Open your eyes and see.

I remember something medical ethicist Art Caplan once told me in an interview, which I’ll paraphrase here: “Americans are great at saving the baby from the well.” (This was not long after the Baby Jessica story, which most of you will recall.) He went on: “We’re not so great at buying her a pair of glasses so she can see the well in the first place.” In the disaster in Texas — in every disaster — a lot of people have valiantly, heroically, pitched in to save the baby from the well.

That link goes to a WashPost story on the “Cajun Navy,” the assemblage of mostly Louisiana people who turn out with their low-draft boats to save people left in dire straits by floodwaters. I believe they first came to national prominence in the northern Louisiana floods last year, and they’ve turned out to help in Houston, of course. And that is a great thing, because lives are in acute danger. What’s much harder is caring about people when they’re not in danger, when they’re not wading chest-deep through the wreckage of their lives, holding their pets on their shoulders, or their children, or each other.

It’s harder — for some people, anyway — to admit that climate change is having a direct effect on these storms, and maybe we should swallow hard and make some difficult decisions. Maybe it’s time to buy the baby some glasses.

During the 1993 Mississippi floods, some towns were so inundated that after the waters receded the hard decision was made to actually relocate them, to rebuild on bluffs instead of bottomland. This wasn’t 100 percent popular — history blah blah blah 500 year storms blah blah blah — but cooler heads prevailed. Or maybe they were cash-register heads, because the argument was pretty plain: If we want to rebuild on this soggy plain, we will be uninsurable, period. The next flood will take what it wants with no hope of recompense. And so the town trudged up the hill, and rebuilt there.

The floods in Houston are said to be similarly rare, a once-in-five-lifetimes thing, even though other no-way storms and damage have hit with more yes-way frequency in recent years – Katrina, Sandy and the the 2016 Louisiana floods, to name but two. Just in my little corner of the world, we have inches-in-not-many-hours rain events nearly every year, filling basements, closing freeways and overwhelming infrastructure that once could handle anything. We had one last night, in fact. We had one last summer. In 2014, Detroit got four to six inches of rain in four hours one night in August, doing a cool $1 billion in damage. And chances are, you didn’t even hear about it.

Maybe it’s time to buy the baby some glasses. Climate change is a done deal, southern Louisiana is nearly lost, but perhaps we can start acknowledging that this thing our modern age did to the planet exists, and plan or modify our infrastructure accordingly. At the very least. Something.

Otherwise, it’s just us and the Cajun Navy, CNN, and the rest of this televised pathos-porn we love so much. Which is not enough.

So, bloggage:

This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. A complicated woman, a tabula rasa for the princess fantasies of millions of young women, who were collectively flattened by her violent end in a traffic accident, as a drunk-driving chauffeur tried to outrun a pack of photographers. I stuck with that story three days before I couldn’t watch another minute, but it went on for three weeks, maybe more. It was a rare case of worldwide hysteria. I mostly remember snapshots:

My local Borders bookstore had a table set up with a blank notebook, where customers could write their thoughts and condolences, with the promise it would be sent to the royal family. The pen was one of those with a feather glued to a ballpoint, I guess because it seemed more princess-y. There was a bud vase with a single flower and a box of Kleenex. This was an exercise that would arouse strong emotions; you needed a tissue. I wonder whether the book was ever sent, and if so, which mail clerk in the royal retinue fed it to the furnace and whether he laughed over it first: “Nigel, it says ‘ere, ‘Charles U R a monster and U deserve that horseface hag.’ Ha-ha!”

The classic-car auction in Auburn, Ind. a couple days later featured a Rolls-Royce with a single claim to fame — it had been used to carry Charles and Diana around on one day of a years-earlier trip to the U.S. Which is to say, she had sat in it for… maybe an hour? Two, tops? Sounds about right. The auctioneer treated this thing like it was the jawbone of a saint with centuries worth of provenance to back it up. The dumbasses at the auction lined up to fling some gladiolus stems into the back seat, like they were seeing on TV in London. I’m sure some tissues were dampened there, too. That they were bestowing near-religious significance on a car, to commemorate the death of a woman who had just died in a car? This seemed lost on them.

I wrote a column after 10 days or so wondering if maybe we weren’t all getting a little overexcited. I received a letter from a woman accusing me of hating Diana for her beauty, because I was so plain. That’s the word she used — plain. I’ve been on Team Camilla ever since, because Plain Girls Rock, or at least Survive. Plain girls don’t date vapid playboys and entrust themselves to their private-sector chauffeurs, anyway. At least I hope not.

