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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

a very merry Christmas

despite 3 inches of new snow, we had some family over before I went off to work, double time and a half.  this is the celebration of Christ's birthday, and we had a great day for it.  hope you did, too.

Monday, December 23, 2013

what is a BiteCon worth?

I don't believe in the pseudo-cryptic "currency alternative" called Bitcoins.  or around these parts, BiteCons.  no backing and no insurance, no fleets of auditors certifying there is actually any billions of dollars of anything behind them.

here's two interesting questions for all and sundry: you can get BiteCons either by passing over real money, or by mining. mining involves doing a metric-load of mathematics to catch a cache that releases every 10 minutes.

(1) what are these calculations really worth,

(2) and to whom, for what?

inquiring NSA searchers, do you want to know? suppose they are hydrocodes?  a cross-reference table of "if part A, then part B is the crack" for every piece of encryption in commerce?

is this just a miracle of multiplication that some person/team of unknown origin put out a paper on, or is there some Iran or Wackostan behind the game with alterior motives.

all unknown.

this could be a mere Ponzi scheme, and on day X, whoever is behind this takes all the "real" money that bought BiteCons and run for the islands and some hammocks and rum.

finally how many Flooz buys a BiteCon?

and how many folks really believe they get something for nothing?

Friday, November 15, 2013

winter's coming


$1300 in fuel oil, and two trips by the furnace guy, and we still have an intermittent someplace in the furnace startup sequence.  something is failing, but we have to either wait it out, or start schlepping in parts... $200 here, $800 there.  neither the serviceman or I are parts slingers, so I check the stat when I get up and when I get home.

Cheryl's car has started to sputter, so it's time for Techron in both our tanks.  I sloshed some in my sister's car last time I was in the hometown.

we have leaves 2 to 6 inches thick in the back yard, and we hope to beat rain Saturday morning and get them taken care of.

laid in my winter kerosene for the Ham Cave, so that can stay warm.  I have redone the cable entry so there is a PVC wiring box and that ought to cut down wind infiltration.  get my internal common ground bar hooked up this weekend, and should be tweaked up enough to see if my antenna does anything useful besides receiving.

got two weeks to get all the pictures hung in DeBasement, and we should be about ready in case this is our year for Thanksgiving company.  I have to work 6am-2pm, so there won't be anything really special cooked, unless we get into the ham.  our Thanksgiving will be on the Saturday otherwise.  emergency backup plan is probably pizza.

still adjusting to a new Win8 laptop in the Ham Cave, and it periodically does stupid things like jump out of this edit to Lord knows where.  I suspect I won't ever adjust, Cheryl has the same issues with her Win7 laptop.

and that's going to have to be in, from here, for now...

Friday, November 1, 2013

got a new contract, so I'm moving up

... well, sorta.  the contract we rejected is basically the one our union accepted, so the money in savings can be spent on what we should have done while we were waiting for a contract.

so the fuel oil guys will come Friday or Monday for our winter fill.  the Ham Cave computer is going out of support on the last big piece, Windows XP, so it was laptop time (price-sensitive purchase, of course.)

have fed the neighborhood ghouls their yearly allotment of free candy.

the cats just killed a red cactus.

and other than that, there is nothing of significance going on around here.  things we have to catch up on, but that's happening in little bits.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

the more intense wait

vote is in... 54% NO, 46 % yes, and the tentative contract is rejected.

CTL workers in the old 14-state Qwest area, who were former Qwest/US West contracted, are now in the 96 day cooling-off period, working through October 3rd at this point.

this is a time of checking medicine cabinets and getting things ordered that you can.  I'm in pretty good shape for everything except the asthma stuff, which I messaged my doctor about.  get it refilled while I've still got time.

there are cracks in the clouds... the company could impose the new contract, which is acceptable for some of us.  there could be quick renegotiations to patch the worse hits and a revote, in which case we would continue the old contract day by day, as we have for 12 months.

or CTL could impose some rancid piece of crap like "two bucks a month and all the abuse we can dish out," in which case we'd just walk out.  they could lock us out.

