Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Week 3 Picks

Here you go! The benefit of my...whatever. Home teams is in caps.
Sunday, Sept. 25
**ST LOUIS - Tennessee - It'll be close but I think the Rams are ready. Not that hard a pick. 1-0
** PHILADELPHIA - Oakland - Oakland hasn't won yet. I don't this this is their week. Close. 2-0
** Cincinnati - CHICAGO - Last week was Chicago's biggest win in 18 years, I don't think this will be the second one. Yep. 3-0.
**N.Y. JETS - Jacksonville - Jax is riddled with injuries. Well, go Jax! 3-1
**New Orleans - MINNESOTA - It'll be close but I think MN has consistency problems that will continue to plague them. Hmm - apparently not. 3-2
**MIAMI - Carolina - Carolina has injury issues. It was close. 4-2.
** INDIANAPOLIS - Cleveland - Hee. Closer than I thought it would be, but still...5-2.
** BUFFALO - Atlanta - Vick is questionable and the Falcons aren't that good on the road. Oops. 5-3.
** Tampa Bay - GREEN BAY - The battle of the Bays, it will be hard fought, but Tampa's riding high right now. Poor Green Bay. 6-3.
** SEATTLE - Arizona - The Seahawks have found their groove (although hopefully they'll lose it next week) and they aren't going down to a division rival. Oh yeah. 7-3.
** PITTSBURGH - New England - Reliving the playoffs - with a better ending. That's what I'm talking about. 8-3.
**SAN FRANCISCO - Dallas - Crazy but I think the 9ers want it more. Well, not quite like I thought. 8-4.
** SAN DIEGO - N.Y. Giants - Oh yeah. They hate Eli. Yep. 9-4.
Monday, Sept. 26
**Kansas City - DENVER - KC is not losing the division lead. Okay - a little over-estimation on my part. 9-5.
Enjoy your weekend!
Updated 9/27/2005. Overall 1-0-1. (I did not make picks for week 1 - that was my bye.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Yeah - it's that happy time of year when my favorite sport (to watch) is on. And so, I thought I would share my picks so you can have the benefit of my wisdom (or lack thereof). and to force me to keep track of how reliable I am. Just to lay it out, I am a lifelong Redskins fan. And I have warm and fuzzy feelings about the Buccaneers, the Seahawks, the Dolphins and the Browns.
So - my thoughts for week 2.
(Home Team is in Caps).
Saturday Games
**Baltimore - TENNESSEE - It will be close, Baltimore got embarrassed last week, so I think they want this more. Called that wrong. 0-1
**Pittsburgh - HOUSTON - Houston's a bit of a mess right now. Yup. 1-1
** INDIANAPOLIS - Jacksonville - This will be a tight division game, and Jax did well last week, but I think Indy might take this. Not that original a pick, but still. 2-1.
** Detroit - CHICAGO - The Redskins beat Chicago last week without scoring a touchdown. Nuff said. Well who knew Chicago had it in them. 2-2.
**San Francisco - PHILADELPHIA - This is another tough one, McNabb is questionable for Sunday and Philly got beat by some other birds last week. And right now Philly is at the bottom of their division. (Hee - that's so much fun to say.) Yeah, yeah - I should have known not to bet against an injured Philly. 2-3.
**TAMPA BAY - Buffalo - It will be close - both teams did great last week, but I think Tampa has better experience winning against good teams. Yay! 3-3
** New England - CAROLINA - The Panthers lost to the hurricane team and lost a key player, this is not a good week for them. Darn it - and I hate the Pats. 3-4
**SEATTLE - Atlanta - This one is close too, Atlanta's D made Philly look silly and Seattle doesn't have McNabb. But this is Seattle's first home game so I think they will pull it out here. Ha! 4-4.
** St. Louis - ARIZONA - Kurt jost lost to his other former team last week, I think he'll end up doing the same this week. Yeah - I know - nothing original in picking against AZ. 5-4.
**Miami - N.Y. JETS - The Jets were a mess last week, and former Skins QB Frerotte did a great job for the Dolphins. Hmmm - well what d'ya know. 5-5
**GREEN BAY - Cleveland - It usually doesn't pay to bet against GB at home - especially the first home game. Yeah, yeah, every record eventually fails. 5-6.
