Archive for 4/18/2003

While the lights were out…


Power Outage

The power went out in College Station last week, and Texas A&M shut down for the day as the stop lights in the entire city died (see the photo I took above.) Moments after my power died, I heard the generator in the private dorm come on, while the rest of the city remained dark. Going to my [canceled] class, I overheard various cell phone conversations as one person said "pray for power" and another "the main power line for [XYZ] generator is down." (I leave the metaphysics lesson up to you.) In a scene eerily reminiscent to a certain book, I later heard that the power failure had been greatly compounded by faulty infrastructure caused by massive bureaucratic regulation of the state’s power grid. (My own conclusion.) The official response to nearly 4 hours without power? Keeping the citizens safe from food poisoning:

As the power outage stretched into its third hour, the Brazos County Health Department ordered all area retail food outlets without power to close the doors."There is a simple law under the Texas Food Establishment Laws that once food is being kept below 45 degrees it is no longer safe to eat," said Julie Anderson, spokeswoman for the health department. "We tried to get the message out through the radio, but some restaurants said they wouldn’t close so we sent inspectors out there," Anderson said, adding that they ended up having to urge only one to shut down.

Meanwhile, as the stop lights in the entire city died, I watched one-time coordination scenarios play out over and over, as thousands of students who had only been driving for a few years somehow managed to avoid hitting each other, and while traffic backed up, there were no major accidents and only a few horn blows. A policeman tried to direct traffic on one street, but seemed to give up when the drivers did a better job directing traffic on their own. Alternation between cross-traffic seemed to happen by momentum: whenever a driver paused before crossing an intersection, the cars next to him would pause as well, giving the cars and pedestrians on the intersection a chance to cross. When the first pedestrian or car paused before crossing the intersection, the other side would get started, starting the next cycle. The biggest pauses were caused by unaware or aggressive drivers who tried to initiate crossing the intersection without waiting for a prompt from the other side. All in all, an interesting study in game theory.

¡Voy a México!


I’m going down to Mexico for a day, so excuse my lapse of entries, y ruegue que no consiga la venganza de Montezuma. ¡Muchas fotos que vienen pronto!

Update: Check out the various photos I took along the way.

Go to Top