Friday, October 5, 2007

Ground level is good for you

This blurry but otherwise charming family photo was taken over a quarter of a century ago by a little boy. Today, if you visit the website of François Skyvington [display], you'll see that he has made a lot of progress in the art of photography.

During that happy gathering, my 89-year-old grandfather told us with amusement that, if he could succeed in attaining the grand old age of 100, he would be looking forward to receiving a personal letter of best wishes from the queen... which was apparently a customary thing back in those days. Unfortunately, he didn't make it. On Australia Day 1985, he climbed up onto a swivel chair to change a lightbulb in his living room at Burleigh Heads, and suffered a fall that led to his death.

As a child, visiting Australia's beautiful Blue Mountains with my grandparents, I recall that Pop [as we called our grandfather] was just as anguished by mountainous heights as I am. If vertigo is an inherited affliction [which it probably isn't], then it's certain that I picked up the bad genes from Pop. In any case, the silly circumstances of Pop's mortal accident have made me particularly wary of the risks of injuries through falling from a height [as distinct from stumbling on the slippery slopes of Gamone and breaking a leg, as I did a few years ago].

In yesterday's news, when I came upon statistics concerning the causes of accidental deaths in France [for the year 2004], I seized upon this opportunity of using for the first time my brand-new spreadsheet software from Apple, called Numbers, to draw a simple chart (in less than a minute) representing the French deaths data:

Of the 18 548 mortal accidents in France, 5 354 were attributed to falls. This was twice the number of deaths due to suffocation, which is a category consisting primarily of gluttonous folk who choke on such things as pretzels. In these statistics, the most obvious sign of a global evolution in society is that relatively few people die of poisoning... which is no doubt good news for fast-food merchants. Instead of poisoning ourselves by the stuff we eat, we simply become fat and flabby and fall victims to so-called natural deaths due to stuffed arteries. That's progress.

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