Friday, September 19, 2008

A.I. (After Ike) - Reality Sets In

It's been nearly a week since Ike slammed into the Houston/Galveston area, and for the most part things are still pretty screwed up.

In spite of it all, I have to say that actually God was very good to this area because since the storm we've had a cold front that's kept the temperatures in the mid 70's. That is a blessing any way you look at it because normally we'd be in the 90's, and with heat like that, no air conditioning, and everything else going, I'm not sure people would be as calm and patient as they have been.

It's going to take a long, long time to get this placed cleaned up. For example, the tree in the picture above is about 70 years old and is currently sitting on top of my man's house. There are long lines for gas, the grocery stores don't have many of the necessary staples (milk, meat, etc.), the power is still out in most of the city, and just like during Katrina, FEMA in the form of Michael Chertoff shows up four days late. Not to mention the unsolved mystery of what happened to all of the people who stayed on Galveston Island during the storm. Officials aren't talking, and I just pray for their safety.

Since Katrina in 2005, the insurance companies have pulled a fast one. They now write hurricane and wind damage waivers into the homeowners insurance policies that we're all required to have. These waivers call for deductibles based on a percentage of the amount the property is insured for rather than a flat rate. So your hurricane coverage that used to have a $1000 deductible for a $100,000 insurance policy for example, is now $5,000 based on 5% of the insured amount. Wind, hail, tornados, and flood are all seperate polices. Prepare to hear stories from all kinds of people who are about to get screwed because the insurance companies are simply not going to pay. Also get ready to see a lot of reconstruction NOT taking place as homeowners will simply not be able to afford it.

Y'all know the old parable about those not learning from history being doomed to repeat it, right? Well I think we're going to be repeating this process over and over again.

Now don't get me wrong, area governments have done a pretty good job of providing basic necessities while working to get things back on track. But I'm really talking about how fragile our situation is here in this country (and globally) and the fact that no disaster plan seems to work as designed because we depend on a national/global grid for all of our needs.

Food. Power. Water. Everything.

And when any section of that grid is disrupted, it affects everyone, everywhere. The easy example is the price of gas. With the refineries off line here on the Gulf Coast, prices have gone up everywhere because the supply of gasoline has been disrupted. So even in an area where the vast majority of the countries gasoline is refined, the price is still high and we're waiting 30 minutes or more to fill up.

That in turn has affected the availability of food. Because most food is not produced anywhere close to where it is consumed, when the trucks can't bring it in (because of the shortage of fuel), then that particular region suffers through shortages. Like we're seeing now. Thankfully the water supply wasn't disrupted for an extended period of time. I'd hate to see what would happen in a situation like that.

Now I know you can't undo 50 years of globalization in an instant. What I do think is that people themselves better think of how they're going to provide for their critical needs and necessities in times of crisis. With the frequency of disasters hitting this country, the time seems to be approaching where those who don't produce at least some of their own food, aren't going to be eating. Some long term family planning is in order.

Like I said, things are calm here and everyone is patiently waiting for life to return to normal. I just hope and pray that the power comes back on before the sun comes back out.

Musical Interlude: Old School Friday - Road Trip Songs

Happy Old School Friday! Today we're going on a Road Trip! That's right, today's theme is all about those songs that keep you bopping behind the wheel (and awake) as you make your way across this great country.

Now there are literally too many great songs out there that can be included in this category, so I've decided to break it down into segments. They are (1) Getting Underway, (2) Cruise Control, and (3) The Last Mile. As you've probably figured out, each segment corresponds with a portion of your trip, no matter whether long or short. So here we go.

Leaving town is always hectic and when you finally get out there on that open road, you need something playing that conveys that feeling, helps settle you down from the frenzy of the departure, and alludes to the promise of what's in front of you. Something like a live version of Jimi Hendrix' All Along the Watchtower.

Alright, nothing but road in front of you, the cruise control is set, and now you're in maintenance mode. Just driving, and you need your music to work with you here. Something that keeps your mind active and your body relaxed. Electric Relaxation by Tribe Called Quest fits the bill perfectly.

