Friday, June 15, 2018

One of my books free!

I have never done this before, and I'm not spreading the news terribly wide, but I wanted to let you know that this weekend, June 16-17 (Amazon time--that is, it starts at 12:01 a.m. Western Daylight Time), my first in series Saber Tooth will be on sale for nothing as an ebook. Yes, that's no dollars and no cents!

Here's the link

A time gate.
A team of fossil-hunters.
A desperate fight to survive.

Park Ranger Hannah Kates is leading a group of gifted teens on a fossil hunt when a rock slide at the fossil site uncovers a portal through time. The fossil hunters are caught in it and whisked back to an era when giant predator mammals roamed the earth.
 

When they have no weapons but sticks and stones, how can they survive on their wits and courage alone? And will they ever find their way home?

The exciting adventure begins.


If you've already read it, tell your friends to give it a try. Thanks, as always, for being a reader and fan.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

With life even more busy...a break from blogging.

I've purchased a house. Not my dream house, but a house for a good price that will do for me for the next five to eight years and should re-sell fairly easily.

I'll be signing the final paperwork this week, and then there's a month of painting, fixing, cleaning (the yard in particular is getting to be a neighborhood eyesore!), shopping for supplies, and moving.

I've written 14,000 words on my new novel while I've been on the road and house-hunting, which is both not enough to satisfy me and more than many folks might be able to write under these circumstances. I'd love to be able to get at least another 14,000 while I'm settling in. With that goal in mind, I'm going to blog less during the rest of May and June. I hope to get back to it in July again.

I enjoy blogging, especially the articles I've written on particular disasters. It takes time for the research and writing, but I learn things, which is among my top five activities in life. But it doesn't pay me anything, so it's an indulgence that I won't be able to afford while I'm busy with settling in to a new house. Better to work on a new novel than to write blog posts, yes?

There are over 200 blog posts here, many of them substantial about preparing for emergencies, natural disasters, paleontology, and diseases. Scroll down the right side of the blog, and there are topic links you can use. Enjoy reading!

Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

4 Films That Define Me

Someone asked me to post this over at Twitter--it's a hashtag game there. I quickly found four films that, taken together, do catch something of my personality, life, and beliefs.

My 4 films are

1) Les glaneurs et la glaneuse In English, The Gleaners and I.

2) Fight Like a Girl 

3) RV

4) Wordplay 

 





Sunday, May 6, 2018

Still too busy to be interesting

I'm still mired in house-buying and moving problems. Somehow, I'm writing four days a week nonetheless. And if I get the house I made an offer on, I have a month of mostly outdoor work to do in order for it to not be the house no one wants to look at on that nice block of houses!

I'm mostly posting this to say I'm still alive, still writing, and I'll be back to more interesting posts when life itself is LESS interesting. Isn't there a Chinese curse about that...?


Saturday, April 21, 2018

eeeeeeeeeek!

I am 90% overwhelmed by first keeping my sister's social schedule (a drain for an introvert like me), second by house-hunting, and third by the usual overwhelm I feel about the book-selling business.

Somehow, I've been working on a book between all that. This is another book you could say I've been researching for 2-3 years (as was the case with Crow Vector.) It's a World War II spy novel, and I started writing it while driving 10 hour days from Arizona to Illinois. (I'm apparently nuts. But the darned thing came to life right then, so I had to begin!)

Because of how busy I am, there is no way I'm going to be able to draft this at my typical one-month pace. But I have a book coming out in late April and one in July, so I should be able to hit September with this one. Maybe. Possibly. I hope!

A real life person who appears in three chapters in the book, Vera Atkins, the woman who supervised the female spies in the SOE and spent years after the war trying to find out what happened to the ones who never returned.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

House-hunting with a self-reliant mindset

I've been house-hunting non-stop for two weeks, and I've learned some interesting things.

