Thursday, September 01, 2005

Bridges were unbuilt, and trouble coming.

At Greenhearth was a fine site for a dam
And easy power, had they pushed the rail
Some stations nearer. They ignored his wires:
The bridges were unbuilt and trouble coming.

--- W.H. Auden, 1928

        The horrendous flooding of New Orleans is raising many questions that need to be answered. The most obvious is why. Clearly, this was bound to happen. Perhaps preventing the actual breach of the levees would have been impossible, as working on them could potentially temporarily weaken them, a dangerous concession in a densely populated metropolis. It seems plain that if the flood cannot be prevented, at least the damage and resultant loss of life could be mitigated by a well coordinated evacuation, rescue and cleanup plan. Officials are copping the argument that no one could have predicted the severity of this disaster. Since under that assumption it would be impossible for anyone to fathom the extent of this catastrophe, no one can really be held accountable for not doing so. Unfortunately for the politicians and the stranded citizens of New Orleans, that isn't really the case.
        Not only was there clear warning about the impending potential disaster, there is easily accessible data on the gravity of the situation. Dr. Ivor L. van Heerden of the LUS Hurricane center published a paper titled Coastal Land Loss: Hurricanes and New Orleans in 2004. Using supercomputing to create simulations and collect data, vanHeerden and his team came up with this portentous discovery:
        Recent research reveals that a slow moving Category 3 hurricane, or stronger, could cause levee overtopping and complete flooding of New Orleans, with the West Bank even more susceptible. Floodwaters would have residence times of weeks. The resultant mix of sewage, corpses and chemicals in these standing flood waters would set the stage for massive disease outbreaks and prolonged chemical exposure. Estimates are that 300,000 persons would be trapped and 700,000 would be homeless; thousands could perish.

*For the complete .pdf of this paper (all 17 pages) check here. For a summary of this article, check out this link to the LSU Research Newsletter.

        A lot of money was spent attempting to predict the damage of a flood situation. People were aware that this would happen. Why then was there not a sufficient infrastructure in place to help get the people out? Why did some not know how dangerous failing to evacuate could be? The University of New Orleans released a study in which up to 60% of New Orleans residents said they would not be scared of a flood, and would not evacuate for a Category 3 hurricane. Furthermore they found that the people who did evacuate for previous hurricanes such as Lili and Georges did not go far enough to escape the danger. A neat little summary of that study can be found here.

        The persistance of many citizens is apparent, especially in blog entries prior to storm such as this chilling entry, dated July 08, 2005 on why this writer will not be evacuating for any subsequent storms:
I will admit that I said similar things when Ivan was on its way, then proceeded to evacuate, but this time I'm serious. I'm not leaving. Not. Leaving. Nagin can go on TV and talk about body bags being delivered and try to scare the living shit out of the city, but I'll take my chances.

        Even with the intentional stubborness in regards to evacuating, the people who are really at risk are the ones who could not evacuate. Watch fifteen seconds of any news channel right now and you will notice one unifying factor. Almost every single person on the screen (except for Wolf Blitzer) is black and poor. It is now Thursday. This began almost five full days ago. The obvious excuse made by officials for the lack of representation around the SuperDome, Convention Center and flood areas is that they could not have anticipated this, and that it takes time to mobilize a response. Unfortunately, there is no more time. People are going to continue to die at exponential rates. Decomposition will further ensnare rescue attempts as the plethora of diseases like cholera and typhoid fever begin to develop.

        When looking at the demographic of the stranded citizens, it is easy to make several generalizations. An overwhelming percentage (98% according to someone recently interviewed on CNN) of the remaining people are black. Many of them are ill, many are elderly, and most could not afford to evacuate. One obvious initial objection would be to question whether if these people were white suburban Old Metairie types would they still be stranded inside the SuperDome or Convention Center. The problem with that objection is that it fails to acknowledge that the reason these people aren't white suburbanites is because those types of people were able to flee. If a city orders an evacuation, especially a city with such a great potential for natural disaster, the city should do everything to help everyone who feasibly can to evacuate. Certainly there are people who must, for whatever reason, stay behind. Not only emergency personnel, police and doctors but the very ill and otherwise immobile people might not be able to escape, but certainly many more could have been transported out than were.
        The next question to raise is why, given that these officers and EMT and such remained behind are they not able to mobilize more effectively. Today I saw that a man was arrested for stealing a car and attempting to drive himself, a female, and four children out of the city. The man was stopped by officers, removed from the car, and handcuffed. For what conceivable reason are officers wasting time preventing people from leaving by whatever means possible? the Chief of Police needs to reprioritize their operating procedures and stop focusing on thefts and instead work on rescue, recovery and containing the armed gangs that are now patrolling Border Town New Orleans.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Better Living Through Smarter Parenting

