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Showing posts from January, 2019

Blogfading and podfading and what comes next

One of the blogs I follow in Feedly appears to have wrapped it up today and that makes me wonder yet again if this format, this medium (an appropriate word if we are treating this as a creative outlet or art), is slowly fading away.

You could argue that the blog concept has been ruined by marketers that use the term blog to promote their products or their lifestyles or products that support their lifestyles and that might be true. When I think of the word blog in 2019, even I think of ending up on a site where the first thing that happens is a pop-up pleading for my email address appears and I can close it out only to have it pop back up before I can even read half of the article I am there to read.

This picture has nothing to do with this post but here it is, documenting how chilly it is here but how lucky we are that it is not far worse like it is just to our north. A rapid warm-up is on the way for us after today.

Personal bloggers like myself are becoming extinct. And, personal bloggers that became personal podcasters also appear to be heading in that same direction.

I'm intrigued by newsletters. I've toyed with that idea before but never got it off the ground. I subscribe to a few and I'm always disappointed when they end up also steering into marketing territory and that seems to happen a lot.

The blogger that I mentioned at the beginning of this post has one of my favorite newsletters. Every week, it inspires me to want to create my own but so far, I just don't have the time or energy to do it right like he does so I will stick with the occasional blog post and the podcast for now.

I may be in the minority but I enjoy it and find inspiration when people share bits of their lives whether through a blog or a podcast or a newsletter.

I like them allowing me to peek in the window at what they are doing or what they are thinking about or what they are worried about or what unique place they have been that is probably not unique to them at all but is sure different from my regular trips to Walmart and I guess in a way my regular trips to Walmart might be unique and different to some folks.

Of course, times change and mediums for creativity and sharing evolve. Who knows where we will be posting stuff a few years from now.

Blergh Monday

Every time I got close to doing something even slightly creative today, I got stopped.


There seemed to be no end to to-do’s today.

Chores.

Paperwork.

Phone calls.

Even one place still in the dark ages where I had to choose between mailing and faxing papers.

Email? Nope, they can’t accept emails. So much for the technological revolution.

And it appears we’re going to miss out on the snow which is a shame because my hopes were up for a lot of things I have to do getting cancelled this week. I was looking forward to spending that free time reading.

Now I get two nights of pipe watch instead.

Blergh.

I guess this post counts as something creative, kinda, sorta.

Twitter is putting raisins in the salad

Twitter is about to force out the annoying Home/Recent Tweets toggle out to the browser interface. It's already on my iPad and iPhone and it's frustrating as all get out, especially when I am opening Twitter to see weather information via the various sources I follow and the timeline has switched itself back to Home so it's all out of order.


Sadly, there is no good alternative (yet) to Twitter. Instagram suffers from an algorithm that seems to be even worse and Facebook is a steaming pile of crap.

I wonder why Facebook stinks so much? Maybe it's because the people we are "friends" with are or were real former friends or they are relatives or acquaintances and we're more reluctant to unfriend them so their trash posts seep through while we can be a bit more selective on Twitter. I don't know.

Back to the new Twitter deal, at the moment, I think I still tweet about as much as I ever did but I find myself only opening the app when I have something to share or when I want to post about the comics I read in the morning.

I am less likely these days to open the app at lunch and scroll down through the timeline to catch up because I never know if it will open to Home or Recent Tweets and I just feel like forcing an algorithm on us is more manipulation on top of all of the manipulation that social media is based on that I try not to think about and you know the toggle will go away eventually no matter how they deny it so it's better to break the reliance on the app now!

Arrrgghhh!

What's my mission?

I have no defined, guiding mission for this site.


Same with the podcast.

Should it be light, entertaining fluff and a diversion from the ups and downs of your day?

Or should it be a real-life snapshot of what's on my mind during the moment that I press record?

Episode 415 of the podcast, coming out later today, is a bit of a departure (as was last week's episode) because in the past I have leaned towards the light, entertaining fluff and that has resulted in many deleted recordings or moments when I considered recording but I just didn't and then I felt resentment when eventually recording and posting light, entertaining fluff.

Episode 415 is filled with real-life snapshots of what has been on my mind. There is no light, entertaining fluff. It's me and my frustrations with our government and our society and myself and my inaction, etc. etc.

Episode 415 will have some of you scratching your heads. If you want me to be a far-left liberal, you'll be disappointed. If you want me to be a far-right conservative, you'll be disappointed.

In 2019, there is this trend for wanting everyone to take clear, extreme sides and you are right and everyone else is wrong. There is no middle ground and no room for compromise. And, as you can see if you pay attention to the news and don't just hang out in your little fort filled with people who agree with only you, it's getting us nowhere.

