After my last couple posts were about the revolutions going on in North Africa and the Middle East, I was really hoping to be able to muse about something a little more positive.  But after looking through some of the photos of the damage in Christchurch, New Zealand from Monday's 6.3 quake, I thought this might be a good time to remind the rest of the people around the Pacific Rim (as well as other seismic-prone areas) to make sure you're prepared for an earthquake near you.

The Seattle area had the 6.8 Nisqually quake happen back on February 28, 2001 and survived relatively unscathed.  Even Christchurch had a 7.1-magnitude quake back in September without casualties before the aftershock that occurred closer to the city yesterday further damaging and collapsing already weakened buildings.  It's easy to put off quakes in Alaska or even the one in Haiti as "not in my neighborhood" type events, but there will come a time along the West Coast of the U.S. where a large earthquake will do heavy damage to a lot of structures and a lot of people will be hurt and killed.  I feel like I'm being pessimistic, but it really is just being realistic in this case: I'm a structural engineer who has seen her fair share of inadequately designed buildings and heard a fair amount from more experienced engineers than I about all of the weaknesses that older - and sometimes not even all that old - buildings have.

So what do we do to get ready?  In King County, Washington - where Seattle is located - they've come up with a 3 Days, 3 Ways campaign for people to be prepared for natural disasters; FEMA has a similar site setup; and the Red Cross has a few resources for getting a disaster supply kit together, including a first aid kit.  The FEMA site even has a family list of supplies in their kids readiness section.

I think most people have some awareness of what they should have - it's really just a matter of finding a way to collect and store the items.  My dad actually built a little shed on the side of our house (I grew up in Southern California), but I actually got my family a Rubbermaid shed that holds most of our emergency kit/camping gear.  It sits outside our garage in the back yard and is fairly convenient for when we need to grab a sleeping bag, but outside enough that if something happened to our house, we'd still be able to access it without any issues.

Basically, even if it's just a couple flashlights and cans of food (with a can opener!), please learn from the tragedies of others to better prepare yourself.  I know I'm not as prepared as I could be, but I'm working on it - just like our emergency fund in the bank with 3-6 months of expenses!
After posting last week about hoping the momentum from Egypt's peaceful revolution would be able to topple other oppressive governments around North Africa and the Middle East, we're now getting reports about the violence that the current leaders are using against their unarmed citizens to stop the protests - and it's not working!  Libya seems to be the worst at the moment with over 200 killed, but it's also looking like the violence is turning some of the security forces against their leaders since they don't want to shoot at their fellow countrymen (and women).  If Egypt can go (relatively) peacefully and Libya can manage it even with violence, then I think the other countries have a really good chance at being able to keep their voices sounding together to get their demands met.  Whether it's removing a leader or just changing laws for greater freedoms, I think Mubarak is coming out looking better than Gadhafi in terms of how they've treated their people.  It remains to be seen if it will continue this way.

I've even heard stories now of attempts at a revolution in China, but I think that one will be much more difficult with the restrictions the government has on the people and their daily life already.  It's always amazing to see what strength people can have when they truly believe in their cause - whether it's religious, political, or any other.  Whether used for "good" or not, passionate people working together can certainly achieve a lot.
So I've been MIA for two months, but the holidays got crazy and I got a little busy getting stuck on business trips in Missouri blizzards to worry about my little corner of the web here.  But I'm back and I'll try to get back to my weekly musings again...  Big news is that my oldest daughter turns 13 today - a little strange, but considering she's been playing the part for quite some time now, it's not going to be a big stretch for her to be a teenager.

I do have to say that I've been very interested in what has been going on across North Africa and into the Middle East - I don't always know the in's and out's of a particular country's politics, but to see such a passionate crowd as they had in Egypt actually be able to come together and affect change was amazing.  Hopefully others can do the same in countries where it is needed.  Everyone should have basic freedoms and representation.

Beginning one month ago, Tunisia and Egypt brought about the removal of their leaders and now Jordan, Iran, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, and I’m sure a couple others that I haven’t seen listed in the American media reports are trying to take a stand as well to show their discontent with the current state of leadership and a host of other injustices.  I do hope that the revolution can re-ignite in Iran to finish what the people tried to start after the elections in 2009.  I fully understand trying to keep people safe, but you can’t keep them quiet forever and the excuse is wearing thin.

Hopefully the internet can continue to assist the under-represented in coming together for peaceful demonstrations and get the word out that they’re not going home again until change happens.  I hope the success in Egypt gives them strength to continue to do what they know is right.