Monday, December 19, 2005

The forgoten toll in Mississippi

The forgotten toll in Mississippi

New Orleans gets all the national coverage - what about Mississippi

Some telling figures from the Sun Herald newspaper

Katrina's toll in Mississippi
$125 billion Estimated dollar amount of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina
231 Identified dead statewide
5 Unidentified dead
67 Missing
65,380 Houses in South Mississippi destroyed
383,700 Mississippi insurance claims filed (Katrina and Rita)
$5 billion Claims paid (as of Nov. 21)
141,000 Insurance claims filed in South Mississippi
$1.3 billion Claims paid in South Mississippi
44 million Estimated cubic yards of debris in South Mississippi
21.8 million Cubic yards removed as of Dec. 5
20,447 Red Cross staff and volunteers in Mississippi
5,543,006 Red Cross meals served
42,768 People sheltered by Red Cross
229 Red Cross shelters opened
$185 million Red Cross money spent in South Mississippi as of Nov. 30

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Adobe purchase of Macromedia

Adobe purchase of Macromedia

You probably want to know more about Adobe's purchase of Macromedia.

Today Adobe sent this to their various Team Macromedia members, Macromedia User Group managers and other prominent Macromedia community developers.

Dear Macromedia Community Members:

By now you most likely know that Adobe has finalized its acquisition of Macromedia, combining the leading-edge technologies of two pioneering software companies. We?d like to take this opportunity to let you know what the acquisition means to you as a valued member of our community and what you can expect from Adobe in the days ahead.

With the acquisition of Macromedia, Adobe is dramatically advancing its ability to deliver a platform that provides you with powerful solutions for engaging people with digital information. We are now better positioned than ever to assist you in meeting and exceeding your business requirements and goals.

Moving forward, we will bring together some of the industry?s strongest brands and most ubiquitous technologies, including Acrobat, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, PDF, ColdFusion and Flash. Customers who have relied on Adobe and Macromedia solutions will benefit from a consistent platform and common user interface, as well as the outstanding care they?ve come to expect from both companies.

At a high level, by bringing our technologies together, we will provide the community with the software solutions you need to meet the increasing demands of today?s competitive environment. Now more than ever, we are positioned to help you securely extend the reach of your information, business processes and services to engage and interact with customers and constituents online, via mobile devices ? by whatever medium you choose.

As you may know many of Macromedia?s leaders are now in leadership roles at Adobe. Kevin Lynch is now Adobe?s Senior Vice President and Chief Software Architect, Platform Business Unit. Kevin?s responsibilities include the Flash Player, Acrobat Reader, and Developer Relations. David Mendels is now Adobe?s Senior Vice President of Enterprise and Developer Solutions, and is responsible for products like Flex, ColdFusion and LiveCycle. Tom Hale is now Adobe?s Senior Vice President of the Knowledge Worker Solutions Business Unit, which includes Breeze and Acrobat. And lastly, Stephen Elop, Macromedia?s former President and CEO, is the President of Adobe?s worldwide field organization.

Our efforts with user groups around the world, developer events and conferences, and throughout the community will continue as they always have, and we?re excited about how we can enhance and expand our relationships with our development community.

We look forward to sharing more information with the community in the coming weeks. For more information about the merger, please visit If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please don?t hesitate to contact me directly, or any of your contacts on the developer relations team.

On behalf of all of Adobe, and the Developer Relations team in particular, I want to thank you for your continued commitment to our community, and I look forward to new opportunities to work together.

With best regards,

Sara Spalding, Director, Developer Relations

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More than the destruction we'll remember your smiles

More than the destruction we'll remember your smiles

A letter to the Sun Herald newspaper on November 6th

More than the destruction we'll remember your smiles

To the citizens of Mississippi, All of you are still in our thoughts and prayers. We are one of the National Guard units from Indiana that was called upon to respond in a time of need for Hurricane Katrina. My unit was assigned to Gulfport as checkpoint security along the railroad.

No pictures could do justice to the damage and loss that you suffered from this hurricane. Yet, while dealing with how to pick up and start over again, you took the time to talk to us. You brought us food, drinks and ice.

But what you brought us that meant the most were your smiles and hospitality. We made a lot of new friends during a short period of time and regret that our paths may never cross again.

Just know that you guys are the best and you are in our thoughts as you continue your struggle to regain what you lost.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bratch, for

Huntington, Indiana

Monday, October 31, 2005

Some trees have changed in unexpected ways

Some trees have changed in unexpected ways

Lots of trees were damaged or destroyed by Katrina, but some seem to be getting a new start at life

I don't know much about indigenous American plants and trees, so if I am saying something that everybody knows already please forgive me - I've only lived here a year or so.

British Oak

In the wooded area we have at the rear of our parcel of land we have hundreds of oak trees. Not those huge magnificent oaks we love in Britain,

Live Oak

or the amazing twisted, sprawling 'live oaks' seen all over The South (so-called because they do not lose their leaves in the season they laughingly call winter down here), but boring, straight 'pole' oaks.

These are basically straight trees, reminiscent of pine trees, with a bushy bit on top that sprouts leaves that we would all recognise as relatively large oak leaves. We have literally hundreds of them. They are like weeds - it's hard to decide which is the bigger pest, pine trees or pole oaks.

So why am I telling you all this? Because lots of those straight, boring pole oaks are growing large numbers of leaves along the length of their trunks, presumably because the amount of devastation from Katrina means they are now getting light onto those trunks.

It looks kind of weird though. when I first noticed this I thought it was vines twisting their way up the trees - we also have enough vines to start our own jungle - but closer investigation revealed it was fresh green oak leaves.

I am interested to see how these trees look in a few years time ... will these new shoots survive long enough to become branches and eventually reveal a beautiful oak similar to what we are used to? Will they simply wither and die as the more normal dense carpet of leaves returns to our woods? Will something else happen? Time will tell.

Spring is in the air

Spring is in the air

They tell us plants get confused and have a second spring

... after a big storm like Katrina. Well I think we have seen a lot of evidence of this. Lots of trees have managed to regrow their leaves having been stripped bare by the terrible winds.

Today as I walked around snapping pictures of the progress made since the storm, I discovered our once magnificent, but now rather sorry-looking magnolia tree is doing its level best to add to the recovery effort ...

The magnolia tree is the rather sorry looking green mass to the left of center in the picture above.

But as you can see here, there is plenty of fresh green growth, and one magnolia flower about to bloom. Of course the tree is supposed to be in bloom in the spring and early summer, not in November!

Hopefully I can catch a photograph of the flower once it opens.

What about supplies for repairs?

What about supplies for repairs?

A friend and colleague asked about the availability of building supplies

So I thought I could talk a little about that here.

I want to specifically thank Home Depot and Lowes in Gulfport for being open fast and open with the right equipment! Right after the storm they had generators and chainsaws. Now, a few weeks later they have loads of power tools - saws, screwdrivers, wood chippers etc, and building supplies overflowing ... roofing shingles , sheetrock etc etc.

So in answer to any question as to how easy it is to get hold of building and repair supplies, the answer is ... it has been tough at times, but right now it does not appear that there is any shortage. Certainly there is no shortage for the sort of things I have needed.

Speaking of repairs, I had a huge pine tree on top of a mobile home ...

Whilst our own home, and the house we own in Gulfport have escaped relatively unscathed, we did have a big pine tree fall on the roof of the small mobile home we have here for rent.

Amazingly there was very little damage. I was able to fix it with my rudementary skills! A little bit of wood, some sheet-tin, some pop rivets, some roofing tar and some Kule Seal paint to finish it all off ...

It's never going to look pretty, but there are a lot of homeless people around here right now. Hopefully we can help a small family get out of a tent and into something more weather-proof for the winter.

Driving up to the house

Driving up to the house

Changes to our driveway in the last two months

Katrina was kind enough to throw a lot of our trees into the driveway without actually hitting our home. Here's how things changed as clean up progressed.

Right after Katrina hit you could not even see our home from the street.

So the first job was to clear a path through the trees. A neighbour helped me here with te chainsawing - I did the lifting and moving of the chopped-up bits. I'd never used a chainsaw for anything like this at this point, so I figured it was safer to let an expert handle it, although he worried me a bit when I saw he was wearing open-toed sandals ...

