The Garden and Tech Reports for 6.19.19

 

agriculture basket beets bokeh
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com                                                                  

And finally a couple of weeks ago, the clouds parted and the sun came out, drying out the garden bed soil enough to plant a few tomatoes and herbs.

First I had to dig out about two inches of soil to get rid of the mesclun mix that had taken over the bed. Had I not done that, I would still be pulling it out by hand. Sprinkled in some dried chicken manure to replenish it, then poked holes for the lavender, parsley, sweet and Thai basils, and tomatoes. Three red ones, one golden, and one cherry (cherry is small and red, so we have a double count with it). Two of the tomatoes have set blossoms. The lavender blossoms opened to graciously share their fragrance with us and the bees. Now all I need to do is water as needed, pull a couple of weeds now and then, and wait.

The tech issues were a little more complicated. Sometime in the wee smalls of Monday morning, the modem that had served us well by keeping us connected to the outside world via the DSL line installed in 2002 if I remember correctly, joined the choir invisible, ceased to exist, etc. It became an ex-modem.

Usually, Hubby deals with tech issues while I make a cake. He was out of town. I called him to let him know what was going on and to please call my cell phone (our “landline” is actually a VOIP* system).

Now, bearing in mind that he was a telecomm engineer** for 35 years, he began rapid-fire troubleshooting questions, some of which I could answer (no, no adverse weather; yes, I did the unplug/plug thing; what’s wrong with it is that I can’t get connectivity, period).

“You’ll have to call support.”

I have to call support. I’d rather go to the dentist and gynecologist at the same time, thank you very much. And have them trade ends.

Not having much choice, I sucked it up and called. The human rep I spoke with after negotiating the queue was kind and friendly and helpful. He talked me through the steps of rebooting, and then…

And then with no warning, the power went out.

Rep asked when I thought the power would be back. I guessed about two hours. He or his supervisor would call me back then. OK, thanks.

And then my text chime went off several times. Hubby had tried to call, but kept getting the “all circuits are busy” message. What is going on? Did the tower go out?

I refrained from replying, “How the hell should I know?” I just called him, told him that there had been a power failure in the middle of the call to the support center, and that I needed to call Com Ed.

Com Ed didn’t know what was going on, either. I submitted an automated report.

Another call from Hubby. No, dear, I don’t know what happened to the power.

At this time, the muscles around my left eye started getting twinge-y. Went to the powder room where we keep the over the counter meds in search of something to take to keep the twitches and twinges from blossoming into a full blown cluster headache. I was out of my preferred pain killer. Great.

Breathing my way through the discomfort, I called Com Ed for an update. Very small, localized outage due to an equipment failure. If this was the transformer that I think it was and if anyone from Com Ed read this, we told you so.

The text chime dinged several more times. Updates from Com Ed, and forwarded texts from Hubby that he’d received from them.

Confirmed that I’d received them. Tried to sit quietly. Tried to visualize the tight muscles giving me the headache unwinding.

And with a flurry of beeps and chirps, the power made a triumphant return.

Now to wait for the ISP rep to call back.

And wait.

And update Hubby, who reminded me that the call center closed at five and the odds were that they wouldn’t call back. And wait.

No call. Five o’clock rapidly approached.

I called again. Negotiated the queue, ran through the paces with another pleasant rep. Yep. Sounds like a dead modem. We’ll get someone out tomorrow. Thank you.

Called Hubby for another update. Another round of troubleshooting questions (yes, they ran tests; no, I don’t know which ones; the guy will be here between eight and noon; African or European?)

Done with technology for the day, I walked Oakley. I ate ice cream for dinner. I had a salad or something to mitigate the ice cream, but I ate it while I stared off into space.

At least I slept OK that night. The tech arrived at the end of the time frame I’d requested, but he quietly and efficiently did his job, bringing us a new modem that brought us up to speed, literally and figuratively.

For now, we are able to do what we need to online, but hopefully we won’t take 20 years for the next upgrade.

 

* stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Same as calling on an actual landline, but over the internet.

**who worked on one of the rudimentary forms of the internet in the days of our courtship.

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The Involuntary Unintended Social Media Detox

 

glass cup with raspberry inside and outside
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I’d been spending too much time on FaceBook and Twitter lately. I’ll be honest about it. Even with using my cell phone’s timer to avoid social media becoming a time sink, animal videos, tag team trolling my current congress rep about his support of the current administration’s abhorrent policies and so on started taking too much time.

I needed at least a day off. A detox. But there was this cat video and that dog pic and another video about wombats and….

The intervention came Tuesday afternoon when the internet cut out with no warning. At first I thought nothing of it since our service runs on the hiccupy side, especially in summer. Usually it comes back by itself in a few moments. This time it didn’t.

