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Danger, Danger, Danger

Yesterday was a perfect example of if something can go wrong, it will. I was happily sitting at my desk, doing research on the current work in progress. In this day and age of the internet, that meant I was online, browsing maps, looking at building floor plans and checking the headlines for a certain ay in history. So imagine my surprise when, after taking yet another sip of coffee, I input a new search term and. . . nothing. I tried reloading the page. Nope. nothing. In fact, I got the notice that Safari couldn’t connect with the server. I was suddenly thrust into the First Circle of Writer Hell–I had no connectivity.

Well, I’m an intrepid writer. I know that Safari, and any other web browser for that matter, can sometimes be wonky. So I switched over to Opera. Same problem. On all sites I tried to open.

Okay, not to worry. We’ve been in an interminable rain cycle here in DFW. That sometimes plays havoc with wifi reception throughout the house. So I grabbed my iPad and wandered in closer to the modem.

And saw something as frustrating as getting a 404 error. My modem had red lights for both internet and phone signals. I gritted my teeth and counted to ten. Then I said a quick prayer of thanks because I’d switched Mom from Uverse TV to DirectTV about six weeks ago. At least she could watch TV. Being two weeks post-op from shoulder replacement, keeping her from being bored is very important right now.

Now, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Usually, I reboot the modem and everything is better. Except this time, something told me not to. So I picked up the phone and called tech support. Imagine my surprise when, calling the phone company, I got a message saying that my call couldn’t be completed. It was almost as if they hadn’t paid their phone bill. When I kept getting the same message over and over and over again, I knew something was seriously wrong.

Long story short, lightning is being blamed for hitting the AT&T tech center in Richardson, causing a fire that took out not only primary but back up systems. Landlines, internet and Uverse services were taken down in an area covering Fort Worth to Rockwall–and that is a pretty good sized chunk of North Texas. Bad as that was, worse was the fact AT&T was telling us nothing. No explanation for why there was no built-in redundancy of systems. No explanation for how long it would be before we had service back (we were getting everywhere from “any minute” to up to 48 to 72 hours). And that was when you could get through to an agent.

Yes, we do finally have internet and phones back. They came on late last night. AT&T is still being very quiet about it all. The papers aren’t helping. Both main local papers here talk about how a mere 1,300 or so folks were impacted. What the Dallas paper didn’t make clear–at least the Fort Worth paper was a bit better–was that this number came not from AT&T but from the number of people who posted to downdetector.com that they were having trouble with the site.

So, Amanda, you’ve spent 500 words telling us about how you lost internet. What is the purpose of all this?

Simple. First, it gave me a good insight into just how dependent I’ve become on the internet to do things I used to do the hard way–by going to primary sources and actually visiting places I was going to write about. I had to pull out actual photographs of places to refresh my memory about how something looked. I used my phone, which still had internet but that speed was slowing as more and more people started relying on the 4G network, to get what information I needed but there is a big difference between looking at something on my 25 in. monitor and on my Galaxy S8.

It also reminded me of how frustrating it can be not to have an actual user manual for software any more. I ran into an issue with GIMP trying to build the cover flat for Tracked. I had the images. They should have been the right size. But GIMP, when I tried importing them onto the cover template for KDP Print kept borking. I finally gave up trying to work between phone and laptop. I tried tethering but with the slowdown on the network, it reminded me of dial-up speeds and I finally just set it all aside and decided to return to the project AFTER AT&T got its act together.

The second lesson it taught me was how dependent so many of us, myself included, have become on being able to go online at the drop of a hat. Even though I’ve been limiting my time on social media during the “work day”, I’d still drop in on FB or check certain blogs and news sites during the day. The social aspect of the internet has become an important part of the day for me, just as it has for so many others.

As a writer, it had me thinking more and more about how my characters in a story I’ve been trying not to write would react if they woke up in a world that suddenly didn’t have some of the modern conveniences we enjoy right now. It doesn’t have to be a complete break with technology. Something as simple as the internet going down can seriously disrupt how we do things. My day was made more frustrating because I couldn’t simply enter a quick search term and find information I was looking for. That can be easily dealt with. But what about the businesses that rely on the internet or phones for their livelihoods. Restaurants couldn’t take online orders. Merchants couldn’t process credit card or check payments because they couldn’t be verified. Many of those same merchants will have to go back and do a manual inventory check because they weren’t able to track inventory during the course of the day if they have multiple locations. Day traders lost their connection with the markets. Those people who only have landlines–yes, there are still folks like that–were cut off from 911 services.

We were lucky. We were without internet and phones (and for some TV) for little more than 12 hours. But looking at the online chatter, you’d have thought the world was coming to an end. Pat of it was understandable. This outage wasn’t because of Mother Nature trying to reclaim this part of the world.. It was a random lightning strike that pointed out how poorly thought out AT&T’s contingency plans happened to be. For the love of little green frogs, who puts their primary and backup systems in the same basic area?

Even so, it did make me think and, yes, it has tried to revive a story idea I don’t need to be worrying about right now.