As you can see the pile of wood is now gone from the driveway. I was very lucky again with this wood. I spent a whole day last week - Thursday I think - lifting and moving the cluttings of one heeeeeuuuuge pine tree that had fallen onto a mobile home we have for rent. Once I had almost finished moving the pieces to the side of the road, a county-employed cleanup crew arrived and started loading the wood onto trailers to take away to the burning area a few miles away.

I cheekily asked if they could help me out by picking up the wood that was next to my driveway - they are really only supposed to take the stuff that has already been moved to the side of the road - and they agreed. Nice one. They shifted it all in under an hour, but it would have taken me most of a day to move it out to the road myself. Thanks guys!

Picnic area update

Picnic area update

Here's three pictures of our picnic area. Before Katrina, just after and today ...

Before the storm Click to see larger image

After the storm Click to see larger image

Today Click to see larger image

There's still a long way to go here. we have lost all our shade trees from this area, and a large pecan stump remains for me to cut the final part and remove the stump. I can live with this as it is for now until even cooler weather arrives and I can work as hard as I like without worrying about heat stroke.

It's been a lot cooler ...

It has been a lot cooler here over the last week

So I decided to take advantage and work outside

Over the last week or so it has been (apparently) unseasonably cool here ... one day the daytime temperature was no higher than 60 degrees, but most days it has been more like 68-70. This week it is a little warmer, maybe 75 max. Net week it will be back to 'normal' at something like 80-85. It's November! So much for autumn ;-)

So I took advantage of the cooler weather and got outside for a few days to finish up some of the most needed cleanup and repair work that I just could not face while the daytime temperatures were over 90 degrees.

My next few blog posts will show some before/after pictures, or - more accurately - just after Katrina and 9 weeks after, now that I have completed nearly all the required cleanup.

For now, I thought I should entertain you with a photograph of a spider that has taken up residence just above my head-height in the path we have through the woods to our pond. We walk this way with the dogs several times a day. Good job we are not arachnophobia. This little critter is about 3 or 4 inches across...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More interesting ideas

More interesting ideas

Planning presentations posted

Planning presentations posted

Presentations of the proposed plans for The Coast have been publishd

If you want to see what the planners are proposing for your area, take a look at the plans posted here.

Be aware that these are slides used by planners to present their thoughts to , I assume, the Governer's Commission. Sadly the planners did not feel it necessary to add a great deal of commentary to their images, so we are left to speculate over certain details, but there is still a lot of useful information to be gleaned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005



Charrette (shä-r?e t´) n.

"A planning session that usually takes anywhere from several days to a week and incorporates the expertise of a variety of individuals. Some planners use this method when designing traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs). It is thought that by including as many community members as possible in the process, a better product is arrived at more efficiently. The term is derived from the French term for "little cart" and refers to the final intense work effort expended by architects to meet a project deadline. In Paris, during the 19th century, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from their students. Students would jump on the "charrette" to put finishing touches on their presentation minutes before the deadline."

So why am I telling you this?

Well the local Governors Commission has been using a Charrette process to try to make rapid headway with plans for rebuilding the Gulf Coast so heavily devastated by Katrina.

The commission is putting together recommendations for the coastal cities, the counties and even the entire state of Mississippi. We have an opportunity here to clean up the image of Mississippi and rebuild its tourist center as a beautiful, attractive coastal region and the commission hopes to help formulate a plan to make that possible.

Today as part of that process they held a public committee meeting that, in essence, presented their progress to date (although I hasten to add that this was not a full report, but merely a discussion of 'work in progress'). What they had to tell us is reasonably well summarised in this report.

My own summary is as follows (and it is a severe summarisation)

- Rebuild the coast as a series of more traditional towns.
- Bring back the Town Center.
- Make building codes more strict.
- Go for blended zoning, so residential and businesses can be built together.
- Improve public transport.
- Make it possible to walk and cycle about the neighbourhood and have somewhere you can actually go to if you do!!
- Suggested building patterns (style guides for the web- and print-savvy among us) - a pattern book has already been produced and it will be available to everybody.
- Move the railroad tracks from the center of all the coastal towns to a more northerly location.
- Use the site of the current tracks tas the foundation for a new east/west highway that becomes a 'fast' route along the coast.
- Slow down highway 90 (the beach road that was mostly destroyed by the storm) and make it a sceneic boulevard - 50 miles long! - so the beach can again be an attraction.
- Make public access to the beach for work, rest and play easy and attractive.

There's more, but you get the idea. Again, to stress, these are ideas under discussion. No doubt they will evolve. Some things will fall by the wayside, others will be replaced or diluted. But t least, in my opinion, they are making a good and positive start.

It's just a shame that they have no real authority. The guidelines the commission comes up with will be exactly that - guidelines. Nothing they suggest can be enforced in any way unless local governments adopt them and apply them as local law, ordinance, zoning regulation or whatever the correct local terminoligy would be...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Nice to be out of Mississippi

Nice to be out of Mississippi

I've never really felt that way before ...

My wife and I are in North Carolina for TAAC - The Alternative Authorware
Conference, where we will both
be speaking - and it is nice to be somewhere where all the restaurants and
shops are open :-)

And where the books stores are open! I was reading in yesterday's Sun Herald
that all of the major book stores on the coast were destroyed or flooded.
Barenes and Noble and Books A Million have bothe gutted their stores and
they remain empty as I type.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Now for something a little lighter

Now for something a little lighter

You know those joke emails? I just got this ...

You Live On The Gulf Coast If

  1. You have FEMA's number on your speed dialer.

  2. You have more than 300 'C' and 'D' batteries in your kitchen drawer.

  3. Your pantry contains more than 20 cans of Spaghetti Os.

  4. You are thinking of repainting your house to match the plywood covering your windows.

  5. When describing your house to a prospective buyer, you say it has three bedrooms, two baths, and one safe hallway.

  6. Your SSN isn't a secret, it's written in Sharpie on your arms.

  7. You are on a first-name basis with the cashier at Home Depot.

  8. You are delighted to pay $3 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

  9. The road leading to your house has been declared a 'No-Wake' Zone.

  10. You decide that your patio furniture looks better on the bottom of the pool.

  11. You own more than three large coolers.

  12. You can wish that other people get hit by a hurricane and not feel the least bit guilty about it.

  13. You rationalize helping a friend board up by thinking, "It'll only take a gallon of gas to get there and back."

  14. You have 2-liter coke bottles and milk jugs filled with water in your freezer.

  15. Three months ago you couldn't hang a shower curtain; today you can assemble a portable generator by candlelight.

  16. You catch a 13-pound redfish - in your driveway.

  17. You can recite from memory whole portions of your homeowner's insurance policy.

  18. At cocktail parties, women are attracted to the guy with the biggest chainsaw.

  19. You have had tuna fish more than 5 days in a row.

  20. There is a roll of tarpaper in your garage.

  21. You can rattle off the names of three or more meteorologists who work at the Weather Channel and every single newscaster and reporter at all of the major stations in town.

  22. Someone comes to your door to tell you they found your roof.

  23. Ice is a valid topic of conversation.

  24. Your "drive-thru" meal consists of MRE's and bottled water.

  25. Relocating to South Dakota does not seem like such a crazy idea.

  26. You spend more time on your roof then in your living room.

  27. You've been laughed at over the phone by a roofer, fence builder, or a tree worker.

  28. You don't worry about relatives wanting to visit during the summer.

  29. Your child's first words are "hunker down" and you didn't go to Ole Miss!

  30. Having a tree in your living room does not necessarily mean it's Christmas.

  31. You know the difference between the "good side" of a storm and the "bad side."

  32. Your kids start school in August and finish in July.

  33. You go to work early and stay late just to enjoy the air conditioning.

  34. You get phone calls from family members saying they've found bread at a store 6 miles away... and you hurry to get there.

  35. You wait in line for 45 minutes for a loaf of bread and don't mind because at least you have bread.

  36. A battery powered TV is considered a home entertainment center.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wow - words fail me.

Words fail me.

While the world concentrated on New Orleans, Mississippi rolled up its sleeves

If you haven't seen any of the aerial photographs taken right after Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, these pictures from the Sun Herald tell a harrowing tale.

The link leads to a large Flash movie containing a photo slideshow and comments. Please be patient while it downloads.

The gas stations are just taking the P155!!

The gas stations are just taking the P155!!

Quit with the stupid games and show us your prices!