          There are a few things that I have been thinking about in regards to having children. Since I became engaged engaged I have had a lot of people mention child birthing and rearing to me as a natural follow up to the marriage track. As a result, I have been paying more attention to Diaper commercials and medications with warnings about taking them if "you are pregnant, or are considering becoming pregnant" in the hopes of honing my parenting skills before they even become neccessary.

          On that note, here a few few child rearing lessons that I've put together for any new parents out there. I've never had a baby, nor have I really spent more than a few minutes with one in the past 18 years, so clearly, as an impartial observer of the process I have the highest likelihood of coming up with some really good "Expert Tips". Read on.

Doggylife's Tips for Parents!

  • "Funish" Your Children

  •           Watching a TV court-umentary made me realize that the problem with punishing kids is that punishment is in no way fun for the kid being punished, although it is marginally and rather sadistically enjoyable to the other children. I remember as a child not wanting to be punished, and how, when I was being punished, I wished I was smoking candy cigarettes or hanging out at The Max with AC, although admitedly, that did weigh pretty constantly on my mind.
              I realized that the obvious solution to the problem of punishement is to make punishment fun, and thus, "funishment" was born. If your kid hits another child on the playground, "funish" him by buying a puppy, kitten or other adorable animal, and making your child beat the animal to death with something (perhaps another puppy). At first the child might hate it, but eventually, he will learn that you can't solve problems by hitting people, and that if you need an outlet for your anger, a defenseless animal is a much better target than a person who can hit back. The sparkle in little Jason's eyes as he smashes a sackful of kittens against a parking meter will bring a previously unknown joy to your family home.

  • Don't Deal in Absolutes

  •           How often do we see signs, slogans and even albums telling kids to "Never Talk to Strangers" or "Never Smoke Cigarettes" or other absolute edicts for their behaviour? Too often I say. As a concerned parent of the future, I don't want my child forced into believing that there is never an instance in which they should talk to a stranger. What if they become lost, sick, or bored while riding the subway? The daily commute to work and school should be an enjoyable one for your elementary schooler. The world is a fun place filled with mostly nice people. I'd rather my kid get abducted by a pederast dressed like a dinosaur than rot his six year old brain or miss his stop because he was playing Super Mario Twins on the el.
              From my experiences, I've learned that often, children don't possess the same capacity for rational decision making as some adults. Therefore, it seems ludicrous to tell them that you can "never" do something when in all likelihood, they very well might have to one day. Imagine a lost child on the verge of approaching a friendly neighborhood police officer with his father's maxims rattling through his tiny skull. Picture him quietly debating whether to uphold or destroy the fabric of the reality that is the words of his parents, then imagine his little sugar laced brain spasming, contorting, and slowly dripping out of his ears like the sweat and tears of an exhausted John Henry, his fleshy muscles no match for the cold logical machinery of never. His death is on your head.
              In another scenario, imagine that your kid is on the verge of becoming the next Dakota Fanning. Then, an agent wants him to do an ad for Camel Cigarettes in which he has to smoke a cigarette after hitting the game winning home run of the Little League World Series. If you told him to "never smoke cigarettes" he might turn down the role. If parents had thought like that years ago the world may have never gotten to know Jackie Earle Haley, one of the greatest smoking-child actors since Tatum O'Neal. Teach your kids that morality, legality, and finances are all subjective with lines like:

    • Rarely Talk to Strangers

    • Typically Don't Smoke Cigarettes

    • Often, Don't Eat Pennies

  • Role Models, Role Models, Role Models

  •           There seems to be a lot of ballyhoo about giving kids good role models. "Activist" teachers and "liberal" parents would like you to believe that the best way to teach a child is to make the child obsessively idolize someone who possesses the traits that you wish your child embodied. Maybe these so called "parents" have never heard of John Hinckley, but gee whiz, I know I have!
              Instead of climbing into your child's fragile mind and erecting a golden image of Kelly Clarkson or Jack Lalanne, teach your child to hate certain people, and through their hatred, they will learn to embrace the things which separate them from their enemy. If you don't want your child to get tattoos, or associate with bad people, pick a popular rap artist and inundate your child's life with his image, music and (in the case of Master P) movies. I don't know too many kids who would willingly sit in their room and listen to the terrible things that spew from the mouths of the likes of 50 Cents or Easy E while looking at their graven images on the walls. Once your kid realizes that the "candy shoppe" is a reference to sex acts, your child will shun the lifestyle chosen by those in the hip hopping community. Once they learned to hate the dangerous people on their walls, their lives will change for the better, and before you know it, the fat bass lines of Kool Keith will be drowned out by the mellow timbre of the jazz clarinet.