Hubby called the service provider. After twenty minutes on hold, a cheerful person asked if he’d unplugged the modem and plugged it back in. Little did said rep know that s/he spoke with a retired telecom engineer who had designed some of the software for one of the first versions of the Net back in the mid ’80s. Finally after a lot of questions about the hardware on this end and trying to sell Hubby a $99 upgrade for email service, the tech finally backed off and ran the tests. No, we were not getting a signal. No, couldn’t tell why from that end. Someone would be sent out in the next two or three days to see what was going on, and if they have to come inside, there will be a charge. Oh, we may not be able to get to you until next week. Or maybe even the week after that.

This is on the heels of our downstairs air conditioning unit conking out on Monday thanks to some rodent chewing the insulation off the wires that hook the unit to the thermostat. (That was a relief since Hubby thought the compressor had breathed its last cooling breath. If anyone asks, peace of mind costs $139. The compressor costs more than some cars we’ve both driven.)

The air. Now this. And the next Mercury retrograde doesn’t happen until the 25th of this month.

In the spirit of preparedness, Hubby went up to the local brick and mortar store for our cellular service to find out what we’d have to do to get going with wireless internet. As he  drove up the main road by our house, he saw several repair trucks setting up to get busy. He stopped and asked the foreman what had happened.

Well, Tuesday was mowing day along the main road. One of the mowers had taken out not just a junction box (the green boxes that hold wiring for phone and internet lines), but pulled up almost a mile of cable along with it. The mower blades had chopped the cable into tiny pieces. The severed end was so badly damaged that the repair crew had to dig up another considerable length before they found wires that would hold the splicing with the new cable. Then they had to attach that to a new junction box, verify that all of the accounts were getting service, then bury the cable. And then we and the other 599 impacted households would be back in business.

That was if they could get one of the crews specializing in disaster recovery on site.

Well, so be it. I still could have used my phone or taken my laptop to my favorite tea room, but I didn’t. I read a book that I had purchased at Ren Faire last weekend about Vikings. Watched more TV than I want to admit. Ran some errands. Read. Cooked. Brought the boom box downstairs (we use a Sonos device to route streaming radio stations through our stereo). Communed with real life.

Hubby was ready to rock and roll today with setting up the completely wireless net access, but his fun was interrupted last night by service resuming as if nothing had happened.

Today I checked in for about fifteen minutes on each of my social media platforms. I wrote this. I will work on a writing project this afternoon.

But wait…shouldn’t the pics from Oakley’s day care session on Tuesday be posted? And I need to see how this friend’s dog is doing after surgery, and there’s the T-Rex videos, and…

Maybe I need another detox.

The PICAN Having Not So Much To Do With Pies But Much With The Fairness Doctrine And Bruce Springsteen

Public

Interest

Convenience

And

Necessity.

PICAN. That was the intended purpose of broadcasting back in the dawn of the radio and TV era. That everyone would have equal access and opportunity to watch news, sports, and entertainment. And coupled with the Fairness Doctrine, news would be as unbiased as possible, showing different sides to an issue.

That’s what I was told in my first broadcasting classes back in the early ’80s. Later in the decade, the cable companies, Wall Street, and Reagan’s cronies decided otherwise. The Fairness Doctrine was repealed. And somewhere along the line, the rules about how many outlets per market could be owned by a given company (back at the dawn of time in my freshman year, it was any combination of papers, radio and TV stations totaling up to seven) were blurred or obliterated. So much for balance and diversity.

And now we have Fifty Seven Channels and Nothing’s On thanks to cable and dish providers. Well, more like a couple of hundred in some localities. How many of these channels serve the PICAN is beyond me. Some of the channels I wouldn’t mind, such as Starz for their adaptations of Philippa Gregory’s novels about the Plantagent dynasty, or HBO for “Game of Thrones.” But pay for programming with no redeeming value like “Honey Boo Boo” or propaganda like certain news outlets? No. That was never supposed to be part of the plan.

There are times when cable is needed. My paternal grandmother lived in western Massachusetts in a pretty small town about six miles south of the Vermont border. Between the remoteness and the mighty shielding power of the granite mountains, any kind of decent  over the air TV signal was an impossibility. With the help of (very) basic cable, she could get the stations from Albany (40 miles south), Boston (three hours east) and New York (about three and a half hours southeast). It provided her with news, entertainment, and her Red Sox games. I think we had a choice of twelve channels. Gram mostly filled her days by reading the paper, visiting her friends and relatives within walking distance. TV was limited to her quiz shows and a handful of series. That’s all she needed.

That was back in the ’70s. The ’80s opened up a wild west of commercial broadcasting options, and not all for the better. Not unless you’re an ad agency or a retailer looking to brainwash consumers. Convenient, yes, but at a high price to one’s purse from the pressure to buy, psyche, and the environment.

We–Hubby and I–don’t need much more ourselves than what Gram had. With just our converter box and antenna, we get PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, WGN, and a slew of indie outlets and substations. There are two classic movie channels we enjoy. One of the substations runs “Star Trek” six nights a week. We invest in DVDs of our favorite programs. We both have channels we like on YouTube. Sometimes when nothing appeals to me, I do this really crazy thing called READING A BOOK.