The day before Katrina hit, all the gas stations locally took down their prices from those huge big signs they have in the forecourt. Now, a month later, most of them (well, of the few that have reopened) are still not showing the price they plan to sell their fuel at.

I could be cynical and say they were trying to hide big price rises so they could stick one over the evacuees as they left town before the storm.

Or I could be charitable, and assume that they just were being cautious and were making sure their precious numbers did not blow away when the high winds arrived.

Either is possible.

But why, a full month after the storm, are they still not showing their gas prices?

It's an interesting game ... do I want to join the line (queue for us Brits) and take a risk on waiting 10 or 20 minutes just to discover some outrageous price? Or shall I drive on to the next place to see if they are going to admit to their price.

Fortunately the lines are shorter now than they were ... actually they are almost completely gone. But at one stage people were forced to wait in line for several hours - in 95-100 degree temperatures - and would have paid any price.

I thought there were laws that required retailers to clearly show their prices. Maybe they think they are serving the letter of the law by showing the price in the little window of the pump, but they are certainly not serving he spirit of the law.

In Gulfport there are maybe three or four gas stations showing a price, ranging form $2.45 to $2.79. As far as I can tell this is a lot cheaper than in most other places in the USA, but of course most places are not showing any price at all.

Maybe they are charging high prices, and maybe they are not. I have no idea what they are charging, and you can be assured I won't know until they display their prices again.


Because there is no way I will be going into the forecourt before they quit playing games and start to show their prices. I just wish a few more people would do the same ...

It's not as if they have had the courtesy to improve our skyline by removing the hideous big signs proclaiming that they are there to sell us fuel!

If you are a local and you read this, I would be grateful to hear from you if you know anything of the legality of not showing prices like this. Just click the Comments link below and follow the instructions.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Want to work on the coast? No problem!

Want to work on the coast? No problem!

It seems like even the small number of businesses that are open
cannot find enough people to do the work they have ...

Drive past any open business, be it MacDonald's, a pharmacy, a gas station or a pawn shop and you can almost guarantee you'll see a sign that says something like "Open and hiring".

The local newspaper is full of adverts for welders, truck drivers, temporary office workers, cleaners ... and professional jobs too - need a nursing job? Want to be a salesman? An insurance adjuster? Companies are offering free on-the-job training for truck drivers!

Local job agencies have signs outside saying they have upwards of 300 jobs to fill. Local radio claims the local unemployment service is inundated with jobs.

In short - if you want to work, there is work there to be had. All you need to do is go get it. Right now it probably helps if you don't mind getting your hands dirty too ...

Things are still a long way from normal

Things are still a long way from normal

Some times it seems like repairs have come a long way - but they have so far to go.
Even now it is hard to grasp the full scale of Katrina's destruction!

Amy and I have been maintaining a semblance of normality over the last couple of weeks, but this morning I was struck by how far from normality we really are. Here's what was going through my mind.

Firstly, we normally go to a local gym each weekday morning before we start work. Our gym lost its roof and suffered considerable damage from Katrina, so right now it is closed so they can rebuild. We have to travel an extra 15 miles or so to go to a different gym - a gym that we found quite by accident when we were unable to go to a second gym that is normally our backup!

Secondly, as we travel along Pass Road through Gulfport and Biloxi, I am struck buy the fact that fewer than 10% of retail outlets and businesses appear to be open. Can you even begin to comprehend what that is doing to the local economy? Thousand and thousands of people are missing, scattered about the USA now that their homes are destroyed or unfit to live in. But hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses have been equally badly affected. The local newspaper, the Sun Herald, published an article today that said, among other things,"Of the 171,000 dwellings in the area, more than 65,100 homes, or 38 percent, are destroyed and an additional 38,000 sustained major damage". 65,100 homes destroyed!

Thirdly, with all those businesses closed, there are few restaurants open (most with very restricted menus), only one movie theatre within about a 50 mile radius, few grocery stores, only a small number of banks, roughly 30% of gas stations ... etc, etc. In other words most of the places where people normally go for neccesities, luxuries and entertainment are all gone. Even those people who were lucky enough to be barely touched by Katrina are now being starved not only of their luxuries, but many of their necessities.

Why was I so struck by all of this? Monday will be 4 weeks since Katrina hit. Almost a month. In nearly 4 weeks the teams of people repairing services to our homes and businesses have done unbelievable work, returning electricity, phone, water and sewerage services to almost everyone who can receive such services. But no amount of wonderful work by those people can possibly speed up the repairs to homes and businesses, or replace those that were completely washed away. It really is going to take years to make repairs on that scale.

Rain hits the Mississipi coast

Rain hits the Mississipi coast

This is really the first rain since Katrina was here!

Over three weeks since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, we finally got rain today. This might have been good news but for a series of less-happy facts:-

  • The rain is the northern-most tip of Rita, so this is the harbinger of much worse weather that will hit land to the west and north of us.

  • Much of the coastal flooding has still not completely receded.

  • New Orleans is absolutely not ready to take another storm - it won't take much to create fresh flooding and to burst the levvies again.

  • The rest of the coast is not ready for another storm either. Most of the storm damage has not yet been made secure. Many, many buildings still have no kind of roof or even a tarpaulin to protect them from further damage.

  • What debris there is that has been gathered together is mostly piled at the side of the road waiting for the local goverment or FEMA to collect it and take it away for disposal - it's going to take little more than a whiff of wind and a few drops of rain to start spreading that debris all over the place.

  • If we get anything more than about 10 mph winds, a lot of that debris will be flying around causing new damage.

  • Fresh rain will encourage fresh mosquitos - they have not yet been as bad as some had predicted.

On the plus side - there has to be a plus side, right?

  • The fact that a lot of the debris has not been cleared away means that most of the coast is smelling bad right now. I reckon at least some of that smell will be eased as the rain washes a lot of the cause of that away. Although making it wet will most likely make it worse than ever in another day or two :-(

  • There has been a burn-ban across the 6 southern counties of Mississippi, and no dound in Alabama and Louisiana too - making it impossible for people to dispose of their own debris. This may well be lifted. OK I know it's a bad idea to encourage people to burn all their storm debris, but for many in outlying areas it will be the only way to clean up.

  • Nature needs a drink. I have mentioned a couple of times how pleased I have been to see trees regrowing their leaves. I am sure a day or two of rain will help to fuel that regrowth. It will be nice to see the trees with their clothes back on, providing us with a less-bleak view of the world, and of course some shade form the relentless sun.

Mobile information about Hurricane Rita

Mobile information about Hurricane Rita

As I write, it looks like Hurrricane Rita is going to hit Huston

My heart goes out to all of those who were affected so terribly by Katrina, only to have another hurricane chase them out of their place of refuge. Thousands of people are having to flee from Huston and other parts of Texas as the storm seems to be chasing many of the people who were most severely hurt by Katrina.

This morning I found this page of links to mobile friendly web pages giving information about Rita. If you are on the move and have access to the internat via cell phone or PDAphone these links may be useful for you. You should find they work fine for PC and Laptop computers too, but they may look odd as they have been optimised for the small screens of PDAs.

The page had been put together by Bev Howard. The idea is to encourage officials to make this sort of information available. Here's what Bev says about it:-

I'm winging this one, so page is being constantly updated... for the better hopefully... check back

Suggestions and feedback will be appreciated.

PLEASE! If you think this minimalist approach is a good idea, pass the link along to as many other mobile users as possible and as many people along the texas/la coast asap who have the need, both mobile and non mobile.

I have a local counter to support the need, so, the more visits during this event, the more likely NHC will pay attention. The counter only updates if you "reload" on the ppc so it should reflect mobile hit's accurately although many browsers are set to reload every time.

If you want Noaa and NHC to provide mobile friendly sites and to let them know their current "text page" sucks, let them know at

Beverly Howard [MS MVP-Mobile Devices]

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Nature's recovery continues

Nature's recovery continues

I have been fascinated by all the new growth I see everywhere

One of the most shocking things for me when I returned home to Saucier - after seeing all the trees down everywhere - was the fact that almost every leaf was blown off of every tree. I posted a picture oa few days ago showing one of our surviving Pecans sprouting new leaves. Today I snpped a second picture showing the change in only a few days.

