The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

THE CRITICAL BYE: 2002-2004
new school
Two years ago today, I started this, my very first stab at blogging.

One year ago today, I took a look back at the experience.

That would make today the third anniversary for The Critical 'I'. And as I've been hinting all week, there's something to announce about that:

This blog is closing down.

And Population Statistic is opening up. Because it's always showtime, here at the edge of the stage.

The logo above is the handiwork of Julie with Moxie Design Studios. It's a taste of the job she did on the new joint, so check it out! (Everything that's not working and/or incomplete is currently my fault; hopefully soon to be fixed, and enhanced.)

I'm also switching blogging software from Blogger to Wordpress. The reasons are obvious: Blogger is great for starting off, but simply isn't robust enough for more complex content management. What's more, the recent changes indicate that it never will get robust enough--in fact, it appears to be moving in the opposite direction, with an emphasis on blogging-with-training-wheels approach. That's great, but at some point, you take the training wheels off.

So that's that. Adjust your bookmarks, hyperlinks and the like. My BlogSpot space will remain here indefinitely, until I move all the archives over. But I'll eventually install an auto-redirect script that takes you to Population Statistic.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

REVENGE OF THE DOT-COM IPO
No profits in sight. Wispy business models. Hyper-marketing and brand promotion. VCs and underwriters lining up.

Yup, the dot-com era is back again, with Google's IPO inspiring ticker-symbol dreams for bunches of online fly-by-nights.

And just in case you forgot what it was like before the late-'90s bubble burst:
Peter S. Fader, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said some companies treat their IPOs more like a marketing opportunity than a capital-raising exercise. Buying these stocks "is no different than betting on what the temperature is going to be in Tuscaloosa tomorrow," he said.
That says it all. Buying shares in these instances is more akin to funding an ad campaign than acquiring equity in an actual company. Invest wisely!
FOXSPORTS.COM: A NEW NUMBER 2 IN TOWN
When Microsoft's MSN Network switched its allegiances from ESPN.com to FoxSports.com back in May, I considered it a good move--for ESPN. The Disney-owned sports network has been top dog among sports websites for so long, I didn't see what MSN brought to the party. What's more, I figured that MSN was in for a rough ride with Fox, which has made a name for itself in terms of shoddy content on its sports site.

Looks like I didn't know what I was talking about. Only a month into the marriage with MSN, FoxSports.com has seen a 360 percent increase in traffic, for a total of 10.4 million unique visitors and the No. 2 spot among sports sites. This is accompanied by a drop in traffic for No. 1 ESPN.com, from 14.1 million to 13.4 million visitors; part of that drop is attributed to the loss of the pipeline to MSN customers. All these numbers come from comScore; rival tracking service Nielsen//NetRatings shows somewhat different figures.

ESPN suddenly has some bigtime competition on its tail. I'm sure Bristol's numbers will be replenished soon, with the NFL and other fall/winter sports gearing up. And I don't expect ESPN to be knocked off its perch anytime soon; they'll make their countermoves.

I guess this underlines the advantage of having a major portal partnership that throws traffic your way. As much hype as the decentralized approach to online media consumption gets--especially with the en vogue-ness of RSS feeds--attracting eyeballs on the Web has an awfully familiar look to it.
2080: EUROPE'S ENDLESS SUMMER
That's if you consider the absence of winter to be, by default, summertime. The European Environment Agency predicts that global warming will put an end to cold-weather winters in Europe some eighty years from now.

I hate snow. This climatic shift is as good a reason as any for me to relocate Euro-side! Oh wait, by 2080 I'll be dead. Bummer.

As Hurricane Charley's unexpected path showed, meteorological prognostication is more speculation than science. So I'm not taking this report as gospel. Past predictions for long-term Euro-weather included both a tropical England and a colder Continent.
LAZY COMMENTING FOR PLUGS
I've got no problem with people using commenting and trackback functions as a way to spread the word for their own sites. It's at least a secondary function of these instruments--the primary function being, ostensibly, feedback.

However, do it right. The right way is to offer a pertinent, even thoughtful, note about the particular post that's attached to the comment box, and along with your URL (even incidentally so). The wrong way is to just paste your URL along with a sub-sentence along the lines of, "Check my site", without any contribution to the post subject.

