Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

You've heard by now that a major earthquake, estimated at 6.3 to 6.7 on the Richter scale, has killed thousands of people, perhaps 20,000 or more, in the ancient Iranian city of Bam.

I ran across this comment, from an OxBlog correspondent:

Natural catastrophes are, I think, always particularly awful because the seem so devoid of meaning. The tectonic plates don't hate freedom, they're not just after the oil, they're not neo-imperialists they're just -- plates -- shifting around.

I liked that comment when I first read it. It's true, in a sense, at least emotionally. We have no one to blame  for natural disasters. And isn't it at least a little comforting to have someone to blame when something goes wrong? </human_condition>

But the more I thought about it, I realized that it's mistaken. Natural catastrophes are not devoid of meaning. For example, the obvious meaning of the horrible death toll in Bam is: "Building codes work."

Example: the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California. 6.9 on the Richter scale, epicenter 18 miles outside of L.A., population 3.7 million. Deaths: 60. Or the December 22 6.3-6.5 quake that killed 3 people in California. Two of those people were killed when an unreinforced masonry tower collapsed. It had been built before earthquake-aware building codes.

Building codes that take earthquakes into account work.

A list of earthquakes over the past 15 years that caused large numbers of deaths.

Note that virtually all (except for the Osaka-Kobe quake in Japan) were in third-world countries. Why don't these countries have adequate building codes? The answer seems to be that they do, but they're not enforced because they're too expensive.  Countries like Algeria, Iran, and Afghanistan are poor. If mud brick houses were not allowed, if all concrete buildings had to be rebar reinforced, large numbers of poor people would have no place to live, because they could not afford to build that way. The unknown future risk of dying in an earthquake is less important than the need to get a roof over your head right now.

Which brings up the second obvious meaning of Bam: building codes mean nothing if you don't have the money to follow them. If your country doesn't have an economic and political system that throws off enough excess wealth to allow people to build safely, you can expect disasters that kill thousands of your citizens. Democratic capitalism. An independent judiciary and press. Separation of church and state. Universal access to education. Careers 'open to the talents'. Nations which have these things tend to be prosperous, and prosperity makes a lot of things possible. Like safe building codes.

Worlds top sperm donors: Birk, Gorm, Olaf and Thor. It's weird when sperm is one of your country's major exports. Even weirder when a substantial number of the North American and European populations start looking like one of a surprisingly small number of Danish students. They could form clubs. Give each other kidney and bone marrow transplants. OTOH, anything that reduces genetic variability will increase the number of babies homozygous for 'lethal recessive' genes. I wish that group of Danish students were a little larger.


meaning: standard, measure

規則 == kisoku == rule, regulation
規格 == kikaku == standard, norm

The left radical is 'adult male' (夫). The right radical is 'look' (見). How these two elements combine to mean 'standard' is controversial. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Adult male looked upon as standard.'

Stroke order from Josh's Chinese Lookup Thingy (animated)
Stroke order from Taka Kanji Database
Other info from Taka Kanji Database
Gahoh kanji movie

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