Archive for May, 2010

Who Needs Suicide Bombers?

A disturbing ‘proof of concept’ experiment has made me think of another way we can be vulnerable to harm. A British scientist, Mark Glasson of the University of Reading has placed a microchip under his skin and infected it with a computer virus. Similar to the chips we use to tag pets with, this chip can open secure doors and turn on his cellphone.

So what if the chip becomes infected and infects the security door system for the entire building or establishment? Or it wipes out his phone’s memory and all stored data, numbers etc? That is possible and that is just if it is limited to those two applications. In today’s high tech world we all know that is not where this RFID Chip tech will stop.

What if Al Qaida send terrorists in, not with explosives strapped to their bodies and thus vulnerable to detection, but into your place of work where they wipe out the mainframe of your company’s computer system?  They could do it to the courts, the police, the railways, the airlines and just about everywhere they can get someone in as a legitimate employee.

The damage could be far worse than blowing up a bank full of people once. Wiping out the bank records and transactions would have far ranging consequences, including people committing suicide, losing their jobs, families breaking up and who knows what else.

The terrorist might never be identified and worse, they might come back for a second go months later with an up-gunned chip to overcome any security counter measures put in place after the last attack. In fact,t hey may have been on the team that wrote that code in the first place!

Far fetched? A little too Si-Fi for your taste? It is the here and now and it is something we need to at least be aware of and give some thought to. Perhaps in our disaster preparedness planning we have some options for complete computer malfuncton. After all I know I rely on the internet for my living, my communications and much more. Perhaps a good place to start is to review how vulnerable you are online?

Youngest Rapists Convicted

Recently in the UK two boys, now 10 and 11, were convicted of attempted rape of an 8 year old girl. Both boys were 10 when they committed their crimes and so were old enough to be judged as being responsible and aware they were doing wrong. I believe children know right from wrong, especially if their parents teach them properly when much younger but the law is adamant that 10 is the number.

The case might open the whole question of how these matters are tried, how old children should be to be considered criminally responsible and so on. What I wonder, after reading the report on the matter, is where the boys got the idea from? I knew right from wrong when I was much younger than 10, but I had no idea of sexual intercourse at 10. But then I wasn’t bombarded with it like kids are today.

Television, DVDs, Youtube, internet, advertising and other forms of media all have different standards of what is appropriate for children to be exposed to today than in the 1960s and early 1970s. But we can’t lay the blame squarely at the feet of the media, or their puppets, the government. The blame belongs with the parents.

Parents seem incapable of instilling discipline and self respect in their children. This is because they don’t lead by example. Their own standards of language, dress and behaviour are simply slack. This is a result of societal changes that no longer place value on certain qualities and traits. It is, though, a by-product of our shedding many outdated and oppressive  social mores.

As with most things, once the pendulum swings the other way it can swing too far before it swings back. It will return and hopefully the next generation will instil better standards, albeit adapted and altered accordingly for modern technology and our contemporary communities.

Kids are sponges. They absorb everything and that includes the bad stuff we adults do and say. Sooner or later the sponge gets squeezed for some reason and out come the bad things. Like playing mummies and daddies…

Pointless Pit Bulls

Once again, those unnecessary animals, pit bulls, have struck. This time at Cable Beach, Broome. Tourists enjoying a sunset camel ride along the beach were hurt when uncontrolled pit bulls attacked the camels they were riding. One tourist fell off as the camel tried to escape the vicious dogs and was injured in the fall, including suffering fractured bones. Nice way to end your holiday. Of course the arrogant owner assured the camel train operator before the dogs went off that they were fine. Yeah, right!

Last month in the USA a baby was bitten by a pit bull while the parents of the baby and owners of the dog were in another room. Perhaps the parents were, as one pro-pit bull commenter stated, in the other room taking drugs but that doesn’t change the fact the dogs are dangerous. There is a lot of well deserved animosity against these dog breeds and their owners. The dogs are bred purely for fighting after all yet the owners are forever apologising or claiming it was the fault of the victim, not a pit bull and so on.

In Germany this past week two Staffordshire Bull Terriers tore apart a 3 year old toddler. When the great-grandmother of the child  came to her rescue the animals turned on her. The baby is dead, the great-grandmother is in a serious condition in hospital.  The two victims were visiting the toddler’s aunt who owned the dogs. She lived in a remote village and had not registered the animals on the dangerous breeds register.

