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September 13, 2008

“Bring it on!”
Posted by Teresa at 12:33 PM * 239 comments

You can’t always understand an idiomatic phrase when you’ve only seen it in a single context. Case in point: George Bush’s “Bring ‘em on!” I now understand that if you’re a Texan, this means “I have no prudence, and am very likely stupid.” The clarifying second example:

Texas holdouts urge Hurricane Ike to “bring it on!”

GALVESTON, Texas (Reuters) - Hurricane Ike may be taking aim for the low-lying coast of Texas, but grocery store worker Jacqueline Harris is staying put — in a flimsy, wooden beach bar.

“If nature is going to come and get us, bring it on!” Harris said as she sipped a Bud light beer at the Poop Deck, a tavern a stone’s throw from the sandy coastal strip thrashed by white-capped waves. …

Residents of vulnerable coastal areas like Galveston Island are under a mandatory evacuation order. They face 111 mile per hour (177 kph) winds and tidal surges of up to 20 feet (6 metres) if Ike makes landfall as a dangerous Category 3 storm as expected late on Friday. Texas governor Rick Perry urged residents to heed evacuation orders in such low-lying areas of the Gulf of Mexico that face severe flooding from tidal surges and heavy rains.

Some have decided to stay, boarding up their windows and preparing to move to higher floors ahead of the storm’s surge, which is tipped to top Galveston’s 17-foot (5-metre) sea wall and flood the island from end-to-end by daylight on Saturday.

A Category 4 hurricane that made landfall in Galveston in 1900 killed at least 6,000 people, making it the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

The manager of the Poop Deck, Marie Aldrich-Creasy, says she has no plans to leave. She has stockpiled batteries, candles and a few tins of food, but said would not be shuttering her bar, which faces the sea a few yards (metres) across a highway. …

Tell me I’m wrong.
Comments on "Bring it on!":
#1 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Hmm, I think it's probably a hubris detector.

A very, very good one.

(Gesundheit, Teresa!)

#2 ::: Lockwood ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Early reports this morning stated that workers were unable to respond to frantic calls for rescue and help due to the rising water and wind. Ill advised, yes; lack of foresight, yes. No reports yet of calls saying "We've turned the corner," or "The surge is working."

#3 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:29 PM:

I would amend to "I have no prudence, and am very likely stupid - with a deathwish."

#4 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:33 PM:

Lockwood: Judging from the flooding and fires, this is the one time when "the [storm] surge is working" would be absolutely truthful.

#5 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Rita's evacuation was worse than the hurricane, and the stories I heard from family who went through it--well, I wasn't pleased that they all stayed put this time, but I also agreed with their decision.

I'm absolutely certain that a lot of that "bring it on" stuff is bravado covering fear. If you're choosing between death by being washed away, or death by being blown away while you're stuck in a traffic jam, it's not all that stupid to pick the place with the alcohol.

#6 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:41 PM:

Wow. That's... a rather impressive failure of sense. I just saw video from Galveston, the storm surge picked up BOULDERS (possibly from the jetties) and tossed them up over the seawall and across the road. All the piers along the seawall are gone, including the Balinese Room.

I doubt this bar exists anymore.

#7 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Uttered by people who are the Star of Their Very Own Movie and have no idea that there are other movies playing out there, with far greater audiences -- and besides movies are NOT real life, despite how much we're persuaded that movies and television (and the internet) are Real Life.

Love, C.

#8 ::: CosmicDog ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 01:54 PM:

"Everything I own and love is on the island; I'm going down with the ship"

The idea of starting over, trying to build a new life in a new place, can be absolutely terrifying. She didn't say that she would beat the storm but that she would rather die than give up everything that she knows.

In the big picture, that attitude doesn't make sense, but in the moment of fear...well, making sense isn't always a priority.

As for me, I fear the unknown much more than death. Yet I will attempt to brave the unknown rather than embrace death.

#9 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:11 PM:

You are wrong. What this woman is doing is not stupid. It is, actually, very wise. See, she's looking at the larger picture: mankind. This is a self-nomination for a Darwin award. I wish her all the best.

#10 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:28 PM:

>Tell me I’m wrong.

You are wrong.

(You didn't say I had to MEAN it. Always eager to oblige, me.)

That woman certainly sounds self-destructive -- that's the kind of rhetoric that I associate with alcoholics and others who are chosing suicide by slow methods.

#11 ::: Cat M ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:37 PM:

I have just never, ever understood people who don't evacuate when they have the option.

I was raised in eastern Washington state. I grew up on stories of of the St. Helen's eruption, and I grew up in the reality of what the term "fire country" means. I will never, ever understand the logic of people who choose to stay behind when they have the time and resources to evacuate (and I know that not everyone always does), especially when their explanation for remaining is an attachment to or desire to protect their home or business. The desire to protect one's property is understandable, but in the end property can be replaced, people can't. No building, no matter how beloved, is worth dying for.

#12 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:46 PM:

Think of it as Darwin at work. People who are too stupid to leave the site of what might be a dangerous event shouldn't be left around to contaminate the gene pool.

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:52 PM:

I have been in a few tropical storms, they're not funny; and they're bloody impersonal. Only an idiot with a death wish would challenge the mother and father of breezes to a fight. All you can do if you can't get out of the way is hunker down and hope. Hope is a very thin support when you discover exactly what 'torrential' means.

#14 ::: Rulial ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Speaking of hubris:

Down on the sea wall, Robert Shumake laughed when asked why he had not left the island. Walking with the American flag on a four-foot pole, Mr. Shumake said he had not broken his routine in seven years and, “by golly,” he was not going to deviate now.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, he said, he has not missed a day of his morning ritual of walking along the shore carrying the flag. “This is nature meets the proud United States of America, and my US of A is going to win,” Mr. Shumake said.

#15 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Every time I hear a story like this, I think of the evacuation of Iceland's Heimæy Island. A smaller island, admittedly, but the entire population was saved, save for possibly one person looting a pharmacy. No one said, "bring it on" or "I'm staying with my home," because everyone who lived there knew there was no arguing with a volcano.

I'm not sure everyone would be so sensible here. As I recall, there were folks who remained on the slopes of Mount St. Helens, too.

I've been told that in Iceland, in stories of man versus nature, nature always wins.

#16 ::: emeraldcite ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:12 PM:

sadly, if they survive their stupidity, they will feel vindicated and will only continue to act even dumber in the future...

#17 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:13 PM:

I'm a Texan, and that kind of behavior is considered stupid.

Even though we're way north, we made preparations. The storm took an eastward path from us, but you don't know these things two or three days in advance.

Best thing I did was top off the gas tank before the prices went up. ;-)

#18 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Fragano @ #13, "all you can do. . .is hunker down and hope."

Which is what we did back in 1992. (Chile had its 9/11 in 1975; Hawai'i had its in '92.)

#19 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:19 PM:

I've come to strongly dislike the "think of it as Darwin in action" meme. Some of the people who refused to evacuate were parents; if those families had been washed away by a twenty-one foot storm surge (note: this didn't actually happen), would the deaths of the children have been something we regard with a wisecrack about "Darwin in action"? I think not.

The point of human culture is to enable us to make choices based on something other than nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw. Acgtual "Darwin in action" would have probably meant early deaths for Arthur Hlavaty, Jo Walton, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

And yes, it's aggravating to watch people do stupidly self-destructive things, but if we can help them, we ought to anyway. No Darwinian law precludes the person who's too stupid to get out of the way of obvious danger from also being the person who, twenty years later, creates something that improves the lives of millions. We don't know. "Even the Wise do not know all ends."

The real purpose of sentiments like "think of it as evolution in action" is to reassure ourselves--that because we're smarter than that, we're in control. That misfortunes on that order won't befall us. To help ourselves pretend that we live in an ordered world in which certain kinds of stupidity are reliably punished and certain kinds of intelligence are generally rewarded. We all need that kind of reassurance frequently. None of this is to reprove anyone for emitting the "Darwin in action" meme; I've done it myself. But we should think about whether it's actually true and what we actually mean.

(Mind you, I also agree with Teresa that people who declare in no uncertain terms that they're nitwits deserve, at the very least, to be mocked. See also Beth Meacham's notion, from many years ago, of a legal category analogous to "legally blind," viz., "legally stupid." It was Beth's contention that such people should have to wear bright orange vests, often over their business suits.)

#20 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:23 PM:

Thanks, Patrick - that nicely expresses my feelings about it. I spent a grim while last night thinking about kids stuck on Galveston owing to their parents' decisions; fortunately it sounds much less bad than it could have been.

#21 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:36 PM:

The real purpose of sentiments like "think of it as evolution in action" is to reassure ourselves--that because we're smarter than that, we're in control. That misfortunes on that order won't befall us. To help ourselves pretend that we live in an ordered world in which certain kinds of stupidity are reliably punished and certain kinds of intelligence are generally rewarded.

...And to make us feel better about harm coming to someone else, because they probably deserved it, or at least, it's all for a greater cosmic good. It's a way of insulating ourselves against human connection with people who are different from us.

Some people are stupid; yes. Some people are reckless; yes. It's very difficult to help some people; yes. But no person is worthless.

Thanks for saying what you did, Patrick.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 03:42 PM:

Lockwood @ 2... The surge is working

Twelve hours a day for the last two weeks.
(I figured I make that joke before Ginger did.)

#23 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 04:14 PM:

Serge @ 22: I can neither confirm nor deny that comment.

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 04:19 PM:

'legally stupid'.
Sounds like a good idea. I'd say that people who won't evacuate even when they're told it's a mandatory order, and that no one will be coming to rescue them, are qualified for it. The people who were there with their children and didn't send the kids to safer places, for sure.

#25 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 04:20 PM:

Patrick - I disagree with how you interpret the Darwin meme in regard to this particular event.

Hurricanes don't spring up over night. They come with plenty of warning. People who live in those places know what a hurricane can do. The intelligent thing is to evacuate. There are resources for those who can't afford to leave on their own.

I don't think we say that because it gives us the illusion of control, we say it because we can't believe that there are organisms in this world who are that ignorant.

#26 ::: El ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 04:32 PM:

Have to say I've gotten REALLY tired of the Darwin meme. And I find it especially amusing when applied to people who have already reproduced....

#27 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 04:35 PM:

it's aggravating to watch people do stupidly self-destructive things, but if we can help them, we ought to anyway.

This way lies mandatory evacuation enforced by the National Guard. I'd rather let people make their own decisions and take their own risks. I suspect the "it's good the idiots will get killed" is adopted as insulation against the urge to help even when you're not wanted.

#28 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 04:39 PM:

I've been watching Twitscoop, which was rather instructive during the hurricane. There's a lot of relief and a lot of reporting going on Twitter right now, of people assessing damage and being glad it wasn't worse.

And then of course there are people who are all like, "'Certain death', my a$$! I'm never going to listen to the warnings again, they're just hype!"

*facepalm*

#29 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 04:47 PM:

Thank you, Patrick.

And to the social Darwinists out there: you have said "they're stupid and they deserve to die" about the low-income whites on Galveston Island. Did you say the same about the low-income blacks in New Orleans after Katrina? Explain.

#30 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:05 PM:

David Dyer-Bennet: And what of the people those who refuse to leave have control over? It's not a soluble question, but all things being equal, I think mandatory evacuation isn't an evil thing.

People who don't really comprehend what they are up against may need to have their predjudices/rugged individualism overridden.

At some level I am my brother's keeper.

#31 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:11 PM:

TexAnne @5:

If you're choosing between death by being washed away, or death by being blown away while you're stuck in a traffic jam, it's not all that stupid to pick the place with the alcohol.

Very Sean of the Dead, that line of thinking.

#32 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:13 PM:

PNH 19: Some of the people who refused to evacuate were parents; if those families had been washed away by a twenty-one foot storm surge (note: this didn't actually happen), would the deaths of the children have been something we regard with a wisecrack about "Darwin in action"? I think not.

Not a wisecrack, no. But if one really believes that the parents are improving the genepool by taking themselves out of it, that implies that stupidity and arrogance are genetic, and to remove those genes from the genepool requires taking out their children as well. Heartless? You bet. But that's exactly what the Darwin meme implies.

"Oh, so you think his kids should be killed too?" Is a good response when someone says that (and yes, I've been known to do it too). Sidling right up to the Godwin wall can't hurt either.

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:25 PM:

And I just heard a rescue worker on NPR saying that no, they don't have any resentment toward people who should have evacuated and didn't. Paraphrasing, he says they have all sorts of reasons for not going; no money, no transportation, nowhere to go, or just misjudged the topography of the neighborhood. Some of those are more sympathetic than others, but who are we to judge? Perfect people who never do anything dumb?

Well, I am, but no we're not.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:39 PM:

abi @ 31... Very Sean of the Dead, that line of thinking

A Hero shall rise... from his sofa.

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 05:45 PM:

JJ Fozz @25:

There are resources for those who can't afford to leave on their own.

Please tell me you didn't just say that. What exactly do you think happened in New Orleans during Katrina?

we say it because we can't believe that there are organisms in this world who are that ignorant.

There are. But there are also organisms who are unable to do the smart thing for other reasons—poverty, attachment to someone who will not or cannot move, reasons I do not know. And their bravado, their making the best of it, sounds exactly like stupidity.

Point is, we can't tell the sheep from the goats, the foolish from the unfortunate, or the wise from the lucky. Unless you're one of that sect of Calvinists who think that divine favor is reflected in earthly fortune, you can't read the soul from the outcome of the situation.

Besides, I've certainly done some mind-bogglingly stupid things in my life. I was, for the most part, lucky in the outcomes, apart from that exploding bottle of stove fuel. But when my luck ran out, I am glad no one thought that it was just Darwin doing his thing.

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:03 PM:

abi @ 35... One problem is who gets to define stupidity.

#37 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:12 PM:

#36: Well, it won't be me; but I'm really glad I'm a Beta.

#38 ::: Cat M ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:18 PM:

David Dyer-Bennett @27: I don't actually think manual enforced evacuations are necessarily a bad thing. One of the things that always happens in these situations is that some people think they want to stick it out and they'll be fine and realize right before/just as things start getting bad that actually they really should have left. At which point getting out is either impossible or considerably more difficult and requires the assistance of rescue/emergency personnel.

Sometimes our first stubborn instincts are wrong, and sometimes it requires someone else bodily hauling them out of a situation for people to realize that.

#39 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:19 PM:

While we're talking about rhetorical figures we dislike, I'd like to grumble a bit about people who talk as if some ghostly spirit of Charles Darwin was flitting about, giving the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to various people or animals. It's evolution in action, not Darwin. Bad enough we've got religious nuts insisting that "Darwinism" is a state-sanctioned religion, we who know better shouldn't be helping them out.

Also, Frankenstein's monster.

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:19 PM:

Jon Meltzer @ 37... I'm really glad I'm a Beta

Did you know that, in French, 'bêta' means 'nincompoop'? Heheheh.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Otto West: Don't call me stupid.
Wanda: Oh, right! To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep that could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?
Otto West: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:23 PM:

I think I read somewhere that Darwin hated the idea of natural selection. After all, lots of creatures who wind up on the losing side get to live in pain if they don't quickly die.

#43 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:39 PM:

And, you know, a valued Fluorospherite (at least I value her) stayed in Houston. I don't think anyone here would want her to think that the snarkful discussions of "improving the species" were directed at her.

#44 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:40 PM:

I was going to write a diatribe...and then found that Patrick had done it.

"Think of it as evolution in action' and the like are cues to dampen compassion. But I agree with Philip Dick and a lot of other people over the millennia that empathy is crucial to being human - what distinguishes the machine from the human is precisely that the machine doesn't feel, and doesn't ever feel sympathy or regret or anything else.

I think that dismissing others' humanity and worth on an individual basis makes it that bit easier to do it to all of the people in a social class, belief, or nation, too. It's a vile thread in the tapestry of current thought, and well worth plucking out. As I've been putting it in some health care-related arguments lately, even stupid and ugly people are still people, and deserve better from us than being just dismissed. A person may be doing something that looks foolish and probably is - Teresa's right about "bring it on!" as a marker in that regard - but that doesn't release us from doing the stuff that all people have a claim to.

