Katrina Aftermath Anger

After a week of listening to the coverage of Katrina (and the aftermath) there are some things that I just need to get off my chest:

As bad as it is, stop calling it ‘our tsunami’. There is a big difference between something that happen with little or no warning and something that happened with several days warning that some people either didn’t react to or couldn’t react to. Why does there have to be competition over whose natural disaster was worse? They are all horrible and provide an opportunity to see the best (and worst) in people.

In New Orleans, the situation rapidly turned into a Y2K-esque worst case scenario: no power, no water, no communications, armed mobs looting and pillaging with the government unable to respond. Except in this real life scenario, this was not the result of some errant computer software. This was a fatal combination of natural disaster and the worst side of humankind.

Before Katrina hit, it seems that there were those who couldn’t move because they didn’t have cars or some other means of getting around or out of the city because they are poor. This might have something to do with the fact that the poverty rate in the US has grown to 12.5% under the current administration. Apparently the poor are good enough to fight wars, but not worth rescuing or looking out for properly — sickening.

Another point that I am struggling with regarding the slow federal response is ‘because it is a very complicated situation that no one could have foreseen’. Then how do we account for the Hurricane Pam simulations that showed almost exactly what was going to happen? You might ask yourself how can the international press get camera crews, helicopters, ground transport, etc to freely go in to areas to broadcast (some might say, exploit) those impacted by this disaster, but the government doesn’t seem to be as resourceful. Nor does it seem that the press has enough integrity to try to bring in whatever aid they can while covering the events.

The National Guard, who typically play a crucial role in providing swift and effective assistance during natural disasters are hobbled by the fact that 40% of Mississippi’s and 35% of Louisiana’s National Guard are in Iraq.

This event seems to me to be an example of the current administrations domestic policy writ large: if you have money, you’re ok, you can evacuate (you can basically do whatever you want); if you don’t, then they really don’t give a damn about what happens to you. So you have a situation were the administration cut funding for levee enhancements/maintenance because of ‘the war’, but then turned around and provided a 31 billion USD handout to oil companies that are already making multi-billion dollar profits quarterly. Then you have gun toating idiots wrecking havoc, because we need more guns in this country, right NRA? I can already hear their twisted response, ‘well, if everyone had a gun, they could defend themselves against the bandits’ Right, we all know that the solution to cleaning up an oil slick is to pour more oil on it…

Thankfully, the situation seems to be improving. I just hope that this country learns a lesson from this disaster and is able to grow in a more positive direction.

One final note: it seems ironic to me that the Administration has been on TV and radio telling those who have Labor Day plans (which in the US is ‘a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.’) to stay home, and not have any inessential travel.

Smells Like Dot-Bomb Pixie Dust

I sure hope that this new service works better than their bloated, pointless flash interface. The fact that they are using flash makes one question just how tuned in they really are.

Even the Wired write up on the company reminds me of what would get VC cash in the 90s: “we’re going to make this awesome product that does, er, something, um, everything and people are going to love it…”

I am curious to see what actually materializes “in the fall”.

Electronic Enhancements

I predict that this sort of thing (Wired: Hearing Aids for the unimpaired) will get increasingly popular as people run out of cosmetic surgery options in their quest to be (at least superficially) ‘different’ from others (which paradoxically tends to make them gravitate toward some homogeneous ideal).

Perhaps wearable mods are a step along the path to what William Gibson described in Burning Chrome where electronic mods to the human body become commonplace.

Professional Photographer Uses ‘Point and Shoot’ Camera

It’s always been my contention that the gear you have doesn’t matter, its what you can do with it that does. This article about an award winning professional photographer who uses so called point and shoot cameras for his pictures rather than a ‘big, fast, bulletproof pro SLR’ really makes the point.

I get a certain satisfaction out of his current choice of camera, the Olympus c-8080, the same camera that I have (though the results I get are not in the same league as this guy).

