Besides needing help from the world, Filippinos can depend upon help from their own far flung kin, it’s their culture…

November 10, 2013

As many as 1,000 dead, maybe 10,000 or more, in maybe the strongest storm in history, a typhoon that swept over parts of the Philippines on Friday and Saturday. That’s hard to comprehend. So many people so quickly in one storm. Man can control a lot of things. But the weather remains defiant.

The typhoon is named Haiyan.

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To help those in need: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/11/09/haiyan-how-you-can-help/3484467/

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The U.S. government is committing money for disaster relief for the Philippines, but I imagine a large amount of the help will come from Filipinos who live in America, as well as elsewhere outside the native land. They have organizations collecting money right now I read, and I know that the culture of the Philippines (as well as in other parts of the world) is for those who go abroad to send money back home even in normal times. Families depend upon the help of their far flung relatives. I’ve been told by Filipinos here in the U.S. that back in their home there are few government social programs. A person depends upon family and has an obligation to family. We could use more of that here.

That death toll is staggering and it built so fast. Even as I was reading the first report that said at least 100 dead, another report put the toll at least 1,000 and now it is said to be maybe as high as 10,000 and that it might climb from there.

For those of us who live in areas with relatively mild weather most or all the year, such as where I live, we have to feel grateful and marvel at the fortitude of those who live in such places where devastation by typhoon (and ferry sinkings) seems to be common — although this typhoon with its size is or was not so common.

Could this be another sign of climate change? That is the size of the storm.

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So Irene was not as powerful as feared, what’s all the carping about?

August 29, 2011

UPDATE TO THE UPDATES:

Been so busy with my real job I have not had any time to do new posts since posting this, but as of now on 9-1-11 I read that the federal government is going to be stuck with billions of dollars in repair costs because so many people did not have flood insurance. Also, I saw a newspaper headline that said the Republicans are going to try to inject politics by refusing to fund extra money for hurricane repair unless they can get and equal amount of tax cuts. Have not had time to digest all that yet. Hopefully in a day or so I will have time to post more on this and other things, such as, and what about that Jon Huntsman?

(And I note that Wikipedia now lists 55 as the total U.S. death toll from Irene.)

UPDATE (8:39 P.M. PDT):

For a hurricane some say was over hyped, it seems awful deadly, with the U.S. death toll at 40 (with flooding causing much of the danger and damage) at the last I read.

UPDATE (8:24 A.M. PDT):

While not as strong as feared, Hurricane Irene has caused billions of dollars of damage to U.S. territory from Puerto Rico to Vermont, and there is massive flooding now in Vermont and flooding elsewhere, according to news reports this morning. Millions are without power, and it could be up to a week for some customers to get it restored, and there is expected to be damage to natural gas lines. Supposedly it’s been a boost for the economy since people bought supplies for preparation and are buying materials for repair and preparation for the next one and because there is a need for public works projects to repair damage. I don’t see how that would be a net gain, though. An economy based on disaster?

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I’m somewhat puzzled by the carping that officials overreacted to Hurricane Irene and that President Obama was just trying to make political hay out of it, showing that he was in charge and on top of things and there to save people and all.

As anyone who has ever listened to or viewed weather forecasts knows, weather predictions are still an inexact science.

The early reports classified Hurricane Irene as category 3 I believe and it was thought it could become category 4 or 5 (5 being the highest or worst). But by the time it made landfall over the last 24 hours or so it was downgraded to a category 1 and then a little later to a tropical storm.

In an unprecedented move, Mayor Bloomberg called for the evacuation of certain low-lying areas of Manhattan and shut down the mass transit system to include the subways. People all over the middle Atlantic were advised by governors to evacuate. Millions of people were affected.

The federal government did some advance work, with the president taking the necessary actions and giving the necessary orders.

But people, particularly in parts of the country away from the eastern seaboard, scoffed at what they saw as exaggerated predictions and unnecessary panic and political posturing.

At least eighteen people have died in events attributed to the hurricane and there has been much flooding and property damage and power outages, but it has not been as bad as it was feared in might have been.

But what if it had and all the preparations were not done?

There would have been all kinds of accusations of failed leadership.

While you can’t go into emergency mode every time there is a hint of foul weather, when the experts predict a good chance of catastrophic weather it is far better to be prepared than not and far better to be ready to swing into action once the magnitude of the damage is seen.

During and after the infamous Katrina several years ago in New Orleans when President George W. Bush was in office, all levels of government, local, state, and federal, fell down on the job, to put it mildly.

I could never figure out how people could be trapped but reporters could get in and out and how our military, to include our first line of homeland security and defense, the National Guard, could not have been rushed in with all its helicopters and amphibious equipment (some of it tied up in the Middle East).

