Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Loma Prieta Anniversary: Once Again, Reminder We Lack Preparation

October 17th marks the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. One local television station is calling it, “15 seconds that changed Bay Area history forever.” And while no one can argue that it was a true tragedy –

a natural disaster that killed 63 people and caused massive damage -- it’s right, especially in light of recent earthquakes in Samoa and Indonesia, to question whether it really prepared us.

The 1989 quake was small in size compared to what seismologists are predicting next. Add that to the fact that 10 times more people live in the Bay Area than in ’89 and you have a recipe for devastation.

Mary Lou Zoback, a senior research scientist with the bay area office of the U.S. Geological Survey, says that there will be a 50-mile-wide, 300-mile-long area of destruction.

If what she predicts is correct we should hope that the Bay Bridge is finished a rather lengthy construction saga by the time this quake hits because, “We know the Bay Bridge would fail if it was at least as large as in 1989.”

Zoback says that BART’s transbay tube, which runs from the east bay to San Francisco, would fail, cracking and allowing water to rush in.

These incidents would make the collapse of one section of the bridge, as well as the fall of the Cypress Structure and the fire in the Marina District look like child's play.

While the state lags behind in retrofitting structures that would most certainly fall, the local speak doesn’t help either. Take for instance the term “The big one.” It's become almost colloquial in the Golden State.

For the last 20 years all we’ve heard is, “The big one is predicted to happen in the next 30 years.” It seems almost no scientist, indeed almost no one, has changed this tune.

An earthquake is due but when will it really strike? If one figures that the last “big one” in California was the Northridge Earthquake and that happened 15 years ago, aren’t we do for an earthquake in 15 years, or less, and not 30?

Perhaps it’s truly time to take preparation into our own hands.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ellis And Jackson Need To Shut Up

Stephen Jackson of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors signed a new contract last year for $8.5 million a year through the 2012 season. That’s $34 million through 4-years. Monta Ellis signed in 2008 for 6-years and $67 million. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the conversation at yesterday’s media day.

Or maybe it’s exactly the opposite. Maybe the greed is a little too apparent?

Enter the controversy over Warrior's newly drafted point guard Stephen Curry. In an outspoken show of defiance for any player, Ellis was quoted as saying yesterday that he can’t, or for the sake of this article, won’t play in the backcourt with Curry.

In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that both Ellis or Jackson were picked up out of high school. Diplomacy is not– nor has it ever been -- their game.

But there’s a certain amount of wonder in regards to the Machiavellian attitudes of the two. After all Jackson has brazenly stated – for which he was fined $25 thousand – that he wants out of his contract. And Ellis has not exactly been the shining star that the Warriors hoped for when they drafted him in 2005. He’s been off and on due to injury.

But perhaps the most infuriating part is the refusal to be a member of the team. Both players have said that the Warriors can’t win -- that the ownership doesn’t know what they’re doing. But isn’t it the players that control what happens on the court? Sure, the coach has fundamental amount of responsibility, but in this case the coach is Don Nelson, a fact which in and of itself puts the blame of a losing team back on Jackson and Ellis’ shoulders.

Add to the fact that Nelson is a selfless giver. He took a team that was in horrible shape and turned them into playoff winners in just one season. He didn’t have to. Neither did Nelson have to agree to work for free once his contract expires at the end of the 2011-2012 season. That’s the kind of coach he is. No money, no greed has ever been a factor.

In the end it’s about love of the game. Ellis and Jackson need to put up, shut up and play.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Troubled Youth Program Determined To Persevere II

The US Naval Sea Cadet Corps attempts to inspire leadership skills in young adults but the economy and an ever-changing defense landscape threaten to break the ranks. My video report.

Reporter: Kris Lantz

Editor: Jan Blair Hardee

Photographer: Mike Davich

Monday, August 17, 2009

Message Sent...Message Received

Statistics are scant on how many automobile accidents are actually caused each year by text messaging alone.

But consider this: A 2006 study found that 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes are caused by distractions -- things like putting on makeup and eating.

And in another survey, in May by Vlingo Corp., a company that develops speech-recognition technology for mobile phones, more than 26 percent of 4,800 cellphone users across the United States admitted they had sent text messages while driving.