Cellphones and Driving Don’t Mix

No surprises in this article on Wired. Driving while talking on a mobile phone is unsafe whether you are using a headset or not.

It is my firm belief that accidents caused while someone is talking on a cellphone should be treated as other driving impairments (DUI). Do it more that a few times and you lose your license.

In Case of Emergency

This is a simple but very effective way of helping yourself if you are in a bad state. The jist of the article is to add an entry (or entries) into your mobile phone contacts list under ICE (In Case of Emergency). That way a paramedic or hospital attendant would have a good chance of getting ahold of someone on your behalf if you were incapacitated. Multiple entries could be added for ICE2, ICE3, etc.

Newton, Palm and PSP

As an Apple Newton user from back in the day I was always amazed at the amount of sniping over the Newton when there was no clear, better alternative at the time. I wasn’t even a big Apple fan, but could recognize that the Newton provided the functionality that I wanted. Granted the much derided handwriting recognition took a bit of ‘training’ for the Newt to become more consistent, but for me that was time well spent. Within a few months, I could take meeting notes directly on the Newt with something close to 100% recognition. The ability to draw on the screen along with the text was handy as techies are famous for their napkin-back design sketches.

Supposedly, one of the cures for the ‘poor’ Newton recognition was to use an add in product called Grafitti. This was met with a great deal of hue and cry as the Apple bashers when on about ‘having to learn a new way of writing’ and ‘it should recognize my handwritting — I shouldn’t have to change’. That was all well and good until the first Palm came out and required the use of Graffiti, then suddenly the (not-from-Apple) Palm product was proclaimed the best thing since fish grew legs. Another popular criticism at the time was the the Newton was ‘the wrong form factor’ and that Palm had it all right. I disagree, and feel a bit vidicated with the release of the Sony Playstation Portable (which has nearly the same form factor as the final Newton) and it being hailed as the ‘perfect size’ for a portable unit. Hell, the Newton even had many of the same capabilities, albeit with a monochrome screen.

Around four years ago, I finally gave up and bought a Palm device (m505) to be able to synch up my growing and changing Outlook calendar and not have to carry around marked up printouts of my calendar. I find Graffiti to be a pain, but have forced myself to bend to its requirements. Then I bought a Tungsten T5 because I very much needed the extra storage and wanted to have some wi-fi capability only to find that some genius at Palm had ‘improved’ the handwriting recognition by changing it. Now I find myself writing ‘L’ when I want an ‘I’ and getting some random character when I try to do the old stroke for a ‘T’. Sigh. I just wish that Palm would come out with a patch to keep the T5 from randomly rebooting, locking up and crashing after synching.

In the end, I think that I am going to start exploring a Symbian OS based device, probably a Nokia smart phone. The most promising device (that I have found in my limited research) is the (as yet unreleased in the USA) Nokia 6682.

The Scourge of Subdivisions

Why does everyone who lives around here assume that everybody else lives in a subdivision?

This question comes from people stopping over for Nicola’s birthday party. In spite of clear directions, all of the moms who had not been here before drove past the road we live on and went straight to the sub-division about a quarter of a mile up the road. They then called on their mobile phones complaining that they cannot find our street. Martina patiently explained that they drove past it and they needed to backtrack to find it. Within a few minutes everyone arrived.

I have a theory: there has been so much growth in this area, coupled with everyone wanting to have some Mc Mansion on a postage stamp lot that I’d guess that the majority of the population of this area lives in a sub-division (ergo everyone else does). One of the attendees expressed surprise that we were not among the short timers who moved to the area in the last 2-3 years when it became trendy (I have lived here for 14 years; Mart for about 7).

I also detect a bit of snobbery when you ask someone where they live — rarely do they tell you what city they live in or proximity to some landmark, they tell you what sub-division they live in as if it conveyed their perceived status in the world. Hell, when people ask where I live, I tell them ‘near Kings Island’ and they either know where that is or not.