Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Random fact

Today, I spent many, many hours pouring over a map of Louisiana. When I came to Terrebonne parish, I discovered a town called Waterproof. Seriously, one of the more ironic names around. I'm also fond of Cut And Shoot, Texas, and there's also Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. No other particularly weirdly named places come to mind at this time.

Monday, September 26, 2005

If it's not one thing...

I'm feeling particularly heartless today. I just received one of those forwarded UNSNIPPED emails promising me CASH from BILL GATES if I just forwarded it to TEN OF MY CLOSEST AND DEAREST FRIENDS. It amazes me, after all of these years, how these things keep getting passed around. The first couple times I get one of these emails from a friend, I usually ignore it. By the fifth or sixth time, I reach the breaking point, because dang it, that's yet another email I must DELETE, thus slowing my email productivity down even more than it's already been slowed (current speed: glacial; I need a color chart). It seems rude to send the Snopes link, but aaaaaaaaaaaagh! Make it stop!

If anyone has a more polite way of responding to these annoying serial forwarders, I'd love to hear it.
Stop, thief!

Thanks to help from my brother, I finally figured out who at -- a teen auction site -- has been stealing my bandwidth. My brother replaced the picture being linked to with a revenge picture, and while I feel it's a wee bit harsh, I'm also sufficiently annoyed with the person in question to leave it up for another 24 hours. Maybe that will teach them to steal my bandwidth! In the meantime, it's time to look at why my .htaccess file failed to protect me.

ETA: I emailed the person in question because I felt bad about the revenge picture (but not enough to take it down!). I had to stop myself from saying 'please' and 'thank you' in the email. I don't want to be rude or mean, but really. It's so not cool to steal bandwidth.

In other news, still recovering from the last four days. Yes, I know, it sounds melodramatic, but I'm not the only one who feels this way. I think it's just the build-up, the adrenaline rush, and tension, and it's impossible to let go of so suddenly. This morning on "Good Morning America," the weather man noted a tropical formation in the Caribbean. I just stood there thinking, "Oh you've got to be kidding." My attraction for hurricanes are over, thankyouvery much.

Also, just on a very random note: anyone watch Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals? I love that show. It comes on just around the time I get to the gym, and I love the fact that in the time I can cover 2 miles on the treadmill, she has dinner ready. Now if only that dinner could be magically transported to my kitchen...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

On the lighter side

jemima has been compiling the new rules to live by over here.

I slept through straight from around 10:30 last night until 9 this morning. It's very rare that I sleep past 7:30, even without an alarm, so that gives you an idea of just how tired I am. I'm still tired, but I feel stronger and ready to take on the piles of work in front of me. I assume we're all returning to work tomorrow, but we'll see. City services are not expected to resume until Tuesday or Wednesday, depending.

I had dinner with V & K last night after their power came back on. Originally, they were going to come stay with me, as I had never lost power, and it was getting hot; now that Rita is gone, she's left us with the gift of 100+ temperatures once again. I wasn't planning to drive anywhere last night, but the idea of a home-cooked meal with friends was very tempting. Plus, they only live 10 minutes away.

V and I were discussing our exhaustion. It's not even like we came back to disasters! I mean, how crazy is that? We came back to intact homes, and minor damage. Yes, we have big clean-up jobs in front of us, but hey, better to scrape masking tape off the windows for hours rather than having to deal with water, broken glass, leaking roofs, etc.

The emotional strain, I think, is what's done us in. Ever since last Monday, we've been on Rita watch, and it was as if time had stopped. I kept checking the National Hurricane Center's forecasts, and it seemed to me they never updated their charts quick enough. The local media cut out Wednesday night (except for ABC) and went 24/7 with coverage. As far as I know, they're still at it.

The idea of a category 5 hurricane barrelling towards you, the third most intense storm ever, is a lot to process. I don't care how many hurricanes anyone has been through, but this is something that emotionally takes a chunk out of you. All of that was exacerberated by Katrina, so recently and so close, and the reminder that just over 100 years ago, the island had been completely wiped out by a hurricane.

V and I made the decision to leave on Wednesday afternoon. I spent 30 minutes in line waiting for gasoline, and filled up with premium -- the only option; in retrospect, I was one of the lucky ones. That evening was spent preparing our respective homes for the worst case scenario. None of us slept particularly well. The panic increased big time when we woke at 5:30 in the morning and realized that getting out of the city was going to be an absolute nightmare. We prepared to stay.

I went to the grocery store, because I had not considered staying, had no provisions to do so. I walked up and down the aisles with my cart, completely at a loss. I had no idea what to buy. I kept stealing glances into other people's carts to see what they were getting. People were buying tons of meat (???), water, and frozen dinners. None of that made sense to me. Finally I ended up in the canned vegetable section. There wasn't much left there, so I figured I was in the right place. I bought cans of kidney beans and chick peas and corn -- things I knew I could eat right out of the can. I also bought 3 gallons of water, not because I thought I needed them, but because everyone else was too.

Yesterday I mentioned to V how peculiar that whole shopping trip was. Here I was, with the financial and material resources to supply myself and to transport it all home, and I was stuck. I have no idea how people in New Orleans were expected to transport a gallon water per person for per day (3) to the Superdome. At the very least, they would have to carry 3 gallons of water. A family a four would have to take 12 gallons. Without transportation, God, what a nightmare.

I got home around 7:30 am from my shopping trip. Even in the two hours I'd been awake, my phone had been ringing off the hook. I was deeply distressed about The Fainter who had been sitting in traffic all night. Another friend called and told me she had been planning to evacuate, but was just going to hunker down now; she'd never make the Arkansas border given the conditions on the road. V & K decided to make a run to Ye Old Grad School Town on back roads, but I was too scared to go with them. Even at that early hour, we knew gasoline was scarce and that businesses were shutting down. I didn't want to take the chances.

