Monday, February 4, 2008

Various Vicissitudes

My Internet Service Provider decided not to provide internet service for about eight hours today - hence, no post. So I spent the entire day out in the shop since early this morning. By the time my service came back up I was too far into the day's work to stop. So if you were wondering where I've been all day, that was it. I did manage to get online long enough to leave a couple of comments in various and sundry places, but that was about it.

I have no idea what the problem was. Apparently I have the 'Whenever We Feel Like It' internet service plan. My connection has taken a dive several times in recent weeks, just blip! Gone. Every time right around 9:ooAM, almost like it's the beginning of the service department's work day. I'm hoping this is not the bottom end of a sudden sharp upward curve. If indeed it is, well then I'll have plenty of time to clean and sharpen my weapons, won't I? Just saying, is all.

Anyway, all was not lost, I did learn something today - which I will pass on to you. When in the process of lubricating the quill rack and pinion and re-tensioning the main recoil spring on a Shopsmith MK V woodworking machine, do NOT accidentally let go the quill extension handle without first ensuring the quill lock is tightened down. If, however, you do decide to let go the handle, with the recoil spring under tension, be sure to move your friggin' hand the hell out of the way quickly. Note the emphasis on the word quickly. Unless you like getting wrapped across the knuckles hard. Note the emphasis on the word hard. I spent fifteen minutes sitting on the shop floor, rocking back and forth and holding my one hand in the other and trying to decide whether it was broken or not - all the while with the dog licking my face. It wasn't broken, but I'm now sporting a shiny new bruise across the back of the my left hand. However, on the upswing, the quill mechanism now works smoothly and without binding.

Let's just hope tomorrow is a better day, or I will be sharpening those aforementioned weapons.


  1. Woof!

    And instead of sharp pointy things, maybe with judicious applications of accelerations, you can make the ISP go WOOF too!

    (Dear NSA, that was a joke. Please don't come after me.)

  2. ...the next day, in Anchorage:

    ISP: Welcome to CrapNet, Alaska's finest random access Internet provider.

    Jim: I have a few issues we need to, work out before I leave today.

    ISP: What seems to be the problem, menacing Navy man?

    Jim: Well, yesterday, my Internet service was down all day. My phone lines were also down, so I couldn't call you to "share my concerns."

    ISP: Sir, we have no control over your phone lines. We are an Internet service provider.

    Jim: Oh no, I realize that. I stopped at the phone company first. If you look at my left hand here, you'll see how that discussion went. Luckily, I'm right handed, and don't have any plans for the rest of the afternoon.

    ISP: Um, Mr. Wright, I'm not sure what you're implying.

    Jim: Oh, apparently nothing too serious. You do it all the time. I'm just planning on taking you offline for a bit. Don't worry, I brought my dog so he can lick your face...

  3. Experience is what teaches us.

    Pain ensures the lesson doesn't have to be repeated.

    Laughter (mine) is liable to get me killed! I do hope you don't have plans to visit Boston soon? ;)

    Don't worry, I'm sure I'll slip on the ice soon, and when I report, you can give me back the laughter.

  4. Shawn, you made me laugh. Out loud.

    "CrapNet, Alaska's finest random access Internet provider."


  5. The funny thing is, at least one of the regular commenters here works for my ISP.

    Comms outages are fairly common this time of year here in Alaska. Unlike liquid water, ice is a dielectric (a nonconductor) and a little moisture in the connectors at -20F becomes hoar frost and can kill a coaxial signal. Then it warms during the day, and the circuit is restored. A small air pocket in an RCA type coaxial connector (screwed together in the summer, trapping slightly damp air) is all it takes.

    However, my outages all seem to have been at approximately the same time, which makes me suspect problem is human induced vice 'act of Big Guy in the Sky.' Which pisses me off.

