Saturday, March 29, 2014

What's That Word?

There's gotta be a term for when you go to YouTube (or the internet) and start watching videos (or reading articles), and there's another related video (or article) that catches your eye. So you click on that one, and then another one, and another, until you've gone from the political to the heartwarming to learning how to make fire from a 2-liter bottle of soda, and you look at the clock and see that two or three hours have passed without your having accomplished anything.

But I don't know what that word is. Or even if there is one.

But anyway, I did it again today.

It started when I was checking my twitter feed. Somebody had a link to Brit Hume describing the motivations of the Tea Party, which he nailed. Then when I tried to reply to one of the comments, YouTube made me log in, which put me at the YouTube Home page, where there were a bunch of "Recommended" videos, along with the merely "Popular" ones.

They recommended a video of a dog whose military owner came home from deployment, and that led to a brother surprising his sister at her graduation, and then the Ellen Show where a military family got to Skype with Dad, who was still deployed. After that one, I found a British reunion of a Royal Navy dad and his daughter, right after his daughter got finished singing before the Queen. I love the way the girl runs to her father. And then Toby Keith had a reunion on stage for a military wife and her returning husband. Those reunion videos always make me cry.

I didn't want to keep getting up for Kleenex (no, I wasn't smart enough to bring the Kleenex box to my desk), so I moved on to other things.

This one, on the material properties of fire ants in large quantities, was fascinating and creepy at the same time. I'm not sure why this was in the Recommended list for me, unless it was because a few months ago I spent part of a Saturday doing this same endless rabbit trail through YouTube but with science-y, survival-type videos.

On the Popular list, today anyway, is this short video of why relativity isn't always relative, or something. I'm a little surprised whenever I see science stuff listed as popular, because most people don't admit to liking science.

And then I noticed for the first time (yes, I realize everybody else in the world who is internet savvy knew this years ago) that I have a YouTube Playlist, which is all the videos I've "Liked." Most of them are songs, so then I had to find some more songs because some of my newer favorites weren't there. Like Big Daddy Weave's Redeemed and The Only Name (Yours Will Be), The Afters' Broken Hallelujah, and Hillsong United's Oceans. And I just now noticed that I need to add Mandisa's Overcomer.

So that's been much of my day, and I still don't have any term for the YouTube (or internet) wanderings, beyond "rabbit trail." I guess I'll have to go with that one for now, unless you've got a better one.


California was struck by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake last night a little after 9:00 pm. The epicenter was in La Habra.

Twitchy has a round-up of photos of the damage around Los Angeles, and my favorite is this one.


I live in Oceanside (It's at the bottom of the map at the USGS link, above), about 100 miles away from the epicenter as the crow flies. At the time of the earthquake, I was at my desk unwinding with some mindless computer games, and I felt an odd sensation of movement without actually moving.

My desk chair wasn't rolling. None of my stuff was moving. The blinds weren't swaying. So I told myself it was probably just some unconscious muscle twitching in my leg making the chair feel as though it was making the slightest of motions.

About a half hour later, I checked my Twitter feed and saw tweets about an earthquake. Aha! I hadn't imagined it after all. The preliminary reports had it as 5.4, but by this morning it was classified as 5.1.

After last night's confusion followed by my incorrect conclusion, I decided it was time to get an earthquake detector at home. I've used them at work for years.

I don't go in for anything elaborate, though that's certainly an option. This lady developed an earthquake detector that uses actual electronics and complicated hardware that requires soldering and other things that seem to be beyond me, or at least beyond my desire to attempt it. And this store in Port Townsend, Washington, sells an earthquake detector that draws in sand. Here's what it looks like (the sand tracing is after an earthquake in Olympia, Washington in 2001):

The physics behind this type of detector is similar to a Foucault Pendulum, which is used to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. But while the Foucault Pendulum swings, an earthquake detector works by not swinging. If there's not an earthquake, the ground is still, and so is the pendulum. When an earthquake hits, the table that the pendulum holder is resting on moves with the earth, but the pendulum bob remains stationary in spatial terms. To our eyes, however, because we're also moving with the earth, the pendulum bob appears to sway.

Back in the late 1980's I worked in Irvine, close to Newport Beach. The building I worked in was huge, and my group's cubicles were out in the middle of the floor away from the stability of the walls. When heavy people walked by, or when people wheeled heavily laden carts down the nearby aisles, the floor would bounce and make us wonder if it was an earthquake. So I installed my first earthquake detector on my desk, looping the pocket clip of a hot pink highlighter over a rubber band and taping the top of the rubber band to the underside of my desk's overhead cabinet. Then, whenever we felt the floor moving, we'd check the detector. If it wasn't swaying, that told us the floor was moving up and down to somebody's footsteps or cart. But if it swayed, we were having an earthquake. This came in handy after the April 7, 1989, Newport Beach earthquake (we didn't need the detector for the actual quake, because pieces of the ceiling tiles were falling, and besides I was under the desk). The aftershocks were much smaller, and my detector was put to good use.

Well, now I'm ready for the next earthquake that happens while I'm at home. I've got my detector installed in a corner of my desk, and it's stopped swaying after the initial installation. Here is what will keep me from doubting my senses when an earthquake hits somewhere far enough away from here:

It's simple enough that anyone can make one.