Monday, March 3, 2014

Too Powerful

            I have worked a recent string of lethal car accidents involving expensive exotic cars.  It got me thinking about having too much power. The car as in 0-60 in three-ish seconds with an engine of five hundred hoarse power or more. The driver as in someone who ignores the law because his or her shirts are tailor made.

            We don’t let ten year olds drive. They are too small in so many ways. Its one thing not to be able to reach the controls, another not to be able to reach for the wisdom needed to navigate traffic.  Some people turn ten when they get into a sports car. I so often see privileged people getting into accidents for no other reason they feel the laws of mankind don’t apply to them. Physics has something to say about this. So does Darwin.  I have never known of an Ferrari winning and argument with a trash truck or abutment. I’m not picking on Ferrari, Maserati or McLaren will do. Okay fine you’re a GT freak or perhaps you will only allow a Bugatti into your dreams. Just pick a super car and stick with me. Gads I can hear the snidely voices of the read about it type, cant even afford the floor mats, snot nosed wussburger getting all flabbergasted at me. Blow the aghast out your nose, wipe up and lets move on.

            A special investigative team will sometimes come out to an accident and record every piece of evidence. The position of vehicles and strewn parts is meticulously recorded with the help of a laser based robotic Total Station. One can also see these amazing machines on construction sites. This device will give the nearly exact position with elevation of every bit they decide to record. Later all the rocket science of weight and velocity is computed by someone that knows what they are doing. Glad it’s not me because a five-hour on scene time turns into three days or so of calculating and weeks of interviews. Photos taken at the scene are included into a remodeling of the accident.

            I photograph things important to the investigator, every side of the vehicles and details of some parts. I am sometimes amazed at what blood will be found on. Pieces of front bumper or headlight with some human matter painted on says body contact even too an amateur like me. It’s the ability to play the scene backward that starts the narrowing of the investigators concentration. They are tested and exhaustively reviewed in continuing education. Glad I just take the photos mostly done on manual. Program is only used for close ups with flash set to TTL. I go back and forth between the settings.

            No million-dollar car is safe with defective parts like say a loose nut behind the wheel. Before you admire someone in a tailored shirt without a tie wreaking perfume, imagine him in an expensive go-cart becoming road coating. That will take the shine off the rims.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Finish your Novel; Finish what you start

            That’s my dad talking. It was his favorite rant. This line was the only thing I inherited from him besides high cholesterol and back hair. TMI? That’s your problem.  BTW this is the first blog entry I ever wrote that has two titles, it is also the only one with S/A acronyms.

            Let’s press on. No really we need to keep going.

            The big fat tips for finishing your novel are:
    Your going to type one hundred and ten thousand words over and over again so just get to love it. Fall in love with the process of writing.  Some days your best friend will be a WIP that means work in progress. Keep progressing.
    Environment matters. I have sincere ADD and I have to keep my surroundings undistracted. I do this by going to the same place with nothing to grab my fickle attention. I can stare at a blank page and my ADD will become antsy for something to do then suddenly my fingers start tickling the keyboard and whoop-dee-doo words start flying out of me like lies from congress.  I do not need it quiet nor does the space have to be devoid of design or nice things. Just has to be the same for maximum effect. I get bored of a scene in about forty seconds. My favorite spot is a corner of the room with curtains drawn.
   Keep your ego out of the way. It’s a lying little bastard telling you your not good enough to publish. This is true at first but not last. I went to Toastmasters for a year and began to win more than seventy percent of the contests I was in because I left that idiot ego out of the room before I practiced or listened to a single critique.  I have more than twenty awards for public speaking based on one simple idea. Keep your ego out of it.
   Keep an open mind. Let it all in. Notice during critiques people will tell you specific things about craft or general comments about how your writing affected them. This feedback is priceless if you learn to channel it. Your ego will toss up a wall at this time. Crash that wall and toss the little bastard out of the room on the spot without apology. You will get back to your environment with your notes and rediscover the process that you fell in love with.
            Most importantly keep writing. Your first draft is supposed to be the brain dump of all time. Edit later. Keep major ideas clumped together, call those chapters for now. Get that 80 to 100k words DONE and forget how you’re supposed to do it, just do it.