My panic increased all that day. It was still a Cat 5 storm, my zip code was suddenly declared to be in a mandatory evacuation zone, and I couldn't figure out what to do. All day, I was waiting for V & K and The Fainter to check in, and my nerves were growing increasingly raw as I watched the traffic snarls on television. Towards the end of the day, I was having second thoughts, that maybe I should have left with V & K, rather than waiting for the contra-flow lanes to open (they never did). Between my stress and the constant phone calls, I couldn't sleep.

You know how this story goes. V wondered if the media was to blame for all of this, given Rita's eventual track, but having constantly watching the National Hurricane Center, I don't think. It wasn't until the early hours of Saturday morning did we realize we dodged a bullet. Even later Friday night -- we went to bed around 11 -- that storm was still making its way towards us. All night I tossed and turned, and I could hear the wind outside. I was very surprised to wake up and find we had power.

All in all, it was a 'dry run' for hurricane season. When you live on the Gulf Coast, you know it's a question of sooner rather than later. You know a hurricane is coming and there's not much you can do about it. It's the way of things. Even so, I cannot even imagine how people cope when they come back to having lost everything and how they rebuild their lives. Sure, I'm complaining about the fact that the tape on my windows won't peel off, and the fact I moved all my furniture around for nothing, but really, isn't this a better scenario than what could have been?

Next time, I'll know better what to expect, and I think it'll be less panicky. Maybe by then an evacuation plan will have been drafted that will work. At the same time, given what happened in NOLA and what happened here, I wonder if it's even possible to evacuate a major American city without problems. For that reason, I don't blame city officials. They didn't know where the hurricane would strike for sure, and they took prudent measures to warn people. No need to repeat NOLA's mistakes here.

There is damage throughout the city and along the coastal plains, but nothing major, and the loss of life, I believe, is minimal in our area. There are still issues to contend with over the next few days, but in general, we should be back to normal by Wednesday. This blog shall also return to its regular programming, unless something more deep regarding these past few days hits me. Thank you all for listening and your comments. It's much appreciated. You have no idea how much it meant to me.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Home sweet home

I decided to return home sooner rather than later, as traffic is starting to pick up and I had no desire to spend 12 hours in traffic just to travel 20 miles. I did run into some back-ups trying to get onto the freeway, and heading east, there was some traffic, but it eased up as I got closer into the downtown area. Damage is minimal and I saw a lot of damaged billboards and downed trees. Signs also had been blown off their poles.

At my apartment, it doesn't look like we ever lost power; my microwave clock isn't blinking. However, there are downed trees on the properties. I wasn't particularly worried about my windows, as they face south and the winds were coming from the north, but even so, I didn't see any shattered glass, though in downtown -- less than a mile from where I am -- some buildings did have their windows blown out.

A evacuee return plan has been set into motion. I decided it didn't apply to me because I never left the city limits (g), but it'll be interesting to see if people trying to return are turned back. I doubt it. However, it's quite the gamble as there's very little in the way of supplies in the city or along the routes into the city.

In the meantime, I have a lot of work in my apartment to put it back to pre-hurricane condition. Furniture needs to be moved back into their regular places, tape removed from windows, etc. I have, obviously, plugged everything back in and removed all the plastic coverings from all the electronics. I think I'm going to wait another 24 hours or so to drain the bathtub, simply because I heard one coastal city -- in its attempt to get back into shape -- lost power and residents were suddenly without water. Little by little, I'll get this place back into order.

But first, a nap (g).
How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F?

Rita is still swirling around, but it looks like we've escaped the worst of her wrath, which has been inflicted on the eastern part of the state and Louisiana. As far as we can tell, there's been no serious damage or flooding in the city, and no deaths reported. Obviously, we still have power and phone service, though around 500,000 to 800,000 people in the city are without electricity; no word on where those outages have occurred.

Right now, there are dark clouds above still moving in the counter-clockwise rotation, some strong winds, but no rain. In fact, we get more rain during our daily afternoon thundershowers than we've gotten with Rita (I don't know what happened while I was asleep, though). The afternoon Gulf showers are also more violent than Rita has been.

I haven't decided when I'm going to return home. There's some damage to downtown, falling glass, that kind of thing, but nothing more serious than that. I don't know if there is power in my area or not -- I will call a friend who lives in the area and didn't evacuate. Either way, given the glancing blow we received, I assume it will be business as usual on Monday and people will start swarming back beginning today. I'm hoping the lack of gasoline will keep people 'stranded' where they are for the time being. But I'll be watching the traffic and the minute it looks like I'll be on I-10 for any length of time, I'll be heading home. Of course, I will wait for the winds to calm down; they are still tropical storm force.

So, so very lucky. It's as if Mother Nature has been taunting us for the last week, and then at the very last minute -- literally -- decided to change her mind and veer off to the east. Only six more weeks left in hurricane season, but man, I'll be so glad when it's over. It's been stressful -- I can't even tell you -- and the uncertainty of it all has been difficult. I think coming so soon after Katrina made the whole thing worse and then the evacuation, with several of my friends stuck in traffic for insane amounts of time... no need to run through this excercise any time soon!

Friday, September 23, 2005


Rita has announced her presence, and while approximately 95,000 people are without power in the area, our luck has been holding; lights flicker, and occasionally go out, but so far so good. We're about 70 miles or inland from the storm, and Rita's jog to the east means our neighbors in the adjacent counties are taking the brunt of the storm. It's a relief for us, but not so good for our neighbors.

We went to the park this evening. I was afraid at first because the wind is strong, and while 20 mph doesn't seem like a lot, it's enough to push someone around if they aren't strong enough to resist. I watched the clouds swirl above me. The counter-clockwise motion of the storm is very easy to see. When we were at the park, the outerbands of Rita were just starting to move into our area. It was very odd, because we could see the sun and blue skies between the thin clouds to our west, and then to the east, the clouds were bigger and angrier. It's been like that all evening, as the outerbands move gradually out of our area and the bulk of the storm moves in.

