Sunday, September 7, 2008

Post Mortems on Power

Just a few observations post Gustav...

It is easy to overlook the small things, and a few small things can make riding out a storm much more pleasant. I had all the big bases covered - water, food, shelter. What I missed when the power was down was a quick and easy way to make a cup of coffee. I don't even LIKE coffee, but somehow, someway, having a hot cuppa cafe mocha while you're sitting in a dark room listening to the wind rock the house is comforting.

Storm-riding can be damn boring. Sitting alone in a dark, humid, hot room gets old pretty quick. You can only sleep for so long. A few good books, board games, art supplies, some knitting, ANYTHING helps. But, you need some light you won't feel guilty about using.

While in the Corps, I had an earlier version of this stove. It was a fast and easy way to heat water, and used any fuel from avgas to alcohol. I missed it dearly. Sure, I had charcoal and other ways to cook, but they were too much effort for a beverage, and impractical to use indoors.

Half of the city was wandering around looking for a way to charge cell phones.

Generators are loud and expensive to run. Ours (5500 Watts) burned 25 gallons of gas per day, running at approximately half load. That much fuel is rarely easy to procure during a storm, and somewhat of a pain to stockpile before one.

You don't NEED A/C, a full-size refrigerator and TV, all the normal comforts of home during a natural disaster. A small fan, a 12v electric cooler, some light, a tiny combo TV/radio to stay up on the news, and you're golden. That stove I linked earlier? It'll easily heat a typical room if a blizzard is more likely to be your likely disaster.

Toss in a cell phone and a netbook, and you're better off 90% of humanity today, and 100% of all the humans that lived more than say, 50 years ago.

Don't count on your computer or the internet for either entertainment OR information. Too many ways for the infrastructure to fail. Radio is your reliable friend.

I can see a real market for cheap, temporary, micro-power generation. I mean just enough juice for a small LED light, a battery charger, and that coffee. The latest generation of netbooks from ACER, HP, or Dell wouldn't overtax such a system.

A wind generator is the perfect choice for a hurricane - you know there will be a breeze. I'm talking something the size of a sat dish, max, that could be thrown up or taken down in a few minutes.

Another idea would be a micro gas generator. Something powered by a tiny four-stroke engine, 50 cc max, maybe as much as half that size. It could run quietly for days on a five gallon supply.

Of course, a solar power panel would be handy in some cases. The ultimate setup would be a system incorporating all three - you'd be covered in any situation.

Bikes are a great way to get around after the crisis winds down, but before things are back to normal. Many hybrid bikes are on the market - even Wal-Mart sells one. It would seem a simple undertaking to design one that could charge a battery as you cruise around the city looking for that hotspot. :-) Done right, the battery would be compatible with your home wind/solar/microgen system. Add a trainer for the bike, and you could human-power your system indoors during the emergency if needed.

More exotic options exist. Two that come to mind are fuel cells, and thermoelectric generation. But, both of these options are much more pricey, though recent interest in hydrogen/methanol fuel cells for automotive use will eventually change that. However, after your battery bank is fully charged, your home system could switch to production of hydrogen via electrolysis for even greater reserve power capacity.

Well, let's see how much of this stuff I can scrounge before Ike gets here. :-)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Not Long Now...

Everything newsworthy has happened.

I'll post two or three more posts in the next few days, assuming we get power. Topics will include some tips I discovered for getting through things like this, and some thoughts on why a few crazy people stay here with a Gustav bearing down.

Thanks for listening.

Warning - Gory Graphics! You have been warned.

(DON'T scroll down if you don't like the sight of blood)

So, good deed done, we decide to take off again down St. Charles to proceed further uptown.

I'm minding my own business, riding along the sidewalk, and decide to head into the street. I see a nice short curb onto the strret. Chris is a few feet behind me.

Later, he said he knew something was wrong when my front wheel disappeared.

There was this storm drain, you see, and it was about 18 inches deep.

Problem was, it was full of leaves and twigs that had blown off the trees, so it looked very innocent. It wasn't. Chris later called it a "Tiger Trap." I'm pretty good on a bike, but Lance Armstrong wasn't getting out of this one.

I'm pedaling along, and before I even know I'm going down I have face-planted into the asphalt, and can't see out of my right eye for blood, and something that won't blink out. (eyebrow flap)I'm seeing stars, and dazed.

Pic below for non-squeamish....

