April 2007


Three firefighters and three cops wait for the wrecker.


Old place:


New place:


Not sure how I rated the 31st floor window. It hasn’t made me popular.

Seen downtown and at the Civic Center.



I still haven’t been able to get any good pictures of it.

And check it out… Wooden ladders. Every truck I’ve seen carries wooden ladders.


I’m in sunny California, doing a bit of tech work.

The job is interesting; I’m doing some investigative work on a body of code that was written over time, then the original authors disappeared. It’s mainly written in Perl.

Some sixteen or so years ago, I was working at IKEA North America and decided to move on. I’ve forgotten why, exactly; IKEA treated me well and the work was interesting. But I’d decided it was time to go.

I spoke with a recruiter; they found me an interview with the corporate IT department of another large retailer; Burlington Coat Factory. I don’t recall if I had a phone interview or not; in any event, I was set up with a face-to-face interview with the development manager at the corporate HQ in Burlington, NJ.

It seemed that the process was doomed to failure. I got the day off from IKEA with no problems. My bus to Burlington, though, was significantly delayed by a church steeple falling off a church in a major storm onto the Ben Franklin Bridge. Then the bus driver helpfully directed me off at store #1 rather than at the unmarked corporate HQ, two miles up the road. I hoofed it up the road to the HQ in my suit and foofy shoes, arriving drenched something like two hours late. The development manager was nice to me, though, and saw me anyway. I arrived back in Philadelphia after the interview to find a message from my recruiter, telling me that BCF wanted to make me an offer. I was surprised.

(Interestingly, BCF had/has an IT office in Lebanon, NH, twenty or so miles north of where I now live. BCF sent me to the NH office twice for a total of a month; I was in NH when Rabid and Bistet arrived at my NJ home to feed the cats and found that my house had been robbed and my Smith & Wesson 645 stolen.

One particular winter day, I drove to Okemo, passing right by the fire station where I would, twelve years hence, volunteer, within a mile of my present home, and right by the future scenes of countless car accidents, house fires, and medical emergencies that I would eventually respond to. But I digress.

Life’s coincidences amaze.)

This time, I dealt with a UK-based recruiter who only places IT staff with a subsidiary of a particular UK global financial services company with the subsidiary based in San Francisco. I was looking for a short-term bit of contract work; I’ve been out of heavy-duty programming for a year and a half and wanted to get current again on my core technologies. The recruiter was very precise; the interview would be a phone screen, if that went well then the company would fly me to SF for a face-to-face. The recruiter gave me a list of questions I could expect to be asked. I studied the list, of course.

I had the phone screen. It was twenty-six minutes; none of the questions were from the list but were focused on what I had done at the Red Menace and what I had done since leaving there. I thought it went well, all in all. I was looking forward to the subsidized boondoggle of a F2F in SF at someone else’s expense.

It took a few days for the recruiter to get back to me with the results. The client didn’t care for a face-to-face; they wanted me to start on Monday. Surprised, I was. I agreed.

I had to find a place to stay quickly. Craig’s List was the obvious place to start; I sent mails to a number of short-term sublets and share-rentals but none were interested in having me move-in, even as a part-time telecommuter, without meeting me. I can certainly understand.

I’m not exactly unfamiliar with San Francisco; in fact, I have a long history with the city. I originally visited SF in 1982 when I went to spend spring vacation with a friend from high school who’s dad lived in SF. I had a great time; we went to Alcatraz, we went to the (now defunct) punk-rock Mabuhay Lounge; we did a lot of things. I visited the city the following year with the same friend. In 1987, I was sent by the Navy to Mare Island, a base in Vallejo, California, about a half-hour north of the city. While stationed there, I spent a lot of time in SF and six months later took my discharge from the Navy at Mare Island and settled in SF for another year. I was down and out that year for the most part and saw some rough things. I credit that year’s experiences for a lot of the resolve and drive to be successful that has helped me since that time.

Later, the Red Menace sent me to SF a few times for training. When Rabid and I were living in Santa Cruz, I got up to the city a few times a month to volunteer or to ride my GoPed in traffic.

After we moved back east, I maintained a room in the Mission District for another five years. As a telecommuter, I spent between a week a month at the beginning and a week a quarter towards the end in San Francisco for that period of time.

