30 March 2022
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A Safety Blogitem

Interstate 40 Is a Long, Long Road,

so long, in fact, that if an East Coast friend wanted to visit me, 1700 miles of that 2500 mile trip would be covered by a one-line direction: Turn right at Knoxville and Left at Flagstaff. I40 also figures prominently in the drive from Sedona to Las Vegas, a drive I often undertake, mostly for attendance at trade shows. Last week it was IWCE, the International Wireless and Communications Expo. In this case, it's a left at Flagstaff and a right at Kingman, Arizona, for about half the total distance to the convention hotel.

I mention I40 because it could have been the last road I drove on. I've written, so far as I recall, two blogitems about automobile accidents or almost-accidents involving myself. Fortunately, the real accident was trivial, and the almost accident was only an almost. With the advance of technology, though, my most recent almost-accident comes with a video.

As I point out in the first almost, nobody cares. How true that is I discovered when I took the time to call the Kingman Police Department, who referred me to the Arizona Department of Indifference, or whatever their proper name is. An abbreviated version of that conversation follows:

Me: Howdy! Somebody tried to kill me on I40 earlier today.
: Was there contact between the vehicles?
Did you call 911 when it happened?
No, I was driving at 75+ miles per hour and didn't feel safe doing anything but driving.
It's six hours later. There's nothing we can do.
I have a description of the driver—bald guy, big beard—and a video of the incident that shows his license number.
The video won't hold up in court.
Me: (Speechless)

And so, an astonishingly reckless (and, very luckily, wreckless) event on a major highway goes uninvestigated with no remonstrance for an attempted murder. He might have gotten a reduced sentence, though. After crossing the median on an interstate and, in effect, stopping in the midst of high-speed traffic, he did trouble himself to signal while changing lanes, perhaps avoiding almost killing a second person.

I often admonish my thousands of millireaders to "Be lucky." Sometimes I take my own advice.

The Carabiner of Life

At the IWCE show, most of the vendors are involved in the infrastructure of public-safety communications. Radios, recorders, dispatcher equipment, generators, and the like. One particular public safety issue to which I personally relate is, believe it or not, climbing radio towers! I'm a ham radio operator and I have a 60-foot tower on which my antenna is perched, to the initial dismay and current acquiescence* of my neighbors. A vendor at the show was SafetyOne, who specializes in tower-climbing safety. I know a little about the subject, having been climbing towers episodically for many decades. Almost everything you might want to know has to do with gravity. For example, the higher you climb, the faster your fall and the more violent the stop. As intriguing as their photo may be, they could have used my tower or, really, one half or less its size in an example of proper practices.

Generally, the way you avoid death is by using a climbing harness. I use one whenever I climb my tower** and I encourage others to do so, as I will explain shortly. The harness has a bunch of straps that surround you and attach you to the tower itself with a carabiner. If you lose your grip, slip, or otherwise are about to succumb to gravity, the harness arrests your fall.

When I stopped by the SafetyOne booth, I couldn't resist telling this story: When I was setting up my antenna tower ten years ago, I engaged a crane to lift the antenna above the mounting point in the tower. (The antenna is heavy and unwieldy, as you might imagine.) The intent was for the crane to lift the antenna and I, protected by my safety harness, would guide the antenna mast into the opening on the antenna rotator and tighten its clamps. Since the crane bore the weight of the antenna, this wouldn't have been especially challenging. Perhaps from boredom or incipient agoraphilia, one of the gentlemen on the crane crew volunteered to do it. Assuming he was insured, I handed him my harness and said, "Sure." He dutifully donned the harness, climbed the tower, completed the task, and came down. He ignored my somewhat frantic gesticulating and bleating admonishments to attach the carabiner to the tower!

I told this story to the woman personing the SafetyOne booth. She rewarded me by handing me the special carabiner shown on the desk. It was a great show for swag! Clearly they had more of them since the photo above was taken a day later.

I Was Passenging

on a flight into Phoenix and the aircraft was descending through about 6000 feet. I was looking out the window*** when I saw a bright blue light on the ground. It was far brighter than anything else and I decided that someone was aiming a laser at the aircraft. That's good for five years in jail and is supposedly very dangerous, which is why it's good for five years in jail. But I have to wonder if that's not an overreaction. Unless one has a serious laser rather than the common laser pointers, it would require a very steady hand and have to be much closer to the aircraft to do more than slightly distract the pilot. Even so, since this is a safety blogitem, I recommend against aiming lasers at aircraft.


* One of the acquiescent neighbors moved shortly after the tower was installed. An increase in mutual happiness, I'm sure.

** I have been told to not climb my tower due to superannuation and potential clumsiness. On the other hand, as with giving up other routine life activities, one who has the temerity to describe himself as "robust" doesn't give up so readily. Every year one or two hams make the news by falling off a tower. A much greater number of us suffer different aspects of The System.

*** Of course I was looking out the window and following along on the vestigial moving map the airline provides in lieu of GPS coordinates and a full instrument display.

Richard Factor


"She's Not There"

The Zombies



"Heart of My People" T-shirt. Some careful crop-and-zoomage reveal the names of the artists, which seem to be Zane Saunders, Tatipai Barsa, and Andrew Williams.

It's Australian aboriginal art.


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