My favorite single detail of the whole tawdry affair: Four people were in that car, three of them unsecured, all of whom died. The fourth, the princess’ palace-issued bodyguard, was sitting in the passenger seat. He fastened his seat belt, and survived. Let’s all lift a glass to Trevor Rees-Jones, and remember to buckle up.

Oh, and here’s a Hilary Mantel essay about Diana.

Finally, I remember Alex met an earlier partner at an event in Huntington, Ind., called the Nut Fry. Apparently nut fries are a thing in Indiana, and no less an authority than Rex Early, aka a “GOP power broker” used to host one.

And now you know.

Posted at 8:45 pm in Current events |
 

71 responses to “Open your eyes and see.”

  1. alex said on August 29, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    It was in Lagro, actually, a little outside of Huntington. And we were at the super-secret closeted gay bar which was in an old bank building adjacent to the American Legion where the nut fry was taking place.

    Shit’s gone to hell. It was kind of charming and in good repair back in the day. Look at it now:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.836342,-85.7279699,3a,75y,351.52h,92.73t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sLz60A2iuOG6_6K_5PFWAfg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

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  2. Suzanne said on August 29, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Never heard of a nut fry. Learn something new every day!

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  3. Deborah said on August 29, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I’ve probably told this story here before, my only near miss of being in the same room with princess Di. I had made a business trip to London, a red eye, flew all night and arrived in the early morning where I was expected to put in a full day of work after getting not one wink of sleep on the flight. We had an insane client who had invited us all at the office to a party he was hosting after a rock concert. I was so beat after my all night flight and a full day of work at the London office, I begged off of attending and of course Princess Di showed up at the party and I missed it. I have been kicking myself over that ever since.

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  4. adrianne said on August 29, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post is NOT HAVING IT with Trump’s flyby in Texas.”What a crowd. What a turnout.” She lets it rip. Good for her.

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  5. beb said on August 29, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Even when reading from a teleprompter Trump is unable to project gravitas. When he speaks extempore he sounds like such a moron. Like a lot of people here I can’t imagine what it’s like to get forty inches of rain. The four inches that Nancy mentions that Detroit got a couple years ago was an insane amount for this Midwesterner. Getting ten times that amount is (to borrow from The Princess Bride) inconceivable.

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  6. basset said on August 30, 2017 at 1:02 am

    We got not quite twenty inches in two days when our part of Nashville flooded in 2010, can’t imagine what fifty must be like.

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  7. Ellen said on August 30, 2017 at 1:52 am

    Fifty inches. It started with drizzle/slow rain on Friday. It began to rain in earnest on Saturday. High water patches began to well up on the highway feeder roads by late afternoon. The tornado warnings started then. We don’t have basements, so we were in the kitchen pantry for the two that were closest to our house. By Saturday night and all day Sunday, the rain was mostly torrential. Three to four inches per hour at times, with “breaks” for light drizzle. The water started pooling in the street, so we started to move things upstairs on Saturday night. The water started to come over the curb, past the sidewalk, and up the yard. And it kept raining. Go to bed, it is raining. Get up, it is raining. The water got to the top of the slab and the threshold of our door. The rate of rain slowed to 1/2 inch to one inch per hour on Monday. The water level held steady and then started to drop. The rain didn’t stop until Tuesday. Fifty inches. I have rarely felt so helpless.

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  8. Dexter said on August 30, 2017 at 2:07 am

    More recall Baby Jessica , because she was down in the well so long, than they remember Cecelia Crocker. Gotta think on that one, I bet, except for beb & Crazy Cat Lady & nance, because in Detroit in summer, 1987, a horrific crash at Met
    ro left little Miss Crocker burned but alive, and then a new news cycle commenced. Too fast for momentum to build. I suppose I remember that crash so well because we had just driven past the airport when the crash happened. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/lone-survivor-1987-plane-crash-breaks-silence-19198914

    The Lady Di death, riding with no seatbelt, unforgettable because as I have stated here, I am a “Saved By the Belt” driver, surviving when my Citation was 95% cut in two when hit by a giant pickup truck which had blown by a stop sign.

