Friday, June 21, 2019

We have nothing in common anymore

   Why can’t we all just get along? ‘Cause we have nothing in common anymore.

   Political divisiveness and partisan conflict is nothing new. It’s been around for, well, forever. So even if it seems like the polarization is worse than ever, it only seems that way now. Wait til next year. And the year after that. And the year after….

   What has become unique about our current diversity of opinion is that we can’t even agree to disagree anymore. Used to be, political opponents in government could strongly disagree on major party differences, yet still be able find a way to communicate, meet, discuss, and find a compromise suitable enough for bipartisan support and passage. That’s how the roads get built, the country defended and the laws enforced.  At least until now.

   Now the line between the parties is no longer just a mark in the dirt defining “us and them” politically.  They’re now extremely stubborn and uncooperative bastions that allow for no quarter, no matter how common the interest.  If one party says the sky is blue, then the other party is unable to agree — whether it’s blue or not — because that opposing party is made up of racists, or bigots, or communists, or socialists, or Nazis, or baby-killers, or, well, you get the idea. Any admission that someone from the opposing side may have a point that might be of mutual benefit or concern, and the fingers are quickly pointed, memes are shared ad nauseam, boycotts begun, or demands of termination of employment follow. And if not, news and social media will make sure to stir the pot and get it going. 

   Until this zero-sum environment that envelopes just about everything changes, we’ll be stuck in self-inflicted stagnation and ultimate decomposition forever.  Without acknowledging that we have something in common, we’ll never be able to reach any common ground.

   But then, I’m sure you probably disagree. 

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Judging Cowardice Is A Scary Thing

   I’ve watched recent news coverage of a Sheriff’s Deputy who now faces charges of failing to act during the Parkland School mass shooting.  On the surface, the problem seems clear as the officer is videotaped allegedly hesitating and avoiding entering a school with an active shooter on the rampage. The officer maintains he was following existing protocol.

   The rest of the story is widely known, as quick response by law enforcement and aggressive tactics took over, but sadly the end result was the tragic deaths of many students and school staff. I offer no defense for such inactivity by a sworn officer.

   But now the raw anger continues, and the officer could face a potential 99 years in prison for his alleged inactivity. The accusation of cowardice, whether specifically stated or not, is at the center of the anger.

   Without arguing the merits of this specific case it struck me that, within the charges of negligence, the core of the anger are accusations and declarations of cowardice. I wonder by what measure or yardstick do accusers and potential jurors measure bravery, or identify cowardice in someone other than themselves. Will jurors be made up of proven “heroes” wearing their medals of valor, Police or Fire personnel with their certificates of meritorious service, or others who — in eyes of others — have proven their own bravery?

   As combat soldiers leave the protection of their cover and progress across a battlefield, some are killed halfway, some drop for cover two-thirds of the way, others move further and are killed, and some even make it all the way.  Which group then, if any, can be labeled cowards? Which are brave and which were pinned down and could move no further? Are they cowards for not pushing ahead anyway?

   Medals and citations for bravery are easier to quantify and qualify because they can be measured by an end result.  Cowardice, on the other hand, is more difficult to assess objectively since it is based essentially on non-action. In the extreme or severe negative outcome final assessments can be clouded by emotion and become mostly subjective.

   “Warriors to the front, cowards to the rear,” was a war cry attributed to Sioux warriors leading the initial charge against Custers’ 7th Calvary. In that case, position rather than result was the only qualifier.

   There are ways to punish negligence or cowardice of those in public safety positions. Employment termination, loss of pay or pension benefits, etc. are often imposed and I’m sure may be appropriate in this case.

   Imprisonment, for any length of time however, seems wrong when the prosecutors, judges and jurors themselves most likely have never been similarly tested.  If those were my kids that were killed, perhaps I’d be calling for jail time too.

   That said, judging cowardice is still a scary thing.
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

NEW TRICKS FOR AN OLD FIRE DOG

 One of the goals of my book, 10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back, was to highlight some of the changes from when I first joined the department to when I retired. This month it’ll be 22 years since I hung up my helmet, and I’ve found that my images of the fire service today are still dominated by those in 1996. A bit dated, I was recently reminded.

