Saturday, August 12, 2017

A modest proposal

(With apologies to Jonathan Swift. Link to "Rebel yell: Southern nationalists again crying 'secede'" via the Drudge Report)

I've discussed the concept that we're in the early stages of a civil war in this country a number of times; enough so that I feel no urge to rehash it. Let's look at another issue: Can we stop it before it gets out of hand?

In a number of science fiction books and series I've read, space travel and immigration to new colonies and planets served as a sort of "safety valve", allowing those who were fed up with the situation here on Earth (or another long settled world) to pull up stakes and leave for greener pastures. Obviously, we aren't in a position where we can do that just yet.

However, another possibility does present itself. I've read various predictions that the US might break up, a la the old Soviet Union. Igor Panarin is one of the better know of these, predicting that it would happen in 2010 after a civil war. History proves that he was a bit off with that prediction, though it may yet prove accurate.

What if, rather than waiting for it to happen amidst fire and sword, we, as a country, decided to voluntarily split? Various Southern groups have pushed this for years, and #Calexit has been a thing since President Trump's election last November. The State of Jefferson has been proposed three times in three places over the years, while the tongue-in-cheek Conch Republic could probably get of the ground tomorrow. Many in Hawaii would like to return to the days of their independence.

I can keep this up for a while, but I hope you see my point. The melting pot that we were all told about in school (well, if you're of a certain age, anyway) may very well never have really existed. Like the nations that were press-ganged into the Soviet Union, there are a lot of groups and areas in the US that would quite happily take their 40 acres and a mule and bail.

Would half of the North American continent suddenly split up into 6 or 8 or 25 nations be a good thing? Would it encourage the remaining large nations such as China and Russia to indulge themselves in empire building? Would the newly independent nations find themselves forming a new Confederation in order to defend themselves from Mexico or Germany or Fiji? Would it be like Europe before the EU, with periods of peace and war?

We have no way to know. I suspect it would be a calmer version of the old Europe with some sort of alliance structure for defense from powers off the continent, but that's a guess.

What I hope it could be is the safety valve that we desperately need. With a number a new, English-speaking nations, hopefully with governments of widely varying stripes, all co-located on the same continent, people could find one that relatively well suited their particular wants and desires and immigrate to it. Some would complain that the new nations would be echo chambers, but so what? Most people prefer to live and associate with those who are like them and who share similar beliefs. Acknowledging that and allowing it to occur peacefully and without interference in another country won't hurt you in yours.

I don't think it's likely to happen, but it's a thought.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Since we were speaking of Google

Breitbart is having a multi-part interview piece with those who are or have been behind enemy lines at Teh Googlez. Obviously there's no way for you or I to be sure of its veracity, but it makes for interesting reading. There are currently two parts out, you can start at Part One and work you way along.

Monday, August 07, 2017

I enjoy making Google publish this

Perhaps you've heard of the latest little row at Google--an employee had the temerity to publish his thoughts on the Google monoculture and suddenly is he is the primary target of SJWs everywhere, but especially those within Google itself. Because by virtue signalling at the top of our keyboards and Twitter accounts we're showing "It wasn't me!", natch. Or maybe you haven't. In the real world it honestly isn't of earth moving significance.

I'm waiting for the inevitable "Boycott Teh Googlez!" to start. As someone who uses Google's email service, search engine, browser and blogging platform, I'm not going to heed the call if it comes, thanks all the same.

First, as an email platform that I don't have to shell out my coin for, Gmail works. I rarely see their advertising, because I use it as an IMAP host. I don't care if they're reading my messages--so is the NSA, CIA, DIA and God knows who else. There is nothing in my email that I would give a rip about seeing on a billboard at this point in my life.

As a search engine, they are one of the best out there. You can do better with some of the metasearch engines, but when you need it quick, Google delivers. You don't want the ads? Use an ad blocker.

I use Chrome because it's support for extensions allows me to add tools to it I need. If Edge or Brave or Firefox or whoever can match it, I may well switch. So far, no one has and I'm not.

And as for Blogger, well, I like that one the best. It allows me to publish things for the entire Intertubz to read, things that would have those virtue signalling Googlites frothing at the mouth (I sincerely hope) and I. Get. To. Do. It. On. Google's. Dime.

Yeah, that's the part I like the best about all of it. Most of the people at Google would detest the hell out of me, but their effort is what allows me to find things, browse the Intertubz effectively and communicate, and their company pays for it all.

If necessary, I can replace all these services in a day or so of concentrated effort and it will probably cost me $30 a month. But I like taking advantage of Google a lot more. It's just a tiny bit of money they can't use to be evil. Smells like a win to me.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Will Amateur Radio become extinct?

It's an interesting question that has been thrashed around the table more than a few times. I know that my club is in trouble--our youngest member is in his 30s, and I, the next youngest, and nearly 60. I maintain our web site and the Silent Key list is growing by several members per year now. At this rate, in two or three more years, we won't have enough members to have a viable club.

