TSUNAMI

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I am about to go and run around letting neighbors and friends know that there is a tsunami warning for the Baja Coast (along with the entire Pacific Ocean region) as a result of the huge earthquake in Chile. The more I read the more I freak. I’m going to pack up my trusty Mac computer and get to high ground. Let’s hope it’s just a lot of hype and that we’re far enough around the tip of the peninsula not to be as greatly impacted. Hmmmm, not a fan of that word IMPACT right now. Wish us luck.

“Tsunami”

No, this is not the name for a variety of sushi roll or a type of fish found in Japanese waters. “Tsunami” is the Japanese name given to what many of you call a “tidal wave.” It translates from Japanese as “harbor wave.” It got this name because large ocean waves triggered by earthquakes or submarine sea floor slides can really focus their energy in and near harbors where historically there have been many great disasters, especially in Japan. By the way, the term “tidal wave” is a complete misnomer as the earthquake triggered tsunami has nothing to do with ocean tides, tides are driven by sun and moon gravitational forces on Earth’s ocean.

You may have seen tsunami in the news, the December 2004 tsunami event in Indonesia and perhaps more recently the less severe event in Samoa last year. Unfortunately much confusion comes from some internet sites that I will not post here that show fake pictures of tsunami. Those photos usually show some giant single breaking wave about ready to cover a coastline. That is not what happens. Below I provide a very brief heads-up on tsunami and what you might do in the case one comes to your coastline!

A tsunami is NOT like a normal ocean wave that is generated by wind. So surfers, forget it, you are not going to be able to ride a tsunami into fame and fortune, rather if you try you will be killed. Nearly all ocean waves you see are generated by wind and have distances between crests of a few hundred yards or less and intervals between success crests less than 22 seconds and most are less than 15 seconds, the most common being only about 4-7 seconds. They move at speeds nearly always less than 40 mph in deep water.

The tsunami on the other hand is different; it is called a “shallow water wave” because everywhere in the ocean water depths are considered shallow for this very long wave (on the order of miles). A shallow water wave is unique, it moves at a speed controlled by the depth of the water it moves in; that speed is basically proportional to the square-root of water depth. So the deeper the water the fast the tsunami can move.

It turns out that for average ocean depths of about 12,400 feet average tsunami speed is about 460 miles per hour! In deeper water they move faster and in shallower water they mover slower. In deep water the height of the tsunami is not large, but even if it were 40 feet high (which would be gigantic for a deep water tsunami height), that height is spread over a distance of many miles so a ship at sea would not even perceive the passage of that fast moving wave, but would bob harmlessly atop it not even knowing the tsunami had passed by at great speed (so much for the “Poseidon Adventure”).

Keep in mind the wave moves through the ocean in deep water, the ocean water does not move with the wave, rather it undulates up and down nearly in place. If this were not the case then waves moving from, for example, the Gulf of Alaska to the coast of Southern California would bring with them very frigid water temperatures that would plummet wildly below local water temperatures as waves came in; that does not happen, waves arrive from the Gulf of Alaska, but the cold water they move through stays nearly in place with the surface undulating in place as waves move by.

OK, so we have this very long wave speeding toward the coast and as water shallows the tsunami slows quickly, that causes the wave to contract like an accordion and causes water to pile up to make the wave much higher than it was in deep water. The wave eventually moves on shore as a large inundating surge of high water. There may be some breaking waves as seen in the video I attached but those waves are far too narrow to cause all the inundation you see, inundation occurs from the very long wave that pushes its water across the coast, obviously worse for larger tsunami.

So how much lead time and warning do you have before a generated tsunami strikes? That simply depends on where the tsunami comes from. If it has been generated locally by a local quake or submarine slide it, the tsunami can push onshore in minutes or less leaving little time to “escape/evacuate.” If you are at a coast and feel a large quake, ALWAYS race away from waters edge as fast as possible. Seek high ground or high well built structures immediately.

If a tsunami is generated by a quake far from you and it is large, it will eventually reach your coast! But you will not have felt the quake or may not even be aware a quake had occurred far across the ocean. We can estimate the water depth between you and the quake and get a good estimate of how long it will take to reach you. Remember on average it will be moving about 500 mph so far away does not mean far away in time!

