Saturday, February 14 2004
I was up until 4am last night (quite a feat without the assistance of caffeine) and at some point in the wee hours I got an email from Verizon saying the DSL was ready. That was the reason I stayed up so late. How could I go to bed with broadband suddenly right there in the wall? So I immediately called Verizon, since I had no desire to install the "Verizon with MSN" CD they'd sent me. (Actually, I'd tried it more than a week ago and it had told me - in an annoying error message spoken from my speakers - that none of my computers met the minimum requirements. Then it had refused to proceed.)
The robots that answer tech support calls at Verizon claim to be able to understand human speech, but I was skeptical. When the robot asked what I was calling about, I dutifully supplied a full paragraph of spoken English describing what I was doing. Hearing this, the robot consigned me to a strange call service limbo. The phone fell nearly silent, but I could hear voices talking in the distance. Evidently my call had reached all the way to an office and had actually been "answered" in some form, but all I was was an off-the-hook phone. Stuck as I was in this cramped part of the Matrix, I was powerless to have much effect on the world. After awhile I started making loud noises into my phone's mouth piece in hopes of attracting the notice of a live human in that Verizon office, but it was hopeless. So I hung up and called again.
This time when the robot asked me what I was calling about, I said the word "DSL" about ten times in a row very quickly. The robot seemed to understand and then asked me what kind of computer and operating system I was using. Then it immediately connected me with a live human, one who wasn't earning much more than the robot I'd just been chatting with. I say this because the live human was an Indian. He was able to give me my PPoE username and password without delay. I keyed them into the Westell 2200 DSL Router provided by Verizon and it connected.
The thing that sucked was that it only connected at 96 kbs. I attached it to another phone jack in the laboratory, one much closer to the central trunk, and managed to get a connection speed of 160 kbs. That's only about four times the speed we were getting with dialup. I suppose I should be happy that it works at all, since we're right at the limit of where DSL is supposed to be able to reach.
Today after I woke up, I spent more time than I'd be willing to admit experimenting with the DSL Router and its connection to the house's phone network. Interestingly, I found that once I unplugged the modem, I couldn't get speeds any higher than 96 kps throughout the rest of the day, though at night I could get 160 kps again. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that temperatures were above freezing during most of the day and somehow liquid water was negatively impacting the two and half miles of line between here and the DSL hub in downtown Hurley. I wonder how this line will behave in the summer.
To celebrate Valentine's Day, Gretchen and I went out to eat at a new restaurant called Paulina's on Ulster Avenue. Gretchen had seen an advertisement saying Paulina's had a salad bar, and she couldn't think of any other restaurant (aside from Wendy's and the various frightening local "______ Buffets") with a salad bar.
Paulina's was subtly odd place. The woman acting as hostess seemed to be on the verge of a mental breakdown when we arrived, all stressed out about a supposed influx of customers. She told us we'd have to wait a half hour, which seemed absurd given all the empty tables. Within a few minutes a waitress found us a nice place in the back.
Aside from the stressed-out hostess, the restaurant's oddness was hard for us to put our fingers on - something was going on beneath the surface that was making things into something other than the way they seemed. Maybe it was just the architecture. Had this restaurant once been a bank? Or a mortician's office?
The food was inexpensive and surprisingly good, particularly the salad bar (despite its rather limited selection). The portions were so huge that we both carried out full meals for tomorrow in styrofoam boxes.
We both had fancy drinks from the cocktail list. It was my first booze in eight days.
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