Where are we at with zombies? It's hard to keep track as zombies and vampires compete neck-and-neck for popularity. I'm leaning toward zombies being the less enticing of the two at this point, but then again I see that some of you are still watching The Walking Dead for some reason, so who knows.
Certainly we've seen our share of zombie-themed flash mobs and dance parties, and 5ks and whatnot, and at first glance The Zombie Apocalypse Disaster Preparedness Game just looks like another one of those. However, unlike 99% off all zombie-related events, there is a point:
Survival skills! That's certainly something that won't be going out of style soon, especially here, where we live everyday under the implied threat of a devastating earthquake for which the city is woefully under-prepared, and which will probably level the historic downtown building from which I write (so I'm hoping it will happen on a Saturday). Jenny is bringing her game to Portland on February 21 (from 1-4 pm beginning at Pioneer Square), and it's totally free to play as long as you RSVP. Plus you'll leave with some supplies for that preparedness kit you've been meaning to put together, as well as, hopefully, a little more confidence as we march into a dark future of increasingly extreme weather patterns. And, on a lighter note, she promises that in the event of an actual zombie related catastrophe, she has better methods than these guys:
More than three months after Multnomah County's emergency manager resigned under accusations of lengthy brunches and illegal recordings, the search is finally on for a permanent replacement. The county posted the opening on Friday, offering up $90,000-140,000 a year to the right person.
It's a good bit of money, and an ostensibly desirable position. But at least one trade publication is cautioning would-be applicants. In a posting yesterday on the website for Emergency Management magazine, blogger Eric Holdeman could only offer restrained praise for the job.
The salary looks great and the Pacific Northwest is a wonderful place to live. The only hitch I see is in the number of directors who have rotated through that position in recent years.
Don't become too enamored with the dollar signs before you open all the drawers, look behind the curtains and check out the culture and how and why there has been the number of transitions that have happened in the past in that position.
Bottom line, "Look before you leap!"
Holdeman's referencing the Mercury's reporting from August, not long after county Emergency Manager Joe Rizzi abruptly resigned from a position he'd held for just over a year and a half.
That departure was spurred by complaints from three of Rizzi's employees. Among the gripes were allegations Rizzi spent long segments of the workday brunching with his girlfriend, and that he recorded conversations with coworkers on his iPad without telling them, a potential violation of Oregon law. Following the third complaint, the county placed Rizzi on administrative leave. He resigned the $122,000/year job immediately.
Rizzi denied the allegations against him, and said he'd been unfairly demonized by an employee (Rachel Novick, wife of City Commissioner Steve Novick) who he'd recently reprimanded. He resigned, he told the Mercury, because his job had become a "political battle," and he'd had offers elsewhere.
Two of Multnomah County's last three emergency management directors have left under allegations they were unfit managers (former Emergency Manager George Whitney resigned in 2008 amid outcry and controversy). Now, as Ebola paranoia takes hold, the county's Office of Emergency Management is looking for its eighth director since 2000.
You like being trapped in very small spaces that slowly fill up with water, right? Then check out this video of British spelunkers getting caught in "the tube" inside Lost John’s Cave in Lancashire, England as water starts to rise around them. (You will start to experience panic around the 20 second mark... but hold on! Because things get WORSE.)
Something new for you skittish parents to worry about: A bouncy house in South Glen Falls either blew away or floated away with three children inside. WHAAAAAA??? From WNYT:
Three children were inside the play structure when the wind lifted the inflatable toy 50 feet into the air.
The three kids — ages 5, 6, and 10 — fell out of the toy. The two boys were seriously injured. The girl suffered minor scrapes and bruises
Parents say one boy landed on a parked car and the other landed on asphalt.
While injured children are certainly not funny, be sure to stick around for the end of this report where the anchor tries to make us believe that bouncy houses are a public menace worse than Spider-Man—which anyone would admit is kind of funny.
Australia's Studio 10 co-host Sarah Harris is helping a blindfolded dude lead a demonstration of nail guns (don't ask), when she points one at her own face and nearly pulls the trigger. Naturally, hilarious panic ensues, but eventually all is well... until she almost injures the demonstration dude, too! GET THAT NAIL GUN (AND ALL NAIL GUNS) AWAY FROM HER FOREVER, PLEASE.
