible lawsuits about which we may never learn the full truth, should demonstrate anything to us, it should show us that we have a lot of room for improvement and that there is no substitute for a corporate and individual commitment to excellence, both in planning and protocol and in delivery. That commitment includes taking full responsibility as an organization--even an organization that is government run--for failures and times that the work falls short of expectations.

Friday, May 6, 2011

KCFD EMS: More Questions Than Answers

The report last night by Dana Wright of KCTV5 raised a lot of questions and did not provide a lot of answers surrounding an incident that happened this past January. A patient died during a transfer trip from St. Luke's Northland to St. Luke's on the Plaza and the report raises questions about the quality of care that patient received during the trip from one hospital to another. Just a few quick impressions and thoughts.

A transfer from one hospital to another can be an emergency trip or not. Typically hospitals transfer patients they are unable to provide optimal care for, either because they simply do not have that ability to do that type of care or they are out of room. Transfers to specialities such as cardiac care, trauma or psychiatric care are common. Most transfers can be done non emergent. Some are "non-emergency without delay"--a wonderful phrase from the KCFD dispatch center that describes the middle zone. Of course, some are flat out emergencies. The transferring hospital will tell the EMS provider what is needed for the patient: an EKG monitor, oxygen, IV medication and/or fluids infusing, restraints or no equipment other than the cot. There is a concomitant elevation of monitoring--those more urgently ill will be placed on a heart monitor, with oxygen saturation measurements and perhaps BP checks.

During the report the phrase "just inches away" is used with reference to the medic "teching" or attending to the patient during the call. It could be inferred by this that the medic was not sitting in the back with the patient. During an interview on KMBZ radio this morning reporter Wright made it clear that the medic was sitting in the back with the patient. They were in the seat that is behind the patient's head--the seat looks at the back door of the ambulance, just as the patient does. I am not sure of the exact layout of the KCFD ambulances--exactly how far this seat is from the patient, or what kind of sight lines the medic had--some of that would be dependent on the medic's stature. A shorter person would have to likely shift position to get a really good look at a patient lying on the cot, especially if the head of the cot is elevated 30 degrees or greater. Yet in a way this is more troubling; if the medic was in the "box" with the patient, did he/she just miss the change in condition during the blizzard prolonged drive?

The second part is tonight, with the reporter talking to the medical director for the KCFD EMS. Now we get down to it--has there been a change in the expected standard of care since the city took over or is this event a sad outlier, a one-off, that with proper problem solving will not happen again?

Update: This comment I posted on Tony's Kansas City about sums it up. I haven't seen the second part of the report yet. We'll see what sort of stuff gets stirred after that airs.

The real question: Is this a one time event or an overall trend? How is the care given by the KCFD in terms of quality--better than MAST, the same as MAST, worse than MAST?

In the meantime, the fire department needs to man up and take responsibility and then do the things needed to make sure that this never happens again. Because this sure was a crappy unacceptable outcome.

5/6/11 3:22 PM

Thursday, May 5, 2011

OBL's Death and the Media

You know, with 24 hour media we can now beat something just about to death, as we have the OBL situation. Now, since there isn't a way to put a cork in every possible source, the way to secrecy is to obfuscate. Just keep dumping information over and over, with slight differences and confuse everyone. Then all get tired of the situation and say OK enough let's move on.

So I say to the Obama administration: Please shut up now. Too many explanations are raising too many questions. Too many explanations are exposing things to the world that we should have kept to ourselves--what we found, the tactics used, the stealth helicopter, etc. Just tonight the New York Times talked about how bin Laden had hands in terror plots over the years. My reaction was just stop, stop feeding the media.

One thing should be done: The photos and videos of bin Laden's death should be released. That is why we risked the lives of the SEAL team, to be able to prove without a shadow of a doubt that we did indeed kill Osama bin Laden. I understand the objection that radical Muslims will use it to gin themselves up, but they already can do that with just the fact of OBL's death at our hands. I also understand that it will not put the skeptics to rest, but nothing would. We might as well reassure the sane among us that we did this thing to completion.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Barbecue Story

Snatched from Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue's web site. Drool, drool, drool.

I'll admit it, I do love the barbecue foods. Slow smoked with rubs and marinades, smelling of smoke and beef and chicken and pork. I do partake fairly frequently. Both eat in and carry out.

A couple of days ago the sun came out nice and strong and beamed into my parked car for a while. For the first time this spring the car was actually HOT inside. When I opened the door, I smelled a faint whiff of smoked meat. I wasn't terribly surprised--I had just had a take away order from Jack's Stack in the car the previous day.

When I put my hand on the emergency brake I got a surprise. It was completely greasy on the bottom, when my fingers wrapped around the handle! I thought maybe it was a spill, but other than the bottom side of the hand brake's plastic handle, there was not a spot of barbecue to be seen. Just this very nice smelling--it didn't even smell rancid or rotten--semi liquid barbecue stuff on one side of my hand brake. It was a tad slippery however, so I wiped it off with a paper towel. It was a winter's worth of not-quite-clean fingers using the brake handle. The heat brought it out.

I'm surprised no one has tried to do an air freshener with the barbecue smell. Maybe you just can't synthesize that in a chemistry lab...

