Quake name deceiving

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This morning’s 4.4-shaker literally jolted me upright from a deep sleep. It was a quick, hard shove that lasted only 10 or 15 seconds. Thank God. It opened cabinet doors in my garage, on the china cabinet, and knocked over some photographs. But as far as I coould tell, we had no damage.

I live in Temple City, which you don’t normally associate with Whittier. But anything along the “Whittier Narrows” fault or any movement underground “just east of Los Angeles” affects many, many of us here in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond. The Associated Press reported people feeling this morning’s quake from San Bernardino County to Santa Monica. Someone felt it in Oceanside, I read on a blog.

So, calling it a “Whittier” or as the TV local news did right after it hit, a “Pico Rivera” quake is misleading.

As evidence, I remember the 1987 Whittier Narrows Earthquake which hit on Oct. 1, 1987 with a strength of a 5.9 magnitude. I was living in Monrovia and was exercising on our hard wood floors of our 1924 bungalow. That shook like the dickens. That quake, albeit much stronger, caused $350 million in damage, some of that in Pasadena and Montebello area, and the temblor killed eight people. A woman died from a collapsing parking structure at Cal State Los Angeles. A utility worker near Muir Peak in the San Gabriel Mountains was crushed to death by rubble. Those are both pretty far from Whittier.

So, this Southern California quake was a wake-up call for all of us, not just those in Whittier or Pico Rivera.

Quien Es Mas Macho?

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Today, at 5:30 p.m., a moderate Republican group that calls itself “the New Majority” will be hosting a debate in Costa Mesa between GOP gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner.

That’s the good news.

However, since the recent Steve Poizner TV ads, in which he uses the words “illegal aliens” by declaring war on the undocumented, he wants to make this match-up a re-run of that old “Saturday Night Live” sketch featuring Billy Crystal as the “you-rook-mahvelous” character. In the 1982 sketch, David Susskind host the battle between Fernando Lamas or Ricardo Montalban and he asks: Who is more macho?

Now, Poizner and Whitman are arguing who is tougher (more macho) on the issue of illegal immigrants. In his ads, Poizner says he will “save the state billions by cutting taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens.” He also told the press he would “yank illegal immigrants from schools” and even send the “CHP to the border” to enforce illegal immigration.

Memo to the desperate Steve Poizner: Wasn’t this tried under Prop. 187, which was thrown out by the courts?

Also, doesn’t this kind of illegal immigrant bashing hurt Republicans who run for state office? That was what hurt Gov. Pete Wilson when he tried to run for re-election. It also turned numerous GOP voters against Republican candidates in almost every statewide election in California since then.

But this is a desperate Poizner trying to appeal to conservatives who will vote in a Republican primary. Even if he wins the primary (he is 30 points behind Whitman in the polls), it will be tough sledding to win a statewide race after taking this kind of stand.

Even most Republican lawmakers disagree with this hate-filled position.

Hector Barajas, the former state Republican Party communications director who now is working for Whitman, and was a frequent contributor to the SGVN opinion pages, made this statement: “To introduce himself in this way, by trying to divide and attack our community, marks the end of the Poizner campaign.”

Ouch.

I would hate to see what those Republican-supporting businessmen and businesswomen (those who own restaurants, or farms, agriculture, etc.) think of Poizner’s approach to illegal immigration.

They might not think he was so macho.

Seriously, can we talk?

First, a comment from reader Joe Ruiz of Glendora about my column on whether we should skip small talk and go more to substantive talk:

Joe wrote today, Friday, March 12:
Technology has changed the way we communicate. While we bury ourselves in a computer writing or researching, listening to talk radio in the background satisfies our need to be part of a political or economic conversation without moving our lips. Substantive talk is most rewarding, but its tough to do in a limited social setting as we always seem to be in a hurry to get a task accomplished before the next.

I received my degree in social sciences so I’m curious how people act and relate to others but I must admit that I’ve become more introspective and would rather hike in the local mountains at a quick pace and contemplate the thoughts of the day.

