Chernobyl: 30 Years On | PZF Photography

30 years on from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, I visited the exclusion zone and photographed the abandoned places within it.

Source: Chernobyl: 30 Years On | PZF Photography

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Paranormal Investigations Should Be More Than Jittery Night Vision Video

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I will admit this out loud: I find many supernatural topics, especially the concept of ghosts, interesting.

However, my education and training in the education and medical fields requires me to consider such things as the scientific process, logic, and the avoidance of assumptions.   The entertainment value drops significantly when any paranormal show becomes a video collage of untrained, emotionally volatile and easily scattered people leap around in allegedly haunted places.  Television shows like T.A.P.S. and Paranormal State are more aligned with my need for some application of a systematic approach.  The T.A.P.S. members include those who were in HVAC or some such related field that allows them to understand the science of what might be causing some phenomenons in their research.  I also appreciate their approach as cynics; “Is there a logical, perhaps easy explanation for what the homeowner is experiencing?”  Paranormal State, which as far as I know is no longer on the air, also had some reasoning behind the investigations.  They would do research on the site, but not necessarily reveal anything to the owners until after the investigation.  They would also not tell their mediums (who would do readings of the alleged haunted areas) the background or history either.  I will say that Chip (the guest medium on Paranormal State) was overly dramatic, most of the time.  Oops, I think I spoke too soon. Apparently, Paranormal State was caught faking an investigation.  

I have watched The Haunting, which are like documentaries about various supernatural events.  When Ghosts Attack is another show that I have watched.  Then there is one on the Animal Planet Channel that features animals that react to alleged supernatural events.  Those tend to be less dramatic than The Haunting show.

Anyway, my point was more about Zak Bagans. I believe he is part of a show called Ghost Adventures.  He and his buddies find an alleged scary place, lock themselves in for the night, record stuff, then present their findings.  Zak Bagans, who looks more like someone who spends a great deal of time in gyms looking at his own reflection, does little to dispel that notion.  His background includes graduating from a film school, and being a Wedding DJ in the Las Vegas area.  There was no mention of formal training in any science field that I saw on his website.  I have seen the show, but really can’t get past the jittery night vision filming.  He and his cast members react to alleged supernatural interactions, such as objects moving or hearing voices.  They also experience the supernatural as alleged scratches, or goosebumps on their skin.  The Electronic Voice Phenomenons (EVPs) do not strike me as being all that clear.  I have yet to see anything on their video clips that appears to be truly supernatural.  As for assumptions, Zak makes them by the truck load.  When he is not blathering his way through an investigation, he is antagonizing ghosts by mocking them.  Essentially, locker room trash talk – a theme that I am sure he is familiar with – with his buddies during lifting sessions at the gym.  I am guessing that the ghosts he’s trying to contact are probably just ignoring him, at that point.

Personally, I think that the probability of some type of spiritual residue may be left in this realm when people die.  I do not know if we are not destined to ever interact with those forces, much like not likely being able to travel anywhere near the speed of light. However, it is interesting to speculate on the possibilities.  I have spent some evenings going through youtube videos of alleged apparitions/poltergeists/etc. Some videos seem more legitimate than others, but it does get you thinking. Either way, Zak Bagans is….well, I will let you put your own word here.

-D

 

The Ghosts at Eastern State Penitentiary Must Only Work Night Shift

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Eastern State Penitentiary was an interesting place to tour.  For those who are not familiar with it, this facility opened 1829 to house criminals.  It was designed to become the model for incarceration.  The “Pennsylvania Model” was to house criminals in solitary confinement, with no interaction among inmates allowed.  Initially, the jail was created to allow criminals to reform by giving them time to think to be able to tap into what it was like to be good again.  Sentences were generally 2 years or less.  Some were as long as 8 years. Over time, the emphasis became warehousing, rather than penitence.   Over time, it suffered from insufficient funding and overcrowding.  It was eventually closed permanently in 1971.  It did house some famous criminals, including Al Capone.

It does have the reputation of being haunted.  While interested in exploring the supernatural aspects of this building, our tour was in the day time.  We also discovered that the evening tours do not occur until the Fall.

Still, it was interesting to see the structure and learn how inmates carried on their lives.  They do offer audio-guided tours, but only one that is lead by a tour guide (at 2:00 pm during the weekday).  Along with having some areas being restored, a few cells featured interesting art and research on what life was like in jail.

I know that life behind bars is not supposed to be appealing, but I can’t imagine the level of punishment (especially solitary confinement which has data to back up how incredibly detrimental it is) being beneficial to society.  The psychic damage done to inmates is probably why it is likely haunted.  I did not hear or see anything supernatural, although what they charge for parking ANYWHERE in Philly is definitely scary.  The parking lot right next door did charge $8 dollars for up to two hours (which is plenty of time to see everything at Eastern State Penitentiary).

