All India Radio

Published at 11:56 on 7 November 2011

I ran across All India Radio’s Bengaluru transmitter on 9425 kHz quite by chance late this morning, coming in with a very strong signal considering the distance. A recording of a brief musical interlude, followed by some announcements in Hindi then the news in English may be found here.

This is another of those stations where the Internet is still not an option.

Latest Voice of Korea Recording

Published at 13:16 on 6 November 2011

My latest Voice of Korea recording may be found here.

The audio quality is sort of iffy in this recording, but it’s actually the best signal of any of the times I’ve thought to tune in recently. Trans-Pacific propagation has been sort of crappy recently; this has adversely affected my ability to receive Australia and New Zealand as well.

Voice of Korea has less to say for themselves in this recording than they do in some of my earlier ones. Starting several months ago, the amount of spoken word programming declined greatly, to be replaced by programming consisting mostly of music. There’s actually more spoken material in this recording than there has been in some other recent broadcasts, so maybe this trend is reversing itself.

Perhaps of particular note is the piece on wind power at the end of the transmission, which in a marked departure from virtually all Voice of Korea programming, appears to have nothing to do with praising the “Great Leader”.

As usual, the “news” is dominated by whatever the “Great Leader” has done recently (this always leads); mention of any favorable things said by foreigners about the DPRK also figures prominently. The latter is frequently from those belonging to insignificant Stalinist splinter groups, or items in a foreign paper which are actually a paid ads taken out by the DPRK foreign ministry.

Hopefully someday soon I’ll take another camping trip and be able to furnish something recorded in a more RF-quiet, rural location.

Well, So Much For That

Published at 15:13 on 4 November 2011

I did not get the job east of the lake after all. I’m almost certain it was because I expressed my antipathy about doing systems administration work; my interviewers kept revisiting the issue of sysadmin work and my (lack of) willingness to consider doing any more of it.

So be it. There was only one systems administrator at that company. He’s only human, so he’s going to get sick. And if I was to be the one called upon to fill in when that happens, forget it. Worse, suppose he departed for greener pastures — Guess Who would be appointed the new sysadmin (quite possibly permanently!) in such a case?

Really, I never want to do such work again. Ever. I’m completely burned out on it. A job where I am literally a heartbeat away from becoming a sysadmin again is one gigantic turkey of a job.

It pales in comparison to the above issue, but it’s also nice not to be compelled to move again, particularly if the move does not involve leaving the megalopolis. Simply too much hassle for too little improvement in my lifestyle, particularly after I’ve spent so much effort getting settled where I currently live.

Pondering where to Move

Published at 15:34 on 30 October 2011

I believe I will soon be working full time again. It’s far from a sure thing, of course, seeing as how I have yet to interview in person with them, but the vibes I got over the phone were that I was basically their top candidate and unless I seriously blow things, I’ll get the job. Moreover, it would negate all the effort I recently spent erecting a shortwave listening antenna, and there has always been a strong element of Murphy’s Law in all of my job searches.

That is because the job is in a place where it is most definitely not pleasant to commute to from where I currently am living. I told my landlord/housemate when I moved in that it might be necessary to move in such a situation (and he’s understanding, there are a lot of nightmare commutes in the Seattle area), so that’s no problem. The issue is where to move.

It’s in Bellevue, east of Lake Washington, an area that I once heard very accurately described as “Orange County with Fir Trees”. It has much of the same plasticky yet vaguely upscale feel that its California namesake does. So one option is to live someplace in Seattle from where I can catch an express bus to work. Another option is to live further east in Issaquah, which alas still has much of the same aesthetic as Bellevue but at which also has the advantage of a small older core that feels much nicer (it predates the suburbia era, having been built as a logging and mining town). Moreover, Issaquah abuts many square miles of state park and state forest land.

It’s really difficult to discern which option is better. Given that I usually don’t do much Big City stuff these days, it probably means that it will be a net win to be closer (much closer, in fact) to the foothills. But it’s still an area that I have absolutely no friends in, so I have worries about social isolation. Which can be solved by trips to the city, of course — but such induced trips effectively negate much of the advantage of being closer to nature.

