Post Traumatic Stress in Christchurch and EQC


I was ashamed and embarrassed a few nights ago. I was lying  alone in bed listening to talk back radio (as my wife was in hospital) and heard a woman from Christchurch talking to host Kerre Woodham about how she had not had any response from EQC or anyone else since the first earthquake.  The bottom of her Kaiapoi house was basically destroyed and she was at her wits end. She was crying and pleaded “I need help”. Kerre handled the situation extremely well, took the woman’s number and said they would do what they could to help her offline.

Then a couple of nights ago I watched TV3’s Campbell Live which interviewed loads of Christchurch residents who were in a similar situations and trades people who were going broke providing plumbing and drainage and other services on behalf of EQC, but had not received any payment from them in some cases dating back to last year’s first quake in September. The head of EQC tried to tell him that they were doing everything they could, but tried to say that it was the worst incident in the world since EQC was founded in 1947, then he said the worst in NZ.

I don’t give a damn how bad it was, that is why NZ taxpayers have been paying EQC levies for years. The whole point of having such an organisation is to ensure that when the inevitable disaster occurs, the country is prepared in every way. This includes experts to evaluate damage, the capital and resources to ensure repairs are made as quickly as possible, no excuses. It doesn’t matter that there was more than one quake, this is what we paid for. So where has the money gone that we paid all these years?

It has been well known by Civil Defence, Police, Health Services and others that it is not just about repairing buildings and digging up liquifaction, its about the people and nothing seems to be happening. Behind closed doors there is talk about increased use of drugs and alcohol, increased domestic violence, people freaking out every time there is another after shake. People don’t know what to do. They can’t leave their broken homes because they have mortgages on them and of course no one wants to buy them.

What we have is a quite unique situation in that we have an enemy we can’t see, situations we can’t predict and the Government and Insurance organisations simply are not prepared. We can’t deal with the physical manifestations and I don’t think we know anything about dealing with the human emotions. Even in the military you know who your enemy is and you can pull out. You have at least a feeling that there is someone in control and whilst they haven’t always been great in dealing with PTSD, they recognise it and have systems in place.

Recently I listened to an excellent Harvard Business Review Ideacast podcast with Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the HBR article Building Resilience. He is also the author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. He spoke of a new program that they had been working on with the US military, which had amazing results with their soldiers. It was heartwarming. Unfortunately the full report has yet to be released to the US Government, but the anecdotal reports were amazing. This should be something that the NZ Government needs to be looking into.

I look back to the first news coverage where Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and Christchurch Cathedral Dean Peter Beck were saying the bricks and mortar can be replaced, but its the people that matter. Well herein lies my problem. We aren’t even dealing effectively with the buildings. We are hardly touching the broken people! They can only be staunch for so long and if we don’t help them very soon, we are going to have a generation of traumatized people.

So I say to the Government, to EQNZ, to the city councillors, to my fellow Kiwis: This isn’t good enough. No more excuses. We have paid our taxes for years, in good faith expecting that the money would provide for resources and expertise when they were needed. We were told the big one would come and we would be ready. If you can’t deal with it, bring in people and resources who can. We aren’t the only country to have disasters, they happen all over the world, many much worse than Christchurch. Have the grace to accept you don’t know how to deal with the situation and find people who can.

If you can’t do that, its election year and you will have to fall on your swords and we will find others who can. The current situation may not be man made, but our response to it is a disgrace. Kia Kaha Christchurch. Thanks to the media for making us more aware of what is and isn’t happening. Maybe now we need to tell the world stage that we are not coping and we need specialist help.

Have a read of the comments left on Campbell Live’s Facebook Page. This tells the story that our Government departments are not addressing or are trying to minimize. The situation is not under control and it is not just a few people who haven’t been seen to yet. This is a crisis. What are you going to do John Key? The Rugby World Cup will not be enough of a distraction.

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What the HAL?


I love the way Japan and Korea are developing robotics. I used to say that the Japanese were great engineers but not that great at innovating, I think that perhaps those thoughts should be banished to the dim past.