#45 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Aren't culture and charity evolutionary advantages?

#46 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 06:50 PM:

Patrick @ #19, I see your point, but if someone like Jim dies trying to rescue someone who deliberately defies a sensible evacuation order, I think I would be justifiably pissed.

Also, what Clifton said @ #20 about stupid parents putting their kids at risk.

#47 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:07 PM:

TomB: I have no idea if charity is an evolutionary advantage or not. But I'm also very strongly inclined these days not to care. I mean, there's a certain biological elegance to the brain cancer that killed Dad, and yet I propose to help stomp such things out, if I can. I believe that people genuinely incapable of feeling empathy do exist, and that in various situations that lack of connection to humanity gives them competitive advantages, but I still don't want them in power. And so on.

Short form: I'm more interested in what's good than what's in some sense objectively efficient.

#48 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:08 PM:

I'm going to say something that's probably going to be unpopular, but I'm tired of everyone who ignores a mandatory evacuation order being regarded as "stupid" or "evolution waiting to happen".

The state officials don't always give the best orders for every single person in the area. Case in point: the Gustav evacuation. Damn thing was only a Cat 2 when it hit the coast, the floodwalls held just fine, and the rains were severely attenuated by a band of dry air that got caught up in the storm circulation and essentially gutted it. A lot of people who could NOT afford to evacuate listened to the overblown, deliberately-panic-inducing warnings from the likes of Nagin and Broussard and bugged out, spending their rent money, their utility money, their mortgage money, their grocery money on gasoline and hotel bills that were completely unnecessary. When the evacuation was ordered, FEMA officials assured people that FEMA would pay for evacuation expenses, and there was no need to hurry back. Afterwards, however.... FEMA officials suddenly remembered that you only get paid for evacuation expenses if your house is unliveable when you return, and a power outage doesn't count.

There's a whole lot of people who aren't evacuating next time, because they were lied to and burned up money they couldn't afford for NOTHING.

I've ridden out quite a few hurricanes over the years. I always monitor the NHC advisories and forecast discussions carefully, study the satellite imagery, and make up my own mind based what the NHC says about how dangerous the hurricane will be where *I* live. I evaluated Katrina, and evacuated out ahead of the crowd to someplace above sea level. I evaluated Gustav, realized from the keywords used that Nagin et al were trying to panic people into fleeing (and Aaron Broussard went into panic-mode like he does every single hurricane), weighed it against my personal situation, and stayed put. My home took less damage and there was less risk than to the place I would have evacuated to did.

That being said, staying on the beachfront with a big hurricane coming in is either suicidal or retarded. Go visit a friend who lives somewhere well above sea-level until the storm passes. Riding out hurricanes is only for those with good roofs on their houses and a house that is somewhere well above and beyond the storm surge.

#49 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:16 PM:

My recommendation: Stand in front of the birth control display at the local pharmacy, and each time someone buys something, shake your head sadly and say "Think of it as evolution in action." (What, you think your fitness is mainly determined by how many hurricanes you ride out?)

#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:18 PM:

#48
Do you really want to bet the lives of your family, or, worse, those of the rescuers, on the forecast being always for conditions worse than actually happen? I sure wouldn't want to.

The people putting out evac orders are trying to make sure that everyone is out of the area so they don't have to rescue people at the last minute, or find and remove bodies from the debris afterward.

#51 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:30 PM:

One of the primary vectors for the spread of "Think of it as evolution in action" was Niven and Pournelle's 1982 novel Oath of Fealty. If I remember correctly, the phrase first appears as a graffito written by a depressed man about to attempt suicide.

#52 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:31 PM:

Thank you, Patrick. I despise the "evolution in action" crap, as you know, and it lessens my view of the decency of people who spout it. You're more polite and thoughtful than my gut reaction is.

I think people who say stuff like that need to consider the idea of part-time stupidity. We are, almost all of us, stupid about some things, often for reasons we aren't aware of or in control of. Has no one else done things so goddamned stupid that they realized later, or even immediately after, that they could have died right there and looked like a complete idiot? Or lived their life deliberately in a way that carries significant risk, making a knowing trade of safety for other considerations? I walk around New York at night by myself in sketchy neighborhoods, because there are limits to the degree to which I'm willing to circumscribe my life, and there's no doubt that it makes my life less safe.

I'd evacuate for a hurricane like this. I wouldn't express that kind of moronic bravado if I stayed (but that's not my personality; no doubt I would rationalize it in other eminently mockable ways). But I don't live there, and don't really have any sense of what it's like to have to evacuate, or to potentially lose everything while I'm gone, as a New Orleans friend reminded me a couple weeks ago when I was critical of those refusing to evacuate. I certainly don't conclude that anyone who stays must be an idiot in all ways, let alone a worthless person better dead for the sake of humanity, and I think it's simplistic -- without even considering the implications upon one's soul to dismiss people so cavalierly on the basis of a couple quotes in a newspaper story -- to so conclude.

#53 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:34 PM:

Scraps, I'm off to have a torrid affair with your phrase "part-time stupidity". I love it.

#54 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:35 PM:

Galveston and Houston are not the the same place.

The uncategorical "leave or you face death" warnings were for Galveston only. For other areas the warnings were "if you are on low ground susceptible to likely flooding out evacuate.

Katrina was several years ago and, while this is not a polite thing to say, New Orleans is a city that didn't vote the Republican--compare how Mississippi was treated, particularly the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, before the hurricane hit, during the storm, and after, to the federal treatment of New Orleans--a relief mission sent out from a Navy ship (some small boat or other relatively small surface vehicle that normally was on the ship, that could do landings) going to New Orleans with supplied including clean water was actually called back when very near the city, because the Executive Branch? or someone higher up than the ship's captain otherwise, ordered the ship to go to Mississippi coast instead to provide aid.

And no, I'm not exaggerating, not making that up up, at least one of the the would-be rescue missions members got I think interviewed by the new media afterward and was irate about the situation.

Texas, however, is the state the the occupant of the White House maintains his legal residence in.

The concern he evinced de for the devastation of New Orleans was alligator tears--flying in for a photo op and having the temerity to not even leave the generator that provided the power for the lights for the photo-op, behind to help provide power in New Orleans, even though the main city generators continued to be offline.... talk about offensive, obnoxious evil exploitive manipulative grandstanders....

Does anyone remember what, if anything, McCain said about the situation?

#55 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:38 PM:
Do you really want to bet the lives of your family, or, worse, those of the rescuers, on the forecast being always for conditions worse than actually happen? I sure wouldn't want to.

The people putting out evac orders are trying to make sure that everyone is out of the area so they don't have to rescue people at the last minute, or find and remove bodies from the debris afterward.

Do you really want to trust the government officials putting out the evac orders? I sure wouldn't want to.

I don't think I'd care to lecture someone who's been through this about her evidently thoughtful considerations of her situation, and her irritation at labels of stupidity being casually flung around.

#56 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:47 PM:

I would like to observe that most of the morning and early afternoon featured video and live reports from Galveston. For the last two hours, since in fact the pool helicopter headed toward it, there have been absolutely no current reports.

I don't think that means that there's nothing worth reporting.

#57 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Avram: re Evolution in action

Not quite. One of the designers of Todos Santos says it, in the earshot of someone who is prevented from committing suicide. He later kills himself, and leaves it scrawled on the wall near where his body is found.

#58 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:00 PM:

Good point, Beth. I'm looking at the KHOU forums for the Bolivar Peninsula right now--that's where the east wall of the eye hit. One poster says that the causeway to the mainland flooded Friday morning when the storm was still 200mi offshore. (That's pretty unusual.) Another person says that everything from the ferry to High Island is gone.

#59 ::: Oceanesque ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:17 PM:

As a non-USAian, I'm curious what evacuation support was provided to people without cars, people with limited mobility (i.e. in a wheelchair, needing help to walk, etc.), people on low incomes, etc.

I'm wondering how many of the people who chose not to evacuate did so because evacuation wasn't a feasible, or even a possible, option for them.

#60 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:19 PM:

Beth Meacham @ 56: I saw what purported to be CNN live from Galveston an hour ago, at the bus station.

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:33 PM:

Are any of the folks who were down at the Seawall Friday, getting themselves immortalized in photos, among the living?

scraps, I'll trust NHC and NOAA, even though a lot of the rest of government has been corrupted to one or another degree. At least until they're demonstrated to have gone bad also. FEMA, not.

I just got some more wind-up flashlights. You can never have too many.

#62 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:37 PM:

There's risking one's life when able-bodied by call-it-stupidity, and then there is forcing would-be rescuers to risk their lives... the Appalachin Mountain Club is particularly unfond of of idiots who go hiking up Mt Washington without any sort of water, jackets, etc., when the weather predictions are for bad weather there... especially the idiots who do that in the winter. Other people have to risk their lives trying to retrieve the hikers--or their bodies. It's got some of the worst weather of any place inhabited on the planet.)

#63 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:46 PM:

P. J. Evans -- live weather satellite imagery is hard to fake....

#64 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Oceanesque @ 59 - I had the same question about assistance.

According to this article, Galveston had buses to get people to Austin and numbers to call to ask for help. I haven't heard any reports of how well it actually worked, though.

#65 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 08:55 PM:

abi @ 35:

Thank you. A very, very fervent thank you, 'cause it kept me from a rant.

Oceanesque @ 59:

Friends/neighbors and I had that conversation right after Katrina (all of us living in low-income housing in downtown Seattle). Out of 39 of us, over 50% were disabled in some way or other. Maybe three of us had cars... public transportation wouldn't even have been adequate for the able-bodied. Me, I had a car, so - who would I take with me? If I took person X and her wheelchair or walker, that wheelchair would take the place of a person. The discussions were... interesting, to say the least. And extremely depressing, 'cause the ways out of Seattle are limited, I-5 or 99 north and south, and the two floating bridges to the east - in other words, there'd be the same sort of clusterfuck there was for Rita three years ago. The despairing conclusion we reached was "might as well stay; we're screwed no matter what we try to do."

#66 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:00 PM:
FEMA officials suddenly remembered that you only get paid for evacuation expenses if your house is unliveable when you return, and a power outage doesn't count.
At the risk of detracting from the ongoing flamewar, I would like to point out that this is an absolutely outrageous standard. Given who's currently running FEMA I have exactly zero faith that it is even the correct standard to apply, but if it *is* the correct standard it needs immediate congressional action.

If an official evacuation advisory is issued, FEMA should be required to pay evacuation and return expenses regardless of whether the advisory was right or wrong. Because you really don't want people to be weighing the risk that they'll have to personally eat that cost in their decision to evacuate or not.

Then you need institutional safeguards against the *bureaucrats* weighing the cost in their decision to issue evacuation warnings or not.

One of the main points of having a government is to spread that kind of risk and cost over broader shoulders than it would otherwise fall on.

#67 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:07 PM:

FWIW, I don't think there's a flamewar going on.

Paula, I'm not arguing that people doing stupid things to put themselves in need of rescue (and putting rescuers in danger) is defensible. I'm arguing against calling it "evolution in action" or cheerfully dismissing people who do such stupid things from the ranks of those who deserve to live -- or defining people and their worth by any one thing we know about them (if a couple of quotes in a newspaper article can even be said to be knowledge).

#68 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:07 PM:

Nevertheless, when a snowmobiler gets drunk and hits a tree five miles from the trail head at two in the morning when it's forty below ... I do my very best to save his life.

#69 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:15 PM:

The ultimate comeback to the "evolution in action" idea, from The African Queen:

"Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:23 PM:

It is OUR nature to be less unforgiving than Nature herself. I worship Nature (Natura Sola Sufficit), but Dorothy Day put it very well IMO when she said "God has no hands but ours to work His will." And no, she didn't mean defeating the Heathen!

#71 ::: David Foster Wallace ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:37 PM:

David Foster Wallace was found dead. Police say he hanged himself. He was 46.

#72 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Evolutionary fitness is statistical and contextual; just because you die in the plague doesn't mean you're unfit, it means you're unlucky. (Old, young, didn't have enough to eat the last couple days, tired...) Your plague-relevant genes might be the ones that are going to get into the future, courtesy of a 80% mortality rate versus the 99.995% the other plague-relevant genes are getting. (Keep in mind that when measles hit Asia Minor, entire cities just went away, never to return. Those are not inherently implausible proportions. There hasn't been a nasty green-field epidemic in a long while, at least not among people; what's happening to the Pacific sea lions is another thing.)

The core problem with treating disaster survival as an intelligence test, with categories of failure denoting the sorrowful state of being too stupid to live, is that it's the future, and everyone is guessing. Some better than others, but it's extraordinarily easy to apply some sort of post-facto rationalization to events. (There's a Chuck Yeager story about his tenure running the USAF test pilot school; guy in the rear seat ejected from a crash, guy in the front seat rode it in. Large parts of the plane wound up in the rear seat; the front seat had a defective ejection mechanism. Yeager apparently used this an example of school graduates making good calls. Holding this up as an example of making good calls is wrong; it's an example of dumb luck turning out well.)

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance, sure; in my tribe, insufficient forethought and planning is a sin. Those jump bags Uncle Jim goes on about? Damn good idea.

But you're still going to be rolling dice when it's real. Rolling 7 when the other fellow rolls snake eyes isn't a metric for worth.

#73 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:40 PM:

Xopher: thank you.

My dislike of the Retort Darwinistic aside, I've seen enough disasters to feel all that good about insisting that I know what the smart thing for a given person or family to do is.

Generally, you guess based on what you've got and find out when it's too late if what you had was right.

Meanwhile, the Elissa survived:

... Several yards away the tall ship Elissa appeared to have weathered the storm well. Aside from tattered sails that been unfurled in the winds, there was little damage. A flock of seagulls rested on her mooring ropes and the pier where she was docked...

But the Hooter's is gone.

#74 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:42 PM:

"not to feel all that good", clearly. S'rry.

#75 ::: Southworth ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Rest in Peace, David Foster Wallace.

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:53 PM:

Xopher @ 70... It is OUR nature to be less unforgiving than Nature herself.

If not for that, we'd have gone extinct a long time ago. Not much good in trees. Not very fast on the ground either.

"Then why did God plague us with the capacity to think? Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one thing that sets above the other animals? What other merit have we? The elephant is larger, the horse stronger and swifter, the butterfly more beautiful, the mosquito more prolific, even the sponge is more durable. Or does a sponge think?"
(Spencer Tracy in Inherit theWind)

#77 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 09:56 PM:

Many of the people choosing to ride out this hurricane have ridden out many hurricanes before, and have had lots of opportunity to compare their first-hand experience with the advance predictions and warnings. I'm saying we should let them make their own choices, and live with them.

How many times a year would we evacuate from Galveston if we went every time it was "ordered"? What would that cost?

Thinking we know better than other people what's good for them, and the subsequent urge to force them to do what we think is good for them, is a major source of horridness, evil if you like, in the world. Even if in some sense we're right a lot of the time.

I'm not against all law or even all regulation, but when the justification is "it's for your own good", I'm very suspicious. The laws against murder, robbery, and so forth aren't for the good of the people they hope to prevent from acting; they're for the good of society. While vaccination does help the individual child, the argument for *requiring* it is for the good of the group of children in the community.

As with all real-world problems, there are complexities. I agree the question of what degree of control parents should be allowed over their children is an important and very difficult one, here as in so many other areas.

The question of risks to rescue workers is IMHO simpler (not simple; but that last one has real bones in it, and I think this one is simpl*er*). At some level of danger, if you want to declare a "mandatory" evacuation, I think it's at that point perfectly fair to say there will be no emergency support until it's all over. That's a factor people can take into account in their decision making. I do think that if you order a mandatory evacuation you need to *pay* for it. Although at some point, it's time to say "nobody living there is eligible for emergency assistance ever again."

