Monthly Archives: December 2012

Technician Radio Class

For the last few years, we have offered Technician Class amateur radio study sessions.  The fall/winter session is typically held two nights a week for five or six weeks.  We have had as few as two students to as many as fourteen students in the class.  The fall 2012 session started with seven students pre-registered.  Prior to the first night, two students had to bail due to work obligations.  We started the class with five students.  On the second night, one of the students received a phone call and had to leave.  Unfortunately, he did not return to class.  That left four students to finish the class.  Lynx (K7SET), George (WA9TCD) and I (KCØSWX) got the students thru the five week session.

The study sessions include a practical exercise.  This is where we pair a student with a licensed ham.  The students then practice transmitting and receiving on a radio using a simplex frequency.  It helps to demonstrate radio protocol as well as giving them experience.  For some, it gets them past that initial microphone fright.

One of the regular topics has been finding an exam location.  This year, in addition to providing the testing information, we were able to offer testing to the students.  For those who were ready, we offered W5YI sponsored testing on the last night of class.  All four of the students who completed the study sessions showed up for the test.  All four students passed the Technician Class test, giving us four new hams.

Attending a study session is not required.  However, for many people it offers a more structured way of learning.  It also provides an ‘elmer’ to ask questions of and opportunities for some hands on communications.  Attending a study session does not mean you have to take the test.  But, if you’ve already put in the time to attend the study sessions and read the material, why not take that next step and test for your amateur radio license?

If you’re interested in a study session, check out O.M.E.G.A.’s training website:

End of the Universe 2.0

Mayan Calendar

Mayan Calendar

You must have seen this before, just over a decade ago.  Disheveled men with unkempt beards standing on street corners, holding up signs that read, “Repent – the end is near!”  That was the later half of 1999 and the great experiment known as humanity was coming to an end.  At the strike of midnight, just as the large crystal ball in Times Square dropped and the “2000” sign lit up, divinity itself was to cancel our lease on Earth and we would all be judged for our mortal sins.  Millions of drunks watched live television, a champagne glass in hand, waiting for that symbolic change as the calendar’s odometer rolled over from 1999 to 2000.  Nothing happened.  The strike of midnight came and went and the world remained.  Humanity was allowed to take a deep breath and move on.  It was a non-event.  Even the Y2K computer fears were largely a non-event.

Fast forward a dozen years to 2012 and those who missed the first run at apocalypse can now have a second chance.  It’s the end of the universe, 2.0, courtesy of the Mayan culture.

The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, also know and the Great Mayan Cycle, is the culprit.  It starts count on August 11, 3114 BCE and the last date on it matches up with December 21, 2012 AD.  It did not take conspiracy theorists long to come up with an update to the end of the world.  Quite clearly the Mayans knew the answer.  It’s not December 31, 1999.  It’s December 21, 2012.

The Mayans had a wacky calendar.  A count of 20 days (k’in) added up to one winal and 18 winals added up to a tun.  20 tuns was a k’atun and 20 k’atuns made up a b’ak’tun.  That makes it 144,000 k’in in a b’ak’tun (stay with me here) or in the vernacular, one era (b’ak’tun) is about 394 years and 3 months.

So why is December 21, 2012 special?  It’s an odometer rollover day, much like December 31, 1999 was in the Gregorian calendar.  The pinball machine goes tilt and the date rolls from to and the new era starts.  Astronomically this is an arbitrary non-event, but psychologically any calendar rollover is significant.

You may not see a lot of people on street corners holding up signs that read, “the end is near”, but mass panic is not all that far away.  Just Google “Mayan end of world” or “December 21, 2012” and watch the billions of results roll in.  And it’s not just internet hype.  The media is getting in on this, too.  Headlines implying that tomorrow will be very much like today just don’t get ratings.  Big bold letters superimposed on the flickering fires of hell, proclaiming the end of the world as we know it, do.

There’s an extreme fringe out there that’s predicting the literal end of the world.  With the sun approaching the solar maximum, massive flares are predicted to “cleanse the world” of all life, there’s predicted calamity with planetary alignment, increased pull from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, a collision with the mythical planet Nibiru.  Others theorize the reversal of Earth’s magnetic poles, arrival of malevolent aliens, the rise of (zombie) armies of darkness, coming of a Biblical Judgment Day, mass extinction events due to plague or pollution and many other cinematic finales to life on Earth.

