It’s The End Of The World!

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Norm Ruebling is on the run from dire Mayan prophesies.

Norm Ruebling is on the run from dire Mayan prophesies.

L.G. PATTERSON

Those ancient Mayans are still stirring up trouble. By bringing their famous calendar to an abrupt end on Dec. 21, 2012, the Mayans have the citizens of the 21st century wondering if they knew something we don’t. Could it all come to an end this month? Will the world crumble into dust before the New Year? Did we suffer through all those months of mud-slinging campaign commercials for nothing?

On the pages that follow, we do a little tongue-in-cheek (we hope!) end-of-the-world planning, but we don’t need the Mayans to tell us that catastrophic events are part of life on this planet. Hurricane Sandy was the most recent reminder of that. We help you get ready for the worst that man and Mother Nature can throw at us with our disaster-preparedness guide, and offer up some party ideas and recipes to make Dec. 20 the best day ever, just in case those Mayans were on to something.


What’s Up With Those Killjoy Mayans?

By John Littell

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years , you know that on Dec. 21, 2012, the Mayan calendar ends and we’re all doomed. The Earth will explode or something because some Mayan clerk got bored and stopped writing down what was going to happen next.

Unlike most end-of-days prophesies, the Mayans’ neglect of their scriptorial duties has nothing to do with the eschaton. These ancient Mesoamericans never heard of the Second Coming or, indeed, of the First Coming. Hell, they never even discovered the wheel.

No, this is a purely non-Christian event that doesn’t involve Jesus Christ, the various antichrists, or the odd horned beast rising from the sea. Everyone will receive a “fair share” of death.

Perhaps that’s why this latest prophecy has gained such currency with the media. When the planets line up wrong, we are all toast. Devout Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists and animists are all slated to go at the same time. No rich guys can buy their way out of this. (Attention survivalists: You ain’t gonna survive either.)

On a brighter note, think of all the money you could save not buying Christmas presents this year. You can, it seems, take it with you after all.

Some really smart guys with lots of extra letters after their name have studied the Mayan culture and say there’s no reason to worry. There’s actually nothing in the Mayan manifesto to suggest the world will end before Christmas. These glass-half-empty dudes say the earth is more likely to die a slow, painful death thanks to climate change or a nuclear hissy fit. Don’t you feel better now?

Just remember, you can find comfort in one glaring fact: If the Mayans were so smart, where are they now?


Party Like There’s No To-Maya

By Ren Bishop

It’s the end of the world and you may as well go out with a bang. But rather than the blast of a volcanic eruption or nuclear flash, let that big bang be your to-die-for end-of-the-world party. There is no budget — your credit card company will end up as space dust with the rest of us. If Dec. 20 is going to be your last night on earth, have a blow out before you blow up.

Party
Rent your favorite reception hall to set the scene for a last hoorah, but be sure to book your party soon because there will be plenty of nonbelievers out there planning their office Christmas parties and competing for that precious banquet space.

If you’d rather keep the party close to home, simply clear out a room or two in your house. Throw the furniture out in the yard; you won’t need it tomorrow. We suggest décor that includes fire spinners, exotic plants and tribal drums to pay homage to the Mayans for their prophecy. Don’t forget the open bar and the incredible sound system.

Eat
Ice cream, pizza and truckloads of fattening foods might be tempting for the party’s menu, but our end-of-the-world party requires much more. Grab a case of locally produced chocolate, a tray of freshly grilled burgers and at least one entrée from each of your favorite restaurants, ordered to-go and well ahead of time. Have your caviar shipped directly from Iran on the same day you order foie grasfrom France. If any of your snooty guests starts whining thatfoie gras doesn’t pair well with cheeseburgers, you can have fun mentally marking them off all future guest lists since there won’t be any future guests list.

Drink
Uncork those expensive bottles of wine you’ve always wanted to purchase, but never did because of the price. We suggest Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac 1986. Selected as one of the top 10 wines of 1986 and now aged to perfection, the $600 bottle of wine will pair well with your rich chocolate desserts. Or, uncork a bottle of 2004 Penfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon (on right) at the out-of-this-world, end-of-this-world price of $168,000.

