Archive for the 'General' Category

If you can talk, you can breathe – NOT NECESSARILY!

December 8th, 2014

If you think someone is not respiratory distress just because they can talk, you are wrong.

Recent events in New York have put the spotlight on three myths that I shall attempt to dispel here:

Myth 1: Strangleholds are a safe way of subduing someone
Strangleholds (more commonly, but less accurately, called chokeholds) are techniques used in martial arts and by security forces to subdue an opponent. The aim is to restrict bloodflow to the brain, thus causing hypoxia which leads to unconsciousness. Since a properly applied stranglehold does not restrict the airway (which a chokehold does), if the pressure is released soon enough, the victim will regain consciousness. If not, the victim will suffer brain damage or death from hypoxia.

Myth 2: Police and security forces are experts in the techniques of subduing
I have taught martial arts to individual police officers and I have attended seminars on hand-to-hand combat aimed specifically at security forces and designed by experienced police officers who are also expert practitioners of grappling arts.

In my experience, the average police officer is no more competent in applying martial arts techniques than the average martial arts dilettante. How could they be if they only attend seminars every few months?

In my opinion, giving a police or security officer occasional training in techniques which, if applied incorrectly, can lead to brain damage or death, is deluded at best. This would be akin to sending someone on bi-annual tennis seminars and then expecting them to perform convincingly at Wimbledon.

Myth 3: If you can talk, you can breathe
Unfortunately, there are police officers, security officers and even martial artists who subscribe to this myth. The fact that someone is breathing does not mean they are not going into respiratory failure, which is when not enough oxygen is passing from your lungs to your bloodstream. What’s more, the fact that someone is able to exhale (which a chest compression or injury would encourage), does not mean they are able to inhale again easily. You only need to be able to exhale to be able to say: “I can’t breathe.”

When someone is in distress, they are unlikely to be able to give a medically accurate description of what is distressing them, even if they had the knowledge to do so. Which of the following is someone more likely to say when going into respiratory failure? “I appear to be experiencing respiratory difficulty!” or “I can’t breathe!”

Respiratory distress can, furthermore, be caused by panic, rather than physical trauma, but the result (inadequate levels of oxygen in the blood) is the same, as anyone who has ever passed out from a panic attack can tell you.

Because a properly applied stranglehold does not restrict the airway, the victim is able to breathe and thus able to talk. Respiratory distress does not occur (unless triggered by panic), nor does respiratory failure, since the victim continues to breathe. In this case, the fact that the victim is talking does indeed mean that they are breathing; however, breathing during a strangehold does not mean the victim is not going to suffer injury or death. Being able to breathe does not mean you are not at imminent risk of respiratory failure or hypoxia.

Strangleholds are sophisticated techniques which require dedicated training and practice over extended periods of time to be able to apply safely. I would not be surprised to find that most people (including security forces) who learn such techniques practise them only on compliant and cooperative training partners. I would exclude from that remark serious practitioners of grappling martial arts, such as Jiu Jitsu, who regularly practise against uncooperative opponents. Anything other than expertise in subduing an uncooperative opponent can result in misapplying the technique, resulting in choking or compressing the chest of the opponent (either by the subduer ending up on top of the opponent, or an overweight opponent ending up lying on their side), who then says: “I CAN’T BREATHE!”

Anyone who claims not to be able to breathe should be given immediate assistance and first-aid, rather than be further subdued!


Comment on article "No indictment in NYPD in-custody death"

A comment, presumably made by a police officer, on the news that there would be no indictment in the case of the death of Eric Garner. Click image for source.

How to feel like a man

May 6th, 2011

There is nothing quite like taking pieces off a car and then putting them back on again to make a man feel like a man.


Having put it all back together I can now crack open a beer, watch The Dirty Dozen and not talk about my feelings while basking in the idea that my self-esteem is based entirely on my performance reviews at work.

By the way, all that effort was just to change a light bulb. It’s one of the drawbacks of owning a very compact car. I even managed to get oil on my hands, despite not working near the engine.


Live long and prosper?

February 26th, 2011

Somehow I don’t think Mr. Spock meant to say “Die old and make loads of money”.

And yet most dictionaries define “prosperity” in terms of rising profits. Politicians and the media seem to bombard us with the notion that aggressive economic growth is our main goal. Economic growth is certainly important in order to avoid stagnation but the popular emphasis seems to have been on an unhealthy type of prosperity, a prosperity that serves only to enable us into consume more.

That leads us in the consumption trap:

We live to work, we work to earn, we earn to consume.

I have friends who work in the retail business and their sales targets are never based on studies of the economic realities that might actually influence sales, such as footfall, or the disposable income of the local community, but on how much money the company directors decide they want to make (I’m convinced unrealistic sales targets are also used as a technique for making sure staff don’t qualify for a bonus).

