Sometimes It Really Is Captain Marvel

Sometimes the improbable, no matter how unlikely it may seem, really does happen.

Like a near nuclear reactor meltdown due to a highly improbable 8.9 earthquake in Japan.

The number 8.9 just doesn’t sound as big and as bad as it really is when it comes to earthquakes.  This is because scientists use a logarithmic scale.  I’m not exactly sure what logs have to do with it, but they fit in nicely with the WoodChips so we’ll just go with it.

A 6.0 earthquake is bad.  A 7.0 is ten times as bad.  An 8.0 is a 100 times as bad and an 8.9 is about 1000 times as bad as bad.  Hmmm … pretty bad.

And highly improbable.

I can just see a theoretical cost savings meeting forty years ago with all the business associates, marketing, accounting and engineering sitting around the table designing the Japanese Reactor.  Most of these businessmen are saying, “So can we shave a little off the material in the containment vessel – that would save a lot of money.  And hey, can’t we get some cheaper water pumps that cool the uranium to keep it from melting down, these seem expensive.  I saw some used ones on eBay the other day much cheaper.” (Ignore the fact that eBay hadn’t been invented yet – I said this was theoretical – chuckle).

In this discussion, two of the engineers say this would be too much of a risk in case of a big earthquake, like a 7.0 or an 8.0, and the businessmen retort, “Hey, an earthquake that size is so improbable it will never happen, and really, how bad can it be.”  The engineers insist it’s too risky and the businessmen start calling them poopy-pants because they won’t get with the cost saving program, so the engineers just up and quit in protest.

Now I have no idea if this really happened, although I am quite sure these conversations go on too often in some large corporations who begin to value cost cutting over quality and customer service.  But the real point is that forty years later, the improbable happened with an 8.9 earthquake in Japan that has so far caused a near meltdown in at least one nuclear reactor.

Which puts me in mind of a story I heard years ago when I was going through Marine Corp boot camp.  The United States Marine Corp’s sixteen week boot camp is loads of fun and you make cool new friends, especially two or three kind of “big brother” types called Drill Instructors who help and advise you by yelling at you all the time and making you do squat-whoopee’s forever (bend and thrusts, push-ups, running miles and more miles, etc.) from before dawn to dark.

The Marines are also known for their guard duty excellence and are responsible for the internal security of more than 120 United States Embassies and Consulates around the world.   This is a specialty they take great pride in and have developed a very strict protocol for it.

So there I was in boot camp, learning the guard duty protocol, which starts out something like this.  If you see someone coming, you say, “Halt, who is there.”  Then, whatever name they give you, you repeat THAT EXACT NAME and say, “Advance to be recognized.”

So one dark and foggy night, young private Jones was doing guard duty at the end of a lonely pier.  He heard footsteps in the distance.

So he said, “Halt, who is there!”
And a voice came floating out of the fog saying, “Captain Marvel.”
Private Jones, thinking this was a joke, broke protocol and said, “Well, Captain Marvel, why don’t you just sashay you’re little A#$ on over here to be recognized.”

Footsteps advanced through the fog and a few seconds later a Marine in uniform with captain’s bars emerged from the fog.  His name really was Marvel.

And as of this writing, young Jones is still doing squat-whoopees forever.

Like I said, sometimes the improbable really does happen.  Sometimes an 8.9 earthquake really does happen around a nuclear reactor – in Japan.

And sometimes, it really is Captain Marvel.

Have a nice day – J. Daniel

Note 1: The strict Marine protocol really is stated as, “Halt, who IS there,” not, “Halt, who GOES there,” as you see so often in the movies.

Note 2: Interesting links on the Marines and their guard duty.

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