Wednesday, April 12, 2017


One of various ways to cope with anxiety; writing fantasy stories where I can play by my own rules! Especially when they're only a few chapters or so (each), not too long where I don't have to have a huge single-plot story arc.

I'm calling it TRIBE OF CATS (formerly The Mountain Leopard, until I decided to expand the world and characters). The way I like to approach it is "Zootopia meets LOST." Why? Because as I delve deeper into it, I'm getting to know my characters who all have their own issues, inner demons, things they struggle with, have to adapt to, and so forth. With so many types of wild cats, so many ideas... I just decided "why not use them all?"

- a snow leopard learning to a be a prophet
- a pair of tigers working as Feline guardsmen
- a panther wanting to put his past as a bandit behind
- a saber-tooth cat struggling with depression
- a leopard who dreams of being a great inventor
- a brawn-over-brain lion who has to learn to use his brain over brawn
- a lynx looking for adventure
(What I got so far anyway)

*** For example the panther Malorn (as depicted above with the bow and arrow) is adapted from an iconic character I created in high school; I decided to bring him here as a panther, since that particular story had hit a dead end, and I loved writing about him back then. Didn't wanna just leave him in the back of a box, know what I mean? ***

I love being able to pick out a single quality and then expand on it; a lot of them are things that I've struggled with and experienced myself, so it makes it more fun to write about them (and in some cases helps me to understand them, if that makes sense). It feels more like getting to know my characters rather than just inventing them. As I go along I'm learning their backstories and how they add up to future events.

Another reason I'm writing Tribe of Cats as a series of stories like this is because in the past, I've had this habit of making some of the secondary characters more interesting and/or cooler than the main character; not that this is abnormal, a lot of writers do that.
This time, however, I decided to use that to my advantage and, like I said, "use them all."

It does help to have  "furries" drawing books, among others, that gives me some new ideas and motivates me to try drawing these characters that I've formed in my head. So yeah that's what I've got so far keeping me occupied.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Air tanks, aka "Cylinders" (Part 2)

(picking up from where my last post left off, just so it's not TOO long in one page)

Then you've got your mask, which I've heard can be freaky to wear if you're claustrophobic. Well let me just say this; I am very claustrophobic, but I didn't have much of a problem with it. I think the real reason though was because I've gotten used to wearing a swimming mask (the kind you use for snorkeling), and it felt almost exactly the same. Just the additional suction along my jaw.
There's a hole just over an inch wide in the front where the regulator (it's basically a small air hose) clips into. A good way to make sure the mask is on tight is to press your palm into that hole and take a deep breath in.

Here's another common question that I asked the guys that night too; "how long does one tank usually last?" Honestly, it depends on the person. On average you should get between twenty and forty minutes out of one if you're breathing steadily. But let's just say I have a panic attack or something, panting heavy and deep. Keep going like that and I'll probably only have about five minutes of air. Especially since I'm a thin boy and my lungs aren't as strong or big as Mookie's probably are.

And here's a real handy-dandy thing about the regulator; first off, as soon as you start breathing it clicks open and lets the air flow into your mask. And when you're running out of air, with just minutes left, it will vibrate as a warning to GET OUT!

If that mask comes loose and smoke starts to get in, you flip this red switch called "the purge" and you'll get a strong blast of air from the tank, so the pressure becomes too strong for any more smoke to enter.
Good thing too, since all the toxic gasses in the smoke can burn your lungs.

*** don't try to be a hero and stick around longer. Every second counts, and you could always trip or get tangled in electrical wires. ***

If you get knocked out, held up, or for any other reason you stop moving, the sensor on your harness will go off, beeping loudly for the other firefighters to hear. That's basically the warning bell that we've got to go help our fallen teammate.

Well, for now at least that's all I got on air tanks. Hope this has been an interesting read, and you may hear from me again soon.