- buy a house in a less regulated state than the one I'm in! Crazy long lists of rules
- abutting farm land sounds good...until you realize they are spraying a lot of chemicals right next to your garden and Roundup will kill it and neonicitinoids will kill the bees you are hoping to attract
- not all real estate agents are created equal. It is possible that if a real estate agent wears shoes worth more than your entire closet, she spends time on the wrong things
- I've also learned the difference between foreclosures, foreclosures being auctioned, and short sales (around where I'm looking, there is a buttload of all three of those), and the dangers of each
- some people let houses on which they have mortgages fall to pieces, and I want to weep for the poor house, which did nothing to deserve that
- you might not get everything you want for the price you want. Something has gotta give, and then your time may be spent fixing up a house's problems rather than doing the gardening you'd rather do.

nothing I've looked at, but a kind of dream place
Sorry for a short post. I'll do my best while I'm settling in. And after that...who knows about internet!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Seasonal Lag

The astronomical seasons are determined by the relationship of the sun to a planet (or moon). When a planet is tilted, as the Earth is, when days and nights are equal, you have an Equinox. Spring and Autumn equinoxes are March 21 and September 22. The longest day of the year north of the equator is June 22, and the shortest is December 21.

Those dates, in the Northern Hemisphere, are considered the start of our four seasons. April won't necessarily be warm, however. The trend in the Northern Hemisphere now is warming (cooling for my Australian and NZ fans!) but depending on your latitude, proximity to the ocean, and other local factors, it might not be very warm yet as spring technically arrives.

From Wikipedia, Season article


More goes into starting the warming of spring or the cooling of autumn than mere minutes of sunlight. Atmospheric realities delay heating and cooling, insulating the surface of the world, in effect. So, if the date in the Northern Hemisphere with the most sun is June 21, you might wonder why that isn't the hottest day of the year. It usually isn't. Hottest days are usually in July or August. In San Francisco, because of the influence of the ocean, the hottest day is usually around September 25, after astronomical autumn begins! (This results in an interesting non-atmospheric phenomenon where tourists arriving in June, expecting summer, freeze their bums off, and sweatshirt vendors on the street make a bundle of money selling clothes to them. :D ) In Southern Arizona, years when there's a good monsoon---a season of rain, with clouds coming in by noon most days--June actually is the hottest month, for the cloud cover makes July and August almost tolerable.

Again, the sunniest day of the year in the north is June 22. Interestingly, the closest the sun and earth draw to each other is in January, as the illustration above shows, so the summers in the Southern Hemisphere will be a little hotter, all other matters being equal.

The atmosphere takes time to warm, and the ocean takes longer. This is why San Francisco's seasonal lag is greater than inland lags, and it's why the peak Northern Atlantic hurricane months are September and October, when the ocean has finally warmed up to its summer temps.

Historically, some cultures have named six or eight seasons, not four. Other planets have longer or shorter seasonal lags. Mars's is almost zip! (It has very little atmosphere.) Uranus, on the other hand, has over a hundred years of season lag (data nmsu.edu):






taurad
years

Venus



0.007
Earth



0.131
Mars



0.006
Jupiter



4.534
Saturn



20.794
Uranus



131.311
Neptune



121.008
Titan



0.053
 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Revising pen name novel

My great-grandmother Nellie was born a "bastard," as they used to say back when. Bad luck landed her mother in dire financial trouble eight years later. Nellie was given over to an orphanage in the 1890s, and from there sold as an indentured servant for seven years, where she worked for a farm family.

I wrote the first part of her story--the orphanage years--as a novel about eight years ago. (I wrote Gray in 2004-2005, for a comparison.) While I'm busy moving, I've been revising it, and it's done except for proofreading. The working title is The Long Trip Home.

My post-apocalyptic short story collection Timeless will be out in May, and this one will likely be out in July (if you're interested) under my Rosellyn Sparks pen name.


a Vilhelm painting that has the right mood...

Writers speak of "trunk novels"--novels in the trunk that never were published. Once upon a time, there was an actual trunk in the attic, with a paper manuscript or two in it. Nowadays the trunk is more likely to be digital information on a thumb drive.

This is my next-to-last one of those, the one closest to my heart, and for my family's sake, I'll be relieved to get it out there. I think a lot of people will enjoy it beyond them, and it's even appropriate for teen readers who like historical novels, but mostly, I'm doing this one for my family.

It's good to remember where we came from, and how hard our ancestors had it. Most of us lead a relatively easy life today. For much of human history, this was simply not so.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On the road again...

