Sunday, January 28, 2007

Things that annoy me... sharks plus

The regaling of stupid so-called "urban myths", and related tripe, in place of discussion.

The BBC, you see, is full of it.

Having plastered the screen with news of a lurid shark attack, having raked in the readers with one of the scariest shark pictures I can recall seeing, the BBC proceed to "educate them".

It is tiresome to have to go through the steps the blinkered, short-sighted, prejudiced journalist takes to do this, but perhaps he thought he'd just read this, and tone it down a bit.

The Humane Society International's article on the matter begins

"In a case of apparent mistaken identity, abalone fisherman Eric Nerhus was attacked by a shark while diving in Eden, an area with an extensive seal population..."

in the same vein in which the BBC's previous news report on a shark attack on Eric Nerhus concludes

"Experts have said that there is a possibility the shark mistook the wetsuit-clad Mr Nerhus for a seal."

See the style: take the pressure group's words, tone them down, call them experts (doubtless they have their academic fellow travellers somewhere; let's assume).

Actually the potential "urban myth" of the seals was not the one I intended to concentrate on. There's some sense in the idea that wetsuit clad divers and seals may similarly entice sharks, although it's rather silly to think we don't make a good meal for a hungry shark, or to suggest that sharks have a 'humane' diet that somehow excludes creatures like man- especially when in the next breath one asserts the equal rights of animals to x, y and z, which rather makes us as fair a game as any.

On the other hand, if we're getting mistaken for seals why aren't they testing designs of wetsuits including flashing lights or wavy flurescent lines to warn off the sharks? I haven't heard of such a common or garden advantage taken of the clear fact that sharks don't attack humans just because.

No, no, my main focus was intended to be the contention made directly by HSI in the BBC article that "The risks are minimal,"... "You have more chance of being killed by a falling vending machine than you do by a great white shark. The odds are infinitesimal."

Well, indeed, I do feel that infinitesimality, sitting as I do behind my computer screen around a thousand kilometers from the nearest salt water agglomeration- and all of the millions of people so cocooned by land would think similarly. But were I to be a sea goer, and to enjoy dipping in and out of the sea at all times and in many places, the minimality of the risk would somewhat change, and would depend on my wits and commonsense, matched against my ambitions to get jiggy with Madam Ocean.

But no, no, that was not my point. I digress.

No, my real point was the one about the darned "falling vending machine"

My first thought when hearing the notion that you had more chance of dying from a falling vending machine than from a shark was to think of all the frail drunks and children I've seen pushing these things forward and back in an attempt to made the evil machines either show altruism or adequate performance.

I googled, natch, and found this this snippet of no provenance except its match with my common sense:

"I can also tell you (from experience, as a vendor) that these accidents DO happen. One of the most tragic occurred several years ago and involved three boys between the ages of 11 and 12. The plan was that two of the boys would rock a soda machine until it tipped forward. The third would catch the machine and hold it while the other two got free sodas for all of them. Since even a small soda machine weighs about 300 lbs. empty, you can imagine the end result.

Most injuries and deaths involving vending machines involve soda machines. Not only are they the heaviest, they are also top-heavy by design. Stop by a vending company and ask them to show you the inside of one and you'll see what I mean. The only vending machine accident I've ever seen (literally) that did not involve attempted theft happened when a coffee machine which was being taken off a truck fell and one employee didn't get out of the way in time. Not a fatality but he now has several pins in his right leg."

Since I never intend to force one of these machines to do anything against its nature I pronounce the risk to myself to be virtually nil.

I often, however, long for the ocean (I have done a sailing trip or two and loved wave hopping as a child)- and a healthy, robust, and confident engagement with that ought to be on the manifesto of any "humane society". Which ought to include a willingness to kill without compunction rogue sharks.

It is not likely that such an attitude will come from the kind of craven posture toward nature which is a result of believing, as the BBC's final source does, the canard that 'the great white shark "is the greatest predator on the planet next to man"'

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