Since noticing this new growth, I have been looking out for it elsewhere. I see lovely bright green leaves sprouting everywhere At this rate we will have lots of trees with normal-looking compliments of leaves in another two or three weeks. For many that will be just in time for Autumn - oops, Fall :-) - but for the live oaks the plumage should be here to stay.

The single sad thing about this is the number of trees I have seen that are lying on their sides, doomed to be cut up and burned over the next few months, but still valiantly putting out new growth. My wife spoke to a tree expert about this earlier in the week. He said that the trees will, unfortunately, grow themselves to death. They will quickly outgrow the ruined roots that remain in action and essentially starve to death :-(

County assistance with clean-up?

We discovered this week that we should be able to get official assistance with the cleanup. Most people here in Saucier are not wealthy, but 5 acres of land is pretty normal for a typical household, and even the most meagre plot is an acre. Many older families have several tens of acres.

Everyone has lost many trees, but if we individually call lumber companies individually to get trees taken away, they will not be interested in clearing a couple of trees from a two-acre plot, or even 5 or 6 trees from a 5 acre plot, or if they are interested the cost would be prohibitive.

My wife Amy spoke with the local chairman of the marchants association and they have plans to gather together a town meeting to see if we can go forward and find a contractor or group of contractors who can help the entire town of Saucier clear away the worst of the trees.

As a possible added bonus, maybe they can help us get this tree of the little trailer we have on our property. Then we can quickly make it available to one of the poor families who are now homeless!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I forgot one bonus from Katrina

I forgot one bonus from Katrina


Scores and scores of billboards were destroyed by hurricane Katrina. It's been great not having these huge, ugly, garishly-coloured, grammatically aful advertisements!

Sadly, yesterday I noticed several of the casino-owned billboards north of I-10 on highway 49 have begun to sprout new adverts. I couldn't tell you what they say becuase I treat them the same way I do adverts on web sites - I ignore them!

I also noticed yesterday that at least one of the huge iron and scteel billboard frames that was knocked down was being replaced in Gulfport.

I sincerely hope these things are banned as part of the suggested swathe of new zoning abnd building codes. They are ugly and they destroy what could be beautiful views all over the country. At the very least they should be banned in places like Gulfport and Biloxi.

Besides - I am sure that a significant percentage of the building damage that occured as Katrina scoured her way through the coastal towns and northwards was caused by debris torn from the billboards! I saw several buildings badly damaged by huge billboard columns that had fallen onto them...

Desktop replacement

Mobile computing? Detatchable screen!

This is the ultimate desktop replacement!

I was surfing around trying to get back to normal when I spotted this and my gadgetosis nerve started itching!!!

I have wanted something like this for a long time. So has my wife, Amy, apparently :-)

More on 'Flood' Insurance

More on 'Flood' Insurance

"'Flood damage' issue must be national policy" says Hugo Newcomb Jr. in the Clarion Ledger

The article below speaks about the need for a national solution and policy" to make sure that insurance covers people properly in the event of a hurricane.

In short - people were told they did not need flood insurance becuase they did not live in a flood plain. Yet when their houses were swept away by Katrina's storm surge the insurance comanies have refused to pay up, because they had no flood insurance! It gets better - they could not even have boought flood insurance even if they wanted it!

Read on for a more reasoned and eloquent argument as to why the insurance industry needs its collective arse kicked.

Not another one!

Not another one!

Let's hope Rita stays away.

Not-so-lovely Rita (OK I couldn't resist the Beatles reference is heading into the Gulf of Mexico as I type. Florida Keys is taking a battering, but the forecast seems to be that Rita is coming into the Gulf and move on to Texas.

Fingers crossed no significant harm reaches anyone anywhere!

What worries me is that recent history shows the storms taking a slightly more Eastern path than the path predictions have indicated. At the moment Western Louisiana is at the extreme east of the projected path, but if this storm gets to be at all large it is going to affect areas further East than that. Also, if it does take a more Eastern path, then New Orleans could, at the very least, get more flooding. I think the Mayor of New Orleans has said that if they get more than 3 feeet of storm surge the levies will burst again!

Anyway - I am not a praying man but my fingers are crossed that the storm does not come ashore anywhere near the places already devastated by Katrina. Better yet, let it be a damp squip that fizzles out before it gets near any shoreline.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Some more ramblings

Some more ramblings

How are things going on the coast?

I was asked on a local discussion forum to elaborate on some of the things I posted here ... I replied there, but I have decided to post the same stuff here.

"When you mention the "negative press" can you provide more info on the subject? On what news? On what subjects?"

Hmmm - where do you want me to start? What little tv we had seen by that time was spending most of the time trying to point the finger of blame at whoever was responsible for the slow response to the storm. At that point the same was true of the radio coverage we were hearing and the newspapers we saw - at least until a day or so before I posted the message you read. From then on the local radio and newspaper coverage became noticably more positive about the current situation and the outlook for the future.

New Orleans has since taken most of the national coverage. At the time NO news was about evenly split between finger-pointing and terrible stories of the flood and the criminal activity, from looting to shooting at aid convoys and helicoptors to little children being raped and murdered. These were mentioned everywhere - CNN on the web and on the tv, public radio, newspapers.

Since then the national coverage I have seen has concentrated almost wholly on New Orleans, as the Mayor tries desperately to blame everyone but himself (it seems) for mistakes made, and poor preparation.

Meantime in Mississippi the local radio stations, local tv and local newspapers (do you get the emphasis on LOCAL? ) have almost completely stopped pointing the finger at anyone for any mistakes or lack of preparation.

Here's the score so far as I understand it (and I think most people here see the same thing) -

The storm was terrible - bigger and more devastating than anyone imagined possible. Aid was totally unable to get through to the Mississippi coast for at least 2 days because the main arterial road (hightway 49) to bring that aid was blocked by thousands of fallen trees. Much of the aid was held up at Camp Shelby (maybe 10 miles south of Hattisburg, about 60 miles north of the coast) while a route was cut through the debris.

Once the roads were cleared, aid came through thick and fast. when I drove back down to the coast from Jackson on the Friday (or Saturday) after the storm it was evident that 49 had essentially been impassable from Jackson onwards ... thats 150 miles of 4-way highway blocked in both directions!! As I drove down that road I was stunned not only by the devastation that steadily worsened the further south I drove, but at the scale of the work that had to be done to clear it.

When I got to Gulfport that day there were traffic jams caused by the volume of aid traffic flooding into the city. I have no doubt that the same was true along the rest of the coast. Sadly many smaller communities remained inaccessible for a long time after then, but any lack of aid to them is likely to have been caused by logistical problems - blocked and or destroyed roads and bridges - rather than any lack of willing or ability to send aid to them.

All through this, the contrast between Governor Haley Barbour and the mayor of New Orleans has been striking. G. Barbour has maintained a "let's fix it and be better for it" attitude, with huge volumes of thanks to the (quite incredible!) work of the electric repair crews and aid helpers and volunteers, while it appears that the mayor of NO has concentrated of whining, finger pointing and demanding assistance. These attitudes have clearly affected the populations each man has responsability to, and the media coverage devoted to them.

As I said in my blog, the general attitude down here on the coast is very positive, in spite of the fact that whole cities have been washed away - and I am sure that the leadership of G Barbour and others has helped to maintain that posiive attitude.

Sure they are not cities the size of New Orleans, but if you have not seen the pictures, the sight of streets of houses scoured clean leaving only empty slabs and mountains of debris is heart-rending!

Check out this image of Bay St Louis

Here's where you can see more pictures of the devastation all along the coast:-


"Please give more information on your personal opinion. Here in Florida where we were almot hit by infamous Katrina, Fidelity who holds most Flood Ins. does not want to pay either. I don't know why we need flood insurance in a floor area if they won't pay when it gets flooded? It sounds like a riddle, right?"

Hmm - my earlier information seems to have been contradicted. Public radio announcements suggested early on that the insurance companies were instructed to play fair, but the Attorney General of Mississippi took 5 insurance companies to court this week to get them to quit trying to wriggle out of their responsabilitis by saying their insured customers had no flood insurance. He says there is no specific exclusion for Storm Surge so they have to pay up. I look forward to seeing the outcome of that.