Dr. Bill Wattenburg on KGO Radio, San Francisco, said Saturday night that at least the folks in New York and elsewhere in the path of the hurricane got a little lesson on disaster preparedness. He preaches that everyone should be prepared for disaster with food and supplies of water at their homes and even supplies to carry with them, lest they get stuck out on the road. His main concern is not weather but some type of nuclear device that is likely to be set off by terrorists. He always says that he and all the experts feel that it is not a question of if but just of when such a terrorist strike will happen. In such an event there would be such chaos and panic, with people likely fleeing coastal areas, where a strike is most probable, to the interior, but with nor real place to go, that authorities would not be in a position to help anyone, he warns.

But talking about weather disasters, he contrasted what happened in Katrina in New Orleans with extensive flooding in North Dakota. Up in the northland folks were able to get together and help themselves, rather than wait for Washington to rescue them (although I an sure federal resources helped too).

And I think that is the way it is in the more rural areas. People tend to be more self-reliant. Maybe that is why conservatism tends to be strong out in the hinterlands, with a more socialized, governmental approach popular in urban areas.

And then a lot of us are in between. We do the best we can, but in an emergency we need all the help we can get.

Am I personally ready for the big one? No way.

There is a danger that with all the hype that Irene got that it might be a little like the boy who called wolf. No one will listen next time.

But we all have to think about being prepared and being as self-reliant as possible.

And I applaud the president for showing leadership, but don’t expect him to get much credit for it.


God or Mother Nature makes a statement down south; are we jealous we don‘t have royalty?

May 1, 2011

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I’m going to try to use larger type for these posts in the future — but for now, maybe just up the type size on your own screen.

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Say it’s God or say it is Mother Nature, but natural forces have shown who’s boss in the Southern U.S.

As I look out at the beautiful view from my apartment, the greenery of the riparian jungle, with a full stomach, and in quiet tranquility, I think about the images of devastation and the anguish on the faces of some of those in Alabama and elsewhere in the South who were (are) victims of one of the worst onslaughts of multiple and incredibly strong tornadoes in history, with 300 or more dead and whole towns virtually destroyed. These images I saw on my computer thanks to the NBC Nightly News. I’ve been on the road all week and barely saw any of it until now. NBC did a good job of reporting, I thought.

The landscape looked like an atomic bomb had blown through.

Certainly the federal government can and should do everything in its power to help in the rescue effort and restore life as best it can down there. From all reports, the people, as a whole, are survivors, quite capable of doing for themselves with what they have. But they are follow citizens who deserve all the help possible.

This is where the National Guard and even the Army and other services need to be, and to an extent are, as far as I know. Just tried to glean more about that off the web. All I found is that National Guard troops were backing up overwhelmed local police chasing down looters. Looters should be shot on sight, I would say (but of course then there could be mistakes — but how low can one get?).

But it is far more important to look inward and help ourselves than it is to try to remake the rest of the world.

Already there has been speculation that global warming or man-induced climate change may have contributed to the unusual number and size of the tornadoes. This is something we need to know about, but I am afraid that it all will just get caught up in the political fight over what should be a scientific question.

While I have always realized that so-called conservatives balk at environmental concerns because they don’t want to be bothered by what they see as hindrances to their profits and that they prefer to worship at the altar in the shape of the almighty dollar, rather than protect what God gave them, I now have heard another explanation:

A caller to a talk show said that socialists want to use so-called environmental concerns as leverage to get government to force people into socialistic practices.

But I would prefer to judge things by real science, not political science.

Real science may or may not go against capitalistic practices, but it will weed out environmental extremism, if you can divorce science from politics.

I’ve noticed that the need to make money — and the need is real of course — always seems to put people at a conflict with nature. An example: after the Gulf oil gusher disaster, people whose livelihoods depend upon the oil industry could not wait to get back to drilling in the deep water, while those whose livelihoods depend upon the natural fishery of the Gulf needed things to be cleaned up and possibly tighter regulations on drilling. And you cannot eat or drink oil. But then again, many can’t buy eats or drink without oil money.

We humans have a  natural habit of concentrating more on short-term gain than long-term sustainability (killing the goose that laid the golden egg and all).

Meanwhile, no matter what we do, we are at the mercy of God or Mother Nature, if you will.

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Also caught up on the Royal wedding. I had thought I was not interested. But it is nice to see tradition lives. And while the very next in line seems kind of a dud — sorry Charlie — his son Prince William would look good, kingly, on the throne, with his fine new wife, commoner, turn royal Kate Middleton at his side. Hopefully she will not be the wild distraction the royal family has recently suffered from on the female side — no real offense meant to these women. They just apparently were not cut out to go along with the often stodgy royal program.