I'm in my RV, traveling across 1/2 of the country.

Not sure what internet will be like once I settle for good. I want to live in a rural setting, and so I might have a struggle finding a decent sort of connection. I might need to put an automated message on my mail and only deal with it once a week, for instance.

I'm still here, and I'm still writing!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

SF Postapocalyptic story collection

I've finished my part of the work on my upcoming story collection, Timeless. My proofreader is fairly busy, so it'll be up for pre-order on about April 15 (tax day, in the USA!) and will be available on Kindle Unlimited from at least May 1-July 29 and perhaps longer.

I'm moving right now, first to one place, then to another, and after that to a third, over a period of about three months.

(Why yes, now that you ask, apparently I am totally nuts!)

As a result of that, the blog is likely to be a bit skimpy for a month or two. Wish me luck in finding a dream house (including a tiny house, four acres, mature fruit trees, and a nice south-facing roof for solar panels.)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Oil Apocalypse 4: Parched

Oil Apocalypse 4 is up on preorder at Amazon. The release date is March 22!

AMAZON US LINK HERE






It will be on Kindle Unlimited, as is the whole series again.

Thank you so much for reading!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Update on El Faro sinking

Because news has been so crazy this past year, stories like this tend to sink under the rough seas of the news cycle. But I posted about it when it happened, wondering why they'd kept steering into the hurricane, and here's the NTSB press release of six weeks ago on it, verbatim. RIP, crew




​WASHINGTON (Dec. 12, 2017) — The deadliest shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than 30 years was caused by a captain’s failure to avoid sailing into a hurricane despite numerous opportunities to route a course away from hazardous weather, the National Transportation Safety Board announced during a public meeting Tuesday.

The 790-foot, cargo vessel, S.S. El Faro, en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, sank Oct. 1, 2015, in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Joaquin, taking the lives of all 33 aboard.

“We may never understand why the captain failed to heed his crew’s concerns about sailing into the path of a hurricane, or why he refused to chart a safer course away from such dangerous weather,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.  “But we know all too well the devastating consequences of those decisions.”

NTSB investigators worked closely with the U.S. military and federal- and private-sector partners to locate the wreckage, photo- and video-document the ship and related debris field, and recover the El Faro’s voyage data recorder from more than 15,000 feet under the surface of the sea.

The ship departed Florida Sept. 29, 2015, and had a range of navigation options that would have allowed it to steer clear of the storm that later became a Category 4 hurricane.  The captain, consulting outdated weather forecasts and ignoring the suggestions of his bridge officers to take the ship farther south and away from the storm, ordered a course that intersected with the path of a hurricane that pounded the ship with 35-foot seas and 100 mph winds.

As the ship sailed into the outer bands of the storm, about five hours prior to the sinking, its speed decreased and it began to list to starboard due to severe wind and seas.  In the last few hours of the voyage, the crew struggled to deal with a cascading series of events, any one of which could have endangered the ship on its own.

Seawater entered the ship through cargo loading and other openings on a partially enclosed deck in the ship’s hull, pooled on the starboard side and poured through an open hatch into a cargo hold.  The hold began to fill with seawater, and automobiles in the hold broke free of lashings and likely ruptured a fire main pipe that could have allowed thousands of gallons of seawater per minute into the ship – faster than could be removed by bilge pumps.

About 90 minutes before the sinking the listing ship lost its propulsion and was unable to maneuver, leaving it at the mercy of the sea.  Although the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship when the sinking was imminent, the crew’s chances of survival were significantly reduced because El Faro was equipped with life rafts and open uncovered lifeboats, which met requirements but were ineffective in hurricane conditions.

The NTSB also said that the poor oversight and inadequate safety management system of the ship’s operator, TOTE, contributed to the sinking.

“Although El Faro and its crew should never have found themselves in such treacherous weather, that ship was not destined to sink,” said Sumwalt.  “If the crew had more information about the status of the hatches, how to best manage the flooding situation, and the ship’s vulnerabilities when in a sustained list, the accident might have been prevented.”

As a result of the 26-month long investigation, the NTSB made 29 recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, two to the Federal Communications Commission, one to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, nine to the International Association of Classification Societies, one to the American Bureau of Shipping, one to Furuno Electric Company and 10 to TOTE Services.