The right way is much appreciated. The wrong way will be deleted every time, and the chance of me visiting that site decreases dramatically.
MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT, TO-MOR-ROW
Yeah, you know it boy! It will all be revealed tomorrow.

Are you excited? You're not? 'Cause I'm not. (Actually, I am.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

BELIEF IN GOD, OR BELIEF IN RELIGION?
light and way
I found this dual review of theologian-authored books on belief in God to be intriguing. The books were "In the Beginning... Creativity", by Harvard Divinity School's Gordon D. Kaufman, and "The Twilight of Atheism", by Oxford University's Alister McGrath, and the basis for comparison is the opposite ends each man reaches in this analysis. Providing the added twist is the divergence each one takes from his personal background: Kaufman was raised as a devout Christian, and McGrath has a Marxist-atheist pedigree from his younger days.

Rather than go through the entire debate, I'm more interested in looking at the condensed argument for McGrath's turnaround from Godless to Godly:
His basic theme is that in past centuries, Western faith squandered its moral stature when Christians ran around killing each other and oppressing dissenters. Back then, atheism seemed to promise human liberation.

Today, of course, churches abhor any hint of coerced faith and have long since embraced full freedom of conscience.

Meanwhile, when atheistic Communists or neo-pagan Nazis gained political power in the 20th century, McGrath comments, they proved to be even more bloodthirsty than their misguided Christian predecessors and produced "just as many frauds, psychopaths and careerists."

The conclusion: "It is not of the essence of atheism to be a liberator, nor of religion to be an oppressor."...

He realized that the great atheists (Marx, Freud) presupposed atheism rather than proving it.

Thus, "the belief that there is no God is just as much a matter of faith as the belief that there is a God." Impasse. "The grand idea that atheism is the only option for a thinking person has long since passed away."

Moreover, McGrath argues, atheism failed in matters of "imagination" and created mere "organizations" instead of the sort of "community" that humans crave and religion fosters. Apart from Western Europe, faith is booming.

Still, McGrath maintains a certain respect for his youthful credo. Atheism's past successes showed that "when religion is seen as a threat to the people, it will fail; when it is seen as their friend, it will flourish."
To me, it doesn't sound like McGrath is advocating faith as much as he's advocating religion. More to the point, he treats religion and atheism as competing devotions, and in the process regards the structure of religion as being more vital, socially, than any actual belief behind it. It seems hollow.

I suppose I might get a more complete sense of McGrath's (and Kaufman's) arguments by consulting the book. But I'm not all that interested.
DOWN WITH THE G
what's in a name
Among all the trademark battles that Google is fighting, the one over Gmail is probably the most troubling for the company. The search king is in fourth place for the race to register the "Gmail" name, putting its claim in some jeopardy.

I'm thinking that they'll still get it if they really want it, but will have to pay through the nose. Either they'll have to grease the wheels with the trademark authorities and the other claimants, or else will have to heavily pay off one of the three claimants in front of them to buy it from them.

A couple of things come to mind:

- As I mentioned regarding the Froogles.com dispute, it's surprising that such a gee-whiz tech company, whose whole business is based around information retrieval and research, would be so negligent with its own product development. It doesn't bode well for Google's operating ability as a public company--assuming the IPO ever gets off the ground.

- I'm wondering why Google felt compelled to create a new, distinct brandname for its email offering in the first place. Why not offer "@google.com" addresses? Or, if those are reserved for corporate employees (instead of something like "@googleinc.com"), then "@googlemail.com" would work. A mass market so enchanted by all things Google would be delighted to have the name in their email address. "Gmail" seems too abstract. The desire to have a short domain name is understandable, but I think it's offset by the equity in the Google brand.
NHL OWNERS' PROPOSALS: CAP-O-RAMA
icey-not
Another meeting, another load of rhetoric. The NHL and NHLPA concluded their third formal meeting today without getting any closer to a collective bargaining agreement for next season. About the only concrete move was a formal rejection from the players' union of all six of the owners' proposals, on grounds of all of them being some form of a salary cap.

