Scared of Sochi

If there was a website that did nothing but publish journalists hard luck stories from Sochi, I’d be on it a dozen times a day. No doorknobs. No floors. Toilets that won’t flush toilet paper. Yellow water. Digital hacking so thorough, NBC’s Richard Engel had his cellphone compromised in under a minute!

You can’t make this stuff up–though it’s not unexpected.

Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, is a victim of a type of government that favors ‘every man for himself’ thinking. It is a country which has watched the most dishonest among its populace become the most wealthy and where gaming the system is a national pastime.

That the Sochi infrastructure was built half-assed is, again, no surprise. Overseers who were supposed to insure a well planned outcome had other priorities. Police are corrupt. Inspectors are corrupt. Government officials are corrupt. Every hand is out!

So, we’ll all spend the next few weeks laughing at Sochi’s inadequacies, until something major goes wrong. I am scared that will be terrorist related. CNN reports most Americans feel there will be a terrorist attack at the Sochi Olympics.

The central Russian government has many enemies among its own citizens. Rebels who are powerless socially and politically often see violence as their only viable option.

Starting from the end of the 20th century, significant terrorist activity has taken place in Moscow, most notably apartment bombings and the Moscow theater hostage crisis. Many more acts of terrorism have been committed in Chechnya, Dagestan, and other parts of the country. Some of them became a matter of significant controversy, since journalists and scholars claimed them to be directed by the Russian secret services, often through their Chechen agent provocateurs. – Wikipedia

Will terrorists attack the games? I am petrified the answer is, yes.

The State Department issued a memo to athletes, reported in the Wall Street Journal.

“The U.S. Department of State has advised that wearing conspicuous Team USA clothing in non-accredited areas may put your personal safety at greater risk.”

I never shied away from New York City after 9/11. I understood the risks and felt them minimal. If offered the chance to attend these games, I would pass.

I Like The Internet

I have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. I read the web constantly.

It’s no secret I enjoy my time on the Internet. The Internet was made for me.

The big surprise for me is the remarkable education available on line. There has never been a time when so much information was available to so many people with so little effort!

There is access to every newspaper, every magazine, every fact, fable and lesson. If you’re willing to look it is here.

I have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. I read the web constantly.

There’s no doubt I visit some sites who political leanings match mine. I love Crooks and Liars, a left leaning political site with clever writing and video choices.

I visit Drudge a few times every day. The site upsets me. Its coverage is so unfair it is scandalous. It’s not how far right he is. It’s how mean spirited he is. The truth be damned… or at least the whole truth be damned.

Mostly I do what makes the web so powerful–follow hyperlinks. I often start on tech sites like Reddit, Digg and Hacker News and just roam.

I have listened to radio from small towns in Australia and followed political scandals in cities I will never visit. I have watched video of people unboxing and assembling their own computer systems and a zillion video tutorials.

Last month I read a long series of incredibly detailed posts recounting a train journey from Moscow to Pyongyang! It was done as a paying passenger on a line that neither Russia nor North Korea officially acknowledge as existing. It was only on the Internet.

Some countries see fit to filter and monitor the net. That’s wrong. They make believe it’s a benevolent gesture toward the sensibilities of their population. Please.

I’m a good searcher. People sometimes come to me to search for them. Knowing how to find stuff pays off for me.

If the Internet didn’t exist I’d have to go out and invent it.

The Ex-Pat Life, or Farrell Meisel – Man Of Mystery

He called me to offer me a job. It was August 1980. It was the same day I met Helaine. We’re still friends. Helaine and me too.

My first contact with Farrell Meisel was on the phone. He called me to offer me a job, in Buffalo, hosting PM Magazine. It was August 1980. It was the same day I met Helaine.

We’re still friends. Helaine and me too.

Farrell’s no longer in US TV. Nowadays he brings his TV expertise to foreign station owners.

