Tsunami Warning San Francisco, and other dirges in the dark

A peek at “local media” during a disaster in the dead of night

Disasters – natural or otherwise – don’t always strike at reasonable hours – and when an insistent pounding on the front door woke me from a deep sleep early in the morning of Friday, March 11, it wasn’t a reasonable hour.

It was 1:30am and our neighbor had woken us to tell us about the hugely incomprehensible 8.9 (later revised to 9.0) earthquake in Japan — and to warn us of the massive tsunami headed our way.

I then proceeded to try to figure out what was really going on — and what, if anything, to do about it. I pored over the tweets for credible news, first relieved that our good friends in Japan were safe, second reading about terrible devastation, in-between baffled by regular life apparently continuing with #ipad2 and #sxsw, and finally trying to parse the warnings about the West Coast of the USA, where I lay awake all night.

tsunami warning san francisco bay area - from http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mtr/

Tsunami warning San Francisco Bay Area - from National Weather Service at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mtr/

On the Web beyond the tweets, I gaped at incredible maps with great red bands all up and down the coast of Northern California – red meaning “warning” – and “warning” apparently meaning, according to the automatically generated Tsunami information I could find, evacuate.

While I tried to parse this information to figure out whether I did, in fact, need to pack my family up and ship out, the official word from San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management was to “monitor local media for updates.” “Which local media would that be?” said SF friend @jamiedsongs. Good question.

At SFGate, the Web site that backs San Francisco’s major newspaper the San Francisco Chronicle, the lights were on but there appeared to be nobody home.

SFGate in the early morning on March 11, 2011

SFGate in the early morning on March 11, 2011

Though it had apparently been (automatically?) alerted to the major quake and tsunami, the front page was obviously stale to say the least, advising “no warning for CA coast” when the National Weather Service had already stuck us in the red “Tsunami Warning” category. Featured feeds were truly strange (live TV from Al Jazeera? Live blog from WSJ?) or virtually irrelevant (a quake details page leading to California earthquakes).

Automatic news is often worse than no news at all. I desperately wished for the “local media” to wake up and interpret all of this.

The only live person I found anywhere close to SFGate was featured columnist Jeanne Cooper, @Hawaii_Insider, who was putting out actual analysis in real-time and for whom I felt immensely thankful.

There was also sign of life at a site I had never previously relied on for news, California Beat, but this wasn’t entirely reassuring when a masthead mistakenly read “Tsunami evacuations issued for Bay Area.”

Tsunami evacuations on California Beat -- later retracted

Tsunami evacuations on California Beat -- later retracted

retraction

retraction

At 4:49am San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee tweeted with a welcome voice of official authority, at last saying that although San Francisco had activated the Emergency Operations center, there was no evacuation ordered.

But still the giant wave was coming. BART indicated they might close down entirely between peak Friday morning commute hours of 7-9am (or they might not), while waiting to see the extent of the hit on Hawaii (which was thankfully minimal) and then later Crescent City — which was not spared.

At the exact moment of tsunami impact in Crescent City, local newspaper the Daily Triplicate was apparently automatically chirping birth announcements (several weeks late), while thetriplicate.com Web site was down.

Crescent City Daily Triplicate, around 7:30am on March 11, 2011

Crescent City Daily Triplicate, around 7:30am on March 11, 2011

In this age of information overload, I realized I knew where to go for tons information and in real time, but not where to go for the right, local information. It was a bizarre world online throughout the night, but bizarre was trivial compared to the real tragedies unfolding across the Pacific in Japan.

The current big problem of information during disasters is that these places we rely on for local, up-to-date news, like all-too-often the cities themselves, are suffering economic woes. I don’t know much about Crescent City’s Daily Triplicate, but it’s likely to be in as much financial peril at the moment as its devastated harbor city itself.

Aside from wishing the very best and holding out hope for Japan and the global community, I only hope existing news channels can materialize the real opportunities that exist here and survive and evolve, not necessarily in that order. Until then, we have each other, in the middle of the night, on Twitter…


And while Lenin read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died

Don McLean – American Pie

Advertisements

My 2010 year in blogging — thanks to WordPress

Wow — thirteen 747’s — and a lucky number considering my (also here well documented) various flight anxieties.  Thanks, Automattic and all the cool WordPress folks, for this supercool summary!  Though I think you’re mighty generous with the praise, and the post highlights are mostly not my best loved, it’s OK: happily accepted. It’s still my birthday month after all …

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,500 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 23 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 241 posts. There were 28 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 5mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 6th with 182 views. The most popular post that day was Open-Head Innovation: Lessons from the closed-head fire sprinkler system.

 

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, facebook.com, WordPress Dashboard, leannewaldal.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jicama allergy, moya watson, jicama allergies, allergic to jicama, and allergy to jicama.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Open-Head Innovation: Lessons from the closed-head fire sprinkler system February 2009
1 comment

2

About May 2008
1 comment

3

could i be allergic to JICAMA? May 2003
4 comments

4

Save Our Schools: March 4 Day of Action March 2010
5 comments

5

This Morning’s City Safari July 2010
3 comments

As Video Extends its Reach Across the Web, What Is TV?

