Sunday, February 26, 2012

Better Lucky Than Good

For the second time on that day, I got caught unprepared for the opportunity to capture a great photo. For the second time on that day, luck and good equipment bailed me out and I was able to salvage them. This time, I didn't even have a chance to change lenses.

After leaving Shell Reef, site of my last post, our caravan of Jeeps/quads and side by sides headed over to a place called the Pumpkin Patch. The Pumpkin Patch is a place where time, water and wind have created globular sandstone features resembling pumpkins.

We arrived at the Pumpkin Patch and I set up my camera for shots like this:

It DOES look like a pumpkin patch!

After getting all I wanted at the Pumpkin Patch, I stopped and chatted with other members of our party on my way back to the Jeep. I heard the whine of a turbo-jet engine, looked up and saw this:

The object visible just over the roof of the outhouse is an L-29, an 
eastern bloc military trainer. When I first saw it, I thought it might
be in trouble.  After I realized that it was producing power and was
 under control, I knew that this flight was about someone having
 a good time.

I was bummed that he only made one pass, but was ecstatic that 
I was able to catch it in five frames. Again, I only had a few
seconds to recognize, acquire and shoot. As I was set up for
photographing rocks, I can't complain too much about the above

The above L-29 is a C model and was made in Czechoslovakia back in 1968. It is now owned by a museum in El Cajon Ca, and is available for rides. For a measley $925, you can strap this beauty on and look down on the faces of us off-roading Schmoes as you streak by.  

I'll try not to be too jealous.

Fear not, only one more post regarding Ocotillo Wells left to go. I hope that it's not redundant, but it was an interesting place and an interesting weekend.

Thanks for suffering reading,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rollover at Shell Reef

As mentioned in an earlier post, this was my first trip to Ocotillo Wells. When I heard we were heading to a fossil site known as Shell Reef, I set up my camera to take pictures of rocks. Little did I know that the other end of Shell Reef is a steep hill that is a popular site for off-roaders to hone their climbing and descending skills.

As we arrived, I realized that a lens change was in order, so I put the grenade launcher on and stepped from the jeep. Seconds later, I captured the sequence below. I didn't have time to set up the camera so I went with what I had.  I got very lucky, the settings were close enough to get usable images, though far from perfect.

Click on the images to enlarge.

I missed the first part of this, this was taken as the driver almost
saved it after getting sideways coming down the hill. The left front 
wheel is hitting the berm, though it is still parallel with the right.

Notice that the front wheels are no longer parallel. Trouble comin'.

And awaaay we gooo... Notice the passenger's hands firmly 
grasping her shoulder straps. That prevents injuries like those
described in the last post. She's trainable.

1/7 of a second later, hands still affixed to the straps. Well done.

The passenger's eating dirt, the driver is looking at what's for lunch.

The world turns brown.

Now, the driver gets his.

And they walked away. THAT'S what everyone wants to see.

I gave the blog address and my e-mail to some people who were with these folks and received an email from them a few minutes ago. Other than a bruised shoulder from the shoulder straps, no injuries were received. 

The failed steering knuckle appears to have had a hairline crack in it before the event, the roll-cage and frame of the Rhino were damaged in the rollover. The safety equipment did it's job, as always, I'll swap steel for flesh any time.

Anybody who has spent any time in the dirt has had something similar happen, though maybe not as severe. Safety equipment and gear reduce the risk, the above images prove that. I am really glad that the people in the above images were not injured, hopefully they will get a chuckle out of the images. It might take some of the pain away from visiting the parts store.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Almost Passed It By

We spent the weekend in the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, an off-road park located in Imperial County. The park is largely funded through off-road license fees and are a very popular place for off-roaders to camp and ride.

As last weekend was a three day weekend, Ocotilo Wells was pretty busy. Too busy, in fact, for my taste. I'm one of those guys who goes to the desert to be away from people, not share the experience with thousands of others.  That being said, we did have a great time and I am glad that I went.

The group that I was with consisted of two jeeps, a side by side and four quads and ranged from 60 something down to 8. We had visited Gas Dome, a unique geologic feature located within the park, when we came upon an accident involving a Razr side by side.

The dust had just settled when I arrived, I saw a man holding his left hand and a couple of other guys righting the Razr. My first impression was that someone had rolled the Razr (correct) and had hurt their hand in the process (also correct - though under estimated). I also thought that as no has ever died from a hand injury and as there was a ton of people already there, It was best for me to continue down the road.

Dave, one of our party, had stopped before I had arrived. I hadn't noticed him there, but he had been over to take a look at the guy's hand. He didn't like what he saw. The Saint rolled down the window as Dave walked toward the Jeep.

