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Friday, September 30, 2005


They're trying to wash us away

Enough words for now, enough thinking and debating, how about some soft music from Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927 (used without permission)

Have a great weekend,
Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Lake House: A plea and a need

Flood damaged items in front of Lake House
About a month ago in the first days after Hurricane Katrina, I received many comments and emails from people wanting to help. The outpouring of goodwill overwhelmed me, but I could not direct their desire to help toward a specific need. Well now I can.

I am asking those of you who still want to help and can help to consider doing something for Lake House in Mandeville, Louisiana.

Lake House is two blocks from Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Louisiana. The director is a very dedicated lady; Cheryl Cosse.

The folks at Lake House operate a 6 bed group home named Carroll Street. The group home made it through the hurricane, but Lake House did not. Three feet of water destroyed all of their furniture, office equipment, kitchen appliances, television, and the list goes on. The building is a 5000 sq. ft. rental. There is roof damage along with the water damage and the repairs probably won't be completed for months.

As a social worker, I refer people to Lake House. What they provide in our community is unique. They provide a place for folks with a mental illness to come hang out. The people at Lake House help people with whatever they need. They help with trips to the mental health clinic or doctor, grocery shopping, a listening ear, help getting a job, and providing a place where they are accepted and treated like family.

I know the Lake House program has kept people out of the hospital much longer than if these folks had been on their own. The clients go to Lake House 6 days per week, 9 AM to 2:30 PM and are fed lunch.

Cheryl and her staff are top notch. I am aware of a lot of agencies, this one is staffed by people who want to be there and who love the people they serve. The patients know this too and many of them have been going to Lake House for years.

My plea is to help Lake House get back in operation. Cheryl has had to let her staff go because she cannot provide any services. She is an independent contractor to the State Office of Mental Health and is a 501c organization. This is not a business or a job for Cheryl, it is a calling. Donations are necessary, because there will be no state funds to help and what insurance they have will not cover their losses. Lake House is listed on the Louisiana OMH website. Scroll down the page to the Social and Community Services section.

Lake House gives to its clients and to the community. Now they need help.

In the days ahead, I will give you more information about Lake House, Cheryl Cosse, and the clients they serve. Until then, if you would like to donate to this cause, you can send a check to:

Lake House
1912 Jefferson Street
Mandeville, LA 70448
985 626 1796

Items they will need to replace are:
DVD player
Copy machine
Office supplies
Microwave oven
Kitchen utensils

Presently, they are looking for a temporary building so they can get up and running again.

Stay tuned for more about Lake House.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Snowballs and Dominoes

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.
-Og Mandino
How to have a happy life, a successful life, or a meaningful life (pick your adjective) is not a closely guarded secret. It has been written in every language. It was preached before there were pulpits. It has been transmitted and communicated with every invention of mass communication, be it print, radio, video, or digital means.

Religions and philosophies package IT in various ways, but the common threads are easily distinguished.

I believe we recognize the truth when we see it. Most of us know the difference between right and wrong. We know we are to strive to be better than we are.

The Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule are examples of what Christianity offer to help us live happy lives. The book of Galatians condenses these teachings into one word, love:
Galatians 5:14
14     For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
I was trained as a Baptist minister so the Christian teachings are more familiar to me, but I know other religions and philosophies say things similar.

I quoted Og Mandino above. He lists the "secrets" of life in his writings with eloquence. Kahlil Gibran poetically expresses these same truths. C.S. Lewis appeals more to the mind than the heart and his logical writings have been a foundation for many. Norman Vincent Peale, with his positive thinking, and Albert Ellis who pioneered thinking, feeling, and emotion into modern day psychology all speak the truth about how to have a happy life. This is just one list of those proclaiming the truth. I am sure you could produce one just as good from your reading and study.

We are not all the same though. We are born into families with differing resources. Our genes give us a head start or hold us back. Circumstances may present us with more obstacles than the guy down the street. Obstacles like physical handicaps, poverty, living in an area with a poor educational system, and experiences of abuse or trauma. These things do not guarantee a bad life, they only present a challenge. It is a mystery of predicting human outcome why some people overcome the most dire circumstances and others fail inspite of great opportunity.

The prophets above tell us to love ourselves and each other. They tell us to learn and to study. We are encouraged to work. They exhort us to be givers more than takers. Those who ignore these teachings will face rough waters in life.

Just like having a happy life is no secret, screwing up your life is also common knowledge.

Those who drop out of school limit their potential for earning money. Jobs go to those who are educated, intelligent, responsible, and competent. If you can't type or operate a computer, good luck getting a job. It is not that hard though. If you play video games or operate a DVD player, then you are well on your way to computer literacy.

Drugs and alcohol make any load you carry heavier.

Carrying hate and anger will destroy you from the inside out.

Laziness, entitlement, and assuming the role of victim will paralyze you and ensure you never achieve a thing in life.

The lifestyle you choose brings with it your friends. They will be like you, so that is a good reason to be a productive, loving, intelligent, and involved citizen.

We are the recipients of our work or lack thereof. We are dealt different hands in life and no amount of whining will change that fact. As it was said in the motion picture, Shawshank Redemption, "Either get busy living or get busy dying."

Until the next time
John Strain


All the kings horses and all the kings men . . .

The rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is going to be a mammoth task. The consequences of the hurricane are still unfolding and becoming known. The economic, social, and political issues will be argued for priority.

My fear is that the region will be rebuilt more on factors that are "politically correct" than what is practical and doable.

For instance, the issue of race is not used to help disadvantaged persons of a minority by various leaders, it is instead used as a sledge hammer to force an issue that makes no sense otherwise.

I am waiting for someone to advocate the government pay to rebuild all the homes of people who did not have insurance and for all of those who are on Social Security and Welfare. Then some economist or anyone with common sense would bring up the issue of the prohibitive cost of such a project and how building homes for people who do not contribute to the economy in a productive sense is a bad idea. Enter Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton screaming racism. The press will let their bombastic diatribes go out over the air without challenge. Politicians will give them audience and concession, and no one will have the guts to recognize the elephant in the room.

Race is just one special interest group. Often it is a smoke screen for someone’s personal gain. I would refer them to the story of the little boy who cried, “wolf.”

I hope the planners and decision makers do what is best for the long-term benefit of the region and all people. The rebuilding needs to be something that can sustain itself, otherwise, it will be the largest housing project ever constructed.

The utility company in New Orleans, Entergy has filed for chapter 11 bankrupcy. They lost 140,000 customers and they have $450,000 in repairs to make. They are but one business. I am sure they will have to scale down and rebuild as their revenue permits.

The city has been closed down. As people return, they will find a lot of non-hurricane destruction in the form of vandalism and looting. The Times Picayune reported nearly every business in the 6th District had been looted. The Wal-Mart on Tchopatoulis Street was completely cleaned out with one exception. The books and educational supplies were left untouched.

I think the big problem becomes less complicated if individuals do what they can with their problem before looking for outside help. The homes and businesses should have been insured. If they were not, then they will learn a lesson in not having insurance.

I have seen many cases and heard interviews which point out an attitude of some. “Because of the hurricane, the government owes me a check.” People want to gain from the disaster. They think the government owes them. In this area, there are many takers and this disaster only makes them want to take more.

Things are changing and will continue to change. New Orlenians are scattered throughout the country. Some will set down new roots. Some will improve their situation. Many times, a crisis becomes a needed push and better things result.

I think the city can be a more complete city. It can be more than a good place to go to get drunk. The education system needs to be fixed and crime needs to be addressed.

I hope that hard times will drive away the undesirable element and only those with character, a love for New Orleans, and a willingness to work will remain.

I think politicians who have traditionally depended on the poor democratic base are worried all of their constituents will move away. The political landscape will be affected. Time will tell in what way.

The Army Corps of Engineers have a goal to bring the levee system in New Orleans back to pre Katrina levels by next summer. Then something can be done to make them stronger. That discussion will be interesting.

A whole lot of thinking must go into this. I hope the money is spent wisely, but in any case, it is going to be an interesting historic event to witness.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, September 25, 2005


Back on track, I hope

Since the hurricane, my running has suffered. The week after Katrina was supposed to be the Tupelo Marathon. I managed to complete my workouts even after Katrina; they were only 3 and 4 milers. At the last minute, I decided not to go due to short gas supplies and lots of work to do at home.

Not running that marathon affected me more than I would like to admit. It was an emotional let down to run every step of training and then not run the race. Not only did I not run the race, I did not run one step the entire next week. That is almost blasphemy for me.

I tried to get on the beam the next week. I ran a 6, then a 10 at good times, but I was really sore. Then 3 days off until finishing the week with a 5 miler.

OK, it's a new week, I thought, I need to get back on schedule. The long run Sunday did not happen until Monday, but I ran the 18 miles plus a 20 minute jog/run combination. Two days later I ran a 12. Now after two days of idle, it is time to begin the week and do every workout my coach has given me.

Today is a 16 miler, followed by 30 minutes of running 2 minutes and walking 1 minute. I am preparing for the Rocky Raccoon 50 K (31 miles) October 22 in Huntsville, TX. I am not sure how Huntsville faired in the hurricane. They may be full of refugees, but as far as I know, the race is on.

I have less than a month to build up. I have been struggling with my head this month to keep running. The running is at the same time a hinderance and a salvation. Running is part of my rhythm and though it may be inconvenient, it centers me.

