THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 489 October 22 - 28, 2007
Highlights this week:
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October 22, 2007
I got the mailbag and column for the week done, and Sunday afternoon I did the TWIT show. Now it's time to go to Hell.
Inferno II goes slowly: adding new scenes to a book which looks like an Odyssey but is in fact carefully planned to build to a conclusion is not easy. I am managing. I have also been plagued with ideas for Mamelukes, and for LisaBetta, a story that takes place about 100 years from now (there has been no singularity...).
So it's a full life if you don't weaken...
James Q. Wilson on the downside of diversityhttp://www.commentarymagazine.com/cm/main/viewArticle.html?id=10936
WFB: Letís Let the Armenians Rest.
- Roland Dobbins
I see that Buckley and I are in substantial agreement on this issue. This is not uncommon, although we certainly differed on the US role in the Middle East, where I opposed both US Iraqi adventures, and I cannot comprehend why he allowed the egregious Frum to denounce the Old Conservatives from the pages of National Review.
Southern California is ringed with fire. There are no problems near us, and our roof is fireproofed, but no place in Los Angeles is entirely safe. The brush stops 100 yards from our house -- we are on the flats in Studio City, but Laurel Terrace is the edge of the hills, and 100 yards from us begins 50 square miles of nature conservancy part -- meaning scrub brush and chaparral penetrated by a fire road but without water supplies. That last burned off about 20 years ago so there is plenty of fuel up there.
All is well at Chaos Manor but we are watching, especially when the winds pick up.
You may find this amusing: http://youtube.com/watch?v=qNLm8VYmvs4
go have a look at this!!!
|This week:||Tuesday, October
The fires continue.
A report from the Arrowhead area:
The first looters they had up the hill were two guys in a white pickup truck with Nevada plates. They saw - and lost - a pickup with what was described as
"15 hispanic males in the back of a truck getting ready to loot at golden rule and manatoba" and "Fullsized pickup truck to 10 to 15 hispanic males in the bed of the truck; 173 was clear from the dam to manatoba."
These are volunteers dealing with this. There aren't enough CHP's to enforce the road closures which is leading to this.
I have no estimate of the reliability of this report; I have not heard it on the news, but then I wouldn't expect to.
I posted this in another conference:
When I was a lad in Tennessee, my father was a Colonel of the Tennessee
The Kentucky and Tennessee
Colonels are usually the butts of national jokes, but they served a real
purpose when I was young.
Several news crews report having to run for their lives. The fires can move fast.
Now for the good news:
Chaos Manor is unaffected. I have buttoned up the house and turned on AC and air purifiers for obvious reasons. The pool is filled with wind-blown debris but that's not unusual in Santa Ana conditions. Looking from my balcony I can see neither smoke nor fire in any direction.
The San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood Hills have no fires. One hopes there is some vigilance because there are those who enjoy fire crises and take opportunities like these to set more fires.
The meteorologists report that the Santa Ana conditions are slowly weakening, and the Devil Winds will be pretty well gone by tomorrow. After that there may even be rain.
Rain, of course, is the ultimate remedy to all this.
and see In lieu
of a thousand words:
In lieu of a thousand words:http://www.flickr.com/photos/fionnmccueil/1704240607/
It's much calmer here this morning. California fire department officials are confident. Which means the hysteria will start, and the blame game will begin. Not enough airplanes, FEMA wasn't here, George Bush didn't personally come down an urinate on one of the fires. It's all Washington's fault, and it was all caused by global warming. It's all the fault of having a First World Civilization, which pollutes and warms and burns. But we'll fix that with No Child Left Behind, which will see to it that there aren't enough educated people to sustain a first world civilization.
Today I get back to Hell.
Edw. A Brault, please send me your email address.
At Qualcom Stadium they had a tailgate party. Of course the phones work and there's electricity. What we didn't have in Southern California was people taking pot shots at helicopters, and looters including police going into stores. There are said to be looters in the Lake Arrowhead area, but there are also home owners looking for them.
October 25, 2007
Niven and I went to the top of the ridge yesterday. Five miles round trip, with an 800 foot climb. We mapped out several excellent scenes. I promised him some work by yesterday evening, but I didn't do it. Some of our editor's suggesti0ns would change the premises of the book, and I don't think I can do that. We've written a good book, and some of the suggestions improve it a lot, but there are some I just can't accept.
