Archive for the ‘Daily Ramblings’ Category

I don’t know why I did it.

But really, I do.  I’ve been saying I’d do it for weeks now, for months really, but I could never bring myself to it.  And then, yesterday evening I went to search and rescue training, and when I got home, I felt like it had to be done.  So I did.

I went running.

I’m using the Couch to 5K running plan.  Google it if you’ve never heard of it, there’s TONS of information about it on the internet.  Basically, it’s aimed at getting you from not being able to run any significant length of time to being able to run an entire 5k race in a little over two months.  It uses intervals, starting you out running 60 seconds followed by 90 seconds of walking, and then slowly weans you away from walking…

As I found out last night, I’m unfortunately a bit more of a couch potato than the plan was designed for.  I had no problem running for 60 seconds at a time, but after a few reps I just couldn’t keep it up that long.  I ended up finishing the workout but without nearly as much running as I should have done.

But while some people may find that as a discouragement, I find it as ENcouragement.  The fact that I couldn’t even keep up with the “Day 1” workout when I started will make it that much more satisfying when I run the 5k at the end of it all.  And so I plan to stick with the Day 1 workout for at least a week or two until I can actually do it and THEN I’ll move on.

Even though I couldn’t keep up with the amount of running, even though the skinny people who were WALKING were giving me funny looks for sweating my butt off, even though I’m a bit sore the next day, it felt AMAZING to get out and do some actual cardio exercise outside of hiking/biking and I can’t wait to go for my next run.

In other news, if you’re the type of person who’s interested in following my OTHER blog, Jono the Lutheran, you’ll be interested to know that there are now THREE posts over there.  I’m still sort of working on covering the bases as far as giving everyone the background on a lot of stuff, but I feel it’s important to give that story before moving on.  So check it out if you haven’t taken a look yet.


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Once again, I’ve failed at the PostAWeek Challenge, but those of you who have been following along will attest to the fact that I actually have been blogging more regularly, so that’s a good thing.  I’ll go into a bit more depth about a few of the things going on in my life and in Morgantown in another post, BUT…

I wanted to take 30 seconds to promote my new blog, Jono the Lutheran.  Basically, I wanted a way to keep folks at my home church and here in Morgantown updated about what’s going on with my internship, and what’s going on with me wanting to be a Pastor, but I didn’t want them to have to wade through the type of random stuff I post here, nor did I want you to have to read through regular updates about my church on here, unless of course you’d like to read them.

Regardless, my new blog, which is all about me, my internship, my wanting to be a Pastor, etc. is called Jono the Lutheran and you can read it at: http://www.LutheranJono.wordpress.com

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Rumor has it the rapture is going to happen tonight, and the world will go to hell-in-a-handbasket in short order…  There MAY however, still be time to arrange for the salvation of your pets by atheists who plan to make a killing off of Jesus’ second coming.

Being a musician…  I can’t help but find musical symbolism in such a day as this, and so it is with great honor that I present to you:

“The Last Music You’ll Ever Hear: A Playlist for The End of the World As We Know It”

  1. We start off with the “title track” of our playlist.  A classic by R.E.M. “It’s the End of the World.” Do YOU feel fine?
  2. Now if I told you our second song would be a Johnny Cash song, you’d probably immediately assume I’d be talking about “Ring of Fire” but Cash had a song slightly more appropriate for Jesus’ Second Coming tomorrow, “When the Man Comes Around.”
  3. And what would an end of the world playlist be without music from one of the best movie scores of all time.  A soundtrack from a movie that just so happens to be about the end of the world, Armageddon.
  4. As the world descends into chaos, you may want to “Summon the Heroes” with this John Williams classic written as the theme for the 1996 Summer Olympics and performed by the Boston Pops.
  5. I felt like this song by Bright Eyes needed to make the list, if for no other reason than that it’s a really cool song.
  6. Our next two songs are about being comfortable with your impending doom.  Don’t be afraid of death, and “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
  7. And the reason you SHOULD be comfortable about the end of the world?  Because We’ll ALL Go Together When We Go…
  8. Finally, you’ll recognize the last song from the movie Requiem for a Dream.  Unlike, the other videos that I merely linked you to, I felt it was necessary to directly embed this one.  The video itself is an elaborate “collage” of video clips from various apocalypse films.  It’s pretty epic:
Music is an essential part of everything we do. Like puppetry, music has an abstract quality which speaks to a worldwide audience in a wonderful way that nourishes the soul. -Jim Henson

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When I got home yesterday morning, my dad asked me if I had heard about the car that had gone off the cliff near the Casparis mines.