He launched the first commercial channel in Russia, for Ted Turner, following the fall of the USSR in 1992, has done consulting in Turkey, ran a huge cluster of radio and TV networks in Singapore, inaugurated Alhurra, the US government funded Arab language TV station for the Mideast, and ran a TV station in Warsaw, Poland. I’m sure I’ve left something out.

At the moment, his consulting hat is on again. He’s in Bucharest, Romania.

Farrell is an ex-pat, the slang term for a foreign national abroad. He seems most comfortable in that role.

To me, the ex-pat life is a throwback to the 50s, with more structure and formality than modern day America. It is a life where there is still customer service and where men are addressed as “sir.”

Obviously, this is all a guess. I don’t even have a valid passport.

Yesterday, Farrell sent me some observations from Romania. I asked him if I could share?

Every city I’ve visited or worked in is unique, special and odd in its own way. It’s not a criticism, but a simple observation. You’d think, with all the traveling, I would have seen it all.

Bucharest has surprised me, too.

There aren’t enough parking spaces and lots in the city, so drivers create their own parking places!

For example: they just park in the middle of the street. That’s right, why park on the side when they can just park their car in the middle of the street or in front of another car, blocking a car?

They also park on side walks. Not just one or two cars, but several. Last night, there were three rows of cars parking on a side street, horizontally around the corner from my apart-hotel. Not in an assigned spot, but on the street.

I found it amazing that my driver, Nelu, could squeeze the company’s VW Passat through the narrow space between cars.

It is simply brilliant. Now I know why Romania is in the EU!

I laughed in amazement and had to explain to to Nelu why I was laughing. He said, “but, sir, this is Bucharest. Since the revolution we have no rules”.

Bucharest has a tram system like many classic European cities. Many of the routes are over unruly green grounds (the grass not cut due to underfunding by the government), but several parts of the routes are on pavement. Since traffic is so bad, and there are only 2 lanes on each side of the main streets, what do drivers do? Simple: They drive on the rails in front of or behind the trams!

This morning was the best. There must have been at least a dozen cars naturally driving on the center medium on one of the main lines in the center in the city . And the trams could not go anywhere.

I must have my camera ready later today or in tomorrow’s rush hour. Simply perfect.

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Bucharest, Romania traffic

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Here’s the problem. When you’ve got an object as big as this 10-ton satellite, some of it will survive the plunge to Earth. That’s especially true when there are hardened pieces.

mir_atmosphere.jpgIt looks like a US spy satellite is out-of-control and will soon plunge back into the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s happened before.

I remember when Mir plunged to Earth. The photo on the left shows what was left as the debris passed over Fiji.

Back in 1979 pieces of Skylab fell on Australia. No one was injured.

The question is, is this dangerous? Uh… yeah. Though there is some conflict in that opinion.

I just checked Google’s news site and found “Falling US satellite is not dangerous – NASA” from Russia’s Interfax news agency. That’s a relief.

Oops. Hold on. Here’s what the Times of London says: “Threat as 10-ton satellite set to crash back to Earth”

So, it’s either not dangerous or a threat. Got it?

Here’s the problem. When you’ve got an object as big as this 10-ton satellite, some of it will survive the plunge to Earth. That’s especially true when there are hardened pieces.

From the New York Times:

John E. Pike, the director of in Alexandria, Va., said that if the satellite in question was a spy satellite, it was unlikely to have any kind of nuclear fuel, but that it could contain toxins, including beryllium, which is often used as a rigid frame for optical components.

The speculation is this is a spy satellite, launched in 2006 and quickly lost. It probably went up with hydrazine for thrusters. That’s really nasty stuff.

When properly used in space:

The catalyst chamber can reach 800° C&#185 in a matter of milliseconds, and they produce large volumes of hot gas from a small volume of liquid hydrazine, making it an efficient thruster propellant.” – Wikipedia

When improperly encountered on the ground:

Hydrazine is highly toxic and dangerously unstable, especially in the anhydrous form. Symptoms of acute exposure to high levels of hydrazine in humans may include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures, coma, and it can also damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. The liquid is corrosive and may produce dermatitis from skin contact in humans and animals. Effects to the lungs, liver, spleen, and thyroid have been reported in animals chronically exposed to hydrazine via inhalation. Increased incidences of lung, nasal cavity, and liver tumors have been observed in rodents exposed to hydrazine. – Wikipedia

The Earth is mainly covered by water. Even the land portion of Earth is sparsely populated in most spots. The odds of anyone getting hurt is small.