I had lived over a rough bar in the Mission for a few months in 1988. After it became clear that Craig’s List would not pan out, I called the bar and asked if they had any rooms. The person I spoke to suggested that there was no space until I stated that I had lived there in 1988; she then put me in touch with the manager. There was a room and I could have it for cheap.

So, for the moment, I have a room above the bar again. It’s very ‘punk-rock’; I’m not sure they’ve cleaned since 1988. The bar downstairs is noisy. The room is fine for my needs, though.

Speaking of punk rock, on the day I moved in, I ran into another tenant who recognized me from Philadelphia. We had friends in common in Philly in the early 90’s; my previous Philly warehouse roommates, the goateed young men referred to in the previous item.

Small world.

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)

September 13, 1992

Author: Dennis Romero, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Edition: FINAL
Section: LOCAL
Page: B01

Estimated printed pages: 6

Article Text:

When you’re raving, the last thing you want to see is the cops.

But there they are, cruising along North Fifth just after midnight, staring up at the shadowy second-floor windows that radiate relentless bass.

Down below, one of the party’s young hosts greets them: Yes, everything’s going fine, officers – it’s just a little get-together at my loft. They drive away into a misty night, indifferent or oblivious to the 350 teenagers and twentysomethings pumping adrenaline in a tribal stomp inside this long-ago factory in a down-at-the-heels neighborhood.

The frenzied revelers, some as young as 14, have come mostly from the suburbs and from local college campuses, drawn by the promise of all-night dancing and sneaky lawlessness. They’ve paid five bucks to get in. As DJ X-Lax spins hyper techno music and a projector lights up a wall with a Dr. Seuss cartoon, they jump up and down and march in place on the rumbling wood floor.

Raving has arrived: a dance-till-dawn phenomenon that started in London two years ago, quickly migrated to Los Angeles, and this summer hit the East Coast hard, including Philadelphia.

Like dirty dancing in the early ’60s, Woodstock in ’69 and punk rock in the late ’70s, raving in the ’90s is rebellion.

“The more underground, the better it is,” says a 19-year-old, baggy- jeaned raver who gave his name as just Cricket. “There’s nobody on your back, there’s no bouncer – it’s just free.”

“It’s a big ball of fun,” says raver Euro, 18. “It’s like controlled chaos. You can do anything you want.”

Almost by definition, a rave is illegal. Every weekend, the parties rove from space to space – a warehouse, a recreation center, a loft – without city dance-hall and alcohol permits. Often, carpetbaggers sell beer and LSD to minors who are packed in to rooms that defy the fire code.

In Philadelphia and other parts of the East Coast, raving is also a gritty trip for white suburban kids into tough urban neighborhoods. Sometimes, as on this recent night, they get a taste of violence. North and West Philadelphia, where most of the local raves are held, have an abundance of warehouses and lofts and a scarcity of police, often so burdened with other crimes that they overlook the exploits of ravers.

“The only reason they’re put in bad neighborhoods is that warehouses are easy to get, inexpensive and out of the way, so the police aren’t coming by every 10 minutes going, ‘Turn down your music or we’ll kick you out,’ ” says an expert known only as Under. He’s a member of Dead By Dawn, one of two local rave-promotion crews, along with Vagabond, that rent the spaces and provide DJs and projectors.

For ravers, a bust means they’re out the price of admission. But for promoters, it means they could be out of business.

“If a rave is busted,” says Applejack, another Dead By Dawner, “then there’s all kinds of problems with city codes.”

Promoters say the risk is worth it, although they often only break even on their investments of up to $2,300 per rave.

“I think money is secondary,” says Applejack. “There’s kind of a personal satisfaction in seeing people have immense fun because of a vision I had.”

The city Department of Licenses and Inspection is investigating the lack of permits at raves, but the police say they’re most worried about the potential for racial discord and violence. However liberal the rave crowd is, “local police have recognized the potential for racial unrest due to the fact that the crowd is predominantly white and the neighborhoods . . . are predominantly black,” says Sgt. John Lyle, the head of the local office of the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

“The effects of alcohol tend to loosen your lips and give you Superman syndrome,” he says, “so the potential for racial discord is very great.” Says Philadelphia Police Capt. Arthur Durrant of the 26th district, where raves have popped up: “I’m sitting here thinking about if people are going to rob them and hurt them and shoot them.”


