5G to Be or Not to Be

Mr. Pointy, Takashi Murakami, 2011

This last week at gyrotonics, I noticed a stack of flyers disclaiming the dangers of 5G. Luddites Unite! The gyro studio is accoutered with many new age artifacts and I assumed that these flyers dealt with a new age subject that I wasn’t familiar with yet. The flyer listed ten alternative facts warning of the health dangers caused by 5G, but according to the New York Times, this campaign against 5G is a Russian propaganda campaign, brought to you by some of the same trolls who rigged the 2016 Presidential election, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What is 5G?

5G is the next generation cellphone network communications protocol. I was a late adopter of cellphone technology (Luddites Unite!) and by the time that I took the plunge, they were already on a third generation network or 3G. Since then, we moved onto 4G, making 5G the next rung on the ladder. In addition to its detractors, 5G has also created a lot of positive buzz. Most of which is also fake news. There is a version of 5G, called 5G Plus that offers a 10X increase in data speeds over 4G, but cellphone providers are not going to go that way.

Now all you conspiracy theorists out there, take off your tinfoil hats. They have a valid reason for doing this. 5G Plus uses millimeter technology, with radio signals that are broadcasted at wavelengths that are shorter than an inch. All other cellphone radio waves have been on the order of a foot. The millimeter technology cannot penetrate buildings (no bars), while normal cellphone radio waves are doing pretty well. This limits the utility of 5G Plus to open air venues, like football stadiums, where we could see some application of this technology.

AT&T and Verizon, the two big US cellphone networks, have both announced their plans to rollout 5G nationwide in 2020 and Apple and Samsung plan on releasing 5G compatible phones this year too. So, what does 5G buy you, other than a good excuse for getting a new phone? In a word, less-latency. Latency is that interval of time, in-between when you hit return on a Google search and the first results appear on your screen. For activities like streaming movies, this isn’t a big deal, but for interactive activities like video game play or the controlling of other devices in the internet of things, this will have a profound effect. Cue your autonoumusly driving car that will now have a fast enough reaction time to get you home safely, by being able to timely communicate with all the other cars.

So, what is Russia’s deal with 5G? Russia doesn’t really have a dog in the 5G fight, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a dog in the manger and pooping all over our efforts. The country that can put up a fight is China. Like we need another China war. They have gone all in on 5G, but of course their version of it is not like ours. Naturally. Russia has aligned itself with China on 5G, with the hope of swaying Europe, who has been sitting on the proverbial 5G fence. We’ll have to wait to see how this all plays out for this year and in the years to come.

Road Trip

Open Road

Get your motor running, head out on the highway. Looking for adventure and whatever comes our way… Now, I’m not saying that we were born to be wild, and we didn’t exactly close the cookie party, but then again, we did have a dawn launch on our agenda. We ended up tripling our new car’s odometer mileage and have landed safely in Ann Arbor.

I guess that safety is the theme for this post, because this is when we first were able to fully exercise our new car’s Toyota Safety Sense. Think of this system as a combination scolding mother and intervening mom. I guess that some would view these two characterizations as different faces on the same coin. As a child of the open road, either parent could be both helpful or not. It gave us an opportunity to explore Momma T’s capabilities.

With the couple of hundred miles of intown travel that we had already logged, we had begun to familiarize ourselves with some of scolding mom’s senses. Stay in your lane. Don’t cross the lines. You are getting too close to that parked car. Use your turn signal and lookout for all of all those other fast-moving vehicles that are passing you. Why? Because, I said so. Not that she was wrong.

Getting out-of-town and after some fumbling (I still don’t know how I changed the speedometer from MPH to KPH.), we engaged the car’s enhanced cruise control. It’s like a normal cruise control except, if while in cruise control and you approach a slower moving vehicle, like say a semi, the car will slow to a matching speed. I like this feature, because there are many occasions, when in the past, I had to pop out of cruise control, because passing vehicles prevented me from passing this truck.

The most novel aspect of our new car’s enhanced cruise control is its steering assist feature. Now mind me, we were driving on entirely boring, flat and almost straight highways. Typical Midwestern driving. If an AI or even our semi-sentient AI couldn’t drive across Illinois and Indiana interstates, then it dosen’t belong on the road. We drove today in bright, clear and dry conditions. Perfect. The system performed remarkably well, but not perfectly. I could drive for miles without any limb touching a control. Initially, both Anne and I experienced a tug-of-war period, where we fought the car, but through its training of itself or us that eventually smoothed out.

After a while, it was kind of fun, just going along for the ride. We safely arrived at our destination. Now Toyota warns that this feature is not autonomous driving, but is only intended to help out, but that is probably just the lawyers talking. It is a feature that blurs the line between the present and the future.

Product Placement

Canned Salmon Labels

Tuesday dawned bright and clear. Not that this should indicate that we weren’t still under a winter storm warning, because it brought still another snow day. Anne continued to craft. We re-dug out and I made it to the store and Anne drove the new car for the first time to PT. Today, school finally opened again.

I turned on NPR this morning, but it didn’t take me long to tire of the debate over Trump’s impeachment. He should just quit, like Nixon did. Instead, I took advantage of the new car’s trial subscription to Sirius XM satellite radio. I can stream it on the computer and eventually, I’ll get around to loading the app on my phone. There is something for everyone on this network. I’m not sure how many channels there are, except that it is in the hundreds. I’ll probably signup for a subscription once this trial period expires, especially if I can get the one-year introductory rate. Being a satellite based system it should come in pretty handy out in the desolate wilds of the west this summer. Where we will be far from any radio, at least far from any stations of note.

