Puerto Rico: Worse Than We Thought

The situation on the ground in “our” part of Puerto Rico (Ponce) is apparently a lot tougher than we had come to believe. Allysen finally got through to the next-door neighbor for a talk via cellphone. She says conditions are terrible. Still no water, and this in the second largest city on the island. Still no power. They fire up the generator for about an hour a day to charge things up, and they’re being very miserly with the water that’s left in their cistern (which, fortunately, is larger than average for a home). They have enough food still, but many, many people are hungry. The land feels devastated, and for the first two weeks, they felt utterly abandoned. The National Guard was down there somewhere, they supposed, but nobody came up to their side of the city until just recently.

Her description of our property was pretty discouraging, too. We still haven’t seen any pictures, but apparently trees are down everywhere, making things look like a bomb went off. We’re hoping that the original report that the house itself is okay was accurate, but we just won’t know until somebody can send us some pictures.

Frances said in her whole life on the island, she’s never seen anything even remotely this bad. The kicker is that, prior to the hurricane, tourism had been on the rise. Cruise ships had been coming in—not just to San Juan, but to ports like Ponce. Even our house was getting rented. All that’s over. I hate to think how long it will take to rebuild a viable economy.

These folks still need our help in a big way—and will, for a long time to come.

Welcome News from Puerto Rico

We finally heard from our friend and property caretaker in Ponce, and the word is that he and his family and their house are okay! (Concrete house; concrete structures fared far better in the storm than wooden structures.) We had gone so long without word that we were worried, to say the least. But, he said, the cell companies were working together to get communications back up, and he was at last able to call out. He’s been working extremely long hours as a policeman, and he reports that people have really been pulling together to put things back together. The U.S. military is there, and has been providing much-needed assistance. A little bit of power has come back in the city. I don’t know about water.

Our own house (when I say “our,” I mean my mother-in-law’s) escaped major damage, though a much-loved mahogany tree went down, and also a large Northern pine. There was some damage from the trees falling, but amazingly, all but one of the windows survived, and that one was on the side of an open-air dining area that was exposed to the elements anyway. The road up the hill to the house was cleared by the residents.

We count ourselves and the people we care about extremely fortunate, to say the least. I wish the same were true of everyone. These pictures from the New York Times can serve as a reminder that the people of Puerto Rico still very much need our help.

And let’s hear it for Tesla, for sending Powerwall batteries to help with critical power needs!

 

Irma Wasn’t Enough? Here Comes Maria.

As I write this, Hurricane Maria is riding across Dominica and other Caribbean islands, trying to destroy whatever Irma left standing. I cannot imagine what it must be like for the residents of those small islands. Maria has been gaining and losing intensity, in the sense that it’s going back and forth between Category 4 and Category 5. Neither of those is something you want to see coming at you.

Sometime Wednesday, Maria will hit Puerto Rico (the red blob in the center of the storm track). We are of course worried about our friends and the family property in Ponce. The current predicted storm track looks as though it will hit San Juan hardest, but will likely also hit the southern coast of Puerto Rico harder than Irma did. All we can do is wait and pray.

Here’s a stunning and sobering video composition of Irma, Katia, and Jose as seen from a new NOAA weather satellite, GOES-16.

Click to view the video on the NY Times website. Do it. It’s worth it. Be sure to scroll down the page, as there are several video perspectives. These amazing images are from a satellite that’s not yet even fully operational.

Do we really want to cut funding for this kind of science? (The current administration does.) Or are we ready to take seriously the problem of global climate change?

Hurricane Irma, Round Two


Irma Round One (Puerto Rico) left us with gratifying news for our family—friends and neighbors okay, and the house in good shape. We’re still awaiting a detailed report, but word is that the south side of the island didn’t get hit too badly. If there was any damage to the house, we haven’t heard about it yet and it’s unlikely to be serious. We’re keeping an eye on Jose, but it seems to be sheering away.