#78 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 10:00 PM:

When Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel was covering the approaching hurricane Gustav, he reported that several families had taken shelter on their shrimp boat in the port. Even though their children were on board with them, and they knew that the storm could generate a massive storm surge that would destroy their boat, they refused to leave.

Jim was clearly upset about their refusal, and he looked like he really wanted to yell at them for being so stupid and risking their children's lives, but he only sounded sad when he said that they refused to leave even knowing the risks.

This morning some of TWC's people were interviewing citizens who actually made it through Ike on Galveston Island. One was a man in his early 20's who used the time on camera to assure his parents he was alive and unhurt, but hastened to say he'd never do that again. He was shaken but obviously glad to be alive.

#79 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 10:14 PM:

Nevertheless, when a snowmobiler gets drunk and hits a tree five miles from the trail head at two in the morning when it's forty below ... I do my very best to save his life.

It makes sense even from a wrong-end-of-the-telescope, zero-empathy, betterment-of-the-species point of view, if you really think it through. There's a chance he might have learned something, a chance that he might tell somebody else and make an impression. It's not a 100% chance by any means, but in this case it has a much better chance of resulting in smarter people than natural selection.

(Or maybe that's not exactly a zero-empathy argument--it requires thinking of the crash victim as a human being.)

People spinning glib narratives about self-deselecting humans often forget that cultural evolution works on a faster time scale than the biological evolution of behavior, and not all cultural transmission is parent-to-child--which is a strange thing to forget in the present era. My favorite examples of this are all the people who make bold predictions about future society based on differential birth rates. Religious conservatives have more kids than secular liberals, so the conservatives will inherit the earth! (Stupidest version: the claim that Democrats are aborting themselves out of existence.) It sounds plausible until you realize that that religious conservatives had more kids than secular liberals even generations before the Pill and Roe, probably to a greater degree, and everyone isn't a religious conservative now.

#80 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 19: Seconded. Thirded. n+1ed.

As I am daily reminded of, “The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.”

#81 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 10:46 PM:

#68 James D

...and then you show everyone at the next convention you're at where you got frostbite....

#82 ::: Lynn C ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 10:48 PM:

I just keep having this thought, without some facts that are probably known (but I don't know them) and some information that almost certainly is not known at this time.

Some number of people chose to stay on Galveston Island. (My mother lived in Houston in the early 50s and observed that they were nuts, by the way and she's a big "property and MY house" type.) For purposes of discussion, let's assume that number is 10,000.

There was some sort of official pronouncement made that to stay was "certain death."

Before we know what the death toll is, I can't help wondering what number/percentage of deaths would make that statement a reasonable one. If the percentage of those who stayed and died is 100% then it was obviously a terrible choice. But at what point does that become a "Well, they were lucky that the death toll was only -- what?"

I don't know the answer, but I'd like to have some clarity in my mind on that before the death toll really becomes known. 1%? 100 deaths? 10%? 1000 deaths?

Since I did see a news story that said that one land of the damaged bridge off the island had been cleared for outbound traffic only and people were leaving, it obviously isn't 100%. But what is the number that justifies mandatory evacuation? (I think it stands at somewhere over 10 deaths, but if it is over 100, then it should have been forced.)

And you do have to factor in that the evacuations themselves may cause deaths in certain vulnerable populations.

I just don't know, but I really didn't like the phrase "certain death" unless it was qualified in some way that I'm not aware of.

All that said, I'd be so gone. Actually, I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't even want to live in such a place.

#83 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 10:59 PM:

Lynn C #82: I just don't know, but I really didn't like the phrase "certain death" unless it was qualified in some way that I'm not aware of.

It's used infrequently enough in official weather jargon that I agree with its usage in this case regardless of the actual casualty count; it is a very clearly noted phrase that must be taken seriously. I'd even go so far as to say that people in the target area who did not heed its warning should have their insurance rates significantly increased by way of justified punishment.

#84 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:00 PM:

PJ Evans @ 50 -
Do you really want to bet the lives of your family, or, worse, those of the rescuers, on the forecast being always for conditions worse than actually happen? I sure wouldn't want to.

The thing is - those who evacuated might have. If they aren't getting reimbursed for that rent money, that utility money, the food budget for the next month, or the money to pay for their next batch of pills - they might well be dead.

Oh, not today, or tomorrow - but with no home, no lights, no gas, no food, or no (insert here - anti-depressants, HIV cocktail, etc. etc. etc.) they may well be just as dead as if Gustav had drowned them.

Nagin likely made the right call - given what he knew at the time - to say "Get out or get dead". Hopefully, next time a Cat (large) storm is bearing down, the mayor (Nagin or otherwise) will say 'get out or get dead" and people will again (mostly) listen.

But in some cases, the correct answer might be "y'know, that's a pretty smart idea - but I'm not leaving because (insert - my job's just too damn important to leave, I just can't afford it, my health condition won't let me, just not willing to suffer another relocation, or whatever)".

The people putting out evac orders are trying to make sure that everyone is out of the area so they don't have to rescue people at the last minute, or find and remove bodies from the debris afterward.

Assuming good will on the part of those putting out evac orders, this is correct.

Unfortunately, I'm not certain that is, in fact, a safe assumption to make in all cases.

#85 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:05 PM:

Lynn C --

It's statistical, so "certain death" means something like "we are more than 95% confident that if our prediction is accurate, you will die". Far from perfect, but it's a guess about the future, so this is to be expected.

Mandatory evacuation happens when the competent authority orders it, where I live. Toronto had a spectacular 4 AM fireball a couple-three weeks back, because a propane depot blew up. Lots of property damage, one direct death, some probable indirect deaths, and a mandatory evacuation while the emergency crews went through, established that there were no further huge explosions in the offing, that it was safe to return, and that the core infrastructure remained in place. I don't think anyone commented about how there shouldn't have been a mandatory evacuation.

(The whole thing about "no emergency services there ever again"? Elegant but also requiring people to be horribly inhumane to someone they can see is suffering. The side effects from that start at bad and get rapidly worse.)

#86 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:10 PM:
It's used infrequently enough in official weather jargon that I agree with its usage in this case regardless of the actual casualty count

What? If the casualty count was negligible, then it wasn't certain death. And I don't understand the logic of "agreeing" with it just because it's rarely used, either. I'd take it more seriously because it's rarely used, but the measure of certainty is whether it was true, not whether people should have believed it.

#87 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Scraps @67, et al: I don't think the "evolution in action" remarks are made *cheerfully* as a rule (except when by sociopaths or the utterly shallow), but rather as bitter, sardonic gallows-humor -- a response for when you have to either laugh or cry.

#88 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:20 PM:

As I say on my emergency kits page: "Some situations are non-survivable. Think ahead. Stay out of those situations."

#89 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:31 PM:

Abi - maybe it wasn't clear, but I wasn't referencing Katrina. That boondoggle was the fault of the feds, state, and Mr. Chocolate City himself.

My comment about Darwin was meant in this capacity:

How hard is it for a person, who is capable and intelligent and has been through a hurricane before, to leave when they're told that certain death is coming their way?

AND if they're single and they die, and their genes aren't passed to the next generation, then that does support Darwin's theory.

Regardless, there are plenty of morons in the world, we're not going to run out any time soon.

(Yeah, I know, I set myself up for it. All of you can rejoice and start making jokes.)

Karney"My brother's keeper", that's an interesting point - when do you stop looking out for your brother and start looking out for yourself and family? Tough choice.

#90 ::: Liz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:32 PM:

Some people are not too smart as far as interpreting evidence. But, you all sound like snobs. Read this and tell me you just think these people deserve to die.

http://blogs.chron.com/hurricanes/2008/09/refusal_to_evacuate_leads_to_d.html

Why not instead consider the many possible reasons these folks might have not to trust police or other authorities. Where you put your fear is not always based on the same standards other people would put it.

#91 ::: k ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:41 PM:

anyone know if the poop deck lady survived???

#92 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:48 PM:

The previous thread's discussion of emergency evacuation and preparedness in Cuba IMHO proves that all this talk about whether people are too stupid or too stupid to evacuate, whether it's "Darwinian", etc., are pure hogwash.

Cubans don't die in hurricanes because Cubans are mutually committed to having no-one die in hurricanes. It's truly important to Cuban leaders and the citizens at large for *no one* to be left behind -- even if they're poor, even if they're crippled, even if they're stupid. Their reaction to being all in the same boat is *not* "who do we toss over the side first?"

#93 ::: MadGastronomer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:48 PM:

JJ Fozz @89:
You're assuming a lot of things. You're assuming that people are capable of leaving -- something other commenters have already pointed out the flaws of -- you're assuming that "certain death" is an accurate and meaningful assessment -- ditto -- and you're assuming that evacuating is, in fact, reasonably easy for anyone -- something I can assure you is not necessarily so. Oh, and you're assuming that single=childless, which is a ludicrous assumption.
Seriously, as others have pointed out, there can be a great many good reasons not to evacuate. Darwin comments are both inaccurate and in poor taste.

#94 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:49 PM:
AND if they're single and they die, and their genes aren't passed to the next generation, then that does support Darwin's theory.

This has been explained before, but I'll try again: You understand neither the relationship of genetics to human behavior (which is muddied by many other factors, to say the least), nor the way natural selection plays out in the human world. The idea that there is a serious genetic component in play in most people's decision to ride out a hurricane, and that the deaths of the non-parents in that pool of people will remove a genetic trait from the gene pool to any significant degree, is simply insupportable in any scientific or mathematical way. Just on the level of science, what you are saying is nonsense.

On the level of assessing your fellow human beings, well, you seem to have entirely ignored these points the first time round, so I'll try boiling it down to one question: Do you really want to defend the idea that the worth of people can be defined by the one decision of theirs -- never mind the reasons they might have that you don't even begin to consider?

#95 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:50 PM:

The "Bring It On!" attitude is exemplified by the cartoon image labeled "The Last Great Act of Defiance", featuring a mouse giving the finger to the hawk about to sweep it away.

#96 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:52 PM:

How hard is it for a person, who is capable and intelligent and has been through a hurricane before, to leave when they're told that certain death is coming their way?

Because, JJ, in most cases the authorities are wrong. I refer you, once again, to the Rita evacuation. It was a clusterfuck. Nobody who went through it will ever evacuate willingly again. Mandatory evac for Gustav? Turned out to be unneeded. Ike? The flooding on the Bolivar Peninsula started Friday, well before it should have, and people were stuck in Crystal Beach and Gilchrest. Those towns aren't there anymore, and as far as anybody can tell, neither are the people who were stranded. Are you happy now?

#97 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:59 PM:

A data point: I live in Iowa City, which two years ago was hit with a big tornado right near the downtown area. I've lived in the Midwest my entire conscious life.
My response to a tornado warning is to ignore it at best and roll my eyes and snort. My response to the tornado sirens going off is to ignore them because it's never a tornado.

Okay, I don't ignore them entirely. If I'm outside heading somewhere, I listen for interesting chords and echoes as I go on my way.

#98 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2008, 11:59 PM:

Doctor Science @92: Add to which, Cubaños and other islanders have fewer options than mainlanders for relocation, and no guarantee that a hurricane will not sweep their entire island from end to end, leaving every one of them in the same desperate straits -- "in the same boat", as you say.

#99 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:01 AM:

Pyre, "cheerfully" (like "blithely") has longstanding rhetorical use when describing people expressing offhand cold-blooded opinions about other people. If you want me to be more precise, I'll say that I don't find (as you do) that most people who say "evolution in action" seem bitter; if not precisely cheerful, they almost invariably seem flippant, unfeeling, and smug.

#100 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:03 AM:

#90 Liz
I live in New England. When the weather forecasting says "blizzard warning" people run to the supermarkets and empty the shelves of perishables--it's ...entertaining... to see what a supermarkete completed emptied of milk looks like.

The only evacuations around here in the past decade or so I can think of, involved an LNG truck crash and limited ones around flooding rivers.

Regarding supplies at emergency shelters--there hasn;t been a mass evacuation of the populace in this part of the country for a long long time.

Perhaps the rules on evacuations should be reconsidered, and recommendations be made that if people get a call to evacuate, they should try to bring have some amount of supplies of food with them if possible.

But regarding evacution for incoming hurricanes--the bottom line is that staying is deadly, there may be problems regarding food etc. at a shelter, but they're problems only the living have, if you're dead from a storm surge or washed out to sea, food and shelter are irrelevant.

The shelter and provisioning might be screwed up, but is a lot less deadly than sticking around. Where there's life there's hope and all that....

==

Another issue is one of trust: New Englanders often make snarky comments about weather forecasts, but listen to them. Yes, sometimes the blizzard warnings are more severe than the weather that happens, but sending people home early and precautionary evacuations, work a lot better than having situation such as the Blizzard of '78, when weather forecasts was a lot less accurate than it is today, and people were stranded for up to a week and the roads choked with not so much all the snow--and there was lots of snow--but with bumper-to-bumper abandoned cars left on the roads.

#101 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:04 AM:

Prattle on you simps, I'm up a yard after today's games and tomorrow is looking even better. I'll buy every one of you a beer next time I see you. Adios, amoebas.

#102 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:08 AM:

Patrick and Graydon, thanks-- evolution is probably a little more knowable than God's will, but not much, and not enough to base policy on. Besides, evolution can take care of itself. We don't have to help it, even if we had the foggiest idea of what that would mean.

IIRC, the warning was something like "probably certain death". I don't know if it was sloppy thinking, a cultural distaste for making absolute statements (something I've noticed in Americans generally), or a fine-tuned claim that if things go wrong enough, death is certain, but they might not go that wrong.

#103 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:09 AM:

Scraps: If (and this is a problematic if) Gustav had landed when predicted, where predicted... so far as I can tell, the odds of being on Galveston and surviving were about the same as being on the beach at Aceh. Some would, because some almost always survive... even when an Arclight strike of 50,000 lbs of high explosive lands all around one.

That, (as with Katrina) this wasn't as bad as it could have been doesn't really change the accuracy of the report. A wave front of 30 ft, plus an extra 10-20 ft. of battering waves would have been lethal. That's what the best models said was more likely than not.

JJ Fozz I look out for me, and I look out for them. "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I look out for myself alone, what am I? If not now, when?". Killing myself to save them is a bad idea (because who knows that they will survive).

But I've done things which put my very life at risk; for strangers. No regrets (ask Jim about things like that).

For myself (and trying to be as charitable as possible) I am either offended, or appalled, (or perhaps both) by your reference to Mayor Nagin.

How hard is it to leave... pretty damned hard. My stepfather's brother has had part of his house destroyed by hurricanes (at least three times, two of those one season after the other... the repairs had barely been done when the same part of the house was destroyed again. The winds ripped a tree out of the ground and threw it across the street. Had the previous storm not removed the tree in their yard it would have prevented that one landing in the living room).

They don't have the money, they don't have the transportation, they don't have reason to believe the forecast (this one proving to be less bad that the possible outcome will make people doubt the next warning).

Being able to leave isn't that simple. If I had to leave... It would be hard. We have dogs, and snakes, and valuables. We are blessed, in having the trucks to move the horses, and the dogs. But if we didn't... or if the chickens weren't a luxury, but our livelihood... I don't know. It's not always stupidity.

I'm in the army. I have dead friends, some of whom are dead because they did, "stupid things". It has been argued they were doing things which made it possible for their tribe to survive. In that case they may not have offspring, but the argument (less relevant to the US than say, Clan McGregor in the 1600s, but still a reasonable argument) is they have made it easier for their siblings, cousins and other kin to survive.

Things aren't so cut and dried as people try to make it seem.

#104 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:10 AM:

JJ Fozz, you really won't even take a shy at defending what you said? I hope you haven't passed on any of those flaccid reasoning genes.

#105 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:14 AM:

There was some sort of official pronouncement made that to stay was "certain death."

I noticed that at some point the phrase got changed from "will face certain death" to "may face certain death", which seems oxymoronic.

