: New: Book Report: Tower Dog

For a while (a few years?), the most dangerous job in the USA was climbing cellular towers to install and/or remove phone equipment. Tower Dogs introduces you to some of the fearless folks who work this job. So… this is an interesting topic, but this book didn't really get into the aspects I hoped for.

I've been reading risks since it was Usenet's comp.risks and I want enough technical details so that I can Monday-morning-quarterback the relevant engineers and say "well harrumph the problem is that old towers don't use such-and-such construction techniques". But though everyone in this book climbs towers all day, there was scant detail about how one actually, y'know, climbs a tower. There's a snippet in there about how some towers have rope, block, and tackle built in, and are thus safer to climb. But that's pretty much it. Here's about how technical this book gets:

"Know what 4G means?" Angelo Kilfoyle liked to say. "THAT means you've done gone up the same goddamn tower four goddamn times."

It's a good line, but it doesn't tell me much. The book quotes articles about climbing accidents; I heard about deaths and injuries resulting from falling from great height onto an "ice bridge". I live in sunny California; I didn't know this "ice bridge". And I couldn't figure out what it meant from this book, I had to search the internet. (In the book's defense, internet sources also tended to use the term without explanation, assuming that I'd seen these things around and knew what they were for. (I now think they're metal platforms placed a little above ground level so folks have something to sit/walk on when the ground is icy?))

I'm glad I read the book, but I'm mostly glad it inspired me to learn more from other sources:

That news report points out a big cause of danger. For a long time, there weren't many folks climbing towers. Then, the iPhone came along, and AT&T was caught with very little wireless-data capacity. They were scrambling to install new equipment—sending new folks climbing up towers, folks who didn't necessarily know safety procedures very well. I'd grumbled about this: I'd worked at companies developing pre-iPhone smartphones… for use in Japan because Americans couldn't afford mobile data because phone companies couldn't be bothered to build out their network. I gave up on smartphones and then AT&T suddenly decides to build—I'd grumbled about inconvenience to me, but hadn't realized that it was killing people.

Tags: book urban morphology

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