I don't know if episode 416 will be the same as episode 415. It takes a bit more courage and self-esteem than I typically have to pick up the recorder and just go and then actually post it, actually posting it being the toughest part.

But, this week, it's this or nothing so my apologies to those of you only interested in the light, entertaining fluff. There's plenty of that out there if that's what you are looking for. You can even create some yourself.

The reluctant shopper

I am doing my best in 2019 to avoid shopping and I won't say that it's going great but it is going OK. There is improvement!

I'm staying away from stores as much as I can but I still have to go to Walmart where I am always tempted to go down the clearance aisle and I got unfortunately validated by this by finding a pair of shoes in my size for half off after blowing out my poor old Sketchers during the last marching band season loading and unloading the truck.

But then, in a light bulb moment, I searched for the exact same shoes I had just tossed that were so very comfortable and bam! I found them on eBay from a liquidator for $20 NEW shipped while they cost $70 in the store. BUY IT NOW! They are currently on my feet.


So, I have two new pairs of shoes, both at bargain prices.

Still, I'm trying to get out of the habit of just going to Amazon and eBay at the slightest whim but I needed something so THE SEARCH WAS ON and I found what I needed on Amazon at what seems like a fair price so ADD TO CART! It will be here on Friday.

I need some stuff and I think it's fine to take time to shop around online and locally for what I need if it's worth the time, like getting the shoes for $50 off but sometimes it's not worth the time getting sucked into the void that is online commerce because I typically come away with something that either isn't exactly what I need or something extra that I certainly don't need but I convince myself it's a bargain because I NEED TO SPEND THAT MUCH TO GET THE FREE SHIPPING! OH YEAH FREE SHIPPING.

*nothing is free*

Example: this morning, I needed some inexpensive stuff so no big need to compare prices and I was pretty sure that Lowes would have what I need and I just pull up Lowes dot com and I write down the aisle and bay numbers and I head over there at lunch and get what I need INSTANTLY (no two day wait!) and I've already fixed what needed to be fixed here at the house.

But I don't need to aimlessly scroll Amazon and eBay indecisively trying to figure out what I need (there are SO MANY CHOICES!) and I don't need to aimlessly scroll Amazon and eBay just looking for bargains especially when I really know I don't need these things but it's a great deal so LET'S GET IT! WOO HOO BARGAINS!

So, I deleted those apps off my phone and tablet.

And, after Christmas, I didn't bring the little desk back out of the attic that my personal laptop used to sit on, making it accessible 24/7, so I've made online shopping and browsing just a tad more out of reach and it's working. I have to really need something to look for something now and I waste my time in other ways that don't center around the internet - mostly.

At least shopping is no longer recreational for me, a way to pass the time and waste the money.

Now, if I can just figure out a way to stay away from that clearance aisle.

Winter break comes to an end

Everyone is back to work and school today and I am holding fort here at the house in the home office with the three dogs. It's oddly quiet around here today and I typically find that silence hard to get used to at first but not this time. I think I have been ready to get back into the normal routine. I can turn off the radio or podcasts I am listening to and there is silence - GLORIOUS SILENCE!

Another winter afternoon on the deck with the radios

It was even warmer today (around 65 degrees) so I decided to spend a bit of time out on the deck with just the shortwave radios, the Tecsun PL-660 and the Tecsun PL-606 and this time I did remember to use the extended antenna on the PL-606 so the results were much better.


First, I ran an ETM scan across the shortwave bands and looked up each of the ten stations it put into the ETM memory. Then, I went up both the 31 meter and 49 meter bands with the PL-660 to see if it pulled in anything that the PL-606 did not.

