Friday, August 14, 2009


The first earthquake I ever felt was a small one that barely shook the stage while I was in band rehearsal a couple of months after we moved to California. The Drum Major screamed, "Earthquake!" but the rest of the band just sat calmly as the room swayed back and forth a little.
I was also in class at UC Davis when the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake (otherwise known as the earthquake that interrupted the World Series that almost nobody cared about anyway) hit the San Francisco Bay Area on October 17, 1989. Davis was about 100 miles from the epicenter, and we actually felt it quite strongly. I was in Human Physiology in the largest lecture hall on campus, and everyone in the room thought that the person behind them had kicked the back of their chair. Hard. The professor was standing, and couldn't feel it, but slowly realized that he had suddenly completely lost everyone's attention. Finally the class managed to point out to him that 1) his bike was rolling back and forth behind him, and 2) the trees outside were whipping back and forth without wind.

I got out to my car after class, and KGO, the Bay Area talk radio station to which my radio was always tuned was off the air. That's when I started worrying about my parents, who were living in the Bay Area at the time. By the time I was able to get home and call them, the phone lines were completely overwhelmed and useless.

Cut to my parents:

My parents were sitting on the couch watching everything swing and sway around them, and after a while, my mother said to my father, "Do you think we should get in a doorway or something?" by which time, it was over. They sat and watched as a large vase on the wall unit spun around and around on it's base, but eventually righted itself rather than falling over. My collie, Robin, was staying with them for a few months, and had had a couple of dizzy spells. They said he stood in the entryway with his legs splayed, obviously thinking this was another one.

KGO was off the air because their radio transmission tower...broke and fell into the bay.
I happened to be in Redlands, CA when the Landers and Big Bear twin earthquakes hit, June 28, 1992. I was doing field work for the consulting firm for which I worked and I had dragged one of our field technicians, Burt, down to Southern California to help. We had fyke nets in the Santa Ana River and Big Bear Creek up in the San Bernardino Mountains that we were checking a couple of times a day.

Unusually for me, just as I was falling asleep on the 27th, I thought to myself, "What would I do if there's an earthquake tonight? I'll get under that table." No, I had never thought anything like that before. No, I'm not psychic. I either felt one of the pre-shocks, or it was just a coincidence. I was literally thrown out of bed when the 7.6 magnitude Lander's quake hit at 4:58 AM (Redlands was ~40 miles from the epicenter), and woke up under that table thinking, "Damn! I should really wear more clothes to bed. I can't run outside wearing this!" Yes, if the building had collapsed, I would have been killed due to modesty.

I wasn't really frightened - more excited than anything. When I finally got dressed and outside, it was mostly over, the water was sloshing around in the pool a little, and the completely freaked out Burt was at my door with his bags packed, ready to leave. I convinced him that we should at least eat breakfast first. I also called my parents to tell them I was OK even though it was 5:00 AM, because I knew from previous experience that the phone lines would soon be overwhelmed.

A fairly strong aftershock hit while Burt and I were eating, but I convinced him that we should just stay and finish our job. We couldn't just leave the nets there, and "What are the chances that there will be another earthquake," I said, rolling my eyes. I remember saying this several times.

We left to go up into the San Bernardino mountains and a really strong aftershock hit while we were gassing up the truck. This helped him convince me that we should go back to our hotel and at least call in to see what our supervisor said. While we were on the phone, the 6.7 Big Bear earthquake hit. Although it was a much smaller earthquake, it was also much closer (~25 miles away) and a MUCH sharper jolt.

It was probably one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me. Burt and I were taking turns yanking the phone out of each other's hands and relaying the earthquake to our poor supervisor blow-by-blow. We were on the second floor, and had a pretty good view.

Large amounts of water in the pool started sloshing out, which was just amazing to see.

The television in my room kept tilting forward until it was caught by the cord, and then thrown back onto the table.

The hotel we were in was right next to a freeway overpass, which was swaying violently back and forth. The teflon-lined joints in the road bed were doing their job, and sliding against each other - one half of the overpass was going one way, and the other the other way. The friction was so great, the joint started smoking. Although it was only offset by a few inches, it was incredible to watch!

It was an unusually clear day, and as I looked out at the mountains, it suddenly looked as thought they had spontaneously burst into flames. What looked like smoke started billowing up all over them. I realized this must be from numerous simultaneous land slides and relayed this to my poor supervisor.

Everything calmed down fairly quickly, and Burt was finally able to convince me to leave. Before we left, we drove out to explain to our client's office to let them know we were going and ask them to pull the nets when they got a chance. They told us that they had several work crews stuck up on the roads unable to move because landslides had blocked them on either side. Yes, the very same roads we would have been on if I had had my way. Later, we also found out that the nets had actually been buried under boulders. THAT would have been exciting had we been there... The nets were only a few miles from the epicenter of the Big Bear quake.

