Current Events

Whew! I feel like I’ve left most of y’all in a lurch, and for that, I’m really sorry! This week has been absolutely insane, so I haven’t had the chance to do much of… well, anything but those things that were then on my plate.

First, I got a new job! My last day at my old firm was Wednesday. It was actually a very lovely day with wrapping up work, having pizza with my coworkers, and celebrating with cake. I also got a beautiful card from the Accounting department, a sweet lunch the day before from my attorney, and a gorgeous card holder from a coworker and friend. It was so sweet, and I was sad to go! Sad about the people, I mean.

The new job is… incredible. You guys, absolutely incredible. I haven’t started yet (my first day is Tuesday!), but it’s with Pandora Jewelry’s corporate office. When I was interviewing, I met with the attorney under whom I’d be working, and I LOVED him. I walked out of that interview confident that I’d get it, but also a bit intimidated because… seriously, who gets lucky enough to get that job?

Apparently, this girl does! ;)

Anyway, more as that progresses. In other news, we’ve had a couple houseguests over the past two weeks or so. My friend and her boyfriend moved from Florida to the DC area, and they needed a place to stay while they were here. We opened our doors to them, and now that at least my friend has found a place, we’ll soon be closing that same door. Left open a crack, of course, but still closed most of the way. It’s been great having others in the house, but Matt and I both admit that we’re ready to have our home back to ourselves.

I’m incredibly thankful they were here, though, as our basement flooded as a result of Hurricane Irene (power went out, sump pump stopped working, hello water all over the basement!) and they were awake to alert us. After Matt and I stumbled downstairs, we helped my friend and her boyfriend take everything they had downstairs to the ground floor, then we started the process of removing water while my friend tried salvaging what had gotten wet. (Fortunately, that was most of it.) Matt and I had buckets and bins, and we hauled out water bit by bit until the water finally started to secede.

The hilarious part is, Matt and I are Floridians, so we’re seasoned to riding out storms like this. Rain and wind? Better weather to go fly kites! And trust me when I say our hurricane party was tons of fun until this incident.

Not only did out houseguests warn us of the basement, though, they helped us rip up that carpet! Thank heavens, too, as Matt and I admit we had no idea what to do. We ripped, tugged, and shredded our ways out of what was a really bad situation.

Part of the problem, as the picture above shows, is that water was coming up through cracks in the foundation. While cracks aren’t necessarily unusual, especially for a basement, the amount of water we had through the floor was not. So when the sump pump went out with the power, the water had nowhere else to go, and the pressure caused it to come up through the cracks.

Finally, Matt and I bought a wet-vac and got the water sopped up.

Well… Matt got the water sopped up. I stood around and looked silly. ;)

Remember when I made that post the other day about Irene and helping other people out? That weekend, our houseguests were our specks in the world that made a huge difference to us. I am forever grateful for their help, guidance, and experience!

That’s pretty much been our week. It’s been crazy, exciting, soggy, and overall fun. But of course, that means no time for y’all! So I’m going to check out all your blogs, and I have a few posts in mind, so keep an eye out for those.

For all y’all who were hit by Irene, I hope you’re recovering well. And good luck with the upcoming tropical depression and hurricane! Are we ever going to catch a break?!

Hurricane Irene and helping others

This has been a rather insane week as far as the weather is concerned, especially for the Midatlantic region. We experienced an earthquake on Tuesday (my first, Matt’s second) that rippled through Virginia and affected North Carolina all the way through New England and even into Canada. Shortly after, preparations were underway in these same areas for a hurricane that still looms on the horizon for many eastern U.S. coastal states.

As Floridians, we’ve been in several hurricanes, myself and Matt, so this is nothing for us. We have water, food, alcohol, and a few things to fly in the wind as Irene brushes the Maryland coastline — everything you need for a good old-fashioned Hurricane Party. But for some reason, this time around, I’m reflecting on the beautiful brutality that is inherent in natural disasters.

It makes you realize just how small you really are. When you compare your own stature to the sheer size and strength of something like Irene (pictured above as it broaches the North Carolina shores), you feel almost like a speck in the grand scheme of things. The way a single storm can take out entire cities with mere gusts of wind is almost admirable in a way that is also devastating.

As miniscule as we may feel comparatively, though, it doesn’t mean that we’re insignificant to our fellow humans. This weekend, while Matt and I are preparing for a long (and admittedly fun!) weekend stuck inside with card games, candles, and “crunk juice”, we’re also sharing our home with friends who made the long, arduous trip from north Florida to make new lives up here in the Maryland/DC area. While it may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme, the ability to help out our friends in need, the chance to really make a difference even in two peoples’ lives, can really make you feel like you’re helping in a big way.