I'll save you the moment spent on math: That's 1,248 out of 4,800 people.

And yet another study, conducted in 2006 by Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Students Against Destructive Decisions, lists texting as the No. 1 driving distraction according to teens.

It's clear that texting is a problem. So much so that, 17 states and the District of Columbia now ban the practice for all drivers. But if that's not enough evidence for you, take a look at this video:
It's a collaboration between The Gwent Police Department in Croesyceiliog, Wales and Tredegar Comprehensive School, in Blaenau-Gwent, South Wales.

For anyone not aware, Wales is a country with 3 million people that sits just east of England.

Three girls are shown in a car -- one of them text messaging -- just before what can only be described as a horrific crash. It's a graphic illustration of the potential consequences posed by texting and driving.

The Gwent Police Website say this is part a half-hour program; a sequel to a 1995 video on the dangers of joyriding.

it's all about Cassie Cowan – a nice girl from a nice Gwent valleys family – who kills four people on the road because she used her mobile and lost her concentration for a few seconds.

The clip is from a film called, "COW - The film that will stop you txting and driving," was uploaded onto the video sharing website in June and features local actors. It currently has over 200,000 hits.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Lag...

It's hard not to overhear conversations while sitting on the train.

I don't often listen to music mainly because I need new tunes, of which I'm just too lazy to download.

So, there I was on today's journey into the heart of what a coworker once affectionately called, "The Loin." That's the Tenderloin for anyone -- and I seriously hope no one will be -- reading this. It's the swill of San Francisco, the backbone of political animosity in a city known for carrying a liberal zeal -- and you thought liberals couldn't hate other liberals? One of those places that, for a multitude of complicated reasons, resists gentrification. It will forever resist gentrification. So, lacking any objectivity in this next line, I suppose I can say: It's the shit-hole of the city. To walk into the Tenderloin may be brief but will never go unnoticed.

Since it's very nearly in the middle of the financial district and is surrounded by classic tourist locales, I only imagine some well-to-do boomers from "Parts Unknown," United States, finding themselves lost in the city only to run, in any direction possible, as fast as possible, desperate to get out.

On this particular occasion, not unlike other occasions, I accidentally wandered into the area. Happened to be buying tickets to a show on Geary and took a little stroll afterwards. I'm always torn between sympathy and contempt when I see intoxicated people urinating on garbage cans. Not IN garbage cans, ON them. This is the least contemptible aspect of walking the streets but is invariably noticeable in the light of day. To make matters worse, It's impossible to dispute the nose dive that this stretch of city has taken in only the past few years. One recent article in the "Chronicle," addresses San Francisco's new police chief. In doing so the author, C.W. Nevius, figures a solution to the drug problem in the city.

Draw a circle around the intersection of Turk and Taylor streets in the Tenderloin. You've just located the epicenter of drug dealing and violence in the city.

And apparently the new police chief did just that. On his first jaunt into the belly of the beast, before even being sworn in, the new chief witnessed a drug deal, a drug deal that took place right in front of face.

I've been to the area quite a few times; working on stories. Back in 2005 -- wearing a suit and carrying a camera, tripod and microphone I was nearly been assaulted by a person who was clearly not present. But every time is eye-opening.

So, there I was on today's journey. On my way back from "The Loin" two females in the seat to my right, I would guess in their mid-teens -- No, I don't stare or make rude comments at every woman I see -- were conversing about jet lag. Plus, they were in their mid-teens! To be perfectly honest all I really heard was, "jet lag," and, "affects." Still, it got me thinking.

By this point -- and I desperately hope no one even began reading this article -- you're quite clearly wondering why I would divert. But the gist of setting out on this journey -- the article, not the trip to the Tenderloin -- is certainly not to opine on the afflicted parts of our society. Lest I bore us all, right?

No, I wanted to chat a bit about my experience with jet lag and my ways of getting over it. "Great," you say, "I would rather have this guy talk about the Tenderloin; at least it was more entertaining." Good, then leave. Thank you.

