Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Scenery

Only time for a quick post so I thought I'd grab one of the pictures from my trip to California and drive through the Sierra Nevada mountains. Just in case I haven't mentioned it a time or two in the past, I just love the Sierras and am quite certain that I crossed them via wagon train in a previous life hence my affinity for the place! Well, either that or it's just so breathtakingly beautiful there that it's impossible not to love the place!

Beautiful, yes?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Unimportant Meme

My friend Akelmalu from the blog Everything and Nothing (who writes a mean Flash Fiction Friday amongst other things!) recently tagged me for a meme wherein I need to tell you six unimportant things that make me happy. I've seen the meme going around other blogs and every time I've seen it I've thought to myself - isn't everything that makes you happy important in some way?

Alas though, who am I to overthink or argue with a meme? I'm just a mere meme minion and only a Duchess at that! I suppose if there were any changes or alterations that they would have to be brought before Mimi, the Queen of Memes for her to pass judgment and make a ruling on. This being such a simple meme, I won't bother the Queen with it as I'm sure she's busy painting her nails or ironing her pencil skirt or such so instead I shall just accept it as it is, try to think of six unimportant things that make me happy, and then commit a breach of meme manners by not tagging six other people!

Now for those six unimportant (and yet important to me!) things -
  1. Clean sheets. Nothing beats the feeling of climbing into bed between clean sheets!
  2. A cup of coffee after I manage to climb out from between those clean sheets and stumble my way to the kitchen.
  3. Waking up without any back pain or other assorted aches and pains (unfortunately, this doesn't happen anywhere near as much as I'd like!
  4. A good book.
  5. The sun shining through the trees (which hasn't happened in way too long due to all of the rainy weather we've been having).
  6. The smell of fresh cut grass.
Now as I said, I'm not tagging anyone but if you'd like to take it upon yourself to do this one - feel free! It's quick, it's easy, and I bet you can name a whole lot more than six "unimportant" things that make you happy without hardly trying!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Looking at the Sky on Friday

I'm afraid the skies here in Norwich have been pretty bleh all week which has also made my mood pretty bleh, too. It seems like I've barely been able to get out of my own way most days!

Luckily we had some really nice days last week including one where the skies turned a beautiful shade of pink as the sun set. Naturally I was at work when that happened and didn't have my camera with me so I had to do the next best thing ... call Amanda and tell her to grab my camera and go out to get some sky shots for me!

Turns out the skies in the area of Norwich we live in were actually more orange than they were pink but that's okay as I think they still looked pretty cool once I had a chance to look at the shots Amanda took. This week's photo credit goes to her!

For more colorful sky shots, be sure to check out Tisha's blog!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Last of Las Vegas

Oh snap, son! While wondering when/if my 16-hour shift at work yesterday was ever gonna end and despairing that it actually would (some days that clock just doesn't seem to move at all!), I took a gander at the calendar and was rather shocked to see that today was going to be exactly one month since I took off for Vegas. A month! How on earth did that happen??

... and why had I still not gotten all the pictures I took edited?!? Perhaps the problem is because I have become an epic slacker ... or perhaps it's because I took way too many shots while I was out there and have been taking even more pictures since I got home! I'd prefer to think that it was the latter but I'm guessing it's really a combination of the two however, either way, I'm going to try to get the remainder of my Vegas pictures posted via slideshow so that I can then move to pictures from Santa Cruz and the Sierra Nevadas.

The nice thing about all this is that it gives me the chance to 'relive' my vacation and that's always a good thing, right? Right!

As for Las Vegas, the verdict is that I thought it was a'ight, dawg but I don't really think it's anyplace that I would be in a big hurry to go back to. Part of that is because I'm not a great visitor of casinos (were that the case, I live very close to the world's biggest and second biggest casinos in the world and could go anytime I wanted) but more than that is that whole "I don't like crowds" thing that I have going on.

Even though everyone says that Vegas is hurting right now due to the economic downswing, it seemed pretty darned crowded to me when we were walking elbow to elbow with way too many people on the Strip. I was sure I knew how a salmon must feel when fighting the waters to get upstream as people walking in each direction collided and attempted to get past each other seemingly in a hurry to get nowhere. Not my idea of a good time!

