Posts tagged with "california" - Faerye Net 2008-08-04T16:21:42+00:00 Felicity Shoulders The control of risk 2008-08-04T16:21:42+00:00 2008-08-04T16:22:14+00:00 <p><center><a href="" title="San Gabriel Mountains, photo by exquisitur"><img src="" width="240" height="180" alt="San Gabriel Mountains" border="0"/></a><br /> <em><font size="1">Photo by Jason Hickey via <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>.</font></em></center></p> <p>The San Gabriel Mountains are some of the steepest on Earth. They&#8217;re geologically complex, riven by faults and scraped back and forth by plate tectonics. They are coming down.</p> <p>I read about them in &#8220;Los Angeles vs. the San Gabriels&#8221;, the final essay in John McPhee&#8217;s <a href="" target="links"><em>The Control of Nature</em></a>. McPhee&#8217;s description of the way the mountains&#8217; unstable rock interacts with the local cycle of fire and flash-flood is chilling; what&#8217;s more disturbing is that at their feet, in the path of the debris flows, are expensive and expansive human settlements, sprawling bedroom communities of Los Angeles.</p> <p>I highly recommend reading the book; in fact, I&#8217;ve already lent my copy to my family so they can read it, or else I&#8217;d be quoting more extensively. But my own reaction to the book made me think. Reading about families buying or building uninsurable multi-million dollar homes in the foothills of these moving mountains, I was incredulous. How could they live there just because it&#8217;s pretty and less smoggy than other parts of the LA Valley? How could they trust their lives and the integrity of their homes to the partial protection of a debris basin?</p> <p><center><a href="" title="Debris Basin, photo by yikai1"><img src="" width="240" height="180" alt="Debris Basin" border="0"/></a><br /> <em><font size="1">Photo by yikai1 via <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>.</font></em></center></p> <p>There are other stories in the book that mystify me as much. In &#8220;Atchafalaya,&#8221; the first essay, the author describes a <a href="">city in Louisiana</a> in a uniquely precarious position &mdash; &#8220;Water approaches Morgan City from every side.&#8221; (page 80) &mdash; one entirely dependent on the Army Corps of Engineers for the sea walls that protect them from flood. Years have passed since <em>Control of Nature</em> was published, so I went to check the city&#8217;s Wikipedia page to see how they&#8217;ve fared. The words &#8216;wall&#8217; and &#8216;flood&#8217; don&#8217;t appear; apparently no one deemed the dangers notable.</p> <p>We all live with risks, calculated or ignored. It&#8217;s easy to disapprove of the choice to build new mansions in the foothills of the San Gabriels, and hard to understand the Caltech geologists who outline the dangers of the mountain front for McPhee and then admit to living there. Easy to condemn the citizens who shrugged off their town government&#8217;s attempts to educate them about the season&#8217;s high likelihood of flows, refused to engage in mitigation activity, then sued that city when flows devastated their property. But what of the hardy men and women McPhee interviewed who live in the mountains because they love nature, who know the dangers better than anyone and stand in defiance in order to live in the wilderness? Is it knowledge that makes risk-taking acceptable in the eyes of an observer? Is it love?</p> <p><center><a href="" title="Mt. St. Helens at sunset, photo by Bmaas"><img src="" width="240" height="180" alt="Mt. St. Helens steaming" border="0"/></a><br /> <em><font size="1">Photo by Barry Maas via <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>.</font></em></center></p> <p>I have lived most of my life in Oregon. I&#8217;ve known, most of that life, that there are dangers. The weather is generally mild, and floods are not too common or dangerous, but underneath the state it&#8217;s a different story. The Juan de Fuca and North American plates have been locked without a major earthquake since <a href="" target="links">1700</a>. I&#8217;ve been told all my life that we&#8217;re overdue for a big quake, and learned in college that much of the earthquake proofing in the Northwest is proven against San Andreas style shaking, not the subduction zone movement it will someday need to withstand.</p> <p>But I love Oregon. I want to move back there, and I accept the risk. When friends from the Midwest ask about earthquakes, I usually say, &#8220;Yeah, it&#8217;ll happen someday, and it may kill me, but it may not.&#8221; It sounds fatalistic, but it does represent my position: A quake will occur, possibly within my lifetime, possibly later. It is likely to be massive, so there&#8217;s a limit to how much I can do about it. It&#8217;s an omnipresent, huge threat, but its very omnipresence and size make it ignorable. I can&#8217;t stress about it every minute, and when it happens, I&#8217;ll either be too dead to care or able to stop fretting about it for the rest of my life. Living in San Jose concerns me a little more, but not worrying is a similar process here, pretty easy to accomplish.