Posts for August 2005

2005-08-01: Java and Kerberos

Today, I removed the temporary multihoming of our KDCs, thus completing an IP address change for all of the Stanford KDCs. Shortly thereafter, many of our Java webapps stopped being able to authenticate with Kerberos. A restart cleared up the problem.

Want to bet that Java caches the IP addresses of the Kerberos servers rather than requerying DNS or honoring the DNS TTL?

Even worse, the systems were multihomed and now they're on just one of those two IP addresses. Which means that if Java had cached all of the IP addresses and fallen back as it should, it would have worked fine. Even more, one of the servers didn't change and has had the same IP address for a couple of weeks. So they should have had at least that server to fall back on.

Methinks something is deeply broken here.

Takeaway lesson: changing the IP addresses of Kerberos servers is to be avoided when possible, unfortunately, even though everything should be using DNS to find them.

2005-08-03: mmm-mode

Continuing both my Debian New Maintainer application work and following up on a QA thread a while back, I've finished a new package of mmm-mode that updates the package to the latest upstream version and closes six bugs. I've also closed another three bugs that are no longer relevant for one reason or another.

It's currently waiting on my Application Manager to look over (and then probably upload).

I don't actually use mmm-mode (which lets you use two major modes at the same time in the same file), but there are a few problems that it might be able to solve. I might start in the future. If I do, I'll probably adopt it; it looks like a fairly straightforward package to maintain.

No time at the moment to do the other two packages I found in my first scan through orphaned packages (htp and nasm-mode), but hopefully I'll get to those a little bit later. First I have to finish the new proxy template and do the first proxy upgrade, and then I need to start working on a prioritized roadmap for where we're going next with campus infrastructure services.

2005-08-04: Too many meetings

I am really looking forward to vacation. Only seven days to go now.

Part of why is that I'm in far too many meetings at the moment. They're worthwhile meetings, meetings in which things really get done or at least planning really happens. They're meetings designed to improve my work environment going forward, or to get us more money, or to get us more staff (and possibly thereby manage to employ friends of mine).

However, meetings just really hurt my work flow. The interruption throws me badly, makes it hard for me to concentrate and get things done, and breaks my day up into unproductive chunks where I mostly zone out reading my e-mail. Which in turn makes me depressed and makes me feel behind, and starts a bad cycle.

There isn't much I can do right now other than just hang in there, since a lot of the meetings are addressing short-term problems that will go away in the near future (hopefully). And each individual meeting isn't so bad. But I'm starting to feel cranky, swamped, and unfocused, and I've learned by now through experiment and observation that, even if I think I'm enjoying them, meetings do this to me.

(You get a whine instead of a book review tonight because, well, I was busy playing ping pong and now need to do some more work for my Debian maintainer application and then go to bed.)

2005-08-05: Rochambeau

Better known as rock, paper, scissors. This came up because someone recently told me that there was a Canadian varient called bear, cowboy, ninja (not actually true -- there is such a varient, but it doesn't appear to be particularly Canadian). Anyway, this led to poking about on the web out of curiosity and discovering that RPS is rather more widely used and analyzed than I thought.

For instance, there is a World RPS Society that organizes tournaments. An idea that made little senes to me until I realized that, at the competitive level, it's a reduced, pure form of psychological game like poker.

The advanced RPS page is rather interesting reading.

2005-08-07: To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Review: To Your Scattered Bodies Go, by Philip José Farmer

Publisher: Berkley
Copyright: 1971
Pages: 222

The problem with finishing the remaining Hugo winners I've not read is that there is generally some reason why I've not already read them. With To Your Scattered Bodies Go, it was just a bad feeling. Often those feelings are wrong. This time, it wasn't.

This is the first book of the Riverworld series, which is one of those great, memorable ideas that people talk about and refer to when reading other books. Everyone who has ever lived is resurrected on the banks of a huge river, all at the same time, naked and with their own personal magic devices that give them food and other basic necessities. It's a great hook, giving the author a chance to not only play with historic figures but look at culture clashes (and strange alliances) between human cultures that otherwise never could have met.

