John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Saturday, August 14, 2004
Hurricane Charley: After Action Report

Dodged this bullet like Neo, luckily!
First of all, I want to thank everyone who expressed their concern in email and on the little Thunderstorms live TAG board.

Believe it or not, when I was packing, moving and waterproofing the PCs hours before Charley was to hit land (about the time I snarfed up that radar image), it was comforting to know someone might be paying attention to the situation should my little world and I get utterly obliterated by tornadoes spawning off of the storm or by Charley himself.

Helleena had to go to work at the nursing home early on Friday afternoon about the time I was digging through the NWS radar loop pages, trying to dig out the raw image data they used for their java application.  It took me a few minutes to find the right server where they were storing their raw images, and even longer to actually copy any of them from their server to my hard drive through the dialup.  All NWS/NOAA servers were peaking out Friday afternoon.

Anyway, after converting the image file formats, compiling and optimizing them -- I was able to create those two GIF animations -- one from Key West radar imagery and the other one closer to where I live with Tampa radar imagery.  In the process of creating those animations, it seemed to me that Charley's path was turning more east and heading for Fort Meyers.  That just made me worry about Melicious y Mondo while I was unplugging the PC.  I told Helleena that if Charley cut across Florida far enough south of us, the potential for serious damage would be a lot less from the bands of severe storms that spiral out to the north and east of the hurricane.  At the time, though, the latest broadcasted prediction still had it making landfall around the Tampa area which would mean it would likely continue on to come straight at us.  Who are you going to believe -- a pixel monkey like me making GIF animations right before the world is supposed to end or the people on the TV?  ROFL.

Even if the eye wasn't to come straight over the house, I took the threat of total annihilation seriously enough to continue hobbling and bouncing around the house that afternoon waterproofing things in storage containers and garbage bags should one of the three crappy live oak trees hanging over the house decide to come down or should all of some of the windows blow out and spray the interior of the house with water like children dancing next to an opened fire hydrant.

It's not easy for me to walk, let alone carry stuff.  I started off toward the big green commercial trash dumpsters with several kitchen garbage bags full of trash on my little electric scooter to get that out of the house should the place get tumbled, but I didn't make it twenty feet out of the house when one of the hurricane bands instantly dumped a blinding rain seemingly out of nowhere.  I turned around and drove back inside the house.  I was already pretty beat from carrying things all over the house.  I actually packed most of it into the bedroom because it's the northern-most room. Then I half-assedly barricaded the one window, put a few things in a gym bag (local officials were talking about evacuations), turned on the TV, and plopped down on the bed.  I was tired and in pain.  I ended up falling asleep for two hours.

If you want to know my state of mind on Friday, you can listen to this MP3.  It is what was droning through my mind at the time.  It reminds me of Soft Cell a little. It's the melody I used to mindlessly practice on my Korg when I would get stressed out before it got stolen.  Get the MP3 while you can -- I'm not going to leave it on Hygelic's server space for very long.

I may add more to this entry over the next few days ...  especially if I hear anything from Melicious directly that she'd care to share with the class.

Friday, August 13, 2004
Must ... eat ... trailer parks

I kinda hacked the National Weather Service and snarfed up some images and made this last animation before I pack up and bail.  This is my 2pm animation from Tampa radar imagery.  I made one with the radar imagery from Keywest earlier, but my dialup is flaky (obviously) so I may not be able to upload it.

Helena had to go to the nursing home early.  I'm going to habble around the house and try to put things, like the PCs, in plastic bags since I don't think my little tinfoil house is going to be able to handle winds from a category 4 hurricane.  They've just declared a bunch of tornado warnings in and around my county, so I better go now.

The animated GIF I just made is 265Kb, so it might take a moment to load for you.  I'm going to finish packing, and moving, take a shower, and figure out where I may end up this evening and tonight.

See you soon (?)

[updated 8/14: Well, now.  Click on the link to see the 2pm animation.  I didn't want to leave that up to load everytime the main page loads up for the next week.  That would be almost as friggin' irritating as the Hypno Toad.  LOL.  Also, I uploaded my Key West radar imagery animation today.]

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Look at the purty colors ...

Sucks to be us
If you go to the Permalink, and then refresh the page in your browser, the radar image will update with the latest available image -- as long as the NOAA web site in Melbourne is doing its job, that is.

[updated 8/14: Click on the links for the current NWS radar imagery from Tampa, Melbourne or Key West.  The radar image shown above now is the one I snarfed up right before Charley made landfall on 8/13 and I unplugged and packed up the PC.]

You can also go here to see the radar imagery from Havana, Cuba to Mondo Melicious, FL.

Or, you could always follow this guy around Florida in real time.  He has a CCTV mounted on top of his truck and is wirelessly updating the images (several per minute) here.  It's sort of hypnotizing to watch him drive around.

Here are some Tampa area tower cams.  Facing West (gulf).  Facing East (city).
 Gulf  City

When you refresh this Permalinked page at Thunderstorms, these cams will also update, if there is a new image available.  Don't expect to see to much after dark, though.  Okay, Sparky?

It looks like the fun starts Friday.  They're talking about evacuations here.  With winds over 100 mph, it looks like we're all in for a real sloppy blow job from Charley.

Hurricanes in the Imajica

Sucks to be us
Well, I imagine some of you guys think I'm just being clever.  I was going to put an advanced publishing date/time on a blog entry for sometime Friday afternoon and just say, "If you don't see anything on Thunderstorms for a while, here's why."

