In a box in my basement, I keep a small bag of letters from my Canadian friend Dayna. We got tight in high school in Phoenix, Arizona, but after she moved back home to Calgary, Alberta, we corresponded by mail. Growing up, cars with Manitoba and Saskatchewan license plates filled my city’s streets during the mild desert winters. “Another snowbird,” my dad would say from behind the wheel. “Be nice to them. They’re good for the economy.” Dayna was the first Canada I actually got to know.
For four years, Dayna and I kept in touch by exchanging mixtapes and letters filled with our teenage obsessions. Hers also contained tantalizing visions of a foreign land. She called dorks “knobs” and heavy-metal kids “bangers.” In the photos Dayna and her friends sent, their cars shimmered with a crystalline sheen and you could see their breath. It all seemed so exotic. Read more…
In the New Yorker, Kathyrn Schulz describes the horrific devastation that would occur if a massive earthquake hit the Pacific Northwest. Scientists have calculated the odds of the big Cascadia earthquake occurring in the next 50 years as “roughly one in three.” Here’s a description of what might happen to Seattle:
The shaking from the Cascadia quake will set off landslides throughout the region—up to thirty thousand of them in Seattle alone, the city’s emergency-management office estimates. It will also induce a process called liquefaction, whereby seemingly solid ground starts behaving like a liquid, to the detriment of anything on top of it. Fifteen per cent of Seattle is built on liquefiable land, including seventeen day-care centers and the homes of some thirty-four thousand five hundred people. So is Oregon’s critical energy-infrastructure hub, a six-mile stretch of Portland through which flows ninety per cent of the state’s liquid fuel and which houses everything from electrical substations to natural-gas terminals. Together, the sloshing, sliding, and shaking will trigger fires, flooding, pipe failures, dam breaches, and hazardous-material spills. Any one of these second-order disasters could swamp the original earthquake in terms of cost, damage, or casualties—and one of them definitely will. Four to six minutes after the dogs start barking, the shaking will subside. For another few minutes, the region, upended, will continue to fall apart on its own. Then the wave will arrive, and the real destruction will begin.