One unbeatable, irreducible, very unfortunate aspect of being even slightly employed is that you get to have interesting, memorable, enriching, maybe even life-changing experiences (not to mention food and drinks) on someone else's dime, schedule and initiative. Employment is the modern version of patronage and conscription rolled into one. It makes me wonder if Merlin really liked magic all that much or if he just happened to be capable and in the right place at the right time and really liked the nice lab and the free horse. And since work (a.k.a. struggle) of some kind is the only path to growth, it seems obvious that work should be almost universally good. And yet it isn't. Why? I'm guessing for normal people (i.e. not me) it's because they don't end up in the right job. I mean who wouldn't want to do neat things with electronic gadgets and occasionally fly all over the country for the purpose of talking to smart, interesting, funny people about your common goals? Well, me, as it has turned out on more than one occasion in my life, but I think to many people this sounds nearly-idyllic. But I've known many people who did it, including some whose jobs included gobs of down time where they were figuratively (and often literally) "on the beach." And yet no one loves it for very long. Everyone profits from it, gains huge experience from it, grows as a person from it, then ultimately moves on. And if they look back at all it's only with an occasional cold chill, like they narrowly got away with something. And I'm not sure you even have to be in the world of high-flying consultancy to do this. I think any job has this curve where it starts out being fascinating and fulfilling and at some point becomes just a job. Of course we imagine there are people for whom life is not like this--artists, actors--but as someone who has had some pretty interesting jobs, I can't say I totally buy it. Even people who own their own businesses, who have wrested as much control as humanly possible out of the system, don't typically love what they do. Almost anyone I've met and talked to who you could think of as being typically successful will admit that what they do is just what they do... to earn a living. They see it as a bargain: I do this and then I can do _____. Where the blank is filled with almost every non-work thing you can think of: retire, support my family, send my kids to good schools, do drugs, buy guns, run marathons, travel, play video games--in other words all the things we admit to doing or wish we could when people ask us what we "do" and don't mean "for work." But why are those lists inherently separate? How is it that most of us have such a fine and yet powerful discriminator to tell us the difference between work and not-work? Why are exciting, novel, enriching experiences on Saturday different from exciting, novel, enriching experiences on Wednesday? We'll tell the same kinds of stories next year about both the good and bad experiences of work and not-work, but right now, today, something feels different about the things we're getting paid to do versus the things we choose to do on our own. One possibility is that work is uniquely compartmentalized and indivisible. You can't quit one part of your job, only the whole thing. Everything else is not like this. You can quit a friend, a hobby, TV, drinking, any, each or all without quitting life. But can you suddenly decide you're not going to run a particular report anymore at work? Probably not. Which maybe makes for an interesting definition: work is that which must be quit as a package deal. And there could be a corollary: things that present as package deals often seem like work. So does it really come back to choice? Is the definition of work simply that which impinges on our free will to any extent? Maybe. And maybe this is why so many people are willing and able to put up with it. Because we are, sometimes, able to decide, as an act of free will, that we're going to take the money and the experience and the free food and drink even if it means giving up a parcel of free will. Or maybe we don't decide. Maybe we deny or evade or engage some other coping mechanism, but the result is the same.
Or just for the coming total urban gridlock of the 21st century? It's quite a comment on the direction the average commute is headed that we now have a popular vehicle that's at its best going zero to two miles per hour for 30 hours straight. As one of the blog comments implies, is owning a hybrid automobile to become a valid part of your personal contingency planning, right up there with bottled water and flashlights? A month ago, this idea would have sounded paranoid and apocalyptic. Now it just points out the absurdity of the whole situation. If we get one more storm this season you'll probably see a push to get "evacuation mileage" put on the new-car window sticker right next to "city" and "highway."
