NYC telephone totem from Life Underground, Tom Otterness, 2001

Get your modem running,
Head out on the internet superhighway,
Looking for some downloads,
And whatever else comes across the web.
— Apologies to Steppenwolf

We got a call today from Hiawatha Telephone Company, better known as Jamadots. They were calling to schedule an install later this month. The internet will be coming to the cabin. Actually, the cabin has had internet for years, courtesy of Anne and Bill, for which we have always been grateful. They even upgraded their internet last month. So, while there really is no reason to get our own internet, this is a process that was begun years ago, and I cannot see halting it now. Soon we will have our own blazing hot internet speeds, with download speeds up to 150 Mbps. Now based upon this company’s past performance an appointment does not necessarily automatically translate into a successful installation, at least right away. To put it mildly, they have been known to make mistakes, but this is still good news and has occurred sooner than I ever expected it to. Hopefully, it will be fully functional by July, when the rest of the crew arrives. Another bit of good news is that we will only have to pay for this internet service during the summer and can let it sleep for the other nine months of the year.

A gracious hello. Here at the Phone Company, we handle eighty-four billion calls a year. Serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth. So, we realize that every so often, you can’t get an operator, or for no apparent reason your phone goes out of order, or perhaps you get charged for a call you didn’t make. We don’t care! — Lily Tomlin, Saturday Night Live, 09/18/76

Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly


Pictured are the windchimes that Frank and Kathy gave us. The have a nice melodious sound, but also serve us as a warning system too. When severe weather occurs, these chimes sing out to us telling us to take cover, but first to take them down before the storm hits and then head to the basement. I have had to take them down twice this spring and today looks like it could be the third time. Storms are predicted for this evening, and I would not want to see these lovely chimes literally blown away, sort of speak.

The conjunction of windchimes and stormy weather always reminds me of the character Mae, aunt to Helen Hunt’s character Jo, in the movie Twister. Mae is a sculptor who makes wind spinners that end up playing a pivotal role in the movie. Helen Hunt’s character Jo is a storm chaser, chasing tornadoes. She has a device named Dorothy, as in The Wizard of Oz. This Dorothy contains hundreds of instruments to measure wind conditions inside a tornado, but after several failed attempts it becomes apparent that Dorothy has a problem. Dorothy cannot fly. Inspired by Mae’s sculptures, Jo’s crew of storm chasers fashion little propellers for each of Dorothy’s instruments. These do the trick and Dorothy does eventually fly, but only on their fourth and final try.

Twister is fiction, but I experienced similar trepidations in real life, while working at Boeing. Designing and executing a scientific experiment is fraught with failure. As a rule of thumb, we generally held that an experiment must be performed three times, before it is done correctly. I was usually on the mathematical prediction side of these endeavors, but I did do some experimentation from time to time. Another rule of thumb that we held was that no one ever believed the predictions, except for the person who made them, while everyone believed the measurements, except for the person who took them. Having lived both sides of this coin, I find the saying to be so true. Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX tried launching their new moon rocket. Unfortunately, its flight ended with “a rapid unscheduled disassembly,” also-known-as an explosion. Maybe after a couple of more attempts, he will get it right. He is rich enough; he can afford it.

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars Storm Trooper

In the aftermath of last week’s squirrel attack, things are progressing slowly. My insurance company is engaged, and they and Toyota are now in dialog. The insurance company wants photos. Pictures of the squirrel damage in the engine compartment and also photos of the rest of the car, showing that it is otherwise undamaged. I sent Toyota the undamaged photographs and they are supposed to forward them all to the insurance company. I got a call this morning from my insurance company, and I directed them to the Toyota dealer. Hopefully, they are playing nicely together. I am rather laissez faire about the whole situation, because I know that no resolution to this problem will be available anytime soon. Speaking with the Toyota tech I learned that the wiring harnesses that the squirrel damaged are on backorder. In fact, there are none available now throughout the country. The Toyota tech used a nice turn of phrase to describe the bleakness of the situation, they are on galactic backorder. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope.

Punched Tape

Computer Punch Tape?

Perforated paper tapes were first used by Basile Bouchon in 1725 to control automated weaving looms. I first used these tapes in high school, in the early 1970s for the storage of computer programs. In school, we used one-inch wide, 8-hole paper tape. We used a TTY terminal, like the ones whose sound has been adopted as a shorthand sound effect for breaking news. Our TTY would both punch and read these tapes. In-between classes we would store these rolls of paper tape in old 35mm film cans. Some of the guys even fashioned so-called utility belts in which to carry them around, Batman style. We thought that they were pretty cool. Yes, we really were that geeky. An important difference between these two pictures is that the one below shows the real paper tape. It is nine holes across. Eight holes to store the individual ASCII characters, plus a ninth row of holes that acted as a guide for the punch hole reader. The photo above in not rows of paper tape at all, but a metal screen that is now in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s new visitor’s center. The sunlit shadows only enhance its esthetic. It also has nine holes across each strip, but nine holes for information instead of the usual eight and no line of guide holes, but maybe its artist was going for hexadecimal over ASCII? After all, it is the 21st-century.

8-Hole Punched Paper Tape Roll – Wiki