Sunset was absolutely beautiful. To our east, there was a rainbow, brightly colored and complete, straddling the fluffy gray clouds. And to the west, the sun set, the clouds rimmed with red, the tops a light gray. The sun illuminated it all in rich golds. I joked with my uncle that it looked like something out of a Renaissance painting. Think Sistine Chapel and you get an idea of what I'm talking about. BTW, it is still hot here, a balmy 90 or so degrees.

The rain has just started. Nothing serious, but it's here. My uncle expects we will lose power sometime during the night. So far it's quiet. None of that howling hurricane wind sound I was told to expect, but of course, it's still early. The eye is moving ashore around 3 am, and that's when we'll probably get the most ferocious part of the storm. We do not expect to have power in the morning.

Right now, on all channels, it's Rita 100 percent of the time. I feel curiously cut off from the rest of the world. World, is there something going on with you I should know about? At this point, the stations aren't showing commercials at all. However, I find it funny just how often they roll the same film over and over, kind of like the Bush's Beans commercial: "Roll that beautiful bean footage!" The redudancy of the footage makes it difficult to discern what's going on. I am however vastly amused by the scene of the FEMA trucks rolling in and the anchors are beside themselves with glee. "Look, kids, FEMA!"

I think we're very lucky. Of course, like I said, we're still in the early hours, and I'll know more about what's going on tomorrow for sure, but we missed a bullet that's for sure. It's still scary, that's for sure, and it's not an experience I recommend for most people. But so far, my first 'head on' hurricane experience hasn't been that bad. But again, all of that is said with a major disclaimer: we're six hours away from landfall.
Waiting game

I have reached my uncle's place. The freeway was completely empty, a stark contrast to yesterday when so many people were stranded there. In fact, it was so eerie; kind of reminded me of the time we hosted the Super Bowl and I cut out of the Super Bowl party early to get home before the stadium set free its hoardes of happy/angry spectators. The clean stretch of freeway almost had me considering making a run for the Big City to the West, but my head was still hurting, and I had no idea what conditions were ahead of me. Plus, gasoline is a major issue and there are no supplies between here and well, anywhere else.

The wind started to pick up during my drive and were pushing my little car around. The clear blue skies of this morning are gone, as are the benign wispy white clouds. The clouds moving in now are a mixture of white tinged with gray, and then wholly gray. The black clouds are not here yet. The winds, three hours after I arrived here, are considerably stronger. It's certainly not skirt weather and if I go out again, it'll be wearing jeans!

I'm having minor angst over my car and have moved it three times since getting here. I've finally found a spot that I'm somewhat comfortable with. While residents have boarded up their windows here at this complex (unlike mine), they have not evacuated their balcony of stuff (unlike mine). So there is danger of flying projectiles -- things like toys, plants, bicycles, lawnchairs, that kind of thing. But what happens now happens. Material things are insured and can be repaired. Meanwhile, I'm not riding the storm out alone and that's the important thing. More later, depending on the power/phone line situation.

ETA: In just the last 10 minutes or so, the lights have started to flicker. No serious loss of power yet, but it's only a matter of time.
Decision time

I have to be where I need to be for the storm by 3 pm. Here's the current plan (after much, much debate): I'm going to my uncle's place. At least, that's where I'm going to start. If it looks like traffic won't let it happen, I'm going to turn around and be in my apartment for the duration. This is no time to idle in traffic, if indeed, they haven't cleared the roads.

I want to thank everyone for their support, emails and phone calls. It means a lot to me. It's been very stressful. Another friend -- whose evacuation plans didn't pan out due to the traffic -- told me this morning, "The last day and a half has seemed like for a week." Indeed, but it's been more bearable because of you guys. I hope to be able to touch base with everyone sooner rather than later. Be well, and hopefully, I'll be able to blog at you later on today.

Believe it or not, it's absolutely serene outside. The sky is a pale blue, the sun is bright, and wispy white clouds are starting to move in. I haven't been outside to check the wind, but my uncle reports seeing some pick-up. In the meantime, my heart goes out to those poor, poor people in the bus that exploded just short of I-45. It's the most tragic example of what has been going on on the freeways here, and it's simply awful. The only silver lining is that people are cautious, and are heeding the requests to get out, rather than kow-towing to some macho sense of "Been there, done that, no big deal."

I've decided to make a move to my uncle's place. My dad has found some alternative routes for me that don't involve the freeways. I don't know what the true picture of the freeways are; the news keeps showing old footage from yesterday and at this point, I'm sufficiently freaked out enough to not attempt it. I am torn between moving my car from a parking garage (above ground) to a surface lot, but I'm also not thrilled about riding out the storm on my own. As soon as I feel better (migraine; talk about crappy timing, huh?), I'm going to leave. Hopefully, I'll be able to blog from my uncle's place. As jemima observed, blogging is the most important thing.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bedtime update

I'm getting ready for bed now and we'll see what the morning brings. I'm feeling a bit of relief as a friend of mine has stopped after 24 hours on the road -- covering probably between 75 to 90 miles during that time -- and her parents are starting out from Big City to the West to bring her the rest of the way. So at least there's some sense she'll get home, but who knows? I'm still waiting to hear from another friend of mine. Last contact was around 4 or 5 pm, and I don't know where they are now. Another friend, calling from Florida, was unable to reach them.

The freeway dramas are amazing. People in their cars, running out of gas, breaking down in the heat, and just taking hours to cover as few as 3-6 miles. I can't even imagine the stress those people must be enduring, not to mention the panic they must be feeling -- the outer bands of the storm are nearing the shore.

