Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Last One for '14


The year-end wrap-up episode of Fo Time – the other ham radio podcast, here.  If you don't know what this is all about and don't want to spend much time finding out but are the least tad curious, this 45 minute wrap-up is the one to listen to.

I swear, it's like the guy's a normal, upbeat person or something.

I really did intend to knock out a couple more posts between the that last year-end post and the actual end of the year, but work and stuff got in the way.  Ah well, have a good evening.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Year-End Roundup


If the Sea Coast Echo and Messy Nessy do it, I guess I'll have to put together a year-end "best of" list now.  Going through each month's posts, here's the one I'd pick as "best."  Though I have to admit, several months weren't all that great while other months had several good ones.  In monthly order:
Battle of the Johnsons
Battle of the Four Ryes
I Want My Blues!
Opening of The Shop
Antique Shop Find
Father's Day
Best Theremin Video on the Net
Movie Review: Pickup on South Street
Don't Let This Happen to Your River
Wild Horses at the Trails Today
Return of the "Russian Woodpecker"?
A New Take on the Fermi Paradox

OK, that's the review for the year.  Will return with more creative stuff later.  Maybe tomorrow.

Top 10 stories from The Sea Coast Echo


Hmmm, it is getting down to the end of the year.  Here's the link.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


Here, have a Christmas Comet:
NASA apod permalink  The natural green color is explained there.

Not a lot to say, we've got one clear day of blue-sky weather for Christmas so it's back to the festivities.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sleep Monster


I don't know if it's the Depths of Winter, healing shoulder, or something else, but I've been sleeping eight plus hours a night.  That's unusual for me, a six-hour man if there ever was one.  Ah well, anyway, here's something better than decaf coffee for those late-night cups:
It doesn't have that weird decaf taste because it never was caffeinated to begin with.  It's more of an "herbal coffee" thing.  Mix in some warmed half-and-half, pretend it's a late evening down at Cafe du Monde, and it's goodnight sleep tight.  BTW, it it's not available locally, you can get it straight from the manufacturer here or from an online specialty grocer here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice Already?


Yeah, I guess so.  No wonder I slept so late this morning.
photo credit: NASA APOD

Well Merry WhateverFloatsYourBoat!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A new take on the Fermi Paradox


Simply stated: The universe is largely populated by super-intelligent AI robots, and we're too stupid and boring to to have a meaningful conversation.

Here's the popularized article.
Here's the original academic article.

To be fair about the content of these two articles, it doesn't directly tackle the Fermi Paradox but rather is a speculative try at describing what kind of alien beings we may encounter in the coming decades.  The answer to the Paradox just kind of falls out of it. 

I'm not sure I'm on board with this idea of a universe full of SAI, but it is intriguing.  More to the point though, here's my question: can AI observation cause a collapse of mixed quantum states into a single, sensible result?  That is, what happens if you make an AI, however advanced, the observer in a Schrodinger's Cat experiment?  I suspect that the answer is no, that it's just the old Chinese Room scenario, and that the observation stack is merely pushed up one level.

Maybe that's why these hypothetical SAI robots keep us around: we keep reality happening.  (Remember folks, you heard it here first!)



This post wouldn't be complete without a link to the Wikipedia article on Fermi's Paradox, so there it is.  Also, it seems like a good time point to the now classic sci-fi story They're Made Out of Meat.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Deserves Another Round of Eyeball Time


Sure, it's a year or so old, but it still kicks over the smirkbox:


From xkcd.  permalink

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Slate: Don't Count AM/FM Out Yet


Link to article.


Haven't even finished reading it yet, but (a) I've got to get to work, and (b) everyone else interested in radio is linking to it, so I might as well too.  Will comment on its contents later.

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Later comment:  Here's the key quote from the article:
"... we still made more money before lunch today than Pandora has made in its entire history.”
Yes, that does sum things up nicely.  Now if the terrestrial radio industry will start working on improving content, they'll do fine.  It does kind of whiff of the U.S. auto industry circa 1971 though.  Things are still profitable, and there's time and capital to turn this ship around, but they'd better get their butts to work.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend in the Woods

... camping with the ham club.  Didn't bring a bike, had lots of help setting things up.  You ever go camping one-handed?  Everything has an extra little chore component to it, but it's still fun.  Managed not to impede further healing of the collarbone and the fresh air did me a lot of good.

More later.  Soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

(Sorta) New Buffett Album


"Songs from St. Somewhere" – meandering songs about surfing physicists, a rock-out duet with Toby Keith about being too drunk to karaoke, another tune about Katrina insurance money....  If it's not precisely my life, it does at least scoop up some friends and acquaintances along the way.

