Friday, April 30, 2004

This past Sunday's Washington Post business section has several pretty good articles on wireless Internet connections. I have been using one since September or so without understanding much about it (despite Mitch's best efforts). Finishing my info systems class, reading the Post items just now, and all the practice using it this 8 months have combined and I may have reached the tipping point. I hope a little processing, a little writing will help.

Webopedia tells us that Wi-Fi, wireless fidelity generically indicates a wireless Local Access Network meeting a couple of interoperability standards. Even though this notebook computer is not networked to any others, my set up still counts as a LAN. Internet comes into the house through a DSL line; it goes to the router. The router beams Internet all around; a card in the computer picks it up.

Whenever my Internet connection is slow, I am not sure if the Verizon DSL or the wireless broadcast is to blame. From Mike Musgrove's article, I learned that many of the things that seem to muck up WiFi apply to my set up. The traffic of other users, other gadgets, and the rowhouse structure could all be culprits. He quotes one expert asserting that the end of the WiFi age is already fading because too many people (in urban areas) now have the gear compared to "available airspace." While 11 frequencies are available, it's best for users to be spaced out on them (think of switching the channel on early cordless phones) to avoid "noise."

Speaking of cordless phones, if yours is on a 2.4Ghz frequency, that's the frequency WiFi wants, so your gadgets could be competing. While I was upstairs getting the computer, I pulled out my phone's directions and could not find a note on the frequency. Just now, I went in to pick up the phone itself and look at lots of tiny print on the bottom: nothing. That's because it's emblazoned on the top: 900Mhz. Okay, my phone is not a competitor, and I have no baby monitor or microwave. (The article notes these may be problems, but it's hard to say for sure.) But what if my neighbors do?

The neighbors factory is a tricky thing. On the one hand, the folks one house north in the row do have Linksys: it appears on my list of "site survey" sometimes. But on the other hand, Musgrove found that experts think that "older homes that incorporate plaster or cinderblock can block WiFi signals." That would be this house. Practice shows that I get 11 Mbps most often in the bedroom, where the router is, and also here on the back porches, and in the dining room under it (sometimes). I have the lower speed connections, the weaker signals (1 or 2; "Low") in the rooms separated by the most brick and plaster.

In contrast to his alarmist expert at the opening, Musgrove closes with a quote from another expert who predicts that new technologies will keep WiFi viable and make it better. Now that I am really using it, I am glad to know it. I like getting Internet access while at school, with my own machine, my own bookmarks in place. It's a little like having a lucky pen: I like working on a project with the same familiar tools. I have not tried recently getting online at WorldCup, where there is free access. Another article tells of free vs. paid access that you might have available to you: libraries (of course), non-chain coffeeshops, and even some McDonald's locations. Starbucks, chain bookstores, and hotels almost always charge a fee. Before travelling, author Daniel Greenberg recommends checking some websites that list access points (JiWire for instance).

So what have we learned, here? Some vocabulary words: I believe I can use "WiFi" and "wireless" synonomously. I learned that it does make sense to have trouble getting online downstairs, with brick and plaster between me and the router. I learned that those folks with their laptops at the Starbuck JP likes are paying to be online.

In other news, JP reminded me that Arts in the Park is this weekend.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Final Exams: 1/2
Final Projects n papers: 2/3
Oral Presentations: 1/2
Turtles on logs in Fountain Lake at 3 p.m.: 6
Cormorants on posts in Fountain Lake at 3 p.m.: 2

You Will Laugh
if you are as geeky as I am:

Capital City weather: About 15 degrees colder in the house, at 3 p.m., than it was outside. In just a few weeks, that will be nearly impossible, I know.
Dept. of Great Potential
You know, I am always up for a dorky little quiz or prediction over breakfast. This time, I agree with not martha: my
Pantone colorstrology is not at all appealing. Maybe your match will be better.

Road Notes
On the way up Lincoln Rd. on Tuesday, nearly to CUA, I stopped at a light behind a city garbage truck. The uniformly bright things slipping out out of the squishing back "door" caught my eye. I titled my head. I couldn't see all of the words, but they were signs -- and cardboard-tube pickets -- from the women's march on Sunday.

I left DC last night around sunset -- how grand compared to starting my second class after winter sunsets, last semester.

Wisteria and trees of paradise are blooming pale purple in the woods along 95.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Final exams: 1
Final papers and projects: 3

Of course, I did the "fun" take-home first, and now am faced with nothing but icky papers (ugh, and the technology exam).

