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Web2.0 Expo talk: Failures, Disasters, & Resilient Design
I’m giving a talk at the Web2.0Expo on Wednesday called “Failures, Disasters, & Resilient Design“. I’ll be using some of the lessons-learned from our deployment and how they apply to managing technology.

Here’s the full-version of one of my slides:


World Shelters ModDome @ SF Maker Faire!!!

Bruce LeBel just told me that World Shelters will showing their new shelter design @ the SF Makers Faire!


Welcome back World Shelters Task Force One!
World Shelters' team has returned to California and Washington after six weeks in the Mississippi Gulf area, with a short stay in Alabama while dodging Hurricane Rita. Sixty- five shelters were set up, some taken down and moved, resulting in 80 deliveries. Many people were helped, many lessons were learned, many frustrations met, and many friends were made.

Some materials and equipment were left secure in a warehouse in the Gulfport, MS, anticipating more activity as plans move forward on the Neighborhood Clusters project. Government agencies, non-government organizations and individuals slowly move the process forward to discover ways to truly help people who suffered loss in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

We're very glad to have our team home. Each one of them find the need to continue to process and share their experiences. Many of the volunteers who assisted the World Shelters staff reside in the Seattle area, and have kept up a lively exchange of impressions. The Seattle contingent has also continued to actively fundraise to cover their own expenses incurred during their time in the Gulf area, as well as adding to the general fund of World Shelters.

Pakistan Relief
We now are moving forward with phone calls, e-mails and planning going back and forth between World Shelters representatives and people in both India and Pakistan, looking for ways that we can help give shelter to the people in Kashmir who have lost so much in their earthquakes.

Good News
World Shelters has received their formal letter of determination as a tax-exempt organization (no longer "pending") under section 501(c)(3) from the Department of Treasury. (All donations made to World Shelters before this letter of determination are tax-deductible contributions for tax purposes.)

New team member!

At 7:55 PM, Kira gave birth to a new baby girl.
Quick notes from Eric:
* We still haven't picked out a name. I'm glad we waited to meet her.
* She's 7 pounds 1/4 oz and 20 inches long.
* She seems strong - she's got lots more neck muscle tone than I was
* She's asleep in my lap as I'm writing this.
* Kira is a total stud

More Cute Baby Pictures Here!Collapse )

ShagWag1 in quarters...

ShagWag1 on-scene: Waveland, MS ShagWag1 in-quarters: Seattle, WA
ShagWag1 on-scene: Waveland, MS

ShagWag1 in-quarters: Seattle, WA

The long road home...
The remaining team set out from Stennis on Thursday, 10/25. While they were pulling out they discovered a flat tire on the van, so they left on the spare... which blew out just outside of New Orleans.

Several hours and state troopers later they managed to get a tow truck and a motel somewhere. While offloading the Van at the motel, the tow-truck driver dropped it off the flatbed with Allegra inside. While she was okay, the Van had some undercarriage damage. This was apparently fix, and off they went. Tire patched, and new spare mounted.

Early this morning in Thousand Palms, CA (1800 miles later) the drivetrain on the Van failed somewhat catastrophically. It's now at Sergio's Autoshop... alone. The team is back on the road, headed north.

We're working out how to get Terri and the van (or at least it's contents) back to Seattle. I'll update when I know more.

Howie and Raymond Come Through
A massive production day. Chris, Terri, Loren, Brooke and I spent the morning making clips, clipping canopies and floors and cutting vents. The group had the idea to use side vents in the canopy instead of overhead vents, so the cap isn't needed. Hot day, even with low-ish humidity, and I was glad to head out with Brooke to do one deployment and site surveys, giving Allegra a much needed rest. Allegra is a rock star, quietly working behind the scenes to make everything comes together. She attends meetings, spends endless time on the phone and makes countless site surveys. She is amazing.

