As you may know, recently there was a hurricane in my area. Today is the 5th? 6th? day without internet/signal power. All in all, I’m thankful for having power…. the 12hrs during the peak of the storm, being plunged into sudden darkness was a terrifying experience. Anyway here are the pictures (finally!) uploaded, courtesy of starbucks wifi:
14th st union sq, on the saturday/eve of storm with all the ConEd trucks ready
and the facade was totally ripped off. I spotted a few random stuff like bikes atop of traffic lights and a couple of dismembered car doors on rooftops too
I had to send a couple of sales parcels out (note to self: international buyers don’t give a shit about localised hurricanes) and the USPS office in my district was running on generator power and was only doing pickups since delivery was impossible. In the end, I walked 10 blocks up to the next district to get the items mailed out……
Shuttle service from Brooklyn to Manhattan – despite the horrendous line, it went pretty quickly (about 15mins and I got on) I gave up trying to get signal/internet at my place so I went to Arnold Hall where Parsons had set up a relief center.
Manhattan was a bad idea. Union Sq and everything outside the main avenues (mostly 3rd ave) was completely dark. No traffic lights, no street lamps, no signal, nothing at all. I had to borrow a torch from a fellow student to make my way home. It was so eerie. You could barely see what was infront of you, and some people were using their mobile phones as torch lights — I passed by 3 people without lights at all, almost running into them because they couldn’t see me/I couldn’t see them. On my way home I saw a horrible incident – this very well-dressed couple was fighting with their cab driver who demanded they (the couple) paid him for taking them into Brooklyn. The couple refused to pay him, saying it was ‘only a bridge’. The cab driver was so angry he was about to cry. Thinking about how much fuel costs, and how desperate the situation is — his frustrated tears.
To be honest, even though I live within the evacuation zone I was really really lucky. However, this entire week (and counting!) of not having internet, of barely *barely* having signal — basically wandering up and down streets until the network sign comes up, had really made me rethink my thesis project and the fragility of some of the technical aspects.
Webgl in particular is a fragile, fragile system. You need to initialise shaders, and unlike PHP which uses MAMP as a pseudo-server – nothing like that exists yet for webgl. Not only that, webgl is barely browser-compatible; you need to go into your preferences menu and literally enable it for it to work. Doubtlessly, not mobile compatible at all. (I shudder to think how long it’ll take to load on a phone). The technical fragility of it, the lack of support it has is making me seriously rethink whether I want to use it for thesis. It’s true that it’s exciting and wonderful, but this week – living in the aftermath of hurricane sandy; made me realise how frightening it is to get cut off from everything.
To be able to communicate robustly, is a requirement. It’s not even an ideal. It’s a requirement. Why? Because I live 9,000 miles away from my family. Because during that dark period between losing power + signal, and them watching it happen on TV, on news — they tried calling me and texting me with no answer, fearing the worst. Because I felt so alone, and lonely afterwards, no where to go and unable to contact anyone in Parsons around me, with emails barely working and nothing. There *MUST* be a better technical approach. There must be another way.
I’m returning back to the original incarnation of the idea – a mesh network of intersecting paths. Can it be done in an analog way? Can I do it via mobile phones instead? Can it be done by radio signal, or something else? I still believe strongly in the idea of intersecting paths, of potential routes and possible futures ….. all the what-ifs ever made. Conceptually, yes. Technically? we need to do a rethink, gurl.
For now I’ll let my thoughts simmer and stew. A good dish never tastes good hurried along.