If you Google ‘pit bulls baby’ you get hit after tragic hit about these animals and other similar breeds attacking people of all ages. The real reason owners want them is to make up for their own insecurities and feelings of inferiority. Like middle aged men and sports cars they are little more than a penis substitute. I owned Rottweilers for years and they are beautiful yet very powerful animals. I trained mine and never had a problem with them for the decade or so I owned them. The main reason I bought a Rotty was because I had been told they do need exercise but, if you live in an apartment as I did and don’t have a yard for them to run around in, they are happy to stay at your feet. Mine were, so much so that whenever the ‘phone rang my boy would spring up and hit the gas lever on my office chair and I would go hurtling down to just above floor level! So I know about big dogs.

In the Army I worked with German Shepherds and other large breeds as bomb detection dogs and security dogs (the two are very different animals and trained for different jobs). I personally like Staffies and such but the pure fighting breeds like American Pit Bulls and such have no place in a civilized society. Especially not an urban one.

Thin Or Thick Sausages, Senhor?

An American worker at a sausage factory was sucked into a sausage machine while he was cleaning it. Somehow the machine switched on and sucked him in headfirst as far as his shoulders. He was released and taken to hospital as a precaution but claimed he was fine. All jokes aside, it goes to show how accidents in the workplace can happen, very quickly and all too often, fatally.

In Spain a matador was gored by a bull the other weekend, an occupational hazard when taking part in the first part of the sausage making process, no doubt. While the bull might end up in a Spanish sausage factory, the difference between the two incidents (apart from being on different continents and a whole host of other dissimilarities) is the acceptance of risk at play with each occupation.

The matador and his crew (he is but one of several ‘dors out there at the bullfight) are aware that what they do has inherent risks. They and the crowd paying to watch are all too well aware of the reality that someone might get hurt, even killed… other than the bull. Not so the sausage maker. He arrives for work knowing all the cows and bulls he will come in contact with are dead, well and truly. Mind you, the machinery used to make sausages on an industrial scale is as potentially lethal as any enraged bull.

Some jobs have obvious hazards and inherent risks, some jobs are not so apparently dangerous. The trick to staying safe is to be able to know which is which and to remain alert to the potential for harm even when the sausage machine is switched off or the bull is not in the ring yet.

Push Came To Shove

We often say ‘when push comes to shove’ to indicate taking events to a more serious level of consequence and action. Sadly the other day in Eastlakes that saying came tragically true when a 71 year old lady was pushed by a teenage youth after a minor altercation.  Whatever the argument between them, it does not justify a youth pushing an aged lady in the chest, knocking her down and making her head strike the concrete footpath.

I can well imagine the lady taking the youth to task for riding his push bike on the path and endangering the safety of pedestrians, particularly the elderly.  Or perhaps he was blocking her way and she merely tried to get past him. The other day at our local mall I said ‘excuse me’ to a young teen on a scooter, blocking the path to the car park. He moved but said “yah Dad, next time you move for me!” I ignored him and kept going, his rudeness and attitude are not my concern. In fact they are beneath me to address.

But whatever the reason for his cowardly attack on the Eastlake’s lady, the Eastern Suburb’s thug is now wanted for manslaughter. He may have thought that adults can’t touch him, the law is on his side and if anyone raises their voice let alone a hand he will ‘own them’. True. To a point. But he passed that point when the lady died. Went well past it.

Our Senior Citizens are National Treasures. They are insulted every fortnight by the paltry pension our Prime Minister, earning $350,000 per year, thinks is sufficient for them to scrape by on. The miniscule repayment for a lifetime of work and taxes is agreed upon by other MPs, none of whom takes home less than $150,000 a year. It is a travesty and a slap in the face to every citizen because one day we too shall grow old.

Just because we age doesn’t mean we become timid, weak little creatures cowering in our bedsits and waiting for the big day to finally come around. One’s spirit doesn’t have to grow old and tired. My 77 year old Dad, a veteran of the Malayan Emergency and a man who served his country for 27 years recently defended our family dog when it was brutally set upon by two larger bull terriers. He broke his walking stick over the back of one and kicked the shine off his shoes on the other, all the time thinking his heart would explode. Fortunately the dogs didn’t turn on him but were finally brought under control when their low-brow owner came on the scene. Too many gutless thick heads feel if they have a tough dog it, makes them tough. No, it just makes them owners of a dog with a reputation.

