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Photo Friday: Earthquake Pancake

Posted by Ted on Oct 21, 2011 in Events, Memories, Photography

San Francisco shook twice yesterday, and it wasn’t from a Giants game.

Almost 22 years to the day after the Loma Prieta earthquake rattled the Bay Area during the 1989 World Series, two quakes occurred yesterday along the Hayward Fault, with epicenters several miles below the UC Berkeley campus. At 2:41p, I felt the first one (4.0) from our lab in the SoMa district of San Francisco – a rumble that jiggled parked cars on the street. At 8:16p, I felt the second one (3.8) from our much closer second story apartment in Oakland and did a mental double-take as I truly felt the house shake for a moment. Of course, Facebook and Twitter had a flurry of status updates as people all across the Bay Area shared their experiences.

When my wife and I moved here from Boston three years ago, we traded snow for earthquakes. I personally don’t mind these relatively small earthquakes, in that by relieving fault pressure they delay “The Big One“. Even when that one hits, I have some faith that it may not be as bad as what I saw in Haiti last year.

The second floor becomes the first - Jacmel, Haiti (March 2010)

Here you can see a bit of earthquake physics you might not have realized – that on multi-story buildings, it is actually safer to be higher up. Notice that the first floor has been completely crushed and the third floor is comparatively unscathed. My faith that California will weather a large earthquake better is due primarily to the three following things that Haiti does not have;

  1. Higher quality building materials – What I saw in Haiti was cement that crumbled to the touch and woefully thin rebar
  2. Better building techniques – California in particular practices seismic design principles
  3. Adherence to building codes – Perhaps most important, for without this the other two become meaningless

This is not to say that Californians should be complacent, but our awareness and continued engineering advances should give us a decent chance of avoiding the devastation that I saw in Haiti.

(Related pictures of Haiti 2010 can be found here.)

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Memories of Japan

Posted by Ted on Mar 30, 2011 in Events, Memories, Photography, Travel

At 2:46pm on Friday, March 11th, 2011, a massive 8.9 earthquake shook the island of Honshu, 230 miles north of Tokyo, 45 miles offshore where the Pacific tectonic plate thrusts underneath the North American plate. Colossal 30 foot waves washed over seawalls, bringing boats inland and leveling everything in its wake. The wave traveled as far as our East Bay home, over 5000 miles away. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the three weeks since have been filled with the growing tension surrounding the increasing levels of radiation coming from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. With relatives in and friends visiting Japan, and the tsunami wave and diluted radioactive cloud reaching the Bay Area, the catastrophe hit home. I had also seen the devastation in Haiti only a year ago. Thankfully, the Japanese have building codes, and loss of life has been thankfully minimal. Every day, the news of the struggle to contain the nuclear emergency overshadows all other after-effects of the catastrophe. The world waits as brave Tokyo Electric workers pump seawater into damaged reactors and try to restore power to the facility.

With all of this press that focuses on the tragedy, I would like to take a moment to step back and remember what makes Japan beautiful. I was lucky enough to travel to the land of the Rising Sun just over 10 years ago, when I was working for UUNET. We had been acquired by Worldcom, and were expanding into the Asia-Pacific region, and I was responsible for training the local teams how to connect businesses up to our global infrastructure. Here are a few of my favorite memories.

The offices were based in Tokyo, but I had taken a long weekend and gone down to Kyoto via Shinkansen. It was cherry blossom season, this year’s being not long from now, and they were in bloom and beautiful. One of the most magical moments was walking around the Imperial Palace when there was a light rain and the conditions were just right such that when the sun went behind the clouds, the temperature dropped just enough that the rain turned to snow, falling through blooming cherry trees.

Also in Kyoto, I stopped along a side street to act as a dark counterpoint for two beautiful white-faced Geisha.

Having already seen the recreation at the Japanese Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, I sought out the Torii gate submerged in Lake Ashinoko, near Hakone. That was a wonderful weekend, having taken the Shinkansen down to Odawara, and then ridden trains, gondolas, and pirate ships around the region.

However, my favorite memory of all was as I left Tokyo the first time, bound for Hong Kong. Only a couple of years before 9/11, air travel was a bit more lax. On this particular occasion, I was in business class, and the stewardess excitedly came into the cabin and invited the handful of us into the cockpit to see a view that few see. There are thousands, perhaps even millions of pictures and paintings of Mt. Fuji from the ground, but we were able to look down on it from above.

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A call to action in Haiti

Posted by Ted on Feb 28, 2010 in Causes, Outdoors, Travel

While yesterday’s terrible earthquake in Chile was 500 times stronger than the one that struck Haiti earlier this year, the country was much more prepared to face the tragedy.  With a history of earthquakes from living in the Pacific Ring of Fire, their buildings were built to withstand the vibrations caused by tectonic plates slipping past each other.  At current count, the death toll is 214 and is not expected to rise dramatically.  In Haiti, however, there may be 300,000 dead.

I would like to ask for your financial help in enabling me to help them.

Last weekend, I attended NIMBY‘s benefit event, “DO IT FOR HAITI“. Among the relief organizations present were Burners Without Borders, “a community led, grassroots group that addresses gaping needs where existing cultural and societal systems are failing.” The next day I filled out their online form stating that while I am not a medical professional, I have the time, the desire, and the fortitude to help. The day after that I was contacted by Carmen at BWB, who connected me to Laura at Shelters International, whom I talked to on Tuesday as she was riding back to the largely ignored small town where she and other volunteers are digging latrines and clearing rubble for hospitals and schools alongside the Haitian villagers whose lives were torn asunder by the series of earthquakes in January.

I leave for Jacmel, Haiti to join them on Thursday.

Since the turn of the year, I’ve felt a yearning to do something meaningful, and it seems to have found me.  Being one of the 10.6% of Americans with more time than money, I have the flexibility to donate two weeks of my time and sweat in order to directly help in the relief effort.  I give hundreds of dollars per year to causes I believe in that help civil liberties, the environment, space exploration, and humanitarian efforts.  Twice I have biked 125 miles in a day to support AIDS care and research.  However, one can never truly see where their money goes and how it gets used.

Even if you’ve given money to CARE or donated $10 to the Red Cross by texting “Haiti” to number 90999, I would like you to consider donating again.  I have already spent over $800 on airfare to get from San Francisco to Port-au-Prince, immunizations to protect me from getting Hepatitis, Typhoid, and Malaria, and a tent to live in for two weeks.  My new homeI also need to pay for my own food at $10/day.  I am offering you the rare opportunity to give a donation where you know exactly who the money is helping, and how it is being used.  My goal is to raise $1500.  Any amount above $500, I will give directly to Shelters International so that they can feed their volunteers and buy necessary supplies.  You’ll have the opportunity to follow along, assuming that there is enough cell service for occasional blog or twitter updates, and I promise to send something personal to everyone who donates any amount.

Living in a tent when the temperature is 90 degrees and at least 70% humidity, where Dengue mosquitoes bite you during the day and Malaria mosquitoes at night, and spending your time clearing rubble and building latrines, I doubt anyone would want to live even vicariously through me for the next few weeks, but you can help.

If you would be willing to support my mission to Haiti, the easiest way would be to use paypal to send a donation to [email protected]. If you would prefer to make a donation via check, please send me email for the address.

Thank you.

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