A City Built on a Hill · 25 January 2020

When you build a city on a hill, you can expect people to see it for miles around. But what you cannot expect is that people can get anywhere or do anything when it snows.

I am sure people who live in snowy places wonder why people in the Seattle area panic when it snows. They wonder why the place shuts down with just a dusting of snow. Or at least why it used to. The answer is simple. Because there are so many hills and because people are not prepared for the winter driving conditions.

While cities and towns around the area have beefed up their preparedness for snow and ice, people still cannot get around the area very well. There are just too many hills and too many side streets that do not get plowed. And even if the cities stay open, there are plenty of towns around the cities that often get more snow and have less infrastructure to move that snow. So people stay home and the cities are not quite as bustling and vibrant as usual.

The small towns where I live and work were not hit as hard with snow as they were last year. (At least not yet.) Still, our school districts closed because it was not safe to transport students. Or to expect students to get around safely. The district where I work had a five day weekend followed by a one-day work week followed by a three-day weekend. Crazy in some respects. But we are there for the kids. And we want the kids to be safe. On and off the roads. So our district was prudent and the kids were excited to have the snow days off. (Until they remember that they need to make them up in the summer.)

I have been driving in snowy conditions since I first learned to drive. In fact, my dad took me out driving in the snow and helped me figure out that motor vehicles are not toys. At least not on roadways where other people drive and beside which people walk. He showed me that it was not worth it to mess around in the snow on the streets by just having me do small things to show me the big risks of messing around with cars and snow.

The first time I had to drive in the Seattle area in a big storm, I was fortunate to have studded snow tires. Sure, I was driving a rear-wheel drive car, but regardless of my experience and my equipment, I was not prepared for Seattle in a snow storm. Traffic was snarled all over the town. Hills were icy and roads were closed. I was downtown and wanted to get home. So I traveled on back roads. And then, I found myself on the top of a hill. The way down was treacherous, but I made it. Ever so slowly. I kept the car in first gear and kept my foot off the brakes. And I probably went right through the stop sign at the bottom of the hill without stopping. Even though I probably had probably tried to stop. I made it home safe and sound, but I realized that I should not have gone down that hill.

All these years later, I still remember driving around Seattle during the middle of that huge snow storm. I still remember that hill. I realize now that the Seattle area is not the place to be driving around when the snow hits. Regardless of how much driving in winter conditions you have done. And I realize, that while cities built on hills present beautiful skylines, they are not so fun to be driving around in when it snows.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Power or the Internet? · 18 January 2020

Visualization of Internet routing paths
(original size: 1024×1024)
by The Opte Project
Licensed under CC BY 2.5

If you had to choose, would you choose to have power or the internet?

(In case you were wondering, we do have power and internet. Both went down for significant amounts of time during the latest winter storm. Thus the musing.)

It is funny. You can survive without power for quite some time. Maybe even a week or more. Even in the coldest of winter. Just hunker down by the fire and stay in the warmest room (the one with the fireplace). But it is much more difficult to survive without the internet. Minutes can go by and you feel like you are out of the loop.

I am not sure how we got to the place where we need to be connected to the rest of the world all the time. First it was 24-hour news channels. Now, it was social media. Whether the news is real or fake, national or local, public or personal, we need to be in the know. Or at least it seems so.

Personally, I just need to keep up with my word and chess games. I need to make sure that I do lose any of those games because I was disconnected from the real world for too long. But I do not know that I need to keep up on the latest happenings of the brightest or newest stars or teen idols. I can barely keep up with all my relatives and friends. As few as they might be. At the very least, I know what moves they just made in our word and chess games.

We have experienced being without power for a week or so. And we did just hunker down in the room with the gas fireplace. We were able to cook with our gas stove too. Life was cold in other parts of the house, but we survived. Even when the kids’ electronics ran out of power. We played games and read. And we went to sleep with the sun or stayed up with candles to light the way. It was like Little House on the Prairie or some such thing. (Our candles did not cast as much light as those on the TV show apparently did.)