Some people had specific Hurricane insurance, so they expected to be insured for hurricanes ... yet the insurance companies are saying they lost their homes or were damaged by flood. How was that flood caused? Wind-driven storm surge, not a river bursting its banks, or a flash flood or a burst water main!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Nature is fast to recover

Nature is fast to recover

Already our surviving trees are putting out new leaves

I noticed last night that there were some new leaves on one of the unharmed Pecan trees. I looked again this morning and was pleased to see that there is loads of new growth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Let's talk about insurance - pt 2

Let's talk about insurance - pt 2

No flood insurance?

Apparently some of the insurance companies are telling people who lost their homes due to the storm surge from Katrina that they are not covered since the did not have flood insurance.

Guess why they had no flood insurance? Because the insurance companies told them they didn't need it!

Apparently the mayor of Biloxi has spoken the to the President asking him to slap the insurance companies about the ears. This is not a time to be messing people about when they have lost everything.

On a lighter not, we met with our insurance loss adjuster on Monday. He turned up with a smart little digital camera and proceeded to snap away merrily at the holes in our roof and the various evidence of water damage. Suddenly he stopped and started fiddling about with his camera to check and see that it was taking pictures OK. Everything he had taken was black. He fiddled and looked worried for about 20 miutes, complaining that he thought his daughter might have dropped it.

Eventually he gave up and made some hadwritten notes. He promised to be back yesterday then today (Wednesday) to take the pcitures. I'm still waiting. Hopefully he won't take too much longer...

I found my camera!

Yippee I found my camera!

It was hiding next to a bees' nest, surprise surprise

I managed to fight my way back through the woods behind our house today, after spending a couple of hours clearing a path. I was pleased to find the camera that I dropped last week. If you've been following this blog you will recall that I dropped it when I panicked and ran from an angry swarm of bees.

It has not rained here in a couple of weeks, so when I got the camera home and switched it on, it was working perfectly. The pictures on the CF card are all unharmed too. I'll post a couple of them soon ...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Pictures after today's cleanup

Pictures after today's cleanup

I really appreciate the help from the work gang today!

Here's some pictures that show the state of our property before and after today's cleanup. They don't show the full scale of the improvement made today, but I sure appreciate the help from the cleanup crew. I made sure they each got a little extra reward for their efforts ... I know they are getting paid by the county government, but I never asked or expected all the help they gave me, and they saved me at least a couple of weeks of work!

Let's talk about insurance

Let's talk about insurance

So far reports about insurance are almost as positive as reports about the electricity companies!

First of all, let me just reiterate what has been said repeatedly elsewhere. The electricity companies, and the help they have received from as far away as Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico - no doubt further afield, but these are some of the license plates I have seen - have done an absolutely outstanding job. Electricity is back on in something like 60% of homes and businesses who can receive power on the coast. Having seen the damage first-hand I am stunned that they have managed to make so may repairs so quickly!

Anyway - insurance. Apparently the insurance companies have been told that if there is any kind of dispute, then they should fall on the side of the insured, not the insurance company. Also Lloyds of London have said that they are able to afford to underwrite any losses, as the insurance companies have been buying sufficient cover to pay for losses. Finally FEMA (Fedaral Emergency Association(?)) has said that they will cover losses that were not insured.

All-in-all that means most people should be able to afford to rebuild. That should also include even the poorest households, but of course we will have to wait and see to be sure.

We reported our losses to our insurance company on Wednesday. Today - Sunday - we got a call from our insurance loss adjuster who is driving to Gulfport as I type. We are going to meet him tomorrow at 10am in Gulfport to inspect the damage to that house and sort out insurance and repairs. This is fantastic news as we were about to lease the house to a young woman who has a 6-year-old daughter. She lost her current apartment and most of her belongings in the storm, so she needs a roof over her head ASAP. Fingers crossed we can get repairs sorted very quickly, although we will have to watch out carefully for all the scammers who are supposed to be preying on folk right now.

What a difference a day makes!

What a difference a day makes!

The local government is helping with the cleanup

we were woken at 7:30 this morning as a fleet of trucks towing trailers, a bobcat and about 10 guys weilding chainsaws descended upon our street.

Since I was awake, and it was relatively cool I went outside and started chainsawing some of the downed trees. After a little while one of the girls on the crew came over and asked if I needed a hand shifting limbs ... well who am I to refuse help from a pretty girl? ;-) She explained that she was supposed to be flagging (directing traffic around the work crews) but since we live on a dead-end street she was kind of redundant, so she had time to help me.

Before I knew what was happening, she had called one of the guys over to help me with the chainsawing (I am a novice, and a nervous one). Then she got the guy with the bobcat over too... as I type they are sawing away and clearing logs and debris with the bobcat. Later today I'll post some pictures - before and after. Maybe some during the clean-up too, if it's not too dangerous to get in the way!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Amongst the horror and suffering ...

Amongst the horror and suffering ...

There are some great stories of how people have coped

I have had enough of all of the negative press - all the finger pointing, blame-making and threats of legal action.

Fortunately here in Mississippi it seems that the local press, at least, have realised that such coverage was making people feel worse. Now they are concentrating on the more positive side of things - where power is coming on, what stores, schools, factories and other employers are getting back to normal etc. etc. But, perhaps most importantly, they are also concentrating on the energy and determination of the locals to rebuild and make the coast better than ever! Yes many people have lost everything, and many are suffering badly, but most are also looking to a better, brighter future.

So I want to share with you the story of how two friends of mine pulled together once the storm was over, how they helped neighbours, friends and tenants (they own a number of houses and apartments that they rent out), and how they made sure life was as good as normal during the time of adversity.

Ronny and Bill were brave (stupid!) enough to stay in Gulfport during the storm. They live about half a mile north of the railroad tracks that seem to have saved so much of the coastal towns from much worse devastation than they suffered. In fact they live very close to the house we own in Glufport, pictured earlier.

When the storm was finished and they realised the scale of the damage locally, the first thing they did was tour their various homes and check on tenants. Realising that many had left, and others were severely affected by the storm (one house was almost crushed by a huge oak tree), and that power was off and likely to be off for a while, they emptied everyone's fridges and freezers, and took all the food back to their own place where they had a generator and knew they could keep the food fresh indefinitely. Having done that, they then arranged to deliver food to each occupied home every day until power and food stores were returned to a degree of normality (by the way, why on earth is every tv and radio reporter, politician and soldier in the USA now saying normalcy instead of normality?).

They then spent the next few days tidying up their own yard, the yards of the various homes and fixing roofs. In fact Bill helped me get the tarpaulin onto our house in Gulfport, and in return I helped him do the roof on one of his apartment blocks. Good job I am not scared of heights ... just scared of falling off roofs ;-)

At mealtimes, Ronny cooked food not only for himself and Bill, but also for several of their neighbours - and me when I was about. Ronny is quite a cook, and can do amazing things with a propane grill!

While doing all of that, they spent time thinking in the evenings ... "how can we make this more bareable?". They had a small amount of spare power from the generator, so they could run fans in their bedroom at night in place of air conditioning. Like many houses in the USA, they have access to a personal water supply in the form of a well. Bill got some plumbing supplies and switched the house over to using the well water instead of city water. The water was not drinkable, but was fine for showers and washing clothes, so they used the generator to pump and heat water, and (oh bliss!) flush the toilet! Their neighbours got wind of this and pretty soon they had a parade of visitors every night taking a shower before bedtime!

They had reached this stage by the time I first went down to Gulfport last saturday - 5 days after Katrina hit. Ronny mentioned to me that the first thing he wanted to do when the power came back was watch a movie. I realised that we could do that right then. At home I have a big screen outside, and we use our data projector to play DVD movies on it after dark - see the picture below.

All I needed to do was bring the projector, a DVD player and my PC speakers down to Gulfport and we could watch a movie right there on their driveway. We borrowed a white sheet from a neighbour who was more than happy to lend us one in return for the food and showers. As you can see in the other pictures below, we managed to get the whole thing working just fine :-) Sorry for the bad quality of these pictures!!

It later transpired that the City of Gulfport was asking people to restrict the amount of water they put into the over-stressed (destroyed!) sewer system. But I am hope they would forgive desparate people their little luxuries ...

Our Gulfport house is OK

Our house in Gulfport is OK

Just a little roof damage

As with our home in the countryside in Saucier, our house in Gulfport got away relatively unscathed. The shigles are almost all off the roof, and there is a little water damage inside, but nothing that should be unrepairable.

As with everywhere else, the trees are devastated. You can see here that the two pine trees we had have both snapped because the wind was so fierce! The trunks of those pine trees are about 2 feet (60cm) in diameter!