The picture on my television is starting to pixelate, like it does during heavy thundershowers (or when someone looks at the satellite wrong). I imagine this means the winds are picking up. When I walked out into the parking garage about 40 minutes ago, I didn't feel any wind; the air was still and heavy. However, if the winds are going to start kicking up in the morning, I don't know how much longer I'll have internet access and power. Telephone service is already sketchy in this area due to overloaded circuits (my phone has been ringing off the hook from since about 5:45 am, for example).

In the morning, when I can think again, I'll start making decisions about whether I'm going to stay here or make a move to my uncle's place. Either way, I'll be here for landfall-- something not originally in the plans, but what can I say except mice and men?
Wave white sand

My zip code has just joined the list of storm surge evacuation zones. This is completely news to me. I've been comforted this entire time that I did not live in one of the evacuation zones, and while I anticipate localized flooding, I didn't think it'd be a big deal. I'm not sure what to do now. Traffic is still bogged down, there's no gas, and whatever/whereever I go, it's a one-shot deal. I won't get a second chance to make a course correction if the route I choose is congested.

I keep telling myself that I'm better here than out there on the streets, in the heat, worrying about the gasoline situation. At this point, I don't plan to leave. I'm at the possible place I can be right now and there's no good reason to venture out into 100+ degree heat and take my chances with traffic.

If I only I can get some sleep, I think I could make some sense and get a plan together.
Beautiful day

It's hot out, as I've mentioned before, but there are no clouds in the sky and the sun is bright. It seems impossible to imagine a hurricane coming our way, when you look out the window. Around my complex, it's incredibly quiet and calm. The heat is heavy, stifling, and there is absolute no movement in the air.

I just walked out into the parking garage. There are tons of cars parked, but very few signs of life. I saw a empty box labeled "Ozarka" by the trash bin, so obviously there's at least someone else out there planning on hunkering down. I also met a couple two buildings down who plan on staying, saying they don't think there's anywhere safer than where we are right now.

I'm really tired. I keep trying to sleep, but I can't. Sometimes the phone wakes me, other times it's my neighbor listening to the news, and earlier in the day, someone was moving things around. Even if I could get out, I no longer trust my ability to stay awake or make coherent decisions. I'm indecisive under the best of circumstances and while I'm prepared here, I'm torn between the relative safety of my apartment versus heading to either my uncle's or my friend's place -- for their company.

I'm still here. The situation is precarious in terms of getting out of the city and after consultations with my uncle (who has been through Alicia -- the last huge hurricane here) and my parents, I'm staying put unless the evacuee routes clear out. A friend called at 6:30 this morning and she had been on the interstate for 12 hours and had traveled about 10 miles. Another friend called a few minutes ago, and in just over 2 hours, she's gone 6 miles.

Added to this, the heat is record levels today -- 100+ -- and there is very little gasoline to be found anywhere. I don't want to risk driving around and getting stuck and then running out of gas. Unless the routes clear up considerably, I'm not going anywhere.

I have stocked my kitchen with non-perishables, water, and I have batteries for a radio and flashlight. I wasn't intending to ride out the storm, and I'm still optimistic that I can get out of the city, but as the day progresses, the chances of that grow less and less.

So just maybe I *will* blog the storm for you guys.
It's 3 am, I must be lonely

In a little over two hours, we're going to hit the road. Theoretically I should be sleeping, because what's normally a 3-hour drive is going to take at least twice as long, if not longer, but I can't sleep. I know the drive is going to be tense and difficult, especially given the record temperatures expected for tomorrow, not to mention the obvious difficulties of 80 gazillion people clogging the freeways. I don't expect there to be any stores or restaurants open along the way since most people will probably be eager to get out of the city.

It's kind of weird to look around my apartment. It's as if I've packed the place up and I'm moving out tomorrow. And frankly, it's just weird to look at my bathtub all filled up with water. It reminds me of a piece one of the news stations did on Katrina, about a group of people hunkered down in some random person's apartment and how the owners had filled every sink and bathtub and at least a dozen pots and pans with water. I think I could give that person a run for the money. When I've been at a loss at getting ready for Rita, I've filled another water jar.

Part of me is fatalistic; if the hurricane continues on this current trajectory, no amount of anything is going to save my stuff. I don't have a lot of stuff, but what I have, I love. But stuff is stuff. It can be replaced.

The phones have already started to flake out, but probably due to panic or concern more than anything else. You can make an outbound call, but it'll take several tries to get either landline or cell connection. At one point, frustrated, I emailed my brother and had him call my parents for me. We'll see if this situation continues tomorrow. It's hard to imagine it won't.

What strikes me odd about this whole situation is just how much we don't know. I could be leaving just for the weekend, back on Sunday, or I could be gone for days or weeks. It's impossible to tell because it's still not clear where the storm is going to hit. Unfortunately, it's not looking good for us at this particular moment. We're still on the 'dirty' side of the storm, but it could just as easily shift to the east and then we get a nice, mild tropical storm. Right now though, it's at the worst possible place and if it keeps at that trajectory, well, Sweat Sock City, it's been nice knowin' ya.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Getting ready

I forgot to mention one of the sillier things I've done to get ready for this storm: putting garbage bags over my electronics. I'm not exactly sure how that's going to help, considering this is the third most intense storm ever to form in the Atlantic (as of the date stamp on this post), but again, gestures are what's important. Also will be taping my kitchen cabinet doors shut, turning the refrigerator the coldest setting possible, and unplugging all appliances when I leave in the morning.
The calm before the storm

It's been a stressful week so far here in Sweat Sock City. You can see the tension etched across people's faces, hear it in their voices. The lines at the gas station are long. Premium is sometimes the only option available; some pumps are completely dry. The grocery stores are empty -- I didn't even bother; I stocked up with snacks and drinks at the local Walgreens.

