Archive for September, 2004

Cayman; reality sets in

Friday, September 24th, 2004

Hurricane Ivan has warranted a wikipedia entry. Worse, over a week after the storm ripped apart the Caribbean, the storm is returned to the Gulf and is now attacking the Texas/Louisiana coast as a tropical storm. It looks like Ivan might loop back around and gain strength in the Gulf again. The storm that won’t die…

We have talked with our friends on Cayman several times since Ivan passed. The first phone calls were full of happiness and almost hyper-active energy. Everyone was ecstatic to be alive.

Now, reality has set in. It is hot and all of the flooding means that it is extremely muggy. None of the trees have foliage, so there is no shade to be had beyond the waterlogged structures that have survived. There is no electricity, water, or sewage services outside of the George Town beyond a few locations. Of the structures that are left intact, none have screens. That combined with all of the sea life washed ashore and the dead animals and plants have resulted in an infinite number of flies and no way to escape. Fresh water is in short supply, though the grocery stores are selling what food they can (rationed) and gas is available. At least, the stores and stations that survived.

Caymanians are incredibly resilient and optimistic people. Ivan is definitely stretching their resolve to the limits.

Some corrections from before. I could have corrected the original entries, but the corrections over time are a far more honest picture of the overall story.

There is still very little communication across the island and, certainly, no unified source for news or supplies. The communities are mostly left to their own devices.

In the Bodden Town shelter, there were 120 people. Not 175 as I had originally reported. Still, 120 people in a 12ft by 12ft room is cramped. The one fatality was actually due to a heart attack, not falling debris.

We still don’t have any definitive word on the state of the house, but we can assume the damage of anything within is complete. Our neighbors reported that the living room couch from the house was left in their front yard, a good 150 yards away. That a couch could float out of the house would indicate that the storm surge made a pretty damned big hole in the beach facing side of the house.

The neighbor’s first floor was flooded out. The surge washed a stainless steel table out of the house and they have not found it anywhere in the vicinity. Could be halfway to Cuba.

There have been many more pictures posted. Probably the best are from Courtney Platt.

I found it particularly painful to view her pictures. The Palm Beach restaurant was within walking distance of my parent’s house. We would frequently walk down for a Rum Punch and some Conch Fritters.

The Lighthouse Restaurant catered our wedding. Brilliant place to eat. At least, it was. The back wall– reinforced concrete block– was washed away by the storm surge. Portofino was another spot with great food; totally gone. Certainly, Reef Point is devastated or gone, as well, as it was very close to the Lighthouse. We had our rehearsal dinner there as it was a good friend’s restaurant and a wonderful place to eat some excellent traditional Caribbean food.

Dance Dance Geek Weight Loss

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

I picked up DDR Max 2 and a Dance Pad Revolution 2 control pad for Christine’s birthday. Thanks for the recommendation, Mike. Works like a charm.

She loves it. Not surprising as my wife has a background of dancing her ass off in some of the finest clubs of Manhattan.

Of course, I had to give it a try. Some things that I have learned from playing only a handful of times.

1. Either DDR provides a heavy aerobics workout on even the most basic levels or I’m in bad shape. Honestly, I’m just plain out of shape.

2. My sense of rhythm sucks, but improved over only a few games.

3. The soundtrack gave me flashbacks to the early ’90s and any of a number of bad parties I attended while at school. Yet, still, the need to move my feet in an orchestrated manner is an effective distraction.

4. The game is stupid simple. Yet, it is also quite a bit of fun.

I now fully understand how a number of my friends in the computer industry have done some combination of losing weight and getting in shape via marathon DDR sessions on a regular basis. The game includes a workout mode for exactly that purpose.

In this one case, I might just have to put together the open source version– including dealing with the pain of custom wiring, custom software installation, system administration, etc– just so I can use any of the thousand or so danceable electronica or world music tracks I have in my collection as the soundtrack. As much as trying to stay on my feet distracts me from the crap music, that’ll only last so long.

Hmmmm…. PyDance seems to be the way to go. Python, too. Yum.

$Id: and integrating source

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Recently, I have been integrating changes from one open source project into another project. The open source project uses $Id: style keywords in all source files. These are expanded by CVS to indicate who last touched the file, the date, version, and some other info.

Sort of useful, I suppose, but a total pain in the butt when integrating changes. It means that everytime I integrate the code, the default behavior is to make a one line change in every single file.

