Fire Dogs: Guardians of the Hearth Sunday, Jan 28 2007 

Ask not for whom the fire burns; it burns for them!firedogs.JPG

The ever-vigilant Lillie Belle (left) and Sadie Lynn (right) take a break from watch dog duties on a rainy, gray Saturday way down yonder  in Lou’siane.   Even puppy dogs need some down time now and then.

Moving on to Eunice High Lady Bobcats softball . . . Tuesday, Jan 23 2007 

Oh, well, the NFL championship game turned out to be a disappointment.  Shucks, to us true Saints fans, disappointment is familiar.  We will manage, as we always have, and as always, we end more hopefully at the end of this season compared to others: “There’s always next year.”

And besides, now I can focus on Eunice High Lady Bobcats softball as my daughter execution.jpgAnn begins her senior year.   (The photo to the left is from her sophomore year, laying down a sacrifice bunt in the bi-District playoffs at Bastrop High School, Louisiana.  The bunt was successful, and the Lady Cats went on to the State championship tournament that year.  That’s our goal again!)

bobcat.jpgMore on Bobcat softball in the coming months.

You see, there IS life after Saints football!

The New Orleans Saints and “What if . . . ” No hurricanes, no playoffs? Friday, Jan 19 2007 

saints-are-marching.jpg

What could I write about the success of the Saints this season that provides a different angle on all the conventional noise and publicity  surrounding this astonishing (and immensely gratifying) experience for us fans who’ve suffered long, chronologically as well as emotionally, with this team? The question I pose in the title above is where my speculation led.

And my conclusion?  This is significant, so hold your seat:

Were it not for the great hurricanes of 2005, Katrina first and Rita shortly thereafter, not only would the “feel good” story not have happened, but the Divisional championship and the opportunity to compete for the League Championship would likely NOT have happened.

I really believe that.  After seeing the Atlanta Dome homecoming game back in September, after hearing the not-from-New Orleans players talk about the role and responsibility they felt, I’m convinced that some of the nobler instincts of humanity took control of the season and brought out the best in a team that might have been good, but perhaps not yet champions.

And no, I don’t believe this team’s achievement had anything to do with destiny.  That would suggest their success had something to do with fate .  I believe the season had a lot more to do with a group of  men first, athletes second, coming together with a conviction that they could make a difference in the midst of hurt.

cameron_church.jpgAnd who among these guys could not have felt that sense of purpose after seeing the condition of the City, the State, and the people, in those months after the storms?

Here’s an observation to put this situation all in perspective.   I read a quote from Saints linebacker Scott Fujita from a press conference on Friday.  Fujita stated, ” I have never been on a team where I really felt like the community and the team were in it together.  And that’s not just lip service, that’s the truth.”   

You go, Scott Fujita!  Other Saints teammates have expressed the same thing.  And thanks to you . . . and all of those fellows from all across the country . . . who came down here to play and felt the same way.

What happened to Louisiana gave our team a  purpose to win that transcends the usual reasons for winning. 

So how’s this for irony?  If we have to thank Katrina, that daughter of hell, for anything, maybe it’s the 2007 Saints.  What a price to pay for a championship?  Or, what a redeeming purpose to play for?

I much favor the idea of redeeming purpose!

Geaux, Saints! 

(And “Geaux to hell, memories of Katrina and Rita!”)

In the presence of vacuum, there is much suction . . . (Just ask the DSL modem!) Thursday, Jan 18 2007 

This entry is the antithesis to its predecessor.  With apologies to the regular readers of this blog (note I carefully choose the term “regular readers” rather than “fans”), I’ve been out of commission for almost a week . . . and it all owes to the new vacuum cleaner that was the subject of the previous entry.

We found the desired product–the Eureka–at our local WalMart SuperCenter Friday night and brought it home.  The machine worked so well that the whole house got vacuumed before the night was over.   The only problem occurred in the computer room where the vacuum cleaner passed a little too close to the power strip, and the next thing you know the modem adapter power cord is severed in two, the longer remanant wrapped and twisted around the beater bar.  OF course, it was an oddball 10.5 v adapter, so even Radio Shack could not replace it, which means I had to call BellSouth DSL tech support and order a new one.

ctmb-logo.gifBellSouth never charges for those kinds of equipment failures, even when it’s the owner’s fault, which is magificent of them, and they even ship for overnight delivery with the post office.  Problem is that the post office took almost the entire week to effect the overnight delivery, so tonight (Thursday) is the first occasion we’ve had for the household to be online for some time.

The moral of the story: If you get a new vacuum cleaner, don’t pass it too close to the computer power strip. 

In the absence of vacuum, there is no suction! Thursday, Jan 11 2007 

We need a new vaccum cleaner.  How exciting!  I put the old one on the street a while ago, a donation to the public landfill.  The motor still works, but the unit is falling apart, it sstinks when it runs, and it goes through “spells” of ineptitude when its run for a while.  Plus, it doesn’t clean very well–No match especially for dog hair.  So it’s way past time to find re-tool the household in that regard.

This time we’re going to be smart consumers and check out the web.  I found some free consumer reports (the “real” Consumer Reports has  a great website with all kinds of fascinating free information, but when you click to get to the bottom line, the ratings, all you get is an invitation to subscribe.  I’m saving my money for the vacuum cleaner, so I’m going to take a chance on the open source info. out there, especially this consumer search.com.

That source favors a “bang for your buck” recommendation of this cute little Eureka that sells for around $150.               .allergybegone_1931_10326991.gif

We’ve never spent that much on a  vacuum cleaner, and that’s probably why we’ve owned what seems like a dozen vacuum cleaners in fewer than 30 years of maintaining a household. I found lots of machines for more than$150, of course, but for the modest carpet and rug cleaning tasks around our household, I’m not inclined to torpedo the summer vacation plans in favor of a vacuum cleaner.

