power outage

Power to the people (of Warren, Connecticut)

We just got our power back, took a bit of the cable to come back but it is and our network is back up and running.

Today we’ll clean the house, top to bottom, run wash, run the dishwasher and enjoy hot showers.

Let me tell you, being without power for 5 days is a serious problem and you don’t realize how much you depend on it until you lose it. It’s not just falling behind on reading feeds or watching the news on TV, its also flushing toilets, washing dishes, cooking easily, showering, and just communicating with the outside world.

I hope heads roll at Connecticut Light & Power Company, they took too long to fix this problem and they need to hire more line people to handle emergencies. The scuttlebutt is that they hired lots of out of state line crews after hurricane Irene but failed to pay them (until now) and so many crews were reluctant to come help until the State of Connecticut stepped in. If it comes out that this was the cause of our problems the head of CL&P should be fired as well as his entire upper management team.

Time will tell and of course, now that most of the state is restored and digging out of the mess few will press this. I won’t forget it, let me tell you and if nothing is done in the next few months I’ll be looking for a new utility company (there are alternatives).

Our backyard the morning after the big storm

Our backyard the morning after the big storm

Warren, Connecticut. We still have no power and may not until Sunday and I’m posting this from a friend’s house in Goshen where they got power yesterday. Anne and I got our first shower since Saturday, it was heaven.

We had a lot of damage at our place, the oak trees hadn’t lost their leaves yet so got burdened down with snow and ice and the tops broke off. One of those tops gently landed on our roof and was hanging by a thread; our good friends at Arbor Services of Connecticut came by and took care of it for us (thank you Leonard and whoever else helped out).

Today I cut up all the big downed wood and piled the brush for the birds to make nests in.

Anne and I are roughing it but we have a great wood stove and plenty of dry wood so we’re warm. We’re using stream water to flush toilets and cooking on a Coleman burner on the deck.

Last night we went out and had a pizza and put the leftover pizza in a secure box on the deck along with our milk and other refrigerator stuff. Unfortunately a raccoon found my pizza and ate it and opened all our boxes and pawed through everything getting red sauce on most of it. Sigh, if life weren’t tough enough.

I’ve been going to the Danbury Mall to use the Apple store wifi network and the mall is nice enough to let people plug into the mall’s power outlets. I bring a power strip and recharge both iPhones, both iPads, both computers, and my iPal radio that I listen to updates of our situation on NPR on.

We’re frustrated but we’re very lucky to have wood heat and we’ll live.

On cloud and other dependencies

Just like the rest of the Internet, cloud computing — services run on remote servers and deliver files and computing power over the Internet — are vulnerable to the whims of regulators and governments. Residents of Egypt learned that lesson the hard way when the government abruptly shut off most Internet service providers in a frantic attempt to gain control of its rioting populace after rising unrest.

Yes, fascinating and scary and a useful kick in the pants to consider one’s dependencies.

When we lose power here in rural Connecticut my wife and I always look at each other (while lighting candles and turning on flashlights) as we realize how dependent we are on electricity. Not just lighting but our well pump, our furnace and of course, our local area network and eventually, our laptop computers (as they run out of charge). Yes, we have a lot of saved water to flush toilets in a power outage and we heat with wood and can cook on our wood stove but we do really rely on electricity for a lot. Our big freezer will last a while without power as long as we don’t open it but we have a lot of food that would need to be moved outside (where it’s freezing) so as not to spoil if we lost power for more than a few days.

While not wanting to go down the bomb shelter-survivalist path we have considered purchasing a generator to get us through power outages and may yet but we also like the idea of simply hunkering down and riding it out rather than attempting to provide enough infrastructure to normalize our lives at every moment. A generator will keep our local “cloud” up and running but not the cloud running on servers elsewhere.

While I would never support Senator Lieberman’s “kill switch” for internet services in the United States, I also look at what’s going on in Egypt as an example of how creative people can become when they don’t have what they’re used to. Yes, it’s useful to have the social internet at one’s disposal when one is organizing a revolution but the revolution is happening in Egypt without those tools.

Remember, Radio Free Europe and the BBC end-ran the propaganda broadcasting of many of the European countries that eventually became democracies. These days we have many more tools at our disposal so even in North Korea the writing is on the wall.

Yes, we’ve become dependent on the cloud just like electrical service, cable service, phone services of all kinds and more. I think the best way to respond to this self-knowledge is to back up data locally, know where the vulnerabilities are and if/when the power goes out in a snow storm, break out the snowshoes and enjoy the snow (metaphorically and otherwise).

By the way the application Notational Velocity which I use on my Mac to get at my Simplenote cloud-based notes caches that very text locally so is in fact, a nice bridge from cloud to local.