Farmer sucks all of the sense of wonder out of the idea in the first twenty pages and then uses the setting for an obnoxious, pointless, unemotional adventure story with no ending. Add to that clunky writing, halting narrative flow, rampant sexism, and an overly-simplified world, and you get one of the worst Hugo winners I've dragged myself through.

I'm not particularly fond of the pulp writing style, but I can still get pulled into the story if it's told with enough emotional energy and enough action. Farmer, though, falls quickly into the trap of describing everything in great detail, whether the reader cares about its exact appearance or not, while giving short shrift to character development and treating emotions as scientific observations. It's a horrible example of telling rather than showing. By the time he finished boring me with the world introduction, describing the construction of a settlement, walking through the investigations of the few artifacts around, and getting the characters into a position to do something, half the book was gone and I no longer cared about anyone in it.

The main protagonist is adventurer Richard Burton, a British explorer who, despite having a real history to use as material, rarely manages to be more than the uber-competent warrior and natural leader who features in so much pulp SF of this type. Alice Liddell, of Alice in Wonderland fame, is introduced as the Victorian prude and love interest (thankfully fully grown), one of several places where I decided I wasn't going to think deeply about authorial motives. The men, of course, do all the adventuring and exploring; the women are just there to be conversational companions and sex toys, the latter aided at first by the general lack of clothing. Throw in widespread rape and abuse, particularly early on, that the protagonists only rarely bother decrying, and the world starts feeling more creepy and disgusting than intriguing. Farmer doesn't have a high opinion of humanity, and while he may be right, I wish he'd pick better examples at least for his protagonists.

The world itself, after its initial splash, is simplistic and uninteresting. There are no insects or animals other than fish, only a few types of plants, only one type of artifact that does nothing but fill their magic provision buckets, and essentially no landscape besides the river. Even if they wanted to explore, all of the characters are kept next to the river since the provision artifacts are only found there and there is no other way to get food. The protagonists predictably end up exploring along the river, since there's nowhere else for them to go. For all his detailed descriptions, Farmer either didn't have the imagination or didn't have the interest in building a full world, only the barely necessary backdrop to support people. As a result, the world can't save the story from the lifeless characters.

Farmer does avoid making everyone encountered someone famous, thankfully, but the villains of the piece (once we finally get around to meeting them) are Nazis. I really wouldn't mind if I never saw transplanted famous Nazis as villains again. It's just too easy and too simple, and the built-in reader reactions and expectations are so strong that the author has little to work with. Farmer also constantly talks about Jews, never lets the character forget which characters are Jewish, and seems oddly fascinated by them, even before the Nazis show up. It's not anti-Semitic, at least that I noticed, but the tone was again rather odd. The other characters are remarkably unmemorable; I finished this book only a few days ago, and the only other ones I remember are Farmer's self-insertion character (thankfully not too annoying), a caveman who is taught idiomatic English rather too easily, and an alien who was almost interesting until his horribly simple story was told.

The best part of the book are the occasional hints at what might really be going on, hints at the motives of the creators of this world and their abilities. If the whole story had dealt with this, the book might have been salvagable. But, of course, this is only book one of an ongoing series, so there's no resolution and no believable explanation of the frustrating clues. One is left with a completely pointless story.

There is apparently a much tighter and more satisfying novella entitled "Riverworld" that's better than this mess. If you care about the original idea, you might want to read that. The only reason to read this book is to be completist, and it's probably the last Farmer novel that I'll ever read.

Rating: 2 out of 10

2005-08-07: 2005 Hugos

Emerald City has all of the winners.

I'm a little disappointed by the best novel winner, but not surprised. This was my tentative prediction. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell got far and away the most publicity of any book on the short list and was well-known to the US voters who still constituted a majority. I don't think it's the best book -- I've been in the process of reading it for a while and it's dreadfully slow, if well-written -- but it has a lot of advantages in a vote.