I think many in the U.S. are a little jealous that the British have something to look up to. Our own so-called elite have let us down.

It is increasingly difficult to be a statesman in the atmosphere of modern American politics that seems more like a tawdry, vulgar circus than a sober discussion or debate on governmental policies.

Although the British royals have little to no political power, they give that nation a sense of dignity as representatives of the state, Great Britain, and its dominions.

I now understand why in the United States we have gone through periods of what has been called the Imperial Presidency — I think Ronald Reagan being the last actor (literally and figuratively at the same time) in that show.

I do recall that when Britain went to take back the Falklands from Argentina, many years ago now, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher went to the Queen to announce her intentions and get the monarch’s blessing.

And give it to the Brits: they had a successful little war down there. I say, good show!


Some inconvenient truths about truck driving…

March 26, 2009

(This is a slightly updated version of a previous blog.)

People out of jobs are going to truck driving school, an article in my local newspaper said. Been there done that. In fact, a newspaper article is what led me to my more than a decade odyssey out on the road.

Things are not as bright out there today – while there has been a big demand for truck drivers for years, with the downturn in the economy freight movement has fallen off sharply.

But I just wanted to get something in here for anyone who might be considering going the truck driving route.

Most of the entry level jobs for big truck driving are in what is called long haul. You need to realize that the rules of employment are different in that field than most others. The normal laws of pay and working conditions do not apply.

Typically, long haul drivers find themselves waiting a lot, far from home, baby sitting a truck, as I call it.  For the most part, as a long haul driver you will only be paid when your wheels are rolling. Long haul pays by the mile, not by the hour or fixed salary. Some companies do pay a little something for layover or even wait time (but usually not total wait time and such pay is usually not much, often not even minimum wage). And layovers can last for several days. I was once laid over for nearly a week, some 2,500 miles from home.

And if you don’t like wait time, I’d advise staying away from hauling refrigerated or temperature controlled freight (such as produce).  I once logged in 40 hours of wait time in one month, not counting sleeper birth or meal breaks. And I was not paid for any of it, as I recall (and if  I was it was only a few dollars).

I would discuss that issue upfront with a prospective employer (they may string you on, though).

Employers often quote cents per mile, but what they either lie about or do not tell you is that you may well not get in enough miles to make a living. It costs the employer very little to let you sit out there at a truck stop, because the employer does not have to pay you. It costs you a lot. When I began truck driving I found that a lot of drivers really were not making any money. They were simply drawing on their pay for subsistence and when it was time to get their paycheck they had little to nothing left. In fact, some of them owed the company.

Now this all sounds kind of negative. But long haul driving conditions, I believe, have improved somewhat since I got into it and got out of it.

(And for those of you who have not read my blog before, I drove truck for more than a decade. I worked in long haul for most of that time. My last job was what you might call short haul LTL (Less than a load) and paid well, but I came down with cancer, and am not able to work now.)

But I just wanted to point out some things folks not familiar with over-the-road trucking need to know. Another thing you might not have thought of is your schedule. No such thing. While some long haul drivers may have dedicated runs (going to the same place each time), most do not. In the course of a week, you will work around the clock; your hours will vary each day. That’s because pickups and deliveries are made at any hour of the day or night.

I won’t go over hours of service and log book rules in total detail, but basically under the current rules, you have 11 hours driving ahead of you before you are required to take a 10-hour break. There’s no limit to the time you can do non-driving work, but once you have reached 14 hours in one tour, you can no longer drive until you have that 10-hour break (remember, you could get to 14 hours with less than 11 hours driving, due to wait times and even loading and unloading, which you might be called upon to do or assist in, and don’t forget mechanical breakdowns and flat tires – they happen).

If you were to drive solo across the United States (and I have done that) you will find that your start and stop times roll around the clock. It would be like working at a factory but doing a different shift each day. Remember, somewhere in there you have to eat and let nature call and maybe even take a shower (maybe).

Under current rules, if you have 34 consecutive hours off, you start a week again with 70 hours available on your log book.

Some companies or dispatchers or your own greed or all three may goad you into cheating on your log book.  Or you might feel compelled to because you notice that the first to get his or her load delivered is often the first to get a reload. Do not do it! You, not anyone else, are liable if caught or anything goes wrong. The most likely scenario besides you falling asleep at the wheel and killing folks is that someone will run into you. If this happens and your log book is not up to date and/or legal, you may well get the blame under the law, no matter who was really at fault.

