The Blackening 2: Electric Boogaloo (Meta #6)

These meta entries were intended to be more posts about the posts. Stuff that may not make sense to go into in an actual post. That didn’t really last very long though.

And this one kind of throws that out the window entirely.

I happen to live in the area affected by the massive blackouts of the power utility PG&E.

The first of these were in early October (of 2019) with the power going off for me around 5am. I remember it was a Wednesday and we had done some preparations at work. The power was only off for 2 or 2 1/2 days but those two days felt like multiple weeks.

The reasons were supposed to be due to dangerously dry conditions combined with “high winds”. These conditions leading to some kind of increase in likelihood of a power line causing a fire. This is a thing that did happen to the town of Paradise in 2017.

For where I lived however (200+ miles from Paradise) it was a little frustrating: there was no detectable wind, there was no estimate on how long the power would be out and perhaps most frustrating about 2 miles down the freeway the power was on and nothing seemed wrong (when my power came back on another mile or east was still out for another day or so as well). So it was hard for those of us without power to understand why the power was out for some and not others especially with power so apparently close by.

Well jump to this week, the week of October 21st, and we had another power outage again on a Wednesday. Only this time there was lot of up front warnings and it didn’t go out until 3:58pm. I remember the time because we had been told “sometime between 2 and 4:00”. So naturally they’d wait until 3:58.

This outage was also much shorter. That doesn’t mean it was any less inconvenient. I think we dealt with it a little better. And the local township put in a generator for the Main Street businesses which included the office where I work. So now I suppose the blackouts will be much less of an inconvenience at work at least.

At home still sucks though: should I buy perishable items like eggs? No, I don’t think so. Can’t really buy milk either. And even if I had a generator – a thing becoming more and more common now locally – I still wouldn’t have internet.

Actually I live near a relatively close and rather large industrial-strength generator (that must be on 24/7 during a blackout) which would make it difficult to sleep anyway. So I sleep elsewhere during blackouts.

What I find a little more annoying is the way these blackouts seem like they’re already kind of normalized. Like it’s just another thing that happens like a snow storm or a big crash on the freeway. I don’t want this to be just another thing everybody deals with and becomes normalized. I want people to continue to be annoyed about it.

To bring it back around to what was supposed to be the focus of this site, I can’t exactly work on my R520 server right now. I actually have it on something of a UPS but it’s a little teeny thing made for normal sized consumer desktops and monitors. Even with a new battery I think it would keep the R520 going for about 5 seconds. And since I wouldn’t want to risk it being on when the power was cut I am just leaving it unplugged for now. Works as a surge protector though.

This whole black out thing is really a pain the arse with with how much disruption it’s caused. I have no idea how we made it through the whole summer without any issues like this. Nor do I know how they decided what to black out when. Or when or if these blackouts will ever cease. I do know I would like life to get back to normal. With some kind of steady non-arbitrarily cut power sources. Either that or me and 2 million other people will all have wurring gas generators in perpetuity.

Also, as I write this on October 26th, there is supposed to be another power shut off sometime today, this time for even more people than the first two times. Which is why I’m sitting in a coffee shop ~25 miles from my house trying to keep my laptop and phone charged rather than doing what I would rather be doing like working on the server. Maybe this blog will be way more regularly updated and I’ll have entirely more time invested in things like programming and my backlog of steam games. And I guess Switch games.

I guess the conclusion is…don’t take all that uninterrupted power for granted. It’s really noticeable when it is no longer reliable.

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