River of Gods is probably the best book overall (although I'll be reading all of the nominees and coming to my own conclusion there), but it and The Algebraist aren't even published in the US yet. For River of Gods to finish second given that is amazing. Iron Council isn't the book that Miéville is going to win with, no matter how good, since it's too political for US voters. That leaves Iron Sunrise, which didn't finish as high as I expected given the hard SF vote.

I also guessed The Incredibles, which is the most popular of the movies even though Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is probably the better movie.

Nice to see Stross pick up a Hugo for the novella, though. The short story category was, as commonly reported, very weak.

I have on order, will be ordering, have sitting around, or am currently reading all of the best novel winners, the novella winner, and the novelette winner, so I'll end up reading significantly more of the field this year than in most Hugos past.

2005-08-09: Video gameage

I'm sure that you are aware of those expensive but brightly-colored DVD cases that one can purchase, the ones that are far more expensive than movies and contain small plastic disks of scintillating design. What you perhaps did not know, and which I have recently discovered, is that in combination with the attractive black box I had formerly thought existed only to maintain the steady flow of electricity in its mysterious "stand buy" mode, these small disks can make images appear on heretofore unexplored television stations! Those images move in attractive and fascinating patterns, and some of them you can even control!

And here I had believed that the attraction of this consumer product was purely for the possession of it, the aesthetically appealing shelf filled with expensive plastic and carefully designed artwork, the right to respond to any conversational gambit with the suave statement "oh, yes, I own that."

Who knew there was so much more?

It strains believability that I would be able to find any time to devote to this strange new pasttime, as occupied as I am already with arguing about politics on mailing lists and feeling guilty about eating too much. Yet, in some strange twist of fate, I have managed several hours of this entertainment in the past couple of days. I am certain that this cannot last. Still, the future is not for us to know.

Also, Everquest: Champions of Norrath combines exactly the correct mixture of aggressive button pressing, dress-up dolls, and scratch-off fantasy maps to form delicious, addictive crack. And remember, I can kill you with my thumb. (For values of "you" equal to inch-high computer-animated skeletons at the moment, but I'm in training and I have great hopes for improvement.)

2005-08-09: Subversion nits

I'm moving more and more of my repositories from CVS to Subversion, and for the most part I love it. It's great to be able to use svk to do off-line development whenever I want, it's a lot easier to maintain commit hooks, it's generally faster, and I like the branching and tagging mechanism so much better than the one in CVS.

There are just a few annoyances, none major.

First, svn export doesn't do the "permanent" expansion of keywords, and as near as I can tell, there's no option to make it do so. This is weird. I really do prefer to expand all keywords and lose the $$ markers for distributions, mostly so that if someone else imports my code into a CVS repository, I don't lose all the ID markers.

Second, having another copy of each file in the .svn directories is a real pain for recursive grep and similar recursive operations. There must be some way to tell grep to skip those directories, but I've not figured out what it is yet. I should poke at that some. Piping through grep -v .svn isn't the right solution.

Third, and this isn't really a problem with Subversion, rsync -C is just incredibly useful and is what I used to make distribution tarballs under CVS. Alas, not only does rsync not have a Subversion equivalent, but that wouldn't be useful since I build distribution tarballs from an exported tree where svn propget no longer works. So I'm still maintaining .cvsignore files in the repository and just duplicating the information in the svn:ignore property into them so that I can keep using rsync -C.

2005-08-10: kstart 2.8

Navid Golpayegani sent me patches to allow k4start and k5start to background themselves as daemons and write their PIDs to a file, letting them be managed by Debian's start-stop-server. I reworked the patches some (by using the daemon() function if available, for instance) and included them in a new release.

The Debian package will also go into unstable when my sponsor gets a chance. I also found a bug in lintian causing it to throw errors on non-standard architectures (like amd64) in arch-specific build dependencies, so bug #322291 has been filed against lintian with a patch.

You can get the latest version from the kstart distribution page.

2005-08-18: Vacation haul

Always have to go to the used bookstore.