However, the more stuff that falls down, the worse those odds get.

&#185 – Here in the US, we use Fahrenheit. 800&#176 C is about 1,500&#176 F.

For perspective, aluminum melts at 1218&#176 F. Most other ‘substantial’ metals have significantly higher melt points.

I Get The Best Spam

I was just cleaning out my spam mail bin when I found another interesting Russian email. I don’t read Russian (though I recognize the Cyrillic letters), but I recognize the fixture pictured.

Russian spam (I get a lot) tends to look a lot more legitimate than American spam. They’re advertising real products and they post real phone numbers.

This one is still very weird!

A computer generated translation follows…

Continue reading “I Get The Best Spam”

I Was Never Angry With Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford became our ‘accidental president’ 32 years ago when Richard Nixon resigned. I haven’t heard it mentioned today, but it’s worth noting, Ford became Nixon’s vice president only because Spiro T. Agnew was forced to resign in disgrace.

I’m not going to do a biography here. But I do want to speak about President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon. That’s a subject I have heard a lot about today.

I was not a fan of Nixon’s. I was vehemently opposed to the war in Vietnam and felt the Nixon administration had been disingenuous in its conduct, at best. Though Nixon inherited the war from Johnson and Kennedy, it blossomed under his administration.

Watergate&#185 only served to amplify my anger.

Yet, I was not upset Nixon was pardoned. I may have been angered when I first heard about it, but my anger didn’t last.

Richard Nixon had already been disgraced. His place in history was already sealed. Why put the nation through the divisiveness of a trial?

We were a country divided. It’s difficult for anyone younger than me to realize how divided we really were. Indicting President Nixon on criminal charges would have only made that divide worse.

And then, there was the specter of Richard Nixon going to jail. How embarrassing would that have been for our nation? Did anyone really want to see him incarcerated?

Did Nixon get off the hook? I suppose he got less formal punishment than he was entitled to. His conduct during the Watergate cover-up violated real laws. However, it’s difficult to imagine anyone enduring more mental anguish than what he did during his last year in office.

We were better as a country getting Watergate behind us.

Thirty years later, I still agree with Gerald Ford’s most controversial move.

&#185 – Also forgotten in history is the fact that Watergate was nothing more than a ‘recon’ burglary against the Democrats, in an election Nixon surely would have won anyway! In other words, it was totally unnecessary.

Blogger’s note: After I put this entry online, I received an angry note from John Bosch. I’m publishing his entire email (with his permission) after the jump.

This blog is a reflection of my feelings and remembrances. Unlike a newscast, or a newspaper, these entries are sometimes based solely emotion.

I replied to John in support of my position, but that’s not important here. Here’s his read on what transpired.

Continue reading “I Was Never Angry With Gerald Ford”

To The Moon

There’s a big buzz today over NASA’s announcement yesterday that they plan to send men back to the moon – in essence establishing a colony with a permanent presence.

I’ve railed against the shuttle program and manned space flight in general, yet my initial reaction to this isn’t negative.

Certainly, I’m skeptical. Long ago NASA lost ‘the right stuff’ they had when we sent Apollo to the Moon. Our shuttle program is a foolish embarrassment, with little upside. Our greatest scientific breakthroughs have come from unmanned missions.

And, as my former producer at Inside Space, Dave Brody, said – NASA’s budget for everything else has pretty much been cut to the bone. There’s not much else they’re funded to do. They probably only have enough money to study, not build, a moon program.

Here’s one reason for skepticism, from NASA’s “Why the Moon?” page.

Six lunar exploration themes evolved from the recent Global Exploration Strategy discussions. NASA engaged the global space community to develop the themes by asking the question, “Why should we return to the Moon?”