The area he was referring to was near this now-archived geocache in the hills above Connellsville, PA.  We found the cache back in 2005, shortly after the Pennsylvania Game Commission paid contractors to blast shut the mine/caves.

Four people in a Ford Expedition went off-roading in this fairly remote area with trails just barely wide enough for a 4wd vehicle.  You can read the article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review or see the one on WTAE’s website which also includes video.

Just a few things to point out here that I think need to be emphasized:

  • Reports say that they were about 300 feet down from the trail… Your average rescue rope is usually 150ft minimum, usually 200ft max and it’s not as if you’re just tying one end to the basket and pulling at the other end, a good portion of that length gets fed through the pulleys and handed to the “haul team” to pull to raise the litter.  With that being said, to raise a rescue basket 300 feet would likely require multiple “pitches” or individual rope systems set up on different parts of the cliff, probably at least 2, maybe even 3 or 4 depending on the specific terrain.  That’s nuts.
  • Technical rescue is hard and requires a lot of concentration to do correctly in broad daylight.  These guys were working in the middle of the night, setting up their 1-4 haul systems to get that litter up the cliff in the dark.  Doing rope work in the dark just means that you have to be that much more 1,000% sure that your system is bombproof.
  • They had to do all that work setting up the rope systems just to lift the patients to the trail, where they were loaded onto ATVs and taken down the trail to a spot where it widened up and the HUMVEE AMBULANCE was waiting, which then drove them further down until it could reach a street ambulance which then took them to a field where they had staged the four separate medical helicopters. In the words of the Wonderpets, “What’s gonna work? TEAMWORK!”
  • While it seems like that’s a lot to get them out to an ambulance, just imagine if they hadn’t been in an area accessible by ATV.  A manual carryout, with people have to actually hike the patient out of the woods in the rescue basket is EXTREMELY slow.  2-3 hours to travel a mile while carrying a patient in a litter is generally considered a good estimate.  Again, these guys were fortunate that they were as “easy” (relatively) to access as they were.
  • Speaking of fortunate, they were EXTREMELY FORTUNATE that one of them A. had a cellphone B. was conscious enough to try and call 911 after the wreck and C. that the phone actually worked!  FURTHERMORE, the fact that they were able to give a vague location meant that it took the first crews an hour to find them rather than HOURS.  If they hadn’t been able to call out, they probably would not have been found.  You’ll notice in the video on the WTAE site that there were other wrecked cars at the bottom of the cliff…  It’s fairly common for people to take cars out there with the specific intent of dumping them…  Their expedition would have just blended in.  That 911 call was easily the difference between all of them surviving and all of them dying.
  • The rescue took approximately 6 hours.  Imagine me giving those crews a standing ovation right now, because that’s very impressive for the amount of work and coordination that went into the rescue.  Six hour may seem like a long time, but the fact that it didn’t take longer shows the incredible teamwork that took place.
  • The estimate was that the rescue involved at least 60 first responders.  While that number includes paid EMS personnel, flight crews, and law enforcement officers, I can tell you that a big chunk of that, if not the majority were volunteer firefighters.  Regardless of whether or not they were volunteers, those on-scene gave up six hours of their time in the dark to help their fellow man.  Again, please take a moment to imagine me giving a standing ovation.
  • Finally, Mon Valley EMS out of Monessen, PA got to play with their humvee.  How cool is that?

Yep! That's a legit military ambulance humvee. AWESOME!

All in all, I’m extremely impressed with this rescue and I just wanted to point out the story to those who might not have heard about it, and to point out the specifics of just why this really was a spectacular job by Fayette County’s first responders for those who may have looked at it as “just another car wreck in the country.”  If you live in Fayette County, you are extremely fortunate to have these folks watching your back.

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Sometimes my life is weird.

Some times I exaggerate the weirdness of my life.

But today, there is no exaggeration when I say I believe I witnessed some sort of crazy military convoy the other day…

Saturday morning, I was on Interstate 68, coming back from the Cheat Fest 5K.  As I was getting off 68 at the Pierpont Rd. exit, returning into Morgantown, I noticed a group of navy blue vehicles just ahead of me on the off-ramp.  Noticing that they were traveling together, I thought “that’s kinda cool” and pulled out my iPhone to snap some pictures.

At the back end of the convoy, you can see one of the trucks/trailers and an unmarked navy blue ambulance, both with government plates.

Thinking that this was possibly one of the Mine Safety & Health Administration’s federal mine rescue teams, I followed them into the gas station to get a better look:

The suburban at the front of the convoy. Look carefully and you’ll notice a brush guard on the front which had LEDs and a heavy duty winch mounted on it.

