hubs and wires
Saturday, May 6 2000
Kim had a client scheduled for this afternoon, so it was best for me to just go off on my own during that time. My office is the very room where these holistic sessions are scheduled, and not only must I not be there, but my computer must be silent as well. I'm thinking about moving it into an adjacent closet that houses our furnace so I can leave it running all the time.
I rode my bicycle east down Santa Monica, beyond the I-405 (the San Diego freeway) into the Century City/Beverly Hills area. Off in the hazy brownish-grey distance I could see the ridge where the letters spelling "HOLLYWOOD" are located.
One of my tasks for the day was to buy the cables and ethernet hub necessary to throw together a small network allowing both Kim and me to connect to the high-bandwidth DSL line simultaneously. Suddenly the DSL line was working, and we were both excited to blast around the internet in the privacy of our own home.
I found a few computer stores along the way, but the only one I chose to do business in was filled with large boxes of new Macintosh computers. The gentleman waiting on me had the shy nervousness of an intelligent underachiever. Her also had a European accent, but it didn't sound Rumanian, which it turned out that he was. It also turned out that he lives across the street from me in my West LA neighborhood. I keep meeting people all over the place who live within a block of my house.
Immediately to the north was a picturesque neighborhood of small mansions set on grassy lawns clasping low but fairly steep rolling hills, all against a backdrop of Wilshire Blvd. skyscrapers. I've never seen anything like it.
I came back into West LA on Wilshire, but kept going into Santa Monica, mostly on Santa Monica Blvd. Not really finding what I was looking for, I ended up at the open-air Promenade, where I parked my bike and set off on foot. The place was mobbed with people, many of them strolling around trying to look sexy and cool. Some succeeded, others did not. There was plenty of ad hoc entertainment serving as excuses to linger and look, everything from a John Denver impersonator to a gaggle of whiteboy break dancers to an electric pianist complete with a swallow-tailed black dinner jacket. There were other things to observe as well, the most memorable being a sunburned man holding a cardboard sign saying that he needed the assistance of strangers on account of his epilepsy (well, that was the gist of it anyway). Later when I admitted to Kim that I had been for a stroll on the Promenade, she said something evidently designed to make me feel guilty about it. "That place seems kind of cheesy to me, like a mall-mall. Did you go people watching? 'Cause that's what people do down there." She's absolutely convinced that if I'm not supervised while in public I'll be caught with my hand in a random girl's panties within the hour. As a writer, these sorts of guilt-enforced restrictions are more than just the sorts of annoyances they would be in any conventional relationship; they seem at times to challenge my life's purpose. What the hell am I doing here on this planet anyway?
While Kim was gone for a time in the evening, I strung ethernet cable all the way from my computer in the "healing room" to her laptop in our bedroom. It wasn't easy to hide the cable, especially where it crossed the laundry room. But in other places I was able to hide the cable completely. More problematic was the hardware itself. The hub I'd bought could only run at 100 MBps, not the 10 Mbps rate of Kim's ethernet card and the DSL modem. So I had to put my networking plans temporarily on hold.
When Kim came home, she was less than pleased with all the grey network cables she saw strung up. It didn't matter that I had plans to nail them neatly around all the doors and paint them white. I'd thought it wouldn't matter if we ran one of the cables directly across the laundry room floor, but Kim disagreed vehemently. Suddenly she didn't want DSL on her computer at all. It required too much ugliness in her precious house. To say the least, I was dismayed. After all the work I'd put in today, she was telling me to throw the whole thing away. I had no idea she'd be carrying her neurotic fussiness to such an extreme.
Well, after we'd had our fight and cooled down a little, I re-engineered the wiring scheme. This time I figured out a way to pass the cables through two walls starting with a telephone wall plate and ending with a plate housing a strange three-prong "television" jack.
This brings up an interesting point about integrated household services and how they change over time in the face of emerging technology. Extremely old houses (the kind that can't be found in Los Angeles) don't have any provisions for electricity, and often what you'll see in such places are electrical conduits that have been routed visibly on the outsides of walls. Even in much newer buildings, telephone service hasn't been given sufficient consideration prior to the routing of cables, especially in the face of all the devices that can connect to a telephone in a modern household. Builders are aware of emerging technology and try to keep up, sometimes even trying to anticipate future trends. Our condo was built in 1979, a few short years before the cable television revolution and two decades before widespread use of the internet. In 1979, ethernet (if it existed at all) was never predicted to become a household utility. But people did have televisions, and many people had several, all located in different rooms but requiring signals from a large antenna located on the roof. The solution, as exemplified in my townhouse, was a centralized 300 ohm flat television antenna wire network with tidy "television" jacks in each room. This network has been rendered obsolete by the march of progress, of course. But the plates remain, as does the increasingly decrepit antenna stuck to the chimney.
It was relatively easy for me to route the ethernet cable unobtrusively along the back wall of the laundry room and over to holes drilled through the walls from boxes in the adjacent rooms. All I have to do now is buy some ethernet faceplates and wire them up and I'll have a largely-hidden ethernet connection running from the "healing room" to the bedroom.
It was one of those expensive restaurant kind of nights, so we ended up a few blocks to the east at a fancy old school Italian place called "Guido's." Our waiter looked like a younger John Travolta from Pulp Fiction, and, amplifying this vibe, he was wired out of his mind. His never blinked as he blinded us with the vast tracts of whiteness surrounding his big pupils. He was so confused that he eventually had to hand us off to another waiter.
It seems yesterday's planetary alignment did managed to pull one thing loose after all; today Kim started her period. She says she likes to drink red wine when it's that time of the month, so we ordered a fancy bottle of Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon. More telling than this, though, was a huge side order of spinach that Kim ordered to augment the small (but expensive) entrés. Sitting there as a lump of heavy greenness, it looked like pulped iron, ready for oxidation and conversion to Hemoglobin.
Everything was going fine for a time until I, in a Cakebread vino-induced state of drunkenness, said something mean. The $120 meal ended with Kim running off in tears.
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