The Last Party Playlist You’ll Ever Need

“Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” by the Clash
“Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
“Save The World” by Swedish House Mafia
“The End Of The World” by Skeeter Davis
“Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC
“The Final Countdown” by Europe
“It’s The End Of The World” by R.E.M.
“Don’t Stop Believin’ ” by Journey
“End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men
“The End” by the Doors
“Rapture” by Blondie
“We Are The World” by USA For Africa
“What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
“Until The End Of The World” by U2
“Mad World” by Tears for Fears
“1999” by Prince
“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
“It’s A New World” by Judy Garland


Last Meal And Testament

By Inside Columbia Executive Chef Dennis Clay

This is it. The 11th hour. The end of the line for me. I am simultaneously 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean in a commercial airliner and spiraling to my demise, on death row in Texas, and face-to-face with a pack of rabid wolves in the Canadian tundra. I am bracing myself, closing my eyes.

The past is rushing in front of me in chronological order: Grandma’s kitchen, lavender fields, first bites of fast food, Chuck E. Cheese, my sister, my brother, my wife, my kids. All things coming to the exact moment where I am. I breathe deep, letting the time become visceral and the imagery ethereal, soaking in the last rays of life like a patch of dandelions fiercely holding on to the Indian summer before the dews end and the frost encroaches.

As I open my eyes, my eyelids stutter. The light is very bright in front of me. Angelic echoes fill the hollow void. My vision starts to return; at the center, an amorphous blob. The blob moves closer and I begin to make out the shape. The olfactory scents I once knew are becoming familiar again. I know I am having my last meal soon.

Ten seconds or maybe 10 years pass. I am seated at a big dining room table with Michael Rhulman and Gustel, my German grandmother. I have a great deal of respect for these two people. Michael is the author of some of my favorite cookbooks, having co-authored Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry andBouchon as well as his own The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef, and what many consider his opus,Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Curing and Smoking. It’s in this book that Chef Rhulman delves into the dwindling art of making sausages, pâtés, smoked and cured meats, accoutrement and the like. My all-time favorite is his take on corned beef, a recipe I have adapted from his Charcuterie book and added to my arsenal, specifically for Reuben sandwiches.

My grandmother laughs a lot. It’s her way of breaking the language barrier, since her English is nil and my German is broken at best. Anyone who asks me where I got my interests in cooking will be regaled with my affinity for my grandmother’s potato salad. I have tried to emulate it since I started cooking, to no avail. Along the way, I have made some terrific potato salads, though. It must be the pickles and bacon they get in Germany that make the difference.

My last meal is a Reuben sandwich and a pile of German potato salad. Fantastic, I think. I pick up the Reuben, cooked precisely to the point when the corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut soak into the toasted rye bread, causing the Russian dressing to drip slowly out of the end. Small bits of kraut drop on the plate. Unreal. I finish a few bites and head for the potato salad, my forearms marked with drips of fancy sauce.

The potato salad is still a bit above room temperature. Its smoky bacon and pickle scents greet me and  I can taste it before I take a bite. The crunchy onions and herbaceous parsley hit me first. Warm, soft-boiled potatoes carry the flavor of sweet, sour and salty through my palate. This truly is heaven.

At that moment, the table rips away from me. Michael and Gustel, who have been standing over me watching with anticipatory pride, smile and wave. They, too, are escorted back through the tunnel, toward a pinpoint. I hear the echoing angels again; I see the wolves, the tumbling wing of the 747 and the wires coming off my electric chair.

Suddenly, I feel a kangaroo jumping on my chest. The screams of my fellow airline passengers turn into muffled music and the wolves into a cat pawing at my feet.

“Daddy, we want pancakes and hot cocoa!” The alarm is going off, a 4-year-old is bouncing maniacally on my bed and a cat is attacking my toes. The sun has risen on a new morning and I already know what I want for dinner.

German Potato Salad

5 pounds russet potatoes
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 cup kosher dill pickles, minced
2 pounds applewood smoked bacon lardons, cut, cooked and rendered, fat reserved
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and small diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until they are fork tender. Once you can handle them, rub off the skins with a dry kitchen towel. Cut each potato into bite-size pieces, and while they are still hot, toss them with vinegar and sugar. Set aside to cool slightly. Add remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Melt a bit of the bacon fat and dress the salad with it. If you want to skip this step, you may use olive oil. Serve warm.

This makes a lot of potato salad, but if you’re like me, it doesn’t last very long. Keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Michael Rhulman’s corned beef recipe can be found on his website: Rhulman.com.