There were two of these trucks. Ford crew cab pickups with utilities bodies, each pulling large 20 foot+ box trailers.

So as I’m circling around the gas station, expecting to see some type of rescue personnel or coal miner-esque looking folks, I get a big surprise as guys in military uniforms start getting out of all the vehicles.

Close-up of the ambulance. While this could be used for anything, it definitely has the box lights that are a standard requirement for ambulances. Notice the soldiers outside.

As I’m pulling out, I notice LED warning lights and a siren speaker in the grill of the trucks with the trailers.

Look closely at the grill of this vehicle… Notice the four white spots above the FORD logo? Those are LED warning lights, like you’d find on an emergency vehicle.  There was also a siren speaker visible way back there.

All in all there was the suburban, two of the utility trucks pulling trailers and an ambulance, all unmarked with matching navy blue paint jobs, all with federal gov’t license plates, and all seemingly equipped with lights and sirens.  While I’d love to cook up some elaborate conspiracy theory, and while my imagination certainly has given me a few possibilities, I just can’t think of any reason for the military to be traveling around in unmarked non-military-looking vehicles equipped with lights & sirens.

In all honesty, I’m really kind of intrigued, so if someone DOES have an idea of what this might be, I’m all ears.  Either way, it’s pretty cool… Just really strange.

EDIT: I’ve gotten a lot of strange comments on this post, and something like 65 views today alone.  So, I figured it was important to clear up some misconceptions.

I’m a first responder and have had several opportunities to work with the fine gentlemen who operate these vehicles over the past two years.  And while I initially thought they were suspicious, I’m not aware of exactly what they are.  These vehicles belong to the West Virginia National Guard Civil Support Team, which is a national guard unit dealing specifically with Weapons of Mass Destruction.  If there were a WMD event, these would be the guys to respond, and additionally they do preparedness as well.  It’s not uncommon to see them operating at mass-gatherings such as sporting events and concerts.

So, it’s settled.  They’re not transporting aliens or anything of the like.  They’re just soldiers helping to keep the homefront safe.

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Time to move out.

It’s an inevitable process.

You move into your apartment, dorm or house with the exact amount of stuff you need.  Exactly one car load, perfectly packed, the right amount of clothes and everything you need to actually furnish it.

And then slowly but surely, it explodes.  A year’s worth of free (or mostly free) t-shirts, new DVDs, books, electronics etc and suddenly your room isn’t quite as tidy, won’t pack into as few boxes as it did when you moved in.

Maybe this means you need to plan on getting a storage unit, or another vehicle to help move, or to throw away stuff that may be perfectly good.

But why throw away things that are still useful?

The United Way of Monongalia & Preston Counties came up with a solution to this problem for college students several years ago with their Blue & Gold Mine sale.  All across campus and across town, they’ve set up storage containers, “Donation Stations.”  Simply take your unwanted items, whether it be clothes, furniture, electronics or what have you and drop it off at a donation station.  And then, the Saturday after graduation, they set it all up at the football stadium and have a massive garage sale of sorts, with all proceeds benefiting the United Way and their charitable projects.

I personally dropped off a mini shelf that I haven’t ever really used and my annual t-shirt purge (fifteen t-shirts) yesterday and encourage you to do the same.

So, if you’re movin’ out and need to get rid of stuff, and are interested in supporting a good cause, consider taking it to one of the donation stations.

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Although I’d imagine most of the people who regularly read my blog are already well aware of this event tonight, I figured it was worth it to put in a plug for these guys.

The High Street Jazz Band is a local band founded by my fraternity brother John Fitzmaurice.  They’re very much a dixieland inspired group, playing unique improv jazz, not in a concert setting, but on the streets.  Every weekend, these guys go out on High Street and form their own mini-parade from the campus down past the clubs and bars and back.  When they perform, they collect money, but rather than going into the performer’s pockets, it gets reinvested into the band, and otherwise invested into the community by donations to local organizations.

I am proud to say that three of the band members, John Fitzmaurice, Steve Sabino and Dr. Larry Schwab are Sinfonians.  It’s great to see how these guys advance The Object of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia through public performance of american music.

TONIGHT, HSJB is doing a special performance on the Mountainlair Free Speech Circle from 7pm-10pm, with the purpose of this performance to bring awareness and raise funds for arts in our community.  Money raised will be donated to Morgantown High School’s fine arts program.  This fundraising project is being coordinated by yet another Sinfonian (one of our newest, no less) Brian Roberts who will be joined tonight by several other brothers in his efforts to raise money.

They even got some pretty great press from the Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s campus newspaper.

SO, if you have the time, come out to the Mountainlair tonight and hear some great live music, and show YOUR support for the arts.

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