TMI… seriously!

by Maria on May 18, 2009

In other cool things about L.A., I have to admit the non-mortal earthquakes are pretty great. I’ve sat through two of the 5+ richter ones and was about 4 miles from last night’s epicenter. The most striking thing is that in the first few seconds of an earthquake, a completely random explanation for it pops into my mind. The first time around I got quite irate that our upstairs office neighbours were thumping around making such racket that the building swayed. Last night, although I live 2 miles from the freeway, I instantly thought ‘wow, that’s one big truck passing by. Or maybe it’s a tank?’.

It turns out that’s not an unusual reaction. Human brains are very good at rationalising the immediate aftermath of a disaster into business as usual. But, contrary to popular belief, not panicking isn’t all that successful a survival strategy. A book I read last year ‘The Unthinkable; Who Survives When Disaster Strikes’, says much of the planning around plane crashes, fires, etc. assumes that the first thing people will do is panic and run around doing stupid things that impede their escape. In fact, the most common and dangerous reaction is to just go limp, stay passive and assume that the nightclub fire is really not all that bad or that you should sit in your crashed plane seat until help arrives. Or that the hostage situation is all a terrible misunderstanding. That’s a very good way to die.

The studies show that the people most likely to survive, say, a plane crashing into their building (assuming they’re not unlucky enough to be on a floor above it), are the ones who don’t listen to their inner rationalizing voice, or the outer exhortations to stay put and ‘not panic’. They not only recognize early on that something’s seriously amiss, but have probably thought about escape routes already and are able to act quickly and purposefully. Then again, by definition, the survivor studies exclude the thought processes of people who don’t make it out, and the survivors themselves seem likely to try and string together some meaning from an arbitrary event using lashings of post facto rationalisation.

My disaster-preparedness is rubbish. I don’t have a stash of bottled water and dollar bills. My torch battery got used up in middle of the night reading sessions. And I don’t even have a gun to help me rob the essentials from better planners such as the Mormons. As soon as last night’s earthquake was over and I’d updated my facebook status, I got right back to watching the series finale of Grey’s Anatomy. 8 minutes later, Izzie’s dramatic death scene made me completely forget the quake had ever happened.

Which is another great thing about L.A. Turns out my tennis partner played the nurse handing over the paddles when the doctors trying to revive poor Izzie shouted “Clear!”. (But Jenny is good a team player who didn’t reveal any spoilers till the episode aired.) Jenny doesn’t watch Grey’s, but was very impressed by Sandra Oh’s ability to maintain a keen emotional pitch during numerous takes. As it was a dramatic climax and the penultimate scene of the season, they did about 50. It can’t have been easy for Katherine Heigl either, being rolled over and jump-started 50 times. I’ve often wondered what it’s like to be an actor lying in bed, trying to look ill and beautiful at the same time, and to emote high drama whilst hardly moving at all. Most of all, though, I wonder about the breasts.

So many actresses have had boob jobs that their breasts don’t naturally flatten to the side when they’re lying flat. They stand up like pyramids, ruining the line of the hospital gown. It’s especially disconcerting when the character in question is the most unlikely augmentation candidate imaginable. When Scully in the X-Files was fighting her alien cancer, I couldn’t focus on the dialogue at all because her tent shape was so distracting. It’s one thing to see girls running along Venice Beach with zero bounce factor, quite another for intellectual and moral centre of a gloomy science fiction series to look like she’s wearing a Madonna-style cone bra lying down.

(In a lovely piece of post-modern reflexivity, tomorrow Jenny is playing a woman on Nip and Tuck who’s getting a breast job. She’s already been to the special effects house to get fitted out for her surgery body and apparently the incisions look very realistic, though the skin tone is a bit light.)

And finally to the TMI bit of TMI. Cone bras may be acceptable or even required in the entertainment industry, but what about us girls who live on our assets in a much more subtle way? Without being too forthcoming about my own requirements, suffice to say that bra measurements are the only test in my life where I have consistently averaged an ‘A’. Over the last couple of weeks, I have made a transatlantic study of bra shops. I have two data points (Marks & Spencer in London & Dublin and Victoria’s Secret in Santa Monica) and two observations:

1. The normal distribution curve has moved to the right, and it is now far easer to find underwear for enormous knockers than averagely small ones.

2.It is now all but impossible to get an unpadded bra in a smaller size.

My theory for observation #1 is that the obesity epidemic means that the average breast size is increasing, so I am slowly becoming an outlier. Which is inconvenient, but not worth burning a bra over.