    Yesterday, the cable TV signal was out too. A call to tech support got the standard 'reboot yur rooter and mooodem' answer. Yeah, thanks, Sparky, I'll get right on that. Frankly I don't even know why this company has a tech support line.

    Seems to be working today, so far. We'll see if it makes it past 9AM.

  6. Oh, and Shawn? I am, in fact, left handed. But, I do shoot expert with either hand, though I prefer to shoot revolvers left handed and automatics right handed. And I am fairly proficient with edged weapons in either hand as well - so your comment is still technically correct :)

  7. And Tom? Pain may teach most folk not to repeat the mistake (which may be the whole point of pain to begin with), however, I seem to be fairly boneheaded in this particular area. And it's a sure bet that I will eventually repeat this mistake.

    Once again Wright demonstrates his inability to learn...

  8. Jim, be careful sharpening those weapons. It sounds to me like the only saving grace from yesterday is that you suffered blunt force trauma instead of penetrating wounds. You really don't want to tempt fate.

  9. That ISP employee? That would be me. Although I don't work for the ISP arm of the business, but for IT.

    I don't wanna know exactly where you live, Jim, that would be creepy-stalkery. (And like most good IT folks, I have access to a huge range of information about our customers, but both from a professional conduct perspective and from a who-the-hell-has-time perspective, I don't use it unless in the line of duty.)

    However - I will tell you that the outages you mention seem very typical of preparing a cable node to support digital phone service, which is dial tone over coax. We actually took our Eagle River office off cable modem and got them a dedicated circuit when the node prep work took place there. I know that they are doing a lot of that work out in Palmer/Wasilla right now.

    It sucks. It pissed me off when they did it to my node, while I still lived in AK, and it was longer and worse - I lived in the beta test area.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is that once the node IS ready for digital phone services, they have to manage availability/up time to local phone & 911 standards, not to the less demanding entertainment standard. It will get better!

    While I'm not in customer service, I manage their technology... and I do think they could do a better job of communicating with their customers on this stuff.

    Hope your hand feels better!

  10. Nathan, well, see, when I work on weapons I'm damned careful. Same when I'm actually doing woodwork with the power tools spinning.

    But I was cleaning and lubricating the Shopsmith (turned off, unplugged, blades removed). The quill handle (think of a drill press) has been binding for a while and I usually have to nudge it to get it to retract. I didn't realize how bad it had gotten. Yesterday I finally got around to disassembling the entire headstock and when I reassembled it, with the retractor spring retensioned, I didn't realize how quickly the damn thing would retract when it actually, you know, worked the way it was supposed to in the first place. Plus I had the single spoke handle mounted instead of the usual triple spoke handle, so when my hand slipped, the handle made a complete 360 rotation (building up max speed) before it hit the back of my hand. And that handle is heavy, tool steel and a heavy bakelite grip. But because I am habituated to the way it was, vice the way it is now (which is the way it's supposed to be), I'll probably do it again.

  11. Jeri, yep my connection hangs off the Wasilla server.

    And I wouldn't be so irritated if they'd just drop a gang email (not like they don't have the addresses) and advise me that there is going to be some outages during the upgrade. But the end result will be significantly improved service. Alternatively, when I call to find out what the deal is - don't tell me to reboot my modem. Just tell me the line is down and it'll be x hours until estimated time of restoration. Simple. I don't like it, but I understand.

    Instead I inevitably get the 19 year old dipshit who tells me, nope, no problems on our end, reboot your modem. No? OK I'll schedule you a service call in 2-3 days.

    Additionally, if I'm going to be without service for 8 hours due to maintenance and upgrade, well I expect to get credited for that time. I'm not paying for service if the ISP has deliberately taken the service off-line. (Which is of course why the tech support dipshit won't admit that there's anything wrong).

    But, vicissitudes, so I see little that I can do about it other than grin and bear it. And hope that, like you said, the upgrade improves the overall service. And truthfully, I've been pretty satisfied with your company. I almost took a job with them after I retired. But decided to do this instead. For now.