If you think a governmental bureaucracy is inefficient, hold onto your hats for a multi-government bureaucracy!

Use the International Space Station as an example. While we play nice, attempting to build the station, Russia sells tourist flights! My sense is, in the spirit of cooperation or to hide the terrible partnership we forged, we’re subsidizing them.

I’ve looked through the objectives reached by the Global Exploration Strategy discussions. Couldn’t most of these be done better without people?

A notable exception is, “Understand the impact of extreme isolation on individual psychological health and group dynamics.” That one goal might be scary enough to keep people here on Earth.

Not every NASA proposal makes it off the drawing board. This is a big ticket item, and I’m unsure if Congress is willing to make the monetary commitment necessary.

Like I said, I’m not dead set against it, just skeptical.

Blogger’s note: The rendering at the top is from NASA. Here’s a larger version. I’m astounded they posted it, because it’s flawed in a way NASA should have spotted immediately.

On the Moon, with no atmosphere, shadows are pure black. Same thing in space. There are illuminated areas and there is total darkness. There is no mid ground.

Our ‘grayed’ shadows on Earth are caused by atmospheric scattering. There’s no lunar atmosphere, hence no scattering on the Moon.

The Poisoned Spy – It Happened Before

Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died overnight. The AP says:

Britain’s Health Protection Agency said Friday the radioactive element polonium-210 had been found in Litvinenko’s urine and police said traces of radiation were found at his home and a ritzy hotel bar and sushi restaurant he visited the day he became ill.

Police said they were treating the case as an “unexplained death” – but not yet as a murder.

It’s so spylike… So James Bondian. And though it seems incredibly strange, I remember something like this happening before.

It was the late ’70s, also in London. Georgy Markov wasn’t a spy, but he was a dissident, speaking out against the then communist government in Bulgaria.

I’ll let the BBC pick up the story.

Mr Markov was killed by a poisoned umbrella-tip while he waited at a bus stop near Bush House, where he worked for the BBC Bulgarian Service.

The recent release of state papers in Bulgaria confirmed that Mr Markov was regarded as a dangerous dissident by the former communist secret service.

But prosecutors say they’re closing their investigation over who killed him, under legislation allowing a case to be dropped if more than twenty-years have elapsed.

If memory serves me, 60 Minutes did a story about this murder, going so far as to show the tiny ball filled with ricin which was jabbed into his leg from the point of an umbrella.

There’s not much I can add to either story, except to say, there are some people it pays not to tick off.

Link With My Past

I found a link earlier tonight to I don’t know anything about the site, except it’s a commercial outfit, but it did offer a three day trial to look at the 1930 US Census.

First I went and looked for my mom’s family. Nothing. I’ll try again later. Next, my dad’s family.

Goose bumps ran down my spine as I looked and saw their handwritten names: Jacob, Sarah, Anna, Harold and Murray.

There’s nothing earth shattering here. A tiny insight into their lives in Depression era Brooklyn.

My grandfather was 35 and from Austria. He was listed as being a chauffeur. I seem to remember stories that he was once a trolley car driver. Maybe that’s what was meant?

Grandma Sarah was 30 and from Russia. Both she and grandpa could read. Aunt Anna was 10, my dad 4&#189 and Uncle Murray 2 years, 10 months.

They rented their apartment for $25 a month at 80 Middleton Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There were two other families in the building – one of whom was headed by someone also named Fox. He owned the building, worth $4100. If he’s a relative, this is the first I’m hearing it.

The other Fox family spanned a few generations with a grandfather, grown daughter and her husband living there.

The third family was headed by a divorced woman. She had a four year old daughter and a boarder, named Minnie Shonda.

Where listed, each of the adults in the building came from a home where Yiddish was spoken as the first language.&#185

It’s amazing. All of this carefully hidden away for 76 years, waiting for the Internet to set it free.

When I speak with my dad, I’ll see what, if any of this, he remembers.