Brooke and I started at the cartography office of the ICP, looking for a map to Wiggins, one of the site surveys. A very nice man tried to help, but he was relatively new to the post and was having problems interpreting what the folks before him had done. And every step was taken in methodical detail (translate ohsoveryslow) Brooke and I being the eternally patient people we are (not) thanked him when he promised to get us a map "tomorrow" and left, having decided from our own perusal of a regular map that Wiggins was at least and hour and a half away, making it impossible to include in the day's activities.

I got a good insight into the miracles Allegra has performed in finding the locations and evaluating them for placement. Even with Brooke, who has been here a few weeks and is somewhat familiar with the areas, driving and me navigating with a map that is supposed to be accurate, navigation is somewhat by feel because most street signs are nonexistent and the landmarks given not always accurate. After circumnavigating Bayside Park, we finally found the first stop. The house and yard looked like it was in much need of repair before the hurricane. After taking care of a cat we found, we surveyed the yard and found the only possible place for deployment was the front yard (the back yard having many low trees, and the very real potential of becoming a swamp of its own in the rain). We then headed out to the next site, which seemed very easy as it was on Highway 90, the main drag through Waveland and Bay St. Louis. Wishful thinking. Highway 90 renumbers itself at least three times, and it doesn't always begin with the 100 block. Add to that the fact that most of the damaged buildings do not have street numbers, and you're doing it by guestimate at best. We thought Brooke had a brilliant thought when we pulled into a vacant Wendy's (a surreal experience driving through the drive through lane) and thought to look on the FEMA inspection notice posted on the front door. No such luck, even FEMA didn't have an address, just a designation of the corner of Highway 90 and the Medical Center. We pulled over and asked a woman if she had any idea where the address was. She said she didn't think there were any houses on Highway 90 in Waveland. Turns out, she was right, which we confirmed after driving all the way through Waveland and Bay St. Louis at least twice. In fact, there isn't even a 900 block in Waveland (or if it doesn, it's the medical center, which wasn't going to do us any good).

Giving up, we headed to the next site, past a tree trimming crew and down the street that should have been a direct shot to the house. The streets were indistinguishable from private drives and the signs were down. More circumnavigation using Brooke's memory and the map and we found the place. We had a nice chat with the father of the woman who had requested the shelter. He works for NASA on Stennis, and although his house suffered some damage, he already was repairing it and had a large pop-out trailer in the yard. His ex-wife's house was completely destroyed and his daughter would usually stay with one or the other of them. Once he heard the size of the shelter he said he didn't think she realized what she way applying for "she only needs a tent." He agreed that it would be better if we could find a family for the shelter and said goodbye, after finding out that he eats at the New Waveland Cafe every night and we'd probably see him there.

Light fading, we headed to the deployment for the day. Cathy wasn't home, but Brooke had done the site survey and knew where it needed to go. Without the cap, the process was much easier, and Brooke and I had a smooth operation going, and the shelter went up without a hitch. Cathy showed up at some point during the deployment and we had a nice talk. Her house was picked up by the wind, shifted 45 degrees and placed back down. Then flooded up through the attic. Her husband wants to try to rebuild it, but she says she's going to have someone bulldoze it and start over. Her sons put up an electical pole and the electric company promised to bring out electricity that day, but it didn't happen. They're "on the list." How far down the list would be the operative question. Just as we were beginning to stake the shelter, one of her sons came by. We showed him how the shelter works, and as he's in construction he caught on immediately. He is going to build her a floor, which makes a great difference. He told us that they evacuated to Pascagoula, thinking it would be better. Pascagoula is also right on the Gulf and they had 120 mile an hour winds. The houses on the blocks surrounding the house they were in were destroyed, but their block made it through relatively unscathed. "Still better than staying here," he said. We talked a bit about FEMA's response, and he shared that his brother, who has a wife and a newborn baby, born after the hurricane, lost everything and they still haven't seen anything from FEMA. I'd give alot to see what is factored into FEMA's priority list.

We called it a day and headed over the the Cafe. We called into camp and found out that Southern Pipe and Supply, courtesy of Howie and Raymond, had come through! The pipe had come in, and they gave it to us at 1 cent a foot over their cost, plus they delivered it to Stennis, even though they had just gotten a truck to replace the ones lost in the hurricane and weren't doing deliveries yet. They are truly operating as good samaritans in their community. Loren, Terri and Chris had completed all of the production needed for the rest of the shelters, with the exception of cutting the pipe.