So, off I go before the heat gets a head start on me. Enjoy the NFL games if you are into that. I have the Saints today and the Chiefs on Monday night.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 24, 2005


Houston Looting

Fox News just reported there were 22 incidents of looting during Rita. Among the looted properties were private homes, a Target store, and some check cashing establishments. I am waiting to see where the 16 arrested suspects are from. I am laying odds they are from New Orleans.

With tongue firmly in cheek and
Until the next time

John Strain


Friday, September 23, 2005


Who turned out the lights?

Answer: Rita
I need to dust off the generator as my lights are out again. I am still at work so I am able to write this post. Now I need to get out of here and start stringing wires. I wonder what I used to do before I took up preparing for and recovering from Hurricanes.

My next race is supposed to be in Huntsville, TX; now in the path of the storm. If this keeps up, race directors won't let me sign up for their event for fear of a disaster interferring with the race.

One thing is for sure, happy hour will go on as scheduled (say scheduled with an English accent).

I will wire my computer to the generator so I can post updates, but we are out of the mix for the most part here. We are anticipating 40 mph winds. New Orleans on the other hand is flooding again. Weakened levees are giving way.

For those of you in the path of the storm, know that the thoughts and prayers of millions are with you.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 22, 2005


Dropping the second shoe

A man wades to safety with his dog
St. Tammany Parish, where I live has been cleaning up from Katrina for the last 3 weeks. 340,000 yards of debris has been collected. Officials estimate the total amount of debris will be 6,000,000 yards. That is a lot.

With Rita spinning toward Texas, she will brush us enough to make things interesting. Schools are closed, shelters are reopening, gas lines are back, and the grocery stores are selling out.

One major concern is that people are living in their homes with crushed roofs and broken windows. Some folks are living in tents in their yards. The tropical storm force winds we will get can make life miserable for these folks.

My heart goes out to Texas. They opened their arms and pocket books to Katrina victims and now they will get a visit from her twin sister for their efforts.

Talk about putting your life on hold for a while.

This photo is of Highway 22 in Mandeville (8 miles to my south). This is how it looked immediately after the storm.
Highway 22 in Mandeville, LA
Until the next time
John Strain


Nature's Rhythm

Since the beginning of time I suppose there have been hurricanes. I can assume tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, and tsunamis have also occurred. The earth has frozen over and warmed up again. Nature is a force and it has its own rhythm. Our brief time of life samples a nanosecond of world history. We look for patterns in the span of our lifetimes while nature has been going on for millions of years.

Man's arrogance sees himself as a player in this rhythm. While it may be true we can pollute the air and water, nature will continue to move on. If we foul the environment to the extent it can no longer support man then we will die off, but nature's rhythm will endure.

Hurricane Katrina displayed some of nature's power and now Rita is bearing down on Texas. We look for reasons and causes, we ask why? and how come? These are questions of our arrogance and self-centeredness. They are just hurricanes and man is in the way. Our great technology and science is exposed as puny and inadequate in the face of these two storms. Our confidence and security is rattled as our denial is pierced by the storms. The storms are not politically correct. They do not destroy bad people and leave the good people.

The world has been getting a lesson in humility, but the arrogant still prattle on about what should or should not have happened as if the hurricane would yield to man's insignificant interventions.

Our country is going to be faced with some major problems. The storm that gets the TV coverage is only the beginning. Like cancer cells, the problem has only begun. People have to survive for a few weeks differently than before. They stand in line for their daily needs. The cancer grows. Realizations set in as folks learn their life will not return to "normal" for a year or two. The cancer grows, businesses fold, tax revenues plummet, and cities face economic crisis.

Compared to nature, man is no match, but compared to adversity, man is quite capable of rising to the occasion. We have a spirit that can overcome problems and tragedy. Sometimes the best of man requires such a challenge to mobilize those energies.

We are driven by the will to survive, to protect our loved ones, to help our neighbors, and to leave the world in better shape than we found it. Not everyone shares these values. Some seize such opportunities disasters present to profit and steal. God will deal with these folks.

Cedric Flyod is the CAO of Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans. This "gentleman" was overseeing the relief supplies distribution site and was helping himself to the goods. Police raided his house Tuesday night. Cedric says he was holding the stuff to take somewhere else. Too bad we don't have public floggings anymore.

Katrina has caused havoc and Rita is about to do the same. In the aftermath, some have lost nothing, some have lost everything, even their life. Some are stepping up and helping, while others prey on the opportunities their greed makes possible. Legislation will not change any of this, because we cannot change nature. Nature has its own rhythm and the hurricanes will come and go. The nature of man is governed by personal choice and not all will choose wisely.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Will Rita come a calling?

Cleaning up 15th Ave.
As I write this, it looks like Rita, the new girl, will move well to our south, perhaps taking aim on Texas. The mood around here is tense. Another hurricane in the area after all of the work that has been done would be a real gut punch to the morale. I know one thing; I am going to have gas for the generator, food, and water, just in case.

I was watching TV this morning and a sheriff from St. Bernard Parish, where every home was destroyed, somewhere around 40,000, said that after he makes one more payroll, he will be broke due to the interruption in tax revenue. They will not be able to pay their officers. This is happening all around the devastated region. Where people once lived, worked, and spent money is now idle. City governments are running out of money. This is just one more aspect of the storm's aftermath. I hope the billions of dollars from the government and from private donations help in these areas.

On the flip side, I heard a coworker discussing an acquaintance who made up social security numbers and went to the Red Cross to inflate her benefits. She told them she had 5 kids. Then her boyfriend did the same thing. Both obtained checks of $1500. This makes me so mad. To abuse someone else's goodwill and take funds intended for people in need is like stealing medicine from an old person. There must be oversight in the way these funds are distributed.

Today is Barbara's birthday. So happy birthday to my lovely wife. We only realized it was her birthday last week with all of our recent excitement. Tonight we have to make another trip to Baton Rouge. John's hard drive in his iBook died, so we are going to swap out his computer with Barb's. I ordered a new hard drive, so I will install it and next weekend, we can make the switch back, never a dull moment. So Bear gets another car ride.

The photos on the right (click for larger version) are of the crew that cleaned up our street. Thanks Alabama for sending a few of your young sons to help. The right tools sure make the job easier. I have been very fascinated with this whole hurricane process. The sociology of it is interesting. How do people react? What problems do they face? What surprises in behavior occur? I love this stuff.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, September 18, 2005


Bear's take on Katrina

Hi everyone, it's me Bear. Dad didn't feel like posting tonight, he is watching the Chiefs play football on TV. So, I am going to try my paws at writing something. It has been interesting around here the last few weeks. I went on a trip to Baton Rouge with mom and when I came back home, everything was all messed up.

Here is a picture of me by a pile of things dad has been dragging out to the street.

Bear posing by storm debris

When I go on my walks, the street is lined with limbs, sticks, logs, and all kinds of stuff. I can't pee on everything because there is so much. I drink as much as I can, but I still run out of pee about halfway through my walk.

Things are really messed up. Some of the houses we walk by have been smashed. Look at this one.

Damaged home

Here's another house that got smashed. They are all over the place.

Damaged home

I got lost one day. Dad was working in the yard and I started looking around. Before I knew it, I didn't know where I was. I was real scared, but a nice lady took me to a vet and after a while, mom came and picked me up. I was so happy to get home.

I have met some new friends too. One dog only has three legs. He can get around pretty good though. He also has a little white friend. At first, he didn't like me, but now we sniff each other and we don't even growl.

You should see all of the big trucks and strange vehicles on my street. I have never seen so much activity. The yard almost looks normal again. Dad has worked a lot. At first, we didn't have enough room to play ball, now I can run and play like before.

The house is back to normal too. For a while, the lights didn't work. Only one room in the house was cool and the rest of the house was hot. Everything was out of place, but like I said, it is normal again now.

Well, I guess I will end this for now. We are all fine and my family is back to normal - at least their normal if you know what I mean.

Until the next time


When Katrina came to my street

The two photos on the left were taken September 7, 2004. The photos on the right were taken September 18, 2005. It gives some visual perspective about what kind of visitor Katrina was when she came by on August 29, 2005.

Click the photo for a larger version:

My street after Katrina

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 17, 2005


Missing: Our National Sense of Humor

Sign in New Orleans
Well, not everyone lost their sense of humor

I received this in an email from my buddy Claude. Yesterday on my way home from work, I heard a song on the radio about Katrina. It was the most shameless attempt at stirring emotions since the song about the Christmas shoes. I thought it was a spoof because it was so over the top.

Life is going on. People are working, laughing, and enjoying their neighbors. The hurricane has caused trouble, yes. There is tragedy in the loss of life and property, yes. However, that is not the story of every individual in every state. I hope you get to hear the song. I would like your opinion.

I have been reflecting on the coverage of Katrina. The claims of racism and the finger pointing are a second flood. Politicians with that fixed serious gaze making their political points to the news camera are endless. Hollywood celebs are giving their uneducated opinions. EVERYBODY LIGHTEN UP, SHEESH!

Let's go back in time to the 1940's. WWII was a serious thing. Many young men were dying. Uncertainty was in the air about the future of our nation. Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and other major events were all reasons to be nervous and worried. In this environment, Bob Hope and others used humor to calm a nervous nation. His humor was comforting. Today, comedians have agendas for their jokes. Their humor has a bite and a sting to it. Their humor is not designed to heal, but to tear down and wound.

