Evan's Eyes

Web Log Entry #0019, Saturday, November 30, 2002: Day 12

Anchorage Sunrise: 9:42am Sunset: 3:53pm High Temp: 40° Low Temp: 22°

We're having problems with Mr. Cable Modem. He only works about half the time. Thursday I thought it might be a union thing, being the holiday and all, but he's still temperamental. Here's what I think the problem is (the following is technical, so if you haven't worked with computers or phone companies for years like I have, may be hard to follow): Okay, a computer uses a device called a "modem" to talk to the Internet. Your phone-line modem uses your entire phone line, so it can have a nice, private conversation with the Internet. A cable modem has to share the wire with 50+ cable TV shows. If you put the TV cable in your ear and listened to it (WARNING: Do not do this! You'll poke yourself with the little wire in the center, and you don't want to explain to your doctor what happened) you'd hear all of them at once. It's like being in a convention hall where fifty infomercials are being shown simultaneously. Being able to select a TV channel and have it display the right show is controlled by "luck." This is why you'll sometimes try to tune to a PBS special on Congressional sub-committees, and end up watching "Hollywood Hottub Vixens 4." Just bad luck. So the slightest degradation of the cable that enters your house, like being gnawed by Arctic Weasels, can prevent the computer from being able to hear the Internet. Apparently there's a big Artic Weasel problem here, since the customer service people weren't surprised that Mr. Cable Modem was having problems. They'll send out a repair technician, but we can't request it. The cable people cheerfully moved Stan's Internet service to this address, but Lee, our landlord, is listed as the owner of the cable TV account. So Lee has to call them and say it's okay for Stan's Internet account to be on his cable TV line (even though it's already been here for days) and then ask for the repair person to come and check for weasel teeth marks. It's good to see that bureaucracy lives here in the Frozen North.

[Later...] We've jumped through the hoops, and I'm waiting for the repair tech. The schedule, literally, is "sometime between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm on Saturday." I couldn't quite believe that a cable company would still have the nerve to pull this, but the other options were during weekdays. Supposedly this is a free repair, since the problem is on their side of the wire. Still, I amuse myself by imagining what it would be like to offer payment on Sunday, between 10:00pm and 8:00am on Monday ("make sure there's someone over 18 available in your office that entire time!"). Then call several hours later and say we have to reschedule. Okay, it's a petty-revenge fantasy against a faceless corporation, but I hate monopoly-industry customer service arrogance. There's got to be a better task-management system. Or do they need to stay flexible to handle life-or-death cable TV emergencies? Anyway, this makes today my day in; cleaning, laundry, and writing yesterday's trip summary and a movie review. It may not be the best and highest use of scarce daylight hours, but it won't be a complete waste.

[Even Later...] Well, Jeremy the Repair Tech showed up about 4:00pm. He tested and tweaked, and made the connection better. He did say that Coax cable has about a 20-year lifespan, and our wiring is probably from original condo construction, about 20 years ago. Although the connection has been good since he was here, it could go out at any time for random duration (and may or may not come back). His recommendation is running a new line and installing an outlet just for the modem, an estimated $20 job. The biggest potential obstacle is getting landlord AND condo-association permission. If this journal suddenly goes silent again, cable failure is a likely reason. (He didn't SAY anything about weasel signs, but he didn't go into the crawl space either. Who knows what sort of Arctic Spiders or Arctic Scorpions lurk there...?)

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© 2002 Evan M. Nichols