War heroes

This weekend I attended the funeral of an in-law’s in-law, a member of the Greatest Generation who served in the Navy during WWII in the Pacific. As often happens during a good funeral, I heard lot about him that I didn’t know, even though we have attended countless family events together. I didn’t know, for example, that he was a prize-winning trout fisherman, an activity that bonded his family, and that he continued even when he didn’t have the strength to cast. A family member would set up his rig, cast out, then hand him the pole to fish, and to reel in anything he caught.

Naturally I thought of my own Dad’s war experiences as a Marine on Iwo Jima, and the life he and my Mom built together after the war. Since I am a direct result of that life, my opinions of its value and benefit to the world are skewed, but I think “they done good,” as Gomer Pyle would say. At a minimum, having raised approximately the same number of children as my parents, I continue to be amazed at their love and patience.

Write it down

My Dad suffers from short-term memory loss, and, with the help of my two local sisters, my Mom is taking care of him at home. She has always been a collector of clippings, and when she retired, she started assembling “memory notebooks,” first for us kids, then for our kids. Dad’s memory loss has granted her the “free time” to write even more, so she has documented his war memories, their courtship, and recent events. He will often sit for hours reading through the notebooks, asking questions about the events, and responding to the stories. I don’t think any of us realized how valuable her notebooks would become.

So my advice to listening ears is to write stuff down. It doesn’t matter what format (OK, whiteboard is probably a little too temporary to be of much value), or whether the writing is eloquent. What matters is the process of capturing the memories (for yourself) and sharing them (for others.) You, too, may be as heroic as my Mom.

Tech Corner

Last weekend we visited my daughter in Chicago, and she was complaining about her lethargic internet access. Her 1.5 megabit-per-second internet connection was running at about a quarter of that speed. Her 3rd floor brownstone has a patchwork of telephone wiring consisting of what appears to be un-twisted steel drop wire running from the outside network interface box, through the basement and back out, then up the outside wall, to the main living area. In addition, there is a CAT 5 cable (4 twisted pair) running straight up the outside of a building add-on, into a back room.

When she first moved in, I tried to run her phone line and DSL into her main living area, but it wouldn’t work. With the help of a friendly AT&T installer, we confirmed that DSL was working at the network box, and ran it into the back room over the CAT 5. I installed the DSL filter, the DSL modem and a cordless phone base in the back room, and it worked. But she also wanted to have a wired speaker phone in the main living area, and a connection to her satellite box to deliver Caller ID to the television. So just before I left on the previous visit, I re-connected the “steel pair” so her speakerphone and TV Caller ID would work.

The preceding is why I found myself standing in lightly falling snow beside the network box with a laptop connected to her DSL modem connected to the test jack in the box. I discovered that the modem would sync at the promised 1.5 Mb/s rate there. So clearly the problem was in the wiring beyond the network box. I disconnected the “steel cable” and tried the same experiment in the back room under warmer, drier circumstances, with the same result.

So I had determined that if I connected the “steel cable” to circuit, it killed internet performance. She still needed to have the speakerphone and TV hooked up, but the configuration of her apartment did not lend itself to running a wire from the back room to the main living area. Nor was it practical to run any wiring outside the building.

In case you are worried, the short answer is that I finally managed to get it working, using two components available at a Best Buy, Radio Shack, or, in this case, Ace Hardware store, telephone wiring section. If you are interested in pondering the solution, I’ve attached a diagram. I suppose, in keeping with the title of today’s posting, that it did make me a very minor hero, at least to my daughter.

Next week I’ll explain the solution I used.

One Response to “Heroes”

  1. marilyn says:

    Way to leave us on the edge of our seats!

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