Friday, January 30, 2009

Stop Disasters!!!!

I've been working with the disaster and emergency management community for a little over 10 years now, and I will tell you there isn't much to laugh at or have fun with when it comes to disasters.

OK, that doesn't mean we DON'T laugh about it sometimes, but gallows humor is supposed to be kept under wraps, so I won't tell you about the guy who blew himself up after he lit a match to look at the gauge of the leaky propane tank one dark night. Ahem.

Anyway, I recently came across a game that was developed by the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) to help teach kids about preparing for disasters. It is called Stop Disasters, which pretty much says it all if you ask me. And, you know, it's a pretty neat game, and I've had fun playing it, so I decided Hey, why not pass this on?

This isn't a game very high on the technological scale. No Wii here, but you can choose your disaster! Yes! You can pick Flood, Wildfire, Hurricane, Earthquake, or Tsunami. You can also pick which language you want to use (ATTENTION TIM!).

The goals are to reduce loss of life and property. You earn points as you make changes to your community by either building shelters, reinforcing existing buildings, creating barriers or drainage, or doing training of the townspeople. It all really depends on the disaster you've chosen, and you have a set amount of money to spend on things and a set amount of time to spend it, because apparently the disaster is on a schedule here, people.

After a while, you start to hear alarms saying a flood/fire/tsunami is coming. You get to watch it unfold. Even though this is a game, it can be really surprising to see. I didn't expect the floodwaters to rise that far when I played it the first time. You can watch the $$ tally up, and you also watch the death toll rise. After the disaster, you are given the totals and you find out if you passed or failed the disaster.

It isn't as easy as it might sound. I had to play one disaster scenario several times before I got a passing score.

Anyway, enjoy the game. It's fun, and you might learn something, too.

I'm planning on doing a few more disaster-related posts here in the hopes of bringing some personal preparedness information to my few, few readers, but I hope it will be interesting and helpful. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 26, 2009


You may not know that I’m a government contractor. Well, our contract is up this year, which means it will be re-bid, a process that is both worrisome and terrifying.

In past years it has been interesting, too, and a little exciting, but with the economy the way it is, and with Obama looking really hard at government spending (and adult training/education is soooo hard to quantify with statistics to see how well it’s working), I’m worried. Oh, and 5 years ago they cut a position from our contract, something that threw us all on our collective ears.

What will basically happen is sometime this spring our Request for Proposals (RFP) will ‘hit the streets’ and there will be a deadline by which companies can bid on our contract. Bids will be evaluated and ranked, and the lowest bid will win. The ranking, etc, can take a couple weeks or a few months. The new contract will take effect October 1, 2009.

What has really screwed us in the past 5 years is that we’ve been level-funded, which means we have the same amount of money put aside for our contract this year as we did 5 years ago, with no wiggle room for the rising expenses of healthcare, administrative stuff, or anything else. If we continue to be level funded in the next few years we could loose our healthcare benefits, as happened the last time the Security contract came up. This would leave our 5 single employees here without healthcare options. The remaining 3 of us could go on our spouse’s insurance.

The best case scenario is that our contract will be funded better, and that we maintain our current company or get another one that is just as good or better. I don’t even want to think of the possibility of a raise (we make very good money here for our area, and I do not complain about it like some of my illustrious coworkers do, but we haven’t had one in several years).

The worst case scenarios include a new and horrible company, losing more personnel, losing benefits, our pay going down (has happened before), working more hours with the same or fewer people, etc. Oh, and possibly not finding out what’s going on until the 11th hour, which would be September 30th, as has happened once before.

The other part is that if we get a new company they can either hire all of us back, hire some of us back, or hire none of us and replace us with an all new staff. As far as I know, the last option has never happened on this campus, and the general consensus is that it probably never will because it would be silly to hire all new people who don’t know the computer system and basic operations of the site, but it is a possibility.

The only new thing that’s really going for us is that we have a new Fed in charge of our contract, and he’s taking us out of the stone age and really starting to make this place shine, so I’m hopeful that they will basically reward us for this.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Silly things and Fire

A general ‘update’ post for the past few weeks. Not much going on here, so I’ll try to do a few Subtitles to break down my thoughts and make it all just a bit more organized, if not interesting.

Still waiting on a measurable snow here. Several dustings and some ice, nothing serious. I was sick a week ago, some stomach virus. Ick. Max and Matt are well. I’ve joined Facebook. Ordering seeds for spring, check the garden blog for that stuff.

Matt’s brother came out from San Diego for a week between Christmas and NY with his wife and their daughter, who is 12. We don’t like or get along with Bro. By ‘we’ I mean the entire eastern seaboard. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but only a little. They couldn’t get gone soon enough for me. I get along OK with the Wife, and the 12 year old is a blast, but the Bro is a….piece of…

I may have mentioned this before, but we (ok, Matt) installed a propane fireplace in the house which has helped tremendously with heating costs, as propane is cheaper than heating oil right now. Propane makes me nervous, and I was concerned about this unit, but all’s well.

