DSL Outage Day Two: The Madness Continues

Right at the moment my local library is still closed, but its wifi hotspot is up, so I’m sitting in my minivan outside the building, typing on my nettop and hoping the neighbors don’t call in the creepy dude typing on a computer in his car. I can’t believe it’s come to this. On the other hand I had e-mail and other stuff that I needed to catch up on. Also, I’m twitching and shaking like a junkie in need of a fix. It’s sad, really.

In the comments to the previous message, someone disbelieved that it was that difficult for me to find wifi, saying that unless I live out in the middle of nowhere I probably live in a wifi cloud. Well, dude: As it happens, I do live in the middle of nowhere, in a house smack dab in the center of a piece of land exactly the size of a New York city block (i.e., which means no leaching of the neighbors’ wifi, if they had any, which they don’t), in a place that is 11 miles from the nearest McDonald’s or WalMart or coffee shop. The only place within miles that does have a wifi hotspot, besides me, is the library. Which is why I’m parked outside of it right now, looking like a creepy, creepy dude.

That said, having the DSL down means I’m catching up on my reading; at the moment I’m reading China Mieville’s upcoming book The City & The City, because he’ll be doing a Big Idea piece when it comes out, and they’ve sent it to me. It’s excellent so far; you may have read some reviews where people have noted that it hardly seems fantastical at all. These people are high. It’s totally fantastical, it’s just the sort of fantastical that people made uncomfortable by elves with swords can handle. You can’t blame China for other people’s literary prejudices. It’s not his fault.

All right, I’ve got a few more things to do before the sheriffs show up and ask me what I’m doing loitering near the library, so I’ll catch you all later. Remember that until the new DSL modem shows up, I’ll largely be incommunicado. Hopefully the new DSL modem shows up today. If not, I assume more furtive loitering is in my future. Loiter, loiter, loiter.

55 Comments on “DSL Outage Day Two: The Madness Continues”

  1. Been there, man. Southern Atlanta suburbs are not much better for wifi hotspots. My daughter, the fabulously sophisticated urbanite, is similarly awestruck at our quaint, ludite lifestyle.

  2. Same thing happened to me just the other week. I’d been in Europe for 2 weeks traveling with my daughter. No laptop with me but I did have my iPod touch and I could use it whenever we popped into a cafe that had wireless. I couldn’t do any major surfing or emailing- just basic keeping in touch stuff.

    Then I get home and the first thing I do is grab the laptop. And guess what? Can’t get online. At all. I ended up having to have the phone people out the next day and they determined the house wasn’t getting the DSL signal. Long story short- I was sitting in the parking lot of the local Dominicks looking like a creepy lady as I tried to take care of some stuff online.

    My condolences to you.

  3. I feel you pain, Scalzi. Dial-up aint bad, once you get used to it and toss our half of Internet 2.0. Fortunately I work with broadband and can drive to a wifi hotspot. But until they hook the Amish Buggies up with WiMax, or the local provider gets a friggin clue ($45 for DSL on a third tier network, I don’t think so) it’ll be slow access at home for me.

  4. Is it bad that I just laughed (for reals) at the picture of you sitting outside the library in your car, typing like a mad typing thing and looking over your shoulder for the library police to come take you away? The great Scalzi, brought so low….

  5. I’ve run into this trouble many times – I do service work in a mostly rural territory, and sometimes find myself needing to email something to someone – NOW – from the field. So there’s me wandering neighborhoods trolling for open wifi, looking way creepier than John parked in front of the library.

    Here’s a tip. Fronteir, our local non-bell rural telephone company, has open wifi at all of their switch shacks, in part because their techs get marching orders by email. So their guys just drive up to the nearest switch, link in and download what they need. This has helped me many times. Fronteir is in splotches all over NY, PA, and many other states – don’t know if it will help you.

  6. laughlaughlaughlaughlaughlaughlaugh


    and, oh yeah


    Ahem. Please continue blogging your lack of internet access. It is pure comedy gold! Thanks!

    (There is wifi all over my neighborhood, but no parking on the street so move along. Sorry k thx bai.)

  7. I wonder if this is related to your unplugging of the DSL while you were grinding on a deadline a while back… machines know and they hold a grudge.

    Anyway, I both feel for you, and am laughing at you. Hope they fix it soon.

  8. A friend of mine is a library director and she’s always tickled when she looks at usage stats and sees people on the library wireless while they’re closed, fwiw.

  9. I’d imagine the Library Gestapo will cut you some slack, considering the books you’ve donated to the joint.

  10. Well, I for one am glad to see that your library is helping out in a pinch. My own library does the same in terms of wireless, and yes, I look at some of the cars in the parking lot after hours and wonder. Still, public service, and all that. Remember one and all, to support your local library in the next funding go around, if only to rescue you from exile from the electronic community.

  11. @9 Marko: we prefer the term Librarinators, or the Goon Squad. In a pinch, They-Who-Haunt-The-Dark-Spaces-Between-The-Stacks-And-Pounce-Menacingly is also acceptable.