            If you want the best website to start and live at for a while I can recommend:

Thursday, January 9, 2014


            My dear old nervous friend how have you been?  I know some people you have been pestering lately and I will forewarn you that they are about to hear what I have to say about our relationship. That always wakes up and scares the old bastard.   Anxiety is the one confused state we get into which no longer applies to modern life. You heard me, it’s a nearly useless pile of energy that can cause a rash, tunnel vision, stomach pain, muscle cramps and in extreme cases change how we look permanently.
            Feel free to look up the symptoms and you will quit somatizing or go nuts. Let’s just kick old Mr Anxiety in the nuts so you can feel free shall we?
            Physiologically Anxiety cannot last. You need to know this when peak episodes perk up. It is largely felt as a rush of adrenalin in really pronounced cases or as mild to moderate irritants most of the time. Some of us are prone to having it. One thing you can do right now is look at the feelings and thoughts and just say louder than they are; “I have a life, you’re in the way.” Then force yourself into any kind of exercise you can do right their. If it’s a busy desk then have something you can crush repeatedly in your hands or stomp with your feet. You cannot walk and or run and have anxiety at the same time it is physiologically impossible.
            Triggers that set off an episode are many. I have sudden thoughts or an allergy reaction. The years of practice have made me dismissive of idiot random anxiety thoughts but the allergies need to be dealt with. First drink water. Dehydration has sent people to the hospital with false heart attack symptoms. Second check the environment. Is it dry after a wet spell? Is their construction or digging going on nearby?  After Thirty many people who could ignore allergies become suddenly crippled by them. A quick test can rule out many allergies, I have a bizarre one; I’m allergic to strong smells… not kidding.
            Things that help besides exercise are fish oil, Quercitin Bromeline, and good old fashioned water.
            It was a dry day during a cancer scare that I just stopped my anxiety in its tracks and said; “If you are within me than I am bigger.”  It was the beginning of the end of a relationship I had with the only constant companion throughout my life. Not that it ever pops up but I now know how to make anxiety my bitch when work needs to get done.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Writing about Law Enforcement

