“Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.” ~Voltaire
“I used to sleep nude – until the earthquake.” ~Alyssa Milano
“Love is a burning thing, And it makes a fiery ring, Bound by wild desire, I fell into a ring of fire….” ~Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire
There’s nothing more I like than when Jody tells me that I made the earth move for her. Mr. Cash was right about love and his ring of fire – although in our case, it’s more akin to being bound…oh yeah, in wild desire. Thankfully, such playful physical restraint actually can help inhibit someone from falling unexpectedly, quite literally. Say, like when terra non-firma actually does move during a quake. And when it moves significantly enough to move us soundly out of sleep in the middle of the night to thoughts of immediate shelter and exclamations of “Oh Shit!,” it is quite surprising…and surprisingly frightening.
Actually, in a nod to Ms. Milano’s quote above, my immediate thought was of putting some pants on. I might revisit the idea of sleeping nude, and certainly will consider more expanded and pragmatic uses of our bondage gear (wink)!
It is easily said that earthquakes are a fact of life here in Okinawa, but experiencing a moderately powerful earthquake in person is quite a different thing. Okinawa sits squarely on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the earth’s surface is fractured and the island is surround by 13 different fault lines, volcanoes are plentiful, and the ground literally shakes, rattles and rolls from time to time.
This is my 5th year living on the island, however, and I honestly don’t remember anything other than the slightest of movement from my four previous years here. Since returning this past August, we have now experienced at least three of what I will characterize as moderate quakes, with the one this morning certainly rating on the higher, more extreme end of “moderate.” It was enough to rattle not only our condo’s furnishing and fixtures, along with the entire building, but our psyches as well.
We live immediately on the coast. I’m not sure if our building’s foundation is on reclaimed land, as much of the coastline is in Japan and Okinawa. That would be bad for us. What I do know is that while Japanese domestic building code isn’t up to American standards in many respects, such as NOT requiring an elevator large enough to fit a gurney to evacuate us in the case of injury from…well…an earthquake, the code here has, for a long time (much longer than in the states even), required buildings to be “seismically isolated.”
So what the hell does that mean?
It means, in quite unembellished terms, that our building is shock-mounted (using large rubber pad-like dampeners, like a Harley’s engine, or most large floor-mounted machinery), and is on rollers. “Ludicrous!” I hear you say! But it’s true. Between these two systems, the ground’s motion during an earthquake is nearly isolated from the building. Nearly so. Not enough, however, to keep us from really feeling those strong “s waves” this morning during the final 2 seconds of what was about a 6 second event. A corny yet effective building “seismic isolation simulation,” something you mathletes and engineers will greatly appreciate can be found here.
What does it all mean? It means that even though our building’s integrity wasn’t threatened, we still got quite a ride being on top of Mother Nature. Now she can really make the earth move…for everyone!!
Major earthquakes are followed by aftershocks: the main shock of the earthquake doesn’t always discharge all that stress from the earth’s crust, unlike when the earth moves in more passionate but not necessarily more interesting “affairs,” for the guys at least (read in your inner voice using Austin Power’s accent: “And I’m spent!”). Aftershocks, some as powerful as the main earthquake, happen as the earth settles into a new equilibrium, which often cause buildings which were only initially damaged, to submit and collapse. We had a powerful aftershock…or simply another quake at 11:00 am, strong enough to actually take some hanging art off our walls.
It’s hard to describe the experience. The noise this morning was most surprising to me. You often hear of the train-engine descriptions of tornadoes, and we’ve all seen and heard the howling wind of hurricanes on TV as some dumbass weather reporter is looking for his big break by pitting his ego against Mother Nature’s. But the loud rumble and higher-pitched rattles commingled into a growing roar this morning of tired ground and rock giving way to fatigued buildings complaining in their brick and mortar rendition of “don’t shake the baby.”
Of course my GI Joe militaristic training kicked in and I heeded the military’s advice: panic!! What a tick, that’s the first thing they tell us not to do. Seriously, here’s their advice, straight from the Emergency Action Plan of Kadena AFB: “DON’T PANIC! STAY PUT. TAKE COVER. HOLD ON.” There is nothing there about putting clothes on. There should be. I had only one leg in my jammies when the quake ended. And, sadly, I didn’t even have time get to see if any of Jody’s womanly jigglely parts were resonating with the earth.
This all has me thinking. Yes, of jiggling, but also about the future and fate of Okinawa. Scientists, like all scientists like to do, are warning that the island is “overdue” for a mega-earthquake that could send a tsunami over coastal communities where we live and U.S. bases where thousands of Americans live and work. A major quake here is “well overdue and can happen at any time,” said Takeshi Matsumoto, professor of earth science and disaster prevention at the University of the Ryukyus. Matsumoto sits on a panel of six university seismic experts who re-evaluated the tsunami danger for the Okinawa prefectural government following the 2011 disaster on mainland Japan. “At some point…a massive earthquake is inevitable,” he continues, speaking of a 1,000-year event, and goes on to point out that the island of Okinawa has no record of a large tsunami during the past millennium.
Like I said, any chance I get to make the earth move for Jody, I’ll take the credit! While our interpersonal Ring of Fire is always looking to get more intense, let’s just hope that Mother Nature’s sex life doesn’t get intensely out of control over the next 2.5 years. And just think, typhoon season is just a couple of months away…read about that here: Typhoons – A Divinely Okinawan Experience.