Despite the over-wide format and namedropping, this is sublime. Except that it ultimately suffers from the same myopia that it purports to be railing against by taking as a given that "feeding poor people is useful tech" without considering the global view. Globally speaking, feeding poor people, directly, as a project, only serves to make more, poorer poor people. I'm not saying let them starve. I'm saying don't have the cliched, knee-jerk reaction of thinking that more money means more bags of rice on more transport planes means reduced suffering. I'm saying ask more questions. Ask how so many people came to be living in such poor conditions. It's not happenstance. It's an effect of global economy, climate, culture and corruption. This is most certainly a problem that direct address does not fix. If direct address fixed poverty or even starvation, we would have solved it long ago. We need to be looking at indirect address: education, reform, changing mindsets and expectations and senses of morality and fairness and entitlement all over the globe. A person can become poor or suffer through a series of unfortunate events. People, populations, become poor, suffer and stay there through the machinations of huge, complex and often intentional institutions, beliefs and interests. These are what we need to be looking at. These are what really determine what kind of future we'll inhabit.
Let's take a break from all the hurricane panic (since it now turns out there will be about 10 people actually affected by the weather part of Rita) and do some cathartic Mac bashing. Here's a nice enumeration of OSX annoyances to get us started. Actually, that's probably enough to get us started and finished. Reading this I had a shocking realization: as an end user, I currently have no complaints about Windows! You have to understand, I make my living off the annoyances of Windows XP, 2000 and 2003 Server machines. If people didn't struggle with these machines to some extent, they wouldn't need me. There are some Linux boxes I grudgingly deal with, because really, who can deal with those things, but aside from that, it's all Windows. And I have to say, in terms of speed, stability, ease of use, manageability and supportability, there is nothing better to me than a Windows XP-level machine. Admittedly, I'm soaking in the Kool-Aid. I grok Windows. Even when it doesn't make sense, the way in which is doesn't make sense makes sense. There's a reason for this: backward compatibility and legacy hardware support. There's so much old code floating around in Windows, so many ancient device APIs, so much stone-age technology, all still supported, all still interoperable. Microsoft has had to make Windows somewhat bulletproof, inside and out, just to keep it from blowing itself up!
My absolute favorite configuration is a Windows 2003 Standard Server stripped of all its XP UI chrome. I've been using one of these as my primary desktop and development machine, web server, SQL Server and Terminal Server for about 30 months on the same install. This machine has survived three versions of the Microsoft development environment, and at least two each of Office, Photoshop, and Macromedia's suite. Plus a ridiculous amount of demo and trial software, a literally uncountable number of my own FUBAR application hacks, and about 10 versions of Yahoo Messenger. This is simply the longest-running, most stable computer I have ever used. Any problems I have had with it have either been hardware failures or very poorly written device drivers or software. In almost all cases, the system has fully recovered. The only exception is that after the last Yahoo "upgrade," no webcam will work with any messenger. I completely blame Yahoo for this.
In fact, the author of the post I've linked to here works at Yahoo. So he's in a position to know crappy software when he sees it. If he hates his Macs, if he wants to go back to using crappy Yahoo software on crappy Windows on crappy PCs, then man, the Mac must really suck.
Here's an idea: What if Rita just stops? 9mph isn't very fast for a hurricane to be traveling. The Long Island Express was moving what, 75mph at one point, 50mph when it made landfall? So what if Rita just parks its ass in the Gulf and sits there sucking up heat and moisture for the rest of the season? I mean storms on other planets can last hundreds of years. Isn't it conceivable we could get a few good months of climatic/anti-climactic angst out of Rita? Or Beta, or whatever the next big storm is. Just think what that would do for the economy! All these poor suckers buying gas just to sit in traffic for 20 hours every day for weeks. People for 500 miles in every direction with two-car garages filled with bottled water and canned food. You're probably wishing you had held onto that Yuma Y2K bunker about now, huh?
What do you suppose has us so freaked out, the 60% chance of rain on Saturday or the threat of some displaced Houstonians showing up for dinner? I tried to go to Sam's Club and Costco today. Sam's had three signs on the door that said, "We are out of bottled water, batteries and generators." The "so don't even bother coming inside" was only implied. Cars were six deep at all the gas pumps. Costco had orange cones surrounding their gas pumps because they were sucked dry. HEB was out of bottled water and ice and dangerously low on beer and butter (and flour and sugar, I noticed... are people planning on a lot of emergency baking?), but at least it was no more crowded than a rainy Sunday evening. Still, the tension level was high. One shopper knocked over a salsa display rather spectacularly right near the cash registers and half the people in my field of view jumped. The other half just groaned. Frankly, I'm surprised no one started shooting. I saw two car accidents in eight miles.