The other end of the spectrum is the New Age belief of the new Mesoamerican era bringing forth physical and/or spiritual transformation.  In some theories this transformation is inherent or evolutionary, in others its divine or a gift from an alien species.  Either way, it’s a time when the human race and the entire planet are healed and a new era of peace, prosperity and environmentalism begin.

The scientific community is presented in the news as being offended by either of the extremes of the spectrum.  World renown scientists speaking out against the December 21, 2012 theories are a popular fixture on the news these days, trying to debunk the theories of how the world ends.

NASA’s public outreach site, “Ask an Astrobiologist” reports being inundated with thousands of queries regarding this subject.  Questions range from “Is the end of the world really coming?” to “When should I commit suicide to avoid a more painful death?”  Archeoastronomer Anthony Aveni responds to the doomsday predictions saying, “Unable to find spiritual answers to life’s big questions within ourselves, we turn outward to imagined entities that lie far off in space or time-entities that just might be in possession of superior knowledge.”

Mayanist scholar Mark Van Stone noted that “there is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012.  The notion of a ‘Great Cycle’ coming to an end is completely a modern invention.”

Archaeologist William Saturno adds that based on the calendar at Xultun, “the ancient Maya predicted the world would continue – that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this.  We keep looking for endings.  The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change.  It’s an entirely different mindset.”

Whether you believe in the 2012 apocalypse or refer to those who believe in it as whack-jobs, we certainly should not squander the message of preparedness.  Much as we did last year with the CDC’s Zombie Apocalypse (see our 2011 Q3 publication) message, we want to take advantage of this opportunity to remind everyone that being ready for catastrophic events also makes you ready for common every day emergencies.  Please take this article as an opportunity to review your emergency kits.  Make sure that you have supplies for all members of your family, including your pets.  Restock perishable items and add things that you may have forgotten to include or used since you packed your kit.  You can find suggestions for what a good kit would contain on the national Ready site ( or (if you’re local) Ready Colorado’s ( web pages.  And consider taking some classes that could help you get through unexpected events.  Consider a first aid or CPR course from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.  And if you want to be disaster ready, consider FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.  The classes are available free of charge in most areas across the country.  Take a look at FEMA’s Citizen Corps website ( to find training near you.

And should the end of the world predictions come true as they did in Roland Emmerich’s disaster movie “2012”, O.M.E.G.A. stands ready to deploy for our served agencies and support our communities.  Be vigilant and be safe.  And have a joyous holiday season and a happy new year!

Home and Personal First Aid

First aid is an important issue to address for everyone but especially for those of us who live in the mountains with medical help at least 15 to 20 minutes away.  I recommend that everyone take a first aid course or at a minimum have a good book on first aid in their home.  The Red Cross offers classes that include CPR.  Everyone at a minimum should know how to perform CPR (for heart attack victims) and the Heimlich maneuver (for choking victims).  I recommend you have two first aid kits, one for the home and one for travel.  When traveling or out roaming around in the wilderness it is advisable to carry a personal first aid kit and depending on the type of adventure you are planning create or buy the appropriate kit or contents to make your own.

At Home

You can buy inexpensive first aid kits for the home at Wal-Mart or more expensive ones from sporting goods stores.  There are military kits available at Army-Navy surplus stores that likewise vary in the level of medical emergencies they can address.  Most of the home kits from a Wal-Mart type store are rather simple and contain a booklet on first aid.  There are first aid kits online that can run you hundreds of dollars if you can afford the expense.  Likewise the more sophisticated kits from sporting goods stores contain an instruction booklet and list of kit contents.  Realize that a comprehensive first aid kit can be used at home or when you are out and about.  It is a matter of personal choice.

If you don’t already have a first aid kit in your home you probably have many of the contents of one scattered around the house or in a medicine cabinet.  It makes it harder to find the items you need when an emergency occurs if they are not centrally located or organized.  If you choose to make a home kit, I recommend you buy a mid to large sized fishing tackle box of the kind that has trays that automatically expand as you open the box.  Another homemade solution is one of the plastic or rubber products that have multiple transparent drawers that can be labeled and that often contain divided compartments in the trays.  Let’s look at what you might want to have in your home first aid kit.