Air tanks, a.k.a. "Cylinders" (Part 1)

All right, I have been having an awesome time learning more, in bits and pieces on our work nights at the TVFD. And on February 2nd, I got to learn about handling an air tank.
Now at the station we call them cylinders...
Not bottles.
As our friend (-slash-Lieutenant) Mookie puts it, "bottles are for babies, cylinders are for firemen."

Now the first question that came to my mind at first (and I'm pretty sure this is a commonly asked question) was "how heavy are these things?"
 Well the answer is, it depends on how much air pressure is inside. The ideal pressure is 4500psi, and there's a little gauge at the bottom of the cylinder which shows how full it is. The one I practiced on was just a little lower. Not ideal but I guess not crappy either.
If you want an easy answer on how heavy it is to lift, imagine how your school backpack feels when you've got your laptop and one (or two) hardcover textbooks in it. It's heavy enough to work on your back muscles but not heavy enough to make you fall over; which makes sense given that we're supposed to be able to run into a blaze with them on our backs.

Not as easy as it sounds. But thankfully it's not too difficult either.
One way you can put it on is the same way as a backpack (one strap on first, then slide your arm into the other), but that can be very cumbersome with all those loosened straps dangling around hitting stuff.
One way our friend Dan showed us is to have the bottom of the cylinder facing away from you (upside down basically) and then lift it over your head onto your back, sliding your arms into the shoulder straps before tightening them.
Its emphasized that the waist strap, that buckles like a seat belt, is the one you want more weight put into (than the shoulder straps).

This is something that we cannot stress enough. I guarantee one of our higher rank guys like Fire Chief will chew you out of you screw this part up.
When we're done using a cylinder, taking it off, putting it away for some other guy to use later... you have to loosen the straps ALL THE WAY OUT.
Here's why; say a skinny guy like me gets strapped in to go in and fight a fire, then comes back to the station and puts it back without loosening it. And then let's just say Mookie (who's tall and built like a freakin' Viking), on the way to another scene, tries to put that same one on but it doesn't fit him 'cause it's too tight for his torso! Well guess what? Now he's pissed off and taking an extra couple minutes fumbling with the straps, loosening them so they'll finally fit him.
When you're responding, every second counts. And when it comes to strapping into a cylinder, you want to be able to just buckle up and cinch it tight once.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Training to become a Firefighter

On New Year's Day I responded with the other fire police, redirecting traffic around a serious car accident at the intersection of Morgantown and Quarry. The car stuck in the grass had its front half crushed like an accordion. The other had its hood dented real bad but I think it was repairable. For about two hours we kept traffic at bay with our flashlights and cones, while the Caernarvon Township police investigated the crash with the firefighters. It wasn't till about six pm that we got the ok to have tow trucks come and haul away the wreckage. I'm glad it wasn't any longer, though. It was freezing cold, where I had to keep going back into the warm squad truck and spend minutes warming my hands back up.
Thank God we had extra guys to hand the SLOW/STOP paddle off to when we needed a break.

Looking back on it, it was a great learning experience using the radios and flashlights. But still I wanted to do more that night.
What I mean is, I wanted to be working with the firefighters who were attending to the wrecked cars and the victims themselves. I guess I felt too "out of the way" and wished I was more thoroughly involved, in that sense.

I was already fascinated by how the other guys operate and how they train. But after this I had an even better idea and experience to reflect on, when it came to my decision to step up my game.
So I decided that I wanted to train as a fireman . . .
. . . just as soon as I get this spring semester wrapped up. If I can do this in the summer, then it'll have my undivided attention and can be "Priority Number One" as my dad and I put it. Thinking realistically, if I go for this 172-hour course while I'm still studying my bible textbooks, it'd be like adding another college class plus going back to my job at Walmart. Much as I hated to admit it at first, I'm not ready yet. I have to wait till my load is emptier and I can focus better.
It'll be worth the wait though. I've already learned a lot through drilling with them at the station; how to work and pack up the hoses, put the bunker gear on, info on different types of structure collapse, how to operate the "jaws of life" and so on. And loving it! Can't wait to get started on the actual class.