On observation #2, I wondered if the foam thing only seems like a staple but in fact is a years-long but essentially passing fashion (like FMBs or Ugg boots), or whether it is a signal that more modestly endowed women are not/not supposed to be satisfied with what their genes gave them. This raises the perennial question; how much are women’s fashion choices and body image determined by what the designers and the fashion press dictate is acceptable or desirable, or do the purveyors of fashion simply respond to our current anxieties?

Whatever the cause, the result is certainly more false advertising.

A note to commenters: I’ve already brought the tone around here down far enough for today. Let’s NOT have a thread about big breasts versus small ones…

{ 68 comments }

1

temp anon 05.18.09 at 8:14 pm

I think that the padding thing is not about size, but rather about avoiding the appearance of actually having nipples.

2

Jacob Christensen 05.18.09 at 8:35 pm

I’m desperately trying to figure out how earthquakes and the size of female breasts could possibly be linked, but there’s the logic of the internet for you. (I’m sure that writing comments is even more mind-boggling :-) )

Anyway…

Observation A: In Sweden a 2 point earthquake is national news. On the other hand, the entire settlement at Malmberget could disappear in the mineshaft in such a quake with a bit of bad luck.

Observation B: I’m by no means an expert in bra sizes, but isn’t it so that bras (and breast sizes) have two parameters where the letter refers to a form factor and the number to a size factor? The funny thing is that dealing with two parameters is too hard for the male brain – any intellectual activity stops once we’ve reached the letters.

3

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.18.09 at 8:44 pm

My theory for observation #1 is that the obesity epidemic means that the average breast size is increasing, so I am slowly becoming an outlier. Which is inconvenient, but not worth burning a bra over.

I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that not only is this the case, but women who are on the left side of that distribution curve, so to speak, are becoming less likely to wear bras, reducing demand and as such making bras in smaller cup sizes harder to find. Of course, this begs the question of what came first.

Or so I read. I mean, it’s not as if I’ve been taking an interest or anything.

*ahem*

4

David 05.18.09 at 8:45 pm

I’m sorry, but there seems to be a clear false dichotomy here. Surely there is a great range of behaviour/response between panic and go-limp-wait-for-instructions (which sounds alot like panic to me). Indeed, allowing for the good point that non-survivors are seldom interviewed re the nature of their thought processes, the example used is hardly one of “panic,”rather it is one of quick, reasonably clear response and a better awareness of ones surroundings.

5

andthenyoufall 05.18.09 at 8:48 pm

Couldn’t it simply be that the support function isn’t as important in the smallest sizes, and that people have gotten more realistic about this as time goes on and the “all women always wear bras” norm eroded? (Friends in the relevant demographic really only wear sports bras for exercise. Could be unrepresentative.) That would explain the latter observation as well.

6

rosmar 05.18.09 at 8:49 pm

The number refers to inches around chest under the breasts, and the letters refer to the additional number of inches around when the breasts are included. So, if you are a 36C, a measuring tape around your chest at the fleshiest part would show 39 inches.

This is an interesting post, but the phrase “obesity epidemic” distracts me–a) the definition of obesity has been altered downward, for no good reason, and b) it isn’t an epidemic in any of the normal senses of the word.

The average US resident has gained 9 lbs since 1980, and, if I remember correctly, 12 lbs since 1960. Which is definitely enough to shift bra sizes a bit, especially since the weight gain hasn’t been evenly distributed across the population.

7

NomadUK 05.18.09 at 8:53 pm

I’m desperately trying to figure out how earthquakes and the size of female breasts could possibly be linked

Sympathetic vibration.

8

Delicious Pundit 05.18.09 at 9:10 pm

My disaster-preparedness is rubbish. I don’t have a stash of bottled water and dollar bills.

Do what we do. Be friends with the person on your block who is likely to have these.

9

apthorp 05.18.09 at 9:20 pm

Nearly 30yrs ago when I arrived at Berkeley for a post doc there was a series of 5ish earthquakes that may or may not have had anything to with my arrival.

For one of them there were 4-5 people leaning over a very large, very massive (12’x5’x2′ thick) optical bench working on aligning a sensitive optical system. When the laser beam started moving around everyone immediately looked up, angry, to see who had bumped the table. In one of those very long instants every one recognized that no one there had nearly the strength to budge the table, much less make it sway. With a simultaneous assessment of foot position relative to table edge, everyone took one giant step backwards. After some seconds it stopped, someone asked if the legs looked ok, and everyone stepped forward and went back to work.

