Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy for Hubble

Glad the shuttle is safely back on the ground even though it had to come to California, instead of Florida. A Florida landing would be cheaper turnaround, but weather had other ideas.

I'm looking forward to pondering more universal questions with the newly refurbished Hubble Telescope.

To get the shuttle back to Florida, they place it on top of a large aircraft and fly it across the nation.

Back when I was in college, they put the shuttle on top of a plane to test it for aerodynamics. This was sometime in the late 1970s. At the time, I was living in a sloppy rooming house full of college students. One of the students ask;

"Why are they flying two planes on top of each other?" "What a waste of energy."

I tried to explain, but her response was sort of like "don't confuse me with the facts." She didn't get it.

"What a waste, two planes on top of each other," she kept saying.

My own lifestyle is austere compared to many Americans, but I still value the ability to contemplate cosmic questions. One nice thing about outer space, we don't all have to go there to learn from it. We can send up a few public telescopes rather than each having to buy our own scope.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More chances to talk at the Bellingham Peace Walk

Last Saturday, there was a peace walk from downtown Bellingham to Fairhaven district; about 2 1/2 miles. Walking is a good way to talk to someone. I got a chance to visit with folks I often see around town. Folks I see at the Purple Church Dance, the Co-op and other places. When walking, there is more opportunity for conversation. In the end, there was dancing.

Some of the guys are cute and a lot of them dance with their shirts off. Who are these people? One might never know if there is no conversation. One might never know if people never took the time for walking.

Even if a peace walk doesn't "change the world" it's a friendlier way of life to walk. Walking means less dependency on Persian Gulf oil. I walked my bike in the walk and then biked home.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Taking a sauna

Some people claim it removes toxins from the body due to excessive sweating.

I don't know if that's the case or not.

I know it can be a good social outlet as people are often friendly and talkative in the sauna. It's a nontoxic social environment, so at least it's less apt to be putting toxins into the body than, say, going to a bar, which is what many folks do for social contact.

Face to face contact, but not in a bar. Less toxic than many people's families, relationships, or the bar setting. Less likely to be around alcohol.

Pre cycle. Taking in less toxics in the first place.

As for getting rid of toxins, I don't know. Does mean more water going through body if one remains hydrated. It's too easy to get dehydrated, though.

Throughput.

Exercise is a good way to remove toxins from the body. Getting one's circulation up means improved blood flow to the many nooks and crannies of the body. That's probably the main thing, in my opinion. Getting the blood flowing through all the nooks and crannies. Nothing like moving, bicycling, walking, dancing for that.

Sauna may not be necessary for this, but it's a fun thing to do.

Just my opinion.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Waterboarding

Traditional liberals and conservatives debating. Radio talk shows humming. Maybe it's "water already under the bridge."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Imagine all the people bicycling to work

Like that John Lennon song. Sign at downtown Bellingham celebration station, Railroad and Holly. 2009 Bike to Work and School Day. Nothing wrong with a little idealism.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Looking up for good news

This is a pretty good period for astronomy and space exploration. US news has been covering the upgrade and repair mission for Hubble Space Telescope. Glad that mission is going well.

Not as well known, here in the states, is the European Space Agency's successful launch of both the Herschel and Planck telescopes from one Ariane Rocket. Launched May 14.

Planck will analyse microwave background radiation from the big bank and ponder questions about the birth of this universe.

Herschel will look at far inferred and a portion of the microwave, sub millimeter spectrum to see dusty areas, forming proto stars and so forth. Herschel has the largest mirror ever sent into space.

Hurray for the success of both missions launched from one rocket.

Then there is the Kepler, launched by NASA a few weeks back. It has just passed it's calibration reviews (this week). Now in the main "science" part of the mission.

This morning at around 6:30 AM PSD, I happened to be up for a while. I found a live video feed on the web from European Space Agency. It was covering the launch of Herschel and Planck.

Reminded me of following Apollo on television during my childhood.

Remember ads for "Gulf Oil?"

Helped bring us TV coverage of Apollo. Nice memories.

The Europeans seemed a bit different. More reserved than Americans. Also spoke with accents. It was kind of mystical to watch things live from a German version of "mission control;" especially that early in the morning (our time). The sun was just rising. Also good memories, like my childhood, only this time it's May 14, 2009 and I'm watching on the "magic screen" we call Internet.

Looking forward to new discoveries.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Will HD Radio ever amount to much?

Last year, I wandered into a Radio Shack store to look at HD radios.

The clerk said, "An HD what?"

So I explained.

He might have thought I was dreaming, or making up this odd fantasy; like I was a street person wandering into the store.

When I said it was in the Radio Shack catalog, he looked it up and said, "Oh my god." "Learn a new thing every day."

HD radios weren't in the local store, but could be found in the catalog.

What is HD radio?

Thanks to "new technology," some stations can send out a highly compressed "digital signal" along with their regular signal. People with these special HD radios can get it; like decoding the secret message.

HD signals allow some options not available to standard radios. Higher fidelity, for instance. Also other programs besides the main program.

