Monthly Archives: December 2016

December 23

December twenty-first was the Winter Solstice, although that date varies slightly from year to year. It is, of course, the day with the least daylight and, therefore, the point at which each day offers more light. How much more light each day has is totally dependant upon your latitude (Location, location, location).

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, even though we don’t refer to many evenings in terms of the next day; all hallows’ eve (Halloween) being the noted exception. However, it is both its own day and part of the following day. You can’t have Christmas Eve without Christmas.

But today is just the twenty-third. It’s a day for running around like crazy picking up last minute gifts, spices, or whatever was forgotten. The house probably has glitter in odd places, having fallen off wrapping paper or cards. Actually the house is a minor disaster—the gifts having been wrapped, but the leftover paper, scissors, bows, and ribbons stilllying about.

The twenty-third, though, is like that moment before a meal when the delicious smells hit your nose, but it’s not yet time to eat. Meals take hours to prepare and minutes to dispatch; Christmas takes months of preparation, and seems to only last several nanoseconds.

So, enjoy the 23rd in its special ordinariness. Enjoy the fact that the preparations are an act of love toward friends and family. That most of those are complete—and while you’re at it, smile.

Let’s Chat

One reason I enjoy amateur radio is that, in most cases, people just chat. The transceivers* most hams** have in their cars are tuned to a repeater—a transceiver located on a tall building, hill, television broadcast tower, or other elevated location. The transceivers in our cars are good for “line-of-sight,” say, five miles, and is impacted by trees, buildings, etc. Ham clubs install repeaters which simultaneously receive and retransmit a ham radio signal, which increase the line of sight 25 miles or more all directions. Repeaters obviously make communications easier.

Repeaters also act as neighborhoods. The hams who are experimenters may choose one repeater for most of their conversations, while those who prefer ham radio’s role in public service may choose another. However, when a storm is brewing, we tend to switch to the repeater that relays information to the weather service. We may frequently visit other “neighborhoods,” but there is usually one or two that we prefer.

Driving to work in the morning, I chat with four or five of the thirty or so hams who frequent one particular repeater. What do we talk about? Nothing in particular, but we tend to follow a long dead practice in that we generally avoid discussing politics, sex, and religion; this was once an expectation in social conversations but disappeared from general practice about the time that cable news arrived.

Live and telephone conversations are duplex, meaning you can speak and listen at the same time—an essential element for arguments. Ham radio, however, is not, so one person speaks while the others listen, waiting their turn. The repeaters also have a timer—usually 90 seconds—after which it stops transmitting. This “encourages” hams to not dominate a conversation. (Imagine if cable news had these features.)

My morning chats on the way to work are pleasant, and kind of ease me into the mindset I need when I get to work. I find that it puts me in a far better mood than listening to the news or hearing one song followed by fifteen commercials.

There’s a lot to be said for just chatting.


* A transmitter and receiver in one unit

** Ham – a nickname for amateur radio operators. Why? Nobody knows.

Real Fake News!

According to a study at Stanford University,* people are not very good at telling the difference between real news and fake news..

Since our society believes that critical thinking is as arcane as reading the classics in the original Latin or Greek, it’s no wonder. Besides, it’s how things make you feel that’s important.

Perhaps I’ve always been more skeptical than most, but then, as a child I grew up with advertisements that claimed that nine out of ten doctors recommended a particular brand of cigarette.

There was Senator Joe McCarthy who claimed there were 57—or maybe it was 205—(the number is in dispute) communist party members in the State Department. Of course, he made the whole thing up. In any case, this caused a witch hunt throughout the country; Hollywood actors were blackballed and people were afraid that there was “a Red under every bed!”

Then there was Richard Nixon.

So, you can see why I tend to react to exorbitant claims with, That’s interesting—now prove it.”

Today, anyone can write the headlines. Social media is available to anyone, but instead of acting as an open forum for thoughtful discussion, it has become a “can you top this” free-for-all.

Fact is immaterial compared to sensationalism. In a world of “Breaking News” the web is hungry for ANYTHING to publish, often rerunning stories it published two weeks ago, and a week before that, and . . . .

I’d write more, but now I must go to my secret access to Area 51 for a meeting with Bill Gates, Elvis, and the head of Steve Jobs—kept alive in a jar connected to a constant supply of special nutrients. Together, along with our extraterrestrial business associates, we’re busily working on the fourth world order.



* Read the Stanford University newsletter article and especially the Executive Summary of the study.


At times, I feel a bit old because I prefer 1960-1980 Rock and Roll music. I like movies made during same time—or earlier, particular the classic Hammer horror films. Maybe I like stability—or worse, the status quo.

Today’s world does confuse me in some ways. For example, I’m befuddled by the fact that “Survivor” has been on television as long as my younger son (now in college) has been alive. Yes, I know some soap operas and game shows have been on longer and the Simpsons show is practically an institution. At least Star Trek has had a half-dozen, or so, recastings.

I’ve been using computers for 47 years and owned at least one computer since about 1980, so I’m neither a Neanderthal (well, not full blooded, anyway) nor a Luddite. However, my fit into this world is not like it once was, and I can’t explain exactly why.

While it’s true that I can’t grab a chainsaw and cut up a fallen tree anymore—much less split the wood with an axe, that isn’t a deep regret. My thinking may be slower, but it’s also more deliberate. After all, I now have data based on years of experience and even a bit of wisdom that I never considered in my younger days.

So what does that make me?

I’m vintage, like the muscle cars from my high school years or one of Mozart’s Concertos.

Like fine wine and cheese, one year’s results will be quite different from another. I like to think that I would be described as “Bold yet subtle, with a wonderfully complicated blend of flavors; this requires a connoisseur’s palate to appreciate—the millennials and Gen-Xers will undoubtedly not be able to appreciate the complexity. Although quite interesting, should be allowed to age even longer which should enhance the mellowness.”

Yeah, I can live with that.