"Schmoe, you gotta take a look at the guy's hand, It's really bad".

Shit. How bad can it be? I parked the jeep and walked over to the guy. His hand was covered with a small towel, I asked him if I could take a look. He gingerly removed the towel.

Double shit, the hand was a mess. A crushing type injury with numerous apparent fractures, two avulsions,  lacerations, poor color coupled with mobility and sensation issues. Did I mention delayed cap refill in the injured hand? How about that his hand was really messed up? The hand looked like something out of the "Farm Injury" chapter in the EMT book. The victim denied neck/back/head pain, though appeared pale.

I carry some stuff in the Jeep for events such as this so I tossed the towel and used some kling and an ABD pad to hold the fingers in position, then wrapped the hand with some more kling. I didn't have anything with me to use as a splint, so I asked around. Nobody else did either so the poor guy just held it in place.

The next item for discussion was how to get the guy to real treatment. It was probably 20-30 minutes to pavement, then another 30+ to the hospital in Brawley. I figured that we would drive him out till we got to cell-service. We were discussing the options, when someone else pulled up and told us that the rangers were on the way.

I was surprised how fast someone got there. The first to show up were a couple of State Park guys who were first responders I think. I gave them my assessment as they contacted the patient. They unwrapped the hand just enough to verify my assessment, then wrapped it back up. A splint was applied as well. I "turned" pt. care over to them and returned to jeeper-photographer mode, a role I enjoy far better these days.

A few minutes later, an SUV with a couple of guys from CAL Fire showed up, as well as some State Park Rangers. The CAL-Fire guys were EMTs, everybody seemed to know each other and worked well together.

 After a short discussion, it was determined that due to the damage of the hand and the fact that a specialty surgeon would likely be needed to salvage functionality, flying the pt. to Desert Regional would be the best option. Again, I was surprised at how fast the bird got there.

The bird landed and a flight nurse (I assume) hopped out and made pt. contact.

 After a very few minutes, the pt. was placed in a truck and driven closer to the chopper, where he was then led to the bird and loaded up. A few seconds later and they were on their way.

Not too much longer. and we were on ours.

I chatted with some of the people who responded. Sadly, trauma such as this is very common on busy weekends. State Parks, CAL- Fire, private ambulance and Mercy-Air all have a role in the EMS response and it seems like like they have it figured out. Granted, the location of this incident was fairly accessible, some areas of the park are not. However, I was very happy with the response time and with the care provided.

I just hope it worked out for the pt.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, February 20, 2012


We JUST got back from an eventful trip to the desert, to an area where we normally wouldn't go. I took my lap top, thinking that as we were close to the highway, I would get 3G service and would be able to post. It was not to be, as the local cell-site was an ATT tower and not doing me any good.

We did some OK jeeping, some good jeeping, practiced some EMS, took some ok pics and took a few good pics.

Unfortunately, I have to unload the trailer, truck and jeep so I can't download the pics and post, but will start doing so tonight or tomorrow.

I received quite q few comments regarding my Kindle/Go-Pro dilemma and I will be addressing those as well.

I hope everybody's weekend was as fun/interesting as mine and hope that everybody's rested for the upcoming week.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Good Dilemna To Have

The Saint That I Am Married To recently promised to take me shopping for a gift. She would have purchased it outright, then wrapped it and presented it to me, however there are several variants of this item and she was unsure which variant would best suit my needs.

Last night, as we were loading up the Jeep and trailer for a weekend excursion in the desert, she presented another option to me, one that involves an item which will be used as more of a toy - though one that will enhance my hobby of taking pictures.

To be honest, this second option kind of threw a monkey wrench into the works as I had wrapped my head around the first item and was looking forward to using it. The second item will likely not be used as much, but will be tremendously fun to use. The second item might have an additional benefit as the results of it's use may appear on this blog.

These are both items that I could go out and purchase at any time, though I would likely not. I would probably end up spending that disposable income on memory cards or accessories for my Jeep. That's a beauty of gifts, giving someone something they want, not necessarily something they need.

So now it comes down to this, a Kindle Reading Device, or a Go-Pro Hero camera.

I can justify both and even more important, I would enjoy either immensely.  I love to take photos and I love to read. Win-win for me. Do any of you have any thoughts on the matter or have any practical experience with either product? If so, leave me a comment.

The matter is not much as far as dilemmas go, though it is a good dilemma to have.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Criminal Charges Filed in L.A. City L.O.D.D.

It has been almost a year since Los Angeles City Firefighter Glen Allen was killed while battling a structure fire in the community of Hollywood Hills. Allen was killed when a portion of the mansion collapsed on him during the fire. Other department members used power tools to remove him from the debris and then transported him to the hospital.

