Saturday, May 14, 2016

A heroes and data rant

That week went by awfully quickly.

A while ago I saw a photo on Facebook. It showed a mangled car (probably a result of driver incompetence) and the caption said something like, "Don't you wish God were here?"

My instant answer was "NO! I want a trained team of emergency responders."

Which leads to just recently there was a cartoon in a paper. You probably saw this one. It had some "super-heros" on the left, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, some others I didn't recognize. On the right was a tired looking fire fighter wearing a Fort McMurray T shirt. The caption said something like, welcome to the club.

I was seeing red, and I've been stewing about this for a while now. Lets see if I can say why in a rational way.

There is no disrespect intended towards the fire-fighters, but why anyone would think this is a compliment is beyond me. I have zero respect for those comic book "super-heroes". They are emotional children, and often do more damage "saving" the world than whatever the problem was.  They just jump in, unaware of the issues, and do whatever strikes them at the moment. What passes for character development, plot, and conflict bored me decades ago, and the recent movies haven't improved things a bit. Enough of them.

When fire-fighters zoom up to a burning building, there is a plan. Everybody has a role, and they've trained their asses off to do it. Where does the plan come from? Many decades of experience distilled from nearly every fire that's happened across every nation with organized fire departments. It's called data. What worked, what didn't. How new materials behave.  Fire behaves according to rules. Understand the situation, understand the rules, and you'll understand what the fire is going to do, and the best way to deal with it. Which isn't to say there are surprises because we usually don't understand everything about the situation.

In some cases they wire up a house with video cameras and let it burn to test specific things. I  once watched a video of an interview with a fire-fighter as he was saying it was weird to stand around while a home burned. They had to wait till the scientists gave them the go ahead.

There are lots of hazardous substances and situations where the rule for lay people to follow is "Stay away from that shit!" Who doesn't? Fire-fighters. They have to deal with that shit. I'm pretty sure I don't have the stones to look at a burning building, pull on my protective gear, and go in there to put it out.

Even the most rabid right wing nut doesn't propose cutting the training budget for fire-fighters. The best training available still results in injured staff and lost property, and nobody wants that. Plus even they realize it might be their home next.

But it isn't just the people going into burning buildings or fighting forest fires. They're the point of the spear and deserve every bit of recognition they get. Right behind them are a host of other people, though. Radio operators, planners, logistics, maintenance, the list goes on and on. There is a role for all of them in this, following a plan.

That's why they don't want untrained people around trying to be heroes. It's dangerous enough when they know who is doing what, and to have some idiot trying to protect his home with a garden hose just distracts them. On that note, I'm going to be utterly astonished if the people going through the burned areas to assess the hazards and try to make them safe do not discover some charred bodies in the ruins.

So back to those cartoons. The fire-fighter does not belong in the "super-hero" club because the so called comic book super-heroes do not measure up in any way. I'm not sure what club the emergency responders belong in, but it's going to be pretty exclusive.

Many of these people are modest and humble, saying things like, "I"m just doing my job." Which is true, except that it's a difficult dangerous job at the best of times. It wouldn't have taken things being much different for us to be having funerals about now. Plus, you don't see any of them punching out after their shift is over. They were going till they couldn't go anymore.

And whaddya know? The relief crews were organized as well, drawing people and equipment from all over the country in a planned way. This doesn't happen by accident. A lot of people spent a lot of time planning for emergency situations, and once this is all over, a lot of people are going to look at everything that happened to see what can be learned, and what could be done better. It's easy to overlook this kind of work, but there are a lot of people alive today because of it. This sort of stuff is what taxes pay for.

Back to regular programming. A nice relaxed swim, feeling the swim love on Monday, 1 K, 18:30, short course. Massage Tues, feeling really beat up after. Water ran with Katie about an hour on Wed, then 700 m easy swim feeling kind of clunky, weak, and feeble, long course. Ran 6K 38:21 feeling pretty good.

Thursday we went out out a greenhouse just east of town. I visited with a very nice cat and got this lovely pic of a pretty flower. No idea what it is.

I discovered these in a pocket of the car during clean out the car day. Lots of other crap too. I have no rational explanation for why I have a map printed in 1999 in my car.  It's the one at the top, with the logo of a company I haven't worked for in 16 years. It's probably been 5 years since I last looked at any of these, and there they were, getting in the way each time I put the seat down to put my bike in the car.

I was laughing as I took this shot. Curtis had just come up onto my lap, trampling Celina, then settled down on top of her so I could pay attention to him. It was purely an accident that she was getting his tail in her face. I'm sure of it. An accident.

Friday I water ran with Katie, Michelle, and Antje for an hour or so, though Katie was still going when I was forced from the water. Then 1K 19 minutes long course feeling nice and relaxed.

Today was cheering on my buddy Patricia doing her first half marathon! 2:10 or so, and congratulations! I cheered her coming and going at South Glenmore park, and she looked great! Just before she came back, someone called to me from a bike, but I was looking at Patricia, and I don't know who it was. I'm going to feel awfully dumb if it's someone I know well. Was it you? (later note, it was my buddy Sue Wills!)

Then I went out for my own run, 12 in a double loop around the neighbourhood, 1:22, 6:49 pace feeling pretty good. My legs were relaxed and happy. I could have run more, but I figured this was a nice neat map.

Two construction notes. In Fish Creek, where the path has been washed away for a while, the repairs are almost done. They dumped tons of rip rap into the water and built up the bank. The paving equipment is there, probably will be done early next week. That's right at the bottom of the map. At the very top the new pedestrian bridge over Anderson road is well underway.


  1. I laughed out loud at the god/emergency responders comment-I agree completely!

  2. 2:10 for Patricia on her FIRST half!!! That's AWESOMESAUCE & I can't wait to hear more. You: 12K at 6:49 pace!!!! Way to go! :)


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