October 29th, 2012

The Ongoing Unsubscribe Saga

Things have been ticking along well enough with my secondary e-mail cleanup efforts. One of the stickier problems I had recently involved DirectTV: someone gave them my e-mail address on their account, so this wasn't straightforward marketing e-mail to unsubscribe from. However, while it did generate a good volume of e-mail in a small amount of time, it obviously wasn't DirectTV's problem, and they did a comprehensive fix in a timely fashion.

The other sticky problem I'm having is with Jo-Ann Fabrics. I've attempted to unsub from them a half dozen times. I suspect, but do not know, that the problem is the with-or-without-the-period issue in usernames with gmail. Also, they have a comprehensive change-your-info page which handles text, e-mail address changes, preference changes including direct mail changes; it's possible that it's just cumbersome and broken. I believe that very simple unsub pages that let you type in your e-mail address (as opposed to pulling it off the link embedded in the e-mail they sent you) are much more effective.

I finally sent e-mail to customer service asking to be unsubbed to the two variations of the e-mail address which is receiving the marketing e-mails. Hopefully it will work. Because they are sending something at intervals of more than three times a week. WHICH IS FUCKING INSANE. Who is running a marketing department that thinks sending bulk e-mail out more than three times a week is a good idea?

ETA: Customer service has this to say:

"We have received and processed your request to be removed from our mailing list. Please allow up to two weeks for this change to take effect."

Frankenstorm in Connecticut

Limited access state highways in Connecticut are closed to trucks as of 11 a.m. if I understand things correctly, and will close to all "non-essential" vehicles at 1 p.m. The concerns appear to be two-fold (at least): things like the Merritt have trees along each side, quite close to the road compared to what I was accustomed to in Washington State. They could easily block the roadway at any time (possibly hitting vehicles on the way down); wind gusts can topple vehicles, especially ones like trucks which present a broad, flat expanse.

When I first moved out to New Hampshire to live with my now-husband, I took I-80 for part of the route, thus drove through Nebraska. It was just after Thanksgiving, IIRC, and I vividly remember seeing a car-hauler -- a big one, not a flat bed with a few but large tractor with layers of cars on the trailer -- _on its side_ next to I-80. Scared the bejeepers out of me.

It's incredibly boring staying home when there's really no reason to do so and there are errands to be run and fun to, hypothetically, be had. But there's just no point going out, because everything has closed anyway and who knows might happen out there in the next few hours. The advice to people in non-evacuated areas is probably sensible: don't go find trouble. Stay home.

We did have a fairly substantial set of power flickers, but none after; we suspect that some other part of the grid went down and what we saw was a load rebalance.

_Emperor's Edge_, Lindsay Buroker (kindle)

Free on Amazon as I type this; I think it was free when I got it, too. It's the first in a series that I think hit book 5 last month.

The heroine, Amaranthe Lokdon, is a mid-20s enforcer (cop) in the capital of the Turgonian Empire (called Stumps, because a while back, an emperor knocked the heads off all the religious statues). The current emperor is even younger, and the ex-regent is still running things by drugging the emperor, altho Amaranthe doesn't know that when she meets him very briefly. But even that meeting puts her at risk, as the ex-regent decides she's trouble and sends her off to kill the infamous assassin Sicarius.

Obviously, they team up, pick up some other people, start a, um, wait a sec.

HEY IF YOU GOOGLED IN HERE FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE AND HATE SPOILERS LEAVE NOW NOW NOW NOW!

Where was I? Oh, yeah. They start a counterfeiting ring (boy are those popular in fantasy novels of the last few years. I cannot imagine why. <-- Sarcasm) to produce a viable threat to the empire in an effort to get the evil regent and some other conspirators to negotiate. Alas, there are deeper players still, and the mysterious ceramic bits from the very beginning of the book turn out to be important.

While the novel does read at times like a better-than-average gaming session, Amaranthe, Sicarius and their crew of misfits are appealing. Amaranthe's let's-just-clean-this-mess-up-and-fix-everything-approach is played for humor, as well as being the basis for her considerable success, which helps with its fundamental implausibility. The book is heavy on male characters who are attempting to get Amaranthe's attention (totally unsuccessfully); I hope at some point there are more secondary female characters (and who aren't villains).

I'll be trying out the next one in the series shortly.

The Tree(s) Across the Street

Last year, "Snowtober" dropped most of a tree across the street across a power line that was attached to our service line, thus taking out our power, but not our neighbors. This was fortunate; we were able to mooch power from them after a day or so.