I believe humor has helped us keep our perspective throughout history. It has helped me keep perspective in my life. Nowadays, if someone makes a joke, someone gets offended and the person who told the joke is dogged by the media waiting for an apology. Again I say, LIGHTEN THE HECK UP!

The sign above shows that some have not lost their sense of humor. Actually, the folks here are going to be just fine. I am worried about some of the politicians in Washington and some of the movie stars in Hollywood. They may blow a gasket or something.

It is OK to laugh in most every instance in life. I have laughed at funeral homes with the deceased lying a few feet away from my chuckles. I have laughed just about anywhere tears were nearby. It is a way to cope and it is good medicine. If we hold back the chuckles, we create a pretty miserable place.

So lighten up. The work is ongoing, things are getting done. You can find any story here you want to find, because the affected area and number of people are so vast. People either raise or lower to their personal principles. A hurricane is an opportunity to help people if that is what you are about or it is a good place to get over and profit personally if you are a low-down, scumbag. No hurricane caused any of this, it existed before the winds of Katrina ever blew through.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 16, 2005


The Paradoxical Commandments

• People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway.
• If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
• If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
• The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
• Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
• The biggest persons with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest persons with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
• People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
• What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
• People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.
• Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

Written By Kent M. Keith in 1968

These 10 maxims have been mistakenly attributed to Mother Teresa because they were found engraved on the wall of the home for children in Calcutta, India.

In fact, the 10 maxims were written by Kent Keith in 1968, when he was 19, a sophomore at Harvard College. Kent copyrighted them and included them in a 65-page booklet published for high school student leaders. It had a distribution of about 30,000.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 15, 2005


Our finest hour and our darkest night

Disaster is big business. People are getting rich off of people losing everything. People who lost nothing are realizing a windfall. My guess is the folks who could use help will not get it because of their pride and natural tendency to do for themselves.

Let me explain. The first sentence above is obvious to understand. Disaster is big business. People are lined up outside Home Depot and Lowes waiting to give them money. Generators, chain saws, and every conceivable home repair item is in demand. People in the disaster area with a credit card spend more freely being caught up in the moment. If you have a tree business, are a roofer, carpenter, or have heavy equipment, you will make some good money. One man's disaster is another man's financial opportunity.

My parish, St. Tammany, is getting everything it can from the Federal Government. I found out yesterday that I could get food stamps. Everyone in the parish is eligible. People are receiving $400 to $700 at least in food stamps. I was appalled at people's willingness to take this. I am still working and can afford to purchase food. Why should I take money from the government just because I can? This is a minority opinion judging by the line outside the food stamp office. Are people wrong for doing this? On a legal level, no, but I believe it is morally wrong to take food assistance if you do not need it. Many people who do not need the assistance are lined up getting their “free stuff.”

Some folks are very adept at finding the free stuff. They do not receive help with appreciation and take what they need. They instead are on the hunt for what they can get. The attitude is, "I was in a disaster, now I need to get my check or my free stuff." The disaster relief is a second Christmas to them. I hate to watch greed and gluttony.

I suppose it is a personal choice if you want to stand in line and get your food stamps. It is legal and many are doing it. The letter of the law may say you can have this help, but the spirit of the law should be, "If you do not have the need, do not take the help." Someone is paying for this, don't waste Federal money.

On the front end of charity, it is all good. Individuals all over the world see a need and respond with what they can give. This is a beautiful thing. Then what happens to the money? Where does it go? How is it distributed? I saw a story the other day about all of the fake Katrina Aid websites. Each charity uses a portion of the collections for "administrative costs." I am going to assume much of the money given in love is rerouted to the pockets of the greedy.

Contracts will go to friends and family of the disbursing clerks, the greedy will clamor for the free help, and the good folks who possess pride and responsibility will go about rebuilding their lives with little or none of it.

Billions of dollars are being pumped into the Gulf Coast. I hope the funds are traceable and I hope they have plans for the money. If giving food stamps to everyone in a parish is an example of the disbursement, then a lot of money is going to be wasted.

Photos of the day:

Below - No hurricane damage here, I slammed on this rim the day before Katrina

No hurricane damage here, I slammed on this rim the day before Katrina

Below - Our tree lined streets take on a whole new meaning

A whole new meaning to tree lined streets

Below - How I fixed my DirecTV

How I fixed my DirecTV

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Katrina and the race card

The winds of Katrina stirred up more than floodwaters and debris; they also fanned the flames of a very predictable and polarized "discussion" about race in America.

As I watch the national cable channels and read editorials on the Internet, I am amazed at how some insinuate race without proof or facts.

This post is not about arguing the Katrina / Race connection or disconnection. I want to back up a bit and discuss race in general.

Simply put, an individual's race is but one characteristic of their whole. Humans are observant and we all notice what color a person's skin is, what color their hair is, how they talk, how they smell, and many other things. This is not racist, this is being observant.

In addition to observing characteristics, we have a set of prejudices or preconceived notions about people who look a certain way. Someone with white pasty skin, purple hair, wearing black, baggy pants with lots of hardware on them is recognized as Goth. A black person with pants halfway down their rear end, wearing heavy chains, tennis shoes, and a sideways hat looks like a rapper. A guy with boots, jeans, and a cowboy hat looks like a cowboy. So far so good, we all do this.

We may have opinions about someone who is Goth, a rapper, or a cowboy. We may prefer or not prefer to be associated with one or more of these groups, but most folks still deal with people individually. "I don't like rappers, but Alex there is a nice guy." "Those Goth folks are strange, but Aaron seems like a nice kid." "I always thought cowboys were hicks, but Charlie is pretty cool." When it comes to the individual, most of us judge them on their own merits.

My definition of a racist is treating an entire race the same simply because they are that race. It could be good or bad. I like him because he is black. I don't like him because he is black, are both racist statements.

Much of the "debate" about race I believe is demeaning to blacks. For Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to refer to all blacks and to presume to speak for all blacks is to deny that blacks may hold varied opinions. I believe these two "leaders" are more about self-promotion than they are about helping their race.

Does racism exist in the US? You bet it does, but it is carried out by all races on all races. Blacks can be racists like anyone else. I realize some believe blacks cannot be racists, but I disagree with the proposition.

Blacks who believe they are disadvantaged because of racism have been told this for years by those who claim to lead them. They assume the role of victim, which is never a good role to assume, because it leaves one powerless. A victim waits for someone to fix things.

Humans must learn to overcome. Look at history. Telling blacks they are down because they are victims of racism has not helped them. Blaming someone for your trouble does not make you successful. We must succeed anyway. Struggle is part of the human experience. Some of us may have to struggle with racism, but if we do not overcome it, we will not be successful.

Katrina and racism: The rhetoric about race as it relates to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina is coming from far away. Those making the claims probably have not walked the streets of New Orleans or traveled the back roads of Mississippi.

I have seen healthcare workers of all races working to help patients of all races. Blacks, whites, and Mexicans brush shoulders as they wait in lines for help and as they lend a hand to help each other. Here in the affected area, there is a dominating spirit of goodwill, friendship, benevolence, and brotherhood. If anything, this storm has brought the races together.

I suppose those with agendas will continue to seize perceived opportunities to make their points, but I believe there is a majority of good folks of all races who are intelligent enough to judge all individuals on what they do and not by the color of their skin.

New Orleans is a world city. People here appreciate the influence of other cultures. Our food, fun, and festivals celebrate this diversity.

Today in a group therapy session I asked the question: What has Hurricane Katrina made you appreciate? Some said air conditioning and others said to be alive. One African American lady said, "I appreciate how this hurricane has brought us all together - blacks and whites - we are closer and working together better."

The national news programs would have you believe that the problem of race in America is a powder keg waiting to explode, but I think when you get down to the people, there is a lot more respect and cooperation between races than these folks would have you believe.

Until the next time
John Strain


Listen to French Radio

I received an email from d. abiker with French Radio:
hello john, i'm french and i have a chronicle every morning on the main french radio "France Inter". It is about blogs. This morning I spoke about your blog which is very interesting to understand the situation of people in LOuisiana. Thank's for your blog.

If you want to listen the chonicle (in fench), you can ear it here


see you !
If you do not read French, copy this URL"


. . . and follow this link:
Babel Fish Translation

Paste the URL into the "TRANSLATE A WEB PAGE" dialogue box then choose "French to English" from the TRANSLATE popup menu. Click translate and the page will be translated in a way you can make sense out of it.

I am continually amazed by the things a simple blog can bring about, this is just one more.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, September 12, 2005


For Sale: Katrina Souvenirs

Own a piece of history from the most costly hurricane ever to strike the United States. Perhaps a Katrina pine needle at $1.00 each, at that price, buy several to decorate your home for the fall. You'll be the envy of your friends.

Other souvenirs include tree bark in your choice of pine or oak. Pieces of downed power line certified safe by CLECO utility company, and assorted fragments of debris. These items are sure to make a hit at your next party. Buy several items for party favors. All souvenirs come with their individual certificate of authenticity.

Don't delay, order now in time for the holidays.

For more information contact John Strain, see the email link above. Proceeds will go to my pocket.

PS - Just kidding

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, September 11, 2005


Debts of Gratitude

Unexpected work compliments of Katrina

I owe thanks to a lot of people.

Here's to the linemen from North Carolina who turned on my lights.

Thanks to Elliott for sending me a chain saw.

Thanks to my son for his help on Saturday cleaning up the yard.

