Life in Post Apocalyptic New Jersey: Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the resident silent movie actress

We were up extremely early this morning applying greyscale grease paint to the adolescent creature’s face, shoulders and arms.  You see, after Sandy swept through New Jersey, it just wasn’t safe for kids to walk around the street trick-or-treating.  Governor Christie rescheduled Halloween for November 5 but the damage was so extensive and there were still so many downed powerlines and broken trees that it had to be postponed again.  In fact, it was only last Wednesday when my own school system reopened.  We had to wait until there was sufficient gas for the school buses and for the more rural roads in the township to be cleared.  Even up until Friday of last week, kids who lived in the more rural parts of town needed to collect at cluster bus stops since the buses are prohibited by law to go around road obstructions.  So, the kids’ parents had to get them around the downed trees and power lines to the designated cluster stops -somehow.

The district lost 7 full days of school.  In actuality, it was more like three.  They were supposed to have all last week off for teacher’s conferences and conventions.  But because they had missed the previous full week of school, the schedule is in a bit of a mess.  If we have too many snow days this year, they could be finishing out this year in July.

Virtual classrooms would have been a nice option but with so many wifi subscriptions reliant on cable, that just wasn’t going to work after this catastrophe.  Communication throughout the post apocalypse has been sub-optimal and if Hurricane Sandy has taught us anything, it’s that we need to get on the ball when it comes to wireless infrastructure.  During a natural disaster, it’s crucial for people needing help or just getting information to be able to use their phones.  I used up my iPad data plan very quickly just by trying to find out what was going on in my own town.  I needed answers to simple questions like, should I boil the water?  Which gas stations were open? Where could I buy firewood?  What was the scheduled return of service for PSEG and Comcast?  No one in my house was downloading movies or music.  It was all pinging for information.  And Brooke missed one of her online classes at Stanford.  We had emailed them in advance that we expected the power to go out but it was still very difficult for Brooke to access her Kno account and get her reading assignments.

The good news is that AT&T sent a message two days ago that data overage charges would not apply for the month of November.  It was only 2.5 weeks late but I’ll take it.  I don’t know what prompted that.  Maybe someone finally threatened to regulate them, given the scope of the disaster and the frustration of AT&T users to use their phones.  By the way, those of you who are advocating land lines should stop.  The landline that I gave up was actually my internet phone from Comcast.  I think a lot of people who have landlines go this route because it is offered as part of a package deal from the cable companies.  And in our case, Comcast was just as affected as PSEG.  We were in an information no man’s land for almost a week with spotty signal at best and only when the wind was blowing in a certain direction.

One final note on the phone disaster was that Verizon service was restored more quickly.  They had fewer towers down and much better coverage to start with.  Something to consider when you go to purchase your next iPhone.

Anyway, it turns out I’m out of candy, and given that I live in New Jersey and should have thought about Halloween back in August, must go forage for some candy corn or Milky Way minis or Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (my favorite!).  Or rocks.  You know, whatever’s left.  Today, the school district’s children are also bringing canned goods to the school for a food drive for Sandy stricken families.  We did cranberries and corn but I think it is not enough.  Thanksgiving is only next week.  We must try harder.

Happy Halloween!

Maybe I wasn’t clear before: AT&T is gouging in the Sandy impacted area

I routinely get the following text message to my phone: “Connecting to a WiFi network is easy and saves on your data allowance”.

I don’t know what part of ‘power failure’ AT&T doesn’t get but there is no fricking WiFi network. That’s one of the things that makes this whole event so frustrating. Without WiFi, we’re forced to rely on our phones and data plans for news, information, messages to relatives, radio, etc. And everytime we use the damn phone or iPad, assuming we can find a signal that isn’t going to die on us, we end up chewing thru the data allowance.

That means that in spite of all the cell tower problems, AT&T is making money off of those of us in the impacted zone. I’m guessing it’s making a LOT of money the longer the power failure goes on. And those of us who get power last are going to be paying AT&T more.

In this scenario, AT&T’s data plans meant to gouge the customer. There literally is no other alternative. It’s like driving up to the gouging firewood place on Rt 206 (jerseyfirewood.com) only to find that they will either sell you a Duraflame log or half a cord of wood. The cord is going to cost a fortune but if you only buy one Duraflame log at a time, hoping for the power to come on and the electricity to control your thermostat before you have to buy another, you will find that you have to buy another and you will get less fuel than if you had been forced to by a cord. Either way, the price is outrageous.

It’s especially dicey when you share data plans with an adolescent creature who needs to do her assignments online and notify her friends of her boredom level every half hour.

