I woke up this morning to some clicking noises. Some were coming from my phone. Some were coming from the cable box, DVD player, and television in the room. In my hazy state I knew that they had all started up for a reason – we had had a power outage. The phone was buzzing with notices coming in from our security cameras that they were back online and had been out for ten minutes. The electronics were all powering up, resetting, resyncing, and restoring service.
The power outage led to problems. Some of the equipment, such as the DVR, hadn’t handled the outage very well and needed to be reprogrammed. One of the cable boxes appears to have gone insane and will probably need to be replaced.
The computers throughout the house had to be rebooted and some of them had problems to be resolved.
Shortly after noon I tried to send an email on my work account, only to get error messages that it couldn’t be sent. It took a few minutes, but it occurred to me that the problem could be that our server at the office was offline and if the power outage wasn’t just our neighborhood, that could have been the cause. That would be a problem, and I would either have to face it and fix it on Tuesday morning (when it was a much bigger problem and when I’m already double and triple booked) or I could fix it now (when it was a relatively small problem).
A “no brainer” if I’ve ever seen one. Ten minutes later I was at the office and yes, they had gone through the same power outage. The server had powered back up, but was not connecting. I called our networking guru and a couple hours later we were back online.
It occurs to me that this is a microcosm for some of the bigger things in life. We’re so used to our routine, but our routine (and the expectations we have on a daily basis) is so tied to the assumptions that there will be uninterrupted power. That power might not be strictly electrical as in this morning’s mess, but could also be social, cultural, political, or any number of other “al’s.” Interruptions always have the potential to cause chaos.
Think of a transit strike, or one of the legendary Southern California grocery store strikes. Those interruptions to our social systems can have big consequences.
Think of a political interruption. We saw in the US what happens when Congress forces the government to shut down because of their budget battles. We always see sudden and often unexpected changes during the switch from one Presidential administration to another. (Some more than others…)
The first step in dealing with any of these interruptions is to cope. I’ll get a new cable box for the one that fried. I rebooted the computers and reprogrammed the DVR. We find other grocery stores and put up with the long lines and lousy selections. We find other ways to get to work and around town.
The second step, once the situation is a little bit more under control, is to figure out what went wrong and what kind of systems and safeguards can be put into place to prevent it from happening again. Maybe I can get an Uninterruptible Power Supply for the computers. Maybe we can try to diversify the monopolistic grocery store market so that we can be sure to have options if one goes on strike.
Politically, let’s keep those two steps in mind. First, cope. Second, figure out what’s broken and work to change it or fix it.