Black-out Blues

August 15, 2003 | Leave a Comment

91 degrees in New York. Just as well we have air conditioning. And a generator to run it. New York city was bedlam yesterday evening, after a blackout hit multiple states around 4:11PM. The power grid shutdown in a cascade manner as one region collapsed, tripping neighbouring regions, and so on. New York City rolled to a halt, literally. Subway cars stalled, trapping riders. Elevators jerked to a halt (fortunately for the occupants). Streets were gridlocked, and train systems shut down, even diesel trains, due to a loss of power for the signaling system. Millions of people were disadvantaged, and tens if not hundreds of thousands were forced to leave Manhattan by foot. Fortunately for us, Jenn and the kids were safe at home. (This website stayed up, too, thanks to the generator).

I was in a conference room in Armonk, about 35 miles north of the city, when the power went. I was able to call a cab and have the driver take me the 70 miles north to The Barn. Boy, was I glad I was at the meeting and not stuck in the office… Fortunately my cell phone service worked (unlike many other carriers) so I was able to call home and let Jenn know I was on my way.

Meanwhile, on a humorous note – Jenn’s brother Justin is on honeymoon with Carol in Maine. Carol’s aunt and uncle were staying in Carol’s house (a few miles from us) for a few days, and yesterday afternoon they installed two new air conditioners. They had no sooner turned them on than … p-o-o-f… all the power went out. They figured they’d just blown a fuse until Jenn called to let them know they’d knocked out the entire North-East of the country ! Although maybe it was just a concidence…

Meanwhile the powers-that-be inform us that the blackout was caused by a substation in 14th street Manhattan. Ooops, actually no, that wasn’t the problem, the smoke pouring from there was due to an orderly shutdown (whew, just as well it wasn’t disorderly) and that the real problem was a plant at Niagara Falls that got hit by lightning.
Hmm, well p’raps not, because there was absolutely no lightning activity there. Hmm. Well we have no idea what caused the outage. Except that it absolutely, positively, wasn’t due to hacker activity. That we can say for sure. Even though we don’t know what caused it. Okay. Gee, I know, what about the Blaster virus ? Certainly managed to knock out Andrews Air force Base :
Edwards shut down
Computer systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., were shut down this week as a result of the “Blaster” computer worm. The desert base is home to the Air Force Flight Test Center, which conducts work on the B-2 and B-1B bombers, the airborne laser, the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, the new F-22 Raptor jet fighter, the Joint Strike Fighter and other high-tech weapons.
“We stopped access to our base computer network Monday about 2 p.m. because of the Blaster worm,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Kerry Humphrey, a base spokeswoman.
“We don’t know how much damage was done, but we’re slowly but surely getting our system back on line.” – Washington Times Aug 15th 2003

Wouldn’t it be great if we could pin it on Microsoft ? A nice little class action lawsuit would make a big dent in the $49 billion in cash they’re sitting on. What an appropriate end for a lousy company.

Even if it’s just wishful thinking, it’s nice to dream occasionally !


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