Wow, you'd think we lived somewhere that just had a hurricane. Or at least somewhere that actually could have a hurricane.
Folks, calm down. It's not even going to get cloudy until tomorrow night. Walmart and HEB have trucks headed this way right now to bring you all the things your panicked lizard brain is telling you to buy before the other guy does. Retail life will go on. Tomorrow, in fact, if you want to go through it all over again.
Okay, so as I thinkI've mentioned, Macs suck. And normally I'm pretty apologetic about the PC as well. But now Sterling has come out and said, Macs suck, but they still r00l, basically because they don't get viri. Okay, so I support a ridiculous number of home PCs. Poorly patched Windows PCs, mostly. Like five, plus about a dozen virtual machines. Most of these with only standard Windows updates (eventually) behind a hardware firewall. Knock on wood, I have yet to have a virus or spyware. Really, you have to be both a complete slacker and moron to get one of these things. You have to be asking for it. You have to click on six things that say, "yes, please infect me and while you're at it install software that will destroy my machine and share my personal, financial and biblical information with the world." If you've done that, if you fall for that, you suck. You are the problem. And guess what, 90% of you use the PC. Why? Because 92% of the world uses the PC. Big surprise. If you look at the actual statistics, more Mac users are morons, because if one Mac user gets a virus, if one Mac user gets hacked, they blow the whole curve, because no one is targeting them. It's the law of diminishing returns. Why hack a Mac when you can hack a PC? You're just playing the odds. So if you want to live in paranoia, if you want to pay through the nose, if you can afford to have three computers so you can keep (maybe) two working at any given moment, own a Mac. Own a slow-assed, gimmicky, open-source exploiting, hypocritical, insulting-your-intelligence piece of shit Mac.
Bruce, buddy, just fyi, I will call you on this shit until the day I die.
Hey, remember all the uproar and lawsuits surrounding the Red Cross after 9/11? The thrown-out blood donations, the undisbursed relief money? Yeah, me either. Fortunately there are people out there with longer memories than me who are able to maintain their skepticism over the long term.
For example, this came across the wire today on Allan Weisbecker's email list. Allan is an author whose works I've followed for a while and with whom I've developed what I call a one-way friendship. That is, I keep track of what's going on with him without actually bugging him about it. It's about the level of interaction either of us have time for, I think. Anyway, he just sent a pant-load of money to the Red Cross (didn't we all?) and told the people on his list to do the same. One of his readers pushed back, validly I think, and here's part of that exchange. Keep in mind, this is an exchange that was forwarded to me but to which I was not an original party.
But there's bad news too.
As a subscriber pointed out, the Red Cross is not the way to donate money for Katrina Relief.
I'm going to reproduce the subscriber's email here...
