Storm Nika crisis is over

I’m back home with the power on. Normal hacking and blogging will resume.

There’s four days I don’t want to have to do over again. Cold, stress, constant fatigue, consequent inability to concentrate…being a disaster-displaced person, it turns out, is psychologically difficult even if you have money and a good support network and a hotel in a First World country to fall back on.

The difference between voluntarily breaking your routine and having it forcibly ruptured for you really matters. I’m a pretty adventurous sort, normally utterly unfazed by travel and novelty and cheerfully willing to go on extended away missions, but this time I got barely a lick of work done on my laptop – I found myself aching for my desk and my computer and my routine.

Not just me, either. Cathy was working hard on not complaining but she was looking rather pinched and drawn by day two. I think of the three of us our cat coped best; by the time we relocated her from the frigid shell of Chez Raymond to my mother’s house on Day Three her attitude was clearly “as long as beloved humans are nearby, I’m OK”.

Sugar is so amiable that it’s easy not to notice that she’s as tough as old boot leather. She turned 21 during the storm. And no, you wouldn’t have been able to tell she’s the feline equivalent of a centenarian; she investigated my mother’s place as bright-eyed and curiously as a kitten. Did us both good to see it.

Upcoming: More on the Dark Enlightenment, a progress report on the Emacs repository conversion, and maybe a review of the Julia language. But I have to dig myself out from under some backlog first.

22 thoughts on “Storm Nika crisis is over

  1. Yes, the threat of a natural disaster itself is a big psychological stress factor. Glad you’re back to your routine now.

  2. Some people like to think that the difference between “adventure” and “disaster” is just a matter of perception.

    It isn’t.

    Glad things went OK-ish for you anyway. (Money, social ties, and hotels in a First World country are all awesome things, which your readers and fans will simply assume you keep in the “taken care of” column. But in the midst of a crisis, one can sometimes find that they avail you little. I’m glad to know you were fortunate enough that this was not the case here.)

  3. Happy days are here again ! Now all you need do is apply any needed changes from lessons learned.

    Electrical utilities in recent years avoid line (tree) maintenance to ‘save’ money and these frequent blackouts are worse for it. It’s pretty obvious if you check out electrical lines intersection with trees. I find it annoying to get routinely billed for this operation while they spend that money on other things like excessive executive salaries and emergency operations like these cleanups & repairs.

  4. Julia language review please. Julia sounds too good to be true – except the regexp part looks confused to me. I’m waiting for some chatter about Julia before I commit to learning it.

    Its nice that you’re back home. Should you decide to buy a generator (and you should, as where you live is also where you work), don’t waste money on a cheap portable. A 4KW-plus Honda or Kohler, water cooled, wheel-able will last for years. My Honda is 15 years old. Run generator at 33% or lower duty cycle – long enough to heat the house, charge batteries and freeze thermal ballast (water in plastic jugs) to maintain freezer and refrigerator cold. In a pinch a male-male USE 12 or 10 GA cable can be used to provide 220V power from generator (wheeled outdoors) to dryer outlet (inside). Be very sure to disconnect your main breakers from the grid, to protect the linemen and also your generator. Its better to install a code-approved transfer switch. Buy some battery powered LED lighting. I like the flex neck reading lights and the magnetic tentacle work lights, “Mighty Bright” and “Joby” have worked well for me.

  5. Odd…I always found the stress of survival/severe weather situations to be highly invigorating – it was like a coke-crash when it was all over.

    Glad you’re OK.

  6. Electrical utilities in recent years avoid line (tree) maintenance to ‘save’ money and these frequent blackouts are worse for it

    Around here they have done the opposite, and we are now much more resilient during wind/snow/ice. Recovery from such damage is extremely expensive, so I expect they are glad to be saving that money.

  7. @Dan:

    >> Electrical utilities [avoid tree trimming]
    > Around here they have done the opposite

    Yeah, here (Austin). With a vengeance. When they trim trees it’s obvious they don’t want to have to trim that particular tree again for 10 years.

    But to be fair, this only started a few years ago after a somewhat painful lesson when the trees had been neglected awhile, and it’s hard for a municipal utility to do this because of the political blowback (“How could they do that to my beautiful tree!!?!!!”)

  8. Cold, stress, constant fatigue, consequent inability to concentrate…being a disaster-displaced person, it turns out, is psychologically difficult even if you have money and a good support network and a hotel in a First World country to fall back on.

    Yeah, so given that the only disaster agency that can make FEMA look good is the US Red Cross, what is the right way for people to band together and help the less fortunate in these instances?

