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Opinion Editorials

Technology helped saved lives in Hurricane Harvey

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Hurricanes are nothing new and typically, they claim way too many lives. But as technology continues to reach more people, I think that number will drastically reduce as proven by Harvey.

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Tech game changer

As Hurricane Harvey approached the third coast, the storm system started dumping water. Houston, the 4th largest city in the nation, saw up to 51 inches of rain which is more than the booming metropolis sees in a year.

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Immediately droves of people descended upon Houston to aid the relief and rescue missions that began almost as quickly as the storm did. What was the game changer though, was technology and the ability to get information to people, fast.

A brief history

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, more specifically New Orleans. Even though it was a Category three storm, the storm surge it produced was one of the worst in history. Katrina was responsible for more than 1,800 deaths.

Also in 2005, Twitter had not yet been invented.

As of publishing, Hurricane Harvey has claimed the lives of 40 people. Let’s break that down.

A vast majority of people have either forgotten or have just omitted that the storm tore through Texas’ coastal cities first. Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port Aransas and several others saw unprecedented destruction. Add those cities populations to Houston’s, a city with a population of more than two million people, and the fact that the death toll is not in triple or quadruple digits is astonishing.

Technology victory

Again, I will pose that this number is so ridiculously low due to technology. I’m from Houston, so I feel like I have been immersed in all of the rescue stories. (side bar: Don’t even entertain the idea that all 2M people should have evacuated, I’d like to remind you of 2008’s Hurricane Rita where almost one hundred people died in their cars, stuck in evacuation traffic).

The Harvey stories I keep hearing and reading are stories of 911 not being able to respond.

The 911 operators were so overwhelmed with calls that some people in need of rescue called local restaurants for help.

A former high school teacher of mine detailed her 34 hour stint as a dispatcher on Zello, a walkie talkie app that connected countless souls to the Cajun Navy and other rescuers.

Hell, two guys I grew up with saw the need for rescuers to get connected to rescuees and created an open source website that allowed those in need of rescue to upload location and other vital information so that rescuers could asses and see who was in their immediate area and save lives.

The future is now

When Katrina hit, touch screens were still a pipedream, the only people who had internet on their phones were people who had Blackberry PDAs, and snake was the only app available. Coding was as obscure as the Cubs winning a World Series and Facebook was barely a year old.

Go from that, to 92% of Americans having cell phones (two-thirds of them owning a smartphone) all with data with the ability to communicate through text, talk, and thousands of apps. In the wake of the storm people have been using Facebook to find missing loved ones, Waze to update road conditions, Twitter to organize efforts and plain ol’ texting to check in with friends.

Quick turnaround

As Hurricane Irma threatens Florida, Hurricane Katia looms just south of Texas near Mexico and Hurricane Jose makes up its mind on where it will go, it is my sincere hope that people were paying attention to Texas last week.

Houston put on a clinic on how to act in a natural disaster. Houstonians showed the country (and the world) how to rally together, regardless of religion, race, or creed, to make a difference. Houstonians also showed how putting the proper systems in place can, and will save lives.

#HurricaneHarvey

Kiri Isaac is the Web Producer and a Staff Writer at The American Genius and studied communications at Texas A&M. She is fluent in sarcasm and movie quotes and her love language is tacos.

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Opinion Editorials

Our five faves for Friday – almost Thanksgiving edition

(EDITORIAL) This week, I have so many faves that I can barely keep it at just five – Unicorns, gophers, tears, science nerdery, and rebellions, oh my!

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I heard a rumor that it’s Friday again, so today we share with you five of the neato-est things that we came across this week – some silly, some serious, all awesome.

1. Brands refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day

It started with retailers opening early on Black Friday, then opening at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, and now retailers are expected to force their staff to work instead of enjoy a bajillion-ish year old American tradition.

But some companies are pushing back, publicly refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day, so even though our home doesn’t care about Black Friday, we’ll be giving some business to those taking a stand.

2. I need you to know about my favorite tv show ever

So there’s nothing new about this, but since you’ve never heard from ME on a Friday Faves roundup, I really need you to know something about me – I have a lot of natural curiosities and history (when not told in a dusty way) fascinates the hell out of me.

Unearthed on the Science Channel is friggen amazing and literally EVERY episode has taught me something that I didn’t know before (like the one about Stonehenge included new discoveries that change how we think about how humans used to operate – seriously mindblowing stuff). All of the episodes are available online, yo, so get to nerding!

3. No one has bought me a Pony Cycle yet

One of the only email newsletters I actually open is The Grommet – they feature independent makers’ inventions and wares, and I’m all about supporting the little guy.