Raving started around 1990 as an offshoot of the acid-house scene in Manchester, England – a roaring-’80s blur where all-night dance parties were made psychedelic by LSD (acid) and energetic by pulse-quickening MDMA (a.k.a. ecstasy, E and X). The Manchester scene was dampened when gangs became involved in drug trafficking and the neo-dropout parties sometimes turned into bloody shootouts between rival dealers.

By then, an outdoor version of the Manchester scene had reached the outskirts of London, where the wee-hour dance-athons have drawn more than 10,000.

In the summer of 1991, Los Angeles dove in big-time, adding psychedelic decor and an appetite for ecstasy, laughing gas and thundering techno music.

Techno is essentially a fusion of electronic sounds from Detroit, London and Belgium that lays computer-produced notes over ultrafast hip-hop beats – a soundtrack for ecstasy and acid trips.

Moby, a techno artist who performs at raves across the nation, estimates that there’s a growing group of ravers that tops 100,000 in the United States – from San Diego to Boston and almost every major city in between.

“Raves are primarily about dancing, mind expansion and breaking down of social barriers,” says Moby (great-great-grandnephew of Herman Melville). ”It’s just sort of people getting together.”

Unlike L.A.’s raves – where promoters have been known to spend more than $100,000 to put on psychedelic light shows, hire the best DJs and rent off- the-wall spots such as the airplane Spruce Goose – Philadelphia’s parties are bare-bones affairs. Kids find out about them through fliers left at select South Street boutiques. The recipe for a local rave: a few drivers (DJs), a half-dozen loudspeakers, a huge out-of-the-way space, brought-from-home hooch, and maybe even some $3 to $5 stamps and tablets of acid.

Ecstasy hasn’t quite hit the Philadelphia scene yet; wide-eyed hallucinogen acid is the drug of choice for those who indulge during Philadelphia raves. But most of the core of roughly 500 ravers here don’t use it. Rave DJ and Vagabond promoter Wink says local youths are turned on more by the music than by the drugs: “I think the music can take you there.”

Others say that in Philadelphia, the lack of drugs means that the dance- till-dawn parties turn into dance-till-you-yawn parties.

“If you’re going to dance from 12 a.m. till dawn, you’re not going to do it on your own energy,” Under says. “But people around here aren’t going for it. The suburban kids have to go home.”


Rave culture is quickly finding the mainstream. Listen to the techno played at clubs from Philadelphia’s The Bank to Los Angeles’ famed Roxbury, where frat boys and stars, respectively, jump to the electronic sounds. Witness faux raves happening at nightclubs such as Philadelphia’s Trocadero and at the late-night venue Revival, where every Friday is “rave night.”

“There was pretty big demand to have a rave night,” says Revival manager David Cohen. “It’s all part of the rave craze.”

In fact, rave culture is getting to be big business. Major labels, such as Columbia Records, are signing techno artists, L.A. rave clothier Fresh Jive has grown exponentially over the last two years, and concert promoters from L.A.’s Avalon Attractions to Philadelphia’s Electric Factory Concerts are stepping into the pseudo-rave business. Avalon has produced legal raves at a few odd locales, such as the one on the humongous Spruce Goose; Electric Factory is looking to put on similar events in Philadelphia.

Although some big businesses see opportunities in raving, others feel victimized by the way illicit rave promoters use and abuse trademarks ranging from Coca-Cola to Mickey Mouse. America’s favorite rodent, for example, is a major symbol on the rave scene and sometimes pops up in a dazed state on rave fliers, to denote acid. Mickey “M” caps and Mickey T-shirts also are hot at raves.

This has the Disney folks steamed. Erwin Okun, Disney’s vice president for corporate communications, said that the rave promoters using the Mickey Mouse image to advertise their parties “are, in fact, stealing from the Walt Disney Co.”

“We would pursue it where we become aware of it,” he says.

“I’m sad to hear our merchandise is popular at these things. Mickey certainly has an all-American image, and certainly we wouldn’t want to associate that character with such activity.”


Back at the North Fifth Street rave, it’s 3:30 a.m. From outside come horrific screams. Someone points across the street: He’s got a gun! A promoter stuffs drifters back inside. They scratch up the stairs like fish swimming upstream.

Pop! Pop! . . . Pop! Pop!

Everyone hits the floor in slow motion. Is he still out there? Is anyone hurt?