Kelley Armstrong -- Stolen (sff)
Isaac Asimov -- Forward the Foundation (sff)
Arthur C. Clarke -- The City and the Stars (sff)
William Gibson -- Mona Lisa Overdrive (sff)
Malcolm Gladwell -- Blink (nf)
Carol Kendall -- The Firelings (sff)
Ursula K. Le Guin -- Worlds of Exile and Illusion (sff)
Kim Stanley Robinson -- Pacific Edge (sff)
Alice Sebold -- The Lovely Bones (sff)
Tad Williams -- The War of the Flowers (sff)

Still buying books faster than I'm reading them, of course.

2005-08-20: debarchiver and signed archives

A while back, Debian added signature verification to apt. One generates a Release file that contains MD5 and SHA-1 checksums of all of the individual Packages files, which in turn contain checksums of all of the individual packages, and then one signs the Release file. Of course, now that this has been added, apt-get and friends produce warnings and ask for confirmation when installing packages out of unsigned archives.

I use debarchiver to handle indexing for my personal Debian archive, so I wanted to add support to it to take care of all of this for me other than entering my GnuPG passphrase. So I took some time this morning and wrote and tested a patch to implement that. (And then messed up submitting it to an existing bug and accidentally created a new bug that I had to merge. Oh well.)

The annoying part is getting apt-ftparchive to generate the Release file properly, since my patch to make Release generation easier still hasn't been accepted into apt itself. Wow, there are a lot of apt bugs in the BTS.

2005-08-20: Cetaganda

Review: Cetaganda, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Publisher: Baen
Copyright: October 1996
ISBN: 0-671-87744-5
Pages: 302

This book is somewhat more independent of what's come before, since it doesn't involve the Dendarii Mercenaries. There are a few references to the previous books and the general patterns of Miles's life, but you could probably get away with reading this one without reading any of the previous books.

By now, to regular readers of the series, this tune is looking familiar. Miles is sent on a mission, this time diplomatic to the nearby empire of Cetaganda, under the command of another officer. He then stumbles across a situation that gets increasingly complex, decides that it's better to go his own way rather than handing it over to his superiors, and ends up saving the day single-handedly while dodging questions from his own side. You know, essentially the same as the previous two books.

50 pages into this book, I was expecting it to be mediocre. It's basically the same plot again, it's set in what looked like a pseudo-feudal empire complete with women in opaque force screens in public, and Miles falls hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman and wants to do anything for her. Nothing like a romantic sub-plot predicated on the main character acting stupid to drive me away from a book.

Surprisingly, though, Bujold pulled it out. The romantic sub-plot remained mostly stupid through the whole book, but it stayed unimportant. The society turned out to be much more complex than it first appeared, complex in ways that weren't horribly realistic but which were still intriguing. The female haut (the ruling class of the Cetagandans) aren't the stereotyped harem women at all, and there are two sides to the absolute privacy of force screens, which lets the political intrigue which drives the story get entertainingly twisty.

The best feature of Bujold's Vorkosigan books are the elaborate plots, featuring bits of guesswork, investigation, lots of intrigue, many factions, and lots of Miles thinking quickly on his feet. They're not that realistically complex, in that coincidences and authorial manipulation show through the plot from time to time and Miles is always a bit smarter than everyone around him. But they are satisfying, for fun, well-paced books in which something is always happening or about to happen. I was never bored.

This entry in the series has a weaker start but a more interesting world. Cetaganda is a nice bit of light world-building, and while (like the other books in this series), Cetaganda is almost a young-adult novel in terms of characterization complexity, I still recommend this one as undemanding political space opera.

Rating: 7 out of 10

2005-08-21: Term::ANSIColor 1.10

It's amazing, given how small this module is and how stable, that there are still bugs in it. James Bowlin found a bug with $EACHLINE support where the colored() function wouldn't color a line consisting solely of "0". Long-time Perl programmers will immediately recognize the problem of using the variable's true/false value in a place where it shouldn't be used, and the test has now been rewritten to use length instead.