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The Fan District Association will vote next month to cross Main Street and include my sliver of the city in that powerful neighborhood association. Read about it at the FDA HomePage, third item in the Announcements section. The benefits: advocay for urban concerns; an informative newsletter on my doorstep monthly (instead of happening upon it at World Cup). The only drawback that leaps to mind: I think the FDA goes around asserting that one's window A/C unit, place in a street-facing window, disrupts the integrity of our historic neighborhood. That seems narrow-minded. After all, we do drive a cars and prefer the city gas works to having coal delivered.

Thick as Thieves
Can I quantify the density of elm and maple seeds, and oak flowers, in such a way that I can compare it to the density of For Sale signs? Which is greater? As someone without allergies, I'd say the For Sale Signs.

Final exams: 2
Final papers and projects: 3

Monday, April 19, 2004

Well since now I can't make the comments work, I will have to reply to Maggi, here. I missed the librarian letter on Morning Edition: what's the executive summary? As for pollen, I lasted outside with the laptop for all of ten minutes. In the end, fear of hurting the machine didn't drive me inside -- not liking the gritty feeling of pollen-coated keys did.

Also on public radio, I missed this, on cookery. Thanks, CW for drawing it to my attention!
Best wishes for strength and endurance to Jesse, running in the Boston Marathon today! I think we can track his progress at this website.

Happy National Library Week!

At Ukrop's: Stevie Wonder on the Musak; the owner (co-owner?) of Mongrel doing a little shopping.
April in Richmond: measurable pollen fall overnight. (Does it hurt the computer? Should I work inside today?)

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Sunday Reading

The Post notes this blog, signed Rance. It's an is-he-or-isn't-he-for-real game. An apparent "Hollywood insider" (like I know what that means), he answers "or" questions ("Are you or are you not Jim Carey?") with "yes."

I started to say, "he writes as well as anyone with a blog does," then I recalled the handful of times I have clicked on Bloggers "just published" list. Doing that showed me that lots of people are mean and don't care for grammar. (Oh great, now I feel extra self-conscious about my writing.)

The book review section let us know about a new Peanuts collection and asserted that Charles Schulz coined "security blanket." Go know.

I've also done some reading for Special Collections. I would always rather read than write (write the papers due in the next 3 weeks, that is), but it turns out that the last reading assignment for SC becomes part of our take-home final -- good thing, too, because I think I will have lots to say about it. It's this article by Daniel Traister on saving vs. using.

In the last two weeks or so, along with the heavy traffic that came with K-12 spring breaks, I noted men picking up the trash strewn up and down the highway (thanks, guys). The plastic bags and tarps deep in remain visible, there, as the leaves are still small. From about Fredericksburg to Quantico there's a fantastic run of redbud trees. After class and lunch Saturday, the drive home was pretty easy: it's the north-bound folks who were looking at 100 miles of averaging 45 mph. Some options for reducing that kind of mess: start earlier; pay taxes and get wider highways; take the train.

Capital City weather: sunny, mid-80s

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Bravo to Barrie for sending this my way:A Postcard Collection of Mount Holyoke College. I believe I responded to a note of hers in the Quarterly about postcard collecting, years ago, but I am not in her league! One day, when I have time, money, the right tools, and just a little more knowledge, this is the sort of thing I would like to do on a Website.

For now, I have this second Capital City.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I enjoyed a tiny visit with the nephew today. Cute as a button he is. Six teeth! Also, I wound up the dog. He's a papillion.

Mark your calendar: April 24 - 25 Spring Open House Sale at West End Antiques Mall (Staples Mill near Broad St.). Most dealers (us included) will have 10 - 20% off. Plus, there will be food.

Capital City weather: rainy, cold.
On the Muzak at Ukrop's: "Radio Free Europe"
At the Byrd: "Monster"

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Cheers to Mom for sending me to The International League of Baseball Website so I could fix my opening day score card. I missed Velandia reaching first on the E5. Usually, I get the error; I have trouble with sacrifices and fielder's choices.

Other Sunday diversions: a walk in misty, almost-empty Byrd Park (azaleas, dogwoods); homework; and a visit from B&J, en route from Ocracoke to DC -- hope traffic was okay, kids! And now here's "King of the Hill": that Hank Hill is a man after my own heart, waging a war against "crassness" (I ususally say "tacky behavior") at work.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Breath-takingly good use of technology at the British Library: Turning the Pages on the Web. You can flip through a few gems of their collection; no tactile experience, but the visual is durn good.
Blogger has featured a librarian's site on its notables list: Library Stuff. Some good links and relevant entries. Might be worth the occasional glance.

