Category Archives: Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty

Looper Hype Picks Up Speed

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

Greetings civilians!

It’s a great day to be alive, and an even better day to stay alive. January, the most frightening month, is nearly over! Which means (to me), that things can only get better from here, unless they get worse.

This, as you know, is my mantra, though I’m reconsidering it at the moment. I’ve heard that chanting the same phrase over and over again can dry out your vocal cords. That’s not good! Maybe all mantras are a health threat. Perhaps I should downgrade this to a simple motto or a mere saying.

I’m checking in with you today to bring your attention to some very alarming news out of California and Texas – two vast places where accepted standards of behavior tend to be the opposite of cautious. These are very troubling states.

In Hawthorne, California, a big construction firm plans to build a test track for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. This is the tube-based 800 mph transit system that promises to get people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes.

I’ve warned you about this in the past. I’ve warned you about everything at one time or another.

But this Hyperloop thing has picked up some extra steam of late, I say that knowing full well that if steam were actually involved in propelling the thing it would be even more frightening!

In addition to the test track, there is a competition going on this very day at Texas A&M University where 120 college and high school teams are vying to design a “pod” that would rocket people through this tube.

"Albert Robida - The Twentieth Century - Pneumatic Tube Train" by Albert Robida - Albert Robida's The Twentieth Century (1882). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
“Albert Robida – The Twentieth Century – Pneumatic Tube Train” by Albert Robida – Albert Robida’s The Twentieth Century (1882). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Some folks find this notion admirable and exciting. But I think asking teenagers and twenty-somethings to design a vehicle that I might ride in someday will yield concepts that are absolutely terrifying!

After all, we’re talking about an age group that enjoys roller coasters! They are famous for believing they will live forever and nothing bad can happen to them. And have you ever looked at the back seat of a car that has been driven around by high schoolers for a day? Don’t! They have no concept of cleanliness or order. The possible negative outcomes of tossing a half-eaten slice of pizza over your shoulder is something that simply cannot be considered by a teenage driver when there is a new tweet to read or send.

They are creatures of the modern era, which means they have no historical awareness that dignity and travel can co-exist. These are the people designing your conveyance of tomorrow! Why am I not enthused? It’s all about temperament, priorities and expectations.  Look for USB ports, recliners and cup holders. Don’t hold your breath for designs that include cushions, headroom or bathrooms.

Where is the Hyperloop Pod design competition bringing together the best plans of senior citizens, nurses, nannies, worrywarts, baby carriage safety inspectors and worst-case scenarists? These are the people who have the kind of safety smarts that could lead to a sensible, comforting design – something close to my ideal Hyperloop Pod – which is one that’s securely bolted to the tube so it cannot move!

The leading concepts produced today may travel on the test track before the year is out. I fear I know exactly what they will be like, in the same way you can be assured that when you climb into a sealed tube, you’ll eventually be spat out at the other end!

Yours in Safety,

What do you need to have in your long-distance traveling compartment?

The “Safe Fun” Paradox

Header image by Manuel QC via Creative Commons 

Today’s post comes from obsessive risk management enthusiast Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease civillians!

But as you take your ease on this Memorial Day, you MUST remember to stay alert to all safety risks that come with holiday fun.  

Personally, I’m against holidays for this very reason!  The very word “holiday” carries an expectation that the day will include some kind of unique, ecstatic experience.

This is exactly the sort of thing that can get you in trouble, safety-wise.  That’s why I’m much more comfortable with days “on”  rather than days “off”.

Boring?  Sure!  So?

The soul-killing drudgery of day-to-day work is great for depleting energy that might otherwise send you spinning off into activities that are questionable and possibly dangerous.

Firecrackers, speed boats, canoes, frisbees,  ATV’s, softballs, bats, fishing hooks, volleyball nets and water skis are just a few of the expected summer holiday accessories that I find alarming.

Beyond that, I question all the assumptions made around the holiday tradition of “grilling”.

The idea that a man who only cooks two meals a year will suddenly be able to prepare massive quantities of thoroughly cooked food over an open flame strikes me as questionable.

That he will be able to handle all that meat safely and cook it properly while drinking a succession of beers is, in a word, preposterous!

Beer and flames do not go together.  Ever!

I don’t know what Memorial Day plans you have made, but  staying on dry land, properly belted, with ample head protection, and eating in state-inspected establishments using properly maintained and not-too-sharp utensils sounds like great fun to me!

Safely & Securely,

What are YOUR holiday plans?

Are You A Good Driver?

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty, a public official obsessed with everyday hazards and  minimizing risk.

At ease civilians!

Be at ease, but always be aware of your surroundings, because most things that are called “accidents” are anything but accidental!

I learned that saying back when I was studying for my BSIC (Bathtub Safety Inspection Certificate).

The bathroom is the single room in any house that is most prone to be the site of injury and distress, and as a licensed inspector I had to learn all the different ways there are to fall in a tub.

Most of them involve soap, and soap is not an autonomous actor in bathtub-injury scenarios.  By that I mean soap does not introduce itself into events – it is introduced by someone – usually a party to the action.

