EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Disaster | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'disaster'

The Towering Inferno

The Towering InfernoIt’s time to go to the movies again and last night I watched the Towering Inferno to remind me of life in San Francisco back in the 70’s. This is one of those movies that you have to watch to get a feel of what the city was like back in 1975 even though it has plenty of Hollywood sheen added to it.

I first have to give props to Hollywood in that a large amount of the movie was actually filmed in San Francisco. I remember when the film came out there was a big opening night screening with lots of the cast members in attendance here in San Francisco and not Hollywood. This movie came out at a time when disaster movies were all the rage until they started being spoofed by movies like Airplane! The set designs were über 70’s chic that reminded me of an old James Bond movie more than a place were people actually lived and worked. All the men wore suits and had voices like they smoked too much [which they did back then] and women wore, well I’m not sure what the style was called, but when you see it there is definitely a 70’s fashion sense that comes through. The good thing is that women did look kind of hot back in the 70’s until you realize that the younger women in their 20’s are now pushing 70 today. The men were dashing and a bit on the overly macho side. I had to think for a minute to realize that Fred Astaire would be 114 years old if he was still around today. The lifestyle was pure decadent 70’s in this new high rise building. So decadent that the main office had a secret bedroom off to the side which Robert Wagner and Susan Flannery make use of within the first 10 minutes of the movie.

The cast is a definite who’s who of 70’s actors and actresses. If you don’t know their names you certainly will know their faces. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are the best known and this movies just shows why people would sometimes confuse the two. Faye Dunaway is absolutely gorgeous in this movie as Paul Newman’s high society girlfriend who is always dressed to the nines throughout the film. One of the things I noticed was how white the movie was, but that was back in the 70’s and that’s the way people watching TV and going to the movies liked it back then. You have two token cast members with O.J. Simpson playing the head of security and Gregory Sierra [anyone remember him?] playing a bartender, so they got their ethnic bases covered for the 70’s. Not a single Asian was used in the filming of this movie which I thought was kind of odd since you’re in San Francisco which has one of the most well known Chinatowns in the world, yet there are no Asians on the streets anywhere. Now that I think about you saw very few Asians in TV and movies back then except for the occasional comic relief in a western or George Takei in Star Trek.

Now then, onto the plot. This is where the movie gets funny looking back. A skyscraper is built in San Francisco which is the tallest building in the world. Obviously since this was the time of disaster movies building up to code wasn’t good enough and they needed better, but they just stuck to the rules and built to code along with leaving a large pile of oily rags surrounded by containers of flammable liquid next to a main electrical box that shorts out. The fire starts on the 81st floor while a party to celebrate San Francisco having the tallest building in the world is going on at the top in the Promenade Room. Apparently back in the 70’s nobody had learned that in case of fire take the stairs not the elevator. This is shown very quickly when Steve McQueen’s character walks in calmly and takes a look at the fire then hops in an elevator three feet away that he takes up to the Promenade Room. Note this is the same elevator that ten minutes later a group of people crowd onto to get away from the Promenade Room only to have the doors mysteriously open up on the floor of the fire serving up roast human to the firefighters. My cousin is a retired fireman and I’ll have to ask him how horribly wrong the fire department handled the fire during the movie. In the end the movie sticks to disaster theme formula of I die, you die, we all die pretty much with only the most righteous believers surviving.

If you see nothing else you should at least see the opening of the movie with the helicopter ride over San Francisco. While not a car chase, the helicopter visuals were spliced together in such a way that wasn’t linear, but hits all the sites of San Francisco. Enjoy the trailer and watch the film if you can find it.

Damn Gophers!

I thought I was over it a year ago. Gophers destroyed our lawn as well as our neighbors with tunnels moving 4 houses away. How did I know this? My first line of defense was the gopher bomb which is basically a large smoke bomb that you light and stick down the hole. Smoke started coming out of the grown four houses away in both directions.