Here are the results:
  • The usual suspects (high power locals) were back again today - WRMI in Miami, WINB in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, WTWW (which is only a few miles from my house) and Radio Martí but the Cuban jamming was not making it up here hardly at all today. 
  • Radio Exterior de España made an appearance today on 9690, transmitting from Nobejas, Spain at a distance of 4,339 miles. That was the furthest away catch on the PL-606.
  • The Cuban numbers station was whirring away with it's buzzing on 11635 kHz, loud and clear on both radios.
  • Stations unique to the PL-660 today included:
    • WBCQ from Monticello, Maine on 9330 kHz
    • Radio Saudi from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 9555 kHz - weak but audible - at a distance of approximately 7,226 miles.
    • China Radio International broadcasting in English on 9600 kHz and 9640 kHz from Western China at a distance of approximately 7,085 miles, also weak but audible
    • Radio Guinea was barely there at 9650 kHz today. Propagation conditions must not be as favorable as yesterday.
    • At 5940 kHz, there was a station I couldn't quite identify. I believe it was Radio Melodia transmitting from Peru.
    • At 5960 kHz, once upon a time a great Radio Canada International frequency, I heard Radio China International relayed from Albania coming in quite clear.
    • At 5980 kHz, a very clear signal from the Voice of Turkey with some great music at a distance of approximately 6,123 miles.
    • And last but not least, CFRX in Toronto was barely audible at 6070 kHz. The impressive part of getting it here is that they are only using about 900 watts of power while the Voice of Turkey is using 250 kilowatts to get over here albeit with better results. 
I don't believe this is going to become a regular feature of the site but from time to time, I plan to check in with some radio logs as we move further into this so far very spring-like winter. Next time I plan to get out there with just the Sangean PR-D4W and concentrate on AM and hopefully a bit later in the evening if the weather stays warm enough.

A Winter afternoon on the deck with the radios

It was a beautiful day here today with a high way up around 60 degrees and sunshine and I had nothing planned so I grabbed an Americano from Starbucks, my notepad and pencils and my radios and spent about an hour and a half out on the deck tuning around the shortwave and medium wave (AM) bands.

Radios from left to right: Tecsun PL-660, Tecsun PL-606, Sangean PR-D4W.

I started off with an ETM scan of the shortwave bands on my Tecsun PL-606. If you're not familiar with ETM (Easy Tuning Method), ETM scans the selected band and puts decently strong signals into temporary memory so you can quickly tune through what it found.

Unfortunately, I forgot to attach the antenna extender that came with the PL-606 so it did not pick up a whole lot but that's ok. I normally scan the bands quickly with the PL-606 and then slowly tune up and down the bands with the PL-660 which is quite fantastic on shortwave.

Some of the interesting catches I found on shortwave on my Tecsun radios today included:
  • Radio Martí on 9565 and 11930 and both frequencies were being jammed quite effectively by Cuba, so much so that the jamming overpowered the signal much of the time and I'm quite a bit further away from Cuba than I am from the transmitter for Radio Martí which is in Greenville, South Carolina. I'm guessing all people in Cuba hear is the jammer which is why this station seems like a big waste of money to me especially with so many government employees out of work!
  • Radio Guinea was coming in quite strong on 9650. I didn't realize they stay on that frequency for about eighteen hours a day.
  • The Voice of Greece was also coming in quite nicely on 9420 with some music. It was the furthest away station of the day at about 5,600 miles.
  • WINB is a station featuring mostly religious programming. It broadcasts out of Red Lion, Pennsylvania and I only mention it here because it typically doesn't come in too great but today sounded like it was right next door. I guess conditions were just right via 9625 kHz today!
My newest radio is my Sangean PR-D4W. I bought it for medium wave (AM) listening after seeing multiple reviews stating how good it is. In fact, it seemed just about too good to be true because I thought the PL-660 I have was pretty decent on AM and that radio only got two stars on Jay Allen's AM Portables Mega Shootout while the Sangean PR-D4W gets four and a half stars, almost at the top of the rankings.

Let me tell you - in my opinion, this radio is well-deserving of the four and a half stars. I have never owned a radio that performs as good as the PR-D4W on AM and I've been buying/selling/listening to radios since the early 80's. It continually surprises me with stations I have never heard here and that the PL-660 cannot bring in at all when they are sitting side by side. The Sangean also sounds better. The PL-660 is quite noisy in comparison.

