athelind: (Default)
In 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, I was in the United States Coast Guard, stationed at Coast Guard Group Monterey. Group Monterey (or Station Monterey, as it's called these days) is at Breakwater Cove, more or less at the other end of Cannery Row from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I was flopped on my bed, lazing around with the TV on after a long workday, waiting for the evening meal. October is when Monterey gets its brief glimpse at summer, so I'd doffed my uniform and was in my skivvies. I wasn't watching the World Series; a rerun of The Facts of Life had just started, and I was on the verge of grabbing the remote when things started shaking.

My reaction:
  1. Hm. Quake.
  2. Huh. It's still going.
  3. Holy Shit! It's the Big One!

Somewhere around 2.5, the reflexes of someone born in California and raised with earthquake drills through childhood kicked in, and I was under the table. The table, it should be noted, was Military Barracks Furniture, and probably sturdier than most houses: the legs were 4x4s. If the floor had dropped out from under me, I'd have been in some trouble, but if the ceiling had gone, I was, quite literally, covered.

When the shaking stopped, the power was out. I threw on some clothes -- I can't remember if it was my uniform or my civvies -- and ran downstairs to see if I was needed anywhere on base. I wasn't, so I jogged down Cannery Row at a good clip to assess the damages, particularly at the Aquarium; those big glass tanks were a particular concern, and I figured someone from an emergency service should look in on them.

The Aquarium was fine, as it turned out, and the docents were evacuating the tourists very professionally; power was out all up and down the row, and, in fact, in most of the town.

On the way back, I checked out the Marina, right by the pier; again, no serious damage, but the currents on the harbor were visibly off, twisting and turning and flowing the wrong way.**

Eventually, we heard from our engineers. Several of them had driven up to Alameda on a parts run. Before getting on the freeway, they'd stopped at a convenience store to get drinks for the long drive home -- and that's where they were when the quake hit. They stepped outside to see the section of Interstate 880 that they were about to take... collapsed into a sandwich.

The electricity was out for the next few days in Monterey; as a result, our commander shrugged and declared liberty for everyone but the watch crews, since the rest of us couldn't do much of anything without power tools. We had a generator to keep the Operations Center running, and it had enough juice to spare for the mess hall, as well.

I felt kind of bad, really: most of the coast was in chaos, and I got a long weekend and never even missed a hot meal. Even the duty days were surprisingly light; not many people go pleasure boating after a major catastrophe, and even the professional fishing fleet was taking a few days of downtime.

The aftershocks kept coming, though, for a couple of weeks, and we'd all get hyperalert when they did -- or when a truck rolled by. In fact, I was exceptionally vibration-sensitive for several more years, well after returning to civilian life and moving to Oceanside, in San Diego County -- just long enough to get jolted awake by the barely-perceptible fringes of the Landers quake in 1992.


*A decade later, taking Geography/Hydrology at CSUMB, I realized just what kind of underwater avalanches the quake must have triggered in the Monterey Underwater Canyon.
athelind: (Default)
A couple of years back, I made a few posts about Louis Michard's Atmospheric Vortex Engine, a plan to use the waste heat from nuclear power plants and other industrial heat sources to produce artificial tornadoes and harness them for energy.

(I'm sorry. That's just so over-the-top that I can't type it without italics.)

Today, I found an article on Inhabitat from about the same time period. It's the only one that points out the possible flaw in this system that pushes it into True Mad Science territory:

A 200-meter wide tornado might just have enough power to start absorbing heat from the surrounding area all by itself (something which would be a problem if one is hoping to keep it contained, as once the tornado achieves enough energy, there would be very little to stop it from escaping, so says Nilton Renno a professor at the department of atmospheric, ocean and spaces sciences at the University of Michigan).


And remember, the optimal place for an AVE is right next to a nuclear reactor.

Wheeeeeeee!

The hallmark of the best mad science is when making a disaster movie about it becomes redundant, because the whole thing plays out in everyone's mind as soon as they hear about it:

Dr. Renno: "You've got to stop this project! My calculations indicate that the vortex could become self-sustaining and break free of its confinement!"

Dr. Michard: "Nonsense! You're just one man flying in the face of progress! Increase the power!!"