10

PreachyPreach 05.18.09 at 9:27 pm

DP> I don’t think you need be friends, just know where they keep said bottled water and dollar bills.

11

rea 05.18.09 at 10:14 pm

I’ve got to admit I don’t know what “TMI” means, if you aren’t talking about meltdowns at nuclear power plants. I’m a gay man–I suppose that explains it . . .

12

Maria 05.18.09 at 10:21 pm

too much information…

13

Ted Lemon 05.18.09 at 10:21 pm

Wow, that was quite a ramble. Anyway, there’s a very nice store for straight-A students on the Penninsula south of San Francisco called Lula Lu (lulalu.com). They have some very nice stuff – if you’re ever in the area you might want to check it out.

14

Kenny Easwaran 05.19.09 at 12:49 am

I was very disappointed at not having noticed this earthquake! I thought that being 10 miles away would have been part of it, but it sounds like lots of people even farther away noticed it, and when I was in Berkeley I definitely noticed some in the 3.0-4.0 range from nearly as far. Probably the fact that my boyfriend and I were walking to a restaurant at the time, and possibly crossing a street, made us less likely to notice it. (I also remember watching a large fire department helicopter land on the hospital a block or two away from us at some point yesterday, but that may have been at a totally different time of day.)

15

Maria 05.19.09 at 12:53 am

I think it was around 20:30. Apparently people as far south as Tijuana felt it, but a couple of friends in a club in Echo Park didn’t feel a thing, or possibly just thought the bass was a little strong.

16

Lee A. Arnold 05.19.09 at 1:20 am

Maria, I’m in Venice beach, and what you want to do (when it feels like a big one) is what I did: don’t think, just run and brace yourself hard in a doorway. If there is horizontal ground acceleration, it can get up to around 50 mph or so — which, translated to your own frame of reference, means you will be slammed into a wall in your room, just as hard as if you stepped in front of a car — breaking bones or even killing you. Also, when you see pictures of collapsed buildings, notice that the doorways are sometimes still standing. This is because there is a 4×6″ header on top of four studs — even in older Los Angeles construction.

17

Matt 05.19.09 at 1:59 am

When I was very young, 4th grade or something, there was a fairly large earthquake in Idaho, where I lived, just before we left for school. My mother, who had grown up in Southern California and lived through quite a few earthquakes, saw the walls of our house swaying and immediately looked at my friend who was rocking in a rocking chair and said, “Larry, stop rocking so hard! You’re shaking the whole house!” Thankfully there were few people hurt. (The only deaths were two kids killed while walking to school in a small town when an old brick building fell on them. Brick buildings don’t do that well in earthquakes.)

As for bras, you can get away w/o wearing one, probably, as people will think it’s “European”.

18

Matt Kuzma 05.19.09 at 2:05 am

Could the proliferation of hormone-pill birth control have any connection to the shift? Everyone I know gained a cup size upon going on birth control.

Also, while I don’t know Gillian Anderson personally, I’d be surprised if that scene wasn’t the result of some wicked support/padding rather than surgery. Of course it looked preposterous either way.

19

musical mountaineer 05.19.09 at 2:42 am

Delicious Pundit, those people are only friends with you so they’ll have someone to eat when the SHTF. Delicious indeed.

20

Donald Johnson 05.19.09 at 3:40 am

off topic, but since Richter scale magnitudes were mentioned is there a geophysicist around who knows why the energy of an earthquake goes up by a factor of 31.6 when the amplitude has gone up by a factor of ten (and the Richter scale magnitude by one)? I mean, with normal sorts of waves the energy goes up with the square of the amplitude, not the three halves power.

It’s one of those questions that has bugged me, but not enough to track down a book on seismology that might have the answer. (Wikipedia has been no help).

Might as well go all out–

Other questions that bug me–

1. What caused the Big Bang or does the question even make sense?
2. Can consciousness be explained with purely materialistic concepts?
3. How do they get those little ships inside bottles?
4. What’s up with all those “The Real Housewives” shows? Who cares?

21

Jim Conway 05.19.09 at 3:55 am

Re. Gillian Anderson/Scully in that X-Files episode. IIRC she was about 8 months pregnant at the time of filming so that might explain the “distortion”. They even wrote her pregnancy into the weird alien-examination scene. But yes, I agree that it was highly distracting and quite ridiculous. I knew all that time not studying in college would pay off one day.