But, on further reflection, I think the modification was intended to indicate that the certain death for people staying in single-family homes was conditional on the giant predicted storm surge, which was larger than the one that actually happened.

#106 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:14 AM:

Terry, I persist in thinking that "certain" means what it says, and that if something is probable but not certain, "probable" is what should be used; and that when people say something is certain and it doesn't happen, the next time people will be less likely to believe them, which strikes me as being of some importance if part of your job is giving people warnings.

#107 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:15 AM:

The exact wording of the NHS warning was:

"Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes will face certain death."

This in reference to people along the shore in the hurricane strike area.

So far, the only people who succeeded in surviving Ike on Galveston Island, at least to give interviews to TV crews, were on higher ground, in multi-unit apartment buildings or hotels.

So no, I don't think the warning was too much. We have no idea, at this point, whether any such houses survived the storm. Aerial video leads me to think that perhaps not many did.

#108 ::: MadGastronomer ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:21 AM:

Paula @100:
For people who live in areas regularly hit by hurricanes, the bottom line is that the forecasts are often wildly inaccurate, and leaving can risk death just as much as staying, if leaving is even possible. I understand that it's different in New England. Perhaps you should listen to people who live and have lived in hurricane-prone areas, and understand that it's different there.

#109 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:24 AM:

Amplification:

Incompetent authorities who are logistical at best ignoramuses are a different issue than the crick is rising try to get the hell away from it to somewhere the floodwaters won't reach.

FEMA failures to competently evacuate and provide adequate food and shelter, don't obviate the sanity checking of "there is a forecast for deadly flooding. The forecast may be wrong and the flooding won't be as major as expected--or, the forecast may be wrong and the flooding may be even worse than predicted. Is it worth risking one's life to hang around, as opposed to possible unpleasantry and bureaucratic bungling in evacuation?

Around here, often blizzard warnings contain the term "life-threatening" and contain dire warnings for people to stay indoors. Sometimes the streets look relatively clear during a blizzard, except for the bad visibility and drifting snow, because the only vehicles out are emergency vehicles, mostly snowplows. If the ordinary traffic were out, it would be the Blizzard of '78 all over again.

#110 ::: MadGastronomer ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:32 AM:

Paula, the warnings you get are to stay indoors. The warnings people get about hurricanes are to evacuate -- whether or not they are physically capable, have transportation, have the money for it, and any number of other factors. It is not as simple as you are making it out to be, for many people. Full stop. And, generally speaking, the people for whom it is not that simple are the ones who stay. You are making analogies to a situation which is not analogous, and you are refusing to listen to the people who do know what it's like.
Yes, in a perfect world, everybody would leave, and that would be good. It's not a perfect world, and incompetent authorities, money spent evacuating, health problems, limited mobility and other issues are entirely relevant.

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:41 AM:

JJ 101: Prattle on you simps, I'm up a yard after today's games and tomorrow is looking even better. I'll buy every one of you a beer next time I see you. Adios, amoebas.

"Prattle on you simps"? What kind of thing is that to say? And are you talking about fantasy football, or using that as a metaphor to say that your predictions are coming true? Or is this, in effect, a way of saying "Look, I'm too intoxicated to argue at the moment. Still like you, but I'm done here"?

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:41 AM:

Scraps: Being the subject of an Arclight strike is to face certain death. Despite that, there are people who survived them.

Having a freeway fall on one is to face certain death, but in the Loma Prieta quake there was someone who survived it for, IIRC, three days; without water (which is, by and large, held to be a situation in which one ends up dead).

Had the surge been as high as was possible, the guy who said he'd never do that again, wouldn't be in a position to say such things.

Given the probabilties, I don't think it was an over the top warning. Did those surges happen? No.

If they did, would those who remained have died... almost certainly. Given the nature of people to assume things won't be as bad all all that, a lesser warning would have been (IMO) unconscionable.

#113 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:43 AM:

Xopher, FYI, Dorothy Day was repeating something said by Teresa of Avila.

"We are the hands of Christ. Christ has no body now but ours; no hands, no feet on earth but ours. Ours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Our are the feet with which he walks to do good. Ours are the hands with which he blesses all the world. Ours are the hands; ours are the feet; ours are the eyes, ours his body. Christ has no body now on earth but ours."

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:50 AM:

Lizzy 113: Wow, I did not know that. Day was still smart for quoting that at the right time, but Teresa of Avila's paragraph is really powerful, and I'll quote that from now on.

I think I'm developing a superstition that people named Teresa are damned smart...

#115 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:13 AM:

What, that hurricane that there was lightning dancing on the power lines outside my house didn't happen? The fact that "the storm track" in recent years has sent storms into the Gulf of Mexico preferentially to up the Atlantic coast, doesn;t mean that that haven't been vicious hurricane that hit the northeast. Then there was the "no name" storm a few years back, that would have been called a strong hurricane if it had happened a week earlier, before the hurricane season ended!

The differences here from the Gulf Coast regarding ocean storms, include that the Gulf Coast doesn;t get nor'easters--ocean storms that have frozen precipitation and come boomeranging back to land are nor'easters--think of a hurricane with snow instead of rain that turns around and comes back again, picking up more moisture in the process from the ocean. The ocean storms carry storm surges, often of eight feet.... No 20 foot storm surge monster's hit in a long long time, but that doesn't mean it hasn't, or won't in the future.

A 20' surge would soak the house my relatives who live on the waterfront in Cape Cod, live in. Very very occasionally the bottom floor of their house has gotten wet from the sea in a storm. They have the common pool high rate insurance, because no private insurer is insuring houses on the water on Cape Cod and hasn't for years. However--house they previously had on the waterfront on the Cape, it's more than 20 feet from the houses down to the normal high watermarks. The storm surge would erode the banks, but not reach the houses--this part of the USA the ground in most place is more than 20' above ordinary high tide sealevel.

#116 ::: Samantha ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:19 AM:

Hey, speedy recovery to you, ma'am.

#117 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:23 AM:

Bottom line, evacuation to higher ground is easier and more convenient generally here, because higher ground is nearerby, and fewer people need to be evacuated for severe hurricanes--it DOES happen, actually, there are e.g. some South Shore (south of Boston) areas susceptible to flooding in major ocean storms. In some cases the houses have collapsing becuase the storms eroded the beachfront out from under the house....

The US Government had a bright smart idea back before the neocons got control... the Cape Cod National Seashore, it doesn't matter if Big Waves hit and erode the beach away and flood out the National Seashore, nobody owns any houses that they live in there anymore.

Before that, there were people living there, and houses that were getting washed into the ocean, nd sometimes the people who lived in them, too. Buying the area up getting the houses and people out of there, cut the insurance rates for everyone else and saved lives and personal property.

#118 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:32 AM:

I think my biggest problem with people choosing to ignore the mandatory evacuation order isn't that they ignored it -- it's the expectation (granted not universal) that heaven and high water should be moved to cope with the repercussions of their decision.

The link posted above to the gentleman and his ailing mother, and the man who was upset the fire department in Galveston couldn't provide ice for his freezer is a fine example of things I find absolutely frustrating.

If your mother is "recovering from hip replacement and other medical problems. She typically relies on a walker to get around.", perhaps that's a suggestion that staying put in a mobile home on Galveston isn't the best of ideas... At the very least, if you won't leave the island, go to the shelter of last resort -- getting taken care of before you've spent multiple days soaking wet, and have to endanger and busy emergency crews seems rather sensible to me.

Asking the fire department for ice, because your freezer isn't freezing thanks to the power being out, and being outraged and annoyed because -- strange to say -- they have more important things to worry about than whether the things in your freezer are warm or cold ... self-centered hubris comes to mind.

#119 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:47 AM:

Now that JJ Fozz has flounced off most bizarrely, I have a question for those more knowledgable than myself.

The Gulf Coast has been hit by an increasing number of nasty hurricanes in the past few years, causing billions of dollars of property damage. Assuming that this (or something even worse) is the new normal, how close are we to the point where living along the Guld Coast simply isn't a viable proposition anymore? If people's houses are getting wiped out every four or five years, can anyone afford to live there? Is it possible to rebuild the houses in that area to be effectively hurricane-proof? If possible, is it affordable?

#120 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:09 AM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ #19 I've come to strongly dislike the "think of it as Darwin in action" meme. Some of the people who refused to evacuate were parents; if those families had been washed away by a twenty-one foot storm surge (note: this didn't actually happen), would the deaths of the children have been something we regard with a wisecrack about "Darwin in action"? I think not.

I've mentioned before that I survived Camille (a category 5 hurricane) in 1969, when my family lived in Biloxi, MS. My father, who was in the Air Force, was on a remote tour to Korat, Thailand, at the time. As his family (parents and siblings) lived in Michigan, my mum, my brother, and I really had nowhere else to go when Camille came inland. At the time, I was 9 and my brother was 8. We lived a little less than a mile-and-a-half from the Back Bay, but only about a mile from an inlet on our side of the Bay, and, fortunately, our house suffered practically no damage: a single metal shutter, which had been screwed into the brick of our ranch house, had been torn off by the storm; it was found in the woods behind the house, when my father came home on emergency leave a month after the storm had hit. (You can see just how close we were to the water if you go to Google Maps and do a search on 1202 Denver Dr., Biloxi, MS; Google's software seems more interested in showing the location of Denver Drive than in showing where 1202 was (perhaps the street numbering has changed in the intervening years?), but the pin it places on the map is actually quite accurate; ours was the second house on the east side of Denver Drive and just north of Kingston; Big Ridge Road, to the north of our house, sat up on a hill (my brother and I, along with our friends, used to race our bikes down that hill), so we were not located on the highest ground in that neighbourhood.) What very likely saved our house from further damage was that we had that little peninsula of land between us and the storm surge. Some friends of ours, who had just purchased a house on the shore of the Back Bay, left and went further inland, rather than stay in their new home to ride out the storm. When they went back to their house afterwards, we went with them. All that was left of their house, despite the presence of that peninsula, was the foundation and a single toilet. It was a scene I'll never forget.

I remember hearing stories of folk who lived right on the beach who planned to stay in their homes, for whatever reason. I also recall that some of them planned to have "hurricane parties." Pretty much everyone who did so did not survive.

Our family stayed out of necessity. The "hurricane party" crowd can probably (maybe even very likely), but not necessarily, be numbered among the 'stupid.'

#121 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:16 AM:

EDIT: (...) ours was the second house on the east side of Denver Drive and just north of Kingston (...) seems a trifle inaccurate. Better to say,

(...) ours was on the east side of Denver Drive and the second house just north of Kingston (...).

#122 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:21 AM:

I have tried not to think about it for a very long time, but the comments here have been making me think about it.

With reference to whether the children of families who stayed and perhaps died, whether the children would be so cruelly listed under "Darwin in action" by some people.... I've met people who would say "yes". Who have said "yes". And meant it.

This was several years back, for some other horrible weather incident. But they'd probably say it again.

Granted, I've only met the two.

#123 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:28 AM:

Hull is the locality on the South Shore I was thinking of and wasn't immediately able to think of the name of.

http://www.town.hull.ma.us/Public_Documents/HullMA_Fire/S001BDDDE

"Town of Hull [Massachusetts]

"HULL STORM FORCE"
"EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

"BEFORE THE HURRICANE SEASON

"Know the hurricane risks in your area.

"Obtain and store materials, such as plywood, necessary to properly secure your home.

"Learn safe routes inland.

"Learn locations of official shelters, Hull Memorial School, Central Avenue.

"Review needs and working condition of emergency equipment, such as flashlights, battery-powered radios, etc.

"Ensure that enough nonperishable food and water supplies are on hand.

"Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.

"Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed.

"Determine where to move your boat in an emergency.

"Review your insurance policy.

"Individuals with special needs of others requiring more information should contact their local National Weather Service office, Emergency Management Office, or American Red Cross Chapter.

"DURING THE STORM

"WHEN IN A WATCH AREA

"Frequently listen to radio,TV, or NOAA Weather Radio for official bulletins of the storm's progress.

"Fuel and service family vehicles.

"Inspect and secure mobile home tie downs.


"Prepare to cover all windows and door openings with shutters or other shielding materials.

"Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water, and medications.

"Prepare to bring inside lawn furniture and other loose, light weight objects, such as garbage cans, garden tools, etc.

"Have on hand an extra supply of cash.

"PLAN TO EVACUATE IF YOU.......

"Live in a mobile home. They are unsafe in high winds, no matter how well fastened to the ground.

"Live on the coastline, an offshore island, or near a river or a flood plain.

"Live in a high-rise. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.

"WHEN IN A WARNING AREA

"Closely monitor radio, TV, or NOAA Weather Radio for official bulletins.

"Complete preparation activities, such as putting up storm shutters, storing loose objects, etc.

"Follow instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if told to do so!

"If evacuating , leave early (if possible, in daylight). Stay with friends or relatives, at a low-rise inland hotel/motel, or go to a predesignated public shelter outside a flood zone.

"Leave mobile homes in any case.

"Notify neighbors and a family member outside of the warned area of your evacuation plans.

"Put food and water out for a pet if you cannot take it with you. Public health regulations do not allow pets in public shelters, nor do most hotels/motels allow them.

"WHAT TO BRING TO A SHELTER

"First-aid kit; medicine; baby food and diapers; cards; games; books; toiletries; battery-powered radio; flashlight (one per person); extra batteries: blankets or sleeping bags; identification, valuable papers (insurance), and cash.

"REMINDER!!! IF YOU ARE TOLD TO LEAVE, DO SO IMMEDIATELY!

"IF STAYING IN A HOME

"Only stay in a home if you have NOT been ordered to leave. Stay inside a well constructed building. In structures, such as a home, examine the building and plan in advance what you will do if winds become strong. Strong winds can produce deadly missiles and structural failure."

===================================


http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=13515&tid=282&cid=6879

"Digging into Hurricanes
"By Michael Carlowicz
"Source: Woods Hole Currents"

21 SEPTEMBER 1938 - ...the Great New England ...Sustained winds exceeded 121 mph, and a gust of 186 mph .. recorded...storm surge reached 20 feet...wave heights reached 50 feet...

... models suggests that a ...4 hurricane would drown John F. Kennedy International Airport under 20 feet of water and would flood the Holland and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels and the subways.

"25 AUGUST 1635 - the Great Colonial Hurricane ...storm surge over 20 feet."


More on blizzards:

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-blizzards.htm

"...the storm system must a reach certain level of intensity to differentiate a blizzard from a general winter storm. One such criterion is wind speed. The sustained wind speeds in genuine blizzards exceed 35 mph (approximately 53 kph)....During the Blizzard of 1978, sustained winds of 100 mph (approximately 161 kph) were recorded in Ohio, along with a record low barometric pressure of 28.28 inches (71.83 cm).

#124 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:39 AM:

I think Scraps is starting to sound a little stupid about the "certain death" prediction.

He seems to be forgetting the timing. And implicit in that is that it could be wrong. But the best guess of the weathermen was that, wherever the storm hit, there was going to be an overwhelming combination of surge and waves. And if that hit Galveston, with its combination of population and geography...

Evacuation takes time. And some things you can delay a little. If last out in your evacuation plan are your emergency services, you can look at more recent forecasts. You can look at where they are, and how safe the fire houses are when the storm hits.

"Certain death" was the prediction, when that huge surge was expected, with waves and water wrecking Galveston. Expect, they implied, your house to collapse around you, and to be trapped in the rubble while the sea comes in. Expect to be drowned. Expect to be feeding the fishes if you stay.

But evacuation in the USA seems to be a case of fuck the poor and huddled masses.

Great country you live in.

#125 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:06 AM:

#124 Dave

Galvestion's inhabitants and their works were washed away/obliterate by a hurricane at the start of the 18th century. For decades scientists and the scientifically literate concerned types, have been warning that Galveston remains highly susceptible to having its inhabitants and their works obliterated by a hurrican.