ANZAC Day, 2009. Father and Son

Dad would rather go down fighting than roll over and give up. Perhaps not the wisest course of action but as a brave Spanish lady once said, “it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”. That was one reason my mother, when she was 18, fled East Germany. She escaped by running through minefields, being chased by guard dogs, shot at from machine gun towers and finally swimming the freezing cold Elbe River in February, 1956. Spirit such as this does not easily acquiesce to the demands of the dross of our society. Should they?

Even on the remote Isle of Pines my switched on mother keeps her hand on her purse.

Should they give in and hope they will be left in peace or should they stand up for themselves and take their chances? It is easy to be wise after the event, afterall hindsight is both 20/20 and an exact science. But there is no guarantee the dross will leave them alone if they cower and back off. In fact the odds are in their favour if they stand their ground. Most dross are bullys and all bullys are cowards. Stand up to them and they will most likely back down. Like everything in life, you take your chances and they are always never better than 50/50. Either you will or you won’t.

A Trip To The Tutt Might Be The Death Of You

A Trip To The Toilet And A Trip In The Toilet Can Be Life Threatening

We have a lot of faith in our medical professionals and for the most part it is faith well founded. They are well trained, dedicated and they do work hard. I have yet to meet one who would knowingly harm anyone. That kind of attitude simply doesn’t make it through the many years of study and training to become a Registered Nurse (3 year degree) or a doctor (at least 6 or 7 years).

Yet too often we hear of people suffering because they were incorrectly diagnosed or treated. In a recent tragic case in the UK a woman died after surgery to remove a foreign object from her buttocks failed. It was the third operation she had undergone to remove what was found to be a 15cm piece of a toilet brush handle. Apparently some years before she had fallen in a friend’s bathroom and the item had inserted itself into her buttock flesh.

Subsequent examinations including x-rays failed to identify the cause of her pain and she was sent home with some pain killers and orders to rest. By the time she was correctly diagnosed the matter had become far more serious and life threatening. In the end, it killed her.

In 1985 I was sharing a terrace house in Paddington with a mate and his girlfriend. One morning they had both left for work early and I was getting ready to go to my own place of employment. As I stepped from the shower I slipped and sprawled forward, my right arm instinctively shooting out to break my fall. While it did stop me from smashing my face into the toilet seat, my arm shot down the bowl and became trapped behind the U-bend.

I was now naked, cold, wet, on my own and stuck in the toilet. I faced at least nine hours before anyone would come home and find me. If they couldn’t retrieve my arm from the porcelain grip of the lav, they would have to call for help. I could just imagine the jokes thrown around the muster room at the local fire station at my expense.

This was a potentially serious and possibly life threatening situation. As I said, I was cold and wet, on my knees on a cold tiled floor and it was mid winter. I could suffer hypothermia and while I might not die in the 8 or 9 hours I would have to wait for help, I wouldn’t be very well when it arrived. If it arrived. I just then remembered both of my flatmates were meeting me for drinks and a movie after work. If I didn’t turn up they would figure I had changed my mind and they wouldn’t be home until nearly midnight. It was now not even 8am. I had to save myself.

I wondered if I could rip the toilet bowl out of the floor and pull it from the wall and drag it to where I could get a hammer and smash it open. I weighed up how much it would cost me to repair and replace the toilet and cistern, not to mention any damage if the pipes burst and decided I needed to try some other, cheaper and less final options first.

I thought of trying to reach the shampoo bottle on the floor with my foot and maybe using it as a lubricant but it was beyond my reach. I then got very frustrated and angry, braced myself against he bowl with my free arm and pulled with all my strength. Next thing I’m flying back through the air to land on my butt with a sore and red marked arm held triumphantly aloft! I was free and no one need ever know my embarrassing secret of near death down a toilet bowl.

As funny as that situation ended up, it could have been as tragic as the UK lady who died from injuries suffered when she tripped in the toilet. What is even sadder is that the lady did try to seek help and she did it more than once and at more than one hospital, yet she still paid with her life.

So even if you seek medical help you might still suffer. You might be mis-diagnosed or even turned away and your concerns played down. This is where you MUST listen to your inner voice. Twenty five years ago I had severe headaches for several days. I knew, I just instinctively knew these were not migraine headaches. I knew it was more serious than that and I was right. I was suffering from an attack of Viral Meningitis. At first I had also been sent home from hospital with instructions to take some pain killers and go to bed but I knew that wouldn’t do the trick so I returned and insisted on a more thorough examination. I had to stand up for myself.