Then there is loading and unloading. I will say for most of time I did not touch freight. But if you do not touch the freight, you or someone (your employer) will have to pay someone to do it. It is not uncommon for drivers to end up loading and unloading on their own time and not get paid for it.

Finally, there is weather. If you will be driving over the mountains, particularly on the West Coast, you have to be prepared to handle snow chains. If you are not up to that, you have no business on the road, because you will be a danger to yourself and everyone else (there’s no shame in not being up to it, but there is in getting yourself out there and not being up to it).

I only touched the surface of this road. Most of what I wrote was negative. Ironically, I enjoyed the work immensely (although not every minute or day of it). A lot depends upon your employer and yourself and the type of freight you haul. And some feel a sense of independence out there. It certainly is not like most jobs. You are not highly supervised.

And in this time of high unemployment to have any job has become a status symbol. Just ask any unemployed investment banker (right after you ask him what the hell he did with that bonus check paid by your taxes).

Oh, and one more thing, long haul is not for anyone who wants a home life (that’s why I did not enjoy it all the time). I don’t care what employers promise you, from my experience, long haul drivers have no home life. I have heard many a long haul driver lament: “I didn’t get to see my kids grow up”.

Good luck!

(Copyright 2009)


I am the God of Hell Fire and I bring you FIRE!

June 25, 2008

(Copyright)

The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther

And now for the third time I feel compelled to write something about that summer thunderstorm over the weekend that didn’t amount to much, not much except for the fact that it seems that all of the local area and the state is lit up in flame.

A pall of smoke and ashes has hung over us here in the Northern Sacramento Valley since Sunday.

The fires so far are primarily in the mountains that nearly surround us (east and west and north).

Air quality is not good. I think the air conditioner helps filter out some of the bad air (although I need to buy a new filter pad). But I had a passing thought (fear), because someone told me that at least one of the fires was near some major electric transmissions lines. A power outage could really spell disaster. No cooling on a hot summer day. Lost food in the fridge (and food is like gold now). And horrors of all horrors, no internet, no computer, no blogging.

There are literally hundreds of fires in the local area. Most or all them were caused by lighting strikes over the weekend. I was sitting here writing my blog as the thunderstorm started, but about the time I concluded writing it, the storm seemed to have finished. Not quite so, it rained and there was lighting and thunder throughout the day, along with a small amount of hail where I live.

So, of course, I wrote a followup, an update, if you will, and used it as an excuse to mention something about the possibility of global warming and society’s reaction to it.

Today, I write another update to let you know that things are still smokey here. Don’t have my paper yet, but last I heard there was a prediction for at least a chance of more thunderstorms and definitely hot weather (in the 100s this weekend). I had also said in my first blog on the subject that we were having unseasonably low temperatures – we seem to be back to seasonably high temps.

I guess the reason we have had such an outbreak of fires is that the normal rainy season (fall, winter, early spring) did not really deliver enough this past year. That would have been a surprise to me back in December when I briefly went back to my trucking job and was slogging through the snow, dragging those heavy iron chains around and struggling to wrap them around my wheels. And when it snows in the mountains around here, it generally rains in the valley.

So far, thank goodness, the fires around here locally don’t seem to have resulted in many casualties or lost homes (and I hope I don’t have to update that with bad news).

The ranks of firefighters here in Northern California are thin, the media reports tell me. So, if you’re in that line of work, you might apply. We could bring in the military (National Guard, regular Army), but then again, I guess they’re all tied up with other projects. And yes, while I did intend sarcasm in that last sentence, I did not mean to offend the troops themselves, for they will do their duty as directed, as they continue to demonstrate.

Don’t need to wait for the paper, just checked the weather on the internet and the forecast for today is 98, but it’s expected to be up to 104 by Friday. They don’t seem to be calling for thunderstorms now, just some clouds, here in the valley. But then again, last weekend’s thunder and lightning and rain and hail episode wasn’t in the forecast either.

And to be clear, thunderstorms around here in the mountains in the summer are not so uncommon, but they are uncommon here in the valley. And they have those dry lighting strikes too up in the mountains and, in fact, that seems to have been the culprit for many of the fires. Lightning to torch them, but no rain , or not enough, to put them out or to have prevented them in the first place.

So, even with all of our technology and all of those computer models and so on, the weather remains hard to accurately predict, and at best, it seems, the forecasters can only go a day or so ahead of time.

There’s not much we can do about it either, except prepare, and prepare for what?

We are at the mercy of God, Mother Nature, the Supreme Being, George W.

Note:
Column’s headline courtesy of lyrics by Arthur Brown (1967).