Amy was thrilled to see that the oak trees are still standing, if a little battered. I am going to have to get in there with the chainsaw to tidy things up a little...

The square of wood that you can see in the center of this picture is the base where our 12'x14' shed was. Hopefully that adds a little scale for you too.

Speaking of trees and chainsaws, I had to get the assistance of a neighbour to help me clear a path up our drive in Saucier so we could get home. Tim was great about it, came out in 90+ degree heat in his shorts, sandles and t-shirt and spent about 2.5 hours sawing away. It was only towards the end that I realised he was wearing his sandles. "Used to do this for a living" he said. I'd have thought he would have known better than to wear sandles then, but apparently not :-)

In the picture below you can see my car to the left, and if you look carefully you might just make out our house behind the trees that lie across the driveway. It's not clear, but the trees that are down are two of the big pecans we lost. The big tree on the left os one of the ones that survived.

Home again, home again

Home again, home again

Now the work starts!

We got home Friday evening - it's great to be in your own bed in your own home, even if everything is upside down outside. How much have things changed? Well, as I already said we really suffered no significant damage from the hurricane to our home, but we awful damage to our property - take a look at these before and after images taken just a few weeks apart ...

It's not totally clear there, but we lost 5 or 6 large pecan trees, as well as one old oak tree and probably scores of younger oak and pine trees. The pecan's could have been a couple of hundred years old But look in the background of both pictures and you can see that what was once full of dense undergrowth and a rich mixture of trees has now been flattened. It is like this everywhere around where we live and for tens of miles around. We live around 20 miles from the sea shore at Gulfport, and the damage caused there is even worse. It is not difficult to imagine the damage done by strong winds in a storm - I am sure you have all seen what can be the result of heavy winds. But it is hard to comprehend the kind of storm that can inflict that sort of damage not just on a few houses here and there, but on almost every house and business along the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and parts of Florida, and for hundreds of miles inland.

I'll be posting some more images over the next few days. I'll probably put up a more detailed before/after album when I have the time.

Meantime I have had to buy a more powerful chainsaw to cope with cutting up the pecan trees (hardwood) and scores of oak and pine that litter our property. If anyone really wants to help us now we know our home is OK, we can offer you food, lodging and a week of chainsawing and clearance work for anyone who wants to enjoy a break in the Mississippi sun ;-)

Monday, September 05, 2005

All is fine

Relax, everythuing is fine

We still have a home!!!

So I have been down to Gulfport. All of our property is fine, but we have loads and loads of trees down. I took some photos and was going to post them here with before/after images, but I lost my camera.

I lost the camera when I had to run away from a crowd of angry bees! I suffer an allergic reaction to their stings, so when I got a dozen or so stings I panicked and ran through the woods. No doubt I will find the camera one day, but right now I don't want to go back to where I was stung.

I am annoyed at the current news coverage here in Mississippi, and nationally. It is full of heavy criticism of how badly the government handled the aftermath of the storm. Newspaper and tv coverage is full of images of the defvastation. There is nothing positivre being written or depicted anywhere so far as I can see!

So let's set the record straight - when I drove down to Gulfport there were literally thousands of people heading to the coast tohelp. They had fule, generators, food, water ... the effort to help is outstanding! The work already done to clear trees - all major highways are clear of trees, and most minor too. And the electric is coming back on. Water and sewerage is coming back on ... the repairs still have a long way to go, but no-one should be in any doubt that there is not a huge assistance effort going on.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

I'm heading south

I'm heading south

Time to drive down and see if we have something or nothing

The power came on last night here in the area of Jackson, Mississippi, that we evacuated to. Yaaaaay for air conditioning!

So today I am going to make the epic 200 mile journey south to see if we have a home to return to, and to take food, drinks and wet wipes to our 80-year-old neighbour who stayed throughout the storm. I'm going to stay overnight and probably bring back clothes for Amy and me - and our two poor little goats that have been stuck down there with no fresh food or water since Sunday ...

I'll finish my daily notes when I get back - probably starting Monday. I'll have lots to say about what I see thre, and maybe I will post a couple of pictures too ...



Friday, September 02, 2005

No power, but we are fine


No power, but everything is fine ...

We still have no power. So we bring out the battery-operated radios. News reports tell us 99% of Jackson has no electricity. Later reports confirm the same for almost the entire state!

Then we hear that the coastal towns have been virtually destroyed! Everything South of the railtracks in Gulfport and Biloxi has "just gone, it's not there". We have a little house less than half a mile north of the railtracks in Gulfport ... is it still there?

Around lunchtime we head out to try to get some orange juice, batteries some other odds and ends. Had to travel about 20 miles to find somewhere open. Later in the day Walmart, about 3 miles away, and a couple of gas stations open. Oh almost back to normal ... We'll have power by morning says Amy :-) Power company say it could be weeks.

As a Brit I am shocked by this state of affairs - It is amazing how much America still relies on overhead powerlines even in the big cities. And there are trees next to most of them just waiting for an excuse to fall on the lines ...

New Orleans Spared


Wow. New Orleans spared

... but a direct hit between Bay St Lewis and Biloxi if we are seeing the news reports correctly.

At the time we thought Gulfport (which is between Bay St Lewis and Biloxi) was getting the worst of the storm at around 9 or 10 am. We later heard that the storm surge - the rise in sea water that wiped out everything south of the railroad tracks - actually began to hit around 3 am. By 8am or so it was at its highest.

200 miles North in Jackson, we started to suffer around 5 pm when we lost electric power. I hardly slept that night since we had no air conditioning. We had NO idea what was going on, but did not think it was near as bad as things turned out ... we saw on tv that New Orleans had a bad storm, but it looked like they were relatively unscathed.

No news from Gulfport - but then there wouldn't be would there ...

Now it's looking a bit scary


Now it is looking a bit scary.

Recent storms have consistently come ashore sa little to the east of the projected path ... which puts Gulfport, and us, right in it's path.

As usual, Amy and I were indecisive about whether we would evacuate. We have had a couple of near-misses - Ivan, Dennis - where we evacuated for nothing more than some strong winds and a little rain.

Amy's mum called "are you goiung to evacuate? It looks bad!". Amy wanted to finish a little work, then we drove into Gulfport to pick up some dogfood so we had plenty for the dogs if we had to evacuate.

Gulfport was already closed up. Nowhere was open - not Walmart, not MacDonalds, not even Waffle House!!!

We know a hint when we see one. We drove home, had lunch and Amy looked up recommended evacuation routes on the internet. We picked a seemingly obscure route that took us about 30 miles round our normal route - straight up 49 to Jackson - but it seemed like it was a wise move as we travelled. The roads were mostly empty.

Somewhat worryingly there seemed to be few people on the route we took that had or was evacuating. There was evidence of scores of hurricane parties though ...

Should we stay or should we go?


Should we stay or should we go now?

Weather forecast says the hurricane is getting stronger ... will Katrina come to visit? Looks like it is heading for New Orleans.

I worked really late on a project, so I could get it finished just in case we decide to evacuate on Sunday. Mailed the files off to my cient at about 11PM.

First comment about Hurricane Katrina

Friday - "that's not a real hurricane!"

The first post in my breif retrospective about hurricane Katrina

Today we heard about a 'hurricane' in Florida. "It was not a 'real' hurricane", said the guy in our Pilates class "it was just a CAT 1, but we better watch it ..."

You know, if he hadn't said that, we might not have known about the hurricane at all. If anyone reading this knows Amy and I, you will know we don't watch t.v ... so we would not have seen a weather forecast for instance. As it was, with Lee's forewarning (thanks!) we were thinking about being prepared.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

We got out safe!

I'll be posting more later today, or maybe tomorrow, but this is to let you know Amy and I got out safe and sound on Sunday. We could see it was going to be a bad storm!

We are in Jackson, Mississippi, staying with Amy's mum. No electric as yet ... I write this Friday afternoon, we've had no power since about 5 PM Monday. No idea when we will have power, bt it could be weeks. No real hassle, Walmart is open down the street :-)

More later ... I have been keeping a simple journal while we had no power. I want to post my thoughts and our experiences here.

Just one thing before I go.

Why are there not more overt attempts to evacuate teh coastal area? Sure there are *finally* busses taking people out of New Orleans .... but what about Gulfport, Biloxi and the rest of the Mississippi coast that has been devastated? Surely the railways could be used to take peop[le north???

