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Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the blackout. The government doesn’t believe them. Hmm… I wonder. Does Al Qaeda have a history of claiming responsibility for things it didn’t do?
The reports about unexplained massive energy surges hours before the Ohio power lines failed made me suspicious as soon as I heard them. Well, time will tell, I suppose. Fox News, at least, reports that officials “are unable to rule out the possibility that a computer hacker plunged 50 million people into darkness.” Islamic fundamentalist hackers? Hey, it could happen.
I got a copy of yesterday’s Times! Yay! I ventured out too late yesterday to find one in Washington Heights, but here in Riverdale the news box (which does not stock Sunday papers) still had two!
I just rode the subway for the first time since the blackout. I am headed for Wave Hill park in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. (Hi Dad. :)
I just used Microsoft Streets & Trips to do the math, and the mapping, on my unusual trip home from work Thursday. Have a look. (Black lines show where I walked; red lines show where I rode a bus.)
According to Streets & Trips, the distance from my office to my apartment is just about 10 miles as the crow flies. Unfortunately, I don’t have wings, so it actually took me about 13 miles to make the trek, starting with just over 4 miles on foot from Tribeca to 40th & Madison, then roughly 7.5 miles on the M2 bus from 40th & Madison to 168th Street & Broadway, and concluding with about 1.3 miles on foot from 168th to my apartment on 190th.
On a normal day, I just take the express “A” subway train from the Canal Street station to the 190th Street station, which takes, oh, maybe 35 minutes. This was quite a bit more of an adventure. (Read my story and/or view my photos.)
InstaPundit has noticed blogger John Daley, who spent Thursday night sleeping in Bryant Park, and who did some incredible real-time blogging and photo-blogging during the blackout, the results of which can be seen here, here, here, and here. (I love the end of his “Escape from New York” post, recounting his drive home to Boston: “On [Interstate] 95 I saw three New York city taxis, one as far north as Providence. I couldn’t see what the fare read.” Ha!)
My blackout photojournalism isn’t quite as impressive or as timely as his, but I think I do have quite a few interesting photos, and they’re all now online. I’ve posted 81 pics in my Blackout of 2003 gallery. The thumbnails are right here in this blog post; all you have to do is click below where it says “Read the rest of this post,” then start scrollin’, scrollin’, scrollin’. :)
First, though, here’s a list I’ve compiled of my Blackout of 2003 audio blog posts: 5:09 PM (initial update from 13th floor office in Tribeca), 6:12 PM (walking around outside, trying to get food), 6:14 PM (speculating whether this is terrorism), 6:19 PM (listening to blackout tips on the radio), 7:02 PM (shopping at a dark but still-open grocery store offering free milk, salad) 8:02 PM (talking about how I’ve always wanted to witness a New York blackout, and how cool it will be to see the skyline dark and see stars in the sky), 8:10 PM (walking through Greenwich Village, describing a “city-wide block party”), 8:49 PM (describing Penn Station, Times Square in the dark), 12:25 AM (recalling the scene on the bus, reporting that I made it home safe). Check ‘em out!
Okay… time for those photos!
The New York Post editorializes about the blackout:
Who’s to blame? Almost everyone: Democrats and Republicans, coal-industry magnates and environmentalists, Dick Cheney and Eliot Spitzer.
Although my dad will no doubt object — and in this case, I would agree — to the Post’s demand for “100 percent reliable power,” overall it’s a good editorial. (Thanks to InstaPundit for the link, by the way.)
While we’re on the topic of the blame game, this seems like a good moment to suggest that my dad’s cautionary comment-posted statement, “Let us resist the post-Sept.-11 syndrome of trying to hitch up to the Bandwagon various & sundry unrelated, or at most tangentially-related, Pet Peeves & Favorite Causes & Agendae,” should be followed, as far as it goes — but maybe it doesn’t go quite as far as my dad thinks it does.
Certainly no one should use this opportunity to pursue truly unrelated agendae (and just as certainly, many will). But as for “tangentially-related” agendae, well, with apologies to Bill Clinton, that depends on your definition of the word “tangential.”
If the power grid collapsed as a result of a transmission failure, but if an identical (or nearly identical) situation could just as easily have occurred, and could just as easily occur in the future, because of a generation failure, I don’t see the point in trying to fix one problem without fixing the other. Why would we want to engage in that sort of tunnel-vision?
Yesterday, Becky e-mailed me the Top Ten Theories About What Caused the East Coast Power Blackout. I found the list online here. I particularly liked numbers 9, 6, 5, and 2:
9. Overstressed computers in West Coast attempting to tabulate all the candidates for California Governor.
6. Justice Antonin Scalia seeks return to original conditions when Constitution was written.
5. Department of Homeland Security seeks to confuse terrorists by hiding location of New York City.
2. President Bush attempts to divert electricity from middle class to the wealthiest 1 percent.
The Blackout of 2003 provided a whole bunch of newspapers, some of them in blackout-affected areas (e.g. the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Newark Star-Ledger) and some far, far away (e.g. the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Portland Oregonian), with a hard lesson in the perils of website outsourcing.
Ten newspaper websites hosted by Advance Internet — NJ.com, AL.com, MLive.com, Cleveland.com, OregonLive.com, Nola.com, Syracuse.com, PennLive.com, MassLive.com, and SILive.com — all went down when the power outage hit Advance Internet’s servers, and all remain down at the moment. UPDATE: It appears that these sites just went back online, in the last few minutes. (It’s 2:41 PM Eastern time on Saturday.)
