This summer’s outage that hit New York City and much of the Great Lakes region was much more widespread, but the five and a half days I just spent without power in the wake of Hurricane Isabel was plenty of time in the dark, thank you. The earlier blackouts highlighted problems with the power grid, the amazingly complex system of interconnected utilities. England has a single grid operator (not that this helped stop London’s summer blackout) compared to the multiplicity of grid operators in America (each composed of many utilities). It’s no wonder that people are starting to talk about "smart grid" programs, although those won’t do any good against the sort of power outage that I suffered, the sort that results from a very large storm knocking over a great many trees. The hundreds of imported power crews are doing the best they can, but by day four of the outage, I was dredging up old thoughts about green houses and going off the grid (I used to read Backwoods Home the way I now read shelter magazines, and for much the same reason). Thank goodness for battery-operated lanterns. The blackouts in New York get all the attention, but the tedious cleanup required to get power restored after vast numbers of transmission lines have been downed is no fun, even if it doesn’t come with widespread rioting.