The Day After

After a cat nap of an hour or two — I’m not quite sure because, as in the earthquake, time seemed to lose all meaning — I’m feeling much less freaked out and much more contemplative.

When the earthquake hit I was alone in the house, and while my phone was busy with people calling (people could call me, but I couldn’t call out very successfully) I still felt alone afterwards. Of course, this was a shared experience and with about a million people in San Jose alone it was a broadly shared one. So going in to the office and chatting with people about that experience was helpful and a great stress reliever. From this point on, I can revise my earthquake anecdote for parties to be more on the comic side and less on the shock and awe side.

The day after started fitfully, laying in bed not sleeping; progressed to the office early before sunrise, then back home for a quick inspection and a nap. Still headachey from lack of sleep, I got up to get more work done, had a little interview with a major metropolitan newspaper (perhaps this was a Lex Luthor plot to gain valuable California beachfront property?) and now it’s time for an aspirin and prep for the mobs of kids that come through my neighborhood begging for sugar to feed their scary addiction. I’m sure that someone will decide that one or all of these events is proof of the oncoming apocalypse.

3:55pm: just had an aftershock.

3:58pm. It was a 3.7, all the other aftershocks have been 1s and 2s. This one swayed the house a bit, the kind of earthquake that lulled me into a false sense of security over the last few years.

4:40pm. Surveillance video of the earthquake at a convenience store. I also saw video from the Kragen auto parts store on TV today, but haven’t found a web link to it.

4:45pm. Found the link to the Kragen video at KNTV. Odd, now that I watch these videos they make it all seem far less upsetting than it actually was in real life, and don’t seem to convey the violence of it.

Here’s an audio recording that was in progress when the earthquake hit. It’s fascinating to listen to but it doesn’t capture the strange “oncoming truck” sound that I heard before it hit. quake.mp3 The audio of the house shaking in this file indicates that it lasted about 18 seconds, but it is hard to make that estimate because it doesn’t include that precursor sound or the more gentle shaking after the main shock.

Uh huh… all shook up

11 hours later and I’m in my office — on the second floor, which is suddenly scary. Let me get some coffee and I’ll be right back.

So, let’s see. I think I slept a total of 2 hours last night, laying in bed fully dressed just in case I had to evacuate. I lay there looking around the room running scenarios in my head: what if that armoire fell over? If the ceiling fan fell, would it miss me on the left side of the bed? What kind of Halloween costume could I make to reference the earthquake?

When I opened my closet this morning I discovered a bunch of stuff that had fallen or been knocked over. Hardly a cause for alarm. It’s still dark here, so I haven’t had a chance to really look around; but when I started to pull out of the driveway I saw something in the glare of the headlights. I got out to inspect it and discovered a crack in the stucco on the side of my house. Again, not much to be concerned about. Now that I replay the event in my head (where I can only assume it is now permanently etched) I realize that my little wood-frame bungalow was built really well. As I walk across the hardwood floors, I now recognize the squeaking sounds I heard last night when the floors expanded and contracted. The stucco is designed to crack, it’s bearing the forces of the quake and the important thing is that the foundation is still solid and the wood bends as needed.

I was really disappointed in the media and the phone companies, both of whom we naturally turn to in an emergency. I had trouble with my land line phone as well as my mobile phone. Well done, AT&T. I predict this will be today’s big story, how the communications system in San Jose failed.

The media — local and national — was asleep on the job. None of the TV stations here cut away from such important programming as “The Biggest Loser” to cover the story; except KRON, which is not affiliated with a network these days. They provided blanket coverage, and while there was little to say for a while, at least it was someone to talk to. Or listen to, as the case may be.

If anyone asks, my Halloween costume is “sleep-deprived earthquake survivor.”

10:00am. Finally starting to crash, so I went home to get some sleep. In the light of day I did a quick inspection and discovered cracks in the plaster around most of the windows and vents on the outside of the house; in addition, one of the piers under the house (the house is pier/post construction but only about a foot off the ground) is halfway undermined, it looks like a small — like, 6 inch — landslide under it. All in all, not a lot to worry about.