Exploring The Improbability Of A Zombie Apocalypse

Author note: This post was inspired by a recent discussion I have had with friends. While I am a big fan of horror movies (and reading horror, as well); this zombie thing is just silly.

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Zombies have obviously captured the imagination of the masses. I know that The Walking Dead television show is incredibly popular.  However, there isn’t enough science for me to capture my imagination.

First of all, there is some pathogenic cause to becoming a zombie.  The evolutionary success of a “zombie germ” would likely be:

  • fairly communicable
  • able to survive outside of a host
  • without any obvious or specific initial symptoms
  • debilitating, but not immediately fatal

So, being bloodborne is a fairly good start.  Getting bitten by a zombie has possibilities.  However, some strains are so virulent (28 Days Later, and 28 Weeks Later) that being splashed with zombie blood…and, at one point, having one zombie blood drop fall into a victim’s eye turns that person almost instantly.  Minutes before that scene, one person defends themselves with a baseball bat – that all sorts of blood splatters everywhere. Main characters must have a stronger immunity, huh?  The time between exposure and infection can vary, as well.  Probably having a lot to do with the significance of the role of affected character than actual immune response. It’s not clear on how long the zombie pathogen can survive outside the body.  Hoards of zombies roam the streets, at some point, which is an infectivity buzz kill.  The germ can’t mutate if it is no longer spread among hosts. Zombies, in theory, would just die off and take the infection with them.

Which brings us to the implausible anatomy and physiology of the zombie.  Anatomically, the zombie is an open mechanical system of muscle and bone.  The bone supports the frame, and the muscle provides the framework for movement.  But the system is leaking fluids, the skin is compromised, and the fluids are exposed to air. Things dry out, unless replenished. Muscle and bone without the fluid would become fibrous and immovable, at least, at some point. Physiologically, the system would also need a means of fuel – as well as the removal of the waste (as no energy generation is completely efficient) – needs to occur.  As decay has visibly set in, and open system would not support the energy exchange either.

So, with a great deal of embellishment and massive amounts of “suspension of disbelief;” zombies perpetually stumble around – but still manage to catch up with humans healthy enough to survive (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs having been met, for the most part) can still get caught and infected.

Sorry. Zombies do not float my imagination boat.

The Walrus: Dissolving The Dead

Dissolving the Dead.

Unpleasantness aside, both traditional methods are also environmentally damaging. According to DeathLab research, cemeteries in the United States put more than 3 million litres of toxic embalming fluid in the ground every year, some of which invariably seeps into the soil and contaminates groundwater systems. Building the caskets that (at least temporarily) contain those fluids takes 82,000 tonnes of steel, 2,500 tonnes of copper and bronze, and 71,000 cubic metres of wood annually. Cremation uses fossil fuels and releases toxic gases into the atmosphere. And, while the effluent from bio-cremation can be used as fertilizer, flame cremation ­renders corpses ecologically useless.

This is an article on a topic that I find interesting.  It discusses the impact the funeral industry has on the environment, and the better (yet, controversial) means of disposing of dead people.  I remember reading about this in Mary Roach’s book, Stiff.

One of the things mentioned in Mary Roach’s book was the Body Farm, if I remember correctly. It is part of the University of Tennessee. They place donated bodies in various conditions to study how they decompose. Morbid, perhaps, but still interesting.

Setting Unrealistic (Medical) Expectations

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Laser Spine Institute Commercial

Being in the medical field, I take care of wide range of patients….including those with joint and spinal problems.  Pain not only can make doing everyday tasks difficult; it can also be difficult to manage.  Sometimes, pain management is finding the right combination of the type of pain medicine, physical therapy, and even other non-invasive procedures.  Surgery can be an option, but it shouldn’t be the first choice.  Doctors are required to present patients with information about what the surgical procedure is, what the possible benefits are, what the risks are, and what to expect afterwards.  There is ALWAYS a risk with surgery.  It can happen for any number of reasons, including allergic reactions or extrapyramidal responses to medicine, comorbidities with the patient, or any complication during the procedure.  Every person is different; therefore, their response to the medicines, treatment, and surgery can be different, as well. Here is where I begin to have a problem with commercials with the Laser Spine Institute.  It presents all of the benefit with none of the risk. Setting expectations really high….unrealistically high, in my opinion.

