Are You Electric?

Are You Electric?

When 2022 started, I set a very simple goal to read more books than I did in 2021. With that in mind, I jumped right in, and on January 1, 2022, I purchased “Lights Out,” a book authored by longtime ABC News Correspondent Ted Koppel. The subtitle is “A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.”

In short, Koppel’s book scared the shit out of me. The over-arching theme is, “what happens when the power grid in the USA is attacked?” It wasn’t IF; it was WHEN. Because it has already happened, don’t let little old Jeff’s words sway you. Here’s part of the description of the book:

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault anytime. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” 

So that’s scary. Here’s more:

Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before. 

Crazy! By the way, this book was written in 2015. We are now close to 8 years later, and in the big picture, more needs to be done in terms of advancements to protect the power grid. In the last month alone, we’ve seen two pretty major attacks on power grids: one in North Carolina that took out electricity in 45,000 homes and one on Christmas day in Washington state, affecting 14,000 homes. Christmas without power. Damn. The question that many are asking is if these are small dry runs for a significant attack soon. Nobody knows. Over 100 attacks on the electrical grid in the USA occurred in 2022. That’s the most in the last decade.

We all have experienced a loss of power, typically for a few hours or maybe one day. Manageable. But ask yourself what would happen if it was a week? Or two weeks. Or a month. The US has three major power grids across the country, but thousands of substations take power wholesale from “the big three.” These little substations are more susceptible to attacks because they don’t have the budget or sophistication to protect themselves, which is what we are seeing. With larger budgets, brainpower, and security, the big three are tougher to penetrate but not foolproof. It’s natural – and it’s scary.

So I read the Koppel book, which you should read. I arguably spiraled a small bit after that, buying another book about protecting yourself from a long-term power outage. I’ve thought about a generator, but I’m not sure I’m there quite yet. Some of the advice was sound, with good instructions on basic things to have on hand in the event of a prolonged outage. So I did put a bin together of those basic recommendations and they are all sitting in a large Rubbermaid container in my house. Other advice was paranoid bordering on insane – like talk to your neighbors and set up an agreed-upon high ground in case of attack. That’s kinda ridiculous. I’m imagining myself walking around to my neighbors, knocking the door and trying to get alignment on a high ground in case of attack. I laugh to myself at what they might say when they close the door after that conversation!

Holy Sh^%%^#!!!

Yesterday I picked up The Boston Globe on a morning walk through downtown Maynard and, not surprisingly, didn’t get to read it until about 9:30pm last night. When I did finally open it, I was sad to discover it was a pretty boring edition, with one exception: a very interesting article about human waste. Yes, I just said that. Really, you should read it, because you’ll actually learn a lot about a few things – the makeup of human waste, for one, which isn’t exactly what I was bargaining for when I bought the paper, but still, knowledge is power, right? But you’ll also learn about how it can separated and used effectively for many different things.

Who would have thought human waste was such a valuable entity? It is. And now people in the industrialized world are coming around to what people in third world countries have known (and employed) all along – reusing it saves lots of money! Holy shit, indeed! And no, people, you don’t have to shovel anything out of your toilet or any such nonsense. It can be re-routed and reused via the sewer system, which the article also goes into.

Hey, the robot is here to inform. Poop and pee rules!

Are You Plugged In?

So not only is Kelley Stoltz great, he’s GREAT. Check out this, which I just found out and pulled from Wikipedia:

In tandem with the release of “Below the Branches” was an industry first: “Below the Branches” was the first record in history to make an on-package claim about renewable energy use with the Green-e logo. Stoltz tracked his electricity use and with the help of the Green-e program, offset the all the electricity used to record his record with green tags from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. In Kelley’s words: “Using renewable energy to offset the electricity I needed to power my guitar amps and my recording machines was a simple and effective way for me to do something about my impact on the environment. Green-e certifies that I am buying 100 percent renewable energy. Hopefully, people will see their logo; check into what they do, and make renewable energy a part of their lives, too.”

How about that? And I also remembered that starting last week, our house here in Maynard is now driving all of its electricity, heat, cooling and whatever from 100% renewable energy sources, via an NStar program. That’s right – either solar, wind or all those other methodologies are now powering this house for just a few extra bucks a month.

To close the circle on today’s green post, I’ll attach this totally, insanely great song by Kelley Stoltz, called, fittingly, “Are You Electric?” And no, it’s not about renewable energy.


Yes We’re Going To A Party Party

Happy Birthday to quite a few people today – to friends like mogul Rob and Dan, one of nicest and funniest people I know. And of course, happy birthday to my two little twin boys, Nathan and Zachary, who have changed my life in just about every way and who also give me a chance to act like a kid again. What a gift that is.

Someone told Stephanie yesterday “the days are long, but the years fly by.” So true.

You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows

Kudos to N-Star, the people we pay for electricity and gas, after they announced a plan to offer it’s customers the option of having their homes powered partially or solely by wind and/or solar power. If you want partial renewable energy, it’s an extra $4 per month. If you want your abode powered 100% by renewables, it’s an extra $7. We’ll be opting for the 100% and are happy to shell out $7 per month for it.

ps – Happy Birthday, Grammy. You wouldn’t even believe it – the Red Sox have won TWO World Series!

What’s Your Name, Who’s Your Daddy?

I picked up a couple of magazines in the airport on Sunday before a long flight and one of them was the latest issue of Time Magazine, which devoted roughly half the edition to how the U.S. can “fight the war on global warming.” Having had some time in my room last night, I was able to read all of the articles and while Time has nothing overly inventive about solving the problem (it’s not really their job anyway), it was a good overview for anyone who is looking to find out more. So for that reason alone, I’d recommend it.

Whenever I see these magazines devoting space to global warming, I leaf through them and I never seem to find any counter-points anymore. Is this because there ARE no counter-points? Does everyone realize 30 years on that this is, gulp, a legit problem? The only hangers-on appear to be the current administration, whose recent “plans” in the last 1-2 months and whose efforts to laud ethanol last year as the magic solution were, simply put, laughable end-arounds for the business of oil and greed.

Time’s most direct hit was basically saying that while your wallet may take a short-term hit if we practice some REAL conservation efforts (and it will), the benefits are tremendous in the mid-to-long range timeframe. For example, alt-energy (TM) will undoubtedly create a plethora of new jobs. This isn’t just a fad, it’s a necessity. This is not sending a man to the moon or creating the atom bomb. Those are/were focused tasks. This is an undertaking that is multi-generational. Your kids and their kids, blah blah blah. It is a chance for America to once again take the lead in doing something constructive and good. We could have had a 20-year head start if we’d focused on it in the years just after the cold war, but oil companies wield a heavy hammer over both political parties.

Instead, money is being funneled into Iraq to the tune of $12 billion per month. Yikes. Not exactly the “war” many of us were hoping to fight.