Especially when times are hard! While I didn’t have the opportunity to help with my own bare hands, the nation watched and participated as the victims of Hurricane Katrina were helped not by the government, not by corporations, not by anyone who “should” have been helping… but from individuals from all over the country. One small speck traveling to a foreign state, torn apart by a storm that wreaked havoc and caused many to lose everything they had, might not seem like a lot. When that speck banded with other specks, though, and came together to reach an ultimate goal to help other individuals, that is what created the grand scheme and made a difference in so many lives.

So while this storm batters the eastern coast and many people prepare for what could be the worst in their areas, just remember that you may be a speck when compared to Mother Nature’s intense, majestic, and even terrifying storms, you can absolutely be the “grand scheme” to someone else.

Blessings and good luck to everyone preparing for this storm! ♥

Will the "supermoon" trigger natural disasters?

A story about a “supermoon” has been floating around the Pagan blogosphere recently, where amateur scientists and astrologer Richard Nolle have been predicting that the distance between the moon and the Earth, which will be the closest its been in the past 18 years (221,567 miles versus the average 238,000 mile), will cause massive earthquakes, volcanoes, and powerful storms in the wake of the disaster in Japan. The Pagan community has been in a bit of an uproar since, with healing spells and rites in the hopes of lessening as much damage as possible flying about the universe.

But is there anything really that momentous about a “supermoon”? Does relative distance between Earth and the moon actually cause those kinds of natural disasters?

Okay, y’all know that Matt is huge into space and that he works for NASA, so the first place I look for information regarding the moon’s impact on our planet, which has been studied extensively, is and their scientists. Below is an excerpt from an interview with NASA Goddard’s chief scientist, Dr. James Garvin, regarding the “supermoon” phenomenon and its effects (emphasis mine):

What is the definition of a supermoon and why is it called that?

‘Supermoon’ is a situation when the moon is slightly closer to Earth in its orbit than on average, and this effect is most noticeable when it occurs at the same time as a full moon. So, the moon may seem bigger although the difference in its distance from Earth is only a few percent at such times.

It is called a supermoon because this is a very noticeable alignment that at first glance would seem to have an effect. The ‘super’ in supermoon is really just the appearance of being closer, but unless we were measuring the Earth-Moon distance by laser rangefinders (as we do to track the LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] spacecraft in low lunar orbit and to watch the Earth-Moon distance over years), there is really no difference. The supermoon really attests to the wonderful new wealth of data NASA’s LRO mission has returned for the Moon, making several key science questions about our nearest neighbor all the more important.

Are there any adverse effects on Earth because of the close proximity of the moon?

The effects on Earth from a supermoon are minor, and according to the most detailed studies by terrestrial seismologists and volcanologists, the combination of the moon being at its closest to Earth in its orbit, and being in its ‘full moon’ configuration (relative to the Earth and sun), should not affect the internal energy balance of the Earth since there are lunar tides every day. The Earth has stored a tremendous amount of internal energy within its thin outer shell or crust, and the small differences in the tidal forces exerted by the moon (and sun) are not enough to fundamentally overcome the much larger forces within the planet due to convection (and other aspects of the internal energy balance that drives plate tectonics). Nonetheless, these supermoon times remind us of the effect of our ‘Africa-sized’ nearest neighbor on our lives, affecting ocean tides and contributing to many cultural aspects of our lives (as a visible aspect of how our planet is part of the solar system and space).

In short, no, the distance between the moon and Earth is not enough to trigger earthquakes or other natural disasters. However, as the moon has a direct impact on the tides and the moon is going to be slightly closer to the Earth than is typical, it may cause some issues for fishermen and those living on the coasts. It may also have some effect on the flooding already affecting Japan, but not much more than would typically be expected.

If you have a telescope, though, I encourage you to check out the moon through it on Sunday evening. While the full moon will not be noticeably brighter if seen with the naked eye, according to Thomas Djamaluddin, an astronomy and astrophysics researcher at the Indonesian National Aeronautics and Space Agency (LAPAN), it will appear 7 percent larger when seen through a telescope. It may also appear larger when coming over the horizon to the naked eye.

Speaking of Japan, though, I know there are several of you out there who would like to help out. Yahoo News lists 8 different ways to help the victims in Japan after the massive earthquake that hit them on 11 March:

1. The American Red Cross has sent squads to the most heavily damaged areas of Japan to provide assistance. Cell phone users may donate $10 per message by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

2. AmeriCares is dispatching teams to Japan to offer disaster relief. Online donations are accepted on the AmeriCares website.

3. Convoy of Hope is accepting gifts online or by cell phone. Text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate to this faith-based group, working with in-country partners to meet earthquake victims’ needs.

4. Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres, is sending trained medical personnel into the worst hit areas. Online donations are encouraged.

5. Global Giving is raising funds to fund disaster relief efforts of such groups as International Medical Corps and Save the Children. Text JAPAN to 50555 to donate $10 towards emergency response.