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Find and Fix updated

Find & Fix updated

Ron Lubensky continues to update his great Authorware command

Here's the information he posted recently to the Aware List

I've updated my Find & Fix Command to version 2.43.

For those of you who don't know, this is a big swiss-army knife for your Authorware development.

In addition to squashing a couple of bugs, I've added another sample script called MoveObjects which shifts the location of multiple display objects and interaction responses (ie buttons, hotspots) en mass. It is especially useful for shifting display and motion icon paths!

Find & Fix is one of the most useful add-ons you can buy for Authorware. It is way more than a search and replace on steroids!! You cannot afford not to have it in your toolkit.

Update or get a trial version of Find & Fix at

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Adobe to buy Macromedia

Adobe to buy Macromedia

I turn my back for three weeks and look what happens!

I am not going to even try to make comment about all I have read, but suffice to say this is interesting and exciting news.

Apparently nothing is certain about the takeover until there is legal permission for the purchase to go ahead. Everything should be Work As Normal in both the Macromedia and the Adobe camps until then. I look forward to some fascinating new tools when Adobe get to grips with stitching Flash and Acrobat together. Then there is Photoshop and Fireworks, Director and Premier, Dreamweaver and GoLive ... Authorware and new heights perhaps?

Given that Authorware is the most consistently profitable application Macromedia has (allegedly) those of us with a vested interest in the product are hopeful that Adobe will elect to keep it alive and develop it for the 21st century.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Pocketblogger works!

Here I sit in the garden

OK maybe I fibbed, l am actually lying on the couch - but I am blogging from my PDA!.

I'll be trying this again in Blackpool!

Sorry for the silence ...

Sorry for the silence ...

We just moved house and communication has been difficult, d@mn Bellsouth

Plus I have had a busy patch with work.

The dry patch will continue next week as I fly back to Britain - for the first time since May last year - for this year's EuroTAAC conference. Have you booked your ticket yet? There's still time if you are quick, although international travel could be a bit of a pain to organise this late in the day.

We should have wireless internet connection available in all the conference rooms so I hope to be able to sneakily post the occasional blog message, but no promises!!! I am going to see if I can get something working with my PDA so I can post things using that, then I can leave my laptop out of the way most of the time. First try will be Pocketblogger.

Normal blogging service should resume when I return from Britain.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Macintosh Hacker Attacks Are on the Rise - Symantec

Macintosh Hacker Attacks Are on the Rise -Symantec

Apparently hackers are starting to take ai interest in the minority interest platfor.

Maybe it's because they noticed Macs run a version of Unix?

Check out this story from Reuters

Friday, March 18, 2005

New PDA comments

I got a new PDA this week

A Toshiba E830

Since we cannot officially get this machine in my mother coutry or here in America, I thought it might be useful for some to read my impressions of this machine after a full week of use. So here's some thoughts, randomly dropped in as bullet points.

  • The screen is wonderful!

  • MS Reader works fine in VGA mode (SE_VGA) and the amazingly tiny text is clear as could be, easy to read. I am nearly 40 and don't need reading glasses ...

  • Some dialoges don't like VGA

  • When I first tried to use Transcriber in VGA (first I tried to use it at all in fact) it wanted to get me to read some help. It came up on a huge dialogue that I could not move to find the text. I used Wisebar Advanced to kill the process.

  • Transcriber ROCKS in VGA mode. Suddenly it can read my spidery writing

  • Seem to get lots of "MS Reader can no longer find this file" errors. Not sure if this means my SD card is dodgy, or if there is something inherent with this machine.

  • Need to try a different card to store my books on.

  • Virtual Pool Mobile does not support VGA

  • I was able to install (virtually) ALL of the software I had on my old E755 simply by hooking up the 830 and going to Add/Remove Programs in ActiveSync. This is a great 'feature' of AS ... not sure if it is meant to do this or not, but I love it.

  • Pocket Artist is way better in VGA mode.

  • The various Outlook programs do not like VGA ... the dialoges don't scale.

  • Did I mention how great the sceen is?

  • Screen is bright even at lowest setting. I'd love to be able to set it dimmer for reading in bed. Suggestions anyone?

  • I was even able to install ArcSoft Photobase that came on my E755 support disc.

  • Graphic performance seems poor compared to E755 - probably coz I am running in VGA mode?

  • Flash files play great using the Macromedia Standalone Player, but if set to run full screen, what they do is play full screen, with a 240x360 movie in the middle of the screen. Right-click and select "Show All" then it fills the screen nicely.

  • Performace slower than E755 when played as "Show All" but the same if left at default 100%.

  • Advanced Explorer takes its time to catalogue each folder - a lot slower than E755 - VGA setting makes this a much more usable program though.

  • Pocket Streets seems to support VGA!!

  • Wi-Fi works flawlessly and connects in about half the time E755 did.

  • Web browsing is SOOOO much better, but default QVGA settig has HUGE scroll bars, even though the browser window seems to run VGA. SE_VGA fixes this.

  • I seem to get more crashes in Internet Explorer than ever ... machine? SE_VGA? Dodgy OS?

  • Built-in IPphone software (Gphone) is great for peer-to-peer as a local walkie-talkie. Wife and I can communicate in house and garden.

  • Have tried to register with Gphine but their registrstion page is goosed - the buttons you have to press to register are disabled!!!

  • Battery life not too good - could be bright screen + SE_VGA setting ...

  • I want a Mugen extended battery.

  • Wisebar Advanced works really well! But I still have not found a decent VGA theme.

  • Ulti-Planner seems to work really well in VGA - especially the calendar view.

  • What's with the teeny 2002 keyboard that pops up in VGA mode. Can that be fixed?

  • The speaker is a lot louder than E755 - not that that would be hard!!!

  • The Toshiba voice recorder software looks cool. Not tried it yet.

  • Windows Media Player is disappointing in VGA, the old tiny video problem Need to try Beta Player.

  • RealPlayer dialogues don't support VGA but movies seem to fill screen as expected.

  • Calculator looks funny in VGA (it stretches to fit, without scaling buttons) but seems to work.
  • My favourite card game suite Pocket Solitaire works fine - just rescales to fill screen - unlike Microsoft's version ... which seems to have some nice new card decks.

OK that's it for now.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Dazzletech announces JavaScript in Authorware book

Dazzletech announces JavaScript in Authorware book

At last a book that should help users trying to use JavaScript in Authorware

This week, Dazzletech announced the completion of their JavaScript in Authorware book, entitled JavaScript For Macromedia® Authorware®. The published a link to the Table of Contents of the book, and you can pre-order the book here.

You should read the full thread that followed the announcement of the book on the Aware List.

The discussion included pros and cons of JavaScript in Authorware, and extended into more general discussion of the features and evolution of Authorware.

And for once there was no blood :-)

By the way - JavaScript is a great addition to Authorware, finally adding OOP code to the long-in-the-tooth development tool. My personal opinion is that this iteration of JavaScript inside Authorware 7 is too much a bolt-on with too little integration (you cannot really embed JS expressions or variables in display icons or in response properties for instance). Macromedia has idicated that they intend to extend the features and functionality of JavaScript in future versions of Authorware so I am looking forward to something special in the future.

For now, for me, JavaScript is not important in Authorware, but I know that many 'code head' sorts are using it extensively and with glee. If/when it becomes easier to employ JavaScript in Authorware (like when the Help files reflect JavaScript syntax too ...) then I am sure I will happily drop the old AW Script for JavaScript and all the OOP goodness it brings.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

No Laptop? How do you cope?

No Laptop? How do you cope?

Occasionally I mention my PDA obsession. This week it saved my sanity.

With no working laptop to let me surf the web, check eMail and genarally amuse myself, I was forced to resort to my PocketPC PDA to fill in the blanks.

Fortunately mine has Wi-Fi so I can use our home wireless LAN to connect to the internet to surf and to check email. I also have a cool little Belkin foldaway keyboard that I can use if I have a lot to type, otherwise the in-built entry methods work fine.

Surfing the web on a 240x320 screen should be a terrible thing, but with the aid of PocketIE Plus from Reensoft it becomes bareable. PIE adds full-screen mode, a clever reflow mode and the ability to open multiple IE windows, as well as the ability to map your hardware buttons to things like toggle full screen, page back, page forward etc.