#126 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:09 AM:

Paula Lieberman (#123): Hull is on (or just "is") a narrow, low-lying peninsula and is somewhat of a special case for this area; I suspect Winthrop has similar concerns. Evacuation to higher ground is still significantly easier for either than it is for a place like Galveston.

#127 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 07:24 AM:

“If nature is going to come and get us, bring it on!”

Well.

I read this book "The Way of Myth" (a collection of interviews with Joseph Campbell), where he said something that stuck in my mind: We have forgotten how often people once used to get mad at the gods. It wasn't always that they saw nature as beyond all reproach.

When they were struck by nature's misfortunes -- storms, earthquakes, plagues, failed crops, dead livestock -- they assumed that the gods "did" this to them.

But they did not automatically react with "What have we done to deserve this?" (Is that something we've been conditioned to say?)

Anger can also be a form of honest despair... like Job's complaint that God was being unfair to him.

But we've come a long way since Job. Now it's come to this:
“If nature is going to come and get us, bring it on!”

Ah, the wisdom of the ages.

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 07:56 AM:

JJ Fozz @ 101... Adios, amoebas.

Puns? To quote Lois Lane in 1978's Superman, "That's my beat."

That being said...
Huh?

#129 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 08:12 AM:

Serge @ 128:
Huh?
Did you read JJ Fozz' comments in the various RNC related threads? He's opposed to paying attention to actual facts ("mindless details", as he calls them) and thinks everything that's needed to dismiss fact-based observations is to call them "hyped crap". So he's not joking- it was apparently his (kinda confused) attempt at a serious flame.

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 08:24 AM:

Raphael @ 129... Oh, that's what it was. I stayed away from most of the political discussions this last week because I just didn't need the grief and frustration when I was getting plenty of that at the office.

#131 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 09:12 AM:

#124

That should have been 19th, not 18th century. It was the year 1900 or so when it happened

#127 Christopher

Hull gets evacuated on a not-rare basis.... my points included that most of the region is high enough that even a ferocious storm surge wouldn't flood it significantly, and that some of areas that are the most susceptible to ocean storm flooding, are off-limits to deveopment/have had what houses and commerce that once were there, removed--either wrecked by storm or exposure and banned from rebuilding, or taken by eminent domain or otherwise acquired by federal, state, or local government or a private conservation non-profit agency (including donation by owners... such organizations include the Audobon Society, the Trustees for Reservations, and other) and then kept in a state where if the waters pour in, the cost to the US taxpayer, people paying insurance premiums, etc., for search, rescue, recovery, demolition, rebuilding, clenup, etc, is minimal.

There's been argument for decades about the redevelopment and continued development on Galveston and in low-lying coastal areas in general--amd about policies that permitted/encouraged removing e.g. waterfront mangrove forests and replacing them with beaches aimed at attracting recreation-minded humans out having fun in the sun, tourist hotels, expensive houses, parking lots for the human visitors, and commercial establishments catering to human visitors.

#132 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 09:13 AM:

#124

That should have been 19th, not 18th century. It was the year 1900 or so when it happened

#127 Christopher

Hull gets evacuated on a not-rare basis.... my points included that most of the region is high enough that even a ferocious storm surge wouldn't flood it significantly, and that some of areas that are the most susceptible to ocean storm flooding, are off-limits to deveopment/have had what houses and commerce that once were there, removed--either wrecked by storm or exposure and banned from rebuilding, or taken by eminent domain or otherwise acquired by federal, state, or local government or a private conservation non-profit agency (including donation by owners... such organizations include the Audobon Society, the Trustees for Reservations, and other) and then kept in a state where if the waters pour in, the cost to the US taxpayer, people paying insurance premiums, etc., for search, rescue, recovery, demolition, rebuilding, clenup, etc, is minimal.

There's been argument for decades about the redevelopment and continued development on Galveston and in low-lying coastal areas in general--amd about policies that permitted/encouraged removing e.g. waterfront mangrove forests and replacing them with beaches aimed at attracting recreation-minded humans out having fun in the sun, tourist hotels, expensive houses, parking lots for the human visitors, and commercial establishments catering to human visitors.

#133 ::: Lynn C ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:01 AM:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6000366.html

has a story from Galveston of non-evacuees. Including a 79 year old in a wheelchair. Somehow the "registered for .... assistance" and the "increasingly frantic" telephone calls don't sound like someone who didn't want to evacuate.

#134 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:53 AM:

I think what frustrates me most about post-disaster reactions in this country is the tendency to ignore the operation of luck. Evacuating for Rita was only a "waste" because the storm turned. (It was a clusterf*ck for other reasons.) Galveston narrowly escaped emerging from Ike as a scraped-clean sandbar because the eye came up the bay instead of 20 miles down the coast. These things did not happen because plucky humans decided to thumb their noses at nature, it was pure-D luck. Roll of the dice. And don't try to tell me it's the weathercasters' fault, they do the best they can with the information they have. Unfortunately, their models didn't account for storms like Ike, with a low-for-its-size windspeed and a high-for-its-windspeed surge, because the models were developed based on historical observation and we've never seen anything like Ike. It's an anomaly storm, in a season full of anomalies.

Lynn @133: That's terrifying, and a clear failure of the system. Now can we balance that story against all the people who were begged to leave and did not? The elderly woman referenced by Liz at comment 90 refused assisted evacuation early on Friday, and then had to be rescued later. There was assistance available, both straight-up transportation for the able-bodied and more for special-needs evacuees, and YES people took their pets. As of this morning, there are over 1200 people in the Dallas convention center, and the city's nearby pet shelter is housing 87 dogs, 9 cats, 11 birds, two lizards, a rabbit and a ferret.

And Galveston will be rebuilt because it's necessary. New Orleans is necessary. Port Fourchon and Cameron, LA, rebuilt after Rita and will rebuild again after Gustav and Ike because they're necessary. As long as we have barge traffic down the Mississippi, rigs in the Gulf, and active ports facing the Caribbean, we cannot retreat from the coast.

... I'm starting to wish we could treat hurricanes like wildfires. Even when you see video of folks who refuse to evacuate spraying down their roof with a garden hose, they never seem to expect the fire department to be standing there with them.

#135 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Serge, #128: ... Adios, amoebas...Huh?

That may have been the only comprehensible part of that post. It's from a Far Side cartoon (scroll to the bottom; a small version is on the left).

#136 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Wrenlet @ 134 -
And Galveston will be rebuilt because it's necessary. New Orleans is necessary. Port Fourchon and Cameron, LA, rebuilt after Rita and will rebuild again after Gustav and Ike because they're necessary. As long as we have barge traffic down the Mississippi, rigs in the Gulf, and active ports facing the Caribbean, we cannot retreat from the coast.

Not completely accurate.

There has to be a port somewhere in the vicinity of the Mississippi delta - too much cargo comes down and goes up the river for there not to be. There have to be support facilities and refineries for the Gulf oil rigs. There have to be ports to service Gulf of Mexico cargo traffic.

There do not have to be cities in those locations - just people working there. We could - if we chose to - treat those vitally important locations in the way that, say, Canada and Alaska treat remote, but vitally important, resource extraction sites (oil wells, diamond mines, etc.) - fortify the hell out of them to withstand the local climate, treat them as hazardous duty locations, and pay the people willing to work there - without family, without much in the way of recreation, etc. - a hell of a lot to do their jobs, and keep each tour of duty - six months to a year, say.

Require that all buildings in the area meet hurricane-resistant/proof standards (on high(er) ground, using concrete and storm-resistant construction, with backup generators, steel storm shutters for windows, etc.) - they don't have to look like fortresses, they just have to act like it, at least against hurricanes.

Set up infrastructure in the area to be as hurricane-resistant as possible - storm drains and flood systems designed to take 1000% of normal traffic, no overhead lines for anything, some way of hardening cell towers, etc. against hurricane force winds (maybe extensible, so they can be retracted down into concrete silos in advance of a storm?), a system of smaller, overly redundant power generation sites - you forego efficiency for redundancy, in this case, because even if some of your generators go offline, you still have some power. Same with transmission systems - make everything flexibly routable to some (block?) level, so that if one chunk of the grid goes down, you can still get water, power, etc. to the location by re-routing through another chunk of the grid.

This could be done. It would be expensive, and would cause a great deal of turmoil (if only in the "we're taking your house. Here's a half-million dollars. Go the hell somewhere where hurricanes won't force evacuation three times a year). It's questionable whether this is necessary - yet. But it could be done - and eventually will be, because we will have no choice, if the hurricane season continues to get worse.

#137 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 11:52 AM:

A simpler alternative to Scott Taylor's plan.

Require all housing to be a certain distance inland, or a certain elevation. Allow essential businesses to build on the coast, but require them to have park-and-ride bus service from central locations in the residential communities. Employees are not allowed to drive to work - no parking available there (except perhaps for a few handicapped spots) but parking and bus are free for workers from the park-and-ride locations.

Most employees should be able to live within a 1 hour bus ride (using an "express" park-and-ride bus to the workplace.) Busses, rather than light rail, is suggested because the busses can be diverted to evacuation duty when necessary. Park-and-ride locations should be served by local public transit in the residential areas, as well, so people can bus from home to the central location, and then from the central location to costal jobs.

Smaller businesses could have a cooperative park-and-ride, with one bus serving several businesses in an area, while large businesses might have several dedicated busses.

The risk of hurricane isn't the same as the risks in remote Alaska. It is a few days of danger a year, not several months. There are plenty of safe areas close by. And it isn't a difficult or dangerous post routinely. There is no need to keep people constantly away, just a need to keep human activity that doesn't need to be there a fairly short distance away, avoiding the danger of flooding, and to be able to evacuate those who have to be working there when danger approaches.

Building codes for both residential communities and costal work areas need to be updated to meet the safety requirements - most homes should be buit to allow shelter-in-place from winds, and high enough to avoid risk from storm surges.

#138 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 11:54 AM:

Scott @136: The reason that works in the Arctic is because for about 99% of the population, the ONLY reason to endure typical weather conditions for the area is if someone is paying you. If you seriously propose to do the same thing at a temperate latitude, the only way to prevent a Rugged Individualist from buying up a plot of land and planting a house on it is for the government to own every square inch of the U.S. Gulf Coast, and forever resist the urge to take advantage of the 300+ non-hurricane-struck days per year. Good luck with that.

#139 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:00 PM:

Scott: there IS no high(er) ground anywhere near Houston. It does not exist. Period. And there's no way that Houston (the fourth-largest city in the US) will be abandoned until the waves are lapping at the steps of City Hall; even then, I'm betting there will be dikes put in. The Houston metro area goes from Galveston all the way up to Conroe, which is 90 minutes away up I-45. That's a lot of people to buy out. "Here's money. Go away," might work for Galveston Island, and I'm sure it'll work for the obliterated communities of Crystal Beach and Gilchrist, but what about Brazoria, Jefferson, or Orange Counties? All those refinery workers need to live somewhere, you know.

Southeast Texas is my home. I would like the Fluorosphere to keep that in mind. I'm all for wild ideas that will make my home livable as long as possible, but please don't forget that we love it there, even if you don't understand why.

#140 ::: wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:07 PM:

Ursula L @137: Requiring all non-essential structures to be X amount inland would run up against both property-rights factions and business factions. I think we're more likely to eventually see Cuban-style evacuations, and THAT offends the deep "no collective action" and "no trust of government" sentiments that seem somehow endemic to modern America.

#141 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 12:38 PM:

Paula @132 - It was, in fact, exactly 1900 - September 8th, semi-coincidentally. So it _was_ the 18th century still, and would be for another few months.

(Seeing the hand-drawn weather map of it in Wikipedia does give one a sense of about that much antiquity, doesn't it?)

In 1900, Wikipedia notes, Galvestonians had the example of nearby Indianola, flattened in 1875 and again in 1886, to look back at... today, we had New Orleans. Doesn't seem to have really produced the desired effects in either case.

Dave "Y1.9K problems" DeLaney

#142 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:03 PM:

wrenlet, 140,
(and Ursula L, and Scott Taylor, and TexAnne)

I could see a slow ramping-up of increasingly rigorous housing codes, similar to what California has done re: earthquakes and wildfires.

What I would like to see is a no-permanent-housing rule for sandbar, excuse me, "barrier" islands. Hotels, summer rentals, etc, sure, but permanent housing? That doesn't seem to make sense.

TexAnne, I'd be particularly interested in your opinion of those kinds of changes.

#143 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:19 PM:

don delney (142): What I would like to see is a no-permanent-housing rule for sandbar, excuse me, "barrier" islands.

In principle, I agree with you, but what do we do about the ~40,000 permanent residents on the piece of land* I'm sitting on right now? And their businesses? And their schools, libraries, and other government structures/institutions?

And when you're through kicking out those ~40,000 people, what are you going to do about the ~10,000 more living on the low-lying islands right behind the barrier beach? How about the low-lying shoreline behind that which is bound to flood in a hurricane?

*off Long Island, not the Gulf Coast

#144 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:25 PM:

David @141 and Paula @132 -
1900 might still fall within the 18. jahrhunderts, perhaps, but surely the 19th Century?

#145 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:31 PM:

David DeLaney: Paula's initial remark may have been confused, but yours definitely is. The years 1801 through 1900 made up the 19th century, not the 18th.

#146 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:35 PM:

@144

or perhaps not? I always get confused by "jahrhunderts".

#147 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:46 PM:

When I attended the ALA annual conference in New Orleans (first large group to bring a meeting to the city; weird being treated as a hero just for showing up for lectures and programs!), I was told by a native that one of the biggest reasons why New Orleans was devastated was that there had been a great deal of construction in the wetlands between the city and the open ocean. The wetlands would act to slow down the storm; but with so much luxury housing going up, they no longer function properly. So, for me, first order or reconstruction is to restore the delta wetlands.

As someone who resides in about the second circle of the Atlantic hurricane bulls'eye, I can tell you the biggest problem is that, whenever you experience many near misses, you tend to become skeptical of the predictions. And then it hits. On the other hand, where my house is (a natural rise in the Miami Ridge) and the way it's built (one floor, low ceiling, small pitch roof), we can probably survive most hits except a category five. The house even survived Andrew. The funny thing, the newest contruction in the area is two story, pitched roof, luxury housing. In other words, hurricane meat. Go figure.

Sorry about the long post.

#148 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Xopher @111:
Let me help with the translation of that post: "I'm a troll. Ph33r m3."

#149 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:28 PM:

geekosaur 148: That's just it. While JJ's first ever comment was disemvowelled, he (I'm guessing) hasn't been so trollish in between. Commented on several threads, even. Not the usual troll pattern.

#150 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:30 PM:

@147

Your description of "hurricane meat" housing style interests me greatly because the two-storey peaked roof Cape or Saltbox style house is precisely the *right* style for, um, New England winters: compact floorplan with stacked living space is more efficient to heat and snow is more apt to slide off a steeply peaked roof than a shallow one.

Whereas in hurricane country the aerodynamic value of a shallow pitch roof and low wall frontage is more important. (Now when we start getting hurricanes *and* snowstorms in the same climate, then is a good time to come up with new housing styles!)

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:46 PM:

debcha @ 135... So, that's why that pun sounded familiar. (At least, I make my own, dreadful as they often are.) That being said, yes, that was the only comprehensible part of that post.

#152 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:58 PM:

Dave Bell, perhaps so, but in my defense, the ground the phrase "certain death" was covering changed after my last post on the matter. The "certain death" quoted by Beth was considerably more specific. When I was disputing the use of the phrase -- or rather, the correctness of using the phrase whether it turned out to be true or not -- nothing so specific had been quoted.

The first instance:

There was some sort of official pronouncement made that to stay was "certain death."

which was followed by

It's used infrequently enough in official weather jargon that I agree with its usage in this case regardless of the actual casualty count

and

That, (as with Katrina) this wasn't as bad as it could have been doesn't really change the accuracy of the report.

Note that at this point we still hadn't had any specificity. Remember that orders of evacuation were general. So far as I could tell, what was being defended was telling people who resisted the general evacuation that they were facing "certain death". If I was being stupid in thinking that, if death were in fact far from certain, this was a counterproductive use of the phrase, I wasn't alone: see Lynn C's 82, MadGastronomer's 93, and TexAnne's 96.

