Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finding gas using Twitter

(Edited December 2009: Embedded Twitter box no longer included, because #cltgas tag isn't being used at the moment.)

The box up above is a feed of notes people have posted on Twitter about gas availabilty in Charlotte. Posts with the keyword #cltgas will show up in the box, with a small bit of delay, human intervention and moderation using Google Reader.

It's not instantaneous, and it's not really high-tech. Someone with programming skills could do a better job than me, I'm sure. But it's working somewhat here in Charlotte, and definitely in other places like Atlanta. You can search Twitter at Twitter Search for the tag #atlgas and see an illustration.

What's so cool is that Twitter is easy to use from a cellphone, just the sort of thing you'll have with you while driving your dinosaur around town looking for fuel. And it's an illustration of how we can help each other quickly: Anyone in Charlotte for Hurricane Hugo or an ice storm can attest to the need for immediate information about basics like ice, gas, firewood, open restaurants and hotels. And sometimes, instant messages are the only communication method that works.

So check out Twitter. You might not need it now; in our neighborhood, many of us are lucky or smart enough to not be too dependent on gas. And walking and biking are certainly green alternatives. But live long enough and you will find a time when you need good local information from neighbors; Twitter can help.

Update Monday, Sept. 29: The Charlotte Observer added a link to Twitter Search on Monday for the #cltgas tag, and The Atlanta Constitution had a link up through the weekend for the tag #atlgas. Both used links directly to Twitter Search, so the results were real time. You can go there too for faster updates than you'll see here.

And Scott Dodd wrote about the shortage at Switchboard, a blog for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Meet the other candidates

By now we all know Barack Obama is visiting Charlotte on Sunday, Sept. 21.

If you're into smaller crowds and finding out more about the other candidates, here's a great opportunity:

From noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Levine Museum of the New South, 200 East Seventh St., state and local candidates will be talking and meeting with voters.

From the event's Facebook page:

"Charlotte voters can ask questions of state and local candidates, receive state and local voter guides, register to vote, and gain a better understanding of what it means to participate in their local democracy from candidates themselves.

Several candidates and elected officials confirmed to speak include U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan, N.C. Gubernatorial candidates Pat McCrory and Bev Purdue, N.C. State Representatives Beverly Earle and Robert Pittinger, N.C. State Senator Malcolm Graham, Mecklenburg County Commission candidates Harold Cogdell, Hal Jordan, Dan Ramirez, Jennifer Roberts, and more. Panelists will include Charlotte Observer political video columnist Tonya Jameson and CNN and Fox News political contributor Lenny McAllister (The Hip-Hop Republican).

The event is sponsored by the Charlotte-area Association of Black Journalists, the Charlotte chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Generation Engage and the Levine Museum of the New South."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

County could buy homes damaged by floods

April Bethea write in The Charlotte Observer:

"Mecklenburg County could buy up to 50 homes that sustained serious flood damage in the past month under a deal approved unanimously by commissioners on Tuesday.

Under the plan, the county's Storm Water Services department would spend $4 million to buy up to 30 homes, mostly along Briar Creek. Also, Park and Recreation could purchase up to 20 more residences using money from greenway bonds approved last year.

The program would be limited to homes severely damaged in floods on Aug. 27 or Sept. 10, and most prone to future flooding.

Most of the targeted properties lie in the Briar Creek floodplain, and include homes on or near the following east Charlotte streets: Dunlavin Way, Harbinger Court, Dolphin Lane and Shannonhouse Drive.


The program is voluntary."

(Note: I'd copy less here, but fear the link to story won't last more than two weeks. I recommend to any readers that they click on the link to read the full story at The Charlotte Observer and continue to visit

Saturday, September 06, 2008

FEMA flood plain maps

Here's a snippet of the official FEMA floodplain map for Briar Creek next to the Merry Oaks neighborhood.
Now that Hanna has blown through the Carolinas and Ike threatens other areas, it's a good chance to take the long view, study the maps and compare with the reality of how the water rose.
Anybody looking at real estate should check these maps before making purchases. They take a long time to maneuver around in at FEMA's website, but the information is valuable for informed choices.

And a fun update: Owners of the little Puffer sailboat that floated down the creek to the greenway have been located through the neighborhood Google group. Yay!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Whose missing a sailboat?

Briar Creek, swollen from the remnants of Hurricane Faye last week, captured a sailboat.

Then the creek spit it out into the undergrowth near the pedestrian bridge between Arnold Drive and Masonic Avenue next to the Merry Oaks neighborhood.

Workers with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation hauled the boat out of the woods and took it off for safekeeping on Tuesday. They hauled a refrigerator out of the creek earlier.

Is the boat yours? Want it back? Call Susan Donnelly, greenway gardener, at 704.507.8950.

You might need it later this week as Storm Hanna heads up this way.