The Casual Blog

Tag: rescue diver

Looking for good news, and finding some about prisons

These are stressful times. Current stressors include wars, riots, financial turmoil, unemployment, political gridlock, nuclear weapons, droughts, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, global warming, and mass extinction. It doesn’t feel right to be indifferent to so much suffering and so many potential disasters, but taking it all fully on board seems impossible.

When I took the PADI scuba rescue course last month, I had in mind the possibility of helping someone in an emergency. One of the lessons, though, was that sometimes you can’t help. You may see someone in dire peril, and be the only person in a position to act, but lack the necessary equipment, experience, or strength to save the person without endangering yourself. In such a case, you should not attempt a rescue. Not acting would be traumatic, but it would be the least bad choice.

Some of the current crises feel bad in this way: we have a ringside seat as the disasters unfold, and there’s very little you or I can do directly. Well, we could try to avoid electing as our representatives people who are delusional. And maybe it does some good to keep talking about good choices as opposed to delusional ones. Maybe more sane days lie ahead. But meanwhile, even to have a chance, we need to take care of our own mental and physical health.

One of my strategies is to take special note of the occasional story involving something really positive. Good news is often disfavored for the front page, so you have to keep a sharp eye out for it. Recently I’ve spotted good news about decreasing crime rates, decreasing highway fatalities, decreasing intolerance for gays, and increasing skepticism about the war on drugs.

Here’s the latest from the NY Times: “Trend to Lighten Harsh Sentences Catches on in Conservative States.” The story by Charlie Savage identifies sentencing and parole reforms in a number of states that are lowering the prison population, helping drug addicts with treatment programs, and assisting convicts in reentering society. The driving force is not humanitarian concerns, but rather budgetary ones — imprisonment is expensive.

The prison overhaul movement is happening in Texas, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, and elsewhere. The movement is supported by a number of prominent conservatives, including Edwin Meese III, Newt Gingrich, and William J. Bennett — all strict law-and-order authoritarians from way back. This is quite amazing.

The story notes that there are also a few states that have revoked programs for early parole, including New Jersey, which changed its policy after two inmates released early committed murder. It is difficult for statistical evidence of social benefits, no matter how strong, to overcome a vivid anecdote. So the whole thing could still fall apart. But maybe it won’t.

Emergency diving, cell phone woes, and a new gym

With almost a hundred logged dives under my belt, I’ve decided it’s time to improve my emergency and first aid skills. This is not to suggest that scuba is particularly hazardous, which ordinarily it’s not. But as with any human activity, accidents will happen. Understanding common accident scenarios is a great way to minimize risks. Plus, it would be a great thing to help a person out of a crisis — and a terrible thing to watch a serious accident unfold where help might make a difference, but be unable to help. I’ve signed up to take the PADI rescue diver course next month, and I’ve begun working my way through the materials.

There are a lot of risks we can’t do much about as individuals, including technology failure. It’s scary how dependent I am on my digital devices, though it isn’t usually noticeable. The dependency came into focus quickly for me this week, when my cell phone inexplicably quit working.

It turned out that it was not simple or stress free to get help from AT&T. I spent more time than I wanted scrutinizing their website, and couldn’t find a service phone number. I tried their online “chat” service, which took 10 minutes to get connected and 10 minutes to get questioned, after which I was disconnected as “timed out.” The next day at lunch time I drove over to the place where I’d bought the phone, only to find they’d closed the store. Since I didn’t have a cell service, I couldn’t find another store that day.

Yesterday I drove to the closest mall with an AT&T store (Crabtree), where there was one dude tending the sales kiosk. Fortunately, he figured out how to fix the thing. He asked me how my day was going, and I told him he’d made it a lot better.

After I got cell phone fixed, I went to check out the local YMCA. Since my neighborhood gym closed, I’ve been in a state of mild gym withdrawal. Sally’s tennis pro suggested she check out the downtown Y, and she delegated the task to me. It’s good! They’ve got an adequate collection of weight machines, aerobic machines, and spaces to do exercise classes. There’s a swimming pool. What was distinctive was the staff — they were unbelievably friendly! I signed up with enthusiasm, and then did my first Y workout: an upper body circuit, forty vigorous minutes on the elliptical machine listening to Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti, and some yoga stretching.