In the meantime, Sam, Virginia and Adrian went out on site visits, to check out previous deployments and make sure everything was ok. They visited Doc and Lenny, who have 9 people they are taking care of. The shelter got them through until FEMA delivered a couple of trailers and it is still be very well used. They are heavily involved in helping folks around them. Doc left them with this tidbit of philosophy: "People would tell me their problems and I 'd just say 'shit, get cherself a hump and a joint and a couple of beers and it'll all look different in the morning." Not that we'd advocate all of those things, but the sentiment clearly portrays the resilient spirit of the people we have met here.

They went on to see Tom Beasely and his family. The family of 5 is very appreciative of the shelter and is using it for sleeping, home schooling and organizing salvageable items from their home. Their next stop was at the Charles B. Murphy school, the location of the Pearlington POD. They are using the shelter to house volunteers and have had as many as 16 sleeping there at a time. The POD is critical to the people in the area, and giving their volunteers a place to stay is an excellent use of the shelter. Their final stop was at Jan Rabe's property, where I had helped install the shelter on Monday. Jan was using it for sleeping and storage. She asked for vinyl, screening and velcro to add windows and vents, and talked about ways to make the floor more water tight. Jan is vigilant about snakes, and I wouldn't be surprised if she figured out a way to make the shelter snake proof, too!

They returned to camp in conjunction with the pipe delivery. An hour of pipe cutting in the dark and then dinner at the commmisary wagon for them. Brooke and I joined them and we talked about the next two days of heavy deployments before packing up the camp on Monday.

Bruce arrived exhausted later that evening and filled us in on his meetings with the governor's staff and FEMA. We're grateful that Bruce is there to run that gauntlet, so we can continue to put up the shelters.

Just 2 more days of deployments to go, then packing up camp and moving out. We're looking forward to Amani returning on Saturday night to oversee the logistics of the packing and moving. We really don't want to think about leaving at all.

McDonald Field and the New Waveland Cafe
A slightly different day than those we've had the rest of the week. No individual deployments but were scheduled to deploy 5 additional units at McDonald Field, to further support the Neighborhood Cluster concept. When we arrived at McDonald Field, however, the tents that were to have been cleared in the area where we were going to erect the shelters was still occupied by the private group that had been helping distribute food in the area. After quickly conferring, Allegra, Sam and Chris decided we could put them in a playground area. The previous units deployed at McDonald Field were being used, but primarily by the volunteers and as community support. It is hoped that with the Mayor's support, the word of the Neighborhood Cluster will spread and a group of families will live in the structures, supporting each other. We had planned to get them all up in time to head over the EOC meeting to get "badged" but with the delays caused by the change in location, we finished around the same time as the meeting was to start. We later discovered it was just as well, because they had recently moved the location of the meetings and the badge machine wasn't working. One thing you can count on here, it's always changing, and you just need to be flexible.

We headed over to the New Waveland Cafe, planning to get there for an early dinner. Little did we know what was in store for us. As usual, we were fed well and the conversation and entertainment were lively. We had dinner with a couple from Bay St. Louis, Kathryn and Jim. They both had grown up there and knew each other, but both left town for college. In fact, at one point or another, they both went to Tulane, where my oldest daughter is a sophomore (and looking forward to moving back to New Orleans in January when the campus opens again!) They met again about 3 years ago when she moved back to Bay St. Louis. I didn't get to hear his story, but she lost her house and everything and is living in a small trailer, still no electricity. Despite this loss, she is committed to working in the community to bring the town back. She's very concerned about potential future health problems that folks may suffer due to the contamination in the water that covered the town, and is committed to ensure the issue is addressed. Again, the dedication and spirit of people who have lost everything, or close to it, and yet work so hard to help others is humbling. When so many people would think only to hunker down and "take care of their own", for these folks "their own" has a much broader meaning.

