si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: February, 2012

It’s All My Fault

I grew up on a faultline.

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since New Zealand only exists because two tectonic plates decided to get together and have a rub-yourself-up-against-each-other party. To the West we have the Indo-Australian plate, to the East the Pacific Plate. Which I guess actually made it something of a “bring your own plate” party. Ohhh, I’ll be here all week, try the veal.

More specifically though, the actual faultline was about 50 metres (160ft) from my house.

What’s it like growing up in this kind of environment? Well, let’s just say, anything under a 5.0 on the Richter scale you might lift your coffee off the table while you assess it & check your nearest safe zone (table, doorway, etc), but other than that you more or less ignore it.

You become blasé surprisingly quickly.

A more interesting question is: what the hell does a faultline actually look like?

Well, my folks have moved since I was a kid, so I’m now living much farther away. About 50 metres farther.

To get there I have to cross this most excellent bridge:

Awesome bridge

I do like well considered architecture (and blues skies).

I also have to pass this rather interesting (non earthquake related) tree:

Because we’re on the other side of the world, the sun goes in circles, confusing plant growth patterns

Definitely an odd tree – there’s only one of them.. ahh!

Anyway, just past that, you get to this rather innocuous looking bank:

Innocuous Bank

Just like any old golf course really. Except for those weird blue poles. What’s up with them?

Well, if you sight along them, they look like this:

Two poles. Perfectly aligned

Notice how they’re perpendicular to the bank. That’s not an accident.

These poles were put in by the government white coats to track plate movement.

That innocent looking bank above? It keeps going in both directions… and there’s an identical looking bank on the other side of the river. That’s the faultline. Twenty years ago that ground was bulldozed flat.

So why do the poles line up, if there’s been all that movement?

Because we’re standing too close. Here are three poles:

Uh oh, someone stuck one of those poles in the wrong place. Yeah, that’s it.

Notice how the two on the other side of the fault are angled off to the right of the viewer (ie, the most distant pole is to the left of the central pole).

That is very, very much out of alignment.

When they were put in, they all lined up perfectly. It would have been done with one of these. Theodolites are great, love me a theodolite. If you’ve never used one, I highly recommend it.

So let’s step even farther back:

Oh dear.

Remember how the most distant one is slightly to the left?

So you can see that drawing a straight line between the two most distant poles goes off to our right. A straight line between the two poles on this side of the fault goes screaming off to the left of the furthest two.

Not only has there been significant vertical movement, but a ton of lateral motion too.

So here’s the odd thing: There’s been no major earthquakes here, certainly nothing like Christchurch.

What’s happening is something that scientists have only really been able to track since about 2002 – slow earthquakes. These are tricky to spot, since they occur over hours or months, and don’t typically register on seismographs (the scientists use GPS to track them instead).

Many of these slow earthquakes are huge though (R7-9) and they’re radically altering New Zealand’s shape. This isn’t a terrible thing though, NZ’s a weird shape to start with, a bit of a haircut might do us some good.

Why can’t we be an elegant, tastefully shaped country, like Italy’s boot?


I found this brilliant overhead view which shows the faultline perfectly:

the overhead view

The middle arrow is about where I was standing when I took the last four pics above.

The view is stolen from this thoroughly informative page on the subject. Kudos to them!


    Gratitude vs Appreciation

    First, my apologies, this is going to be an airy-fairy and slightly word-nerdy post. I’ve been thinking for weeks about how to concretise it a bit, without too much success.

    Gratitude lists are super popular (yes, 60 million pages). It’s very simple why – by focusing on what’s good in your life, you attract more of it.

    Ever start a morning, stub your toe, feel shitty, then suddenly everyone you meet seems to be in a shitty mood too?

    Yeah, it’s like that but in reverse. So you know, more fun, with less toe-stubbing.

    As a bonus, the more sincerely you feel grateful for the positive things in your life, the more you genuinely connect with the present feeling of them – and well, the better you feel.

    Giant “duh” there. This isn’t rocket science.

    Now, here’s the caveat.