When I mentioned to Jen that I didn't really like Vegas she stated that I didn't like it anywhere but I corrected her and told her "no, I really like it in Lake Tahoe". She accepted that but seemed skeptical that there really was any place that made me happy. Maybe the NAED should hold a conference up at Tahoe sometime and I could show Jen just how happy I really can be! Perhaps I should write and suggest it!

At any rate, I've taken just a few of the 287 pictures I have of my time in Vegas and put them together in a small slideshow for your ewwing and aahing pleasure. You enjoy and I'll get back to editing some of those other pictures I have piled up in my Picasa folders so that hopefully it doesn't take me another whole month to get some of them posted!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Truth in Advertising?

I've been wondering about something lately that has me rather perplexed ... how can Dunkin' Donuts claim that America runs on Dunkin' when they don't even have stores in all of the states of America?

Is not North Dakota part of America? Is not Utah part of America? Is not Arkansas part of America? None of these states have a Dunkin' Donuts franchise and neither do a bunch of others. As a matter of fact, there is not a single one in all of California or Washington or Idaho or Montana or even Minnesota - all states that probably drink plenty of coffee but not any that they can get from the place that claims to have the coffee that America runs on.

How can this be truth in advertising? How you can a company lay claim to providing the coffee that America runs on when a good number of Americans have no way of obtaining it? Granted, there are more than 5,200 Dunkin' Donuts restaurants located in 36 states but unless my math is wrong, that leaves 14 states that cannot possibly run on Dunkin'!

Perhaps the ad execs are hoping that by proclaiming America runs on Dunkin' that eventually there will be Dunkin' Donuts franchises from sea to shining sea and that they will wipe out the competition from places like Starbucks, Steamin' Joes, Caribou Coffee, Tim Horton's, Coffee Time, Gloria Jean's, Krispy Kreme, Chock Full o' Nuts, and my personal favorite - Bad Ass Coffee - the coffee with an attitude!** Unfortunately we have none of those here in Connecticut but if we did you can damn well bet I'd be buying my morning cup of joe from those guys as I'm sure a cup of their coffee would definitely have you up and running rather than wondering if you'd ordered a decaf by mistake!

Now don't get me wrong, I do enjoy an occasional coffee from D&D - especially a nice big iced coffee in the warmer months - but the number of them that have popped up around here lately is quite alarming. Here in Norwich we have at least six or seven Dunks (more if you want to count the ones located in WalMart and Stop & Shop) and not much of anything else in the area except for a lone Tim Horton's sandwiched in between two D&Ds on the west side of town or fast-food coffee in the form of McDonald's or Burger King (blech).

Frankly I don't think it's accurate to say that America runs on Dunkin' but I can sure say that Dunkin' is running everything else out of town - least ways here in Norwich!

It's just too bad Amanda can't get a job at any of them but I get the feeling they're probably not hiring zombies ... though Amanda tells me that zombies run on Dunkin' when they can't get any fresh blood! Kid kinda looks like she needs some coffee, doesn't she??

**This is in no way an advertisement for Bad Ass Coffee - I just think the name is cool and I'd definitely go there if we had one around so if people asked me what I was drinking I could say it was a Bad Ass cup of coffee! Yeah, yeah, I know, I can be so juvenile sometimes!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I've Got a Question - You've Got an Answer

I guess I should thank Amanda for the inspiration for my question for this post as if it weren't for the conversation I was having with her on Monday, I never would have thought of using this particular question for a post. See? Teenagers can be useful for something!

Anyhow, while eating lunch we somehow got to talking about how well people knew us and she said something about how some of my friends knew that Lincoln was my favorite President. I said that I guessed that was a good thing and at least I had a favorite President whereas I bet she didn't have one at all. Of course, she's only almost-17 so I suppose she hasn't had a chance to experience a lot of Presidents yet or really given it any thought; plus they don't teach history like they used to so I rather doubt she knows too much about any of them other than the more recent ones we've had in office. Perhaps someday she'll have a favorite President, too.

Which, of course, brings me to the question of this post ...