22

Keith 05.19.09 at 4:12 am

Yeah, I just assumed the couple in the hotel room next door were having really enthusiastic sex. Wasn’t until I logged on to Twitter that i saw it was an earthquake.

23

christian h. 05.19.09 at 4:29 am

It was quite a bump in Westwood – although I’m quite sensitive to ground movement in general. I hear door frames are already out again, because that horizontal acceleration can slam the door into you with a lot of momentum.

24

Gene O'Grady 05.19.09 at 5:02 am

I was involved in disaster preparation for the now defunct Pacific Telesis around the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Of the two groups on our floor, mine, headed by an old phone company guy who insisted that we always demand that he evacuate his office in a drill just like anybody else, did fine. The other group, the post-divestiture corporate tax people (less reasonable and appealing people the higher up the ladder you went) was headed by a guy who insisted that his work was too important to interrupt for earthquake drills (and he wasn’t from San Francisco like most of the rest of us). When the earthquake hit he came running out of his office screaming that everyone was about to die and generally panicking everyone until his admin hit him in the face as hard as she could about three times. Given that the uninjured (I had just left the building and was on the street watching the suddenly blue trolley wires dance) had to help carry a couple of injured people down thirty-five flights of stairs it was an incredibly irresponsible show.

So people do panic and it can be an issue. On the other hand, I sat through more than one over-dramatized preparation session where I could barely keep a straight face. Overall, I think this is fact another area where the much maligned pre-divestiture AT&T had a lot going for it.

25

JP Stormcrow 05.19.09 at 6:53 am

So apparently, “When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout” isn’t such bad advice after all. (And I was also sure that TMI was Three Mile Island, so I was really lost when I got to, And finally to the TMI bit of TMI.)

26

Shawn Crowley 05.19.09 at 7:45 am

And I don’t even have a gun to help me rob the essentials from better planners such as the Mormons.

I am humbled that someone else has hit upon my disaster planning: a map of Mormon households and a well stocked gun safe. As a bank robber once said, ” You can get a lot more with a gun and a smile than just a smile.”

27

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.19.09 at 8:18 am

I’m often curious about what I will do when disaster strikes. I suspect I will probably freeze and wait for it to be over, one way or the other. Robbing Mormons seems like way too much of an effort.

28

Tracy W 05.19.09 at 8:46 am

I understand that the not-really-reacting is a general feature of crowds, people don’t react to plane crashes, and they don’t react to emergencies in a crowd, whereas they would react if they were individuals (I can’t recall where I read this, one of those psychology books). What happens is that an unusual situation develops, and everyone tries to figure out what to do by the normal thing in unusual situations (first day of school, weddings in a different culture, strange airports) – you try to look calm and collected while looking at what everyone else is doing to get an idea of what do yourself. But if everyone is doing this “looking cool while checking things out” then the message everyone gets is not to react to the emergency. Presumably this applies to plane crashes and the like.
So the advice of the psychologists is that if you are going to be knocked off your bike by a car, or have some other emergency, try to do it somewhere deserted where any passerbys will be far more likely to stop and help. Failing that, yell out to a particular person what they should do if you are capable of doing so, eg “You in the blue jacket, call an ambulance.”
I now do my best to ignore crowd behaviour when something unusual happens, eg I leave buildings immediately when the fire alarm rings.

29

Katherine 05.19.09 at 9:18 am

Well, your friend Jenny may not have revealed spoilers, but you just did! Some of us in the UK haven’t got that far in Gray’s Anatomy yet. Thanks mate.

30

mpowell 05.19.09 at 9:22 am

Well the very nice thing about panicking is that it jacks your adrenaline levels way up. That way you can run further, lift more stuff and ignore pain better as you get to safety. Also if you were tired or drowsy recently, suddenly you are not anymore. The key to a successful response is to get the adrenaline without the mental confusion.

31

Katherine 05.19.09 at 9:26 am

“whether it is a signal that more modestly endowed women are not/not supposed to be satisfied with what their genes gave them.”

Also, it’s definitely this. Size zero models on the catwalk may be allowed to be flatchested, but every other woman should simultaneously be incredibly skinny and have enormous, gravity-defying boobs, a la Victoria Beckham. The fact that this is only a rare natural occurrence (for reasons of simple mechanics of body fat) is neither here nor there. Don’t you know there is an unobtainable version of beauty to be aspired too?! Get with the programme Maria.