I’ve written a few blogs on robotics, such as about the plans in Korea to have a domestic robot in every household between 2015 and 2020, ironically I mentioned HAL9000 from 2001 A Space Oddysey in that blog.

The latest innovation greeting the media this week has been the new Japanese Robot suit from Cyberdine, also called HAL, but this one is a robotic prosthesis. HAL stands for Hybrid Assistive Limb and uses the faint nerve impulses when your brain tries to control weak or damaged limbs.

This technology has been under development for several years, but it looks like it is ready or the market, as demonstrated in this video taken recently in a Japanese hospital.

What seems remarkable to me is that this robot will soon be available for purchase in Japan for a little over US$4,000! This means that these devices will be accessible for less than the cost of an average surgery and could perhaps be of major assistance to people on waiting lists for hip replacement or other limb operations.

One of the great features is that the exosceleton, if I can call it that, supports its own weight, so isn’t an extra burden on the person wearing it. This offers people with disabilities an amazing opportunty to live and do ordinary, but also extraodinary things. For example during testing 2 years ago, Seiji Uchida, a quadraplegic was able was able to climb a mountain on the back of a climber using a HAL suit.

Of course this brings in the Six Million Dollar Man question. If this is what disabled people can do, what could able bodied people achieve with one of these?

Of course the military have been working on projects like these for a long time. DARPA have for several years been working on exoskeletons that can help people carry more weight, run faster and of course have much more strength when needed.

Other scenarios where these could be used would be in civil emergencies such as earthquake rescue, where immediate strength could speed the release of people trapped under rubble.

The immediate opportunity is to alleviate suffering of people with injuries or issues such as arthritis, but there are likely to be lots of people queuing up for the opportunity to become super people, or perhaps super heroes, or of course super criminals, but I don’t want to go there.

Day to day operations of emergency services could also benefit from this technology. In the hands of fire services, police, paramedics and others, this technology could be brilliant.

The Right Track Programme


This morning I read a story in The Aucklander about The Right Track programme which is an intense program for first time motoring offenders to get them to think twice in the future about boy racing, drinking and driving and other motoring activities that are dangerous to themselves and innocent bystanders.

According to the police this programme is having good results, but it seems that funding from Manukau City Council is going to end. They said that it was never a long term exercise.

Amongst other things members of the programme visit the Otara Spinal Unit and meet survivors who now need a wheelchair for their mobility. Funeral Directors talk to them about how they have to pick up body parts after an accident and try to put them together for funeral viewing.

It’s all about having the ambulance at the top of the cliff according to John Finch who developed the programme which is a world first.

My father in law has had throat cancer and as a consequence had a laryngectomy. In conjunction with the NZ Cancer Society he visited many primary schools and told his story. He let the children have a look at the whole in his throat and see how he can talk. He let them ask questions and gave them honest answers. It’s interesting how onto it kids are. He has dozens of letters from students saying that they will never ever smoke. I would say he has probably saved at least one or two lives, which probably represents a six figure sum at least to our health system.

An ambulance at the top of the cliff has to be significantly greater than the cost of mopping people of the road after a needless accident, but unless funding is found, this excellent and selfless service will disappear.

I wrote a song about situations that kids find themselves. It’s called One More Time Around the Block and you can hear it at Music Forte.

It thundered down the road like a young boy racers dream

The Rockford Fosgate sub beat like a life support machine

They never saw what hit them on the wrong side of the bend

They didn’t have an inkling that their lives were going to end.

The mourners stood in silence dressed in dark clothes, mostly black

A mother screamed her lungs out, cried “I want my baby back”

Their friends stood round in circles, still not coping from the shock

They said they be five minutes, one more time around the block.

They were best of friends like they were tied at the seam

They knew what each was thinking and they shared the same big dreams

They were just young men in the prime of their life

Their futures lay before them, empty pages still to write.

But now those days are over and their lives have been snuffed out

The sub’s no longer thumping and their hearts have lost their clout

If only they had listened, if only they had stopped

They said they’d be five minutes one more time arouind the clock.