    I’ve tried gratitude lists several times in the past. I’d wake up every morning, make a list of 5 (or 10) things I was grateful for, then get on with my day. I also tried at night, right before I went to sleep.

    But for me? They never seemed to do, well, anything.

    I didn’t feel much better and my life didn’t improve in any noticeable way.

    If there’s one thing I’m a stickler for, it’s reproducibility.

    I did try. Note the “several times”, above. Bottom line though, if something isn’t giving me significant, reproducible results, I throw it out.

    Recently though, I’ve realised something.

    There’s quite a difference between being grateful for something, and appreciating it.

    Here’s where we get into the airy fairy bit.

    If you’ve read back far enough, you’ll know I’ve spent a lot of time working with energy. Healing, shifting stuff around, all sorts of bibs & bobs. Trouble is, a lot of this is experiential. I know what I’ve seen and done, but it starts to get a bit tricky since I often can’t simply say “just do *this* and *that* will happen.” There’s a lot of background (& practice) required.

    How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. Simple, right? Yeah, exactly.

    I try to keep stuff on here pretty concrete since me describing my experiences doesn’t do much for you if you’re in a very different place in your life. If you’re in a similar place, well, you’ll be seeing results like that anyway, so you won’t need me telling you.

    So, if I say “Energetically, ‘appreciation’ is much softer and closer feeling whereas ‘gratitude’ is more distanced with little energetic connectivity” – well, that’s kinda hard to put into language that doesn’t depend on my personal experiences. Put frankly, if you’re not me (or energy weird like me) it’s gonna sound like crap.

    However, let’s give it a shot. Just for fun.

    Interestingly, just focusing on the words (in English) shows a lot.

    Gratitude is quite a hard word (all those consonants). You could quite literally spit “I’m grateful for blah” at someone through angry teeth. Ha, I should know, I’ve done this, on particularly grumpy days.

    Appreciation has all those soft rounded sounds.  Saying “I appreciate blah” is a much gentler experience.

    Of course, the key question is – is this a factor of the experiential difference between these terms, or is it merely a linguistic difference in this particular language (English)?

    Tough to say. What came first, the experience or the description?

    A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but if it didn’t, would it have been named Rose in the first place?

    Appreciating something feels (I warned you about this, right?) much closer, softer, more vulnerable, more open, more connected.

    Gratitude (“I am grateful for..”) feels more analytical, more distanced, more of a third party description.

    So again, perhaps this is merely a linguistic difference. You don’t say “I grateful” you say “I am grateful” – you’re describing a personal state of being – passive.

    When you say “I appreciate” – you’re describing an action – active.

    So maybe it’s just that difference – the insertion of the verb “to be” in the sentence.

    Maybe. What came first, the behaviour or the linguistic variation in methods of describing that behaviour?

    What I’ve been trying to do is tease this all apart. Is there actually a difference between gratitude and appreciation, or does it just feel this way because of how English is structured?

    Let’s try and get the sentences as close as possible:

    •     I am grateful for foo
    •     I appreciate foo (no)
    •     I am appreciating foo (not quite)
    •     I am appreciative of foo

    See, even then, the aural shape of the word “appreciative” softens the experience of saying it (particularly out loud). It’s also interesting how many ways you can dance around appreciating something (or someone), and yet with gratitude you’re forced to take a fixed position in time & space.

    Interestingly, while we can say “I appreciate foo” (whomever foo is) there’s no equivalent form for gratitude. You can’t gratitude foo, you can’t grateful foo. You’re forced to be grateful, or express gratitude. It’s always one word, one state of being more abstracted.

    All this word-nerding aside, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.

    If saying “I appreciate foo” feels better for you, more powerful, more connective, more useful then great, use that.

    If you still reckon “I am grateful for foo” rocks your boat, well, do that instead.

    As always, the trick is to find what’s right and what works best for you.

    For me, since I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve noticed that every day I’m finding more and more things I appreciate. Plus, better yet, I’m verbally acknowledging them – and feeling better for it. So really I’m doing gratitude lists all day every day – by appreciating instead.

    It’s working for me.