Fortunately, as a tsunami moves away from its generating quake it spreads out, very similar to what happens if you drop a pebble in a pond, the wave nearest the pebble is largest and waves propagating away get lower in height the farther they move from the pebble, because the energy is spread out over a greater and greater area.

The tsunami is very similar, except it will distort from circular because of varied bottom depth which causes it to move at varied speeds in varied directions. If the quake is far away you will normally have plenty of time to react to a tsunami warning siren and get away safely, those generated near you require very fast response usually well before any official warning blares from a siren! NEVER go to the coast to see the incoming tsunami. That behavior happened in Los Angeles in the 1980’s! People were crowding and hanging off of piers and jetties awaiting the arrival of the tsunami! Fortunately when it came if was only inches high and no one could see it by eye; man that could have been a huge disaster.

I leave you with one last thing about the tsunami that relates to its Japanese name “harbor wave.” Because its speed is controlled almost entirely by water depth, it is a slave to ocean bathymetry and is often distorted and bent by it, we call this wave refraction. The tsunami is so long that the refraction can be extreme and tsunami heights are often focused in bays and harbors. This same refraction can and does cause a tsunami to be able to bend all the way around an island and inundate the opposite side of the island relative to the direction it originally came from. So no island coastline is safe from a tsunami no matter what direction the tsunami originally comes from!

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Perfectly Imperfect

I admit it, I’m not perfect. And today was the day (well, one among many) that I felt the need to prove it.

Have you ever woken up and had that feeling, you know, the one where you feel like whatever anyone does or says, you just might punch them right in the mouth? Unless you’re some kind of divine entity walking the Earth in the guise of human flesh, of course you have.

Today was that day for me.

So what did I do with that feeling? Did I announce I was going to the beach and run away from any and all human interaction like a sane person would? No. Did I ask Tony (calmly and with resolve) to put all sharp objects away and to avoid making eye contact with me? No. Did I avoid drinking coffee – that dark, mood-deepening liquid that tends to irritate my senses? No. Did I turn off the modem and avoid any and all communications? Nope, that neither. And that is where the REAL trouble began.

Instead of doing all the aforementioned things and maybe a few others (take a valium for instance), I sat down at my computer and commenced to pen an email to a friend and neighbor. Without getting into the details, I wrote a nasty, negative, complaint-filled email and basically tried to alienate two of the few friends I have left in this backwoods hell-hole (hmmm, ya, I guess I’m still not over my negativity).

THEN I left and went surfing and got some perspective.

Yes, there is nothing quite like being one with Mother Ocean to clear the head and lend some perspective. Now why didn’t I do this BEFORE sending the nastygram? Why didn’t I show a little humility and just SAVE the email without sending it? Because, like I already said, I’m not perfect. And sometimes, the little shitty crap of life gets in the way of my ability to be good and kind and thoughtful. Sometimes I just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and then throw a little fuel on the fire by drinking coffee.

For the record, I should never drink coffee. The first time I drank coffee I thought I was going to die. I thought for sure my heart would pound right out of my chest and make a bloody mess of my pajamas. My heart raced that fast. Clearly I have a sensitivity.

But still, I drink it now and then. And if I’m in a foul mood it just cranks up the volume.

The challenge of course came when I returned from my mood-enhancing surf session and realized the full weight of what I’d done. There were replies in my inbox, several of them, and now I had to face the music, pay the piper, bite the bullet shot from my own rifle, swallow that bitter little pill.

So I ate crow. I saw the error of my emailing ways and choked on some humble pie – a pie filled with my own caustic words.

To err is human, to forgive divine.

I hope my friends are feeling Godly.

That Diabolical Staff of Life

I admit it. Today’s first post was a cop-out.

Here’s the thing. It’s hard to come up with something to write about every day. Well, actually, that’s not it. It’s difficult to come up with something interesting to write about every day. Something interesting and witty and well, noteworthy.

A real writer, a talented writer, can write about anything though and make it interesting. I know I’ve been going on quite a bit about Henry Miller lately, but seriously, he wrote about bread and made it interesting and funny. Now that’s talent.

And talking about bread – I’m on a bread-making kick. Made some yesterday and again today. I found this great recipe for bread that doesn’t require any kneading, just a lot of waiting. American bread has come a long way since Miller penned his admonition, which he aptly titled Staff of Life. Despite progress to the North, you’d be hard pressed to find good bread in Mexico. At least this part of Mexico (I haven’t travelled far afield enough in Mexico to know one way or the other).