A huge thank you to the group of men from Houston who brought chain saws and finished off my yard today. They are from the Mormon Church.

Texas is my new favorite state. They are housing 250,000 refugees from Louisiana and they are sending volunteers by the droves to help here.

There are many people from all over the country in Louisiana and other affected states helping. They are manning chain saws, dragging brush, offering cups of cold water to thirsty people. They are angels from God.

Now that I can watch television, I am amazed at all of the coverage. I see a lot of good news from this region and that is accurate from my vantage point. For the most part, people are doing just fine. They are happy, helpful, and working like dogs to clean up and rebuild.

Tonight as I lay down in my comfortable bed cooled by the air conditioning and my bedroom is illuminated by the light of the television set, I will offer one more prayer of thanksgiving. The lifestyle we take for granted is luxurious. We are a fortunate people.

Until the next time
John Strain


I fixed the DirecTV Yeeehaaa!


Saturday, September 10, 2005


We have lights!


Friday, September 09, 2005


Moving On

In Covington, things are moving on. Throughout the entire area the work continues. Hoards of linemen and workers of all flavors resemble ants in a colony rebuilding their mound.

My lights are still out, but the water is drinkable. People were given the official word today that it is OK to return to St. Tammany Parish. The heavy traffic testifies to the effectiveness of getting that communiqué out.

Barbara and I had to work until about 9:00 PM tonight. It has been incredibly busy at the hospital. There are many new challenges with patients now. Many of the ones I have talked with have lost touch with their families. We try to reestablish that contact. Every day I learn more about the New Orleans connection and try to figure out another way of doing something without that city.

When someone dies, you are sad, but the impact of their death isn't fully known until you go through the first Christmas, the first anniversary, and their first birthday without them. Each occasion is a knife twisting in a wound. Losing New Orleans will be that way for me. The first Mardi Gras, the first Jazz Fest, and the first desire to go eat a po boy in the French Quarter will be sad reminders that a place once vibrant and full of life is lying in ruin.

I suppose the good news is that this condition is temporary. No, it will never be the same, but the people are the real heartbeat of that city. It is their spirit that causes the lungs to draw breath. Their attitude and love of life is palpable, but if you have ever been to New Orleans, then you already know that.

Barbara and I have applications to work for the Red Cross as mental health professionals. I am anxious to get started. I am sure this experience will give me far more than I will actually give.

You may want to look in on my web cam through out the day on Saturday. John and I will be cleaning up Katrina's mess in our yard.

Here are a few interesting facts about Katrina: In Hurricane Andrew, 1600 utility poles were knocked down. Hurricane Katrina snapped 5,000 utility poles in St. Tammany Parish alone. In St. Tammany Parish, it is estimated that 40% to 60% of the residents cannot return to their home due to the damage, and we were lucky.

It's late and I need some rest before the day of the chain saw.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 08, 2005


No one is at fault and everyone is to blame

All of the blame is an example of man’s arrogance. An extreme force of nature devastated the entire Gulf Coast and little men rail against each other as if anyone could have done anything about it. Hurricane Katrina was certainly a power greater than our self.

Did anyone know what kind of impact Katrina would have on the Gulf Coast and particularly New Orleans? Yes and No.

The dooms day scenario was part of the annual hurricane lore. Each television station in New Orleans had specials just before hurricane season and this worst case scenario would be discussed. We all knew about it, but we were in denial I suppose. I do not recall any politicians or anyone else standing in Jackson Square like a prophet warning the city to make preparations or else. Yes, we knew what could happen. Yes, we did not demand action. Yes, we were a city and a nation in denial.

In Florida in 2004, supplies were pre positioned prior to the storm and brought in right after the storm. Why did this not happen in New Orleans?

Katrina was a much larger storm and her area of destruction was enormous. From Baton Rouge to Panama City, Florida and 150 to 200 miles inland Katrina reeked havoc. Memphis and Houston were the closest safe cities to New Orleans.

Last night on Channel 6 in New Orleans, Norman Robinson said the state and local officials failed us miserably. In addition, the past administrations failed us miserably. He is right. Since Betsy in 1965, we knew what could happen, but the preparation never took place. Read this article submitted by Cindra: Gone with the water.

The people can assume guilt, because they did not demand the politicians deal with the problem.

It is easy to understand how this could have happened. To protect New Orleans from a theoretical storm would cost a lot of money. Have you ever gone without car, house, or health insurance to save some money? I bet you have. New Orleans has been doing this and got caught with her pants down.

9/11 and Hurricane Katrina:

Both events were off the scale of imagination. On one level we can understand their possibility, but overall, we do not believe they will ever happen.

We were warned in both cases, but did not take steps to contend with their reality.

In both cases there was a ground swell of help and support from the American people.

In the case of 9/11 the country united for a time. Eventually, fingers began to be pointed and we returned to political agendas.

In the case of hurricane Katrina, blame was almost immediate and leveled at the federal government primarily. I believe much of the blame is part of political agendas.

In the case of 9/11 the local leadership was stellar. Mayor Giuliani and the NYPD and NYFD performed admirably.

In the case of Katrina, the Mayor was inept and blaming. The police chief said in response to one of his officers being arrested for a rape, "This shows we are a good department, because we caught him." 200 officers have deserted and 2 have killed themselves. Maybe it is training, maybe it is personal character, but I believe New York's performance was much more professional. Read this article submitted by Thomai: A story about people trying to get out of New Orleans.

The case of the elecric door locks in the psych hospital
One hospital I worked for had a panel of switches that controlled the locks on all of the doors around the unit. It was within arms reach of the nurses station. If it was said once, it was said a million times, "Some day, a patient is going to reach over the counter, unlock a door, and then run away." It was discussed, but no action was ever taken. Other things seemed to have a higher priority at the time. Until one day, a patient reached over the counter, flipped a switch, and high tailed it out the door.

The next day, maintenance was building a wall around the panel of switches to make it impossible for the fiasco of the day before to be repeated.

9/11 was kind of like that and Hurricane Katrina was sort of like that.

So, the milk has been spilled, the barn door is open and the cows have left, let's work to clean up the milk and retrieve the cows in stead of bellowing, "It's not my fault, It's your fault or it's their fault."

You politicians who continue to pontificate your political agenda have not earned the right to protest. Come on down and roll up your sleeves. See the suffering and devistation. See if that does anything to your heart. See if that does anything to your priorities. This is not an election, this is a disaster of biblical proportion. From your comfort you can seek to improve your political lot, but you do so at the expense of the grief stricken. Instead of the bombastic rhetoric, help us. Use your influence to improve the situation. For once in your life worry about what is right and not what action will position you best politically.

On a lighter note, one of my friends called me the other day to brag that he had electricity. Calvin is black. My response was, "What, the brothers have lights while us white folks is sitting up here in the dark? What's up with that?" Calvin said, "I know, when the lights came on I thought, I guess I can't use that one anymore."

The Chinese have one character that stands for both crisis and opportunity. Thomai told me “in West African Spirituality, a storm's purpose is to clean, expose and cause great change allowing for new growth.

On an inspirational note, Covington High School is a special needs shelter. They are staffed with volunteer nurses, MD's, and other medical professionals. They watch out for psych patients, nursing home residents and others who need medical attention. It did my heart good to know these people are from all over the country. One nurse drove from Flagstaff, Arizona. He is donating his time. You may not see him on the news, but he is one of an army of silent soldiers who do their job without fanfare or quest for profit. God bless him and his army.

There is much more good going on than there is bad from where I stand. I believe it is that way most everywhere. The slime balls get the press and dominate the issue debate, but they are a minority of nobodies. We are in good shape here and when I say here I mean the United States of America.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Thanks for dinner America

Meals Ready to Eat

Tonight, Barbara and I dined on MRE's, Meals Ready to Eat. Our soldiers know all about MRE's. I have to say, they are pretty impressive. Barbara went to one of the distribution sites and they gave her 2 cases of MRE's which hold 12 meals each. She also got 2 cases of bottled water.

My MRE was menu 22 jambalaya. Did you know these babies were hot meals? The MRE comes in a plastic pouch. A small cardboard carton contains the entrée. The entrée is removed from the carton and placed in a plastic bag along with a pouch that is a water activated heater. A little water is poured into the envelope, the entrée and heater is lowered into the water, then the bag goes back into the carton while it heats. The chemical reaction causes heat and steam rises from the pouch.

After a minute, you remove the envelope containing the entrée and knead it to distribute the heat evenly. Next step, eat.

Along with the entrée is a little condiments pouch complete with Tabasco sauce. I also had a piece of bread and some cheese / jalapeno spread. Dessert is pineapple cake and there is a packet of powder that promises to make a thirst quenching orange drink.

It was a nice hot meal without cooking.

Good news: My hospital is open again and we admitted some patients today. The powers that be are expanding our census and we will serve more patients - up to 26. I am going to be busy. I have so much to do in the yard and around the house and work is going to be very busy.

I am not complaining. I would much rather have this set of circumstances than more time on my hands and no money coming in.

The best news of all is Barbara was also hired by the hospital, so we both have jobs. Many more people are less fortunate. I saw something on the net that said 400,000 jobs have been lost because of the hurricane.

Running: My running has gone to the dogs. I have not run since last Thursday. I think not getting to run the marathon took the wind out of my sails. I need to get back at it, because I am going to Huntsville, TX October 22 to run the Rocky Raccoon 50K, my first ultramarathon.

