Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Discovery of Biblical Proportions

I have found the Tower Of Babble!

Actually, it wasn’t that hard to find, really.

I work there every day.
It’s the offices of the Federal Emergency management Agency in Algiers, Louisiana.
And no, I didn’t misspell that. But with all due respect to the Bible, my discovery has striking similarities to the Tower of Babel described in the book of Genesis.
For instance; the Tower of Babel was built by descendants of Noah’s flood survivors. My Babble came to be because of the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina.
In the story of Babel, the Lord God Jehovah (or Yahweh, if you prefer) saw that humanity was getting pretty full of themselves and perhaps distancing themselves from proper worship. So he (or she as I suspect) in yet another display of divine stand-up comedy opted to make them all speak gibberish. And, for a final giggle, God had everyone speaking different dialects of gibberish.
Since the land of Gibber had not yet been discovered, Gibberish made no sense at all to anyone and thus, construction on the tower was doomed to failure.
Really? I mean… if I wrote this into a sitcom I wouldn’t need to write a blog again…ever! By the way, I may have also found the land of Gibber. It’s in southern Louisiana. But everyone there calls their language Cajun.
In my modern day version, the Tower of Babble was established to circumvent and overcome the impact of a hurricane, commonly a force of nature or Act Of God. I suspect that there may be a direct lineage between those original survivors of Noah’s flood and the world’s government agencies, which would explain why said agencies are (like their ancestors) also full of themselves. It would also explain God’s reaction which, keeping on a theme, was to confuse communication. But in a rare stroke of efficiency, God had the agencies confuse themselves.
This freed up God’s schedule to work on his advanced logistical plan (something involving the Mayan calendar).
And so, granted a moment of God’s divine inspiration, the government invented acronyms.
Okay, it’s starts to get complicated here, so I’ll try to go slow. But do try to keep up.

I work with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, (GOHSEP) as a State Applicant Liaison, (SAL). My office in Algiers is located in the Louisiana Recovery Office (or LRO). I review Requests for Public Assistance, (RPAs) that are submitted by Points of Contact (POCs) at local agencies (with their own acronyms) and Private Non-Profit agencies or PNP’s as we lovingly refer to them.
I’ll pause here so you can re-read the previous paragraph 2 or 3 times.


After they are granted eligibility to the Public Assistance (PA) program, applicants document their damage claims via Project Worksheets (PWs). If there is a problem with their claim, they can request information via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or informally via a Public Assistance Expedited Information Request (PAXIR). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also in the building. They assign a Public Assistance Coordinator, (PAC) and Project Officer (PO) or Project Specialist, (PS) to work with the POC of the agency or PNP to document the PW which includes the Damage Description & Dimensions (DDD) and Scope of Work (SOW). To determine appropriate costs of repairs, FEMA may utilize the Cost Estimating Format or CEF.
It helps if you’re sitting down while reading this….really.
Once this is done, the SAL (me) and the PO and the PAC will meet with the POC of the PNP to present the PW and discuss the DDD and SOW. We then forward the PW to Quality Assurance & Control (QAQC). If the Katrina PW passes QAQC it gets entered into the National Emergency Management Information System (NEMIS), where it gets processed thru a queue of reviews including (but certainly not limited to) Environmental & Historical Preservation, (EHP) which will also include a signoff by the State Historical Preservation Officer or SHPO.
And this is the condensed version. For sake of your sanity (and mine) I’ve left out a multitude of other potential steps. But you get the idea.
As you can easily see, it is quite possible, in fact an almost daily occurrence that I can have a complete conversation without uttering a single actual word.
Somewhere in heaven, God & Daniel Webster are laughing hysterically.
One final note, for anyone who doubts the logic of attributing acronyms to God’s wrath & warped sense of humor, I submit the following;
According to Wikipedia, the Tetragammaton transliterates the Hebrew word & symbols for “God” into YHWH….

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall...

Call me slow, or maybe just blissfully unaware of the obvious. But I just discovered today that my birthday suit doesn’t fit anymore. Not sure when it happened, but somehow the damned thing got stretched out in the front, sags in the back, and has so many wrinkles my steam iron just laughs at me (hysterically).

Add to that, it hangs in places it shouldn’t and very obviously doesn’t hang in places it used to (embarrassing). The feet now look like a hobbit/duck cross-genetic experiment gone awry and the knees have permanent Lewinsky pads…you may recall the whole Bill & Monica affair? Shortly thereafter I was installing some ceramic floor tile and christened my knee pads “Lewinskys”. My wife thought it was disgusting, of course. But my kids thought I was pretty witty at the time. They’re a better (and more forgiving) audience than my spouse, so I tend to believe them more than her.

Making matters worse, I sneezed this morning…repeatedly. Sneezing by itself is an all-encompassing experience, but generally without lasting impact. Unfortunately, I was shaving at that particular moment. So the result is that I have a mangy looking beard to go with my decrepit birthday suit.

Continuing on the theme, I then scratched my eye while putting in my bi-focal contact lens which promptly tiger-striped the white of the eye a vivid red.

I forgot to mention, over the last few days I had sequestered myself on the 9th floor of my hotel, safe from any rising flood waters that may have been forthcoming as a result of Hurricane Isaac. Needless to say, the flood waters didn’t happen, for me at least. But we did lose power. Consequently, every trip for a meal was accompanied by a death march, (down & up) 18 flights of stairs. Two days of this and I now kind of hobble from one side of the room to the other, listing slightly to the left and correcting the list with an occasional lunge to the right.

The resulting combination of the sagging suit, mange-ridden beard, blood-laced eye and stagger-lunge gait have left me looking not unlike one of the walking dead I see in so many movies and TV series these days. So I shouldn’t have been surprised by the horrified glances I received from passersby on the street this morning.  The good news is that only the tourists were horrified and, truth be told, I may have hammed it up a bit with them just to get a better response.

The other good news is the locals just assumed I was another homeless wino. And in the short course of one hour, I had collected twelve dollars and thirty-37 cents.

At this rate, in a few more days I’ll have enough money to maybe get a new birthday suit!