When this happened three years ago—some butthole peed in the Mount Tabor Reservoir, forcing the grossed-out city decided to dump the whole thing out—everyone lost their minds. Hate mail poured in. And the city's water bureau found itself fielding calls from national comedic television programs.
I guess Portland really has changed since 2011. Because the same thing happened again this morning—except more than four times as much water will be dumped, some 38 million gallons. And now no one seems angry at all! Even though, this time there's even security video showing the moron skateboarders in action.
(How moronic are they? They wanted to climb in the very same reservoir one of their dim chums just peed in, my colleague Erik Henriksen helpfully notes. [I used italics to emphasize that point, just like Erik would!])
Anyway. You can watch it all below. The water bureau has put out the footage. And while you might be tempted to argue this is fodder for covering the reservoirs, maybe don't try. The reservoirs will be covered whether you want them to or not, because of a federal mandate. And even if that wasn't true, one jerk's pee is literally such a drop in the bucket you'd never even know you were tasting it.
Seriously, two-thirds of you just... don't worry that much about climate change? That's insane. It's like, the second con on my "SHOULD I HAVE A BABY" pros and cons list. (The first con is "don't really like babies.")
Anyway, Zadie Smith has a lovely piece in in the New York Review of Books about what people have to lose—on a personal, nostalgic level—before they really start to care about climate change:
It was easy to assume, for example, that we would always be able to easily find a hedgehog in some corner of a London garden, pick it up in cupped hands, and unfurl it for our children—or go on a picnic and watch fat bumblebees crawling over the mouth of an open jam jar. Every country has its own version of this local sadness.
Last month—despite some of the less-than-flattering things I’ve written about them—the good folks at the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) gave me a sneak peek tour of the ECC’s inner workings—and well before the official press conference this month, I might add.
Why this honor? I really don’t know. Regardless, here it is: Your look behind the zombie-proof walls and secure doors of Portland’s all-things-disaster command center.
Over the past few years, it’s safe to say I’ve become a little obsessed with researching the Cascadia subduction zone—the Northwest’s massive offshore fault, capable of spawning killer quakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater. My fascination is partly for the science, partly for the social dynamics of large disasters, and partly about infrastructure.
I can’t cross the Hawthorne Bridge without staring at the massive weights that lift its drawbridge, thinking to myself how they’ll take the whole bridge down with them once a large quake sets them swaying. Downtown has become a kind of minefield in my mind—potential piles of bricks, concrete, glass, and twisted steel. And I think about houses in my neighborhood shimmying off their foundations. (I can be a real downer at parties).
But the ECC is supposed to be different.
In the case of a major earthquake—like the Cascadia subduction zone “megathrust” quake scientists warn we could get any day now—the ECC could be the eye at the center of a storm of rubble. That’s because Portland’s buildings—from older brick and masonry to newer concrete and even some steel-framed skyscrapers—aren’t expected to fair well in a big quake. In other words: Portland will look more like Dresden after an Allied bombing. But, like I said, the ECC will (hopefully) be the exception to the rule.
The California Department of Public Health has halted shipment of the glorious rooster sauce until mid-January, for what sounds like kind of bogus reasons. "Customers are furious and restaurants are panicking!" says this alarmist teevee news report that is not at all worth waiting through the ad for. (Besides being alarmist, this video also autoplays! Teevee news, you're going after the jump.)
When I was hiking on a remote island off of Thailand, I ran into a Komodo dragon (it may have been a water monitor, but STILL). These fuckers eat people. (They eat other things, too... but as far as I was concerned at that moment, they only eat people.) Happily I reacted by screaming like a girl, which scared the crap out of the dragon which ran the other direction.
I say that to say this: I still dream about that Komodo dragon, and the following clip from a Japanese game show which depicts a woman tying a slab of meat around her waist and running from a dragon gave me PTSD. How about you? (Extra points to the woman who lured the dragon over to the also-delicious camera crew.)
