Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When You Feel a Quake and Shake ...

"When You Feel a Quake
and Shake
Get under Your Table
and Finish Your Steak!"

That was the warning sign (or something like that) I saw when I ate dinner at the Parkfield Cafe in Parkfield, California.

Parkfield prides itself as the "Earthquake Capital of the World."
They are on the San Andreas Fault (or very near it) and this small town has US Geological Survey (USGS) equipment in place as geologists wait for the "big one" and collect the all important seismic data.

Reference: "The Parkfield, California, Earthquake Experiment."

The news (as I type this on September 29, 2009) of Tsunami Strikes American Samoa After 8.3-Magnitude Quake brought back memories of living on the West Coast. I used to check the map of the Earthquakes in California on the USGS site as often as others would routinely check the daily weather report. Earthquakes happened everyday - only I did not notice them much. All the traffic noise usually drown out most of the earth tremors, except for the real big ones.

My first trip, my husband and I went pig hunting with a guide near the San Andreas Fault. As we stayed at the Parkfield Inn dining in the Cafe, I noticed their "quake warning sign." They had a hundred branding irons (or more) hanging from the ceiling. The thought of all those branding irons raining down on me during the "big one" was as comforting as the Sword of Damocles dangling over my head.

Our first visit, my husband got a boar and we ate sausages all the next year. (They were good.) Next visit, we signed up for hunting lessons from our guide.

That late December 2003 before Christmas, we stood out in the ripe grass, practicing our stances, our aim and shooting skills at targets. Then the ground under us shook, the pickup truck jumped up and down on its tires like giant springs, and the trees lining the field swayed in convulsions.


Was this the "big one" the USGS was waiting for all these years?

This quake broke several wine glasses stacked in the Parkfield Cafe. I had hoped everyone remembered to get under their table and finish their steak.

But Parkfield was disappointed, again, as this quake came from the San Simeon Fault, not the San Andreas. And my guide was disappointed for he forgot to look at the fields to see the rippling of the seismic waves.

Unfortunately, this quake brought some heartbreak as a few people in a nearby town died from the crumbling debris falling from a building. Then governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the area and offered condolences for the victims' families and assessed the damage.

The force of nature is awesome.

At times like these, the following verses have a personal meaning:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
Psalm 46:1-3 (King James Version)

Related links:
Photo from everystockphoto.com
Me at the San Andreas: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3994227

Parkfield: Quintessential California: Parkfield, California
USGS - Recent Earthquakes in California and Nevada: quake.usgs.gov/recenteqs/
Parkfield, CA and the San Andreas Fault: www.openroad.tv/index.php?categoryid=16&p25_id=297

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Of Seasons, Boat People, and Freedom ...

Fall begins with the autumnal equinox, this year September 22, 2009 at 5:18 pm EDT. Change of seasons evoke many memories. One that stands out happened when I was living and working on the West Coast.

I had made some casual conservation with my cubicle mate, John, about the changing seasons. John was a bright engineer, an immigrant from Vietnam. I was most surprised by his comment that he thought it was cold in the winter because the earth was farther from the sun.

How could someone so educated be ignorant about a basic fact? I had learned about the seasons in kindergarten. At my teacher's instructions, my mother had speared an orange with a pencil and rotated the citrus fruit at an angle in the light of a candle.

I pointed John to some websites, such as Seasons. They explained the earth rotated about a tilted axis, whereas in winter the sun's ray were less intense, the days shorter, hence contributing to a colder climate. In summer, the rays were more direct, more intense, the days longer, hence a warmer climate.

As I got to know John better, small bits of his personal history came to light. When growing up in Vietnam, he had lived under the communist regime of the post-Vietnam War. His family had to work all day in the rice fields just for the privilege of buying rice at a discount from the government. I wondered when his family had the time to make any money to buy this discounted rice.

John was one of the boat people. I found this out when he cheered at a news story about pirates that were gunned down on the seas. He commented that his boat was attacked by pirates while he was fleeing Vietnam. Later, he had spent two years on an island. Eventually, he came to America, got a college degree in engineering, married, and had a son, and was working right next to me.