Are they? Bill Daly, the league's chief legal officer, admitted that one of the six plans was indeed a standard per-team payroll cap, but the other five weren't, strictly speaking. Let's take a look at the other five proposals, courtesy of the NHL via FoxSports:
- A performance-based salary system, in which a player's individual compensation would be based, in part, on negotiated objective criteria and, in part, on individual and team performance.

- A payroll range system in which teams could spend within a negotiated range of payrolls.

- A system premised on the centralized negotiation of player contracts, where the league would negotiate individual player contracts, either with players and their agents or with the union directly.

- A player partnership payroll plan (P-4), which would involve individual player compensation being individually negotiated on the basis of "units" allocated for regular-season payrolls, supplemented by lucrative bonuses for team playoff performance.

- A salary slotting system, which would contemplate each team being assigned a series of "salary slots" at various levels, each of which would be allocated among each team's players pursuant to individual player-team negotiation.
Now, which of these plans don't amount to a cap on salaries? The concept of centralizing contract negotiations between the league and the player means the disappearance of a competitive market for player services. Salary slots lock in pay. In short, each of these proposals are salary caps, either on a team-wide basis or an individual basis (the latter which was applied in the NBA on their last CBA, a move hoops players now regret).

Frankly, I don't see why any rational person (read "rational" as "someone who doesn't think players should play for free") wouldn't agree with the players. They're going to get screwed under any of these plans.

A better question would be why the owners feel they need to impose cost-certainty safeguards when they not only already extended the life of the current CBA once, but are also currently demonstrating how they can put a lid on market values. Granted, the lower salaries being tossed around wouldn't exist if not for the pressure of an expiring CBA. But it's essentially the same old story: If the owners didn't have the money, they wouldn't be spending it.

I'm still optimisitic, believe it or not. Adults know that agreements in these situations don't come about until the last minute, and I fully expect that to happen here. Until then, there's little to do but gawk and speculate. And watch the World Cup of Hockey, of course.
MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT, TWO DAYS AWAY
Yes, I'm trying to build suspense over my big news flash this coming Thursday. What can it be?

I don't drop hints, but I will say it doesn't relate to anything that's been mentioned lately here.

Monday, August 16, 2004

BLOGGER NAVBAR, NO ADS?
When Blogger.com sprung its redesign on me back in May, I noted that one of the things they left out was a built-in search function for BlogSpot-hosted blogs. Considering that Google owns Blogger/BlogSpot, this would seem like a natural, especially since the general populace is so in love with the search giant that such a direct link between the brands would only enhance the blogging services. The absence seemed curious.

It appears I've gotten my wish--sort of. The Blogger NavBar sits at the very top of this blogpage, whether I want it or not. I had to do some quick-and-dirty template adjustment to keep it from encroaching upon my top banner.

The most notable feature of the NavBar is the Google-powered searchbox. The Critical 'I' is indexed fairly extensively by Google, so the utility is definitely there. Of course, it makes the FreeFind search function on this page superfluous. That may be just as well: FreeFind seemed to hiccup on its indexing once the blog went to page-dedicated permalinks, and thus has become somewhat less reliable to me. So I probably should ditch it. But I'll wait to see how the NavBar works first; no sense in rushing things.

The other links in the NavBar are really inconsequential; I'm not crazy about the "Next Blog" pointer, but I've got plenty of similar links of my own handiwork here, so it's really nothing to complain about. However, it does create the impression of a "BlogSpot network" of blogs, which doesn't thrill me either.

I note that the NavBar has displaced the GoogleAds banner that was formerly planted at the very top of the page. I was under the impression that Blogger/Google saw ads an important part of BlogSpot's revenue potential. I know some people resented those ads; frankly, they never bothered me, and I'd opt to have them back. I can't believe they'd abandon them; perhaps they'll reappear in some new form.
ANARCHY IN THE USA: TO THE POLLING BOOTH
How much has President Bush polarized the American polity? Even the anarchists are considering voting against him.
Susan Heitker, 32, of Athens, believes that the U.S. government is neither legitimate nor democratic, but she still plans to vote.

"To me, at least, it's important to vote," she said. "There was a time when I was not going to vote, but I really dislike Bush."
When doctrinarian anarchists are dirtying themselves with the state-sponsored political process, you know there's some resentment against Dubya.