          Thats it for now. Stay tuned for more tips for raising your kids to be the responsible, frugal, and productive citizens that they aspire to be.


Back in Business

          What with the recent engagement, and the fact that I just now found out that "engagement" means that you are going to get married, and its not just another step in the "going steady" continuum, I've found myself rather occupied. Now that things are settling down, I vow to be a more frequent poster here. So mote it be.

          Throughout my day I always think about things that I want to say to specific people. Usually its something mundane that I want to tell Bunny about, or something I need to say to the cat. Occasionally, I will think about something that I find amusing that I want to share, and I end up wasting it on someone I don't even know at a gas station.

          My aspirations are to write down those types of things here, as I honestly have a better chance of being near an internet access point than a pad of paper. Also, since I spend so much time on the interweb, I figure I'll toss in links to things I encounter, which are occasionally interesting.

          I vow to not publish a bunch of mildly thought out political rants which borrow heavily from The Daily Show Most of the time, I will try and not do posts dedicated specifically to pointing out a certain link, as that often annoys me on other sites. I'll try and work a healthy dosage of good links into the content I'm already writing, so every post will be like a little Delta Sky¬© Magazine issue that you don't have to buy a plane ticket to get for free. Each post will hopefully have as much riveting commentary, as many great deals on humidors, and as little inane crap as possible.

          I guess this will be one of those "blogs" I've been hearing so much about on Prairie Home Companion. I'll be the first person on my block to write for a "b-l-o-g".


Friday, June 17, 2005

When Did I Eat That?

I vomited so hard a few days ago that I ruptured blood vessels in my eyes. The volume of my vomit-fest was incredible. I mean volume in the sense of both noise and liquid amount. I havn't eaten as much stuff as I vomited up in the past two weeks.

After I finished, I checked my vomit out a little bit, just to see what all forcefully ejected itself, and to check for vital organs, and I couldn't believe the stuff in the pile. There were all these things that I hadn't eaten in a long time. A candy cane, several communion wafers, a penny, and some of those orange circus peanut candies all made an appearance, which is amazing, because I haven't eaten most of those things in years.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

to grandmother's house we go

I am going to my Great-Grandmother's house today and she is very old. She is 95, so she was alive during the "olden days". I don't know much about her, because she really only talks about bean crops and riding trains and such, so I have conjectured a lot of facts about her here, for my own enjoyment, and hopefully yours as well:

This is her boyfriend:

His name is Dr. Phineas K. Sherwood, and he makes headache tonics and various elixers in a travelling show. That is how they met. She was a young vagabond at the time, just riding the rails from town to town, trying to make a quick hustle at three card monte, or to earn a few pence shining a shoe.

This is her, Velma Haines:

One day, just after news reached town of the ironclad Merrimac breaking the Union blockade, Sherwood was walking to meet an acquaintance for a cordial, and so he had his shoes shined by young Velma. After she finished, he tossed her a piece of eight, or whatever the hell kind of money those people used. As she bit into it to test the coin's authenticity, she caught a look of surprise in his eyes, for few people doubted the honor of Dr. Sherwood. Just as their eyes met, Prey Soucy, the owner and piano player of Soucy's Saloon began playing When My Sugar Walks Down the Street by Irving Mills, and they knew they were to be sweethearts.

Absolutely none of the previous paragraphs are, or for that matter probably even could be true. I have no idea when the vaudeville era even happened, or who was involved in it. I don't know if she was alive during the Civil War, because I don't really know when that happened either. But I think it was during the time that they had soda jerks, people rode horses, and there was no electricity. Also, all the men of that time had mustaches and wore striped shirts with arm garters, and all of the children had dirty faces. I think the women were all ugly, but a lot of them would sleep around, and they had names like "Sassy Kate" and "Curly Jane" and they stuck their legs out of balconies to lure in men. Then they would drink opium tonics and have sex.

Some of that last part might not be true either.