Author Archives: Tony

200 Water Slides In the Midwest Sun

200 Water Slides In the Midwest Sun

I was cleaning out my folder of automatic downloads from The Funny Music Project and this song from The Great Luke Ski made me grin like an idiot.

My fellow Wisconsillisotans* know that the Wisconsin Dells is where many happy summer memories were made. I’m not sure how much actual time we spent there when I was a kid, but I do have memories of going to a lot of the places mentioned in the song.

Mom can pipe in and correct me if my geography is completely out of whack, but I think I remmeber doing a lot of these things in conjunction with our triennial vacations to the Lighthouse Resort on Fence Lake.

Also, that one time I skipped work around the Fourth of July to go to Noah’s Arc. I mean, come on, it is where the water animals play :-).**

Anyway. Enjoy the song, and if you’ve never been there, think of the fun you could have.

* The conglomeration of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.

** “Skipped” only because I didn’t have any vacation days being essentially a Per Diem employee and I forgot to call in until we were on the highway. As it turns out, my boss, and the backup I reported to, were both out that day too.

Because Those That Help Occasionally Need It Too

Because Those That Help Occasionally Need It Too

Some of us know exactly “what we want to do when we grow up”. Others are still figuring it out. In the case of one of my friends Epi not only does she know what she wants to do, but it is clear through the passion in her writing that it is a calling. Epi is trying to get into Medic School to finish her education and continue on her path in prehospital emergency care. Due to personal reasons it is possible she may not get to start class as intended. Bernice has started a campaign to help Epi with her financial situation. I know money is tight for all of us, but if you can help at all it will make a huge difference.

I can’t say it any better than Bernice, so go read her original post and if you are so inclined please help however you can.

She’s a fantastic EMT, and will be a fabulous Medic too. I know I’d trust her if one of my loved ones was in need of EMS.

My Sister’sKeeper, Hollywood Can Keep It

My Sister’sKeeper, Hollywood Can Keep It

When I first heard that “My Sister’s Keeper” would be adapted into a movie I was fairly excited. I thought the book was an excellent read and it was one I had a hard time putting down. After seeing what they did with it, I want my money back.

I’m going to try not to spoil this too much, but be forewarned something might slip out.

The premise of the story surrounds the fitsgerrald family, who’s middle child Kate, suffers from Acute Prosilometic Lukemia (APL). After undergoing a series of tests, and checking the family to see if anyone is a potential limphasite donor, it is suggested that the family consider having a child who would be a perfect match for Kate. Andromeda, Anna, is conceived and genetically manipulated to have the right biological trates that will make her the perfect donor.

After several years and multiple medical procedures, Kate finally needs a kidney. At this point, Anna sues her parents for medical emancipation.

The story continues from this point explaining the court proceedings, the medical issues, and examining how different family members feel about what is now happening, and what has happened in the past.

My major problem with the film is the lack of character development and human interest. THe book explores aspects of why people react to what is happening, and you get a greater sense of why they do the things they do. Many of the subplots which offer the opportunity for redemption of certain characters are eliminated or drastically reduced.

As an example, the presence of Camble Alexander’s, Anna’s lawyer, service dog and it’s actions during one scene makemuch less sense in the film and possibly could have been eliminated.

Perhaps some of this missing character development was present in the purely visual scenes of the film, but I didn’t really get that impression.

my biggest disappointment was the change in the ending. I don’t mean a minor change either. The entire ending was rewritten a and i believe it removed a lot from the final product. The original ending grabs you, tosses you to the ground, sits on your chest and says, “Ha, nothing is what you thought it was.” The ending of the film however, is predictable and took away from the power of the original. The book’s ending might not have been something that happens every day, but metaphorically, it demonstrates that life is rarely what it pretends to be and things are rarely what they seem. It was just a much more powerful statement and added a lot to the story.

Some of you saw this film, some of you even cried during it, but I was just disappointed in the entire thing. Feel free to tell me what I missed in the comments (potential spoilers are fine, so those of you who don’t want to know things, don’t read).

Playing Catchup

Playing Catchup

Or if you prefer, Ketchup.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

Rather, I simply chose not to.

Here’s what’s been happening with us lately.

Work has been crazy. We’re gearing up for the annual NFB National Convention which takes place in Detroit starting July 2nd. It’s always a crazy, but massively fun, week.

Treva just finished work on a video to promote mentoring of blind youth by blind adults. She put a ton of work into it and it came out exceptionally well!! If it ends up online I’ll link to it.

In non-work related, but completely geeky, news. I upgraded my amateur, ham, radio license to Extra class (the highest level) and Treva earned her Technician class license. Somewhere around the 20th of May I decided that it it had been 14 years and I hadn’t advanced my license very far (I upgraded from Technician to Tech Plus somewhere around 1996 or 1997 which only required a 5WPM morse code test) and I decided it was about time to do something about it.

