Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Faulty construction...

The news in our San Francisco Bay Area has almost been eclipsed by the centennial reminding us about the Great Earthquake of 1906.

While lots has been said about what happened and about seismological risk and what if it happened again, all the experts seem to miss the reality that modern America is subsumed by a culture of prevention. Quite simply, we expect that we can prevent anything truly cataclysmic from ever happening.

Earthquake prevention in California is a case in point.

Californians expect that engineering solutions will overcome the threat of natural seismic activities. This sanguine attitude is rooted in the relatively recent rise of urban/industrial society. The resultant huge capital investments in modern cities and complex infrastructures that have made people increasingly dependent on centralized services for water, fuel, food, transportation, communication, and shelter has foster the culture of prevention.

While peril from earthquakes seldom concerned people in the rural/agrarian world, the nature of the modern city has enormously heightened the risk of ruinous loss to human life and property from natural disasters. The great earthquake that wreaked havoc on San Francisco in 1906 plainly illustrates this, and in its wake engineers and geologists developed a sustained interest in understanding seismic activity and constructing earthquake-safe buildings.

Subsequently, the study of earthquakes and understanding of aseismic building construction evolved with each new earthquake. Earthquake intensities and ground motions were measured and compared. Fallen and standing structures were studied. Chasing earthquakes became a way of life for seismologists and structural engineers alike, and gradually these science and technology experts became confident that they could make modern cities safe against tremors.

Over time, a culture of prevention emerged, one born of the confidence expressed by engineers and geologists and one sustained by those who invest in the modern city--capitalists and governing officials. And, the public at large has eagerly embraced it, their confidence grounded in their belief that people can control the natural world with science and technology.

It's a chimera, of course, but it's one humanity has embraced since the modernist era was launched during the "Age of Reason." And so we continue to build our cities and lives astride fault lines that are bound to break.

(See "Faulty Construction: Earthquakes and the Culture of Prevention")

Xenophobia setting in…

“9/11” say Americans, “remember 9/11.” Yep, we all remember, but in our haste to lock ourselves and our nation into some imagined security zone, we’ve turned against the world.

Bush’s war with Iraq has mired the U.S. in a Middle East quagmire, and it’s taken our attention away from our original retaliatory mission in Afghanistan, and I can’t believe it hasn’t undermined our effort against Al-Qaeda.

Rhetoric out of the nation’s capitol over what companies can operate American ports and what firms can purchase American companies has set back our relationship with China, Arab nations, people all across the world.

Now, amidst our national debate over immigration reform, the depths of xenophobia among many Americans are revealed by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Georgia), who authored a provision stuck in the deficit reduction bill signed by Bush on Feb. 8th that stops “the theft of Medicaid benefits by illegal aliens.” Effective July 1st, everyone who applies for Medicaid coverage will have to prove their citizenship. More

In Norwood’s zeal to punish illegal immigrants for daring to sneak into the country and take jobs American’s eagerly offer them, he and his right-wing friends are willing to strip away healthcare from not only these same immigrants but also from many “legal residents” and citizens who can’t provide birth certificates, passports, or other documents proving citizenship.

It’s both terrible public policy and bad economic policy, and it’s born of fear and loathing. My tendency is to blame the Bush administration and Republican conservatives, but I know that lots of Democrats are part of America’s new xenophobia. We all really ought to be ashamed.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter at Treasure Island...

Our club has an annual Easter cruise to Treasure Island, where the TI Yacht Club cooks us a great BBQ dinner, we hunt Easter Eggs, and those of us who anchor out in Clipper Cove are rewarded with an Easter basket, left by none other than the Easter Bunny! We were there, for sure, but of the thirteen cruising couples signed up, only five actually made the trip in their boats. The weather has truly been so abominable, and we're all so sick of it that only one couple braved anchoring out and kayaking ashore for the festivities, while four found slips or side-ties at the marina. The rest, including yours truly and the Princess, became land-cruisers for the Saturday evening fun. But it was a great party, and we all look forward to a break in the weather this coming week, at least, we hope, for the Strictly Sail Show at Jack London Square this coming week.

More photos

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Caribbean getaway...

We had a great time the first week of April, jetting off to the British Virgin Islands for a seven-day sailing trip. Great fun everywhere! We learned a lot about each other - sailing together is a rich form of couples therapy - and we improved our sailing skills to boot. Surf over to Spindrift's general log for an illustrated log of our trip.