Natural Disasters
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
“Catastrophes! Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and Other Earth-Shattering Disasters” (Johns Hopkins University Press, $30)

Occidental College geologist Donald R. Prothero’s book about natural disasters was published four days after the 9.0 earthquake hit Japan: quite the timing. Prothero examines the geologic factors that create natural disasters without neglecting the (often more interesting) ways that humans are affected by them. In one chapter, Prothero explains how the 1906 tremblor in San Francisco gave birth to modern seismology by inspiring a 300-page report by leading geologists on the causes of earthquakes. He also recounts how the city’s boosters would refer to the event only as the “fire” of 1906 for fear of hurting the tourism industry.

Rachel Saslow

Great dress! Is it parachute or seat belt?
“Fabric Re:Defined,” Embassy of Finland

If you want to wear your eco-friendly heart on your sleeve, the Finnish Embassy is hosting an exhibit that will show you how: clothing and accessories made from fabrics that once were tents and tablecloths, seat belts and parachutes.

The exhibit, featuring Finnish design company Globe Hope, opened last week with a fashion show, where diplomatic staff served as models in the airy auditorium of the LEED-certified embassy. It will remain on view until April 24, Fridays to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 3301 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

The clothes combine waste-not-want-not spirit with some clever fabric choices and artful stitching. Bright-patterned Russian scarves add texture to heavy military drab; crisp white sails create durable boots and bags.

The items aren’t for sale, but they can be ordered at And if they inspire you to get out your sewing machine rather than your credit card, you will have taken away the exhibit’s true message.

Frances Stead Sellers