Are you prepared?

There was an earthquake at 10:40 this morning — as fate would have it, just as I was reading my homeowner’s insurance renewal. It measured 4.3 on the Richter scale, centered near San Jose. Here in Berkeley it shook the house just enough to remind me that we live in earthquake country — the kind of quake we Californians casually toss to Easterners who can’t fathom why anyone would live in earthquake country. “Oh,” we say, “we get these every so often. It’s no big deal.”

When I was a child, I thought earthquakes were the coolest thing. Science in action! I loved the earthquake sequence from the movie San Francisco, with great rents opening up in the city streets as hapless pedestrians fall into them. (Once, as our family was driving in San Francisco, I asked my father if we could go see one of those big rents, confident that after sixty years it would still be there.) Much later, as a student at UC Berkeley, there was an earthquake during breakfast at my student co-op. I rushed over to the seismograph at the Earth Sciences Building, just a block away, only to find a huge crowd of people already there, clustered around the printout. For the centennial of the Great 1906 Earthquake, my friend Coy and I went to the annual gathering of survivors at Lotta’s fountain at 5:06am on April 18th: there was no way I was going to miss that. Ten dignified elderly men and women were chauffeured to the platform in classy vintage cars. Mayor Newsom interviewed every one of them. (Sadly, the last known survivor of the 1906 earthquake passed away in February.)

Now that I’m a homeowner, I am very afraid of the Big One. The Hayward fault could let go any minute now: the last Hayward quake was in 140 years ago in 1868, and at least one geologic survey suggests there have been big quakes, oh, every 140 years, give or take. The 1868 quake knocked down buildings all over the Bay Area, but so few people lived in the East Bay that the damage in San Francisco got more press. Today, millions of people live within a few miles of the Hayward fault, and it will be a calamitous day indeed when the earthquake hits, on the scale of Katrina.

Are you prepared? You must assume that you’ll be completely on your own for a whole week. Do you have food & water stashed away? Do you have “go bags” ready in your car? Radios? Flashlights? Cash? Prescription drugs? Bicycle? Leashes & food for your pets? Is there at least half a tank of gas in your car? Does your family know where to gather after an earthquake?

Am I prepared? Partially, but not completely. You’d think after spending all this time worrying about it, that I’d have attended to everything. But it’s like the hole in the roof: it doesn’t leak when it’s not raining. If you fulfill only one of those New Year’s resolutions you made, fulfill this one: be prepared for the Big One.

Visit this USGS web page for excellent resources on earthquake preparedness.

Fudge, in Boonville?

My friend David called me on Monday: “Do you want to come flying with me this afternoon?” It was a beautiful day, and I thought for about twenty seconds before accepting. I’d been up in David’s Cessna a few times before; the views are great and there’s no security checkpoint. Where to? “I was thinking Boonville,” David replied. “There’s a store that sells really good fudge, it’s an easy walk from the airport.” Good fudge is a fine excuse to fly to Boonville.

The fudge purveyor is Anderson Valley Market & Deli, (707) 895-3019. I had the pistachio and it was quite yummy.

Here are some photos from the flight:

Fremont, USA

I grew up in a city called Fremont. It was the Bay Area’s first model suburb, created in 1956 by gluing together the towns of Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose and Warm Springs. My family moved to Fremont in 1961 to a duplex on the edge of old town Centerville. At that time there were still rural areas between the five towns, mostly planted with walnuts and cauliflower. My mother would occasionally take me walking to Haller’s pharmacy around the corner, or if I were really lucky, to the Cloverdale Creamery for ice cream. Two years later we moved to a newly-built ranch house in the same subdivision: closer to the freeway for Dad’s commute, but farther from old town. Time passed, I upgraded from Mattos Elementary to Centerville Jr High to Washington High. By the time I graduated and moved to Berkeley for college, all the open space between Centerville and Irvington was gone, covered with houses.

In the years since I left, Fremont has undergone a remarkable social transformation. The ethnic and religious demographics have completely changed: Fremont is now home to the largest Afghan community in the United States, and the second-largest Sikh community. This is why I am eager to see the new documentary Fremont, U.S.A — A City’s Encounter with Religious Diversity, produced by the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. I will write about the film in a future post.

Here is what the East Bay Express has to say about “Fremont, USA”.

The Whole iMegillah

The Jewish holiday of Purim was a week ago Monday. It’s the day when Jews read the book of Esther, where the Jews of Persia are saved from persecution by the joint efforts of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai. The antagonist and Bad Guy is Haman, who erects a wooden spike on which to impale Mordechai but ends up getting impaled himself. Purim is a joyful, boisterous and very noisy holiday, where everyone is encouraged to dress in goofy costumes. As the megillah (scroll) is being read aloud, whenever “Haman” is uttered his name is gleefully drowned out by yells and all variety of wooden and metal noisemakers. Haman’s name appears often, so there is a lot of yelling. Also traditional is the liberal use of adult beverages, although at my synagogue this was limited to one bottle of (very tasty) single malt whisky.

The whole megillah is read again the next morning, invariably a much more subdued setting. Behind me was a rabbi holding her iPhone. That in itself was unusual, because the use of electronics during services is frowned upon — but this being Purim, the rules are relaxed all around. Then I realized that she was following along with the reading — her iPhone app included the entire Book of Esther, in vertical scroll format! Better yet, it has five different noise options, including “booing crowd” and “wooden grogger”. Press the grogger icon, instant grogger noise! But my favorite feature: you can shake the iPhone itself to get noise — just like a real grogger. I was so captivated that I missed several verses of the reading.

Just two days before I had been to a Berkeley CyberSalon at the Hillside Club, where the topic was iPhone apps. There were a series of quick demos of new apps by their developers, after which we were polled about how much we would pay for them. I don’t own an iPhone, and had somehow missed the explosion of apps: somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 at this writing.  Too bad someone didn’t demo the Esther app (“Just in time for Purim!”). My favorite was Terra (formerly Blue Marble) by David Rowland, a Earth simulation that allows you fix a point in time and twirl the planet, or fix a point on the planet and zoom back and forth in time. Tough to describe in a few words, but if you like astronomy it’s very cool.

Use well the days

In early December I was laid off. It was a new experience for me, and it has been an interesting few months. (Here is where you can read about my career campaign.)

Part of my severance package was a one-month membership to a career counseling firm called Right Management. They have over 300 offices worldwide, and I have been quite impressed with them. They understand which job-search methods are most effective in this age when 80% of all job requisitions are not advertised anywhere. The counselors are experienced at gently yet firmly focusing you on those methods. They’re also very good at conducting group classes, keeping the mood positive and upbeat when it could easily be dour and depressing.

Amongst the lessons I’ve learned (or re-learned):

  • Use well the days. Looking for a job is a full-time job.
  • Enjoy the time off! Go outside, breathe the fresh air! This is not mutually exclusive with lesson #1
  • Network, network, network. It’s the only way to find the 80% of the job reqs that aren’t advertised. LinkedIn is your friend.
  • Always have business cards in your pocket
  • The San Francisco Business Times is an excellent resource
  • There’s nothing like a glass of adult beverage to catalyze the networking process

There’s no such thing as bad networking. Last week, a fellow Cal alum sponsored a networking event called “Depression 2.0 – Party Like It’s 1929!” at a vodka bar in San Francisco. I thought “what the heck” and went. I came back with several good contacts, including an offer to go have Friday afternoon pizza and beer at this one fellow’s company. It might not turn into anything, but you never know.