Friday, April 09, 2004

More on Spring, the Fire
They don't want to be pinned down to it, but The Authorities are saying that the Broad St. fire might well have been caused by cigarette butts thrown into a clogged up debris chute. (As BJ predicted over dinner in Baltimore the other evening.)

April in Richmond:
Dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom; my lily-of-the-valley sprang up overnight.
The Richmond Braves won the home opener, 2-0 over the Louisville Bats.
The Easter Parade is upon me and I have no hat.
It looks like the old Fan Market, most recently an Apple computer store, next will be a tanning salon.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Shake Hands with Danger
The A/V Geeks were in town last night, at an old factory in Manchester turned Art Space. I say "geeks," because that's the name, but as far as I can tell, it's just the one fellow. He was in town before, and I dug his stuff. He puts on a great show with filmstrips and movies from my youth, and before, and just enough comentary to give context and trivia, without becoming a seminar. We saw a plastics factory, a teamwork film for factory workers, a VD film from Disney studios, and the heavy machinery safety movie that gave the show its title. See an A/V Geeks show if you ever get a chance. Thanks to M for having her finger on the pulse of what's hip to do on a Sunday night in Capital City!

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The thing about reading is that it always makes me want to share. Thanks to the Post (Washington, not New York): peep jousting.

Also in the Post, but apparently not available online, was a 3/28 commentary piece written by Patricia Dalton, a psychologist, on the manifestations of "you must get into (an outstanding) college"-stress on high schoolers. The family fights more; the kid's stomach hurts:"In offices like mine, therapists are trying to release pressure before the lid bursts right off." She writes about parents' beliefs that the "right college" will insure their child's professional and personal success; she notes increasing selectivity at top schools. And, Dalton writes, "[t]here are Americans who no longer make a distinction between needs and wants . . . . They have internalized a particularly insidious message -- that unless a person reaches the top of the remuneration hierarchy, life will hardly be worth living." I know, or encountered, some young people on that track: "I want to earn my Girl Scout Gold Award because it will look good on college applications." That college is the only important thing is the unspoken sentiment. But lots of young women in Girl Scouting are grounded, focused on the world and people around them, and making things better. And then there was the time when I was subbing at a high school and I was to take a count of how many students in homeroom wanted to take advantage of some college-prep thing: none. Not everyone needs a college degree, to be sure, but surely one out of this thirty or so would have benefited?

Someone abandoned Wednesday's New York Times at the Pryz, and I have been enjoying a great the special section on Museums. Topics include funding, the meaning of objects, keeping bugs out of natural history specimens, and the thinness of many children's museums (the fasting-growing category). A small item on art given to the UN reminds us of the need for collecting statements and guidelines, and the imperative to take care of what we have been given. I am coming to believe that institutions are duty bound to give up, to sell, not to accept that which they cannot care for properly.

I recommend Adam Gopnik in the March 22 New Yorker on Times Square: "Those who pointed at the old Times Square as an instance of everything that capitalism can do wrong now point to the new Times Square as an instance of everything that capitalism can do worse." Yeah, I can see that. There would not have been trashy entertainments had people not paid for them. Not could there now be a Gap and a Starbucks on every third Manhattan street corner if they weren't bringing in cash. Ater all, none of those businesses are charities.

Finally, school reading (and the Times)brings up how cultural institutions use websites. Are they doing it because everyone else is, because it makes them seem cutting edge? Are they real exhibtions, scholarly articles, and full digital collections (for example The Valley of the Shadow, or just selections from the colelction? Does the web allow institutions to bring real content to people who cannot get to the museum or library? Does it matter if you never see The Original? The paper of record seemed to like MoMA and the Whintey among others. My April 2 link is full of stuff, high and low, good and bad, instructional and not. I like the create-your-own-gallery at the Met.

West Broad Street
I drove home from downtown on Broad the other day. Yup, that's a burned-out shell. The north-most lane is still blocked, either for fear of its stability or that of the buildings that once housed antique and auction businesses in that block. I'd say that the trees on both sides of the street are goners. VCU's newish bookstore and parking garage, on the south side, seems to have lost windows. Lucky the wind didn't blow that way -- that seems like lots of fuel. Equally, a lot more people could have been displaced by the fire than were: many more people live on both sides of the street than used to. I had forgotten how much VCU has changed the face of West Broad.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Stop Reading Reviews

It is, ultimately, an American Express ad, but still, totally worth your time! The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman. Thanks to Mitch for the link.