For years science has been keeping a horrifying secret from us... okay, so maybe they haven't kept it a secret from you, but I didn't know anything about it until now! Anyway, that secret is DEEP SEA SQUIDS. They live deep underwater—the video below was shot at 7,500 feet—but I see no reason for them not to swim up to the top and wrap their insanely long tentacles around me now that they know I'm up here!!! From Deep Sea News (which I will never work for because GAHHHHHH!!):
They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.
Drain the oceans of their water, or by all that's holy, these bastards will strangle you in your sleeeeeeeeep!!!
Look. I've seen enough of these robot development videos to be okay with the fact that they will one day be our overlords, and will almost certainly crush my skull beneath their big metallic feet. I CAN LIVE WITH THAT. What I'm having trouble living with is that scientists are now teaching robots to cheat at "Rock, Paper, Scissors" and... what the fuck??? I have to get my head crushed AND lose at "Rock, Paper, Scissors"??? Here's the BBC report on the robot that wins at "Rock, Paper, Scissors" every stinking time:
It uses high-speed recognition and reaction, rather than prediction.
Technically, the robot cheats because it reacts extremely quickly to what the human hand is doing rather than making a premeditated simultaneous action as the rules state.
Taking just one millisecond (ms) - a thousandth of a second - to recognise what shape the human hand is making, it then chooses a winning move and reacts at high speed.
Now watch the goddamn cheating robot in action!
BOOOOOOOOO, CHEATING ROBOT! BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Oh, and South America, too! Because apparently both places now have the "pacu" fish—a relative of the piranha who delights in feasting on men's testicles. From the hilariously hyperbolic Telegraph:
The freshwater fish, which can grow up to 90 centimetres and weigh up to 25 kilogrammes, has been nicknamed the "ball cutter" for its attacks on the male genitalia.
In areas where pacus proliferate, fishermen have reportedly bled to death after losing their testicles to the fish's crushing jaws.
So why exactly do pacus go for the male testicles? Danish museum fish expert Henrik Carl explains:
"They bite because they're hungry, and testicles sit nicely in their mouth."
HAHAHAHAHAAAA!! OH YES THEY DO. Waitasecond... there's more and... WHAT?!? You're just NOW mentioning this?!?
Found in most rivers in the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America, they have also been spotted in Papua New Guinea, where it is believed they have been introduced to boost fish stocks. Discoveries have also been reported in several US states; in 2006, officials at one Texas lake reportedly put a $100 bounty on the pacu caught there.
Way to bury the lede, Telegraph! And this is EXACTLY why I wear THIS every time I go swimming. Bon appétit, a-hole fish!
I think these scuba divers take it remarkably well when a whale trying to scoop up a school of fish almost EATS THEM AS WELL. Think about this the next time you're swimming in the ocean.
You know how US Sen. Jeff Merkley has made us proud in recent days? How he's been really offended at all these new intelligence disclosures, championing the public's right to know if they're being surveilled by the government, clamoring for better congressional oversight of these things?
Well, it turns out Merkley snubbed a shot at being let in the loop last year.
According to reports from Buzzfeed (of all places) and Politico, Merkley called a meeting of top intelligence folks on Capitol Hill, who arrived promptly and were ready to brief him and other senators (Sen. Ron Wyden among them) on the legal rationale for PRISM surveillance.
But Merkley had to leave early. He was scheduled to appear on MSNBC's Hardball.
"In this case, Senator Merkley thought the meeting would be on an area that he had already been briefed on, and when conflicts arose he missed the meeting," Spokesman Jamal Raad tells Politico.
This is not to say Merkley's attention on the issue is unappreciated (he's certainly doing his job better than New York Congressman Peter King, who's calling for charges against the journalist who broke the story). After all, the senator was engaged enough in these issues to call the meeting. Just not, apparently, to attend.
(And NO, that's NOT the name of my '90s pop punk band.) Check out this news footage of a supposed UFO flying around Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano. I admit my Spanish is TERRIBLE, but I think this news report is about aliens who come to earth to commit suicide in our volcanoes. HEY ALIENS! Sorry your planet doesn't have progressive "death with dignity" laws—but can you maybe off yourselves on somebody else's planet? SHEESH!
