Thursday, July 21, 2005

Almost the Blackout-iversary, Teflon Brownout Today

UPDATE: I'm an idiot. I read through yesterday's Carnival of Education more than twice just for browsing before noticing my NEA post had made it in. Thanks to The Education Wonks for hosting, and if you want a great potpourri of the macro to the micro, the sublime to the ridiculous in education, check out these posts.

UPDATE 2: crap, Crap, CRAP! Just heard about the new London bombings. Is this supposed to make us more complacent or madder? Makes me want to find my infidel's Beatle boots and go kick the 3 Cs out of the responsible someones.

The above picture from Shag was just to prove I could. I followed the same exact process the first two times I tried, but this time it worked. Oh well. I have a couple of great, non time-sensitive topics queued up for posts, but I want to write a bit that's intelligent(ish) around them, and I'll need more spare brains than I have available, so here's what I've got today.

1) The afternoon of August 14th, 2001, when I'd been living in Manhattan for about a week and the piles of cardboard boxes were still high, the power went out around 4pm. Reports later called it the biggest blackout in American history (of course, it hit Toronto, too), but my personal odyssey didn't last much longer than 26 hours. Sure, food was spoiled and it took a while for local stores- which carry just-in-time inventory concepts to an extreme- to recover and replenish, but the worst only lasted from one afternoon to another. Still, it was a very long day. When uncertainty is king, time drags.

Being on the 28th floor, it was an ordeal to get down to the street by the steep concrete stairs, especially for the dogs' needs. Also the internal stairs were Sheol-black, and holding a dog in my arms meant a flashlight in my mouth. We could more easily manage the 4 floors up to the roof, but the pooches were freaked out enough about the new surroundings and the newly vague concept of "outside", which now meant not just outside our door, but outside the hallway, elevator, lobby, and front walk. Experimentation proved they wouldn't relieve themselves on the top of the building. So, quad-busting trips down and up with the shortest-legged dog in arms. The biggest problem was lack of water. We had some drinking water in the fridge, but we hadn't immediately filled the tub to aid toiletry or washing hands or sponging the pervasive stickiness, so that meant more up and down to street level where flushing pressure was provided by non-electric forces and the aquifer.

Mostly, we stayed on our balcony with binoculars and the battery-powered shower radio, listening for updates and predictions and watching the fleets of military and news helicopters. We could have camped downstairs, I suppose. Everyone was on their most generous behavior, but if community spirit prevailed, so did ad hoc partying. Since we live among so many bars and restaurants and delis, it was a little wild and wooly at the darkness of street level with the mass quaffing of beer and ice cream before it got overly warm. Also, the police and fire trucks ran up and down the avenues with their spotlights and sirens blazing and blaring to dissuade miscreants which added another jarring vibe to the whole thing. From our balcony, we could see the lit candles in other high rises around us. Across the surreal darkness of the cityscape, the twinkles were beautiful little demonstrations of life and solidarity. I wish I'd had a camera capable of rendering it. I'll have to replay the memory to make sure it sticks.

After a poor night's sleep, the next day we found a pizzeria cooking the last of its already-made pies in its gas oven. We snapped one up, and there wasn't even any price gouging. We took it to a bar serving beverages in plastic cups with a token scatter of pebbles from their last melting pile of crushed ice. After gobbling some slices, we shared the rest with the other schmoes. By 6pm, the Mayor had annouced his house's power was back on and Gracie Mansion is geographically close to us. By 6:30ish, we were electrified, too. Welcome back flushing toilets! I was very glad the cause wasn't some more nefarious thing and that the restoration was so efficient. It was an adventure, and I was impressed by my fellow citizens' response, but I don't want a repeat.

Yesterday, slipped under every door and placarded in the lobby was an admonition to residents to avoid brownouts today in the 5 boroughs by restricting electricity use between noon and 6pm. So, today our blinds are closed like it's a sickroom. There's no A/C on in the bedroom and the new, more efficient unit in the living room is set to low, and I'm sitting close to it. I have all the unrequired appliances off save the electric alarm clock, this computer (which may qualify as an essential device) and the stove nightlight I need to see in my windowless kitchen. I can live with all of it as long as the bathroom works, but I wish I didn't feel so fragile and interdependent. My prayer intentions for the day are for a breakthrough in technology that will provide cheap, renewable, clean, and plentiful energy to the world. 'Cause I love me some electricity. Can't bossa nova if the records won't spin.

2) Those grasping Luddites, the exTORTion lawyers, are suing Du Pont for $5 billion over non-existent chemical exposure from Teflon-coated cookware. I wish they'd get jobs picking up highway litter or something else of public benefit.

(UPDATE: Michael Fumento, the author of the link above, is a discredited creep. Your humble author still believes the litigation is without merit or basis. However, I must alert you that this article link may be dead, as this man was, quite unfortunately, a paid mouthpiece.)


