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Friday, July 22, 2011

THWS: Full-featured Online Image Editor

The latest Totally Handy Web Site is one I frequent regularly. I run a few web sites and do a lot of projects that require image editing. Sometimes I do some of the work at the power company when it is slow, or at the FD in off hours, or at home. It was problematic to use different types of software depending on where I was at and what was (or was not) installed in each place.

Introducing Pixlr (, a FREE full-featured image editing application that is entirely web-based. If your web browser's Adobe Flash plug-in is up to date, you're all set to go.

You can upload images from your own computer, make your edits, and re-save them to your computer. You can also designate the URL of an image online to load into Pixlr, and then save your modified version locally. And that's for anonymous users. If you choose to create a free account with them, you gain access to their "cloud", allowing you to store your images online and access them from anywhere.

To create an account, go to the editor and choose to open an image from the library. The pop-up window will ask you to log in, but there is a link just below the password field labeled "sign up for pixlr". Username, email, password, you're in, no other info required.

There are a few tutorial paths you can take if you're not familiar with image editing, and it won't be long until you can navigate the application with relative ease.

Unless you are in need of industrial strength super image editing software and just must install PhotoShop or similar stuff on your PC, Pixlr is your answer, is totally free, and accessible from anywhere you can get online.

Check out their FAQ, which addresses privacy and operational concerns. Also, here are straight links to sample tutorials for "creating an intense portrait", and working with "selective coloring". There are also a lot of video tutorials made by a variety of users that can be found on YouTube to help you through certain tasks.

Very slick. Very cool. Very totally handy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Swear I Am Not Making This Up

Actual narrative from an actual call in the district. Dave Barry would be proud.

It is seven times more amusing when you know the Captain who wrote this.


Location: XXXXXXXX
Incident Run Number: XXXXXXXX
Incident Type: 541 - Animal problem
Action Taken: 86 - Investigate


The homeowner called Station 52 several times, today, seeking assistance with a cat in a tree.

During the first call, around noon, the caller was told to put food at the bottom of the tree, and "wait out" the cat. He did so.

About 4 PM, the caller was now at work and requested a personal visit to re-assure the wife and family that the cat would be OK. His fear was that the family might try to climb the tree.

Upon arrival, the cat was, indeed, about 30 feet up a very large and very tall tree. The tree was in the neighbor's yard. That neighbor's house was under construction and no one was on-site.

The cat was moving and appeared healthy. The family confirmed that there was no health problem that they knew of. They were told that the fire department could not get involved because:
* Someone else's property
* Cat higher than our ladders
* Would have to cut limbs on tree
* Did not have proper climbing gear

The family, was, again, advised to leave the cat alone, it would come down when it was ready.

The phone number for a cat retrieval service was provided to them, the next morning, in case the cat was still in the tree.

The family advised that the cat did, indeed, come down the tree before bedtime.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Brad's Pre-911 Checklist

The first time I ran a call to Brad's house, it was a pretty big deal. Dispatched to a person not breathing, I had grabbed Equad 51 and showed up first. To a locked gate.

I figured that what with whatever drama was going on inside, it was hardly a surprise that no one came down to unlock it. I fumbled over the gate and hustled to the front door, airway kit and AED at the ready, and tried the door. Locked.

Now those of you who have ever responded to the wrong house know the dark wave that washes over you at this point. Crap, am I at the wrong address? There are lights on, but no sign of activity. I eyed the numbers next to the door as I swallowed my pride and radioed in for confirmation. Turns out, I am in the right place.

I banged on the door, announcing "fire department!", as Engine 53 pulled in. Finally, a shadow moved across a window. But still, no action at the door despite continued severe knocking attempts. Engine 53's duty crew joined me and I tried to explain, but the Captain didn't even give me a chance to really start before sending a couple guys to look for another access.

And then we heard a muffled voice. Hang on, it said. Then click... click... chain rattle.... and the door opened. Immediately, I know this guy is a strange fish, and he had unlocked a lot of locks.

He calmly led us to a bedroom where he identified the patient as his mother. An elderly female was lying neatly in bed on her back, with perfect unrumpled blankets pulled up to her shoulders. And she was dead dead dead. Gray/blue, cold, with lividity present in strange places that did not match her supine position. This was just getting weirder and weirder.

She had apparently passed earlier in the day, and when he came home and found her, he decided she needed to be cleaned up. I don't know exactly how he went about doing it, but she was clean, had clean sheets and everything. He dolled her up as best he could, and then placed the 911 call to report that Mom wasn't breathing. Despite expecting us, he had not unlocked the door and gate.

E53's Captain was unfazed. He already knew Brad from other calls.  I've been to Brad's two more times for other things since, and it's never boring.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hanging Out

Got this news item in the company email a few days ago. I suspect it is making the industry rounds.

Typical to most media sources, the verbiage of the articles makes it clear that the writers know little to nothing about power lines, telecom lines, procedures, etc. You've seen this before when they write crazy things about a fire or other incident you were involved in.

The short version of verifiable events is that a fire somehow started in or on the bucket that a power company lineman was working on, involving the elevating bucket's hydraulic system. With the bucket both on fire and inoperative, the lineman escaped by climbing out onto relatively benign telecom cables (as opposed to actual power lines with serious electricity).

A second bucket truck was nearby and quickly responded to the scene. As the second bucket was getting into position to retrieve the stranded lineman, burning debris and hydraulic fluid dropped to the ground below, igniting the second bucket truck as well as a parked car. The rescue was completed successfully despite the second truck catching fire.

I love in this first picture how the first lineman is just casually sitting and holding onto the telecom/cable lines. Under normal conditions there is no serious potential for injury from these cables. Now, if any of the service drops or especially the high side primary had taken damage and fallen onto what he was holding onto, there would have been trouble.

More pictures:

Aside from a successful, if not pretty, rescue, the other main thing I see in these pictures is a LOT of paperwork. I also kind of want to know who got the first picture, and how. Nearby upstairs apartment? Great angle.

Here are some news article links:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How Time Flies

I won't be around the internet on Sunday the 10th, the Big Day, so here's a little something up front.

Unbelievable. Thanks for the reads and the comments and the many lurkers. And please remember to not take this blog too seriously.