32

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.19.09 at 9:56 am

Hmm, it’s not about beauty, though, it’s about sex-appeal. It’s something you aspire to only if you want to appear more attractive sexually. The word ‘beauty’ describes something slightly different, and although sex-appeal is probably a part of it, it can be compensated for by something else.

Also, I suppose, one could argue that too much sex-appeal can make a person less beautiful. Like, you know, too much symmetry in a work of art.

33

Laura 05.19.09 at 10:16 am

Maria, I love your posts. (Did you finish reading The Group, by the way? I’m just getting ready to teach it next semester.) I’ve got small boobs too and had a horrible time trying to get an unpadded underwire bra recently – my old ones all finally died and I needed a new one to go under my wedding dress, which I’d stupidly made just a little bit snug in the upper body. My theory was that apart from the general pornification tendency of womens undies, it’s also a cost-cutting measure: I’d guess it’s a good deal cheaper and easier to construct a bra that’s built around a moulded foam hemisphere, because not only does it not have to fit in anything but the most slapdash way, it also obviates the need for precisely tailored and stitched seaming.

34

Laura 05.19.09 at 10:19 am

Also, the two halves of your post reminded me irresistibly of the Christmas Special episode of Father Ted, where Ted calmly and collectedly leads eight lost & panicking priests out of Ireland’s Biggest Lingerie Section, thus earning the Golden Cleric Award for being a Really Top Priest.

35

drm 05.19.09 at 10:22 am

My favourite small earthquake experience (in Wellington, where they are frequent) was during a symphony concert. The building rocked, the massive sound reflectors above the orchestra swung ominously, the players faltered – and then they recovered the tempo and continued. They were given an extra round of applause between movements for their coolness under stress.

36

Alex 05.19.09 at 11:03 am

I was working on a tele-fundraising drive for Royal Holloway College, in a room in the reputed third highest fire risk in the South-East after Hampton Court Palace and the Heathrow Airport tank-farm, when the fire alarms went off. (They did with monotonous regularity; I remember piling out into the car park dozens of times when I lived in the damn thing.) Our boss refused to countenance going. I told him about the third-highest fire risk and the paraffin-soaked straw used as Victorian insulation. No go. I open the door and show him the people filing down the corridors in an orderly fashion. This doesn’t cut it, so I invite everyone else to leave and then go myself. Later, after the fire brigade had checked every corner of the building, we returned to find him still guarding his dozen or so dated laptops. I wonder what the firefighters said to him.

37

Matt 05.19.09 at 11:25 am

I am humbled that someone else has hit upon my disaster planning: a map of Mormon households and a well stocked gun safe.

Since many of the Mormons I know also have guns and a fair amount of experience using them, you should plan on not just having the gun but being pretty good at using it, too, as you’ll likely get a fight. A better option would probably be appearing pathetic and needed, as in my experience Mormons will just give such people help.

38

J 05.19.09 at 12:09 pm

I’m no fan of LDS theology or politics, but I’m finding this thread a bit disturbing. Sure, sure, people are just joking … we wouldn’t really turn on our Jewish / Tutsi / Muslim / Serb / Croat / Mormon / Sunni / Shia / Kurdish / Armenian neighbors just because times got a little tough, right? Right?

Oh, don’t be such a killjoy, J. It’s just a little friendly humor about that family down the street, you know the ones in that strange religious or ethnic group.

39

ajay 05.19.09 at 12:30 pm

J, the point (which you may be missing) is that Mormons all have to keep a year’s supply of food and other supplies in the house – it’s an article of their religion. The logical flaw in this is that, if things have got bad enough that you will need to be self sufficient for twelve months without any assistance from the government, then you will have bigger concerns than an adequate supply of tinned beans.
It’s not “let’s rob the Mormons because we hate them”.

As a general rule, it’s best not to accuse other people of wanting to commit genocide. Some sensitive types might take offence.

40

richard 05.19.09 at 12:36 pm

3. How do they get those little ships inside bottles?
The masts hinge, and sometimes, so do the spars: they’re flat against the hull going in, then a single pull forward on the rigging stands them up inside the bottle. I’ve even seen hulls that concertinaed up into a narrow cigarillo to get past the neck of the bottle and relaxed into a broad shape once inside.
4. What’s up with all those “The Real Housewives” shows? Who cares?
They’re cheap to make, and inattentive programming directors can easily be swayed by appeals to the success of Desperate Housewives. Also they’re in the same programming slot as Top Design and Top Hair and Top Frocks and whatever, so they attract exactly the demographic that is nervous about turning into housewives.