April said...

I prefer not to ingest Teflon...and how does one know, really, if it's harmless or not. I cook in stainless steel or cast iron(though I try not to use cast iron in stuff that I cook for DH)Cocaine was thought a harmless pick-me-up for a century. So were ciggies.....

DH used to have this pan that was flaking Teflon into our food. I threw it away.

I'm a fan of making big companies pay and pay and pay for foisting unsafe products on the sheeple. Re: the Corvair, DDT, Celebrex, Meridia, Phen-Phen, Asbestos, etc. You don't do the research..or you hide the results of the don't get to keep your profit, and the sheeple and their lawyers take it away. Too bad.

Re: the newest London bombings...thank god the "war on terror(ism)" has made the world a safer place.

Congrats on the new picture posting prowess! Yay!

Henway Twingo said...

Okay, no one says use flaking Teflon. You won't "ingest" it if it's intact. And people have known opiates were addictive since the 1600s; the opium dens weren't full of the wide-eyed innocent Chamber of Commerce members. While people knew ciggies were smelly and dirty and saw themselves hacking blackness, until the investion of X-rays, we couldn't see what they did to the lungs.

We are far better able to research now than before, but- for example- rodent studies where they vastly megadose non-human systems haven't proved to be predicitive of anything but sick rats. The saccharine scare was debunked. The DDT data is just as poor and the fact it hasn't been widely publicized as debunked (which it is) is a nightmare for the developing world. Celebrex and Vioxx have risks that only became evident after millions and millions of prescribed scripts and the resulting effects in human systems, and NO preliminary study- no matter how sweeping- can yet duplicate that. Thus, the FDA is considering reexamination of drugs a year or two after rollout, when the sheer volume of users tell us much more. I think that's a good idea.

Many people I know, when asked if they'd rather be able to move or accept the statistical risks of Celebrex and Vioxx, want to walk. Many older people only maintain their mobility and independence through such drugs. Yanking them would be creul and irresponsible and consign them to pain and dependence that they should be able to choose themselves. Everything but everything that we eat or medicate with or ride has risks and downsides and trade offs. This world isn't safe for us and I'd love a cultural shift in this ridiculous expectation.

I don't want to protect bad actors, and there have been some, but the majority of these effects are not concealed through a wide conspiracy to hurt people for profit. I knew people in pharmaceutical development who recommended family members to the drugs they'd developed and took them themselves. It wasn't merely a fabulous disguise for their real desire to poison people.

The reason why no one's in jail for Fen-Phen and other such is that no one can prove that anyone knew the effects and hid them. Shouldn't the culpability be criminal? Wouldn't that discourage people more than suing large employers who make a range of useful products out of business for the actions of a couple people (if they knowingly did wrong)? Instead, there's been a chilling of development as gravely ill people beg to get unapproved experimental drugs which are being held back. When you're dying, you'll take the risk.

I know CEOs are shaking over Bernie Ebber's effective life sentence, and they should, and he deserves it. But I can tell you, in Big Drugs, the data goes past so many people who don't even know each other, there's not a cozy little boardroom desire to cover for a friend. And I and the rest of the crew were personally legally liable up to $500,000 if we falsified records going to the FDA. How often does that feature get used? Not very often at all. But if we limited these class actions to genuine wrongdoing or what should have been avoidable, where would the lawyers get their money? Instead we've got lawyers who get 33 1/3% of the civil awards that were supposed to help the afflicted using nonmedical, unqualified companies to screen unaffected thousands and sign them to class actions suits.

A lady judge in Texas just busted one of the biggest signers of class actions for loading the rolls by having people meet with doctors an average of 1.5 minutes apiece. Oh, that's a searching exam and diagnosis. Many of the people forming the new class action group were already (gasp)on the rolls from previous asbestos suits and the lawyers and stooges had just copied them over. Asbestos is bad news, but not as pervasive in harm as you'd think. The usurious expense of the lawsuits and clean-ups of neutral material are a disgraceful expense. I had a friend in asbestos removal with a wife in the sciences and he admitted and laughed about what a racket it was. He went on to work for the City of Chicago.

Any risks for drugs, etc., should be screamed from the hilltops as soon as we know them, but then people who need the drugs (like a childhood asthma medication under threat today) should be allowed to make the choices for themselves or their children. Hmm, child breathing or .5% chance of seizure? Child breathing or...? No one wants to be the statistical bullseye, but no one wants to get hit by a bus either. The only way to be totally safe is to live in a padded box, and then you'll have an aneurysm or go nertz.

Henway Twingo said...

Bad terrorism's been happening, but we were trying to ignore it. The bombing of the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers, the first World Trade Center attack, the American hostages in Iran all predate the "War on Terror". But like a schoolyard bully or a boil on the ass, they only get worse when you ignore them.