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Why I became an Amateur Radio Operator…

I grew up exposed to all kinds of cool stuff, computers, telecommunications technology… getting to get my hands on government, commercial and military grade equipment as a kid (all above board, of course…) It was great!

QSL Card from His Majesty, King Hussein of Jordan

QSL Card from His Majesty, King Hussein of Jordan

One particular interest of mine was Amateur Radio. My Dad was always on it, made all kinds of friends from all over the place and making contacts all over the world, including King Hussein of Jordan [Callsign JY1], Patty Loveless [Call ex-KD4WUJ] and I as a kid even got to talk to Astronauts and Cosmonauts on the Space Shuttle and the Space Station! Indeed, some of the oldest friends of my family, and of my own, are/were Amateur Radio operators.

Realizing I was approaching my 30s and never having been licensed for such awesome stuff, and it having played a big part of my life. Why not get in on it? Why not enjoy the fun too? This was further expanded on by my friend Emmett Plant and a group he founded called TrekFan, which gives away a “starter kit” for those who are interested in Amateur Radio. I received by Gordon West book, my Baofeng UV-5R and a Raspberry Pi to begin some Amateur Radio over IP stuff with in the future.

After a couple of weeks of study, I took and passed my Technician Class license exam on 03 June 2014, getting my original callsign exactly one week later from the FCC.

In disasters ranging from Earthquakes, to Hurricane Katrina to 9/11, when communications go down, the last line of defense is Amateur Radio.

Tomorrow will be exactly one month since I got licensed, and I’ve already made new great friends, and reconnected with other ones I knew through Dad. I’ve still got a lot of learning to do, but I’m having a LOT of fun doing it. :D

73 from KA9PAZ   :D

I bet you know a few Amateur Radio Operators — and don’t even know it!

Laurel B. S. Clark, M.D.

KC5ZSU-SK, Captain Laurel B. S. Clark, M.D.

FO5GJ-SK, Marlin Brando [Actor]

EA0JC-SK,  King Carlos I [former King of Spain]

KD5ESI-SK, Dr. Kalpana Chawla [Died aboard Space Shuttle Columbia] 

KC5ZSU-SK Captain Laurel Blair Salton Clark, M.D., USN [Died aboard Space Shuttle Columbia]

- KC5ZTC-SK, Captain David M. Brown, USN [Died aboard Space Shuttle Columbia]

KG4UYY,  Lance Bass [Singer]

W5CY-SK, Howard Hughes [Business magnate, aerospace engineer]

KB2SGD-SK, Walter Cronkite [Media personality]

G3UML, Laurie Margolis [BBC Anchor]

9DRV-SK, David Packard [Co-Founder of Hewlett-Packard] 

NY6YOS, Priscilla Presley [wife of Elvis Presley]

- K1OKI, Mickey Schulhof [Head of Sony USA]

K2HEP, John Sculley [Former CEO of Pepsi and Apple Computer]

JY1, King Hussein of Jordan

JY1, King Hussein of Jordan

KA7EVD, Donnie Osmond [Singer]

UA1LO-SK, Colonel Yuri Gagarin [First man in space]

VU2SON, Sonia Ghandi [Indian Politician]

 

By scummingsvz Posted in think
Obama Announces End to Military Campaign in Afghanistan-post2014. Courtesy Reuters

The US War in Afghanistan draws to a[n official] close…

Fifteen years after the events of 9/11, when United States military forces were deployed to Afghanistan shortly after — the US War in Afghanistan will be over.

President Barack Obama announced a plan for the remainder of 2014 and beyond of the United States military presence in Afghanistan.  Stating that the official conflict itself would be over at the end of the current year.  The current number of troops listed by the White House, as of today, is 50,000.  By the end of the year, that number will be reduced to less than 10,000.  The remaining forces will be reduced gradually through 2015, to a complete withdrawal by the end of that year.

