Archive for October 25th, 2007

San Diego Fire Update: Thursday Morning

October 25, 2007 @ 8:59 am | Filed under:

Well, it looks like the Santa Anas are indeed dying down. Today is expected to bring winds from the west. Most news sources seem to agree that this will improve the fire situation greatly, but the air quality is going to get worse. A lot of the smoke and ash that was blowing out to sea will now be wafted back over the city. Even in the closed-up house, my throat is dry and burning.

But that’s certainly better than the loss of more homes. So far, 1,470 structures have been burned. Here again is the link to the updated (as of last night) list of homes destroyed in San Diego County.

Speaking of the Santa Anas, if you go to the LA Times website and scroll down a little way below the main picture, you’ll see a link called "Sketchbook: How Santa Ana winds fuel fires." It pops up a series of rough pencil-sketched diagrams demonstrating how the Santa Anas are formed and how they start and feed fires.

The Harris fire is still pretty ugly on its eastern side, threatening more homes there as it eats its way toward the Cleveland National Forest.

The San Diego County Emergency homepage is now posting good news updates, including frequently updated fire maps.

As I mentioned at Bonny Glen this morning, I’m finding the KPBS Twitter feed to be another excellent source of updates. It only gives brief bulletins (that is the nature of Twitter), so for in-depth information you have to dig elsewhere, but it’s a very good and informative starting point.

I missed the morning news briefings, but SignonSanDiego has a recap.

President Bush is arriving in town today.

I was particularly interested in this series of blog posts about deaf evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium and what accomodations have been made for them. Jane and I were pleased to see a sign interpreter next to the podium at all the news briefings we have watched.

Speaking of Qualcomm, I’m seeing conflicting reports of how many people remain sheltered there. Yesterday I read 5,600, then I read 11,000, and this morning KPBS is reporting there are only 800 evacuees left there? I know many evacuated communities have been reopened and people have begun to return to their homes, but that many, in that short a time span? Maybe it’s a typo—8,000 would make more sense.

As for us, we had a more normal day yesterday—normal for an at-home day, that is, but not normal for the busy day of activities it was supposed to have been. We canceled Shakespeare Club, alas, and actually settled down to some lessons in the morning. Jane and I did a big Latin review (I am trying to keep up with her Latin studies, and failing woefully), and everyone did some math. The younger girls have created a whole village of Sculpey creatures—enough to fill a miniature Qualcomm Stadium.

I’m All a-Twitter

October 25, 2007 @ 12:52 am | Filed under:

I confess that when I first heard about Twitter, I rolled my eyes. The concept seemed to me the ultimate in navel-gazing. Sharing our thoughts via blogs and feeds isn’t enough? We need little widgets for zapping out little thought-bulletins so that no writer need wait for the 20-minute chunk of time it takes to write a blog post? Do we really need more undeveloped, spontaneous fragments of one another’s thoughts flitting across our screens?

Then came the wildfires, and I became a Twitter convert, just like that. All week, the KPBS Twitter feed has provided the fastest updates on fire and evacuation news. Whoever is manning that feed is doing the work I don’t have time to do: listening to scanners, sifting through the TV and government-agency reports, compiling all the bits and pieces of information so crucial during an event like this—and getting that info out to the public as fast as it comes in.

This is practical information, not commentary or reflection. It’s topical, timely, a sort of 21st-century twist on the old phone tree."
  Tower 23 in Pacific Beach is offering 12 hotel rooms to evacuees for the next 2 nights- call now 858-270-2323," twitters KPBS. If I were looking for a place to stay, this would be just the kind of pertinent, just-the-facts-ma’am information I would need.

Jonathon Mulholland ponders our changing news needs:

We really are approaching a turning point in news dissemination. We
want information quicker than traditional media sources can deliver, we
want it pushed to us at point of the event, and we want to be able to
engage with it as it happens.

I was shocked to realise yesterday that I now consider even
traditional web news outlets to be ‘old’ and slow. I was frustrated
that I was getting quicker/better updates on the fires from Twitter
than from – and I’m of the generation that would rather
look up the news on BBC or CNN than wait till the evening bulletin!

Surely traditional news outlets, and official news suppliers such as
government agencies, fire departments etc will start using new/social
media services as channels for disseminating official information. A
FEMA Twitter account, properly managed, would be a valuable service.
Easy for affected citizens to opt in or out of, and a quick fire method
for sending advice, updates and warnings.

This week’s fire news-watch has me reconsidering my initial dismissal of Twitter’s usefulness. I’m still not interested in the kind of breezy, trivial "right now I’m sitting in a Starbuck’s about to renew my library books online" kind of Twittering I saw when I first visited the home page. (The text-entry box at Twitter invites you to share with the world "what you are doing" right now.) I mean, enjoy your latte, but honestly I could put the three seconds it took to read that to much better use.

But event- or crisis-Twittering, there’s an idea with potential. You can set up your Twitter feed to be public or selected-viewers-only. That means that if there were a family crisis, you could get information out to your loved ones (and only your loved ones) rapidly, easily, instantly.

I’m thinking about other ways this technology could be useful. The "Blogging for a Cure" event, for example. Many of us across the kidlitosphere are posting regular updates with links to each day’s Robert’s Snow posts, and some bloggers have even set up post-schedules in their sidebar. It’s been great, having so much access to the information—but it does mean a lot of us have been duplicating efforts. (And I for one have dropped the ball on many a day.) Is there a way to use Twitter to update with links to each post as it airs? I don’t know; I’m just thinking out loud here.

In any case, Twitter is definitely an application with possibilities for good. The KPBS feed has made that quite clear.

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