Okay, so I just watched this video? And my PTSD from growing up in tornado alley Alabama just jumped into overdrive. This completely engrossing video was shot by a guy who witnessed the birth of the tornado that ravaged Oklahoma and took dozens of lives. At :50 you see it coming out of the sky, by 2:00 you're crapping your pants and by 3:00 your crap is crapping itself. Say what you will about the man who stuck around to shoot this, but you can't say he isn't brave. The man's son introduced this on Reddit thusly:
He was out that way for work today and just happened to be in the right place at the right time. He was worried it was going to come back at him and was searching for a way to scoot out it's way once he was able to gauge how insanely close it was to him. He hung in there, though. Unbelievable.
Unbelievable is an understatement.
Add your own below!
Look, I understand if you stopped reading all the comments we're still getting on our feature article this week ("The Sanest Arguments Against Fluoridation... And Why They're Still Wrong"), because frankly one's interest begins to wane after the 209th comment accusing us of being "bought off" by big money dental fertilizer arsenic companies. (Ummm... if that's the case... WHERE'S MY MERCEDES???)
However! Now that it's reached 330 comments (WOO-HOO!), a new player has entered the game who goes by the name of Pridge Wessea and is really causing certain people coniptions. Take it away, Pridge!
You're absolutely right Homer - I hate how the discourse on public water is so negative and sarcastic when we are talking about POISON. People look at me like I'm crazy, but there's not a single study out there that shows that water is 100% safe. People die from drinking it all the time. It doesn't have a warning label, so how do you know when drinking it you've had too much?
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both drank water and now they're dead - what further proof does anyone need?
Oh, and there's much more here. ALSO! Paul Constant made note of this comment thread over at SLOG in Seattle where they've had fluoridated water for years. Their comments about our comments are also pretty priceless.
@14: "But it's not just about hippies (and it's definetly not "Birchers"), the people making the most noise about fluoride are the younger set, the kind of people who believe in homeopathy and that vaccines cause autism. They're well organized and media-savvy."
There's no fucking difference between bircher christians and new-age antivaxers, there's a reason why both take to Scientology and Ron Paul.
—Posted by undead ayn rand
Hmmf! They would say that—they've all been paid off by fluoridated chemical fertilizer poison Desani companies, too! (Consider this unfluoridated water... CHUMMED.)
I'm going to set aside an actual discussion of the pros/cons to adding fluoride to our drinking water because that's what the good people at Clean Water Portland have done. Let's instead look at how they're trying to market their cause.
Cute kid. But that's... not how water works. This is going to come as a huge shock to you, but there's tons of stuff in water that isn't water. Including, but not limited to barium, copper, lead, arsenic (!), and fluoride. Yep. There's fluoride in your water.
The government must be using the fluoride-radio receivers they've planted in your bodies to make you create really amusing straw men on billboards.
What a coincidence. That guy just happened to use your pen to write your slogan!
Look, I'm as worried as the next guy about my kid's teeth turning into Nazis, but the word chemicals makes you sound so silly. Water is a chemical. You don't want fluoridation chemicals in your water chemicals.
I disagree with you. "You're welcome."
MORE AFTER THE JUMP!
Cue the "guess you CAN touch this" quips. Police are announcing they arrested the so-called "Hammer Pants Bandit" on Thursday, after the suspect eluded authorities for months.
According to a fresh release from the Portland Police Bureau, cops arrested 46-year-old Weston Miner Rogers at his residence on SE Aspen Summit Drive, just east of I-205. He's accused of three bank robberies in the Portland region that occurred between October and February.
Here's the thing: I'm appreciative that cops seem to take a certain amount of pride in flashy bandit names. I am. But what's the system here? Where is the overarching logic in these things?
A cursory search of PPB news releases in past several years helps illustrate my point.
