View from the end of our street, February 22nd, 2019

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tips from the Ring

          Before I get to that, I want to thank those who took the time to comment on the Story of my Wife.  Unfortunately, this was done face-to-face by the locals who see me at work, or around the neighborhood.  There isn't any real reason for me to invest time in this blog if we're going to have these discussions across a hose rack.  This is strictly in the nature of "Do me a favor."  I'm begging you, if you see something here you'd like to talk about, click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the post, and do it there.  I do this in large part to exchange ideas with people I otherwise have no access to, and to a great extent, it works.  Witness my lively interchanges with everyone from the Nerds to Bob the small dog, and know that these contacts benefit you, as you can contact them and strike up your own conversations; the sites I find interesting tend to appear in the sidebar under "Collected on my Travels."  Just click on them and enjoy.  So please, I ask again, talk to me here!  During the two weeks that Love and Fate on the Government's Payroll was up, my counter showed hits from people from Baltimore to Bremerhaven who didn't bother to say anything, and I have to wonder whether they would have if there had already been a dozen or so comments on the post when they first saw it.  Would that have sparked more interest on their part?  Who can say, but I'd like to find out.  Click and post, please.

          All right, we out here on the Ring of Fire (yeah, that Ring) got a good laugh out of the cabaret that went down following the east-of-the-Rockies earthquakes that happened last Tuesday.  Don't get huffy, it's fair.  People in the Hurricane Belt laugh themselves silly at us sliding around the freeways in the annual drizzlefest we call "winter," and the folks in Tornado Alley must snicker fit to bust when they see us boarding up our windows to fend off one of our killer breezestorms.  Out here on the Left Coast, we know fires, and we know earthquakes.  Fires are never funny, but a small earthquake sprung on someone unaccustomed can be better than an hour with Seinfeld.

          Okay, now that we've enjoyed our laugh, I want to offer my fellow citizens in the rest of the country a few pointers to help you get through the next one relatively intact.  First, there are basically two kinds of earthquakes.  The first begins with a sudden lurch, a violent wrench that can throw you off your feet if it's strong enough.  Sometimes you even hear it, a sharp "crack!" or "bang!" followed by SHAKE-SHAKE-SHAKE-shake-shake-shake -- shake -- shake -- shake, becoming slower and weaker as the energy is dissipated.  In these, the brunt of the energy is released in the first second.  If you feel the "bang!" and you look around and everything is generally okay, you're safe.  It's going to get weaker, and weaker, and all you need to do is enjoy the ride.  If this pattern is reversed, however, if you gradually become aware that there is movement in the room, like the ceiling fan begins to sway, or you feel like you are standing beside an unbalanced washer during the spin cycle, and then you start hearing rattle-rattle-rattle-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE, that's when you need to dive under the nearest table and try to protect your head by shoving it up your bunghole, 'cause it's going to be bad!  When you hear that crescendo of shaking start up the scale, no one alive can predict where it's going to level off, and the theoretical limit is about 9.5, which is plenty enough to topple skyscrapers, change coastlines, or open a new Grand Canyon.

          The more astute among you will have detected my tongue firmly in my cheek, but the fact is that if you feel the ground start moving beneath you, if you aren't accustomed to the sensation (and often even if you are), you're going to freak.  You may experience a panic freeze, but eventually you are going to start moving, and your life may depend upon moving in the right way, so I'm going to give you three simple things to do that are easy to remember, and should protect you from the immediate effects.
          #1: Get away from any large sheets of glass; mirrors, windows, interior dividers will all be torqued by the rolling forces being released, and they don't have to be twisted very far before they explode into shrapnel as effective as any hand grenade.  Put something between you and them if possible, but at the very least, get away from them.
          #2: If your survival instinct tells you that this is going to be a hard shaker (and trust me, if you don't have a body of experience to draw on, you're going to think it's the end of the world), get under a solidly built table, desk, or counter.  The main thing that happens inside buildings during an earthquake is that things fall, and you will want something sturdy between you and these impromptu missiles.
          #3: For the same reason, never, never, never try to run outside.  A substantial quake will shake nonstructural pieces, i. e., decorations, window frames and ledges, glass, and sometimes chunks of building materials, loose from the building.  These will head for the ground at a high rate of speed, and if you meet one at the door, you're going to lose!  Here in earthquake country, we have a saying: Earthquakes don't kill people, buildings kill people.  Protect yourself from the immediate effects of things falling during the shaking, and you'll be around to deal with the aftermath at your leisure.
          I hope you Easterners find something useful here, or at least comforting, that will help you when the ground moves again.  And know that it will.  Once a source of ground movement has exposed itself, it doesn't just go away.  It may not move again for decades, but it's there.  If any of this information saves a life, we can only hope it was the right one!

