our proposed uRespond concept sketches for the “random hacks of kindness” event

7 11 2009
URespond advisor's presentation.006-001

simple rapid user input

URespond advisor's presentation.007-001

mapping of local user updates

current emergency response protocol

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subway culture

1 04 2008

[By Shideh]   When I walk to a metro station, whether it is in the Bay Area (California), New York, Tehran, or Boston, I look at the people around me and quickly plan my next move.  Is there a seat available? If so, are there older people standing? If not, who should I sit next to? If there are no available seats, where can I find a spot without getting hurt or being on the way?  Once I manage my way in and find a spot, I usually start day dreaming about the events of the day or something I am planning in the days to come, or read an article or a book.  I quickly lose count of minutes and my surrounding and only pay attention to the name of the station each time the train stops.  Recently, however, I have become more aware of the social aspect of subways.  I want to get to know the people with whom I happen to travel from a source to a destination.  After all, trains give us the opportunity to make many friends and learn about our surroundings. 

During our last trip to Tehran, when I entered a metro station I first noticed the majestic artwork on the walls and the neatness of the station as a whole.  Tehran-metro is truly one of the most beautiful and comfortable subways I have ever used.  People formed lines in an organized way, and were much more polite than other places.  In Tehran, at least in my experience, there is no need to ask people to get up when a pregnant lady or an elderly walks in.  When an older woman walked in, younger people got up and offered to help – a scene that is seldom experienced in NYC or even the Bay Area.  I was surprised to see that unlike busses, Tehran metro did not have separate sections for men and women — It turned out, however, that I had walked into the wrong section!


Photo of Tehran Metro, courtesy of Bahadorjn 

Shawhin and I spent last weekend in New York City.  Taking metro in New York City is not trivial by any means.  You are surrounded by many different faces, races, cultures, ages, and economic backgrounds.  The social aspect of New York subways are fascinating.  The advertisements on the walls usually get my attention for a few minutes while I notice an excellent band playing music in the subway station.  I quickly see a homeless in the other corner begging for money and scolding those who refuse to help and an old man without teeth on the other side is asking whether I am willing to buy his metro ticket (which he seems to have stolen from someone).  I notice a frustrated mother on the other corner with 2 little boys who are being as loud as possible and are quite hard to control.  There are young girls putting on make up on the other side, laughing, singing, and joking every now and then while flirting with boys who pass them by.  Suddenly a group of rich coworkers walk in and quietly wait for the next train and look at their surrounding with disgust.  There is an artist on the other corner drawing our faces and is getting a good laugh at it while smoking something that doesn’t smell like cigarettes.  You might see anything and everything when you are waiting for the train in a New York City metro station — unexpected things. When the train arrives, all of us sit next to each other in crowded narrow halls of the train. 

In the Bay Area, seats are arranged in a way that passengers are not forced to sit next to each other or interact (rows of seats with their backs to each other, with the exception of a few in each train cabin).  In NYC and Tehran, however, the seats are on the two sides of the train and face the center.  Last Sunday, a fantastic group of break dancers were dancing in the train when we walked in to go to Soho and Café Habana from our hotel in Union Square.  I felt fortunate to be given a chance to watch the dance of a few young African Americans for no fee really while waiting in the train.  I was a part of the energy of the crowd that was traveling below the streets of New York while experiencing unexpected events, seeing new faces, hearing new music, listening to new stories, and watching new dances.  Imagine listening to young Iranian musicians playing Santour, Tonbak, Daf, and Tar in the subways of Tehran while enjoying a cup of tea and  waiting for the next train. 

UN hazard mitigation game

25 02 2008

[By Shawhin]  I just found a very neat website developed by the UN/ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction).  They have a series of “Stop Disaster” scenario games that you can play.  The game can be run off the internet on almost any machine.  It’s pretty cool.  It is a bit like the simcity game but geared toward disaster management and natural hazards.  Here’s the link:http://www.stopdisastersgame.org/en/home.html

UN-ISDR game

Currently they have five natural hazard games: tsunami, hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, and flood.   And they are looking for support in creating more scenarios and in different languages.  More info at http://www.unisdr.org/.The website also has a lot of information on education, preparedness, and tips on what to do to mitigate damaging effects of natural hazards.  I haven’t been through the whole site, but it looks like a good resource, particularly for younger folks and kids.

iran’s international conference on integrated natural disaster management – this february

13 01 2008

Today, we received a message from one of the chairs of the 3rd International Conference on Integrated Natural Disaster Management scheduled in Iran for this February (2008).  The main themes for the conference are: earthquakes, floods, droughts, landslides, and hurricanes.  UNICEF, the City of Tehran, IAEM, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Shahid Beheshti University, York University, and Cranfield University are some of the sponsors of this conference. 

The deadline for submitting abstracts and papers is passed but you can still register and attend the conference.  If you have a paper that you’d like to submit, I personally suggest you send it even though the deadline’s past.  For more information: www.indm.org.  The image below is from their flash intro:


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… hooman’s thoughts on emergency management and amateur radio

12 07 2007

[Comment by Hooman Hooseinpour] Thanks so much for your response.

In fact, there are many issues which can be related to this topic, Communications Problems. This is one of the great obstacles that even developed countries face during large scale emergency events. Here, I don’t aim to discuss about issues related to emergency management and decision-making, in that there is so much I need to learn. What I am going to say is about a more reliable communication system, Amateur Radio. Let’s have a brief overview:

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… response to hooman’s comment

3 07 2007

[By Shideh]  (See Hooman’s comment on the welcome page.) I agree with you that we should eventually start thinking of ways to implement solutions that we discuss. I think we should have a separate section where we can discus ideas only on implementing infrastructure related solutions alone.  The challenge is how to make our ideas heard by the people who make policies and those who make sure the law is in effect. I will write more about this soon, as I still need to learn much. This may also be a great topic for discussion. 

It is true that in finding and implementing our solutions, we should abandon the kind of thinking that has lead us to the current state of our country (at least for its infrastructure). One of the great problems that we face, I think, is lack of hope for our future and lack of confidence in our own capabilities. Read the rest of this entry »

pollution in tehran… continued

13 06 2007

[By Shawhin] Continuing on the discussion in “pollution in Tehran…”, here are my two cents on the second bullet: managing/reducing population concentration.

I’m personally a big advocate of reducing the population in Tehran to a sustainable level.  As it stands, Tehran is Iran’s economic, commercial, and political capital.  With over 12million inhabitants (about 1/6th of Iran’s 70million population), Tehran is the heart of Iran’s governance.

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