Who's your favorite President or,
if you're not from the United States,
leader of your country?


Obviously President Abraham Lincoln is my all-time favorite as there is much to admire about the man who did his best to keep our country united as one while also enduring the personal tragedies in his own life all while maintaining a sense of dignity and humor. Sadly, they don't make Presidents like Lincoln anymore or even some of my other minor favorites like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Reagan (yes, I said Reagan!).

So how about you? Who's your choice and - if you've got the time and inclination - why?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009 - A Tribute to Canterbury Veterans

This past Friday I had occasion to be up in my hometown of Canterbury and after finding my mother not at home, I decided to stop by the cemetery where my father is buried and see how things looked for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Carey Cemetery, established in 1750, has been the "family cemetery" for as long as I can remember and was strategically located between my grandfather's house and my Aunt Eleanor's house. If one were to walk from one house to the other, you had to go right past Carey Cemetery wherein was buried my mother's mother who died the year I was born, my mother's oldest brother who came home with strep throat one day and was dead the next at age 9, as well as other relatives that I had never met.

In later years Carey also became the final resting place of my beloved grandfather, two more uncles who died way too young, and other relatives and family friends. In 2003, it also became the last stop for my father when he succumbed to the non-Hodgkins' lymphoma that he had contracted as a result of exposure to Agent Orange during his tour in Danang, Vietnam in 1967-1968. My Dad's grave is through those gates pictured above and nearby are the graves of five other veterans; it makes me think my Dad is in good company.

After spending some time at my Dad's grave, I decided to take a walk through the rest of the cemetery and check out the graves of the other veterans whose brand-new flags flapped in the breeze and marked the spots where their physical remains reposed. At Carey Cemetery there are veterans from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War as well as seven wars in between and as I stopped at each grave, I thanked each person for their service to our country and their role in keeping our country free.

As I walked amongst the gravestones, I noticed that the majority of the veterans are from the Civil War era which somehow seems appropriate being that Memorial Day originated from the observance of a national Decoration Day to honor those who had died in that war. The first official Decoration Day was held on May 30th, 1868 as proclaimed by General John Alexander Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army who had served in the American Civil War). If you're interested in reading more about how Memorial Day came about, I did a post last year that explains it in more detail.

It appears that the small town of Canterbury (with a population of approximately 1,700 in the 1860's) sent more than its fair share of men to fight in the War of Northern Aggression (as Miss Bee likes to call it). Even if you didn't know the number of men who died fighting to keep the Union as one - best estimates put the total deaths at 620,000 - you would know that it was a large amount just by the number of graves belonging to Civil War soldiers in Carey Cemetery.

Of the Civil War veterans, there are five graves of soldiers who died on September 17th, 1862 at the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Antietam was the first major battle to be fought on Northern soil and, with approximately 23,000 causalities, it was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. More Americans died on September 17th, 1862 than on any other day in our nation's military history; five of whom lie beneath the soil of Carey Cemetery.

Naturally I had my camera with me so I decided that as a tribute to the veterans whose graves I visited while walking through Carey Cemetery, I would take a picture of their grave markers and then put them all in a slideshow to honor their service to our country. It seemed like the least I could do for all that they had done for myself and all other Americans who enjoy the freedoms that we so often take for granted.


If you haven't done so yet, please remember to thank a veteran for his or her service to our country. Memorial Day is set aside to remember those veterans who died but wouldn't it be nice to acknowledge them while they're still alive and can hear your thanks? I'd like to think so!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rusted Remains of Days Gone By in Preston

Having three days off in a row can be a wonderful thing - especially when the sun is shining, the skies are a beautiful blue, and there are interesting things to take pictures of! This past Thursday was no exception as I bribed Amanda with ice cream out at Buttonwood Farm if she wanted to go for a ride with me to check out some old milk trucks that Renee, one of the ladies that I work with, had told me about awhile back.

The trucks are located behind the old Broad Brook Dairy which was located on Route 165 in Preston, Connecticut and run by the Niewiarowski family. Back in the day, there used to be many dairies in the area that not only delivered farm fresh milk right to your door in awesomely cool glass milk bottles but that also sold farm fresh ice cream. I have very fond memories of my grandfather taking us to Norm's Dairy Bar in Jewett City when I was a kid and getting the best vanilla ice cream cones ever and I also recall visiting the Broad Brook Dairy from time to time, too.

