Saturday, November 3, 2012

What I learned from Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy

As people across the region gradually put what pieces back together that they can, I've learned a few things from Hurricane/ Superstorm Sandy.

Our infrastructure is rather delicate. Some of the hardest hit areas have been difficult for repair and rescue crews to reach. In some cases, firefighters had to let homes burn down because there was no way to get the fires.

Though the shore areas took the brunt of this double-barrel shotgun blast from Sandy, falling trees and tangled power lines made a mess of the rest of the state. And frankly, if towns such as mine could find ways to recover on our own perhaps more energy could go towards the shore. My town has some damage but NOTHING on the scale of what happened at the shore. People here mostly needed gas and power but are otherwise OK. It would alleviate the tougher part of the recovery if there was a better way for people to fend for themselves or at least manage their local infrastructure needs.

In my area, roads were still largely driveable though toppled trees forced a few detours. People can get around but limited access to electricity and fuel created a whole host of problems. Simply put, without gas or power the bulk of our community was rather screwed. Most homes are not designed to be heated through other means. You might have a fireplace but that will only keep one part of the dwelling warm. Generators are not always an option.

If it was possible to use other means to at least heat homes, I think more people could fend for themselves. I'm sure the survivalists out there will say they prepared bunkers for such events. That is not what I mean. I'm talking about ongoing, individual sustainability not emergency situations.

We have structured our lives so that we are rendered impotent without gas and electricity. Is it even legal to use a firewood stove in your house?

Meanwhile those who live in less modern homes, such as the Amish, are probably going about their lives with little disruption. They had to weather the same winds and rains, possibly deal with damaged buildings (and hopefully no injuries). At the end of the day, they can put in some sweat equity and start to recover on their own.

As of now, the lack of power in my area is more like an obstacle you have to find a way around but cannot tackle directly. Which is why I have been at the local library getting work done on my laptop. Funny, though I come to the library often I have never seen so many people crowded in here before. I hope they pick up books and read while they charge up their cell phones.

I even have to chide myself as a writer. All my material is stored digitally. I can't work on rewrites of my novels without power.

Wireless phone service has been erratic at best, which is not a huge deal but when your landline phone is not usable either . . .

That probably is the biggest irony. Older phones that don't need external power would still function right now. Good luck finding one of those, no one makes them anymore. Even many corded phones require some sort of additional power for things like caller ID.

If I may make a Battlestar Galactica TV show reference, the Galactica escaped the sneak attack that destroyed the rest of the fleet because the Galactica used older hardware that the Cylons could not compromise. There is some real world logic in that. We need to rethink this infrastructure and stop tossing away mechanisms that are more reliable than our next generation innovations.​

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy in my little NJ hood

We talked about it, watched weather reports in advance of it, but few were truly prepared for what Hurricane Sandy would do to New Jersey.

This was how it began for me.

Wind blasting through Monday night, knotting up power lines and flinging trees around. I was not prepared for the massive blue electric blast right outside my apartment so my apologies for not capturing the most visually dramatic part of  the evening. It was more than fireworks; the power grid snarled in anger at the disruptive storm.

The lights wavered in my apartment as the power grid got clobbered. I about jumped out of my skin when a transformer burst. Eventually, The Dojo went dark and I was running on battery-operated gadgets. In the morning I saw some damage but I've not seen the really devastating stuff.

At the moment I am writing this blog at JFK Library a few miles from my place. It's one of the few public places with power and Internet access. I got here a few minutes after 10AM when it opened and the place was already packed. If I need to return tomorrow I will have to get here even earlier.

Damage along the shore is the most severe from what I hear on the radio. Haven't had the chance to see images. Internet access is spotty and naturally there is no TV.

I have been working every day though. One way or the other I have reported and written news for Xconomy. Not a herculean feat thanks to the library being in a part of town that either never lost power or recovered quickly (not surprising since town hall is nearby).

It's all a matter of time and patience until the power is back for everyone. Repair work and human recovery for those affected the most are another matter entirely.

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away