  9. conrad: Julia’s regular expression stuff has essentially the same API as Python’s, except that it has a bit more syntactic sugar (technically a macro rather than a part of the core language), and uses PCRE as the engine. What did you find odd about this?

  10. Two hurricanes in two years on Long Island and a week without power both times really grates on you. Two to three days is my emotional limit of tolerability. Then, I start getting negligent. Leaving things that should be done for a later time when they’ll be easier. Life stands still. I had no incentive to do anything beyond what I absolutely had to, even if I could have.

    And I still had heat, hot water and 1600 Watts for 8-12 hours a day. I knew people who had nothing. Yeah, I guess I’m a complainer.

  11. I’ll bite: is Julia a language where every project’s flowchart is a “Life of Julia” comic strip? :D

  12. Sugar is 21! That’s truly extraordinary.

    Part could be genetics, but it could also be the home-life atmosphere that you and Cathy provide. I don’t wanna sound metaphysical, but your psychic energy might be life affirming.

  13. “your psychic energy might be life-affirming”?! Those are words I never expected to see on this blog…

  14. >“your psychic energy might be life-affirming”?! Those are words I never expected to see on this blog…

    Heh. You know Sugar. Do you have a less mystical theory about why she’s so long-lived and vigorous?

    I mean, yeah, genetics, sure. But Cathy and me must be doing something right.

  15. No doubt, but that something may well be no more (and no less) than spoiling her rotten and loving her to pieces.

  16. >No doubt, but that something may well be no more (and no less) than spoiling her rotten and loving her to pieces.

    I don’t think we spoil her rotten. There are rules: she’s not allowed on the kitchen table, for example, and we will reprimand her if required.

    She does get a lot of attention and love – that’s easy, because she’s so affectionate herself. Well, it’s known to extend lifespan in humans; not much surprise that it works for cats.

  17. >The difference between voluntarily breaking your routine and having it forcibly ruptured for you really matters.

    I just discovered this last year. Our 3 day weekend camping trip was cut short to about an hour and a half by an unpredicted thunderstorm. The hour drive home took about 3 given the downed trees, our small town’s primary intersection was a gaping sink hole the size of a city block, and (this is how you know its bad) the McDonalds shut down.

    Our house is in an idealic, post WWII construction suburb. This means trees falling on powerlines everywhere. We went 6 days without power. Now, notice our original plan was to go camping, right? Well, 3 days at home with no power was far more stressful than 3 days with no power, no flushing, and no bed.

    Why? Who knows. We had all our camping supplies already loaded up. I have a gas grill and got a banjo cooker at the nearby homebrew store. Our water was running, and our gas water heater kept us in hot showers. Ice was available 48 hours after the storm.

    But after that I got a generator, and we’ve been laying up supplies. I never got around to laying up water till your last post about this storm. It kicked my butt back into gear. I have 49 gallons worth of H2O storage on its way. I have a list of everything we’ll need to fill our our food stock to feed us for 21 days.

    The only thing left is set up a near bug-out point (far distances one with family are already set) and to figure out how to store gasoline long term. Till then, I’ll just rely on the fact that my truck has a 22 gallon tank that I never let dip below 3/4 of the way full.

    I’ll probably never use 95% of this stuff. But next time a tree falls on a power line, I hope the stress level is a bit lower.

  18. I looked briefly at Julia when it first was announced, and I skimmed the manual again just now.

    I haven’t actually tried using it yet, but there are a few things that stand out like sore thumbs:

    – 1-based indexing. I’m not yet sure if this is stupid or brilliant.

    – Indexing uses closed interval vs. half-open. Well, this goes with the 1-based indexing. Same comment.

    – $ for exclusive-or. OK, I realize a lot of the users probably have more need for exponentiation, but still… Personally, I’d rather type xor(a,b) than a $ b, especially since Julia:

    – Appears to have way too many predefined literal names in the global namespace (in preference to object-oriented syntax).

    – I’ve been spoiled by type system unification enhancements in Python. I can’t see why a type cannot be its own constructor, but Julia has both ‘char’ and ‘Char’ as built-in identifiers.

    – Conditionals must be booleans. This seems like it’s going to add some verbosity.

    – Perl-esque TMTOWTDI, at least on the for statement.

  19. >@esr: Have you called the generator contractor yet?

    No, and I’m going to hold on that until the first post-storm rush is over. I want it, but I don’t want to pay that premium for it.

  20. Welcome to Long Island after Sandy. I went two *weeks* with no power, using candles to stay reasonably warm. We have a gas stove so cooking was actually easy. The local grocer was back up in a few days so we were in no danger of starving. My wife and I really don’t blame LIPA for the delay, considering how many roads were completely blocked with downed trees.

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