Monday, October 29, 2007

A final note on disasters...

This Christian Science Monitor article details some of the things that California and specifically San Diego has done right to deal with living in disaster-prone areas. As the piece points out, we've still got a long way to go. But, as an example:
Not only has California allowed higher insurance rates to send signals to homeowners who live recklessly in risky danger zones, it is also imposing tougher property standards. In San Diego County especially, officials have learned many lessons from the 2003 wildfires – the largest in California's recent history – that killed 16 people and destroyed 2,458 homes.

In a new defensive policy known as "shelter in place," the county set construction and landscape codes in 2004 for new homes in fire-prone areas. These included the use of noncombustible roof materials, indoor sprinklers, fire-resistant vegetation, and a 100-foot-wide protection perimeter.

The result? In five new subdivisions that met those codes, this month's wildfires raced by them and not a single house was lost.

In addition, San Diego County has removed much of the area's fire-vulnerable underbrush. It set up a mass notification system that helped quickly evacuate more than half a million people in danger of the fast-moving flames.
Note that aside from allowing higher insurance rates, all of the effective measures taken are government policies — not some libertarian fantasy of individual ownership and the invisible hand of the marketplace.

And as a final p.s. — Go Chargers!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Enough already

It really pisses me off to see how right wingers and idiots are holding up the differences between the fires in San Diego and Hurricane Katrina as some kind of proof that, well, white people are more civilized than those black folks in New Orleans.

Tbogg, The Rude Pundit and Steve Lopez of the LA Times put this better than I could (even if I did have time to write a proper post), but just to be really clear about things, you simply can't compare the fires, which burned in the suburbs and left the city center and infrastructure intact, with a hurricane that pretty much took out everything.

Further, far from an example of Republican efficiency at work, the fires in San Diego were made worse by a tax-cutting mentality that refuses to do what's necessary to create a county fire-fighting force and the developers and the bought politicians who have run the city for years building in places where they shouldn't (e.g, combustible chaparral-covered hillsides and canyons).

I do think California handles disasters better than Louisiana. Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm not an expert), but Louisiana does not exactly have a reputation for good, clean government. California, meanwhile, has a lot of experience in dealing with large-scale disasters. We have these huge fires nearly every year and a big earthquake every decade or so. We should have a better idea how to cope.

Monday, October 22, 2007

California Burning

Horrific day today in Southern California. Much of my hometown San Diego is on fire, including local landmarks like the Wild Animal Park — the smaller animals, including cheetahs and condors, have been evacuated to a fire-resistant shelter on the premises; the larger animals, the elephants and lions and giraffes, are left to their savannah-like habitats, which have large ponds they can escape to if necessary...but still...

Visualize San Diego County, up against the ocean. Picture the city proper, surrounded by a crescent of suburbs and back country. Nearly that entire crescent is on fire or under threat, with fires threatening to burn to the ocean in places.

Solana Beach, Leucadia, Del Mar, being evacuated. I can't picture it.

I grew up in those beach towns, back when that's what they were — unpretentious surfer havens. Cheap Mexican restaurants. I've never been able to fully accept the changes there, the condos, the housing tracts, the influx of money. Seeing these places in recent years makes me feel like a refuge in my own hometown. I'll never go back. I wouldn't be able to afford it. And I no longer want to.

But watching these fires, I feel the pull of where I was born. This was my place. This is where I came from.

Here's San Diego for you: Qualcomm Stadium has been pressed into service as an evacuation center. That's home of the Chargers, former home of the Padres (who moved to much nicer digs downtown).

So many volunteers showed up at Qualcomm with pizza and sandwiches that the authorities are telling everybody to wait until tomorrow to come, because they have too much food, and it will spoil. Meanwhile, some of the concessions at the Stadium have opened up to feed the refugees.

Meaning, fish tacos will be served. Because you can't go to the Q without having a fish taco.

We do pretty well in California with disasters — sure, we had the LA riots in '92, but look how well we handled the Northridge Quake in '93.

The corruption and incompetence of San Diego government in recent years could fill several books, but there still seems to be some basic ability of the government to function and for people to feel that they have some connection to each other. Yeah, there's folks looting the burnt-out shells of houses in Rancho Bernardo; there is righteous anger over the lack of coordination, of fire equipment — why the hell isn't the Navy out there with their infrared-equipped helicopters? No one seems to have a good answer.

But there will be fish tacos.

UPDATE: And massage therapists. Only in California....

Monday, October 15, 2007

Back to the salt mines...

Or the chain gang...or whatever lame metaphor you'd like to use for going back to work on a project that never seems to be finished.

Yep, it's a new round of rewrites for the Book that Ate My Blog...and it may sound like I'm bitching, but I'm really not. It's an opportunity, and my only real worry is that I won't be up for the job, because I've got a lot of work to do, and some of it won't be easy.

A lot of the stuff I normally blog about — China, the staggering crimes of the Bush Administration, stuff like that — has been subsumed (is that a word?) into this novel (which I nonetheless promise is NOT didactic!). So I haven't been as driven to blog about it. But I'll try to at least put up pointers to great articles you might have missed while I once again lose myself in rewrites.

Creative transfusion, STAT!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I'm baaack....kinda

Okay, so my hiatus was a tad bit longer than a couple of days...but the novel I've been complaining about is sort of like a vampire. It's sucked nearly all of my creative energy dry. Not that I'm complaining. Much. I'm still working on it, and it's getting better.

I just need a couple transfusions before I'm back blogging again...