After writing this post, and looking at food pictures, I am now officially hungry.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Social Media Makes News Fly!

A couple at the Phillies-Mets game last night check their phones for OBL news. (screen shot from ESPN)

One of my Facebook friends wrote this last night at 9:53 p.m. CDT:

Now, I got my news of bin Laden's death the very old fashioned way, via the radio, but a lot of people got the news via social media. Twitter led the way, peaking at an astonishing 5,100 tweets per second at one point during the hours of 9:45 p.m. CDT to 1:20 a.m. CDT. I imagine that Facebook was pretty busy too, people linking the early news stories and posting status changes. Facebook set records when the birth certificate was released for number of status updates in a time period; that may have been a very short lived record.

Smart phones, with their ability to surf the internet, and email and SMS news alerts sent to those smart phones also enabled people to receive the news with astonishing speed. It would have been very difficult to escape any hint of news with regard to bin Laden's demise.

Boy times have changed, haven't they?

A word of caution: While searching for stuff on this post, I ran across several articles like this one from PC Magazine about scammers using both this news and the Royal Wedding as ways to insert malware into unsuspecting users computers. Be careful what you click on!

Some Reflections on Osama bin Laden's Death

A baseball fan in Philadelphia holds up his smart phone with the news of bin Laden's death. Screen shot from ESPN.

So it was a commercial during the Mets-Phillies game on 810. I punched the button to 980, to see what the Sunday national host, Bill Cunningham, was talking about there. I hear him ask his broadcast engineer if he should take a break now, as the POTUS could be speaking at any time. I look at the clock--9:20 p.m. What could the president want to talk about on a Sunday night? Host Cunningham wondered too--what couldn't wait until Monday morning? By 9:45 p.m. KMBZ had switched over to the ABC Radio News network. At 10:35 p.m. President Obama told the nation what had been rumored for about an hour and a half: Osama bin Laden, terrorist leader and mastermind, had been killed by a Special Operations team at a home in Pakistan.

I liked Obama's speech. It was simple and straightforward. I also liked something in it I had rarely heard from President Obama. A quiet yet firm acknowledgement that America can do, in this case, our military and CIA can and did do something that needed to be done and that was finding and getting this man who had fomented so much hatred and violence and had cost so many lives all over the world.

As the news trickled out, crowds began to gather in Washington and New York particularly. They chanted and held signs and flags and celebrated. They chanted "USA! USA!" at the Mets-Phillies game. They sang the "Na Na Good Bye" song outside the White House. I have to say I didn't know what to think of that. I had the thought that we Americans don't celebrate like that except when our sports teams win. Then I had the thought that we haven't had much to celebrate in this arena since World War II. When was the last time we "won" something as far as foreign policy was concerned--either by warfare or other means?

WW II was over when the sailor kissed the nurse in Times Square. The war on terror is not over. In fact, we might find ourselves the subject of revenge. Some felt we should have spared bin Laden's life. I think he was not willing to spare his own life. I suspect he threw himself at our troop when he realized there was no escape. He would not be taken alive. I am glad that even with all his and his cohorts' thrashing around, there were no American lives lost.

Has justice been served as many newspaper headlines implied this morning? I think that bin Laden's death can help bring some comfort and closure to the events of 9/11. Just to know that he cannot harm anyone directly or by earthly actions any more is a good thing. He can and will be used as a motivational tool, but it is not like fanatics who subscribe to bin Laden's ideas can't gin up their evil motivations without his demise as inspiration.

I hear those who lament the further loss of life and the specter of endless cycles of revenge. I hear those who question the use of violence as a way to attempt to solve problems and settle conflict. As a Christian I lament the killing of any person. Yet I do have a sense of release, that the main force that stood behind and supported the 9/11 attacks is no longer drawing breath in on earth and is now in the hands of God. And now, I await what happens next.

Underrated Relief: The Electric Company

Power worker in Alabama works to restore electric service after last week's twister. (Birmingham News)

Before we leave the subject of tornadoes for the moment, I want to take this occasion to do a quick shout out to the electric utility companies. In 2002, Kansas City experienced a terrible ice storm, with at least one to two inches of ice accumulation. Needless to say, the electric service went out, due to ice on the lines and trees falling on lines. We were out for three days. On the morning of the third day, on our street was a forest green cherry picker truck. Now, every utility that serves this area has white trucks. When I and my neighbors went over to investigate, we found the crew to be from Houston, TX. After three February days without electricity needless to say we were happy to see them. They got to work and had most of us restored by evening. The one thing I remember was that they were happy to do it--to take the time to come up and do the work. Yes, they were getting paid, but they were away from family and hometown and the weather was still not the best--in spite of those things, they volunteered for the duty.

It happened again for Katrina recovery--I remember the convoy of KCP&L trucks that went down there as soon as it was considered safe to do so--just a day or two after the storm. Just a few weeks ago KCP&L went over to St. Louis area to help with their damage. Here's the company's press release about the ways they have and are planning to help in storm damaged regions. I think this is a really cool thing, the way these companies help each other, and by extension, us too. A big salute to all--be safe out there while you work!