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Last month, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) was dining at Charlie Palmer Steak House - that echt-D.C. eatery - when a fellow patron started choking on her meal. According to the Napa Valley Register, Thompson noticed the diner's contortions, hung up his cell phone and rushed to administer the Heimlich. After four or five thrusts, the offending bit of food was dislodged and the woman's life saved. For his gallantry, the Congressman was rewarded with items in Washington's Roll Call newspaper and the Internet-only gossip sheet Wonkette. The Register, based near Thompson's home town, picked up the story a week later. It noted that this was the second time he had applied the maneuver; the first, also successful, was at a Napa Valley wine auction sometime in the 1990s. The Register also solicited the Congressman's money quote on the Charlie Palmer incident: "Anybody else in our district would have done the same thing." ... Anyone? In point of fact, most of us would have stood around trying to recall the lessons from our sixth grade health and safety classes while wondering what we were doing in Charlie Palmer's in the first place. Kooky coincidence: Just as Thompson was rushing to the aid of one of his colleagues' constituents, The New Republic - that echt-D.C. magazine -- featured a long piece on the strange, sad career of the maneuver's father, Dr. Henry Heimlich. In his late years, the great man has apparently fallen into fringe medicine, deliberately infecting his patients with malaria in an attempt to cure them of AIDS, cancer, Lyme's disease...

Elsewhere in the world, the first weekend in May is an occasion for Dionysian debauchery, or else a chance to suffer through tedious speechifying on the great class struggle. There will no doubt be elements of both this weekend in Humboldt County, but we were somewhat surprised to discover that the true theme of the beginning of May is: Geek Week. In case you haven't heard - and why would you have? - it's braniac blowout here in the greater Humboldt Bay area, as a whole harmonic convergence of events brings all the geeks, nerds and generally smart people out of the woodwork for a can't-miss weekend of revelry. Here's to you, nerds. First up: The 3rd Annual Broadband Forum, which runs today (Thursday, May 3) from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Arcata Community Center. You're going to be hearing from local members of Gov. Schwarzenegger'sbroadband task force and from tech business leaders here in Humboldt County during this all-day event. No doubt you'll also be brought up to speed on all the latest Suddenlink jokes. (P.S. Switch to Linux.) After that, you'll want to hightail it straight to the Wharfinger building, because this year's Economic Fuelchallenge is coming to a close with its fabulous awards bash. For people such as ourselves - terminal disappointments to our families - it's pretty easy to sneer at Economic Fuel, that vaguely Donald Trump-esque business plan competition sponsored by Eureka zillionaire Rob Arkley and his crew. But even layabouts have to hand it to the Fuelers for giving these up-and-coming go-getters - Humboldt State and College of the Redwoods students, mostly - a little boost when they need it most. Besides, the Fuel provides a fascinating little window into the collective mind of Humboldt County. This year's finalists include entrepreneurs who want to build: a free-range chicken farm, an algae farm, a mobile vegetarian sushi eatery, a geotechnic firm specializing in the study of earthquakes via photography and an empire of low-cost gas stations placed on Native American lands. On Friday, it's a different flavor of wonkery as the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce hosts a "Heritage and Culture" tourism workshop at Eureka's Eagle House. The whole idea is to boost area revenue by tapping into the "culture tourism" trade, which is like the '90s "ecotourism" fad but with history instead of ecology. The push is afoot to get the entire Redwood Coast designated as a "National Heritage Area," so as to better attract the rubes. There'll be people from all over the north state coming to this one, as well as locals from the Wiyot Tribe, the future Humboldt Botanical Gardens and the super-smart folks behind the Timber Heritage Association. Finally, today (Thursday, May 3) is the last day to register for the local Mensa chapter's High IQ testing, which happens Saturday morning. You'll be coming down off a two-day bender, so remember: hot coffee, big breakfast and if you can eliminate one of the options, it pays to guess.

Simon Frech, you just made my life a whole lot easier, and I suspect I'm not alone. Radio station KMUD, your essential SoHum community media resource, just capped off its spring pledge drive in a big way ($85,000 raised). And boy, does the station ever know how to give it back to the community! Sometime right before pledge week, KMUD unveiled its brand-spanking-new web site, with a whole bunch of brand-spanking-great new features. We're talking news updates, a community bulletin board and a dangerous new system that threatens to further inflate the already bloated blogosphere. But the real news is: podcasts! Now you can get the KMUD news, as well as numerous other shows, anytime and anywhere. KMUD news director Estelle Fennell and her crew put out the most important half-hour of broadcast news in the county, but for some (for me, anyway) neither the 6 p.m. show or the 8 a.m. rebroadcast is terribly convenient. Frech, the station's technical director, has long dreamed of archiving the program on the World Wide Intertubes; now that dream is a reality. Now you can season any meal with a sprig of Fennell - breakfast, lunch, dinner, elevenses. On your computer, on your MP3 player. There's still some kinks to be worked out. For a while, the automatic podcast feeds pointed to the wrong place, making the podcasts unusable. But this was quickly fixed. So cruise on over to the KMUD website - kmud.org - and take a walk through their offerings. If you like, you can stream your favorite music show or manually download your favorite talk show. While that big bad baby downloads, you can check out some of the other shows on offer - Thank Jah It's Friday!, Women on Wednesday, the South Fork High School News -- and you can tithe to the MUD with your credit card or PayPal account. Give 'til it hurts, then give a tiny bit more.

Glorious victory was ours once again this year, as the North Coast Journal walked away with a whole bunch of prestigious prizes in the California Newspaper Publisher Association's "Better Newspapers Contest." For the second time in three years, the NCJ completely owned the "Environmental Reporting" category in our circulation class, with back-to-back stories by freelancer Jim Hight ("Peter and the Fuel Cell," Aug. 17) and Arts Editor Bob Doran ("How Green is My Plastic," Aug. 24). Yours truly brought home an award for "Investigative or Enterprise Reporting" for a piece on Eureka's Balloon Track ("On Different Tracks," March 16). Staff writer Helen Sanderson chipped in with a couple of pieces recognized as "Blue Ribbon Finalists" - one for investigative reporting ("Suits & Scrubs," April 6) and one for feature writing ("The Broken Boy," Nov. 9). It's a bit ridiculous and somewhat shameful, but all things being equal I guess we'd rather win than not win.

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Hank Sims

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