Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hello, Salem? Hello?

I needed to fax some tax-credit documents to the Oregon Dept. of Energy in Salem.  Easy, right?

I started dialing early this morning - busy.  I waited until after 8:30 (maybe they don't turn on the fax until someone is in the office) - busy.

I tried after 9:00 am - busy.

Although Salem is within my Area Code, it is necessary to dial 1 first - no question about that.

Oddly, though, when I called the fax number from my cell phone, their fax machine answered.

What the heck?  Why can't my land-line call Salem (I tried the ODOE's regular voice phone number - 503-378-4040, too - consistently busy).

Time to call phone companies. 

I got frustrated quickly with the Qwest phone-tree, so thought I'd go directly to my Long-Distance provider (Credo).  I got someone on the phone quickly, but, after researching the path that my call would take, concluded that the call was not technically Long Distance, but was under the control of Qwest (i.e. CenturyLink).

Called Qwest and finally got a human who transferred me to another person, who described in great detail the technical path that my call would take, thru various phone networks.  She concluded that it was Credo's fault, and I mentioned that I had already spoken with them, and they denied involvement.  She then looked further and said it appears that the call had been routed to some other network - she had a Support phone number but didn't know exactly who would answer the call.

I called - Verizon answered, and, after hearing the problem, said that it was Qwest's issue, and that they couldn't help me because they needed technical information that comes from Qwest, not me.

I drove up to Karen's office and sent the damn fax from there - no problem.

Good thing I don't have to frequently call anyone in Salem.  Now, the question is, do I get back on the line with Qwest, or get back to my normal life?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

spring at last!

Karen left town last night, for a few days of work and family in LA.  Just in time.

I woke up this morning around 5 and it was clear the power was out.  No way of knowing what time that happened, of course, since we no longer have any electric clocks, with hands.

I got up around 7, just as the power came back on, which is nice.  Then I looked outside, cell-phone camera in hand.  Here's the back yard:

Then I walked around to the front of the house.  Hmmm - this isn't right!

Yes, the beautifully-shaped tree by the driveway is split and all the careful pruning over the years has evaporated.

At least there is now internet access and hot water for coffee.  Happy Spring, everybody.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

progress IS possible, in small things

World Peace and rational Public Policy is as distant as always, but at least my broadband has improved.

Here are the metrics from my original Qwest DSL connection (that I had for several years, and never complained about):

A couple of months ago, Comcast made me a TV/Internet deal that I couldn't refuse. I bought a used cable modem from a craigslist guy, and the connection improved enough to be noticeable.  Plus we were now able to waste infinitely more hours watching stupid TV that we did not receive before.  The initial Comcast metric was:

The other day, I got a letter from Comcast saying that, if I upgraded my modem to a DOCSIS 3.0 model, I'd get even better connectivity.  I bought one from another craigslist guy yesterday ($65), and (with ZoneAlarm turned off), it now looks like this:

Response time is noticeably faster.  Before yesterday I had never heard of DOCSIS.  Ya learn something new every day.

Now, I guess I better get to work...

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

I am troubled

Received a political phone call this morning.  It was in support of the Obama re-election, and the script that the person read hit all the points on which I am totally sympathetic.

Here's the problem.  At the outset, the caller identified herself as calling from some kind telemarketing company, for the Obama re-election campaign.  When she finished the spiel, I asked again 'what did you say was your organization?' and she (a little more slowly) said the name of what sounded like a for-profit marketing service.

I am just not comfortable about this.  I have done phone solicitations for organizations in which I believe, and that is fundamentally different from hiring a company to make the calls, and paying them a cut of the take.  I wanted to ask the caller if she also made calls for GOP candidates, too, but figured the best I could do for her would be to get off the line quickly, which I did.

Am I naive, or is it too much to ask that the Democrats use motivated supporters to make these calls (where 100% of the contribution goes to the cause), rather than a private (theoretically non-political) company, who could be selling pet-insurance as well as Barack Obama?