Then in 107 Beth posted:

"Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes will face certain death."

This in reference to people along the shore in the hurricane strike area.

And I haven't had a chance to post since then. I hope you can see that this is a much more constrained use of the phrase, and I was never arguing against its use in this kind of context, where "certain" does indeed seem to mean "certain."

Sorry for going on so long. I don't mind being thought stupid, but I want to make sure it's for what I'm actually arguing.

#153 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Thena @150: actually,according to some experts, the optimum hurricane survival house is a dome with good air circulation. People have begun building this style using balloon framing (don't ask, I'm no expert) in some areas, but they are still rare. Otherwise, the Keys construction of a house on stilts with very open plans and lots of windows works too.

There have been plans to build what are basically arcologies in downtown Miami: see this one. It's standing out there waving its hands, yelling "me,me" at passing hurricanes.

#154 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Mary Aileen, 143,

In principle, I agree with you, but what do we do about the ~40,000 permanent residents on the piece of land* I'm sitting on right now? And their businesses? And their schools, libraries, and other government structures/institutions?
Yeah, that's one of the reasons why I'd "like" to see things change, as opposed to having an actual plan to change them.

I've thought about the "how do you convince people to move" problem for a while, and there don't seem to be many easy answers. A better question might be: how many people can live on one of those islands and still be guaranteed that they can all be evacuated when necessary? It would make sense to either scale up the infrastructure to the population, or cap the population and offer incentives to leave until the population drops enough. (Or both!)

Those kinds of decisions are made all the time by zoning boards: how many units can we permit on x acres given y resources? Usually resources is 'how much sewage can we treat', but it includes 'how many firefighters can we afford'. If evac becomes a line item in the county budget, maybe things could change.

what are you going to do about the ~10,000 more living on the low-lying islands right behind the barrier beach? How about the low-lying shoreline behind that which is bound to flood in a hurricane?

Well, I'd say more of the same, but that's just silly. Nobody would go for that ;) More seriously, touching on Emmma's point, barrier islands, like coastal wetlands operate as an energy sink on hurricanes. While I may be wrong, I believe that leaving them covered in houses and roads decreases their ability to absorb that energy. So, yeah, it would be great to get everyone to move, but given that's not happening, maybe we could at least triage the situation by dealing with barrier islands first.

#155 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Paula: What, that hurricane that there was lightning dancing on the power lines outside my house didn't happen? The fact that "the storm track" in recent years has sent storms into the Gulf of Mexico preferentially to up the Atlantic coast, doesn;t mean that that haven't been vicious hurricane that hit the northeast. Then there was the "no name" storm a few years back, that would have been called a strong hurricane if it had happened a week earlier, before the hurricane season ended!

You didn't start with this comparison. You compared blizzards to hurricanes. It may be New Englanders are more responsive to warnings of same, but it may also be that they aren't happening every year, (or more than once) and so they are seen as something extraordinary, rather than just another storm.

#156 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:31 PM:

I completely agree with what Patrick wrote in #19, but I think one can go a step further. This is not about choosing culture and charity instead of the evolutionary imperative. Rather, culture and charity are our most effective tools for surviving and prospering. And we are not set apart from Nature in this respect. Nature is filled with cooperative relationships.

I don't feel qualified to fully critique the errors in the "Darwin Award" concept, but there are some things that seem obvious. One is that selection really occurs on the basis of breeding populations, not individuals. Darwin awards take out an individual, but they don't take out his or her genes. Also, one can be fairly sure that the bad decision leading to a Darwin award was not caused by genetics. If the Darwin awards were to be applied rationally, really as a society we would be getting one for the "Darwin Award" concept of expressing glee in the deaths of fellow humans. Fellow humans who have essentially the same DNA as us.

Also, I fundamentally object to the "Darwin in action" meme, not just for how it is applied, but for what it is. After his extraordinary voyage, "Darwin in action" generally meant he stayed in his cottage, enjoyed his garden and his family, and he wrote. The image of a wrathful Darwin, reaching through the years to strike down the stupid, does not fit the real man.

#157 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Terry Karney @ 155 ...
Blizzards happen every year, and granted somewhat less often than they used to, but often multiple times in a year. It's still very normal to hear the equivalent of "don't go anywhere unless you must" on the radio -- or calls for all-wheel-drive vehicles. I also can't say that I'm fond of the more recent replacement in the form of ice storms. Those are nasty.

I'd speculate that one of the reasons folk in snow country seem to be more responsive to warnings of blizzards might be the people freezing to death every year in perfectly normal winter weather. It might also be that it's easier to race home and hunker down than it is to race away from home, and hunker down -- hard to say.

#158 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Xopher - I will clarify, up a yard meant that I was ahead in the vegas sense, fantasy football is basically D&D for sports dorks

#159 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:45 PM:

JJ 158: fantasy football is basically D&D for sports dorks

Yes, and I was speculating that you were a "sports dork." I don't know what "up a yard" means in Vegas.

#160 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:53 PM:


xeger: I was unclear, I meant hurricane warnings in New England aren't yearly events for most people. I grew up in Ohio, near Lake Erie, I am well aware of the freqency; and lethality, of

#161 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:57 PM:

Wrenlet@134: from what I've heard, you've got those backward; compared to its windspeed, Ike surged less than expected (reducing deaths from ~drowning) and covered more area (which may have given some types a last chance to get out). Today's paper (channeling the Washington Post also reports that the storm hit off-center, so the worst surge was north of the most populated area.

Texanne@43: Lee wasn't told to evacuate. IIRC she was 50 miles inland, but she rolled three sixes (or two-and-half -- last reports on the other thread were no deaths or even significant injuries). That's a long way (literally and figuratively) from staying on a sand spit.

Mary Eileen@143: IIRC, Long Island has been hit by hurricanes a handful of times in the past century; Gulf hurricanes average multiple occurrences per year. OTOH, do you know how much insurance those 40,000 are paying, or whether it's defaulted to the US govt (as I understand some river flood plains have)? A ways north of you, Cape Cod is having an insurance ]crisis[, as companies soaked by Katrina are saying anything sandy anywhere is an appalling (i.e., very expensive) risk, regardless of how high or sheltered it is.

I'm with Ursula and Scott in their response to Wrenlet. TexAnne, I take your point on high ground, but distance from the coastline counts as elevation on some scale (1000:1?), so the absence of hills in your area doesn't mean you all have to move to Austin. Note that Lee got hit by a tree, not a storm surge. (If a tree falls in the suburbs, there's \always/ someone around to hear it?) I wonder what condition the tree was in -- does anyone go around saying "This tree will probably go over in a Cat C storm more than Y years in the future; plant something now so we can take this one down as soon as it gets shaky"? Or is that a policy that would cause "...the Patriarchy [to] be exterminated for its insolence"?

There's another tradeoff here: Lee may have saved her house by being in it, able to board up windows and bucket out floods. Where she was, it may have worked; what are the odds of ~success as you get closer to the shore, and do people \really/ know them, or just think they can do better?

We have stopped nature's moves its tracks at some points; the Falls of St Anthony (downtown Mpls) were moving upstream at ~5 feet/year before they were shored up. In other cases we look like we're at least holding our own, e.g. all the beaches where we keep restoring sand. Teaching that there are times when Mother holds all the cards (some short-term, some long-term) is tricky, and teaching how to recognize them is much harder; we like to think we can always Do Something (a meme that SF encourages).

I'll also note that the people we've heard about do sound dumber than a sack of hammers -- but do we expect the media to give us a reasonable survey rather than just ]entertaining[ outliers? \Effective/ government would talk to all the survivors (and as many friends of the fatalities as could be found) to find out why they thought they were so special.

#162 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:03 PM:

xeger #157:

Yeah, any unsafe condition that sends you home to "shelter in place" is likely to get a lot of people complying with it, because go home and stay there a couple days is a relatively easy instruction to follow. By contrast, Pack up your stuff and go a couple hundred miles away, leaving lots of stuff worth stealing behind, and leaving all your property vulnerable to damage that you might prevent or mitigate if you were there is much harder advice to follow.

#163 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Chip #161:

Yep. Finding stupid or evil or otherwise outrageous people in the media tells you almost nothing about how common they are in the big wide world. And when thousands of people you know little about are all making a similar decision, which doesn't make much sense to you, assuming they're all crazy or stupid probably doesn't make much sense.

#164 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:14 PM:

A yard equals a grand

I can't make my mind up about this discussion board. It's populated by people I rarely come in contact with, and that's a great way to learn, but the sensitivity factor is off the charts.

Not to mention the egos - "I'm smart." "No, I'M smarter." "Look who I quoted, that means I'm the SMARTEST." Buncha windbags.

It gets tiresome when you constantly have to explain everything you say. Like working under a microscope.

My Darwin comments and the ones about the protesters were what i felt about the situation, much like everyone else's. since mine didn't jibe with the majority, I am wrong. So be it.

Still, this place is like a crazy girlfriend: she's fun to screw with, but that comes with a price...maybe Fark is the place for me.

#165 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:21 PM:

JJ Fozz: No one cares. Further bulletins are unnecessary.

#166 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:26 PM:

JJ Fozz:
This blog is owned by a couple of science fiction editors, and heavily populated by writers both professional and amateur. The community ethos is that words matter. If you say a thing, you're presumed to have thought it through, and to mean it. This does occasionally involve explaining it.

I said it before, I'll say it again. This isn't a site that everybody enjoys. (Indeed, what is?) I think you could have some fun here, and you're doing fine establishing yourself. It's also interesting watching the community re-learn (as communities must, again and again) how to integrate a newcomer.

It's entirely possible that you may be right in matters where you disagree with other people here. Very few people are immune to good persuasion. The reflexive "screw you all" reaction that you seem to come out with sometimes isn't serving you fantastically well in that regard, however.

#167 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:35 PM:

CHip (161): Homeowner's insurance is increasingly hard to come by here; a lot of companies have stopped writing new policies, and some are refusing to renew old ones. Flood insurance is available only through a federal program and quite expensive. The FEMA flood maps were just updated here; many additional homes are now included in the official flood zones.

We're overdue for a hurricane here; the last to affect this area was Gloria in 1985. We've had some bad floods from nor'easters in the meantime, though.

#168 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:48 PM:

ethan, thanks for the words, man.

#169 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:04 PM:

JJ Fozz: If you look you will see you are not the only one who is challenged to be clear. Paul Lieberman, myself, and Scraps have all been so challenged.

Why? Because words matter. If what I say isn't clear, then what I mean isn't getting across, and I am failing to do what I set out to do.

#170 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:08 PM:

Oh, and while we're asking about making people give up homes and buildings on barrier beaches, how much of south Brooklyn do you evacuate? Either it doesn't count as a barrier beach since they filled in the area between that beach and the larger island (Coney Island used to be an island) or all of western Long Island, a.k.a. Brooklyn, has to be thought about as a barrier beach. Realistically, the answer has to be somewhere in the middle: filling in the bay behind a barrier island doesn't make the coastline less exposed, but neither should it significantly increase the risk of the people further inland. But someone would look at this proposal and decide that landfill was the answer to their problem, and politically easier than asking tens of thousands of people to relocate.

In the meantime, here and now, there are posted hurricane evacuation routes: the plan for if/when New York City is a hurricane target appears to be to evacuate Brooklynites to high ground further in land, in the Bronx.

Again, as a practical matter, when the National Weather Service told me "stay off the roads" last winter in Massachusetts (winter storm, including freezing rain), I emailed my boss and told her I'd be in Monday afternoon (because the "don't travel" warning was for Sunday afternoon, so I was able to leave Monday morning), and hunkered down at Adrian's for another day; that's very different from evacuating any distance, or staying in a shelter rather than my partner's home. [My boss was very surprised when I did in fact walk into the office about noon Monday; she'd seen my email and assumed I wouldn't make it until Tuesday.]

Not everyone listened, though I'm hoping the people we could see driving on Mass Ave weren't going far, and most weren't going terribly fast.

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:12 PM:

JJ Fozz @ 164... It gets tiresome when you constantly have to explain everything you say. Like working under a microscope.

This place can be demanding, and I wouldn't have it be otherwise. It has certainly made me better with how I use words. I think. I hope. As for people supposedly one-upping each other about who's the smartest, I don't remember that this has been the rule, and I've been around this place for a bit over 3 years.

#172 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:25 PM:

In today's Portland Oregonian:

Liquid Courage
In Surfside Beach, southwest of Galveston, Ray Wilkinson became something of a celebrity for a day: He was the only resident in the town of 805 to defy the order to leave. Authorities found him Saturday morning drunk. "I consider myself to be stupid," Wilkinson, 67, said. "I'm tired of running from these things. If it's going to get you, it's going to get you."

#173 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:28 PM:

Back in 1995, my area of Phoenix was hit by a freak windstorm -- windgusts of 115 miles per hour, horizontal high-speed hail, torrential rain, the whole shebang.

This all evolved over a short period -- a couple of hours -- so when I came out of the basement where the ASU West gym was located, it was to face a (short; less than two miles) drive thru that downpour and wind to get home. Visibility barely existent, even with wipers at high speed. Running water from curb to curb along most of the route. Bless the city for having reworked the street gradage and drain systems a few years before, or I'd have ended up floating down the Thunderbird Road River.

Get home, no power, the sky filled with flying shingles and shredded greenery (we'd redone our roof the year before; after the storm, we were the ONLY house on the entire block that didn't need roof repairs), and the back patio door not only rattling from the horizontal hail doming in under the eight-foot porch, but visibly bowing inwards from the force of the wind.

In the back yard, about half of our old wooden fence was down; in the affected area, even a large number of concrete block fences were blown down.

So what did I think of the experience?

Folks... it was fun.

Yeh, even when the car was sliding around on the street, pushed by wind and water, I was laughing most of that drive home. (Yes, it probably helped that there were only a few other people on the streets dumb enough to try driving thru that.)

I had never been in anything like it before. It was... fascinating.

Would I have chosen to go thru a storm like that? No. But, even if I had had advance notice, I probably wouldn't have evacuated. (I wouldn't have gone to the gym, tho'.)

And... if I ever found myself in a hurricane zone, with an oncoming storm... and I was in a reasonably safe location (for varying values of "reasonable")... I'd probably hunker down and stay for the duration. Because I'd want to watch it happen.

(No, pictures on the tv are not the same.)

* * *

The point, if I have one, is that choosing risk is not a choice I want to see taken away from individuals, even if that choice involves the possibility of death.

(In a perfect world, such a choice would always be an informed and thoughtful decision. I'm not holding my breath.)

Obligatory SF reference: Do you consider "The Humanoids" to be a horror story? Or a utopia?

* * *

One final comment: Teresas, do you really need to invoke George Bush's use of "Bring it on!" in this context?

The phrase predates Bush's use. In regard to the hurricane stay-at-homes (hunkerers? wait-er-outers? Is there a proper word?), they're using "Bring it on!" to invoke a willingness to face personal risk.

When Bush used it, he was facing no risk at all. He had a small army of bodyguards and other personnel whose main duty is to protect him from harm. With his statement, he was placing other people at increased risk, people that he had already sent into harm's way.

Four thousand dead Americans, tens of thousands more with lost limbs and minds, shattered families. In major part because that... that... ghakk, words fail me here... dared the people he had invaded to do their worst against Bush's own countrymen.

What the hurricane hunkerers did may have been stupid. What George Bush did was simply evil.

#174 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Serge @171:
I think the commonness of wordplay (English and otherwise) and such on here can be read-between-the-lines that way.

(Hm, I was looking for the recent Open Thread that started with the Latin translations, but don't see it offhand. Casualty of the May Meltdown? If so, a pity; the comments addressed this in various ways.)

#175 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 05:51 PM:

geekosaur @174:

the recent Open Thread that started with the Latin translations

Open thread C was back in January. Time flies when you're having fun, I guess.