Prosecutors announced today that Gerhard Becker, 48, the architect and primary contractor of the home was arrested late last week and is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Allen's death. Five other firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze.

The fire was determined to be caused by an 18 ft. long fire-pit type appliance that had been built inside the mansion, despite Gerhard being warned against it, according the an L.A. Times blog.  The fire caused a residential fire sprinkler pipe to fail, causing the ceiling to become filled with water and then fail.

Gerhard faces four years in prison if convicted.


This was rumored in the works almost a year ago, Bernhard was arrested as he returned to the country on Saturday. I have to wonder, was the announcement of the prosecution delayed until Bernhard returned and could be arrested, or did Bernhard return to face the charges?

It really doesn't make any difference, it sounds like the code violations were negligent enough to warrant prosecution. I have been waiting for this for a while.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On Elevators

Mad Jack, a fellow blogger, asked me recently about elevators, mainly do they ever fall and how do you get them unstuck.

I should have responded to his comment earlier, but me being the derelict blogger that I am, I let several days go by without responding. That and the lengthy answer made me decide to write a post, one primarily for those who do not deal with these issues very often, if at all.

This is not a lesson plan for dealing with elevator emergencies, my knowledge is narrow and old. There are many out there who deal with these daily and are far more proficient at mitigating them. This is more me telling about how I dealt with the ones in my district, back in the day.

As for as the "do they ever fall?" question, I am sure that it has happened, but so many things would have to go wrong in order for it to happen that it basically never does.

Most of our elevator problems consist of an elevator getting stuck between floors. When I say between floors, I mean that the elevator car is not wholly aligned with the hoist-way door. When this occurs, neither the elevator car door, nor the hoist-way door will open and the car will remain stopped. The occupants usually do not like this very much and will hit the alarm button or use the elevator car telephone if provided. Occasionally, a trapped occupant may be slightly claustrophobic and begin to panic. This is not a positive experience for anyone in the elevator car.

The reasons for the car stopping are many, but it usually is one of a few things. For us, probably the main reason for a stoppage is a "fart" in the computer that controls the elevator. These computers, as with any computer, occasionally decide to freeze up and the system comes to a halt. Many of them have a reset procedure that consists of hitting several buttons on the various circuit boards in the elevator control box.  Once reset, the system restores and the elevator continues on it's merry way. Sometimes, if the reset procedure is not known, power to the computer will be removed and it will reboot. The result is the same as resetting it.

Sometimes, a hoist-way door or even the car door will not close properly or not trip the appropriate switch, causing the system to stop. Rattling the hoist-way doors and having the occupants rattle the car door may correct the problem.

Older elevators have a mechanical inertia switch located on the cable drum at the top of the hoist-way. It's job is to detect if the car is moving too fast and shut the elevator down. It can easily be reset, restoring the system. One of the elevators at City Hall had a bad inertia switch, if people got a little froggy inside the elevator car, the inertia switch would trip and we would have to go up and reset it. We put up with it for a few years before the elevator was removed from service. A remodel of the other two elevators increased speed enough that the problem child was no longer needed. I don't know if it was ever restored.

My procedure in dealing with stuck elevators was to first make sure the RP had contacted an elevator tech and have them respond. Most reputable elevator maintenance companies will send someone immediately if someone is stuck. I like having them there, as occasionally they can resolve the issue more efficiently than we can. Having a tech there also usually causes a mechanical issue to be resolved immediately, reducing further responses.

Once we arrive, we locate the car and make contact with the occupants. This is accomplished by shouting through the hoist-way doors. Words of reassurance go a long way in keeping stuck occupants calm. While contact is made, some of the crew will rattle doors, often on their way to the elevator control box, usually in the basement or up in the attic, above the elevator. The second in officer goes to the lobby and tries the fire service control key, sometimes that will immediately recall the car to the lobby where the occupants will be let out.

If those things don't work, we will reset the control computer. That usually takes a few minutes, but often works.

If none of those work, it will then be necessary to pick the hoist-way door, then manually release the car door from the outside. There are special tools to do this, it is not that difficult. The hard part is remembering where the locking devices are and how to manipulate them. As you may see a particular elevator only once in your career, it helps if that info is in a pre-plan book. There isn't a high degree of standardization between elevator manufacturers, especially the older ones. Plus, elevators are modified during the course of their lives, things aren't always put back together the same way as before. Once the doors are opened, the occupants can be removed. Sometimes a ladder is needed if the car is not close to the hoist-way door.