While the sitting President of Afghanistan, outgoing President Hamid Karzai has stated he would not sign the upcoming Status of Forces Agreement, the two individuals currently seeking election to become the nation’s newest Chief Executive have said they are both willing to cooperate with the United States on this timetable, according to Deutsche Welle.

A war that’s far exceeded the time-table of virtually any strategist, that will have included four presidential terms [both Bush and Obama's terms] and has resulted in a shattering blow to the Taliban and its insurgency, and its oppressive government, and even the death of Osama Bin Laden — for all the good and bad that’s come, is finally coming to a close.

While this is the beginning of the end of the War — the beginning of the War on October 7, 2001 was launched with orders, and an address from President George W. Bush:

By scummingsvz Posted in think
ol fed deficit

The Average American Taxpayer pays… WHAT?

If you’re a taxpayer in the United States, you may find it interesting how much you actually pay to businesses and other interests you already pay money to…

Thanks to some compiling by Moyers & Company, and a couple of other sources; I’ve put together a list:

- A policy analysis from the Cato Institute from 2012 shows that the United States Federal Government loses about $100 Billion a year to corporate subsidy, on everything from energy, to the food and housing industries.  With the methodology of 115 million families, that’s over $800 a year.

- The State and Local Governments themselves are different picture.  The New York Times ran an investigation that determined that State and Local (i.e., the County and City/Town level) gave on average $80 Billion.   That adds up to be almost $700 per year.

- Retirement Banking Fees are another hefty loss for taxpayers — on average costing over $350 per year; which assumes a 1% management fee per year of one’s retirement fund, and a middle-range percentile retirement fund amount as cited by the Economic Policy Institute was assumed to be about $35,000.

- A report by the International Monetary Fund reports that over $83 Billion winds up in interest payments on loans and banking.  That accounts to $722 per year.  A further sobering fact: the five wealthiest banks in the world, JPMorganChase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs account for THREE QUARTERS of these subsidies!

- Overpriced Medications were a surprise to me on this list — while the notion itself was not, the amount certainly was.  A study conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that US drug patent monopolies raises the price of prescription medications in the US by over $270 Billion per year!  That translates to over $2000 per year.

$870 per year goes to corporate tax subsidies, which total about $100 Billion per year, as mentioned by The Tax Foundation.  This includes everything from depreciation, and even experimental tax credits.

- Corporate Tax havens are a very serious problem.  Indeed, the US Public Interest Research Group found that the average taxpayer family paid $1231 per year to offset the losses by those [such as large banks and wealthy individuals] who offshore their monies to avoid taxation.

According to my calculations, that’s $4873 PER YEAR.  Almost five thousand dollars; assuming an average income of about $50,000.

Consider these numbers, when one looks at what they pay out for social programs:

- The Examiner released some information in 2012 about what Americans pay in social programs, such things as Education, etc.  A complete list can be found at that link, but leaving out the costs of Defense [as the Military Contract Industry is another racket in and of itself...], the costs turned out to be LESS than $500 PER YEAR.  This accounts for everything including Veterans Benefits spending, Housing, SSI, and even things like our contributions to the Railroad Retirement Fund!

…who should you *really* be mad at when it comes to who can’t afford what?  Where *IS* the “Big Government,” really?  I’ll let you decide.

I freely admit, I’ve abridged *some* information — mostly, related to Defense in Social Spending, but that, to me, doesn’t count…  and even then, admittedly, is only another $250 per year.  I also admit, I rounded *UP* on those figures — so the *actual* costs for Social Programs, are ACTUALLY a little lower.   But I’m a fair guy.

All of a sudden, the political cartoon above isn’t so ridiculous, is it?

I want to especially thank Moyers & Co., and Paul Buchheit for their work on compiling some of this data.

JCCT

China set to surpass the US Economically This Year — Wait, not so fast…

US-China-Economy-2011

US and China – 2011. Courtesy: WSJ Click for Larger.

