Bloggers track Hurricane Dean.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Aug. 20 2007 6:25 PM

Stormy Weather

Bloggers are tracking Hurricane Dean's path, getting static from Skype, and gearing up for Daily Show reports from Iraq.

Stormy weather: As Hurricane Dean spins through the Caribbean toward Mexico, kicking off hurricane season with a bang, bloggers are posting updates on its expected path, comparing it to past storms, and sizing up U.S. emergency preparedness efforts.

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First things first: If we're expected to take this seriously, Sparky MacMillan at the Flehman Response thinks a name change is in order: "All I can think of when the news announcer says, 'Hurricane Dean pummels Jamaica' is Jerry Lewis running around screaming, 'Dean! Dean! You're a hurricaaaane, what with the wind and the rain and the blo-wing!" Can we get some more threatening names for hurricanes please?"

Of course, a Gulf hurricane is just not complete without a swipe at big oil. "The price of crude oil is down some 8 percent since August 1," notes Raymond J. Learsy, the author of a book on OPEC, at the Huffington Post. "What the oil patch and every oil trader knows, one of the quickest ways to turn around this tumble is the drama of a good old fashioned hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico wending its way toward the Texas and Louisiana coasts. And Shazam! Here comes Hurricane Dean!"

Are emergency services ready to handle what could be a Category 5 storm? "Two years ago Hurricane Katrina kicked the U.S. government's ass," recalls David Axe at Wired's Danger Room. "Now, as Hurricane Dean sweeps past Jamaica on its way to the U.S. Gulf Coast, FEMA, the Coast Guard and the other military services are poised to prove they can do better the second time around." Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco just can't get it right, though: Dan Frazier at Metroblogging New Orleans blasts her for declaring a state of emergency—"Either 2 years too late or 5 days too early, depending on your view"—last Friday. "Did anyone tell her that Hurricane Dean was 2000 miles from New Orleans when she made this declaration?"

New Orleans may not be under immediate threat, but Clifton Harris, a Katrina survivor writing from the recovering city at Cliff's Crib, confesses that Dean makes him uneasy about the repair job on the city's levees. "The people that live here have truly accepted the fact that we are going to pay some dues for the next few years in order to revive the place we love. With all of that being said, I still feel shaky knowing that the Corps of Engineers is responsible for protecting me."

The big question, of course, is where Dean will head next. "After having its way with Jamaica yesterday, Hurricane Dean is making a beeline for Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a strong Category 4 storm," announces Todd Hill on his Under the Weather blog at the Staten IslandAdvance. "Let's just say this isn't the best week to be in Cancun." At Luna Blue's PlayaZone, Tony and Cheri describeevacuationand storm preparationsat their hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. "We're sleeping with our fingers crossed tonight," they admit. Current forecasts call for Dean to hit the Yucatan late Monday.

Read about Hurricane Dean. See a map of Dean's expected path.

The Skype is falling: Skype, the popular Internet phone service provider, was unexpectedly laid low for two days last week. The outage was keenly felt by the company's roughly 50 million regular users around the world, particularly small businesses—and bloggers, who had all weekend to speculate about the cause and effects.

Karl rounds up a good assortment of theories at BroadbandReports.com: "The rare global outage gave bloggers a chance to blame closed source, Microsoft, the limitations of p2p, Russian hackers, networking, Homeland Security, lack of resources, VoIP itself, global warming, hangnails, subprime lending rates, France..." 

And the actual cause? Skype finally fessed up Monday: A routine Microsoft Windows Update required many users to reboot their computers, and the resulting flood of log-in requests revealed "a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm" that crashed the Skype system, interrupting service around the world.

So, can we all blame Microsoft now? Not so fast, says Paul Glazowski at Profy."This is in fact an instance of spin, in which a big problem involving a big company (Skype) and a much, much bigger company (Microsoft) has lots of folks naturally setting their spiteful gazes at the larger target. In all, this looks like a simple (but no doubt massive) coincidence, and one that Skype will keep in mind not to replicate in the future."

Hard-hit business owners shared their Skype stories at Om Malik's GigaOm. Eric Willis vows, "I will definitely rely less on Skype in the future and will have a redundant service available at all times."Martin Neumann's response was typical: "Many Australians doing business online have found it a 'must-have' app when dealing with clients all over the world," he says. But "sometimes free just isn't cheap enough. … I must say it's pretty alarming to read all those 'I'm totally dependent on Skype' comments. Not very smart business practices, in my honest opinion."

Read about the Skype outage.

Dispatches from Mess o' Potamia: Foreign Policy'sblog, along with approximately 10 million others, announces that The Daily Show will air reports from Iraq this week.Yes, for real: "Senior War Correspondent Rob Riggle usually reports from a studio in New York with a Baghdad backdrop. But last week he and a couple of Comedy Central producers actually got into a plane and flew to Iraq to report on-site." Beginning Monday, the show will feature reports, filed by Riggle, called "Operation Silent Thunder."

Joyhog clarifies: "In a press release from Comedy Central, the network has assured us that this is 'Yes, actual Iraq, not greenscreen Iraq.' We say that it's all for the best.  Especially since 'The Daily Show' is primary news source of our generation. "

"This is significant," observesWeb Stained Wretch, "as the leader in fake news ('When news breaks, we fix it') will be engaging in real reporting."

Read about The Daily Show in Iraq.

Susan Daniels is a former Slate staffer. She lives in Amsterdam.

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