I am going to be on KTVU TV 2 in San Francisco Thursday AM at 9:40 AM CT. I have been going through my emails and found messages from MSNBC, The New York Times, Bloomberg Radio, and the BBC. When I began blogging in July of 2003, I never dreamed this would be possible.

Brotherhood: For whatever reason and no matter who is to blame, people are suffering, people have lost everything, people are in shock, and their lives are shattered. How can it help to blame them for not leaving the city? How can it help them to blame someone else for not preventing it or helping them sooner? They suffer now and they need our help now. The Bible talks about the value of a cup of cold water given in God's name. The simple things do a lot.

In my own case, I have been energized and strengthened by all of the emails and comments I have received. Even if I don't know you, your kind words and prayers have given me strength. I did not go through this alone.

If you witnessed a traffic accident and someone were lying in the street bleeding, would you tend to their wounds, or debate whose fault the accident was?

Katrina is like an accident and the streets are full of people suffering. Blaming and descending into political debate is to ignore the wounds and to prolong their suffering.

Power is still about 2 weeks out, but each day seems easier and easier.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Katrina: Rewriting history in only one week

It has been one week and one day since Hurricane Katrina hit the United States. In that week, fingers of blame and accusations have been pointed in all directions. Most of this finger pointing is counter productive and uninformed. I am not surprised; I expected it. I do believe that a rational systematic debriefing is needed on all fronts. The process should examine what all involved parties did or did not do to determine what they could have done differently to improve their effectiveness.

We should examine the roles of individuals, governments on all levels, the media, and emergency responders.

This would be the thing to do if we were interested in learning from this disaster. Now, if your motive is political, then it is not necessary to be rational, you only need to spew accusations at your opponent. If your agenda is race and you are Jesse Jackson, then you say that the people were not helped quickly enough because they are black. These political agendas are more emotional than they are logical.

Let me recount some facts and I will begin on August 28th in the morning.
• The hurricane was forecast for the first time to hit New Orleans. What was only a category one storm was gaining strength. Usually when hurricanes are in the Gulf, folks are well aware. This hurricane was in the Gulf, but initially forecast to go up the west coast of Florida. I think most people figured that even if the course shifted, it would hit Pensacola again. Saturday was when the New Orleans area took this hurricane seriously.

The main thing to do then was pack up and get out of harms way. Evacuations were being ordered for extreme southern Louisiana. People were paying heed. Grocery stores and gas stations developed lines and supplies were vanishing.

It was the normal way folks prepare for a hurricane. Everything seemed right on course.

• Saturday around 10 PM: Mayor Nagin came on channel 6 the NBC affiliate and made me nervous. I will paraphrase what he said:
I was enjoying a relaxing meal with my wife and daughter when I received a call from Governor Blanco. She told me I needed to call a man at the hurricane center. (I do not recall his name, but I think the first name was Max). Mayor Nagin continued. Max strongly encouraged me to order a mandatory evacuation of the city of New Orleans. The man from the hurricane center told the Mayor, he would not be able to sleep if he had not spoken to someone directly about this. He feared a major impact on New Orleans, THIS WAS THE BIG ONE.

Mayor Nagin had a strange affect, he was subdued and I thought troubled. He said his attorney advised against calling a mandatory evacuation citing legal complications. His attorney's point was if the city says it is mandatory to get out and someone lacks the means to get out, they could hold the city liable for damages. Then Norman Robinson, the Channel 6 anchorman, questioned the Mayor about this and one could sense his surprise. You mean the hurricane center advised you to make the evacuation mandatory, but you won't because you are afraid of getting sued?

Nagin rightfully said, that he at this time is very strongly warning people to get out of the city and that if they stay because he has not ordered a mandatory evacuation and suffer harm, it is on them not him.
The bottom line is that on Saturday night, Mayor Nagin was more worried about a law suit than to make the evacuation mandatory.

I bet if the Mayor had it to do over again, he would have told the lawyer to screw himself and he would have ordered a mandatory evacuation.

• On Saturday, President Bush declared Louisiana a disaster area enabling governmental agencies to mobilize and freeing monies for aid.

• On Saturday at 4:00 PM, the contraflow began in which motorists used both the northbound and southbound lanes to evacuate.

• On Sunday, the emphasis was still on evacuation. Everything I heard in the media was about evacuation and getting out of harms way. We expected the weather to begin deteriorating in late afternoon, so time was growing short.

There was a sense of tension that was palpable. The news was on 24 hours a day. Reporters were in shirtsleeves and had shifted into disaster mode.

NOBODY knew what was about to transpire. We thought it was a strong hurricane, but we did not anticipate the scope of the destruction. From Baton Rouge to Panama City, Florida and 200 miles inland, Katrina left her mark.

• On Monday, Katrina came ashore jogging to the east at the last minute. We all thought we dodged a bullet, but slowly the destruction became known revealing a decimation no one had ever before seen.

• Katrina's magnitude began to sink in on me when Mayor Nagin was back on television Monday night at 11:00 PM. He looked somber and his voice was low and subdued. The Mayor began reading a list of destruction that left me feeling as though I were just told someone I loved just died. The I-12 twin spans were gone, a 12 mile section of Interstate. The city was full of water. There were no ways into the city because of the high water. Emergency personnel could not drive in and set up shop.

The many people who stayed were on islands separated from help.

Those who thumbed their nose at the warnings and stayed for whatever reason now knew why they should have left. If they had it all to do over, I bet they would have left when they were told.

• The flood waters continued to rise and for three days, man power was diverted to fixing the levee. New Orleans remained inaccessible.

The rest of the mess slowly came to light. Texas in its generosity opened up the Astrodome for the homeless New Orlenians, but many refused to board the busses. Others began to pillage and loot. This threw emergency workers a curve ball they had not contemplated.

Those who were searching for survivors and trying to rescue them were pulled to deal with the mayhem. It only worsened. By Thursday, Governor Blanco, Aaron Broussard of Jefferson Parish, and Mayor Nagin were on the radio leveling charge after charge at the federal government for not being prepared. They saw no fault in themselves.

Aaron Broussard especially was very disrespectful and I thought did a public disservice by inciting the public, almost excusing the unrest for lack of help.

These accusing local leaders were guilty of the very thing they accused Washington of, not being prepared.

I would counter that it is difficult to prepare for something outside your frame of reference.

All systems were stretched and overwhelmed. I also think the local leaders were very frustrated because they were powerless to help their people. They eased into the blaming, but took it to the heights.

I bet if they had it to do over again, they would have been better prepared themselves.

There are many questions that should be answered. What about the funding the federal government pulled relating to the levees in New Orleans?

Why were troops delayed?

Why did it take so long to get the evacuation under way?

I was listening to the BBC last night. The correspondent raised some questions:
• Why was there not enough food and water at the Superdome?
• Why was there no medicine and other services?
The answer is simple. The Superdome was never intended to provide provisions at all and the people knew it going in. As a matter of fact, everyone in south Louisiana knows the policy regarding shelters: Bring food for three days, there will be no food there. Bring your bedding and clothes. Nothing is provided except a safe place from the hurricane. No pets are allowed.

The Superdome was designated a shelter of last resort, a far cry from a special needs shelter. The Superdome was a contingency way down the list. It was a place to run to to save your life.

I bet those who stayed in the Dome wish they had listened to Mayor Nagin.

We can blame all sorts of people and agencies, but that will not undo what happened. However, if we take an honest look at what all of the players and pieces did and did not do, we could go into the next disaster better prepared.

I am an optimist. I believe this will be done, but don't expect to see it hashed out in the media. This process would be too boring. People working together to learn something doesn't command ratings. Instead, Jesse Jackson will rail against the white conspiracy and the democrats will say the hurricane is only another illustration of President Bush's ineptness.

It is up to you on which process you will focus.

Until the next time
John Strain


Who's going to clean up this mess?

Picnic with Bear on a break from the clean upIt is 10:00 PM and I have been about the business of trying to put back what Katrina rearranged.

The photo is of me and Bear on a break from the yard work. I guess I should have given him more of my sandwich, because he ran off shortly after. Barbara and I were working in the yard when we noticed Bear was not around. We walked around could not find him. Barbara got in the car and looped around the neighborhood looking for him. I walked around and looked, but no Bear.

It was getting close to 6:00 PM and I feared not finding him before dark. I was worried he may spend the night away from us. While Barbara was driving around, I made about 10 signs that read: "LOST BLACK LAB ORANGE COLLAR CALL ###."

My friend Brian showed up just as I finished the signs and he offered to drive me around to post them. I nailed signs to brand new utility poles, a pristine surface. When we got home, Bear was looking out the door, Barbara found him.

She went to our vet who told her another vet called him about a black lab they had brought into another animal hospital. Barbara went over there and Bear was waiting for her. He was running down one of the busy streets in town. I wonder if he got wind of a female coming into her fullness.

The vet that had Bear asked Barbara to donate to the Red Cross in lieu of payment. What payment? He is already my dog. Also, I told Barbara this is one disaster we can sit out on the donation front. Oh well, what's another $40. If you know me, you know this was supposed to be a funny paragraph, I'm just kidding.

Tomorrow I have to go pull down all of those signs.

