The Interstate

I made it back from my latest trip to Universal Studios after a long, tedious drive that took up the better part of Sunday.  I’d intended to hammer out a belated Lazy Sunday upon my return, but I was so wiped from the drive, I just watched television instead.

With all the driving on I-4, I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-20, I had ample time to think about the pros and cons of the Interstate Highway System.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Interstate.  On the love side of the equation, I appreciate the convenience of being able to drive vast distances in reasonable times.  The trip that took us around seven hours to complete yesterday (and that was with terrible traffic and inclement weather) would have taken, according to Google Maps, between nine and ten hours.  In reality, that would have been closer to eleven or twelve hours with stops, traffic, etc.

As an engine for economic growth, the Interstate is probably the best investment the federal government ever made.  It was pitched to Congress as a national security project—we needed broad, interstate boulevards for our tanks to deploy swiftly against a Soviet invasion—an approach that John C. Calhoun attempted as Secretary of War in 1817 (under the strict constructionist Democratic-Republican James Madison, Calhoun’s Bonus Bill faced a swift veto).  But the real benefit of the Interstate Highway System is its ability to move people and goods swiftly, cutting down on shipping and transportation costs, and making longer commutes feasible.

Granted, there were downsides:  the small towns and tourist traps alongside old federal highways and State roads.  Just as the old railroad towns withered up when the trains stopped running—or repurposed into some other form—many small towns died out when the Interstate diverted traffic away from them.  Of course, the converse is true:  many towns boomed when the Interstate weaved their way.

So, one could surmise I appreciate the Interstate for its convenience and beneficial qualities.  So, where is the hate?

Read More »

Midweek Update

It’s crunch time here at Portly HQ.  As such, today’s post will be very brief.

I’ve been writing a lot about Christmas and music lately—’tis the season, after all.  You can catch up on yesterday’s post about “Joy to the World,” as well as Sunday’s look back at my Dokken album reviews from Christmas 2018.

One reason for the Christmas music focus is that my students have their big Christmas Concert this Friday.  It’s always a great deal of fun, and we try to go for a homemade Trans-Siberian Orchestra vibe (if only I could get the administration to spring for some laser lights and pyrotechnics).

As an independent musician and a music teacher (I also teach history), I find myself playing the role of concert impresario quite a bit.  One lesson I’ve learned is that the money people—the producers—will always have their notes and revisions, often last-minute.  Your well-oiled, tried-and-true concert formula can often get totally upended with changes.  Learning to roll with the punches is hard, but necessary.

Read More »

Frontier Still Sucks

Three weeks ago, I lost Internet access at home.  Two weeks ago, it was restored, after several angry phone calls and tardy technicians.

Well, Frontier’s gross incompetence strikes again.  I arrived home last night—after a very long week—to find my modem displaying the tell-tale, solid red “squiggly” line of death.  So here I am, back at school, churning out some blog posts before afternoon drama rehearsal, trying to drink from the sweet teet of Internet access while I can.

Fortunately, my scheduled appointment is Tuesday afternoon, so I won’t have to wait an entire week this time.  Unfortunately, Frontier’s track record in this regard is terrible.

I hand-wrote a four-page letter and taped it to the door of my town’s local Frontier office (it’s not so much an office as it is the server substation where the technicians gather during the week), pleading for their assistance.

Last time I lost my connection because someone unplugged the wrong jump cable there.  That error was compounded when the technical support folks online reconfigured my modem remotely.  After the on-site technician fixed the problem, the modem self-updated, and I lost connectivity again (about ten minutes after he left).  He came back, and the modem worked beautifully for two weeks.

I suspect the modem has somehow updated back to the incorrect configuration.  I imagine it will take them twenty minutes—tops—to fix the issue.  But it’s going to mean sitting around anxiously for four hours on Tuesday, hoping against hope that this time they’ll send someone on time.

Those Spectrum trucks can’t get to Lamar fast enough.

Frontier Sucks

A quick phone post: I’m sitting on my front porch, waiting for Frontier, my awful rural Internet service provider, to show up to fix my connection, which has been down slightly over a week.

That’s right: I’ve been without Internet access at home for one week.

I can see Spectrum trucks down the street running high-speed fiber optic lines. I’ll be switching over to them at the earliest opportunity, two-year contract be damned (that’s right: in 2019, there are still ISPs that make you commit to a two-year contract).

It’s not been all bad: I’ve watched some great DVDs, like Evil Dead and Big Trouble in Little China (“China is here”), and I’ve gotten more sleep.

On the other hand, so much of our lives and work are online, and it’s been quite difficult getting everything done during the day. In addition to teaching high school and maintaining this little blog, I also teach classes online. Talk about a conundrum.

So, here I am, desperately using my planning period to wait at home during my four-hour appointment window, which expires in about thirty minutes.

When Frontier installed my Internet—about six weeks after I placed the original order—I burned an entire personal day waiting for their arrival. They simply never showed. After a series of angry phone calls, a nice technician arrived two days later.

They also charge a mandatory modem rental fee of $10/month. ¡Ay caramba!

I don’t have much else to say. This post is pure self-indulgent complaining. But I do have some takeaways:

1.) Life in a rural town, while very pleasant, comes with certain challenges. Everything operates the way it did thirty years ago—for better and for worse.

My mail wasn’t delivered for two weeks because the rural mail carrier wouldn’t stop because I put my mailbox in front of my house—not across the street, like the only other box on the street (most folks still get mail delivered to the local post office). Finally, my neighbor—not anyone I talked to at the post office—told me my carrier wouldn’t stop until I moved the mailbox across the street.

2.) Adults are meant to work in pairs: a breadwinner and a household manager. My “wife” is my job, unfortunately, and she’s an overbearing, possessive bitty. That’s the case for most everybody. Someone needs to be at home, keeping the home fires burning and keeping the place running efficiently.