After dinner we got word that someone had brought down a geodesic dome to serve as a community center. 60 foot in diameter; it is a monster! They had an idea of where they wanted to put it and enlisted our help. Being dome makers, our folks couldn't resist getting sucked into the debate of where to set up the dome, how the arc would change depending on the orientation of the dome, what would need to be moved, how that could be done. At one point, high in the insanity cycle, we were actually talking about helping them start erecting the dome that night! Sanity did finally prevail, and after much herding of cats a final resting place for the dome was decided. That meant the World Shelters structure which was serving as the medical clinic's admissions/triage area had to be moved. Many hands, including ours, rushed to move everything out of that tent and then there was more herding of cats to decide where to move it, how far it needed to go, whether to place it offset, flush with the longer unit etc etc Stone, the amazing EMT who supervises the clinic, exhausted as he was, stepped up and made the decisions in lighting bolt fashion. Armed with that directive, we redeployed the unit. Sam and Loren rocked as they drilled through the asphalt to restake the structure, while the rest of us helped move the contents back in the tent, take down another circus awning that needed to be moved to make way for the dome, move massive amounts of supplies (helped tremendously by one of those volunteers who arrive in Waveland from just about anywhere and offer to help. This fellow is named James and he hails from outside of Atlanta. Jumped on the forklift and moved those pallets and brought a pragmatism to many of the dome discussions. The Rainbow guys were right on with where they wanted it and how to make it work) In sum, we generally made ourselves useful, all to the lively beat of drumming.

By this time it was after 9:00 pm and felt like 1 am. We hustled "home" and ran to the shower truck. Ray was waiting with towels and I don't think a shower has ever felt that good. Perked us up and a few of us stayed up for awhile just enjoying each other's company. It is amazing how a joint project like this can bring people who have never met together as not only a team, but as friends, almost immediately.

New Orleans Here We Come
A long but very good day. Chris and I went back to the tent school to do the final staking (although the shelter is on grass, it is really hard and needed rebar. Broke the large sledge the first day). We didn't have the orange rebar covers so I was looking for empty water bottles. I asked Elke, who said they were thrown away every day. A young boy, Truong, tapped my elbow and said he knew where some were because he saw Mr. Albert collecting them in a bag. He led me to a trash can, pointed out a black trash bag and, sure enough, it was full of empty water bottles. You rock, Truong. We left to the sound of the children singing "heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes ..." a small flash of normalcy in the midst of life so very not normal.

Chris and I stopped by Southern Pipe and Supply in Waveland. We were looking for pipe to complete the last few structures. We met Howie, the owner of the store. In all of Waveland, the only businesses open are a hardware store, an electrical store and Southern Pipe and Supply. Howie is wonderful and although he had only a few hundred feet of pipe, vowed he would get the additional 3,000 feet from their central warehouse come hell or high water.

Another new member arrived this morning, Loren West. Another trooper, he also arrived on a red eye and jumped right in. We packaged three units to take to the new Rainbow Gathering cafe in New Orleans. Allegra, Sam, Brooke, Loren, Virginia, Adrian and I set out. Chris stayed behind to pick up our last team member, Terri, who was getting in later that afternoon. The directions seemed a bit odd, take the 10 to the 11, and we could see the 11 which runs parallel to the 10 then branches off diagonally below Lake Pontchartrain. We ended up not having to worry about it, as the transition to the 11 was closed. The 10 over Lake Pontchartrain was destroyed on the North Side in many places, but the other side was sound (we hoped), just 1 lane of traffic in each direction. We pulled off the interstate at Bayou Sauvage to check maps and call our contact for new directions. A single, very narrow lane that obviously had been completely covered by the Bayou not too many weeks before, and the Bayou was only begrudgingly giving up ground. We eeked by in a few places, collectively holding our breath. Turns out the exit to the park where they are set up is right off the 10, so we were in the right place.

