John Klossner

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To-Do Without

I am writing you from a Starbucks in Dover, N.H. The reason this is serving as my office today is that the other night we received a freezing rain storm just as we were falling asleep, during which we heard an explosion. The 100-plus-year-old maple tree in front of our neighbor's house had collapsed from the weight of the ice and taken out a couple telephone poles with it.

This ended up being a sample of the whole region, as the majority of the New Hampshire and Southern Maine area lost power. We were without power for four days, and have not had telephone or cable service for six days due to the size of the problem. (From the reports — both news and word of mouth — that we have heard, there are many homes which are in much worse shape.)

We heated our house with our wood stove, and we were fortunate that our kitchen stove is a propane model. The temperature dipped down to single digits one night, and we made do with sleeping bags and an extra comforter or two. The first morning I went out and stood in the middle of the road in front of our house and listened to trees collapse in the woods behind our house. As I sit in my new corporate office I am listening to accounts of people still without power.

I remember when, as a kid, we lost power it was an adventure — we lighted some candles and played a lot of cards, but the water and stove worked. I am not sure if that was because of my child's sense of being or whether things have changed, but I am amazed how handcuffed we have been by the power outage today — no sense of time, no computers and, for those like my wife who can't function without it, no coffee. (If I had had power yesterday, I would've bought stock in all drive-through coffee shops in the region. It may be quicker to drive down to Washington, D.C., for coffee than wait through these lines.)

Is this vulnerability a sign of how technology-reliant we are? Should the next terrorist find a way to pull the plug? Personally, my thought is that the next terrorists will find a way to shut off access to coffee.

Personal note: I am one of those critters who is used to coffee shops with free Wi-Fi. As my usual haunts are closed or crowded beyond practical use, I am forced to come to Starbucks, where I have to pay for Internet access, as I don't have an AT&T or TMobile account. Nice touch, Starbucks — don't count on my support when you come to Capitol Hill looking for a bailout.

Also, as long as I'm in an "I'm operating without the usual comforts and I'm paying for Wi-Fi and therefore I have every right to be grumpy" mode, I have to admit that I am new to the Starbucks' vernacular. I absent-mindedly ordered a "tall" -sized beverage. My thinking was to get the largest container of hot drink that is offered. Imagine my surprise when I received the smallest container, as Starbucks calls their small size a "tall." Excuse me if this is common knowledge for the rest of you, but being new to this country (the Caffeinated Republic of Starbucks), I can't imagine what the large size containers are called — "tankers?"

The reason I share this with you is because of the recent FCW story which tried to configure a "To-Do" list of technology issues for the incoming administration. My thoughts/contributions to such a list are as follows:

No matter how well-defined and -researched your list is, you can't plan for the unexpected. (See 09/11/01, or Hurricane Katrina or any ice storm in the Northeast U.S.)

The persons in charge of this list should remove themselves from all technology for a couple days, a weekend, a week or two and think about what priorities they find in that space. Is having access to YouTube or Netflix more important than heat? Is Google more important than hot water? Have these same people meet at a local Starbucks, and have them order drinks without knowing the Starbucks names for their sizes.

Posted by John Klossner on Dec 19, 2008 at 12:18 PM


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