I think the district 7 website will get close to melting down over the week.  there will be busy signals at the locals' progress numbers.

in the meantime, however, we just get 'er dun.  our last CEO in Qwest was quite fond of the Bell System painting series "Spirit of Service," and that's how we do our jobs.  that won't change.

there are a lot of anti-union consultants giving companies the same old bash-em, smash-em, be glad you're not in Bangladesh mimeo sheets on how to kick worker butt.  CTL gets those services.

the only way to protect ourselves as workers is to be Union Strong, all day long.

and if I have to put my 6 red shirts in the back of the closet and reach for the snake shirts, I can do that.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Another long wait

the vote is in on the CenturyLink contract, but not counted.  that doesn't happen until deadline passes for locals to report their totals, at 1700 mdt.

I may have been the only one in the building to have voted for it, so the second shoe could drop pretty quickly.

if ratified, families on the CTL plan take a drubbing.  singles, a trim, not a haircut.  there are givebacks in the health care, which are allegedly to be made up by annual bonuses about equal to the loss.  however, the bonuses are taxed at income rate, so it's still a loss.  field tech categories actually get guaranteed minimum percentages of the work, which should be a win for the outside crews.

but negotiations went nowhere, and finally, the lawyers on both sides tossed out silliness to get an agreement for voting.  I am of course not providing much for detail, because it's not my place.  we did much worse than ATT did in their contract.

and so, with projects always ready to start and training and stuff, I wait.  yes, that stuff stays inside.  I am on overtime lists for the weekend, too, and so my 3-day weekend is not being planned and used efficiently.

that's life in the big city.

so if it's ratified, I have savings I can pile into some bills.

if not ratified, the company has the right I'm told to implement any old damn thing they want.  they could pat the tentative agreement and say "take it."  they could say "well, two bucks a day and all the abuse you can eat."

the union national office has the ability to say "shove that, we're out."  they also have the ability to restart negotiations, say they'll work under the imposition and allow it to be binding, or whatever.  they went into negotiations 14 months ago with a strike vote under their arms.

this could also be a stepping stone.  negotiators have been going to every local they can schedule saying there are a lot of little bitty COs within our 14 state territory that have the ability to come into our contract, which is better than anything they're working under as former United/Sprint/Embarq offices.  that would substantially increase bargaining power in 3 years.

lot of nervous-sounding low talk in the hallways Thursday.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Am I the only one who caught the big steal?

Heading into the Labor Day weekend, Verizon announced it was buying the 45% of their wireless phone system from Vodafone they didn't own.  The Brits sneaked in through buying Airtouch from PacBell and Qwest in the early 2000s, because they couldn't afford to upgrade the system to 2G.

Ever since, Vodafone has been glomming 7 billion dollars from the partnership by, basically, just sitting and whistling.  That's double what Verizon averages to upgrade the network each year.

Well, the big steal became apparent Monday.  See, Verizon is issuing half of $130 billion in stock, and borrowing the rest.  The stock, of course, goes to Vodafone.  So does the cash.  Highway robbery in the extreme.

The best part: Vodafone has announced of the $130 billion, the second largest M&A in history, they are slipping $86 billion to their shareholders.  Cash-starved European wireless and cable operator, and they are piecing off the stock market with 2/3 of the take.

Bastards tripled and soaked in oil.

I would like to see the SEC bar the transaction as excessive profit, not earned.  Not even close.  You have to go to the "too big to fail" banks that almost took down the economy to find a bigger ripoff.

And the bastards are STILL not out of the vault because of all that stock!

Geez, I thought the banksters were crooks.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In fact, the hamshack is top priority now

More or less.  I have got a workbench shelf for the test equipment built, and loaded up.  Except for my variable power supply, which had a number of, ahhh, ill-advised interconnects in it.

So I'm ramping up.  Bent two chassis and whistled up the large parts I don't have, will build two identical separate units.  Amping up to both current and voltage regulation, 4 amps continuous, should be able to dial in anything up to 30 volts when done.  I have a slew of 2a identical transformers, and so will parallel them through small-value dropping resistors, just like you parallel power transistors.  Yeah, identical transformers can be put in parallel without large circulating currents, yeah yeah yo'momma.  Who was watching the folks on whatever island was above water 20 years ago when they made the transformers for Radio Shack for QC?  So I'm going to do a little protective designing this time.