Clearly suboptimal.

When using diff (the command line tool) to produce patches or otherwise analyze the changes, it is helpful to exclude any diff triggered by one of the $Id: markers. Trivial (and this excludes autoconf products, too):

diff -r -u -x 'config*' -I '\$Id:' dir1 dir2

Now, it would be much handier if the CVS repository simply didn’t ever expand the ‘$Id:’ tags in the first place. This would mean that you could always look in files checked out from your local CVS repository and see the version # of the original source file. Again, easy:

cd top/dir/of/your/workarea
grep -lr '\$Id:' * | xargs -n1 echo cvs admin -ko

Of course, you will want to do the above before comitting any of the files or updating the workarea.

“Stanford: Day 1”

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Aaron Swartz is off to college. I’m sure he’ll keep ’em on their toes while the rest of us continue to be entertained and intrigued by his observations. Go, Aaron!

Cayman Photo Collections

Thursday, September 16th, 2004

Some random collection of photos. Scolldown for a “before” picture of my parent’s house and the surrounding neighborhood.

Photo’s of destroyed apartment complex.

Random photos.

Huge collection of photos.

In the third collection, many of the photos with all of the sand on the road were taken near Bodden Town, apparently.

Cayman update; random notes

Thursday, September 16th, 2004

We have now talked with various friends in the Bodden Town area. It seems that the truth is somewhere in between the Caymanian government’s understatement and the oversensationalist crap floating through the various forums and mailing lists that I have found.

At this point, there has been one confirmed casualty and one missing person. Damage across the island is incredible. whole sections of road or neighborhoods are just plain gone, but other areas are relatively unscathed. Keep in mind that “relatively unscathed” means “damaged, but nearly livable”.

Power is gradually being restored, along with Internet service and running water. George Town will be the first to have services repaired because it is both the business capital of Cayman (and banking capital of the western world) and because the services all eminated out from the George Town area.

Reports that all of the beach front buildings in Bodden Town are greatly exaggerated. Our next door neighbor’s house is even closer to the ocean than ours, but only suffered flooding of the first floor and some wind damage.

The same goes for East End. The road to East End is a mess and will take days to dig out and East End suffered incredible damage, but there were no deaths.

Reports of bodies floating in the streets are likely accurate. Like most rocky carribean islands, Cayman’s graveyards are built on top of the surface and covered with stones and concrete slabs. When the massive storm surge washed through, it washed out the grave yards. Between the graves, the raw sewage and the dead animals, I cannot imagine that Cayman is a very pleasant smelling place about now. Thank goodness for prevailing winds.

The Bodden Town hurricane shelter was massively damaged during the storm. As it turns out, one of our friends– the person who took us fishing on our first visit in the ’60s– was in charge of the Bodden Town shelter. There were 175 people in the shelter crammed into the safest room in the shelter. The room was only 12 foot by 12 foot, so everyone had to remain standing for 6 hours. Then the building started to rip apart around them, roof first. At the height of the storm, our friend had to lead all 175 people through 160+MPH sustained winds to a nearby elementary school.

Unfortunately, as the shelter was coming apart one person’s chest was crushed by falling debris. This individual has sense died after treatment in the hospital was unsucessful.

I will certainly let Charlie know how much of a hero he is the next time I see him.

Bodden Town‘s beach front was pretty consistent. Long sandy beaches that rose up to a slight peak before dipping off to the road, typically 100 to 300 yards from the beach. There were houses on both sides of the road with Bodden Town proper located largely on the land side of the road. The land side of the road was typically either marshy or rocky with very little sand.

Notice the use of past tense in that paragraph. Everything has been inverted.

Apparently, the storm surge washed all of the sand off the beach. All of it. From my parent’s house to the water is now bare rock; no trees, no sand, no vegetation, nothing. All of that sand went largely onto or across the road. Buddy– another old friend and someone who has lived a pretty amazing life (he met the pope recently, for example)– lives across the road from my parent’s house. He had to shovel his way out of his house as he has 6 feet of sand around his house. The story is the same throughout Bodden Town. Sand is piled high and wide from the road and beyond while the beach is now barren.

Shorty’s house– another friend who is the caretaker of “the mansion”– was really solidly built. Unfortunately, its foundation seemed to overlapped the beach and the underlying rocks of the hill between road and beach in such a fashion that when the beach washed out, his entire house has flipped up on its side or very close to it.

