Monday, June 28, 2010

Does This Smell Oily to You?

"An expressive bouquet, sassy and complex, with elements of slate, sea breeze, and benzene."

Federal seafood inspectors are checking fish and shrimp for oil contamination by smelling them. Um... 'Kay.
"We train people to ... fine-tune their sense of smell to the oil and dispersants from this particular spill ... A panel of 10 expert assessors will smell each of the raw samples and record the odor. The samples are then cooked, and the process is repeated so that the experts may smell and taste the fish in its cooked state."
Fish that passes these tests does get sent for further chemical testing, so we don't have to worry about being poisoned if an inspector has a cold. Still... That must be a heckuva job: professional fish sniffer.

Update: I just noticed in that last line, "smell and taste the fish." So even without crude oil issues, they're eating fish to find out if it's spoiled. Yep, a heckuva job.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sit-Along Cassidy

Just finished my sit-along at the Montgomery County 911 call center. Interesting and educational, but just my luck, no chases or fun stuff.

[Thick accent, barely intelligible English] "My neighbor won't let me park in front of his house. But I'm on the street." "Sir, what is he doing to stop you from parking there?" "He says I can't." "Sir, the street is county property, so you can park there." "But what if he calls me poopy-pants?" "Then you say, 'sticks and stones...'"

OK, I made up that last bit.  But people arguing (quietly & w/o violence) was a significant percentage. "I need you to send an officer. The towing company won't give my son his car, and they're being sarcastic and obnoxious..."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Idiot Terrorists, Part 3

The new issue of The Atlantic has an article about incompetent terrorists -- clearly inspired by DisasterMan's blog posts. :-) They cite the same incidents described in DM's Idiot Terrorists, Part 1 and Part 2, and also provide a few more fun facts.
The Case for Calling Them Nitwits’s fair to say that the Taliban employ the world’s worst suicide bombers: one in two manages to kill only himself. And this success rate hasn’t improved at all in the five years they’ve been using suicide bombers, despite the experience of hundreds of attacks—or attempted attacks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Sky Could Fall. Seriously.

[Update: Video added. Click "Read more" to view.]

A NASA-funded study found that a solar flare the size of one that occurred in 1921 could leave 130 million people without power, and cause a collapse of the power infrastructure in the Northwest, Midwest and most of the East Coast.

Similar to the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by nuclear weapons, a geomagnetic storm could induce currents that fry anything electrical. In 1989, a storm melted transformers and knocked out power for 6 million people in Quebec. The one in 1921 is estimated to have been 10 times stronger, and it knocked out all communications east of the Mississippi.