    My online long-time AA pal Rick recently left NorCal for San Antonio and at 11:00 PM he and a crew set out on a big raft to help rescue folks in Katy towards Houston.
    Remember in ’82 or thereabouts when Fort Wayne flooded and Ronald Reagan came to town? A crazy guy I worked with was chucking sandbags by the Tennessee Avenue Bride and Reagan spoke to him a bit. Big hi-lite in that dumb-shit’s life. It was a long time ago…maybe it wasn’t even Fort Wayne…wait…it was Fort Wayne fersure Video for ronald reagan fort wayne visit in 1982 at 9:23
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n7cidNWD0Q

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  9. Dexter said on August 30, 2017 at 2:48 am

    It’s a strange and beautiful world, eh? Here’s some levity, or irony, or weirdness… true romance… http://nypost.com/2017/08/29/i-was-a-neo-nazi-until-i-fell-in-love-with-a-black-woman/

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  10. ROGirl said on August 30, 2017 at 5:56 am

    A big chunk of the population growth in Houston is due to the Katrina evacuees who never went back to Louisiana.

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  11. Dorothy said on August 30, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Even if I wanted to not think about the death of Diana every year, it’s impossible. Because it happened on my 40th birthday, and now it’s the 20th anniversary and Lord help me but the stories and remembrances are swirling around again. Somewhere I read a couple of weeks ago that the force of the accident caused such severe internal injuries that it caused her heart to move towards the other side of her chest cavity. Think about that. It hurts my ribs just thinking about it.

    I tend to think about how her sons were impacted by it, rather than the world and her fans. Losing your mother when you’re 16 and 12 is (also) inconceivable. The consequences are constant for awhile. My mother-in-law had an identical twin (Mary Grace) who died suddenly when she was 36. Just like Diana. Mary Grace had a daughter who was 12 when she died. It set off a series of events in his family that are too numerous to detail. Suffice to say the misery lasted for a long, long time. Fame and fortune don’t really matter when you’re so young and you lose a parent. Mary Grace died on my husband’s sixth birthday. So my mother-in-law was miserable all the time, but even more so on their birthday (April 5) and then on the anniversary of Mary Grace’s death.

    Yeesh but I’m Dorothy Downer today, aren’t I?! Sorry – don’t mean to be. I forgot to wish Jeff a happy birthday yesterday. He shared a birthday with Michael Jackson, until Michael wasn’t around to celebrate them anymore. (Here I go again….time to hit ‘submit comment’ eh?) I am 363 days older than Mr. Jackson.

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  12. Suzanne said on August 30, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Dorothy, I was born the same year (in the same state!) as Michael Jackson. Shortly before he died, I mentioned to a young guy I was working with that I was the same age as MJ. He was amazed and kept saying, “No way. No way!!” I guess in the long run, I fared better than Michael. I am still alive!

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on August 30, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Dorothy, I’m counting on you to fill me on navigating the 60s; coming up right behind! Happy birthday.

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  14. basset said on August 30, 2017 at 7:46 am

    I’ll be old enough for Social Security on Saturday… not gonna file quite yet but, along with Jeff TMMO, I am here to learn.

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  15. Connie said on August 30, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Long ago after a flood in the ?1930s? the town of Leavenworth Indiana moved up the bluff from the river front. There’s an excellent restaurant there with an amazing Ohio river view.

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  16. Connie said on August 30, 2017 at 8:13 am

    OK details. “Old Leavenworth” (the original town, now practically abandoned) was almost completely wiped out by the huge 1937 Ohio River flood, as it was built directly on the floodplain. The actual move of the town was greatly assisted by the WPA.

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  17. Heather said on August 30, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I missed out on seeing Di too. She came to Northwestern University for an official visit while I was working there, maybe around 1995 or so, and for some reason I didn’t make the effort. I just didn’t want to deal with the crowds. Can’t say it keeps me up at night though.

    Having lost my mother at an early age, I have often thought about her sons too, and am glad to see they turned out pretty well. Whatever flaws she had, she certainly put a lot of work into being a loving mother, and you can see the results.

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  18. brian stouder said on August 30, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Happy birthday Connie! My b-day was 8 weeks after JFK was inaugurated – so all the fun stuff (retirement) is still a little ways up the road

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  19. Julie Robinson said on August 30, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Happy Birthday, Dorothy, and one day late, Jeff tmmo.

    Rogirl, I’ve been thinking about the Katrina refugees struggling with Harvey. Ellen, my sister remembers being in a hurricane that lasted four or five days with a similar feeling of dread. Was the wind howling, too? She found that the worst.

    All my memories of Diana’s death are wrapped up in almost dying myself, and it’s difficult even at a remove of 20 years to separate them. I had just been hospitalized with an infection and my fever was a little out of control at 105-106. Every time a nurse came in there would be news–Diana had been in an accident, it was severe. it didn’t look good, on and on. As they were packing ice all around my body to bring my temp down they told me she had died (great bedside manner–right? except I didn’t realize how sick I was). The whole thing was surreal and at times I thought I had hallucinated it.