Off to sleep, finally…


And there it is: my first real earthquake in California. A 5.6, 9 miles from me.
I’m shaking like a leaf. My house shook like a truck hit it.
It was far scarier than I had expected it to be.

I should write more about this while I am still completely freaked out and have the sense memory of it all.
First, scary premonition: just yesterday I was telling myself that I expected an earthquake at any time now. So, you’d think it wouldn’t have been a surprise.
It definitely was. And here’s why: I didn’t know what it was.
Of the couple of earthquakes I’ve experienced in my life — one or two here, one back in Virginia — the actual quake was gentle and swaying, building slowly and kind of pleasant.
This one was not like that.
First, there was a kind of rattling sound, and it was quickly followed by a truck hitting the house, or so I thought. It felt like the house, well, resisted the hit; but then it started to move. Like it was floating on waves, back and forth, up and down.
I grabbed Diego and held on to him, freaking out. It was the most surreal thing I’ve ever been through. And I was shocked not just by the earthquake, but by the amount of time it took me to figure out what was going on.
But while it was all very scary, there seems to be no damage: my house is okay, and amazingly nothing fell off shelves here at my place (although as part of an “extended family” at JC Penney, I’m hearing that there is damage at Eastridge Mall which is about 3 7 miles from the epicenter). My pictures are askew, but all is well.
I’m definitely not going to be able to sleep tonight. Or maybe for the next week.

9:00pm. I’m heartened that my house was basically completely unaffected by a 5.6 earthquake, but I am really concerned that AT&T’s cellular network is screwed up here now and I can’t get any SMSes out. Isn’t that what we all assume we’d use in the event of a disaster? I also was able to make long distance calls, but not local.

Every few minutes I hear a loud noise of some sort, could be airplanes over at the airport, but it makes me freeze expecting another jolt.

Here’s where the pictures by my front door settled after it was all over.

10:15pm. Damage found! I’ve been so freaked out that I haven’t gone to the restroom until now, and while in there I discovered that the tile in the corner has been broken into three pieces. But my camera battery is run down and the phone camera sucks, so I’ll post this significantly dramatic image some other time.

10:30pm. This was the largest earthquake in the Bay Area since Loma Prieta in 1989. There’s obviously some correlation between earthquakes and the World Series.

11:20pm. When will I calm down? How long will it take? Will I ever be able to sleep again?

11:30pm. Some kid was making a YouTube video when the earthquake hit. Not very impressive video, just starts right at the end then the video stops.

Just FYI, here’s the official forecast for aftershocks.

STRONG AFTERSHOCKS (Magnitude 5 and larger)
At this time (immediately after the mainshock) the probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock IN THE NEXT 7 DAYS is approximately 30 PERCENT.

Most likely, the recent mainshock will be the largest in the sequence. However, there is a small chance (APPROXIMATELY 5 TO 10 PERCENT) of an earthquake equal to or larger than this mainshock in the next 7 days.

WEAK AFTERSHOCKS (Magnitude 3 to 5)
In addition, approximately 15 to 40 SMALL AFTERSHOCKS are expected in the same 7-DAY PERIOD and may be felt locally.

11:45pm. It’s deathly quiet outside, almost eerie. I live in a quiet neighborhood, but I-880 runs two blocks away and the airport is a mile east. Still, no cars and no planes. On this night it seems to have great significance.

I’m a grown man, reasoned and intelligent, and I have read tons of information about earthquakes since I was in junior high and did a science fair project on plate tectonics. But while I have a good grounding in the science of it all, I was not prepared for the psychology of it. I’ve forced myself to lay in my bed, but I — rationally or irrationally — can’t seem to make myself get undressed, just in case I need to get out of the house. I have the TV turned up loud so that I won’t lay here in the quiet listening for another freight train headed for my house.
I wish I could be as carefree as Diego, laying at the foot of the bed chewing on a Greenie. Then again, he now knows that if there is a disaster, I’ll be holding him tightly to my chest and protecting him.