  12. I can’t wait to hear more about what you thought of China’s book.

    If you get to prod or ask him anything prior to the Big Idea piece, I’d really love to hear more about his inspirations for his short story anthology Looking for Jake. He really shows his breadth and mastery of, often unusual, storytelling there. In particular the story The Ball Room is one of my all time favorites.

  13. All those library stats come in handy next time the library budgets come around. In the downturned economy, governments always seem to look to libraries as a way to balance the books — so to speak.

    Dr. Phil

  14. I grew up on a farm. The closest house to ours was three-quarters of a mile away as the crow flies.

  15. Oh, Scalzi, Scalzi, Scalzi,

    Go get one of those interenet-anywhere doohickeys from your cell service provider. (I assume you have a cell signal at home?) They all have the service for PC’s and Verizon has it for Macs ($60/month, unlimited use). I got one about 18 months ago when I got tired of pulling into any of the McDonald’s along I-95 in Connecticut just to get my email.

    And for Godssake, put some pants on.

  16. It’s excellent so far

    Yes, but does it have a totally hot China Mieville author photo on the jacket? Priorities, sir, priorities.

  17. John you need a sign for your van’s window saying “Author at Work” with an image of someone typing.

    Besides isn’t your town small enough for everyone to know you as the wacky eccentric local author?

  18. Nathan, regarding cell signals…my cell phone doesn’t work at home; we’re too far from the backbone. Living in the middle of the country is like… living in the middle of the country.

    John — eleven miles to the nearest McDonald’s! I’m impressed; it’s only six to our nearest McDonald’s. Which was quite enough to horrify the nephews, and make them rethink their projected visit.

  19. Sharon,

    Until about 2 years ago, I lost cell service about 4 steps from my front door…from which I can plainly see the Empire State Building. The woman at T-mobile told me they were working hard to get their more “rural” areas covered.

  20. I also suffer from online addiction. This is why I have Clearwire. Clearwire also makes nice cards for laptops. In theory, I could ride around Richmond and connect from anywhere. I don’t do that since I don’t have a laptop, but it’s nice to know I could. What’s really great is that I can smirk whenever the phone lines go down or the cable is disrupted.

  21. Been there, done that, and felt just as creepy sitting in the parking lot of a closed cafe, with my screen lighting up my face. (Very handy for the police to come up and identify you.)

    Stay strong.

  22. , someone disbelieved that it was that difficult for me to find wifi,

    Um. I hope you don’t think that was me.

  23. You don’t need to worry, Scalzi. As someone who works in a library, unless you decide that it’s a good time to put on a demonstration of the acrobatic talents of your pet rock turtle for the entertainment of passing library patrons, no one is going to notice a strange person hiding out in their car.

  24. In the downturned economy, governments always seem to look to libraries as a way to balance the books — so to speak.

    They do indeed. But during downturns library usage goes way up even as funding goes down. My local library lost 5% of its funding this year from the downturn, at the same time that library utilization went up almost 20%.

    I live in a suburban area. Wifi cloud? Heh. From home I can “see” three or four private wireless nets other than my own WAP, but my neighbors are not so silly as to leave them unsecured. (Nor am I.) In any case, strange cars with strangers sitting in them out in front of houses around here WILL get a visit from the local PD.

  25. Dude, I work in a library. We won’t talk about where. And we have wifi. Let me tell you, it is NOT uncommon to see people in vehicles, parked close to the building, apparently staring at their laps. At all hours. Even days when we are closed. One day a week we are closed, but a staff member is in, and there are usually people in vehicles using the wifi, and in the good weather they sit on the curb and get comfy. I’m pretty sure the apt building right next door gets our free wifi too!

    Have a good time!
    Sal :)

  26. I live in a rural area where high speed only became available a few years ago, through the cable co. ( Still no DSL option). Of course now during the frequent outages, I can relate the the withdrawal pangs..

    If you are looking to work on The Cure, I recommend a long cruise vacation. Nothing like .60 per minute at sub-dial up speeds to reduce the urges..

  27. John,

    Any chance of getting tags for different post categories (books, big idea, articles you’ve written elsewhere, lolcats, bacon, photography, etc)? And an option to subscribe via RSS to certain categories?

  28. My wife long ago informed me that any lap top taken on a cruise would be subjected to deep salt water imersion testing.

    In New York, mostly, libraries share the district with one or more school districts in terms of geography but run and have taxpayer votes on their own budgets.

    Mine is coming up and were it not for the down turn I would be speaking up about the overstaffing, but they are all probably working now. And the library is planning on turning some office space into more computer space.

  29. Bwahahahaha! No really, I am laughing with you. O.K., not so much. I guess I am laughing at you, but I DO feel your pain. I live way out in the country just like you do. Actually, more isolated. The only way I get anything better than dial-up is by having an extra satellite dish out by the TV one. Yep, I have to send my Internet signal up to a freaking satelite in order to be connected. Still, better than dial-up. Problems? Only when it rains/storms. And, when the dish has been out of alignment I have been known to go sit in parking lots to get my ‘fix’. Thankfully that has only happened once in 3 years.

