Posted by: David | July 5, 2007

Fault Tolerance on July 4th

I use the term “fault tolerance” a lot. As an exemplar of a fairly faulty life, I frequently need to tolerate various problems, internal and external, if not attempt to solve them. Fault tolerance is a computer hardware and software design concept. Wikipedia has a nice little article on it. Let’s have a look at the first paragraph of that article.

Fault-tolerance or graceful degradation is the property that enables a system (often computer-based) to continue operating properly in the event of the failure of some of its components. If its operating quality decreases at all, the decrease is proportional to the severity of the failure, as compared to a naively-designed system in which even a small failure can cause total breakdown. Fault-tolerance is particularly sought-after in high-availability or life-critical systems.

But this term is so much more than hardware/software practice. These are words to live by dear reader! Our lives here on earth are pretty much “graceful degradation”. Hopefully graceful anyway. The degradation is a fact. Also known as aging. It’s a terminal condition. Accept that and you’ve got a good start. But let’s not go all dark just yet.

I can only hope that your days are as filled with joy and happiness as mine usually are, but let’s face it, not every day, hour, and minute can possibly be ecstatic. If ecstasy was the only state of existence, how would we even know it? It could not be perceived or resolved without its opposite, pain. To expect 100% happiness is pure idiocy.  I submit to you that to expect any percentage of happiness over 50% is unrealistic, selfish, and generally untenable. Yet many of us expect this very thing and we get all cranky when the happiness flow is interrupted. Gosh darn it all!

Pain is our reaction to error. When we detect that something is wrong, we can choose to act on it. Or not. Sometimes it’s an obvious choice. If I drop a 20 dollar bill, I will pick it up and put it back into my wallet. Sometimes it’s not obvious. Seeing a child throwing a tantrum in a store over the Cocoa Puffs that daddy won’t buy even if there is a toy inside is an event which I can safely ignore. That same child at the checkout ahead of me, taking things out of my cart is a more pressing issue. I will need those items back in my cart, as I aim to purchase them. Do I need to tell dad that his kid and him are wrecking my entire supermarket experience? Pain is the key. And the detection of wrongness.

Wrong things give us pain. But we must first perceive them as wrong. Having judged a thing to be wrong is the moment at which to stop and think. Is it really wrong? Why is it wrong. How wrong is it really? Is it life and death wrong? Serious bodily injury, bleeding, loss-of-consciousness wrong? Is it global warming wrong? Michael Jackson wrong? Giving you a slight pain in neck and/or ass wrong? It’s good to know how wrong it really is, because it might not really require any further of your precious and limited energy. Unless you’re a super hero and it’s your job to right all the wrongs in the universe. Good luck with that. I’m one of the Fantastic Three (yeah, me, myself, and I). This is MY universe.

It’s unusual to see road killed crows. They are some knowing creatures. Is this wrong?

I believe that we humans are fault tolerant in a most fundamental way. Otherwise we would not be here today, on the brink of destroying our planet. Fault tolerance has enabled us to survive. But maybe we have tolerated entirely too much fault. Or maybe our faults have been too tolerated. On my Independence Day bike ride I had some faults to tolerate. In the first few miles, two road killed birds.

Why did this partridge cross Route 103?

Riding through Warner, I usually stop to look at the tree they planted at Simonds Elementary School in memory of my son Dan. The first tree planted was a maple but it died after a year or two, so they planted this crabapple, which has been doing well.


I brushed off the stone after taking this picture.

The July 4th ride continued further into a fault tolerance exercise. I took Schoodac Road out of Warner to Webster and Salisbury via Route 127.  I had hoped to arrive in Andover around 1:00 pm to visit with daughter and wife and look at garden and stuff. Then continue to Little Lake Sunapee for a 2:00 barbecue at the boat launch. A good friend of ours works there as a “Lake Host”, inspecting launching boats for milfoil and other invasive weeds. Thought I’d take a little short cut, since my touring bike has fatter tires and can handle dirt roads. Hensmith Road would cut a couple miles off and get me to Andover a few minutes sooner … yeah, a short cut. Great idea. Always.


Here’s what was WRONG. I hit washboard dirt road in a mile or two of down hill into what I later learned was the West Salisbury Flood Control area. Surely I’d be hitting pavement and catching sight of Route 4/11 soon … but no. Just lots of deerflies buzzing me. Couldn’t outrun them cause the washboarding of the road would not allow it. No stings, but the jostling and vibrating of my sweaty limbs was bad enough to cause a kind of itching anyway. And no kidding, the vibration forced me to clench my teeth. The occasional truck or car dusted me. The power lines ended. Rode on and on past various gates and signless dirt roads. I really ought to get a compass.

Yup, I am lost. But I still like the number seventeen.

Finally got my bearings when I saw a road sign for Pumpkin Hill Road. Warner. OK GREAT. All the while thinking about this STUPID post on Fault Tolerance. Turn around and go back over the nasty dirt roads or go down into Warner and back to Bradford, get my car and go to the barbecue? What do you think I did?

I did make it to the barbecue- really late. And we had a great time, the rain held off until we finished our meal.

The end.


  1. I agree in a very inarticulate way with everything you’ve said about fault tolerance. And I’m sorry you took a wrong turn – I’ve done the same in the name of shortcuttery. Glad the barbecue was good!

  2. Isn’t that supposed to be shortcutlery? If not then it should be.

  3. No, no, no. That’s what you give to people with little hands.

  4. OH. OK, so, like, knives and forks for little people? I thought they used sporks! Or them runcible spoons. WETF they are.

  5. Sporks! Or those weird wooden spatula things you get with ice cream cups. This ‘conversation’ has degraded!

  6. Yeah it has degraded. Certainly not the kind of high minded stuff I was hoping for. No offense. I guess this is part of fault tolerance. And it was, after all, in honor of this post that a new category was added to this blog: Preachy Crapola. Let’s hope that I don’t come up with any more of this junk.

  7. Excuse me…but as a person with short, stubby – dare I say it…peasant hands, am taking offense at your political incorrectness, people!!

    These days we say we have “dimensionally distressed extremities”**. So get it right next time, or spork you both!

    **Dimensionally Distressed Extremities” would be a great name for a rock band….no?! 🙂

  8. OK. Yeah, like, what EVER peasant hands!


    We’re here!

    We’re politically incorrect!

    Get used to it!

    Nice bounce eh? I’m sure she wasn’t thinking of YOU with the shortcutlery comment … And (sorry to edit you) I think the band’s name would be:

    Dimensional Distress

    But their name would soon change to “D2” after their second world tour, where their one-hit-wonder label peels off after their first platinum album Little Hands is smoked by their next, DOUBLE platinum monster hit My Peasant Ma from Poland.

  9. Do you by any chance have hi-res files of the dead birds? hmmm… who could this post be from?

  10. Actually, lkr, I have a few higher res shots of road-killed birds. 2 crows and a partridge and as it happens, the dead crow from the independence day bike ride happened to be the first image on a formatted card in the camera. Thus the wife landed on this shot often when showing people pix on the camera’s screen. So a certain amount of, let’s say ‘chiding’ was endured by me on this perverse photo subject.

    The life of the artist. Formerly known as Dave. And still known as Dave.

    Dave would be happy to send you these images, which are of the 1M range in file size.

    2 crows and a partridge then?

  11. I’m giggling, I am.

    Thanks CuriousC! I’m SO glad you’re amused. This was one of my favorite posts from last year. It was one of my more heartfelt themes.

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