Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Obstacles, Hindrances or both?

I turned the idiot box off after ten minutes of watching the same scene being replayed on the major networks: Fox, PMSNBC, ViacomCBS and DisneyABC. They were all showing the same thing: a split screen with running commentary of a Coast Guard helicopter lifting a couple of black people from rooftops.

This scene is being augmented by the politicos from various towns, notably New Orleans and Gulfport telling the viewing public how bad it is at this moment. And yet, as these officials predict gloom, they are still telling the press, they still intend to round up the hopeless and offer them help.

What utter nonsense!

The city-ship is sinking and yet they are taking on more passengers; and the laughable part of this, is the people are willingly climbing aboard this sinking ship.

And it is with this background that I make the following prediction: The people of New Orleans will be partying within three days. I got skewered for that comment. A woman went off on me for about five minutes before angrily storming off with a cup of coffee.

But how could I make such a light hearted prediction about New Orleans?

Well, for one thing, three days is about all the stress some people can take and secondly, many more roads will be passable by then. Hence, the need to let off steam but in case people should forget, let me remind them of a couple of things.

Hurricanes have been hitting that part of the Americas for a few more years than there has been a country called the United States of America. In fact, should the USA cease to exists tomorrow, the chances are that a major hurricane will hit that region of the world before this year is over and most definetely by next September.

So, what is the problem?

The problem is that the people living in these regions have come to rely on the state as their protector and not themselves. They have done this, especially in their building codes to such an extent that domestic structures cannot withstand Cat-5 winds. They have build their houses to maximize the benefit of air conditioning to the benefit of everything else.

A house, as it is going through a hurricane is NOT MEANT TO BE a rigid structure but rather, the house is suppose to sway with the wind. In other words, the structure is to be as flimsy as possible but yet strong enough to withstand high gale force winds. And that can be done by utilizing a piece of their buildings that they have been relegated to ornamental: SHUTTERS!

When closed over glass windows, and then the glass windows are opened during hurricanes, SHUTTERS permit the wind to pass through a house and equalize the pressure inside with that on the outside. If the pressure is the same, the chance of the roof blowing off is severly minimized. If the roof stays, then the rest of the house probably will.

I saw that fact by looking at almost all the houses that were blown apart on television, and yet, no one mentioned this simple fact given the numerous experts babbling on the boob tube.

I grew in the Caribbean: Barbados to be exact, where we learn building codes the old fashion way.

By trial and error!

My family have survived a couple of hurricanes quite well without state aid.

Another saving fact of shutters is this: they reverse the air flow within the house when the winds reverse direction in a hurricane.

Roofs should also be made of one piece corrugated galvanized and not tiles but with that is not that big of a deal given most roofs have a plywood type sub roof.

But the biggest obstacle to the people recovering are their masters. The cities and states are hindering supplies from getting through because of such things as price gouging: that is, merchants HAVE to sell their goods at regular price even though there is an emergency.

Should WalMart, Shell, Texaco or Chevron be allowed to raise their prices to meet the demand?


People would bring in goods to meet the needs. The first buyers would pay a premium but the selling price would fall with demand. Life would return to normal much more quickly because people would know where to get stuff from. Extra benefit would be less looting.

Contrast these two ideas with the present. The president, govenors and mayors are all sootsaying the people of the gulf states with promises of the good life returning BUT after weeks of testing bridges, rebuilding dams or restoring the water supply. In other words: the people can only return home when we tell you.

So good people of New Orleans and Gulfport: go back to using shutters on your houses and stop depending on the national guard for rescue. Keep a small boat in your backyard or something but do not depend on that bright orange helicopter.

You might drown waiting your turn...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Change's Gonna Come

Moving from the known to the unknwon is not only uncomfortable, it also becomes progressively harder the longer one remains in their comfort zone. There is however, one this that is constant and that is change. The rate of change may change but like they say in the song: A change's gonna come.

In my case, the most pressing part of my journey, at this juncture of my life, has had to do with making the switch from MicroSOFT's Windows operating system to the Fedora GNU/Linux OS and a two day odyssey, which gives me both pleasure and contemplation that Open Source can and will be the ultimate wave of the future: in computing, that is.

My perils began when I decided to take better advantage of the video card in my computer. It is a nVidia FX5600 triple outlet video card and I wanted to add a second monitor to have, what is known in geek-speak as a Dual Monitor configuration.

After downloading the latest drivers from nVidia website and following their instructions to the letter, I came to the conclusion they wouldn't work on my computer. I checked a couple of Forums, including Fedora and finally posted an urgent cry for help after not finding a similar problem.

Help came forth but still I couldn't resolve the problem. So I did the next best thing and went back to an earlier version of the driver: Presto, problem sovled. Both monitors are working.

Icidentally, I would not have had this problem had I stuck with MS Windows OS. This card has performed flawlessly under both W2K and XP. It certainly took me less than a hour to set it up and the certified drivers from MS & nVidia were just that: certified to run!

In other words, I could have avoided two days of stress had I remained within the well defined Windows, where everything is readily done and easily packaged for the end user.

But what fun is that self imposed encampment?

Which brings me to the contemplation for the future. I was forced to do some work on my own to get my computer working the way how I wanted it to. The up-side of that deal is I can hopefully avoid the problem in the future.

MicroSOFT is about to debut a new OS, in which all the current hardware, including stuff like my nVidia triple output video card will be made obselete. Buying newer hardware will not be an option, if you want to keep up with Redmond.

Meanwhile: my video card will still be working just fine.

