I’ve always been enchanted by the charms of New Orleans. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and New Orleans has been the site of many special events in my life. The first time I ever saw a “dancing girl” was in the Big Easy; the first time I ever had a drink of alcohol (sense a theme here?!); the first time I realized I wanted to make computer technology a career…
I was in NOLA for a Usenix conference, which must have been around ‘98 or ‘99 — O’Reilly had a big presence there, as I recall, but I wasn’t yet working for them. I was a Linux advocate and was just starting to make a transition from SGML dochead to XML dochead, Python programmer, etc.
NOLA was hot that summer, as always, but magical too. I always said that it was the only American city that could make shit seem charming — literally, sometimes there’s pretty much sewage in the streets and allies of the French Quarter, but somehow that seems appropriate there. Even charming. Yep, even charming.
I live in Washington, DC, now, far from Katrina’s rising waters and devastations. But my new city also has underprivileged, mostly African Americans, and a bunch of really messed up policies that will come back to haunt all of us if the right disaster strikes.
All of us who love this computer technology that’s changed everything so much are also, of necessity, lovers of the truth. The truth matters, a lot, in computer science, in IT, and so on. It matters, if nothing else, because we have so much hype to cut through.
Whatever your political leanings, I hope you’ll use the opportunity of Katrina to learn about why it happened, who it’s hurt the most, and what could have been done to prevent much of the devastation.
NOLA is changed forever, but most of its historical sections and districts will rise again from the waters. NOLA will regain its old magic soon enough. I trust, however, none of us who have looked carefully into what happened and why will be unchanged. It’s time for good people — people like geeks who know how to tell truth from lies — to stand up and be heard.