13 Mar

I helped fill the Basin for Christchurch

Today, the cre?me de la cre?me of (New Zealand) cricket, other sports and actors played the charity Twenty20 match “Fill the Basin for Christchurch” in beautiful Wellington summer weather. New Zealand’s premier and traditional cricket ground The Basin Reserve in the city was an ideal place to hold this match.

12,000 tickets were sold (2,000 more than initially planned), but I was fortunate to get one as a few were still available at the gates right after the game had started. YEAH! This was also finally the time that I sat through an entire game – albeit a Twenty20 one 😉

The game participants were high-powered and they had fun playing themselves entertaining the crowd.

The teams are:

Wellington Legends XI (team black)
Coach: James Nesbitt

Martin Crowe (captain; cousin of Russell Crowe), Andrew Jones, Bruce Edgar, Chris Nevin, Ewen Chatfield, Gavin Larsen, Jason Wells, Jonathan Millmow, Matthew Bell, Richard Petrie, Roger Twose, Tana Umaga

Canterbury Invitation XI (team red)
Coach: Russell Crowe (yes, the actor)

Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Geoff Allott, Marc Ellis, Mark Greatbatch, Sir Richard Hadlee, Rod Latham, Craig McMillan, Dion Nash, Adam Parore, Justin Vaughan, Shane Warne

Match Referee: Sir Ian McKellan

Umpires: Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, Martin Freeman, Mark Hadlow (who also bowled one ball)

13 Mar

Glued to Twitter

One hour after the 8.9 earthquake near the coast of Honshu, Japan, happened on Friday, March 11, 2011, I was online and saw tweets about the earthquake come in rapidly. It was like a very bad nightmare especially when I turned to the English channel of Aljazeera which was a channel of choice for a number of my Twitter followers. I briefly headed to two other news channels, but the Aljazeera one seemed to have the best coverage.

Following the news as well as the tweets about the earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and its risk for other countries in the Pacific, I realized that the old saying of “being glued to the TV” could be re-worded into “being glued to Twitter”. It was the fastest source of information – primary and secondary. The NZ Civil Defense web site could not cope with the massive amount of people accessing their site to find out if NZ was in danger because according to the projected arrival time of the tsunami in NZ we would have 12 hours to prepare for it. They moved to Twitter quite quickly to give at least brief updates. I could also find out about an acquaintance who lives on Oahu in Hawai’i because she was glued to Twitter as well and responded quickly. And as you could not watch all news at once, somebody might have a piece of information that had not yet made it into the news you were watching.

The computer-generated tsunami arrival times map available on the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Information site shows the estimated times till the tsunami waves would hit other parts in the Pacific Ocean. The wave was very closely monitored by scientists and updates were given when available about the height of the wave and its force.

Estimated tsunami travel times after the 8.9 earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011

Estimated tsunami travel times after the 8.9 earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011

The tsunami energy map shows the flow of the released energy of the earthquake. The current estimate is that a total amount of 9,320 gigatons of TNT equivalent, which is 535 million times that of Hiroshima, of energy was released during the earthquake and the tsunami.

Energy map of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011

Energy map of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011

Fortunately, the threat to NZ was soon only a marine threat and minor land threat for the upper north island and life in Wellington continued without interruption. It was surreal to have a splendid summer day, and actually splendid summer weekend, when there was such destruction both in Japan and also still in Christchurch. Rebuilding Christchurch will take at least a decade according to estimates and I can’t imagine how much time it will take in Japan where there was much more damage.

My thoughts are with the people in Christchurch and Japan in this horrible time wishing that they have enough energy to survive this tragedy not only re-building their cities, but also re-gaining good emotions.

13 Mar

Library services in a time of crisis

When Richard Liddicoat had signed up for a presentation at the South Island Children’s and Young Adult’s Librarians’ Conference at the beginning of March, he didn’t think he would be shaken up by a second earthquake in his hometown Christchurch that surpassed the September 4, 2010, one. February 22, 2011, will be in every New Zealander’s memory as the biggest catastrophe in a very long time.

Though Richard, his family and colleagues experienced a huge tragedy, their lives go on and thus, he had decided to give his presentation about how a library can use the internet to bring in library users just over a week later in Blenheim. But before he launched into his presentation, he also mentioned how the earthquake has changed the City Council’s and the library’s web presence. As they host their web sites in Christchurch, they were disconnected and needed to get information to their citizens through other channels. Twitter and Facebook accounts were quickly established to keep the flow of vital information going. Furthermore, they used their blog Christchurch City Libraries Bibliofile that is hosted on wordpress.com to convey where people can find information.

The rest of Richard’s presentation was also very interesting because he made a point in case of using the internet to attract patrons and non-patrons to their library and to engage them, especially kids, so that they become interested in reading and actually stepping a foot into the library. He demonstrated how important a web presence is but also at the same time how much effort goes into the well-run and up-to-date internet site of the ChCh City Libraries of which he is the head of the editing team. For example, they plan their content three months in advance, have writing style guidelines and training available.

As not every public library can afford a team just for their internet site, he also gave tips of what every library could do with little money.

You can view Richard’s presentation on the Bibliofile web site.

24 Feb


Christchurch was hit by a devastating earthquake on February 22, 2011, that was much more destructive than the September 4 quake. The quake happened during the lunch hour and again surprised everybody. I had not heard about the earthquake until two hours later as I had been working in my hotel room and not watched TV or been online. Seeing the pictures later and listening to the reports on TV was horrific and I am grateful for everybody who is doing OK.

The state of emergency was declared very soon, the crisis centers started its work and volunteers got together to help in any way they could. One of these volunteer groups use eq.org.nz as their web site to gather information about the state of things à la “Where are you and what do you see?” It must be noted that this is not an official crisis center page, but crowd-gathered information. The volunteers are in touch with officials to check on certain messages before they get posted to the site.

Colleagues of mine who are in Wellington set up a volunteer training center in our training room at Catalyst to be able to provide the service continuously and have enough people at hand who can help sort the incoming messages. People can email or send a free TXT to contribute information. It then gets categorized and mapped for easy retrieval. As many people in Christchurch only have cell phone access, there is also a mobile interface and apps for both iPhone and Android phones available.

Although I still hope that such data gathering will not be necessary in the future, I am realistic to know that earthquakes or any other catastrophe can happen any minute. The web site that was set up using Ushahidi can be used for other disaster relief purposes in the future as the infrastructure has been set up. The technology used is open source. 🙂