Cars used to tinkerable until their systems became closed. People bought them and kept them for a period of time before discarding them for another new one. The price of fuel is changing that attitude with a vengence. People will drive their cars longer and make more repairs to them.

There will come a time when the consumer will not be able to throw out perfectly good hardware because the software makers say so. Just like someday, hardware makers will wake up to the fact there are other OSes out there other than MS Windows.

Until then, I do plan on adding a third screen to my video card. They look nice on my desk...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nice Try USA!

I am, of course, referring to the USA Network cable channel and not the country but I am a little more than peeved at the recent ending of their most recent episode: Lockdown, which aired on Sunday 14th. August, 2005 and later repeated at midnight. The 4400. The show ended with one of the main characters (Don't know his name and really don't care either) answering a question posed by their techie.

Q: What would you called an operation in which one of the most secured buildings in America has been infiltrated and its operations basically shut down for a day?

A: Terrorism!

Now pardon me, for I thought this show was about these returning people and their capabilities but revealed in this one single answer is the ultimate purpose: to get people comfortable with governmental actions with regards to acts classified as terrorism.

Never mind this same character, in another episode, was trying to smuggle his son out of the country to Switzerland: a son, who has killed another with a high powered rifle, or this same character has used members of this 4400 to infiltrate its main organization with the explicit purpose of gathering information BUT when the roles are reversed, this character was very quick to shout the word: Terrorism!

This show: The 4400, showed promised for all of three episodes when the powers of the returnees were being revealed. I honestly thought the writers would break new ground, especially now that the dog days of summer were upon us but unfortunately, The 4400 has veered off that fresh path and is now on the old and quite stale cops and robbers highway.

Recently, the first season came out on DVD and I thought about buying it but seeing this twist and the way in which policing powers are never questioned but are always assumed to be right, is in itself quite frightening: in most cases, the agents do not get judicial oversight when dealing with members of The 4400. It is taken for granted and the people are dealt with accordingly; one was even shot and no explanation given.

Meanwhile, the two main characters in the show have their demons to confront: a muderous son and a psychic daughter, who has revealed there will be hell to pay for double crossing The 4400.

But despite these two intriguing side plots, I find it very difficult to recommend this show to friends. In some cases, I would go and do something else and watch the rerun later. The show no longer holds my interest. It nothing but the latest shrill for the entertainment industry to extol the virtues of the state and there are enough of those on the idiot box as it seems.

Nice try USA but I have seen through your ploy and I am moving on. There may not be any origional TV out there but I know what I do not want and it's your 4400.

I am hanging up on this one!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Becoming an abuser

I am an abuser. I would say the C-word but that would draw too much flak. You know: those people in uniforms that have not much to do but surf the World Wild Web, pretending to keep our kids safe; Cybercrime - they call it.

But seriously: I am an abuser, ...or, at least an enabler.

Allow me to explain!

I was recently on vacation with two objectives in mind: get drunk every day and put on as much weight as possible. I boarded a, ...well, let's leave out how I got there but I stopped by my nephew to see how he was doing and he, being a little tyke was a bit happy to see me. We went driving up to the local liquor store and I loaded up the trunk with a few cases of beer, some rum and some whiskey.

Back at the house, I proceeded to chill the beer and started drinking to my heart's delight. Dinner was served and I realized that the kid would not drink the glass of water his mother gave him. I subsequently learned the child would not drink much water. He liked juices but those drinks contain sugar, and he was quite energetic to say the least.

So I took a bottle of beer and downed it in record time before washing the bottle out and filling it with water. Next, I gave the bottle of water to my nephew before raising my bottle of beer to him with the hearty "Cheers!"

The little one raised his bottle. He hit mine with that clinking sound before we both proceeded to empty our bottles: he drank water while I drink beer.

And did you know he drank more water while I was there than he did during the entire year?

But parents: Do not try this at home, especially in the United States for the authorities can charge you with many crimes, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor; and think about the howl these child advocay groups will have if we actually figure out ways to get our ones to eat, or in this case drink healthier.

The moral of the story?

If you are going on vacation, like me, to get drunk daily and eat whatever you want without others trying to make you feel guilty, then leave your country of residence. In my case, I am from another country so I went there.

I got drunk, ate whatever I wanted and had a damn good time. Now I am back home and returning to the sane side.

There is also one good thing about getting drunk in a foreign country: the data doesn't show up on your driver's record.

Sorry US Citizens: Canada and Mexico doesn't count!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

When & where not to spend your money

I am stuck in the state of Connecticut, 800 miles away from my home when my laptop died: the battery died and the CD tray refuse to open. Being not too worried about the CD tray but in need of a new battery, I sought out the chain of stores that I bout the computer from: Best Buy and after walking into the store, I sought out the gentleman behind the computer section and stated my case.

"Hello. I recently bought a Compaq Presario model 2100 laptop from your store and I was wondering if you carry replacement batteries in stock."

Recently like less than a year.

The man looked at me and simply replied, "Sorry but I am not familiar with that model."

I looked at the salesman, blinked twice before thanking him and walking away. I stopped long enough to see the laptops on display before walking from the store. I thought as I walked into the ninety degree weather that it would take a miracle to get me back into Best Buy Stores, Inc.

The gentleman would never know of my decision not to frequent his employer's place of buisness again but, well..., ignorance is bliss: or should I have reminded him that Customer Service is still the best way of driving sales?

Nah! Let him figure that out on his own while I hunt down a battery for my Compaq Presario laptop computer.