2002/12/10

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vbz.net - current status

[1]I'm creating this page without the usual formatting because all our page-generation stuff hasn't yet been set up on any of the replacement computers yet... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We are just now (Tuesday afternoon) coming back online after about a week of Unmitigated Problems.

If you just want to know how quickly your order will be delivered or when I'll be responding to your email, you might want to skip ahead and just read this[2]. For everyone else, here's what's been happening.

First, last Tuesday (I believe it was), my hard drive shows signs of incipient death -- nasty grinding noises. We have backups of much of the data, but not the latest versions of the homebrew software we use for processing orders, building web pages, etc. The homebrew software is changing all the time, so having the latest versions is really vital. Nightmarish visions of being unable to process orders until well after Christmas float through my head...

Fortunately, the hard drive died gracefully and coughed up all its important data for me to back up (taking the rest of Tuesday, because it would only work for a few minutes at a time) before it stopped responding altogether. So we had a recoverable situation at that point, and I began preparing a replacement drive Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday[3] evening, the ice storm hit North Carolina. The power went out at our location shortly after midnight, while I was downloading (on my laptop) some 300 email messages which had accumulated since the main computer went down.

Next day, it was still off. For those who may not have heard, this had turned into the "worst ice storm in Duke Power's history" (some details are still available on their web site as I write, on their news page). Power was not expected to be back any earlier than Sunday.

At that point, the situation became personal; kids needed to be kept warm and fed. Most restaurants were without power; the one open McDonald's we found had a line out the door and their ATM was not working. Gas stations were closed, hotels were closed, and the few open hotels were sure to be completely booked with refugees. Our central heat runs on gas, but the fan runs on electricity and even if we had managed to get a generator, some re-wiring was going to be needed if it was going to be connected to one...

So we drove down to Athens, where the other part of vbz.net lives. (Dozens of northbound repair and supply vehicles passed us as we headed down I-85.) Due to the abruptness of the emergency, I had not had time to load many necessary files onto my laptop and so was not able to do any web work down there. (Memo to self: backup system must keep copies of all key work files on a laptop, in case A/C-powered systems are not available... Yes, we had UPSs on everything, but they didn't seem to want to start up again after having been shut off the night before...)

Sunday we drove back up, having made a hotel reservation through Travelocity. Power was still out at vbz-NC. The hotel we had booked hadn't received our reservation because their fax machine was out. I had meant to call, but in the rush of getting out at a reasonable time of day we hadn't actually called. Score one against Travelocity for having a system which lets you think you have a reservation when you don't, but score one against us for not checking.

So Sunday we spent the night in a colllllllld dark house, with three hyperactive children. Monday we spent the day driving around (easier than calling from a cold house) looking for hotel vacancies. After about half a dozen, we heard of a hotel which had just then had its power restored (we had already driven past it an hour or so earlier) and therefore was not yet booked up.

The neighborhood abruptly began to crawl with repair vehicles (Duke Power, Georgia Power, and Virginia Power) Monday morning, and that afternoon the power came back on at vbz-NC -- but we had already made the hotel reservation and unloaded our stuff there (and the house was still on the chilly side, and hey -- it could go out again...), so we stayed at the hotel Monday night while the house warmed up.

And Tuesday afternoon, here we are -- the replacement hard drive is still in preparation, I have just downloaded 1300 emails which came in since the last attempt, and altogether Mozilla tells me I have 3492 unread emails. Mostly junk, I'm sure, but buried in there are probably a lot of "am I going to get the shirt before I leave town on Dec. 15?" and "Why haven't you answered my last 3 emails and phone calls? Do you guys really exist? I'm going to notify my credit card company!" and so forth.

So anyway -- The Long and The Short of It: I'll be answering the emails as quickly as I can, while also processing orders. (I haven't mentioned it much because we didn't really want to draw attention to it, but we are a Very Small Company (Piglet, Inc.?), with no more than one or two people doing shipping at any given time. The same people who do the shipping also answer the emails, and one of those people is me.)

For those who have ordered items made by Zion Rootswear (Marley, Hendrix, etc.): we placed a restock order with them just before all this hit the fan, and it should be here today or tomorrow (UPS is delivering; I saw a truck in the neighborhood yesterday).

For those who have ordered other items: we should be able to get them to you before the 25th; if you need them before that, it may be a problem. We will not charge you for anything we can't get to you on time. Items we have in stock should be shippable by the end of the week.

For those who would like to order but need their items by the 24th -- should be doable, but we may need permission to pre-debit your charge card. Check back on Wednesday (send an email) for more information; I should have a better idea by then of how tangled things have gotten.

If you have urgent questions, feel free to email repeatedly (once a day should suffice) until you get an answer; I generally put repeat emails on higher priority and try to give some kind of response right away, even if it's not complete.

That's all for now; I have emails to answer and databases to reconfigure... We thank you for your patience and support. ;-)

Nick Staddon

Footnotes

  1. retrieved from archive.org on 2020-03-01
  2. The words "read this" were originally an anchor link to the section that starts with "So anyway -- The Long and The Short of It", but anchor links are difficult in MediaWiki unless you do a section header.
  3. This puts the date of the storm at December 4, 2002.