I found one website that gives patient reviews about the organization. Granted, I am not completely sure of the credibility of the website….or those who present any information about it.  I am not gullible enough to believe that any presence of data on the Internet means it is true. I also found a Bloomberg Business article about lawsuits against Laser Spine Institute, so I would think there may be more credibility with this information. I will leave it up to the reader to check its veracity of its statements.

Speaking of veracity of its statements, I am reminded of a similar “rosy picture” painted by commercials produced by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  I have read articles that say that their success rates are heavily influenced by not taking on patient cases that may have more serious, more aggressive forms of cancer (that may not be as likely to survive).  Quoting a Doctor interviewed for an article from Reuters News Service that Iinked to:

Accepting only selected patients and calculating survival outcomes from only some of them “is a huge bias and gives an enormous advantage to CTCA,” said biostatistician Donald Berry of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

This is more than just a nurse pointing out nonsensical responses to medical crises on Grey’s Anatomy (Don’t get me started!). This is irresponsibility among those whose motives are financially-oriented that patient-driven.

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons To Look Forward To The Apocalypse

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10) Camping fans will be able to extend their skills into daily life. Every day is camping day.

9) Student loans?!? What student loans?!?

8) Robocalls can’t happen if the phones don’t work. Leading to #7…..

7) Texting while driving….along with driving won’t be possible.

6) Solitaire means having an actual card deck.

5) 24 hour news channels will revert back to the local rumor mill….with no loss in reporting accuracy.

4) Neck ties and ironing will likely fall out of favor.

3) Not only will your alarm clock not go off, you probably won’t be going to work anymore.

2) People will have to manufacture their own drama, rather than rely on Facebook anymore.

1)The Kardasshians will be trying to keep up with us.

Exploring The Apocalypse: Disaster Types

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(I couldn’t find any good apocalypse photos, so I used this one I found in my scrapbook that captures my experience from high school. )

For those of you who have been following my blog, I have already shared some initial thoughts about Doomsday Preppers (who are waiting for when the SHTF).  Rather than wallow in depressive hopelessness, I want to explore the issues in an academic manner.  I think there are some things that aren’t being taken into consideration, like what we may actually face versus what we can prepare for.

The types of disasters, according to the U.S. Federal Government, include: biological, chemical, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, heat, hurricane, nuclear, tornado, tsunami, volcano, wildfires, and winter storm. Most of these appear to be natural disasters, so the scale isn’t necessarily global. Many of these are globally-specific threats, as well. Volcanos are dependent on proximity to tectonic plate borders. Hurricanes and tornadoes are heavily mitigated by mountainous areas, and more likely to roam in flatter topographical areas. Tsunamis are limited to coastal areas; just like flooding will be limited to those near rivers and streams. Flooding, just as wildfires and droughts are fairly cyclical – and occur naturally. Winter storms, as well as heat, are seasonal (and conditional) threats. This leaves us with chemical, biological, and nuclear.

Chemical threats would include mismanagement of the resources we already use. It isn’t necessarily something triggered by terrorists.  Taking illegally dumped chemicals out of the equation for the moment, we have countless chemical plants used in a variety of uses all around us.  We also have industrial chemicals in our environment already. For example, the natural gas industry pumps a liquid, deep into the ground to shatter rock which allows them to collect the gas.  This process called ‘fracking’ already poses a threat to our global environment. The BBC wrote an article to identify what fracking is and the controversies around it, including pumping carcinogenic compounds into our water tables. A USA Today article points out that a Duke University study shows increases radioactive materials in the water table, as a result of fracking. Let’s not forget to mention that there are many other nasty chemicals, according to this New York Times magazine article. My point is that the chemical threats are already here. It won’t necessarily be some external threat.  We have our own home-grown people who may have some ideations to initiate “end times” by sabotaging such places. There are also businesses that have used oils and hydraulic fluids, concentration of heavy metals, acids, and other caustic chemicals on premises. Those chemicals are also just an accident away from exposing us, too.

Nuclear threats are real, too. Again, it is already integrated into our society.  Bad guys don’t have to run to the store to pick-up radioactive material or have it shipped into the country. It is here already.  Yucca Mountain is one such place, but used radioactive material is stored in nearly every state in the United States – as seen here on this Federal Government website.  These are highly secured areas, but are just as subject to accidents – as well as any potential home-grown threats.  The Federal Government has many resources, including this page on potential nuclear fallout from our current nuclear reactors. While the dropping of nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the 1940s provided a great deal of data about radiation fallout, sickness, and radii of contamination; there is still a hypothetical element to any potential future radioactive events – which include weather systems, topography, water table, as well as the amount and time that exposure occurs.  All of these factors will shape the intensity of radiation sickness one might experience, which is a public group. Radiation sickness is also documented on Federal Government websites, too. I have a feeling that if a wide-scale nuclear disaster were to occur; a Pinterest-inspired bug out bag and stockpile may not really change the  drastically horrible outcomes that would follow.