This must be immensely frustrating for these newspapers (of which there are more than ten; some of the websites house multiple newspapers), who have no control whatsoever over whether their websites are online. Serves ‘em right, says I, for being so lazy (or, more likely, cheap) about their websites. Serious newspapers should have their own serious, locally controlled websites, not cheapo corporate-cookie-cutter sites designed and hosted by some faceless company hundreds of miles away.
The situation has also produced another object lesson — in the usefulness of blogs. Advance Internet has a general blackout blog, and by now all of the newspapers have set up bare-bones versions of their blackout coverage on their own blogs — using, in many cases, what are probably newly created BlogSpot sites, hosted on BlogSpot’s servers. For example, here’s the Star-Ledger’s blog. (All the blogs are linked on the Advance Internet blog.)
UPDATE: Advance Internet is a subsidiary of Advance Publications, which, according to Yahoo, owns 25 daily newspapers, 41 weekly newspapers, the Parade magazine Sunday insert, and all the magazines under the Conde Nast umbrella (Glamour, Vanity Fair, etc.) Advance’s main office is in Staten Island.
So, this is more than a lesson in the perils of outscouring: it’s a lesson in the perils of merging formerly independent and locally-owned newspapers into giant corporate conglomerates, and then (inevitably) consolidating portions of their operations. Quite likely, Advance Publications pressured the various newspapers it owns to cut costs (and thus increase the bottom line) by streamlining their Internet operations through Advance Internet. That way, they don’t need their own expensive servers or web designers — they can just feed their content to “headquarters” hundreds or thousands of miles away.
The result is the loss of a significant degree of local control over the site. The content of each site is unique, of course, but if you need to alter the design to properly cover a huge story (the same way you alter your newspaper’s standard layout to give the proper prominence to a huge story), that’s gotta be difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, though I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this, I’d be willing to bet that this arrangement makes it harder to keep the site constantly up-to-date. (I base this mostly on the belief that adding a middleman rarely makes things more efficient.)
The most visible result, normally, of corporate website outsourcing is the growth of the infamous “chain websites” — on a normal day, you could visit the Oregonian website and the Star-Ledger website, and you’d barely be able to tell the difference between them. The same holds true for many other corporate-controled website chains, too. Browse the Internet for “local” newspapers sometime, and you’ll see what I mean.
That’s bad enough. But now, we have the ridiculous spectacle of an Oregon newspaper having its website thrown offline by a power outage in Staten Island. That’s just plain absurd.
Like I said, serves ‘em right. Unfortunately, it doesn’t serve the public right. Readers deserve better than the sort of crap that this corporate consolidation brings.
ANOTHER UPDATE: OregonLive.com (which is actually the website for two newspapers in Oregon, the Oregonian and the Hillsboro Argus) explains:
The problem was caused initially by the power failure in the north east. When the power was restored, a surge destroyed a key piece of equipment and created other related problems. Our tech department has worked non-stop ever since and we are now returning to normal service.
“Our tech department”? Don’t you think it will strike your readers as odd that “the power failure in the north east” could destroy a key piece of equipment owned by “your tech department” in, presumably, Oregon? Oh, but wait, you don’t have a tech department at all! You depend on your corporate masters in Staten Island!
No, blame Cleveland. (Maybe.)
Wherever it started, the power “swing” that hit New York’s electric system Thursday was six times larger than the one in 1965.
In other news, the subways are running again:
A northbound W train left the Stillwell station in Brooklyn at 11:57 p.m. Other lines followed during the early-morning hours, ending with the F train, which went online at 5:50 a.m.
UPDATE: Well, CNN says only 14 of the 24 subway lines are fully functional; I guess the other 10 are partly functional. Then again, the MTA website says simply, “Normal New York City Transit subway and bus service has resumed.” Eh, whatever. It’s the fog of war. The point is, we’re getting back to the normal.
The New York Times reports:
Power to New York City was fully restored at 9:03 p.m., Consolidated Edison announced, and virtually all the rest of the state had regained electricity as well. The City Council estimated the city lost up to $750 million in revenue, up to $40 million in tax revenue and up to $10 million in overtime pay for the first 24 hours after the blackout started. … Ten of the subway system’s 24 main lines were working just after midnight Friday and the rest were expected to be restored by Saturday morning.
All right, BrendanLoy.com readers, you’ve seen my blackout pictures and heard my audio posts (and if you click on the “Read the rest of this post” link below, you can read pretty much my whole story). Now I want your stories! SHA girls, assorted family members and friends, readers who find my site at random, I want to know: Were you affected? Where were you when the power went off? How did you react? What did you do? How long was your power out? Leave a comment here and tell me!
My dad, a.k.a. Mr. Gnostic Watch, has posted several items (1, 2, 3) over on the Mom & Dad blog noting and criticizing the “never again” cries that are echoing through the land today. I take issue with his criticism.
I don’t take issue with it in its entirety — I’m not saying it’s totally invalid — but I think, with all due respect to my dad, that his almost automatic urge to criticize what he calls Gnosticism is just as much a knee-jerk reaction as the Gnosticism itself. Whereas true “Gnostics” will contort (or downright ignore) the facts of any situation and proclaim that it should never have happened in the first place and now must never happen again, I believe the Gnostic Watch has a tendency to slant the facts toward an interpretation that downplays official accountability and assumes the worst about the public.