**San Diego - DENVER - Another division match, but Jake the Snake is once again demonstrating the inconsistency that he is so known for. Okay, San Diego is apparently experiencing post-Cinderella syndrome. 5-7
** Kansas City - OAKLAND - It'll be an offensive shootout, but KC will take it. Oh good. 6-7
**CINNCINATI -Minnesota - It'll be close again, but Cincy has consistency on its side. See! 7-7
Monday Games
**Washington - DALLAS - Hey we're leading the division now. (Okay so we're tied with the Cowboys and the Giants - but still. And - I'm not the only person picking them.) Ha! 8-7
**New Orleans - N.Y. GIANTS - This is a hard one to pick. Who wants to bet against the hurricane team that says they're playing to offer hope to all the dispaced residents? Well, okay this week the Giants want to beat them, but I think as it gets close the veteran QB will do the job. Oh - alright. 8-8.
Edited 9-21-2005.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A New Embedding

Like many, I have watched hours of coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, read countless stories. I watched as the coverage went from graphics of a big giant circle to footage of homes decimated and turned to kindling. As people talked about the luck that Katrina had seemingly spared New Orleans by jogging a few miles to the east before smacking the gulf coast. (Interestingly, none of the coverage I have seen seemed concerned that by jogging east Katrina also smacked some other town that hadn't had as much time to prepare.) I watched as the reporters stationed in New Orleans discovered that the levees which protect New Orleans from flooding failed. The geography of New Orleans that made the levees useful, also meant that the remaining levees would help keep the water in the city - turning the city into a bathtub with no plug.
I cannot explain why the coverage abated - temporarily - when it appeared that New Orleans may have missed the brunt of the storm. Perhaps the media assumes that New Orleans being the city most people outside of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had heard of therefore made it the most interesting. But as the streets of New Orleans filled with water, it suddenly became newsworthy again. But more quickly it seemed that the story was not just that years of predictions about the fate of the city should a hurricane hit it again had come true. No, the story was that there was no plan.
Residents had been urged to evacuate the city the weekend prior to the storm - and about 80% of them did. Some stayed because they had stayed during Cindy and Ivan and other storms that had also been supposed to devastate the city and turned into - for New Orleans at least - nothing but rain. Some stayed because they did not have access to transportation out of the city. Some stayed - like some of the students at Xavier University - because they figured if it was that bad - someone would come get them. And as we all know - many who couldn't get out of town took shelter at the Superdome and the convention center.
So, now someone needed to get these people out of the city. And I readily confess that I don't know enough about the redesigned government to know whose ultimate responsibility this is. Although that may be part of the problem, as many have said they offered help, but couldn't figure out who was supposed to authorize them. I totally understand that no major city has been evacuated in this century. But I find it mind boggling that in the last four years, as the specter of the next September eleventh hung over us, that no one came up with a plan to evacuate a city. And here's the thing, I don't even mind so much that there wasn't a plan. I work in an industry (as I think most everyone does) where things we hadn't predicted or really hoped would never happen happened. And what you do is you say - okay - we need to make this work and we'll worry about the right way to do it later. I'm sure someone was saying well we need a plan so we don't do this wrong, but the problem was the only thing worse than doing it wrong, was appearing to do nothing at all. And that's what happened.
I don't want to take away from the Coast Guard, the National Guard, the Red Cross, the New Orleans city officials (including the police and other emergency personnel), the City of Houston (who stepped up to the plate while other cities were still standing with jaws hanging), the Jefferson Parish officials, the Mississippi and Alabama personnel (and many others I'm sure that I am unintentionally forgetting) all who worked tirelessly. And while FEMA and the Homeland Security office that it rolls up to will likely take the brunt of the backlash for this failure not only to plan but to act, there are I'm sure many people there also who were working to get stuff done.
The irony is not lost on me (or many of you I'm sure) that under a Republican president, who ran on a let's simplify things platform, it was red tape that prevented people from getting assistance they need. That places like the convention center and Superdome in New Orleans that had been intended as temporary shelter (to say nothing of hospitals and nursing homes that were only partially evacuated), became - as electricity and sewage systems in New Orleans failed - a new torture all its own.
