Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Even Trees Get Old

I recall when I first saw them, solid and straight and arriving at to very fast statures. They were the red oak trees in the front yard of the congested bungalow in southeastern Massachusetts that we called home. Furthermore to seven-year-old me, they were titans. I thought they were antiquated, were sitting in that yard in the times of Squanto and the Pilgrim Fathers. I was disillusioned when I discovered that every one of those trees had been chopped down years prior; that these trees were youthful, barely more seasoned than my guardians.

Their boles were round, their bark very nearly smooth, and their first limbs route over my head. So I couldn't have kicked decently off regardless of the possibility that I had needed to climb them. Which I didn't. There was a breathtaking perspective of the world to be had from the highest points of those trees. I longed them each delight of the experience. I was not going to test them for it.

I never figured out how to shinny up a tree trunk to achieve those first extensions. I didn't have much in the method for muscles, and I didn't have much coordination of what I did have. Moreover, I figured the main way I would get down was by falling and slaughtering myself. Just to be slaughtered again for breaking the maternal decree, "Thou Shalt Not Climb Trees". My disappointment to grasp one of the characterizing difficulties of childhood did not go unnoticed, and I got dissed for it. They were spunky, I was clucky, and the children on the schoolyard and in the caddyshack lost no chance to say as much. Staying alive is more paramount.

I was never entirely beyond any doubt how my mother felt about the oak trees. Consistently she would whine about how they shaded the front yard, so not grass or blossoms would develop appropriately. Furthermore she would watch the yard each spring, when the snow liquefied, grousing about the unlimited heaps of oak seeds that developed and, inside a week (or thereabouts it appeared), sent roots no less than two-thirds of the path past the core of the Earth, making them difficult to force up. But then, after a seemingly endless amount of time, the trees remained.

My own particular impressions of the trees obscured when I took in the significance of the expression "rake". For it appeared to be as though every one of those red oak trees created enough leaves to blanket the perimeter of the planet in a layer a foot thick.

It would have been OK if the leaves were beautiful. In any case these "red oak" leaves move at the same time, in October, from green to dead tan, a frustrating result for a kid who continued finding out about the glories of New England "leaf season" and pondered when he may find what everybody was discussing.

It would have been OK if the leaves had all fallen without a moment's delay. In any case no. Red oak trees lose their leaves a little at once, such a large number of trees still are sticking to their fall edit in, say, February. Which implied, to the kid that was me, that "raking season" endured from Columbus Day to Easter, when the snow liquefied enough to rake the leaves that fell into the snow beginning on Thanksgiving.

It would have been okay if the leaves really rotted not long after they fell. At the same time red oak leaves rot gradually. I in some cases thought about whether they are not Nature's styrene plastic, nonbiodegradable and indestructible. Which implied they must be raked off the grass and the arrangement, or they cover the grass and the blooms. I used numerous a fall day, rake under control, with a heap of goes out (or thereabouts it appeared), gazing sadly at the ones as of now sticking to the extensions path over my head.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Ó Ceallaigh

Philip Ó Ceallaigh is an Irish short story writer living in Bucharest. The New Zealand writer Charlotte Grimshaw has described him as a "clever Irish writer". Michel Faber, in The Guardian, described his control of tone, dialogue and narrative contour as "masterful". Ó Ceallaigh won the 2006 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was the first Irish writer to be shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Dharma Productions

Dharma Productions Pvt. Ltd. is an Indian motion picture production and distribution company, based in Mumbai. The company was founded by Yash Johar in 1976. It is now headed by his son Karan Johar after the death of the former in 2004.

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Doing the Guest Appearance Thing

Doug Pascover, the major domo of Waking Ambrose, asked me if I would contribute a definition (hyperthermia). Which I did. Waking Ambrose is a great site for the student of the sardonic, and well worth a visit.

I couldn't resist having a go at another word that Doug used on the Waking Ambrose page, coopetition.

Monday, 1 May 2006

Life on a Fault Line

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks back at my home base of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, overseeing the installation of a major piece of equipment (a scanning electron microscope) and tending to other bits of science business. While I was there, Maine was a fairly pleasant place to be. It refrained from snowing, the daffodils were making their first tentative appearance, and the blackflies had not yet driven everybody back indoors. The winter had been warm (by Maine standards) and dry, so the usual knee-deep mires masquerading as driveways, roadsides (sidewalks? you gotta be kidding), and parking lots weren’t there; I could actually walk places without getting slimed.

