Fascism

Nov. 20th, 2016 12:27 am
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Donald Trump is being called a fascist. As far as I am concerned, the jury is still out, but it is clear that if he delivers on his promise to boost the standard of living of his working-class supporters, it can only be by following in the Fuehrer's footsteps: massive infrastructure spending; re-equipping and vastly expanding the military; and, ultimately, war.

Will he go there? We'll see.

Part of me wants to move to New Zealand or somewhere equally far away.
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The FCC is still considering applications to transfer the licenses of six radio stations in Vermont and New Hampshire to my brother and me. We expect a green light in January, after which we'll consummate the deal and become radio station owners.

There are two country music stations, two news-talk stations, one with a "variety" music format, and one that plays classical music. The news-talk stations account for most of the advertising revenue, and that's a problem for me because "news-talk" in the radio industry is a euphemism for right-wing propaganda. Rush Limbaugh, Howie Carr, and Michael Savage feature prominently on both stations and we have to tread carefully lest we wreck the business. If we dump any of these shows, Great Eastern or Binnie Media, our two principal competitors, will pick them up along with the local advertisers who support them. Right now I am leaning toward adding more local content with the goal of broadening the range of views included in our programming, but whatever we do has to be compelling and interesting. We can't just slip "Democracy Now" into the schedule; it tends to focus on events and issues that aren't very relevant to residents of the upper valley, and the style of presentation leaves much to be desired.

But it particularly galls me when Howie Carr asserts that science is an arbitrary belief system comparable to religion, and calls global climate change a "cult". If the scientific method were not valid, technologies built on its findings -- such as radio -- wouldn't exist, and Howie Carr would have no audience.

I am greatly disturbed by the election of Donald Trump, and wonder if his regime will even allow us to broadcast once he consolidates his power.
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One of my clients' radio stations has been off the air since 6 AM because of a power failure. Supposedly the electric company is working on the problem, but when I found the supervisor earlier this evening it became clear that they hadn't done a damn thing all day.

Boston Edison, as it used to be, responded pretty quickly to these sorts of emergencies. They sold out to a company called NStar a few years ago, and NStar sold out (last year? the year before? time does fly) to something called Eversource, which is a national company, no longer based locally. And Eversource, like the phone company, doesn't have to care.

This has to end tonight; I can't be here to deal with it tomorrow, as another client needs me in New Hampshire to help cut over to a brand new studio.
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Amtrak's last remaining full-length dome car, Ocean View, is running in one of the Downeaster train sets between now and the middle of September. I rode it last Saturday, and it's on this train right now. It would have been more enjoyable earlier in the summer when the days were longer; as I type this, it's almost too dark to see anything.

The Downeaster is a very comfortable ride and usually runs on time -- this year, anyway; last year it was all bolluxed up due to track work by the successor to the old Boston and Maine Railroad, which, believe it or not, calls itself Pan Am Railways and uses the old airline logo.

I love New England. There is so much to see and experience here. I keep finding new gems, like the magnificent stone train station in Laconia, NH, where I had lunch while visiting a radio station where I did some work. They had passenger rail service from Boston until 1965. I am always surprised to see a stone station on the ex-B&M; the ex-New York Central Boston & Albany line had quite a few of them, but the B&M trended more toward wooden stations, most of which haven't survived.

Are we running late? That's what I get for writing that this train is usually on time. I am meeting J. for dnner, after which I'll get to see J's kitty cats, Victoria and Sadie, also known as the Calico Cabal.
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...or Fascbook as I like to spell it.

I may be the last holdout on the planet; certainly it feels like I am. I do feel, though, that there is something morally wrong with vacuuming up people's private information and using it for profit. There is also the matter that dollars that might otherwise go to support my radio clients, and, therefore, me, are instead lining the pockets of Mr. Zuckerberg and his greedy Wall Street backers. Communities lose their newspapers and local radio stations, and thereby become less communal. Local elections go on with 10% of the voters showing up at the polls and no one knowing who the candidates are or what they stand for. I can't blame all of the social entropy rotting our democracy on Facebook, of course, but there are places I used to live that have declined greatly from the prosperous towns I knew in my youth.