Disaster Preparedness

By Ren Bishop, Briana Brooks and Elizabeth Gallaway

Let’s go way out on a limb and surmise that the Mayans got it wrong and we won’t all perish in a global catastrophe on Dec. 21. That doesn’t mean we won’t face a natural or man-made disaster at some point. Our best chances for survival come when we’re prepared. Here are some cataclysmic events that could affect mid-Missouri, and what experts say you should know now to help you overcome a disaster later.

Earthquake

Columbia doesn’t have much of a history with earthquakes, and rarely experiences the aftershocks of larger earthquakes in surrounding areas. According to Eric Sandvol, professor in the department of geological sciences at the University of Missouri, there is no data suggesting such an event has occurred in the Columbia area.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone could pose a potential threat ― those early 19th-century earthquakes temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi River, after all. There is quite a bit of speculation in the scientific community that earthquakes of the same magnitude that struck the Missouri Bootheel region in 1811 and 1812 could happen again, although there is still much to learn about what happened 200 years ago.

“Those earthquakes don’t make much sense in current scientific models,” says Sandvol. “Scientists don’t fully understand them.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, those caught in an earthquake should stop, cover and hold on. If indoors, make sure the structure where you take cover is sturdy and there are no heavy lights or fixtures directly overhead that might fall on you. If outdoors, do not stand near trees, utility wires or tall buildings.

If you feel tremors while driving, you should stop the car in a relatively open area, away from structures and overpasses, and remain in the vehicle.

FEMA emphasizes that people should not exit a building during an earthquake, as studies have shown that most injuries occur when people are hit by falling debris from an unstable structure. To safeguard your home against potential earthquake damage, FEMA suggests securing appliances and heavy furniture in place.

And hold on.

Radiation

Rest easy, Columbia. The potential for nuclear disaster in this region is unlikely.

Columbia is located about 30 miles from the Callaway Energy Center, Missouri’s only commercial nuclear energy plant. Owned by Ameren Missouri, the nuclear plant began operations in 1984 and has a net generating capacity of 1,190 megawatts.

Prior to the construction of a nuclear plant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission assesses the potential for damage to the area from earthquakes and other natural disasters.

According to a 2010 study conducted by the NRC, there is a 1 in 500,000 chance of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the Callaway reactor. This puts the Callaway site at the lowest risk of any U.S. reactor.

The NRC also defines two emergency planning zones in place around each nuclear power plant. The plume exposure pathway zone has a radius of 10 miles around the plant; dangers include radioactive contamination. Emergency planning for a larger area — the ingestion pathway —includes contingencies for the contamination of food and water in an area defined by the NRC as 50 miles around the nuclear plant. The Callaway plant in Reform stands five miles north of the Missouri River and 300 feet above flood stage.

Safety features at the Callaway nuclear plant include redundant systems to ensure a safe shutdown in the event of an emergency and multiple barriers against radiation, such as strong metal cladding on the fuel assemblies housed in an 8-inch-thick steel pressure vessel inside a building with 4-foot-thick, steel-reinforced concrete walls.

In Columbia, the University of Missouri Research Reactor (known as MURR) has been operating on campus since 1966, providing a range of nuclear products and services for worldwide industrial, medical and research applications. Originally licensed to operate at 5 megawatts, the nuclear reactor was upgraded to 10 megawatts in 1974. The facility boasts a 40-plus-year record of safe operation under NRC-directed safety regulations; university officials declined to comment on contingency procedures in place.

The likelihood of Columbia becoming a target or victim of a nuclear attack is highly unlikely due to its small size in comparison to other cities in the state. It is difficult to say what the impact of a nuclear strike would be on the area. To put it into perspective, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, destroyed roughly four square miles of the city. Columbia is about 125 miles from St. Louis, the closest city that could potentially be targeted. While Columbia might not receive direct contact from the blast, it is possible that radiation could migrate this far and affect the area.

According to FEMA, the extent, nature and arrival time of these hazards are difficult to predict. The geographical dispersion of radiation depends on the size of the device or bomb, the height above ground at which it is detonated, and the nature of the surface beneath the explosion.

Floods

Don’t get swept away with all this disaster information! Columbia is also relatively safe when it comes to the threat of potential flooding.

