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Thursday 3 April 2008
For the past several days, the air has been full of the sickly-sweet, headache-inducing smell of plant sex. The masthead of the local paper went from a pollen count -- representing the number of pollen particles in a cubic foot of air -- of 17 (which qualified as "Low," the bottom of the indicator scale) to 214 (nearly 100 points over the "Extremely High" mark at the top end of the scale). In fact, the pollen count indicator is a scale from 0 to 120. To indicate just how inadequate that is, today's pollen count was 1,089, nine times greater than the cut-off for the top of the pollen count scale!
Now, I ask you, what's the point of an indicator scale that can be rendered useless overnight? Why cap a scale if levels of "Extreme" exist above the scale? If the scale for hurricanes was capped at 75mph, then 2005's New Orleans-destroying Hurricane Katrina would measure the same as 1979's New Orleans-dampening Hurricane Bob which is remembered more for being the first "male" hurricane than for the destruction it's gusty drizzles didn't do.
Personally, I prefer my scales to have a little more bite. For example, the Richter Scale for earthquakes scales by a power of ten for each increase in level, allowing the highest level to represent total destruction. DEFCON 1 represents a Failsafe, On the Beach, or Red Dawn scenario. And "Two Thumbs Up" means I really ought to see the movie.
What does an "Extremely High" pollen count indicate? That I might have a headache. That kind of indicator I don't need; the headache itself will work just fine, thanks.