And now the music’s playing and the mourners begin to pray

They sing the Lord’s Prayer and ask themselves

Why did it end this way?

The V8’s sound like thunder, can’t you hear the engine’s roar?

Car horns sound a last salute with feat flat to the floor

Wish we could have changed the outcome, wish we could have stopped the clock

They said they’d be five minutes, one more time around the clock

They said the’d be five minutes, one more time around the clock.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

GPS Tracking for Elderly People and others


I recently posted a blog on this topic which has proven quite popular. It appears that there are many people concerned about the safety of people when they are away from their home. There are already products such as Lifelink from St Johns which are excellent products around the house, but there are many people looking for products to help out when people are out of range of their home.

Having had yet another call from one of many companies looking at bringing in products from China and other parts I have decided to check one out for myself. The one I am going to check out is one that has gone through a number of refinements which will probably make it a little more expensive, but possibly far more beneficial as well. I won’t mention any brands yet, but what I like about this product includes:

  • A drop sensor. If the devices falls or the person carrying it in their pocket, or perhaps around their necks, falls, as elderly people sometimes do, it will set of an alarm which will call someone and send them a message.
  • A panic button which can allow the device to send an emergency signal to a predetermined location if there is a problem and the person needs assistance.
  • A microphone and speaker so that not only can the person send an emergancy message but they can talk to a call centre or their help service.
  • The ability to call up to 3 predetermined numbers and talk to the person at the other end.

These services also include the ability for authorised people to view the location of the device, i.e. the person carrying it, on a map from anywhere that they can access an internet browser.

If this product is as good as the supplier says, it will have huge value for a variety of services including, elderly or infirm people, children, people with severe allergies or other potential health problems, people in risky careers such as security guards or investigators, or even police as well as services such as mental health nurses and midwives who are helping people in the community.

By having a combination of a SIM card with GPRS and SMS capabaility as well as speech, any wearer can be located on a map and can also be in voice contact where necessary. Obviously as these devices prove their worth, their popularity will increase and consequently prices will come down. Because they are portable they can also be used on an ad hoc basis or in a pooled environment to be shared.

I’ll let you know how my pilot goes.

The New Zealand Police want to trial carrying pistols and rifles


So I picked up my NZ herald this morning and there was the story on the front page, ‘Cops Plan Armed City Patrols‘. They were obviously trying to take advantag of public emotions about the murder of Navtej Singh who got shot by robbers at close range in his liquor store even though he totally cooperated with the little thugs.

Well I’ve got a problem with that. In this instance I read that while the police refused to go and check on him for about half an hour after they arrived, because they were following protocol in an armed offenders alert, but the thing was, according to the story 11 or 12 civilians walked in and out without any problems and the offenders were long gone. great that they caught the bastards but that’s not the point.

In my humble opinion th reason there are so few armed gunfights between police and crims, is because the crims know the police probably don’t have firearms, or at least have to get the from the glove box of the car, rather than just wearing them as side arms.

One of the main reasons I did not takeup very lucrative offers to live and work overseas and in particular in the USA was because I wanted my kids to grow up in a country where they can walk along the street and not feel in danger. I believe a major reason for that is because the police don’t carry pistols or rifles as a matter of course. I have no doubt that if crims feel that they are likely to be killed by the police, they will start shooting back and both sides will be the losers. With a lot of violent crims, I wouldn’t be too upset if they died in the course of their criminal activities, but I’m not too keen on police or bystanders being killed in the process.

I believe there are alternatives. They are looking at Taser rifles without wires that can fire up to 20 meters away and there are also rifles that fire bean bags full of shot. In most cases these weapons would not kill anyone. New Zealand may be one of the last countries in the world to have permanently armed police, but we are probably also one of the last countries in the world where if someone gets shot, most people in the country know their name. That’s a pretty good record.