In this post-PICAN and Fairness Doctrine world, making deliberate, conscious choices takes on new importance. Do your research on broadcasting options in your area, and choose wisely.

I know I’ve posted this before, but I feel like it’s time to revisit John Denver’s cover of “Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV)” again.  Somehow, it just seems to fit.

 

 

 

Taking Refuge in Lake Wobegon

 

 

(from cardcow.com)

 

“Chocolate cake.”

Until last week, those had been two of my favorite words. Hearing them spoken by  The Wearer of Ferrets as he discussed the moment during a dinner with China’s President Xi when he gave the green light to bomb Syria put a considerable pall on them. I may never be able to eat either again. If there is a positive, the sound of his voice echoing around my mind is aversive enough to keep me away from both as efforts at weight loss continue.

While desserts have their charms, taking refuge in them too often is not a good idea at all. Just ask my jeans.

Where, then, does one turn to escape the rampant insanity ? I’ve tried to keep the TV off with mixed success. Two PBS shows I love run late morning, and then there’s the midday news that a couple of minutes of won’t hurt, then perhaps a couple more, and next thing I know it’s 1:00 and I have to ice down my middle fingers from overuse. Not a good idea.  Limiting time tuned to WCPT  (independent progressive talk) and NPR to short bursts in the car helps somewhat as well. Somewhat.

In times like these, we need refuge from current affairs to prevent a collective slide into madness. I find mine in visits to Garrison Keillor’s fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Blessed be the tuneIn app that delivers the stream to the Sonos system that fills the house with his soothing baritone, gentle wit, and delicious sense of absurdity.

There are days when one needs to hear stories of hair raising escapes from fishing sheds as the ice breaks beneath one’s feet (especially when the shed in question is an RV). There are days when one needs the tale of a homecoming parade inadvertently but rudely interrupted by the queen’s father’s front loader that just excavated a septic tank. And there are days when one needs a slice of rhubarb pie and fresh coffee at the Chatterbox Cafe.

Based on the quick news summary just now on WFMT with the sabre rattling, I think I’ll take the pie, please. And if there’s any vanilla ice cream, a scoop of that on the side would be most appreciated.

 

 

 

Sunday Notes of the Musical Kind

Been listening to classical, jazz, and folk lately on the radio. The classic rock station that I loved (note past tense) was bought out by some entity that started running feed from Fox Sports on Sunday afternoons. As if changing the morning show format to the same zoo crew that can be found on any other station between five and ten a.m. wasn’t bad enough, that made it worse. As FM stations had in the ’70’s, they played music, more music, a little news, even more music, perhaps a promo for a concert. But then came the new owners, and there went the broadcasting neighborhood.

There was also the problem of only playing one or two songs from a band’s body of work. The Beatles did so much more than “Hey, Jude,” and The Police have many other songs than “Roxanne” and  “Every Breath…” but someone didn’t get the memo about that.  On the contemporary stations, everything sounded alike, except for Lady Gaga’s work and “Uptown Funk.” The rest sound as if written by lyricists who had eaten cheesy self help books for breakfast or to appeal to people between the ages of eight and thirteen.

I started making more use of my car’s CD player and listening to more NPR and the progressive talk station. That and programming the classical and jazz stations into the radio helped lift my mood. It also stopped the pervasive feeling of being in a time warp brought about by oldies stations.

Inside the house, we have an internet streaming system. It bridges signals from the wireless router to our stereo system. Despite my initial impression of it being another of Hubby’s high tech toys, it has proved useful in so many ways. We get a ridiculous number of stations from around the world, ranging from the various flavors of the BBC to Bollywood (helps me to get moving when I need to clean) and everything in between.

Internet streaming also brings me Folk Alley courtesy of WKSU from Kent State University and “Old Front Porch Radio” on Tuesdays from 4-6:30 central on WXOU hosted by the lovely and charming Maggie Ferguson, one of the musicians in the Detroit folk scene. It scratches the itch for good music created by real people who use their talents and passions to bring their stories to the world rather than technology to compensate for flaws in their performances and their lack of authenticity.

A few stations have servers with terminal hiccups, but the majority play for hours with no interruptions. Our local favorites are still available but now we get a stable stream via the net rather than via the antenna that gets slapped around in adverse weather, making the signal hiss and sizzle with static, or pulling in two signals on the same frequency. In the broadcasting no-one’s land between Chicago, Peoria, and Rockford-DeKalb, this happens pretty regularly whether solar flares abound or not. (You will not know fear until you have heard “Bad Romance” interspersed with an Evangelical sermon, believe me.)

The stream of WFMT‘s program of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing music by French composers is proceeding without hiccups or hellfire this afternoon. Internet radio is a far cry from when I would hide under the covers with my AM radio, seeing how many distant stations I could pull in late at night.  There’s still the thrill, the intrigue, the connection of knowing that there are other people in the world listening to the same program.

However, it’s a pleasant advancement to do so sitting up and in broad daylight rather than with a blanket over my head, adjusting the volume so I wouldn’t get caught and reprimanded for being awake after midnight.