A reveler dials 911: The first thing he wants to see is police.

Outside, raver Wendy Henson, 27, is shot, apparently by a mugger who has been feeding off the party. Her friend drives her to Hahnemann University Hospital, where she is treated for a gunshot wound to her back and released a day later.

It was Henson’s first rave.

The party melts away: The shooting sort of ends its countercultural dream state with a little taste of urban reality.

Two crop-topped, goatee-sporting young men are outside now and, ironically, are eager to talk to police. “He had on a white sweat top,” one tells an officer. The two young men jump in to a squad car in a frantic search for the suspect.

“Man,” says one of them, bowing his head, “James could have got shot.”

A month later, and no one has been arrested. But Henson isn’t scared. In fact, she feels the beat calling. “Shootings at raves is not something that I hear happens too often,” she says.

“I’m probably going to go to the one on Friday.”


1. Suburban teenagers have been gathering in North and West Philadelphia,
where police are scarce, to dance in old warehouses. “The more underground,
the better it is,” said a 19-year-old, baggy-jeaned raver who called himself
Cricket. (The Philadelphia Inquirer / TODD BUCHANAN)

2. At a rave, a sign reminds visitors that no alcohol is allowed inside
(despite its presence outside).

3. Some say the relative lack of drugs at Philadelphia raves means that the
dance-till-dawn parties turn into dance-till-you-yawn parties. It was 2 a.m.
at this rave.

(The Philadelphia Inquirer / TODD BUCHANAN) PHOTO Copyright (c) 1992 The Philadelphia Inquirer

I went to a town in New Hampshire on Wednesday to update some AEDs. I updated six Philips FR2+ for the police department and two Philips FR2+, two Laerdal FR2, and two Laerdal HeartStart 4000 for the fire department. The town also has a single Medtronic CR Plus. I had rescheduled these updates several times when Medtronics had repeatedly slipped the ship date for the CR Plus software and claimed that the next stated date was a truly firm date. As I have mentioned in the past, I had several clients who I had to repeatedly reschedule due to Medtronic’s musical ship dates.

Medtronic had recently (well, middle March) claimed that the software would be out by April 16. Of course, on January 12 they had claimed January 21, on the 22nd they said ‘any day now’, on February 8 they said ‘by the end of the month’… I stopped logging the specific claims on the 8th of February. Suffice it to say that I did not have it by the end of February or the end of March. One of the clients, a hospital with eight CR Plus units, finally asked me to stop rescheduling and to just call when I finally got the software. The township had a bunch of Philips(/Laerdal) and only one Medtronic so decided to update the Philips and do the CR Plus when the software became available.

I drove 80 miles to the New Hampshire municipal client on the 11th and 80 miles back to find the CR Plus software waiting for me at the office. Sheesh. Of course, I have to make a special trip back to that client to do the CR Plus, another 160 miles, and I feel bad about charging the client travel twice. So I’ll end up eating the travel cost. Maybe Medtronic could cover the $122.50 fee for my being a good sport? I won’t bother to ask, but it’s fun to think about.

Today I went and upgraded the eight CR Plus units at the hospital. I hadn’t actually examined a CR Plus before today though I’m pretty familiar with the Medtronic (Physio) LIFEPAK 500. I noticed a severe design defect as soon as I took the first unit out of its case; the unit has no text display. This means that the unit can not be effectively operated by someone who is hearing impaired. The voice prompts are loud but a deaf person will have no clue what they are supposed to do. Not ADA compliant, I’d think.

I pointed this out to my contact at the hospital; she was shocked.

Let’s compare the Medtronic Physio-Control CR Plus with my personal favorite basic AED, the Cardiac Science G3 Plus.

Warranty… CR Plus, 5 years. G3, 7 years.

Soft Case… Included with each. The CR Plus requires that the ‘ready kit’ and additional pads (beyond the installed set and one spare set) each be separately clipped onto the outside of the case by a single point of contact, unwieldy IMHO. The G3 case has a zippered storage pouch large enough to hold the ready kit (which can also be *securely* clipped to the outside of the case), several spare sets of pads, data connection serial cable, and the software CD.

Data Transfer Mechanism… CR Plus, IrDA. G3, serial cable. CR Plus wins this category.

Data Transfer Software… CR Plus, $300. G3, included.