Anyone who’s had experience along these lines, please post a comment.  We’re anxious to do the right thing, and we’ll certainly appreciate (and consider) all informed recommendations and opinions along the topic!

Why couldn’t the TV go out?  I might find a little more enthusiasm in shopping for a plasma screen.  WHich brings up another topic worthy of blogging one day:  Why is shopping for a TV more exciting than shopping for a vacuum cleaner?

The worst is yet to come? Thursday, Jan 4 2007 

For the fans of doom and gloom, especially the gloomy among us along the Gulf Coast of America, here’s a warning from National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield on the occasion of his recent retirement from NHC:

Hurricane center chief issues final warning    180px-max_mayfield_miami_august_02_2005.jpg

IP: 205.214.170.231
Posted on 01/03/07 at 20:52:46 by  Hurricane center chief

Hurricane center chief issues final warning
A departing Max Mayfield is convinced that the Southeast is inviting disaster.

MIAMI — Frustrated with people and politicians who refuse to listen or learn, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield ends his 34-year government career today in search of a new platform for getting out his unwelcome message: Hurricane Katrina was nothing compared with the big one yet to come.

Mayfield, 58, leaves his high-profile job with the National Weather Service more convinced than ever that U.S. residents of the Southeast are risking unprecedented tragedy by continuing to build vulnerable homes in the tropical storm zone and failing to plan escape routes.

“We’re eventually going to get a strong enough storm in a densely populated area to have a major disaster,” he said. “I know people don’t want to hear this, and I’m generally a very positive person, but we’re setting ourselves up for this major disaster.”

More than 1,300 deaths across the Gulf Coast were attributed to Hurricane Katrina, the worst human toll from a weather event in the United States since the 1920s.

But Mayfield warns that 10 times as many fatalities could occur in what he sees as an inevitable strike by a huge storm during the current highly active hurricane cycle, which is expected to last another 10 to 20 years.

His apocalyptic vision of thousands dead and millions homeless is a different side of the persona he established as head of the hurricane center.

Mayfield attained national celebrity status during the tempestuous 2004 and 2005 seasons, appearing on network television with hourly updates as hurricanes Charley, Ivan, Frances and Wilma bore down on the Caribbean and the Southeast. His calm demeanor and avuncular sincerity endeared him to millions of TV viewers seeking survival guidance.

And he argues that his dire predictions don’t have to become reality.

The technology exists to build high-rise buildings capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and tropical storm surge more powerful than those experienced in the last few years. Much of Hong Kong’s architecture has been built to survive typhoons, and hotels and apartments built in Kobe, Japan, after a 1995 earthquake devastated the city are touted as indestructible, he said.

What is lacking in the United States is the political will to make and impose hard decisions on building codes and land use in the face of resistance from the influential building industry and a public still willing to gamble that the big one will never hit, he said.

“It’s good for the tax base” to allow developers to put up buildings on the coastline, Mayfield said in explaining politicians’ reluctance to deter housing projects that expose residents to storm risks.

“I don’t want the builders to get mad at me,” he said, “but the building industry strongly opposes improvement in building codes.”

Consumers also have yet to demand sturdier construction, Mayfield added. A builder gets a better return on investment in upgraded carpet and appliances than for safety features above and beyond most states’ minimal requirements, he said.

As a senior civil servant, Mayfield was prohibited from making job inquiries in the private sector while still in the government’s employ. But he said on Tuesday, his last day in office, that he hoped to launch a second career as a consultant in emergency planning and disaster response. He has particular interest in a potential public-private initiative to mine natural disaster scenes for their educational value.

He envisions a natural disaster assessment service like the National Transportation Safety Board, which probes the causes and consequences of aviation and other transport accidents.

“If the NTSB finds some structural problem is the cause of an air crash, you would never see that plane continue to be built with the same problems,” he said.

With natural disasters, though, the same mistakes that put lives at risk are repeated year after year in unsafe construction and inadequate planning, he said.

Mayfield said he also was pondering collaboration with advocates of tougher building standards and land use rules.

“It’s not just about the forecasting. Whatever I do, I want to help change the outcome,” he said, conceding frustration with persistent public disregard of federal and local government campaigns to boost hurricane awareness and preparation.

Even after the devastating hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, he said, fewer than 50% of those living in storm-prone areas have a hurricane evacuation plan.

While he has been critical of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, he warns against depending on the federal government after natural disasters. He was dismayed to see federal agencies handing out water and ice in South Florida after Hurricane Wilma hit in October 2005, when stores were open and tap water was usable.

“You don’t want the federal government to be your first-responders,” he said. “The government can’t do everything for people and it shouldn’t, or else you create a culture of dependence.”

Mayfield praises the Florida state government for its well-oiled disaster-response program and steps toward improving building safety, in contrast with other states along the Gulf of Mexico that he says still have no statewide building standards.

Though Mayfield’s name and face recognition are the envy of some presidential hopefuls, he laughs out loud at the notion of running for office.

“Oh, good gosh, no! That is just not my thing,” he says.

At the hurricane center on the Florida International University campus, Mayfield will be succeeded by Bill Proenza, the National Weather Service’s director for the Southern region. Home to 77 million, the region has “the most active and severe weather in the world,” according to the weather service’s parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Proenza, 62, began his meteorological career at the Miami office as an intern in 1963. As director of 50 regional offices and 1,000 employees in the Southern region for the last eight years, he has long experience collaborating with the hurricane center staff on forecasts and tracking.

“That’s why I don’t have any problem walking out the door,” said Mayfield, declaring himself fearful that the mild 2006 hurricane season left those in the storm zone ever more complacent.

My sister from Bogalusa emailed this piece to me.