Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Atlas shrugged

On the morning of the 11th, as Becky and I were preparing to leave our motel early in the morning, we watched the Weather Channel to see what we might be facing along the way. I was bothered by the fact that much of the broadcast was dedicated to some stupid earthquake in Japan and not the local forecast. What did I care about a quake on the other side of the world? It was probably some pesky rumbler (weighing in at a whopping 3.9 or something on the Richter scale) that was receiving entirely too much attention. So what did I do? I ignored it.

In my defense, it was early, and we still had many hours in the car ahead of us. I'm grateful that Nike was unable to get beneath the beds at the motel, as said beds are designed to have no route for critters hide; a solid baseboard bars their path. We needed to get in the car, get breakfast, and get our butts to PA. Adding to the trip was a detour to pick up Becky's cat. Otherwise, we would've had a slightly more direct road to my new home. I was preoccupied by everything revolving around our journey, and neither of us are fans of radio. Thus, I remained misinformed and oblivious to world events.

Once we got home...Well, we've been a tad preoccupied. No, it hasn't been a sexual celebration or a grand study in nudity. We've been trying to get me unpacked, while at the same time trying not to overload my knee. I've been utterly failing on that last. Either my knee hurts, or it's swollen to at least twice its normal size. Sometimes, it's been both, and those are truly special moments for me. I would enroll in physical therapy, except that I'm kind of "between doctors" at this time.

I've been busy, physically and mentally. And so I haven't made much of an effort to learn much about the quake in northern Japan. Drops of news when I would pop onto the internet let me know it was a lot more serious than I'd initially thought, but I still had no details.

That changed this morning. I did a little wandering around the web and discovered things that were both astounding and frightening. And some of that data is so much more than is presented by the numbers of a news report.

For example, over 8,000 are still missing after the 8.9 earthquake and consequent tsunami. That's a large, terrible number. But I feel that number requires a bit more reflection. How many people are in your life? If you were to get married today and decided to invite everyone of importance, past and present, how many people would actually show up? For me, I believe that number would be somewhere around 200. That's going to be friends and family who, (while they may not care a whole lot about me now), have cared about me in the past. Now take into consideration how much tighter the family unit may be in Japan. I think we can safely add at least another 100 to that figure, bringing it to 300. That means there are probably around 2,400,000 friends and family members concerned about their missing loved ones. Yes, there's room for overlap, but still...And all of this doesn't take into account those who were injured in the concurrent disasters.

Then there's the added "fun" of the nuclear reactor. It wouldn't hurt to watch this video to gain an understanding of what's happening, but to sum it up, three fail-safes that were put in place to prevent the reactor from overheating managed to...well, fail. This was nothing like the disaster at Chernobyl, which, I believe, was housed in a hastily constructed building made of LEGO. This was reasonable engineering designed to face the issue of earthquakes. What it wasn't designed to do was handle a tsunami, as I understand it.

All of this is partially fascinating and thoroughly frightening. But some of the information I read this morning had me sitting up and wondering what consequences it would have on the planet as a whole.

When people say "the Earth moved," they're usually referring to great sex. Today, however, it was a literal phrase. Japan has moved west approximately two meters. More impressive than that was the fact that the planet's mass shifted slightly toward its center by a distance of 16.5 cm, shortening our days by 1.6 microseconds. I had no idea this was even possible, and stunned to learn that another quake back in 2004 shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds.

And what does all of this mean? I have no idea. Random thoughts have been running through my head throughout the day, and I felt it was time for me to ramble about them. I have no idea if the axis shift is truly all that significant. Impressive, yes. Important...? I'm clueless. And I am ultimately concerned for all those who are suffering because "Mother Earth felt the need to scratch where it itched." I can do so very little, other than make one of those tiny donations to the Red Cross. (I would link it, but I believe people can find that one on their own with ease.) I just wish I could do more. Much more. And being a mere mortal kind of sucks.

(On a side note, the title may be stolen, but certainly seemed appropriate.)

Please, people. If you can aid those in Japan, do so. If you can't, then perhaps a prayer will do. Regardless of your capacity to help, be well, and DFTBA!

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