Ah hah! Figured out what was screwing up the DSL:


We'll get to that in a moment. First, an announcement: all the popular kids are putting homebrewed MP3s on the web, so I have decided to follow their example. Downloading is optional. Gales of derisive laughter is probably inevitable.

The previous owners of Jasperwood installed extra lines, and there are extra jacks hither and yon - but few work. (It's a mark of how swift technology travels: the jacks labelled "FAX" now look like telegraph lines.) Some could be coaxed back to life. Some four-prong plugs from the old days are dead forever, connected to ancient wires long severed, hanging in the walls like moss in a sealed cave. The Qwest tech I call Jack Fixer deduced the problem Friday, and did it without any fancy DSL techs.

Remember, if you will, that I had a 55 minute 3-way phone conversation with roughly 14% of the tech-support personnel in the Northern Hemisphere. The end result: a DSL Tech from Qwest (Motto: “What do you think it means that we spell that without ‘U?”) would meet a tech from COVAD, and together they would solve everything.

One o’clock comes. No COVAD tech. But the Qwest guy is prompt - and it’s Jack Fixer from the previous day, not a DSL tech. (His name is Lance, actually.) I say hey, great to see you, no offense intended, but weren’t they going to send a DSL guy?

He didn’t know anything about that.

But as long as we’re reunited and we're feeling fine, let’s try an experiment. We ran a line of category 5 wire up through the 2nd floor window to the modem. This is superwire. This wire brooks no interference. Superman cannot see through this wire. Result: as usual, the signal dribbles though the modem's fingers as usual. At this point Jack Fixer says buddy, you’re hosed. There’s nothing I can do short of rewiring the shack at $120 an hour. Unless . . .

He had an idea, and it was crazy, but it just - might - work!

He went downstairs to the box, fiddled around, said “Hook it up and try it now.”

Steady green. But it’ll click off in seven seconds. Six . . . five . . .four . . . three . ..two . . . one - hey.

It did not. It kept the connection. It worked.

“It works!” I shouted out the window. “What did you do?”

“I disconnected every other phone jack in the house.”

And that was the only way it could work. So. I could call Qwest to rewire, at ruinous cost, or I could contrive a way to run everything from my office jack. I chose the latter: duh. Off to Best Buy, where I purchased a wireless jack - this would let me run phones all over the house off the office jack. Who-hoo! But the package came with one extension; I needed two. Bought the pack, drove to Audio King, found an extension. Bought it. Went home. Dove into the nightmare of wires behind the desk - you’ve no idea. It’s unbelievable. It’s also invisible; you don’t see anything except for a bouquet of cords emerging from a hole in the desk. On the outside it’s very pretty. Behind the desk it’s the UN General Assembly. Anyway, I set up the remote jack, plugged it in: nothing. No activity lights, nothing to indicate it was getting power. The manual said I should see green. I did not. I tried other outlets. Nothing. The POS didn’t even work out of the box.

Sat down outside with the manual and a small cigar, hoping one or the other would make me feel at peace with the world. The manual was no help. It had an addendum page printed in blue, with some late-breaking news. Oh yes, forgot to mention, the wireless jacks do not work with Caller ID.

Jaw: knees. So even if it did work, it wouldn’t work.

Put everything back together. Back to Best Buy. Hello, I’m your ideal customer! I have a smile on my face, the original packaging, and the receipt. The clerk was sunny and friendly - for that matter, every single retail worker I met today was upbeat and chipper, helpful and patient. Everyone. It was as if everyone in the world had a skip to their step today, and it was contagious, as good moods often are. I couldn’t be mad at anyone.

Got some new wireless phones with Expandable Capabilities - you can run multiple phones off one base station. Usually I like getting a new phone - I’m of an age where there’s still some nagging sense wonder that I can pick out my own phone in the first place. I’d be happier about the whole new phone thing if I hadn’t just bought a new )*$*%*(#$ answering machine two months ago, one that I truly loved. I loved the feel of the phones - sleek Motorola handsets with that classic M logo. No more. Now I have this busy Panasonic whose sole virtue is a cool blue circle around the earpiece - it lights up when you get a call. Whoo. Hoo.

Back to Audio King to exchange the extension jacks.

Back home to plug everything in and let them charge up. It took an hour to tuck all the wires back into place. Now I have an answering machine in the least convenient place in the house.

When my wife gets a job, I’m rewiring. And she’d better get one soon. In a week or two the TiVo will ask if it can call home. I don’t know what to tell it. TiVo’s outlet is dead.


While I’m waiting for the internet to come up with something other than streaming Mayor Bloomberg interviews, let me give you something. The last two days I have been tinkering with Soundtrack, for purposes of review, mind you. This is work. This is a duty. Soundtrack is an Apple program gently teased from the grasp of Final Cut Pro; it lets you, the rank amateur, create your own music for your videos. You get 5 GB (!) of clips - drums, basslines, guitars, etc. Of course you can add your own as well. Just drag and drop, fiddle, tweak. It does for music what the early look-ma-no-HTML web design programs did for the internet, which is to say it puts powerful tools in the hands of the clueless and the style-deprived. I cannot imagine how much bad music is going to come out of this.

I’m happy to say I’ve done my part so far. I installed it last night, and thought I’d see if it was as daunting as it looked. I mean, I looked at the screen and I had no idea what anything was, or did, or meant. So let’s just see what happens when you drag this here . .

One hour and 20 minutes later I had a tune “enhanced” with own samples, mixed down to an MP3, all done without reading the manual.

It's called "I Am An American," since that's one of the vocal samples I took from a WW2-era patriotic radio show. The genre would be “techo-roots” and it will not frighten the horses.

But there's more! Saturday night wife & child went to the Mall of America, and I sat down to futz with the program again. Two hours just evaporated: poof. I haven’t experienced that in a long while. It’s been years since anything on the computer just took me out of the time-stream, but Soundtrack did it. The result is Chickenheart Doom Mix - much more abrasive than “I Am An American,” but much better. Towards the end it veers into “lease-breaker” terrain, as I explored just how many apocalyptic sounds the program can hold without turning into aural mud. The samples are taken from an old radio show about a chickenheart that consumed the world. I’m not kidding. “All mankind - doomed!” shouts the scientist. “That blasted protoplasm,” another fumes. About 1:35 into the tune, we have a sonic description of the mayhem and panic that would result if a mass of flesh that was a chickenheart became so large that it began destroying cities.

This one rocks, I think. But you be the judge.

Gentle, wandering techno-folk “I Am an American?”

Fist in the nose, somewhat better “Chickenheart Doom Mix”

Both links go to the same page. You’re welcome. Or, I’m sorry. It depends.

One late note: the wireless phones have the range of six, maybe seven inches. After that, static. I put them back in the packages and reattached the old phone. Done to one phone now. I'm about as happy as a dog trying to crap in a thistle patch.

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