Okay, the email:
> Allan, > > After such an eloquent and well-stated letter, it > pains me that you would suggest people donate to the > Red Cross. > > Yes. The vast majority of those who work for and > volunteer their time on behalf of the Red Cross are > very fine people. And they do this work with the > best of intentions and for all the right reasons. > > However, the Red Cross itself is a tool of the very > same forces you rail against (the establishment)..or > in Orwell's words which you quote in your > letter.. the "oligarchical ruling group." > > There are some within the upper echelons of the Red > Cross who are utterly corrupt. And for the most part > they are running the show. > > Consider what happened to the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS > of dollars donated to the Red Cross for the EXPRESS > PURPOSE of helping the families of those who > perished on Sept. 11th. These families got a mere > pittance and they had to literally DRAG it from the > Red Cross under threat of lawsuit. > > Not only that, the funds that the Red Cross received > following September 11th were utilized for efforts > all over the country (many of which were completely > unrelated to the 9-11 tragedy) clearly against the > wishes of those who donated for the specific purpose > of helping those families who lost a loved one. > > > Red Cross also made all sorts of impassioned pleas > for people to donate blood after 9-11 (and again > with Katrina). Virtually everyone involved in the > 9-11 tragedy either made it out alive and well....or > they DIED. There was not a need for massive amounts > of blood. Most of this blood was either sold for a > profit or destroyed (it's true) because they had too > much. > > The Red Cross established the "Liberty Fund" after > 9-11. Out of the nearly $600 million raised, they > BEGRUDGINGLY distributed only $154 million. > > The explanation was that this money was being used > to fight the "War on Terror." When questioned about > the withholding of funds, Red Cross President Dr. > Bernadine Healy arrogantly responded, "The Liberty > Fund is a war fund. It has evolved into a war fund." > Families of 9-11 victims complained bitterly, but to > no avail. > > This was certainly not the first time this has > happened. When the devastating earthquake struck San > Francisco several years ago the Red Cross received > $50 million in donations. Only $10 million of that > amount was distributed for the purpose it was > intended. > > My best advice is that you take the time to do the > research and find a reputable national charity or a > group in one of the affected areas and direct your > donation to them. That is unless you don't mind the > fact that 80 cents of every dollar you send to the > Red Cross will never make it to Louisiana or > Mississippi.
Of those two links, I think I'd pay more attention to the first one, since it's CBS News. Granted, not the most reliable source in the world, but they don't appear to have retracted the story. The second one devolves into conspiracy theories toward the end. Obviously you should do your own research and come to your own opinion.
My perspective on this, having worked on a few projects that were ostensibly "for charity," is that there really is a lot of overhead and corruption between you putting in your money and anyone receiving a benefit. I personally worked (pro bono via my employer) with a group that went in with claims of "minimum overhead" and ended up pushing as little as 20 cents on a dollar to the actual charity organizations involved (that's the organization, not the people receiving the benefit!). I guess it's fortunate they weren't very good at attracting donations.
Given that this is Louisiana we're talking about in the present case, a state with high levels of ambient corruption, I'm not sure what choice you have if you want to donate. One serious option is to take direct action, rather than just sending money. Help at a shelter. Participate in a food or clothing drive. Or network, find someone you know who knows someone who is taking direct action and help them. For example, I can personally vouch for Blankets for the Gulf. These are people who are going to do what they say they are. And they're not even asking for money! Though if you can't make a blanket, you might seriously consider donating vehicle driving/use/rental, gas cards, storage or a donation point (in the Central Texas area), use of a vacuum bagging/shrinkwrap machine, or any number of other logistical support items I'm sure will be needed come December. If you want to help, get in touch with Heather. At the very least, spread the word to any craft-handy people you know.
The Point Escapes Me, But Something is Definitely Going on Here
What would you do in a deflationary economy? I mean what would your job be? Shockingly, given what I know of economics, unsustainability, the fallacy of infinite growth, I've never asked myself this question. I've been mulling these issues for at least the last 8 years and I've never thought to stop and ask that question: what would I do? What will I do? This becomes vitally important if you agree with Michael Ventura's latest column as I do. 100%. If you know me, you know how seldomly I say I agree with anything 100%. I've even prevaricated on Ventura before. But not this time. This time he's right there, dead in the middle of the mainstream of my own thought processes.
I think, I hope, or anti-hope as the case may be, that the events of the last two weeks in New Orleans point out that Chicken Little is dead. The sky does, in fact, fall. Is falling, at all times, all around us. Entire classes of thinking that were once off limits in general discussion because they represented "doomsday thinking" are, I think, back on the table. The globe is warming. The oil is running out. The American lifestyle is unsustainable. It's gone right from unattainable (by most) to unsustainable (by any). I'm scared.