I was playing full court basketball at a local gym until a few years ago when I finally surrendered to the pain. I was playing with a lot of guys in their 20′s & 30′s but we didn’t even engage in small talk. It was all about playing on a winning team so you could play again. They tolerated playing with a guy who passed the mid-century mark which was good enough for me as we perspired and yelled.

Cell phones allow us to make quick conversations through speech or text. Computers allow us to send our thoughts electronically sans verbalization.
Will substantive talk between people become as passe’ as sending a letter through the post office? With all the corporate money given the okay by the Supreme Court to flood political campaigns, can substantive talk survive the machinations of the corporatists?

Are we doomed to repeat slogans through small talk from sound bites shaped by the economic royalists as warned by FDR?
-Joe Ruiz

Here’s what I wrote:
‘HI, can you believe that rain? It’s like a monsoon out there.”
“No, thank you. I don’t like red-bean paste. It doesn’t do it for me.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot these days about joy. What is it and how do you get it? You ever wonder about that?”

The first two are conversation starters I’ve actually spoken to fellow humans. It’s safe to call these examples of small talk.
The third is one I’ve said in my mind but never actually tried on someone, let alone a stranger or an acquaintance. Though I did bring up the topic of “joy” with a close friend on the phone back in December and also in my family Christmas letter. The latter is an example of what social scientists call “substantive talk.”

Don’t worry. There won’t be a quiz at the end of this column. But there will be a question: What kind of talk do you prefer? Small talk or substantive talk? Why?

That’s the same question researchers at the University of Arizona wanted to know. They hooked up 79 subjects with a hidden mic that recorded conversation snippets every 12.5 minutes for four days. Then they assessed their well-being by talking to their friends and learning how they spent their time, etc. Researchers concluded the happiest people in the study engaged in small talk one-third less often than the unhappiest subjects. Happy people have twice as many substantive conversations as unhappy people. Of course, this is part of a hypothesis that says connectivity with others — deeper friendships — makes people happier.

I am smiling right now. Because I am not a lover of small talk. I would much rather talk to people about solving the state budget crisis, wondering if they’d pay more taxes to save teacher jobs, or how they keep up an exercise routine without getting bored.

My poor grade in Small Talk 101 doesn’t help me meet people. I admit it. That’s why Brooklyn-based communications expert Don Gabor says small talk is indeed important because it is a gateway to “substantive conversations.”

I disagree. I’ve been having small talk with people — people I call friends — for years. And it doesn’t push my happiness buttons. I’d much rather ask them what their view of God is, or what do they consider the best qualities in a mate, or would they like to go hiking and talk about nature?

I joined the West San Gabriel Valley YMCA because it is the only gym I can stand going to. I abhor those high-pressure “health clubs” with their double-talking salesman and meat-market atmospheres.

Last week, while shooting hoops because I suddenly became bored with the treadmill, I saw the staffer (he’s the guy with arms like tree trunks) chatting with a member. The young man was talking about his girlfriend problems. From my healthy bit of eavesdropping, I could tell their conversation went beyond small talk.

Well done, I thought. Then I asked my wife, Karen, about it. She said guys find a gym a safe place to hang out in and talk. It used to be the barbershop. And in my Temple City neighborhood, the donut shop, where a group of older men would shoot the breeze over a maple bar and a cup of hot coffee. Often, I was tempted to go up to them and ask: Do you enjoy small talk or more substantive discussions? I now ask you the same question. Be honest.

If us guys stick to superficial topics like the weather and sports, is it because we aren’t happy?

Hmmm … How about those Angels. The Lakers really need to get their act together. You think it will finally be warmer this weekend?

…..
I also got an email from Bill Bell, the former editor of the Whittier Daily News who always loved to write columns (still does) by talking to people in Uptown Whittier about substantive topics.
Here’s to some deeper conversations this weekend. Cheers!