    The entire time I was in the hospital, it was the only thing on TV. As I recovered at home, there was nothing else on and I was too weak to do anything except lay in bed. The hagiography work began immediately, and was pushed especially hard by ABC who wanted every little girl to think she could grow up to be a princess. Even when that led to a miserable life and death, I guess.

    Anyway, my real takeaway is gratitude for antibiotics. I missed my daughter’s 17th birthday while I was in the hospital, but I’m around to celebrate her 37th on Sunday. I’ll take that any day over wearing a tiara.

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  20. nancy said on August 30, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Just popping in to say I hope Ellen is still dry and well.

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  21. Sherri said on August 30, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Here’s something I haven’t been able to get a good understanding of about Houston, as a land-use nerd. I know here in Redmond, we’re updating our regulations concerning Low Impact Development, which concerns stormwater runoff and how it is handled. So, there are limits on the amount of impermeable space on a lot, and requirements on handling runoff on the site as much and as naturally as possible. My understanding is this was not just because Redmond is a community that cares about the environment, but because state and federal regulations require it, like the Clean Water Act.

    I get the sense that Houston doesn’t have such requirements, or many requirements at all on land-use. (This is not a new impression from Harvey, I’ve had that sense for some time). So, how is that possible? Is Houston really that unregulated? I know one issue for us is that we use an aquifer that is really close to the surface for part of our water supply, so protecting that is really important, but Houston uses groundwater, too, and the water table there is pretty high. Is it simply that our state regulations are more stringent (almost certainly true) and that the Clean Water Act requirements are pretty limited?

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  22. Dorothy said on August 30, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Goodness yes – I wrote my blather before 6:00 this morning and meant to acknowledge Ellen and ask her if they have moved to a dry, safe location. Please update us when you can, Ellen!

    And Julie I don’t think you ever told us about that situation 20 years ago. I’m so glad you’re here to tell us the story now!

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  23. Deborah said on August 30, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Sorry to bring this up when the comment thread hasn’t been about Trump, this seems quite astonishing, I found it through a link that Ed from Gin and Tacos included in a piece he wrote for Rolling Stone. When you see all of the mentions in the press combined like this from Trump admin staff and aides where they have mentioned how Trump is treated like a toddler it is truly mind boggling https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/21/the-trump-as-toddler-thread-explained-and-curated/?utm_term=.1dff117bc604

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  24. basset said on August 30, 2017 at 11:03 am

    I don’t think Houston even has zoning… free country, y’know, don’t tell me what to do…

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  25. Bitter Scribe said on August 30, 2017 at 11:16 am

    This may be contrarian, but I’m much more a fan of Prince Charles than I was of Diana. I don’t mean I look up to him exactly, but I think he’s much more worthy of sympathy. Unlike Diana, he didn’t choose to be in the British royal family. He was shipped off to a perfectly ghastly boarding school in Scotland where he was ostracized and beaten, apparently because the other little shits wanted to show how tough they were by pushing around the future king. At age 68, he’s been Prince of Wales longer than any other. And his attempts to do something with his life besides waiting for his mother to die have been met with nearly unmitigated ridicule.

    As for Diana, according to a new bio of Charles, she abused him verbally (and sometimes physically) during their marriage. The tl;dr on that piece Nancy linked to was that she was basically a spoiled brat.

    If Charles’s luck remains what it has throughout his life, he’ll die six months or so after his mother does.

    Sherri @#21: As far as I can tell, all forms of zoning, city planning and civil engineering are considered socialism in Texas.

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  26. Peter said on August 30, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Sherri, I’ve done a couple of projects in Houston, and let me tell you, unincorporated villages in Wisconsin are far stricter about land use than Houston. This is the place that has an entrance and exit to an amusement park on opposite sides of an existing single family home. We have an acquaintance out there who bought a house in a nice subdivision and the next year someone two doors down turned their place into a butcher shop with live poultry.

    One of my consultants in Houston lives in Cypress Ridge. She’s upriver and a little higher than one of the reservoirs, and she’s got water in the living room. She said they moved everything upstairs, and they tied a rowboat to a second floor window, so if it got too high they would just climb out of that window into the boat.

    Some years ago our part of Chicago got eight inches of rain in two hours, and our basement got a few feet of water. By the time I made it home from work the water had already drained out; while the damage was done, at least I didn’t have to contend with stating water. I don’t know how I would react if I was in Houston now.