The complete accident report will be available in several weeks.  The executive summary, including the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnRAn.

Additional information related to this investigation, including news releases, photographs, videos, and a link to the accident docket containing more than 30,000 pages of factual material, is available on the El Faro accident investigation page at http://go.usa.gov/xnRTW



Sunday, February 25, 2018

Almost done with Oil Apocalypse #4

I wanted to update you on what I'm up to these days. I'm proofreading Oil Apocalypse #4, Parched, and I'll turn it over to the pro proofreader on March 1. I think I should be able to get it out around March 20 with a three-week pre-order period.



I'm not 100% sure where to go from there in the tale. I had outlined a book 5, but it was going to be a terribly bleak story, and I'm not in the mood to do that at this moment. (It gets harder to kill characters the longer I live with them!) So now I'm dithering. (You can stop at book 3, or you can stop at book 4, and it should feel like a complete series, no matter what I end up saying in book 5.)

I have a related series planned for longer after the end of oil, hundreds of years later, with a distant descendant of Sierra in the lead role. Have you ever seen the TV shows about Life After Humans? (there are two or three.) This fascinates me, how humans might be rebuilding while around them, there is rusting steel from collapsed bridges, crumbled skyscrapers, and other old tech that still exists, doesn't work, and creates something of a puzzle for the survivors. I've done quite a bit of reading about simple tech--building a wooden windmill to grind grain, blacksmithing, and so on. I plan to write that three-book series in 2019...unless some new, shiny idea jumps up, raises its hand, and demands to be noticed.

Ideas, by the way, are never my problem. I have files stuffed with ideas for novels, stories, and probably a dozen first chapters that wouldn't make half-bad books were I to continue them. I woke up a month ago with two great ideas for books I'll probably never have time to write. I'm an idea factory! The difficulty is in choosing between them, finding something I believe my fans will like but that won't bore me by being too similar to what I've already written.

In personal news, I'm moving halfway across the country in March, with the dates not yet set in stone (partly because of weather). What this means is that I might not be able to blog every single Sunday in March and April, but I'll get some articles up on some Sundays.

For those of you looking forward to spring, enjoy the weather, and for those of you entering autumn soon, enjoy the end of the awful heat you probably have had. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Krakatoa

(This is a reprint of an article I wrote three years ago.)



Arguably the most famous of volcanic eruptions was the Krakatoa eruption in Indonesia. In the last week of August, 134 years ago, the volcano entered its final phase of eruption, an event that had been building for six months. With a force much more powerful than any nuclear weapon ever detonated, its final eruption sent an ash plume 50 miles into the air and burst the eardrums of people 40 miles away. It was heard clearly in Australia, Manilla, and in islands just west of Madagascar, and the shock wave was recorded on barographs as it swept around the world seven times.


Over 36,000 people died. Pyroclastic flow killed islanders nearby, and a hot rain of ash and stone killed more people 30 miles off. The following tsunami resulted in most of the deaths, and some argue that it caused well over 50,000 deaths not included in the 36,000 figure.

For months afterwards, there were spectacular sunsets from the particulates in the air, as well as changes to weather that lasted five years.

If you had been hanging out on the planet Mars at the time, you would have seen the Earth get--and remain for years--considerably brighter as the particulates increased the albedo of the planet's atmosphere.

Westerners living in the area or sailing nearby took notes that reached newspapers on the other side of the globe quickly. It was the first natural disaster that was reported so quickly, and widely. We take this for granted today, but the technologies for communication were new then.

While not the biggest volcanic eruption in the past 1000 years, it happened when communication and science technologies had progressed to such a point that its importance to the science of volcanology could hardly be overstated. It also revealed to meteorologists new information about high-level winds.

In 2003, Simon Winchester wrote a terrific non-fiction book about it, well worth reading if you're as into natural disasters as I am. Also, you could mosey on over to youtube and look for uploaded TV specials on the topic

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My pen-name fantasy is out!

Emperor of Eyes, my first fantasy book, published under the name LC Bard, is out at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.

