Finished NaBloPoMo Tuesday, Nov 30 2010 

Finished NaBloPoMo so time to return to a more manageable level of blogging. It was a good kick in the pants though after having gone a couple months without blogging at all. Luckily, the students will be starting their guest blogs soon. I love logging in and discovering that people have been blogging away.

While technically the blog is Toronto as well as NOLA I rarely blog about TO. But Rob Ford‘s new round-up of his executive committee scares me too much not to comment on. I am afraid for the City of Toronto.


New NOLA students Monday, Nov 29 2010 

Pascal and I are excited to announce that we once again have two sections of students scheduled to travel to NOLA during May. We have a few spaces left – mostly in the last half of the month – but suspect that they will be filled within a short time.


From left to right:






May 2009

These 5 guys worked in the Lower 9th ward with Common Ground rebuilding a house.



When I am back in Toronto at the end of January/early February I will get the chance to meet them as we will be holding four classes (2 sets of two classes). Pascal will teach the remainder of the classes while I will do the on-the-ground organizing in New Orleans; hotels, restaurants, speakers, volunteer opportunities etc.

After a hard day’s work gutting St. Mary of the Angels school in the Upper Ninth ward the group stretches out the kinks.

From left to right:


Pascal (instructor)


Rachel (hiding someone)



This will make the third year that Ryerson will be sending students to New Orleans. It is the second year that we will have York University students joining us and for the first time we will have a student from Kings College at University of Western Ontario in London.

For the third year we will also be volunteering with the St. Bernard Project who last year awarded Ryerson with a Rebuilding Award. Seeing a family come home (below a Welcome Home party May 2010) is the biggest award and reward that there is.

Saints Are Coming Sunday, Nov 28 2010 

In 2006 when the Saints played the Atlanta Falcons at the first game back in the Superdome, not quite 13 months after Hurricane Katrina.  Green Day and U2 performed their version of The Skids’ song “The Saints Are Coming”.

According to Wikipedia, the music video “shows the two bands playing at the Abbey Road Studio and at the Louisiana Superdome (though the footage from the live performance at the Superdome has been overdubbed with the studio version of the song), intermixed with news footage of the displacement of residents after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The second half of the video shows an alternate history in which George W. Bush redeployed troops and vehicles from Iraq to New Orleans to help victims of the hurricane, with the military personnel fulfilling the titular role of the “saints.” According to Chris Milk , this was done to ‘make a commentary on the Katrina disaster … from the standpoint of how things can and should be done in the future.’ The video ends with military support vehicles fading out as the camera pans to a sign that reads ‘Not as seen on TV’, alluding to the criticized response to Katrina while also parodying media deception on rescue coverage.

TEDxRyersonU and Shantae Saturday, Nov 27 2010 

I haven’t been paying much attention to Facebook lately as I’ve been busy working and such. But today I saw this picture posted on one of my NOLA student’s pages…

It’s hard to see but it is an  advertisement for TEDxRyersonU and says, “Shantae Johns. Toronto 2 Nola: Making a difference in Louisiana”.

Turns out Shantae spoke this morning at the TEDxRyersonU event about her experiences on her trip. Hopefully a video of the speech will be available soon and I will post it.

My favourite memory of Shantae on our trip was the day that she was late getting to the van one morning. I was frustrated because we had warned students that vans were leaving at a certain time and many kept missing. She wasn’t the only one late, her work site was only a few blocks from where we were staying and I left. On the way back to Camp Hope (where we were staying) I drove by her. She was bouncing along; waving and smiling at everyone she passed (including me). Not far behind was another student who had been left who was stomping unhappily along.

Shantae’s bio is here and her reflections about the trip are here.

Red Shrimp and Oil scare Friday, Nov 26 2010 

On Wednesday NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association – closed a section  of the Gulf of Mexico to royal red shrimping due to tar balls being found in the net of a shrimper. My favourite part of the press release from the Joint Information Center was the opening sentence “out of an abundance of caution”.

The press release reads: today, out of an abundance of caution, NOAA has closed 4,213 square miles of Gulf of Mexico federal waters off Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to royal red shrimping. The precautionary measure was taken after a commercial shrimper, having hauled in his catch of the deep water shrimp, discovered tar balls in his net.