I’m afraid I can’t help you with 1 or 2, nor bras nor earthquakes nor other disasters, except to say that, having spent part of the 80s in London, I often saw tube train carriages full of people eyeing an unattended bag nervously, but I was regularly the only person to get off in order to avoid it.

41

dgm 05.19.09 at 12:50 pm

I have noticed the same trend in bra cup and bikini top sizes, and since I live in SoCal, I automatically attributed this to the fact that so many women here have had boob jobs. We’re talking stripper boobs. It’s not like there is a corresponding decrease in small-sized underwear, so I don’t think an obesity epidemic is behind this shift in the availability of bra sizes.

I also discovered it is virtually impossible to find small-sized bras without padding when I went looking to purchase for my daughter. Back in the day when I first wore a bra, this would have been considered “stuffing.” Now a pre-teen girl goes from a little sports-bra-like garment to a piece of equipment that appears to give her real boobies. I can’t say I’m liking that much.

42

Phil 05.19.09 at 12:53 pm

having spent part of the 80s in London, I often saw tube train carriages full of people eyeing an unattended bag nervously, but I was regularly the only person to get off in order to avoid it

This behaviour – both types – is actually quite rational. Let’s say you see an unattended bag about one journey in three, and you reckon there’s about a 1% chance that any unattended bag will contain a bomb; reduce by another factor of ten to allow for bomb going off after you get out, miraculous survival, etc. If you work in London you’re likely to make something like 20,000 tube journeys in your working life; to average out over different ages, assume Anticipated Future Tube Journeys = 10,000. So on any individual tube journey a Londoner will compare
(death) x 0.001
with
(inconvenience of changing trains) x 1/3 x 10,000
and conclude that staying put is the best policy. A visitor will have a different value for Anticipated Future Tube Journeys, so the numbers will come out differently. (I’m sure there’s a fallacy in there, to do with potentially making that same calculation on each individual Anticipated Future Tube Journey, but I can’t quite formulate it.)

May I also suggest that the placement of the More tag in this post was seriously misleading. I’m still half-convinced I’ve just read a post about the behaviour of silicone implants in earthquakes.

43

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.19.09 at 1:14 pm

If you want to calculate the total amount of inconvenience for 10,000 rides, then you need to calculate your chances be be blown up for 10,000 rides as well.
(death) x 0.001x 1/3×10,000 = you’re likely to be killed at least 3 times if you are not changing the trains.
Although I suspect 1% probability for unattended bag to contain a bomb is way too high.

44

bianca steele 05.19.09 at 1:27 pm

I decided the padded bras were in reaction to the snug knit tops that are now almost all you can find. American clothes are made for a B cup, and fashionable stuff is designed for seventeen year olds, so it’s difficult for me to empathize. You can’t wear a tank top at all with a bra unless you don’t care whether or not your straps show.

Sometime in the past year I realized the sizing system for bras had changed. It’s even more complicated now than rosmar describes. Am I the only one who didn’t get the memo? (It might have been in the same package as the memo about not carrying even a tiny handbag after 9/11.)

45

Maria 05.19.09 at 1:35 pm

Katherine: gah, sorry! I will say that the series ends with Izzie floating around in her prom dress, trying to decide whether to live or die. So it’s a death scene, but it’s not clear she’s actually dead yet… And agreed on unattainable ‘standards’ of beauty; I’m definitely more the 17th century version of flat chested and wide hipped. 2009 really isn’t my era.

Laura: thanks a million. I did finish The Group, loved it and gave it immediately to my Mum. But I should try and get it out of the library for another look as I promised months ago.

46

Maria 05.19.09 at 1:36 pm

Phil, the misleading more tag is a naughty habit of mine. I can’t help myself.

47

tps12 05.19.09 at 2:05 pm

Hahaha, awesome sneaky spoiler insertion…classic internet hijinx.

I also thought the “alien cancer” storyline in X-Files was during/inspired by Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, and am pretty sure I remembered her crazy huge breasts being attributed to that at the time. But I could be mistaken.

48

Peter 05.19.09 at 2:38 pm

Having sat through some training/informational sessions on the topic, I’ve come to the rather cynical conclusion that a significant factor behind one’s chances of survival in a disaster or other crisis situation come down to sheer dumb luck, or the lack thereof.