New Car
So far, the new car is very nice. We’re averaging about 32 MPG. There are a few things I don’t like. I hate the security system. I keep accidentally setting it off, and I don’t know how I do it. I think once I accidentally hit the PANIC button on the keyfob, but otherwise I don’t know.

This car has an automatically adjusting rearview mirror. It senses light and automatically dims, which is pretty nifty, with the exceptions of the following:

  • It doesn’t do it during the day, so if you are getting tailgated by anyone with their lights on you just have to live with it
  • It doesn’t do it during dusk, see above.

I would happily rip the thing off and replace it if I could. I’m still adjusting to the controls for everything being different and apparently designed for a space alien with arms at least 1 foot longer than mine. When I’m sitting in the car and need to close the door I have to practically get OUT of the car to reach the door handle, which defeats the purpose.

Mom recently had her first cataract surgery. It seemed to be easier than just about any other ‘procedure’ out there nowadays. She goes in for her second one the beginning of February.

My jewelry business is slow, and I’m to blame. I did do some sales before Christmas and have been doing some restringing for friends. I really need to get over my shyness and get out there to some shops and schmooze.
I also can’t seem to get into the Business Blog I started, and the last time I updated it was before Christmas. I just don’t know what to write about. I need to get on the bandwagon for this again.

I’ve also decided Etsy is a lost cause for sales….but a really nice option for a cheap online showcase that looks professional, so I’m going to stick with it. It is just not my market. I have

I did pay my 2nd round of PA state sales tax ($5.05) successfully. And I’ve got my books done for tax season, so yippee for me.

We have a new administration with new leadership on the DHS level, but so far nothing has really changed here. There are some presidential appointments still needing to be filled (FEMA and USFA administrators, their deputies, etc), but I don’t expect some of them to be filled for months. Probably little will change here.

Our contract is up this year, but I’m going to do a separate post about that special, special process.

I haven’t been cooking as much as I usually do, I’m just too tired by the time I get home from work. I MEAN to cook, but I just never get there.

We found a new, really nice restaurant called Café del Sol. They do salads, wraps, Panini, pasta, specialty pizzas, and the best homemade potato chips I have ever had. Really great place.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

For 8 Years.... (update)

...I have had to pass these pictures on my way to work. Every day, I pass these smirking faces on the wall, and I am SO happy that shortly, just a matter of hours, really, they will be GONE from the wall forever.
**The pictures were removed as of MONDAY, according to a coworker.**

And in a few weeks, new faces will appear.

And I will smile at those new faces every day I pass them.

And I think they will smile back...even if it is just my imagination.

(with the exception of this one. ^^ I will miss this one, he was one of the good ones)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Breakfast with Dad

Due to having to work an occasional weekend, I will have a Friday off work every now and then. Often I will get together with my dad for breakfast or lunch on those days. I don't see him as often as I probably should. The conversations range from the very interesting (stories from his days in the Navy, etc) to somewhat boring (car mechanics, etc). Here is a sample of some conversation from our breakfast this morning:

Dad: Mom and I may be going up to Redding shopping tomorrow.

Me: Oh? Matt and I are thinking about going to the Farm Show.

Dad: I went up there once. It was in the 70s. I think once was enough. You two have been up there before, haven't you?

Me: Yeah, a couple or three years ago. The food court is great, and we like to go look at all the chickens.

Dad: I remember, when you were little, we took you up there for the circus.

Me: Yeah, I remember that, too.

Dad: Yeah, the Bimbo Circus.

Me: (eyes bug out)

Dad: ...all the animals, it was a three ring circus, you know! (pause)....(laughing) It wasn't called the Bimbo Circus, was it?

Me: (laughing) I think it was Zembo, dad.

Dad: (laughing) OH! YES, that was it....Zembo.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our New Car

We've been kicking around getting a new car now for a few months, and finally bit the bullet and went window shopping the past two weeks. We saw three we liked in Hanover, and went back today to test drive them. Here were the results:
Green 2002 Camry: Eh. Didn't wow us, plus when we looked under the hood there were some problems.

Grey 2006 Camry XLE: ALL the bells and whistles: moonroof, alarm system, power seats and windows and locks. Outside temp, radio controls on the steering wheel. 34 Highway, 26 City. Drove well, no weird noises. Really nice.

Grey 2005 Mazda Tribute: We've never had an SUV, and this smaller one caught my eye due to the price. Heated seats, moonroof, power seat adjustment and windows and locks. Oh, and it was a 4x4. Before we drove it, I thought it would be a shoe-in, with the exception of the gas milage which was a really crappy 24 Hwy, 18 City. When we drove it, though, we kept hearing somethign icky with one of the front tires. It also just felt really big to me, even though it is a smaller SUV.

We went back to check on pricing, financing, trade-in, etc on the grey Camry and wound up driving it home.
REALLY nice car, really happy with it. I'm at work now, I got here late due to getting everything signed, etc, and I feel like I've been hit in the head with a brick. And I have a tension headache. But I'm happy with the car.

REALLY FUNNY STORY: We're sitting in the Toyota showroom waiting on our sales guy to come back, and I realized that the music playing on the speakers was "I think I'm turning Japanese I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so!!!"