It seemed like just about every area had their own dairy store and I'm sure that many Preston residents happily remember when the Broad Brook Dairy was up and running for them to stop in at or when the dairy's trucks delivered fresh milk, cream, butter, and the like to their homes. There really was nothing quite like it and it's one of those by-gone things that I really miss. I was fortunate enough to live in an area of Canterbury that the Mountain Dairy out of Storrs still delivered to when the girls were little back in the early 90's and even though it might have cost a little extra to have milk delivered each week it was so good - and good for you - that it was more than worth it.

Unfortunately all that remains of the Broad Brook Dairy, whose name is still barely visible on the old neon sign above the door, is a building partially torn down and three rusted milk trucks sitting in the back lot - the trucks that Renee had told me about. Stepping over what later turned out to be a flattened "no trespassing" sign attached to the flattened fencing in front of the building (oops!), Amanda and I took a walk back towards the rusted remains of the trucks that were last registered in 1968 and had obviously seen better days!

If trucks could talk, I'm sure that these three would really have had some stories to tell. Stories of the families that they delivered to, stories of the drivers who sat behind their steering wheels, and stories of their travels up and down the back roads of Preston. Unfortunately, though, these trucks weren't talking as they just sat still in a silent testament to an age when life was simpler and things tasted a heck of a lot better.

As I took pictures of the dilapidated trucks and the crumbling building I mentioned to Amanda that I had lots of happy childhood memories of going to places like Broad Brook and getting some of the best ice cream ever but obviously those days were long gone by.

"So, how's it feel to be looking at your crumbling childhood?", the almost 17-year old who will never have those kind of memories asked me.

All I could say was, "Sad. Very, very sad."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Looking at the Sky on Friday

I am very happy to report that there have been blue skies to look at here in New England lately and you don't even have to wear a jacket to go out and gaze at them anymore either! I lucked out and had two gorgeous days on my last two days off so I took full advantage of them and went out with my camera both days. Now I just need more days off to sort the pictures out!

I've probably got more sky pictures now than there are Fridays in the year to post them but I suspect that's a good thing as I'll never have a good excuse not to participate in Tisha's meme! This week's photo was one that I took from the front porch of my house looking up through the branches of the tree in the side yard. I thought it came out kinda cool ...

Granted, you can only see a bit of sky through the green branches but the bits you can see are a beautiful blue! In my world blue plus green equals happy!

Don't forget to swing by Tisha's Looking at the Sky on Friday meme for some more great sky pictures!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Just a Picture

After taking us to dizzying heights yesterday, I thought I'd go with something a little more down-to-earth today ...

There's a lot to be said for the little things in life, isn't there??

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Taking It to the Top in Las Vegas

I'm still working on editing my Las Vegas pictures (never mind the ones from my time in California as well as the 250+ that I went out and took yesterday!) but I finally got a few done from our trip to the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino which boasts the tallest observation tower in the United States. At 1,149 feet it's definitely up there!

Our original plan had been to hit up the Stratosphere on Thursday but after watching the weather forecast on TV which called for high winds and possible rain on Thursday, I suggested to Jen that we head in that direction on Wednesday after conference sessions instead.

As you can tell from the pictures, Wednesday was absolutely beautiful and there was hardly even a breeze to speak of so it seemed like the perfect time to take a ride up the elevator and check out Vegas from a slightly higher than bird's eye view! Originally we had thought about having dinner in the restaurant at the top of the tower but then decided that the prices were definitely in the stratosphere, too, so we decided to skip the experience. Nothing for nothing but $12 for a baked potato is a little out of my price range!

Jen had it in her head that she was going to ride on the Big Shot which shoots riders an additional 160 feet up into the air via a burst of compressed air and I had it in my head that I was going to NOT do that. In addition to that whole fear of heights thing I have, I also had a great fear of messing up my back so even if I'd had a brief burst of insanity and thought I wanted to go on the ride, too, common sense prevailed from the lumbar region of my spine!