Something I was thinking about the other day, sort of in line with this, was how abstract my job is. Well, not my "job," but the way I make money. What occurred to me is that I don't work for people. I have contacts, of course, but there's nothing I can do for another human being that justifies my wage. I can only work for giant corporations, the gianter the better. This only occurred to me because I noticed that I spend increasing amounts of time working for companies who work for companies who ultimately work for companies you've actually heard of, like Microsoft and Nokia. This kind of tertiary-consumer-of-consumers status (the biological equivalent of which would be if I could survive only by eating bald eagles fed solely on dolphin meat) crept up on me in such a way that I haven't even bothered to put the fact that I've "worked for" Microsoft and Nokia (et. al.) on my resume. They don't know I've worked for them, and I don't feel like I've worked for them, but I can't avoid the fact that I've materially contributed to these companies. There are products and events and web sites and emails out there that wouldn't have existed in the form they did and do if I hadn't been involved and yet would have existed in some way whether I was involved or not. And my point is, I can only work at that level of abstraction. My skills are only useful as a minor contributor to a huge endeavor. There's no way an individual can use my skills—they're too specialized. No one, personally, needs a .NET programmer. No one has an urgent need for a SQL query at home. The fact of the matter is, many of us, most of us, are in this same position. How many farmers do you personally know? How many direct-care workers? How many people for whom the supply chain of a good or service is one link long?
Putting this together with Ventura's observation, you get a distinctly troubling picture. If the American experience is unsustainable, then it stands to reason that the more abstract, corporate-based, marketing-related aspects of it are even more so. Even in a best-case scenario, I'm left to contemplate my chances of being in a better seat as the plane goes down in flames. What I mean is that, cynically, I can look at my skill set and say, well, there will be someone exploiting the situation even as the whole house of cards comes down, and I just need to be relatively closer to them than I am to the people living in abandoned sports arenas. Even the devil needs databases. Even disasters require websites. If we really do hit $10/gallon for gas while trying desperately to cling to a global consumer economy (in this, by the way, "they" are the global and "we" are the consumer), then it's conceivable that a bit-pushing lifestyle will continue to hold some advantage. I mean if worse really does come to worse I can probably sweat it out with a cable modem and a window air conditioner for a while. It probably doesn't make sense to do anything radical, at least until we see if Austin gets consumed by the great equatorial desert or the descending Arctic glaciers. You never know, this could be the garden spot. Except not literally, because you can't really grow anything edible here.
Which leads to the real problem: food. Everything else degrades relatively gracefully. I can stop driving, fill in the swimming pool, turn off the lights, cut the cable, stop buying new gadgets. But when $10/gallon gas leads to a $6 Wendy's super-value menu, we're all fucked. Man if you think the economy is going to suffer as the price of gas triples (you know, from the point now where it has already tripled), if you realize the price of everything goes up with the price of transportation and that this puts a devastating drag on our infinite-growth-dependent economy (and you'd be right in thinking these things), then wait until the price of food triples and then triples again. Even low-quality foods that are dirt cheap today—bread, rice, beans, beef, peas, tomatoes—are trucked hundreds or thousands of miles from where they're grown, processed or manufactured.
Plus, to grow food you need predictable weather. If you've got constant monster storms—be they coastal hurricanes or plains tornadoes—how do you get through a growing season? How do you fish? Couple this with high transportation costs and you've got a literal recipe for disaster. Right now we're an overweight nation. Very quickly we could become (just another) starving one.
I think what has just happened in New Orleans highlights just how close we are to total collapse at any moment. How quickly the American experience can devolve into a literally pedestrian quest for drinkable water and any food at all (not to mention all the "would be nice" things like clothing and diapers). We like to think of ourselves as having reached the pinnacle of civilization, the absolute opposite of hand-to-mouth, survival-based living. It takes almost nothing, less than 24-hours of bad weather apparently, to put a chunk of our citizenry into the worst conditions of inhumane suffering imaginable. See what happened right there? Pinnacle of civilization to worst imaginable. All it took was a storm. A storm that we not only saw coming days in advance but whose inevitability we recognized years in advance. And still this thing turned a corner of "the greatest country on earth" into the worst place on earth for the people left behind.