So here’s my question to you. How well could your area (I’m not saying you because I know most of you are even better prepared than I am for the ZA and I’m pretty damned well prepared) adapt to a sudden loss of communication services or electricity/power? How well would your kids respond to the loss of their phones or social media because they no longer had the ability to log into services they know are still there? It’s a fun thought exercise and a good jumping off point for a story.

In the meantime, I have research to finish today. Not to mention the cover flat for Tracked. In the meantime, check out Hunted, the first book in the series. The new edition, done for the relaunch of the series, contains approximately 10,000 additional words, including new scenes/chapters.

Meg Finley knew her parents didn’t kill themselves, no matter what the police said. Alone and with no one to protect her, her life became a nightmare. Her clan’s Alpha, Michael Jennings, didn’t care she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. Knowing she had only one option if she wanted to live, she ran and she’s been running ever since.

But now, years later, her luck’s run out. Meg, now known as Finn, finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with Jennings’ trackers. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death.

What she doesn’t expect is for help to come from the local Alpha. But will Matt Kincade turn out to be her savior or something else, something even more dangerous than Jennings?

25 Comments
  1. How well could your area adapt to a sudden loss of communication services or electricity/power?

    I live in the greater DC Metro / DMV area … remember that scene in the movie version of Logan’s Run? Yeah, that’s this area w/o power or connectivity.

    You’d think they would have learned back in 2001.

    October 16, 2018
    • Yep. It got me to wondering about here as well. We are so spread out, public transportation is better than it used to be but still a joke when compared to a lot of areas. Most folks haven’t clue one about how to grow their own food, etc. The suburbs will be better than the inner city, for a little bit at least, butter area should have learned better in the 70’s and 80’s when we had some hellacious–for us–ice storms that would leave neighborhoods without power for weeks. But that is a distant memory now.

      October 16, 2018
  2. Well, I do have a cell phone . . . which I occasionally remember to charge and take with me on long trips. It doesn’t internet at all. Otherwise I’ve still got the landline, which was out for two weeks once, years ago. Once I got over the “Where’s my internet” I got an astounding amount of writing done.

    And I suspect that’s what most of my family and neighbors would do, although some might take a lot longer than I did. D&D will get a whole lot more popular. Card games, board games. When I see the ZA on the horizon, I’ll invest in board game companies.

    Businesses would have to adjust, and that would be tough after depending on computers to do it all. The new credit cards don’t even have the raised numbers any more, for those carbon copy roller press things that companies have probably discarded ages ago. Checks? Outside of bills I still mail in, I haven’t used one in a store for . . . years? But I do have them.

    And without even phones . . . stores would need a lot more inventory, because Just-In-Time would work at the speed of the postal office.

    October 16, 2018
    • mrsizer #

      I was going to comment on the flat credit cards, too. Yes, some places still have those clonk/clonk machines. The local liquor store uses them for keg deposits. One local convenience store has them for line outages; the 7-11 does not and goes cash-only (that was annoying because I don’t carry cash; haven’t for years, although there is some in the bugout bag).

      I recently found out, because I asked, that it is legitimate to fill out the forms for the clonk/clonk machine by hand so the flat credit cards could still be used – if the store has the forms.

      I’ve been on the same box of checks for almost 20 years.

      October 16, 2018
  3. Uncle Lar #

    I have read both Hunted and Tracked and can state categorically that Amanda has taken what were two very good stories and made them even better.
    And if anyone finds any typos or similar errors that’s all on me. My only excuse is that, as is typical with an Amanda Green book, I would get so involved in the story that I tended to forget what I was there for.

    October 16, 2018
    • Thanks, Uncle Lar. I really do appreciate your kind words and your help on the books.

      October 17, 2018
  4. Communications loss? Not well but we’d manage. No electricity? We’d be in deep kimchee once the city’s back-up generators failed, because once the water towers went dry, that’s it. Over a hundred thousand people without water, unless someone could run a pump into the stormwater-catchment lakes. And then how to purify that? And some sewage has to be lifted up to the treatment plants by pumps, if I recall things correctly.

    October 16, 2018
  5. Christopher M Chupik #

    Speaking of danger, I’m hearing rumors that Barnes and Noble is in trouble. Could make for some interesting times ahead.

    October 16, 2018
    • Hoo yeah. It is going to be interesting to see if they even name a new CEO/COO and who would be crazy enough to take the position.

      October 17, 2018
  6. No internet was us until about oh, 6 months ago. And is still us every major storm. Our area would do pretty well. (6 miles north of a Small town, middle of no where.) most places still have the equipment and know-how to do everything by hand if needed. If power went out, we’d be in trouble (our well is electric. Getting it off grid is a high priority, or at least with an off-grid backup.) I’m not sure how many others in the area are electric pumps from the grid, or propane, but most places have generators. Most folk also have gardens this far out.