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  27. Deborah said on August 30, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I lived in Spring, north of Houston for a year, my first year of marriage to my ex. It was a terrible year for a lot of reasons. I taught in Houston and my commute was unbelievable, worst traffic I’ve ever experienced (except for Rome which was terrifying). The school where I taught was in a residential area except there was a factory down the street. And Houston always smelled bad to me, like burning rubber. It was also very humid. I was happy to move away. My husband (current one) lived in Houston for a short time about 15 years after I lived there, he liked it. It has probably changed a lot for the better since I lived there, well, except for now.

    Ellen, I hope things improve soon.

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  28. Icarus said on August 30, 2017 at 11:39 am

    don’t know if this has been shared here already….

    “We have, in other words, unprecedented challenges coming our way at the exact point at which our elected officials have the least vision and foresight. Good luck.”

    http://www.ginandtacos.com/2017/08/27/quite-the-coincidence/

    I read somewhere that Houston is quite liberal in the zoning rules and that impermeable space is ridiculously high there.

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  29. nancy said on August 30, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Houston has no zoning. It’s one of the things it’s proudest of. #freedom However, I figure there’s no way that rich people would let their neighborhood be turned into a poultry farm, and there must be some fairly stiff restrictive covenants in those areas.

    I had a job interview there after my fellowship, in 2004. Strange place. When I mentioned that I really don’t like hot weather, my guide told me how they’ve “air-conditioned the outdoors,” based on something they do with the baseball stadium and at some parks. In the end, the arguments for Houston came down to great Mexican food, cheap gas, air-conditioned outdoors and the chance to spend Christmas Day outdoors in shorts.

    I didn’t get an offer, but they told me they decided not to fill the position. Dunno whether they were lying or not, but I really don’t care. It wasn’t my kind of town.

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  30. Jeff Borden said on August 30, 2017 at 11:57 am

    It’s odd timing, but last week “CBS Sunday Morning” showed a rerun of a visit to Amsterdam, which included a look at how the Netherlands works to keep out the seas. Needless to say, they invested billions in elaborate locks and dams after a deadly storm in the 1950s killed thousands of Dutch people. England also has spent billions to create a barrier that would prevent storm surges from rolling up the Thames and wiping out London. And then there is our nation.

    Even our most basic infrastructure –streets, highways, railways, bridges, water and sewer systems– is shit. Three of the 10 bridges I cross when traveling on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago are rated a D for integrity. There a potholes in Chicago that resemble the sinkholes in Florida and railroad crossings in suburbs like Des Plaines that lack over or underpasses, snarling traffic for miles around. The bill for repairing, upgrading or replacing our failing infrastructure has been estimated at more than $3 trillion, or roughly what we will have wound up wasting on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. . .so far.

    Perhaps the destruction of Houston –and I would argue that is the proper word– will spur a national debate on what we need to do to secure our nation and its place among first-world countries. But with a feckless buffoon in the Oval Office and a Congress largely made up of invertebrates, it’s more likely we instead will waste more billions and trillions on bullshit ranging from the Southern border wall to ever more and ever more expensive weapons projects.

    How can we put a stop to this madness? I have no clue.

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  31. Sherri said on August 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Yes, I always heard that Houston didn’t really believe in zoning, but what I find curious is that when LID changes came before the Planning Commission here last year, we were told that changes were needed to comply with federal requirements (specifically, our NPDES permit). Even before joining the PC, I could tell Redmond took stormwater runoff seriously; there are detention ponds all over the place, and when our church built an expansion a few years ago, first we had to build an underground cistern to handle storm water before we could cover any new part of the lot with impermeable surface (not cheap). Now, knowing a little more about the subject, I can spot even more ways, and more modern ways, stormwater is handled in Redmond, like with raingardens.

    Obviously, Houston has more intense storms than we do, even absent hurricanes, but how is it that they don’t have to do LID for their NPDES? Maybe it’s just that the requirements of the NPDES were quite minimal, and our state requirements higher, and what Redmond chooses to do higher. There are areas where Redmond tries to be ahead of the curve, and the environment is one of those areas. (Sometimes to an excess, I’ll admit; our tree regulations can be pretty silly.)

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  32. Jeff Borden said on August 30, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    From the always reliable Charles P. Pierce. . .

    http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/

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  33. alex said on August 30, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    LID for my NPDES. Sounds naughty.

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  34. Sherri said on August 30, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Always happy to give you a thrill, Alex.

    Low Impact Development for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. Our aquifer, and that it’s so close to the surface in a big chunk of the city, has big impacts on how development can happen, so I’ve learned a lot over the last year and a half. In particular, underground parking for multistory buildings can’t be done.

