I've been kind of irked lately at all the hand-wringing, particularly here in California, about the radiation coming from Japan. I'm a cautious chap, but it seems to me people get in a tizzy over the most irrational things. I shall cite a few examples from my own experience in years past.
Twenty years ago, there was a fire in the hills near Oakland, California. It was a pretty big fire, and it lasted a couple of days. I found out later than a friend's mother doused her roof with water as a preventative measure.
If this mother lived in the midst of the fire, sure, I could understand the precaution. But her house was at least ten miles away, as indicated by the arrow below:
So I was bugged on two levels: (1) by the sheer stupidity of trying to prevent one's house catching on fire when the likelihood of a meteor striking the house was greater than the very distant fire spreading that far; (2) the waste of water. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Since we get earthquakes here from time to time, another pet peeve of mine is the aftermath of a moderate earthquake. Invariably, two things happen:
(1) Utter morons call 911 to ask if there was an earthquake; I fervantly believe there should be a $75 surcharge, charged directly to one's phone bill, for making a 911 call that isn't an emergency. Simple, effective, and revenue-generating.
(2) The next day's newspaper is filled with accounts of what people said the earthquake felt like. "It was a jolt"……….."First it was a shake, then it was a rolling motion"………."It was like my wedding night." I mean, for God's sake, I don't need to read what an earthquake feels like, anymore than I need to know that a hurricane is windy and rainy.
I remember back in 1995, my wife and I were in Hawaii, and an earthquake struck in the Western Pacific. The tidal wave sirens shrieked, and everyone waited for the very specific time that the tidal wave came to obliterate the coastline. The appointed time came………everyone was on the high ground……….and the tidal wave came. It measured, I was told, at three inches high. How they could discern this from the regular wave action is beyond me, but thank God we were spared the ravages of a three-inch tall tsunami.
This all came to a head for me when I heard a friend had taken his entire family to "high ground", away from Palo Alto, because of the incoming tsunami. The arrow below indicates Palo Alto's location relative to the Pacific Ocean – – it's about twenty-five miles or so. Added to which, there are 1500 foot tall hills between here and there. I suppose if a 2,000 foot high wave were coming, evacuation might make sense, but in this case – – how shall I say this kindly? – – the act was unnecessary.
And the latest, of course, is the mania over iodine, which people are satisfying by buying out whole inventories of salt. This is a whole new level of idiocy. Unless you are right there in the midst of the radiation, and unless you consume huge quantities of salt, it's not going to help you. And even if it does, it only addresses a very specific kind of cancer. It's not like eating lots of salt prevents you being affected by radiation.
I'll wager that there will be hundreds of deaths – maybe even thousands – from hypertension-induced heart attacks caused by wolfing down all this salt – and not a single, solitary human life will be saved due to its intended medicinal effects. Isn't that ironic? People are literally killing themselves in order to give themselves a misplaced sense of security. I suppose people yearn to feel proactive.
Do you want to be safe? I'll tell you how to be safe. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don't drink and drive. Keep a close eye on your kids when they're swimming. Don't go out driving on New Year's Eve. Don't keep loaded firmarms in the house. Stay away from bad neighborhoods. Avoid walking alone.
But spritzing your roof for a fire that's not within eyesight? Going to higher ground for a 5-foot wave that's thirty miles from here? Choking down salt that won't do you any good? No.