Anarchists aren't the first group forced to reconcile their radical philosophy with political practicality. Over the past century or so, socialist and communist parties in Europe and the U.S. made the monumental decision to reject Marx's revolutionary precepts and engage in party politics. Moderate leaders in those movements saw a better chance at effecting change through peaceful participation in the electoral process than through violent overthrow of the existing state system. The anarchists never seriously considered this, probably because they consider the prospect of an "Anarchy Party" as ridiculous as everyone else does. Despite this rush to the ballot, I don't see a party coalescencing from this; but stranger things have happened.
RICKSHAW COMPUTING ON THE SUBCONTINENT
What do you do when you live in a country with only 12 computers and four Internet connections per every 1,000 people? You take the show on the road, in the form of a wireless-enabled computer dubbed "Infothela" ("info-cart"), making the rounds to India's rural villages via bicycle rickshaw.

Between this computer-on-wheels, and Cambodia's motorcycle-powered wi-fi connectivity, people in less-developed parts of the globe are finding novel ways to use modern technology.
MULTIMEDIA CONSOLE: BEATING A DEAD HORSE?
ps-sux
The prospect of a household computing device that acts as an all-in-one entertainment server is too juicy for the computing/consumer electronics industries to ignore. So convergence is the keyword in the rollout of gaming consoles like Sony's PSX, masquerading as digital Swiss-Army knives, despite the skepticism of analysts and a poor track record.
Some analysts even wonder if the entire convergence idea really makes sense. "Beyond the clock radio, what's ever worked better from putting two different functions together?" asked Schelley Olhava, an analyst at market researcher IDC.
Very much my sentiment. I've already trashed the motivating factors behind hybrid devices like this, and figured that the PSX specifically was going to flop. That's turned out to be true; even the tech-eager Japanese didn't bother to throw any money down on the half-baked PSX.

The assumption that the average consumer is chomping at the bit to experience all of his/her music, movies and photos through a computer-based interface is shaky, as recent Pew Internet & American Life data suggest people still prefer non-computer media channels. Granted, this is a trending situation that can change with the introduction of more digital devices, but for now, it's looking like a limited market.

Even worse is the notion of trying to market the same console device in multiple configurations:
The tepid response to the PSX means that Sony is unlikely to take a bet-the-farm approach to convergence with the PlayStation 3, analysts have said. Instead, the electronics giant will at best offer multiple versions of the console--a games-only version around the standard $300 price point for new consoles, for example, and a media-enriched model for those with cash to burn.

"I think this is heading to multiple types of products," DFC Intelligence's Cole said. "You'll have a basic PS3 that just plays games and other (models) with different kinds of functionality. If you can do that right out of the gate, you might be able to get more consumers to bite than they've had with the PSX."
Really dumb idea that I believe is helping to kill Tivo right now. These devices are unknown quantities, intended to introduce and build a product sector. You do that by keeping things simple for the consumer, who's already gunshy about investing a few hundred dollars into something that's more a luxury toy than a necessity. You don't do it by presenting a dizzying array of features that the purchaser has to sort out. You can do that with cars; you can't do it with consoles.

Some see that light:
Olhava has doubts about that notion, given the game industry's reluctance to irritate mass market retailers with multiple product configurations. "I'm not even convinced we'll see different" models, she said. "This is an industry that prefers simplicity."...

Nintendo of America spokeswoman Beth Llewelyn said the company has no plans to cram consoles with nongame functions.

"There's been talk about convergence for many, many years, and it hasn't seemed to stick yet," Llewelyn said. "Consumers like dedicated video game systems. We think there's a huge market out there for game-specific devices."

That may be the smart way to go, Olhava said, given the track record for convergence experiments.

"Combining a lot of different features usually doesn't work," she said.
OPENING CEREMONIES: NOT BAD
games on
Despite the tale end of Hurricane Charley, I did manage to catch the Opening Ceremonies for the Athens Olympics on Friday night. After reading about a sneak preview of what was in store, I was most interested in seeing how much of the speculation was true:
... the infield of the stadium was flooded at one point and that a giant statue of Athena -- the city's protector -- rose into the stadium through a hole in the middle of the field.

