The Write Way
Friday 4 February 2011
Latest Weather Horror Story ...
You may be interested in hearing about the latest disaster to befall my poor, battered state, but I won't be at all offended if you'd rather just scroll through this till you get to the newsletter.
After flooding rains and rising rivers devastated first the St George area of inland northern Queensland, then the Toowoomba Range and Lockyer Valley, and then the city of Brisbane itself, we've just been belted by a category 5 tropical cyclone, dubbed Yasi by the Fijian weather bureau in whose territory it first formed.
Once it moved closer, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology took charge of monitoring its progress, and that's when things started getting scary. The Bureau began to issue warnings that this could be much bigger than the previous cyclone that had crossed the coast a few days earlier ... It could be bigger than Cyclone Larry that smashed the tropical coast in 2006 as a category 4 tropical cyclone. ... It could even be bigger than Cyclone Tracey that all but destroyed Darwin in 1974 (another category 4 when it crossed onto land).
Yasi was predicted to cross the coast as a category 5, and not just a cat 5, but a high category 5! That meant winds of up to 300 km an hour ... with storm surges along the coast of up to 7 metres above normal high tide ... And it was due to hit between 10 pm and midnight.
Based on all these predictions, the Emergency Management Team, which was still coping with the previous disasters, began preparing for the worst. At one stage, Yasi stretched for a mind-boggling 1,000 km from side to side, with the eye estimated to be 70 km across.
Anyone who could get out of the area was urged to do so before the roads and airports were closed.
People in all the coastal towns in its path were evacuated from low-lying areas and encouraged to stay with family and friends on higher ground or to take shelter in designated centres that had been built with Category 5 cyclone ratings -- these included schools, community centres and shopping malls -- you have to admit they do have their uses!
More than 200 patients (many seriously ill) from hospitals in its path were taken to safety in a fleet of commercial planes, military helicopters, government jets and Royal Flying Doctor planes in what was the biggest medi-vac in the country's history.
Local councils organised trucks of sand to fill the always necessary sandbags; police and other emergency personnel got people in danger zones to safer ground and the Army pitched in to batten down the hatches, tying down and removing anything that could become a missile when picked up by cyclonic winds.
Our beleaguered Premier, who seems to have lost kilos over the past traumatic weeks, once again gave regular broadcasts as the cyclone approached, explaining to people in its path how to avoid injury to themselves and their animals and how best to protect their property. On the last broadcast I saw on the night Yasi was going to cross the coast, the Premier and Emergency Spokesman were warning us to expect the worst with devastating damage to property and possible loss of life and severe injuries.
As it happened, all this preparation paid off -- there is devastation in many towns, and the sugar and banana crops have been virtually wiped out, but so far only one person has been reported missing, and there have been no serious injuries. In fact, we even had three babies born during the cyclone! (One of which is going to be called Gail ...)
The town of Innisfail that was almost destroyed by Cyclone Larry and was rebuilt with cat 5-rated buildings, escaped almost unscathed -- even the light poles remained standing, despite the 250+ km an hour winds battering the town for around 4 hours without let up. A ringing endorsement for strict building codes if ever there was.
So that's the latest in the Saga of the Summer. Stay tuned ... who knows what more we're going to face up to before the Storm Season ends in March.
At the time of writing (a few minutes before you receive this) Yasi is a mere shadow of its former self, being a simple low pressure system ... but it's now crossed into the Northern Territory and is bringing more flooding rain that will head down into NSW and Victoria to add to their flood woes.
What a country!
Read more about Yasi here
Last week, along with all the earnest entreaties for me to find out why celebrities look so young (who cares?), to discover the secret to making a 6-figure income while basking on a beach in the Maldives (if it's such a great system, why isn't this bloke on the beach?) and to claim my inheritance of $1.85 million through a money transfer company (yeah ... right. I'm definitely going to do that!) I also received an intriguing little missive that I can hardly wait to tell you about today ...
It solves a delicate problem that most of us have had to face at some stage in our lives, and now we need fear no longer. But rather than trying to describe the life-changing relief promised, perhaps it would be better for me to let the product speak for itself ...
"Stuck in traffic? No toilets for miles around? Un-named Product is the ideal reusable personal portable toilet!" (Ah yes! I can see the look on your face already ... Where, you wonder, was this product when you were standing on the end of that long bank queue last Friday? And I only ask that question because the flyer was accompanied by a photo of a dozen trendy Young Things standing in a queue.)
"And how often, too, have you found that even on trains, coaches, shopping centres and terminals the loos are out of order?"
Let us pause for a moment, girls and boys, to consider the ramifications of this question ...
"Trains ... coaches ... shopping centres ..."
There you are, surrounded by the seething masses of your fellows when you're "caught short" (as the writer coyly comments a little later). So what do you do?
Think of deserts?
Strike up a conversation with the person next to you?
Start reciting the longest poem you know to distract your attention from your nether regions?
No, to all of the above.
You simply whip out your handy-dandy, "compact, pocket-sized, unisex, flexible, secure, reusable personal portable toilet" and you're in business!