    But parking is a whole other fascinating topic.

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  35. Suzanne said on August 30, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Jeff Borden, I don’t think we can put a stop to the madness of the tea party mentality. For them, government of any kind is never, ever a solution to anything except religious (Christian) protections and abortion/birth control.
    Indiana has seen how well it works to outsource infrastructure projects on the I69 extension. But they never stop trying.

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  36. Connie said on August 30, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Some places have begun taxing those impermeable surfaces. In Elkhart County that storm water tax applied to buildings not usually taxed such as churches and the public library.

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  37. Sherri said on August 30, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    On infrastructure, in so many ways, we’ve been coasting on New Deal and Cold War spending. Actually, not just in infrastructure, but also in science. Relying on the whims of rich white men to fund science is getting us money spent on space travel and life extension, so they can live forever on Mars.

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  38. Jakash said on August 30, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    I was amazed and kinda perplexed by “the full Diana,” as Neil Steinberg refers to completely over-the-top mourning sessions for certain celebrities. The extent and length of the grieving, particularly in *this* country, for a stranger whose life had no real impact on the vast majority of folks, baffled me. But, I’m easily baffled and was pretty much of a curmudgeon, even then.

    What I remember most is that that was one of the last, or *the* last, huge events that I found out about by picking up the newspaper in the morning. Went to bed knowing nothing about what had happened, woke up to screaming headlines about her death.

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  39. Ellen said on August 30, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you so much for the positive vibes. We are dry! Water is just about out of the street. We have been an “island” since Saturday night. Several of my neighbors got some water in their houses, but it was inches, not feet, unlike so many others. The water was literally at our threshold, so it is just chance that we did not get any in our house. We had about 2″ in the garage, but even that did not get to the drywall.

    I have friends, work colleagues, and students (I teach high school) who have lost everything. As soon as I can get out, I will start to help them clean up.

    Houston/Harris County has no zoning. There are restrictions about things like liquor stores and strip clubs next to schools, but that is about it.

    Within the city and county, there are master-planned communities, and they have deed restrictions and “zoning.” Many are governed by HOA’s, which is a whole different can of worms. We have always lived in master-planned communities.

    The rapid, near-unrestricted development of Houston is definitely one of the main factors in the flooding. But if you live here long enough, you realize nowhere in Houston is guaranteed dry. The city is flat. The flood-zone maps are outdated as soon as the next development pops up. If it rains over your house long enough, it will probably flood.

    We were here for TS Allison. After spending a sleepless night imagining the cost of remediation and sheetrock replacement, we purchased flood insurance. We have not gone without since. We haven’t used it yet, but that is only due to luck, not because our house is particularly better situated than anyone else’s.

    If you want to donate, here is the local charities list again. https://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2017/8/29/donate-to-these-local-houston-charities

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  40. Scout said on August 30, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks for the update, Ellen. The sister of a good friend of mine spent the weekend on the 2nd floor of her house with her husband, two dogs, two cats and a parrot. I hope the water has receded there too, I haven’t received any recent updates.

    Even though social media shamed Joel Osteen into finally opening up his megachurch to the afflicted, the mockery continues. As it should.
    https://twitter.com/HistoricTweetss/status/902933295633227776

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  41. Judybusy said on August 30, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks for the update, Ellen. I’m glad that you’re dry and that your students and community have you.

    Suzanne @35, you forgot GUNS.

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  42. Dexter said on August 30, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Great post, Jeff Borden. I used to park off Halsted and hike to Comiskey Park…one entire section of sidewalk had collapsed into a deep deep hole and there was not even a barricade there. And across the street there was a mom & pop hardware that featured a huge spring rat trap with a giant rubber rat in the wire death position. Big seller on the South Side. Trucks continually smashed into overpasses because the clearance was too low. And in the 60s, the Dan Ryan was divided only by a grassy strip and in places a flimsy wire fence, and the entire median area was deep garbage. It was kind of shocking and I’d think embarrassing.

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  43. Sherri said on August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    On a different topic, I think this is a pretty good explainer about what happened when someone at Google’s favorite think tank was critical of Google: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/30/16226616/barry-lynn-google-new-america

    Eric Schmidt is not the most thin-skinned tech mogul out there, but he’s definitely on the list.

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  44. Mark P said on August 30, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I knew when Trump went to Texas to view the storm damage, something would be the biggest or the best or some other superlative. Sure enough, he said the damage repair would be the biggest cost to the country ever. Forgot about Iraq and Afghanistan I guess.