    It struck me while having a conversation with my son who was an ER nurse in Dallas. We were talking about how TV shows cast an unrealistic image of EMS procedures and challenges. “Like that one medical show showing the seriously injured patient on the bloody gurney in ER and the family members right there within the drawn curtains interrupting and questioning every move,” I said. “Ridiculous,” I added to punctuate my disbelief.

   “Actually, Dad, there have been studies showing…” he replied offering a well studied and reasoned approach to improving patient care with some relatives in the ER alcove during treatment. “Hmmmmm,” I said while reeling in my know-it-all, been-there-done-that attitude — at least for this conversation, that is. That’s when I did an updated recount of the date today, and dates back when I was in the trenches. It was now well over two decades since I was on an EMS call.

   Monitoring fire service blogs, Twitter feeds and related industry news feeds, I failed in some cases to realize that much of our futuristic equipment predictions, proposed treatment practice improvements and high tech resources are currently in use. What were previously “you know what they oughta do” wishes are now in use saving lives of citizens and first responders as well.  

   The thing that hasn’t changed in all these years since my first response in 1971, is that stuff changes. And like most things, the good changes survive and are built upon, and the bad changes eventually sentence themselves to obscurity.

   And old fire dogs like me continue to watch, judge, pontificate a bit and hopefully learn. 

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

WHERE DID MY BOOK GO???

"10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back" goes missing.

   For some reason this last month, CreateSpace and Amazons’ finely oiled machine goofed up — for reasons unknown to me, and without notification — and I learned a month or so of no book sales was the result of some “computer glitch” which removed my book for any listings, and placed it back in a production process awaiting my review and action. This had already been done back in 2013, but for some reason needed another round of approvals and OK’s before re-listing.  After some grumbling and clicking a few appropriate check boxes, my book is available again, just like it had been for nearly 5 blanking years already.

   Since I’ve never been responsible for a “single solitary glitch, mistake, error or slight oversight of any kind in my entire life” (wink-wink) I decided to be generous and not make a big deal and continue to feel CreateSpace and Amazon do a great job.  

  “10-24: A Firefighter Looks Back” is back and available again, in both paperback and Kindle versions. Sorry if you clicked on one of several reference links I have active and came up dry. Some links below that offer a path to the book:




www.ornberg-com - Personal website

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Check for a key before using a fire axe

   A friend and I were having a discussion on management techniques and lifestyles and how they’ve changed over the past several decades and discovered that we both had distinctly different styles. He was a retired executive, having risen through the ranks of a successful business eventually reaching top management before retiring.  I had a slightly different path, ranging through a basically blue collar environment through the Army, 26 years as a career firefighter, topping off my work experience as a business association executive director and marketing business owner.

   He approached a potential obstacle or threat by first evaluating the situation, exploring possible actions and potential results, and perhaps trying to benefit by the input of a committee or task force before final implementation.

   I generally approached the problem by taking a fire axe to it.

   Both have their obvious good and bad results depending upon the urgency, scope of impact, and consequences after the fact. 

   In fact both methods have their place and best used as a combination of both when opportunity or necessity allowed or required. What we agreed upon finally though, was that only experience helps us make those choices, and only maturity and self confidence allow us to deal with the eventual success or failure. I've learned that I can accept a claim of “I told you so!” from anyone that is equally comfortable with admitting, “OK, I was wrong,” without pointing at mitigating causes or influences.

   We once responded to a report of smoke inside a building, finding the main doorway to the small six flat locked.  Just before my trusty axe completed the first half of a hefty swing a nearby civilian yelled out, “Wait! I have a key,” saving the door from destruction and me from a lot of embarrassment.  That’s when I learned to always quickly check for a key first, a practice that now serves me when dealing with business obstacles, lifes' speed bumps, politics, news reporting, and other challenges.

   Sometimes it turns out there is no key, or — sorry to stretch the metaphor a bit further — I find somebody must have changed the lock when I wasn’t looking.

   Besides, that axe is getting a lot heavier!