Finally, it turns out that our house was not actually reduced to rubble. The storm surge blew through the three sliding glass doors that faced the beach. The surge the pushed everything in the house– stuff, furniture, parts of the wall– against the back wall of the house. It also lifted the roof a bit and slammed it back down. However, the attic remained relatively intact. So, there is hope that our christmas tree ornaments can be recovered. They have sentamental value in that they are ornaments we have collected over nearly 40 years of visiting the island.

Hopefully, I will be receiving photos in the next few days. When I do, I’ll dig through and put together a collection of “before and after” comparisons.

Below is a photo of the house taken a few years ago. The house on the far right is gone save for that small second level bit. The 2nd house from the right is my parent’s house. The next house is our friend’s house that survived the storm nicely. The road is just beyond the three houses.

Now, imagine that picture without any of the beachfront sand or vegetation. Push all that sand back to the road and beyond. The bluish roofline is the house of our friend that had to dig himself out. Certainly, the coral heads and turtle grass (dark areas near the beach) are likely gone, moved or just plain different.

Cayman; falling into place

Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

As of this evening, I finally have heard news from the last major community on the Island that had yet to surface. Initial reports from East End indicate very heavy damage, but no casualties!

As well, we have now accounted for all but one of our friends. Everyone has survived the fury of Ivan unscathed. The one friend that remains unaccounted for could be anywhere across several islands in the caribbean. He has been around for a long, long time and has survived worse than Ivan both on land and at sea.

I remain optimistic.

The Caymanians, as always, are demonstrating their incredible resilience. Spirits are high, happiness abounds, and the focus is upon rebuilding as soon as possible.

Once I can get a hold of photos of areas that I have before photos from, I’ll start posting some before/after photos.

Cayman Update

Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

A map of Grand Cayman.

Word is finally starting to trickle in from Bodden Town, the village where most of our friend’s live and where my parent’s house is located.

We have found most of our friends and they are unscathed physically. It was a true night of absolute terror. The hurricane shelter in Bodden Town was so badly damaged that the 175 people inside had to smash down a door and walk through 160+ MPH winds/rain/debris to the elementary school near the shelter. Apparently, the shelter’s roof came off shortly thereafter.

There are still no reports of confirmed deaths. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will remain true for much longer. The East End is one of the larger communities on the island. It has apparently been completely wiped out. Hopefully, the people managed to find shelter in some of the caves, but the storm surge could easily have made that impossible.

My parent’s house is of an interesting design. It is really two structures with a carport in between. The front structure– two bedrooms and a kitchen– that faced the beach is completely destroyed. The storm surge lifted the roof while weakening the reinforced concrete block walls. When the roof came down the walls collapsed and the house is now a pile of rubble. However, the front structure did protect the back structure, which was also two bedrooms on either side of a kitchen. The back structure is apparently livable and my parent’s have told our friends to use the shelter as needed to house those who no longer have houses.

The neighbor’s house is in a similar state of total destruction. The only thing left standing, in good shape even, is the two bedrooms over the garage area. One of the bedrooms was where my wife and I stayed immediately after getting married.

Our friend’s houses are likely completely swamped as they were set a little further back from the beach.

The Caymanian government is totally downplaying the incredible destruction that the island has experienced. According to the government, 25% to 50% of the houses were damaged and the island will have services restored by the end of the month. According to every first hand report I have found, every single building has suffered significant damage and all of the island’s infrastructure– electrical, sewage, water, roads– is either catstrophically damaged or completely gone.

The Tortuga Rum Company has organized relief effort. Help is desperately needed. Most of the grocery stores were extremely badly damaged or completely destroyed.


Monday, September 13th, 2004

Cayman was pretty much wiped by Ivan. Total devastation. Pretty much every house no longer has a whole roof or any roof at all.

Cayman Net News seems to be the closest to mainstream press coverage (and it is a far cry from anything mainstream). Storm Carib has a rolling log of emails from folks who have made contact with Cayman. Cayman Damage has reports of damage by location.

Foo Camp

Monday, September 13th, 2004

I just got back from Foo Camp. I wouldn’t know where to begin in describing the experience. I met some incredibly interesting people and we all worked together to learn about, and hopefully contribute to, each other’s interests. I am certain that the Fruits of Foo will influence many projects over the coming days/months/years.

So, to the entire O’Reilly crew: Thank you.