Sunday, March 11, 2007



Three weeks of below-zero nights and mid-teen days with bright, clear skies, etc. I've blogged about this already. Wednesday it clouded up and snowed (still quite cold) - about 8-10 inches fell here. Thursday it was clear and very cold.

Thursday morning our water system was out (also the battery on my plowing truck was dead, Y lost her keys shoveling snow, and so on). After half a day of troubleshooting, cussing, phone calls, etc., it turns out that the water line apparently froze sometime overnight, and the pump control box failed after trying to start the pump against the blocked line. First I had to replace the control system (thankfully I didn't have to pull the pump from the well at -5C). Then I called out a welder to zap the waterline and melt the ice block to bring us back into the 21st century.

How tenuous that link to the modern world really is! Just knowing that there's no running water is so frustrating. No shower, no dishes, no laundry, no flushing. We get so used to just opening a tap, that we forget how much is actually involved in getting it there in the first place. Except for drilling the well, I installed the whole system in 1976 myself, and then completely rebuilt it in 1994, so I am very familiar with all the minor details. But how easy it is to lose sight of all that. To just enjoy the results with no further consideration of the mechanics of it all.

Electricity, heat, and the waste system are other basic facets of the modern world that we once lacked here, but now take for granted. I installed all of these as well, so I can still deal with them if the need arises. Thankfully, that hasn't been a big part of my home maintenance responsibilities.

I didn't forget the telephone (internet) or the satellite TV systems. Important as they are to our enjoyment of life, we actually don't take these for granted. We had no phone for our first eight years here, and we had to drive 5 miles up the highway to the nearest pay phone. When the installation crew finally came down our road we celebrated, but really it was no big deal. We'd done well enough without it.

Except for the internet. For a few weeks in 1984, I dialed into Compuserve, but it cost more than $20 per hour since I had to use a long distance number. Needless to say we didn't do a whole lot more online back then. But in the late 80's and early 90s, B found a way to get into the nascent internet system using the local library's link to the state's interlibrary system. Somehow (patiently, bit-by-bit) he managed to download one of the early versions of Linux, and became one of the original Linux geeks (he still is).

So now, we can't imagine living without the telephone. With two landlines connected to half a dozen phone extensions, a fax machine, and our 1 Mbs DSL modem, and 2 cell phones, we are probably fairly typical phone customers.

And TV. When we first moved to Alaska, three network channels were taped in Seattle, and the tapes were shipped by barge to Anchorage for rebroadcast 3-weeks later (yay, christmas commercials into mid-January!) If the shipping got screwed up, they'd just repeat the previous week(s). Eventually they started overnighting the tapes by plane and finally via satellite. After 15 years of fuzzy TV reception with crappy antennas (I spent a fortune on worthless boosters over the years), we finally put in a 10-foot diameter C-band satellite dish in 1991, so we've been linked to the outside "world" for a long, long time. In 1999, we converted to the Dish Network system and continue to access almost all the possible channels. Now with a DVR, we can record whatever and watch it at will, sans commercials.

Knowing that any of these systems can break down at any time, we still take them all for granted. But every time something does go awry, I get that familiar hollow sensation in the pit of my stomach as my comfortable world turns inside out, and I once again realize how much we have come to rely on technology to stave off the cold, the dark and to satisfy our need to be in touch.

Then there's my cello.

So... do you have battery backup for that e-cello? :-)

I know what you mean about the awful feeling when one of the essential 'systems' goes out. I'd add a working car to your list of essentials.

Glad you got your watter back.
Ah, PFS, so L.A.

How could I forget the car? Wishful thinking? Having commuted 75 miles daily for almost 30 years, I'm happy these days not to be driving that much anymore.

You are right, though. In spite of the common perceptions, we don't all ride around on dog sleds or snowmobiles. That day, I needed a car to plow the snow, to pick up the mail (new CDs!), for the two(!) trips to town for the necessary water system parts, and to drive out to the road to pick up Z at the bus stop, since a mama and baby moose have been lurking around.
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