Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Not Our Fault

If California slides into the ocean
like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this hotel will be standing
until I pay my bill - Warren Zevon "Desperados Under The Eaves"
Last week, Nostradamus predicted that there would be an earthquake of 9.0 or greater on the West Coast of the United States. May 28th, to be precise. In these matters, it is important to be precise, since millions of lives are at stake. This is why earthquake prognostication is such an important art. Did I say "art?" I meant science. There is a website, called "Earthquake Forecasting" which includes the admonition: "We do not predict earthquakes." Instead, they use algorithms and formulas that us all anticipate the possibility of something that has become increasingly inevitable. It works on a series of percentages and watching them keep ratcheting up and up and up. I live in a place where the question has never been "if" but "when" as it pertains to seismic activity.
Which brings us to the art of predicting earthquakes. Nostradamus wrote in quatrains, which is art. They may even, at one time, rhymed. We have, off and on through history, based our fears on a book full of poems written a very long time ago. Five hundred years is a lot, right? The day after the West Coast was supposed to tumble into oblivion, poets from a new age unveiled their vision: San Andreas. It's a movie about an earthquake, that opened the day after the earthquake that was supposed to make the release of a movie about an earthquake inconsequential. Pretty savvy marketing, since the end of the world didn't happen after all.
Returning to the words of the late poet and philosopher Warren Zevon, I think he's got a point. Part of all the work we've done preparing over the past five centuries for the end of the world, especially here in California, the chances of getting us all to "slide into the ocean" has diminished from the prophecies of old via the retrofitting of today. In many ways, it would be simpler if we would all burn out rather than fade away. But those are the words of a Canadian. What do they know about earthquakes? I predict we will all spend about as much time worrying about the end as than we will living in them. But don't quote me on that.

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