Also included in this version are a couple of test files from Joe Smith to try out various VT100 escape sequences.

You can get the latest version from the Term::ANSIColor distribution page, and of course it will be included in Perl core in the due course of time.

2005-08-21: openafs-doc packaged

Earlier this week, I finally got around to creating an openafs-doc package for Debian. This is a little weird, since we have the OpenAFS manuals and protocol documents only in their output form (HTML and PDF respectively), since somehow IBM and/or Transarc apparently managed to lose the original source. They would have released the source if they had it, I'm fairly sure, but no one has been able to find it.

My original plan was to modify the get-orig-source target of the regular openafs package to pull in the doc tarball as well and build the new doc package as part of the openafs source package, but because of the licensing weirdness, it seemed like a better idea to keep the docs in a separate source package so that they don't hold up the main package. That's now been done, and the package has now been accepted into unstable; ftp-master didn't even have questions, which was a nice surprise. I guess my explanation in the copyright file was thorough enough.

(Work is underway to convert at least the HTML documentation to something like DocBook, so eventually we should be in a better situation. I'm also planning on getting man pages into OpenAFS after the 1.4.0 release.)

2005-08-23: kftgt 1.9

I'm slowly moving our locally maintained Kerberos programs over to Subversion, one at a time. The project for tonight was kftgt, since I needed to release a new Debian package anyway to fix some bugs I ran across. The only changes in the package besides removing some obsolete porting documentation were changes to the version handling of klogin and krsh, since with Subversion I can't use CVS revision IDs to version the scripts.

You can get the latest version from the kftgt distribution page.

New Debian packages will be available shortly, fixing the addition of Stanford-specific paths to the search path of klogin and krsh before the user's PATH and cleaning up the lintian errors.

2005-08-27: Post-vacation productivity

You'd think from my journal that I haven't been doing anything interesting, but it's more that I've been so busy I've not been writing anything down.

I got back from vacation on Monday night and immediately dove into a work project that was having a minor crisis. That's now resolved, although it means that I didn't make progress on some of the other things I was going to work on last week.

OpenAFS 1.4.0-rc1 packages are now in sid (although are of course blocked on the glibc transition just like everything else). They feature a new document on how to set up a new cell, significant improvements to the afs-newcell and afs-rootvol scripts, and many other tweaks. The OpenAFS package is now down to 10 bugs, and I'm hoping to get that down to around 5 with a few more uploads.

I've also been doing some Debian QA work. I have a new tleds package available that should fix the RC bug (as well as a bunch of other bugs) and let it migrate back into testing. It's a rather neat package that blinks the keyboard LEDs to indicate network traffic. I'm not interested in it enough to adopt it, but I'd like to see it stay in the archives.

This weekend is probably also going to be mostly Debian work. I have more QA work to do as part of my new maintainer application, I want to get started on packaging MIT Kerberos v5 1.4.2 (a bit overdue at this point), and I think I'm finally going to take some time to work on packaging the chatserver that I use to talk to friends.

Unfortunately, all this productivity also means that I've not been reading, so I've not finished the book that I mostly read on the train (and also haven't been walking lately, although that should change soon). I expect I'll get back to reading next week.

2005-08-27: Small book haul

I have several significant book orders that are either waiting for books to be published or are currently making their way to me through the mail, but the first few things have started to trickle in.

Jacqueline Carey -- Godslayer (sff)
Mark Clifton & Frank Riley -- The Forever Machine (sff)
Jon Courtenay Grimwood -- Stamping Butterflies (sff)
Karl Schroeder -- The Engine of Recall (sff)

Unfortunately, due to a shipping or packing mistake, Schroeder's Lady of Mazes didn't come with the shipment. That's the book that I plan on reading as soon as I get through my current stack. The Engine of Recall is his short story collection.

I've heard wonderful things about Stamping Butterflies.