Biological threats would not be limited to man-made ones.  We are in the middle of many battles within a wide-range war with microorganisms, as we speak.  MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is one such potential threat. VRE (Vancomycin-resistant enterococci) is another. Yet another, newly emerging threat is CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) explained on a governmental website.  These “superbugs” have developed a resistance to powerful medications, which means that they pose a threat – especially once they become pathogenic. In other words, once these “germs” cause illness – we are in serious trouble.  The same Darwinistic ability to adapt to their environment that humans have is shared with other organisms. Our environment poses a threat to a living organism. Some die. Some survive. Those that do, pass on their ability to survive that threat – or, at least provide some level of protection from that environmental condition. We have created a pattern of make a drug/see resistance appear to it as an on-going cycle. That has brought us to this point. However, I have seen a TED TALK from a molecular biologist named Bonnie Bassler that discusses “quorum sensing” which is how microorganisms chemically “talk” amongst themselves to function. I am not sure where this stands on the experimental process, as the talk was in 2009. It does sound promising.  The bottom line is that this threat is, again, a natural one.  Once again, natural recurrence of microorganistic threats are cyclical – as documented at this Federal Governmental website.  Even with the knowledge of standard precautions to prevent the spread of infection, things could get ugly very quickly – depending on the germ, exposure, and how it is managed.

I would also add that a power grid failure, or collapse of our network that provides power to everyone would be another cause for potentially apocalyptic conditions.  A few years ago, we all experienced large regional outages that cause quite a disruption of our lives.  There was a cascading effect where one site failed, which then led to other sections failing.  The talk was that our power grid is outdated and piecemealed together, and needed serious upgrades. Unfortunately, the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality has kept that issue out of the spotlight.  Have we taken our access to electricity for granted (not granite, people) that we are assuming that it won’t fail? Or that we can pick up the pieces fast enough when it crashes again?  If it were to fail, our whole infrastructure would follow in the collapse.  Our commerce, our businesses, our economy, our ability to communicate, our livelihood, our wealth……everything lost without access, once the power goes out.  Our data on our harddrives, documents, etc. Gone. I would think that our ability to travel would be lost, as well.  Power is needed to pump fuel from the ground, yes? People can’t get around. Goods can’t be moved. And, once again, a few days supply of water/food/stuff may not ultimately help. Somehow, the acronym “SHTF” will likely fall short of what we can expect from such an event. It could be a chain reaction that makes the apocalypse a long, drawn out event. We will be ultimately left to survive off the land, shaped by the catastrophic events that lay before us.

This is shaping my views of doomsday prepping to more of a “embrace the chaos” plan.  I can hope my family will be around each other when such an event occurs. For there, we would have to figure out what our assets and liabilities are.  Not a pleasant thing to consider, but seemingly more real.

Peace out.

 

Doomsday Preppers, The History Channel, and when the SHTF

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While digging through YouTube videos to find new music, as well as nurse bullying info; I found a bunch of Doomsday Preppers/When the SHTF stuff.  Apparently, my NURSE BULLYING (her story) post is from The Patriot Nurse. From what I’ve been able to see, she is an experienced nurse who has an established following who watch her post-apocalypse survival tips. They range from the medical to the social aspects of things to consider when the SHTF (which is prep talk for excrement hitting the fan).  I know that Doomsday Prepping is a television show (I’ve seen a few episodes). The theme has also managed to appear in Pinterest, which is a nice change of pace from womens’ hair styles, clothing, and “smokey eye” tips.  Still, I hesistate about embracing the end-of-the-world movement.

As if the prepping movement needed any help with resting the depressing thought on our collective shoulders that the world will eventually end as we know it; the History Channel offers up a great line-up of shows that share the same theme: We’re All Gonna Die!  Featuring the predictions from Nostradamus, or some computer program that has allegedly made its own apocalyptic predictions.  There are also segments on Biblical passages, including the book of Revelations, the rise of the Anti-Christ, and the End of Days.  There seems to be no end to the film footage of terrorist acts, explosions, gun play, and other violent acts to drive their point home. Oh, I am not sure if it’s the History Channel, but there is also a TV show called Life After People. It shows the world in decay after people are no longer around. It will look a great deal like the I am Legend film (Isaac Asimov’s book made into a film, starring Will Smith).

After watching such shows and/or youtube videos, I usually end up having nightmares for an evening or two. Now, what do I do with this?