CLICK HERE

Thanks for giving it a chance. I think you'll like it.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

A scam warning

Just a quick post this week to note something about myself.

I don't have a PayPal "donate" button, and I don't have a Go Fund Me, and I don't have a Patreon account. If you see one of those, or of any other such scheme pretending to be me, that would be a lie and a scam. Don't donate to it.

I'm old fashioned. (Also, simply old!) I think the way a writer gets paid is by writing books that people like enough to pay for, and earning some percentage of that as royalty. Any other form of payment makes me uncomfortable.

If you see any other authors that you'd like to support in those ways looking for money, always find their real website and see if they ask for donations there. Don't click via Facebook or anywhere else. Go directly to the source. Their website's URL is probably printed on their books and in the end-matter of their ebooks. If they don't have books out, they may never actually write one (loads of people "want to be a writer one day" but never get down to it). Look for writers who have proven they can write books you like to read, and support their careers.

And I believe the very best way to support writers' careers is not through Patreon but by buying their books. Already have the ebook and want to support them even more? Buy the audio or paperback or graphic novel version as well. It's pretty simple to do, and it's difficult to set up a scam for that, and it helps keep their book higher in the charts and so it might be found by a new reader more easily. To my mind, that's always a better choice than clicking "donate via PayPal."

Caveat emptor: buyer beware. And that goes double for giving away your money, even out of an urge toward kindness.

Back, next week, to your regularly scheduled blog.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I'm launching a pen name

Perhaps because I was burned out on writing novels that killed billions of people, or perhaps because I felt the real world was drifting far too close to Armageddon by the autumn of 2017, I took a break in November and wrote fantasy stories where billions do not die. I'll be publishing a book of that fiction under a pen name, L.C. Bard (ha! get it?) in a little over a week.

I have a website for it: www.lcbard.com. I doubt I'll put much on that site any time soon, but I wanted to give you a head's-up that it will exist. I'm making no secret of the fact that L.C. is also me.

This upcoming book has a short novel, The Gift, a Novella, "Presence," and the title short story "The Emperor of Eyes." All are set in the same world and are about people with what we might call a psychic gift, the ability to read spirits. It has no other fantasy elements, no elves or kobolds or demons or singing swords or what-have-you, just that one magical ability. Set in a world of outdoor markets, sailing ships, horse-drawn carts, and craft guilds, it should be easy to read even if you don't typically read fantasy.

The two longer stories could become series, for I know and like the characters I created. But I'll only do that if it finds readers. Otherwise, I'm over halfway through Oil Apocalypse 4 and planning on continuing to write that series this year.

See you soon with more news! And thanks for reading my books.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Anniversary: Northridge Quake

The Northridge earthquake was 20 years ago this past week. I found a cool site I wanted to link for you.

It's the Earthquake County Alliance page on the quake. Click on that link, scroll down, and you'll see this map:






It's the basic USGS shake map for th event, with hardest shaking in red, significant shaking in yellow, and mild shaking in green. The numbers on there you can click on, and a video interview of a person who was at that spot will appear. A short interview will run--less than two minutes in most cases. They're terrific and give you the sense of the mindset of someone who experienced it.

All but one person was asleep; it was 4:30 a.m. I particularly liked the police officer admitting that though he knew what to do--had been trained to "drop, cover, and hold on," that in his panic he went running outside. One can hardly blame him!

Visit it and enjoy.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Chronic Disaster: Poverty

…chronic conditions as well as acute events can induce trauma, and this, too, belongs in our calculations. A chronic disaster is one that gathers force slowly and insidiously, creeping around one’s defenses rather than smashing through them. People are unable to mobilize their normal defenses against the threat, sometimes because they have elected consciously or unconsciously to ignore it, sometimes because they have been misinformed about it, and sometimes because they cannot do anything to avoid it in any case. -- Kai Ericson

I’ve been following disaster scholar Scott Knowles for a while now on Twitter, and he uses the term “slow disaster” to talk about poverty, and it was his posts that made me want to write this article. We need to look, he and others say, more at economically disadvantaged people and how disasters affect them more—harder and for longer—than they do more advantaged people.