&#185 – Many people confuse Yiddish with Hebrew. Yiddish is an amalgam of Eastern European languages, spoken primarily by Jews (and so the story goes, Colin Powell). It is a dead language, no longer spoken anywhere in the world as a primary language. My parent’s generation is the last to have Yiddish regularly spoken at home.

Scams – Why Spelling Counts

Remember when you were in school? Ever ask if spelling counts? It does.

Yes, I judge the writer of emails received by sentence structure and spelling. Who knew the Internet would make ‘written skills’ so much more necessary?

Of course, if you’re in business, proper usage can make you look professional… or not.

This email just came from “PayPal”… not! I’ll turn off the spell checker for a moment. The subject was: “IMPORTANT NOTICE: Dear Paypal Member Last 72 Hours For Uptade Your Billing Information.”

Security Center

Military Grade Encryption is Only Start

At PayPal, we want to increase your security and comfort level with every transaction. From our Buyer and Seller Protection Policies to out Verification and Reputation systems, we`ll help to keep you safe.

* We Recently noticed one or more attempts to log in to your PayPal account from foreign IP adress and we have reasons to believe that your account was hijacked by a third party without your authorization

* If you recently noticed one or more attempts your account while traveling, the unusual log in attempts may have been initiated by you. However, if your are rightful holder of the account, click on the link below to log into your account and fallow the intrusctions.

* If you choose to ignore our request, you leave us no choise but not temporaly suspend account.

* We ask that you fallow at least 72 hours for the case to be investigated and we strongly recomanded to verify your account in that time.

* If you recived this notice and you are not the authorized account holder, please be aware that it is in violation of PayPal policy to represent oneself as another PayPal user.Such action may also be in violation of local, national, and/or international law. Paypal is misappropriate at the request of law enforment agencies to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

* Thanks for your patiance as we work togheter to protect your account.

* Sincerly,

* PayPal Account Review Department

* PayPal, an ebay Company

* Please do not respond to this e-mail adress as your reply will not be recived

* Paypal E-mail ID – #98754

I’ve reread it a few times. Forget the obvious misspellings. Look at what else is wrong. The sentences are missing articles, like ‘the’.

Using your best Boris Badinov imitation, say “Military Grade Encryption is Only Start.” It works. Russia is a perfect candidate for the native language of this sender, though others work too.

Some sad sack is going to believe this and sign on, giving up their username and password. You can’t thwart stupidity!

What I don’t understand is why these phishing expeditions aren’t combated by PayPal, or whomever the attack targets, seeding the phisher with identifiable usernames and passwords? They can then immediately tag who is using this info and where they are.

It seems so simple. I must be missing something?

How many highly publicized arrests need there be before this would stop? As it is now, have you ever heard of anyone being caught for doing this?

A Question About Spam

I don’t know about you, but I sure get a lot of spam. One of the reasons is certainly my ‘catch-all’ email address. If you send an email to, let’s say,, I get it (and after putting that bogus address here, I surely will get email at that address).

Much of the spam I get isn’t in English! I get a smattering in Chinese and a boatload in Russian.

How do I know it’s Russian? Just a guess, but those Cyrillic characters are a pretty good tipoff. It’s a product of my link being on Alex Moskalyuk’s website which is in English and Russian.

Here’s a sample email. It’s from a company that organizes tours out of Russia.

Туроператор организует:

* Конференции в Египте, Турции и Италии (мы разработаем индивидуальную программу работы и отдыха, деловые обеды и ужины для каждой группы так, что Ваши конкуренты Вам позавидуют)

* Корпоративный отдых в Египте, Турции и Италии (развлечения, праздничные обеды и ужины Вашим сотрудникам гарантированны)

* VIP -отдых частных лиц

Телефоны в Москве: (495) 585-4968; (495) 241-9489

плрнвьойи псдчйоасоен еебвши

If you’re like me (and you really should hope and pray you’re not), you probably think spam is the same worldwide. Based on the Russian spam, that’s just not so.