I spent a lot of the morning trying to get my Directv working. A tree hit my dish and trashed it. I hate it when things disrespect my Directv. Marty had an old dish and I installed it, but never could acquire a satellite signal. Oh well. The good news is Directv is not charging for September and no service call charge when they bring out the new equipment. The girl I talked to was from Oklahoma and kept apologizing to me for Katrina. I finally said, "It wasn't your fault." So hat tip to Directv.

This just in from the Parish Government:

PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT: If you remained in St. Tammany Parish during the storm and are returning to a flooded area to check your home, beware of snake infestations. Water snakes may have entered your neighborhood and home with the flood waters. Anti-venom is available at hospitals.

(It used to be really fun here.)
My BBC appearance was postponed. It will be rescheduled sometime next week.

It is bedtime. Tomorrow is a meeting at the hospital to discuss the reopening of the hospital. If I get off early, it is back to the yard work.

When it is all said and done, I feel lucky. No major damage, no physical damage, just some excess yard work and an unexpected and extended camping trip to enjoy.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, September 04, 2005


A Trip to Lowe's and Katrina Photos

My backyard from my roof
A view of my backyard from the roof
Click photo for lots more Katrina photos
Follow the links at the top of the photo page to see all four pages

This is connected to the post last night about my neighbor complaining about my generator. I woke up this morning and decided to move it to the other side of the house, see web cam. To do this I needed longer extension cords. John and I headed to Lowe's and of course they were out.

Next step, make your own. I bought a 75' and a 60' length of 14-3 wire. When I got to the plug section, they had the male ends, but no female ends. Damn, another female problem. The guy on the aisle said a truck had just arrived and as they unload the truck, he would check to see if the female plugs came in. Every 15 minutes or so, he went to the back emerging in a few minutes with a shopping cart full of boxes. Each time, no luck.

Several men were standing around and I said, "This figures, here we are standing around waiting on some females." They laughed knowingly and we shared hurricane stories.

One of the strange things is many people are armed and patrol their neighborhoods to guard against looting. This is not complete paranoia as generators have been stolen and homes have been robbed. I do not think there are pits in hell deep enough for such individuals. I would hate to be the one who gets caught.

The female plugs were not on the truck, but I had an idea. I cut the cord on a power strip. Then I used the male end on one end of the extension cord and the power strip itself on the other end of the cord. It works great and my computer is plugged into one of them now and I am enjoying DSL again.

I also bought a heavy chain and lock to make it difficult for someone to steal my generator.

Odds and Ends:
It has been so long since we have had electricity I don't even flip a light switch when I go into a room.

Bear is back and happy. We have played tennis ball and I took him on his first walk this morning. He had a lot of peeing to catch up on.

Electricity is coming back on in some parts of the city. Marty may get power tonight or tomorrow. If he gets power, I have dibs on his gasoline cans. Our electricity will not be on for a while yet.

The guy who waited on me at Lowes, lives in Chalmette. His house has two feet of water in the second floor.

Barbara may be out of work. More than likely, the agency she works for will not reopen. I've got to get that girl working. I am hoping to get her working for the company I am with.

I am going to be on the BBC Monday night between 9 and 10 PM Monday. A producer got in touch with me and asked if I would appear on a late night radio show in the UK. They will call me and we will do it over the phone. Too bad I can't do it live in London.

My neighbor came over today and offered an extension cord and gave Barbara three bags of ice. He said he did not like the way things ended last night. I am still mad, but I don't like conflict. I did move the generator. Making extension cords the way I did wound up costing $120.

Got to go.

Until the next time
John Strain


People connections and property

I have had hundreds of emails requesting I help to contact friends and family members in this area. People have also inquired about property.

I know many of you have made contact or gotten the information you were looking for.

If you still need help finding someone or info about property, comment here and I will see what I can do.

I also may have DSL. I will try to connect tonight. If that is true, I will offer a hot spot to anyone with a wireless computer. People are so happy to be able to email.

Until the next time
John Strain


Katrina the teacher

Katrina is teaching many lessons. I have seen spotty national coverage so my perspective is no doubt less informed than those of you outside the areas of destruction. Sociologists will be studying the human or subhuman behavior for years. It is easy to get into race and then politics to explain the violence and civil unrest, but that is too simplistic and only rehashes the themes and drumbeats of those who like to fight on those levels.

I will point out a few of the problems I think contributed to the rioting and unrest. I am not going to go out of my way to be politically correct. Please try to understand the points I am making instead of reacting to a label I may use.

1. Personal responsibility and principles: I was raised to take responsibility for my own behavior. "The dog ate my homework" was not an excuse. I could not get out of trouble because I brought home a "D" by telling my parents Jimmy two doors down got an "F" in the same class. If anyone makes excuses for the people in New Orleans who took advantage of the worst disaster in US history to commit crimes, they are making a huge mistake. There is no excuse. I have absolutely NO DOUBT that I would not have stolen anything or committed crimes, because I live by principles. Principles that say you should help others. You should not steal. You should not take advantage of other's misfortunes. When excuses are made for an individual's behavior, the good people become angry. Their anger is then interpreted as racism unless they are angry at the behavior of a like race.

2. Family and Education: Check out the demographics for the New Orleans census. You will see that Orleans Parish has the worst national test scores in Louisiana which itself ranks near the bottom in education. On the other hand, the Parish in which I live has the highest test scores in the state. Why is that? A racist might say because Orleans Parish is predominantly black and St. Tammany Parish is predominantly white. Others might say it is a rich poor thing. Again, these answers are too simple. I think the two parishes have populations who have been raised in very different ways.

My learning includes my what my mother, father, and extended family taught me and reinforced in their own behavior. I was overseen and guided. I was expected to live up to standards. School was important and my parents attended all of the school functions. They did not assume the teacher was wrong if I blamed her, they usually suspected my irresponsibility and they were usually right.

In contrast, Orleans Parish has an unbelievable number of children born into and living in single parent homes. Those children are often raised by the grandmother. The father has a high likelihood of dying by gunshot. He is also more likely to be on drugs or be in prison. The mothers tend to have several children by different men. The children experience neglect and often abuse. They are greatly affected by this kind of childhood. They observe their adult role models being irresponsible, not working, doing drugs, and committing crimes. They are not made to believe school is important and their parents rarely attend school functions.

Before Katrina, the New Orleans School Board was in shambles amid misuse of funds and other scandalous charges. Even the administrators of the schools were poor examples. Not long ago the number one student in one of the New Orleans High Schools was unable to do well enough on her ACT's to enter the college she wanted to attend.

Now many of these people I explained are also black. That is not to say it is because they are black. They do poorly because of the way they are brought up and because of the examples they have to observe and a host of other reasons.

The black community is done a disservice when Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton get into the fray, because these "leaders" perpetuate the doctrine of "It's not your fault, it is because of racism." Racism, by their definition is only white to black. Black people cannot be racist. This notion is of course incorrect. People are racist. We notice what race someone is and we have ideas about these folks ingrained from childhood. Those with tolerance, education, and good sense do not automatically judge an individual because they are one race or another. To notice that a group of criminals is black, white, or Mexican is not racist, it is basic observation skills. To say blacks commit crimes because that is what blacks do is a racist statement.

3. The Media: The conflict oriented media fans the flames of racism. They know the whites will be mad as hell anytime Jesse or Al get on O'rielly or CNN. It is good for their ratings. The segments have nice titles, but they are too short and include the extreme points of view. An argument passes for debate. Solutions are not sought, instead fingers are pointed and nothing gets solved.

4. Politics: Like the media, politics has become more about conflict than about statesmanship. I know there are good politicians, but there are a lot of bad ones who talk about saving money then add the pork to a totally unrelated bill. Character assassination prevails. A politician would not do what is right for a school system unless it also benefits their own political agenda, so often good ideas never see the light of day. The truth is, politics cannot solve the problems of New Orleans. Only an individual can control his or her behavior. Just think about gun laws and hate crimes. The idea is that if you pass a law, it will change behavior. It is already against the law to use a gun to shoot someone, it is called murder. If the murderer hated the person too is it a worse crime? Would that have prevented the murder? Will they go to jail longer?

In the case of Katrina, it was the worst hurricane ever to hit the US. People were told about it on Saturday. The lead up to the storm was evacuation. All of the politicians were on television saying how bad it was going to be and everyone should leave. Mayor Nagin did not make the evacuation order mandatory until Sunday. He wanted to on Saturday, but his attorney was afraid that if he made the order mandatory and some in the city lacking the means to get out could sue the city. This is another problem about the blame / personal responsibility issue. It is not Mayor Nagin's fault a hurricane is coming and it is not his fault if you don't have transportation.

Even with the mandatory evacuation order, people continued to drink on Bourbon Street thumbing their nose at the approaching storm. Those who had the means to leave the city but did not have no right to complain about conditions in the city after the hurricane. They shouldn't have been there.

Normally in a a hurricane, there are three early parts. Evacuation, weathering the storm, and clean up. Katrina gave us a few more parts. The city continued to flood and officials did not know why. It took a few days to figure it out and address it. This hampered rescue efforts. The storm was on a much larger scale than any storm before and overwhelmed relief systems, and distribution of food and fuel. The other new part was the unrest and crime. Katrina did not cause this, the people doing the crimes did. Rescuers were having to deal with people who were not cooperating and this was unexpected. By contrast, the people of New York displayed much better values and behavior by the way they worked together in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on that day.

This is a big mess. It is easy to blame the government. Take your pick, the President, FEMA, or the Red Cross. Blame away, but they are not responsible for an individual who chooses to steal a television over the option of helping an elderly lady get medical help.