I just snarfed this image off of WTSB, a Tampa / St. Pete TV news station.  It shows the projected path of Hurricane Charley.  I figured I better blog something now, just in case I can't blog for a while.  The power has been going on and off intermittantly for two days because of the storms from Bonnie.  I can barely keep a dialup connection, but I bitch about that all the time, so I haven't mentioned it.  They should have named this storm Clyde instead of Charley -- then the headlines would be "Bonnie and Clyde hit Florida".  Heh.

I really shouldn't joke around.  It's serious enough that old Jeb has already declared a state of emergency in advance of the storm making landfall in Florida.  They are evacuating the Keys.  I don't have a cell phone service any more and this land line is only good for local calls (for this dialup)  -- so, if someone could call Melicious and let us know how her and Leah are doing in Fort Myers today and tomorrow, I'd appreciate it.  It looks like her neighborhood could be toasted first and that worries me.

I'll try to keep some blog-like info going here.  I may have to leave.  Helleena has already told me she may be in a sort of lock down at the nursing home where she works Thursday and Friday.  They have generators, obviously.  If that happens, I don't think my little electric power chair is going to be the best vehicle for me to use during a hurricane to get my dumb ass out of this house, down the road and somewhere safe ...

I'm going to get some rest for a few hours right now, just in case I spend all day tomorrow trying to pack up my little worldly possessions -- which would be fun since I'm totally wired on coffee at 3am now.  Another fine day in the Imajica.  Simply Crap-tastic! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Compassionate Conservative Fatigue

Seahawk down at the Combat Hospital
A typical photograph of the thousands taken everyday in Bush's Iraq might not even get my attention in the constant blur of images to which we've all been exposed over the past year.  However, this photograph, just like every photograph in Bush's Iraq being taken, will forever capture and memorialize for eternity when the world changed completely for some everyday person.  Maybe you know that person, maybe you don't.  But, maybe that person is your co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, or someone in your family.

This particular photograph depicts soldiers from the 31st Combat Support Hospital off-loading the wounded in Bush's Iraq.  It was used for an ABC news reporter's story about Combat Fatigue among the medical corps.

It is no new discovery that people who care for other people in a stressful environment can suffer phsychological and emotional problems.  These problems can then manifest themselves in any range from emotional detachment or outward coldness as a psychological survival mechanism, or simple anxiety, stress, and anger.  Police officers can snap and lose it.  Emergency Medical Technicians can get burned out.  Even Certified Nursing Aides working in Nursing Homes can be totally stressed out.

Nobody's Home
If you've ever clicked on the name Helleena on the TAG board or in the blog comments at Thunderstorms, and then visited her blog, Life at Work, you can read some first-hand accounts of how stressful working in a nursing home can be for her.  If you haven't done that recently, I'd like to point out her second Life at Work blog entry -- the first one obviously saying, 'welcome to my new blog' -- is entitled What will break your heart and make you smile at the same time.

Helleena's CNA stories are not unusual.  Unfortunately, it is altogether very normal and business-as-usual in nursing homes all over the United States.  Besides visiting Life at Work, one need only read some of the description of Tom Gass' book Nobody's Home to get some idea of what is like for CNAs:

Gass brings the reader into his sterile building with its flat metal roof and concrete block walls. Like an industrial park complex, it is clean, efficient, and functional.  He is blunt about the institutionís goal: as long as the staff keeps those faint hearts pumping, the life savings and Medicaid dollars keep rolling in. With 130 beds in the nursing home, the owner grossed about three million dollars annually. As a relatively well-paid aide, Gass made $6.90 an hour.

In a calm, intelligent and matter-of-fact style, Gass describes his often unpleasant daily routines. He cleans, feeds and dresses the patients; tries to converse with them, although they are often senile; and mostly, attempts to preserve their dignity

Click here to visit the website of Captain Andy Houghton
Trying to actually care for people in an environment that seems to cause injury, impede care, and reward these overworked caregivers with low wages is stressful -- whether you're talking about a CNA in a Florida nursing home or a Combat Medic in Bush's Iraq.

"We call it compassion fatigue," says Lt. Col. Sally Harvey, a U.S. Army psychologist. "It's the cost of caring day after day. Our staff experiences many of those same emotions that our patients do. Some people can get depressed, can feel overwhelmed. It's very much akin to what we call battle fatigue for soldiers who are out there on the front lines."

Every photograph, whether in the news or on the cover of a book, tells the story of someone -- a real person -- someone you might know.  And, sometimes it captures the moment when your life changed forever.  My personal experience over the last few years causes me to see my mother in that wheelchair, alone in the hallway, and is why I dropped everything to come down to Florida to care for her.  Even looking at that book cover  -- even a year after my mom's death -- makes me want to start crying all over my keyboard, right now.

When I look at the photographs taken in Bush's Iraq, I get so angry.  What a fucking waste.  One of the soldiers being off-loaded from the Seahawk in that ABC news photo is could be someone like Andy Houghton, a real person with friends and family.  He was injured when a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into his Bradley Fighting Vehicle on July 10th while on a routine patrol in Samarra, Iraq.  He just died on Monday.

I'm fatigued from Bush's so-called compassionate conservatism.  I'm fatigued from looking at photographs of Bush's Iraq.  If I hear another brain-dead Fox News commentator ask us, "Do you think we should be reporting on more goods news stories from Iraq," I'm going to scream at the top of my lungs as I shove their talking head back down their Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole.  Honestly, for fuck-sakes!

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