6. The International Medical Corps offers health care and supplies for earthquake relief. Text MED to 80888, or visit the Emergency Response Efforts fund online to donate.

7. The Salvation Army is collecting donations to assist in Japan and Hawaii. Givers may donate online or text QUAKE to 80888 to give $10 per message.

8. Save the Children has established a Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund, collecting online donations to serve those affected by the earthquake and its aftermath.

What to Eat in a Snowstorm, Hurricane, or Other Natural Disaster

Matt and I are without electricity, and probably will be until Saturday evening. We lost it last night around 9pm, banding together with a couple of our neighbors (bonding time!) to discuss the snowstorm that somehow ended up taking out our power. How 6″ of snow managed to do that when two back-to-back blizzards with several record-breaking feet of snow and not a single electricity flicker, we’ll never know.

Right now, we’re at Matt’s office at NASA, staying nice and warm and enjoying the internet connection while biding our time until we have to return to our frigid house for the night. (When we left, our house was 60 degrees and dropping. Ugh.) Since we’re recoiling at the possibility of going out for every meal through Saturday evening, we decided to get some provisions that can be prepared without any electricity and without opening the fridge or freezer. You’d think we’d be prepared for this considering Florida is known for hurricanes, but nope, we have nothing.

Let’s face it. In natural disasters like this, eating good food is a great way to keep spirits up. And when you’re in a situation like this, where temperatures can easily dip below freezing overnight, it’s also vital to keep your energy levels up.

So below is the list of provisions we’ll be getting — and thereby, some suggestions for you when the power goes out! If you own a grill, you’re in even better luck, as that’s a great way to heat up some grub. (Since we don’t have a grill, I won’t be offering suggestions for that, but I imagine you can cook just about anything.) Also remember that anything here can be kept outside, provided the reason your power is out is due to snow and ice, to preserve some freshness.

  • whole wheat bread
  • peanut butter
  • jelly/jam (grape for Matt, strawberry for me)
  • chips (tortilla, Lay’s, whatever)
  • salsa
  • bottled water*, at least one gallon per person per day
  • anything canned that doesn’t sound half-bad when eaten without heating
  • anything shelf-stable that won’t sound half-bad after eating for a whole day
  • chocolate or cookies, om nom nom (what? We need comfort food, too!)
  • maybe some beer or wine to keep on the patio (and no, we’re not kidding!)

*While our water still works, thankfully, the lack of heat in our home and those surrounding us could easily cause the water pipes to burst. Best to keep a supply handy, just in case!

Another tip that we learned as Floridians: Fill a bathtub with water. This is actually related to the tip above, because if the water goes out, that means your sinks, toilets, and septic tanks will, too. The extra water can be used to fill the toilet tank and brush your teeth (erm, used separately, of course).

ABCDs of keeping food safe in an emergency

(This list is adapted from Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out. Tongue-in-cheek name, very handy manual.)

Always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 degrees, and frozen food at or below 0 degrees. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to retain the temperature. A full freezer will hold for about 48 hours, and 24 hours when half-full. If you can, use dry or block ice or some of those frozen gel packs to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible during a power outage.

Be prepared for an emergency by having items on hand that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten cold, or cooked on an outdoor grill. Our list above is a very small sample of what shelf-stable foods are available. If you have children who are formula-fed, make sure you have ready-to-use formula on hand. And of course, if you have pets, keep a good supply of pet food. Keep a handheld can opener for emergencies.

Consider what you can do ahead of time to store your food safely in an emergency. For floods, keep food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water. For power outages, coolers are a great way to keep food cold if it’s going to be out for more than four hours.

Digital, dial, or instant-read food thermometers will help you know if the food is at safe temperatures. Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezers at all times, keeping note of the appropriate temperatures above. If you’re not sure a particular food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.

Some additional tips from Linda Harris, a Cooperative Extension food microbiologist at UC Davis:

  • “When you do open the freezer, any food that still has ice crystals or feels refrigerator-cold can safely be re-frozen.”
  • “Any thawed foods that have risen to room temperature should be discarded.”
  • “If a refrigerator door is kept closed, food inside will remain cool for four to six hours.”
  • “Meats, milk, cream, yogurt, salads and pastas are among the foods that should be discarded if they warm to room temperature.”
  • “However, margarine, butter, fresh fruits and vegetables, and commercial mayonnaise, ketchup and salad dressing can be kept unrefrigerated.”
  • “The bottom line is that you should discard anything with a strange color or odor.”
  • “And when in doubt, throw it out.”

For those of you in Baltimore and the surrounding areas who are without power, please try to stay warm. It’s chilly out there… and likely inside, too! And of course, since you probably won’t hear from us for a few days, well… now you know why. See y’all when the power’s back. ;)