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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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28 Responses

  1. You’re right, this is a disgusting world.
    Say, I notice you link to Sky Dancing. Do you realize they’ve had you delinked for more than a year?

  2. NY Marathon is off.

  3. Riverdaughter, my family and friends are relying on your posts (which I link to on facebook for their convenience) — The Television and Print media is covering Real Life in the Sandy Zone in only the most narrow of views. (What did the last person in line for gas who actually got some feel?)

    Anyway, we’re very appreciative that you take the time to put this all together for us. Thank you so much.

    (The worry wart in me worries about ventilation — Do you have a window or two open in your garage to keep the fumes from leaking into your house?)

    • Not to worry. The generator is outside the garage when it runs, the door is down. We shut it off at 10pm. There’s no point in running it when we’re asleep. And now it’s cold enough to use the walk in refrigerator.

      • Oh, Good!! Thank you. Because of a weird confluence of the storm and my parent’s health issues, I seem to be in a worry-overload-loop. Thanks for taking this one off my list!

        • You can decrement the worry variable. There’s no way we would keep the generator in the garage. It puts out a lot of fumes.

    • The little orange cutie can be seen in the Free Charging Station photo :)

  4. Glad to hear you are safe river daughter. I was thinking about you during the storm. Tonight I visited and then thought about your old Friday night cocktail series and how much fun that was. I,ve popped a cork now in tribute. Take care everyone.

    • I second that one, Jes! RD at this very minute I am raising a shot of Jamison in you & Brooke’s honor.

      And thank God the marathon was cancelled. Jeez.

      • We’re drinking Russian Tea tonight. I’d forgotten that I made it last Christmas time and stored it in a jar. 2tbsp in a cup of boiling water gives you a cupful of warm, cinnamony, citrus yumminess.
        Ahhhh

  5. Yves has a good post, “Sandy Aftermath and the Fragility of Complex Systems

    She lists components of modern life. Here’s the first:

    Gasoline. This appears to be a not-trivial issue. There have been news and reader reports that gas was pretty much gone in Queens gas stations as of yesterday. Mayor Bloomberg said gas shortages “would be alleviated” by November 5, but it sounds like New Jersey will be behind that timetable. Reader Nathan rang around to gas stations in New Jersey, and even ones in areas that had not been flooded either had no gas or were running low and had long lines.
    Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/sandy-aftermath-and-the-fragility-of-complex-systems.html#JgoY8ilobjs2yDrU.99

    • I have video to prove it. We still don’t have all of our gas stations open. They are up to about 50%, which is an improvement over yesterday and the day before. The police are still directing access into and out of them and they’ve made it so you can only enter the gas stations from one point and exit from one point. Of course, you can always walk up with a gas can. Those lines are long but they move quickly.
      A couple of stations only accept cash. I spent about half an hour in a line before I knew that they weren’t going to take my debit card and Brooke was at a different gas station filling the little tank with all of the cash.
      This is what life is like everyday. Every morning it’s a search for food, power and fuel. It consumes most of my calories.

  6. Glad to hear you are managing. Take care. We all over the country are sending you good thoughts that things get up and going soon.

  7. River daughter, I have followed your blog since the last Presidental election. I was considered to be one of the old white racist, anyway I am so glad you and Brooke are safe. I love reading about your life in NJ. I lived in Lambertville at one time and truly miss it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with all.

  8. Just saw a story about the cancellation of the NYC Marathon. They brought in generators with enough power to serve 400 homes. Only the plan was to use them to run the Race Clock and Media Tent. Even giving this plan a moments consideration is just cruel. OMG.

  9. Someone with a clue must of gotten to idjit NYC mayor for life Bloomberg. What would be more ,” let them get cake ” than running a freaking Marathon as we have known it , when people are in a post industal world running a marathon for food and fuel.? WTF

    • Had more to do with approximately 8,000 competitors not being able to get to New york than any pangs of conscience.

      • I’m sure you are right. Which anyone without a private jet could have told them right off , but they had to wait until the day to figure out.

  10. .… 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.

    I think you are right, but I also think the galloping and insisted upon decay that has happened in the years between 2001 and now are a factor as well. The government and the society on all levles, hasn’t the sinuses it did then , which of course is no accident . I am praying for all who are suffering though this horror.

  11. I just saw videos of Sandy Point and Rockaway; rows and rows of once were houses, now crumbling foundations.
    God, it’s terrible.

  12. These are really great posts, RD. I feel for you, but I also admire the writing and the information and the perspective.

  13. Wall Street had to go back to the city. They could have worked from home, some of them. but it’s far easier to loot your retirement funds from the office.

  14. No tin foil hats required. Some please ‘splain to me how the Fulton Network (Wall Street & friends) which was connected to the same substation as the whole downtown Manhattan managed to come back Wednesday, while the rest of us shivered in the dark until Friday evening. Food for thought.

  15. The way they presented it was “We were right to close it Monday evening. Now it’s fine and we can turn it on.” Some bought it. I didn’t as I listened carefully the branches of the electric system: substations, networks,distribution centers. You are downstream rom me and you get it and I don’t? Why? And how symbolic is this?

  16. Vote Republican 50.0 – North Carolina – by Roy Zimmerman

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