While it’s true that the economy of People’s Republic of China [PRC] is indeed set to surpass that of the United States “soon,” [some estimates even say by the end of the current year] — that’s really not that important.  Here’s why:

The United States has held the top economic spot in the world for well over 120 years.  It turns out, if you count everything but sheer “mass money,” America still is the largest economy — and still will be for quite some time.  Here’s why:

Firstly, the Chinese market and economy is manipulated and controlled directly by the Chinese government.  While a lot of what goes on in China that involves international trade or business goes on in “Special Economic Zones” [which are areas that involve far less government intervention than anywhere else], its relatively safe to say that the Chinese economy, as such, is otherwise centrally planned and managed.  The world knows this, and this is something born in mind in any economist, businessman/businesswoman or otherwise when considering the economic power of the PRC.

Secondly, PPP.  Fareed Zakaria aptly demonstrates that the Purchasing Power Parity of the United States still far exceeds that of the PRC.  Indeed, Fareed’s demonstration of the same loaf of bread in China being bought for $1.66, compared to that of $2.39 on average in the States.  Further, his example of the cost of utilities, on average being a third the cost in the PRC compared to a similarly sized home in the US also further demonstrates the US’ superior PPP standing.

Quite so, when one analyzes the PPP of the US and China, China could combined its PPP with that of JAPAN and still not exceed that of the United States.  Indeed, China’s still not able to bank on its PPP — it has to pay for everything at the prevailing exchange rate — not the rate based on its PPP, unlike the US.  And this is just one singular example.

So… is China really overtaking the US economically?   In the words of Tom Wright at the Wall Street Journal, “Yes and No.”  You decide.

Further Reading:

- Tom Wright.  China’s Economy Surpassing U.S.?  Well, Yes and No – The Wall Street Journal Blog

- Chung-Tong Wu. China’s special economic zones: five years later – Asian Journal of Public Administration

- Fareed Zakaria  Is China really about to overtake the US? - Fareed Zakaria 360 – Global Public Square

Anti-Airbrushing Laws = …why?

JessicaAlbaShowsRetouching

Jessica Alba – Left Original, Right Retouched. Photo Courtesy Campari.

Recently, the internets have been abuzz regarding possible Anti-photoshopping/Anti-extreme photoshopping use in advertisements, claiming that ad agencies and companies are overusing photoshop and other airbrushing tools to make people self-conscious as to how they feel about themselves, because of unrealistic images given by ads.

I see two problems with this:

One, virtually everyone knows that advertising is always over-done, airbrushed, polished and given the best possible view as to what an item is. That $1 sandwich on TV isn’t what it looks like, usually… the car on TV isn’t always driving at 110 MPH on the road, with a license plate that matches the color of the vehicle, likewise, women aren’t all D-cup, 115 pound blondes of walking sex.

As we speak, Congress is currently considering the Truth in Advertising Act, which would, among other things reign in on airbrushing and excessive photoshop effect usage in advertisement — a good idea on the surface…  but…

That having been said, doesn’t the legislature have enough problems to deal with? Past consumer education on what *I* [admittedly...] consider non-issues, don’t we have Veterans Health benefits to worry about? What about school funding? Are we to believe that the government’s partisan infighting is over?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m for political-correctness… but… isn’t this taking it too far? Particularly when we have bigger issues to tackle in Congress? I mean, I’m a guy, so I’m not on the receiving end of a LOT of what society puts on people to be “pretty, sexy and hawtt,” but… what say you?

By scummingsvz Posted in think

What I learned… Laurel Sprague

laurelA lot of the time in high school, I called my Info-Tech teacher, Wanda Smith “Mom.”  She always kinda looked out for me, and even busted my chops a few times when I got things wrong — drastically wrong, one time…  When I graduated high school, I got a card from Wanda that said “You’re like a Son to Me…” and it contained wonderful words of encouragement on my future to come.  After my mother died, Wanda, of course, in the status as “High School Mom” kept a watch on me…  “I’m still Mom #2!” she’s said once or twice.