Low-lying areas of the city can and have experienced flooding, but  according to Tony Lupo, professor of meteorology at the University of Missouri, Columbia only receives enough rainfall to flood maybe once a year.

Lupo says if flooding of the Missouri River were to occur, the greatest effect it would have on Columbia would be damage to roadways, as occurred during the flood of 1993 that closed U.S. 63 between Jefferson City and Columbia.

Flash floods — walls of water that rush through areas carrying debris — do occur in town. These can be created in anywhere from 10 minutes to one hour. Public safety officials warn individuals to keep to high ground during a flash flood warning. Just 6 inches of rapidly moving water can knock a person from their feet. The same advice applies to drivers: vehicles may be swept away or stall out on flooded roadways.

Lupo says no one should ever challenge floodwaters.

“It doesn’t take much to knock a human off their feet,” he says. “One foot of water can even move a car.”

Under no circumstances should anyone try to walk through moving water. When dealing with the aftereffects of a flood, those who find it necessary to walk through water should use a stick or other long object to check the ground in front of the walking path.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storm, with the potential to strike in any state under the right conditions. These furious storms pack winds that can reach up to 300 miles per hour. Missouri sits in part of “tornado alley,” a section of the Midwest where tornadoes typically develop and are most common. The deadly effects from these cyclonic storms became tragically evident when an EF5 tornado hit Joplin in the southwest corner of the state in 2011, killing 161.

The likelihood of a tornado striking in Missouri this time of year is pretty slim; most tornadoes occur in the spring, says KOMU meteorologist Eric Aldrich. Although a tornado is not likely in December, tornadoes can strike at any time — one tore through Columbia’s Southridge subdivision in November 1998 — so it is wise to be prepared by building an emergency disaster kit. This kit should be filled with a collection of items you might need. Pack your kit with nonperishable food, a gallon of water per day and other necessary supplies in adequate quantity to last at least 72 hours.

In the event of a tornado warning, find refuge in a room away from windows, doors and outside walls in the lowest level of a building or home. Aldrich also encourages people to make sure their heads are covered. When weather is threatening, tune in to local radio and television stations for up-to-date information, or purchase a NOAA weather radio.

Blizzards And Ice

One of the most likely natural disasters to strike Columbia is a blizzard or ice storm. During the so-called “snowpocalypse” of 2011, parts of Columbia and surrounding areas were blanketed in 14.5 inches of snow and ice, says Patrick Market associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Missouri. The likelihood of a blizzard striking Missouri is possible, but the forecast this year gives it a slim possibility.

An ice storm, often referred to as a glaze storm, is a bit more likely. In 2006 and 2007, Missouri and surrounding areas were hit by three massive ice and snow storms, which knocked down power lines, left people stranded and caused major transportation issues. Severe winter storms can reduce visibility on the road and bring traffic to a halt, which can lead to chain-reaction collisions. These “deceptive killers,” a term coined by the National Weather Service, can be deadly — indirectly. These winter storms can cause injury and death due to accidents, hypothermia or worse. Be prepared and stay informed.

“It is important to get regular weather information from a reliable source, such as the National Weather Service,” Market says.

In the event of a blizzard or ice storm, make sure you are well-stocked with nonperishable food and plenty of batteries to run radios and flashlights. It is also important to stay warm. If you’re trapped in a car, turn on the engine for 10 minutes each hour. And although it may seem like a good idea, do not eat the snow or ice as it will lower body temperature. Instead, melt it for drinking water.

Space Weather

Asteroids, comets, meteors, oh my! Space weather, under the right circumstances, can have a huge impact on Earth, but the likelihood of an asteroid hitting the planet, or of earthlings being struck by falling space objects is extremely low.

“It’s a tiny, small percentage in a given person’s lifetime, but it is only a matter of time before an asteroid will hit Earth again,” says Frank Somer, chair of the science department at Columbia College.

Over the course of thousands of years, the chances of a disastrous space weather incident would increase, but the probability of it happening now is still very small, Somer says.

However, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, if an asteroid were ever to make a beeline for the Earth, officials are trained to track the progress of the incoming object. Scientists are constantly watching out for any possible threat to the planet, preparing to give prior notice.

Asteroid or not, it is always better to be prepared. There’s the common-sense advice of running like crazy if you see a fiery object hurtling toward you from the heavens, but our best hope if asteroid collision appears imminent is in NASA’s plan to deflect any space invaders that come too close.