After paying $13.95 to go up the tower (Jen's ticket cost $19.95 which included one ride on the Big Shot; compared to the $14 she paid for just the rollercoaster at New York New York it seemed to be quite the deal) we took the elevator to the 107th floor and parted company.

While Jen made her way to a second elevator to take her up to the ride, I made my way up some stairs to the 109th floor observation deck to try to get some pictures. The picture on the left is the actual ride that Jen was on but she was on the other side from where I was standing and I don't think you can even see her legs as they are obstructed by the tower. She said the ride scared the beejeebers out of her but she was glad that she had been brave enough to go on it. The teenager in me who still hasn't quite gone into hiding briefly wished I had been able to go, too, but the old lady with the bad back knew better and swallowed the minor disappointment and went back to taking pictures!






The views really were spectacular from the top of the tower and I wasn't as nervous as I thought I might have been but that's probably because I was too in awe of some of the crazy people who were walking around on top of that tower. You see, even though Jen was sort of crazy for going on the Big Shot, there were people that were going on rides that made the Big Shot look downright lame and tame. You see that octopus looking thing hanging over the right side of the tower? That's called Insanity, The Ride and it extends 64 feet over the edge of the tower and spins riders at a force of 3 Gs. They called it Insanity for a very good reason!

Insanity actually looked like it might be fun but on the other side of the tower is another ride that had my palms sweating just looking at it! The X-Scream is a giant green teeter-totter that propels riders 27 feet over the edge of the Tower and hangs them there at 866 feet above the ground. Yep, 866 feet above ground and the thing looks like it's just going to keep right on a'going over the edge and plummet its riders straight to the Las Vegas Strip way, way, way down below! Even that small bit of teenager in me who missed being able to go on the Big Shot was scared of that one; I'm not sure if love or money would have gotten me on the thing! I took enough pictures to put together a slideshow for you so that you can get a bit of an idea what I'm talking about with both rides ...



Craziness, eh? Ah well, people looked like they were having a good time and after all, what's more fun than going on something that looks like it's going to splat you all over the sidewalk?!? Woohoo! How about you? Would you have the guts to go on any of these rides??

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Little Humor

I have kleptomania,
But when it gets bad,
I take something for it.

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!
Except that one where you're naked in church.

Sometimes too much to drink isn't enough.

Kinky is using a feather..
Perverted is using the whole chicken.

Heaven is Where:
The Police are British,
The Chefs are Italian,
The Mechanics are German,
The Lovers are French
And
It's all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is Where:
The Police are German,
The Chefs are British,
The Mechanics are French,
The Lovers are Swiss
And
It's all organized by the Italians.

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

My short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be.
Also, my short-term memory's not as sharp as it used to be.

Welcome to Utah
Set your watch back 20 years.

In just two days from now,
Tomorrow will be yesterday.

A bartender is just a pharmacist
With a limited inventory

The statement below is true.
The statement above is false.

I may be schizophrenic,
But at least I have each other.

I am a Nobody.
Nobody is Perfect.
Therefore I am Perfect.

KENTUCKY:
Five million people,
Fifteen last names.

I'm not your type.
I'm not inflatable.

Dyslexics Have More Nuf.

In Memoriam
With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey", died peacefully at age 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.

I LOVE COOKING WITH WINE
Sometimes I even put it in the food.

When you work here,
You can name your own salary.
I named mine, "Fred".

Money isn't everything,
But it sure keeps the kids in touch.

Reality is only an illusion
That occurs due to a lack of alcohol.

I am having an out-of-money experience.

As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on 280 Interstate. Please be careful!"

"It's not just one car," said Herman. "It's hundreds of them!"

Don't sweat the petty things.
Don't pet the sweaty things.

Corduroy pillows are making headlines!

I want to die while asleep like my grandfather,
Not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.

I FOUND JESUS!
He was in my trunk when I got back from Tijuana!
A tip of the hat to my supervisor, Matt, for the email!

Monday, May 18, 2009

But Not as Scary as a Red Sox Fan in Yankee Stadium, I Bet!