With that worry down, we turn our attention to Florida, where my brother will be first to feel the effects, near Miami, and then right up the length of the state, where we have family and friends in various locations. Chuck and Youngmee and the dogs are hunkered down in place, having decided that they’re probably as safe in their own house as anywhere on the road or in upstate Florida, given that the whole state is in the hurricane’s crosshairs. The late shift toward the west is good news for them, though not so good for folks on the Gulf Coast. Keeping all appendages crossed, and praying for everyone’s safety!

(Image from National Hurricane Center/NOAA)

Hurricane Irma Looms

One mean hurricane is barely past, and now another is bearing down, this one on the Caribbean Islands and South Florida. I was just in Miami celebrating my brother Chuck’s 70th birthday, and all was peaceful. Maybe not much longer.

But before that, the islands are squarely in the storm track, with Puerto Rico first to be hit. Some of you will have read my chronicles of our work on my mother-in-law’s house in Puerto Rico. I guess all that new work is about to be tested. We can’t be there to help batten things down, so here’s hoping our faithful steward can do what needs to be done. (Of course, that’s just property. There are a whole lot of people of limited means down there who are staring down the barrel of this thing with everything to lose.)

Crossed fingers, blessings, best wishes, and prayers for everyone in the line of fire for this one. As well as for those still reeling from the effects of Harvey.

Genuine Conservative Republicans, Please Read This

What I mean by “read this” is not to read what I have to say, but to read in the Washington Post what Jeff Flake, a Republican senator from Arizona, has to say—specifically, in a book called Conscience of a Conservative, that lays out exactly how conservative Republicans have abandoned all of their core conservative values in hitching their stars to the man currently living in the White House.

The Post writer says it much better than I can, and he’s basically summarizing what Flake says. Here’s one little snippet:

“I feel compelled to declare: This is not who we are,” the senator writes. “Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, ‘Someone should do something!’ without seeming to realize that that someone is us. … The question is: Will enough of us stand up and wrest it back before it is too late?…[read more]

I hope my conservative friends, if I still have any, will take a good look at this.

 

Senator Jeff Flake - Washington Post
Senator Jeff Flake – Washington Post

Amazon to Swallow Whole Foods Whole?

In this era of daily, mind-boggling reports out of Washington, I sometimes feel as if my mind cannot boggle any further. And yet… Amazon.com taking over Whole Foods?? I thought I was dreaming when I heard it on the radio the other day. I do not like that Amazon is threatening to take over everything.

I have such mixed feelings about Amazon. As a customer, I find them easier and more pleasant to use than just about any other online merchant. As a writer, I am keenly aware that the ebook revolution they kickstarted with Kindle self-publishing is one big reason I have an active and growing readership, and am making more money from my books in backlist than I did when they were new. At the same time, I am keenly aware of their sometimes predatory practices in the publishing industry, and I worry about their growing power in the marketplace. As a viewer, I love some of their TV programming. As a citizen, I am both alarmed by their monopolistic tendencies, and pleased by some of the choices Jeff Bezos has made in spending his billions (keeping The Washington Post going strong, for example, and funding the development of private space-travel technology through Blue Origins). Also, I admire his willingness to take the long view on his investments, going for long-term growth and not just short-term profits. This is something the world needs more of, although not necessarily on such a gargantuan scale.

Amazon is truly a complex phenomenon, and my mind continues—against all odds—to boggle. I still sort of wish they weren’t buying Whole Foods, but here’s an interesting article on the reasons for his making the move.

Terry Bisson, in his SF novel Pirates of the Universe, depicted a future in which just about everything was owned and run by a corporation called Disney-Windows. Looks like he got the basics right; he just maybe picked the wrong company.

March for Science, Boston

The Boston branch of the March for Science drew a gratifyingly large and diverse crowd to Boston Common. I decided it was time to get out there and put my feet where my mouth is (not in my mouth; you know what I mean), and I’m glad I did. Here are some pictures to tell the story.

 

 

 

I don’t know who any of these people are, just that they cared enough to come out in support of science, clear thinking, and the welfare of our planet.

Happy Earth Day!

1 2 3 4 12