 First Aid Books or Booklets

This will be the first and most important thing to add to your home kit.  There are a number of books to choose from and as I said some readymade kits contain booklets of basic first aid (those are the ones to choose).  You want a book that is written in a language you can easily understand and that has an index to aid in locating the conditions you need to immediately address.  The American Red Cross Standard First Aid & Personal Safety book is a good one for the less medically minded.  A first aid app, iSurvival for the iPhone is actually a copy of the Dept of the ArmyFM 21-11 First Aid for Soldiers and is quite comprehensive but easy to understand.  For those who want more than the basics there are the NATO Emergency War Surgerybook and the ST 31-91B U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Handbook (the latter manual has numerous medical terms and language that some may find challenging especially in an emergency).  The American Red Cross has an app called First Aid for the iPhone and for the android phone.  This app actually has videos imbedded to take you through critical actions like CPR.  iTriage for the iPhone is perhaps the best medical app I have come across.  It is well thought out, easy to use, and thorough.  They now have it for android phones as well.  It is one stop shopping and includes finding medical facilities and doctors near your location (GPS locator must be on), hotlines, medications, procedures, symptoms, conditions, and medical news.  The above-mentioned apps are all free.


Prescription Medications Keep a minimum of 2 weeks supplies on hand (more if you can get it) in the kit and replace them when they expire.  If disaster strikes you may need to leave quickly and this kit will contain all you need less any items that require refrigeration.  If you can get your doctor to prescribe anti-viral drugs to have on hand for influenza then do so for your whole family.  Tamiflu™ works.  I know first hand when my oldest son got the flu during a wide outbreak around three or four years ago.  I got it to him in the first twelve hours and in just a matter of four to six hours he was on his feet.  There are apps that you can download that address the detail on just about every medication.  Epocrates™ has apps for the iPhone and android phones.

Antiseptic solutions (like hydrogen peroxide or Betadine) Hydrogen peroxide may be used for minor scratches and cuts, not deep or puncture wounds.  Betadine is good for the deeper wounds.  Hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a mouthwash when diluted (not after tooth extraction).  Read antiseptic labels for cautions and uses or you may cause serious secondary injury.

Hand sanitizergel is a convenient way to wash hands to prevent the spread of bacteria when fresh water and soap are not available (and will not dry up like sanitary towelettes).

Iodine Is an antiseptic good for deeper wounds.  Some bottles come with an applicator but a cotton ball can be used to apply.

Rubbing Alcohol (or Isopropyl Alcohol) Good for disinfecting but not for deep cuts or punctures

Antibiotic Ointments (e.g. Neosporine, Bacitracin) Used to prevent infection of insect bites, minor cuts, or wounds.

Hydrocortisone (1%)or Benadryl cream for relieving itching from bug bites or skin rash.

Styptic Pencil for stopping bleeding of minor cuts.

Bandages and Dressings

Liquid band-aids for minor cuts – also acts as an antiseptic)

Adhesive tape, 1/2 inch wide

Sterile gauze pads, 4 x 4 inches (individually wrapped)

Sterile non-stick pads

Assorted size band-aids (non-stick pads)

Butterfly bandages (in lieu of stitches)

Elastic rap bandage, 3 inches wide (with clips for sprains)

Sterile gauze rolls, bandages

Triangular bandage

Cotton-tipped swabs

Sterile cotton balls

Sanitary feminine napkins (2 each – individually wrapped; can be used for major wounds)

Super Glue can be used to close major cuts or wounds  but some would not recommend it and there are several OTC brands for animals and humans (Vetbond or liquid bandage) specifically for medical uses but they are not as strong as super glue.  The super glue bandage will fall off in 2 to 3 days as the wound heals.

Antihistamines – Over the Counter (OTC)

Benadryl (25 mg capsules) for allergic reactions and bee stings and also good if you can’t take other antihistamines because they elevate blood pressure (Note: if you have serious bee sting or food reactions have your doctor prescribe an EpiPen™ to carry with you)

Other too numerous to address here but for nasal and upper respiratory allergies

Pain Relievers (OTC)

Note:There are safety issues associated with all pain medicationsso read the labels and heed before taking or giving them to others.

Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) Safe for the stomach in lieu of aspirin to relieve pain (Note: Overdosing can damage the liver; children dosages are available)

Aspirin (Note:aspirin will thin the blood so use caution particularly if you are on blood thinners. Children should not use aspirin.  Aspirin goes bad and smells acidic when it has) Aspirin is good for pain, fever, and can stop a heart attack or reduce its severity if taken immediately (the uncoated type is recommended because it will act rapidly for heart attack victims).

Excedrin is a great headache pain reliever that combines Aspirin and Tylenol with caffeine. (Note: Again understand the cautions before taking or giving this medication)

Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil or Motrin) works well for inflammation of joints and for muscle pain. (Note:Ibuprofen like aspirin will thin the blood. Never take this drug with aspirin or Tylenol)

Syrup of ipecac for poison ingestion (Note:call 911 before using)

Anti-diarrhea medication (e.g. Imodium)


Insect-repellent (Note: DEET containing products work best but read the warnings)

Burn Ointment

Eye Drops for allergies

Sun Screen (SPF 45 minimum that block UVA and UVB rays)

 Standard OTC Medicines

For cough, colds, flu, and allergies (if you have children get the children’s brands as well). Note: Benadryl is tolerated well by most people for allergic reactions when you don’t have a prescription for an EpiPen™ (see above under antihistamines)


Chemical cold/hot packs

CPR Mouthpiece (can be obtained from your local Red Cross or contained in some first aid kits)

Flashlight (Small preferably the LED type, they are brighter and batteries last longer – up to 100s of hours) and extra batteries

Nitrile or Vitrile Gloves (latex and powder free. Note: Some people are allergic to latex.  They can be purchased by the box in one-size fits all or by size.  They can dry rot when exposed to extremes of heat and cold so check them and change them out.  There are differences between these two types of gloves.  Vitrile is a blend of vinyl and Nitrile and less expensive than Nitrile only gloves.)

Magnifying Glass (power 5x to 7x)

Needles (sewing) for small foreign objects removal

Razor blades or scalpel blades

Scissors (preferably with rounded tips)

Sharp Knife (dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones because they require more force to do the job)

Thermometer (battery type for ear works for all but I recommend having standard mercury types for backup – mouth type for adultsand rectal type if you have children)

Tweezers (a good pair that you know can grip small objects the size of facial hair) a small pair and a longer larger medical pair for bigger deeper objects.

 Personal First Aid Kits for Travel

These travel kits will contain many of the same items in the home kit but what they contain will depend on what you plan on doing, how far from help or your vehicle you plan on being, and if you may be alone. For short distances from my vehicle I carry a small fanny pack size kit that contains the following items:

First aid Booklet (and an app on your phone)

Adhesive tape, 1/2 inch wide

Sterile gauze pads, 4 x 4 inches (2 each, individually wrapped)

Super Glue

Sterile non-stick pads

Assorted size band-aids (non-stick pads)


Triple Antibiotic Ointments




Benadryl (4 each, 25 mg capsules)

Leatherman Tool

The small kit I carry in my briefcase doesn’t contain some of these items because they are not allowed onboard aircraft or ships. The medications, both OTC and prescribed, are in this kit however.

 Personal First Aid/Medical Kits for Travel/Emergencies

For the long trips away from the home and deep into the wilds I carry a much more comprehensive kit based on a military corpsman’s kit (in a soft pack that fits in my back pack) with my added items. Here is what that kit contains:

First Aid Booklet (and an app on your phone)

Prescription Medications (2 weeks supply and includes oral antibiotics & eye drops)

Hand sanitizergel

Iodine (antiseptic and good for deeper wounds)

Rubbing Alcohol

Triple Antibiotic Ointments

Hydrocortisone (1%)

Styptic pencil

Water purification tablets

Salt tablets

Adhesive tape, 1/2 inch wide

Sterile gauze pads, 4 x 4 inches (individually wrapped)

Sterile non-stick pads

Assorted size band-aids (non-stick pads)

Butterfly bandages (in lieu of stitches)

Elastic wrap bandage, 3 inches wide (with clips for sprains)