This isn't one of my best shots from out in Las Vegas but out of the 261 pictures that I took, I thought it was actually pretty funny ...

The sign is referring to the rollercoaster that sits atop the New York New York casino that I guess is supposed to look like a Manhattan taxi cab or something. I didn't go on it as I had read that it was a pretty rough ride and, as much as I love rollercoasters, I didn't want to take a chance on screwing up my back while over 2,000 miles away from home.

Jen did fork over $14 to ride the thing and I believe what she found scariest about the whole experience was the price! She told me that it was the worst rollercoaster ride she had ever been on and she felt somewhat "beat up" afterward. As a matter of fact, the next day she had very sore spots on her shoulders where the restraint bar came down. I'm quite glad I missed that one, thank you very much!

Anyhow, I thought maybe some of the Red Sox fans that read my blog might get a kick out of it - or if there are any Yankee fans out there I'm sure they'd appreciate it, too! For those unfamiliar with the New York Yankee - Boston Red Sox rivalry all I can say is - where have you been hiding??

More Vegas pictures as soon as I get some of the other 260 edited ... this is just taking a lot longer than I thought it would!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Words for Thought

Funny the things you can find in Las Vegas ...


On this day after Armed Forces Day here in the United States, please take some time to think about what both of these two people have said and don't forget to thank a veteran or active duty member of the military for the freedoms that you enjoy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Meanwhile ... Back at the Dispatch Conference

As a kid I really wasn't all that much of a TV watcher preferring instead to hang out in my room and read or write in my journal - go figure! However, there are some shows from my youth that I still remember watching and enjoying. One of those was Emergency! - Jack Webb's television drama based on the adventures of two paramedics of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, John Gage and Roy Desoto.

Emergency! first aired in 1972 when I was a mere 13 years old and to this day I can still remember some of the episodes even when I can't remember what I had for breakfast! The great thing about Emergency! was it was a show that you could watch with your parents and not feel like crawling under the couch due to one embarrassing scene after another. It was TV at its finest and it didn't hurt that one of the main characters - Johnny Gage - was damned cute to boot!

Randy Mantooth, the actor who played that damned cute paramedic, was the Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session of the Navigator Conference that I attended in Las Vegas recently and I've got to say, he delivered one heck of a talk that had us laughing as well as nodding our heads in agreement.

For those of you wondering why an actor would be the Keynote Speaker at a conference for dispatchers let me just say that there was a very good reason for him to be there. In 1972, when Emergency! first aired, the paramedic program as we know it in the United States did not exist. If someone called for an ambulance, you got one but all you got along with it was a ride to the hospital. There were no life-saving techniques and no pre-hospital care at that time and chances were good if you were having a heart attack or major case of difficulty breathing, you weren't going to survive the trip to the hospital.

In the middle and late 1970s, Los Angeles County was one of the first communities - along with Seattle, Miami, and Pittsburgh - to start a paramedic program in connection with their local fire departments. When television producer Robert Cinader heard about this trial paramedic program that Los Angeles County was undertaking with funding by the California State Legislature he became so enthralled with the idea that he persuaded Jack Webb and Universal Studios to make an entire show about the phenomenon.

As was the case with his other TV shows, Dragnet and Adam-12, Executive Producer Jack Webb wanted his show to be as accurate as possible and that included making his characters as real as possible. Johnny Gage was based on the real firefighter turned paramedic Jim Page, who helped create the firefighter/paramedic program for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Jack Webb wanted to name the character after Page but he declined that particular honor and John Gage was born!

In addition to one of the lead characters being based on a real firefighter there were other aspects to the show that were based on reality - the role of the dispatcher was "played" by real-life LACoFD dispatcher Sam Lanier who had over 18 years' service to the department; Fire Station 51 is in real life Los Angeles County Fire Station 127 located in Carson, California; the second Engine 51 used in the show is now in service at Yosemite National Park in California; and the radio call sign KMG365, which is said whenever Station 51 is responding to a call, is still a valid FCC call sign licensed to the LACoFD.