There were two exams I needed to pass to upgrade to Amateur Extra. The General class exam is a 35 question test on intermediate theory, regulations, and radio wave propegation. The Extra class exam consists of 50 questions on some of the more obscure, but no less important, regulations, advanced electronics theory, and operating practices including Amateur Television and using Amateur Radio Satellites.

When I started studying I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if I could complete the upgrade by the 2009 ARRL Field Day which begins June 27. Field Day is an annual operating event that runs for twenty-four hours during the last full weekend in June. It is an opportunity both to test operating in abnormal conditions, clubs and individuals will often set up operating in tents and use power sources such as generaters or batteries to simulate emergency operating conditions, and as a public relations tool to teach people about amateur radio. It’s usually one of my favorite operating activities aside from public service events. Many years I am unable to participate since the NFB convention frequently falls on the same weekend, but with the 4th of July falling where it does I get to do both.

When I first started studying I thought that it would be cool to take the General and Extra exams at the same time and just “get it done”. I used a combination of the ARRL study guides and Simon, AA9PW’s, Online Practice Exams to prepare. There was a point where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to pass the Extra (some of the theory was killing me), but when I started passing the general exams I crammed for it the last week before I planned to take the actual exam.

That’s when Treva started studying for her Technician exam too. See, I’m definitely a radio geek. I think it iss much easier to use a radio to pass quick messages when you’re at a convention or other event than to use a cell phone. Especially some of these convention hotels where mobile phone coverage is abismal to say the least. I’d kind of been bugging her to get her ham license for a couple of years. We’ve had General Mobile Radio Service licenses for a while, but in areas where they even exist GMRS repeater information is scarce and many urban areas suffer from channel congestion because of the “bubble pack” radios fromWal-Mart and the like. (Most of what we need will be simplex, but occasionally a repeater will be handy.) (You can’t conduct your employer’s business on ham radio, but generally we’re just trying to figure out where the other person is, or I’m being sent on a Diet Coke Run :-)).

I’ve also been playing around with Amateur Satellites. We’ve got several of them up there, and since there are bonus points for satellite contacts during Field Day, I’ve been trying to see if I can successfully use one. So far I’ve almost heard one (I had extremely minimal capture, but couldn’t pull anyone out of the noise) and heard it on a subsequent pass (I forgot to compensate for doppler, and had to move out of the way of a car in the parking lot, so lost it before I could try to make a contact). I’m going to try again tomorrow morning and see what happens.

I wonder if I can convince the apartment complex people to give me a key to the roof so I don’t have to “play radio” in the parking lot to get a clear shot at the sky.

Wow, sorry, this has turned into way more of a radio geekery post than I planned.

You can wake up now… Really, you can… HEY! Wake Up! πŸ™‚

I’ve also been geeking around with a couple of computer projects, but I’ll save those posts for when they’re actually working.

We ditched our cable company at the end of May. Over memorial Day weekend we obtained an DTV converter and antenna to see if we could get the broadcast network channels. Most of what we watch is either on a broadcast network or reruns. We figured we could just keep using Netflix, Hulu, or similar digital streaming/download services to get the rest. I can’t say I’ve even noticed that we haven’t had it.

I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of anything that will not bore you any more than you already are.

NFB March for Independence

NFB March for Independence

Hello Friends,

On July 6 the National Federation of the Blind will hold the third annual March for Independence. This march, a walk for opportunity, is one of our organization’s chances to help raise money to support our programs for the coming year. Programs that promote the independence and inclusion of the blind in society. You’ve heard Treva and I say it before, and we try to live it in our lives, we firmly believe that with the right training and opportunity blindness can be reduced to an inconvenient characteristic.

We’ve talked before about how the work of the NFB has made a difference in our lives. The collective experience and advocacy efforts of thousands of blind people have given us opportunities we may not otherwise have. Working for the NFB our jobs bring us into contact daily with other people that are benefiting from the work of the NFB. Treva works with young blind people who are involved in the mentoring program and get connected with competent blind mentors who can guide and teach them. The mentors develop relationships with blind youth and inspire confidence in them that they can do anything they want with the right training and opportunity. The work Tony participates in with the Access Technology Team is changing how blind students access online course materials that have not previously been accessible and helping to connect users with technology that will allow them to do the jobs they want to do.

We don’t tell you this, or ask you to help the organization, to ask you to help pay our sallaries. We want you to understand that we are deeply committed to changing the lives of the blind and promote the inclusion of properly trained blind people in society. The NFB has many programs that make a difference on the local level. In fact, much of the money raised from this effort will be divided amongst local affiliates and chapters. Through grants, another portion will be again distributed to the states to create programs for blind youth, parents of blind children, and other local programs that impact blind people directly.