(Indicator lights rise on the status board. Howling winds increase outside. The technicians spout technobabble. And then... red lights flash and klaxons sound.)


athelind: (Default)
Note the First: Last week, all the weather sites were reporting that we'd get a single day of rain on Friday.

The rain started Thursday night. Since then, every weather site has been insisting that the rain will clear up "tomorrow". That one day of rain has almost turned into a week now.

It's not serious rain, or even significant rain -- just intermittent spitting and sprinkling, with only occasional, passing moments where it's worth your while to turn on the windshield wipers.

Its stubborn persistence is amusing, though.



Note the Second: Safeway has surprisingly good store brands.

Their pasta sauces are excellent (especially their Arrabiata sauce). Their frozen entrees are decent.

Their sodas, however, are good enough to warrant a journal entry. Almost any supermarket will slap their store label on adequate orange or black cherry soda. Safeway's "fruit" sodas are really quite good. Their Root Beer and Cream Soda (both sold as "Parker's") are excellent, the equal of most anything in a can.

They even manage a good store-brand cola.

I've never found a drinkable bargain-brand cola before. Cola is the hardest flavor to master -- hell, Coca-Cola hasn't managed to get it right since the mid-'80s -- but even my beloved [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia, a cola connoisseur, is replacing her RC addiction with Safeway's "Go2" Cherry Cola.

Of course, this discovery occurred as I was phasing sodas out of my diet again. One can a day isn't a lot, but it's more than I usually drink.

As with anything flavor-oriented, Your Mileage May Vary.


athelind: (Default)
...a man with two is never sure.

I have three online weather sources that I can check pretty much at a glance: ForecastFox, which hooks up to AccuWeather.com, my iGoogle homepage, which connects to Weather Underground, and the Ubuntu desktop thermometer, which just posts the National Weather Service release for its Forecast (not sure where it gets its Current Temperature data).

ForecastFox/Accuweather insists that it's gonna be 82 today. The other two are saying mid-90s.

It's 77 out there now, by their readings; our backyard thermometer reads 79.5. It's gone up 4 degrees in less than an hour, and it's still only 10 AM.

I'm thinkin' the 82 is puttin' the "liar" into "outlier".

(Oddly, ForecastFox has been stubbornly insisting that today would be 82 since around Saturday or Sunday. Usually, their predictions shift around as the day approaches and they get better data, but not this time.)

One thing that all the sources do agree on is that things are gonna drop drastically by Thursday and the weekend. iGoogle is saying 68 on Thursday, the NWS says "mid 60s", and ForecastFox says... 61. We'll see who the outlier is then. Pretty much everyone agrees that the weekend's gonna be mid-60s.


And, yes, most of the purpose of this post was for the "outliar" pun.
athelind: (Default)
That last post reminded me that we had an exceptionally long Fire season last year, lasting through most of the "Summer" and into early "Autumn". For months, the air in the Bay Area ranged from Unusually Smoggy to Choked With Smoke, and nearly everyone was coughing and dealing with sinus headaches -- even those who don't normally suffer allergies. Southern California, I understand, was as bad or worse.

Now, this "Winter", we've had both a stubborn strain of influenza and an exceptionally persistant strain of the common cold running around. The cold virus is one of those that hits, passes through the infectious sneezing-and-runny-nose phase fairly quickly... and then leaves you with lingering congestion and coughing up gobs of phlegm for weeks.

The 2007 strains were the classic "24-hour virus" -- sneeze sneeze sneeze, blow nose blow nose, wake up the next day fine. That was kind of a new experience for me.

It's tempting to draw a correlation between the constant respiratory irritation of the Fire season, and the continued, long-lasting respiratory irritation of this year's Cold season. Maybe weeks of smoke left our systems more sensitive to this year's virus.

The only hitch in that hypothesis is that, if the reports I'm hearing are correct, the Nasty Clingy Cold That Won't Go Away is spread across North America this year, not just the Golden State.


...smoke-induced viral mutation followed by transportation-mediated infection?
athelind: (Default)
You wouldn't think that the whole "obese rodent* sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter" thing would apply to California, would you?