Prosperity has almost come to be synonymous with greed, but the sad thing is that most people haven’t noticed.

How many people in Ireland bought a big house out in some new development, then spent four hours a day commuting to and from a job which paid them more money than they had ever earned before, only to spend it on things that have a very short life-span: TVs, Smartphones, clothes, 4x4s?

We don’t own out stuff. Our stuff owns us. It’s like a virus that takes over its host, forcing us to spend more time making more money to buy more stuff.

Last year I spent €600 on an iPhone 4. Not with credit. Not on any kind of monthly plan. I paid the full amount up front because I had it. When a colleague asked why I had bought it, I started to think about the functional characteristics of the device, but then I paused and remarked: “Because out of the past five months I have spent only four weekends at home.”

How often we use our prosperity to buy us things to comfort us for the lack of quality of life that very same prosperity costs us.

What values have we been passing on to our children over the past fifteen years?
Greed is good?
You are entitled to stuff?
Economic success is what makes you a decent person?
And the one I hate the most, Burger King’s mantra: Have it your way.

Ireland’s deficit is not just an economic one.

What about the message that it’s better to spend less time earning money in order to spend more time with your family? There is something incredibly warming about the story of the couple who built a working “Angry Birds” birthday cake for their son’s birthday. It took hours to make and it was something the child could enjoy only for a few minutes. On the other hand, an XBox would have taken minutes to buy and the child could have played with it for years. Which would the boy remember fondly in years to come? Which would make him know that his parents truly loved him?

I like the Merriam-Webster definition of prosperity because it uses the phrase “economic well-being”, rather than “wealth” or “rising profits”.

I’m an a-theist, so when I use the word “soul”, I mean it figuratively, but I believe true “prosperity” has to have something for the soul and not just for the pocket.

Here is a lovely article in The Irish Times on the concept of “enough“.

Social networking experiment

February 17th, 2011

I am going to get someone to post the following text on Facebook. I am curious to see how far it goes.

Post this as your status if a family member, or someone close to you, suffers from being an arsehole. Being an arsehole is a debilitating and socially embarrassing afflication. Its effects go largely unnoticed by the afflicted, but it is believed that up to 60% of the population suffers from arseholery all of the time and 100% of the population some of the time. Let’s expose arseholes to the sunlight.

I am also curious to see if “arsehole” gets changed to “asshole”.

Happy whatever-you-want-to-call-it

December 22nd, 2010

How does an a-theist like me wish someone a happy Christmas?

After all, I am not a follower of the Christ. “Happy Christmas” trips off my tongue largely out of habit, thanks to my Catholic upbringing, but midwinter celebrations probably pre-date civilisation itself, so why should I be left out of wishing my fellow humans well when the nights are longest?

I feel love for my fellow humans as much as the next person, regardless of their spiritual leanings,  so here is my midwinter wish for you. Please take it very personally.

Action without action

December 6th, 2010

Social networking makes it easy for people to make meaningless noise about matters of substance.

There was a so-called “campaign” on Facebook recently in support of the fight against child abuse. The exact words of the “campaign” are:

Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. There should be no human faces on Facebook but an invasion of memories to raise awareness to end Violence Against Children.

I imagine millions of people across the world changed their profile picture, it only takes a moment, after all. But just how was that supposed to help children? Well, it doesn’t in and of itself.

Any of you out there who think you have done your bit, you have not.

So here is the real challenge and the real campaign (as indicated on the Facebook page which originated this idea, but which most people are ignorant of):

Actually put your hand in your pocket and make a donation to some child-related charity or spend some time doing voluntary work.

Until you do that, you have done nothing.

Not quite the same

October 23rd, 2010

€0.36 - shot once... unlucky enough to get hit nine times...

Faith conquers all until it comes to bullets

September 16th, 2010

I just saw the Pope on the telly wandering around Edinburgh in his bullet-proof Popemobile.

After a little while he got out and went for a stroll among the throngs of people who had come out in their tens to see him. There were more bodyguards around him than spectators. So what is it about the Pope and bodyguards? Is his faith not strong enough? Why does he have the Swiss Guard? Why does the UK need to spend £1.5 million on security? Surely the combined prayers of the Catholics in the UK alone would be enough to keep the bullets at bay. Surely if all the faithful around the world prayed hard at the same time, potential evil-doers would be inspired by the Holy Spirit to turn themselves in at their local police station.

That’s the thing about faith. It’s all very well having God’s ear, but when it comes to the crunch, even the Pope prefers bullet-proof glass to prayer.

The Pope demonstrates his tremendous faith on his trip to the UK

Feeling crap?

August 18th, 2010

When you are feeling crap, homeopaths would have you combat the crappiness by diluting crap in water over and over until there is no crap left in the water and then drinking the water.

Wait… that’s tap water.

Drink tap water!

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