Biggest issue I had was a common ground between positive and negative supplies, and they went all kiddywompus when I put a load on them.  Separate supplies with no case ground on output unless you strap it down ought to take care of that one.  Got meters to rescale, and all that stuff, so we're just building two supplies out of the old NatSemi linear databook.

Next, I have some old 78s of family history that I have to push into the shack computer and get on CD before everybody dies out.

Trying to get the place sorted out before it gets too cold.  Oh, and there's some rot on the North wall at the bottom outside from yet another build flaw by the previous owner.  This I'm going to cut out and Bondo, because there are roof soffits and stuff built over the north/south walls.

No end of projects anywhere, including the Ham Cave.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hola, amigos. Been a long time since I rapped at ya...

And now that that's over with.

Got the last of the cabinetry done, with the new dovetailed drawers and fronts done in the laundry room.  I'm working on cleaning up the ham shack, and the next project is probably going to be stacking the test equipment to see what risers and shelves I need to build to get that hodgepodge of doorstops on the bench, ready to work, and get my transceiver projects off the floor and under way.

Got the antenna mast replaced, the droopy trap dipole is now up to about 41 feet HAAT.  Evening action before bedtime at 9:30 to 10:00 is a little weak, I'm going to have to shoot some SWRs or find some benchmark settings for the tuner and see if there's anything other than dimwitted birds to snag with it.  At least it's not a worm-warmer any more.

Just so many things to get done around here, and no lottery cash to hire a crew, point, and say "fix all that."

We have a tentative contract at work with CenturyLink, voting in give or take a month.  Not a lot of cheers in the union hall last Wednesday, but I don't think I get much of a haircut from it.  Folks with families on the health plan, though, are growling like somebody just smoked them out of their dens.  That's getting typical in the workplace now.  There was some two-tiering, which is just getting the old hands and the new hires to fighting in the parking lot.  Ought to be outlawed.  Let the rich take off on their yachts and leave the rest of us alone.  And that goes double with sprinkles for politics.

But I digress.

No, I don't.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

cars, weather, and The Evil Plots Ruining My Life!!!!!!!!!!!!

and a few extra !!!!!!!!!!!

phew, I feel better now.  best not look at the forecast again.

I can't get all the rattling trim in the drivers side door of The Great White Whale glued together.  even under load from a bunch of lumber and wedges holding them in.  going to have to spend the weekend in Cheryl's car while mine chews on a tube of silicone rubber, I guess.

presuming she doesn't have another issue.  brake lines to the back of the car rusted out while she was on the road yesterday.  $300 later, the longest one with obvious leakage is replaced.  there are others that need work.  work best done by guys with hydraulic lifts and Mitchell manuals telling what the flat rate is for their labor.

I have some of that too, but no rust-outs yet.

now, about that weather.  I am clamping the NSFW filters to the computer here with 20-ton jacks.  rain all week, except when it's snow and sleet.


and of course, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

they're breakin' up that old gang of mine

I had tenuous ties to the glory days at WDAY-TV, the 60s and early 70s when I was old enough as a broadcast brat to know something special was happening there, and young enough to learn at the knees of the experts without getting handed any tasks.  Warmed my back many an afternoon at the 7-foot racks of tubes in the microwaves, sync generators, and processors in Master Control waiting for Dad to take me home from riding the bus to the library.  Read the wire services tick...tick... tick... tick at a time on the 50 characters per minute Teletypes.  Jumped to the side when there were footsteps of somebody running down the halls or up the stairs so I didn't get trampled.

The days when a ratings disaster was a 71% share, and national lead in news ratings went as high as 87 and 93 percent.  That is almost every damn TV in the viewing area, and at least one screen burning in each of the competitive stations.  WDAY was NBC's highest-rated affiliate station in the early 70s year after year, and the gloom in 30 Rock was like they lost their licenses the day WDAY followed KSTP in jumping to ABC because NBC's geniuses thought they'd make more money cutting the affiliate payments for carrying network shows.