Now, I know that the telcomms do not like regulation. They don’t like to be forced into the role of a public utility. But whether they like it or not, that’s the role they’ve been forced into. And for those of us who pay more than $100/month for these lifelines, and additional data plans for their iPads that are just for emergencies when the wifi is down, the data allowance cap and additional charges feels like extortion.

If your cellular network can’t handle all the affected New Jersey residents and Manhattanites and Staten Islanders and LawnGuylanders who are starved for information, then maybe it’s time, that the millions and millions of us who are getting royally reamed by your companies to have a little chat with our elected officials about forcing more infrastructure improvements from you out of the obscene profits you already make from us and regulating your cellular networks during power failures by mandating generators for all of your cell towers for extended periods of time.

Yes, I think that’s just what we should do. Let the lobbying commence. If you are in a Sandy impact zone, call your congressman and senators and let them know how disappointed you are that AT&T and the other telecoms are using their data allowance caps to extort money from you in the absence of landline and wifi accessibility. Tell them that this disaster has taught you that the telecomms who provide cell service are actually public utilities and that they should be regulated like a public utility.

Also let them know that without the aid of their phones and iPads, it will be impossible for you to find out where your polling place is next week so you may not be able to vote for them. That ought to wake the elected officials up.

Are you listening Bob Menendez, Upendra Chivakula? Are you picking up what I’m putting down, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson?

Life in post apocalyptic NJ: gougers and bipartisan bullshit

Running off Generator Power!!
Riverdaughter’s — Free Charging Station

Courtesy of The Confluence

I’m about to head out for gas and firewood but not very confident about finding either. Last night,the lights flickered briefly, then went out again. The high voltage transmission lines cut through this section of new jersey about a mile from my house. The road beneath them is blocked off and it now occurs to me that there must be a major problem with one of the towers.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to the news on WNYC and everyone is marveling over the amazing bipartisanship display between Chris Christie and Barack Obama. Allow me to be cynical here. Christie is the governor who cancelled the new rail tunnel project underneath the Hudson between Hoboken and manhattan. That tunnel wouldn’t have saved Hoboken or the rail line this year but in future storms, it would have had modern anti flooding and pumping mechanisms so the catastrophe we’re now looking at with the rail system would be avoided.

Governor Christie has a particular loathing for NJ Transit. His budget cut $300 million from NJ Transit in the first year of his administration, causing fares to skyrocket and improvements to be cut. Instead, Christie’s administration gave $300 million to the developers of a white elephant shopping mall extravaganza in the Meadowlands. Those developers lost their shirts in 2008 before they could finish the mall that nobody wanted. So, to recap, NJ rail customers – 0, rich developers – 300. This is the same governor who yells at teachers and makes the rest of us feel like parasites. He belongs to the party that cut back unemployment bennies for people in this state by 26 weeks. Let’s not make a hero out of Christie.

And let’s not pretend that it is above Barack Obama to milk this disaster for all that it’s worth. Sometimes, I wonder if there really is a Satan and Obama is his guy. First there was the financial collapse of September 2008 and now this. In both cases, Obama looks like he’s cruisin for a bruisin and then voile! Catastrophe and loss. It’s perfect. Lots of free airtime with Obama hugging displaced elderly ladies in a shelter and distributing packs of White House stamped m&m’s to poor little kiddies missing Halloween. Did Michelle know he was going to do that? Message, “I care”.

Please.

Here’s what I imagined happened. Christie reads the signs on the national hurricane service maps, which his party is dying to privatize, and sees sandy heading right towards us. Knowing that re-election campaigning for him starts in January 2013, he swallows his pride and calls the White House. Obama drives a hard bargain. If you want a quick response, you’d better say nice things about us from the very start. You will appear at my side and fawn all over me. You will say I’m the nicest, bestest, most efficient and empathetic president you have ever met and my administration is on the ball.

So, Christie is.

I don’t expect Obama’s attention to New Jersey to last beyond election day. After that, Christie is on his own and so will the rest of New Jersey. If we’re going to get this state up and running again, it all has to happen before next Tuesday or we’re screwed. By the way, to change the date of a presidential election takes an act of Congress. Please let me know if you hear of representatives rising back to make the election fair for those communities at the shore who were obliterated.

In the New Jersey Hall of Shame add AT&T. Their response has been pathetic during the aftermath. Unlike the electric and gas utilities, they have been very tight lipped to reporters about the extent of damage to their cellular network. Service has been spotty at best although it looks like the local cell tower is finally back on line. But considering the fact that we still don’t have cable or any electricity and are living in a black out zone as far as news goes, I was more than a little infuriated that AT&T sent a “you only have 20% left on your data plan” message to my iPad. Amazing how they can keep track of that in the midst of a catastrophe that they are partially responsible for. I’ve heard that AT&T was finally forced to join forces with Verizon to get the data/cellular network going and the first thing they send out is a data limit notice.