I can’t read it, but I can see from the structure, they’re not selling Cialis, Viagra and penis enlargement products. None of the structure used here in the states to fool spam blockers are evident. These seem to be legitimate businesses… or shady businesses marketed as legit.

I wonder what it is culturally that makes our spam so sleazy and their spam so mainstream? Someone reading this must have an idea.

Take Me Out Of My Misery

With everyone kvetching about global warming, I was taken aback by this UPI story.

Scientist predicts ‘mini Ice Age’

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Feb. 7 (UPI) — A Russian astronomer has predicted that Earth will experience a “mini Ice Age” in the middle of this century, caused by low solar activity.

Khabibullo Abdusamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomic Observatory in St. Petersburg said Monday that temperatures will begin falling six or seven years from now, when global warming caused by increased solar activity in the 20th century reaches its peak, RIA Novosti reported.

The coldest period will occur 15 to 20 years after a major solar output decline between 2035 and 2045, Abdusamatov said.

Dramatic changes in the earth’s surface temperatures are an ordinary phenomenon, not an anomaly, he said, and result from variations in the sun’s energy output and ultraviolet radiation.

The Northern Hemisphere’s most recent cool-down period occurred between 1645 and 1705. The resulting period, known as the Little Ice Age, left canals in the Netherlands frozen solid and forced people in Greenland to abandon their houses to glaciers, the scientist said.

There will be fighting over this – big time!

The Mecca Of Ham Radio

This is probably the nerdiest thing I can say about myself. I have been a ham radio operator for nearly 40 years. I was first licensed as a Novice class operator while in high school and then went on to my General, Advanced and Amateur Extra licenses.

I can still remember my first contact or QSO&#185. I didn’t have a radio of my own, so I went to my friend Ralph Press’ house. Using Morse Code, I was able to span the globe from Flushing, Queens all the way to Nassau County, a little farther out on Long Island.

His callsign was WN2RNG. I remember that, because in Morse it had a distinctive rhythm: di dah dit dah dit dah dah dit.

Growing up I lived in apartment 5E. It was a building where outdoor antennas were forbidden. From time-to-time early in my ham radio career I strung up ‘invisible’ antennas of extremely thin, and very flimsy, wire.

Neighbors who knew complained I was ruining their TV reception. They complained even after I moved out and went to college!

It was all for naught. Only as an adult did I being to understand what it took to have a proper antenna and how important that was.

My ham radio career has been through a number of stages. There would be a few years of activity followed by a period of inactivity. I’m in an inactive stage right now. You can blame that on the Internet, which is more efficient than ham radio doing many of the things I enjoyed.

In my last active stretch I became involved in contesting, trying to contact as many other hams as possible in a set period of time, usually exchanging specific bits of information to confirm the contact. I also started toying with QRP or low powered contacts.

I have made contacts to Europe and Asia and everywhere in between with a transceiver I built on my kitchen table, using less power than a flashlight bulb. Once, on vacation, I took it to the Dominican Republic and operated off of D cell batteries with an antenna draped between two palm trees on the beach.

Early on, I used voice for contacts, but I grew tired of that. It was too much like operating an appliance and there didn’t seem to be much skill involved.

In my last ham radio incarnation I was 100% Morse. Ham operators call that CW for continuous wave. It is the most simple form of radio communications.

I became pretty proficient, able to send and receive at nearly 30 words per minute. At that speed you stop listening to individual letters and begin trying to hear words or phrases.

Once you start sending faster than 10-15 words per minute you can’t use the classic Morse key – the ‘brass pounder.’ Instead I used a paddle, with the dit and dah on opposite sides and an electronic keyer to translate my little finger motions into properly spaced tones.

Recently, my friend Harold become the Chief Operating Officer for the American Radio Relay League – the ham radio organization in America. It is headquartered in Newington, CT, about 40 miles from my house.

League Headquarters is ham radio’s Mecca. I went and visited today. It’s been a while since I’d been there.

It’s a difficult time for the ARRL because computers have stolen many of the geeky kids, like me, who used to go into ham radio. Restrictive covenants in housing developments have also made it extremely difficult to put up a decent antenna. They still have plenty of members, but I assume they’re getting progressively older.