Amazingly enough, there were only three casualties from these two quakes, although sadly one of them was a three year old boy.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I haven't written enough posts about my brother. Apparently.

Ok, I've tried to keep several members of my family pretty much out of this blog. My father has really been the only one that reads it regularly, and he never comments except in person (well, usually on the phone since they live thousands of miles away). He does send me blog material occasionally. He's a retired helminthologist, and when I was growing up, dinner table conversation often turned to such interesting things as parasitic nematodes and tapeworms. This was sort of an unofficial litmus test for potential boyfriends (and girlfriends in my brother's case) — if they didn't run to the bathroom and vomit, they had promise. If they joined in, even better.[1]

My mother is terrified that I will be found and shot or harassed or lose my job or something because she feels that the religious nuts in this country are highly unstable and I shouldn't be putting myself and family in danger by actually coming out as an atheist. I've told her that there are a lot of far more prominent atheists out there, and I would be way down on the list if people started gunning for us. I think she doesn't read my blog for the same reason that when she's a passenger in a car, she won't look over the edge of a cliff in case the car goes off.

It's also partly because she and my father are really busy as licensed wild animal re-habbers. When my mother sends my father out on a wild goose chase, he usually comes home with an actual wild goose. No, they don't get paid, they do it for the animals, and yes you do have to have both federal and state licenses to do it, so don't try this at home. Oh, and thawing rats (to feed the carnivores) on the kitchen counter can also be a BIG turnoff for potential dates for both me AND my brother.[2] Just sayin'

In addition she's...well, lets just say my brother and I both got her the same birthday card this year:

Outside - Mom, This year I'm going to program your phone to play Happy Birthday whenever it rings

Inside - And you won't be able to do anything about it, will you?
My brother Phil, on the other hand, actually has commented several times, but wanted to remain anonymous due to what I can only assume are some shady dealings at some point in his life. He did at one time frequent a speakeasy, after all. Or maybe it was something about not wanting any of his ex-wives to find him. Whatever. He also has stated that he doesn't want to be associated too closely with me when they start rounding atheists up and putting us into concentration camps. SORRY PHIL. Too late. They have a file on you now, too. Not that he's paranoid or anything, but then again, he used to be a registered Republican. Which could possibly be a symptom of mental illness in itself. Luckily, the previous administration brought him to his senses. Now he's in the Prohibition Party, AND the Marijuana Party, which causes him a lot of cognitive dissonance.[3]

When he discovered he wasn't exactly internet anonymous, he started commenting more and suddenly became REALLY NEEDY! For example:
See why I don't spend much time reading this blog? It has nothing about me in it. The whole page and nothing. She took days to write about her whole life, tomatoes, hives, horses. Me? Nope. Oh, wait. She mentions me in a reply to a post. Here. On this little backwater of a page. Humph.
Did anyone who reads this know I had a brother? (PLEASE SAY YES, OR I'LL NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT!) And congratulate him. He's getting married soon! Again! Hey, wait. Do I have to get him yet another wedding present? I can only assume she passed the dead rat litmus test already.[4]

He's my younger brother, and I was always really mean to him. For instance, I slammed the door shut in his face once. Unfortunately, the door was exactly the right height to rip the toenail off his big toe. I also pushed him down a vine out of a tree. Unfortunately, the vine had a broken offshoot which caught him in the groin area. He had to have several stitches. I'm sure he still has that scar. Considering how I treated him, he's always been really nice to me. I don't know why...

He's actually posted a picture of himself on his profile (Yes, it's the same link as before. He doesn't give me much to work with).[5] I like this photo better, though.And you thought I was odd. Obviously the orange peel should go the other way around. Sheesh.

[1] Both Bill and David passed with flying colours

[2] Again Bill passed with flying colors. He was also accidentally fed rice that had confused flour beetles (they WERE cooked!) in it. Well, it wasn't actually accidental. My mother and I looked at the rice and then at each other, and quietly and quickly started picking the small black things out. We didn't tell my father and Bill until AFTER dinner, and Bill STILL married me two years later. It didn't bother either of them at all. But now nobody is ever going to come to my house for dinner again. Especially not my son, who has an irrational fear of insects (No, William. You were not there. As far as YOU know).

[3] I suppose I should put a disclaimer that, no he is not in either the Prohibition or the Marijuana party. Especially not the Prohibition Party. I don't think...

[4] Getting to Wallis and Futuna for the wedding is going to be a pain in the butt.

[5] Contrary to what his Blogger Profile name might indicate, my Brother Phil is definitely NOT a monk.