Niven will be over shortly and we'll discuss it. I think we are in fundamental agreement, so it won't be a problem. It's a damned good book, no pun intended. Father Tony likes it. "It's no chore to read this," was his comment when I thanked him for looking at it. Roberta likes it. For that matter, so does our editor, except that he wants one set of changes I don't think I can do...
The fires are out in Los Angeles County, although they remain in Orange, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. Once the LA County FD Hotshots get rested up they can go put out the other fires. LA County invested a lot of money in County fire resources, more than the other three counties put together, so it's hardly astonishing that we were able to control our fires before the others.
One reader comments
Katrina and gunfire at helicopters
One other thing you don't have in the California fire disaster: people sitting on roofs, slowly dehydrating while National Guard choppers flutter by, ignoring their waving and flares. My wife was a nurse at University Hospital. After three days without power, water pressure or sewerage, only one half-hearted attempt was made to supply them by air. That pilot must not have had any experience at vertical replenishment, because he dropped his palletload of bottled water fifteen feet to the roof (the hospital's helipad was across the street, under water). Almost all of the bottles burst. If curses had any real force, whoever decided to put the hospital's emergency generator in the basement, along with the pharmacy, the cafeteria and central supply, died of several horrible diseases at once. When they finally got my wife out, two days after the fumbled water drop, she was told that planes were departing for San Antonio and Shreveport. She knew that I was waiting in Shreveport, be
cause we'd got a few text messages through what was left of the local cellphone net. She made the mistake of mentioning that, so guess which plane they put her on. I'm glad that the FEMA response to the wildfires isn't the Chinese fire drill that we saw in New Orleans, but Jimmy Carter's mistake still stands, so I'm sure you will see your share of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.
BTW: Recent forecasts are that the next sunspot cycle will be the quietest since the Maunder Minimum that coincided with, and probably caused, the Little Ice Age. How much would you like to bet that by 2017 we will see governments offering tax incentives to burn _more_ carbon?
I can only point out that Los Angeles County has worked at organizing for disasters, and although we don't have a full Civil Defense organization as we should, we have a considerably better organization structure than many.
Niven was just here and we're agreed, I need to get back to work.
October 26, 2007
Sable went to the groomers today, which made hash out of our morning routine. I've put in time cleaning off my desk, and now I have to do the bills.
I see that Everquest II is trying to entice me back from World of Warcraft. I have no idea what's going on over there. I may have a look. I also see that Richard Garriot has a new multi-player game. May be worth looking at in my copious free time. But I probably won't. There just isn't time any more.
Now I have to pay the bills.
But first a few words:
At first there appear to be parallels between Qualcomm Stadium and the Superdome story; but in fact there aren't many. In the Southern California evacuations, they were evacuating to a secure and safe place with electricity. The telephones worked. The road grid worked. In the whole county fewer than a dozen main roads were closed. There were gas stations open, grocery stores open, clean water in all the taps. Most of the people who evacuated didn't need shelter: they had friends or went to motels. Moreover, once they were out of the fire area, the worst they faced was a night in their cars. The fires didn't chase them and there were no floods.
I will say that California is better governed and has a more civil tradition than New Orleans. The areas people were evacuated from were safe, unlike much of New Orleans long before the flood. And while we have a few corrupt cops, I cannot imagine a team of four LAPD detectives systematically looting a Wal-Mart even when cameras are rolling...
Jeremy Stone, the retired president of the FAS, has written friends to tell them that he has resigned from the organization after their statement about Watson.
October 27, 2007
We approach All Hallow's Eve by climbing slowly out of Hell. Which is to say that we are slowly doing the final version of Inferno II. Some added material, and in some cases focus sharpening: where the editorial suggestions would change the nature of the book, it's important that we focus in on what we intended the book to be. If our editor didn't get it, then neither will many readers.
So that work continues.
We've all seen the preposterous "Press Conference" in which FEMA employees -- bureaucrats, cubicle workers -- stood in for reporters to ask questions. The excuse was that there wasn't time to get a proper press conference organized, and this was a way to get the information out without simply having a bunch of press releases. One can see how that might make sense -- to public information bureaucrats in FEMA. "Mister Secretary, are you pleased with the performance of your people?"
One more reason why FEMA ought to be abolished entirely. Its political charity work -- bailing out people who did not have insurance -- can be taken over by whatever the Department of Welfare is called now, or parceled out between Urban Development and Interior. The actual emergency preparedness and response activity should devolve onto a reanimated Civil Defense structure. Actually, Civil Defense should be headed by an Army Undersecretary, although a DOD Undersecretary would do. The point is that Civil Defense is mostly preparation and coordination, with the major efforts being local, county, state. The central organization can have some central resources to parcel out at need, but local government ought not count on Washington to put out its fires and clean up after hurricanes. That's not the point of the Federal Government.
