Industrial Arts

Plesiosynchronicity, and a snowy day

Posted:  Monday, March 21, 2016 - 2:30pm

Spell-chek doesn't like it, not one little bit, but I assure you that is a word. We are being telecommunications geeks today. Some fool online asks, "What do you people do on that island all winter?" Sigh.

As I write, I'm on the 2-meter ham radio checking in with the regulars on the Knox County Emergency Services net because it's snowing. I wouldn't really call this a storm, and it certainly isn't causing us any trouble, but the ham guys get on the air and check in so that we'll be ready should there be another ice storm like back in '98, or anything else so inconvenient. To my mind, this is a lovely day. I tell the guys in Friendship and Owls Head that it looks like a Currier and Ives plate. Easy for me to say; I don't have to drive anywhere.

I wander in and out of the kitchen to feed the wood stove on spruce gleaned from power-line trimming and some wonderfully fragrant apple, and go back to attempting to download a FEMA hurricane mapping program called, I kid you not, "SLOSH." Very high-tech; no doubt somebody thought up the acronym and then worked hard to find words to fit (so it's "Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes.") Meanwhile, Paul is on the TDS Telecom laptop working for the telephone company, taking an online course about some new equipment that's going to be installed at the island telephone tower, the 100' structure that connects us by microwave with the rest of the world. He had to download a 22-page, single-spaced list of telecommunications acronyms to have at the ready, to get through the telephone company training. One acronym that came up was "PDH," which, as you probably know, means "plesiochronous digital hierarchy." "Plesio" is from the Greek word for "near" and of course "chrono" means "time." Here is your trivia for the day (and this one's for you, Chris Wolf) —plesiochronous systems, or plesiosynchronicity, refers to when two systems are more or less pretty darned close to the same — almost lined up, on the same frequency, at the same time--but not quite.

It's Greek for "close enough, I guess." Technical people may require this sort of word on occasion.

There's pulled pork in the crockpot, enough for friends to come over and then leftovers for a week. There's a cake in the oven to go with it. That's what we do all winter. We'll have a couple of days to eat this cake before we bake the next cake, on Wednesday, when there are plans for a community potluck Easter supper in the church basement. Matinicus is having Easter on the 23rd this year for reasons of logistics.

One of the guys on the ham radio net mentioned going out with a snow shovel to clear around his mailbox. There's no real point in me going to the post office today as there won't be any mail, but I walk down there anyway, to invite the postal clerk for pulled pork and besides, I thought I'd check and see if the cows were out (they were not. They are smarter than I am.) Matinicus Island has no mail today because of the snow; our mail comes by small airplane, as regular readers will know, and landing out here requires VFR conditions. That means you have to be able to see the airstrip. There is no mail-boat, as I have argued frantically but to no avail many times before, and there is no daily ferry. Our last ferry was February 15. Our next ferry will be March 25th, and I will be on it, both ways, with a U-Haul truck, doing the recycling and trash run. No, we don't burn trash any more-- not most of us, anyway (and here's a plea to any who might: you don't need to! Stop clinging to that old method of trash disposal out of loyalty to custom! Your grandfather would not care if you sorted your trash. This is not about ancestor worship. Let's save tradition and sentimentality for pot-luck suppers in the church basement.)

What do we do this time of year? Mostly, we rant. It is March; everybody's about half nuts.

Oh, and about those cows: Mary and Millie live across the road from the post office and, as far as I know, they are the first cows to live on Matinicus in roughly 60 years. A pair of pretty black Dexters, they are no doubt grateful for our mostly-easy winter this year. If their owner had asked anybody ahead of time about cows out here, she'd have been told "It'll never work." Stone Soup it was, though, where a certain bulldog innocence prevails, and we all love visiting with Mary and Millie.

On my way to the post office I crossed paths with George, the town administrator, who took this opportunity to ski to work today. He's no doubt getting ready for the assessors meeting tomorrow, which will, one can safely assume, be held largely over the telephone, as the island is still pretty underpopulated. We had a small scare here a few weeks ago, when we got word of about a proposed bill knocking around in the state legislature that would prohibit teleconferencing for elected officials. Such a law would cause us all manner of trouble; island governments and school boards need to be able to use teleconferencing if they are to function at all. Thankfully, the bill seems to have died. I don't recall that it said anything about having meetings over the radio, should it come to it. To be sure, that way nobody could accuse anyone of having a secret meeting.

Speaking of radio: should you be reading this from any of the other islands, and you are of a mindset to enjoy this sort of thing, you might consider getting involved with ham radio. After a bit of studying and a short exam (no Morse code), all you need is a car battery, a cheap antenna, and a radio to communicate with the wider world regardless of phone and power outages, cellular system overload, ice, oobleck, zombies, or any sort of cyber-menacing. Mostly you do it for fun, though.

You don't even have to use terms like "plesiochronous digital hierarchy." Unless you want to, of course.

EvaEva Murray lives on Matinicus

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