This is not normal, and it had the natives in a fret. Mainers are used to their seasons: mud (April), blackfly (May), mosquito (June-August), yellowjacket (September), leaf (October), and winter (November-March, if you’re lucky). No mud in April may mean dry wells in August, or, worse, rain and fog in August, both of which will keep the tourists, who visit during what the rest of the Northern Hemisphere calls “summer”, away. And since the state that proclaims itself “The Way Life Should Be” has no industry to speak of, and has the third-lowest per-capita investment in research and development of all the fifty U.S. states, Maine needs healthy tourists, even more than it needs healthy lobster. (There is no research money available to investigate what keeps lobster healthy, of course, even after they all died in western Long Island Sound in 1999.) The way petroleum fuel prices are at the moment, maybe nobody will visit Maine this August, and the entire state will be applying for disaster relief in October.

About the only disaster not likely to hit Maine anytime soon is a major earthquake. Unlike sunny, warm, wealthy California. Where, at least in Berkeley where I’m staying, the daffodils had come and gone by February. I flew in to Oakland the other day and almost immediately drove to Bodega Bay, where there is a prominent marine biology research laboratory, and helped introduce a class of first-year students from the brand-new Merced campus of the University of California to the marine environment. On a windy Saturday afternoon, we stood on a rocky point of land with a grand view of the shallow harbor that is Bodega Bay. Between us and the far shore of the Bay lay the famous San Andreas Fault. Our piece of land, not too terribly long ago, had been part of Los Angeles, and it was scuttling along in the general direction of Alaska. In 1906, during the Great San Francisco Earthquake, it had moved, in one jump, 15 feet closer to Anchorage.

The Great San Francisco Earthquake was a tale for which the world was not yet prepared. Certainly San Francisco, and other cities and towns along the San Andreas Fault, weren’t prepared for it. In 1906, few Californians had any idea that they were living in an earthquake zone, and fewer still had any idea what that meant or what to do about it. In fact, studies conducted in the years immediately after the 1906 earthquake established, for the first time, that earthquakes were caused by pieces of the earth’s surface moving with respect to each other, an idea that came as a nasty surprise to the scientists who had thought the earth’s surface fixed and immovable. It took another sixty years before scientists could agree on a theory, plate tectonics, to explain this movement.

Meanwhile, people built large and expensive buildings of unreinforced stone, brick, or concrete, lit and heated mostly by open fires. The San Francisco fire chief argued in 1905 for a high-pressure water system to help fight fires, especially in the event of a big earthquake, but was told the system was too expensive. The San Francisco Fire Department had an expert in the use of dynamite as a means of controlling major fires in cities, but the expert was one of the earthquake’s first casualties, and there wasn’t enough dynamite in stock to meet the need. The other explosives used, including old-fashioned black powder, actually helped spread the flames that destroyed most of the city.

Remarkably, aid reached the stricken areas quickly. Army troops were in San Francisco within hours, to keep order and assist with firefighting and other needs. Within days, food and shelter were dispatched to San Francisco and other hard-hit regions. Few people went hungry, and there were no major disease outbreaks. Rebuilding of San Francisco began almost immediately, though for a time people thought that the less hard-hit cities to the east of San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, would become the main Bay Area metropolises. By the 1920s, though, it was clear that San Francisco would regain its preeminence.

To be sure, the U. S. President in 1906 was Theodore Roosevelt, not George W. Bush …

The day after my visit to Bodega Bay, a Sunday, I attended a service at the fancy church in Berkeley, my spiritual home away from home. The church had sent a relief party to New Orleans, and on this day they were reporting their experiences to the congregation, the dire and the joyful, the litany of slow and unjust official responses to America’s modern-day Noahic deluge, and the scattered tales of courage and progress. A parishioner asked why it was necessary or appropriate to send people to New Orleans when there were plenty of local problems to be addressed. The pastor responded that, having seen what happens when a disaster is compounded by problems of social injustice at both the local and national levels, at both the disaster planning and disaster relief stages, she was motivated to identify and, as much as possible, address those issues in Berkeley.

It was a good answer. A century ago, geological faults were scarcely understood, and much evil resulted from this misunderstanding. We now know much more, and where we apply this knowledge, much evil is averted. It’s significant that the biggest earthquake disaster of modern times, the Indian Ocean quake and tsunami, occurred where the lessons learned, and technologies developed, from studies of geological faults had not been applied. Too expensive – like San Francisco’s high pressure water system in 1905. From San Francisco, and Indonesia, and New Orleans, we should be learning how to avert the evils of human faults …