We tried to be nice and use all the other ethical humane ways to get rid of them, but the holes kept coming back and back again. They even started to show up in our backyard that a smoke bomb verified that they were so intrenched that they had actually dug under the houses foundation to our back yard over 40 feet away.

None of it worked. So it was time to go all medieval on them because we had lost half our lawn to them.  Most of the pellets never worked and I finally had to resort to seeds that had a cyanide coating on them. These would suggested by one of the several hardware stores who felt my pain and warned me to make sure that they went into the hole and nothing was left out because you didn’t want to start poisoning cats and dogs in the neighborhood. I even asked my dog owning friends if they had any gopher chasers, but that was to no effect.

After a couple of weeks of watching the gophers poke their heads at me from the holes they finally disappeared. I don’t know if it worked or not, but now we had what was our lawn back. We had some extra money and decided to try and reseed the lawn with some patch restoring stuff from Home Depot. I was skeptical because I had used it before and nothing worked. This time it did and what grew back was wonderful. It looked better than the sod that we had installed many years ago that’s gone over to mostly more weeds than grass due to our neighbor who rents his house out and doesn’t give a damn about his lawn and maybe come once every six months to trim the weeds down.

Now the gophers are back or at least one gopher because the damage is not as bad as before as you can see from the picture. Just to give you a little bit of history to go with this, when these homes were built there were two strips of green either side of the walkway into the house. By law you were required to have these areas planted and keep up in a nice neat fashion. This was why Dads would be out mowing the lawns on Sundays and then drinking themselves silly after they finished. That was how the old boys club worked in the Sunset district.

With the water shortage in the 70’s the city lifted several laws to conserve water and several people ripped out their lawns and put in concrete or the even more hideous white dolomite rock. Our neighbor on the corner, Mr. John Mass had the lawn on the block that he was the proudest of. He would manicure that like a golf course and never was a gopher seen on his lawn. Dogs would not even pee or poop on his lawn there was just something magical about how perfect it was. I always wanted a lawn like that.

Now I have the gophers again and I’m thinking of starting to douse the lawn with lots of weed and feed and just kill off as many weeds as possible and hopefully the gophers will go away before I have to get medieval on my end again. Then I’ll find a way to get an even larger bag of that seed mix and start all over again. If any of you out there have some sure fire remedies for getting rid of the gophers let me know [no I will not stand out there and pee down the hole as someone once suggested to me.] I’m willing to try ethical treatments as well as long as you can find one that works.

Tsunami’s vs. San Francisco

I was watching tv last night and the topics of tsunami’s came up again as it has frequently since the Japanese earthquake/tsunami. We in San Francisco have it pretty good if we’re hit by a tsunami and let me tell you why.

First we’re pretty hilly on the coast. Our natural seawall at the beach is about 20 ft. high. That means that the tsunami that hit Japan would possibly leave a few puddles if there was enough force to push it up and over the sea wall. For the most part it would swirl around into the bay weakening its force and the SOMA area with it’s 10 ft high piers would get the worse of it which still wouldn’t be much.

My house is roughly 213 ft above sea level so we would need a huge tsunami wave to cause any damage to our house from a wave hitting the coast. The worst problem we might have is from the storm drains overflowing. There have been times of high rain that the storm drains can’t handle the amount of water so the you’ll see man hole covers lifted up under the pressure and water pouring out and down the streets. Since the water can’t go back into the drains you will literally get  rivers of water flowing downhill to the beach where it collects at the sand dunes without enough power to flow over and even then there might only be a few inches gathered.

The photo included with this post is all CGI and since it exists in someone’s photoshop mind and has yet to be documented we don’t have much to worry about. A tsunami in San Francisco would come from our storm drains before it would come from the sea. Alameda on the other hand, beware.