Coming up on graduation yet again — as I enter the final stretch, Laurel Sprague’s likely the one who holds the status of “College Mom,” as Wanda did and does for me from High School.  While I’ve only known her a little over two years, Professor Sprague and I hit it off right away as colleagues — spending up to an hour talking outside of class after class was over, frequently late to commitments we had after class because we had such interesting conversations on everything from political theory to adjunct faculty policy.

What I learned from Professor Sprague…

Over the summer after a class we had, she invited me to a lunch, asking how I was doing, how I did otherwise in my classes that term, and if I had any constructive criticism or statements on the class I had with her.  I was fortunate enough to even land an internship with her that day, too!

I found myself under her tutelage again this semester, which ended today — on Contemporary Political Theory.  While I’m far more versed (and comfortable, admittedly with the Classics of Political Theory, especially Social Contract stuff) — the good Professor saw I was having trouble almost right away.   “You’re not your usual, talkative self in class, Samuel!” she said at one point in one of our many after-class meetings.  After I said that this was a little out of my comfort and experience zone [in that I'd not studied much on the contemporary stuff we were covering] she offered to tutor me during her office hours, which, sadly conflicted with my work schedule — but I kept up the best I could.

This was a rough semester for me.   Between full-time work, more than a full time courseload, and all of a sudden now working full-time on a campaign too… but then presenting at our school’s largest academic conference, TOO,  I found myself in a very precarious position.  I was spread far too thin, and I had finally reached my breaking point.  While I didn’t break, I was *very* frayed… and in danger of it.  Things were further complicated with some personal problems, including a heart attack my father suffered in the last week of classes — when things were down to the wire.  While everyone, including the good Professor, was nice and even gave me some leeway on things due and presented that week because of it, the good Professor Sprague, being the unique individual she is, kept tabs on me.  At one point, she even ordered me to “Go home, and get some sleep,” because she could see I needed it.  She’s even let me poke fun at her once or twice with what I commissioned as the #Laurelmeme:

Image

I learned a lot from this woman — and while I’ve definitely earned better grades in her classes [even when she cut me some slack!] before, I’ve not only expanded my comfort zone a little in my theorizing, but I’ve also made a friend for life, I think.

While I don’t qualify for any more of her classes, I have a feeling I’m still going to be “reporting in” to the good Professor Sprague in the future.

Thanks for everything you’ve done for me — and for all your students, teach.  Serious students look for serious teachers like you to take the lessons they learn from you through the rest of their lives.   :-)

Memorable Quotes:

“In Locke’s world, things aren’t so bad!  In Hobbes’ world, it’s DEADLY.”

“Because when we’re  talking about the Leviathan… it’s this big…  monstrous… THING [emphatically gestures "largeness" with her hands and arms] from which there is no escape.”

040114_Judge

For Behold: The power of political incumbency?

Cynthia Brim, a Cook County, Illinois judge was suspended in 2012, after a series of bizarre incidents wound up having her declared “legally insane.”

cynthia-brim

Judge Cynthia Brim

While the board investigating this incident (a panel made of two judges and two civilians) continue to investigate and determine her plausibility to stay on the bench, not only is she continuing to collect her nearly $200,000 a year salary while on suspension — she’s since won RE-election to the bench.

Reportedly having been hospitalized for mental-related illnesses nine times since 1994, including after having gone catatonic during an official proceeding, the major problem came after she assaulted two Deputy Sheriffs; one was struck by her, and another was thrown a set of keys in an allegedly dangerous manner.

While her case continues to be evaluated, she continues to serve as a suspended judge — meaning she takes no cases, but receives all the pay and honors of a member of the bench; and indeed, has since been RE-elected.

Does this say something about the power of political incumbency?   I encourage you to do your own research and find out.

