Thursday, August 13, 2009

shakin' all over

He'll Make It
Originally uploaded by Infidelic.
Japan's been shaking like crazy this week. Among the decisions that have helped make Japan, as tremulous as it can be, among the safer places to be in an earthquake is that people have been trained in quake safety.

A basic step, if you live in an area that could possibly have a big quake, is to keep a stash of supplies -- food, water, safety gear, extra sturdy clothing -- where you'll be able to get to it easily afterwards. I refer to the comprehensive quake-kit list at when I need a reminder of what to include.

My area is decidedly red. We live near a fault that's overdue for a big quake. I lived through the Loma Prieta (from 60 miles away -- it was scary where I was, and damaging, but not devastating) and spent a long time nervous about earthquakes, afraid. I still have some nervous responses, but mostly I'm better, and I'm working on being more prepared.

At our house, we have camping equipment stored in the garage, and we specifically keep it right near the garage door, near the floor, where we can grab it if we have to. Even if that building were to collapse, we could find the camping equipment. And we're pretty sure we can stay in our yard, there aren't any hazards and it's not likely to liquefy. We also have a pen for the dogs, just in case, and extra leashes.
We need to work on storing that in a more organized way.

We keep important papers hidden in a fire-proof safe that we can access easily after a quake. I'm not worried about things like jewelry -- I don't have much, and even for the emotionally important stuff, ultimately it's just stuff. We want to keep ourselves safe and hydrated, and we want to keep the dogs safe, hydrated, and as calm as possible. Everything else is extra.

There are some things I don't do nearly often enough, and I don't have ready. For instance, I don't have a flashlight in my bedroom where I can grab it easily, or sturdy shoes always right near the bed. Both of those are easy enough to fix. I'm pondering getting a cheapo kid's backpack at a thrift store and making a small, basic pack for next to my bed, and one for the car. (It's a station wagon, impossible truly to hide anything of any size in there. I don't want to be a break-in target.)

Is there anything else? I'm sure I'm forgetting things specific to me (e.g. make sure I have three or four days of medication in my quake kits), and there might be something specific to you that's not on any list, that you should remember. Extra glasses if you're used to contacts and can't see at all without help? Disposable diapers and wipes?) What would you want to have in a kit that's not on standard readiness lists?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

white-hot meteors

An amateur astronomer set up his basic little digital camera to record some of the Perseid meteors last night:

The fog came in for us, and we saw none. This is the San Francisco Bay Area, where fog on summer nights keeps us cooler in the daytime, but makes star watching a real pain sometimes.

This little video makes me want to go somewhere more remote and clear, next August, and set up the camera with the 16 gb card in it, then drink hot cocoa and watch the skies.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Poor Japan

Here it is all dark and wet as a couple of Asian typhoons swing by, and as some folks are still trembling from a quake a few days ago, and whacko:

But as hard as the shaking looks, it was only 6.4, and there was no major damage (reported as of now, a few hours later, anyhow), and the tsunami was small.

Mind you, within twelve minutes away from this quake, a 7.6 whopper, probably an aftershock of the 2004 quake, shook the Bay of Bengal between the Andaman Islands and Burma. Tsunami-watchers waited nervously, but none materialized. The quake was more than 30 km deep, fortunately.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sierra Nevada watershed

Three years ago, I took this video at the Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model visitor's center in Sausalito, California.

It illustrates with LEDs the storage of fresh water in snow and ice in the Sierra Nevada, and its flow down the slopes, through the valley, and out to sea through the Delta and San Francisco Bay.

If climate change warms up and dries out California in the summer, as models currently predict, less water will be stored as snow over the winter, leaving less fresh water to flow out to sea and through the Delta in the summer. Not only will this mean less fresh water for immediate human use, but less for agriculture, wildlife, and fresh/salt balance in the Delta.

traditional map skills

With so much emphasis in modern geography training on GIS, aerial interpretation, and other important skills, some basic traditional map skills such as orienteering have gone by the wayside.

Here are some traditional uses for maps that you might have forgotten about.