Civil Defense takes time to set up, and there's always a danger of bureaucratization: one reason why Civil Defense needs to be largely in the hands of volunteers, not "professionals". As an example, the problem of allocation of Marine helicopters to be used in fire fighting.
There are plenty of helicopters at Camp Pendleton, and there were fires around (later in) the Camp Pendleton area. Do you simply tell a Marine chopper pilot "Hello, there's a fire, go put it out?" Do you include fire outputting in the normal training of a military chopper pilot? The result of putting aircraft with good pilots not trained in this kind of work into a fire zone doesn't have to be imagined. There's plenty of experience: air collisions, fire retardant dropped in the wrong places, confusion over where to reload the helicopter, air traffic control in confined areas, etc. It may be that lack of a helicopter over a certain area results in the loss of a million dollar home; but the remedy is not to send in untrained pilots in hopes that the home can be saved without mishap. The remedy is to put a firefighter manager into the helicopter with the pilot.
Now who is the manager? Should the State have a bunch of them, trained, on standby ready to go in there when there are fires, and otherwise doing nothing? That can be expensive, and fast. Who are these people? Who pays their salaries while they are on duty? Who pays them when there are no fires? What do they do in the eleven months of the year when California isn't burning?
This is in part pure speculation. I don't know a lot about fire fighting, but I do know enough to ask those questions; apparently these questions haven't suggested themselves to John and Ken and our local radio and newspaper reporters, who are howling about the State regulation that requires trained spotters to be in firefighting helicopters not piloted by regular firefighters. The spotters -- managers, actually -- should, they say, have been instantly available, sitting in helicopters waiting for any possible break in the high winds that grounded most of the aerial firefighting resources during the first two days of the fires. Which is fine, if there were lots of trained managers with nothing else to do.
A proper Civil Defense organization looks into such matters, sets up reserve corps of volunteers who get paid for time spent in training and are called into service at need: not just firefighting managers, but logistics people, medical administrators, traffic managers and air traffic controllers. A proper Civil Defense organization looks into the local community resources and organizes them for use when Comes The Day. Most communities have a lot of resources that can be employed in emergencies, but the time to learn what to do is not just after the earthquake or while the fires are raging.
It's not so much that FEMA is incompetent as that competence is not possible. You simply cannot have a central organization that "manages" local emergencies. You can provide resources and encouragement for local citizen groups to set up and train Civil Defense teams. Huge assets like aircraft carriers with nuclear electric power generators, hospital ships, high speed logistic ships may be "managed" centrally -- indeed have to be, since no community can afford such things -- but the response time is going to be slow. It has to be.
In New Orleans, a proper Civil Defense organization would have had someone whose job it was to manage the transportation resources -- including all those school busses that sat unused until they were inundated by the floods. It would have a Civil Defense unit whose job it is to provide communications. (In California my son Alex is part of a California Emergency Services organization that does just that.) It would have -- but that's the point, isn't it? Planning for the local emergency, assessing the community resources, and setting up an emergency management structure is precisely the point, and it needs to be done community at a time.
Set up proper Civil Defense and there won't be a need for phony press conferences to tell the world how good you are.
We used to have real Civil Defense until Jimmy Carter in his infinite wisdom decided we didn't need it any longer. After all, it was DEFENSE and that provoked the Soviet Union. If the US prepares for disasters including war, then it must be planning to have wars. So Jimmy got his Peace Prize. And we got FEMA.
October 28, 2007
Niven's Halloween Party was last night, and I ate far too much sugar: chocolate truffles, chocolate orange jelly sticks, a fruit pie...
Which did not make for a great day today. I knew better, of course.
We have ground our way back to the Wall in Inferno II, and the book is better for the changes. It doesn't need as much work from here to the end, but I will have to do a Dramatis Personae, which is both fun and hard work.
THEN I can finish Mamelukes and THEN get to work on LisaBetta, which is a story set in more or less the no-faster-than-light not too distant future that I've used and Charles Sheffield and I put together. (Those weren't quite the same universes, but it's not that hard to fold them together.) After which it's another Janissaries novel. I think. Except that Niven and I have plans to hit the Earth with something large, that being the most lucrative thing either of us has ever done.
And I did manage the mailbag for the week. I'll do the last part of the October column in the morning. It's the book review section and much of it was already done for the International edition.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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