Until the next time
John Strain


The Limits of Compassion

I did something tonight I rarely do. I told someone NO. Not just no, but hell no. Barbara, John, and Bear finally came home today. I worked at the hospital some in the morning and resolved the immediate medication problems for the patients I mentioned a post or so back.

Then I came home and began to give my own house some attention. Cleaning out the refrigerator is a job I should have done a few days ago. I witnessed sights and smells that would drive a dog off a gut wagon. Anyway, the next order of business was to set up my generator. That task went smoothly and by night fall, all of the wires were run and it was ready to crank up.

We ate out at a Mexican restaurant with Marty and Cindy. It was a pleasant evening and by 11:00 pm I was home. The house was hot and poor Bear was glad to see us. I cranked up the generator and it started on the first pull. Soon the refrigerator was purring and the AC was blowing cool air into our room.

Then the phone rang. It was the guy next door complaining of noise and noxious fumes blowing in his bedroom window. You would have to know the history here to know my reaction. Barbara had answered the phone, when she told me who it was and what he wanted, I blew my top. Still, I walked outside and angled the exhaust further away from his window.

5 minutes later the phone rings again. It’s him of course and he is whining about the noise and fumes. “We are all stressed and have been working very hard.” First of all, each time I have come home to get things to go back to the hospital, he has been swimming in his pool. Furthermore, this guy is independently wealthy and does not work at all. I suppose pulling sticks around his yard puts him in the high stress category.

I explained to my neighbor there was nothing I could or would do. I could not move it in the dark and restring all of the wires. The noise is a constant noise and the fumes will not hurt him.

The last two nights I have slept with a generator right outside the room. It is loud, but I slept fine.

He kept whining until I told him for the last time I was not going to shut it off and slammed the phone down. If you were to walk outside in these parts, you would think people were mowing their lawns at night with B29’s. They are loud, but many people have them.

I detest whiners especially when they have nothing to legitimately whine about.

So there, I am a social worker and a Christian and I like to help people. I think I just helped my neighbor realize he cannot control the world. Sometimes things are loud and do not smell good and sometimes there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 02, 2005


Katrina Photos

Here are a few Katrina damage photos in Covington, Louisiana.

Tree on highway 21 as Katrina winds down.
A tree top sits upside down on Highway 21 hurled by Katrina

Zenia Drive in  Flowers Estates South of Covington
Zenia Drive in Flowers Estates South of Covington

Zenia Drive in Flowers Estates South of Covington
Another view of Zenia Drive

A friend's house in Flowers Estates
A friend's house on Zenia Drive.

Until the next time
John Strain


A Need

People have been asking, “What can I do?” I have an answer to this question. Here at the hospital, we have been having former patients and others show up out or nearly out of medication. If they get off their meds, it is not good and they often require hospitalization to stabilize them again.

In the case of Patrick, he was just here. He went to the Mental Health Clinic in Mandeville and there were trees on it. His sister drove him to Rosenblum Mental Health Clinic in Hammond, but it was closed and no one knew when it would reopen.

His sister purchased a three day supply of his meds for $100. He has no where to turn, but here. He has his prescription, but cannot afford to buy them full price. Normally, he gets free meds at the state clinic.

He is not the first to come by and I anticipate there will be others. These folks need medications like: Seroquel, Risperdol, Zyprexa, Depakote, and others.

Are there any drug reps out there who can contact drug reps in this area? Are there any local drug reps reading this who can help. Patrick runs out of his Zyprexa 15mg on Sunday. We will find him medicine somehow.

Until the next time
John Strain


The Work Goes On

this is an audio post - click to play


Standing 8 Count

Like a weary boxer knocked off of his feet, this region has gotten on all fours and is pulling on the ropes to stand and fight again. Mother nature is smiling again and the blue sky is in stark contrast to Katrina's fury only a few days ago.

The people of Covington and surrounding towns are working together. Legions of linemen, tree men, utility companies, relief workers, and others are making huge strides in only a few days. The roads are cleared and debris is being stacked. The superlatives do not come close to describing the scale and scope of the destruction. The human impact is also impressive. Like our forefathers, we spend more of our time trying to figure out how to get the daily necessities satisfied. Things like washing clothes, bathing, brushing your teeth, drinking a coke, eating a sandwich, sleeping, and getting gas for your car, become something you have to think about.

I think running has prepared me for this stress. A lot of it is physical. The running relieves tension and gives me time to think. This whole event interests me. I am at the same time a participant and an observer. Being an observer is a way to distance one's self from what may be too difficult to bear. I know this is an event of historic proportion and I want to give it the effort such an event deserves.

I have been answering emails and trying to connect families.

There is laughter here too. I was talking to a man in the River Forest subdivision in Covington. He showed me how several large trees fell sparing his mailbox. It was a miracle. Then the day after the hurricane, someone backed over it and snapped the pole.

Marty and I were standing by a downed electrical pole looking at the transformer. As we stood there a police car pulled up. I looked at the officer and said in a dry manner, "Here's the reason we don't have any lights, this pole fell down." He laughed. There are of course thousands of broken poles.

Well, back to the emails.

There will certainly be more to come. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Until the next time
John Strain


Not Knowing

Communication continues to be sporadic. Thursday morning I made a long distance call and connected to the Internet via dial-up. I was thinking I had it made, but by midmorning, phone call attempts only yielded busy signals.

My Cingular phone is still useless in this area, while Verizon is working. I was amazed to see the responses on my last few posts and felt a great sense of responsibility to get information to people desperate to know about their family members and/or property.

I answered e-mails for two hours and had many more needing responses. When I got kicked off-line I had no way of continuing and it was frustrating. Not knowing is the order of the day.

A theme in the e-mails was, “The news only talks about New Orleans, do you know anything about Mandeville, Covington, Madisonville, or Slidell?”

If you have a loved one on the Northshore and have not been able to contact them, I want to ease your concern. Although our wind damage was extensive, most people rode out the storm just fine.

Katrina hit us with north wind, because we were west of the eye. My understanding is the winds in Covington were somewhere around 105 mph. Trees obviously fell mostly north to south. At first, I thought dodging Katrina meant we were OK, but the last few days has shown me the scope of her destruction.

The magnitude is beyond comprehension even if you drive around and see it for yourself. So many trees are down and the ones standing are heavily damaged. It will take a long time to clean up. When the trees fell, they took down power lines and snapped electric poles like toothpicks. Uprooted trees sometimes pulled up water and sewer pipes. The infrastructure suffered immense damage.

The worst flooding on the Northshore was around Lake Pontchartrain. The water came up to Monroe Street in Mandeville, which is four blocks from the Lakefront. I have heard some homes were completely destroyed there, but I have not been there and do not know the specifics. The damage runs from Baton Rouge to Panama City, Florida and inland from those points. Yesterday, we drove to Brookhaven, MS to get some generators and trees were snapped along I-55 that far north.

If you live in St. Tammany Parish, you most likely have trees down in your yard. The chances are 50/50 one of them is on your house. It is that way for other communities. Abita Springs, Sun, Bogalusa, Bush, Franklinton, and Folsom all experienced a similar fate. Some fared better than others, but we are talking property damage and downed trees, not loss of life.

I have been living like a nomad. I carry everything with me. A large plastic Target bag holds my nonperishable food, my rolling ice chest holds drinks and some remnants from our refrigerator. When I left the house, I grabbed some smoked sausage, cheese, orange juice, a container of blue berries, and a bag of carrots. I have a half a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and all of this makes for some fine meals.

I first learned to shave without a mirror, now I am doing it in the dark. I can’t see that well anyway so the shave by feel method was an easy adaptation.

I also carry my bag of clothes, camera bag, and laptop backpack. This has been necessary because I have not known where I would sleep, eat, or bathe. I spent Sunday and Monday nights at the hospital. Tuesday - Thursday, I stayed with my friend Marty.

I have thought of this as an adventure instead of a series of inconveniences. I have been working every day at the hospital. Once the patients were discharged, there was a lot of paperwork to complete. Yesterday, the owners told us they want to reopen the facility next week. They are having large generators brought in and large fuel tanks to feed them. We will be able to operate normally and have AC. With the destruction of the New Orleans hospitals, there is a need for hospital beds.

I guess the Tupelo Marathon is out. Gas is in short supply. Those who evacuated are stressing the towns to the north. It will take a while to get steady supply lines again. The things we take for granted, like gas, ice, and food are easily interrupted. I had no idea how fragile this was. Maybe I will run the marathon here in Covington. When I ran the Boston Marathon this year, servicemen in Iraq ran at the same time to be a part of it.

Barbara is coming back from Baton Rouge today. I have a surprise for her - a 5000 watt generator. Marty’s brother Tim works with someone who went to North Carolina to pickup a load of generators to sell. It is normally $600, but we each got one for the low price of $1,000. Home Depot sells them for that price too, I am not sure how that isn’t price gouging, but it will make the next month without power more tolerable. I can hook up my little window unit AC, lights, refrigerator, and TV (after I fix the satellite dish). It will also run the washer and dryer with a little plugging and unplugging.

I had planned to live in Baton Rouge with John if there would be a delay in my work, but since I will only be out a day or two the generator seemed the wise move. It would be brutal dealing with this heat for that length of time.

My next order of business is to get a chani saw to begin cleaning up my yard and help my neighbors if they need it. The daily challenge is getting ice and gasoline. The gas lines reminded me of the 70’s, but like the 70’s, most people accept it.