But I was there, splicing junk film, staying out of the way, and learning lots about life from the likes of Howard Graber, John Tilton, Al Kobul, Pete Fenney, Bob Aronson, and the gang.  Including Marvin Bossart, Boyd Christensen, and Dewey Bergquist.  And Dad, of course.

Last I heard, Aronson was retired in Florida.  Couple decades ago, he was Rudy Perpich's Press Secretary, and part of the job entailed calling trusted contacts many weekends asking, "Got any idea where Rudy's at?  State Patrol can't find him anywhere!"  That Governor was pretty much prone to escaping to the back rooms and cabins Up Nort' and chatting with his friends.

The last domino beyond him fell yesterday, as Marv finally succumbed to the effects of Parkinson's disease.  He got 42 years out of the place, on par with some of the greyest hairs in the history of the place.  And he was a big part of the tradition of professionalism, community concern, and "get it right" that made WDAY not just an institution for having the oldest call letters in the Northwest US, but for being trustworthy.  Gentle, fun-loving, a stickler for the right word in the right place with his copy, killed his Royal typewriter four or five times, the type bars flying off the fingers, until Gaffney's ran out of parts.  "Cheap" jokes flew like sparrows in the spring, for he spent as much time as he could with his family and at the lake place.  Among the last feet of film shot was a prank in which a couple kids were persuaded to do chores wearing T-shirts saying something like "Marv is Cheap," and that blue/green mess from bad film was slid into both the 6 and 10 PM newscasts around Marv's back.

Marv went from black and white TV to live satellite trucks.  There were transistors in the chain of geegaws by the time he got to Fargo, breaking up the 1953 walls of tubes, but that's the only earthquake in the technology of the business he missed.  And slid through them all on top, because that's just stuff.  Reporting, writing, consulting, refining, questioning, and then presenting the news is unchanging.

The last of the lions from my era.

Requisat im Pace.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Winter with Frickin' Lasers on its Head

this sucks.  April 22nd.  we had a forecast of maybe light rain for a week.  Saturday, they changed it to rain/snow mix, up to a half inch Sunday night.  Sunday, same.  Sunday night at bedtime, they changed it to a Winter Storm Warning for 4-6 inches of snow Monday through Tuesday morning.  this morning while I slept, they changed it to a 6-9 frickin' inches of goddam snow.

every time the grass peeks through, we get whaled again.

this is getting way old.

meanwhile, in Fargo, they are sandbagging for yet another record flood and making another half-million sandbags yet, for a total in the 2 million neighborhood.  we expect a "light switch" Spring... from 9 inches of snow Monday to 70s on the weekend, and 50s and 60s in the long-range forecast.  I think this forecast model is the Burns/Krusty Max Profit Model, where anything goes in Springfield as long as you can shake an extra buck out of somebody's pocket.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

my "rap name" is N. O. Soul

Hola, amigos, been a while since I rapped at ya, but they stopped paper copies of The Onion in the Twin Cities.

no, seriously, there isn't all that much happening since we basically completed DeBasement.  two window blinds to install.  and that's it.  been downstairs watching TV, and when it's more interesting, watching the Cat Show on the floors, walls, furniture, plants, and other items all around us.

but then, this is The World's Least-Read Blog (tm), so who cares?

too cold and snowy to garden.  too snowy and icy to go out to the shed and dig down to find the ham gear.  had a week of jury duty blocked out.  yawn.  Cheryl is spending some weeks on the road doing union organizing, so it's been batch time at the old homestead.

have to prune a tree and blow out the driveway when it warms up tomorrow.  when it really springs Spring around us, I have another antenna to sling, and some car repairs, and this and that and the third thing.  and I really ought to install a cap on the sump well and plumb in an active radon reduction system.

but for now... our long-awaited time for relaxation is here.

oh, our cats.  we had to rename them Bonnie and Clyde for the terrorizing they cause in the household ;)  still haven't been able to corral them for the vet trip.  Clyde is the cuddle cat in the morning, and Bonnie in the evening.  in between, they are pretty much inseparable, like left side and right side.