900+ Megabits Per Second

Old Old “Modem”—Really Just a Transformer

This photo neatly encapsulates the evolution of telecommunications in our old house. The Old-Old “Modem” (Really Just a Transformer) was the original telephone signal device. Located on one of the rafters in the basement this photo contains archeological elements from all of the different sedimentary layers of telecommunication that were ever used here. The transformer converted the telephone’s signal that came from the pole over twisted pair. You can see that this twisted pair line is effectively knob-and-tube wiring, which like dates it back to who knows when? Can anyone say Alexander Graham Bell? Above this transformer in what we call the Central Hallway is a wall nook that we’ve always called the devotional area, but on this little shelf is where I believe the house’s first candlestick style telephone sat. Our house was built in 1937 and the nook looks original. The red inspection sticker is dated 1980, which is when the previous owner bought the house. I suspect that she had the red-yellow-green wires run to what is now the computer room. We used this connection when we bought the house and for some time afterwards.

We eventually bought a computer and endured dialup with its painfully slow data rates. We upgrade it to DSL, still using the old connection, albeit with the addition of special filters (not shown) that allowed the DSL to handle both voice and data service on the same line. Eventually, the DSL was upgraded to the faster U-verse, which is the white cable running across the top of the photo. Today, the black fiber cable, running along the bottom of the picture was installed. All of the obsolete communication means are still down there and will likely remain so, for some future home owner to puzzle over. Much like the basement also holds relics of all of the old methods of home heating. There is the old coal chute door, which was the original home heating method. This cast iron chute door has a hole cut through it, where the heating oil spout still sticks through it and the old oil tank is still in the basement too. We run on gas now, but all of these artifacts from the past still inhabit the basement.

Fiber900 mbps22.5 × Speedup
U-verse40 mbps6.67 × Speedup
DSL~6 mbps107 × Speedup
Dialup0.056 mbps
Internet Speeds (Megabits Per Second)

1904 Olympics

Wash U’s Francis Field and Gymnasium, Site of the 1904 Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, a year late, because of Covid. No spectators are permitted, because of Covid and many other inconveniences have been imposed, because of Covid. These precautions are enough to make one wonder why they even went on with the games in the first place, but that is neither here or there. The spectacle associated with these modern games are enough to engender some serious hating-on of them, but I was surprised to read this week a serious hate piece about the 1904 Olympics that were held here in Saint Louis. There is noting more cherished and honored in Saint Louis history than the 1904 World’s Fair and while not as revered as the fair, the 1904 Olympics have always basked in the reflected glory of the fair. This Daily Beast hit piece had to have been written by a Chicagoan, because who else would be motivated to carry a grudge for so long? Talk about sour grapes.

This sordid story begins in 1903, the hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, but like the Tokyo Olympics, our World’s Fair had to be delayed a year, to the 101st anniversary of the purchase. Unfortunately, this delay put Saint Louis’ fair on a collision course with the 1904 Olympics, which were scheduled to be held in Chicago that year. Not to be outdone by its large neighbor to the north, the Saint Louis city fathers set about the task of stealing the Olympics from Chicago. They did this by first organizing a competing athletic event associated with the fair that locked up all of the American athletes and then complaining to the Olympic committee about there now being two competing events that were both hosted in the same country and would be occurring at the same time. Appealing to the Olympic committee Saint Louis successfully argued the two events should be combined, in Saint Louis. You see we didn’t steal the Olympics, we won them fair and square. 😉

The Beast article goes on to enumerate all of the many high crimes and misdemeanors associated with the 1904 Olympics that earned it the moniker of the worst Olympics in modern times, but I especially like the way that they described how the marathon was handled:

The conditions for the marathon were horrendous. It was over 90 degrees when the race began at 3:03 p.m. on Aug. 30, and the path extended along a road filled with dust. Making matters worse, organizers limited the water available to the runners because “the chief organizer of the Games wanted to minimize fluid intake to test the limits and effects of purposeful dehydration, a common area of research at the time,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. Thirty-two men started the race; only 14 finished. One man almost died from a stomach hemorrhage. Fred Lorz, who had maintained the first lead, caught a ride in a car for 11 miles, then emerged at the end and was almost declared the winner before his “short cut” was discovered. The gold medal would eventually be awarded to Thomas Hicks, whose team buoyed him along when he began to flag by feeding him strychnine, egg whites, and brandy. His winning time was a whopping three hours, 28 minutes, and 53 seconds. […] “Never in my life have I run such a tough course. The terrific hills simply tear a man to pieces,” Hicks said at the finish line.