#176 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Bruce Arthurs at #173: I'm glad you were safe enough that it was a fun experience. I remember being on some hikes where the definition of adventure was "this will have been fun." I think the primary value of doing something stupid is to learn enough not to do something like that again. For example, I have a heightened awareness of how it can look safer and easier to keep going into a dangerous situation instead of backing out. But even better is to learn from someone else's experience. So thank you for sharing yours. I'll see if I can ever get up the gumption to share mine, but one involves hanging from the roots of a tree at the top of a high and crumbling cliff. Very splintery, those roots.

I agree with the distinction between stupid and evil. It's important. It's similar to the distinction between personal immorality and public corruption, which is also important.

#177 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 06:14 PM:

TomB @ 156:
I don't feel qualified to fully critique the errors in the "Darwin Award" concept, but there are some things that seem obvious. One is that selection really occurs on the basis of breeding populations, not individuals. Darwin awards take out an individual, but they don't take out his or her genes. Also, one can be fairly sure that the bad decision leading to a Darwin award was not caused by genetics.

Selection absolutely does take place on the level of individuals. The (premature) death of an individual can sometimes mean the complete removal of a gene (e.g., a lethal mutation), but what's more relevant is that individual deaths -- added up over time -- can change the frequency of different alleles (varieties of a particular gene) in the next generation -- which is one way of quantifying evolution. What matters is the cumulative effect of these deaths: if there is, for example, a tendency for a certain allele to lead to death more often, then -- over a long enough period of time -- the higher death rates of individuals with that allele will lower that allele's frequency in the population.

(Not that I'm really arguing with your last sentence -- it's extraordinarily difficult to determine which aspects of intelligence and decision-making may be connected with genetics, which may be connected with different aspects of environment, and which are fiendishly complex interactions of the two.)

#178 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 06:38 PM:

JJ Fozz #164: maybe Fark is the place for me.

You should be aware that many common Farkisms are very much unwelcome here and are likely to result in fairly intense and vitriolic gang tackling. I keep my Fark mindset compartmentalized so that it doesn't slosh over here (at least, not any more, since I first received severe and definitive correction on that matter). That doesn't mean you need to give up on ML; it's still very much a worthwhile place to be online.

#179 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 06:41 PM:

MadGastronomer @ 108:
... leaving can risk death just as much as staying ...

Really? Roughly as many people actually die in evacuations as would have died in hurricanes if they'd stayed?

I find that a little hard to believe.

#180 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Geekosaur: That would be Open Thread C (itself a form of wordplay).

I confess it hadn't occured to me the sense of wordplay might be seen as a form of one-upmanship. It probably is, all things considered.

I don't think it's exclusionary, more a case of those who want to play can, and the measure is more of clever than one of, "I'm smarter than you." It's a type of showing off.

When it comes to puns I refrain more than I induldge (for which some are, I am sure, grateful). I used to engage in some really lengthy games of contrapuntitive humor (I've also engaged in games of questions, a la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern before their demsise; and there I did it again, with an allusion I expect people to get; which is also part of it. Lots of the people here are very smart, and don't have a wealth of place in which they can revel in being widely read, etc., so we do it here and it seems ostentatious), so single word jests are easy.

What I want is to find a way to construct a topical sentence which affords both an argument/point (of some sort) and allows me to make several puns of related nature.

But, absent awarness of the culture, it might seem we are trying to prove ourselves in the pecking order.

#181 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 07:13 PM:

Earl Cooley@178: I don't read Fark (indeed, I barely know what it is) and I find that you've piqued my curiosity. If you care to expand on your statements with some examples, I'd be interested to see it. (If not, that's OK too; I could imagine such a thing causing contention, and I'm not sure whether it would be of general interest.)

#182 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 07:46 PM:

Did she survive the storm?

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 07:52 PM:

geekosaur @ 174... the commonness of wordplay (English and otherwise) and such on here can be read-between-the-lines that way

Hmmm. Like Terry Karney, that had not occurred to me. Then again, when I drop by, I do it because I enjoy the socialization. I'm not thinking "Is that darn Abi going to make me feel inferior with her knowledge of Latin?" or "Is Ginger going to come up with a much better pun?"

#184 ::: Terry lets all who wonder the Elissa did survive ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 07:52 PM:

She rode it out. Sails are tattered but she floats.

#185 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 08:15 PM:

Thena @ 150: We've been having snowy winters and hurricanes in the same place for a long time: that's the New England coast, particularly Cape Cod.

The New England farmhouse style is two to three stories, medium-pitched roof with overhang to keep the runoff away from the foundation, often with covered porches. Good against snow.

The saltbox style is specifically one and a half stories. It tends to be more compact.

The term "Cape Cod style" is widely misapplied. Properly, it is based on the farmhouse, but smaller and very compact, with shallower roof pitch, no overhang at all, no porch, no attached outbuildings, no surface concavities, no ornamental trim, nothing that a strong wind could grab and rip off. The only outside feature may be shutters, permanently affixed to the frames and capable of being securely latched to protect the windows during storms. It was invented specifically as defensive architecture against hurricanes.

#186 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Peter Erwin at #179: Yes, individual outcomes can a cumulative effect on the population. I was trying to make some kind of point against an overly individualistic view of evolution, without trying to get in too deep explaining genetic bottlenecks and the founder's effect and other things I am not an expert on.

More importantly, lacking a genetic basis (on which I think we're in agreement), deaths in the course of stupid behavior are not actually selecting against it. Of course, random selection happens all the time as part of evolution in the real world, but it's random, it's not "survival of the fittest."

The Darwin Awards are not really about evolution in a scientific sense, they are using evolution as a metaphor for something else, which I think is some form of essentialism.

#187 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 08:25 PM:

RE #117 ::: Paula Lieberman :

the Cape Cod National Seashore, it doesn't matter if Big Waves hit and erode the beach away and flood out the National Seashore, nobody owns any houses that they live in there anymore.

Toronto did that on a much smaller scale after Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s - the land alongside the Humber River is now a series of public parks, because under the wrong conditions it becomes a flood plain. Of course they also did a lot of work on dams, watersheds, etc.

#188 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 08:30 PM:

Serge @ 183 (and anyone else of interest): Just for future reference, whenever I see a good pun, it gets my creative instinct going just so I can join in, not so I can out-do anyone. Punning, for me, is a form of social interaction and not about winning. It's like sitting around telling jokes - they're all funny, they all make us laugh, and we all win.

Good punsters make me work hard, which ultimately translates into more words in my vocabulary and more trivial knowledge stuck randomly into my aging memory banks. This is all good.

#189 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Sarah (187):
re: Paula (117):
the Cape Cod National Seashore, it doesn't matter if Big Waves hit and erode the beach away and flood out the National Seashore, nobody owns any houses that they live in there anymore.
There are still lots of privately owned houses along the CCNS. The big change is that there haven't been many new houses built since the creation of the National Seashore. Also, the CCNS is only (prayer to the great god Google. Enlightenment.) about 40 miles of Atlantic facing beach, and is the eastward facing section. The National Seashore is pretty narrow in places, and there are new houses on, and behind, the dunes just behind it. The South facing part of the Cape -- which is most at risk for hurricane damage -- is mostly privately owned, and loses houses to the ocean even in quiet years. The islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard protects the beaches a bit, but also funnel the waves into narrow channels facing the coast.
There is a plan for evacuating the Cape, but if the storm arrives before labor day, swimming to Boston from Provincetown might be faster than trying to make the drive (Cape Cod summer weekend traffic is notoriously bad, even from a Bostonian commuter's point of view). Thankfully, our Hurricanes tend to arrive late in the season.
Evacuating the islands by ferry* could be a nightmare (The Vineyard isn't too tough to evacuate since it is visible from the shore and the channel is fairly protected, but Nantucket (faraway island) would be a real challenge. And both islands only rise a bit above sea level).

* I typod that as evacuating by Fairy. That might work, but the time dilation effects of Fairy transport would be a concern.


N.B. Any misspellings, punctuation errors, or bad phrasing were inserted by gremlins who hang out under the "post" button.

#190 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:11 PM:

It also appears that Galveston's Poop Deck has survived, battered, but still standing, as is its human-scaled Statue of Liberty.

#191 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:15 PM:

David Goldfarb #181, I don't think I'll post about Fark on this particular thread; I'll think about it a bit and make a hopefully informative post on the Open Thread instead.

#192 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 10:22 PM:

Goldfarb - Fark is and isn't what it used to be - like the old Yogi Berra phrase, "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

Some of the threads rock while others are lame. the conversation there is more freewheeling than here. The posts come more from the heart than the brain.

Check it out.

#193 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 11:22 PM:

So, JJ, when you say "The posts come more from the heart than the brain" - do you mean that it doesn't make sense but it feels good?


#194 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 12:34 AM:

Ginger @ 188... Punning, for me, is a form of social interaction and not about winning. It's like sitting around telling jokes - they're all funny, they all make us laugh, and we all win.

That's what's wrong with us liberals and/or Democrats. All this nambypamby stuff tries to cover the fact that there must be one winner. There can be only one, and...
(Ding!Dong!)
Hmmm. Clancy Brown is at the front door and he's got a broadsword.

#195 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 12:46 AM:

JJ Fozz, #192, I would say more from the spleen than the brain.

Sometimes you simply can't evacuate. We went through four typhoons the two years we were stationed on Guam. There aren't enough planes to evacuate an entire island. The big one was Karen (hey, Wikipedia knows about her). I was seven and my brother was six. We lived in enlisted housing which was concrete block. No glass in the windows (no AC, just officers got that), just screens and louvers. So with a Cat 5+ typhoon coming in, we prepared for disaster and also invited a family to stay with us. He was the high school principal and they lived off-base, in a wooden house.

The anemometer blew off at 121mph four hours into a 24-hour storm. The wind blew the water into our house through the louvers so the water was about a foot high. We kids enjoyed rafting around while the grown-ups bailed.

When Karen passed, we found a helicopter rotor in our front yard, and our house was in good shape, but our friends' house had disappeared. We didn't get electricity back for eight weeks and we didn't get clean water for four weeks. Then again, I was famous for showing people how to salvage Quonset hut bits and make a dew/rain trap on their roof.

Lots of houses on the island were destroyed, but only five people died. They took shelter in a concrete-block building immediately next to the beach and a surge knocked the wall over on them. The other folk minded the call to come into military gyms and cafeterias. The non-military folk ate at military cafeterias (free) for a few months. I thought it was a lot of fun, but that's probably because my mother had a gift for making disasters seem like adventures.

#196 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 01:33 AM:

Marilee, people were still talking about Karen when I got to Guam in 1968, six years later. We lived up on Turner Road by COMNAVMAR in officers' housing, but I don't remember any A/C. It too was concrete block construction. In fact, the construction was so solid that I once tore the driver's side door of our civilian car half-off by hitting the gas rather than the brake while looking out the gap between door and doorframe, which was necessary to negotiate the sharp turn at the bottom of the driveway. The door hit the post holding up the carport.

#197 ::: Melissa Devnich ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 08:42 AM:

Marilee, I live on Okinawa, and likewise, we can't evacuate anywhere. Everyone stays in their homes (except that Okinawans often go to the mall!). We had a direct hit from a cat-4 last year and I came through just fine. The winds pushed water in through the window frames, but I never lost power or internet. Most of the construction on the island is reinforced concrete; power lines are overhead, but attached to metal cables. There never seems to be much damage except to crops.

My big regret was not getting to experience the eye-- it passed to the other side of the island.

#198 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 08:47 AM:

Dena, comments on fark make sense, all be it in a twisted manner.

#199 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 09:49 AM:

#198:If the conversations here don't make sense to you? Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. The hanging around to tell us all how elitist and annoying and incomprehensible we
are is getting really, really old.

I don't get every single reference everyone here makes either, but somehow that doesn't bother me. You might wish to contemplate what it says about you that it does bother you. Me, I got used to not always being the smartest kid in the room a long time ago.

In the meantime...
There's risking one's life when able-bodied by call-it-stupidity, and then there is forcing would-be rescuers to risk their lives...Other people have to risk their lives trying to retrieve the hikers--or their bodies.

I forget where it was that there was recently a call to require hikers to carry GPS units to make it easier to rescue them in case of difficulty. A number of "hard-core" types got ticked about it, saying that it took away from the thrill. One blogger responded that there was a simple solution: if you don't want to carry a GPS, you don't have to, and if you get into difficulty you're on your own. No one would come looking for you, or spend time after hope was lost "poking the snowdrifts with a stick hoping to strike asshole". I thought that was fairly sensible. People who want the risk can have it, but they're not thereby inflicting risk on others.

I generally use the phrase "evolution in action" to describe people I see riding motorcycles helmetless. Either they're going to kill themselves and thus slightly improve the species, or they really are that good (and that lucky, for those who believe in the Teela Brown gene) and improve the species that way*. It's a net win, either way.

* Exhibit A: The older gentleman, in his 60s at least, on a Harley a few weeks ago. He was wearing a t-shirt, jean shorts and sneakers.

#200 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 11:45 AM:

#164 ::: JJ Fozz:

Curiosity is good, and I admit I'm amused by watching you behave like a cat dabbing at a full bathtub, trying to figure out if it's worth going near. However, it's pretty certain that the cat won't like the water, but I'm not going to presume to say whether you'll end up liking Making Light.

That being said, I do think fannish insistence on precision takes a sort of emotional toughness, and people who have it don't always understand as difficult for those who don't share it.

It might help to think of intelligence as being like athletic ability-- people who are good at sports may be looking for someone to play with rather than trying to make you feel bad. No guarantee in general, but I think Making Light is solidly on the "someone to play with" side.

#201 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 11:53 AM:

Making Light does, however, tend to be solidly against someone who aggressively/rudely posts unsupported opinions that flatly contradict apparently-reliable data already posted in the same discussion thread.

#202 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 200: Yeah. People here tend to place value on content -- say what you mean and mean what you say, and back it up with something reality-based. Extra points if you can do all this with style, but the content is the important thing. (I'm thinking here of the recent case in which I indulged in some self-pitying political hyperbole on the Biden thread. I got smacked down, quite rightly, because there wasn't anything behind it.)

The "athletic ability" metaphor makes me twitchy because it mashes every left-out, laughed-at, looking-stupid button I have. I don't like to think of the Making Light comments as some kind of elite sports team that some people just aren't good enough to play with. I'm not half as clever as plenty of the people here, and yet they let me play on poetry threads!

It's more like an open jam session -- I may not be able to play guitar like that person can, but I can sit and enjoy the music -- and when a song starts that I know, I can join in, sing backup, play the tambourine and whatnot. On occasion I'll even sing lead for a verse. I'm no Eric Clapton but everyone's still having fun.

But yeah -- it's different from Fark. You don't get points by engaging in mean/funny snark of other people. Not to say snark is necessarily a bad thing, but it's not the conversation style here. You get social-status points here by saying something interesting, insightful, meaningful -- or by making a particularly silly pun (or other word-joke).

#203 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 01:41 PM:

Reportage from the left is beginning that the regime and FEMA are blacking out access to, reporting and images of the worst areas of devastation -- and FEMA's pathetic, disorganized and inadequate responses.

The first place I saw this was on the LJ "View from A Broad. So I looked up the reports in elsewheres. As well, Liz Henry's blog (her efforts and experience in Texas with the Louisiana evacuees was brilliant and invaluable, as were her constant updates and reports), says the same.

Even scarier Liz reports that what is supposed to be disaster relief is working only as a police dragnet.

In order to flee a hurricane or other disaster you MUST have i.d.

Love, C.

#204 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 01:59 PM:

What I take away from it is that the preconditions have now been satisfied for the election to be stolen a third consecutive time. And who's going to stop them? The press? The television? The democrats? Us?

And then everybody will say, well, now we've got to get to work on 2012 . . . .

