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Life in post apocalyptic NJ- gas, data withdrawal and elections

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We were very warm last night. The oak logs were seasoned to perfection as advertised and burned brightly. But we still don’t have power and the school called again today to say that there would be no school on Monday either, which doesn’t sound good. I don’t know how they’re planning to pull off an election because my polling station is in a catholic church that’s smack dab in the middle of the worst hit area in my township, surrounded by fallen power lines.

Putting on my tinfoil antenna, what is the likelihood that the precincts that get power last are heavily Republican?

The municipal library has wifi but I went there today and the connection was so slow that it took me 15 minutes to log into WordPress. They were only staying open until 5 anyway. Normally, they stay open until 9:30pm but promptly at 4:40pm, the librarian started nagging everyone to wrap it up. I was in the middle of processing a video but I bagged it. I have a lot of video and pictures to upload but with the data plan ceiling in my iPad and no wifi to upload, I’m not sure how I’m going to post them. With everyone in the immediate area desperate for a data hit, the few places with a good connection are overwhelmed. We tried Panera today but they’re only serving pasties and coffee and no wifi. Wegmans is generously offering free charging but the wifi was jammed. If I get to starbucks early tomorrow, maybe there’s a chance.

I am being taught Japanese without my consent. Shoot me now.

So, I was going to talk a little bit about infrastructure. You don’t realize how bad American infrastructure is until you meet a visitor from Germany in the gas line saying, “This is incredible. I can’t believe how bad this is. Four days without electricity and everyone is cold!”.

It’s embarrassing.

Beside the antiquated rail system with its switching system that in the best of times failed on a regular basis (never try to make a matinee in NYC via NJ Transit during a rainstorm) to the levee system that dates back to King George III to the miles and miles of overhead power lines, it looks as if the northeast is in a time warp. I’ve always wondered why the cell service was so bad here. This state was the birth place of the telecomm industry and AT&T used to be a big employer here 20 years ago. But even when the weather is great, cell service is horrible with many dropped calls and dead zones. And somewhere in the Rocky Hill area just north of Princeton, there is a no man’s land where cell service drops off to nothing. In my office in my lab building, I was able to get t-mobile data but not voice, Verizon voice but not data and nothing from AT&T even though the AT&T building about a mile up the street was bought by my company and supposedly, the most sophisticated networking system to that date had been installed in the area. It didn’t matter. I used to have to stand in the parking lot to make personal phone calls.

About the time I was laid off, the good citizens of Bridgewater were fighting the installation of a new cell tower near the fire department. It was going to be aesthetically disguised and would have provided much needed service to the area but the local burghers were having none of it. I’m betting they’re kicking themselves this week.

My development was built in 1986 and all of the utilities are buried but the way the power gets into this development is thru the old power lines and right now, there are big, heavy trees leaning in them or those trees have already taken them down. The utilities whine that to bury them all would cost about $1M per mile and that cost would be passed on to customers.

Why is that? What did we get for the money we sent to the federal government? We gave the banks access to all of our money and what did we get in return but a bunch of selfish pricks buying the media and telling us we expect too much in our old age. The money would be better invested in infrastructure. I can’t imagine South Korea putting up with this kind of broadband service. Just think, if the power, broadband and cell had recovered quickly, the frenzy over gas wouldn’t have been so severe. Most of us could have easily worked from home. But since that was impossible and getting paid meant being present, we had millions of people frantic to get to work this week in any way possible.

As for NYC, I feel for the people stuck in high rises without water or light. It’s amazing to me that just 30 blocks north, the city is acting like nothing’s wrong except the Metro is broken in places. But gosh darn it, isn’t it great that Wall Street isn’t inconvenienced and the NYC marathon proceeds as scheduled. It’s good for business, Mike Bloomberg says. Yes, we must all sacrifice on the altar of business.

For some reason, I just can’t see Rudy Giuliani reacting like that to a disaster of this magnitude. Rudy was an authoritarian jerk but the whole city pulled together. In this disaster, the tenants of lower Manhattan are left to fend for themselves while the show must go on in Times Square.

And the suburbanites of New Jersey become urban campers, hemmed in by dangerous fallen power lines and no gas, all because it’s more important to bailout the bankers than bury the power lines. What a waste of money and productivity.

And cancer research takes another blow. I followed this link that jay ackroyd posted at eschaton about the years of work, genetically modified mice and tissue samples that were lost at NYU during the storm. That must be heartbreaking and frustrating for the researchers. I know that my lab partners and I panicked when one of our freezers housing hundreds of protein crystals failed one evening and we scrambled to relocate them as quickly as possible to other buildings. It just occurred to me that the few pharma research labs all over NJ must have been facing the same thing. Meanwhile, one of the heads of the labs is trying to do his work remotely using intermittent wifi access in coffee shops and McDonald’s.

This storm is going to cost the region $50 billion. It’s going to set cancer research back by years. But heaven forbid we force bankers to cut back on bonuses or suffer any losses for the reckless bets they made four years ago so that we can invest in infrastructure. The self identified and mislabeled “job creators” are global now and have moved on from America. As far as they’re concerned, the northeast is Bangladesh and no longer worth the investment. We gave them access to the safe, they took the money and ran.

Update: I just got a message from the school district. Not only will schools be closed, the after school programs that were supposed to be providing extended care for half days that were originally scheduled next week are also canceled. That means a lot of parents are going to be scrambling for child care next week when they need to go back to work.

One other thing, Brooke says she saw the national guard today driving a little convoy of trucks marked “flammable”. I guess it really is that bad. The NYTimes confirms that Brooke wasn’t just seeing things. The pentagon is mobilizing the army to deliver fuel. Also, reader Gayle reports that the NYC marathon is off. It’s on front page of the NYTimes as well.

Update II: I just got a message from AT&T. “In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we are closely monitoring our network for service disruptions. Our crews are working around the clock to restore service to impacted areas. Please stay safe and thank you for your patience. Sincerely, AT&T.”

Well, that’s nice. It only took them 4 days.

Still no message about them lifting the data plan limits in impacted areas. Do they know that NJ has an unemployment rate above 10% and that maintaining these plans is expensive? I can just imagine a bunch of AT&T executives in a room carefully balancing how little to give way to FEMA before they have to start answering to the shareholders. “let’s send a note. That should do it.”.

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