Sterile gauze roll, bandages

Cotton-tipped swabs

Sterile cotton balls

Sanitary feminine napkins (2 each – individually wrapped for major wounds)

Super Glue

Quikclot and/or Celox(for major bleeder or puncture wounds)

Benadryl (25 mg capsules)

EpiPen™ (For serious allergic reactions that may lead to anaphylactic shock)

Other for nasal and upper respiratory allergies




Anti-diarrhea medication (e.g. Imodium)

Insect-repellent (DEET containing)

Burn Ointment

Eye Drops for allergies

Sun Screen (SPF 45 minimum that block UVA and UVB rays)


Flashlight – headlamp type (LED type + spare batteries)

Nitrile/Vitrile Gloves (2 pair)

N95 Mask (Particulate Filtering Facepiece)

Magnifying Glass (power 5x to 7x)

Needles and thread

Military Field Surgical Kit & Manual (contains scalpel & blades and suture kit)


Leatherman Tool

Thermometer (standard mercury – mouth type for adults)

Tweezers (longer lager medical pair).

Signal Mirror

Space Blanket

Magnesium fire starter

Cigarette lighter

Dry self-striking matches

 These kits are only of value if you keep them with you and you replace those items that expire or are consumed.  This is by no means the final answer to first aid kits and their use.  Training and preparation are just as important.  I recommend taking a First Aid and CPR course.  A checklist in the first aid kit is advised to help the user to know at a glance what is available.  I have had more than one occasion to use my kits.  The smaller travel kits for helping in a car accident once and more recently for getting a fishhook out of my own finger (that’s another story).  The home kit has had frequent use over the years for all sorts of medical needs around the house.

Be safe and be prepared and hopefully you will find it rare that you use your first aid kits!

Denver Parade of Lights 2012

The Denver 9 News Parade of Lights is an annual winter event.  Major Waddles is loved by all.  A successful parade requires a lot of volunteers, including emergency communicators.  The volunteer emergency communications personnel (hams) typically stand on various corners along the route helping with crowd control and safety.  A few walk along the route with some of the floats or bands to provide emergency communications if needed.  Many years past, the Parade of Lights felt like it was held on the coldest weekend of the year.  Standing on the corner can be a bit chilly.

Denver Parade of Lights Tiger

A three story tiger is the lead balloon in the Denver Parade of Lights. Photo by M Khaytsus.

However, 2012 was a different year for the Parade of Lights.  It was an unusually warm year.  Standing on the corner wouldn’t have been too bad.  There was also a change in assignments for the amateur radio operators.  The parade organizers wanted more ham with the floats and bands.  Fewer hams were assigned specific spots along the route.  The hams were to join up with their respective assignments in the staging area an hour before the parade step off.

On Friday night, being assigned to the Jewelry Box, Unit 27, I headed to my spot.  I found the sign marking the spot.  I saw the floats for Unit 26 as well as others closely numbered.  But, there was no Jewelry Box.  Checking, I was informed that the float would be there soon.  I hung out with the other hams waiting for the Jewelry Box to show up.  The parade started and still no Jewelry Box.  Finally, I overheard one of the parade volunteers say the Jewelry Box was at the head of the block and would merge in.  I headed towards my assignment and introduced myself to the float captain.  This was her first year captaining a float.  Most of the floats are motorized.  The Jewelry Box, however, was teenager powered.  It took four teenagers to push the float with one on each front corner to help steer it.  The float captain had fourteen high schoolers to keep track of as they pushed and danced alongside the float.  She was also responsible for making sure that they swapped out so everyone had an opportunity to push the float along the route.  The exuberance and energy of the high schoolers was great.  A few of them would go close to the crowd and tap hands of the small children.  Keeping track of them and keeping them close to the float was a challenge.  The warm weather had the teenagers actually sweating as they frolicked alongside the float.

On Saturday evening, I was once again assigned to the Jewelry Box.  Once again, due to technical difficulties, the float was not lined up, but in a nearby area getting some final tuning.  There were different high schoolers assigned to the float on the second night.  It was another warm night.  This night was a bit more eventful than the precious evening.  There was a medical emergency when a band student had an asthma attack and had left the inhaler on the bus.  The ham assigned to the band, called for medical assistance and stayed with the student until the professionals arrived providing medical assistance and transportation.  The band happened to be near my assigned float. I talked briefly to one of the chaperons letting her know if further assistance was needed, I could assist until their assigned emergency communicator returned.  I also provided a quick status of the student.