Wildfires

The raging wildfires in eastern Colorado this summer are unlikely to occur in Columbia, according to Assistant Chief Doug Westhoff of the Boone County Fire Protection District. In any fire emergency, though, listening to emergency personnel is essential.

“A wildfire is no different than any other situation,” says Boone County Fire Chief Scott Olsen. “You have to be prepared to be on your own for three days, and you have to follow directions.”

There are some simple steps that families can take to help stop a fire from reaching their homes. Start by designing landscapes around your home with plants that are fire suppressants instead of fire fuel. All trees burn, but some tree species are not as flammable as pine, fir or other evergreens. The key to preventing flames from overwhelming a home is in limiting the fuel that can feed a fire.

However small the chance of a wildfire in Boone County, there is a threat of fire every day in Columbia homes. Cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of fires in Columbia and nationwide. Battalion Chief Gale Blomenkamp of the Boone County Fire Protection District stresses the importance of simply paying attention when using a heat source in your home and being ready in the event of a fire.

“People think ‘it’s never going to happen to me,’ but it could,” Blomenkamp says. “Working smoke detectors, having an escape plan for your family, and sprinkling systems in your home are three ways that you can be ready for a fire. You have 60 seconds to get out of your home after a flame is present, and you have to be ready.”

Biological Threats

Biological threats are truly silent weapons of mass destruction. Biological agents that can kill or incapacitate humans, animals or crops are all classified as threats when released intentionally to cause harm. Even more terrifying, biological threats are the least obvious dangers to you and your family. It may take days — or even weeks — to discover a threat, according to the FEMA.

Once that threat is realized, though, knowledge is power. Information from authorities, media outlets and family become both a comfort and a commodity in the event of a biological attack. Establish a plan with out-of-town relatives as to how you will spread information throughout the family in the event of a biological emergency.

The best way to reduce your vulnerability to biological warfare is to ensure that all your immunizations are up to date. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to biological threats, so make it a point that every member of your family’s immune system is properly armed. FEMA also recommends that every household consider purchasing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter for home use. This filter not only helps to reduce allergens and dust in the air, but also can be the first line of defense to limit pathogens from entering your home.


Be Prepared!

Boy Scouts know it. Girl Scouts know it, too. Preparation is important and no matter what disaster may strike, there are several must-have items you should pack in your emergency kit.

  • Water: one gallon per person for at least three days
  • Food: nonperishable; at least a three-day supply
  • Batteries
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Dust/gas mask
  • Can opener
  • Medications
  • Matches
  • Duct tape

Day Planners

Norm Ruebling’s Day Planner: Dec. 20, 2012

Knowing I’m headed to “paradise” after the end of the world, I would gather my beautiful wife, gorgeous daughter and incredible son and we would go skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing, then find a bull named Fu Manchu to ride. I’d smoke a Cuban with a single-malt in hand, and toast this amazing creation we call the “Big Blue Marble.” Oh yeah, I’m ready. Bring it!

Lynda Baumgartner’s Day Planner: Dec. 20, 2012

I would spend the day with my grandkids! I love watching them play soccer. They are 4 and 8 years old. I especially enjoy watching the 4-year-olds play because they “just have fun” and are not really interested in the score! Everyone should have grandkids to laugh and play with.

Simon Rose’s Day Planner: Dec. 20, 2012

My wife, Jenna, and I would celebrate Christmas early like never before with our boys, and treasure every last minute of our time together!

Kenny & Renee Hulshof’s Day Planner: Dec. 20, 2012.

We would gather our family together and head to the farm, and would spend the day with lots of prayer and soul-searching.

Day Planner: Dec. 22, 2012

If the world didn’t end yesterday, here are a few of the things you need to do today:

  • Go shopping at all those local stores you love. Christmas is back on schedule.
  • Join a gym. Beat the January rush and start burning off the calories from your indulgent end-of-the-world celebration.
  • Email your boss to warn him that some unscrupulous person hacked into your account yesterday and sent a crazy message that you, yourself, never would have sent, even if it was the end of the world, because you love your job and work for the wisest, most benevolent boss on this completely intact planet. Also, update your resume.
  • Call your mother and apologize for failing to check in as soon as you got home from not dying in a fiery earth explosion.
  • Learn to knit. Make booties for the upcoming baby boom on Sept. 20, 2013.

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