A Three Hour Tour

MS Dixie II

Yesterday, we took a boat ride on Lake Tahoe in the MS Dixie II. Modeled after the paddle-wheelers of old, it sports the pictured stern wheel. After much struggle, I managed to translate this live action iOS picture of the paddlewheel that I had taken on my iPhone into a form that this blog could use. We departed port from South Tahoe, across the Nevada line. Think lots of casinos. South Tahoe is the most congested part of the lake. From there, we headed north to Emerald Bay, just south of where we are staying, a relatively shallow bay where the lake’s deep blue water turns green. In this bay, there is the lake’s only island. We were hoping that our scheduled two-hour tour would be lengthened into a fabled three-hour tour. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost… But there was not a cloud in the sky then, so our boat headed back to South Tahoe sans shipwreck. We did see a historical home in Emerald Bay, called Vikingsholm. Lora J. Knight, a rich woman (Heiress to controlling shares of National Biscuit, Continental Can, Diamond Match, Union Pacific and Rock Island Railroad, anyone of which would have made her very wealthy.), built it and modeled it on medieval Viking castles. She is best known for building this house, but she did help fund Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of Saint Louis flight. The property belongs to the state now and tours are available, but they don’t start until the end of this month. Supposedly, Knight wanted to furnish her home in the style of the Vikings, but none of the Scandinavian governments would allow her to export any of their historical artifacts. She then had very exacting copies made instead. She owned the one island in the lake also and had a teahouse built upon it. We saw its ruins as we circled the island for home.

Kennedy Mine

Kennedy Mine Head Frame

Yesterday, Frank toured us around the nearby Kennedy Gold Mine, where he is a docent. It was once the deepest mine in the world and worked the Mother Lode, which was a thing, before it became a catch phrase. It began as a mine in the 1860s and was finally closed in 1942, when for the war effort Roosevelt decided he needed the manpower, more than the gold. The nearby Argonaut Mine, shared the Motherlode. Well maybe shared is a bit too generous, since the Argonaut sued the Kennedy over the Motherlode and won. The mine is named for Andrew Kennedy, an Irish immigrant, who discovered a quartz outcropping in the late 1850s near what is now Highway 49. The Kennedy is situated at the juncture of the North American and the Pacific plates and the subduction of the Pacific plate has allowed gold rich veins of quartz to come to the surface. The Kennedy Mining Company was formed in 1860 when he and three partners began digging shafts near today’s mine property entrance. In 1898 the company began sinking a new shaft 1,950’ east of the original shafts. This East Shaft would eventually reach a vertical depth of 5,912’, the deepest vertical depth gold mine in North America at the time. In 1928 a forest fire burned all the structures except two. In 1922, when 47 miners were trapped by fire in the neighboring Argonaut, rescue efforts were launched from the Kennedy to connect the tunnels of the two mines. Unfortunately progress was slow and rescuers arrived too late to save any of the miners in the Argonaut. Now the mine is a historical site and tourist attraction. After the mine, Frank took us into Sutter Creek, where he and Kathy own a small house that backs up to the creek and was originally built by the Kennedy’s supervisor. It is 120 years old. After the house we went down a block and had pizza outdoors further along the creek. This lunch was followed by an equally scrumptious dinner of Japanese cuisine. It’s a good thing that we had already had our weekly weigh-in and that I had lost five pounds while camping in the mountains, because I might find that I might be giving back some of that weight loss next week.