Saturday, April 05, 2008

I read the news today, oh, boy.

  I found out yesterday that Larry Norman died at the end of February. Like any fan, I'm saddened that the majority of you have no idea who he is. He claims the title, as much as anyone could, of being the first Christian Rocker. Our lives intersected at a crucial time in my life, and, taking the same road made all the difference for me. He was 60.

I remember hearing my first Larry Norman song. There was a new church that had grown pretty rapidly, called Calvary Chapel, in Costa Mesa, Ca. I was invited to go with some older teens to the Saturday night concert - it became a regular event for many of us for a couple of years. That night, I don't remember who it was - other than the singer was blind - sang "U.F.O." I remember -the sound of their voice simply singing it. It was the gospel, presented on my terms, with brash honesty and love. I didn't know that it was one of his songs at the time, but the impact of the words still carries me to a sense of wonder:
"He will come back, like he promised, with the price already paid. He will gather up his followers, and take them all away. . .
And if there's life on other planets, well I'm sure that He must know. 'Cause he's been there, once already, and has died to save their soul."
There was a lot more. Larry was political, and I didn't always agree with his politics. But he was telling it like he saw it, and pointing out others who were taking advantage of the times to lead people astray:
"The Beatles said,"All you need is Love" and then they broke up."
-"Readers Digest"
These lyrics are from a song released in 1972. Incredibly sad that they mean so much, today:
"you are far across the ocean
in a  war that's not your own
and while you're winning theirs
you're gonna lose the one at home
do you really think the only way
to bring about the peace
is to sacrifice your children
and kill all your enemies"
-"The Great American Novel"
Larry and his converted friend, Randy Stonehill, sang the songs that touched my heart and fueled my passions for a very long time. I even begged Randy for an audition, once, I wanted to be a part of that group so much.
His most famous song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", was a powerful evangelical tool for a while, eventually over-performed into irrelevance as the age of sending teenagers already afraid of nuclear destruction to bed with the fear that the faithful were going to disappear all around them before morning if they didn't get right with God faded. Those were some scary times to be a teenager. As a fan, I see the whole "Left Behind" stuff as his legacy, even though I know that there's more to it than that.

Although I saw him perform as many times as I could, I never met Larry. I sent him an email, a couple of years ago, thanking him for his impact upon my life, never got a reply. My understanding of things is that he had relationship problems with a number of people over the years, with bands, etc. Part of his persona was that he was against whatever grain there was. As a fan, I can accept that - I never had to live or work with him - it was part of his art. His poetry, performance, and faith inevitably influence the things that I do and say. God Bless you, Larry.

"I've been knocked down, kicked around,
But like a moth drawn to the flame,
Here I am, talkin' bout Jesus just the same. . .
I've been rebuked, for the things I've said,
For the songs I've written and the life I've led.
They say they don't understand me, but I'm not surprised
Because you can't see nothin' when you close your eyes.
They say I'm sinful, backslidden,
That I have left to follow fame.
But here I am, talkin' bout Jesus, brother
Here I am, talkin' bout Jesus, sister
Here I am, talkin' bout Jesus, just the same."
-Shot Down

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Ramblings of a Sleep-Deprived Service Tech

Working in a hospital engineering department has always been a combination of monotony, maintenance, and surprise. I tell people, "If you can think of it, we probably have at least one of them." We supply air, water, gases, nuclear medicine, etc.
One of the capabilities that we have is the capacity to generate our own power. Part of our responsibility is to assure that that power is always available, and able to come on line within 10 seconds of city power loss. So, for example, someone checks our generators 3 times a day, to make sure that the switches are in their correct positions, that there's fuel avaiable, and that the batteries are charging. Once a month, each generator (we have 3) is tested under an actual load, and they are all run once a week. This means that, twice a month, a couple of us get to come in at 0430 to run them under a load on a scheduled basis, at the least disruptive time for all of the activities that happen in our happy little hotel. We sometimes have to postpone a test if there's a trauma or other unscheduled surgery going on - even though those areas are protected by Uninterruptable power supplies - we do not take the chance that someone might be plugged into the wrong outlet. I'd want to know that if I were on the table. Today was my turn - to do the test, not for an operation.
Getting up at 0330, even to go fishing (which I've never actually done), is like getting up in the middle of the night. Fortunately, wearing a uniform means that it's relatively easy to get dressed in the dark. Stumbling out to the car - I've worked there so long that I really don't have to think about where I'm going - my 16 year-old buggy knows the way. Traffic is light. Who knew?
The hospital is lit up, as it always is. With the exception of different faces, and less of them, it really doesn't matter what time it is in the hallways. The Generators are out back, sequestered in buildings that block a majority of the noise that they make. We check the fuel, check the oil, check the radiators, write down the vital statistics, including the hour meter readings. We are in a constant squeeze between regulators; the Air Pollution Control District only permits us to run these mammoth diesels for so many hours a year (excluding actual emergencies), and the Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation sets the parameters for testing them, including how much load to place on them, for how long, and when. These agencies do not communicate with each other.
The Generators, themselves, are big, with big old radiators on the front, the actual generator on the other end, and massive exhaust systems crammed into the building to keep the noise down. Ear protection is required. Heaters keep the engine warm, to help them start more quickly. When running under load, they are actually turned on by Automatic Transfer Switches, which either sense the drop and switch automatically in an emergency, or via our building automation softwarem, on a PC when we test. So, you press a button with your mouse, the lights go out, and within 10 seconds the switches switch, the behemoth awakes, takes the load, and everything springs back to life. Thirty minutes later, the switch back is just a 'bump'.
There are lots of things that can go wrong, and they do, although rarely. Today, all was just peachy. We fired it up, made sure that we were delivering over 300KV (30% of the generator's 1000kV capacity), checked the temps, hertz, amps, and stood around for 45 minutes while it did its' thing. The crescent moon was lovely, through the clouds. We ran the other two 'no-load' for 10 minutes apiece, filled out all of the paperwork, and it was time for breakfast.
One of the things that I've always taken great pride in is that even these industrial actions that we take can be and are related to taking care of patients. The people that are the best at this kind of work are those who relate what they do to the greater good. I like watching "Dirty Jobs" on TV because Mike Rowe understands and promotes the concept. To be quite honest, my paycheck isn't enough to drag my tired butt out of bed to do something like this, knowing that it is important makes it happen.Yes, this is one of the reasons that your hospital stay costs so much. There's a lot to this facility that most people never see in redundant systems and things like fire safety. There's a lot wrong with healthcare in this country, but there's a lot right, too. I know that in my house, you're going to be safe, secure, and the lights will be on, if I have anything to do with it. We might even make you comfortable, every now and again. but that's another story.