Operation Blackout

By Gil Roth, Contract Pharma | November 9, 2012

Plus: a reader’s What I’m Reading

It’s blackout-time here at stately Contract Pharma Manor. Hurricane Sandy — downgraded to “megastorm” when it made landfall, I believe — dropped the hammer on New Jersey on October 29 and has left many of us in the dark. My electric company is projecting a little under two weeks to restore our power. Even more of a disaster, our internet coverage has gone kablooey for long stretches, leaving the populace with little choice but to make conversation and read books. It’s a harrowing time.

I spent most of the first week wrestling with the wood-burning stove in my library, trying to keep part of the house warm without smoking out my wife and doggies. At first, I regretted not buying a generator after last year’s once-in-a-lifetime climate event, the late October blizzard that knocked out power in our area just as I was flying home from CPhI, but now that I’ve seen the gas stations with lines of cars a mile-plus long (and 50 pedestrians with two-gallon tanks), I guess I’m better off with a huge supply of wood in my shed and the kind understanding of my wife and doggies.

Sure, I’m suffering terrible anxiety and uncertainty, waiting for the electric company’s contractors to remove our neighbor’s uprooted pine tree, which is presently at a 45-degree angle to the ground, suspended by the overhead power, phone and cable lines (see below), but at least I’m not on a two-hour line at a NJ gas station.

The Tree of Damocles, 100 or so hours after getting

 Still, we persevere and bring you the best issue we can, under the circumstances!

I’ve written about natural disasters like this over the years (more and more, of late): the Iceland volcano, Hurricane Irene, etc. For some reason, I keep harping on these occurrences and the ways they highlight our vulnerability.

It would be easy to tie the blackout into this issue’s supply chain feature, Taking the Vitals of the Supply Chain, given the lack of fuel, perishable foods, and D-cell batteries that we’re experiencing in the first few days after the trauma. But it’s ironic that the article focuses on the obstacles in building a global supply chain, while this event is occurring in the heart of “pharma country.”

What I’m Reading
Well, in the first few days of the blackout, when our cellular and internet coverage was down, I found myself with a lot of free time, during which I managed to read W.G. Sebald's The Emigrants (amzn.to/TzmO6Z), Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy (amzn.to/SBZAwh), and Gary Panter's Dal Tokyo (amzn.to/Rwqq9j). A few weeks earlier, I read (and re-read) Chess Story (amzn.to/VIbV0i), a novella by Stefan Zweig. It's a remarkable piece of writing, and I have a feeling that I'll be pushing it on lots of people in the months ahead.

Before the blackout, reader and editorial advisory board member Martin Steinman wrote in to let us know what he's reading:

The Cutter Incident • Paul A. Offit – amzn.to/QZzYba
Comment: About the rise and fall of polio and the beginnings of the vaccine industry. Anybody remember Cutter Labs?

Prize Fight • Morton A. Meyers – amzn.to/Wg8tjq
Comment: Who gets credit for discoveries in science and why?

As a Driven Leaf • Milton Steinberg – amzn.to/SlmmX4
Comment: A novel based on the early days of Rabbinic Judaism in Judea after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans.

As thanks for sending us What He’s Reading, Marty won a copy of that Stefan Zweig novella! Why don't you tell us what you’re reading? Write us at gil@rodpub.com, www.goodreads. com/groth, www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1775433 or www.facebook.com/contractpharma — and the first respondent wins a prize!

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