</p> <p>But tornado season every year? Regular flooding of the Mississippi? Knowing that every time the <a href="" target="links">chapparal</a> on the mountains burns, two good rains in a row could move a hill down into my neighborhood? I couldn&#8217;t cope with those risks.</p> <p>This isn&#8217;t just a question of my comfort levels and yours; of my childhood practicing earthquake drills and learning about the volcano that erupted nine months before I was born versus <a href="" target="links">Ryan&#8217;s childhood</a> of riding the schoolbus home playing &#8216;spot the twisters&#8217;. Our cities are crowded; people want to live on the fringe where rents are low, or in the foothills above the smog. People want to retire further away, to remote but growing towns vulnerable to forest fire. The rich want to build beach houses on shifting dunes, while others cannot afford to move out of the floodplain, out of the trailer park in Tornado Alley, out of the path of the Mississippi. Our world is crowded. And, as the ice caps melt, our field of options will get smaller.</p> <p>We all underwrite each other&#8217;s choices. Within the US, by paying for rescue, for flood or high-risk home insurance, for disaster relief with our taxes. Across the globe, with international aid and our emotional investment in the lives lost at the edge. Who is going to decide what risks are reasonable? Whose freedom to risk can be respected, and whose should not? In this society of contradictions, where rugged individualism is espoused and habitual litigiousness is practiced, who has the right to decide where you or I make a home?</p> Experiment 2008-07-18T11:15:07+00:00 2008-07-18T11:16:28+00:00 <p>Yesterday I undertook to count cars that turned without using their turn signals. I thought I&#8217;d count until I saw just one that <span class="caps">DID</span> use the signal. I was extremely &#8211; one might even say over- &#8211; scrupulous, for I ignored the six or seven cars who appeared not to use their signals but could conceivably have blinked once or twice at the beginning or end of their turn without my seeing. Only turning, not merging, was considered. I also gave a pass to cars turning into parking spaces, just to be expansively generous.</p> <p>So, having let so many fish escape my net, how many cars did I see <span class="caps">IN A ROW</span> turn without using their signals? <span class="caps">NINE</span>.</p> <p><span class="caps">NINE</span>. No wonder I write <a href="">sarcastic rants</a> about the signal use in the Valley. And let&#8217;s not get into how many people actually look both ways before turning onto a busy street.</p> My favorite thing about California 2008-05-12T22:00:26+00:00 2008-05-21T21:55:25+00:00 <p>I admit I&#8217;ve been pretty negative about moving to the Golden State. I&#8217;ve been ungrateful about the way the drivers and roads <a href="">are training my reflexes and skills</a>, and suggested that the state&#8217;s most lauded private academic institution is <a href="">a cruel maze</a> from which escape is perilous. I have, as my coworkers could tell you, stared out at blue-sky day after blue-sky day and sighed after the variation and excitement of cloud and rain.</p> <p>However, this state has its points. And chief among them, in my opinion, is the bird life. I&#8217;m not an ornithological authority, and apart from the occasional hummingbird or finch, I&#8217;ve little idea what birds are flitting around my yard and mocking my cat from behind glass. But they are many, diverse, and lovely. Qubit likes to watch them&#8230;or at least, feels compelled to do so. From the frustrated hacking growls she emits, I don&#8217;t think she enjoys it too much.</p><p> I like to listen to them. When I sit at my dining room table, their songs come from several directions. I feel surrounded by their music. In my study, I can hear the clear repeated trills of a bird that frequents the tree in the front yard. These songs are far different from those I&#8217;m used to in Oregon, the sounds that are so much a part of my childhood I barely heard them until I left the state and returned. These are more tropical, like the calls at the zoo, from the aviary or on a looped soundtrack at an exhibit. They are merry and beautiful, clearer and more warming than the sunshine. I won&#8217;t live in California forever, and I&#8217;ll miss the birds when I go.</p> Eldritch lights 2008-03-22T00:17:27+00:00 2008-07-18T11:15:29+00:00 <p> Now, as we all know, this web-footed fairye is currently kickin&#8217; it <a href="" target="links">down California-way</a>. California is, as movies and Mickeys like to remind us, a <em>magical</em> place. As such, things are a little different down here. Things like cars.</p> <p>Within a few minutes of passing into the domain of <a href="" target="links">Califia</a>, your car acquires Multipurpose Magic Spell Lights or MMSLs. Depending on the make of car, the location of the controls vary, but they usually take the form of a wand attached to the steering wheel. This wand only has a few directions of mobility, but since it is magically contextual, that doesn&#8217;t matter.