Saturday, May 31, 2014

Foxes @ FSI

I overheard a rumor that the mother was run over and these 3 little foxes were left behind inside the fence at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). I haven't seen them this past week but it was neat seeing them hanging around the P3 gate while they were there. There were also many bird feathers so apparently they were getting themselves fed. There's bars over the drainage ditch opening and it doesn't look like they can get out of the fence without help so maybe someone finally captured them and released them elsewhere.

I wasn't too surprised by their presence. We had foxes pass through our neighborhood and back yard in Vienna VA all of the time so we had to be watchful for our daughter's chihuahua. I recently saw one cross 23rd Street with me by Main State in DC. That city fox appeared to know about crosswalks and traffic lights or it was just following the pedestrians across the street. Either way it appeared comfortable wandering the city.

The FSI foxes may have moved on now and we'll be doing the same in just 4 short weeks! For now, here's a few more pics of the FSI foxes.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Basic Telephone Training

Training this week was basic telephone. The antique phone below wasn't a part of our training but it was in the classroom. It was just a fun visual to show how many aspects of current telephone services and wiring come from the "good old days" of simple rotary analog phones.

One old term we used was tip and ring to describe the twisted pair wire connections. The term comes from those human telephone operators and the line connectors they used to patch calls. The plug connected on a metal tip and ring so the wiring had to match it. I only knew about seeing that plug from reruns of Laugh In or Green Acres. I watched this stuff when I was a little kid before cable TV.

Laugh In

Green Acres

Aspects of past telephone technologies in current use made me think of my late grandfather. He started out climbing poles with Indiana Bell and ended up working with all aspects of phone systems and wiring. My mom told me that even after he moved into management he was sought after for troubleshooting because he was one of the best at figuring it out when things went wrong. It was really cool for me to learn some of the skills of my grandfather this week.

One skill I learned was punching down cables... which was even more fun since I'm color deficient. I figured out the best way for me to do that was to put different colors next to each other. I can figure out what must be green, orange, red, or whatever by using the contrast between colors that look similar to me. I just can't look at a wire by itself and tell you what color it is. The picture below is what I had to sort. Each wire has a primary color and secondary stripe color to identify it.

That's my 25 pair cable in a bix block. I had a little help sorting out a few of the wires into 5 pair sets but I put everything in the right order on my own after the sorting. Yes, that sentence makes me sound like a child (I did it myself!) but this comes from the person that failed Kindergarten color recognition by insisting purple was dark blue and not a real color.

We used a punch down tool to connect them to the block and cut excess line in one step. This 25 pair bulk cable can be cross connected to the phone system or phone sets depending on the purpose of the cable. Here's mine all punched down before flipping it over so cross connect wires can be punched on the other side.

Finally, here's Kraftwerk singing about a telephone call just because I like Kraftwerk. :-)

Kraftwerk - The Telephone Call (1987)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Spring @ Foreign Service Institute

Information Management Specialist training continued with a nice spring day at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). A bunch of us walked out the gate to a food truck and ate our lunches on a picnic table under some trees. The picture below was our view from the picnic table on top of a hill. My daughter complains that the pictures look fake because I let Google "enhance" the pictures. I think they look cool. I'm also red/green color deficient so if they look a bit off then I probably don't see it like she does. If you want to see a sample of what color "blind" people see then check out these examples at the Vischeck link.

I took a walk around our college-like campus and took more pictures now that everything finally looks alive after our long winter. This temporary time of training is starting to feel like an entire job with the passing of seasons. It started in February with everything dead outside and several snow days. Now there's warmer weather and growing plants that makes the beginning seem like forever ago.

I've gone through Microsoft server admin, HF radios, State's messaging systems admin, information program operations, mail pouch operations, wide area network equipment and troubleshooting, system backup and recovery, and now we're working on communications security. I have 8 more weeks at this nice campus environment before we move to Sweden. I'm definitely not complaining!