I've finished taking pictures of my apartment from every angle for insurance purposes. I've put masking tape -- provided by the apartment complex -- across all three of my double-paned picture windows; I'm not delusional enough to think my windows will survive a Category 5 Hurricane, but gestures are sometimes necessary. I've filled a couple pitchers of water, though I have no intention of being here for landfall. In the morning, I'll fill the bathtub. Just in case. All appliances will be unplugged. I'll back up my computer hard drive. All papers have been gathered, put into a folder, and packed. Plants and CDs have been moved away from the windows. The rest of the stuff, I'm leaving to chance because I'm simply not strong enough to move any of it.

Even though I know I will not be here for landfill, I'm scared. Seriously, totally scared. I hate uncertainty, I hate not knowing how long I'll be away, what I'll come back to. It'll take a few hours to just get out of the city tomorrow. I'm stocking up wtih music, snacks and drinks and will try to remain calm as I inch out. I'm hoping to be gone before mandatory evacuation takes place; that's when you have no choice as to what your final destination will be and you must keep driving on the freeway until the Powers that Be let you off.

I regret not being able to blog the storm for you when it comes on land, but people, if anything, you should know by now I'm a big, big wimp. It's not so much the storm I fear as what comes afterwards.

This is all. I will update when I've moved further inland.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Light Speed

My writing has taken on a new urgency, and some of you might understand why. Currently, I'm working on writing a 'backwards' story. In other words, the beginning is really the 'ending' and the ending is the 'beginning'. I really enjoy the challenge of writing this kind of story, though it can be nerve-wracking because it does need to flow both forwards and backwards. The beauty is that I can slowly reveal information as I go along and things become more clear. The other issue is making sure each invidual scene is important, reveals information in the right order, and works with the scene that comes before and after it. Thank goodness for cut, copy and paste!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Writing progress

I've finished one story, put finishing touches on another, and am now currently stressing over a third. The goal is for a 'non-ending' story, always my favorite kind, especially in what I call 'slice of life' fiction. Still, getting to a non-ending is just as hard as getting to a coherent ending.

That's the other part of having taken a writing break: it's not as easy to get back into the swing of things. What used to be second-nature is now a deep struggle, and I find myself even more dissatisfied with what I've written than I might have been in the past. The internal editor is working full blast, full of criticism. Still, better than nothing, right? I should remember this, next time I decide to take a three-month writing break.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

So far

I'm on a roll today (g). This is what happens when you have to spend the day catching up on all the housework you haven't done in two weeks or so. So far, two loads of laundry done, dishes washed, plants watered, Drano dumped down the shower drain, and I read about a chapter in my latest book about Everest (no, you can never have too much Everest!). Also, did quite a bit of writing today -- all of it pretty pitiful, as if I've forgotten how to string words together into sentence. That's the problem with taking a break -- it's hard to get back into the rhythm again.

Meanwhile, here's an amusing link for all of y'all. This guy built all of his furniture out of FedEx boxes. While I wonder at the legality of using 'FedEx' as part of the domain name, I think the concept is funny and original, and seeing as it's been all over the media, the marketer in me thinks FedEx should do something with the idea. I'm still thinking what that would be though.

I called maintenance to come look at the toilet and fix it. They came yesterday, while I was at work. I came home to find out the guy had caulked the bottom of the toilet. Somehow, he had totally missed the crack on the tank, despite the blue stuff leaking out of it (toilet's white, btw). So I walked down to the office and drew them a picture of where to look. Even with the picture, they were confused (did I mention my artistic abilities are limited to stick figures?). So now they want me to actually mark the crack with tape or something so when he comes back on Monday he can find it.

My dad was here briefly yesterday. His opinion is that the tank has to be replaced. Obviously, the saga is going to continue at least until Monday. Stay tuned.

Also, I think it's just wrong I woke up around 6:45 this morning and couldn't fall back asleep. On a positive note though, this is the first night I've slept completely since the beginning of the week, so that's good.

At some point, I plan to post my theory of media and audience, but it requires more thought and skill than one cup of java can provide, so it'll wait another day, possibly tomorrow. I thought, just for fun though, I'd list all of the publications I read on a daily basis. And when I say 'read', I don't mean an article here or there, I mean the whole dang thing. There are very few articles or sections I don't read; sports, though, I usually just scan headlines -- I'm only interested in tennis, the Olympics, ice-skating, gymnastics and how the home baseball team is doing. Just for fun, I'll even post in the order I read them in, because as some of you know, I'm a terrible creature of habit and I like routine. Very, very much.

Mainstream media
( I used to also read the LA Times, but browser problems have frakked up that site for me, so unless it comes across on an aggregate, for the most part, I can't read it. I also occasionally read the San Jose Mercury News, the Boston Globe, and the free sections of the Wall Street Journal).




  • Yahoo News -- usually where I pick up the Reuters or Associated Press feed
  • Google News -- usually where I pick up stories from world newspapers/sources like Al-Jeezera or the Financial Times of London etc

Just for Fun

I thought about listing some of the blogs I read here, but I very rarely define my opinions based on blogs because I've found -- regardless of leaning -- they inadvartently leave out huge chunks of the story to fit their point of view. I read conservative blogs to understand other points of view are, but I don't read liberal blogs hardly at all. I also asterisk a lot of things I find in "Salon", because it's left-leaning (that doesn't mean I don't agree with it, though, 9 times out of 10).

In my mind, it's not enough to read or one two newspapers a day to get an idea of what the world is all about, what the true story about what has happened is. Most peole don't have time to read more than a newspaper or watch a 30-minute broadcast on television; I'm lucky that my job requires me to be this in tune with what's going on and so I have to read at least this much every day (I purposely did not mention the trade publications/periodicals/newspapers I read to keep up with my industry).

Time constraints and sheer volume of information out there is probably among the reasons why opinions are so polarized right now. There simply isn't enough time to sift through all the variations on a story and come up with a basic understanding and/or truth of what happened, nor is there any way to even determine whether a source has any credibility or not. As I said, I tend to stick to mainstream media because in my eyes, they have more credibility and accountability to get a story right than the average blogger. I'll take Fox News any day over a liberal blogger's spin on the news, for instance.