Issaquah is still probably very slightly better, because there’s far more of Seattle easily accessible via bus from Issaquah than there is nature easily accessible via bus from Seattle. And when I do have to drive to get to nature from Issaquah, I can head east and be out of the megalopolis almost immediately (country driving is both more fuel efficient and a heck of a lot more pleasant than urban driving).

But it’s a slight enough advantage that the particulars are probably going to dominate. If I can find a home in Issaquah or the Central District that strongly appeals to me, that will instantly tip the scales.

The Biggest Problem With Recruiters (Headhunters)

Published at 11:47 on 28 October 2011

They misrepresent.

They misrepresent you to the prospective employer. They misrepresent the prospective employer and the position to you. Typically they do so by selective omission; they only list the best things about you or the job to the other party, to give the impression that you must match in all other areas, too.

If one is following the low road (and many pimps headhunters do), there is every incentive to do so, because having once engaged in representing you to an employer (no matter how poor the match, and misrepresenting encourages both you and the employer to show initial interest even for a job that matches poorly), they have a much stronger case for claiming an existing business relationship with you. And once they do that, they can leech off your salary for a job they did not even help you find.

The Fate of I-1125 (Should It Pass)

Published at 10:50 on 28 October 2011

Simply put, it will end up being litigated in court. It blatantly violates the Washington State Constitution’s single subject clause, so a legal basis for challenging it exists. Nowhere in the title or text of the measure on the ballot is scrapping light rail to Bellevue mentioned, yet (if allowed to stand unchallenged) it would most likely achieve that end. Based on the ballot measure that implemented the project, extending light rail to Bellevue has the support of both the majority in the Sound Transit district and the majority in Bellevue itself.

Therefore there exists both a means to challenge the measure in court and a motive (an electorate annoyed at falling for a bait-and-switch) to do same. And the absence of any mention of light rail in the measure will furnish ample evidence that the voters did not intend this outcome when they voted for it, which will probably cause any court-interpreted revision of the measure to gut the provisions of it which interfere with the proposed light rail line.

It may even get overturned by a subsequent bill in the legislature before it gets through court. Normally, the legislature is reluctant to touch the text of voter-approved laws, but again, the bait-and-switch nature of this one might bias the legislature in the opposite direction to the normal trend.

Moreover, the system listens to what Big Money has to say, and with the exception of Kemper Freeman, Jr., Big Money does not want I-1125 to pass. Transportation in the Puget Sound region is a horrible mess, this mess is making it hard for the Big Money crowd to do business, and the initiative will complicate the process of doing things to help relieve the transportation mess.

Naturally, when the inevitable happens, Eyman is going to go into conserva-victim mode and whine about how the evil courts and legislature are subverting popular will. Which will be something of a rich comment when one considers that the measure was obviously deliberately crafted to be a bait-and-switch. It’s not as of the single-subject clause is any big secret or anything: it’s right there in the state constitution, and Eyman’s initiatives have ended up being reinterpreted by the courts in the past because they’ve run afoul of it.

Of course, Eyman’s main motive in the thing is money. He earns it by hawking his services to the highest bidders in the right-wing crowd; he will laugh all the way to the bank no matter how much the legislature and the courts end up gutting the measure. Whether or not the thing eventually flies is completely beside the point.

North Korea (Slowly) Joins the 21st Century

Published at 18:14 on 25 October 2011

I have learned very recently that at long last Voice of Korea has an official web site. Unfortunately for those who wish to stream audio, the links that let one do that are currently not working. However, that will probably get fixed in the not-too-distant future, meaning that there will at long last be an alternative to shortwave for those who want to listen to official North Korean propaganda.

Until then, I plan on recording their broadcasts off shortwave, as time and propagation conditions allow.

Avoid Ace Hardware Part 30810

Published at 18:01 on 25 October 2011

It’s a coaxial grounding block of the type cable TV companies use at service entrances.