Don’t know if I’ll be sleeping, but… good night.

Bright spots on TV, but sadly fleeting

I’m looking forward to Christmas TV this year because so many favorites are returning in the next few months — albeit only in bite-size pieces.

Of Guffaws and Geezers

Moseyed down to the Center for the Performing Arts last night (where, in 9th grade, I once performed on stage as part of my magnet school’s “Broadway Babies II” show wearing one of those t-shirts printed to look like a tuxedo. I’m not proud of it. But I digress.) to see David Sedaris.

Storm Chaser with a lot of time on my hands

I’m so excited right now: there’s a thunderstorm moving in to the Santa Clara Valley. Now, a few years ago, before I moved away from Washington, DC, this would not have been very significant.

They should have named it TARDIS

With the name “Time Machine,” I guess I should have realized the similarity sooner:

Every time I run Time Machine I expect to see Steve Job’s face zooming in and the familiar dum-de-dum dum-de-dum theme music playing.

Where In The World is Carmen Blog Reader?

The other day, on a whim, I added one of those widgets to track my readers’ locations and was amused to see the wide variety of places people are visiting from. Some of the locations are puzzling, though. So, if you’re visiting from one of these interestingly-named places, please leave a comment! Tell us where the place is and maybe something interesting about it…

  • Langen
  • Vöcklabruck
  • Kayseri
  • Thorold
  • Ashton-under-Lyne
  • Sharjah
  • Dingolfing
  • Carnaxide

This website is now out of the closet

For years, my webserver has lived quietly in the closet of my spare bedroom. Until this morning.
I feel like it is a child that’s gone off to college. It now lives at a professional data center somewhere in Santa Clara, in a secure undisclosed location accessed by a hand print. The little Mac mini is sitting in a cage with a bunch of other servers, network appliances, and whatnot. The room is very loud, has rows and rows of racks, huge cables and thousands of wires.
I felt rather bad leaving it there, all alone in a cage, like it was a pet that I took to the pound.

Lighten up, Apple

Dear Apple: I know that you like to, well, Think Different, and Leopard is no exception. But sometimes, the obvious is the way to go.

I need a wider screen

Hmm. Perhaps this explains why everything is in palettes and toolbars these days instead of in the menubar where they belong: the space in the Mac menubar is quickly eroding. Here’s what mine looks like today, reduced by 50% to fit on this page:

All those icons take up half of the width of my screen, leaving very little room for actual menus.
I think that those little menubar icons are getting out of hand, don’t you?

Wednesday Shorts

A few items that have been sitting down there in the dock waiting for commentary.

Big Government Gets Bigger
An article in the Washington Post from a year ago takes a look at the growth of the Federal government — at first, one would assume that Republicans are against bigger government, but then one important statistic catches the eye:

The Republican Party’s oft-stated affinity for smaller government has not applied during the Bush administration. According to a recent study, not only is the number of federal civil servants on the rise, but so are the numbers of employees working for government-funded contractors and for organizations that receive government grants.

Roll all of those together — and mix in the numbers of postal workers and military personnel on the federal payroll — and the “true size” of the federal government stands at 14.6 million employees, said Paul C. Light, the study’s author and a government professor at New York University.

That compares with 12.1 million employees in 2002, said Light, who has tracked the growth of government for years and has data for as far back as 1990. The latest increase is almost entirely due to contractors, whose ranks swelled by 2.5 million since 2002, Light wrote in his 10-page research brief.

