Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

FEMA uses 'Waffle House index' to take stock of Oklahoma tornado disaster -

FEMA uses 'Waffle House index' to take stock of Oklahoma tornado disaster - 

When the main US federal emergency agency arrives at the scene of a disaster-hit area, one of the first places it turns to is the local Waffle House – and not just for its officials to grab a quick bite.

Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came up with the idea of the "Waffle House index" as an informal way of measuring the impact of a disaster. The chain, which has a large number of branches in tornado-prone areas, has a robust emergency management plan.

The index has three levels. If the local Waffle House is up and running, serving a full menu, a disaster is classed as green. If it is running with an emergency generator and serving only a limited menu, it is a yellow. If it is closed, badly damaged or totally destroyed, as during hurricane Katrina, it is a red.

There is only one Waffle House in Moore, the suburb worst hit by the tornadoes. The restaurant, located at 316 SW 19th Street and which normally offers a southern-tinged menu that includes grits, hash browns, and sausage and egg biscuits as well as hamburgers, was closed on Tuesday.

But the Moore tornado was classed as a yellow on the Waffle House index because managers were hoping to get it up and running soon. "It is a yellow because we are hoping to get a generator," said Kelly Thrasher, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based restaurant chain. "Once we have the generator, we will be able to serve a limited menu, maybe a full one."

She said the branch had survived the storm intact. "There is no damage to the building. Power is out and there is no gas or water but we do not have any physical damage. We are trying to get it open so we can serve first responders and the community," she said.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued a disaster declaration for Oklahoma and promised to provide the state with all the federal support it needs. Fugate has been despatched to the state.

Fema was heavily criticised for its slowness to respond to Katrina in 2005, a disaster that damaged the reputation of George W Bush as much as the 2003 Iraq invasion. But it received praise for the help it provided last year after hurricane Sandy. It has been the target of criticism by conservatives across the US as an example of an unnecessary federal agency, with calls for its abolition, though such carping is often dropped when the critics' home states are victims of catastrophe.


NASA to fund world’s first 3D food printer -

NASA to fund world’s first 3D food printer - 

NASA has announced it is to fund construction of the world’s first ever 3D food printer.
The American space company has given a $125,000 grant to mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor, who has already designed the machine. And the space agency hopes it will eventually be able to provide food for astronauts on long-distance journeys through space.

Some commentators also say the design is just as exciting for Earth-dwellers, as the machines could eventually become a standard kitchen appliance. Families would then be able to simply print off their dinner, rather than spend time preparing it.
The food printer is fed on cartridges of powders and oils containing all the nutrients needed for a healthy diet — which work in much the same way as a standard printer’s ink cartridges.
The ingredients are sprayed on layer-by-layer by the 3D printer, eventually creating solid three-dimensional food.
It is also thought the printers might help cut food waste globally, as the cartridges wouldn’t go out of date for over 30 years and could only be refilled when they had completely run out.
“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently," Contractor told Quartz magazine. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”
Once it is up and running, Contractor will test the machine by trying to print a pizza, which was an obvious choice due to its flat shape.
The dough will be printed first, then the tomato base, then the "protein-layer" topping.