Pretty soon I'll have a VGA PDA (Toshiba E830 480x640 screen) and I am looking forward to seeing how that performs on the internet. Soon the only thing I will need my laptop for will be work :-)

Sick Laptop

Sick Laptop

After over 3 years of abuse, the power socket on my Dell Inspiron 8100 broke

It is a great machine, still fast and easily capable of running all the software that I use day-to-day for work. So I needed to find a quick and cheap way to fix it.

Off to eBay I went to see what I could do.

I was amazed to see that I could find a similar machine to mine for about $600. Of course it would be 3 years or so old too, so no telling what wear and tear it had suffered, although I doubt your average laptop gets the same 8 - 16 hours use 7 days a week that mine has been through for 3.5 years.

Or I could pick up a mother board for about $300. That would be fine, but most of the mother boards seem to have been pulled from dismantled laptops, so the same wear and tear issues remained, plus I would have had to contend with things like could I upgrade that 800MHz processor with my 1.2 GHz one? Would I be able to dismantle and rebuild my machine without breaking anything?

I also had a look about to see if someone local could fix the socket. I figured I could get someone to solder it or whatever, but I could not find anyone who wanted to touch it without threatening me with a long sucking inhale first ...

Then I saw the solution! A second-hand Advanced Port Replicator (APR). I found several companies selling these through eBay, and a few promising to swap any faulty devices. $81 secured me the APR, including postage. 2 (working) days later here it is and it works fine.

The downside is that my laptop footprint has now grown by about 25%, but the good news is I can stretch it's useful working life out for another year or two. Dell's reputation for support has suffered over the last couple of years since it started to outsource to India, and USA support certainly seems less than what I was used to in the UK, although they are still OK if a little slow to reach a resolution.

There is nothing wrong with the machines they build though, so I'll be on their web site regularly, building that Dream Machine until the momemt is right - either I can afford the $3000 or so that gets the top of the line machine or this laptop finally pops its little clogs.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Road Trip

Road Trip

Random thoughts of a pink-eyed road warrior

I had to drive to Texas and back this week. All part of moving home, it's a long story that I won't bore you with. But I had to drive 1300 miles in a couple of days, and my mind got to wandering a time or two ...

  • Why do you never see a police speed trap when it is raining?

  • Texas road kill - skunk, armadillo, hound dawg.

  • There are way too many Country radio stations in Texas to be considered healthy.

  • What's whith that Mexican music? It sounds like a mixture between Spanish and Bavarian ... Flamenco meets lederhosen, Spanish guitar meets oompah!

  • Ohh that Cajun stuff in Louisiana is just as odd.

  • So what do American road builders have against corners?

  • ... and why do they make the roads out of concrete and Teflon?

  • I hate cruise-control-induced synchronised driving. There is absolutely no sense in 'overtaking' another car ar the rate of 1 inch per fortnight!

  • Fountain drinks in gas stations. Amazing. A 3 pint 'cup' of Coke costs about $1.20. That's less than 75p in real money. I wish they would learn how cheap these drinks are in Britain, and then install them in service stations everywhere - and stop charging £3 (about $5.40) for one pint of the stuff in the pubs!!!!

  • What's with the temperature here??? 80 farenheit in February!

  • Is there really any need for those heeeeeeeeuuuuuuuge trucks just to go to Walmart?

  • Looks like CB radio technology here has not moved on 20 years ... they're still using Firesticks and k40s. Wow.

  • Why don't the police cars get a proper paint job over here?

    Police Volvo - UK motorway patrol colours

  • MacDonald's burgers really do taste the same everywhere.

  • Waffle House is the perfect on-the-road junk food!

  • There may be 12000 radio stations between Mississippi and Texas, but the ones that do not play Country seem to have only 12 songs that they share between them.

  • ... and about 237 adverts.

  • Armadillos really are ugly - but it sure seems hard to crush them.

  • You can smell a squashed skunk from about a mile away!

  • The trees are budding everywhere.

  • There seem to be little clumps of miniature Daffodils wherever I look.

  • The City of Martindale, Polulation 691. That's not a city, it's a friggin' hamlet!

  • But it has its own police force of 2 and they are hot on speeders! ... nothing else to do, and they need to earn their own pay somehow.

  • If you are ever in the region of San Marcos in Texas you must try Mamacita's
    mexican restaurant. They have a machine there in the restaurant that churns out fresh tortillas all day. Yummmmm. Fresh-baked tortillas. Oh heaven.

  • And the HEB store around the corner has the same. You can buy fresh hot tortillas all day.

Cold Fusion user group conference

Scotch on the Rocks

Cold Fusion user group conference, May 2005

I just got this notification about a Cold Fusion User Group in Edinburgh holding a conference in May 2005 ...

Scotch on the Rocks, May 26/27 Edinburgh University

The Scottish ColdFusion User Group is both proud and excited to announce a two day conference covering Macromedia ColdFusion MX 7.

Taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 26th and 27th May, you are invited to join speakers, including representatives from Macromedia, Firstserv and InterAKT, as they present on why ColdFusion MX 7 is the fastest and easiest way to build and deploy Internet applications.

There will be a number of big prizes up for grabs, including a copy of ColdFusion MX 7 Standard, as well as an iPod. To top this off, each event attendee will go home with a gift, which will be included in their goodie bag.

As well as all the fun during the day, the Scottish ColdFusion User Group will take you on a pub crawl on both the Thursday and Friday nights, so prepare yourself for an almighty hangover.

Tickets for the event are 25(GBP), which covers both days attendance. Registration for the event will open soon.

More details including confirmed speakers, sponsors, as well as promotional documents including how to sponsor the event, can all be found at

Edinburgh is an absolutely gorgeous city. If you have not been there before you should use this conference as an excuse to go. Here's some photographs of Edinburgh that I took a couple or three years ago to help publicise EuroTAAC.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

How far into your own digital navel can you gaze

"How far into your own digital navel can you gaze?"

"Each of us populates a personal tech-bubble of one. Solo-tech-travelers often are unaware that others occupy the same dimensions as them -- that's why they often bump into others, in their cars or on foot."

D. Pravaz from the Seattle Post writes about how personal technology is isolating us from the rest of the world, instead of bringing us closer together like the adverts say they do ... you didn't believe what T-mobile said did you???

The article is both entertaining and thought-provoking. If you are obsessed with your iPod, PDA and camera phone(s) take a look in Pravaz'z mirror.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Testing Post and ReadURL

Testing Post and ReadURL

I needed to test some cfm calls, so I built a little tool

Whilst working with Cold Fusion and Authorware this week I discovered the need of a simple tool to test calls to cfm pages. I also realised that this same tool could be useful for ASP, php and any other TLA server-side-scripting page.

So anyway, I built a simple tool that can be placed on your web server and used to test your calls to the database or whatever without having to build your full Authorware application. I posted the tool on my Downloads page

It's (at the time of writing) the first question:-

Q. How can I easily test my calls to Cold Fusion, ASP, PHP or any other web pages that enable communications between Authorware and a server and/or database over the web?

A. I built this test application that lets you quickly test PostURL and ReadURL code in Authorware (Post and Get in HTML form terms). It displays the pure text of the return from the server, so if the server returns HTML or XML or plain text, you see the exact contents of the return without any formatting.

Use this page to send any comments or feedback you have about the tool. Remember, it's free and as-is, so I make no promises of perfection, but I will make changes based on feedback to fix bugs or make improvements ... time permitting of course!

You could always make changes yourself and send them back to me too :-)

Cold Fusion and Authorware PostURL

Cold Fusion and Authorware PostURL

I discovered today that Cold Fusion pages act strangely with Authorware and PostURL if no parameters are sent

I have been working with a client over the last couple of weeks, setting up a simple tracking system using Cold Fusion pages to handle the communication between the database and Authorware.

We hit an odd situation where one specific call to one specific .cfm page failed to return anything to Authorware, and instead opened a new web page containing the expected return.

After a bit of digging about I discovered that the cause of the problem was that this particular call sent no parameters to the cfm page, yet was still using PostURL. I had set up a function in Authorware that used PostURL for all the database calls, and for security and consistency I did not want to change that.

The ultimate workaround was to send the following parameter when none were actually required


So the final call to the cfm page became something like

result:=PostUrl(NetLocation^"call.cfm", "true=true", 5)