I think a lot of us looked at the recent Asian tsunami, at that level of suffering, and thought, "we're so lucky; that could never happen here." And even if it did, we have the resources to react instantly and prevent most of the human suffering and alleviate any that slips through the net. I think Katrina shows us we were wrong. We're not prepared for local calamity, much less global catastrophe. And what's almost worse is we're willfully, intentionally, arrogantly unprepared. We see the need and ignore it. Ventura's right: we are implicated. Worse, we're complicit.
The problems of global warming and a petroleum-based economy are going to work themselves out exactly the way New Orleans' neglected levees did: in conflagrations of catastrophic failure leading to societal collapse and human suffering. We scoffed at "perfect storm" (and Katrina wasn't even that perfect, think of that) predictions the same way we scoff at global-warming, carbon-load, ice-age, acid-ocean, petroleum economy-collapse predictions. It's all such a doomsday din, we almost can't listen. We can't fully consider the consequences because of what it would mean for our future and the next generation. It's a weird sort of masochism. We can't not consume the video and stories coming out of the Gulf region. Many of us are even driven to help in material and non-material ways. But what we can't do is use it to learn any kind of lesson or ask any questions. We can't bear to say, "what if?" In the face of total hell in the here and now, "what if" is still worse than what is. How can that be? Where does that fear come from? It's pretty clear that Katrina (as a catastrophe, probably not as a weather event) could have been prevented, if only a fraction of the post-disaster thought and response effort had been put in up front. The same could be said about 9/11. The difference is that reaction is always perceived as 100% justifiable, even if it requires 10 times the effort. Planning, preparedness, forethought—these are viewed as luxuries, gambles, controversies, line items to be negotiated and ultimately cut. No one could prove that a hurricane would one day wipe New Orleans off the map until it actually happened. Somehow that's a justification for not preparing for it, and of definitely not facing up to how we're probably making storms like this more likely and more devastating in the future.
I think this all goes back to a pervasive cocktail of anti-scientific fatalism and politico-economic management theory. There's a prevailing view that says that disaster cannot be accurately predicted and therefore a high level of preparedness is unjustified. On an individual level this would be like asserting that since we never know exactly when or how we will die, we may proceed as if we will never die and therefore it's okay not to prepare a last will and testament. As anyone who has experienced a probate can tell you, the results of this kind of thinking can be disastrous. As anyone who lived in the former city of New Orleans can tell you, this is exactly how our federal and state institutions behave. The results are even more literally disastrous.
So what? So here's my advice: Instead of continuing to consume the news surrounding the aftermath of Katrina, instead of basking any longer in the human suffering, take a step back and consider what this event means. Clearly (or at least so far) this is a less politically-charged event than 9/11, so it might actually be possible to ask the tough questions. And I'm not even talking about the misdirection of resources that might have improved the levy situation. I'm not even talking about the fact people could and should have been evacuated. I'm talking bigger picture. I'm talking about asking why the veil of civilization turned out to be so woefully thin in this small city in the greatest nation in the world. I'm talking about asking what will happen if the price of gas (and food, because ultimately gas is food, it's all one economy) triples and triples and triples again in our lifetimes. I'm talking about asking what will happen as the ambient average temperature of the temperate regions of our planet continues to rise by a degree a every few years, as the pH of our oceans continues to fall, as water levels rise and greenhouse gases mount. I'm talking about looking at New Orleans and asking, if we're this fragile, if people and society and the planet are this unstable, right below the surface, where are we headed? And isn't there something we can do about it? And if there is, don't we have to? Because if we don't, isn't it going to "work itself out?" Just like the levees did? Just like 9/11 did? Are we really comfortable with just letting things work themselves out the way they seem to be lately?
I started out asking, what will I do after the shit comes down, after the collapse begins (it may look like more of an implosion when it gets in full swing). I've ended up asking, what will I do now, before the shit starts coming down full-time. These are questions we can ask, which I hope puts us in a slightly better position than other cultures that have historically faced collapse. Maybe that's progress. If we do it.
