Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Idiots

This article in the New York Times caught my eye this week. Thinking about equipment has led me to think about safety and preparedness in general. The article made me a) confident that I'm not a wimp or a dolt, b) un-eager about the possibility of running into such wimps and dolts at our overcrowded national parks, and c) secretly fearful that I'll become a wimp or a dolt, or, you know, get in real danger and require a really expensive ride home.

That article was quickly followed up by this one in Slate, which debunks the anecdotal and statistically unsupported thesis of the NYT piece, which is that GPS, cell phone, and other rescue technology is behind an increase in wimp/dolt rescues. I can see Slate's point; I actually wrote a book about weird and stupid goings-on at National Parks (it's sort of a running private joke of mine that I've written a book on about half the esoteric trivia subjects that come up in any conversation--writing for kids means having a very wide, very shallow range of knowledge). There's a geyser on the edge of Yellowstone Lake whose discoverers purportedly used it to poach ("cook," not "hunt illegally") fish right on the line. Catch it in the lake, flip it into the geyser. So many people ended up posing over the geyser in chef's costumes that they had to restrict access because of all the scalded feet and legs. Because people were standing over a boiling geyser. And this was way back in the early part of the 20th century. Everyone fed the bears until just a few decades ago. The lesson of the Slate article is that stupidity pre-dates technology. The lesson of the NYT article is that it outlasts it, too.

Statistical validity aside, I read the NYT article more as a Darwin Awards entertainment piece. That and a manual on what not to do.

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