  12. (Note to self:

    Stay on Jim's good side.)

    Howdy Jim! Want some ice cream I stole from Nathan's freezer?

  13. Actually, they usually have no problem issuing credits, whether the outage is by design or because of system issues. Just ask! (If you can bear the #$%%# hold time again)

    The problem w/ your 19 year old idiot not knowing is actually system. They don't have any outage correlation capability for customer service right now. They know you're calling in from X address, and they know they have ongoing outages in X node, but they can't easily see when both coincide. The same applies to your email address vs. your node.

    It's sad, it seems pretty basic, but at the underlying level the systems just don't talk to each other. That is one of the projects I'm working on for this year. After all, we're a technology company. ::rolleyes::

    It still doesn't excuse the fact that your customer service agent doesn't listen, and instead gives you autopilot, idiotic directions. You can always ask for a lead... the lead will actually be more helpful than a supervisor, it's a more technical role.

    OK... totally different tangent, since I've been over-detailed about my employer...

    Just what is a shopsmith? I'm envisioning a big guy with bulging muscles, a big ol' hammer and a forge... but that'd be expensive to feed.

  14. Jeri, thanks for the info. I'll try to be more charitable towards your employer in the future. I said try, I'll try :)

    A Shopsmith is a multifunction woodworking machine. It can serve as an entire shop in about 12 square feet. It incorporates a tablesaw, drill press, lathe, horizontal boring machine, and sanding functions in it's basic configuration. There are many add-ons and I have most of them, including bandsaw, planer, and specialized shaping accessories. Basically it's a frame and headstock (motor and various power take-offs) that can be configured almost infinitely. It's a top quality machine that has been manufactured since the mid 1950's. Mine is 30 years old, and is still in perfect shape.

    You often see the Shopsmith demonstrated at fairs and woodworking shows and recently at Lowes. They are very expensive, but they are worth the money in my opinion. Woodworkers either love the Shopsmith or purely hate it. It requires specialized knowledge to use effectively and that tends to put people off, though Shopsmith offers class in every major city and provides terrific online tutorials and support.

    I have a very large shop, with a full range of professional stationary power tools, but I find there are things I can do with the SS that I just can't easily do with the other machines and I use mine almost every day. I don't use it for standard functions, such as the tablesaw, because I have a dedicated unisaw, chopsaws, bandsaw, and industrial scrollsaw. I rarely use it in drill press mode, because I have a large Jet drill press. But for specialized work, such as the project I'm working on now (2000 wine racks for a wholesaler) it's the best tool I have because it can do things that other dedicated tools simply can't. And it's easily the best lathe I've ever used. It's also on wheels, which means I can move it easily anywhere I need it without effort - try that with a 1000lb unisaw.

    If you want to know what one looks like: http://www.shopsmith.com/

  15. Oh, I know exactly why you shoot autoloaders right handed.

    When I was young and stupid (aren't those synonymous?), I trained myself to be an ambidextrous shooter. I was wearing a loose t-shirt, and 2 spent casings bounced off of my neck and landed down around my navel. Those things cool quickly, but that's because they transfer the heat very fast to their surroundings. If you know what I mean.

  16. John, you are absolutely correct.
    Almost all auto's are right handed weapons, and they eject to the right, so unless you want to take hot brass in the face or down the shirt, you shoot them right handed. Also, the safeties, decocking levers, and mag releases are usually situated for the right thumb, making it dangerous and awkward to use them left handed.

    I do however, have a Colt Match Cup 1911A1 .45 ACP that is modified for ambidextrous use, with pass through double sided thumb safety and mag release. I do shoot that one left handed, though it still ejects to the right.

    And you are correct, sir, on the heat transfer properties of spent brass casings. I've had more than one hot M-16 brass go down the back of my collar on the range. Which is why I always wear a boonie hat on the range nowadays.


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