But a lot of times, I think people just want to hear their opinions parroted back to them and it's easier to just go read something quickly that a reader doesn't have to question what they're reading. I admit, that's why I read "Salon" because I can go there and I know that 9 times out of 10, they're going to say what I'm already thinking and believing. But at least I know that and admit it. To balance "Salon" out, I occasionally read the "Washington Times" or drop by Michelle Malkin's. There's no excuse, mho, in not trying to at least hear/read what 'the opposition' is saying, if one is determined to read only partisan publications.

Maybe it's because I was once part of the great media, but I don't think it's enough to just be a reader or watcher of television news and just take what they're saying passively. It should be everyone's responsibility to actively question what is going on, what the people in power are doing, and if the media isn't asking those questions, they need to be held accountable. Those questions, btw, should cross partisan lines.

For instance, I still wonder to this day while people were more interested in Monica Lewinsky than taking Clinton to task for ignoring the genocide in Rwanda? And I certainly don't think it's unpatriotic to ask President Bush what the heck we're doing in Iraq and what's the plan. Without those questions and without willingness to move past the boundaries we've put ourselves into -- seeking answers we already intuitively want or require -- I don't think it's possible to move past polarization.

BTW, I freely admit to shutting down in the face of opposition, because it annoys to have to listen to other opinions that are different than your own. But I think it's necessary and I've been trying to become more open-minded lately and research before frothing at the mouth, which is why I refused to rush to judgement on President Bush before I had more information re his actions during Katrina.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Or maybe it's Monday

A couple months ago, I was having problems with my toilet. I was convinced it was leaking, so I called the apartment people to come fix it. They fixed it so well, it no longer flushed. So I called them again, and once again they fixed it. Today, I noticed a blue line across the white porcelein and a splash of blue on the tile floor -- probably from the inserts I drop into the tank. Turns out there's a hairline fracture in the tank, extending from where the tank is bolted to the stand, and then slowly creeping up the front of the tank.


My guess is that when I asked them to fix the toilet, they tightened the bolts a little too much and now it's cracked. Thanks to my trusty friend Google, I now know this not a problem I can ignore, and sooner or later, the thing is going to burst open and spill all over the place. Add to that, it's not a fixable problem; they will have to replace the tank. I shouldn't worry about it, because it's so obviously not my fault ( I mean, really, do I look like someone who goes around bolting and unbolting toilet tanks?) and hopefully they have kept maintenance records. Even so, I like to worry -- it's a full-time hobby with me -- and I'm just unnerved at the prospect of having to cough up for this repair. Gah. Stay tuned.
What was that again?

I don't know if this happens to any of you, but I'll be browsing along, happily, and then I'll think, "Oh, I haven't checked such and such. I should do that, right after I finish with the page I'm on." And then when I finish with the page I'm on, all I'm left with is a memory of there was something else I wanted to check; I just don't remember what it was.

The other thing that drives me nuts is I can never remember if I've locked my front door or not. Literally, two seconds after leaving my apartment, I stop and think about it and every now and then, I will actually turn around, check it and it's always locked; I just can never remember locking it. Granted, it's one of those unconcious activities, and possibly not as dangerous as driving somewhere and not remembering how you got there, but still.

Now to remember where I wanted to go...
Is it Friday yet?

September was supposed to be a relaxing month. I purposely did not take dance lessons this month and still no return to the foreign language program and I just wanted to have some time to, y'know, chill. Ah those best laid plans! Hence, I've been a wee bit behind on the bloggity this week.

Right now I'm staring at a mountain of laundry, a mountain of dirty dishes, I haven't slept well in a few days (for reasons RL people know about), and today, ack, I left the refrigerator door open when I went to work. Honestly, some days I think I'd leave my head behind if it wasn't attached to my body. This weekend won't be the slummin' I'd hoped it'd be either. I'd like to put in some more volunteer hours, and either family is going to be visiting or I'm going to be visiting family. But next weekend, oh, next weekend, it's off to the BEACH.

Late Katrina related links: Everyone has a 'he said, she said' article this week, and the NY Times started off with a detailed litany of the breakdowns from the local to federal levels, Michael Brown speaks, while Newsweek wasn't too shy about proclaiming just how Bush blew it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Movie rec

Too tired to blog, but I did want to note March of the Penguins is a lovely movie, filled with beautiful, sweeping images of Antarctica (though beautiful, Antarctica has not dislodged Everest as the object of my ice affection). It's incredibly heart-warming and sweet and honestly, I had no idea penguins were so affectionate or their chicks so incredibly adorable. I highly recommend this film, though I caution you: the cuteness factor is very, very high and if you're like me -- I don't even like animals -- you'll so want to bring home a baby penguin -- or heck, even a Mom or Pop penguin -- by the time this movie rolls its end credit. Excellent documentary, type you'd see at an IMAX theatre, and very definitely family friendly.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Downward dog

I was looking for a yoga schedule for a studio here in the Big City to the West and came across Bush Yoga.

Jon Stewart has his say on Hurricane Katrina over here. You'll need WMP 9 to watch, but it's well-worth it. An excerpt:

"Now, for you people who are saying "Well, stop pointing fingers at the president...left-wing...the media's being too hard. No. SHUT...UP! No! This is inarguably - inarguably - a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government. Remember when Bill Clinton went out with Monica Lewinsky? That was inarguably a failure of judgment at the top. Democrats had to come out and risk losing credibility if they did not condemn Bill Clinton for his behavior. I believe Republicans are in the same position right now. And I will say this: Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. The only difference is that tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina."

Next week, I will try to be good and stick to my promise of only going after Tom DeLay rather than anyone else in the administration. However, when even Republicans are criticizing the President, it's not easy to keep my fingers quiet. All the same, I'll try to return this blog to its regular shallow programming next week. As in the past few years, this blog will observe a non-partisan day of silence tomorrow.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More Bloggity

Triple play today!

I only made it somewhat through my timeline (next entry) due to ::ahem:: time constraints, but I found a timeline of Katrina events over here, with plenty of links to verify the events. They were even nice to excerpt relevant text (whereas I linked it and said, "Go read and find it on your own!). Time stamps are an added bonus.
In which I flip-flop

Last week, I wrote of an incident where two Republicans were upset with Bush's performance, but I couldn't bring myself to agree with them. As I learn more and more, I become more disgusted and cannot for the life of me understand where all the Bush devotion comes from, especially in light of his most recent failure. After putting together a timeline of my own, I've come to the conclusion that Katrina's aftermath was a huge dereliction of duty and the President deserves a good chunk of that blame. Truth be told, it was the picture of Bush cavorting with a country music singer while New Orleans was drowning that was most the damning piece of evidence.

  • On Friday, August 26, Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency for Lousiana. You can read her statement here.
  • On Saturday, August 27, responding to a request from Governor Blanco, President Bush declared a state of emergency for Louisiana, and commanded federal agencies to take charge along with local authorities. You can read the statement here.
  • On Sunday, August 28, Governor Blanco wrote to Bush and asked him for federal assistance, claiming Louisiana simply did not have the resources to cope. You can read the letter here.
  • On that same day, the Department of Homeland Security announced preparations for the storm. You can see the initial order here.
  • Katrina hit in the early morning hours of August 29. New Orleans' levees hadn't been breached at that time, Mississippi and Alabama suffered grievous damage and loss of life.
  • By Tuesday, August 30, New Orleans was starting to flood. On Tuesday, August 30, George Bush was in San Diego, giving a speech.
  • On Wednesday, August 31, President Bush returned to DC, after ordering a flyover of the area in Air Force One. He did not actually visit the Gulf Coast until Friday, September 2 -- a full three days after the storm hit.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder: where the hell was Bush and what took him so long to check out the Gulf Coast? What was going on in San Diego that was so important that he couldn't shift his attention to the Gulf Coast? Before, I was buying the line that maybe he hadn't been asked for help, that Louisiana had not authorized federal entry into the state. I now know, from reading Governor Blanco's letter, that that is wrong. Somehow, FEMA which delivered Florida for Bush last year couldn't get its act together and it never occurred to Bush to light a fire under these guys. The thing is, Bush is the ultimate guy in charge of this country. If he wants something done, he gets it done, come hell or high water (in this case, literally both). Yet, he didn't act. He still hasn't managed to get himself over to New Orleans to look at the damage; how sad is it that Harry Connick Jr., and Oprah Winfrey have been to the Superdome and other parts of New Orleans to help out, but Bush hasn't been? Meanwhile, while the Gulf Coast was burning, Condoleeza Rice was shopping for shoes and taking in a performance of 'Spamalot' in NYC. Dick Cheney was in an 'undisclosed location', and Karl Rove was buying real estate. And all of them knew a cat 4/5 hurricane was on its way. What does it take to get these guys to spring into action? Terri Schiavo?

I've had no use for the Bush administration since day one, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in 2000. No longer; I'm thoroughly disgusted. Katrina was a 'gimme' for the President, a chance for him to regain his footing, the ability to act and look presidential, and restore confidence after the lies and misinformation -- which they continue to perpetuate -- about the Iraq War. He botched it dreadfully. Clinton may have lied about Monica Lewinsky, but no one died; all was lost was the dignity of the office, the self-respect of one man, and the trust his family had in him. Under Bush's watch, nearly 2,000 soldiers have died in Iraq for a cause he feels he owes us no explanation for. And now, thousands more dead in New Orleans simply because he was slow to act. And yet he still has his defenders. If this is the so-called ‘culture of life’, I want no part of it.
Katrina link round-up

This is a special double-edition of Unbound, mostly because I don't think I'll have time to rant and rave tomorrow night. Some of these are from yesterday, mea culpa.

  • Katrina is turning into an ugly mess of partisan bickery, and I'll be honest and say I've taken sides too (though I do feel the local and state governments have some 'splainin' to do as well), so it's hard to know who to believe. Over at the Washington Post, they address facts and rumors surrounding the Katrina response.

  • Speaking of local government, the Houston Chronicle talks about what went wrong in New Orleans over here. USA Today points to Houston as an example what happens if you have a plan and y'know, actually follow it.

  • Despite knowing about the coming storm, despite having an order from the President to act, and a request (and permission!) from Governor Blanco, FEMA waited until roughly 5 hours after the storm hit to ask for help. You can read about it here. If that isn't bad enough, the Salt Lake City Tribune has a story about firefighters serving as PR props instead of using their skills, as per FEMA. And just to drive the point home, Salon goes on in more detail about what exactly went wrong with FEMA. I gotta say, if there was ever a case to outlaw cronyism in hiring decisions, Michael Brown would be exhibit 1. Someone needs to get fired and I suggest 'Brownie'.

  • Apparently we have a National Response Plan. Did you know that? I didn't. And in the plan, the President is given power to assert control over major disasters. If this drowning of a major city and the wipe-out of the Gulf Coast isn't considered a major disaster, then, well, I'm at a loss.

  • Slate had a couple of interesting articles. First, how race shaped Bush's response (it's not what you think) and is it really worth rebuilding New Orleans?

  • Can someone give the Bush family a lesson in tact when it comes to speaking in public?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A thousand words

The following photographs were both taken on Tuesday, August 30.

The Associated Press -- original photo & caption here

The Associated Press -- original photo & caption here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Link dump

Lots of good stuff out there, so I thought I'd just point all of y'all to where it's at:

  • These comments by Barbara Bush took me by surprise when I read about them today. I saw the evacuees myself on Sunday and I'm pretty sure they don't think they are better off living in a shelter compared to their own homes. I always think of Mrs. Bush as grandmotherly type and not prone to 'foot in mouth' disease like her son is. I'd like to assume she didn't mean what she said in the way it came out; we'll see how all this gets white-washed in the coming days. ETA Link now fixed.

  • I said earlier I wasn't going to play the blame game, but now I'm flip-flopping on that position, thanks in part to Terry Neal's excellent questions to a variety of 'in charge' people here. As Neal's excellent analysis shows, there's plenty of blame to go around -- Democrats and Republicans -- local, state and federal governments. A massive and incomprehensible breakdown of communication, aid and planning. Also, it pains me to acknowledge Wal-Mart as an entity of good, but here's how they are helping out. I think it's significant they had more supplies waiting to truck in before FEMA did.

  • The media is now becoming part of the story. Slate has a run-down on angry reporters over here and USA Today has more on this angle over here. And if what you're hearing from officials and what you're seeing on television don't match up, CNN has a comparison.

  • Salon compares the response to last year's spat of hurricanes in Florida to the administration's response to Katrina over here. It's freaky, freaky stuff.

  • A conservative and Bush supporter on the scene gets angry over here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day round-up

The US government has appealed for help from Europe, which seems to have responded generously. More astonishing, Asian countries hit by the tsunami offer aid. Add it all in with the outpouring of private US aid -- which I witnessed first hand last night during my eight hours at a shelter -- and I have such a warm fuzzy feeling for people.

Slate had a good primer on rising fuel costs over here. I notice the President called for conservation last week, a move that surprised me, but at least he acknowledges that if we use less, prices will go down. It's simple supply and demand economics. Though, as I see shiny new Hummers on the road, I wish he'd be more forceful about his call, and not so 'folksy'.

I was surprised by Bush's nomination of Roberts for Chief Justice as I'd fully expected that nod go to Scalia -- who, mho, is rather scary. Roberts is more of a cipher but from what I've read, he seems like he is a fair, deliberate man, and not too much to the right. It's too much to hope the President will appoint a moderate or a liberal to the court, so I'll take what we can get. Still, put yet another 50-year old conservative white man on the Court and we'll be stuck with those decisions for a very long time.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

In between

The shoes are spread across the floor in three rows, divided by size. Some still have price tags on them. Beyond the shoes, there are racks and racks of clothes, separated by size, style, and type. And then tables and tables filled with coloring books, crayons, books, and board games. They call this area 'the store' and when you bring the evacuees -- or guests or clients, never refugees -- here, it's called 'shopping'. A small boy picks among the shoes. He reaches down and finds a pair of Nikes; they look practically brand new. He takes them, without trying them on. He smiles as he looks at them. I hope they fit.

I shift through the remains of someone's life. The smell of mildew is overwhelming. I'm wearing blue latex gloves. The items in the bags are nothing fancy: baby formula, tooth paste, toothbrush, smushed chocolate bars, underwear, baby clothes. Most of the items seem wet, but it's hard to be sure through the latex gloves. I feel vaguely guilty for going through someone's stuff like this; we don't even know their names, only number. "This goes to number 5," they'll say when they bring in the cart of garbage bags, or "This is number 4."

We shake out the blankets. We pat the pillows down. We search pockets. We try to fold the clothes the best we can, and we separate out the wet from the dry. Contraband -- like knives, drugs, lighters, guns -- get tossed into a box for the National Guard. A lot of the food gets thrown out; it may be contaminated. The garbage bag most of these possessions arrive in are thrown out as well; we replace the possessions into new, clear garbage bags. I repack a little boy's Spider Man backpack; I don't have the heart to dump his toys into a garbage bag. Eventually a family will straggle up, and identify themselves by number. We carry their bags to the cluster of cots where they'll spend their nights.

The shelter is probably the size of three football fields, maybe more; on another shift, I'm an usher and it's my job to take the evacuees from registration to wherever it is they want to go. By the end of the night, my feet hurt, my hip is stiff, and my knee is spazzing. But that's nothing, nothing, compared to what these people have endured. I greet each one: "My name is Seema. I'm your guide. Tell me where you want to go. We're so, so glad you're here." And sometimes they manage to smile. And I keep walking, the endless line of mattresses and cots covered with colorful blankets and sheets to my right, and the array of services and volunteers on my left. Over and over again, I hear those words: Welcome, we're so glad you're here.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


I also have no patience for fundamentalists who claim New Orleans' destruction is because of its 'sin' nor am I impressed by fellow liberals who refuse to give because the affected states voted for Bush and hence, deserve what they got. People are people, regardless of who they voted for, and my God doesn't go around drowning and destroying people because of some vague 'sin'. Both points of view, I'm sorry, are incredibly ridiculous and are certainly not reflected in the overwhelming out-pouring I've been seeing here at home and hearing about in the media.
Forecast: Flying pigs

The other day, I listened to two Bush supporters bash the president over his handling of Hurricane Katrina. It was... strange. I didn't jump on the bandwagon, deciding instead to direct my anger towards FEMA. One of the Republicans I was talking to said, "Well, Bush is FEMA." Touche, but I still refuse to play.

The blame game makes me uncomfortable. I think it's obvious New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen and that over several decades, many people covering the entire political spectrum didn't take proper responsibility for establishing a proper evacuation route or protocols or even address the folly of living in a bowl-shaped city below sea level.

I'd rather focus my energies on helping Katrina victims get back on their feet. Whether it's my time or money, I'd rather do that than harping on what someone should have done or shouldn't have done. There so many angles, so many things to focus on, but what's important are the survivors. They need to come first.

Man. I can't believe I passed on a chance on Bush-bashing. What's the matter with me?

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke
-- Translated by Robert Bly