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!

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.

Net neutrality, Google, and Verizon

You’ve all heard by now that Google and Verizon will take care of it. They will come to an agreement between them that will ensure the best use of bandwidth for everyone.

And what we’re arguing about is whether their agreement preserves enough net neutrality.

Green horrified face. By Jeremy Brooks.

Net neutrality is a question of rights. Who determines the content of the public airwaves? Who determines the extent of your right to see or hear what you choose? Who determines what you can choose to see and hear?

Since when do businesses decide questions of rights? That is a function of government.

Does the government fit into such a tiny tub by now that we no longer have any idea what it’s for?

(Crossposted at Acid Test.)

This just in: Google decides to do evil

From the NYTimes, Google and Verizon Near Deal on Pay Tiers for Web:

WASHINGTON — Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.

The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.

Such an agreement could overthrow a once-sacred tenet of Internet policy known as net neutrality, in which no form of content is favored over another. In its place, consumers could soon see a new, tiered system, which, like cable television, imposes higher costs for premium levels of service.

Any agreement between Verizon and Google could also upend the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to assert its authority over broadband service, which was severely restricted by a federal appeals court decision in April.

Ahhh, yes, let’s not make the ISPs upgrade their infrastructure, which we pay additional fees and taxes for them to do anyway.  No, let’s fork even MORE of our money over to them so we can read our favorite blogs and news.

But here’s the really evil part of the arrangement. The parties involved say they are only referring to cell phone transmission, not regular ethernet.
Except that the future is in iPad type devices, which are just big cell phones. Oh, sure, you can still use wifi with them but their big draw is that you can take them anywhere.
THAT’S where this deal is going to bite us in the ass. I already spend far too much on cell service between my iPad and iPhone. Now, not only will android phones have to pay more, their content will stream differently. This is not a slippery slope we want to go down.

Net neutrality has been stabbed in the back over a cell phone war.

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