Fishing for royal red shrimp is conducted by pulling fishing nets across the bottom of the ocean floor. The tar balls found in the catch may have been entrained in the net as it was dragged along the seafloor.

Other fishing at shallower depths in this area has not turned up any tar balls and is thus not impacted by this closure. The fisherman who reported this catch had trawled for brown shrimp in shallow waters in a different portion of the area to be closed earlier in the day without seeing tar balls.

Following the report of tar balls, NOAA was in contact with shrimpers involved in royal red shrimping in this area. Only a handful of the approximately 250 permitted royal red shrimp fishermen are currently active in the fishery. The tar balls are being analyzed by the U.S. Coast Guard to determine if they are from the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill.

This decision was made in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The closure becomes effective at 6 p.m. EST and does not apply to any state waters.

“We are taking this situation seriously. This fishery is the only trawl fishery that operates at the deep depths where the tar balls were found and we have not received reports of any other gear or fishery interactions with tar balls,” said Roy Crabtree, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service southeast region. “Our primary concerns are public safety and ensuring the integrity of the Gulf’s seafood supply.

Royal red shrimp are caught in Gulf waters deeper than 600 feet and are the only species targeted with trawls at these depths. The more common Gulf shrimp species are brown, white and pink shrimp and are caught in waters less than 300 feet deep. The agency has received no reports of tar balls from fishermen that target other species in that area. Fishing for other shellfish and finfish species within this area is still allowed.

These waters were closed to all commercial and recreational fishing earlier this summer because of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill and were reopened to all fishing on November 15 after hundreds of seafood specimens sampled from the area, including royal red shrimp, passed both sensory and chemical testing. Additionally, no oil was observed in the area for a period of 30 days prior to the reopening.

NOAA and FDA are continuing to work together to sample seafood from inside and outside the closure, and are continuing market-based sampling of seafood processing plants and dockside sampling. NOAA is also sending vessels to the area to re-sample for royal red shrimp. The agency will reopen this area after determining there is no seafood safety concern. NOAA will conduct extensive sampling in the area, subjecting specimens to sensory and chemical analysis, including the recently approved chemical test for dispersants, in accordance with the rigorous re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA and the Gulf states.

An area covering 1,041 square miles immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead still remains closed to all commercial and recreational fishing. The fishing area closure was first instituted on May 2, at which time it covered about 3 percent (6,817 square miles) of Gulf waters around the wellhead. As oil continued to spill from the wellhead, the area grew in size, peaking at 37 percent (88,522 square miles) of Gulf waters on June 2.

Image from:

Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov 25 2010 

Today I had my first American thanksgiving. A friend invited me to her friend’s place. Yummy turkey. And Wii. And football. And the Saints pulled it out of their asses to win the game in the last couple minutes. All in all, a good experience.

The hostess, Kathy, has videos folks made of the levee water flowing through St. Bernard. Not exactly Thanksgiving viewing material but I will go back another day to see it.

St. Bernard Parish Wednesday, Nov 24 2010 

While I tell people back home that I live in New Orleans, it’s like saying Toronto for Whitby, or Peterborough for Bridgenorth. I actually live in Arabi which is a small town in St. Bernard Parish which is the parish directly adjacent to the Lower Ninth ward in Orleans Parish (New Orleans).

St. Bernard was completely flooded during Katrina. Floodwaters ranged from 2 to 28 ft and lasted for two weeks.

This is the water line at the gym of Camp Hope (where volunteers stay and where I lived for a month in May). It is about a mile north from my house, one street to the west.

Details on the state of the parish and return are found in the 5 year anniversary report. Return is happening slowly but surely and the parish is changing.

Very faint lettering show the search symbol used during Katrina. The upper quadrant says 9-4 (Sept 4th) the date someone came through looking for people. This is on my house.

A more visible symbol is found here:

The 2010 State of St Bernard Report says “As our population growth continues to meander upward and now is estimated to be in the 42,000 range, awaiting the official census count in April of 2010, we have seen a great increase in the diversity within our community. While it is perceived that about 65% of the population is made up of St. Bernard residents who returned home, the other 35% of the population appears to be newly established residents.” The influx of new people is important as St Bernard Parish was about 93% white before the storm and is greatly diversifying.