Emergency! was so realistic that it has actually been credited with saving lives in that there were quite a few news reports over the years of children and adults saving people using techniques which were demonstrated in the series. In later years the show posted a disclaimer that the medical techniques should only be performed by trained professionals but it also inspired medical communities all over the country to start offering CPR and First Aid classes so that people could be trained properly.

Along with all that there was one more very important aspect to the show in that it saved lives by inspiring hundreds of men and women to become firefighters and paramedics themselves. A lot of boys wanted to be Johnny Gage when they grew up and that's exactly what they did - they became paramedics and they went on to save lives themselves - something that may have never happened had they not sat down in front of their TV sets on Saturday nights and watched Gage and Desoto in action. As a matter of fact, I work with a couple of those guys and some of them had the pleasure of hearing Randy Mantooth speak at last year's EMS dinner sponsored by Backus Hospital.

Thirty years after the series ended in 1979, Randy Mantooth has devoted a lot of his time to advocating for firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, and other emergency medical providers. He speaks at countless EMS Conferences and Conventions and he really makes us all feel good about our jobs and our role in saving lives. He may have been just an actor with no knowledge of EMS when he started Emergency! but he now has a unique perspective and insight into the start-up and history of pre-hospital treatment in the field and uses that insight and perspective to inspire future generations to become firefighters and paramedics.

I think it's great when an actor can use a character to inspire people like Randy Mantooth has. He's very personable, extremely articulate, has a great sense of humor, and - on top of all that - is still damned good looking, too! What more could you ask for in a speaker at a conference?!?

Following his presentation, Mr. Mantooth (who is half Seminole Indian by the way) went back to the Exhibitors Hall and happily signed autographs for as long as it took for everyone who wanted an autograph to get one. He'll sign anything that anyone wants but if you wanted to help support the Los Angeles County Fire Museum there were pictures and other things that you could buy for him to sign with 50% of the sale going towards the museum. My friend Andrew, who was inspired to become the great paramedic he is, by Johnny Gage had a birthday coming up so I bought a Hot Wheels version of Squad 51 and asked Mr. Mantooth to sign it for him, which he happily did.

He also took a moment for a picture with me -

Randy Mantooth's Keynote Address was definitely one of the highlights of the conference and I'm glad I had a chance to be there to hear it as it helped me to remember that even though my job can sometimes be frustrating and stressful, there are days when I actually do play some small part in saving someone's life - and that makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Looking at the Sky on Friday - The High Altitude Version

Time once again for my friend Tisha's Looking at the Sky on Friday meme and even though she's a major fan of Kris Allen going into the finals of American Idol next week, I can certainly forgive her that and participate in her meme in spite of the fact that I am a major fan of Adam Lambert and am hoping he takes the title. However, even if he doesn't, I'm sure he's got himself a career all ready to go and if by some chance Kris does manage to win I won't begrudge him the title as I think he's darned good, too. Matter of fact, it's been a tough season as there were so many good contestants this year it was hard not to root for more than one of them! Well, with the exception of Megan Joy that is - her I didn't like at all!

Anyhow, Idol chatter aside (yes, pun intended!), for this week's meme I chose one of the shots that I took from the window of my Southwest Airlines flight out to Las Vegas on April the 28th so I guess you could say that I was looking down at the skies rather than up at them as we were cruising at about 36,000 feet!

The big black area to the left of the picture is actually one of the planes engines as we were sitting just ahead of the wing on the left hand side of the plane as you're flying west. The only complaint I have with Southwest is that they need to keep their windows a little cleaner so that folks like myself who insist on taking pictures can get clearer ones!

Speaking of folks taking pictures, don't forget to click on over to CrAzY Working Mom and see what skies other people have posted. Have a great Friday while you're at it!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Visiting The Hoover Dam

It's hard to believe that it's been over two weeks already since Jen, my usual dispatch partner at work, and myself flew out to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the annual Navigator Conference for dispatchers who are certified through the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch however that's exactly what's it been. Wow - where does the time go?

At any rate, naturally I took a lot of pictures from one of the very first places we went to while in the Las Vegas area - the Hoover Dam - and I figure it's about high-time I post some of them. As there are so many, I put a lot of them in the You Tube video a little further down in this post but I'll sprinkle a few more throughout. For example, this one up there to the right isn't the best picture ever due to that hovering green blob in front of the palm tree but I kind of liked it anyway! There's just something about palm trees in the desert that still amazes me though I really don't know why!