Additional funds raised from the March will go toward developing programs to promote Braille literacy for the blind. Two-thousand nine marks the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille’s birth, and we are striving to change the literacy rate among the blind. Currently only 10% of blind children in the United States are being taught Braille. That means 90% of blind children will graduate high school being functionally illiterate. Audio books and computer driven speech output have their place, but Braille is the only way for a blind person to learn gramatical structure, syntax, spelling, and proper formatting. You can’t hear the difference when misspelling “here” and “hear” with synthetic speech, nor will spell check pick up on either of these as incorrect, but you can feel that with a Braille display.

You know Treva and I do most things together, as a team, this is no different. We are asking you to partner with us to help change the lives of blind people inΒ  this country. Tough economic times may impact what you are able to give, and we understand that, but know that any amount helps. Please visit, click on Sponsor A Marcher and give to either one of us.

Thank you for your support.

Tony and Treva

to my EMS readers

to my EMS readers

Sixth day of generally feeling like crap. Congestion, nose that’s running the Indy 500. Clear mucas Body temperature 96.9. Onset sore throat x 2 days. Normal vitals.

This is clearly that Pig Flu thing. I’ve got the plague. I’m surely going to die? Right? I should call an ambulance, yell at them for not coming fast enough, demand transport the 5 blocks to the ER (“and it better be a smooth ride pal”), and insist they give me antibiotics? That’s just the kind of thing you Ambulance Drivers love isn’t it? Or would you prefer I wait until0300?

(sorry, clearly I’m feeling a touch of the smart mouth this morning.)

My Wife, The Flasher

My Wife, The Flasher

While Twitter is fantastic for short, off the cuff messages about what’s happening. Sometimes one-hundred forty characters just isn’t enough to give an accurate picture of the situation and gems like the following clearly scream for clarification.

Accidentally made @trevaolivero flash the neighborhood. Sorry ’bout that Babe

First, a little backstory. For those of you who don’t know, due to one to many encounters with Rippy the Gator*, Treva had her right leg amputated above the knee some years ago. She doesn’t currently wear a prostesis because of the inept incompetance of the last tech who tried fitting her for one, and she can’t walk all that far even with it on.

She had agreed to babysit for our friends’ son AJ last night, and being the dedicated husband/shirpa that I am, I went along with the explicit understanding that “I don’t do diapers”.

In typical Baltimore fashion our friends house has about eight steps leading to the front door broken into two groups separated by a landing. Our usual technique for getting up and down the stairs is executed with her placing her stump on my bent thigh, which is on the step she will be moving to, my arms wrapped around her waist for support and her hopping to that step. Normally, to avoid either of us, terminal clutses that we are, tripping on her loose pantleg one of us holds onto it. Yesterday she was wearing a skirt. I figured it might be a good idea to keep it pulled up like I usually do with her pants. Unfortunately, I had only grabbed the front half of the garment when I lifted it to her waist.

Treva: “You’re holding up my skirt.”

Me (well duh, I’m trying to help here): “Yeah. I know. I figured it would help.”

Treva: “no, you’re only holding up part of it.”

Me (huh) “What are you…” *rechecks positioning of hands, lets skirt fall down* “Oh, um, right. Sorry about that.” *jauntily waves to the neighbors and hopes she isn’t thinking of ways to slay my manhood in revenge*

Obviously, to protect the woman from me I need to:

  1. Invent a wheelchair with a hovercraft function;

  2. Beef up my muscles so I can carry her; or

  3. find a one man stairchair that fits in a backpack

* If she would like to dispute my version of events, she’s free to break her silence on this blog and do so lest I decide to drop her as an associate and change the name :-).

Dallas FD Automated Dispatch

Dallas FD Automated Dispatch

I’m currently in Dallas, TX for a couple days of teaching a company about web accessibility for the blind. As usual I havethe scanner with me.

When I was here last July I noticed that Dallas Fire (it may be the county, but I’m pretty sure city) does an interesting thing with their radio notification of calls. Their CAD system sendsout an automated message that seems to be put together from samples of someone recording unit and address numbers, street names, and chief complaints. I assume they are also using pagers, MDTs, or “rip and run” printers to get the calls out and using the automated system so other units know what’s happening. (I assume this because the alert tone is standard and not a two-toe or other individual unit notification).

I mentioned this on Twitter and a couple people asked about it, so I recorded a couple of pages. Quality sucks cuz I did it with the cell.

I remember reading about something like this during my phase of wanting to be a public safety dispatcher (yeah, okay, that’s not really at all a dead dream), but had never heard it in action. I’m curious what my public safety readers think of this. I personally think it’s a little hard to understand (because it’s sort of choppy).

Dallas Fire Department Automatic Dispatching