But I posted this insanely amazing Pony Cycle on my Facebook timeline this week with a request that someone buy me one. Guess what? No takers. My friends are monsters. I mean it comes in horse, unicorn (dibs), and zebra, why not buy me one or three?

ponycycle

4. Video that made me cry

After the recent earthquake hit Iran, there has been a deep need for food for the victims. Watch this video (my fave part is the pat pat on the back) and try to tell me that hate isn’t something we’re taught… also, I’m not crying, you are…

5. My favorite gif of this week

If you know me, you know I love gifs more than the average person. So when I came across this one, I knew I had to award it my fave of the week…

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Opinion Editorials

Is your job inadvertently harming your health?

(EDITORIAL) We often get so consumed with our work that we unknowingly hurt ourselves in the process. Learn how to keep this from happening.

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With the changes in seasons, we tend to put more of an emphasis on our health. This makes sense as flus and colds have a tendency to run rampant around the holidays.

However, we should be more mindful of keeping track of our health throughout the year. And, given that our jobs are such a large part of our lives, it is important to keep in mind that our jobs can have an affect on our health. Which can often be a bad thing.

For most of us, we are in the same space for eight hours of our day. Sometimes we think that just because it’s ourselves occupying that space, things can’t really get germy. Well, think again.

We have so many things that we touch on a daily basis – our keyboard, mouse, phone, ID badge, etc. These have a tendency to become a house for germs, which can hurt us as time goes on.

Combat this by setting aside some time each week to disinfect all of your most-used items. Also, consider keeping some hand sanitizer at your desk.

Getting up to clean around your office can help take care of another issue – being too sedentary throughout the day. Sometimes we get so consumed with plugging away at our computers that we forget to get up and stretch.

This can be harmful to your weight and your circulation. Keep the blood flowing by getting up and moving a bit every hour or so.

The mindfulness of your health should not stop at the physical, but should also involve keeping an eye on mental health. Your job plays a big part in this as well.

First of all, you start and end your day with a commute. For some, this can be incredibly strenuous – expensive, traffic-filled, etc.

This has been known to lead to depression. Try filling this time with positivity and fulfillment by listening to a quality podcast or an audio book. This will help to give meaning to otherwise wasted time.

The most important thing to monitor with your mental health is making sure to not overwork yourself. It can be difficult to find that perfect work/life balance, but it’s necessary for a happy and healthy life.

Try staying away from work emails and texts after a certain time of the day on weekdays or on the weekends. Think about it this way – you’re not supposed to tend to your personal business during work hours, so why let work interfere with your personal time?

All of this can be helped by checking in with yourself every once in a while, or even by using the buddy system and discussing the topic with a work friend.

Lastly, be sure to check with your company to learn about health and wellness programs that may be offered.

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Opinion Editorials

Do literally anything with your money besides buy an iPhone X

(EDITORIAL) The iPhone X is pretty snazzy, but let me express why your money belongs literally anywhere besides in Apple’s pocket for this phone.

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The iPhone X is off to a rocky start, beginning with the fact that no one seems to know whether it’s supposed to be pronounced “iPhone Ten” or “iPhone Ex” and working up from there.

If you’re here, you probably don’t need me to tell you that a 5.8-inch OLED screen, facial recognition, 4K recording at 60 FPS, and an all-glass design are superfluous as hell — but just in the off-chance that I’m wrong, THE IPHONE X IS SUPERFLUOUS AS HELL.

Take literally 30 seconds to think about all of the mega-cool features that convinced you to buy your last smartphone, then think of the last time you used even half of those features without feeling compelled to do so. If you’re one of those people who uses all of the filters on the camera every day, fine, but I’m willing to bet that you just use your phone for Facebook, texting, and calling your grandma.

You don’t need a 5.8-inch, all-glass, basically-a-tablet-of-a-phone to do those things, but if money doesn’t mean anything to you, be my guest.

It’s also worth noting that there is a certain point at which “really fast” and “really, really fast” feel identical to one another. My personal experience with this phenomenon was with the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8; it doesn’t matter how fast your newest processor is if the last one was fast enough.

Apple has a long history of publicly executing things that people are still using. While it’s hard to be too mad about the headphone jack, they hit a soft spot when they nixed ethernet ports—and, more recently, USB 3.0 ports—and the most recent dissident to fall victim to Apple’s indiscriminate chopping block is the Home button.

Yeah, that thing that make the iPhone usable in the first place? Not there anymore. Worse still, the simple display is now flooded with different shortcut hotspots. For example, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center — no, wait, that’s how you get home. You swipe from the top-right corner of the screen to open the Control Center, while the top-left corner opens the notifications screen that — hey, are you writing this down?

To make matters worse, Apple added a bunch of different contextual shortcuts to the physical buttons on the sides of the iPhone X, further reducing accessibility. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Is the iPhone X necessary? Absolutely not. Is it neato? Sure.

But is it worth your time if you’ve got dollar bills to blow? Again, absolutely not — do literally anything else with that money, up to and including burning it. As long as Apple continues to ignore the issues that plague their devices in favor of broken facial recognition and 3D emoji animation, consider spending your money elsewhere.

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