Okay then ... on with the post!

We arrived in Las Vegas around 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and procured a rental car right at the airport to make the drive out to Hoover Dam. It's really not all that far from Vegas and we figured that by driving out ourselves, we could pretty much do things at our own pace. I must say, though, that Vegas traffic is not the most fun to drive in and I thought Jen was going to have a panic attack or something on the slightly twisty-turny road that gets one to the dam. Still, we made it in one piece and after parking in the dam garage, we made our way over to the dam visitor center.

Unfortunately, there were no dam tours the day we were there so we were limited to the Visitor's Center and walking around outside of the dam. Regardless, it was pretty damn impressive and while I was watching the movie they show about how and why the dam was built, I marveled not just on the fact that men built such a magnificent structure but that other men had thought of and designed it to begin with. For all that it was a tremendous feat to build such a thing, it never could have happened had someone not thought of how to do it first.

Speaking of building things, one of the very first things you see as you come around the corner approaching the dam from the Nevada side is the arch bridge that is being built over Black Canyon and the Colorado River located way, way, way down below.

Located approximately 1600 feet down river from the Hoover Dam, the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is going to be the new Route 93 and will eliminate the traffic that currently drives across the top of the dam. When finished in September of 2010, the bridge will be 840 feet above the canyon and provide pedestrian walkways so that people can stroll across the bridge (gulp!) to take pictures of the dam. I can only imagine that it will be one heck of an impressive view but not one that I will ever take in myself!

As for the Hoover Dam itself, it is an engineering marvel of the highest magnitude. When completed, it was both the world's largest electric-power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure though now it is currently the world's 35th-largest hydroelectric generating station and the Grand Toulee Dam is bigger. Trust me, that is hard to imagine!

Construction began on the project that would tame the Colorado River and provide much-needed water to the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming in 1931 and was completed two years ahead of schedule in 1936. Over the course of the construction, over 21,000 workers were hired to complete the project which provided much-needed jobs to workers hit by the Great Depression that gripped the United States.

Originally called the Boulder Dam project, the dam was officially named Hoover Dam in a Congressional Act of February 14th, 1931 that kept up the tradition of important dams being named in honor of whoever was the President in office at the time of construction. On May 8th, 1933, however, the new Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who had been appointed by the new President (Franklin D. Roosevelt), removed Hoover's name from the dam and directed that it be called Boulder Dam instead. Ickes retired in 1946 following FDR's death in 1945 and on March 4th, 1947 California Republican Congressman Jack Anderson submitted a resolution to restore the name of the dam. On April 30th, 1947, President Harry Truman signed Public Law 43 which renamed the dam in honor of President Herbert Hoover who had played an instrumental role in its construction, first as the Secretary of Commerce and then later as the President.

In addition to the dam itself, one of the things I liked most was the monument by Oskar J.W. Hansen, a sculptor who moved to the United States from Norway. His monument consists of two 32-foot-tall winged figures, made of bronze, and is called "Winged Figures of the Republic." It sits on the Nevada side of the dam.

The winged figures contain more than 4 tons of statuary bronze and are done in an art deco style. They sit on a base of black diorite, an igneous rock, and in order to place the blocks without marring their highly polished finish, the figures were centered on blocks of ice and guided precisely into place as the ice melted. According to Hansen, the winged figures represent "the immutable calm of intellectual resolution, and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific accomplishment."

Surrounding the base is a terrazzo floor, inlaid with a star chart, or celestial map, which pinpoints the precise astronomical time - September 30, 1935, 8:56 p.m. - when President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the dam. The floor also pays homage to the Native American heritage of the land which surrounds the dam. All in all, it's pretty cool!

Anyhow, I think I've bored you with enough history for one post so please enjoy the rest of the pictures below which don't do justice to the magnificence which is Hoover Dam. The only way to truly appreciate it is to visit it yourself and I'm sure you'll be as dam amazed and impressed as I was!