Monday, December 20, 2010

Jack Frost Nipping at Your . . . Internet

Last Tuesday (the 14th) continued an unusual (for Sula) period of above-freezing temperatures combined with heavy snow, forming a thick layer of slush on the roads and on my roof.  As soon as the sun dropped behind the ridge line to the west, the slush on my roof froze into a big sheet of unstable ice, a piece of which broke, slid off and forcibly repositioned my satellite dish.  I called Dish Network, and the guy told me internet satellites have to be set exactly right to pick up a signal, so I needed to get the dish set back at precisely 37.1°.  Oh, is that all?  So I went out and loosened the bracket on the dish and moved it to where I thought 37.1° would be, which I located by finding 45° with my calibrated eyeball and then backing off about 7.9°.  Piece of cake.  But no signal.  Then I spent about an hour making minor shifts up and down figuring I had to be close, but nada.

So I got all edumacated and figured I could use a little trigonometry.  If I knew the tangent of 37.1°, I could define the base of the triangle and compute the height of the vertical side and use that to set the dish.  But I didn't have a scientific calculator, or an internet connection, so Mari had to find the tangent for me, which she did (but with a lot of protestations along the lines of "I don't know nothin' bout no trig").  We knew she got it right when BMac confirmed her answer.  I computed the height I needed, and then there I was, out in the snow, with my level and square, trying to keep an eye on two measurements and one bubble to get the thing set.  But still no signal.  So I hung up my level and called Dish Network back and told them to send out an expert.

The expert came out this morning and set the dish in about 10 minutes, but he had a fancy signal meter with a little graphics screen and a beeper and everything.  He said the iceberg had shifted the mast of my dish, so my angle now needs to be 42°.  And not only that, but the dish was shifted laterally, so even if I had gotten the right angle, I didn't have the right azimuth.  But here's the real capper: on the far side of the bracket holding the dish, the side that's up against the house where no normal person would ever notice it, there's a little protractor that you can use to set the angle so you don't have to use any trig or squares or levels.  Now they tell me.  But now I know that if another iceberg should happen to fall on my dish, all I have to do is go out and reset it back on 42°.  And hope it didn't shift the mast or throw off the azimuth again.