Battery Life… This is from the CR Plus users guide. ‘CAUTION: After completing an initial inspection, do not open the lid unnecessarily. Each time you open the lid, the defibrillator turns on and internal battery power is reduced. After 30 minutes of cumulative on time, the CHARGE-PAK indicator appears on the readiness display indicating the CHARGE-PAK battery charger and the QUIK-PAK electrode packet should be replaced’. Got that? In the upgrade instructions, they specifically state that you can not test the CR Plus unit with a patient simulator or you will need to replace *both* the ‘battery charger’ and pads.

(The units at the hospital all had stickers on them stating that they had been tested by biomeds… I wonder what testing occurred? Do they realize that all of these units are now out of compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions? The mind reels.)

What’s all this about a battery charger? The CR Plus has a ‘rechargeable internal lithium batttery’. A ‘replaceable CHARGE-PAK battery charger provides a trickle charge for the internal battery’. So why doesn’t the CR Plus just have a replaceable battery rather than two batteries, one that charges the other?

So, to recap; CR Plus, battery charger & pads must be replaced after 30 minutes of ‘on time’; $90 to replace charger and pads. Not to mention the added complexity and possible failure modes of the two battery scheme.

G3 battery; four year full replacement guarantee from the date of insertion. Five year shelf life. So, I can buy a G3 battery, put it on the shelf for four years, eleven months, and twenty-seven days, install it in the AED, leave the AED hooked up to a patient simulator running ventricular fibrillation for eighteen hours a day so I can enjoy the voice prompts and flashing lights, and if the battery fails three years, eleven months, and twenty-seven days later, Cardiac Science will replace it. Free. No questions asked. And no rubbish about not turning the unit on from Cardiac Science, either… They’ll happily provide the patient simulator (though, to be honest, a trainer may be more straightforward to train with).

The G3 battery, should you actually need to buy one, is more expensive; $325. Of course, this will get you four years of guaranteed battery life where a similar amount of money spent on CR Plus ‘CHARGE-PAK battery charger and QUIK-PAK electrodes’ will get you 109 minutes of CR Plus ‘on time’.

Usability… CR Plus semiautomatic, two buttons. G3 semiautomatic, one button. CR Plus automatic, one button. G3 automatic, zero buttons. In fairness, one of the CR Plus buttons is an on/off button which also opens the lid while the G3 powers on when the lid is opened and shuts down when it is closed, so maybe I’m picking nits here.

Both units are stored with the pads preattached.

The G3 has a text display for noisy environments or for the hearing impaired. The CR Plus does not.

Price… CR Plus; $2000. G3, $1600.

Trainer… CR Plus; $2000. G3; $350.

I really don’t know why anyone would buy a CR Plus unless they were Physio brand-loyal to the point that they did not look carefully at the other options. Even the Zoll AED Plus is superior to the CR Plus in many respects.

You know my preference; I’m familiar with a lot of AEDs. I carry a Cardiac Science. Okay, I carry the G3 Pro… But if I didn’t need the three-lead capability, I’d carry the G3 Plus. I’d certainly choose the G3 Plus as a public access defib or for EMT-Basic/First Responder usage.

You can get a G3 at CardiacSupply.com. We do carry other popular models of AEDs because we understand that people do have brand loyalties and we are happy to cater to that. We don’t bother to list the Medtronic units because, well, you can’t get them anyway.

Interesting that the current big four sturdy basic AEDs have ‘plus’ or ‘+’ in the name; FR2+, AED Plus, CR Plus, G3 Plus. Let’s show some imagination, people.

Last night (this morning, really) I dreamt that I responded late to a smoke investigation. When I arrived on the scene, the chief told me that the FNG was in the attic and could I go up there, and that there had been a little fire downstairs but it was out now and that there had been no extension. So I went up the stairs in street clothes and without SCBA and crawled through this small but long and twisty passageway into the attic. When I got to the attic I said hello to FNG (who was also in street clothes) and noticed that there was light haze. I pulled up a piece of plywood to see that there was, in fact, extension and that significant flames were right below us. We did not have a hose line. I turned back to the passageway and saw that the floor was burning through. I realized that I was going to have to let/make FNG go first and that there might well not be time for him to get out, let alone me. I was just starting to tell him to get going when the real life phone rang, waking me.

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