In 1990, there were 5.06 million contractors, 2.24 million civil servants, and 2.11 million military. This was the first Bush era.
In 2005, under Bush II, there were a whopping 7.63 million contractors, a smaller 1.87 million civil servants, and — surprisingly in the middle of a war — only 1.44 million military.
In other words, true to what we expected, George W. Bush has sold out the government to big corporations who have taken over those jobs and are bleeding us dry. Blackwater, anyone?
[The Washington Post]

As Campaigns Chafe at Limits, Donors Might Be in Diapers
Here we go again, finding creative ways around campaign finance laws. The Republicans pioneered (pun intended) the art of “bundling,” where personal donation limits are given the end run by an Amway-style pyramid scheme; it looks like the Democrats are giving birth (pun intended) to the newest craze: donations from babies.

Elrick Williams’s toddler niece Carlyn may be one of the youngest contributors to this year’s presidential campaign. The 2-year-old gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

So did her sister and brother, Imara, 13, and Ishmael, 9, and her cousins Chan and Alexis, both 13. Altogether, according to newly released campaign finance reports, the extended family of Williams, a wealthy Chicago financier, handed over nearly a dozen checks in March for the maximum allowed under federal law to Obama.

Such campaign donations from young children would almost certainly run afoul of campaign finance regulations, several campaign lawyers said. But as bundlers seek to raise higher and higher sums for presidential contenders this year, the number who are turning to checks from underage givers appears to be on the rise.

“It’s not difficult for a banker or a trial lawyer or a hedge fund manager to come up with $2,300, and they’re often left wanting to do more,” said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “That’s when they look across the dinner table at their children and see an opportunity.”

Asked about the Williams family giving, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, “As a policy, we don’t take donations from anyone under the age of 15.” After being asked by The Post about the matter, he said the children’s donations will be returned.

Although campaign finance laws set a limit of $2,300 per donor per year, they do not explicitly bar donors based on age. And young donors abound in the fundraising reports filed by presidential contenders this year.

A supporter of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), Susan Henken of Dover, Mass., wrote her own $2,300 check, and her 13-year-old son, Samuel, and 15-year-old daughter, Julia, each wrote $2,300 checks, for example. Samuel used money from his bar mitzvah and money he earned “dog sitting,” and Julia used babysitting money to make the contributions, their mother said. “My children like to donate to a lot of causes. That’s just how it is in my house,” Henken said.

[The Washington Post]

Let Them Have Massages
There have been a lot of stories in the last few days about evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. It’s only natural, since it is a similar situation to New Orleans, and makes a good news story. But the stories about San Diego have been unfailingly positive, with people gushing about how nice everyone is and the amenities being provided. I have to think that these stories will start to deteriorate as people come to the realization that they are sleeping in a stadium and their homes may be a pile of smoking rubble.
It’s this coming realization that makes me think that Arnold Schwarzenegger should have kept his mouth shut. He made this statement Monday, which could very easily come back to bite him, ala Barbara Bush:

“The people are happy. They have everything here,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Monday night after his second Qualcomm tour.

Still, the situation in San Diego is not anything close to as dire as New Orleans, as this article points out.

The New Orleans evacuees had dragged themselves through floodwaters to get to the Louisiana Superdome in 2005, and once there endured horrific conditions without food, sanitation or law enforcement.
But these evacuees drove to the expansive parking lots in the San Diego suburbs. The worst that most endured in their exodus was heavy traffic and smoky haze.
But like those who fled in New Orleans, some will have lost their homes.
Several said they had narrowly escaped devastating fires in 2003 and shrugged off the inconveniences of sleeping at a stadium.
“You have to deal with it, right?” said Ashwani Kernie, who, along with six family members, had been evacuated from his Rancho Bernardo home.
“You can deal with it, or you can whine about it,” he said while erecting a tent in Qualcomm’s parking lot, as temperatures hovered comfortably in the low 70s.

Most people seemed happy for the free food and drink. A Hyatt hotel catered one buffet, offering chicken with artichoke hearts and capers in cream sauce, jambalaya and shredded-beef empanadas.
Ester Francis, 90, clutched her cane as her son set up a pair of cots next to a large trash bin.
She does not know what she’ll return to when the smoke clears, but said she was grateful for the generosity of strangers. Qualcomm did feel something like a party, she said.

[SF Gate]