"Dopey the Bandit" you may remember from earlier this year. He was connected to a spate of robberies in 2012 and 2013, and he looks literally NOTHING LIKE BELOVED DISNEY DWARF DOPEY. More like a methy, balding LeFou. Also: he (allegedly) pulled off 11 robberies in like two months. He's certainly more industrious than Dopey—obsessed as he is with silliness and mirth—would have been. Explanation from the press release: "Kehm was nicknamed 'Dopey the Bandit' after numerous Portland area robberies." Unhelpful.
There was the "Hipster Bandit," whose moniker's origins are a little more clear: He rode a bike and a witness told police he "looked like a hipster." Fair, and relatively certain to appeal to the sensibilities of a society thirsty to demonize hipsterdom in all its ever-changing faces.
And last summer came the "Bling Bandit," which the PPB didn't even try to justify, though the eventual suspect was helpfully named Ivory.
What's my point? Sometimes the names are helpful descriptors, sometimes they're bewildering, and this time around we're all in for a big disappointment. Because Weston Miner Rogers did not wear hammer pants, friends. He didn't even keep a hammer IN his pants. He (allegedly) kept it in his sleeve, pretending it was a gun.
Bureau Spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson tells the Mercury investigators come up with the names for internal reference and try to at least loosely key in on a description. That used to be solely the province of the feds, but local authorities are stepping in more and more on bank robbery cases.
"Hammer sleeve doesn't sound as catchy as hammer pants," says Simpson, who himself owned a pair in more-innocent times. "Those names are all about being catchy."
There are times in the career of any serious news man that shake one's ability to feel. I'm right there.
Once again, the fine editorial staff at the Mercury has let me write a cover story about a disaster. This new piece—which Steve Humphrey lovingly refers to as "more disaster porn”—looks at what might happen to Oregon’s communications networks when the “Big One” strikes. It also examines what Oregon telecoms are doing, or not, to prepare for a calamity we’re very likely to get any time in the next 50 to 100 years, or—given that we’re overdue for a big quake—maybe even tomorrow.
So what aren’t the telecoms doing for their buildings, which house vital equipment that routes internet and phone traffic—including 911 calls? Quite a bit, it turns out.
This includes not working with state seismic planners, and, as one person in the know told me, updating their equipment to the current quake codes only when it makes economic sense. But as the new story points out, the telecoms’ biggest earthquake liabilities are their seismically vulnerable buildings.
These are buildings that, for the most part, were built mid-century or earlier. They predate the current seismic codes. And it’s unclear what, if any, retrofitting has been done to them. In other words, what we’re talking about is a lot of really new high-tech stuff—including some equipment that’s already up to the current seismic specs—housed in low-tech shells that aren’t expected to perform well in a big quake.
In fact, they might even collapse entirely. And, experts say, it could take years to replace them and get our data-hungry communications networks even close to where they are now.
So why haven’t these buildings been updated, aside from the fact it would presumably cost the telecoms a lot of money? Well, it’s because legally they don’t have to.
According to Oregon building codes, the rule is, if an old building has been used continuously for the same purpose (“occupancy” in the lingo), the building is legally exempt from having to be upgraded to the current building codes, which started taking large earthquakes into consideration only in the 1990s.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria with the potential to cause untreatable infections pose "a catastrophic threat" to the population, the chief medical officer for Britain warns in a report calling for urgent action worldwide.
Also: "The problem of microbes becoming increasingly resistant to the most powerful drugs should be ranked alongside terrorism and climate change on the list of critical risks." One root of the problem: doctors over-prescribing, and scared patients over-demanding, antibiotics for every little thing.
Meanwhile, the CDC is warning that a new SARS-like virus has popped up in the Middle East.
From Yahoo News:
An asteroid half the size of a football field buzzed Earth in a historic flyby today (Feb. 15), barely missing our planet just hours after a much smaller object exploded above Russia, injuring perhaps 1,000 people.
The 150-foot-wide (45 meters) near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 cruised within 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) of Earth at 2:24 p.m. EST (1924 GMT) today, coming closer than many communications satellites circling our planet.
Okay, so I guess our plans for tonight are back on. Soooo... what do you want to do? I hear A Good Day to Die Hard is good.
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