So, here's the thing. I have watched as the news media tired of counting destruction (although that will change as body counts become available I am sure) and turned to trying to get someone to admit there had been breakdowns. Trying to get someone in power to say that we didn't do all we should have. Because if this administration has tried to make us feel safer, this tragedy has shown us we can't handle something we knew was on its way. We have no plan for getting you out of an area that is unsafe.
But the thing that had my jaw dropping in utter shock (to be followed by cursing at the television) was this. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said that they had no idea the hurricane would hit New Orleans. That he and his organization had no idea the levees would break. And that they had no idea that there were people stranded in the convention center.
You have got to be kidding! I knew this as a viewer at home! So - here's my suggestion. Since clearly the FEMA and DHS folks can't get wherever they need to be to get this kind of information - I think FEMA needs to embed some folks with news organizations. A sort of reverse embedding if you will. That way, the FEMA person embedded with CNN can discover that there is a hurricane heading for New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast. The FEMA person embedded with NPR can let someone know that hey, they've been predicting for years that any kind of serious hurricane is going to break the levees in New Orleans - that in fact that's why the Army Corps of Engineers keeps asking for money to reinforce the levees. And the FEMA person embedded with MSNBC can call and say hey - our helicopters spotted several thousand people stranded outside the convention center - we should probably send someone to get them.
And hey - even if we treat these statements seriously (instead of as the ridiculous defensive statements I hope they are because I prefer mismanagement to utter stupidity, it's easier to fix). So - if we take these statements seriously is this not the biggest 'come and get us' message we could possibly ever send to the terrorists out there? Hey - you don't need dirty bombs to get us - just flood a city! Since we won't know it's coming, we'll have no way to plan for it, and since a flooded city is beyond the prediction models we have used to make plans for disasters it will take us weeks to get people out and everyone will be mad at the government! Woo - hoo! And hey - if they're smart, the terrorists will do it in the middle of some sort of event that will gather people in one large location, because that won't make it easier for us to rescue the people. On the contrary, it will take us days to figure out where they are! So - come and get us!
But seriously, it saddens me that the news media appears to have had people in place (just in case) and the government did not. I don't expect perfection from the government. But some basic planning. And hey, the news media had people in places that were less devastated, but they have apparently decided (as I can only assume the government has not) that sending people in case something happens is usually worth it because then you are already there if it does. The media and the government sometimes seem to work from similar principles of marketing tactics. Get people mobilized around an idea, show them how it affects them, and they will come - to the polls or the station. But sadly, the media seems to have made it work better for them. The government that asked for greater vigilance from each of us, has failed to demonstrate that for itself.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Stories of Kindness

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina - a phrase I expect we will be using for quite some time - there is plenty of blaming going on. It is not that I don't think there is blame that is deserved - I am sure there is. It is not that I don't expect myself to be making decisions about politicians based on the response to this tragedy because I do. But I would like to focus here on some stories of kindness. There is no way I could possibly - especially geographically removed as I am from the hurricane affected areas - account for all of them. So consider these to be representative. For the most part, I will not attempt to name names - not because these people are nameless, but because to do so incompletely would be a disservice to those whose stories I do not know about.
Although the exception to the above, will be Mayor Ray Nagin. I'm sure as the immediacy of this disaster fades he will come to be included in the list of people who are blamed in part for failure to properly anticipate this disaster. But for now, this man, who had never held political office but who wanted to help New Orleans. I'm sure he had no idea what was to come, but while sending his family and most of his staff to safety, he has remained. He has worked hard to try and get his city the aid and assistance it needed, while balancing the need to get the word out through the media with the need to stop talking and start doing.
People - referred to by many as looters - took food, water, orange juice and carried it to victims still waiting for a way out of New Orleans. (It is ironic that a city that sees so many people come and go each year, has now become so difficult for people to leave.)
A reporter taking footage of hospital patients still stranded in New Orleans, stopped and shared some water with an old man lying on a cot on the floor.
Two parents trying to locate their newborn baby who they assumed had been evacuated from New Orleans told everyone they could find about their story. Eventually they were reunited with their son after a six or seventh degree of connection made a call to the right hospital and got the number back to them.
A woman whose name is Katrina, so had a website in her name, discovered she was getting increasing numbers of hits as the hurricane approached and then struck. She has converted her website to a hurricane relief information site for the duration.
