Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ham I Am

I am now officially KG7LEA for the next ten years! A week ago I took and passed my amateur radio Technician Class exam, one wrong answer out of 35. I checked this morning and the FAA database has my call sign listed and I am free to transmit on any of the authorized frequencies.

I am mostly interested in ham radio to be able to help out in the event of an emergency. I've trained as a NERT in San Francisco, as a CERT in Seattle, and have drilled with the local volunteers with general band radios. The ham license now allows me to participate in the local auxiliary communications system. We have an annual drill coming up and I have been learning the ins and outs of their procedures and special software to send reports.

But the first step was the Technician exam. There are several thick study guides with tons of sometimes-dense information on rules and regulations, procedures, electricity, electronics, antennas, safety, and other stuff. The exam is 35 questions drawn from a pool of over 300. Fortunately there are apps in addition to the book to help with study. I took practice tests with my iPad while watching television from the sofa. I won't pretend to be able to calculate the decibel increase in an antenna, but I know what International Telecommunications Union region we are in (number 2) and the fact that you cannot broadcast music on an amateur frequency (unless incidental to a broadcast from a space station). Now that I know how the exams work I'm studying for the next level, General.

So if you see my call sign on my license plate, on Lorraine's license plate, on business cards, a baseball cap, a tavern jacket, or in body art, that's what it is.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Game of Thrones Oh My

I saw the first episode of the first season of Game of Thrones when it first came out. I could see that this series would take a serious investment of time and psychic energy and disengaged. Now HBO has produced four seasons of the fantasy epic and committed for two more seasons. Recently I found the time and the opportunity to start the series from Season 1 Episode 1 and have been sucked into the cult.

As of this writing I have finished Episode 8 of Season 2. Or is it Episode 7? At this point it doesn't matter. I am in the middle of a raging river being carried downstream. Take your pick, excellent writing, incredibly imaginative plotting, compelling characters, stunning settings and sets (Ireland, Malta, Morocco, Iceland, Scotland, Croatia) and amazing costuming. The un-costuming is great too. Are there no overweight less-than-stunning women in the acting profession? I appreciate the gratuitous T and A, but would be happy for some more normal curvy women opening their armor and dropping their gowns.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Storm in the Desert

I note with some concern a series of stories about the Nevada rancher locked in a struggle with the U.S. Government over his payments for grazing rights. According to the stories he hasn't paid rent on the Bureau of Land Management lands on which he has been raising cattle, cattle he sells for a profit. The Government has gotten court orders to seize his cattle and have picked up some 300 head.

But the rancher is defiant and – this is the scary part – has attracted militia members from all over the West who are protesting quite stridently. Already there have been confrontations, an arrest, a police dog injured, and lots and lots of noise. The more inflammatory statements compare this to the Branch Davidian sadness in Waco and the Randy Weaver case in Idaho.

I am intrigued and troubled by the pattern of local controversies fanned into flames by "tourists" such as have shown up in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In other regions these are called foreign fighters. I'm also concerned that the midterm elections in November will influence events. Wait til Fox News gets this.

The Twitter feed reports that BLM is calling off the cattle roundup. Watch the tourists evaporate and the roundup will resume.