Last night in Hammond a jovial man directed traffic to the gas pumps. He would yell to another worker near the pumps, “I’ve got one here that fills on the left.” The other guy would yell back where the driver was to go. As we waited our turn, Marty said to the orange vested gas man, “You must be the most popular man in town.” Through a sly smile, the man said, “Unless you try to cut in line. There are at least two people in town who don’t think highly of me.” Most people get it and wait their turn, but a few think their needs out weigh the need to be a good citizen.

The reports I am hearing about lawlessness in New Orleans sicken me and embarrass me. Frankly, I am not surprised by the behavior, but I won’t get into that now. I need more time to mull this situation before I formulate my views. I am not there. Here on the Northshore my experience has been people helping each other. Marty’s wife Cindy was going to the Red Cross distribution site to get staples for some elderly folks. They are passing out MRE’s, 6 packs of water, and ice. Many streets were cleared by residents with chain saws, tractors, and elbow grease. The mood is friendly almost like the Christmas season. Even the air smells like Christmas trees.

Helicopters frequently fly overhead, convoys of bucket trucks and workers arrive daily. Shopping center parking lots are filled with work trucks. Tent cities are going to be built for the homeless.

I remember the movie Wizard of Oz. When the tornado swept house finally touched down in munchkin land, Dorothy and Toto emerged into a place that at first seemed uninhabited. Then the good witch appeared. Then slowly and steadily, the munchkins came out. Before you knew it they were singing, dancing, and treating Dorothy and Toto like celebrities. Katrina was like that. When the winds died down and we ventured out, my area was a sight out of a disaster movie. Each day brings more help. It feels very good to know so many are coming to help and so many are praying and so many have us in their thoughts. I know what it is like to observe a disaster from a distance. I did not think my little donation or comment on a blog was much in the way of help. I can tell you for a fact, that on this side of a disaster, those thoughts and prayers mean a great deal.

If you have questions about specific locations or people, I will do my best to get specifics for you. E-mail me and I will answer you when I can.

I hope to post some photos later today.

We are hanging in here. Spirits are good.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Phones are working now in a limited fashion. Now that I have Internet access, I will be able to bring you up to date with the happenings here from my vantage point. The following is a diary through Tuesday. I need to write about yesterday still.

I am overwhelmed by the comments. I have not read them all, but I know some of you asked questions about people and places. I will do what I can to obtain that information for you and post it here.

John Strain

Cut Off

Monday, August 29, 2005 7:00 PM

Katrina finally cut off all ties with the outside world. Although I have generator power, the phones no longer do long distance. No cell phones at all. I can make local calls and that is it.

I am sure folks are worried about me and it is frustrating not to be able to get word to them I am fine.

I don’t know when I will get to post this, but here is what happened the for the rest of Katrina’s visit.

I continued to watch the storm. It was fascinating and addicting. The building had an inset doorway where we could open the door, but be out of the wind. We watched pine trees snap and the air smelled like a Christmas tree farm pungent with pine. An adjacent building slowly yielded all of its siding to Katrina as homage. The intensity continued to increase. Occasional gusts gave short bursts of very powerful wind to overwhelm trees, road signs, and rooftops.

At one point, we feared the wind would cave in the front lobby. It is made of metal frames with large windows. The wind gusts were causing a visible movement and sounds of metal creaking was a bad omen. The maintenance crew fashioned a brace with some two by fours which took care of the problem.

Good news trickled in. The hurricane weakened slightly to a category four storm. Then she turned ever so slightly to the east and the feared direct hit became a near miss. The passed to our east and that meant we were on the weak side of the storm. We felt lucky and we felt concern for the poor devils taking Katrina’s full impact.

At noon or so, things were tapering off to the point, I rode with my friend Marty to do a recon mission to check out our houses. The damage was wide spread and severe. Roads were covered with green leaves and entire trees. Rows of trees were bent in one direction as though a giant hand reached down and reformed them.

Signs were down, traffic lights were broken and lying in intersections, trees sprawled across houses. Things looked blown up. A gas station over hang fell over, a live oak tree was uprooted. The damage was extensive and wide spread.

We had to turn around several times and try alternate routes because of tree covered roads. Eventually, we were a block from my house so we parked and walked. I have a large tree in the back that fell, but it fell in such a way, only the top corner of my shed was damaged. This is a huge water oak tree and it looks even bigger lying on the ground. The house was fine, no damage, broken windows, or anything else (from a quick assessment).

Trees were down all over the neighborhood. Trees that did not fall were stripped of their foliage. I looked across the street into what seemed to be too much light. Then I realized that the trees left standing had no leaves. Things are different indeed.

I took some perishables from the refrigerator and packed another change of clothes. After getting back to the truck, we set out to see how Marty fared. Unfortunately, we could not get to his house. He has large pines around his home and the fear of course is one or more hit the house. A policeman stopped us and made us go back.

It is going to take a long time to get things back to “normal.” Another coworker made it to her house and reported even more devastation. More trees and many of them are on houses. A large oak tree next to her house was uprooted and is leaning against it. The roof damage it caused opened it up to the elements and she has water running down her walls and into her downstairs kitchen.

Reality is beginning to sink in. I made a stellar financial move this year. I wanted to save on my homeowners insurance so I increased my deductible to $1,000. Very shrewd. Now that I need to make a claim, I am responsible for a grand instead of just $500. That’s life.

You all probably know a lot more about the damage than I do. Without phones and electricity, information is spotty. We do have a TV around here and the local station has been on. I need to go check out the aftermath.

Katrina is another chapter in my book now, but she churns on north, no doubt making the lives of millions of people interesting.

I am thankful to be safe and to have my family safe. This has been an adventure, now I have to pay for the thrill. Does anyone have a chain saw I can borrow?

Thanks once again to everyone for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. In my book, they changed the course of my destruction and made a lady named Katrina take one step to the right.

Until the next time
John Strain

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 11:00 AM
Man that floor is hard. I woke up in the middle of the night several times with a bad pain in my shoulder and neck. As uncomfortable as it was, I thought of the folks sleeping on rooftops and my pain did not seem so bad.

Before I went to be, the Mayor of New Orleans came on television and recited a litany of damages to the city. It appears the I-10 twin spans from Slidell to New Orleans east was destroyed – it is completely gone. The Causeway has shifted and traffic is limited to essential emergency vehicles. It may be closed. Water in the city is still rising and they do not know why for sure. The levees are breached in several spots making it impossible to pump water out of the city.

Many bodies are floating in the water and they are being ignored for now as rescue workers are turning their attention to rescuing people who are still alive. They suspect houses, now under water contain the bodies of those who were trapped in their attics. When the water rises, people go into their attic. If they do not have an ax to break out and the water continues to rise, they drown.

An oil tanker was beached and is leaking. The flood water is tainted with sewage and chemicals. The roads are impassable even if the flood waters were to recede. New Orleans will never be the same and it will be months before anyone can return. The entire electric grid will need to be rebuilt. The water and sewers are destroyed. New Orleans is a city without infrastructure.

In Covington, thousands of trees are down. Roads are being cleared. Power is out and water is off. Many homes are damaged or destroyed. To our east where the eye traveled, Slidell is even more decimated.

Jim the security guard went to check on his house in Slidell. He came back this morning and said he could only get to within half a mile to it in his truck. He waded chest deep water and crawled through trees to get the rest of the way. His house was smashed under the weight of four huge pine trees. It will be a total loss. Jim was on his way to Houston to stay with family. He looked dazed.

Jan’s new home met a similar fate and sustained tree damage. Susan’s house has a tree on it.

I thought Katrina side stepped us at the last minute. That may be, but she slapped the hell out of us with her left hand as she passed by.

I awoke at 5:00 am to go on my 4 mile run. This is taper week for the Tupelo Marathon. It is important to keep your life as normal as you can. Not running would be far worse to me. Sometimes people go into panic mode and let their routine completely slide. Running is one thing to confirm to my mind and body that life is still sort of normal. I thought about that as I watched a beautiful sunrise. The brilliant blue sky, the morning colors, and the cool air were in sharp contrast to yesterday’s weather with Katrina.

I ran on a bed of pine needles and branches. The streets had been semi-cleared. During the night, crews drug trees or cut them up to open one lane of traffic. The smell of pine was strong. Trees were broken off everywhere and usual sights looked starkly different.

I sensed a difference in moods. Patience was being strained as folks were being pulled between their responsibilities at the hospital and wanting to see about their homes and families. We are still without communication and now, local calls don’t even work.

I was fortunate, very fortunate, but I really did not worry about my house or things. My relationships and memories are what I most cherish. A hurricane may kill me, but it could never destroy those important things. Material goods can be replaced or lived without altogether.

I walked through a neighborhood across from the hospital with my camera. I spoke to some of the residents and we compared notes about the storm. We are all amazed at the shear power of it all. We all have the same concerns and that makes a bond. It is too bad we only seem to cooperate and help each other in tragedy and not at other times.

We all have a lot of work ahead of us; there are homes to repair, trees to haul away, and other unseen obstacles to endure. I do not like to think of being a survivor, that sounds to passive. I will be an over comer. This is just another day. I will take it as it comes and do the best I can. When I get tired I will rest, when I get hungry I will eat, and when I get thirsty I will drink. Isn’t that what we do every other day?

Until the next time
John Strain