... a Crime They Didn't Commit ...
Mar. 10th 2003
I'll start today's entry with a strange craving. It's not a craving for food. It's a craving to hear and see something. It goes something like this 'In 1976 a group of American soldiers escaped from a maximum security prison, imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit'. I really fancy watching an episode of the A-Team. I have no idea why, but maybe even the A-Team feature length first epsiode.

The new labs seemed to work quite well. However, with fewer students it was very quiet. In addition, I can now see how much weaker the weaker students are. Some students have previous computer experience but many have none. Therefore, their weakness is through no fault of their own. I will need to keep an eye on this.

I am still waiting for the letter from TDA to say what equipment MIT will and will not be getting from them. This requires more chasing.

Just before lunch I had a surprise phone call. The only phone calls I would expect would be from VSO to check how things are going. But, this one was my parents, bless 'em. It's very difficult to actually get the phone call placed. I wasn't sure who was on the phone because the accounts department hadn't asked, or were not confident enough to say. There was more of a delay on this phone-line than the one normally between UK and NZ. However, that didn't matter it was great to hear their voices. It's a shame that I cannot phone from here. If I do phone, it costs about 70birr for three minutes. That doesn't make much sense on a monthly allowance of 940birr. I am hoping to have a phone line in my office soon, and once (please be soon) I have a house, I can order a phone line.

MIT has two satellite dishes on top of one of the buildings. These dishes have been damaged, and I am curious to know how. The dish is not made completely of solid metal. The rounded surface is made up of 'petals' of thin, perforated metal. This is held on a frame of solid metal. Several of the petals from both satellite dishes are missing and others are torn. Nearly every 'petal' is covered in pidgeon crap. I had my chance today to try to determine how the damage was caused. An architect and an electrical engineer had come to look at the dishes and to try to fix them. I later found out that the engineer couldn't have been that serious - he had no side cutters or any other tools I would expect an electrician to have. I thought that it would be possible to get onto the roof by climbing inside the building. But we had to use a ladder on the outside of the building. The ladder was sturdy, and was held firmly. However, at the top of the ladder, you had to do a little bit 'sans rungs'. Climbing up was fine, but I didn't like climbing back down, trying to find the top rung of the ladder.

On top of the roof, the mystery of the satellite dishes deepened. While the other two inspected the dishes, I had a nose around the roof. There was a satellite signal booster sitting on the roof, with it's power supply. These were sitting completely exposed and I would be absolutely amazed if rain had not destroyed them. When I asked about how the dishes were damaged, I was first told that it was probably wind. However, the dishes are perforated so I think that the wind will just pass through them. It would be a pretty serious design flaw. The next answer was lightening. Again, this didn't quite match up to the way the petals had been broken. If lightening had cause the damage we should be able to see scorch marks, metal that had melted (rather than snapped), and fried co-axial leads coming away from the dishes. No, it couldn't be lightening. I had a stab at pidgeon crap. The dishes were coated in them. I wondered if it could be corrosive and the wind had finished the job by snapping the metal by fatigue. On closer inspection, it appeared that this wasn't the case. Many of the petals looked as if they had been struck by something. It was then that I noticed the stones on the roof. Children throwing stones would be a first suspicion. However, they would need to get onto the campus so it had been discounted. I asked the architect if there would be any reason to put stones on the roof. They were suspisciously only around the two satellite dishes. He could think of one reason - to be used in the concrete. These were large stones however. Unfortunately, this didn't wrap up the problem nicely. With the big stones were many very small stones, neatly arranged together. That couldn't have been cause by throwing. All of my sleuthing didn't provide the answer, and didn't somehow magically transport me back to the ground.

The trip back down, and onto, the ladder was much easier than I suspected. The electrical engineer however did not seem to enjoy it one bit.

There are two bloody smears on my wall. Mosquitos don't fly half as quickly when they're full.