I learned that when questioning participants in any bathtub-injury-incident, the whereabouts and disposition of the soap is absolutely key to assigning liability.

Yes, liability.

We were trained to view this statement, “I slipped and fell in the tub, it was an accident,” as the beginning of an investigation, not the end.

That’s why I was alarmed to read several mainstream press accounts of yesterday’s publication in the journal “Nature” of studies examining an ancient collision in space that led to the formation of our moon.

It seems that a proto-planet named Theia collided with our still-forming Earth, and the debris from that impact, rather than just lying around in the intersection and the road ditches as it does in modern-day car crashes, congealed to shape the orb we know as The Moon.

The scientific studies computer-modeled many scenarios to figure out how two lumps of similarly  composed planet-stuff might run into one another.

But nowhere in any of the articles did I see any consideration of which proto-planet was to blame!  It is JUST ACCEPTED that they crashed.  End of story.  Don’t ask questions.

But I say NO!  Questions must be asked and blame must be assigned!

  • Were they headed in the same direction when one planet collided with the other from behind?
  • Was one planet trying to make a left turn and happened to  misjudge the speed of the oncoming sphere?
  • Was a planet trying to get across a busy orbit without looking both ways?

“Water under the bridge,” you might say.  Or “It happened hundreds of millions of years ago – who cares?”

But in taking that attitude, we automatically absolve the parties, shrug,  and accept that it can happen again.

That may be a comfortable place for you, but I, for one, am not ready to re-live (for the first time), the cataclysmic collision of sister planets.

Blame must be assigned!

Yours in safety,

Are you a good driver?

Death and Testing

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease, Civilians!

But while at ease, be sure to stay alert vis-à-vis the signs of an impending heart attack, which everyone should have tattooed on the backs of their eyelids so they don’t forget.

Now that I’ve said that, please also don’t get anything tattooed on the backs of your eyelids! The very idea is gross and dangerous, and you’ll lose sleep, which is unhealthy. I’m not sure why I said it, except that I figured it’s probably something nobody would ever do. My mistake.

I realize there are people who will do anything.

Which is why I’m here. I want to warn you against taking any easy tests that others claim will tell you how long you are going to live.

And yes, that includes the Sitting Rising Test. Especially that one.

If you haven’t seen it, the Sitting Rising Test scores your ability to go from a standing position to fully seated on the floor and then back to standing again. You lose points for using your arms to steady yourself and it also lowers your score if you happen to lose your balance anywhere along the way.

The lower your score, the sooner your toes will likely be permanently pointed skyward.

That’s bad enough! As a rule of thumb, you should never tell people they’re going to die, even though we all are aware that everybody is going to die! There is nothing useful that can come from it.  But when I saw this video of how the test is administered, I was astonished!

As a Bathtub Safety Officer, I must always consider FIRST how dangerous an activity might be IF performed in the bathtub, and I can tell you for certain this one is sure to leave the imprint of a faucet in your forehead.

Do not do the Sitting-Rising test in your tub or shower! There is too much bad footing and too many hard surfaces all around. Plus, the instructions are in Portuguese, which is disorienting. And I believe Rio is a very easy city to get mugged in, which is just another way to fall down and hit your head. In fact, I believe the whole sitting-rising test movement is just an elaborate scheme to get everyone winded and stretched out on the floor so our pockets can be picked.

Anyway, that’s what happened to me when I tried it, minus the pocket-picking part.

Instead, you can take my own trademarked Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty Longevity Test – it’s very accurate and quite simple because you only have to answer one question. Here it is:

Are you the sort of person who will do something because a lot of people are talking about it on the Internet?

If you said “Yes,” I’m fairly confident you’re going to die quite soon!

Yours in Safety,

I took the Sitting-Rising test and almost fell down. Then I took the BSOR test and became so concerned, I’m shocked to have lived long enough to even tell you about it! But all of this is quite pointless, since I’m certain I would not want to know the date of my death. I have enough stuff cluttering my calendar as it is – adding a rendezvous with the Grim Reaper would really put a dent in my week. Not to mention the week after!

How do you keep track of your appointments?

Loop Fruits

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease, civilians! But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security!

And as I say that, I realize it’s redundant because “false” is the only “sense of security” brand on the shelves these days.

Nothing is secure!

Look at what an isolated foreign potentate was able to do without leaving his hermit kingdom – he cancelled our plan to go to the movies! That’s a level of meddling in the personal entertainment lives of Americans that I thought was reserved only for the FBI or the Mall of America Police.

And now comes word that there are people actually working in an organized way to try to build Elon Musk’s extremely scary Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system akin to those pneumatic tubes that they use to move money, paperwork, and out-of-ink pens back and forth from the bank’s drive-up teller to your car.

As your Bathtub Safety Officer, I’ve made it clear I’m totally against this idea.

As I said in my earlier post:

“Even if everything is OK on the journey from point A to point B, what about the people who handle the tube when it arrives at its destination? During the heyday of pneumatic office communication, the weak link always happened in the basement where all the tubes ended and various boobs and imbeciles fumbled to open the capsules and spilled the precious contents onto a dank cement floor. Or at least that’s how I picture it.”