Good stuff, recommended.



But it's been out for a year and a half.  How did I miss this?  Just been too busy breaking things, I guess.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Two New Books

The cover pages show their obvious appeal:

The plonking sound you hear is these two firmly landing in my Amazon cart.  Expect more commentary on them here next month, however in the meantime you can read an interview with the author over at Bicycle Times.

As for the bacon diet, while I'm not exactly sure of what's in the book, I suspect that it's similar to what I've been doing since late August, which has me down by 16 lbs to date and has pretty well cured my asthma.  Still, I'm going to get and read it.  If for no better reason, it just looks like a fun read.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Finding Good, Cheap Food in The Atlantic


The magazine, not the ocean.  This isn't an article on seafood.  Anyway, here's the article, written by an economist, on how to maximize your return on restaurant-spent dollars.  Interesting bag of tricks.

BTW, hat tip to the Darling Daughter for sending this and the article blogged on Saturday about the benefits of coffee.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Digital Broadcast Radio Sample


Here's the sample page, from Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM).  Most of the stations on the displayed map have two buttons, one for ordinary AM and one for DRM.  Of particular interest is the pair in the lower right hand corner, showing what is possible at a very low bit rate over a very noisy propagation path.  Go over there and click around for a few minutes.

Some comments...

(1) When are we in the U.S. going to push this non-functional withering-on-the-vine IBOC hybrid standard overboard and get serious about digital signals on the current AM broadcast band?

(2) We're so far off the back on in this field that even Pakistan is years ahead of us.

(3) Back to the DRM demo page, in particular that lower-right sample, it's pretty remarkable what can be done with such a low data rate.  That sample was transmitted at 16 kbits/s, and punched through a noisy path that would make ordinary AM nearly unlistenable for spoken voice, let alone enjoyable for music.  (More details about the relationship between bit rate and noise can be found at the article on the Shannon-Hartley theorem at Wikipedia.)

(4) Digital Radio Mondiale  Digital Rights Management.  Calling this open digital radio standard "DRM"  in the U.S. is a sure kiss of death with anybody under 35, or for that matter anybody else who's been paying attention.  Say "DRM" in front of most tech-savvy folks and the next thing you'll hear is "Oh great.  How much will we have to pay Microsoft this time?"  When in fact, Digital Radio Mondial is an open standard that has nothing to do with fees and software lock-in.  But remember: If you have to explain don't bother.  Call it "DRW" or something else in the U.S., or it's DOA.

OK, thus ends the rant, now begins the wait.  Waiting for what, you ask?  Waiting for the AM broadcast band to completely crash in this country, clearing the business space for a full-on digital rebirth.  Waiting to pick up spectrum allocation and possibly hardware at fire sale prices.  Waiting for this investment opportunity.  I predict five to ten years.

ps:  One more item for the list:
(5) Content, Content, Content.  If there's nothing worth listening to, it doesn't matter how clear the signal comes in.

Several Hobbies in One

Here's several hobbies rolled into one.  This guy in Colorado enjoys hiking.  And ham radio.  And goats.  So, he pushes all three together, using his goats as pack animals to haul his gear up various peaks and get on the air at high altitudes.
Here's his ham biography page at QRZ.
Here's his youtube channel.  It's pretty funny.
Here's a recent interview at a ham-focused podcast.

Not completely my cup of coffee, but I can think of worse ways to spend the days.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Yes, More Coffee Please


From over at The Atlantic we have The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like.  In Yet Another study, the only downside was a slight tendency toward higher glaucoma rates.  Apart from that, cancer suppression, increased lifespan,  the well-known fatigue fighting properties, pain relief, antidepressant properties, the list of plusses goes on.

Nothing like a little bit of good news to go with a fresh cup of coffee.

Pretty Good.


From over at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site:



Very nice.  You can read more on Orion, Delta IV Heavy, the Common Booster Core (not to be confused with a Common Core booster), and yesterday's successful test flight over at Wikipedia.  Go, edjumacate yourselves.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December 4th Ward Cleaver's Up


And you can read it here.


Hmmm, it is starting to look all Christmasy, now that you mention it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell Interviewed over at Slashdot

As usual, insightful and slightly off-kilter views of the world.  Link here.
I'm not entirely sure that this quite warrants the "big ideas" tag, but I'm feeling generous.

15,000 Bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey Stolen

Be on the look out.  Let me know if you find any.  Details over at Fox.