The set then turned into a mountain, topped by an olive tree, and volunteers danced around in ancient costumes, [the anonymous informer] said. Hundreds of musicians beat drums and a performer dressed as a centaur -- half man, half horse -- shot an arrow intended to look like a comet.

At another point in the show, mythological figures sailed on a boat -- perhaps symbolizing the ancient story of Jason and the Argonauts, in which the hero and his crew hunt for the legendary golden fleece.

The dress rehearsal also included a Trojan horse. In Homer's epic, The Iliad, the horse concealed Greek troops who sacked the city of Troy.
It looks like most of that info was bogus, either by design or through misunderstanding. About the only elements that did show up in real life were the centaur, who tossed a light-javeline instead of shooting an arrow; the drum-beaters; the flooded infield; and the boat, although it carried only a young boy, not a pantheon of gods. No Trojan Horse, no Athena.

The speculation on the torch did prove true:
The Olympic flame will burn atop a 100-foot tapered column resembling the torch used in the worldwide relay. The structure, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is fitted with a hinged base -- suggesting it could be tipped over to be lit and then repositioned upright.
Which is what they did. While I did like the lead-up marathon relay run through all the modern Olympic years, with the symbolic stumbles at World Wars I and II, I still wish the torch-lighting had been via a centaur's arrow-shot. It was dramatic at Atlanta, and a repeat feat would have been nice.
MOVIES BEHIND BARS
By coincidence, I've taken in an inordinate number of prison-themed movies this past week:

- I caught Midnight Express on TV last Thursday;

- I bought Life on DVD on Saturday and watched it that afternoon;

- I went to see Carandiru at Old Hyde Park Village last night.

While they all have the jail setting in common, they're very disparate films. Midnight Express is a minor classic, as notorious for the fictionalized (despite the "based on a true story" tag) depiction of life in a Turkish gulag as for star Brad Davis' real-life drug addiction during filming. Life is an overlooked Eddie Murphy-Martin Lawrence vehicle that's actually a quite touching comedy. Carandiru is a gritty Brazilian prison drama punctuated by some light touches, before coming to a rather harsh conclusion.

Why the preoccupation with prison flicks? I'll let you speculate. And no softball gay jokes, please, or else I'll be forced to rent Caged Heat--or at least catch Black Mama, White Mama on cable...
MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT, THIS THURSDAY
Like the title above says: Some rather large news coming up in a few days. Astute long-time readers of this space may be able to guess what it is; you may amuse yourself by speculating in the comment box. Otherwise, you'll just have to sit tight and wait.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

AMATEUR NIGHT: THE LAST LAUGH
Everybody's got to start somewhere. It might as well be the Tampa Improv's Open Mic night. There's a handful of aspiring jokesters trudging out to Ybor, looking for live experience. The basic lesson: It helps to have a full house.

I've kicked around the idea of taking the plunge into one of these amateur nights. The next one is on August 25th, just over a week from today. I feel I've got enough to do the solid 3-4 minutes they give you. I'm not sure I could scrounge up 10 people to come with me, and frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to have them there--could make me nervous.

But the full, lively crowd would be a big help for me. I have no problem standing up and speaking before a large group, but if it's just a small scattering, it becomes more one-on-one, and dicier.

I figure I can always fall back on a standup career, just in case my "Situation: Comedy" winning script doesn't pan out.
REALITY CHECK: WHEN CHANNELS ATTACK
Over a year ago, we got wind of an all-reality channel called Reality Central. Plans continue afoot with a new name (Reality 24-7), as well as plans for a rival channel from Fox.

Despite the industry experience and the slight headstart, it looks like 24-7 is going to get wiped out by Fox's venture:
Fox and its related studios have plenty of programming to choose from, including "The Simple Life" and "Joe Millionaire." Old Fox series such as celebrity boxing and "When Animals Attack" are on the shelves, ready to be dusted off.

Fox-affiliated companies operate all over the world; Vinciquerra has access to a dozen versions of "Temptation Island" from different countries, he said...