In this emergency when we don’t know what’s going on or whether to boil our water or not or where we can get cheap firewood, the idea that AT&T is still putting artificial limits on the data plans is outrageous. Not only that but from what I heard in WNYC last night, back in 2008 after another cellular network failure in the aftermath of a catastrophe, there was a bill pending in Congress that would have mandated that the cell towers have an 8 hour back up generator plan and the telecoms killed that bill. Yep, they killed it. This is when many people such as myself have ,given up our landlines so the only way we can call first responders after and emergency is by using our cell phones and the immoral bastards killed the bill with their army of lobbyists.

There should be congressional hearings when this is all over. There need to be limits on how little regulation utilities and telecoms should be getting away with. We are talking about public safety now.

F}#^ers.

Friday: Unfinished business

For a long time now, I’ve been thinking that feminists dropped the ball after they won Roe v. Wade.  Everyone took it down a notch and went back to whatever it was they were doing.  The ERA officially died in 1982.  I was at Point Park in Pittsburgh at a rally the day it happened.  It was important and it was no doubt a very bad thing when it died.  But I was young and stupid and I thought at least we have Roe and cheap, plentiful oral contraceptives.

And that’s where we fell into a trap.  The right wing had us just where they wanted us.  Instead of protecting us, Roe has been used as a political hammer by both parties and as a result, its no longer the protection it was assumed it was.  I say assumed because it never was supposed to be a proxy for true equality.

Today, Louise Trubek, one of the plaintiffs in an earlier contraception case in Connecticut pre-Griswold, seems to agree that we lost the plot in her post in the NYTimes:

Why are issues that the courts decided so long ago still unresolved? Maybe it is time to recognize that law alone is not enough to effect social change. It must be linked to social activism on behalf of women’s rights.

[...]

We can celebrate Griswold, Roe and all the cases that stemmed from the Poe litigation. They are important landmarks in American jurisprudence. But as I look back I am dismayed by how few of the issues I was fighting for at the time of Poe are resolved. To be sure, we have important rights and more legal privacy. But we still have not provided all the support women need to combine rewarding careers and healthy families. Planned Parenthood is under siege and poor women who are seeking comprehensive reproductive care are still at risk. Presidential candidates can get away with saying that all contraception should be outlawed. Comprehensive child care services are difficult to locate, and fully financed family and medical leave is still controversial.

In short, we won the legal battle but not the war. Women are still not guaranteed control over their lives, because the necessary social supports were never secure. The initial goal of Griswold was to help women — and even though the precedent has helped with same-sex marriage laws, those initial needs, especially of poor women, have been left largely unmet.

The universal coverage plan outlined in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a good step forward, and we should do all we can to ensure it. Perhaps if activism had been linked to the lawsuits, the aims I fought for would have been secured, and we would be spared the spectacle of Republican candidates threatening, yet again, a woman’s right to control her own fertility.

She’s right.  After we won Roe, we just assumed that social equality would follow on its own.  But that was never going to happen if the activists stopped being active.  I blame my own generation for this.  We straddled the gap between the end of the baby boom and the Gen Xers.  We were children during the activist days and too busy breaking new ground in college and careers to pay any attention to what was happening to our rights.  It was hard enough to get some professor to notice us or some supervisor to recognize our achievements to go out after work and organize.  But without that activism and organization, our accomplishments were illusory.  There was no permanent change in the culture except these two flimsy supreme court rulings.  That is all we had.  And as the right wing started to chip away at them, we didn’t get alarmed enough.  Now the right has almost got its way even with the rulings in place and our rights and equality looks like a matrix of swiss cheese.

So, it’s back to the trenches for us or our daughters will not have the privileges that we had in the 70s and 80s.  If we’re wondering why we get treated badly at work, it’s because the old boys club knows that there are things society can force women to do that can never be forced on men.  It makes us look weak and easy to run over.

It’s still a man’s world out there and we were stupid to think an abortion ruling was going to change that.

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Craig Crawford has a great post on the fallout over Rush Limbaugh’s “Slut” broadcast.   If you missed this fecal vomit from Rush, here’s an excerpt:

[O]n his radio show today, Limbaugh showed no remorse and instead reveled in the attention. Referring to Fluke, Limbaugh demanded that women post sex tapes online if they use insurance-covered birth control:

LIMBAUGH: So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.

 And here’s Rush’s followup.  He just can’t seem to stop himself.  This man needs help.  Or a stiletto shoe in his face.  I just can’t decide…

Craig has a handy list of sponsors that you can contact and includes this little tidbit:

The Rush-Romney Connection
Limbaugh’s daily radio show is syndicated by Premier Networks, which is owned byClear Channel, which is co-owned by Bain Capital.