</p> <p><b><span class="caps">A FEW USES FOR YOUR</span> Multipurpose Magic Spell Lights</b> <br />(for Oregonians and others who may not understand)</p> <p><ul> <li>If you are merging (and when aren&#8217;t you?) and you see a car where you would like to be, activating the <span class="caps">MMSL</span> will transport this car into a parallel dimension, allowing you to safely enter the freeway or expressway precisely where that vehicle previously rolled.</li> <li>While you are bombing down the freeway, happily ensconced in a lane, activate the <span class="caps">MMSL</span> to daze surrounding drivers, causing them to take their feet off the gas and lose precious moments.</li> <li>At any time at all, activate both MMSLs at once with a special Ultrasecret Button Control in order to make yourself the center of attention. All the other drivers will stare at you, and you will know that you are one seriously cool dude.</li></ul> </p> <p>In short, there are no shortage of valid uses for the <span class="caps">MMSL</span>. Just, whatever you do, do <span class="caps">NOT</span> attempt to use the <span class="caps">MMSL</span> to communicate your intentions to other drivers, especially in high-speed lane changes, all-way stops, or other potentially dangerous situations. The <span class="caps">MMSL</span> is an eldritch force beyond human reckoning, and should <span class="caps">NOT</span> be abused just because some other drivers want to use the roads as well. Treasure your <span class="caps">MMSL</span>, and recharge it once in a while by honking at people who stop at red lights before turning right. Traffic magic is a renewable resource!</p> My first earthquake! 2007-10-30T20:34:07+00:00 2008-06-02T11:20:18+00:00 <p>Thus satisfying <a href="" target="links">Reason #1</a> for moving down here, I have been in an earthquake. According to my cousin who has lived in the Bay Area her whole life, it was actually a fairly long one (one doesn&#8217;t like to guess at the duration oneself, being a brand-new quake observer!). It rattled and shook the heebie-jeebies out of our little house, but I haven&#8217;t found a single thing knocked over so far, and the kitties kept their reaction down to a tiny hissy fit. It was very interesting indeed&#8212;I could feel the motion of the <a href="" target="links">Love waves</a>!</p> <p>And, tho&#8217; Ryan poo-pooed me when I said, &#8220;Oh c&#8217;mon, that was pretty significant! That had to be a four or something!&#8221;, it was a 5.6, under fifteen miles away.</p> Top Ten Move-Related Firsts 2007-04-09T17:46:52+00:00 2008-06-08T12:12:18+00:00 <p><b>10. First Starbucks I&#8217;ve visited in California.</b></p> <p><b>9. First time I&#8217;ve driven eight hours in one day.</b> That leg wouldn&#8217;t have taken so long if I hadn&#8217;t tried to give the cats water at every stop. On a related note, you&#8217;d think the average Californian had never seen a grown woman in pigtails with a leashed cat climbing her back before.</p> <p><b>8. First real live <span class="caps">CHP</span> motorcycle officer sighted.</b> They really do dress like that.</p> <p><b>7. First road trip with cats.</b> Next time, Ryan gets to drive Miss Evilcat.</p> <p><b>6. First time I&#8217;ve ever wanted to kill a cat.</b> In my defense, it certainly would have rendered her <a href=";id=543">tranquil</a>.</p> <p><b>5. First time sleeping in a room with two cats.</b> And second, and, tonight, third. The pouncing, the kneading&#8230;last night Qubit tried to stretch her forepaws into my eyesockets. In a nice way.</p> <p><b>4. First time finding British comedy on in the middle of the day on a weekday.</b> I think I&#8217;m going to like it here.</p> <p><b>3. First time driving in California.</b> I went from &#8216;zippy&#8217; to &#8216;slowpoke&#8217; without changing speeds!</p> <p><b>2. First time I&#8217;ve been told I have a pretty ethnicity.</b> Umm, thanks. It works out.</p> <p><b>1. First fifty-point-bonus word on my first turn of Scrabble.</b> (I built &#8216;STRAINED&#8217; off Grandma&#8217;s &#8216;CORES&#8217;, with the &#8216;D&#8217; on a triple word score.)</p> Top Ten Reasons to move to Santa Clara, California 2007-03-29T22:25:41+00:00 2008-06-08T12:11:44+00:00 <p>10. Ashamed of only having pumped own gas once in lifetime.</p> <p>9. Mild winters may mean less shed cat hair come spring.</p> <p>8. &#8216;Schwarzenegger&#8217; 23% funnier name than &#8216;Kulongowski&#8217;.</p> <p>7. Pretty geology.</p> <p>6. Left movie <em>Zodiac</em> convinced of Bay area&#8217;s beauty and Zodiac killer&#8217;s current deadness.</p> <p>5. Easier access to Pacific Ocean.</p> <p>4. 42% more history per square mile.</p> <p>3. Recommended by <a href="" target="links">favorite living poet</a>.</p> <p>2. <a href="">Dream job</a> for favorite working programmer.</p> <p>1. Anxious to be awake during an earthquake.</p>