Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I am now certified in CPR and First Aid. Well, technically I was already certified because I took the training last year. My company requires it. I guess because of all the high voltage we work with they want us to be able to perform CPR on our coworkers if they receive a shock. Even though most of the levels we work with will vaporize a person instantly. I've seen pictures, we have to take Safety Training too and they have a film that's just like the "Blood On The Streets" one you had to take in Driver's Ed, only for electricity. It's very gross. Electrical wounds are disgusting because they burn you from the inside.

By "we" I mean people who work at my company. If I actually thought I had to work with electricity like someone folks here do or the utility people do, I'd quit in a second. I'm a software engineer. The five volts that power this keyboard I'm typing on makes me nervous. My boss hates it when I tell people I'm not qualified or experienced with electrical issues. He knows it's true, he just wants me to keep it to myself whenever possible. I don't want any misunderstanding...I work with bits and bytes, not volts and amps.

The most interesting thing to me about the CPR and First Aid training is how it changes every year. One year you give breaths first, next year you give chest compressions first. Unless it's a child. They keep making changes so there's no possible way I will remember after a few days. The CPR success rate is amazingly poor anyway. It's better than zero, but not a lot. Maybe it also keeps people from feeling useless around someone having cardiac arrest.

The little defibrillator machines are very cool though. First they have an analysis mode where they determine if your heart is in ventricular fibrillation, where your heart is beating out of synch so it won't pump blood through the ventricles properly, or if you are in ventricular tachycardia where your heart is beating too fast too pump anything. Then it performs the heart equivalent of a reboot. It shocks you and stops your heart, which then hopefully restarts correctly. The success rates of these things are amazingly high, something like 70% of people who get one when having a cardiac arrest survive. Makes me want to carry one with me everywhere. Maybe someday they will build them into cell phones.

So if your heart attacks you and I'm around, you can accept a big smooch from me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Geek Excitement

When I moved to Tennessee in 2006 I chose a rural area to live in. I don't regret that decision because I love my house, I think it was a bargain and perfect for what I wanted. Lots of land, very private.

One obstacle to overcome was broadband internet. In the backwoods of Tennessee there are some innovative solutions to the lack of internet problem. Cable TV was available, but no internet. Satellite internet wouldn't work, too much latency. My range to the wireless towers wasn't quite "line of sight" enough for those solutions. My only choice was DSL through the small and very old fashioned telephone carrier for my area. That meant getting a phone I did not want and paying nearly $100 per month for very slow, very spotty performing broadband internet.

My previous experience with DSL was not bad. I had it in Kansas City when the house I was renting was less than a hundred yards from the nearest switch. The downloads speeds were lightning fast, there was virtually no latency and I don't remember it ever going down.

When I called Mom and Pop's Olde Telephone Company here, they said "we're not sure you're in range, but we'll send Bill out with his truck and see if it will work." I appreciated the effort and the home grown service, but since DSL is dependent on proximity I was not anticipating incredible speeds.

And I got what I expected. Poor download rates and nearly non-existent upload speeds. But it was a connection to the series of tubes, even if it was barely better than dial-up.

I called the local cable company and asked when cable internet would be available at my address. "Next summer," they said. I was calling in October, so I thought, I can put up with this horrible service for 10 months if I have to.

Four season changes later and "next summer" turned into "maybe next summer" and then "maybe the one after that." I even had to endure advertising cards in my mailbox promising fast speeds and cheap prices, only to learn that it didn't include my rural country road.

On Saturday I received another teaser of fast cheap internet, and on a whim I followed up and GLORY BE! It is now actually available at my address! I made the appointment for the next earliest time, which is between 1-3 today. In as soon as 10 minutes from now, I could actually have the connection of my dreams!