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July 27, 2005

First brownout of the season

The lights dimmed twice during dinner. So, I'm now blogging in the dark with the AC off.

Seems only prudent: Heat wave sends New York power demand to another record high. [AP]

Yes, I'm still bitter about getting caught on the street without a bus ticket home during New York's last blackout. I hadn't actually moved to the city yet. I was just in town for job interviews. Luckily, we'd signed the lease on our new place in Brooklyn. I was in Manhattan's Chinatown when the lights went off. I was completely broke at the time and I had no idea how to get back to the apartment.

I figured everything would be okay if I could just get across the Manhattan bridge. So, I started walking. It wasn't what you'd call a justified true belief, but luckily I was right.

Update: Morgaine has good advice for everyone coping with the heat wave:

In the mean time, here’s the next action. It’s not about politics.

Check on your neighbors. Make sure they have what they need to cope with the heat.

In 1995, the people who died in Chicago were the ones that didn’t have anyone to check in on them. Community is a person’s best chance of survival in a heat wave or almost any other emergency. If you don’t know your neighbors, now is the time to get to know them, especially if they are elderly, sick or have small kids.

Water means everything – clean water to drink, or taking a bath or shower in cool water, or a spray bottle of water or wet washcloth used in front of a fan can keep people from having heat exhaustion or stroke.


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...Unfortunately, as Majikthise has pointed out, not everyone has the means that my wife and I do to escape the heat when there is no air conditioning... [Read More]


Wow, you are a good citizenetta. At my age, in menopause, I don't know if I can live w/out a/c. In the days before a/c us older folks died in droves. But it was natural. Back then, older folks were young by today's standards, hence 50 is the new 40/35/30. But it's not natural, per se, to live beyond the ability to run from a tiger. Therefore, a/c and heat are the perview of the age'd.

I used to poo-pooh people up north who complained about the heat. But I ended up in Philly one day when it was 100 out and I thought I was going to die. It really is weird--we have humidity and it's a lot hotter here, but just this last weekend I was out in my front yard breaking ground with a pickax at 2:00 in the afternoon when it was like 98 out and I was fine. I mean, I was taking frequent breaks, but I wasn't dying or anything.

I admit, I'm a total wuss about any deviations from room temperature--stipulatively defined as <20% humidity and 20 degrees Celsius. Any significant departure from this reasonable standard completely unbefitting of advanced hairless primates like ourselves.

I read somewhere that everyone is born with the same number of sweat glands but that the ambient temperature during the first two years of life determines how many of those glands actually get a nerve supply. Allegedly, those of us who were raised in temperate climates have a lot of non-functional sweat glands, and are therefore permanently disabled when it comes to dealing with heat later in life.

"dark with the AC off."

Please don't even mention such a thing...

I wouldn't be surprised by that at all, Lindsay. I love being warm. I keep the house at 80 and if Mark turns it down to 76, I start squawking. We compromise on 78 at night and I sleep under a thick blanket and he sleeps on top of the covers.

But then again, I didn't have an actual air conditioner in my home until I was 18 years old and moved to Austin.

Which is no small thing. I would get to be in the 110s in West Texas in the summer.

My mother, who is 76 y.o., lives in the Calif desert two hours from Death Valley. (That's close out there.) The temp has been getting into the low 120s (F) in DV lately. I called and asked how she's doing and she admits that it's hot, but not as hot as DV and the problem is that it's rather humid so the evaporative cooler doesn't work very well. So I'm not too sure about sympathy for those of us under 50 in wimpy 100 degree wxr.

My wife lived through the heat wave of Paris, summer 2003. Temperatures stayed well above 40C for more than three weeks, and they do not have a/c in anything but the american corporate buildings (think HP). More than 15,000 people died then and most were the old who had nobody to check on them.

Not sure if there is any moral to these two anecdotes. Just thought I'd post a couple of data points.

"I keep the house at 80"

Yikes. I consider 70 too hot but a compromise to keep my power bill lower...

Heat in the country and heat in the city are two different things. It's much more tolerable out here in the middle of nowhere --- and five degrees cooler than any city in a 200 miles radius.

What throws me is unseasonable, prolonged heat --- that is, when August temps arrive two months early and stay, which is what's happened here this year. Gah.

I remember the 1995 Chicago heat wave. I was in the middle of a grad student vacation, which is to say I was taking time off from the lab but didn't have the funds to travel anywhere fun. The day it hit 106 I remember sleeping until 4 pm and then desperately wishing that my AC went to 11. When visiting with friends one evening I remember setting my arms down on one of their tables and it feeling warm to the touch.

I spent the summer of '95 coaching a debate camp in an entirely unairconditioned quadrant of the Northwestern U. campus. We were in these godforsaken brick buildings with tiny windows and no circulation at all. I remember trying to give a lecture on Rawls with sweat pouring down my face, cascading onto the podium, and destroying my notes. Midway through I got a break when one of the kids stood up, said she felt ill, and promptly passed out.

And now, 10 years later, I live in an unairconditioned apartment in New York. Progress.

Texas summer survival kit--baby powder and Coors Light.

Coors Light

That's for applying the frosty can to your jugular and not actually for drinking, I presume.

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