  • Go full out prepper – Build a shelter, buy generators, meds, weapons, etc.
  • Go partial prepper – Build shelves in my garage, get some stuff
  • Go mini-prepper – Put together a bug-out bag
  • Embrace the chaos when it happens

If the societal infrastructure were to collapse, due to any number of scenarios; my guess is that the freefall we would experience could last months, if not years.  We have no idea what parts of the system would emerge as the new norms.  Money, in any of its forms, would be obsolete. Much of our wealth is stored electronically. If the power grid were to fail, we would lose access to that data. I am guessing the barter system would come back, that is….once the rioting slowed down. Nature abhors a vacuum. Panic, fear, and hate are all temporary states. People would freak out, then likely settle down after a time.

Healthcare priorities would change as the sickly, injured, frail, and weak would ultimately die off as medicine, medical equipment, and supplies would stop being available.  For those newly injured or maimed under the absence of the current health care system would find themselves divided into one of two categories: those we can save and those who are/will be beyond help.  I can’t imagine that playing out well. While we would reap some benefit of having vaccinations, the pathogenic threats would rise – especially if the waste removal system were to fail. The historic blending of waste and water supplies will not bode well for the masses.  The concept of infection control would be harder to follow, for those even aware of how to maintain it.

The demand for certain skill sets will arise. Here is where we will see drastic changes in how we contribute to society. The Haves-&-Have-Nots will change from financial to those who have the ability to work with their hands.  Building, creating, and repairing skills will become valuable. Those in health care will probably have some value in the new world.  Those in education will have a place in the new world, especially when the emphasis changes from rioting to society rebuilding.  Those who lived off the system, who may not have had the benefit of specific training, or even those with general office skills may be at some disadvantage.  Those familiar with hunting will obviously have some advantage, although the wildlife may not be able to keep up with the demand – if the food supplies dwindle too quickly.  Farmers will have some advantage as well. Which points out the next issue, those who don’t have may feel compelled to take from those that do. That’s gonna be ugly. Those in law enforcement may find themselves falling back to protect themselves, like everyone else. The demand for rules may take some time to become valuable again. Education and the need to train the next generation may also take time to gain value again. Books will come back into vogue again.  Knowledge and skill  not be something we can Google.

I can’t help but think that most Doomsday Preppers are thinking that we will be living in a RED DAWN movie existence….or some kind of post-Pinterest experiment.  I think, however, we are probably looking at something a lot messier….like third-world country messy.  Unreliable power, unstable social structure, and the masses fighting to gather their own resources.  It will be ugly. I am not sure that even a bug-out bag will help all that much.

 

 

Embrace The Chaos

Shift report can be a funny thing. Your patient assignment, even if you have had the group before; can go in many directions. You may have a patient whose vital signs are “circling the drain,” or lab results have just come back all wonky.  Altered mental status, sometimes in the form of ‘sundowners’ can make a quiet evening a noisy/busy one.  There have been shift reports where I felt like that last click on the first hill of a rollercoaster. Butterflies in the stomach. You know it’s going to be a wild ride, but you don’t know where it will go. This is where I came up with the phrase, ’embrace the chaos.’  You fight that new nurse urge to go in the opposite direction of the crisis, and step towards it.  You tap into your spiritual center to remain calm, build upon your desire to help people, then tap into your skill sets and knowledge to work towards saving the patient.

However, those evenings that feel like all the little things spin out of control.  You begin to feel like everything is closing in. Perhaps the feeling of being trapped in a strange medical game show.  I think these are the moments that separate new nurses from experienced ones. As the saying goes, “new nurses run/old nurses don’t.’  Experience nurses work smarter, not faster.  I was able clear my mind, take a deep breath, then attempted to use my best critical thinking skills to determine what I needed to focus on first.  I also found out that all of the rituals I had developed to improve my time management skills, including those during med pass paid off.  Reading this, I feel that I am making smaller events seem larger – which is probably the case. However, I think I had a glimpse into even more intense rapid response/codes in the future.

Not that I have had many of these moments, but I have had a couple. A few cases had to do with hypoglycemia. Another case, a patient I had just collected blood labs on, came back with a 7.2 Potassium level. The free charge was very supportive. There is a set protocol, listing everything to do – include contacting the doctor.  The supplies were organized. The checklist was followed. Luckily, everything turned out well. It was scary, but a manageable, learning moment scary.  I was able to ask questions while things unfolded. Since then, I have also seen other nurses go through crises with their patients.  The sense of teamwork and commitment that my peers and I share reinforce the decision that I made to join this team. Nursing rocks.