One of my loaves.

You see Mexicans, while they may have tortilla-making down to a science, have no idea what good bread is or what it should taste like. Tortillas are in fact the antithesis of bread. It is their flatness that makes it impossible to compare them to bread. Filling the bread niche, certainly, but made from the same basic ingredients? Only partially. And the results are flat, literally.

And as a result, in my eight years living in Baja Sur, I have had to forego bread as a staple of my diet.

It just occurred to me – there may be a connection between the quality of bread in a country and the size of my waistline. Recognizing that correlation does not equal causation (hell-oo-oo! global warming alarmists), there is a definite positive relationship between my proximity to good bread and my weight. Positive in a growth sense, not in a health and wellness sense.

I lived in Germany for some months in the mid-80s, during which time it became my habit to skip class and head for the nearest bakery for salzbröchen. Salty buns are in essence the dinner roll crossed with a pretzel – a diabolical combination. Their shiny buttery dark brown exterior dotted liberally with gritty coarse salt, their insides soft, chewy, doughy whiteness. And the flavor? Oh my God, the flavor!! I would buy one, and my taste buds primed, return for three more. This combined with the afternoon habit of taking coffee and cake meant my comfy jeans were no longer comfy on the flight home to Canada the following December.

In contrast, Mexico has Bimbo bread, the offspring of Wonder. Lifeless, uniform in its unnaturally spongy texture, and non-biodegradable. I once left the remains of a loaf Bimbo out to see how long it would take to mold. I waited, and waited. Days passed, then weeks. No mold appeared. To my horror. The realization struck me like a Mac truck – the shear volume of preservatives that must be combined with flour and yeast to make it so resistant to decay. Bimbo has since been regarded as That Devil Bread.

Henceforth, it became necessary to find a manner of making bread that didn’t require much effort (for I need to reserve my energy for writing, wink wink). A bread maker is out of the question as they use too much energy for this solar-powered household. So when I happened upon the no knead recipe, I was smitten. When I tried the results, I was sold.

Weight-gain be damned! There is nothing quite so delectable as the smell of baking bread wafting about the house.

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NOTICE TO VISITORS

Yesterday I realized that the transcription of Miller’s “Notice to Visitors” to which a link was provided was full of errors. Unacceptable. A search for another more accurate version turned up nothing. So here it is reproduced for posterity’s and correctness’ sake.


The undersigned wishes to inform all and sundry that he has long since left the Abode of Peace, that he no longer has any comfort or inspiration to offer, and that even the migratory birds avoid this spot. Prayers are offered up daily – without charge. The garden has been transformed into an open air Vespasienne. Look toward Nepenthe when you water the flowers. If you are seeking Truth travel a little farther south : you will find it at Ojai Chez Krishnamurti. Be kind to the children – they abide. For a metaphysical treat stop at the Big Sur Inn which is also a haven for stray cats and dogs. Life along the South Coast is just a bed of roses, with a few thorns and nettles interspersed. The life class meets every Monday regardless. Refreshments are served when demanded. Those interested in celestial navigation are advised to first obtain a rudimentary knowledge of integral calculus, phlebotomy, astral physics and related subjects. The use of liquor is strictly forbidden on interplanetary flights. When you come please be so kind as to check your neuroses and psychoses at the gate. Gossip may be exchanged during the wee hours of the morning when the gremlins have left. Please bear in mind that this is a small community and news travels fast. (Carrier pigeons are provided when necessary.) Fans and other obnoxious pests would do well to maintain silence. Questions relating to work-in-progress will be answered in stereotype fashion in the columns of the Big Sur Guide at the usual space rates. God is Love – and in the ultimate Love will prevail. Remember, man is the ruler, not Saturn! Let us do our best, even it if gets us nowhere. In the midst of darkness there is light. “I am the light of the world,” said Jesus. He said a mouthful. Light, more light!

Respectfully,

Henry Miller

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My Love Affair with Henry

Okay, so you may or may not have noticed that yesterday’s post was an attempt at writing that is more “literary” than I customarily undertake. It was also a rather blatant salute to one of my favorite authors – Henry Miller.