    I’m sure everyone in the US will be happy to chip in to help those freedom-loving, self-reliant Texans rebuild the shiny city their freedom-loving ways caused to be destroyed. Me neither!

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  45. Charlotte said on August 30, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Diana’s death is all tangled up in my memory with feverishly studying for my impending PhD exams. At Utah, because the lit professors don’t really approve of the creative writing PhD, they have a nasty habit of failing students on 1 of 3 exams, and telling them they can come back next year to take it. I was petrified, and wired to the gills on anxiety and green tea, and then the Diana Death Cult broke out. Not quite like Julie Robinson upthread, but still a swirl of surreal memory.

    And Houston is where I didn’t go to grad school, because my brother said “You can’t go there. I’ve been there and you’ll hate it and you’ll call me every night crying.” It was a better program, but I don’t know if I could have lived there.

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  46. Bitter Scribe said on August 30, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Regarding Baby Jessica: A silver lining is that it inspired an absolutely classic Simpsons episode in which Bart threw a walkie-talkie down a well and pretended to be a trapped little boy. It featured a “celebrity benefit song” that was a deliciously wicked parody of “We Are the World” (“Though we can’t get him out, we’ll do the next best thing/We’ll go on TV and sing, sing, sing”).

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  47. Connie said on August 31, 2017 at 8:08 am

    So the Indy Star web page no longer looks “Gannett”. The Free Press still does. Just wondering.

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  48. basset said on August 31, 2017 at 8:38 am

    The Nashville Tennessean looks pretty much like the Star, complete with popups, banners, rollovers, whatever you call all those things which get in the way. Somewhere there’s a 24-year-old in a little room with a bunch of monitors trying to make everything comply with the marketing plan…

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  49. 4dbirds said on August 31, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I do get wistful when celebrities from my era die. Maybe even slightly shocked if they’re young. I do not however, grieve for them. I got in trouble on a grief group on Facebook recently. The subject was Diana and I mentioned how people acted like their very own had died and how I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it because I’ve been through the death of a child and let me tell you there is no more motherfucking pain than that. I highly doubt anyone was in that shape who didn’t know her personally. Well, I was accused of dismissing others grief and I should edit or delete the post. I left the group. Hey, what can I say. I’m a bitch and your sadz is not grief.

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  50. brian stouder said on August 31, 2017 at 9:19 am

    4dbirds – well said!

    Life is strange; sometimes cruel, sometimes joyful – and ‘technically unexplainable’ (as the Wizard of Oz says, at the ceremony before the balloon lifts off)

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  51. Judybusy said on August 31, 2017 at 9:37 am

    You are right on, 4dbirds. Good for you for leaving the group. I am also glad to see you here more often.

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  52. Ellen said on August 31, 2017 at 9:40 am

    This. https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/08/this-is-probably-the-worst-us-flood-storm-ever-and-ill-never-be-the-same/

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  53. Sherri said on August 31, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for that article,Ellen, and for pointing us to spacecityweather. I’m glad you’ve come through this more or less okay.

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  54. Deborah said on August 31, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Yes, I agree that link Ellen provided is well, well worth reading. It will certainly be interesting to see how Texas and the Federal gov handle the catastrophe in Houston. The understatement of the year is that there are going to be lots and lots of people in dire straights. Trump’s tone deafness to that fact is depressing.

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  55. Sherri said on August 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

    More freedom, from the Dallas News in 2013: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/news/2013/05/25/texas-prohibits-nearly-70-percent-of-its-counties-from-having-a-fire-code

    In libertarian paradise and self-responsibility world, all should be hunky-dory, right? Texas won’t be asking the rest of us for any tax money, right?

    Obviously, I believe that we do owe an obligation to Texas. But it would be nice if they were to recognize a mutual obligation to not ignore reality.

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  56. Sherri said on August 31, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Insight into the NYTimes opinion page: https://theoutline.com/post/2196/the-nyt-opinion-section-is-bad

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  57. Suzanne said on August 31, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Interesting thoughts on Diana. She and Chuck were married the same year my husband & I were, just a few weeks apart.
    When Dale Earnhart died, the local funeral home put out a condolences book for people to sign. Someone stopped my husband as he was going into the funeral home for a visitation to ask him if he was there to sign the Dale Earnhart book and could hardly believe he wasn’t. He thought it was rather silly. Why would he sign? He didn’t know him, didn’t know anyone who did know him, and doesn’t watch NASCAR. People do odd things.