ARRL headquarters is an interesting place because it’s a publishing house, membership service center, laboratory where new equipment is evaluated (and those evaluations published) and home of W1AW.

W1AW is to ham radio stations as Yankee Stadium is to ballparks. It is the best known callsign, without a doubt. Today, before I left the league, I sat down and did a little operating at W1AW.

There is, to me, something very romantic and relaxing about operating Morse Code. In a darkened room, with headphones on, totally concentrating, you can pluck weak signals from the ether and have conversations with people from around the world.

Imagine if the simple act of conversing required skill? That’s what CW operating is all about.

Many of the people you speak to don’t understand English, and I certainly don’t speak any foreign languages fluently. That’s where the telegrapher’s abbreviations come in. It’s possible to have a rudimentary conversation without speaking a common language.

I sat down at the W1AW operating position. The transceiver was down on the low end of 20 meters (14.005 mHz to be exact), a wavelength suited for long distance conversations. The rig’s coaxial cable connected it to a large multi-element beam on a tall tower. I was loaded for bear with a very recognizable call.

I called CQ – the universal request to chat. Nothing. I called again and Tom in Cardiff, Wales came back. We talked for a few minutes and, as I signed off, Ludo in Slovakia called me. That was followed by Valentin somewhere in Russia.

Harold estimated my speed at about 18 words per minute, well below my old CW comfort zone. My sending wasn’t entirely flawless either. A number of times I hit dit when I should have hit dah and had to correct myself and resend.

It really felt good.

Maybe it’s time to throw a wire antenna up over the house again and give it another try? Or, maybe, ham radio’s time has come and gone for me. I’m not really sure. There’s certainly a lot more on my plate right now. Where would I fit it in?

Something to ponder. Who knows?

&#185 – Because amateur radio had its beginnings in telegraphy, many Morse Code abbreviations are used, sometimes even when speaking. QSO, QTH, QRZ, QRU – they’re all part of the arcane lexicon.

Remind Me Not to Go To Moscow

The mayor of Moscow, Russia has decided there should be a penalty for bad weather forecasts. What is he trying to do… become personally responsible for my plunge into the abyss of forecaster’s hell? I’m tense enough already about today’s potential storm.

Continue reading “Remind Me Not to Go To Moscow”

Another Pox On My Web-house

I look upon the Internet as Manhattan circa 1974. There are museums and cultural attractions. There are hookers, scams and slime. Everyone lives together, though grudgingly at times.

As with the Manhattan of 30 years ago, the underbelly businesses on the net are constantly trying to gain an advantage – often at the expense of the legitimate residents. One of the ways we all see this is in spam. As the proprietor of a website I have additional tsuris. Today, a new one.

I think I have complained before of what’s called ‘comment spam.’ Scummy websites, which could never achieve legitimate ‘weight’ on Google, plant comments on blogs like mine. The comment itself might be as innocuous as: “Ain;t it the truth” or “I couldn’t agree more.” The comment isn’t as important as the fact that it’s accompanied by their web address. That address, appearing on loads of blogs, will increase their Google rank – a very valuable commodity.

I scan all the comments I get, and these spurious ones are gone in a hurry. I hope all bloggers are as diligent – though I’d guess they aren’t. A few days ago I woke up to find a few dozen of these, all from an IP address in Russia.

Now another parasite rears it’s ugly head. Today I started getting bounced spam email – email sent to addresses that don’t exist or won’t accept the mail for other reasons. Why am I getting these bounces? Because the spammer put a return address (nothing more than a random jumble of letters) that ends “”

Already, because of this spam, at least one website has informaed me that mail from this site will be refused! It’s a site I don’t care about, but they surely aren’t alone.

What did I do to get this honor? Nothing. I’m sure I was just picked at random as the spammers tried to hide behind any scent of legitimacy they could find.

I continue to say, unless email is fixed so it can be trusted, the Internet will surely die or lose its incredible promise.