          All right, coming up Sunday morning, a look at how first the media, and then social networking, has changed our language, as I tackle the subject of word mutation.  See you all then, I hope, and remember, please, please, put your comments on the page!


  1. You know me as someone terrified of earthquakes, by the many times I have ripped out handfuls of your chest hair! But after the one we had one Easter Sunday, I am no longer afraid of the little pipsqueaks. But I remember an old saying that says "He who laughs last, laughs best!" We may not do well with wet freeways, but when it comes to earthquakes, we are old veterans. Good advice, and maybe folks on the east coast will think twice before laughing at us when it rains!

  2. So true about different parts of are great country, knowing facts of the earthquakes on the west coast and Tornado Alley in the midwest and hurricane on the east coast and now all parts of our great country are getting hit with abnormal events in there region



  4. I remember a quake that tried to send a floor lamp into my noggin....and that Easter one that literally scared the poop out of the dog. I'd rather deal with a quake any day over a fire though. Does the doorway advice still count, standing in a doorway during a quake? Or did someone decide that that doesn't work? The video of all those New Yorkers running outside was kinda funny, but yeah, they'll be laughing at our 2,000 fender benders the next time some sprinkler mist covers the freeway. Such is life...

  5. The "brace yourself in a doorway" theory, based on the fact that, looking at the carnage after a really bad quake, you can see lots of doorframes standing amid the rubble, has been largely discredited, mostly due to the fact that doorways are too narrow to protect you from falling debris. That dog is always a laugh! Other peoples' dogs warn them that something's about to happen; once again, ours is the last one to the party and wearing the wrong outfit...

    C.R., California earthquakes are weak? I'm guessing you were out of town last Easter? Or, you can try to sell that to the people of Northridge, or the Marina district of San Francisco. Our earthquakes may seem weak, but that's only because we have the strictest building codes in the lower 48. All that said, though, and maybe for that reason, I'll take my one earthquake every ten years over ten tornadoes every season any day of the week...

  6. jack i was around easter my walls shook for a bout 30 seconds. but i didn't see the ground open up and swallow everything whole either. lol as long as there is no earth quakes as bad as the movie 2012 with John Cusack... touché


  7. 'I do this in large part to exchange ideas with people I otherwise have no access to.' Ditto.

    I warn you - I probably talk too much. Maybe it's because I'm a writer, and need outside humans, and, since I don't get out of the house much due to illness, comment a lot people online.

    Most blogs have comments enabled, but not everyone who posts has time to reply to comments. I do notice that on days when, say, Writer Unboxed has a poster who doesn't talk back, I have a lot less interest in reading.

    Commenting is work, too, and requires some king of coherent thought, so I watch carefully for feedback, and enjoy those blogs most.

    Re: earthquakes. Born in Glendale, moved to Mexico City when I was 7, back to Seattle to finish college at 19. Used to quakes. If they're bad, in Mexico we stood in a doorway (lintels are sturdy). The nuns would march us out to kneel on the grass in front of Colegio Guadalupe, but stuff was usually over by the time we got there.

    We had a little one in NJ a few years ago, around 6am. I told the husband. He laughed at me. But later read about it online. Your real problem is when the building you're in can't take the quake - no solution to that one is really fast enough.

    I've never been that poor.

    In the big one in Mexico City that killed 10K people, many of them were in a single condominium building built improperly by the usual corrupt bribe-paying types.

    My eldest daughter lives in SF. I worry. Not a whole bunch, but enough. Not enough to keep us from moving there this year (not SF, but a couple of hours out east from the city, if we find a community we like and it has room for us). I'll just have to take my chances.