    October 16, 2018
  7. Now days, our TV service comes over the internet. Well, my family’s does. I didn’t bother getting a TV box this last time we swapped services. I just use an Amazon fire-stick and watch Amazon Prime stuff, or netflix. I’m not a big TV watcher, so that’s plenty for me.

    When power and/or internet goes out, we all have smart phones, so we can use those for internet access if we need to.

    October 16, 2018
  8. mrsizer #

    Mike commented to me the other day, “remember when we moved here and had to walk three blocks to rent a movie?”

    I remember AT&T phones and 300 baud acoustic coupler modems. Now I have 1Gb fibre into my house.

    If the Internet were to go out, I still have a thousand or so paperbacks. I’m sure there’s something in there I’d like to re-read. The Kindle doesn’t have many unread books on it, but of the hundreds there, I could probably find something. We’d lose TV, but we already have stacks of games.

    If the electricity were to go out, water would be an issue after a couple of days. We have one of those bathtub liners, but one has to fill it before the outage, which seems unlikely. The stock of bottled water would run out rather quickly even with no washing of things. In the winter, would have to switch to manual control of the furnace. We have plenty of candles for light.

    If the gas were to go out, no hot showers in the summer would be annoying. In the winter, heat would become an issue after a couple of days. Sealing off the room with the real fireplace with quilts would work for a couple days, but we don’t have a big woodpile – and that wouldn’t help with the pipes freezing issue. But, Denver. It doesn’t stay that cold here for that long, usually.

    I’ve heard, but not verified, that Denver has one of the few entirely gravity based sewage systems.

    October 16, 2018
    • Alan #

      If electricity were to go out … our smartphones & Kindle readers would all be dead in a day or so, unless we (or friends) have a backup generator. Jus’ saying…

      October 16, 2018
      • This is the main reason why I refuse to go 100% ebook on my library, and in fact have gone to buying hardbacks for favorites. “But the kindle can stay on for a month!”

        Don’t get me wrong, I like ebooks for portability, but I have to admit satisfaction that when my son gets told he can’t use the computer for a while (Internet needed for work/updates/not gaming) he picks up a book and isn’t bored out of his mind. They grumble, sure… but find other things to do.

        October 17, 2018
  9. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    It is terrible that when I see this subject line and think “Danger Danger Will Robinson”? 😀

    October 16, 2018
    • mrsizer #

      The reboot had a VERY slow start, but was actually quite good.

      October 17, 2018
  10. “For the love of little green frogs, who puts their primary and backup systems in the same basic area?”

    A company who does not care a single damn about their customers, that’s who. The only reason they even have backups at all is state/federal regulations for 911 calls. Clearly the backups are in name only, to save money on buildings and wire. But then, they don’t have to care. Monopoly.

    Similarly, Google. If they decide to go Full Retard and block every web site that doesn’t have a DemocRat sticker on it, who ya gonna call?

    This is why I keep looking for new mesh-network software out there. There are enough home routers out there now that with a few signal boosters and Pringles-can antennas, it ought to be possible to hack together an ad-hock network in an emergency. Something so diffuse and fine grained that it can survive tornadoes and earthquakes.

    So far I haven’t seen anything good. 😦

    October 16, 2018
    • I like the cut of your revolutionary jib. Gives me hope for America.

      October 17, 2018
      • Thank you sir. ~:D

        Its technology. It should work for us, we shouldn’t be running around working for it, or for the people who own it. Wireless is better than stringing wires everywhere, the same as a gasoline engine is better than a steam engine.

        An ad-hock network would be slow and have a lot of issues, but it would WORK when everything else is broken. People love to forget that wars and disasters happen all the time.

        October 17, 2018
        • Alan #

          Doesn’t even have to be ad-hoc. Would love to see all cell-phones with a fall-back mode that sets up a peer-to-peer mesh network with other nearby phones when the tower can’t be reached… given the bandwidth we have these days for video etc., it would use a trivial part of the available voice-band resource.
          Useful not only for disaster response but also for ordinary hiking/camping (“hey John, take your phone up that hill and see if we can call out.”)

          October 17, 2018
        • Ad-hock network the way (now) the ham-radio people end up being the communications links in a number of weather and geology disasters. Sounds like a very reasonable system to me.

          October 17, 2018
        • Entropy is inexorable: Deal.

          October 20, 2018
  11. Mary #

    The phone company here won’t let you get help online if you have no dial tone — you have to call them.

    October 16, 2018
  12. I remember the ice storm where we watched as the power lines severed in a glorious fireworks of sparks, line after line after line. No power for several weeks. Cell phones going down as the towers died. No gas because the pumps were electric. And the gas heater… needed electric power to run. The one room with a fireplace went medieval with blankets tacked on the walls to keep the heat in. We had a baby to keep warm.

    Yep. I can imagine it just fine 🙂

    October 17, 2018
    • There are few sounds that send my heart racing like exploding transformers. (Yes, I got the tee-shirt for the IceStorm of ’07. Not Fun.) And I* only lost power for a week.

      *Waswhen I lived at Festung Kleinrot, not Redquarters.

      October 17, 2018

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