Fox's parent, News Corp., owns Direct TV, so it's likely that satellite provider will offer Fox Reality from its beginning. News Corp. is a behemoth in the industry, with a formidable track record of starting successful networks like the National Geographic Channel, Fuel and the Speed Channel.
Still, I wonder how much life the standard contest-based reality show has in rerun form:
Many reality series draw strength from being serials, leaving those in the industry to wonder how much interest there will be in "American Idol" reruns, for instance, when everybody knows who won.
And that's not even considering whether the reality genre is going to stay strong. It's hot now, but so was "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" not so long ago; the gameshow resurgence it spawned is long since spent.

I expect the Fox reality channel to survive as an outlet, but only because New Corp. will push it as part of a multichannel package. It'll eventually become a dumping ground for all sorts of half-baked projects and thinly-veiled infomercials.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

MOSQUITO BITES CELLPHONES
As much as mobile phone makers and wireless providers would love for us to drop some cash on the latest fully-loaded handsets, increasing news about prone they are to PC-like infections are sure to keep them on the shelf. In the past couple of months, we've heard about the Cabir virus and the vulnerability of Bluetooth-enabled phones.

The latest bug derives from a cellphone game that's named after a bug: Mosquito. Illegally-downloaded copies of the game have been hijacking cellphones and making them send automatically-generated text messages overseas, bringing people hefty phone bills.

I'm sure the concept of downloading anything, let alone videogames, onto a phone comes as news to the average consumer. The notion that a phone could be hacked to do malicious operations is equally bizarre, and unnerving.

As stories related to this spread, I expect to see more and more people eschew smart phones and stick with the basic free-with-your-service-plan clunker phones. Since most people don't want to do anything with their phones but talk anyway, it's not going to put a crimp in the average person's lifestyle by staying lower-tech.
GOODBYE CRAIG, HELLO CONAN?
It's hard to believe that late-night TV was, for decades during the Johnny Carson era, a stable terrain. Just when we've gotten used to the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien vs. David Letterman-Craig Kilborn axises, Kilborn announces that he's leaving his show as of next month.

I'd like to think that Kilborn's recent stint on ESPN's SportsCenter Old School, which I enjoyed very much, is prompting him to return to the sports desk. But it doesn't look like it; it seems he wants to pursue other television/movie projects. I'd support him starring in an instant remake/do-over of Anchorman; I think he'd do a much better job than Will Ferrel, with the writing and the acting.

The speculation that O'Brien could be lured from NBC to CBS is nice to dream about. CBS would have to keep the seat at the "Late, Late Show" warm for over a year, though. That makes it extremely unlikely. What will happen is that CBS and Letterman (the producer) will find someone else, even on a short-term basis, and hope he becomes a hit.

I would love to see O'Brien and Letterman on the same channel, though. I realize that all four shows are distinct from each other (network promotion of "seamless blocks of talk/comedy" aside), but the pairings always seemed mismatched to me. Letterman and O'Brien have the same sort of irreverent, goofy sensibilities (although O'Brien's not nearly as deft with it, and his writing for the last year has grown increasingly stale). Leno and Kilborn seem paired by an identical devotion to style over substance.

I'm hoping that, in the meantime, CBS taps Chris Rock to take over the late late shift.
CHARLEY, THE HURRICANE THAT WASN'T (FOR ME)
false alarm
Hurricane Charley has come and gone. I'll reiterate my original sentiments:

Pain. In. The. Ass.

Charley made a surprise turn and hit the Fort Myers area yesterday, then worked its way up through Orlando and Daytona Beach. The originally projected path that had it coming up into Tampa Bay was altered by an atypical August cold front. It seems the Bay area's lucky streak with hurricanes came through once again. In fact, it was the ideal scenario: Charley's landfall to the south meant that we were spared the dreaded storm surges, which even with the Fort Myers hit could have been a problem for Tampa Bay.

Ironically, Pinellas County, which was anticipated to become a virtual island with a direct hit, turned out to be the safest spot in the state. As I write this now, it's a typical day outside: Overcast, but with plenty of daylight, and no more rain than we've normally been getting.

So was all that preparation and anticipation a waste of time? Government officials and experts will tell you no. I'll tell you yes.