Chris was cussing me when he took that pic, as he was standing downwind and it was still gusty. My blood was blowing all over him. Scalp wounds, you know.
A few hours and three stitches later, I'm out of the emergency room. The docs and nurses were glad to see me, as they had had a VERY slow day, and they all enjoyed seeing the pics of Bush's tree.
They said I was actually pretty damn lucky, as some folks that do a head-first dive into the pavement break a neck. All I know is, my entire right neck, back and shoulder feel like they've been beat with a bat by a large surly man, and the right side of my head is all swollen and deformed. They say it'll go away.
I asked the doc as he was sewing me up if I'd have a scar. He said the standard boilerplate - "anytime you get stiched, there is a possibility you'll have a scar. I said, "Cool. Chicks dig scars."
I was a lil loopy on endorphins, I think. :-)
So, there you have it - how I lost a fight with a pothole.

No Good Deed...

I went out to see how the city was faring yesterday morning. The wind was blustery, still gusting 40-50 mph from time to time, which made for what Charles Johnson would call a really fascist headwind.

We saw a few large trees down, oaks taken in their prime...

Down on Decatur, by Cafe du Monde, a pelican decided that fighting the wind was just too much hard work, and was taking a break under the Cafe du Monde awning. He started getting antsy when I snapped this pic, as I was barely six feet from him.

So then (my cycling buddy Chris and I) decided to take a run down St. Charles Ave. to see how Uptown and the Garden District had fared, as that part of the city is Big Tree Central.

We opted to run down Bourbon, to see how all the bored reporters were dealing with the slow news day, and say hello to the Chubby's folks.

I ran into Jorge fron the Spanish News Agency. He got a kick out of me taking a pic of him taking a pic of us. As I said, slow news day.

As we're passing Lafayette Park, Chris yealls out, "Hey, the President's tree is down!" I'm like "huh?"

He tells me to go read the monument. I do:

The tree is down. Gustav got it.

Well, I allow that we ought to do something about that. So, I struggle and lever the tree up. But the wind is still gusting, so it only remains upright for a few minutes. I sure that some will find some potent symbolism in this, but I'll leave it alone. :-)

Howver, I had reason to be talking to a few cops shortly after that, and they got the message to the Powers That Be about the tree. Mayor Nagin mentioned today in his latest press confrerence that they knew the tree was down, but that his experts told him they were sure it could be saved.

Why was I talking to the cops? Well, there was this fight...


Well, Gustav ended up hammering the coastal parishes and Baton Rouge a lot harder than it did New Orleans.

Power is a big problem. The regional electric Monopoly says it has never been hit harder - to include Katrina. It makes a bit of sense, as Gustav was much more of a wind storm than a surge or rain-bringer. 13 of the 14 main transmission lines bringing power to the city went down. They're talking two weeks to get power completely restored.

I'll have more thoughts on how to cope with power outages later, in another post. I hae Definitely learned a lot, and there are several things I would do different.

Now, about that fight...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Power down

Shutting down to conserve UPS . Will try to update hourly as long as power lasts.

Godot? Godot? Is that you?

Looks like the Guest of Honor has deigned to grace us with his presence.

This is the part that scares me. I'll tell you why. When the moist air of the storm mixes with the dry air over the land, THAT is when tornados form. After Gustav is well and truly here, that chance goes away.

It's all ears on deck to hear that tell-tale sound of a twister. Only warning I'll get. It's a sound I know. I grew up in Kansas, and have heard it before.

So long as I don't hear that train a' comin', we'll be fine.

If it's any consolation, the twister spawned by hurricanes are generally small, short-lived, and weak ones.

Emergency Poontang Rescue Button

Contrary to what you might think...

Liveblogging a death-threatening storm is NOT a way to meet pretty bisexual girls that will come kidnap your sexy ass. Otherwise Geraldo would be bonking a Bourbon Street stripper at this very moment rather than torturing SheepDogs with questions that a grade school newspaper intern would not voluntarily acknowledge as his own creation.

Kimberly and I are previously umm, uh, well-acquainted, and she is certainly qualified to comment on my ass.

In the interests of fair play, I must disclose that women are about evenly divided as to whether or not I am more accurately described omitting the word "cute."

It is nice to know, however, that in my perilous situation this "looky-loo" (hat tip - Fox News) has an Emergency Poontang Button to press if things down here get too gnarly to save his ass, be it cute or no.

Smite me, Gustav!