Friday, June 19, 2009

'Sam' and the Electrifying Case of the Modem and the Surge Protector

A fellow I know, I'll call him Sam, lives over a hundred miles north and west of here, on an old farmstead near a smallish town. He's a very smart man, but not particularly tech-savvy. But, he'd read about home computers, and all the information that's available on the Internet.

So, he bought a computer, printer, surge protector: the whole works.

Sam decided to pay someone to get the system running.

The fellow from town who ‘knew about computers' got cables plugged into boxes, power, and telephone outlets: and when he was through, Sam's computer started up.

Sam was delighted. He started learning how to use Google, and was developing a small set of favorite websites.

Sam was climbing a rather steep learning curve, when the first big thunderstorm of the season hit. When it was over, his computer worked, but he couldn't find anything on the Internet.

In that part of the country, rural telephone lines are all above ground. The network of poles and wires act as a giant lightning attractor. The relatively low-tech telephones don't seem to be affected that much, but a modem is something else.

The fellow who "knew about computers" had bypassed the telephone sockets in the surge protector, and plugged a telephone cord directly into the modem. Which, after the storm, was a bit of high tech pop sculpture.

Sam got a new modem, and he's surfing the Web again. But this time, without the help of the fellow who "knew about computers."

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Truncated Tale of Lake 13

There's a picture postcard that's been for sale in Minnesota's lake country for decades. It's a cartoon of a small boat, rain, a man with fishing gear, and a woman who's clearly been in the rain for quite a while. She's asking, "Are we having fun yet?"

Sometimes, it's the other way around. Sonia Johnson, Loonfoot Falls Chamber of Commerce head, is an avid fisherman. Fisherperson. Fishwife.

She like to fish.

She took a break from organizing this year's River Revel last weekend, and headed to Lake 13.

About that lake's name: Maps of quite a few parts of central and northern Minnesota look like they've been spattered with blue ink. "Land of 10,000 Lakes" is an understatement. We've got upwards of 11,000 lakes that cover more than 10 acres.

With that many lakes, sometimes one name got stretched over several lakes, like Upper, Middle, Big, and Little Cormorant Lakes. Or First Crow Wing Lake, Second Crow Wing Lake, and so on, through Eleventh Crow Wing Lake.

When a lake wasn't all that big, or accessible, it got numbered. Which, here in Grimm County, got a little confusing. Minnesota's numbered lakes are mostly up in the northern part of the state, like Lake Thirteen, north of Leech Lake, and Thirty One Lake.

Grimm County numbered its own lakes, so county maps show spots like Lake 21. Our "Lake 13" is north and east of Loonfoot Falls. You won't find it, unless you've been there first.

And, I'm out of room.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Class of Bent Twigs

Graduation week's over, here in Loonfoot Falls. The high school graduation was a week ago, the elementary school had their commencement exercise Wednesday, and families are settling back into a routine.

So are stores in town: Finkle's Jewelry's 'class ring alternatives' catalog is gone for the year; Deuce Hardware has fishing tackle where the 'Congratulations Graduate' party supplies were; and Coalworth's swapped out their graduation paraphernalia for an array of sun hats, bagged charcoal, and insect repellent.

The school's quieter, now, but not quite empty. There's summer school, an adult education program and community events like toy shows, and craft fairs.

This year's high school graduation ceremony was covered elsewhere in the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette. I think it's safe to say, though, that it doesn't match the ceremony that showed the Class of 1969 out the door.

The valedictorian that year was David Schmidt. Reminiscences by his classmates showed that he had a less-than-somber attitude toward ceremony and protocol. He had, for the crowning of the homecoming queen, sailed an envelope containing the judge's decision a clear twenty feet. Accidentally, he insists to this day.

That graduation day, standing at the podium, in academic cap and gown, young Mr. Schmidt intoned a familiar quote from "The works of Alexander Pope," 1822:

" 'Tis education forms the common mind;
Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclin'd."

He bowed his head briefly: moved, perhaps. Then he ran his eyes over the audience and began his address: "My fellow bent twigs...."
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