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Earn your own hero “strutting rights”



It happens every year. Twice a year as a matter of fact. 
    Spring and Fall are great opportunities to take a few moments and replace all the batteries in the smoke detectors in your home.  Besides being the most safe way to keep you alerted in case of a fire, it also helps you avoid that irritating “beep” noise that drives you nuts when a battery gets low. — You know, the beep that has you standing in the middle of the room listening to determine its origin, only to reposition yourself elsewhere to catch the next mysterious beep? And then again, until you find the guilty detector, and so on.
    Changing the battery — for those of you who may not already be experienced — is as simple has untwisting the smoke detector from the mounting, opening or sliding open a little plastic door, and pulling out the existing 9 volt battery and replacing it with a new 9 volt battery.  (There’s only one way to plug it in.) Then replace the battery into it’s appointed area, and remount the detector. Press the Test button and that’s all there is to it.
    Well, afterwards you could also quietly strut around the house in your own “hero” mode for a bit, because you’ve actually earned the right. Especially if there’s a fire overnight and your freshly and full powered detector lets you know in time to get up, and to get out. Stand tall at the window with your fists on your hips gazing heroically out into the future and reflecting on your selfless act of heroism.  You can even say out loud, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it!” whether anybody hears it or not. Hey, it’s YOUR special time!
     

    Oh, and by the way, if you do it this weekend, (Nov 5, 2017) it’s a good time to set your clocks back an hour too!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

MY Total Eclipse of 2017

NASA/MSFC/Joseph Matus
   After months of pre-planning and a few last minute destination changes as the weather in some areas became  “iffy” at best, I eventually wound up in Glendo, Wyoming for an ideal viewing area.  Ideal for me was somewhere in the direct path of the eclipse that I could also stay overnight in my small van-sized RV the night before. I also avoided the historic traffic jams that followed later that night and the morning of August 21st.

   As mid-day approached and everyones’ cardboard viewing glasses appeared in hand, I was a solitary viewer in a cleared field populated by many other RV’s and tents.  I, along with many others, stood a half mile or so away from the larger concentration of other campers and day viewers lakeside along the large Glendo, WY reservoir.  The town of 205 swelled to an estimated crowd of 300,000 — all of whom united as one happy family to see what they could see. With well over two minutes of totality the only criteria was looking UP, so everyone had a front seat position.

   For me, “Totality” had much more meaning that just full coverage of the sun by the moon. Totality included the entire on-site experience complete with my whole world going dark, temperature and wind dropping 20 degrees, a full 360 degree beautiful sunset along the entire horizon surrounding me, the appearance of a couple of planets and stars at mid-day, and the shared oohs and ahhhs and sporadic emotional outbursts of cheers and applause as each component of totality unfolded.

   The initial partial coverage included several minutes of a sunny day seemingly unaffected by the moons’ slow passage across the sun, beginning with a small bite which then grew to quarter, one-half and three-quarter crescent until only a small but bright sliver of light remained. Even at this point daylight, though dimmed slightly as if an overcast day, still ruled everything in sight.

   Then, with a bright instantaneous flash at about 7 or 8 o’clock position on the sun’s circumference, the sun was blotted out by the moon -- creating a black color I’d never seen before  -- just barely corralled by a bright corona of blazingly silver light with varying glowing streaks of linear solar plasma reaching out thousands, if not millions of miles into space. I noticed about a minute into full coverage, as I strained to adjust my aging eyes to better focus on the suns’ corona and watching for a prominence or two, that I started to see multiple images.  This, the sight I had traveled over 1,000 miles to see unobstructed was now being refracted by the beginnings of a tear welling up in each of my eyes.  A quick swipe across each with the upper sleeve on my polo shirt and I was back in business.

   I was surprised by the lack of colors, as I was expecting to see bright yellows along with the white light of the sun. Yet here and there along the outer edge, I noticed slight splashes of reddish orange as if the edge of the sun was bubbling.  This, I learned later, were prominences of solar plasma exploding out away from the sun, only to collapse downward again.

   Just an instant before the moon began to release the sun and return daylight to us all, a short ripple of light appeared at the suns’ 2 or 3 o’clock positioned revealing what has long been called “Baileys Beads” as a smattering of sunlight spilled through mountain ranges and canyons on the edge of the moon. Then a bright flash in the same area, creating the “Diamond Ring” effect,  signaled the end of totality and a return to the safety glasses as the moon crept slowly across and away.

   Visually the experience far surpassed any of the professional and scientific images that I’ve seen since the event. There’s something they always miss compared to when the image gathered by the human eye works in simultaneous harmony with the human heart and imagination.  I get goose bumps just typing this or explaining it, something I learned is shared by most who have experienced totality in person.

   Another total eclipse crosses several US states in 2024.  Whatever it takes, be there!