Much of the flooding came from the impact of the waters rushing up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet aka the Mr. Go.

It is an often ignored area in the story of Katrina. New Orleans was 80% flooded, SBP was 100% flooded. But SBP was more cut-off from the media who converged on the city (you had to get through the badly flooded ninth ward to get to SBP).  So it is exciting to read stories that look at the impact of the flooding in St Bernard (plus, since they are technically related to my PhD I don’t have to feel like I am taking time away from school!).

I wrote previously about books that I liked related to New Orleans and Jenni shared one of her favourites a couple weeks ago.

At the local library in SBP I recently came across Lost in Katrina by Mikel Schaefer which reminded me of one of my other favourites The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina by Ken Wells. Next on the list is St. Bernard Fire Department in Hurricane Katrina by Michelle Buuck.

Schaefer’s book is so-far amazing, especially now that I am more familiar with the area. The scenes and businesses – and in some cases people – are familiar to me. I know where they are.

New Orleans and Drugs Tuesday, Nov 23 2010 

I’d be interested in comparing this to Toronto information but I recently signed up for NOLA Ready and received updates every day on police activity, emergencies (such as the Boil Water advisory on the weekend) and other issues of interest to the community.

This is the last week’s drug report…

The New Orleans Police Department-Public Information Office

NOPD’s Narcotics and Task Force Units Investigated 1,695 Complaints, and Made 36 Narcotics Cases in Seven Days

NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Police Department’s Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated approximately 1,695 complaints.  As a result the NOPD’s Task Force Units, they conducted 11 Search Warrants, investigated 23 Felony cases, conducted 759 Vehicle Checks resulting in 289 citations, and 36 Narcotics cases.  They confiscated six guns, numerous amounts of Crack, Marijuana, Crack Cocaine, Powder Cocaine, and Heroin.

These results are from November 14, 2010 thru November 20, 2010.

First District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 300 complaints, made 34 cases for 11 Felony, 14 Misdemeanor and nine Municipal violations.  The units wrote 23 reports, made 337 pedestrian contacts, 20 field interviews, stopped 201 vehicles, wrote 85 citations, and made 17 traffic arrests.  They executed two search warrants, 11 Narcotics cases confiscating one gun, Marijuana, and Crack Cocaine.

Second District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 379 complaints, two hot line complaints, made 24 arrests including one juvenile for one Felony, 13 Misdemeanor, and 13 Municipal violations and one Truant violator.  They made 403 pedestrian contacts, 50 field interviews, wrote 16 reports, conducted 221 vehicle stops, issued 46 citations, and made seven traffic arrests.  The units conducted six wanted checks, made three narcotics cases, confiscating Marijuana, Crack Cocaine, Heroin and seizing $320.00 in cash.          

Third District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 205 complaints, arrested 22 persons for one Felony, 18 Misdemeanor, six Municipal violations and one Curfew violator. The units made 54 pedestrian contacts, 145 field interviews, and wrote 20 reports.  They made 112 vehicle stops, issued 61 citations, made 22 traffic arrests conducted two wanted checks and made three Narcotics cases confiscating Marijuana.

Fourth District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 157 complaints, arrested 22 persons for 37 Misdemeanor, and three Municipal violations.  They conducted 41 vehicle stops, issued 14 citations, made one traffic arrest, and wrote 37 reports.  They conducted 50 field interviews, 95 pedestrian contacts, and confiscated Marijuana.

Fifth District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 101 complaints, one hot line complaint, made six arrests for two Felony, six Misdemeanor, and four Municipal violations.  They conducted 21 vehicle checks, issued 31 citations, and wrote nine reports.  The units made 30 pedestrian contacts, 33 field interviews, and made two narcotics cases confiscating Marijuana, and Crack Cocaine.

Sixth District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 125 complaints, one hot line complaint, made 15 arrests for five Felony, 11 Misdemeanor, and four Municipal violations. They conducted 21 vehicle checks, issued 10 citations, made three traffic arrest and wrote 13 reports.  The units conducted seven wanted checks, made 30 pedestrian contacts, and 30 field interviews.  They executed two search warrants, and made six narcotics cases confiscating Marijuana, Heroin, Crack, and seized $85.00 in cash.