2005-08-30: Looting

I really do understand why looting upsets people so much. For one, it's a sign of a complete breakdown of social order, since property ownership is pretty much at the core of a US conception of what social order is all about. (I have some other issues with that, but they're just theoretical and I don't really debate the basic point.) For another, it really feels like adding insult to injury at first glance. Bad enough for the place to be utterly devastated, but don't make it worse afterwards.

The more I think about it, though, the less that it bothers me, or rather the less that certain types of looting bothers me.

First of all, if people are taking things that would be ruined anyway, more power to them. If you're in the storm zone, electricity is cut off, and contact with the outside world is cut off, and you can get to food in refrigerators and freezers without doing more damage, hell, use it! Keep yourself alive and fed. It's not going to do anyone else any good.

For the other things, mostly it's just stupid (what are you going to do with a television?), but many of the neighborhoods that were hit are very poor and people have just lost everything they owned. I'm not saying that looting is the right thing to do, but I'll also say directly that the party I'm going to be feeling sympathy for in this situation is not Wal*Mart. Looting other people's houses, neighborhood stores, etc. is pretty low. Looting chain stores owned by huge corporations who are just going to write everything off to insurance? I'm not saying it's right, necessarily, but I'm feeling a complete lack of moral outrage about that.

Of course, like a lot of mass behavior, the more disturbing aspect is that once looting starts, it no longer draws those sorts of fine distinctions. Organized looting of grocery stores and clothing stores for essentials would be fine and, really, even admirable (the organization part particularly). Complete chaos of people breaking into any structure and taking everything that isn't nailed down is mob behavior, and all forms of mob behavior are deeply frightening.

The part that annoys me the most is that the above fifteen minutes of thought and five paragraphs of text is an order of magnitude more analysis of the issue than CNN has shown in a day and a half of coverage.

2005-08-30: They need our prayers

Er, what? God maybe didn't notice that a giant hurricane hit New Orleans? He needs people to yell at him so that he'll wake up and get off the couch and do something about it? Or perhaps he was hoping someone else would take care of it, and we all have to pray so that he realizes that he has to handle it himself?


If the US president and the other people who were saying this believed in a religion where prayers had personal magical power and the act of praying involved exerting one's own psychic and emotional energy towards making the problem less severe, I'd understand this comment. Given the tenets of the Christian religion, it's just moronic.

2005-08-30: Speaking of looting

Jon Lennox pointed out this entry at Making Light in a comment, and it's very much worth reading.

One of the bigger pictures in this hurricane situation is that many of the most seriously affected areas in New Orleans are also some of the poorest. I realize that Mississippi is very badly off, but I do wonder a little if one of the reasons why we're seeing so much coverage of the damage that's already happened in Mississippi and so little about the flooding that is currently happening in New Orleans is because of that difference. That's probably a bit too cynical, though; a better explanation is that CNN is just incompetent. (They've done a horrible job at covering this. I was finding information on blogs on-line 30 minutes or more before CNN mentioned it on the air, if they ever actually did. Often they didn't.)

Maybe now that the scope of the levee failure has become more apparent the coverage has shifted; I've not been watching during the day.

2005-08-30: More on prayer, other news

Brooks made the very good point in a comment on my last post that yes, there is a tradition in the Christian religion that prayer helps those being prayed for directly in at least an emotional, supportive, and calming way. Given that, the comment makes somewhat more sense, although I still get very frustrated by the wording. But, mea culpa; it was too strong of a negative reaction.

I'm really picking the wrong time to pick this fight, since, well, it's a disaster and people can't figure out what to say. Certainly praying isn't a bad thing to be doing regardless of one's beliefs about the efficacy of prayer, although donating is even more important (something I'm going to go do, fairly substantially, right after I finish writing this). The "they need our prayers" comment is more of a general thing that bothers me intensely every time someone says it. It's full of assumptions that I think are downright offensive: it's a guilt trip on listeners to pray even if they don't believe in prayer, it's injection of religion into the discussion by a political figure not themselves directly affected, it makes the assumption that the people involved even want people praying for them, and it makes a concrete statement about reality ("need") without any respect given to other people's beliefs.