A vetrinarian stayed with animals that had been kenneled as their owners left, because he promised the owners. With some help, he has now evacuated all the animals.
Medical staff who stayed at hospitals in New Orleans went without food so that their patients could have more to eat. Then, hungry and tired, they carried their patients to buildings where the helicopters could reach them.
Even as others struggle to leave and help others leave the city, crews have been working tirelessly to help repair the broken levee on Lake Pontchartrain so that they can try and get the city - well not fixed - but in a better place.
Cities and states across the country have opened shelters and stadiums for displaced people. They have offered medical personnel and construction personnel. Schools and colleges have said we will make room, we will take on extra students, we will find a place to educate displaced students. A university in Austria also volunteered to take additional students from the US.
US and Canadian airlines have offered planes to assist with transporting evacuees to other locations. Some airports have waived landing and other fees for planes assisting with hurricane relief efforts.
Over 60 countries - without us even asking - have volunteered search and rescue personnel and equipment, disaster relief coordination teams, medical staff, medicine, cruise ships to house displaced people, construction workers and other aid. Some of these are countries we do not normally consider allies.
The Red Cross has been overwhelmed with people offering to volunteer. They have held additional training sessions across the country, and many of them have had waiting lists.
One sports team, loaded up their plane with relief supplies before heading to the south for the game. People across the country have offered their homes to displaced people.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Resources

Hurricane Katrina and her friends have clearly devastated a huge area of the gulf coast and beyond. I felt like maybe the best thing I could do (at least from a blog perspective) was collect places people can go to find or give assistance. There are plenty of places you can go for news on the tragedy (and please do).
This is certainly not a comprehensive list, and I expect to update it as I discover more.
How to help:
If you would like to help victims of the hurricane, I suggest donating money. If you already belong to an organization that assists in disaster relief, you may contact them to see what their plans are. However, at this time organizations are requesting donations money rather than items, so that they do not have to figure out how to transport items and so they can make sure items available are exactly what is most needed. I recommend donating to America's Second Harvest, who provides food to families in need. Instapundit also has a list of other charities you may choose to donate to.
There is also a Katrina Help page on the Wiki Portal - http://katrinahelp.info/wiki/index.php/Main_Page. It includes ways to help as well as numbers for assistance for hurricane victims.
Finding People:
This website has is available for people to contact relatives. There are safe, found and missing lists. http://survivedkatrina.proboards54.com/index.cgi
The Times-Picayune's NOLA.com site also has many resources for help, people offering to volunteer, people connecting with relative, etc.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is helping families who have been separated from their children (and vice versa). Their website is: www.missingkids.com and their number is: 1-800-THE-LOST.

For those affected by the hurricane:
Housing:
Roommate Click - a free roommate search service - has added a section to assist displaced people in finding temporary housing. http://www.rc-katrina.com/
MoveOn.org has also set up a website for hurricane victims to fond housing - hurricanehousing.org.
There is also ShelterForKatrina.org.
Schools:
Many school districts are treating displaced families in accordance with their rules for homeless children, which often include waiving the need to birth certificates and/or proof of vaccination and quick enrollment for school and meal programs.
The American Council on Education has together a website to help displaced college students find alternate education and to get information about the status of their university. It is campusrelief.org.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling has added a Katrina forum for colleges and displaced students and faculty to connect with one another.
The federal government will make it easier for displaced students to receive federal aid.
Many universities are offering streamlined enrollment, reduced tuition, and assistance finding housing to displaced students. Please check with the university in your area.
Jobs:
If you worked for a chain, please contact them. Many chains are trying to find work for employees in alternate locations.
A website to find jobs for displaced workers has been set up here - www.katrinajobrelief.com.
Network for Good's Hireability.com is offering free job postings for managers looking to hire displaced people and - as always - free searches for job seekers.
They have also set up SOSHotels for displaced hotel workers.
Financial: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are making decisions about delayed or temporarily reduced mortgage payments on a case by case basis. Mercedes Benz is offering deferred or delayed payments on a case by case basis to their loan recipients. Hurricane victims concerned about tax matters can contact the IRS hotline at 1-866-562-5227.
Last Updated - 10/19/2005