That is what you must do. Be polite, be respectful but be firm that if you believe you are not getting the treatment you need, then keep looking until you do get it. Your life could literally depend upon it.

So Tragic, So Avoidable

Nona, lured to her death by two men she met on Facebook. Rest In Peace.

On Wednesday last week an 18 year old young woman arranged to meet two men at a railway station and go camping. She had never met these two men in person before. She had met them on Facebook. When she didn’t return home on Thursday her distraught family alerted the authorities. Sometime on Friday her body was found in bushland and a 20 year old man is going to charged for her murder. For those facts to be published so early in the case and so definitely suggests the police are in no doubt they have the murderer.

How sad, how tragic, how so very bloody avoidable! My heart goes out to the family and also to the poor woman now lost to us all for who knows what she might have contributed to our society? For me, never having met any of the family or the woman herself I can sit back and analyse, make comment, pass an opinion and do it all without the emotion of having lost a loved one in such brutal circumstances. Please take what I write as a professional observation, not a personal attack on the deceased or her family.

To me it is obvious that you do not arrange to meet anyone you have only ever had contact with via the net without someone else you know and trust being present. You especially never willingly put yourself in a position where you are outnumbered and no doubt ‘outgunned’. I have yet to meet the woman that is the match for two men. Having had to physically manage more than one man at a time I know how difficult and dangerous it can be for a trained person.

Camping? What was she thinking? Isolated in the bush with two complete strangers? What did she think was going to happen at best, let alone at worst? Of course she was a ‘good girl’ from a good home, aren’t they all? But still she agreed to meet two strange men for the first time and go camping with them.

At 18 a person is an adult in the eyes of the law. If a person was born on the 1st of June 18 years ago then on the 31st of May they are still only 17, still a juvenile, still considered a child. The clock strikes midnight and Voila! Instant Adult. But what is really different from the juvenile of a few moments before to the adult of now? I am sure the parents would say they were still their baby… it’s what we parents do.

Somebody’s baby boy made friends with somebody else’s baby girl online. Lured her to a meeting with him and his friend, another mother’s baby boy, and they murdered the poor, naive baby girl. Why? What did it achieve? Was it a friendly camping trip gone horribly wrong? Did the killers plan this after watching too many straight-to-video teen horror flicks?

So very, very avoidable. We all make errors of judgment. Fortunately all of mine have been less than fatal… so far.

Neutralizing The Threat

Take That! An armed robber is struck by a chair wielding customer

The other day I watched some CCTV footage from the US where a man is holding up a convenience store at gunpoint. The sales clerk can’t open the till so he fires two rounds in to the floor next to her feet and threatens to shoot her next. Meanwhile a customer has stepped up behind the gunman and he hits him on the head with a full beer bottle. You see the beer splash everywhere. The gunman turns, grapples with the shopper, they fall to the floor then the gunman breaks free and backs off, shooting the shopper four times. He gets away and hopefully the shopper will soon recover.

What is interesting about this scenario is that the gunman was hit very hard on the back of his head with a full bottle of beer. The bottle smashed into pieces, yet it didn’t drop him like it does in the movies. He might have been high on drugs or just full of adrenaline he was impervious to the pain.

This highlights a point I like to make that merely hitting someone, even hard across the back of the skull with a full bottle of beer, is no guarantee a desired result will occur. What if the shopper had come in from the side slightly and struck the man’s gun hand wrist? I think he would have dropped the gun and that might have meant the shopper wasn’t shot four times. Yes it is a hypothetical and of course, he might have been unable to reach around to the wrist but in the calm, safe environment of my office I can think of several better options. I would like to think I would think of them if it were I in that convenience store but who knows?

Another CCTV clip, this time from a betting shop in the UK shows a man being threatened by a gunman who he says had said he was going to shoot him. You can see in the clip that he at first leaves the bank, but then returns. Was he looking to play hero or just angry? Note also the man who stands at what looks like an ATM oblivious of the drama unfolding behind him. This is an example of someone being so focused on what they are doing they fail to notice what is going on around them. This is precisely the situation that allows for people to be blind sided and ambushed.

The good Samaritan meanwhile picks up a handy chair and brings it down hard on the gunman’s wrist, forcing him to protect his gun. Then he charges in with the chair and takes the gunman down, kicking the gun away and controlling him in a leg lock. This man was facing the gunman, not coming up from behind. The gunman had already said he would shoot, hence the defender felt he had nothing to lose. Yet the gunman didn’t shoot and that is a telling point also. If he really intended to shoot, or if the weapon was real and loaded (it turned out to be  a replica pistol) then he would have shot. But most criminals use weapons to threaten and intimidate, to control and not so much to harm intentionally. Of course there are the other kind that just want to hurt and don’t really care about money or other valuables their victim may have.