Sixth District Narcotics Squad continued their work responding to numerous citizen complaints and NOMPAC complaints received regarding narcotic activity at the intersection of Constance and Terpsichore Streets.  Detectives were then able to successfully execute a search warrant on 1408 Constance and

1410 Constance Street

.  Detectives located 8.70 grams of marijuana packaged for distribution, $85.00 US Currency and placed the suspect of the investigation 20-year-old Jarret Morris under arrest for Possession With Intent To Distribute Marijuana and Heroin.

Seventh District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 292 complaints, one hot line complaint, and four previous complaints.  They made 16 arrests for three Felony, eight Misdemeanors, and two Municipal violations.  They made 169 pedestrian contacts, 141 field interviews and wrote 11 reports.  The units stopped 113 vehicles, wrote 16 citations, conducted five wanted checks, seven search warrants, made five narcotic cases confiscating, Marijuana and Powder Cocaine.

On November 21, 2010, Task Force officers responded to a call of five African-American males, wearing dark clothing pulling on car door handles in the Michoud area.  The officers canvassed the area for the subjects, but met with negative results.  On that same morning, the officers learned that the residence of 4918 Toulon Street had been burglarized.  The officers continued their investigation and developed a subject, who was later identified as the neighbor’s 15 year-old son.  Sergeant Michael Stalbert conducted the investigation, with assistance of Detectives Jason Thomas and Donald Sharp.  Together, the officers develop a line of communication with the juvenile, while his parents were present.  The officers conducted their investigation and arrested the 15-year-old male for Residential Burglary.

Sergeant Kristi Bagneris along with officers Damond Davis and James Kish responded to a call from a taxi company that an armed robbery was in progress at

7830 Bass Street

. The officers responded and observed two African-American males approaching a taxi cab. Upon observing the officers the armed subjects fled.  Officers Davis apprehended one subject outside and the other was found inside a residence nearby. Both guns were recovered from the suspects.

Eighth District Narcotics and Task Force Units investigated 136 complaints, made 11 cases for three Felony, four Misdemeanor, and seven Municipal violations.  They conducted 29 vehicle checks, issued 26 citations, and wrote four reports. They conducted 97 field interviews, 90 pedestrian contacts, and confiscated Marijuana.

The Narcotics and Task Force Units began in July of 2010 and have investigated approximately 29,148 complaints, executed approximately 155 Search Warrants, made approximately 969 Felony cases, conducted approximately 10,894 vehicle checks, issued approximately 4,318 citations, made approximately 857 Narcotics cases, confiscated approximately 186 guns and numerous amounts of Illegal Narcotics.

The New Orleans Police Department, under the leadership of Superintendent Ronal W. Serpas, is engaged in a complete transformation in its approach to ensuring that New Orleans is a safer place to live, work and visit.  The police force, which currently employs 1,735 dedicated men and women, is committed to transparency, accountability, collaboration and integrity.  To learn more about the NOPD and our services, visit

and visit us on Facebook at


Officer Garry Flot

Culture Shock Monday, Nov 22 2010 

There are a few things that give me culture shock down here. Language, food, weather etc.  It’s Nov 22nd and I am still wearing sandals and using the AC but I kind of suspected that might happen. But the Christmas and seafood combination takes the cake.

These photos are from St. Bernard Highway in Arabi, just after the road leaves Orleans Parish and changes from St. Claude.

I can’t even tell if this is a fish or a shrimp…but in a scarf?

Dancing crabs

candy cane loving seafood

Santa Lobster

Catfish I think…

I like that fins can carry presents…

but then….there are normal (to me) decorations for Christmas except that there are flowers blooming in the background…ah gotta love an 11 month growing season…

Random Photos Sunday, Nov 21 2010 

A few photos to enjoy….

Looking towards the Bridge out by Eastern New Orleans

Bayou Bienvenue, off Florida Ave in the Lower Ninth ward.


Holy Trinity Church on St. Ferdinand in the Bywater/Marigny area

This was the night of the Fringe Festival.


Angel in the courtyard

At Holy Trinity on St Ferdinand


Wild vines growing inside….

Holy Trinity on St. Ferdinand


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