1.052 fire alarm, FOPAL, Yosemite

At 12:53am the fire alarm went off. To quote the official memo from our CEO,

The good news is that the alarm woke many residents. While this is an inconvenience, one of our most frequent complaints in the past after a fire alarm was that people could not hear the alarm. This issue appears to have been resolved.

Yeah, I think so. The loud continuous honking came out of a speaker in my ceiling, and from speakers about every 20 feet along the hallways. I got up from bed and listened. I heard no sirens nor people shouting or running, so I judged I had time to put on clothes, which I did. Then went to the Lounge on our floor, turned on the emergency radio, and heard two other floors reporting in exactly as we’ve been trained to do. So I reported 4th floor in, no problems. I think eventually all 9 floors reported in using proper radio procedure. However, also from the official memo,

The not so good news is that the front desk was immediately flooded with calls from residents. Many were angry and yelled at Felicia demanding that she shut off the fire alarm. These calls caused Felicia to miss important phone calls from our fire alarm monitoring company and the fire department. In addition, the front desk receptionist does not have the authority to silence the alarm.

About 10 people in all gathered in the lounge over the next five minutes, out of about 25 on the floor. The PAFD arrived about 1:03 by my watch, no siren. About 1:10 the alarm was silenced and the all-clear given on the radio and the PA system.

It turns out the alarm was because of a momentary pressure drop in the sprinkler lines, seen as water flow. The timing has been adjusted so as to prevent such a short drop triggering another alarm.

Thursday, 1/23/2020

I got up (again) at 6:10, and before 7:30 was out for a run — to make up for skipping Wednesday’s, and anticipating that tomorrow I won’t have time, either.

At 10am I left for the Mitchell Park library for a meeting of FOPAL volunteers. There was FOPAL business, among which I was pleased to learn that they are going to acquire a proper garbage cart so we can dispose of non-recyclable rubbish. The place generates a massive amount of recyclable paper and cardboard but there are things that need to go to the landfill, and until now there’s been no garbage cart to put them in.

The entertainment was a presentation by the president of Foothill Community College. I think it was really a rehearsal of her pitch for two bond issues they are putting on the next ballot, but they certainly presented an interesting and glowing picture of the work the Foothill/de Anza campuses do. According to them, the California Community College network is the second largest educational institution in the world, after the nation of India’s. And they stressed that all their teaching is by paid instructors. “You go to Harvard and take Psych 101, you’re in a class of 500 students and you are taught by a grad student. At Foothill, you are taught by Doctor Smith and you can see him in regular office hours any time.” And money: if you maintain at least 12 units with passing grades, tuition and books are free. If you live at home, doing the first two years at Foothill saves an estimated $85,000 over doing them at UCB — and 85% of their graduates are accepted for transfers into the UC system.

That over, I drove to the Yosemite warehouse where we continued opening boxes looking for the lost Ferranti plugboard (see 1.045). And home to rest briefly, write this post to this point, then eat and head out to the Pear Theater.

Here’s the kind of thing one comes upon when opening boxes in the CHM archives. It’s a circuit module from ILLIAC II, an experimental supercomputer of 1962. Per the original label, this module implemented bits 0-4 (of 51 bits) of the Accumulator.

illiac module

Apparently they hadn’t worked out printed circuit boards, but wired all those transistors together with elaborate point-to-point wiring. This is odd to me, because I know that the first integrated circuits were produced in 1961. But I guess the ILLIAC designers had started earlier and were locked in.

Anyway, it wasn’t the Ferranti plugboard, so close up the box and put it back on the shelf.


Aurora (curator) shelves a box of ILLIAC modules, helped by Tom (volunteer).

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