9/11 is of course the ultimate example. People at or above the impact floors in the World Trade Center had essentially a zero chance of survival, while just about everyone at lower levels got out safely. Nothing else really mattered. In the Rhode Island nightclub fire a few years ago, there were two fire exits roughly equidistant from the main part of the club where most people were standing, both of which appeared to offer equal means of escape; those who chose one exit were safe, while many of those who chose the other exit were caught in a human “traffic jam” and died. Taking shelter under a highway overpass if caught on the road during a tornado offers good protection from flying debris if the tornado passes nearby. If, however, the funnel strikes the overpass directly as opposed to passing close by, it will create a wind tunnel effect that is deadly for anyone underneath.

This isn’t meant to say that making reasonable plans for crisis situations is a bad thing, especially when there is a nontrivial risk of such situations occurring (hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, for example). It is important, however, to acknowledge that planning only goes so far. Sometimes luck makes all the difference.

49

Tracy W 05.19.09 at 2:41 pm

Ajay:

The logical flaw in this is that, if things have got bad enough that you will need to be self sufficient for twelve months without any assistance from the government, then you will have bigger concerns than an adequate supply of tinned beans.

Umm, reading “tinned beans” more generally as “adequate supply of food and water”, what are those bigger concerns?
I’ve had a couple of worrying days while hiking when unable to leave because of high river levels, and digging into our emergency rations. If you’re short of food, that’s a pretty whopping big concern based on that experience. If you’re short of water, I don’t see how concerns can get any bigger. Perhaps there’s some life-critical medicine that is more important than water – but all the disaster prep stuff I’ve ever seen says to store medicines as well. (I don’t store enough supplies for a whole year, I live in an apartment without the space, and I can’t think of an episode in history when having supplies for an entire year would have helped. I also don’t worry about being hit by a meteorite.)

50

J 05.19.09 at 2:48 pm

ajay, yes, I’m aware that the LDS encourages its followers to keep a year’s worth of food on hand, and some of them actually do that.

I still don’t find jokes about people attacking their Mormon neighbors to be especially funny, though (e.g., “I am humbled that someone else has hit upon my disaster planning: a map of Mormon households and a well stocked gun safe.”)

But then again I also wouldn’t be amused by a joke like “Well, if the economy collapses and the banks go bust, I’ll just take my guns and go find some Jewish households.”

I agree with your comment that “As a general rule, it’s best not to accuse other people of wanting to commit genocide.” I don’t think anybody in this thread wants to commit genocide. I do think that it’s generally preferable to avoid joking about acts of violence against historically disliked religious and ethnic minorities. I’ve also noticed that for perhaps understandable reasons many self-described progressives who would normally be assiduous in following this rule have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Mormons. This bothers me a bit.

51

Salient 05.19.09 at 4:40 pm

Second everything J said in #50, ‘cept the last two sentences.

Umm, reading “tinned beans” more generally as “adequate supply of food and water”, what are those bigger concerns?

Probably, protection from rioters/thieves/and/or/whatever it is that’s causing nonfunctional government for twelve months. That’d be one heck of a natural disaster / social strife / war / whatever, and if you are known to have X months of supplies… well, the running Mormon joke on this thread (even assuming, as I do, that it wasn’t meant) gives some indication of what desperate neighbors with 0 months’ supplies might think up, if need be.

(I’m sure there’s a fallacy in there, to do with potentially making that same calculation on each individual Anticipated Future Tube Journey, but I can’t quite formulate it.)

I’d guess it’s a question of familiarity. You ride the train twice a day, maybe twice a month you see an unattended-looking bag, you’ve been doing this for years no problem, you get used to it.

52

Maria 05.19.09 at 5:16 pm

TPS2 – I vaguely remembered the pregnancy issue too. But I’d thought Gillian Anderson was preggers in the first season or two of X-files and the alien cancer thing didn’t happen till much later. Could be wrong, though.

53

Maria 05.19.09 at 5:18 pm

I keep reading ‘Anticipated Future Tube Journey’ as Anticipated Fallopian Tube Journey. Not broody at all, me.

54

Phil 05.19.09 at 5:22 pm

If you want to calculate the total amount of inconvenience for 10,000 rides

I guess that would be the fallacy – short time horizons & discounting of future risks.

55

Katherine 05.19.09 at 5:27 pm

So it’s a death scene, but it’s not clear she’s actually dead yet…

Oh orlright, forgiven then. We’ve just got up to the diagnosis bit, and it wouldn’t be Grey’s Anatomy without an overwrought death scene, so that, I suppose, is predictable.

56

Donald Johnson 05.19.09 at 6:11 pm

Thanks, Richard, for answers to 3 and 4.