    Still, I keep picturing you hunched over your laptop, checking over your shoulder. How low the great author has sunk. Snicker. Here’s hoping that the desired hardware arrives in a timely manner today.

  30. Mmm…if I were in your shoes, I’d just drive to the closest Best Buy or equivilant store and pick up a DSL modem. Hook it up, navigate to or, put in your DSL username and password, cuss a bit, fiddle with DSL settings, call the DSL techs on the phone, have them tell you what to put the DSL settings to for their particular service, and you’ll probably be up within 24 hours.

    Quicker than waiting for them to send you the modem.

  31. Panera Bread in Troy has free Wi-Fi… and soup.

    1920 W Main Street
    Troy, Ohio 45373

  32. Dude, I can relate. We had it so bad during the IKE power outage last year. We went to the local McD’s & sat in the car in the parking lot. We then decided we could run the wifi router and the laptops off our gas-powered generator, along with the ‘fridge. We watched the battery-operated radio & TV for local news, but got really felt connected when we got on the internet.

    What was really strange was coming in to work (once work got power), then going home to no power. I charged our chargeable stuff during work hours, and wasn’t alone in that respect. :)

  33. Have you checked to see if you can use your cell phone as a modem? I know the BlackBerry can do this and I’m sure others can as well.

    It’s better than getting that ‘creepy guy’ reputation…

  34. I was cut off from the Great Link for a couple of hours last month.

    I was so alone. I hope your new modem comes on wings.

  35. Heck, when my link goes down for more than thirty minutes I get the shakes and my nearest wifi hotspot is at a McDonald’s six miles away but my wife totally frowns on me going there just to get my internet fix.

  36. Isn’t today techno-pixilated… techixlated… you know, the day you post a story for us free of charge on the net?

    It’s a conspiracy against us peasants, isn’t it?

  37. Anybody in or around SE Ohio want to sneak up & tape a “Free Candy” sign to the side of a suspicious mini-van?

    As a Farker, I’m sure John would aprreciate the humor…right?

  38. At least it was the regular public library. Now, if he’d been leaching off wifi from one of the local schools…

  39. “Why I remember the great DSL outage of ought-9 clear as if’n it were yesterday. Grandpappy John had ta fire up the au-to mo-bile and we all piled in, laptops at the ready in search of a an unsecured wi-fi access, it musta taken us 15 or twenty minutes of hard-drivin’, dad relyin’ only on the satellite radio for the latest from the outside wurl’ an, sometimes raisin; the volume up so high that I’d have to raise the volume on my wi’less headphones so’s to be able ta hear the Hanny Montanny DVD pickcher show on the built in telly-box we had in the car.
    Yeah, it were a cool day, I had to reach up and adjust the tempichur in the back seat, but Pappy he was sweatin’ bullets, on eye on the GPS, one eye on the little icon on the laptop waiting for the little green ray-dio wave ahcon what tol’ us we was finally in reach of the blessed wah’less intarwebz.”

  40. We intentially leave our wifi on when we close and I often see folks typing away in their cars. We don’t call the cops for that, other behaviours yes but typing in a van, No.

  41. Long time that there was a sign of the Scalzi. Is he following the advice of #32, has he just given up on us, or has he been arrested?
    Do we need to start an interwebs petition to free him from unjustified imprisonment?

  42. Pip @ 46:

    A Michigan man who used a coffee shop’s unsecured Wi-Fi to check his e-mail from his car could have faced up to five years in prison, according to local TV station WOOD.

    What strikes me about that story is that I didn’t see any indication that the coffee shop owner objected to him doing this. Did she ask the police to press charges? It doesn’t sound like it, which makes the arrest comepletely ridiculous IMHO.

  43. OK, so it’s my turn to show my worldliness. I just learned China was a guy’s name. Sorry well respected author dude.
    Maybe I was thinking China Beach==Dana Delaney (I’m in my happy place, now)
    I’ll go back to my cave, deep in flyover country.

  44. On 46 and 48, I wonder if anyone in Michigan asked the FCC about this? They frown very heavily on their area being usurped, to the point they have overridden zoning laws, property rights and in the case of licenced radio engineers the illegality of radar detectors.

    While it is a computer network it is also wireless and in their jurisdiction.

    I suspect the guy didn’t bother to hire a lawyer as unarmed theft needs a complaint in any state I’ve heard of.

    I’m not a lawyer, but am a licenced radio engineer.

  45. Well, I was going to leave you a comment that you shouldn’t worry – we librarians are used to people using the wifi in their cars after hours. Heck, sometimes it’s even the police doing it. But then I looked through the comments and realized that I didn’t need to reply. Goodness, there are a lot of library workers here!

  46. I would like to vouch for John’s lives-in-the-middle-of-nowhere status. My parents live in the same county as John and they don’t have access to high speed internet whatsoever. It’s either dial up or satellite or nothing. When politicians talk about upgrading rural infrastructure they are talking about Darke County.

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