The Hyperloop planners have considered this very thing, and according to the above article, they’ve lavished their attention on the sticky problem of what happens when Hyper-pod arrives at its station.

“So the team decided on what it calls a ‘bubble strategy.’ There’s the swanky capsule, the one with fancy doors and windows, that pulls into the station. It’s the ‘bubble.’ Passengers get in, and that capsule enters an outer shell as it’s loaded into the tube. The outer shell is built to handle the ride, and has the air compressor and other needed bits.”

Now I’m even more concerned. The thought of riding in a “bubble” that’s inside an “outer shell” that goes 800 miles per hour gets me thinking about the metal ball rattles around inside cans of spray paint.

No illustrations needed!

I have been told that I sometimes over-react to threats that are not real.

Maybe the Hyperloop is one of those cases and nothing will come of it. There are so many potential obstacles to the establishment of system that promotes human travel-by-tube, it will probably not happen in our shockingly brief lifetimes. Earthquakes, rising ocean levels or killer bees could quickly take take this, and every other option, off the table.

Or maybe with the growth of the internet and fully immersive high-definition virtual realities, the whole idea of physical travel to distant locations will begin to seem quaint. We may decide that going anywhere at all is not only too risky – it’s unnecessary.

Especially when you consider how easy it is to keep us from going to the movies!

Yours in Safety,

What does it take to keep you at home?

Love Storm, Revisited

This morning at 9am, my good friend Mike Pengra will re-air the final broadcast of MPR’s Morning Show on Radio Heartland, recorded 6 years ago today.

Such a kind gesture from a true gentleman!

Since it’s only good manners to bring a gift of some sort to a party, I’ll offer this – a post from the old “Trail Balloon” blog that immediately followed the event itself:

Our final Morning Show broadcast was an immense hug and a truly beautiful thing thanks to the waves of faithful listeners who flowed to and through the Fitzgerald Theater and St. Paul’s Central Presbyterian Church. The size of the crowd went well beyond our expectations (I wagered 1500) and their warmth was off the charts.

As a lifelong radio guy, I am naturally timid at the thought of facing a live audience, but this group was as comfort-inducing as any collection of 2000 souls can be. What’s the opposite of an unruly mob? A ruly mob, I guess. That’s what we had.

All the heartfelt words of praise for our Morning Show were oh so welcome, but after awhile I did begin to feel a bit guilty. Let’s face it, everybody works hard and the stress of day-to-day living takes a toll. Who wouldn’t get a boost from having a gaggle of admiring people asking for your autograph? I confess I enjoyed it tremendously, but I recognize that most people deserve a kind word and a pat on the back for the good things they do every day, and do they get it? You know the answer. Sorry Jim Ed and I hogged the love storm, but what could we do? It blew down the doors.

The Morning Show is done. It was a long-running and sometimes confounding radio gymnastics routine with plenty of twists and flourishes and it looked like we would come crashing down a couple of times, but our spotters were there for us and gravity gave us some lucky breaks, and the dismount was incredible.

When have you finished well?

Lightning Strikes (Almost) Twice (As Much)!

Today’s post comes from professional alarmist Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease civillians!

Relax but keep an eye on the sky, because I know we have had words in the past about my nemesis, lightning.

This past week, we received some hair-raising news – climate change may well hike the frequency of lightning strikes on our planet.

I know you are thinking several things right now that might disarm my urgent message. Let’s take them in order:

  • “Lightning isn’t a big threat to me right now. Two times zero is still zero.” 

Shame on you for using math to diminish a safety problem! That’s like saying there’s little chance you’ll get Ebola if you don’t come in contact with someone who has it. That’s the kind of reasoning that suppresses fear, which is the only tool nature gives us in the never-ending battle against unlikely calamities. If I did that, I’d be out of work today. And don’t forget The Human Lightning Rod, Roy Sullivan! If we apply math to his story, the number of personal strikes goes from 7 to more than 10!

  • The research says lightning will increase 50% by the year 2100. I’ll be dead by then, so who cares? 

Your “dead by then” argument is simply wishful thinking. Scientists are constantly finding ways to extend life spans. And if you make it to the year 2100, you’ll likely be in a wheelchair, which is made out of metal – a conductor! And … if you DON’T make it to 2100, you’ll most likely be in the ground, which is where lightning hits! Frankenstein’s monster thought he was safe on a “being dead” exemption – until lightning struck!

  • Lightning is troubling, but I have more immediate concerns. 

That’s what lightning WANTS you to think.

  • Lightning has no thoughts or desires. 

That means you can’t reason or bargain with it. You find THAT comforting?

Friends, there is no doubt in my mind we will experience more lightning in our future.

My advice:

  1. Buy a sturdy pair of rubber-soled shoes.
  2. Sell your golf clubs.
  3. Keep doors and windows closed in a rainstorm.
  4. Learn to bathe away from pipes and all plumbing.
  5. Yours in Safety, B.S.O.R.

What are you doing to prepare for the future?