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23 April 2021

Musket Ball


I have placed this essay under “Incoming Signals” because in my present location, a domain of my own doing, there are not, of late, many incoming signals. Internet access in this neck of the woods is, in digital fact, atrocious. We’ve had to ditch the means of “fixed wireless”, the Smarter Broadband small business provider that we used for about a year in the rental dump while awaiting construction of this house.


This past August, on our new property in this undisclosed rural location, out in the sticks, The Smarter Broadband guy spent an entire afternoon trying to locate a signal that would reach the relay on a nearby ridge. The relay signal was too obscured by pine trees to offer any reliable service. (*Reliable service is one of those increasingly relative terms.)


130 feet up a Ponderosa pine tree, and he still could not find a clear path. I refused to watch this climbing activity. I was getting the vapors just from the description of his daring feat.


When I lived in Newcastle, just 4 minutes away from I-80, the hard-wired DSL worked great. Granted, it was slow, sometimes very s-l-o-w. Once the rains came, the connection blinked out. Quickly. Routinely. The bulk of my online work was limited to the non-rainy season, roughly April till October. After that, anything was up for grabs in terms of grabbing a steady electronic signal.


It’s no wonder I discovered my own incoming signals!

This past October (2020), the Milligan residence progressed to a cellular data “monthly plan” through a provider in Kentucky. That arrangement lasted all of six months, or until this morning when Dear Husband received a text message of adieu. He looked quite upset when he told me of the abrupt cut-off. I put the scenario in perspective: “It’s not like your dentist dumping you for too many cancelled appointments. True, the cut was more than surgical, but the guy has been losing money due to AT&T.”


Apple is now MaBell, and MaBell is Granny Bell. And we would not want to kill Granny, would we? So the antiquated phone system somehow limps along, transmitting data through their aging infrastructure (which truly is infrastructure), and charging an arm and a leg for those AT&T minutes. When the SIM card on the former cellular data plan somehow got electronically fried this past week, I had to return to the HotSpot method of anger management. I am pretty much offline most of the time, except for email and retail.

Now that I am no longer translating THE DAWN into L’AUBE, my need for a language website is non-existent. For whatever reason (and I do know the most likely reason), the Language Website sponsors ads to appeal to the most vulgar looney tunes who inhabit the urban decay known as The City.


The Hotspot in my neck of the woods in Placer County identifies my location as somewhere in Hayward, or San Leandro, or an even more coastal part of the Alameda armpit of California. I believe the term, s—- hole, has been correctly used to describe these cesspools of non-civilization that believe they represent the cultured height of humanity. That dis-connect will exist, no matter what my Internet connection.

The one connection that is clear and continuous is the fact that rural dwellers are the pariahs of service providers. The conspiracy theory of keeping us stupid has not panned out, since We know very well the stupid shenanigans going on in those areas of WiFi wonderland. I suppose some day there will be the Musket Ball method of space-age cellular traffic. Dear Husband is completely convinced of this eventuality.


I’ve recently learned from my spouse that sometime in November 2020, he put his name into the Elon Musk Lottery to be on the Wait List for the Beta bingo of satellite connectivity. My dear husband wants to be a Space Ranger! In February 2021, our rural location at Larkhaven made the cut of the most cut-off of country bumpkins in the Ethersphere. Turns out our global position puts us right up there with the most ignored human intelligence on earth.

I do not feel flattered. A gal who hails from New Jersey suspects it’s all a gimmick, a trick to get some business for Mr. Musk and his Mars bar fantasy. Dear Husband, the native Californian, believes that he is among the Chosen.


Our house rests snugly in a town that is a low spot, a low valley of meadows and pines, geographically nestled in this part of the Sierra Nevada foothills. This topography is one reason why it’s much colder here than in the next town over. This lower elevation creates an Internet shadow, from which we are not likely to emerge soon, unless the force of Elon Musk, and the ever-orbiting Musket Balls, figure out a way around The Swamp.

The other day I read an interesting battle synopsis of the first battle of Savannah, Georgia that ended in victory for the Redcoats in early 1779. (A second siege of Savannah, a joint attack conducted by American and French commanders, also ended in defeat for the Continentals.) The American Major General Robert Howe had failed to post pickets in this area, committing faulty reconnaissance of the site of the battle. The British commander, the Scotsman, Lt. Colonel Archibald Campbell, had amply reconnoitered the site by climbing way up into a tall oak tree, thereby checking out the American defenders, and preparing for a frontal assault.


Such an attack never took place. A slave, most likely a man named Quamino Dolly, showed Lt. Colonel Campbell “a private way” around the swamp that led to military victory that day for the British and to their investiture of Savannah, Georgia.


Even in 1779, before the colonies became the independent United States of America, figuring a way around the swamp was vital to the success of any battle. That strategic objective I can very quickly and enthusiastically sign onto. Until then, my HotSpot provides me with infinite lessons in infinite patience, and very finite and expensive minutes.

When the SIM card vaporized earlier this week, and I had to return to AT&T and the cell-phone-minute-method, Dear Husband laughed:


“It’ll just be for a day or so. And you can’t possibly go through 75% of your minutes in two days!”


Thirty-six hours later, the AT&T text message arrived on the me-Phone to alert me that 75% of “my” minutes were used. The Phone Cops had better not expect a free cellular trip to Mars. A musket ball from Star-Link ought to take care of that corporate pig-out, well before that marvelous minuteman, Mr. Musk, makes his move out into uncharted space.

Timing is everything.


The timing has arrived for this household to switch to a cellular phone plan offered by a company whose corporate name is not Two Letters and the Ampersand, followed by One Letter, and whose name does not include the word, Telegraph.


The name of the company must remain unknown, and in private mode due to the highly sensitive and secretive nature of the letter “T”.

I’ll simply call it Tanis-mobile.  Helps me to feel on the go in the stagnant environment called California.