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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And Now For An Important Announcement

    Last week we all watched the progress of Hurricane Earl.  Everyday and for 24 hours every day we were given television and radio updates every ten minutes on the progress of the storm.  First it was a category 4.  Then a category 3.  Then a 2 and back to a 3 and I guess at the end a category zero if there is such a thing.  By the way, and this is an aside, for those of you say aged 50 and over.  Was there such a thing as "The Hurricane Season" years ago?  Seems to me that the hurricane "Season" is relatively new.  Twenty, thirty years ago we just had hurricanes... I think.  Anyway, while tracking the storm it seemed to be very important to the meteorologists that I know what the current category of the storm was as if I would know the difference.  I mean I get that a 5 is more intense than a 1 but I think most of us would have difficulty defining the difference between a 2 and a 3.

    For tornadoes there is also a ranking scale known as the Fujita scale or F-scale (thank God for Google).  Tornadoes can range from an F-0 to an F-5 and after studying the charts a little I'll be damned if I could explain with any certainty the difference between an F-3 and an F-4.

    Then we have earthquakes that are explained to us using the Richter Scale.  Here is an explanation of the Richter scale that I copied and pasted from a USGS web site, "The magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by seismographs. Adjustments are included for the variation in the distance between the various seismographs and the epicenter of the earthquakes. On the Richter Scale, magnitude is expressed in whole numbers and decimal fractions.   Because of the logarithmic basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole number step in the magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value."

    I don't know if that clears things up for any of you but I'm not sure if anticipating a 5.7 earthquake as opposed to a 5.5 would change my plans for the day.  Hell, most people don't believe their bathrooms scales let alone some guy named Richter.  I guess it really doesn't matter anyway since they never tell you the number until after it's already over.

    We also have ways for measuring things other than natural disasters.  For example, burns can be first, second, or third degree.  I think I have a sense for what a first degree burn is and I don't even want to think about what a third degree burn is but be honest, without cheating (Googling), how many of you can explain the technical difference between a first degree burn and a second degree burn?

    And the craziest system ever invented is the color alert system invented by some knucklehead in the Department of Homeland Security.  How many of you know the difference between, and more importantly know what you should be doing differently, when we have a green alert level as opposed to a yellow alert level?  How many of you know if green is even one of the colors?  Honestly, they should just make a separate Google key for all keyboards.  Actually there are five levels with red being the highest alert level and proceeding down through orange, yellow, blue, and green.  At least they could have put blue and green in the correct order and added an indigo and violet category but hey, it's already useless enough.

    Imagine this scenario.  You are driving along at 75 MPH with 5,000 or so other semi-attentive drivers on a certain section of Route 80.  All of a sudden all 5,000 of you simultaneously hear on the radio that the Department of Homeland Security has just changed the threat level to green.  There would be accidents all over the place.  People would be trying to Google on their iPhones, calling their cell phone providers to get instant internet service, texting friends and family members to find out what code green means.  All Hell would break loose and all because we went to a lower threat level.

    In an attempt to remedy all the confusion I am proposing that instead of assigning different scales for measuring the seriousness of different events and instead of developing scales based on complicated formulas we should simply explain the seriousness of all events in plain language that everyone will understand.  I therefore propose that we start with may get your attention and proceed through check your insurance, be wearing clean underwear, say your prayers, and of course you all know what the last one should be but my wife does not like me putting the "F-Word" in print.

    Now let's compare the response that would result using my system instead of the current ones by returning to the road trip on Route 80.  All 5,000 semi-attentive drivers at 75 MPH would simultaneously hear "And now for an important announcement.  The Department of Homeland Security has changed the threat level to wear clean underwear".  There would be no panic.  No one would be searching for their iPhone at 75 MPH.  There would be no reason to text a loved one.  Instead, everyone would simply exit the highway at the next Walmart exit, go inside, and purchase new underwear.  Simple.  Clear.  That's the way it should be.

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