Man, the last part of the trip is usually the worst. You've been driving for hours (or days), you're tired, you've pretty much had it with whoever else is in the car with you, and all you want to do is just get there. This part of the trip calls for complicated music that can energize, relax, and provide the hope that you're going to arrive, period. Time to go live again with Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and Before I Let Go.

There, that should take you the rest of the way in. Now hop out, stretch your legs, and try to have a little fun for a minute. Because you know you have to turn around and do it all over again in a few days.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip, and don't forget the rest of the Old School Friday Crew. BTW, it's been a while since I've posted, so if there are new participants or your links have changed, let me know in the comments.

Electronic Village - Chatting Over Cocktails - Ms Grapevine - Quick - Marcus LANGFORD - Cassandra - Danielle-Lisa C -Chocl8t - DP - Kreative Talk -MarvalusOne - Regina - LaShonda -AJ - Sharon - Invisible Woman - Believer 1964 -Dee - SJP - sHaE-sHaE - Songs In the Key of Life - Shawn - Hagar’s Daughter - freshandfab - Creole Pimp - Wonderland or Not

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Us and Them - The Palin Narrative

I'm so far behind on my blogging it's a shame, but I think it's time to weigh in on Sarah Palin. The current prevailing narrative is that "she's one of us," and because of that, independents and many white women voters are trending towards McCain. Maybe, maybe not. I am more than a bit skeptical about the polls, particularly since this election has never really been classified as anything other than a dead heat by those national polling outfits. I find that a little bit hard to believe, or maybe they're just not polling anyone I know. Or anyone who only uses a cell phone. Or anyone who... well, you get the idea, back to Sarah Palin and "us."

You know, I can relate to having and raising kids, and that sometimes they do things that you've specifically beaten into their heads not to do. That's life, as are circuitous routes through college and other such nonsense. I also understand the genuine excitement that so many women are feeling to have a female candidate at the top of a major party ticket. But my question still is who is "us?"

Honestly, I don't know. What I do know, is I don't feel like I'm included in this "us" thing. That's reason enough to give me pause because if the main reason folks are supposedly moving towards the McCain/Palin ticket is due to her being one of "us," then that implies that she's not one of "them." Which now means we have figure out who "they" are, and for some strange reason, I suspect that "they" are "us."

Confused? Yeah, well me too. According to the prevailing narrative, I can only surmise that "they" are the folks in this country who aren't white, or white women. Which leaves one to wonder about all of the white women and men who support the Obama campaign. Where do they stand? I'll let y'all try and figure that out yourselves, because I honestly don't know.

What I do know is that "they" haven't leveraged their positions to get people fired for petty, vindictive reasons. "They," by and large haven't shot a moose for no good reason or have bears hanging on their wall. "They" don't try to ban books, and definitely don't sneer condescendingly at those who make it their life's work to help empower others.

You know, looking at it like that, I guess I'm cool with not being included among "us" because really, all I need to know about Sarah Palin is that she's running on the Republican ticket. And after 8 years of their "leadership" running this country into the ground, I'll be ecstatic to pull the lever for anything with a "D" after it's name.

To me, it's as simple as that, and everything else is just background noise and distractions. Or lipstick on a pig. Or whatever. What about you?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Round-Up

Hey, better late than never, right? I have been kind of busy the past few days with an unwanted guest named Ike and cleaning up the mess he left behind. But enough with the excuses, here’s the latest edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Round-Up.

This week, many bloggers in Houston and in the Gulf Coast region are without power and digging out from Hurricane Ike. We extend our best wishes for a speedy recovery not only to our member bloggers in these regions but to all citizens in the areas hit by Ike.

Why does Sarah Palin hate wolves? The Texas Cloverleaf clues us in.

Everybody knows that this year's wedge'em and hate'em issue is Hispanics immigration. CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme says Texas leads the way with banning rents in Farmers Branch, denying passports to citizens in the Valley and threatening document checks during an evacuation.

During the preparations for Hurricane Ike, Off the Kuff noted yet another lawsuit filed against Farmers Branch for its ongoing war against immigrants and apartment renters.

Sen. John Cornyn claims to be voting "Texas values" when he consistently rubber-stamps Bush in the U. S. Senate. Eye On Williamson asks, since when have torture, spying on Americans and misleading the country on matters of war and peace been Texas values?

PDiddie survived Ike almost exactly as he predicted.

