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Archives – March, 2011

SPD2011

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Happiness is a brand new pitcher of green Stella.

March 17, 2011

Home-grown grapefruit fail

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Years of tender loving care for this, gah/haha.

March 12, 2011

A poem, for me

In the spirit of March 10’s past, a sentimental favorite:

Birches

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust–
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows–
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

-Robert Frost

March 10, 2011

Notes, Links, and Photos from my trip to Christchurch

Having just arrived back from New Zealand as part of a work trip (Google.org’s Crisis Response Team) to visit post-earthquake Christchurch and the surrounding areas (to learn and to help), I wanted to share some things I learned and saw while they were fresh in my head.

On February 22 2011, Christchurch, NZ suffered a 6.3 magnitude aftershock, which followed a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September. The February quake caused significant damage to the city and the deaths of >160 people, whereas the initial September quake resulted in no fatalities (but billions in damage otherwise).

The September quake was totally unexpected, up until then, no fault was thought to exist near the city.

Peak acceleration (lateral movement) in the February Christchurch earthquake was 2.2G. For context, last year’s earthquake in Haiti which killed 300k+ “only” measured .5G. Per Wikipedia, a recorded lateral acceleration of 2.2G is the largest ever recorded.

Larger scale disaster (given unknown fault and scale of earthquake) was avoided by New Zealand’s stringent building codes (a pretty significant fault line runs through nearby Wellington and SW-NE through the rest of the country).

The effects of the earthquake upon the silty Christchurch soil were pretty pronounced, in the form of liquefaction. Liquefaction is the conversion of soil into a liquid upon stress (i.e. that from an earthquake) which causes the soil to lose strength and stiffness. This subsequent weakness in the soil was in large part responsible for the collapse of myriad Christchurch buildings, along with the large scale depositing of soil on the ground — liquefaction being forced through weak spots in road/surface.

Here’s a great video from Christchurch demonstrating the liquefaction effect:

Proving the power of the 7P’s, the September quake (with no fatalities) proved an impetus for creating detailed earthquake response plans, which ultimately saved an untold number of lives when the February quake occurred.

In meeting with people affected by the Earthquake, the individual stories they told were pretty astounding, and often heartbreaking. To meet the effects of the quake, we saw humor, charity, and the community coming together.

One example of this coming together, the Student Volunteer Army, really amazed me with the work they were doing. Organizing >15,000 students, the Student Volunteer Army was able to respond to citizen requests for help (jobs), sending teams of students to help out people in need (delivering water, removing silt, etc). Ultimately, thousands of jobs are being done daily to help recover from the earthquake. Louis Brown from the SVA was truly inspiring:

While there, a 4.8 magnitude aftershock happened while eating dinner at a friend of one of our team members. The house swayed for 10-15 seconds, and caused a little bit of excitement among our group (not the case for our NZ hosts, who talked through the whole thing, old hat I suppose).

Some photos from Christchurch and other links:

Aerial photographs from The Press, here.

Google’s Crisis Response page and GeoEye satellite imagery, here

The Christchurch Ushahidi mapping instance for the earthquake, here

More discussion on the power of the quake, here.

Some background on pre-Earthquake Christchurch:

And some photos I captured from the trip:

View all

Or for the more map inclined, a KML of the photos I took here.

Overall, a really good and informative trip, the spirit of New Zealand coming together to assist those in need really was something I’ll remember for a long time.

If you’d like to help, please donate to the Student Volunteer Army, or the NZ Government Appeal.

2 Comments March 8, 2011


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