NERT: It could save your life

NERT, or Neighborhood Emergency Response Team is a free service provided by the San Francisco Firefighters to help train the public in how to deal with emergency and disaster related situations. Other cities have Community Emergency Response Team classes, but San Francisco, being a bit different focuses on the type of disasters we are most likely to encounter. I haven’t heard of a hurricane ever hitting San Francisco, but earthquakes are up there at the top of the list and this is a good way to get training on what to do in case you’re hit by one or any of the other problems that could crop up with or without an earthquake such as fires, medical emergencies, etc.

My wife found out about this first and brought it up to me because I always used to test her by yelling GET DOWN NOW! and watch her ask me, why? I’d politely remind her that if she had to question me when I yelled a line like that she might end up dead. I can be a bit smug at times and I know that it wasn’t exactly the right situation to make that most effective. Since I had been a Boy Scout and gone through all of this before I figured it might be fun to have a refresher course since it was free as well. There are six classes you take totaling 20 hours. It’s not really that hard or time consuming and it’s definitely not a boring class. You have to be re-certified every couple of years, but that’s just having to take the last two courses.

Well, it turns out what I learned as a Boy Scout isn’t what you’re supposed to do anymore. We were always taught the first thing you do when someone has a severed limb [how many of us have ever been in that situation?] was to apply a tourniquet. Turns out that’s not the best thing to do since you could end up making the person lose more of the limb by killing off blood flow and you should always apply direct pressure until medical professionals can get there.

Remember standing in a doorway during an earthquake? WRONG! It’s actually best to get up against a way because if the ceiling drops in chances are pretty good that a portion will fall at an angle leaving you with a safe place. I also got to learn things I had never thought of before such as teamwork in a situation when some is trapped under say a fallen telephone pole or a car. This was also the first time someone had lit a controlled fire and handed me an extinguisher and told me to put it out. These are handy tips to know and the best part was at the end we got our yellow hard hats and orange safety vests. Yes, some of you might think at times that those outfits look a little dorky, but if something bad comes down like another ’89 earthquake you’ll be glad to see these people. I could go into more detail, but it’s best to get your information from the NERT website.

Attack the Bridge!

Being an lover of  sci-fi and horror movies I’ve noted a trend when the movies are set in San Francisco…The Golden Gate Bridge always goes first. The X-men did it, Terminator did it, It came from the deep did it and now the bridge is attacked by those damn, dirty apes! [Rise of the Planet of the Apes reference.]

We all know that when someone mentions San Francisco in a story, that there is almost always a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the icon which binds San Francisco together even though in most movies shots of the bridge are taken from Marin facing San Francisco, yet when the bridge is attacks the cameras shoot from San Francisco towards Marin. I suppose the movie makers want to blame Marin for the fall of the bridge.

To many long time residents of San Francisco when you leave the city headed north when you see the bridge coming home, you know you’re home. Many have noted that we don’t charge you to leave San Francisco, but we do charge you to enter it. [San Francisco is still trying to find a way to charge Peninsula residents to enter the city.]

Perhaps part of the bridge always being destroyed has to do with appeasing people outside of the city who hate us for our San Francisco Values. I’m not sure, but I think it’s always kind of funny. I have rarely had reason to drive across the bridge as I’ve lost contact with most of my old friends in the Marin area and I don’t really have any business contacts in that direction, but I do generally like Marin and especially Sausalito. I have in past five years actually walked across the bridge for the first time in my life which I have to say is a rather invigorating, but pleasant walk to take.

Well, now this has changed. Tomorrow I will start some freelance work across the bridge in Mill Valley. This could, after awhile turn into a permanent position. Now I think I have to understand the method of thinking involved in having to cross a bridge to go to work. I had previously vowed never to do this, but the company that wants me is just so cool that I couldn’t resist it. Hopefully, I won’t encounter any crazed monkeys tomorrow.