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  58. Jolene said on August 31, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    This short piece argues that rebuilding in Houston is likely to be more rapid and more successful in Houston than it was in New Orleans because, essentially, the city was doing better than NOLA before the storm. More economic growth, more population growth, more educated people–despite the many problems people have noted here. Let’s hope some of those smart people lead the reconstruction.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/view/articles/2017-08-31/harvey-won-t-hold-back-houston

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  59. Dave said on August 31, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    I confess, I was despondent when John Lennon was shot. I loved those four guys and it was so sudden, so shocking, that I couldn’t believe it or even listen to them for a number of years. I didn’t feel the same way when George died, maybe because it wasn’t sudden. I don’t remember any other celebrity deaths that made me feel that way, certainly not Princess Di, certainly not John Kennedy, Jr., definitely not Dale Earnhardt, who they called the Intimidator and he intimidated just one time too often.

    Oh, I was mad at John, too, for thinking he could just walk about New York City like a normal person.

    I have a friend who lives in the southeast suburbs of Houston and they got roughly an inch of rain in their house, enough to ruin the carpets, the flooring, get into the drywall, and make a mess of things. They feel fortunate that it wasn’t worse.

    I fear that the real problems with this country will never be solved in my lifetime, never ever.

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  60. Dorothy said on August 31, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Dave I felt quite bereft when I heard about Robin Williams. After hearing about his health problems that he had kept so hidden, it gave an explanation for his suicide. But it just left me so very sad to think that a man who made so many people happy could not find that happiness within him to sustain him and keep him around longer than he was. The worst death I think that affected me happened on December 31, 1972 when Roberto Clemente died in an airplane crash over the Atlantic Ocean. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that one.

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  61. Deborah said on August 31, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Happy birthday Dorothy and a belated HB to Jeff tmmo. Auto-correct keeps changing Jeff tmmo to Jeff T-mobile or Jeff tomorrow.

    We bought a bunch of tomatoes today at our favorite place, to can them tomorrow. We didn’t get quite the deal that we got a couple of years ago, but still the tomatoes look good and we’re hoping to get at least 12 qt.

    I remember being in the hospital after surgery when I heard from my then husband that Elvis had died. I was bereft because a woman who went to the church we attended was named Elvis and I thought he was talking about her. And yes this was when I still lived in Texas, but this was in Dallas. Where else would you know a woman named Elvis.

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  62. Sherri said on August 31, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    For me, the strangest deaths are when a friend is famous enough to get an obit in the NYTimes. I’ve had that happen a couple of times with good friends, and it’s a bit surreal. Randy Pausch (of The Last Lecture fame) was the first time it happened.

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  63. Deborah said on August 31, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    So we’re all supposed to be impressed that Trump is giving a million personal $ to the Houston fund of some sort to be determined. Big deal, he has cost tax payers so much for all of his golf weekends and for security for his childrens’ business travels, not to mention how much he’s hauling in for his businesses from foreign entities hoping for favors. He owes bigly. Plus of course he telegraphs that he’s doing this, he isn’t doing it anonymously like someone who is doing it out of the goodness of his heart instead of his ego. Oh brother, spare me.

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  64. Hattie said on August 31, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    As a committed feminist, I say her beauty was transcendent, and she was sold off to a sordid man. A tragedy.

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  65. alex said on August 31, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Deborah, I’d lay money on it that Trump never delivers and calls it fake news when he eventually gets called out on it. Just like the veterans’ groups he stiffed during the campaign. Remember that?

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  66. Sherri said on August 31, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Seattle reminds me of Pittsburgh in several ways, and the way the streets are laid out is one of them: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/the-artist-behind-the-viral-image-of-seattles-wacky-intersections/

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  67. Scout said on August 31, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Trump pledging money and Trump actually donating money are two different animals entirely. He’s all about the PR and then forgetting allllllll about it. And besides, who really believes any pay-out is coming from personal funds rather than his skimming it off one of his “charities”?

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  68. LAMary said on August 31, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    I was sitting at my desk at work when I read that Molly Ivins died and that hit me hard. And last fall, around the time I was laid off and Trump was elected Leonard Cohen died and I thought everything was sucking really badly.

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  69. susan said on August 31, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    Molly Ivins dying was the worst. I still have not gotten over that, and sometimes well up with tears thinking about her not being here anymore. We need her now so much.

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  70. Sherri said on August 31, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    The question is, is our conservatives learning? http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a57290/texas-deregulation-harvey-chemical-plants/

    Probably not.

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  71. Jolene said on August 31, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Robin Williams was tough for me, too. We seem to be on the same wavelength re favorite celebs, Dorothy.

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