Denver Parade of Lights Santa

Santa, on his majestic float, is the last float in the mile long procession. Photo by M Khaytsus.

The warmer than normal weather was also playing havoc with the generators powering the floats and lights.  A number of the floats lost some of their lights.  All minor issues, nothing that kept the parade from going forward.

If you’ve never seen the Parade of Lights, it is an experience that everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.

Hope to see you next year.

Flight for Life SAR Conference

A conference held in Breckenridge September 14-16 gave local search and rescue members, ski patrollers, and EMS personnel great opportunities for continuing education and skills practice in a mountain setting.  Flight for Life hosted the conference at the Colorado Mountain College campus in Breckenridge.

The weekend began with optional pre-conference workshops in low- and high-angle rope rescue of patients in exposed areas.  In the high-angle rope access course, all were able to rotate through four stations: lowering, belay, patient, and rescuer.  Each station was assigned an instructor for safety and immediate feedback.  A rescuer lowered to the patient, provided first aid care, tied the patient into the main rope system, and both descended to the base of the approximately 70-foot rock wall.  The location was minutes from Frisco and a short hike, yet provided all the exposure and difficulty needed on a beautiful fall afternoon.  Participants came prepared with climbing gear, boots, and packs, but loaner gear was available.  Previous climbing experience was helpful, but rescue experience wasn’t necessary.

Saturday morning revealed about 30 attendees for the conference.  Flight for Life staff introduced Charley Shimanski as the keynote speaker.  Mr. Shimanski is the current senior VP of the American Red Cross disaster services.  He left Colorado after 27 years with Alpine Rescue and is the past president of the Mountain Rescue Association.  The talk covered several major disaster responses worldwide in the past few years including Haiti and Joplin, MO.  One striking fact was that, despite large-scale responses by well-trained teams, the majority of rescues are made by local people helping neighbors.  This is primarily due to fast access to the scene.

Remaining topics for the morning were a case review of a climber rescue on the Sawtooth ridge between Mts. Bierstadt and Evans in June 2012; head and neck injury management, finding balance between patient/rescuer safety, time, and adequate patient care; and wilderness trauma transport decisions.  Incidents from Colorado and New Mexico illustrated the key points.  The group was split for afternoon skills sessions on difficult airways, head and neck stabilization, trauma patient care, and bleeding and wound management.  Stations reinforced teamwork and decision-making while rotating groups in an efficient manner.  The day closed with a lively dinner at the Salt Creek Steakhouse in Breckenridge.

Flight for Life

Flight for Life crew member explains flight procedures. Photo by A Shambarger.

Kevin Kelble, Summit County Flight for Life paramedic, began Sunday’s session with an overview of helicopter safety, capabilities, and landing zones.  The FFL Lift Ticket program allows limited SAR and ski patrol personnel to be flown into search or rescue areas with difficult or time-dependent access.  Avalanche searches can also be expedited by FFL with an external beacon receiver.  Outside, we were briefed on operating around and in the Lifeguard II helicopter and received our Lift Ticket cards.  Annual refreshers are required.


Grand County SAR dog Taz ready for take off in Lifeguard II. Photo by A Shambarger.

Mock Rescue

Team briefing for mock rescue. Photo by A Shambarger.








The conference culminated with a mock rescue on Swan Mountain of climbers near a campground.  Two teams independently accessed their patients, performed triage and immediate first aid, constructed lowering rope systems, set up landing zones, and evacuated the most critical patient to the waiting helicopter.  The diverse skill sets within teams allowed members to use the skills they were most comfortable with to contribute to the rescue.  It was a challenging environment to put all we had learned to the test.

The quality and reasonable cost of this conference made it well worth the time invested.  This was the second edition of the FFL SAR conference in Breckenridge, with the hopes of keeping it an annual event.  Participation by anyone interested or working in wilderness medicine, ski patrol, and search and rescue is encouraged.


More info on Flight for Life, the Colorado Mountain College wilderness EMS program, and the conference: