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The Longest Now

BBC reader commentary
Friday September 02nd 2005, 2:19 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

on the adequacy of the Katrina response, from around the world.  I
wish I were there with a relief group… from the USA Freedom Corps
site (needless to say, a federal program):

As recovery and relief efforts begin to assist victims, well-meaning
volunteers are being urged not to report directly to the
affected areas unless directed by a volunteer agency.  Please
be patient and allow the professional first-responders and aid
workers to do their job. In the coming weeks, months and years,
please visit the

USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network
to find opportunities to
engage in ongoing relief efforts and prepare for future disasters.

I’m all for professionalism and training.  Untrained volunteers
can make an awful mess.  But this is no way to build on current
sentiment.  Start training willing volunteers now; note that we’re
likely to have another killer storm like this within the next decade;
give people remote tasks like PR outreach, name collection, even
federal support for some of the grassroots communications efforts that
already exist.  Get a new server for the katrinahelp wiki, for
crying out loud. 

Without actually
listing “volunteer agenc[ies]” who might direct these energies towards alleviating the disaster, this
is an awful warning to hand out.  Rather like encouraging people to
support the responses to 9/11 and the last Gulf invasion by ‘going
about [their] normal business’ and shopping.  .

BBC reader commentary …

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Katrina Chaos
Thursday September 01st 2005, 6:54 pm
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

Find lost friends and loved ones

FEMA was unprepared.  The engineers in New Orleans, despite insisting at some point this wasn’t as bad as their worst fears, were unprepared.  Even Fats Domino was unprepared.  The governors of
Louisiana and Mississippi were unprepared even to fight for order, and
have already thrown up their hands and claimed salvage impossible,
repair “in the hands of a higher power.” 

But this wasn’t unexpected
It has been talked about and thought about, for decades, by people at
every level from city district planners to various branches of the
federal government and the military.  Louisiana isn’t the only
region of the US that talks about “The Big One
and when it will come, but they have one of the better reasons to
expect it to happen soon; everyone knew the chances a disaster were
only increasing year by year.  We have advanced hurricane tracking
systems that allowed us to start worrying about Katrina long
before landfall.   But what was the response?  Is there
some way to see how forces, experts, and materials were mobilized in
the run up to the past week?

I know more about catastrophes in Texas than in Louisiana, so a few
comments from across the border:  the extensive flooding in
Southeast Texas a few summers back was no wake-up call, either; and
improvement plans made then have yet to be implemented in Houston (to
pick a nearby and wealthier city).  Anything readily survived can
be readily forgotten.

Why are good contingency plans so scarce?  Why are people so
shy about demanding them?  In Houston, I remember, people had
known for ten years before the last flood that measures promised after
the preceding flood hadn’t been implemented… but there was only
occasional grumbling. 

And most importantly, why are there so few community-based disaster
groups who know what to do and how in such situations?  This
disaster proved again that waiting for national or global organizations
to come and help often takes too long.  The health  and
looting problems have worsened rapidly (currently, active Marines have
been called in and the governor’s orders include “shoot looters on
sight”).  People let in the area feel stranded, don’t know what to
do, and are in many regions making the situation worse. 

This was a MINOR natural disaster, for all the destruction it caused —  it was trackable, predictable, and came in a familiar form.
Yet hundreds of communities proved themselves incapable of coping with
it.   Just imagine the results of a real cataclysm.

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Jamming, Jam on, like Jameanit
Thursday September 01st 2005, 7:34 am
Filed under: %a la mod

24-hour extreme prototyping jams
Regular ad-lib game development jams.
Tool-mediated jam platforms that change how people prototype.

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101 Interfaces that Should Be Canonical
Thursday September 01st 2005, 6:40 am
Filed under: popular demand

Spurred on by the heady smell of hay here in the wagon, and inspired by
Jimmy Wales’ blogging chez Lessig recently re: 10 things that want to
be free, I thought I would propose my own list of interfaces that should surely be canonical.

One downside of this plan
: it will push all recent posts off the main
page very soon, and Manila has no archival offerings to speak of.

Another downside
: Manila also has no categorization to speak of, so you can’t just ignore what I’m about to post.

An upside
: Manila is nowhere in
the set of chainlinks in the chains on the bandwagon floor, so I should
be picking up another one in any case.  Look for a collection of drupal (nice translation setup), wiki, the-otherwp (smooth wagon appeal), lj and blogger.  
I would like to separate out personal/science/invention,
translation/interfaces, wiki[media]/knowledge, communication/society,
and robotwisdom/odd-news channels… with a healthy dose of abbreviated
interlinking to avoid stagnation.

Feel free to
A. suggest other excellent setups I should be trying, 
B. suggest which topics would go best with which platforms, and 
C. suggest how open the collaboration should be for each (topic, platform) —

First up, on the list : self-aware management and status ice
for computers (for those following along at home, a few songs may come
in handy in the heady months to come) — auto-detection of the need for
displays of memory, battery, CPU and network monitors, and improvements
on the current bloodless defaults.

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