If you have to pick the door to remove the occupants, IT IS IMPERATIVE  THAT POWER TO THE ELEVATOR IS SHUT DOWN FIRST! Better yet, lock it out of you can. The last thing anyone needs is for whatever problem to correct itself and  for the to car start moving while someone is half in or half out of it. Though rare, it has happened (or so I've been told)

Sometimes, the tech arrives quickly and resolves the issue for you. That is good. Sometimes, people feel the need to "force" the doors causing damage. This is not so good. I hear the jaws can really mess up a hoist-way door, so don't use them. Unless. of course, it's me stuck in the elevator and happy hour will be over in a few minutes. Then use dynamite if you have to.

Thanks for reading,

Like I said, there are A LOT of peeps that could tell you a lot more than me, this is just what we did at the big house, back in the day. Many of our problem children have been re-habbed or replaced since then,  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No Habla

I don't know J very well, I have spoken with him only three or four times over the past twenty two years. The first time was in 1990, when I purchased the house that J grew up in, the house where I still live. The second was a few months ago, in my driveway when J dropped by to visit a neighbor.The third time that I spoke with J was last week, when he dropped by my neighbors house at a time when I happened to be over there.

J is in the construction business, much like his father before him. Due to the lack of building activity and the influx of cheap labor, J has had to modify his business over the years. J now is in the property re-hab business.

When a bank takes possession of a property, it is often in a distressed state. The bank may contract with someone like J, who will come in and make the property fit to occupy. Usually, this endeavor includes  paint, flooring, some fixtures and appliances and some landscape maintenance.

Though there are a lot of properties that need to be re-habbed, there are also a lot of contractors who provide this service. As the banks are already taking a pretty good hit on these projects, they don't want to put any more money into them than they have to. Thus, cost control is a leading factor in obtaining this kind of work. Profit margins on these jobs are not very large.

J was having an issue on one of his projects last week, it was bothersome enough for him to share it with us. It involved a property which required significant re-hab before it could be put on the market. J had done the usual stuff, plus some cabinetry repair and some electrical work, including replacing some wiring and all of the switches and receptacles. The flooring had been laid on Monday, finishing the project, with the exception of a stove which had to be ordered.

The stove arrived on Wednesday morning. J decided to install it that afternoon, then photographically document the finished project, so he could submit his invoice and collect his cash. When he arrived at the project, he was surprised to find cars in the driveway and signs that someone had decided to move in. His key no longer fit the front door and the gate to the rear yard was locked.

J knocked on the door and a woman answered. J inquired as to the purpose of the woman's presence inside the house. The reply was "no habla". Further one sided conversation produced no further statements from the woman, though some non-verbal communication indicated that the woman had no intention of leaving and was not fearful of J nor anyone else.

At some point, the woman produced a rental agreement (written in English) and pointed out the areas where it spelled out the specifics for renting the house. The woman still claimed "no habla".

J asked if he could enter the house to document his labors, the woman would not allow it. It was at this point that J realized that he was screwed. Even though J doesn't own the house, the likelihood of receiving the $14,000 owed to him for materials and labor is slim, at least until the squatters can removed from the house and his work documented.

By the time that is accomplished, everything done to the home will be destroyed and anything of any value will have been removed. Depending on J's relationship with the bank, he may have to start over and complete the project a second time before receiving any money. Regardless, it will be a long, long time - if ever, before J gets a dime out of this deal.

At the best, the current occupants of the house are victims as well and have been defrauded. At worst, they are part of  the scam and will enjoy many months in the house rent free. The woman's ability to point to the proper sections of the rental agreement despite a language barrier lead me to believe that they are scammers who have done this sort of thing before. Either way nobody is moving out anytime soon and J is going to have to eat that 14 grand for a while.

As there was a one day window between the completion of the flooring and his attempt to deliver the stove, J believes that they were watching the house and then pounced on it when the time was right. He was a little surprised at the sophistication of these squatters, he is used to dealing with transients occupying the homes. Transients usually just move on when challenged and never produce fraudulent rental agreements.

I have read about squatters using similar tactics. Some were just criminals looking to scam unwary renters, others were just looking for somewhere to stay rent free. There is even a group who advocates squatting in bank-owned  houses as a method of correcting perceived social injustice.

I doubt J cares which of these scenarious applies to the property that he has been working on. He just wants his 14 large.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Car Trouble

They, those people, say that there is always usually an element of truth to most jokes and attempts at humor. I tend to agree, this cartoon argues my point:

click to enlarge

Maybe we should ALL take the insurance money and buy a better camera!

I don't read this comic every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but I do read it often. It is from a webcomic called XKCD which publishes a new strip every MWF.. I could very easily see this discussion going on in photography class, much in the depicted fashion.