Shelly, another engineer from Vietnam, worked a few cubicles over. One day she laughed, pointing to some discolored water in a clear container. "It reminds me of the urine we drank when we ran out of fresh water." Shelly was one of the boat people, like John.

While I was growing up watching "Star Trek" and learning facts about the universe and the solar system, John and Shelly had grown up under tyranny and survived a gutsy escape to freedom.

The Vietnam War was the bane of the baby-boomers. Yet, for as evil as America was supposed to be, many Vietnamese risked their lives to come here. Many came for political freedom, many for economic freedom. Yet, may we all find the greatest freedom of all:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
John 8:36 (King James Version)

Related links:
Photo from everystock.com
early: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3114960

Friday, September 18, 2009

Talk Like a Pirate Day - September 19, 2009

Now we have a day to talk like a pirate - What a country!

"Aaarrrg! Ask me what my favorite animal is?" my lead - who wore patch over his eye, a black three cornered hat, and an earring - asked at work a few years ago.

"Parrots?" I said naively - for what is a pirate without his parrot?

"Aaarmadillos," my lead answered with a grin. "And my favorite vegetable?"

We all stared at him like the stress at work had finally gotten to him and he was bonkers.

"Aaartichokes!" He smiled, exposing a some blacked out teeth.

And he continued asking us questions - all with answers that contained an "aaarrr."

No, he was not celebrating Halloween early. It was the annual - "Talk Like a Pirate Day."

And like all thing that happen annually, they happen every year. (Now, I'm talking like an idiot) :) And September 19, 2009 is the day.

Today, we see pirates through the lens of Walt Disney. They are fun and cute and lovable. Anything could be further from the truth. To sailors and their passengers, pirates were (and still are) a real and present danger for those traveling on the sea.

For all those weathering the storms of life and facing danger on our journey, there is a psalm of comfort for us:

From Psalm 107 (King James Version)

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Related links:

Picture from everystockphoto.com
Ye Olde Drunken Pirate: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2733948

The Original Talk Like a Pirate Day Site: www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One Tuesday in September, eight years ago ...

Eight years ago, I was living and working on the West Coast. One Tuesday, the radio turned on at 6:25 PDT. I was expecting to hear the Wall Street Journal Report. Instead, reports came of debris coming out of some building in New York.

My husband thought it was accident similar to one that had happened in 1945, when a B-25 bomber accidentally flew into the Empire State Building: The Empire State Building Plane Crash. We turned on the TV to see what they were talking about on the radio. Not one, but two jets had flown into the World Trade Center.

As soon as we said, "This is no accident," reports came of another jet crashing into the Pentagon, and then another plane downed in Pennsylvania. Soon, all air traffic in the US was grounded.

"You're not going to work right now," my husband told me. Yes. We were under attack.

Later that morning, no further attacks advanced to the West Coast. Many of my co-workers were at the workplace, soldiering on as normally as they could, and I eventually came in. During part of this eventful day, we stood out in the lobby, watching the news as surreal scenes replayed of the Twin Towers collapsing. Terrified bystanders ran for cover, like a scripted disaster movie.

One of my co-workers touched my shoulder. "You are a person of faith. Why would God allow this to happen?"

Certainly, no one, except God, has the answer for this one, but I gave it my the best shot. "It seems in this world God allows evil to run its course."

One example in the Holy Scriptures came to mind. Saul, the first king of Israel, was given many second chances, but he turned into a mad king, tormented by an evil spirit. Then God picked David, a man after His own heart, to replace Saul as the next king. Yet, evil ran its course for some 15 years before God dealt with Saul and turned the kingdom over to David. During these years between the anointing and ascending, David gathered his faithful followers.

There is a corollary to this present day. St. Paul refers to the devil as "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4), much like the time when mad King Saul was ruling over Israel. Yet, God's anointed - the Lord Jesus, the Son of David - is now calling out His people - the church. One day, like when God had dealt with Saul, He will deal with the devil and drive evil from His universe forever.

Related links:
Photo from everystockphoto.com
World Trade Center - Aiming for Heaven: http://everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=4504113