Folks, you can’t make this up.

Yesterday, I wrote a response to a post by Sarah Lane on google+.  Sarah Lane is the bubbly tech blogger who’s a mainstay at Twit.tv.  I love Sarah Lane but I don’t like the idea that Carbonite is a sponsor of Twit AND Rush Limbaugh.  So, I wrote to ask her what she thought of that?  No answer yet but I’m hopeful.  I might try Gina Trapani next.  Or Leo Laporte, although Leo can come off as a sexist jerk himself on occasion.  In fact, I might just want to abstain from Twit and remove its app from my iphone and ipad until they have a word with their sponsor.  For sure, I am not using the Twit offer code from Carbonite until Carbonite disassociates itself from Rush.

ProFlowers also sponsors Rush.

Now would be a good time for Barack Obama to overcome his Mike Dukakis impression and stand up for women agains this evil bully.  It could be a twofer because Rush may push the nuclear option with a really vile racist remark and then we’ll see how far gone the American public truly is.  It’s one thing to think uncharitable, ignorant things, things you know are not socially acceptable.  It’s quite another thing to say them to the President of the United States.  Barack Obama might be an unprincipled schmoozer and a lousy president but that has nothing to do with his race (which is only a social construct anyway).

This is an opportunity for him to act like he’s got some backbone.  Someone needs to step in here and level Rush.  Maybe Hillary can lend Obama one of her balls.  Schedule a news conference and condemn him in the harshest terms.  Take a note from Bill Clinton’s evil cowards speech after the Oklahoma City bombing.  It’s the right thing to do and I guarantee that it won’t cost the election.  It’s not censoring Rush to tell him that his remarks are uncalled for, destructive and reflects badly on American values.  Call him out.  Do it now.

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In science, it looks like you can teach stale eggs new tricks.  A new study in the journal Nature shows that human ova can be created from ovarian stem cells:

Previous research had suggested that a woman is born with all the egg cells she will ever have in her lifetime.

But in recent experiments, scientists discovered a new type of stem cell in the ovaries that—when grown in the lab—generates immature egg cells. The same immature cells isolated from adult mouse ovaries can turn into fertile eggs.

Stem cells, found in embryos and certain adult body tissues, have the potential to grow into many different types of cells.

(See “Liposuction Fat Turned Into Stem Cells, Study Says.”)

The finding reinforces the team’s previous experiments in mice, which had identified a new type of ovarian stem cell that renews a female mouse’s source of eggs throughout its fertile years.

That study, published in the journal Nature in 2004, was the “first to reach the conclusion that this long-held belief in our field—that young girls are given a bank account at birth that you can no longer deposit eggs to, just withdraw from—was no longer true,” said study leader Jonathan Tilly.

This is good news because if you can collect your stem cells early in your reproductive years and store them, there won’t be as much pressure to have kids before your expiration date.  You can have a backup plan and can get back to work doing something else, like research or starting your own business or writing books or something that requires your full attention.  Biology isn’t destiny until you’re ready.  It’s a good thing.

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This is just cool.  Or disturbing, depending how you look at the idea of small flying objects:

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Blame the user:

NEW YORK -(MarketWatch)- AT&T Inc. T +0.88% is taking a step closer to doing away with unlimited-mobile data-plans.

Under a new policy, AT&T will slow download speeds for unlimited 3G and 4G smartphone customers who exceed 3 gigabytes and 4G LTE users who exceed 5 gigabytes of data in a given month. AT&T had previously been slowing speeds, or throttling, customers who were in the top 5% of data users in their respective market.

AT&T has been trying to manage capacity on its network in the face of heavy data consumption by Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPhone users and a limited supply of wireless airwaves, or spectrum. The carrier is spending billions to build out a new fourth-generation mobile-broadband network that can handle more data traffic.

A spokesman said the new guidelines were necessary because of confusion among unlimited customers over when their download speeds would be slowed. He declined to say by how much the speeds would be decreased.

If you want to know why you’re losing the unlimited data plan on your iPhone, you can blame deregulation of the phone business years ago.  I guess when they decided to break up the monopolies to encourage competition, they never thought about whether they should require the phone companies to invest some of their ungodly profits into improving their data networks.  So, scarcity, like, you know, works in their favor.  They can make you slow down and use less and still charge you a fortune for crappy service.  I have ATT and I can barely get a signal in parts of central NJ and in NY City?  Fuggeddaboudit.  Covering the Occupy events in Zuccotti park was nearly impossible in real time and just drained the battery as the iphone uselessly pinged the sky looking for a signal.
Wherever Steve Jobs is, I’m betting he’s not amused.
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