Friday, September 9, 2011

Hurricanes and Flood Plains

Hurricane Irene hit us a couple of weeks ago and left broken homes and broken hearts behind. Creeks in Vermont swelled to destructive torrents unprecedented and unimagined by the locals and swept away much of their picturesque and sleepy small towns.  Others, like residents of Paterson, New Jersey, who had no reason to suspect catastrophe, were stunned by flooded streets and wrecked possessions. As I write this, the Susquehanna River is many feet over flood stage in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier in New York State is bracing for the worst.

And then there's poor old Wayne, New Jersey, and other towns nearby: just awful. People who built or bought on the banks of Passaic River tributaries have been completely inundated by the swelling waters. You want to be sympathetic, and it's surely heart-breaking to see so many people left without homes. But you have to ask yourself why. The Passaic River floods Wayne and Fairfield every time there's substantial rain. Every time! Read the papers: it's public record; ask anybody.

Knowing this, these folks bought anyway. What did they think would happen the next time there was a major storm? How many basements have to flood and how many vans trucks of ruined furniture have to be carted off before these people get it? And they rebuild and come back and get flooded out again. And then they want FEMA disaster help? And start the cycle of stupidity again. More floods, more FEMA, ad nauseum.

You know the expression "teachable moment"? That's what this is. These people need to step up to the problems they created themselves. Take responsibility, admit your mistakes, suck it up and move elsewhere, anywhere, higher. I'm not unfeeling, but it's a matter of personal responsibility. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.  We have to stop bailing out people who knowingly get themselves into trouble.

Do you agree?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gripping the Wheel

I was speaking with a colleague the other day about some issues we we were having with a project. The risks were small, but they had the potential of stretching far into the future. And I immediately visualized a long stretch of traffic cones ahead of me. Each one was small, but there were so many of them - right down the middle of the road. I'd have to dodge every one of them if I was to get anywhere at all.

It was no big stretch to generalize this image to apply to life as a whole. No matter what path we take, there are roadblocks of one kind or another and the faster and farther we go, the faster they come at us. But if we watch where we're going, and grip the wheel tightly, we can get past them without too much trouble. But it's important that we also look beyond the cones to the road beyond. Otherwise, why make the trip? And if we're fortunate, we'll hit some long, cone-free stretches.

Hence, this blog. Some observations from time to time about gripping the wheel and dodging the cones.