I thought there was a fair to middling chance someone around here would be a geophysicist who understood earthquake wave energetics, but maybe not. At least the ship in the bottle mystery is solved. (“Real Housewives in X” too, but I cared less about that one.)

57

Juliette 05.19.09 at 8:58 pm

I had nearly the reverse. When Buncefield Oil Depot exploded a few years ago, I woke up and the only thought that went through my head for several minutes was ‘there’s been an earthquake’. Part of me obviously realised that we don’t have earthquakes in the UK, and so I was certain that it must have been in Italy and been very big…

58

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.09 at 9:47 pm

Part of me obviously realised that we don’t have earthquakes in the UK

Really?

59

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 05.19.09 at 9:49 pm

Sod it.

Here.

60

Maria 05.19.09 at 10:54 pm

wow, we just had another! bout 5 miles away and measuring a 4.1. Not that the models seem to show much association between foreshocks and The Big One, but I am reconsidering the purchase of bottled water…

61

lindsey 05.19.09 at 10:58 pm

I felt it too! This time I went to the door….

62

Maria 05.19.09 at 11:23 pm

Looks like a 4.1 and is said to be an aftershock to Sunday’s: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsus/Quakes/ci10411545.php

63

novakant 05.20.09 at 12:21 am

since I live in SoCal, I automatically attributed this to the fact that so many women here have had boob jobs. We’re talking stripper boobs.

I never understood this – do all men in SoCal like big boobs? Would they not consider, say, Nastassja Kinski, Vanessa Paradis or Kate Moss attractive? Or do the women get some kind of ego boost through boob jobs?

64

Kenny Easwaran 05.20.09 at 12:26 am

I failed to feel this one as well – and this time I was down at USC and not crossing streets in Silverlake. It’s possible I was still in the gym at the time, but I think I was just sitting in my office – no excuse. I guess all I have to say is that I can apparently feel earthquakes when I’m in the Bay Area (mostly around the 3.0 range, but even one as small as 2.3, when it was actually in Berkeley), but not in LA (even when they’re above 4.0).

65

Tracy W 05.20.09 at 8:33 am

Salient – I grant you that the risk of Maria coming through the window intending to steal your canned beans, fully armed with unwanted padded bras, may be a major concern if there’s a vast natural disaster or complete civil breakdown. But I can’t see how it can be a more major concern than not having an ample supply of food and water in the first place.

66

belle le triste 05.20.09 at 9:08 am

we have earthquakes in the uk — my parents’ house is still unrepaired from the effects of the last one it experienced (units falling of the wall, significant cracks in plaster, doors no longer closing properly)

67

Zamfir 05.20.09 at 1:04 pm

Phil, if both the tourist and the commuter agree on the risk of the bag and on the cost of getting of the train, then both should make the same decision. That the commuter has to travel more often doesn’t change it at all, it’s the same trade off every time.

The difference is that commuters are not as random a group as tourists: people whose estimate of the risk tells them to get off the train, are less likely to become commuters. If there is a bag in the subway every few rides, than surely only people commute who don’t consider left bags a risk worth leaving the train for.

68

JoB 05.20.09 at 2:37 pm

Maria, it’s unfair! You put an elephant (ro be precise: two elephants) in the room (to be precise: during an earthquake) and then you disallow discussion of it (them). I’m happily married to my straight-A partner (wouldn’t women more closely approximating the modern-day beauty ideal not be a liitle offended by this suggestion that they are less probable to approximate a modern-day intelligence ideal?) and I am well aware that the big-breasted needle ideal can be – to say the least – annoying. But does it merit even the mildest form of cultural pessimism?

It is one thing to read a magazine, surf the internet or watch TV, and quite another to physically interact with another person. I see no reason why the physical (or other) aspects of the subjects preferred in these two activities should correspond (in fact, they can’t correspond: the first has a minimal aspect of averaging and the other not). Sure there are men that will coerce partners to approximate with their bodies the ‘entertainment’ ideal – many men are stupid in many different ways, the issue is their stupidity not the divergence of the ideal from reality. Sure there are a lot of women that can’t withstand the pressure of conforming to the ideal – but this can be as well an issue of undue pressure as an issue of lack of knowledge to withstand pressure. The latter can be solved, I think, but I don’t see how you can tackle the first without inventing a ‘bad taste’ police.

No issue to criticize it as bad taste or as inconvenient, I just shudder at the concept of ‘problems of pornification’ and such.

Don’t shoot me, please.

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