One of Haiti's tent cities, still plentiful 8 years after the big quake


We’ve seen this in the US this past hurricane season at the macro level. Texas and Florida got a lot of attention and relief, while Puerto Rico, poorer to begin with, received less. As I write this, it’s over a hundred days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and half the people do not yet have electricity. Imagine that happening in Florida and the outcry there’d be.

This becomes a problem for several reasons

Poor people live in substandard housing, which is more vulnerable in an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane. Poor people are more likely to build in flood plains unprotected by good levees.
Poor people have less of a voice in governments. Poor people seldom run for local office (often an unpaid job at the beginning level) and never develop a political career that goes farther. Even at a local level, they might be on the zoning board, but several of my relatives were on zoning boards, and I promise you, that’s a time suck. Who can afford that kind of public service but people who are already financially comfortable—whether because of retirement or a high income or a wealthy spouse. And so poor people and their concerns—their safety, their education, their needs, and their very lives—are not a part of the public discourse about safety or defense against disaster.

Poor people have fewer resources when the disaster hits. I think this whenever television talks to a homeowner who has behind him, the day after a storm surge, six guys working on tearing out his drywall. “The wife has the Sharpeis and is at a hotel,” he says, nonchalantly. I promise you, there are poor people living ten miles from him who couldn’t think of staying in a hotel, have to do the work themselves, and have to live in damp, moldy, dangerous homes while they struggle along. If they are renting, good luck getting a landlord to come right out and fix a bad situation. (something I was recently reminded of when renting for the first time in years, when the landlord refused to repair a series of problems, from bats to crickets to lead-laced water to a broken toilet. As I’m not poor, I just said “(Forget) you!” and moved, but were I truly poor, that might not be an option.)

Recovery takes longer for poor people. Few can afford renter’s insurance. Some lose their jobs because a car is destroyed and they can’t afford another to get to work. One big natural disaster hit on a poor family can mean no more chances to leave poverty, a life lived out suffering from the downstream effects, which can snowball and carry into the next generation. Nor might they have health insurance, and probably not mental health coverage, so any trauma they experienced goes untreated. Families can deteriorate in such a situation, and that leads to—yes, you guessed it—worsening poverty.

TV crews tend not to go into poor areas to interview disaster survivors. They aren’t as pretty to film, the producers and directors assume no one wants to see squalor, and perhaps the poor aren’t as articulate. So we tend to forget about those truly in need, the working poor, the homeless, and the dispossessed.

For more on the topic, you can read articles at
http://www.preventionweb.net/risk/poverty-inequality

Sunday, January 7, 2018

How natural are disasters?

Natural disasters often aren’t “natural” at all.



When a volcano erupts, when a big earthquake happens, when that earthquake causes a tsunami, a “natural disaster” has a natural cause, to be sure. (Usually. Fracking for natural gas now causes a lot of earthquakes in Oklahoma and Montana, but so far these are far too small to kill anyone.)

But in the cases of wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and electrical outages, often the “disaster” part is about not what nature has done, but about what we have done. It is a natural event made disastrous by human choices.

This is even true to an extent about earthquakes. Even a 9.0 earthquake would have a hard time killing people if we all lived in yurts or tipis. A few living such a life would die from rock falls, and on the coast many thousand might die from a tsunami were conditions right, but most people these days die in earthquakes from stuff—man-made stuff—falling on their heads. Roofs, facades, windows, paintings, lumber, facing stones, pediments, and bridges all come tumbling down when the earth shakes. In your own house, a heavy glass-fronted painting hanging on the wall could be the end of you in a quake.

If a hurricane hits an uninhabited island, there is no disaster. That’s just Mother Nature doing what she’s done for millions of years. Palm trees evolved to make it through hurricanes. And while hurricanes are certainly a force of nature, if we made better building decisions, wrote stricter zoning codes, and made evacuations mandatory on the mainland and built tough concrete shelters on islands, almost no one would die.

As the earth warms, as oceans warm, and as storms become bigger, incidents of extreme weather and wildfire grow bigger and more dangerous. This too was our choice—is our choice every time we drive a car or turn the air conditioning down or the heat up, with each child we have who goes on to have more children, all of them living the standard suburban life with its profligate energy use. This is our choice, not Mother Nature’s to drive worse weather disasters.