A good example is KUOW in Seattle. Regular radios just get KUOW FM on 94.9.

HD radios can get two more programming feeds. Basically one can get "KUOW1," "KUOW2" and even "KUOW3."

Wow. That's a lot more variety.

KUOW1 is the same "KUOW" that regular radios get, only higher fidelity.

KUOW2 is actually another station; KXOT from Tacoma. It offers a different mix of programs. Similar programs to KUOW's, but just added variety.

KUOW3 rebroadcasts the BBC from London.

That's 3 stations in the same place on the dial where regular radios only get one.

More variety.

Still, I don't know if that many stations are using the HD signal. Also those special radios seem fairly expensive and hard to come by.

Maybe Internet Radio will eclipse HD Radio?

Who knows.

HD could end up on the trash heap of technologies that never took off while Internet Radio becomes the new radio.

Why would this happen?

New bandwidth is becoming available for wireless Internet. This is especially true now that TV broadcasting is making it's switch to newer "more compressed" frequencies, thus freeing up spectrum for various signals.

Soon, I hear that wireless Internet will be available, for cheap, just about everywhere there's cellphone signal.

Wow. That means surfing the Internet in your car, only in my case, it's bicycle.

Sounds like a bad idea though. Shouldn't one be watching the road?

Well, "surfing" doesn't necessarily mean "computer screen." It can mean "Internet radio."

Yes, the car radio might soon be an Internet radio.

That would mean more choices of stations on the road. All stations on the Internet available to the car radio. This could be the ultimate "radio choice" panacea.

Variety is the name of the game, in my book. Adding more "program choices" to radio would be beneficial. A good benefit both at home and on the road.

Variety is most likely the main thing either HD, or Internet radio could offer.

To be able to pick up more interesting radio in places like eastern Oregon would be a plus. Geography can confine one to little choice beyond "Rush Limbaugh talk" or "Country and Western music."

Music?

Actually some of it might not be bad.

How about putting some interesting Seattle, or Portland stations onto the HD channel of eastern Washington and Oregon FM stations? How about even Idaho and Montana stations?

Bring the greater variety of urban radio to rural areas.

Maybe rural radio could be brought to an urban area for novelty. Listen to Montana cattle prices from your high rise condo in Seattle, or even New York.

It can be meditative.

National Public Radio has already done this, even before the advent of Internet and HD technology.

KUOW has its repeaters here in Bellingham and also one in Olympia. KUOW is on 90.3 FM in Bellingham. It's on AM in "Tumwater/Olympia."

The NPR station from Pullman, WA. (my childhood home) is extended to repeaters just about all over the state. There's even a repeater for that Pullman station here in Bellingham. The public radio network based in Pullman is called Northwest Public Radio.

Could HD work like these repeaters?

There are a lot of radio stations with the potential to offer 2 or even 3 HD signals. FM stations, that is.

From what I understand, AM stations are only allowed 1 program in their HD channel. HD gives AM "higher fidelity," but not more variety.

Maybe FM stations in the hinterlands are just sitting around wondering what to program if they were to go HD. How to fill all that extra bandwidth.

Could these various FM stations, in places like eastern Oregon, offer something more to their sagebrush territories than just country and western music?

Maybe they could pick up the feed of some totally different station and play it to the countryside. Some of those stations are pretty powerful. Larger service areas than just repeaters.

How about KUOW being available east of the Cascade Mountains? Broadcast from a Wenatchee station high on the eastern slopes of the Cascades?

How about Portland's alternative radio (known as KBOO) becoming an "HD choice" from some country and western boomer in someplace like Klamath Falls?

Variety.

When I was a kid, I remember listening to "clear channel" AM signals from all over the US. AM radio could travel great distances at night. They call that "ionospheric skip."

Nighttime AM was my variety, long before the Internet.

I remember tuning in stations like WWL from New Orleans, Louisiana. All on a regular radio in my parent's Pullman home.

Over the years, this variety of radio listening has been lost for the most part. The long distance signals have been "covered over" by more mediocre stations closer to home. Stations that are on the same frequencies as the clear channels; like FCC sanctioned radio jamming.

Many of the "local" stations are just repetitive feeds off national networks. How many places up and down the dial can one get the same "Coast To Coast" show at night?

Only thing unique to the station's local community; some jabbering ad run over and over again, or "rip and read" news via "high school student announcer intern."

Variety has been lost with the end of clear channel "across the USA" AM radio, but all is not lost.

"Variety" makes it's new entrance as those stations are now on the Internet; no doubt.

I still listen to talk shows from KGO in San Francisco via nighttime skip. It fades in and out, but works most of the time, if my neighbor doesn't turn on a lamp, or something, that makes horrible static.

Maybe a local FM station can think about carrying KGO programing as it's HD offering? That would make KGO easier to receive around local clutter.

I'd consider getting an HD radio then; if I could find one. Meanwhile, I can just listen to KGO on the Internet.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Eyes don't rot the same way

When cute guys appear, one can remember that

"Eye candy is candy which is not bad for your teeth."