RadioShackStore

RadioShack — On the Decline…

One of the places that was special to me as a kid was RadioShack.  As late-20s guy, I saw RadioShack at its height — late 90s/early 2000s, as the corporatization of the stores was taking place.  Back in the day, RadioShack was more a hobby-shop, a place where you could get LEDs, solder for your soldering iron, and was meant to be a “Geeky place, for Geeks, by Geeks.”

Indeed, people actually KNEW what they were selling, and what they did — and how they worked.  You effectively had to have a Ph.D. in “Geek” to work there.  Now, not so much.

Walking into the store, I’m often surprised to find how much Associates do *not* know about the product… more about how to *sell* it.  When asking about products capacity, or the output of another product, etc…  they simply don’t know anymore.  They’re educated now, in “upselling,” and “add-ons,” versus how products themselves actually work.

This is a stark contrast from the RadioShack I grew up with — maybe its because of the restructuring that took place in the early 2000s, where hiring was adjusted from the Store Managers, to now strictly out of its Headquarters in Fort Worth, and Store Managers having little control, past scheduling, to the restructuring of simple education and training — versus being a “hands-on with your project,” they’ve become “hands-on at getting you to spend more.”  While there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself — its changed the culture of the store, dramatically.

Maybe it’s a symptom of my age, maybe it’s a symptom of the brand of the RadioShack label, I’m not sure — but I think if RadioShack went “back to the basics,” and went back to the model that worked, of hobbyists doing what they love — versus a corporatist atmosphere of “We wanna get you what you want, but also sell you this shit too!” I think they could find the glory they once had.

Further, recently, RadioShack noted the close of 1100 stores, citing a 19% loss in sales, particularly during the last holiday season.  CFO John Feray says simply “We are overstored.”

I tend to disagree — I think its more a matter of quality of experience, versus simply being overstaffed.  RadioShack isn’t the place it used to be — and people are taking notice, I think.

I miss *this* RadioShack.

radioshack

cnnfoxmsnbc

Lack of News Coverage, or Sensationalist Media?

As a center-left guy, I’ve always tended to favor CNN when it comes to national news.  FOX is well known for being a mouthpiece of the big-money Republican establishment and MSNBC is equally as liberal; with their own agendas and stuff they will either NOT cover, or will cover with a strong bias.  CNN, while with a liberal slant that comes with mainstream media, it’s relatively informed and and when reporting on information, individuals such as Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer seem to present information relatively impartially.

However, with the recent loss of Malaysian Flight 370, I’ve noticed every time I turn on CNN… there’s NOTHING ELSE covered, except maybe on the bottom ticker.  I’ve learned more about the pinging signal from the Black Box than I’ve learned in COLLEGE in the last year — and that’s a sad statement.  Further, during the Fort Hood shooting, I noticed little press on the matter on CNN; or even the removal of limitations on monetary donations to federal-level election funds.

…aren’t these things the public may wanna know about?  Not more lack-of-news on a plane that sadly vanished a month ago, and we’ve learned LITTLE from since?

American media is starting to scare me.

China-North-Korea

China shields North Korea from reports, citing them “divorced from reality.”

Having not posted recently, I figured this was as good a topic as any to cover…

The People’s Republic of China, through its representative in China’s Mission in Geneva, said of a UN Report on Human Rights abuses in North Korea; that the reports of Human Rights abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are “divorced from reality,” placing themselves in the way as a shield to the atrocities reported of North Korea, particularly their prison camps.

The report itself, made by a panel of jurists commissioned by the United Nations, specifically pointed to reports from political prison camps; and indeed, by those fortunate few who have escaped and are able to give eyewitness [and, further, often physical evidence] accounts to the regimes tactics of political imprisonment.

The government of the DPRK has stated that the reports are “a fabrication by hostile forces,” the standard-issue rhetoric when North Korea speaks in relation to critical statements made of it.

By Beijing’s willful “shielding” of North Korea’s human rights abuses, it makes one wonder if they may not take further action to shield their ally — and how far they may go to do so.

Further Reading:
- UN Report on North Korean Human Rights