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Wild Weekends & Disasters

OK, so here’s the deal. I’ve decided that Monday’s through Friday’s I will post articles about San Francisco. On the weekends if I get some time I’ll post bonus material that can be about anything in particular, stream of consciousness rants, whatever. I’ll call these wild weekend articles. That being said today I want to talk about…

Disasters. We hear about them all the time. Earthquakes in Japan, tornados in the midwest, hurricanes in the south and east. What I find funny is that people who live in the areas where it seems like they have to buy a new house every year have all said to me, California’s nice, but I could never live there because of the earthquakes.

I’ve lived in San Francisco my entire life and the only time there was a disaster that set us back was in 1989 when the 6.9 earthquake set us back a day. We lost power for about four hours and our phone lines were screwed up for about four days and that was it. Our house survived quite well as it was bolted to the foundation and the only thing in our house that got damaged was a ceramic goblet that I bought at the renaissance faire that fell off a shelf.

Yes, you don’t know when they are coming and when they do they’re usually very loud and scary, but they’re over shortly and life goes back to normal. I think the scene from L.A. Story where Steve Martin is sitting at a cafe with a group of people when an earthquake hits and they are all going about their business because it’s no big deal. It really isn’t that big a deal unless you might happen to live in a liquifaction area such as the Marina which really had only the area North of Chestnut street affected.

Yes, I did get hit with a few falling bricks and some flying glass shards from a broken window when the quake hit in 1989, but  because we get quakes often enough we know what to do and we’re prepared. So why is it then that other parts of the country that get hit by large hurricanes and tornados every year get warnings and aren’t prepared? Looks like a cat 5 is coming, ah nothing to worry about we’ll get by. Seriously? I know a lot of friends in hurricane country who do get out in time and hope their home is still there when they get back and in a lot of cases it is there, but they still get affected in some way much worse that us people who live in earthquake country. Like having to throw out their refrigerators because of the toxic mess that’s accumulated in the week or so they’ve been gone and the fridge has been off.

Well what about the Northridge quake? Yep, that one was pretty bad when it happened over 30 years ago. We don’t get blizzard conditions in the winter or heat waves in the summer. We’re lucky to see the temperature go past 100° for more than a couple of days [except for perhaps in Needles, CA]. There are parts of California that do fall prey to flooding, but they’re on the coast and if you want to avoid flooding, don’t live on the coast. I recently looked at the weather departments predicitions of a tsunami hitting San Francisco and as long as you live above 46th avenue in the Sunset above La Playa in the Richmond you’ll be fine. That’s only two blocks that would be affected.

There was a recent study done on the San Andreas fault that showed that it would never be capable of delivering a quake much above a 7.6 at this point in time. So earthquakes aren’t really something you need to be too afraid of here in California. They’re just a little surprise wake up call to make sure you’re prepared.

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San Francisco Vs. The Tsunami

You’ll all have to thank my wife for this post. She had done a bit of research on how bad SF would fare if hit with a tsunami and I have to say that my off the cuff, unscientific assessment was off. I had it worse that it really would be.

She steered me toward the County Tsunami Inundation Maps website that shows just how bad we would be hit and I was kind of surprised. It’s the first time I am glad I’m on the front line of defense because the wave would hit us then make a left and head into the bay. Pretty much if you live in the Sunset or Richmond above 47th avenue you’ll be safe. The site’s a little hard to understand at first because it gives you a far away map and you have to click on it to download a large PDF image. I should have figured that since it was run by the government it wasn’t going to be easy. Maybe Apple should be hired as a consultant to make it more user friendly.

From what I can tell from the maps the worst places to be the Marina, the Wharfs, China Basin and Islais Creek. Oh let’s not leave out Treasure Island which would be underwater. I guess my earlier jokes about the tsunami evacuation signs being at the beach wasn’t that far off. Essentially they’re tell you to move a block away and you’ll be fine. I’ve also noticed that Oakland, Alameda and Emeryville will have a few problems as well even though they’re farther inland. Even those places won’t be hit by more than a few blocks.

It appears that as long as you are about a half mile in from the water you will be fine and have nothing to worry about. So everyone, stop being paranoid and get back to enjoying life. SF 1 – Tsunami 0.

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