BossKitty at TruthHugger wonders if disaster lessons recently learned, will be used as we watch Hurricane Ike Recovery, Texas Style

Colloquialisms are a wonderful rhetorical device to create an instant sense of commonality within the minds of the voting public. However, they can at times be misconstrued (right, Governor Swift?) which is why McBlogger took some time to offer Sen. Obama (The BEST!) a phrase he could use that can't possibly be interpreted as anything other than an attack on John McCain and his worthless ideas, proposals and suggestions.

North Texas Liberal examines in-depth the Palin pick, comparing and contrasting her with Obama's VP pick of Joe Biden, and dissecting the media's coverage of Sarah Palin.

jobsanger writes about how United States interference into Bolivia's internal affairs have gotten American ambassadors kicked out of two countries in South America, and how some politicians can't refuse even a bad photo op.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that State Rep. Phil King (R-Waxahachie), chair of the House Regulated Industries Committee, is having a fund-raiser at the home of a lobbyist for telecom giant AT&T. King's committee just happens to regulate telecommunications in Texas.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Musical Interlude: Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble - Couldn't Stand the Weather

I have not been able to get this song out of my head for the past three days, so I'm sharing the love. Here's Texas guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn with Couldn't Stand the Weather.

Kind of appropriate with Hurricane Ike in town, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Ike - The Aftermath

Ike gave us his worst, but we survived; a little tattered and torn, but alive nonetheless. As bad as this has been for us out here on the southwest edge of the Houston metro area, it is much worse inside the city and especially down on the coast in Galveston.

Our power is already back on for example, while it could be weeks before the rest of the city can say the same. Many of the grocery and hardware stores and gas stations are open as well. The lines to get into anywhere are ridiculously long, and from what I can tell, most of the staple supplies are just not available in any real quantities yet. But you can load up on junk food, and I guess that's better than nothing. Not much better, but a little.

So what happened during the night? Well, as you read in my previous post, we hunkered down in the safe room and were waiting for the main body of the storm to hit. The funny thing is that by the time that occurred, we were all exhausted and fell sound asleep on the floor. We didn't wake up until the worst had passed! I've always told my daughter that she could sleep through a hurricane and now I have the proof. Although I guess she can say the same about me. We were back up by 5:30 AM and inspected the house and discovered a couple of leaks. There wasn't much we could do about it at that time, except catch the water in pots.

We sustained some damage to our roof that was easily patched up, but not before some water got into the house. Our trees took a beating too, especially the avocado tree we've been waiting 6 years to produce fruit. Next summer was supposed to be the time, but after being uprooted and replanted, I'm not sure if it's natural schedule will be delayed. Our banana trees weren't exactly built to withstand winds that high either.

In the aftermath, I set up our generator and plugged in the freezer. We took in some stray food from our neighbors, and charged up cell phones for others. Speaking of cell phones, as usual, the only thing that works is text messaging, which is better than nothing. So we shot texts off to friends and family around the country to let them know we were safe, and then began the process of cleaning up.

Around our neighborhood roofs, fences, and uprooted trees seem to be the order of the day. Thankfully no injuries or deaths out here that I've heard about. Late last night the power came back on, and things are taking on some semblance of normalcy for us out here.

In other words we were blessed beyond belief.

The same can't be said for the rest of the region.
This was a really big storm, and most of the people in the area not in mandatory evacuation zones stayed put. If the current death toll (21) holds, it'll be nothing short of a miracle. The Houston Chronicle has been doing a great job reporting on this storm and it's aftermath so I'd suggest visiting them if you want a lot more detail than I can provide in this post. But the amount of property damage appears staggering and it's going to take the region a while to recover from this one. Since we were spared the worst, I'll be heading into town tomorrow to do what I can to help out.