A couple of things induced yesterday’s little writing exercise. First off, this past weekend, I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. (It was amazing by the way. Both inspiring and informative. So many interesting people with stories to tell and a whole slew of editors, agents and publishers to get great guidance and assistance from. I met my hero, Alan Rinzler, who edited several Hunter S. Thompson books and published Rolling Stone magazine, among a mountain of other accolades. Somehow I managed to untie my tongue long enough to tell him I was a big fan of his blog for writers. I recommend it highly to aspiring writers like me out there looking for guidance and ideas.) But I digress.

At the end of the conference we had the opportunity to join a group of conference attendees and organizers for an evening of literary delights. First an incredible, authentic Chinese dinner at the Lechee Gardens restaurant on Powell near Broadway (literary? maybe not, but certainly a delight). After which we visited City Lights Book Store, the original home of work by Beat writers like Allan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouak. City Lights opened in San Francisco’s North Beach in 1953, by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It is iconic.

The second inspiration for yesterday’s blog occurred when we toddled down the street to the Beat Museum where they were celebrating the life and work of Henry Miller. Coincidence? I think not. We were treated to readings and anecdotes by Magnus Toren of the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur…whom as chance would have it, I happened to already be acquainted with.

My love affair with Henry Miller began in 2002, when driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my way to Mexico, I stopped in at the Henry Miller Library, meeting Magnus and, more importantly became more intimately acquainted with Mr. Miller. I’d read excerpts of Miller over the years, but had never read one his books in its entirety (yes, I’m looking down at the ground rather ashamedly, but bear in mind I’m Canadian). I fell in love with his Notice to Visitors and decided I had best familiarize myself with at least one of his books – Big Sur and the Oranges of Heironymus Bosch seemed the natural choice.

Once I arrived at my destination in Mexico, I began. I read Miller on the beach, in my trailer, sitting on the hill above the village, and drinking coffee in El Caballero, a local restaurant. This book with such a long and ungainly title resonated with me much like his Notice to Visitors had. I felt like he was right there, talking to me, sharing his tales of living in Big Sur. And what timely subject matter! His Big Sur was my Cabo Pulmo – we were both isolated, broke, with time to spare and good friends, surrounded by a cast of characters almost unbelievable in their eccentricities. I was a convert.

Miller broke the literary rules of his day. He wrote about a huge range of subjects from everyday things like bread, to philosophical issues and sexual liberation. It took some 12 years between when he began to write and the publication of his first novel. From this little factoid, I must say I took great heart to know that even a great author like Henry Miller needed time to develop his craft.

A copy of the anthology Henry Miller On Writing wriggled its way into my hands at the Beat Museum and begged to be taken home. Always the push over, I gave in easily. Together we’re bound for Mexico tomorrow, along with copious conference notes and a barrow full of inspiration.

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An Ode to My Valentine

February 14, 2010

Our adultery falls like water from heights infinite. Yet I cringe at the secrets we share as my love lies sleeping. We lay among so many memories, shared, yet independent – the staff of life, wine brought unexpectedly by friends, the quality of both.
We snuggle deeper and the truth of shared anxiety rises and falls like swells on oceans perturbed by weather’s breath. Dear Henry whispers “Big Sur awaits our reunion and the union of Earth and Spirit still.” I quiver at the thought and then…relent.
He understands my dilemma, because he shared it once, so that his words resonate like the bells of Saint Sebastian’s calling home the faithful. He talks of expectations, of mores, literacy, and scoffs at the convention that so many chase like dogs sniffing after rotting hunks of flesh. We are surrounded by blank walls, no window for distraction, yet we turn to our surroundings for inspiration. We share good wine with artisan cheese and bread, good bread. And France, oh France! Would that we could be there together, just once.
But we are separated by time, not distance. Thirty odd years. And yet, it feels like we inhabit the same space. He reads my mind. Tells me what I need to hear each time I turn to him. He is an attentive lover by all accounts and this is no exception. He embraces me with his words, creating tension and a longing so profound that no cavern can compare. I am left breathless and exhausted, wondering how it is that I allow him to penetrate so deep. His heart, like an arrow, piercing mine with his consciousness beyond expectation. Every time.
“Once more,” I think.
And we return again to compart our common compulsion, me and my love, my Henry Valentine.
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