Later on I'll quote some more of the very interesting "is American infrastructure in trouble? or not?" messages that have come in. This is just a data-point note:
Nearly seven days after the historic storm that ripped through a swath from the Midwest to the East Coast, our house in northwest DC has no landline telephone service, no TV, and no Internet -- all of these coming through cables that the storm apparently messed up. It does now have electricity. I'm not there, which is why I can write this. My wife is there, in touch via cell phone.
Again, this is not whining -- she does have the cell phone -- but a data note that, in the era of "the cloud" and "big data," these cutoffs seem more taken for granted than I remember in days of yore. As a kid in California and through my 20s and 30s on the east coast and in Texas, I never experienced a power or phone-service failure lasting more than a few hours. When I was in high school, I remember hearing all the furore about the "Great Northeast blackout" of 1965. I looked just now to see what had happened. Via the Wikipedia entry:
Over 30 million people and 80,000 square miles (207,000 km2) were left without electricity for up to 12 hours.
Thirty million people is a lot. By modern standards, "up to 12 hours" is nothing. (As a reminder: in DC we had no electricity for a five-day stretch last year, and nearly four days just now.)