Now, that we're all settled in, and the hogwash has run out of the pen, I can tell you that I've been on five trips to Europe since 2005. That's one in '05, one in '07 -- or was it '06? I can't remember, and anyway it's not important. For personal reasons I also went on 3 trips in '08. Those three were to London. I love London, by the way. It's such a clean city, especially compared to New York.

But, back to my story. The first time I took a trip to Denmark was on a Scandinavian airlines flight for which I paid far, far, far too much. Being a non-traveler at that point and being completely ignorant, with no compass to fall back on, both of my parents have rarely traveled outside the borders, I was unfamiliar with how to go about my travels. It's fair to say that I didn't sleep on that flight and suffered the consequences.

Despite the hot towels that were provided -- which I haven't had on a flight since -- I quickly realized that it was a long 15 hours.

When I got to Arhus I don't remember being immediately tired. Perhaps it was the thrill of being in another place that created an exuberance. It was only when I finally got into my new flat and sat down to watch the Tour De France that I started to feel it. That heavy burn in the eyes and a feeling of weighing six times ones own weight. They say that fighter jet pilots experience the blood rushing from their head as the force of gravity increases. This is the closest thing to what I imagine that would be like.

The roar of hearty Viking laughter kept me awake only momentarily. I'd fall asleep then open bloodshot eyes at the sound of their chuckles. Finally, it became painful and I went to my room to catch a nap.

The problem is that I woke up from my nap at three in the morning. It took at full two days to overcome the time difference. I had 4 months left to this trip so it didn't cause a huge problem. But on shorter length stays one would lose precious time.

So, I learned my first lesson; sleep. On every trip since I've developed a well-tested process. After the first meal I take out my contacts and pop one of my over the counter sleep aids. When I've landed it's more of a relaxing feeling without the stress of being worn out before the trip even begins.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Troubled Youth Program Determined To Persevere

By Kris Lantz
Thursday, July 23rd 2009.

Alameda, Calif. - It's bootcamp. This means muster and chow, three squares a day and a lot of marching. But these are not your normal Navy recruits. They're actually not even Navy recruits.

In fact they are just teenagers. They are teenagers, many of whom have huge goals.

"Currently, I'm trying to get to the Naval Academy to become a pilot," says Petty Officer 2nd Class Evan Forayter, smiling through braces. At 16 he has already been in the program for four years.

It's something heard frequently around here.

Members of the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps -- a little known youth group -- the cadets range in age from 10 to 18. The core mission, according to the program's website, is to encourage development.

Anyone can join barring major medical or psychological issues.

"What we're looking for," says Lt. Jack Powell, "Is to create young, mature adults that are responsible."

"What I just read in the paper, at Annapolis there were like 1,250 (students) that are supposed to graduate in 2013 and 125 are, I think Sea Cadets," says Lt. Laneya Littrell, a volunteer with the program for 13 years.

Like a lot of adult leaders, in this program, Littrell joined with her daughter who grew up in the Sea Cadets. "I stayed and she left," she says.

The Sea Cadets are a non-profit group founded in the 1960s. They are supported by a grant from Congress and many of the units depend on military installations to survive.

But since the mid-'90s when a lot of the bases in Northern California began closing, finding areas to house trainings and drills has become difficult.

Lt. Powell is the Commanding Officer of the first unit in the nation to be based on board a former U.S. Navy Ship -- the USS Hornet.

He says the program depends on military manpower. The unit Powell commands has been shuttled through several installations in the span of only a few years.

It is an all too common issue, for the Sea Cadets, that started with the mid-'90s "Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission." That's when five military installations in the Bay Area were shuttered, along with dozens across the country.

There have been more than 300 closures in total since 1993.

"It's actually really shrunk around," says Powell.

That it only got worse after Sept. 11. is a sentiment Littrell echoes. "Because of the war and the needs of the mission," she says "They started doing a lot more training at the base and we were unable to get spaces. So we switched to Camp San Luis Obispo for two years and the same thing happened there."

hope and optimism is not lost on Powell though.

"While we are not able to pick from local military we are able get plenty of help from outward areas."

Because of this he sees the future as bright. Until that future arrives cadets will keep lining up for revile every morning. It is part of the hope that those young lives, in turn, make decent choices for the next generation.