We took the same path as Jordan described in his earlier post. No power, no street lights, abandoned refrigerators in front over every house, waiting for hazmat disposal. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel going into New Orleans for the first time, and I hadn't really considered it, as I didn't expect to leave Mississippi. I was driving, and as we drove down Elysian Fields, through apparently abandoned houses, not a soul in sight, even though it was early afternoon, I was overwhelmed. It is so hard to imagine what Waveland and the surrounding towns looked like before Katrina, because we hadn't been there. To be able to compare the "before and after" makes it even more visceral. We parked and made contact with the representative of the group and decided to drive the vehicles into the park. The jeep was safely inside and I turned the van around quickly to follow, going the wrong way down a one way street (just a short ways, honest). I had no sooner turned around than a New Orleans police cruise turned the corner. I quickly parked, perhaps hoping they wouldn't see the large maroon van parked the wrong way? and they pulled up to the park. Since they were right in front of where I needed to go, I got out to see what was going on. They asked a few questions about the operation, and seemed satisfied when told the proper permits had been obtained. In the meantime, there was a problem with a local, who apparently caused many problems when he was not quite sober. The police were going to intervene but were waved off by another resident who helps in the work at the park, who in any other situation probably would have been viewed as a disturbance. He did an admirable job calming the other gentlemen down and sending him on his way. The police said to let them know if we needed anything and left me free to continue my reverse directional course.

We deployed 3 shelters that will be used as the medical tent (which they were operating out of a regular Coleman type tent), kitchen and storage facility and storage for clothing. A few volunteers there helped us and they quickly caught on. The need in the immediate area is not apparent, and according to the police some neighbors had complained, but the surrounding area definitely needs support. We later heard on the radio that the operation might be shut down, according to the Mayor. It may be the neighbors or pressure because an historical park is used, but when compared to the needs of the neighborhood, those seem petty. What an amazing contradiction between New Orleans and Waveland. The entire community in Waveland has embraced the New Waveland Cafe and it is becoming a community center. New Orleans, perhaps because publicly admitting the need is still so great will discourage tourists, wants to eliminate what could become a vibrant, loving, healing heart in the community. Let's hope the news rumors are wrong.

Home late, Chris and Terri had already gone to bed. We showered (the shower trailer and the wonderful men who staff it are gift from the gods) and returned to Allegra making carrot soup. Heaven in a bowl. Went to sleep to the lullaby of the refrigerator trucks and the dock behind camp.

Two More Members Arrive
Two new members today, Virginia and Adrian. Yes, they're from Seattle (most of you don't know, but I'm from Los Angeles. The sole Southern California member and much pitied by all the Pacific Northwesterners)not Burners but definitely Burners at heart. And great heart at that--although they arrived on a red eye flight, they jumped in on their first deployment

We did just one deployment today at a tent school in Bay St. Louis. The Bay St. Louis school district has been decimated. Not a single elementary school is usable. Jen, a teacher from New York, and Elke, a local teacher who rode out the hurricane with her husband and 2 dogs, because they could not get to their house for the dogs and still evacuate in time, picked us up at Stennis. Elke is from Honduras and has now been through Andrew and Katrina. Sweet and calm, she described the state of the schools. The school district is projecting to open on November 1, but it is unclear just where they are planning on setting up shop. The tent school is on the grounds of the sports complex, and as we drove in, we saw the high school football team practicing. As surreal as it initially seemed, we realized that for children, more so than adults, engaging in normal activities is essential in beginning the healing process. The school is the work of a private foundation. Jen and a group of graduate education students who are from Washington, DC, are running it. Thus far they have 50 children enrolled. Our shelter will be the library and fun room. THey were so excited by the structure. The children are reading "The Phantom Toll Booth" and will decorate the shelter with pictures and drawings from the book. We're hoping to go back and see; if we do, we'll share those pictures, as they are sure to be delightful. Adrian took many pictures, including a series of the shelter being erected, which we hope to put together as a visual instruction manual.

Evenings at the New Waveland Cafe are a respite from the constant sensory bombardment of the day, without the isolation I often feel at Stennis. Volunteers and residents sitting side by side, getting to know each other, in a bohemian environment quite unlike anything I ever would have expected to experience.