The new car also came with a vestigial Internet connection. I say vestigial, because the trial period’s data allowance is about what we go through in a week on our phones. Still, it could be useful. The Internet service is through Verizon and we are on AT&T, which will likely make it expensive. However, out west Verizon has much better coverage than AT&T does and having it, at least through the summer could be useful. Anyway, I might not have any choice. The car has already updated its software once and I suspect that the Internet connection is required for that purpose alone. Can’t have the new car hacked.

I got the new car Weather Tech floor mats, just in time for this last snowstorm. It took me longer than I had expected it would to clean the floor carpeting after the just one week on ownership. I cringe thinking what the carpeting would have looked like sans mats after this last storm.

We’re still exploring the new car’s many features. I’m sure that there are many that we have yet to discover. While it has been too cold to use the moon roof, we’re both loving the heated seats. Normally, we run them only on low, because when they’re set to high, it really burns my butt. Finally, Joanie swung by yesterday with an early Christmas present, a telescoping ice scraper and snow brush. It looks like it will come in handy this winter for those hard to reach spots, like the middle of the roof.

Our New Car

2019 RAV4 Hybrid Limited

We pulled the trigger today and bought a new car. It is a 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited, which is a mouthful. Technically it is an SUV and not a car per se, making Anne and I the newest Rani and Raj, riding atop our Asian elephant. After years of cursing SUVs and their owners, I have finally succumbed. 😦

It is a sweet ride and we got all of the bells and whistles with it. It is a dark blue, not quite black and is the top of the line of Toyota’s most popular vehicle. By buying a 2019, we eked out a small discount. I figure that in ten years, when this car is just hitting middle age, the difference between 2019 and 2020 will be nil. 

We’ve been very happy with our 2011 Prius and have had absolutely no issues with it. 2011 was the year of the Fukushima earthquake and Toyota’s supply chain was a wreck. Finding Toyotas then and in particular a Prius was a struggle. We ended up buying our Prius off the delivery truck, when another customer’s financing fell through. It was the base model, with no options.

This RAV4 is totally the opposite. It has heated seats, a moon roof, power everything and not one, but two backup camera displays. The only thing that I don’t like about our Prius is its combination of poor rear visibility and no backup camera. Having two backup displays may just be overcompensating. The RAV4 also has more safety nanny features than if Mary Poppins was sitting in the backseat, going tsk, tsk. Someday I will have to bite the bullet and figure out what else it has and RTFM. Until then it will be fun learning on the job.

We’ll be a two car family again for a little while, until Dan swings by to pickup the Prius. We don’t need two cars and actually don’t do that much driving in Saint Louis. Most of our miles are accumulated on our epic out-of-town road trips. The RAV4 will be quite the step up on this kind of cross-country travel.

Flame On!

LG Gas Range

This is our new stove that was delivered yesterday. In preparation for this delivery, I slid the old stove away from the wall, leaving enough room to clean out the corner where it had sat for 35 years. It was not a pretty sight. I left the old stove’s flexible gas line connected. We had paid extra for the delivery men to disconnect the old stove, cart it away and install the new stove. When the delivery arrived, one man busied himself unpacking the new stove from the truck. The other man began disconnecting the old stove’s gas connection.

It soon became apparent that he was having difficulties. He couldn’t budge the gas shutoff valve lever. He soon gave up and offered me the choice of accepting delivery the new stove and not having it installed and not having the old stove removed or they could put the new stove back on the truck, not to return for two weeks. Neither choice was very appealing.

Our house is over eighty years old. The presence of a coal chute and an oil tank in the basement indicate that gas was not necessarily initially available. The problematic valve looked pretty ancient though and I know that it hadn’t been touched since we first moved into our home. The delivery man went back to the truck and I tried my hand with the valve. After some percussive adjustments, I got the valve unstuck. Don’t try this at home…

The delivery man came back and although he was now able to turn the shutoff valve, he still couldn’t turn off the gas. We went back out to the truck. I experimented with the valve. The delivery man had left the valve turned 180°. I turned on the gas at one of the old stove’s burners. Electricity was unplugged and the kitchen was well ventilated, with the backdoor wide open. When I quarter turned the old valve, the sound of gas flowing ceased. The delivery man came back again and seemed satisfied with these new developments. The old stove was finally disconnected and removed.

The new stove was brought in and soon connected. Once operational, the delivery man commenced a bake-in process that was intended to remove any factory oils from the range. It also stunk up the house. At this point he thanked me for my help and left shortly later. The cleaning process took about an hour and after its completion all smells had dissipated. For dinner last night, I boiled water on our new stove top, with pasta and we had leftover spaghetti. Not a very auspicious initial usage, but Thanksgiving is next week and were ready to go.

Life’s a Bomb

Small Diameter Bomb

The Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) demonstrates an economy of force that accuracy allows. Weighing in at 250 lbs., it weighs just one-eighth of the 2,000 lb. bomb that it replaces. This weight loss leads to a multiplicative increase in lethality, allowing more targets to be hit than before. The constellation of Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) that allows your phone to navigate your way to grandma’s house, also guides the SDB. GPS guided bombs predate the SDB. This technology was originally applied to the aforementioned 2,000 lb. behemoth, but use showed that this much explosives was overkill. A willowing process led to a progression of bomb size reductions. Eventually resulting in the 250 lb. GPS guided bomb. The innovation that truly marks the SDB is the addition of wings. These wings allow the bomb to glide up to 60 miles from release. Turning away after bomb separation, this fire-and-forget technology allows the attacking of defended targets, at a reduced risk to the bomber. The SDB is produced in Saint Louis by Boeing.