Sadly, I sometimes have trouble remembering which serial killer-sounding Sci-Fi writer--Kim Stanley Robinson or Orson Scott Card--is the good one and which is the evil. This interview with Robinson straightens it right out. And for the record, "pathological assholery" and its variants are phrases I use about 50 times a day lately. Go Stan!
I found this on my literal desktop the other day, you know, the desktop where the mouse has a cord and not a finger. I was using it as scrap paper. I didn't write it. I have no idea where it came from. Statistically speaking, I can assume it was for a business that no longer exists. I'm reasonably certain it wasn't a nautical-themed project; that the use of "navigational" was just poor word choice. If it's yours, please don't sue me.
Or "How to Be a Pundit." As I've said before, being aware of logical fallacies and lazy reasoning habits is one of the best tools you can have as you work, constantly, to decipher, comprehend and not be duped by the propaganda, closed minds and outright chicanery that surround us daily. That's why this site is such a refreshing Sunday morning read. When your knee jerks, ask why. (Thanks, Dave!)
I'll omit names to protect... well, me, from litigation... and this way you can all assume its your programmer... or maybe there's no programmer at all and it's the universal programmer speaking forth through anonymous code, did you ever think of that?... but one of the many projects I'm working on this week involves some legacy code from a previous programmer (don't they all!). I used to get really worked up about other people's coding practices, but now my mantra is "get in, get the job done, get out." (This has especially softened the blow of looking back at my own code, which this is not an example of.) It also makes for a nice starting perspective, so that when I come across code like what you see here it's simply hilarious. I laughed out loud, at a terminal window--okay, that's a little disturbing. But thanks, Bitter, Sarcastic Programmer, I really needed that today!
Following up on my previous post... The main way I've accomplished spreading myself so dangerously thin and totally losing all context is through lack of sleep. I've been lucky to get 5 hours a night the last couple of weeks, which for me is a little more than half of what I'd really like to have. And while I'm well aware of the scientific and apocryphal reports of the damage sleep deprivation does to one's cognitive and motor abilities, I have to say there's one area where it really makes you excel: gestalt. There's nothing quite like staying awake so long and concentrating with such intensity that you begin to hallucinate. And one of the hallucinations you start to have is that everything is connected, and if you push that far enough you start to wonder if maybe everything isn't actually the same thing. It's hard to explain, and like all feelings of zeitgeist, gestalt (wait, both gestalt and zeitgeist?--do Germans not sleep?) and synchronicity (probably Jung slept, but only as research!) are at best a perception and very likely just a trick of the mind. But then what is "mind," at the most basic level, but perception and trickery?
Yeah, see, right there, that's what I'm talking about.
If you understood more than 20% of that, I'm kind of sad for you. You probably want one of these.
My basic premise was, no one wants to put their life on hold for months or years. The poor especially can't afford to wait around for a job or place to live to rematerialize. Renters and those without insurance will have no reason to return. Even middle-class property owners of the former city of New Orleans will find returning difficult when they learn that no one will sell them and their employers flood insurance for the next go around. Heck, we had a few cases of mold in Texas and couldn't buy homeowners insurance for two years.
And the simple truth is, many people have already left. People are still leaving. Getting people out is, rightly, the focus of the "relief" effort at present. If they can't go back for months or years, they'll very quickly begin to build new lives in new places. They'll get jobs, sign leases, put their kids in school. Even if they had the means to return, which many will not, what would be the draw? I don't believe the average person is that sentimental, and practical limitations will dictate staying put (just as it did for the thousands who stayed in the path of the hurricane against all advice).
But I'm not saying New Orleans is finished. I'm saying a lot of people have left and won't be returning. What this will probably mean is the availability of a lot of cheap real estate. I think developers, corporations and speculators will come in and snap it up. Once you have those kinds of deep pockets involved, they'll apply serious pressure to get the levy and pumping situation straightened out for the long haul. So New Orleans will ultimately be a safer, newer city. But my questions echo Mr. Ford's--what kind of city will New New Orleans be, and who will live there?