After a brief warm spell right around Further Confusion at the end of January, we're back into 36F nights, 56F days, and rain two days out of three. In fact, we're getting more rain now than we had before GHD. Which is good; even if this keeps up until Spring really arrives, we'll still be well under our average rainfall. We need another flood year, dammit. We're due.

Yes, dagnabbit, 36F is cold enough to qualify as "winter", especially here, and especially three weeks after conversations about how "hot" temps in the mid-70s could feel in the middle of January.


*Not that obese rodent, this obese rodent. How did my LJ get to the point where I have to clarify the phrase "obese rodent", anyway?
athelind: (Default)
Hooray, working retail over the holidays! I'm working six days straight, from Friday right up to the Uncanny X-Mas on Thursday, and then I go right back in on Friday.

(The reason they call the 26th "Boxing Day" is because us register monkeys feel like we've been ten rounds with the Champ by the time we go home.)

Most of these have been closing shifts -- for the Joyful Open Late Holiday Hours, of course -- and by the time I've gone home each night, I've felt increasingly incoherent.

Part of the incoherence has been mild, almost subliminal sinus congestion.

Last night, it stopped being subliminal. I had a sinus blockage last night that timed with a HUGE low-pressure system to turn into an excruciating toothache. Wound up getting up at around 2:30, just as the low pressure zone, near as I can tell, hit its peak: as I was sitting in the bathroom holding my head in pain, the rain went from "drizzle" to "downpour".

I wound up out on the living room sofa in front of the TV, drinking a huge glass of water to loosen things up, force-blowing my nose to try to get the pressure shifted.

(The Secret Saturdays ain't bad, BTW. Not at 3AM, anyway.)

It finally subsided to the point that I could go back to bed, though it took a dose of Melatonin to actually get me to SLEEP.

Still not quite running on all cylinders. Thankfully, I have a "hammock" shift today, working 11-7. Someone else opens, someone else closes, I just blithely skip in, smile at the customers, and skip away when my shift ends.

Oh, and for the regulars: normal comic deliveries this week! Uncanny X-Mas Eve = New Comics Day!


Icon illustrates actual size of sinuses.
athelind: (Default)
Easterners like to snark about how the Golden State "doesn't have seasons."

Of course it does. They're just different than East Coast seasons.

We have:


  • Air, when the hills are green, the flowers bloom, and the wind is a pleasant, offshore breeze.

  • Earth, when the hills have turned brown golden.

  • Fire, when the hot devil winds blow from the mountains, and the wildfires bloom.

  • Water, when the rains roll in.



The seasons may start earlier or later, and they may be more intense in one year than another, but, by golly, they're there.
athelind: (Default)
Follow-Up to the Tornado Master post of 23 July 2007:

Louis Michard has his own website, where he explains the Vortex Engine without all the fluff of the new article.

Found at FUTURISMIC.
athelind: (Default)
I pointed the Vortex Engine out to Technovelgy.com, a blog that looks at ideas and inventions from science fiction that come true in today's world. They very kindly looked up the reference from The Space Merchants, along with additional material on the Vortex Engine specs that weren't in the original article.

Link here: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1134

(I wonder if you could use a Vortex Engine to create the wind pressure you'd need to run a terraforming-level Hirsch Tube?)

I should also give credit to where I originally found the article: The usually-comics-related blog of Ami Angelwings.
athelind: (Default)
Tornado Master!

Ontario Louis Michard proposes using the waste heat from a conventional power plant to create a tamed tornado, and generating far more power using turbines that tap into the vortex's energy.

On the longer term, he proposes setting up vortex engines in the warm seas around the equator, providing not only a ready-made, inexhaustable source of heat to sustain the vortices, but also taking the waste heat building up from greenhouse impacts and channeling it into the upper atmosphere to cool off the whole damned planet.

I remember that Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth used a very similar process to both generate energy and vent massive amounts of heat to terraform Venus in The Space Merchants and The Merchant's War.

This is so utterly over the top, and fraught with so many delightfully cinematic ways to go horribly, horribly wrong, and yet it's packed full of SO CRAZY IT JUST MIGHT WORK goodness.

But, seriously, atomic-powered tormandos? Calling Doctor Neil "Storm" Cloud!

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