I haven’t blogged on the SAP Community Network for work in several months, so I’m happy I finally wrenched that elusive set of hours away that it took to put together my report on my recent trip to Los Angeles for video-related conferences:

As Video Extends its Reach Across the Web, What Is TV?

Usually when I go online at conferences and events, I’m reporting on Web 2.0 events or social justice activism or just plain existing. In Los Angeles, the landscape was both unfamiliar and immediate, and it was and still is for me a bit of a reach to put together the growing, stunning implications of the past, present, and future of streaming media on the Web and what it could mean for television — whatever THAT is. I could think of no better place from which to contemplate this disruption than from this center of stardom, the birthplace of celluloid dreams. I welcome your read and thoughts!

Family watching television 1958
By Evert F. Baumgardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Technically Women — A Personal Journey

I did torment myself for awhile before I managed to publish my first post on the great blog called Technically Women.

You have to understand — when I was invited to join this group I was compelled to openly confess my love for each of the women that I already knew.  There are some very fine thoughts trafficking on this blog and these are excellent people with which to be associated.

So when I was invited to join, of course, I panicked.

I have known and admired genetically engineered raconteur @cathybrooks since Prop 8 and I have enjoyed many Twitter threads and even commentary on this blog from Cathy.

My early days of Twitter are awash in song lyrics from @pistachio — and a couple of my posts honor her contributions to my use of technology and the causes that are dear to me.

It was @yojibee who — totally outside the inner-connected sphere of our worklives — reached out to me during a fear of flying bout or two — and located across the world as she is, she also provides excellent insomanic company.

And then there’s @marilynpratt.  I was only recently lucky enough to meet Marilyn face-to-face.  There are many things you could say about Marilyn, but there’s no point to words when you’re touched by a piece of her soul.

And now I get to be associated with the rest of the women I hadn’t known before except by reputation that are on this blog ?

So you can see how I panicked. But I stepped in with a post and I intend to continue reciprocating the honor as best I can.  I already have a folder or two of additional posts I am incubating — Now — barring only the discovery of the time…

In the meantime — likewise, I’d be honored if you’d check it out over at Technically Women and grace us with your thoughts.  Thank you!

E pur si muove!

And yet it moves!


Galileo’s Telescope and some history – “The Instrument that Changed the World”
edhiker

Had a quick conversation with Ellen via Twitter this morning about telescopes, since she’s shopping for one with her 7-year-old. Leaving aside all the tangents I want to travel right now, like about how I cried the first time I saw the Moon in a telescope, it occurs to me that Galileo’s telescope was one of the most disruptive technologies ever created. (And we think the Internet changed things!)

He created this thing — the telescope — and then observed, carefully, the spots on the sun. And then he knew from what he saw that the Earth indeed moves — and is not flat.

That caused such a ruckus that he was forced to recant it lest the Heavens fall straight out of the sky. He did recant, and yet was still deemed so dangerous that he remained under house-arrest till his death. (And it took us centuries to pardon him, by the way.)

And so we created this thing — the printing press (thanks @chadmaglaque), the Internet, mobile devices — and we observe. And we let people know. Your notions of the news, of human rights, of relationships and of family and of marriage are changing. And it causes a ruckus. And one day, maybe centuries from now, truth wins.

NCLR: Not business as usual


Waterfall – Courtesy MLK

Originally uploaded by moyalynne

Congratulations to NCLR — National Center for Lesbian Rights — for opening up to the two-way dialog of blogging today, with http://overturn8.nclrights.org/.

Says Kate Kendell in today’s blog entry:

The New Year is off to a great start. After a bit of a breather for some over the holidays, it is clear that our community is not going back to business as usual. We know that 2009 has the potential to be a transformative year—but only with activism, action, involvement and vigilance…

Kendell, who provided part of the management of the No On Prop 8 campaign, has been subject to criticism (much of which online) since November’s heartbreaking passage of the proposition, but it’s clear she’s not just going back into her corner and cowering.

This sounds to me like an organization that has tuned in to the community since the election, listened in, and — here’s the key — responded to change. If Obama’s victory comes from the mantra of “change we can believe in,” “Yes we can” is something you can answer if you really can change. It reminds me of what Charles Darwin was purported to really have said about evolution:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Don’t get me wrong — NCLR is full of some of the strongest, most intelligent people I know — but I’m impressed with this latest foray into being open to the online conversation. I hope you consider joining in.

Goodbye Blogger?

I was one of the original Blogger bloggers.  My Blogger blog is so old that it doesn’t even work properly anymore and some huge long list of complicated post-Google things still has to be done to convert it — especially the archive links.  But I do have one of those nifty Google / Blogger sweatshirts to show for the fact that I “bought” a Blogger blog way back when it cost money – and glad I was. Ev – did you singlehandedly light the fuse of Web 2.0?

At any rate — I feel a little duplicitous to be kicking around in WordPress now.  Until merging/purging/converting/whatever, so be it. I doubt it’s really goodbye Blogger, for now.