We're not the only local club in this fix. There are a multitude of amateur radio clubs across the US and around the world that have this problem. Ham radio is perceived to be an "old guys' hobby", and to a distressing level, it's true. Tam jokes about the number of fat old white guys at gun shows, and she once remarked about attending a hamfest with Roberta X. I told here that she was going to the only place guaranteed to have more fat old white guys than a gun show, and unfortunately, that's all too true.

For those of you who have been to a hamfest recently, ask yourself "How many female hams did I see?" (And I don't mean wives being good sports.) "How many interested young people did I see?" "How many 'people of color' did I see?" I'll give you my answers. It was the last Charlotte, NC Hamfest, and I saw 1 female ham, no kids and no people of color.

I do a hell of a lot better than that a gun show, I'll tell you.

Our national organization, the ARRL, has had its head in the sand for years on this issue, paying it what is essentially lip service. I hate saying it, but as long as we've kept sending in our dues, they kept sitting in Newington and pretending "All is Well!" and playing patty cake with the government on spectrum issues.

Times may be changing.

According to a note that dropped into my inbox this morning from the ICQ Podcast, it seems that the president of that august group may have had a wake up call. This is from the ARRL's 2016 Annual Report (a document I never read, but apparently someone does), and was written by Rick Roderick, K5UR, the president of the ARRL:

“I prepared my usual talk about some interesting ham radio stories over my 50 years as a ham, how we can talk all over the world, and I brought some QSL cards from rare places to show the group. I have given that talk many times, and it usually impresses people — but not this time. I was surprised to see flat, uninterested faces.”

”I realized that I had to change my approach to the presentation if I was going to keep the attention of these young people. After all, what could ham radio offer people who grew up in homes that had computers hooked up to the internet? Today’s young people are used to riding down the interstate at 70 MPH as a passenger while watching high-definition videos on their iPhones.”

”What we’re hearing from what I call the “new-generation ham,” is that they don’t view ham radio as being about talking around the world, contesting, or traditional aspects of our hobby.”

”Change generally doesn’t come easy to us. But when I looked out at that group of young faces and saw their disinterest in traditional ham pursuits, I realized that I had to change. We have to change. It won’t come easy, but it’s essential that we get to work on it now.”

I note the he "prepared his usual talk". The ARRL once again doing the same old thing they've been doing for years, and he expected it to impress people. Really? Even senior citizens these days "are used to riding down the interstate at 70 MPH as a passenger while watching high-definition videos on their iPhones," there, Rick. You're going to have to come up with more than the same old to impress folks these days. Technophobes have nearly been driven to extinction. I literally don't know anyone who doesn't own a smart phone these days. You folks in the League might want to travel outside of the Newington Time Warp a little more often. And while I'm at it, for Pete's sake, can you build a more modern web site?

Honestly, I'm not sure what it's going to take to renew interest in amateur radio as a hobby. Radio communication is still an important thing. It's used every day to communicate by police, fire, aircraft, ships, forestry workers, retail stores and a whole host of others. Even our cell phones, one of ham radios biggest competitors with the younger generations, uses radio. But there is quite frankly nothing out there that is "sexy" about radio. Sure, we have all the new digital modes, but really, no one but us hams cares. We're doing innovative work with Broadband Hamnet, but again, who outside of the amateur radio community and some emergency management types care? Name anything any of us is experimenting with and I'll ask you that same question and grow older waiting for a good answer.

While I'm waiting, the noise floor will continue to rise as poorly designed and cheaply produced electronics continue to flood into the markets in every country. In many urban areas, it's already so high that for all realistic purposes, the ability of hams to operate has ended.

I'll also watch as the national telecommunication agencies continue to delete our spectrum allocations and sell that spectrum off to the highest bidder. Eventually, we'll be back where we started, down in the AM bands. Anyone for a quarter wave dipole on 630? It'll only be 371 feet long, give or take a few inches (if I'm doing my math correctly). You'd better have a big back yard.

Yeah, I'm starting to sound like Debbie Downer here, and that's not really the point I want to make. We, as a hobby, need to start marketing our hobby, and we need to start now. I got into this via the emergency preparedness path, and there are quite a few folks who do. However most of them get a Technician Class license and stop there. I didn't; I have my General and am working ever so slowly on my Extra. I'm a rarity. The hobby can't count on outliers like me.

As a hobby, we have to find a message that takes the best of what we are and puts it out there for everyone to see. We need to put our tradition of experimentation and innovation into developing some new technologies that will attract the attention of generations who were raised on video games and the Internet. We probably have to come up with something I can't even conceive of that is going to drum up some serious interest among the geeks of the world. Face it, that is our target audience.

We damn sure can't continue to sit around, dumping the legal limit into a dipole and complaining that the bands are dead.