Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's a Super-Mega-Gimongous Earthquake!

Photo from my iPhone of the "foreshock".
Last Tuesday night (03/08/2011) in our Historical Geology class the seismometer went off and recorded a foreshock to the 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan on Thursday 03/10/2011. The earthquake's tsunami  devastated the northeast coast of Japan.

As the tsunami came onto land, I could only sit in my livingroom across the Pacific Ocean scared for the poor people in their cars  driving on a highway  - having no clue what was coming towards them. It was a sickening feeling of helplessness I am sure shared with any one else watching it happen. The wave, filled with debris and mud moved  across the land in what seemed like an incredible distance for  what seemed to be an eternity.

The geology student in me watched with awe at the amazing power of the processes involved to cause such a relentless wave while horrified over its devastation and the loss of human life, knowing that this was only the first wave and fearing what more could happen with the subsequent waves.

CNN and other news media reported this event as a "Megaquake". Is a "megaquake" come out of Hollywood or do they really exist. The answer is "yes". Per USGS web page entitled "Earthquakes, Megaquakes, and the Movies: Lights! Cameras! Disaster! (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/megaquakes.php) a "mega" is theoretically possible but as far as the geophysicists go-it is probably not likely to happen because it involves the length of the fault. They do not know of any fault (yet) that is capable of producing a 10.0 "Mega" Earthquake. Keep in mind also that we have only been "recording" earthquakes for about 100 years - the Earth has been around 4.57 Ga.

History lesson

The largest earthquake recorded was in Chile on May 22, 1960 with a magnitude 9.5.For the others on the list of big (sorry none "mega") check out http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/10_largest_world.php

Being curious I asked some of my FB friends what "Megaquake" meant to them. Interesting that we all have our own vision of what a MEGA is...such as an "8.0 on the Richter", "huge", "6.0 and higher", and my favorite is that which "makes a big hole that swallows up a city". Whatever the visual we might have of a Mega 10 Earthquake it is safe to say I would not want to be on the beach of a country in its tsunami path.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sonia Johnson Rocks

We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.
Sonia Johnson
After a week of letter writing, endless emails, texting, phone calls, meetings, planning sessions and collecting signatures (on top of school work) this morning Modesto Junior College students and faculty gathered as one. The small group sat in the auditorium with a total of 30 people who waited patiently for their turn at one of the microphones placed before the Planning and Budget Board.

The emotions were high, however people were for the most part quite civil. Students plead that they be allowed to help with recommending what programs or services to be cut, teachers stated that they were sacrifice alongside the students to keep hope alive at MJC. It was the first meeting this week that felt like the voices of those most affected by the budget cuts finally got the opportunity to be heard.

The Budget and Planning Board voted whether to support the recommendations from the President's Office to the YCCD Board or not. Happily a majority against supporting the recommendations resulted from the meeting. What this means is not that the cuts aren't going to happen (because $8 million has be cut) but that the determination of a few people really can be effective.

Our focus must be on the State Capitol as this is where the orders originate. We must write to our representatives and assembly members urging them to extend the tax to help our community save their college. When you think that you alone cannot make a difference, you are wrong...determination and passion is all one needs. Have some letters to write so must sign off for now.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

We are sorry to interrupt regularly scheduled programming...but

A few weeks ago I was sitting in class anxiously waiting for the five-day Death Valley trip to come. I was also feeling somewhat optimistic about spending another 3 semesters at MJC to get my calculus, chemistry and physics classes done so I could leave the college with an A.S. in Geology Studies. This week the trip is a wonderful memory and my college future is unknown.

Well...just as obnoxious as the monthly emergency broadcast airing  over your "one" show you get to watch each week - the budget cuts came to our campus. The old adage when the "$%^* hits the fan" is true! The first professor I hear that is being cut is the man who inspired me to attend MJC and later became a close friend. I enjoyed guest teaching in his Anthropology class regarding world religion and loved supporting his bands at local gathering places.I immediately did a "reality check" to see if I was maybe just dreaming and tried to wake up, but I was fully awake wishing I was dreaming.

After the initial shock wore off I felt the old union shop steward creeping out of me...memories of being arrested for sitting down in front of South African Airlines office on Union Square in San Francisco many moons ago came to my mind. So the fingers and the mouth were loosened up and meetings, talks, planning sessions, emails, letters, texts messages, and phone calls started to become the majority of my daily life. Wait...I think I am forgetting something, oh yeah going to class and reading my notes for a test. I became frantic on Tuesday when I realized I had to go to a local high school to monitor a math teacher, and then had a test in Historical Geology that evening. So I did what every student does...I panicked!

Thankfully the test felt good and it was on topics I felt very comfortable with, however I had not completed the review questions for extra credit. I had 75% of the questions done but ran out of time to complete it prior to class. Oh well-let's hope I aced that test. At this point I am not sure if I will be around for next semester to take tests as our fairly new college president wants a "smaller, great college as opposed to a large, mediocre college"...and in addition to this statement he has said on a prior occasion that he wants to close the doors on students with over 100 units.

Ain't that some schist? I have 104 units - not because I took P.E. thirteen times, but because I was there 26 years ago to get a certification in law enforcement. After getting my certification I left and worked (paying taxes and voting, you know being a responsible adult and all) until I was medically retired from an injury I got in the line of duty. Okay, not a problem. I am not going to curl up and die over losing a great paying job and my future in that career...I will go back to school to get a degree and find some other place I can occupy. I need only 5 classes to graduate with my A.S. in Geology and this (insert happy thoughts here) man wants to close the door on "people like me".

Thanks for voting for education measures, paying enormous property taxes to pay for a new high school and two new elementary schools ($4200/year), state taxes and putting your life on the line for your community for 10 years but sorry the "community college" is now off limits to you, and oh, that really awesome professor who has rock star status on campus, yeah, he is out of here too. Have a happy (insert more happy thoughts here) life! Wow, this is AWESOME! Oh, President Loewenstein  I love your luxury car, and the chancellor's too - how do you pronounce those Mer-say-dees (thank God I had a chance to complete elementary school...sounding it out always helps)!

If you too would like to be depressed and pissed off at the same time - please follow this link!