It is, we are promised, "invaluable in an emergency" and "can be used to adapt to any comfortable position with no chance of spillage."
What the ad doesn't reveal is just what people around you might say and think and do as you manoeuvre yourself and your nifty PPT into a "comfortable position." I mean, it must at some stage in the proceedings involve you uncovering your rudey bits to get the thing into place!
And you'll be relieved (sorry) to know that its "secure airtight flip-top closure keeps odour under control."
The market being targeted includes: "Campers,
Travellers, Hikers, Backpackers" and "for
festivals, as well as Builders, Drivers, Golfers and Boaters."
The mind fairly boggles at the thought of this catching on ...
And the mite above is not the noun referring to "any of numerous small to microscopic arachnids of the subclass Acari, including species that are parasitic on animals and plants or that feed on decaying matter and stored foods," nor even "a contribution that is small but is all that a person can afford; a very small sum of money; a coin of very small value nor a very small object."
It is the adverb meaning "to a small extent; somewhat," and it comes to us from the Middle Dutch word mite 'a small copper coin.'
We've been chatting about being out and about in unfortunate circumstances, so here's a short tale about eating out ...
Two ladies are taking tea at an establishment that has
seen better days:
Waiter: "Two teas. Who asked for the clean cup?"
This week's quiz:
Last week's quiz:
parapraxis, ego, latent, preconscious, hallucination, libido, manifest, id,
And just because they show wit ... some Tom Swifties:
"There's no bathroom in here," Tom said uncannily.
"Parsley, sage, rosemary," said Tom timelessly.
This one is very clever:
"Henry the Eighth!" said Tom unthinkingly.
Since I can't find any suitable stories about this week's topic, here's a limerick. (Why not?)
A bottle of perfume that Willy sent
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A Little Something Extra
More about Cyclone Larry here
And Cyclone Tracey here
Wikipedia offers the following fascinating insights into the origins of some of our different words for the humble "toilet."
The word "toilet" came to be used in English along with other French fashions. It originally referred to the toile, French for "cloth", draped over a lady or gentleman's shoulders while their hair was being dressed, and then (in both French and English) by extension to the various elements, and also the whole complex of operations of hairdressing and body care that centred at a dressing table, also covered by a cloth, on which stood a mirror and various brushes and containers for powder and make-up: this ensemble was also a toilette, as also was the period spent at the table, during which close friends or tradesmen were often received.
These various senses
are first recorded by the OED in rapid sequence in the later 17th century: the
set of "articles required or used in dressing" 1662, the "action or process of
dressing" 1681, the cloth on the table 1682, the cloth round the shoulders 1684,
the table itself 1695, and the "reception of visitors by a lady during the
concluding stages of her toilet" 1703 (also known as a "toilet-call"), but in
the sense of a special room the earliest use is 1819, and this does not seem to
include a lavatory.
The term lavatory, abbreviated in slang to lav, derives from the Latin lavātōrium, which in turn comes from Latin lavō ("I wash"). The word was used to refer to a vessel for washing, such as a sink/wash basin, and thus came to mean a room with such washing vessels, as for example in medieval monasteries, where the lavatorium was the monks' communal washing area. The toilets in monasteries, however, were not in the lavatorium but in the reredorter. Nevertheless the word was later associated with toilets and the meaning evolved into its current one, namely the polite and formal euphemism for a toilet and the room containing it
The origin of the
(chiefly British) term loo is unknown. According to the OED, the etymology is
obscure, but it might derive from the word Waterloo.
2. That the word comes from nautical terminology, loo being an old-fashioned word for lee. The standard nautical pronunciation (in British English) of leeward is looward. Early ships were not fitted with toilets but the crew would urinate over the side of the vessel. However it was important to use the leeward side. Using the windward side would result in the urine blown back on board: hence the phrases 'pissing into the wind' and 'spitting into the wind'. Even now most yachtsmen refer to the loo rather than the heads.
3. That the word derives from the 17th century preacher Louis Bourdaloue. Bourdaloue's sermons at the Saint Paul-Saint Louis Church in Paris lasted at least three hours and myth has it that wealthier ladies took along "travelling" chamber pots that could be hidden under their dresses whenever the need arose to avoid the need to leave. Due to the popularity of the myth the bowls became known as Bourdaloues after the preacher and the name became corrupted to portaloos and sometimes just plain loos due to the habit of shortening words in slang.
And there we are ... back to our PPTs! Just shows once again that there's nothing new under the sun.
Oxymoron of the week: Easy-to-use personal portable toilet
Word of the week: Bidet (n) bathroom fixture that cleans the body's lower regions with a gentle stream of water rather than with bathroom tissue. The word comes from a French word for a small horse, probably from the Old French bider 'to trot.'
No, I don't really want to think about that connection either.
This week's Latin phrase is for when you're stuck in a crowd without your PPT!
Quo tempere credis nos exituros?
[KWOH taym-PAY-ray KRAY-dees NOHS ay-ksee-TOO-rohs]
(What time do you think we'll get out of here?)
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? Click here for these and more: http://www.cafepress.com/write101
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2011
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.
Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com