Photographers, like firefighters, tend to be mission focused and most like to have the best available tools to accomplish the mission. Even if they don't have a car to haul their gear around in.

I'm just sayin'.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Peeps, Saving Her Peeps

I received the following text a few minutes ago:

LOL! FD here for elevator malfunction...6 peeps stuck.

She was kind enough to snap a few pics and send them along.

Oddly enough, I was in the den when the call came through and I heard it on the radio. As they went to a TAC channel, I couldn't hear the details but from the looks of the second picture, it appears that they got them out just fine.

These guys are from Sta. #1, aka the Big House, where I was assigned for quite a few years back in the day. A four person engine and a three person truck should have been the response.

There are numerous elevators in the district, some of which tended to be problem children. The building in the above photos is only a few years old and other that the usual "new building" alarm issues, hasn't been much of a problem. Hopefully it stays that way.

BTW, here was my response to The Saint:

LOL my peeps rescuing ur peeps! I hope u gave them a hug for me.

I was serious about the hug, I miss these guys! I'm guessing that they had already cleared by the time my reply hit The Saint's phone. Maybe I'll just have to do it myself.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Strike

I love me a good protest. A group of people that are pissed off enough to grab a sign, chant and  march through the streets usually make for a good photographic learning experience.

This post isn't about whether the protester's ire is justified or whether public employees should be allowed to strike, it's about me learning to take effective photos. Frankly I need the practice - I already know what I am going to focus on next time I get the opportunity. 

The SEIU local representing semi-professionals for the County of Riverside were just that upset last week and went on a one day walk-out. I just couldn't pass it up.

 I got there a little late, this is the crowd during a rally outside the County Admin Center. This was just after the had been booted from the Board of Supervisors meeting. I wish I had been here for that!

As with any good rally, speakers were present to get the troops fired up.

 One of the speakers was a candidate for State Senate. He used to be a State Assemblyman, back in the day. I don't know what he's been up to lately, but I do know that he was VERY pro fire service when he was in the assembly.

 After the rally, a picket line was formed in the parking area near the Administrative Center. It was basically a large circle and appeared to be designed to not interfere with people entering and exiting the building.

I sort of know this one, she can be trouble!

I spotted my buddy the fire marshal, patrolling the edge of the crowd. I heard that he had asked some protesters to leave the atrium area of the admin center earlier in the day, as they were blocking the exits. I don't know if it's true or not, I haven't had the chance to ask him. I snapped his picture from a couple of hundred feet away - I'll probably send it to him for his "I Love Me" wall.  

 After a break for lunch, it was time to take the show on the road. It seemed as the crowd grew for the march, I am unsure why. Maybe some workers who went into the office in the morning decided to walk at lunch, maybe some folks from other bargaining groups showed up late. I really don't know.

With a crowd that large, marching through the streets is going to impact traffic.

Being stuck in traffic rarely is an environment that wins friends. An orderly protest and an RPD presence helped ensure that everyone played nice and behaved themselves. Democracy in action.

 After the march, things kind of slowed down and I left. I met the Saint at the Salted Pig and we enjoyed an adult beverage or two. The number of people wearing purple shirts inside and the stack of signs at the door led to me believe that the Salted Pig was the end-game for many. Good pick.

What did I learn from all of this? I learned that I need to spend more time capturing the human element of the event and less time on the event itself. I saw some pictures that the SEIU had taken and I liked them much better. They showed the emotion of some of the participants displayed, something that I missed. I guess there is always next time. As this is the county seat, there is often some form of protest going on so there is always an opportunity to learn.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I can tell when I stop going to school, just like I could tell when I stopped going to seminars and courses back when I was on the job. I tend to get stale, stay inside my box and stop experimenting with my camera. As a result, I am trying to stay in school, whether at the UC, the CC or in various seminars.

Today, my composition class went on a field trip to the Botanic Gardens at the local UC campus. I had been to the gardens a few times before, once when the Saint I Am Married To and I were engaged and a few other times on calls. I had forgotten how big the place was and how beautiful. There was no shortage of things to photograph.

We spent about three hours, wandering the place and taking pictures. As one of my classmates forgot the battery for her camera and I had the only camera that used the same battery, we actually shared the battery. A few of these shots were taken only because I was standing in the area, waiting for her to finish her shot. In the end, it all worked out. It will be interesting to see how her photos turned out, I will get to do so at the next meeting when all of our images will be publicly critiqued.

None of these are images that I would have taken were I not in this class. There are several talented photographers in it, I notice that there are more talented people in each one. It is good to see their work and learn from the experience. Hopefully, some of their artsy-fartsyness will rub off.

Thanks for reading,