No, I don't like Fascbook, nor Twitter, for that matter. We are going to end up with Donald Trump as our President on the basis of messages amounting to... what is it? 160 characters? What on earth can one say in 160 characters that can convey true understanding of even the least complicated thing?

I remember when I didn't like LiveJournal; I loved Usenet, though. There is not much left of Usenet or the communities it spawned, alas.

The older I get, the farther to the left I go. I quoted Lenin the other day on dailykos, arguing that Bernie Sanders could never lead a revolution from the White House. What would Christianity be today if the Romans had made Jesus emperor instead of crucifying him?

It afterwards occurred to me that many of the differences between Christianity and Islam can be accounted for by the fact that Jesus was executed as a rebel but Muhammad died as ruler of Arabia.

These people I interviewed with today did indeed offer me a job, and it looks like I will be taking them on as a client. Their politics are one hundred eighty degrees opposed to mine, ironically.

I feel myself at a crossroads; I can continue as I have been, or go to work for these people (or another group that wants to hire me full time), or do what I would do in the best of all possible worlds, buy my own radio stations.

Spring is turning into summer. Everything is lush green, and daylight lasts well into the evening. It is a glorious time of the year. The green frogs are singing in Framingham.

The more we look for answers, the more we find questions.

I have started rewatching one of my favorite TV shows, Seventeen Moments in Spring, about a Russian spy in the closing weeks of World War II. It was produced in the Soviet Union in 1973, and was filmed largely in the Berlin in which it is set. I am haunted by the score by Mikael Tariverdiev, especially the songs "Moments" and "Somewhere Far Away", sung by Russia's answer to Frank Sinatra, Josef Kobzon.
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I'm not looking for a full-time job at this point in my career, but I'm willing to talk.

Ironically, it's going to take me longer to drive to this broadcaster's Boston studios than it took me to drive to Dover, New Hampshire yesterday.

I'd rather buy a station or two of my own, but I haven't seen the right ones on the market yet.

I'm back.

May. 15th, 2016 06:27 pm
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Since I was last here, much has happened. My brother and I tried to buy some radio stations in northern New England; after some research, we found that they were overpriced, but the seller didn't want to negotiate, so we had to walk away.

Had we succeeded, we would have found ourselves in the embarrassing position of owning a station under contract to carry Rush Limbaugh and Howie Carr. I'm not sure how we would have handled that.

I am still in the market for the right station or stations, should they appear.

Meanwhile, life goes on. I've been seeing J. for almost two years now; the conductors on the Amtrak Downeaster now know us both quite well, as we are now frequent travelers.

Last night's trip home was something of a misadventure. There was a problem with the track at Royal Junction, where the Brunswick Branch (ex-Maine Central "Lower Road") joins the Pan Am Railways main line; as a result, I got into Boston an hour late, missed the connection to my commuter train, and had to take the MBTA Green Line to a point about two and a half miles from home and then walk. But it took me 20 minutes to discover that the Green Line trains that serve that branch no longer run to North Station, and I had to go to Government Center to catch my train. I then missed my stop, had to wait for a reverse train, and got home only well after one A.M... and then I was awakened promptly at five A.M. by a call from Dover, NH, where one of the stations I support had just gone off the air, requiring me to jump in my car and drive up there (ironically, I could have just got off the Amtrak train in Dover last night).

Today was Pentecost, the fiftieth and last day of the Easter season. I am still singing in the choir, and we sang several hymns and anthems about doves, fire, and other such metaphors. Oh, and there was cake. Because Pentecost is considered the birthday of the church, there was cake. Very good cake, even if some of the decorations meant to resemble flames looked more like strips of bacon.