Most likely volunteering with one of those community organizations that have been so disparaged as of late.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Live Blogging Ike - It's Getting Ugly

Ike has most definitely arrived. Not sure how this is will to work out, but I'm going to try and post an update from my old Ipaq phone. That's because the power went out around 11PM and the computer is not available. There's no telling when the power will be back on. Maybe hours, or days. The storm hadn't even made it ashore yet before the power went, which seems unusual. Once the power went out, we decided to try and get some sleep before the storm really hit. That lasted for a couple of hours until the winds and noise picked up. We're in our safe area but I've looked outside a couple times. The winds are so strong our trees are leaning to the left and being buffeted around. You can hear the rain hitting the windows and it sounds like they're being sandblasted. You hear it all the time, but the rain is blowing sideways. We are hearing some strange noises that we can't figure out exactly what they are yet. We're listening to the radio and the eye of the storm is over Clear Lake, and we still apparently have hours to go before this thing is done. I'll be back when I can.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike - An Inside Look

Ok, I'm back. Again. And what better time to come back from my self-imposed blogging hiatus than during a hurricane. So here I am.

To say a lot has been going on the past few weeks is a definite understatement. Politics, weather, life, death, we've been through it all lately. I'm not even going to try and catch up on everything that's occurred since that last post, but I will try and provide a glimpse into what's happening here in the Houston area right now, and it can be summed up in one word.


That's right, Ike has come calling, and like an unwanted party crasher, he's acting like a true fool. Right now, Galveston is in his sights, but we expect to feel the full brunt of the storm soon. Luckily for us, we're not in the surge zone, so water is not an issue. But we do expect some serious wind and rain.

By the way, where's President Bush? Haven't seen him at all since this whole situation developed. I mean, he was so involved "monitoring" Hurricane Gustav a couple of weeks ago that he couldn't even attend his own parties convention. What's different about this situation, or was that all about *gasp* politics?
Oh, wait a minute,turns out he's fundraising.

But I digress. Since yesterday when Ike's path became clear, the whole area has been preparing. A lot of people in the surge zone evacuated, but apparently nearly half of the people in Galveston decided to stay put. This despite the fact that local officials told them in no uncertain terms that no help would be coming once the storm got close. I pray they don't live to regret that decision, but looking at it right now, I'm pretty sure they will. The storm hasn't even hit yet and a good portion of the island is already flooded.

We decided to stay put too, for several reasons. One, we're not in surge zone. Second, we're pretty far inland, and our house is only 8 years old and seems to be pretty well built. And third, we evacuated when Hurricane Rita threatened the area in 2005, and that was an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Still, I hope we don't end up regretting our decision to stay either.

Like I said, we've been preparing. The gas tanks are full, all potential projectiles are cleared from the yard, we've laid in a supply of food and water, the generator is tuned up with plenty of fuel on hand, and eventually, I'll shut down all of the electronics in the house, including computers. One thing we did not do was board up the windows, but we've scouted out the strongest point in our house to shelter at during the worst of the storm.

So now we wait.

The craziest thing so far has not been the amount of effort it taken to prepare. Nor the anxiety of waiting to see if it's coming directly towards us or not. No, the really crazy thing that has been taking up most of my time is fielding all of the calls from family, friends, and current and former business acquaintances from around the country. And while I really appreciate the concern, we are kind of busy down here y'all. I promise we will call as soon as we can after this thing is over. In the meantime, no news is good news.

We are expecting Ike to show up sometime in the early morning hours, and have been told to expect the power to go out soon thereafter. I'm not sure how long it's supposed to be out, but some of the folks who remember Hurricane Alicia back in 1983 said it took nearly two weeks to restore the power to all areas. Man, I hope that is not the case this time around. There's only so much power that my little generator can provide, and that doesn't include air conditioning. And y'all know we are pretty much dependent on the AC down here, especially during this time of year. In fact, I don't think Houston would be the 4th biggest city in the country without it. Suffice it to say, I'm not looking forward to that.

What has been cool is my ten year old's response to this event. Talk about a learning and growing experience. She has been as helpful as she can be, and has been asking a ton of great questions. She's also taken it upon herself to monitor the news for us, providing updates whenever she feels the situation has changed, or there is something newsworthy to report. Even though I can tell she's nervous about the whole 'sheltering in place' ordeal, in her own words she's "nervous but still excited to see what's going to happen." Ahh, youth.

Anyway, I hope that gives you a little peek into what's happening on this end. The winds are picking up right now, but still no rain. I'll try to jump back on soon to update. In the meantime if you're so inclined, send up a little prayer for the safety and protection of life and property for your friends down here in Texas.

We'll definitely need it.