But when the internet is down, power does not mean anything. The internet can be down for mere minutes and we think the world is ending. Woe is me! I cannot connect to Facebook or Reddit! How can I keep up?! How can I know what is going on in the world? It is the strangest thing.

I suppose it just goes to show our priorities and perspective. When our needs are being met, when we have food, clothing, and shelter, when we have lights and heat, our next biggest priority is the internet. Preferably fast internet.

Personally, if I had to choose between having power or the internet, I would choose power. As long as they fix the internet soon afterward.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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A Slight Oversight · 11 January 2020

Have you ever been so excited about something that you forget to do something else that needed to be done? Me neither. Okay. I may have made a slight oversight when replacing our car stereo.

It is funny. I get so excited about things that I just cannot think of anything else. In fact, I get so focused that there is nothing else that matters in life. There could be earthquakes and fires and the earth coming to an end, but I would not notice when I am that focused. Okay. That might be a slight exaggeration. I might notice the earthquake if it was big enough. But not much else takes me away from something that I am really focused on. Something that really has my attention.

That was what happened when I recently replaced our car stereo. It was a Christmas gift for my wife, and I wanted to get it installed before Christmas day. I thought she was going to be gone, so it would have been pretty easy to take all day and do the installation. As it was, I had to cordon off the garage and make sure nobody entered until Christmas day. That was crazy enough. But I got it done.

In reality, the installation was pretty easy. I got the new stereo from Crutchfield and paid for the wiring harness too. That made a huge difference. It was essentially a plug and play operation. Just take out the old stereo, attach the mounting bracket, run a wire for the microphone, plug in the wiring harness and antenna, push the mounting bracket and stereo into the empty hole and voilà! New stereo. All I needed to do was turn it on and try it out.

Well, almost. I had to reconnect the battery. Then voilà! I had a new stereo in the car. It sounded great and it was ready in time for Christmas. Like I said, almost plug and play.

It was not until after Christmas that I realized my oversight.

Now, if I had been replacing a car stereo in a fairly new car, I might have an excuse for my oversight. After all, new car stereos do not have CD players, much less cassette tape players, right? Well, the one I replaced has both. And guess what. Both the CD player and the cassette player were occupied. I forgot to eject them both from the player.

Well, even though it is probably okay to not have those two audio items anymore, I was not okay with leaving them in the player. I figured I could get them out. So I spent a day trying.

The first thing I did was try to hook up a little 9-volt battery to the power terminals of the player. I figured the little battery would be enough to eject the CD. (I did not realize I left the cassette tape in there until later.) I even had my equipment ready before I looked on the internet and found somebody who had done what I was planning to do. The unfortunate part was that the guy on the internet was successful, but I was not. I even tried a couple different wiring configurations, but no luck.

Well, not to be deterred, I decided that I was going to take the thing apart. It could not be that difficult. After all there were only about 20 screws holding the whole thing together. I got my tools and took the whole thing apart. At least down to the CD player and cassette player. The unfortunate part was that they were not like other electronics I had taken apart. Those older electronics devices had mechanical part that could be manipulated to get the CDs and tapes out.

(If you are wondering how I know older electronics devices could be mechanically manipulated to get old discs and old tapes out, the truth is that I might have made the same oversight before. I did not remember until writing this that I had forgotten a CD in and old CD changer and a VHS tape in a broken tape player. But maybe I will remember to eject things next time. Oh yeah. Nothing to eject with new stuff, so I might be okay.)

At any rate. I could not find a way to mechanically release the CD or tape from their respective players. So I put it all back together. Twice. (Actually, I just had to put the front on twice, but that is a different story.)
So there you have it. A slight oversight turning into a full blown story. Complete with another old memory and a different story that will not be told. It all goes to show that you should never be so excited to do something that you forget to do something else equally or maybe even more important.

(By the way, I am determined to get those old media out of the old car stereo. After all, it might be another good story.)

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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