February 1, 2009

Microwave disaster

MY LOCAL newspaper says the Coast Guard and NOAA are no longer monitoring 121.5 MHz EPIRBs from February 1, 2009. The modern frequency for Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons is 406 MHz only.

“The switch is a boon for rescuers,” says the paper. “They have responded to thousands of false alarms generated by microwave ovens, ATMs, sports scoreboards, and other sources of analog electronic clutter. Currently, only two in 1,000 of the analog alerts are real.”

Meanwhile, we take you to Coast Guard headquarters, where the scene is one of cool but frantic energy.

Cmdr. Bornt Olose: “A Mayday, you say?”
Lt. Harmo Nica: “Yessir, just in on 121.5 MHz. A microwave again.”
Olose: “God, not another one. That’s the fourth this week.”
Nica: “Yessir, engaged in heating pizza, 12 miles southwest of Prominent Point.”
Olose: “How many slices on board?”
Nica: “Two, sir.
Olose: “Ages?”
Nica: “Two days, sir. Came from a college dorm.”
Olose: “Are they wearing lifejackets?”
Nica: “Negative, sir. Couldn’t find any that fit.”
Olose: “Damn fools. How did this happen?”
Nica: “Accidentally switched on high, sir. Overheating. Likelihood of fire.”
Olose: “Fire, you say?”
Nica: “Yessir, the cheese is melting already.”
Olose: “My god, we have no time to lose.”
Nica: “What shall we send, sir?”
Olose: “A cutter, of course.”
Nica: “A pizza cutter, sir?”
Olose: “Negative, you idiot, a Coast Guard cutter — no, wait. A fireboat.”
Nica: “But the salt water will ruin the pizza, sir.”
Olose: “Tell them to take two cases of beer. Squirt it on. Beer and pizza go well together.”
Nica: “New message coming through, sir.”
Olose: “What’s it say?”
Nica: “They’re sinking.”
Olose: “Omigod.”
Nica: “They opened the door to let the smoke out.”
Olose: “Damn fools. Do they have a liferaft?”
Nica: “Only a half-eaten packet of crackers, sir.”
Olose: “Too bad, we’ll never get there in time.”
Nica: “No, sir.”
Olose: “Well, we can’t win ’em all, lieutenant.”
Nica: “What’ll we tell the Press, sir?”
Olose: “Just say we participated in an unfortunate maritime culinary event with terminal consequences.”
Nica: “But they don’t understand those big words, sir.”
Olose: “Exactly, lieutenant . . . now what’s this I hear about an ATM drifting onto the rocks?”

Today’s Thought
Life is short, the art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult. —Hippocrates, Aphorisms.

A serious thought for today
Is one that may cause dismay:
Just what are the forces
That bring little horses
If all the big horses say "Neigh?"

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