Here are some of the interesting stations I heard on AM using the Sangean PR-D4W today. I do keep the Sangean on a small turntable (lazy susan) I bought on Amazon so I can face the radio in the correct direction to maximize the signal:
  • WHMT in Tullahoma, TN - this station is about 70 miles away on 740 kHz. With the PL-660, there was no signal at all. With the Sangean, it sounded like a local station at times. If I've heard it here before, I don't remember it.
  • WLW in Cincinnati at 700 kHz is a strong station. It booms in at night. I'm not used to it booming in at 3PM and it does on the Sangean.
  • Same for WSB on 750 kHz in Atlanta. The Sangean pulls it in during the afternoon like a local station.
  • On 720 kHz, I could turn the radio one way and pick up WGN from Chicago and then turn the radio a different way and listen to WGCR in Pisgah Forest, NC which is about 300 miles away and has a daytime coverage area that typically reaches no closer than about 100 miles away from here.
  • On 780 kHz, the situation was similar. Facing the radio one way brought in WBBM from Chicago, a station that is strong at night but that usually does not come in during the day. Facing the radio the other way brought in WPTN from Cookeville, TN which is about 40 miles east.
  • On 790 kHz, WQXI from Atlanta was coming in very clear and the signal map shows it shouldn't reach far out of Georgia. Fun fact: WQXI was a top-40 station in the 70's and the famous WKRP Turkey Drop is based on a Thanksgiving promotion they did which involved live turkeys being tossed out into a crowd at a shopping mall!
  • On 800 kHz, another station I don't believe I have ever heard here in the daytime - CKLW from Windsor, Ontario - a historic Top 40 station from the late 60's and early 70's but now a talk station.
  • Finally, on 850 kHz, I was able to slightly move the radio and pick up both WKVL in Maryville, Tennessee with a sports talk format and WPTK in Raleigh, North Carolina with an oldies format. Barely moving the radio would bring in one of the stations completely clear with no interference from the other station. 
For me, radio is still a fun hobby. I enjoy hearing the voices from just across the mid-state to all the way across the world and more and more I like the fact that radio features one voice talking to me at a time vs. the tons of noise we have coming into our lives today via social media and the internet. Radio provides me with a nice break from all of that and it's nice to still be doing something I was doing many years ago.

Welcome to the Word Hut

I finally got around to completing my template tweaks for this site for 2019. I had a few ideas in mind and I've managed to get back to a template that looks fairly uniform across phones, tablets and laptops. Blogger does you no favors in this regard - there are not many choices template-wise and customizing things is a bit of a pain.

But, the price of Blogger can't be beat. To have a Wordpress site with a custom url would cost about $100 a year plus the price of the domain. Here at Blogger, I can post for nothing! And that's about what these posts are worth so it all comes out even.

Since I went to using a subdomain, I also now have the freedom to change the title of the blog regardless of the url and picking a name was probably the most difficult thing about the whole process. I finally ended up with Jason's Word Hut because I'm Jason, of course, and there are words here, not to be confused with the podcast, and hut is reminiscent of Pizza Hut which was a fun place to go back in the late 70's and early 80's.


My hometown Pizza Hut closed many years ago and it was converted into a Mexican restaurant. That building was finally torn down last year.

In its heyday, there was a cocktail video game (I believe it was Galaga) and they sold the Priazzo which somehow became this big deal in pizzas for a very short amount of time. It was viral before viral was a thing!


Will Jason's Word Hut be a fun place? I do like pizza and Galaga and maybe some of the joy of those things will carry over to this site in the year ahead. It's hard to make a website smell like pizza so you'll just have to use your imagination.

Here's to 2019 and a year of writing that hopefully lies ahead. I hope to see more blogs pop up that I can add to the side menu over the next year.

Communication breakdown

I can't think of anything that frustrates me more than lack of communication. I think a lot of folks live in their own little worlds where they are the star of their own show and they don't think any of their plans or needs impact anyone else. So, they forget to or just don't bother to:
  • Put their events on the calendar
  • Add what they need to the grocery list
  • Tell anyone what they are doing until the very last second
  • Etc. etc. etc.


What I do and what I need to do and what I need to have bought for me (if I am not the one suffering through the weekly shopping and it's quite rare that I get a pass on that suffering) impacts the other people in my house. Of course, communication breakdowns can happen at work or in other parts of our lives also and the results are the same.

A little planning goes a long way to reduce confusion and avoid frustration, at least for me. 

I do everything I can to clearly communicate with everyone around me, often asking questions and repeating information to make sure nothing was missed and everyone is in the loop.

I wish everyone that had the power to add disruption to my life felt the same way.

Refuse the muse

As I stated on the latest Garbagecast when talking about resolutions, there were several times over the last week that I had an idea for something to write here and I resisted the urge, fulfilling my declared vacation from this site and from the podcast from Christmas Eve until, well, today.


It's tough for me to refuse the muse because I know there will be droughts in the creative life from time to time that can last days or longer so I always feel like I should give in to the creative urges when they come because there is no guarantee that those urges will come again anytime soon.

But I also know that breaks are needed and I haven't been all that great at committing to breaks in the past and eventually I have suffered the consequences by really hitting the creative wall after exhausting myself to the point of frustration.

I certainly wasn't productive at all during my break which was exactly the point. I put a few of the ideas I had in Todoist so not all was lost and here I am, back at the blog in 2019, eyes wide open and ready for the muse whenever an idea comes my way until the next break which currently is not even on the schedule.