A coworker from northern California, who grew up with earthquakes, told me that given the choice of natural disasters, she prefers earthquakes to tropical storms. With earthquakes, there's no real warning. It just happens, and whether it's just a tremor or 10.0, you only worry about it while it's happening. There's no build-up beforehand.

With storm systems, the tracking starts days in advance, and as the pathway becomes clearer, the storm warnings increase with frequency. All the information is supposed to prepare you, but in reality, it doesn't--it just panics you. The panic is senseless, because much like an earthquake, there's very little you can do about it; the storm's going to hit, and all the preparations you make aren't going to change that. My original inclination to stay put in my evacuation area reflected that.

My cynicism about all this is reinforced by a last little bit of storm news yesterday. Just as it was established that Charley would pass us, the meteorolgists "alerted" us to the formation of two new tropical systems--off the coast of Africa. Apparently, the weathermen were still in super-action-news mode, and couldn't help but apply their panic-now tone to this rather insignificant news (all tropical storms/hurricanes here originate across the Atlantic off Africa; they either fizzle out, or become problems, but it's ridiculous to make anything of them at such an early stage).

I'm still a bit peeved at having left home yesterday. It seems that the minute I set out, Charley changed it's course. It was nice to spend some time with my friends, and watch their kids run around, but honestly, I wouldn't have minded just chilling out on my own.

At this point, I'm tired of the subject of Charley, and weather in general. I'm looking forward to retiring that weather image above for a good while. I'm also looking forward to going out tonight and partying my ass off--a great tonic for the last couple of days' hassles.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I SKEDADDLED
not wet yet
Or chickened out, or got wise, or however you want to say it. I abandoned apartment.

Considering the revised Charley path that now has Manatee-Sarasota getting nailed instead of Tampa Bay proper, I should have stayed home. But I'm here in Tampa, with friends, and it ain't all bad. Still would rather be home, but...

It's still amazingly calm here. Even a little sunny. You honestly couldn't tell there was a big storm brewing. That's reinforced from earlier this morning, when I awoke to the same familiar fountain shooting water in the middle of the lake, and the seagulls divebombing into the water.
FRIDAY, 13, HURRICANE
It just occurred to me: It's now Friday the 13th. And we're about to get hit with Hurricane Charley. It figures.
THE CALM BEFORE
getting close
Given the uncertain conditions tomorrow, I'm making a rare midnight posting.

Still have no plans of leaving, even though I'm smack dab in the middle of an evac zone. What's more, if the current projection is accurate, Charley is supposed to come within a few miles of my front door. Again, the course could change in the next few hours; we'll still get something, but the hurricane itself could hit away from the Tampa Bay area. But for now, it's looking likely it'll be here.

The latest:
"MacDill Air Force Base will probably be mostly underwater and parts of downtown Tampa could be underwater if we have a Category 3," [state meteorologist Ben] Nelson said. "In a Category 3, you can almost get to the point where Pinellas County becomes an island."

"There will be a period of time where if you stay behind and you change your mind and you want to be rescued, no one can help you. We aren't going to go out on a suicide mission," Pinellas Emergency Management Chief Gary Vickers told people in the evacuation zone.
Me, nervous? A little. I always scoff at those diehards in storm areas who stubbornly stay behind, then yelp for help once the shit hits the fan. I guess I'm one of them now... But that's balanced by the knowledge that there's really not much to do. My option in Tampa is not that much safer than here, really. As long as I'm supplied, I should be okay.

In the meantime, conditions here are ridiculously calm. We had a brief shower this afternoon, nothing out of the ordinary. Otherwise, there's really no indication of what's to come. There was even some sunshine toward the evening. A friend in Clearwater said it was full-blown sunny where she was. Truly a calm before the storm.

So calm, in fact, that I had a nice dinner of crabmeat-stuffed salmon filet earlier, and a typical night of boob-tube staring. It's important to maintain some sense of normalcy.

Don't expect much in the way of stormwatch blogging from me. Even assuming the power and DSL line stay live, I'm not inclined to be a hero. I doubt I could snap any good photos of it from where I'm situated, and I'm not venturing out to the shoreline. If you want some of that action, Weatherbug is doing some Charley-chasing just south of here, in Fort Myers.