Well, actually it’s not: the ones the cable companies use are made by reputable companies and work properly. This one is made by some anonymous factory in China and fails to grip the center conductor of the coax properly, causing intermittent connections.

This is something I wasted about two hours on this afternoon (I blamed myself for failing to install the F connectors on the coax properly at first, and only gave up on this theory after the connection was still intermittent even after my third such attempt).

Eventually, such repeated failures, combined with the fact that I’m no novice on installing RF connectors on coax, and combined with how the item was discounted as a discontinued item (no returns accepted) made me suspect the guilty party. Apparently, I am not the first to have trouble with this item, and the store doubtless got tired of the endless string of returns on it and decided to discontinue stocking the part.

Thankfully, I seem to have resolved the issue without an extra trip to the hardware store for a properly-made grounding block. (I shimmed the faulty center terminal with some bits of thin copper wire.) But it’s a lesson that sometimes what appears to be a good deal (I was pleased at the price discount) is too good to be true.

Doty Antenna Update

Published at 14:46 on 25 October 2011

Well, it’s basically all finished (except for putting some tools away), and I must unfortunately report that the remaining work I did today accomplished only a modest improvement in the antenna’s performance. There does appear to be less influence on reception from indoor noise sources, but it also appears that the source that makes the noise floor below about 11 MHz so high is elsewhere in the neighborhood. That said, the improvement at 11 MHz and above is nothing short of astounding.

I do have two notes to add to the instructions John Doty wrote nearly two decades ago:

  1. Weatherproof metal project enclosures (“miniboxes”) are not so easy to find locally, and many of the mail-order sources for them have onerous minimum orders. My solution was to purchase a metal, outdoor-grade electrical box, spare plug (they all tend to come with three holes, and plugs for two), and cover plate and use that for an enclosure. Because one of the holes is on top of the box, I used a liberal amount of Coax-Seal inside the box to help ensure moisture cannot enter. I put all connections on the bottom of the box to minimize the chance of water ingress.
  2. The 300:75 ohm TV matching transformer I took apart had a ridiculously small ferrite core in it. Even if I used the recommended 40-guage enameled wire (which is annoying to use because it breaks so easily), I see no way I could ever get a total of 40 windings around it. I ordered a ferrite toroid (Core F-50, Ferrite Mix 61) from Palomar Engineers (they have no minimum order and shipped my order very promptly) and used that. Instead of 40-guage wire, I just bought the set of 3 spools of magnet wire that Radio Shack sells, and used the medium size for the 10-loop winding and the smallest size for the 30-loop one.

The Doty Antenna Really Works!

Published at 09:31 on 25 October 2011

I have thought about constructing the shortwave receiving antenna described here for many years, but never got around to it (until now) because it always sounded like an awful lot of work.

Well, it is an awful lot of work. At least several times as much work to build as any other shortwave receiving antenna I have ever erected. Not to mention a fair chunk of change — I’d estimate I’m out about $200 in materials cost for the thing.

But my preliminary tests — done even before all the noise-suppressing features have been completed — indicate that the thing really works. In addition to being by far the most difficult and expensive shortwave antenna I’ve ever had to deal with, it is also clearly the best.

I am copying Shannon VOLMET on 13264 kHz as I type this entry on my computer in an urban Seattle neighborhood. This is a low-powered signal which must take an unfavorable (i.e. polar) propagation path to reach me, and I had extreme difficulty receiving it even twenty years ago when RF noise levels were much less than they tend to be today. Yet I tuned it in this morning on my first attempt with my incomplete Doty antenna.

Currently, the biggest fault of the thing is that I am still getting a lot of RF noise below 11 MHz. I’m hoping that’s merely a result of my not having buried most of the cable run between me and the antenna base yet (only about 1m of the cable is buried right now). At 11 MHz and above, the signals are unbelievably quiet for an urban location. They’re not at rural standards, mind you, but I am able to copy an S1 to S2 signal from Ireland, which to reiterate is pretty darn good indeed.

Hopefully I’ll be reporting further improvements tonight when the antenna is completed.