            Pet peeve and red button time!  I have been stepping over bodies and visiting celebrities in their freshly burglared homes for about nine years.  I work as a crime scene photographer for the Los Angeles Police Department.  To say that I have seen it all seems somewhat redundant.
            So here is the thing that is stuck in my craw:  People who write about crime without any people in it frosts over my will to continue reading.  WHAT!?  You heard me; stop writing as though anyone who carries a gun and a badge is devoid of personality.  I work with FBI agents who have a better sense of humor over life and its lessons than the DMV-styled officious maunder that is today’s attempt at getting a reader behind the yellow tape.  By the way, the LAPD invented that stuff to keep politicians and other ilk from trampling over evidence.
            Example:  PIII Juarez led XA-21 mission ready as always.
            Result:  I am going to find where you live and…. 
            Let us see this more clearly shall we?  A PIII has been with the department for a while, approximately five years.  They can stay at that level, many choose to do so, or promote to detectives or administration by way of Sergeant.  A PIII is a Police Officer III.  Everything has a rank.  I am Photographer III, which is right below supervisor, who could also be ranked at various levels.
            It begins at the academy where an officer is either a boot or field trainee.  After graduation, they are sent out into the field and are become another officer’s partner.  On duty, a partner is like a ventricle; you cannot pull one out and have a functioning heart.
            Rank is important.  I have been on scene where two Detective III’s had to fight over who was in charge, and it came down to date of hire.  Oh, the poor fellow who graduated first.
            XA-21 is a Unit.  Basically, two officers patrolling anywhere in the area designated as 21.  It is somewhat of a mouthy insider; do not  use.
            Avoid power words like maximum or turbo.  Relate the relatable like an officer who sees their first dead child and it looks like their cousin.
            Tensions rise on scene when brass shows up.  It gets worse when politicians are involved.  Once, the District Attorney got me on the phone to tell me directly what to photograph.
            We all have our own method of writing.  Just think about the heart behind the badge that covers it.
            Some insider things you should know.  Bulletproof vests are never comfortable.  In the summer, they do not breathe and will make a hot day even more hellish.  In the winter, they are dense, causing the cold to come straight through.  They also bunch up when you sit down.
            A car is called a unit or shop; some still call them radio cars.
            SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics and it saves more lives by less than lethal means.  Less than lethal are stuff like tasers, water cannons, ladders, so on and so forth.  They go the extra mile to stop someone from hurting themselves, but primarily anyone else.  Shootouts are nowhere near as common as you are led to believe.  The people in SWAT are extraordinary; they are in amazing shape and practice safe takedowns constantly. They are not the biggest badasses on the department.
            Special units and, in our case, Metro cops are far more likely to get into a nasty fight than anyone else.  They are also some of the nicest people I know.  Funny how true badasses know they are the 600 lb gorilla and do not need to flex.
            Officers cry.  I was shocked the first time I witnessed it.  I always let them know it is okay around me.
            Please, let us connect with the human being first before you start taking us into the world of your creation.  Detectives have been single moms needing a solid job or fresh out of the military with no idea of what to do with their lives.  It is true that all of us behind the thin blue line go into a mode when it is time, but we also have to go to the bathroom and find chow if we are stuck on a long scene.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Not much else to say but here it is.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Taking over

I was in college when it looked like the Japanese were going to take over the world. For the time that I worked for Japanese production companies I found them rather fun loving and quite respectful of America. They were fascinated by the endless wide-open spaces; the 115-degree heat of the Mojave Desert just plain freaked them out.  Did you know that handling a black camera in those conditions sucks out loud?

Now I find it amusing that the Chinese are being looked at as taking over the world. No, wrong, it’s not going to be a country or ideology that will encompass us all.

Information will crush under everyone and everything. It will deliver more details and less truth. We have become bathed in ideas and a dearth of understanding.  We are infused with data and drained of logic.

We think were learning. Were learning not to think.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Turning the Page

            I thought eight years of working with crime scenes would make me somewhat immune to grief.  Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way.
            Parker Center, named after Chief Parker in 1966, started to go up in 1952 and was completed in 1955.  There were many quirks to the building.  To name a few, it was overly built, yet unable able to take earthquake retrofit; they spent more than ten million dollars installing a fire system that never worked; it had a helicopter pad on top and palm trees in front; it was referred to as PAB or Police Administration Building; and it was HQ for a long time.  I made a complaint once about rats humping at the back entrance.

            I don’t really miss the idea of being there.  The location for my workplace was a leftover hand-me-down that we made work.  Craftsman originally did the retrofit from crime lab to photo lab.  Fifty years later, the very best craftsmanship had shown the wear of neglect.  
            We made jokes by writing on the huge cracks in some of the walls created by earthquakes and made larger with every one that came along.  There were toilets that did not work and sinks that would not turn off.  I did not like the building at all and am glad to be moving out.
            The only memorable things the building held for me were memories of those who passed away and left us behind.  As I walked in and out of small rooms and stared out of a night-filled window, I remembered one of the kindest people to ever work there.  He was my introduction to the City and LAPD in general.  
            I am filled with such grief that he is now departed and there will be no place for me to go to remember him on a daily basis.  In another room, I recalled the last conversation I had with another kindly gentleman who passed away just two years prior.  In that moment, I could not believe the torrent of emotions that came over me when I realized I was looking a glimpse of the past for the last time.
            My memories will last a bit longer than my stay at Parker Center and even LAPD.  Tomorrow, however, the page must be turned.