This year, "Frankenstorm" dropped part of a different, but very nearby tree across the street, but NOT across a power line. All it is doing is blocking one of the travel lanes. R. went out to put cones on either side of it (visibility is, obviously, Not Ideal), and is removing those pieces which are removable. I'm still trying to figure out if I left a message at the right number about the presence of the larger bits in the travel lane.

ETA: R., with a small assist from someone from the Fire Department, got the tree parts out of the road. It has since occurred to me that "Frankenstorm" and "Snowtober" both occurred on Oct. 29-30.

This might be worth remembering for planning purposes.

ETA 6:38 EST: Wind and rain picked up and we've had some more flickers. We've heard more branches coming down, but we suspect the flickers are load rebalancing related to distant outages, rather than something leaning on a wire that's about to take out our power.

ETA 6:59 pm EST: Meteorologist at boston.com is saying this is the peak. A little over 200 people in town out of power (I never know if that means 200 people or 200 households -- in a town of 20K, that might make a difference), a bunch of them due to one transformer fuse being out; assuming parts are available, and we don't get deprioritized, the town could be almost entirely back up in a matter of hours after the worst of it is over. Storm tracks matter and, as Nate Silver observed in _The Signal and the Noise_, meteorologists have gotten much better at predicting them -- and we really weren't anywhere near the center of this very large and powerful storm.

ETA 7:10 pm EST: NSTAR alone claims over a 1000 in Acton affected, 11% of their customers in town. I feel bad for Sherborn and Carlisle; they got hit much, much harder, possibly because they have more trees and thus more branches to knock out power lines.

If you'd like to follow along from a distance:

http://outage.nstar.com/outage/

Also, sucks to be in Connect the Dots:

http://outage.cl-p.com/outage/outagemap.aspx

h/t/ NECN: http://www.necn.com/10/29/12/Hurricane-Sandy-Power-outages/landing.html

ETA 7:21 pm EST: We've resorted to watching TV for storm coverage, in addition to exploring outage maps online. Currently, R.'s sister A. has lost power -- but has a generator that they bought a couple days ago. Unclear when it's up and running or not. My sister R.'s cell is going straight to voice mail, and Northern Virginia is kinda getting pounded. I suspect she is without power -- oooh! We just lost power! That's exciting!

ETA 7:29 pm EST: Okay, for like a few seconds we lost power, probably another load rebalancing surge. Because we've got a bunch of computer/AV type stuff in the living room (who doesn't?), when it all shuts down and restarts, it tends to flip the breaker (does not in ordinary operation -- it's only the startup draw that does it and the printer is the worst offender). So that's why there was a bit of a pause. During that pause, my cousin called from, IIRC, Green Bay, where he is on a business trip and slightly worried about his return flight which is in a couple days. He pointed out we have a mutual cousin in Springfield, MA and now I feel guilty for not wondering about him, since he's at more risk from this thing than we are.

ETA 8:26 pm EST: Biggest excitement of the evening: A. woke up and wanted to watch Donald of the Desert, a rare episode we had not actually purchased through iTunes yet. So we bought it through Apple TV, which caused Apple to tell me that someone did something involving my account on a device that hadn't ever done that before. My cousin in Springfield, as of a few hours ago, was complaining about the failure to deliver on IMMINENT DEVASTATION as promised on The Weather Channel's website. Me, I figure 300K people out of power in the Commonwealth just means someone else got to have the adventure this time around. Which is Fine By Me. It's possible he has since lost power and thus is no longer snarking on FB.

ETA 10:16 pm EST: A is back in bed; she may actually be going to school tomorrow. T. will not because his CASE classroom is in a district which is already announced closed. It would only have been a half day anyway. I'll have to call tomorrow to see if he'll still have gymnastics in the afternoon. The wind has completely died down. We still have power. I don't even think it's raining any more.

You Get What You Pay For? Pay For What You Get? Other?

My favorite story so far of the storm:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-29/nyc-fire-department-responding-to-crane-collapse-in-manhattan.html

Short form: there's a building near Central Park under construction somewhat infamous for having a marketing strategy designed to and apparently successful at attracting billionaire buyers (residential). There was a crane on top of it. It is not on top of it any more; it is dangling. There are Concerns. There will be Investigating.

I like this story because as near as I can tell, no one has gotten hurt (yet) and all the people involved can probably afford the expense.