If someone in the middle of the disaster talks about prayer, God, or anything else that is personal or important to them, more power to them. I'll give them all sorts of understanding no matter whether I agree with their beliefs or not. But the president, sitting fat and pretty on his political trip in Arizona and California, mentioning a disaster in a condescending and faux-fatherly speech inbetween pushing his bait-and-switch health care policy and his mismanaged war, simply pisses me off when he says this sort of thing. I think he should shut the hell up about what he thinks people need and talk about how he's going to help with the things he can actually do something about. And when he has hours to prepare a speech, respecting other people's views would be nice too.

In other news, New Orleans is just a mess, and it's going to be a very difficult mess to figure out what to do with. There is a huge natural desire to rebuild the city again in the same spot, to spite nature and show defiance. There are also, as I understand it, some very sound practical reasons why New Orleans is where it is. On the other hand, the technology required to effectively protect the city from this sort of event, which is likely to remain more frequent and more risky for at least the next ten years as I understand the hurricane cycle, is hideously expensive. Is there any way that New Orleans could be rebuilt, well, somewhere else? Somewhere where a complex and vulnerable system of levees and pumps isn't required to keep the city from turning into a lake and causing this sort of massive destruction and loss of property and life?

Also, do they have to make looting the lead story? Is it really the right thing, in the middle of a tale of human tragedy of unimaginable proportions, to tap people's natural eagerness to find someone to blame and get angry at? One can't blame nature, and for the first day or so the news coverage was nicely devoid of targets, but now looters are being set up as the enemy and the people to hate. Did we actually need to add people to hate to this story?

I realize that it's news, and they do have to cover it, but I really wish they wouldn't give it this much emphasis and add a bit more analysis and perspective.

2005-08-30: Why not evacuate?

One more post on this for the night.

I'm seeing various people wonder why anyone would have not evacuated given the situation and would have risked getting caught by this sort of hurricane. Well, some of it probably was stupidity, and a lot of people did say that they thought they'd be okay because their structure survived Camille. However, in New Orleans in particular, it's important to realize the situation.

New Orleans was a city with excellent mass transit, one of the cities in which it was entirely practical to live without a car. In fact, 100,000 of the inhabitants of New Orleans did not have cars, in the statistics that I've heard. On top of that, the mayor's evacuation order was desperately late (and that was widely commented on at the time, before the storm struck).

Or, as an example is worth a thousand words sometimes, see scyllacat's LJ, which someone on a private mailing list just pointed people at. There's a person who didn't evacuate. She could have gone to the Superdome, but from what I'm hearing about the Superdome (30,000 people, no air conditioning, no working plumbing, 100 degree weather, and no clear evacuation plan from it), I'm not sure that I'd be willing to go there rather than risking riding out the storm.

Also, I've lived through a natural disaster (forest fire rather than hurricane, but some of the principles are similar), and I can tell you from first-hand experience that "just evacuate" isn't anywhere near as easy as it sounds when you're actually in the middle of it. Even if there are no logistical challenges, it is desperately hard to just leave everything and go.

Moral of the story: Not everyone has the same opportunities, not everyone has the same transportation choices, and sometimes it just isn't as simple as it sounds.

2005-08-31: More on evacuating

By way of jwz and Making Light, here's another really good posting about why some people didn't evacuate.

The news coverage so far is demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of what it's like to be poor, both in the coverage of evacuations and economic consequences and in the coverage of the looting. It's not that everything they're saying is wrong; it's that they're very clearly not looking at things outside of their own perspectives, and simply do not understand what it's like to be part of the working class poor. It gives so much of what they're saying a surreal bias, and explains in part why there's so much focus on gas prices and looting.

Intentionally or not, cynically or not, it's clear that the evacuation plans for the city simply abandoned 20% of the population. The evacuation system in place relied on private transportation and private funds, and so far as I've heard, there was no concerted effort to turn the city's mass transit infrastructure towards evacuation. This should have political consequences in any sane world. I hope it does.

Thanks to Paul Walker also for the link.

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