We make choices that can make weather and tectonic events worse...or better. All of those natural events are, whether we think of it often or not, necessary to life on Earth as we know it.

By law, in Miami, for instance, you must build better now to survive hurricanes. (But what do poor people living in sub-standard housing do? What do the poor of Puerto Rico do? Or the poor living in the flood plains of the world’s big rivers? I'll address this in more detail next week.)

Zoning regulations are also stricter in LA and San Francisco, which have some of the most stringent building codes in the US. (Japan’s are far better still--and there’s hardly a type of severe disaster Japan isn’t prone to.) Most of the buildings that lasted through the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake will last again through a similar-strength quake. And if buildings suffered cracks or survivable damage, the owners, if they were smart, did some retrofitting. I worked in an historical brick building in San Francisco, and the owners spent tens of thousands of dollars in the retrofit in the early 80’s, and the building came through the 1989 quake perfectly intact, though most brick buildings will crumble into a pile of bricks and mortar that has returned to sand in a big quake.

At a personal level, people can also get smarter. Once I experienced the quake, every house I lived in thereafter I did certain things to. I strapped the hot water heater to a support beam. I drove screws through the back of bookcases and knick-knack shelving and into studs in the wall. You pick up one disaster of a house in a quake, and you don’t do it again. You pay for a seismic inspection and do whatever the inspector tells you to do.

I know I'm being terribly judgmental here, but I do not understand when I see videos of Oklahoma post-tornado, and we’re looking at nice ranch homes, and the reporter says only one in 100 people have a basement or tornado shelter. People, you live in Oklahoma! Don’t you love your children? Apparently not, for there aren’t even laws about elementary schools in Oklahoma having tornado shelters or safe rooms. People standing in front of leveled homes will talk on TV about how they lost their new flatscreen TV and boat, which they apparently had the money to buy instead of a tornado shelter. That surely fits the definition of insanity. The absence of a legal requirement for schools to have shelters seems to me criminally irresponsible of zoning commissions and Oklahoma's state legislature, and I don't know about you, but I hate thinking of those children dying who do not have to. People, it’s only money. So, a better legislature passes a law mandating school shelters, and everyone in the district pays an extra $25 on their annual property tax bill for five years to build the school a shelter. Surely a human life, the life of an 8-year-old, even if you never meet that child, is worth that tiny amount to you. Isn't it? Apparently not, for it's still not happening there.

So before we blame Mother Nature for disasters, we should look in the mirror. Are you contributing to climate change more than an average person on the planet? Is your house in a risky area and you haven’t bothered to do everything you can afford to minimize your risks? Are you one of those fools who owns a working car but does not obey a mandatory evacuation order? (Do such people simply not understand the word “mandatory?”) And please tell me you’re not one of those fools who runs out to the dock to take a video of the storm surge coming in and the 12 foot waves breaking! If you want to live in wildfire area, you think hard before buying a place right up against the woods or dry grasses, asking yourself if the pretty view is worth the risk, and you consider concrete and tile construction before you fall in love with the beautiful hardwood and cedar shake ranch home. You keep the yard picked up and trees far away from the house, just as the fire marshal recommends. And if you're a developer, you do not fight sane zoning laws that keep safe distances between subdivisions that help prevent a wildfire jumping quickly from one neighborhood to the next.

Even if we do everything we can, some people will still die in natural disasters. A hurricane’s storm surge can be quick and powerful. A traffic jam in a n evacuation zone can be so terrible that people end up exposed to the disaster and die. You might already be disabled, and it’s impossible for you to get out in time. You might be poor and not be able to evacuate. Your state may have planned badly for evacuations and there's not enough gasoline for sale to get everyone out of the area. Bad luck happens.

But please, don’t make a natural event into a disaster it didn’t have to be. Live in as safe a place you can afford, and be as prepared as you can. (more information at https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan)

I know I'll never convince TV to write copy about Mother Nature's "wrath" during disasters. She is not actually wrathful. She's doing what she is meant to do, what she did before people came along, and what she'll do after people are gone. The dramatic events like hurricanes and earthquakes are only disastrous to us when we've made choices that don't take their inevitability into account.