So here’s the thing, once you start a trial and have all sorts of anecdotal stories of how effective it is with selected PR, just like we got with the taser trials; and then it gets introduced, you can’t ever go back. Troubled areas like some in South Auckland will become violent hotspots and there will be to many names to remember. The gangs will start driving around with weapons and drive buys will become common instead of something that causes outrage a few times a year. Police will be killed in the line of duty and it will become much harder to get good people on the force. Police will totally lose respect of the citizens in some areas and children will grow up fearing and hating the cops.

Lets maintain the status quo. We have armd offenders squads who are trained professionals, used in times of emergance. I don’t mind having more of them, but leave that stuff to those with the specialised training, not to all of them. Our country will be safer and more people will be able to continue to live happily in our country.

If the trials go ahead, I’ll have to look back at this blog in 2 or 3 years time and to some it might seem prophetic, wasn’t I clever to figure out what the politicians and police commanders couldn’t. No, it’ not prescience, it’s common sense.

Contact lens display for your computer


I have said it before, all the stories I read about in Science Fiction are coming true, some of them even more advanced than the fiction. Think Robocop and other stories where police, soldiers and others can have access to their computer through a device attached to their eyes. I was half-watching the new series of The Bionic Woman last night and while some of the things she was doing, like using her bionic eye as a set of binoculars with the ability to lock onto faces and use facial identification, may be a little far fetched (so far) we are on the way there. The first concepts were something along the lines of a display attached to a helmet that you look at, in effect a sort of projector. That is old technology in that it has already been piloted by police in the UK and forces around the world. Now we are talking about a contact lens that incorporates a display, wiring and even a wireless receiver all built into a silicon lens that is placed on your eye just like your normal contact lens. Much of this research is being undertaken in the Unversity of Washington.

Animal lovers read no further, but apparently these lenses have already been tested on rabbits who reported that they felt no discomfort. I understand they have not yet determined how to display something that the eye can recognise because typically the eye needs to focus on something that is at least a very short distance from it. One research group is looking at having a seperate LED or similar device per pixel, which matches the eye receptors. This concept is also not unprecedented. My late grandfather went snowblind when climbing in the Swiss Alps in his early 80’s. He was the recipient of experimental eyes which looked like huge fly eyes. Not a fashion accessory, but he was able to faintly discern and identify shapes such as a human body.

Other researchers are using this technology to help determine health status and followers of iridology will tell you that you can tell a huge amount about a person’s health through an eye examination. I could imagine this sort of data being used in military and space research, allowing information to be gathered without having lots of additional hardware being attached to the body. Hey, we could require that everyone has one of these fitted, then anytime someone has a rush of blood to the head with the hormones associated with rage or excessive endorphins, it could send a message to the authorities. Imagine what would happen if they used that technology at the next Olympic Games, they would probably arrest the competitors and leave the terrorists to roam free, but I’m getting silly now, so perhaps I better head off to my Monday night poker tournament, where I could use my bionic contact lens to tell me the value of my starting hands and the play history of each of the tournament players from their Pokerstars records.

Now here’s a question I am struggling with. When you watch movies or TV programmes like 24 (which I must admit to enjoying, albeit on DVD with 4 episodes at a time) they have the technology to grab a security camera image and within seconds, not only enhance it to a high image quality, but instantly identify the person and download their life history. I’ve seen footage from companies like Arthur Anderson monitoring and analysing eye movement in a retail store, where they are studying the science of retail shelf product placement.

So why is it that when someone commits a crime which is captured on a security camera and they show us the picture or video on TV or in the newspaper, it is such a blur? On the one hand we are seeing unbelieveably exciting research, and on the other hand we can’t catch a thief in a petrol station using highly specialised camera technology.

Anyway, I’m putting an order in for my bionic lens. Maybe I can have it installed together with my eyePod implant. I’m told I have a few terrabytes free in my brain, so perhaps I could just download the entire  EMI/Warner music list straight into my brain. My car has an invisible antenna for my car stereo, perhaps I could have one mounted on my scalp so I can download the latest podcasts from any WiFi Hotspot after using the RFID tag in my contact lens for identification.

I said I was going so now I am stopping for real. Hey, if you are reading this, how about leaving me a comment, or if you know someone who might be interested in my rantings, send them a link.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)