In the second scenario the hero made a conscious decision, took action and won. He attacked the weapon and the weapon hand, neutralized it effectively and then was on more equal terms with his opponent. The first guy also made a conscious decision, but he attacked the man, failed to neutralize the weapon threat and he took four slugs for his heroism, although it could be argued he saved the clerk from getting shot, possibly fatally. His gunman did shoot and had already shot twice when he was in no danger, so he can’t say he only shot because he feared for his life, can he?

Many criminals who do use a weapon claim they didn’t mean to hurt anyone but they were scared, felt trapped and acted in self defence. Maybe so but they were the ones that tooled up and went and broke the law in the first place. The point to heed is that you can’t know if your criminal is just trying to scare you or he is in the middle of a psychotic episode.You take your gun toting armed robbers as you find them.

You Have To Wonder Sometimes

Mummy Lets Me Play Spacemen At The Mall

I often wonder about how people survive various life threatening situations but I confess I wonder more about how many of my fellow humans actually make it to their own deaths. Stupidity is merely the quality control software for the gene pool. It kicks off the Idiot Filter and has it skim the surface every now and then so we don’t take too many of our dumber brothers and sisters into another breeding cycle.

Take the woman in the photo for example. I confess I borrowed that photo from a terrific website that despite a couple of emails I didn’t actually get the ok back to use the photo. So I figured if I give them the credit for the shot and a link back they won’t set the picture police onto me. If they ask, of course I’ll remove the thing from here but really, it is simply too demonstrative of my point to not take the risk. I mean… purleeeeeze!

How can anyone who has reached voting age and no doubt brought more human life into this world do this? Who in their right mind would allow a small child to wear a plastic bag, spaceman like, while they push them around a shop in a cart? The sad thing is that woman is considered legally responsible enough to vote, breed and drive on the roads and most likely own a firearm. The only good thing from my point of view is that she is in the USA and not Australia. But we have our share of home grown idiots, don’t you worry.

Safety is mostly common sense yet as we can see here, it mightn’t be all that common. A really simple formula for not having to resolve dangerous situations is to not get into them in the first place. She only needs to be distracted for a few seconds for the boy to suddenly come into difficulties and asphyxiate. He might even simply ‘nod off’ without any struggle or fuss and by the time she turns back to him he is beyond resuscitation. Even if he is successfully brought back to life he might suffer permanent brain damage. And that would leave him as dumb, if not dumber than her. Frightening.

Mental Illness – It’s Nothing Personal

In the last two weeks there have been numerous reports out of China about people running amok and killing innocent children and adults with knives and hammers, usually in schools or kindegartens. Tragic and very sad for all involved. The problem seems to stem from the growing number of people suffering mental health disorders, possibly as a result of the increased pace of life in China today and the removal of many of the support systems that were in place under strict Communist rule.

A free market economy can mean prosperity for many, but it also means there are those who fall through the cracks, those who don’t get to make it into the ‘middle classes’ and of course a shift to a more ‘user-pays’ society. In the old days you didn’t lose your job, you had a job for life even if the Party told you what it would be. Becoming unemployed can be devastating and it is the same for Chinese people as it is for anyone else.

There are currently hundreds of millions of people in China who are unemployed and an estimated 173 million mental health disorder sufferers in the world’s most populous nation. The sheer scale of this is staggering, but so too the number of tragic incidents in just a few days that have claimed so many lives.  Read this article for more information.

What can we learn from this? First of all we need to be aware of the prevalence of mental health disorders in our own communities. Many of the anti-social acts are caused by people suffering mental illnesses. Some might be undiagnosed and many will be currently untreated. The trend today is to self medication and that is fine when the person self medicates. But how can you trust someone suffering a mental illness to remember to medicate as required? If they forget (and we all forget to take our medicine now and then) they start to think and behave less rationally and sooner or later they are no longer their real selves but suffering the effects of their illness and the spiral continues.

We need to protect ourselves from the actions of the mentally ill but we also need to understand it is not personal, they are suffering an illness and we need to be compassionate and tolerant while at the same time making sure they and us are safe. Not an easy task.

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