#205 ::: Lynn C ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 05:13 PM:

Jacqueline Harris of Galveston, whose "Bring it on" provided the title of this thread has been interviewed and observed something to the effect of "we must have been out of our minds" although they did ride out the storm successfully.

#206 ::: Jamie Hall ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2008, 07:06 PM:

Constance @ 203:

Yesterday (Sunday) there were news reports on more than one of the 24/7 news channels that media helicopters weren't allowed to fly over the west end of Galveston Island. I since haven't heard anything about it one way or another. The supposed reason was to avoid interference with rescue helicopters, but the video being released (of other areas) showed that the media helicopter was flying far, far above all the other helicopters in the area - I can't imagine how such "interference" could happen, when one helicopter is high up and using a zoom lens, and the other helicopter is near rooftop level.

To me, it smells like an attempt to make it look like the government is doing a better job than it actually is. But it is difficult to tell because the information is so slow in coming. For example, on Friday the estimate was that 37,000 people would need to be rescued. Judging from various reports it looks like they are only rescuing people at a rate of a thousand per day, and I have yet to see a new estimate of how many remain to be rescued. If the actual number needing rescue is anywhere near 37,000, then they are doing it far too slow. And, before the hurricane struck, there were plenty of reports claiming that FEMA supplies were prepositioned. Then on Saturday and Sunday, there kept being reports about FEMA supplies being on the way. If the supplies had been prepositioned in the first place, wouldn't they have to move backwards in order to be "on the way" two days later? I'm not the only one to notice this.

Only now am I starting to hear a few reports of FEMA handing out food and water. That's a long time. Furthermore, there are already complaints about FEMA not doing enough, along with a bizarre call by Texas Governor Rick Perry to treat Ike victims in Texas "as fairly as they treated Louisiana back during Katrina" WTF!!?!?! Plus, I haven't heard anything about specific plans to help people who were only impacted by losing their power, and might be without electricity for a month. How do officials expect a huge number of people inside a major city to be without electricity for that long without really bad things happening?

There is an information vacuum here, along with some signs of serious future problems, and I don't like it. Hopefully, the next few days will bring more reassuring information.

#207 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 09:12 AM:

Nancy - you are the first person ever to compare me to a cat. (I have been compared to a puppy and a horse's ass more times than I can count.)

Your analogy about intelligence and ML makes sense - I had to work hard in the past to succeed on the same field as natural athletes. I can make the same effort here in regard to brain power.

#208 ::: Jamie Hall ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 09:52 AM:

Yes, the media blackout is indeed on. It seems to be getting blamed on Mayor Thomas but I'm wondering if she was ordered to do so by people farther up the chain of command, especially since the earlier "no fly zone" order came from Washington, D.C.

The same FEMA awfulness that happened with Katrina is starting again.

#209 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 10:17 AM:

John Houghton @189 re: time dilation involved in evacution by Fairy?

Seven years in a night? It'd give a person time for their retirement fund to recover, at least!

Or am I on the wrong thread for that observation?

#210 ::: Lillian ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 10:34 AM:

I heard second-hand from Lee in Houston the other day.
A large tree fell on the house, directly on the library. Most of Russ's collection is probably toast. The City of Houston told them they couldn't stay in the house. I'm not sure where they are right now. I'll post more as I hear it.

#211 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:27 PM:

#155 Terry

Blizzards do worse damage up here generally than hurricanes. Most of the hurricane damage tends to get fixed in two or three days--power outtages, blocked roads... while blizzards, people can freeze to death unless the power's restored.

That is:
Hurricane--washes the idiots [idiots around here] who don't retreat to higher ground (which for most people, means that staying in the house, and the concrete poured basement if the winds are so bad the house starts shaking, is adequate for high ground) or try to drive around in roads turning into waterways away. Knocks down power lines/knock out power. Doesn't have life=threatening cold. Kills people dependent on power for assistance with breathing who don't have backup generators/emergency long-term batteries working.

As soon as the rain in the hurricane moderates, the waters start receding--New England is very hilly, and most areas drain rather quickly. Flood plains... in the 1970s and 1980s there not only was major deterrent to building in flood plains, but a lot of people with houses in flood plains, were getting prodded with the idea of "why don't you find some accommodation to find somewhere else to live, donate the land to a conservation agency or swap it for higher ground and have your former residence area turned into parkland/field?"

Rains and flooding from storms/melting snow in the spring is a common hazard here...

Blizzard--piles up snow, temperatures the kill with the power and heat out, causes car crashes all over the roads from ice and snow, and severe blockage of major roads can take a week or more to untangle and emergency vehicles can't get through with cars in the way, and may or may not get through while the blizzard is raging.

Getting the power back on can take days, and in the interim, if it's cold out enough, people without power will die.

Other factors--the visibility goes away, and seeing where you're going can become impossible. The rules for Phase III storms in Thule apply in the worst cases "Unless you are in imminent danger of DYING, if you are somewhere inside shelter, STAY THERE!" Going outside, quite literally, can be fatal. (One of the introductory "welcome to Thule" pictures was one of a literal dead drunk--someone who had left the Blue Nose Club of the Top of the World Club, fell in a snowbank presumably having been disoriented and not able to stay on a path, and was found dead hours later--at least -his- body was found. That didn't always happen.

Bottom line, hurricanes are less of a threat than bad blizzards generally around here. People who live in low lying shore areas, face bad tides in snowstorms and high winds, and the threat of death from exposure, that can be worse than all but the worst hurricanes. A nor'easter is what one gets when taking a boomeranging hurricane, and -freezing- it.

#212 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:40 PM:

#189 Houghton

My relatives on the Cape figure that if a tsunami hits, they'll be fish food. They regard the prospect as one of the cost/benefit considerations of living on the Cape waterfront.

#213 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:44 PM:

#199 Carrie
The vernacular for those who ride motorcycles without helmets is "organ donors."

#214 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:57 PM:

The Schmuck and FEMA have Katrina'ed Galveston and Houston and vicinty?

#215 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Katrina 1, Chertoff 0
Ike 1, Chertoff O

US public--fucked.

#216 ::: Douglas Henke ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:14 PM:

Some random observations from a Houstonian (aside: Houston is not the same thing as Galveston) who just got power and 'net back:

o- Houston (as of Tuesday morning, the last time I got a news fix) was under an advisory to boil tap water before drinking. This strikes me as advice unlikely to be heeded in a place where the majority of water-boiling apparatus is electrical and something like 65% of the city is still without power. A suggestion to add a smidge of bleach per bucketful and let sit would be of greater practical value to those with no other source of drinking water.

o- Our careful, skilled and considerate Houston drivers are in fine form, especially as regards dealing with intersections where the traffic signals are dark (or have been torn down). Hint: "Treat it as a four-way stop" is not a shorthand for "cruise on through at 60mph".

o- FEMA could be hand-delivering a free unicorn to every doorstep, and they'd still get no end of stick. ("My neighbor's unicorn has longer horn!" "Can I please just have a bag of ice instead?")

o- Running water was working again, quickly, in lots of places. This was nice. (But: don't assume that'll be the case next time.) Cold showers feel really good, if you have to be in this climate with no AC.

o- Our experience, not atypical, was: no mobile phone service for at least 24 hours after the storm (and far from solid until at least 48). If you have been putting off getting that ham radio license, don't.

o- Having a battery-operated FM radio was both useful and morale-boosting, and KUHF (our local public radio station) did a quality job. Hint to talking heads on TV: If you are doing a radio simulcast, saying things like "call the number on your screen to get help" is less than fully useful.

o- On the whole, civil order (and generally polite behavior) has held together better than I anticipated, and casual use of the term "riot" to describe one medium-sized fistfight does not constitute an exception.

o- How could anyone, given at least 48 hours of advance notice of an incipient disaster, not have at least a couple days of food and water in the house? How is that even possible?

o- Did you know you can make a perfectly nice lasagna in a dutch oven on the stove top? It's true. (You can also bake bread in stoneware pans on the gas grill, but it's fiddly.)

o- The UPSen from the computers, if shut off promptly after a power failure, can provide multiple charges for your various battery-powered gadgets in the coming days.

o- LED flashlights are cheap, run for tens of hours on one set of batteries and make lots of light. Chemical lightsticks are also good, though we had a few outdated ones that didn't work. Candles set you on fire, in a situation where you can neither summon nor be reached by help -- avoid them.

o- Approximately four hours after the storm passed, we observed butterflies and hummingbirds in our back garden. I'm not sure how they made it, but: good.

#217 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:49 PM:

Douglas Henke @216: Ike has left the State of Ohio with a similar situation. He arrived in Central Ohio Sunday afternoon, and took the local power grid with him as he went by...

No flooding, but trees down everywhere -- over 450 school districts have cancelled classes, even some of our colleges and universties are in the same boat.

I'm posting this from work -- no power at home = no computer. I was about ready to thump the radio news reader who ended each broadcast with "for more information, go to our website..." I finally called the radio station and said: "No power. no computer, no website." They laughed, but agreed to pass it on.

We do have phones (cell and landline), hot water and hot food courtesy of the gas company, but no one here is handing out ice. We managed to buy enough ice to save a few things, but what we can't cook and eat before it reaches an unsafe temperature will go to the garbage can. Sigh.

And I thought I'd stocked the house with every battery size I needed. But when I went looking, there were no "D"s to be found. The house black hole must have eaten them. Managed to buy those even when we couldn't get ice.

Traffic lights are out here too -- some folks are obeying the "4 way stop" and others...aren't.

To judge by talk radio, there are lots of people who are not and were not prepared to shelter in place.

Our hummingbirds seemed tired yesterday. More of them sat on the perches to feed, rather than hovering. (I suppose trying to hang on to a branch when the winds are going 75mph must be pretty tiring!)

We've been told our neighborhood may have power back by tomorrow evening...but one report I've heard says it won't be back until this weekend.

#218 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 04:59 PM:

Yes Paula, I know that (re blizzards). I also know that you directly compared hunkering down for a couple of days because of a blizzard to travelling a couple of hundred miles in front of a hurricane.

I've ridden out tornadoes and blizzards. Food in the pantry, fire in the grate. It was mildly distressing, but not a big deal. Hardest part is waiting for the snowplows and worrying if the neighbors had enough fuel to heat their houses.

It's not the same as choosing what to keep, and what to abandon; what to safeguard and what to leave at risk of looting. It doesn't cost money for gas (when there is gouging), nor for a place to stay, and food to buy (because the pantry is miles away).

The dynamics are very different, and it's to be expected that more people will elect to stay home for the one, than will flee for the other.

And I'm done.

#219 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:25 PM:

Another reason why some people will not evacuate. Turns out some employers are firing people for not appearing back to work immediately after the hurricane. I know of some people who had to work on the very day even though they are not essential services or else loose their jobs.

#220 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Thank you all who responded with further information to the possible information black out and fema problems.

It is much appreciated.

Love, C.

#221 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 05:57 PM:

I like to think that 4-way stop to dead lights will be as honored when it's all the lights as I've seen it be here when it's merely lights for a sq. mile.

I hope so, in any case.

#222 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:24 PM:

#299 T.W.

!!!! snarl
It's occurred to me that one of the biggest reaons for no national health program for those under the age of 65 and not decreed on some form of exempt-from-no-nationalized-healthcare by disability, VA dependency, etc., is that Business wants control over workers--non-portable health plans make it nearly impossible for a lot of people to voluntarily leave their current employers (or past employers...).

#218 Terry
I kept trying to point out that regional geography differences can make huge differences. There is high ground around here, that Florida and the Gulf Coast don't have... that makes a huge difference as regards long-term impacts of hurricanes and such and extent of evacuation, and "what are the worst natural disaster threats to an area?" Hurricanes here don't have miles of flatland to fly up, don't have the land/sea shallow long slope angle that exacerbates hurricane devastation, etc.

(Note, I have seen a tornado up close, one hit about a quarter mile, if that, from where I lived when I was in Colorado... I was the green sky, I saw the funnel cloud, and found how just how close it had been a day or two later.)

Perhap artificial hills could help some of the Gulf Coast--consider what the lowlands of Europe have done to create barriers against the sea reclaiming back land taken from the sea.

Considering global warming, the USA is likely to have to do something sooner or later, with the oceans rising.

#223 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 06:26 PM:

#222
Elaboration/missed...
I meant to add that since so many people depend on having an employer for health care coverage, that prevents them from being self-employed/starting up something on their own. It locks people into wageslavehood... and gives them absolutely no job security, all the power and control are on the side of Business.

#224 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Dena Shunra @193:
Spur of the moment responses, reflecting one's immediate emotional state.

Carrie S. @199:
Calm down over there. If we start judging before we have enough evidence, we become what we despise. Given the comment about Fark vs. ML, I'm willing to cut some slack.

(I say this as someone with a certain history of unfortunate interactions.)

#225 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 03:27 AM:

In the category of "Survival stories: inspiring, amazing, or otherwise notable":

"Riding out Ike on an island, with a lion" (AP 9/16/08)

There is also a hungry tiger running loose in the area of Crystal Beach, near Galveston.

So what's next? Bears? Oh, my!

#226 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:09 AM:

The vernacular for those who ride motorcycles without helmets is "organ donors."

Yeah, I know. It wouldn't be evolution in action otherwise. Anyone who indulges in such a risky behavior and survives it has some set of useful qualities.

#227 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:52 AM:

I figure anyone who lost their job due to obeying a mandatory evacuation order should have lawyers tripping over themselves willing to help them sue their former employers for wrongful termination. Loss of a job due to non-mandatory evacuation would likely be more difficult but still pretty durned compelling.

#228 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 10:10 AM:

#227 Earl

When even the states can't find lawyers to serve as public defenders for defendants unable to pay lawyers' fees, how many unjustly terminated workers are likely to get pro bono legal aid for court cases to proceed with wrongful termination?

#229 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 03:08 AM:

CHip, #161: The tree was a healthy oak in its prime of life. There was no reason to expect that it might come down, and the area of the split shows healthy, green wood. We just got an unlucky break.

And yes, had we not been there to do damage control, the outcome would have been much worse. The house would probably still have been standing when we got back, but the water would have been everywhere instead of just in the back 2 rooms and the hallway.

And also yes, if we'd been living on Galveston Island, we'd have boarded up the house, packed everything we could fit into my car and the BHV, and gotten the hell out of Dodge.

albatross, #163: Think, for example, about the SF fannish people you personally know, and then about the way people like us are normally portrayed in the MSM. We don't all wear Starfleet uniforms to work and live in our parents' basements -- but you'd never be able to tell that from the average news coverage of a con.

Lillian, #210: Actually, we were able to get most of the books off the bookcase under the hole before they got drenched. Russ lost more than I did (including about 1/3 of his autographed Pratchetts, unfortunately), but 90% of our books didn't get wet.

And whoever told you that we were not allowed to stay in the house misunderstood something. This is in fact the first night that we haven't been in the house, and we're only in the hotel to get online access.

#230 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 03:38 AM:

Lee: Glad to hear it wasn't worse.

#231 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 08:49 AM:

Lee #229: I second Terry's comment.

#232 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 09:18 AM:

Lee, good luck with the next part of your ordeal--wrestling the insurance company into a settlement that will be enough to actually get things fixed before cold weather sets in.

#233 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 09:30 AM:

Echoing Terry, Fragano, and fidelio

#234 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 09:51 AM:

Lee @ 229.. the SF fannish people you personally know, and then about the way people like us are normally portrayed in the MSM

On the other hand, taxi drivers think we're nicer than the people who attend p*rn conventions.

#235 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 12:50 AM:

Lee: I'll add to the inverse-dogpile here. I'm glad you made it through okay, and hope things get better from here quickly.

#236 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 11:12 AM:

Lee: I'm so glad it wasn't worse, but I'm even gladder that you and yours are safe! Bright blessings and all that stuff.

#237 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Lee - what they all said. Glad to hear you're all (mostly) safe, healthy, and that everything isn't completely ruined, saddened to hear about the things that are ruined.

#238 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 11:35 AM:

albatross 235: I'll add to the inverse-dogpile here.

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