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Little Thought Experiment

I woke up this morning, and as on every morning, began to reconstruct the world. 

Unless yesterday or the day before included an event of significant disruption (i.e. any one of the Ten Plagues, or some other 'Act of God'), it's a good bet ($10,000?) that today will be (looking at the basic conditions of Life), pretty much like yesterday.

In other words, we are conditioned to generally not see long-term change, in the absence of obvious short-term change.  The frogs-slowly-boiled-alive thing.

Supposing that, instead of waking up every day, you wake up once a year.  Let's take a short walk thru the history of the past 10 calendar years (again, assuming 1 year per day - a 30-day month corresponding to 30 actual years):

10 Years Ago (~1550 BC):  Mycenaean civilization starts in Ancient Greece.

9 Years Ago  (~1200 BC):  Start of Iron Age in Middle East

8 Years Ago  (~800 BC):   Pre-Etruscan period in Italy. 

7 Years Ago  (~500 BC):   Beginning of Roman Republic

6 Years Ago  (~120 BC):   Maccabees victorious over the Syrians (and they've hardly troubled us since)

~5 1/2 years ago:    Jesus
5 Years Ago  (~250 AD):   Roman Emperor institutes persecution of Christians in attempt to restore the religion of Rome.

4 Years Ago  (~600 AD):   Human population of the Earth: about 200 million.

3 Years Ago  (~900 AD):   Human population of the Earth: about 240 million (not much change). 

2 Years Ago  (~1300 AD):  Population of Imperial China: 60 million

1 Year Ago  (~1680 AD):   La Salle explores the length of the Mississippi River. Finds no barge traffic.

Got it?  Now here's where it gets really interesting:

8 Months ago (~1770):   Human population - 750 million 

6 Months ago (~1830):   Human population - 1 billion (1000 million).  Not much of a change.

5 Months ago (~1860):    Edwin Drake drills first oil well (you knew I'd be getting around to this, right?)

4 Months ago (~1892):    Gottlieb Daimler uses internal combustion engine to build a four-wheel vehicle, considered the first modern automobile.

3 1/2 Months ago (~1900): 4,200 passenger cars built in the US

3 Months ago (~1922):   First year where Ford builds over 1 million cars

Catch your breath.  Here we go...

2 Months ago (~1952):    Human population - 2.5 billion   World oil consumption: 8 million barrels/day

1 Month ago (~1982):    Human population - 4.5 billion.  World oil consumption: 60 million barrels/day.  375 million cars in the world.

2 Weeks ago (1998):    Human population - 6 billion; 600 million cars in the world.

1 Week ago (2005):    World oil consumption: 85 million barrels/day.

yesterday (2011):       Human population - 7 billion; World oil consumption: 89 million barrels/day.

The point of all this is to visualize how recently, in human history, we've been living with a *massive* burning of fossil fuel, and an  explosive growth in the number of people and cars. The world was a VERY different place in 1950 (not to mention 1980 when we elected the first Republican President after US Peak Oil was reached).

Aside from the energy required to run our cars, don't forget the energy required to make them: mining/refining/transporting/shaping the metals, making plastics (from oil), making tires (7 gallons of oil per tire), etc.

We have made a deal with the fossil-fuel companies, that has brought us astonishing comforts and conveniences (within the past 2 months, accordingly to the above vision). In exchange for enabling our modern life, we allow them to make exorbitant annual profits, feed the system that burns that oil/gas/coal (releasing ever-increasing amounts of CO2), and even continue to pay them extra subsidies (bribes?) from the public Treasury (although Obama is beginning to force the issue about that).

What am I getting at?

Picture yourself as Faust, happily enjoying your selection of TV channels, the abundance of groceries in your local supermarket, lots of roads and bridges, and the endless 'entertainment' of the current US political process. If you're REALLY hungry, it's probably just a short drive to your local fast-food place, where you can get a double cheeseburger off the 'value' menu.

Now imagine Mephistopheles walking up to your front door, about to ring the bell.

Just sayin'.