Saturday, December 23, 2006

Berkeley is earthquake central (UPDATED)

This morning, we had our third earthquake in four days, centered 2 miles from our Berkeley apartment along the Hayward Fault. All of the earthquakes have been rated just under 4.0 magnitude, but it's starting to get a bit eerie. I've been brushing up on my earthquake safety tips. Kiyash has vivid memories of the big Loma Prieta quake in 1989, and so I've been asking him lots of questions about that. Growing up on the East Coast, I never really learned too much about the phenomenon. (Although I distinctly recall that "San Andreas fault" was the answer to an exam question in my sixth grade science class.)

Looking at the Richter scale is a bit worrisome: 8 - Total damage. 7 - Buildings collapse. 6 - Buildings crack and things fall off shelves. 5 - Furniture and pictures move. 3-4 - People feel a rumble and hear noise. 1-2 - Most people do not notice anything. I guess I didn't realize that "total damage" was a charted possibility.

I've been thinking a lot about the notion of "vulnerable cities" (a la New Orleans in the face of Katrina), a term being used by the Institute for the Future to talk about flexibility of emergency infrastructure. (Here's an Economist article on potential California city responsiveness to the "big one".) Anyway, I guess we should probably get some emergency supplies for the apartment; the closest we have right now is my stash of diet coke.

UPDATE: And because you know I am incapable of experiencing anything without thinking about whatever community issues might be related, I should add the following observation. Shortly after I posted about the earthquakes, I started poking around Technorati to find other Bay Area folks being publicly nervous (or not) about the threesome. Here are a couple of the ones I found most interesting: a satisfyingly angry "wish we had a decent FEMA" political response and an adorably neuortic "best earthquake emergency kit ever" poem-like mediation. I don't know either of those two women, haven't even met them digitally, but I feel some kind of almost imaginary node of connection to them now.

Other posts give me occasion to reflect on my own reactions. This woman reacts by becoming more certain about her desire to move to New York City: "It is time to move. It makes the most sense for someone like me. There are no natural disasters in NYC. There are terrorists. I choose terrorists." I admit that this morning I said to Kiyash, "Well, yet another reason to look forward to moving to Copenhagen." (Yes, our goal is to live in Copenhagen 5 years from now, we'll see how that works out.) This guy's total unflappability manifests itself in a refreshingly techno-geek fashion: "Ok, this is getting tedious. It looks like I need to investigate writing some code to automating writing the inital part of these earthquake posts." I am glad there are other people out there who feel the urge to blog about the quakes; for me, I think it's a way of personally engaging with a phenomenon that has no personal interest in me or any other human. This woman announces: " had a really hard time getting to sleep because of anxiety from the earthquake so I'm kind of a mess today. I'll definitely be spending some time on Second Life to unwind!" I know the feeling-- I have immersed myself in the comforting structure of games on more than one occasion to escape a sense of helplessness. (Kiyash and I, after being turned away by the Red Cross on 9/11, of all things, played an endless game of Parcheesi because it was the only action we could seem to manage.)

Anyway, yeah, I really have to investigate that whole earthquake kit thing. Bug me if I don't update this announcing that I have one!


Anonymous said...

Jane - Please get together an Earthquake kit. I went through the terrible earthquakes in Mexico in the 1980's and you just have to be prepared, there is no time afterward to get things together that you might need.

Take care and post when you have one!


Anonymous said...

You know...I experienced an earthquake the year I lived on the west coast. Sounded like a train coming, then my bookshelves started rocking. And then it was over and I was filled with this overwhelming feeling of "WHAT was THAT??? I need to talk to someone about this RIGHT NOW!"

All of the evening's television programming was then pre-empted by scrupulous news coverage of the event--every person that called into a television station was quoted on air ("John Smith in the Oak Bluffs development has a new hairline crack in the southwest corner of his living room. Sarah Brown in Point Pleasant lost two Hummel figurines when they fell off a shelf on the northern wall in her foyer.")

Fortunately, there were no deaths in the earthquake I experienced, just a little structural damage in Tacoma.

But the news coverage was like group therapy, like a public service. And a way to connect to the event and be soothed. Kind of akin to your technorati search.

Ravi said...

Too bad you didn't go to 6th grade in England. The teachers there seem to really get it in terms of using google earth layers to teach students about seismic activity in the bayarea.

WriTerGuy said...

Don't want to get all Pollyanna on you, but small earthquakes and medium earthquakes are GOOD. They're what we want to have. Signs that the tension is being released in stages rather than in one Big Lurch.

Anonymous said...

Why do you want to move to Copenhagen, specifically? (Random question from random reader, but I'll be back to check for an answer!)

Jane said...

Hi Random reader!

Why Copenhagen? Well, my husband and I want to live in a city with both great history and thriving design culture, a city that's extremely pedestrian and public transportation friendly, with lots of public parks, a city with cool social traditions (see "hygge" in Wikipedia), a city with WEATHER (because it creates community), and we really like glugg, and a city where the people we meet tend to be really interesting. So, I guess that's why!