Modern Hotel Technology

 It’s pathetic, but true:  our lives have devolved to the brutal basics of the constant search for electrical outlets.  “Omigod!  My iPhone is down to 78 percent!  Where can I plug in? ”  And  we mutter and curse if wherever we are doesn’t have multiple charging stations at the ready.
Which is why you have to give the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. credit.  They’ve built outlets into the bed frame, for God’s sake!  So charge up while you slumber, compadres!  And then tomorrow charge some more.

Grateful For Our Grid

In India, more than half the country has lost power as three different electrical grids have failed.

More than 600 million people — 600 million! — have been affected by the power outages.  That’s about two times the entire population of the United States.  Imagine the chaos if our entire country were suddenly to lose power.  Then, imagine that occurring in a smaller geographic region, where the density of people is much, much greater than is found here.  Then, think of thousands of cars trying to navigate through crowds of hundreds of thousands of pedestrians without traffic lights, subways and trains that have stopped running, hospitals without power, and food spoiling in withering heat.  Successfully imagine all that, and you still probably couldn’t grasp the current conditions in Delhi.

Interestingly, India has one of the lowest per capita rates of electricity usage in the world, and significant parts of the country are not wholly electrified.  Even so, its power grid simply is not capable of supporting the growing demand.

It makes me appreciate our power grid in this country, where outages usually occur only after devastating storms and service is typically restored within hours.  It also makes me wish that some of that stimulus money the federal government shelled out a few years ago had been spent on our power systems, rather than on unnecessary road improvements or other make-work, “shovel ready” projects.

T-Shirt Power!

Scientists are always pushing us closer to the future envisioned by sci-fi movies.  Now we learn that, like the poor, deceived wretches trapped by the Matrix in the classic movie of the same name, humans soon may become walking batteries — at least, if they wear the right t-shirt.

A professor at the University of South Carolina has figured out how to convert a t-shirt into a power source.  He bought a cheap t-shirt from a discount store, soaked it in fluoride and dried it in a high-temperature oxygen-free environment.  As a result, the cellulose in the fibers turned into activated carbon.  The fibers were then thinly coated with manganese oxide and thereby became capacitors — i.e., a device capable of storing an electric charge.  Add an electrode and a plug and — voila! — your t-shirt could be used to power your cell phone or iPad.

I don’t like wearing artificial fibers that don’t “breathe,” so I doubt that I would want to wear a carbonized shirt coated with manganese oxide.  What’s more, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable in a garment that was supercharged with electricity.  I’d be afraid that a little static electricity could cause a massive short circuit — and I’d hate to think of the electrical firestorm that could be created if I also wore a pair of thigh-rubbing corduroy pants on a cold, dry winter’s day.

Spoiled Food, Cold Showers, And Hotel Hunters

The brutal thunderstorm that barreled through Columbus Friday night continues to have an impact.  Although our electricity was restored last night, I learned today that many people still don’t have electricity — and have been told they won’t have power until next Saturday, July 7.  An entire week without electricity, in modern America!

One of the people so affected is UJ.  Being of hardy stock, he plans on toughing it out.  He doesn’t keep much food in his refrigerator and he drank the milk that was there when the lights went out, so he hasn’t had anything spoil.  He’ll eat out, sleep with the windows open, grit his teeth through ice-cold morning showers, and hope that Mother Nature has pity on Columbus and allows for a few unseasonably cool days or some rain this week — so long as there are no storms that make things worse.

Other people don’t have that option.  If they are susceptible to the heat, they can’t take a chance on suffering heat stroke or dehydration in homes that have been heated to uncomfortable levels.  There’s been a run on generators, and I’m betting that there aren’t many available hotel rooms around.  And if you have a pet that you hope to keep cool, you’ll have even fewer hotel options.

Richard and I went to Kroger today to buy a few items, and the store was jammed.  People in our area lost just about everything that is perishable, and ice was at a premium.  When we were at the store the loudspeaker announced that the ice shipment had arrived, and shoppers made a beeline for the loaded pallet between aisles 11 and 12.  We also noticed that, on many of the refrigerated shelves, lots of the product was gone — presumably the result of shoppers who had lost their orange juice and milk and needed to replenish their supply.  Who knows how much food has spoiled because of the extended power outage?

I’m betting that people will be telling stories about the thunderstorm of June 29, 2012 and its aftermath for a long time.

Storm’s Aftermath

Our power is back on, about 24 hours after the storm pulverized parts of the central Ohio power grid and cast us into darkness.  Good job, AEP — and thanks for putting some light back in our lives.

Walking and driving around town, we saw signs of the storm’s aftermath everywhere.  Gates knocked off their hinges, tree limbs everywhere, and debris in roadway — it will be good to get back to normal.

Powerless

When awful news happens, and bad news strikes again and again, and events are buffeting the little world around you, you feel powerless. Now Mother Nature has decided to take that figurative feeling and turn it into literal reality.

A huge and violent thunderstorm cell blew through Columbus last night, and it has knocked out the power grid for wide swaths of the area. The storm blew down trees and branches and felled power lines, and we’ve now been without power since 5 p.m. last night.

This period of powerlessness is unheard of — and it also shows how spoiled we’ve become. A few hours sweltering in a hot house on a summer’s day, and you’d think from the complaining that we’d been asked to endure the unendurable. We’ll have some spoiled food, and some time without Internet access, and earlier bedtimes than normal. No big deal, really.

Still, I must confess that when I entered an air-conditioned room this afternoon I did breathe an audible sigh of satisfaction.