Tuesday, December 04, 2012

No Power - No Peace Getting Around

Day Two  And More After Sandy

On Tuesday my wife who is a building manager, had to look at some of the buildings that she and her company manage nearby and close to the river.

At that point in time, second day after the storm, these dwellings became an ad hoc office and meeting place for some of the managers. 

The area had two advantages, better than spotty cell phone reception and the ability charge phones in the cars. 

These buildings were flooded during the surge and the water not only came in from the Hudson River but also welled up through the drains. The basements had to be pumped out. 

In this building there were two basement garage attendants. Both of them noticed the water was coming in and one of them decided that he would patiently wait until the water subsided. The other attendant saw how quickly the water was filling the garage and he made for the stairs. After he went up 10 or more steps the attendant turned around and saw his friend standing on a car roof just above the rising water. This all happened in less than 20 seconds.  Needless to say the garage filled to the ceiling and the attendant that stayed behind drowned. 

On Wednesday:

An uptown electrified friend offered  hot showers, wifi to check our email and place to charge our devices. Our nephew, who lives three blocks away from this friend, offered his Jeep so we could have transportation for the duration. The biggest obstacle to all this help was getting there since the subways weren't running. 

The journey began with us sharing a cab with the woman who was working in a nearby restaurant. We move fairly quickly  from downtown below Canal to 30th St.
But when we got to 33rd St. encountered gridlock likes of which we've never seen. 

So at 36th Street we left the cab and carrying laptop with some wine and other stuff  walked the crowded streets for over a mile. 

At times the gridlock was bad that some cars took to pushing their way on to the sidewalk. 

At the end of that night we were clean, charged, well fed and had a handle on our burdgeoning emails.

Day Four Views 

On Thursday I walked down to the Battery Tunnel and back again. In that time I saw the news being created at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, somehow renamed while I wasn't paying attention to The Hugh Carey Tunnel.

Politicians out in full force. New York's Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and someone who I don't recognize all had a comment about the progress of cleaning up the effects of storm Sandy. 

The smaller Battery Park Tunnel was still very flooded on this day. 

It looked like it was going to be awhile before things returned to normal.

No matter where you walked downtown pumps were in place doing their job.

Last Day

The only area that had electricity was Battery Park City and some of the area north of BPC. By chance we found an electrical and wifi oasis where the new tribe of digital nomads was gathering. Here the Conrad hotel opened a spare room where they installed extension cords and allowed people to join their wifi network. It makes one very aware how dependent we have become on digital communications and  informational technology.

This is our last night without power. We sat and played Boggle by candlelight. For a short while I was upset that some people in Manhattan got their power back hours before us.

Soon afterward it became apparent that our travails were insignificant compared the hardships and loss suffered at the New York and New Jersey Shores and on Staten Island. We had gotten by, others are still coping with an unprecedented disaster. This holiday season give a little something to the Red Cross and agencies to help our neighbors. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

No Power - No Peace

No Power - No Peace - Part 1
The First Night

Life in Darkened Downtown Manhattan
As A Result of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy and her subsequent evolution into a monster Hurricane/Nor'easter storm may signal a meteorological paradigm shift of monumental significance.
Having said that what follows is a set of personal observations of effects of that shift on a small portion of New York City.

On Sunday November 28th 2012 the subways were closed 24 hours before the storm and it's tidal surge were to hit the New York - New Jersey area. This rare action was done as a preventive measure in case the worse should happen. At the time I thought this meant a minor inconvenience of a day or so. After all we have had hurricanes batter New York before and after a few days they were filed away as just another hurricane.

My first hint that I was not going have electricity was a Sunday night robo call from the utility Con Edison, known locally as Con-Ed. In that call they said they would make a preventive move and turn off my electric power for a short time at during the Sandy tidal surge. It was also announced that areas to shut were near me but not necessarily my neighborhood. 

Hurricane Sandy, with a cheerful and warm name, barged her way into the area bearing destructive gifts. We followed the storms progress on television. Sometime before 9 PM the lights briefly blinked. Occasionally I had seen this kind blinking when Con-Ed shifted power from section or another. 

Then my lights did something very peculiar. The lights went from normal brightness to a deep orange and then bounced back. I looked out the window and watched in horror as the lights in the office building across the street went out one by one. The street lamp went out. My lights did the orange dip again, went bright for a moment and then there was darkness. 

An odd view greeted me when I walked outside. It was a full moon and shown through the clouds with a diffuse lunar light.

The Candle Age came back to New York. 

At Home we brought out our ancient candle collection of whole and stubby candles.

Outside, New York City set up cars blocking the roads to traffic heading toward Battery Park. 

A very small number buildings had electricity. Either these buildings had their own generators or were part World Financial Center or Battery Park City complexes.

The water had reached its full height by the time these pictures were taken. This set is at Barkley Street and Greenwich Ave. 

At Park Place and Greenwich small groups of residents  had  gathered. As quickly as the tidal surge rose it began to fall but left flooded basements and tunnels in its wake.

The next segment is Part 2
Neighborly Chicken Soup.

No Power - No Peace - Getting By In the Dark

Day One After Sandy

Tuesday we called our neighbors and asked for left over defrosting chicken and warming refrigerated vegetables. With these ingredients, I cooked a fresh and hearty soup.   
And that night we served chicken soup with bread and wine by candle light for the half of our building that had not left. so we served dinner for 10. 
There are no pictures from the dinner but it had an atmosphere of it's own.

More candles

Two years ago I received a Red Cross crank driven radio and flashlight as a gift. Upon receiving the radio I was told: "May you never really need this". But during the blackout it came in handy. 
We felt we knew what has happening without running down our iphones and suffering with very spotty coverage. Even our landline would go out from time to time. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Wrong As Can Be

Famous predictions that have turned out to very, very wrong.



"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances."

-- Dr. Lee DeForest, "Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television."

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives."
- - Admiral William Leahy , US Atomic Bomb Project

"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom."

-- Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."

-- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what is it good for?"

-- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
-- Bill Gates, 1981

"This 'telephone'has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us,"
-- Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

-- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible,"

-- A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper,"
--Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind."

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make,"

-- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,"
-- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,"
-- Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment.
The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this,"

- - Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy,"

-- Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

-- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University , 1929.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value,"
-- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre , France .

"Everything that can be invented has been invented,"

-- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.

"The super computer is technologically impossible. It would take all of the water that flows over Niagara Falls to cool the heat generated by the number of vacuum tubes required."

-- Professor of Electrical Engineering, New York University

"I don't know what use any one could find for a machine that would make copies of documents. It certainly couldn't be a feasible business by itself."

-- the head of IBM, refusing to back the idea, forcing the inventor to found Xerox.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
-- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse , 1872

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon,"

-- Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.

And last but not least...

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

-- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

Particularly interesting is the quote from Bill Gates. 

Here’s a man who was dead wrong. But he learned from his mistake and, in fact, built a career based on that fact.  

Would that other leaders had that grace.