Oh, and someone even compared the traditional Pentecost story of the apostles speaking in tongues to the revelation of Ambassador Kosh in the Babylon 5 episode, "The Fall of Night."
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Today is the seventh day of Christmas, the last of December and 2015, and my Massachusetts grandmother's birthday. She would be 121 years old were she still alive.

This December has sucked. I'll not be missing it.

The ground is covered by ice; working on an antenna tuning unit at a transmitter site in Connecticut last night, I almost slipped and fell down the hill several times. Oddly, there is actually water on the ground here in Dover, NH right now; I'm not here to work today, just passing through on the train.

I should have taken the train here Tuesday when I was here to work; there were accidents and spin-outs all over the highway.

It looks like Tuesday's storm brought about half a foot of snow to Dover. In Boston it was all ice. Given a choice, I'd take the snow, but of course we are never given a choice in such things.


I seem to have caught another cold. The stress I've been under these past few weeks has done me no favors. Now one of the Brazilians my client has hired wants to replace the automation system with something Brazilian which has no U.S. support and which no one in this country knows anything about. I said this is a really bad idea, and that the only way to do it would be to fly someone in from Brazil, pay him or her to do the work, and retain him or her as a consultant.

Now comes January, my second least favorite month of the year. And it's going to be 2016, the year of the rabid Republican. Someone really ought to take these people out and shoot them, or at least send them to the Aleutians.

There as a time when one could ride a train from Boston all the way to Nova Scotia. The 1948 Boston and Maine timetable lists trains on three different to Montreal, and one to Chicago via Fitchburg and Troy. Now much of that infrastructure is rusting away or overgrown by weeds.

The 1938 B&M timetable lists something truly strange: a train leaving Boston's North Station at 7:41 AM going to Waltham via the now abandoned Watertown branch. It stopped every half mile or so, reaching Waltham in about 40 minutes; then after ten minutes it followed the same route back to Boston. There was also service to Bedford via Lexington on what is now the Minuteman Bike Path, and service through Waltham, Wayland, and Sudbury out to Lancaster via a line long abandoned and overgrown.Our crumbling rail infrastructure is a metaphor for the decline of American power and prosperity, for it parallels the slow evaporation of factories and mills all over New England. The train I'm on now wouldn't be running if not for federal subsidies; and after Cruz or Rubio takes office a year from now, this line too may be consigned to the weeds.
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The United States fears Daesh/ISIS more than it fears Iran.

Saudi Arabia fears Assad more than it fears Daesh.

Turkey fears the Kurds more than it fears Daesh.

Israel fears Iran more than it fears Daesh.

Iran fears Daesh more than it fears Israel or the United States.

Russia sees Assad as its last, best hope for peace.

The reality, I think, is that what is most to be feared in the region is instability. Someone needs to win and establish an effective government. It almost doesn't matter who. The peoples of the region have lived as subjects of this or that empire for millennia. That is their tradition.

In the words of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, governor of Iraq in the late seventh century: harsh government may harm a few, but weak government harms all. The United States isn't helping; if I didn't know better, I'd suspect that the principal aim of American policy in the region since the 1980's has been to spread chaos.

If this is Babylon 5, then we are the Shadows, and there's nary a Vorlon in sight.
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Don't let musicians program your radio station.

I worked at WCRB, then Boston's premiere classical station, for more than twenty years. When we programmed for the musicians, a lot of average folks tuned out. When we stopped doing it, the musicians got up in arms, accusing us of "dumbing down" the station. They didn't want to hear Beethoven symphonies, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, or Bach's Brandenburg concertos; they wanted more challenging fare.

The problem is that musicians don't hear music the way most of the rest of us do. They hear things the untrained ear tends to miss, and as a result their tastes tend to be very different from those of the average radio listener.

My current clients include a station I was long unable to fathom; their music mix is bizarre. It reminds me of a roast beef and peanut butter sandwich: two great tastes that don't get along at all. The station's audience share typically languishes in the 0.1 to 0.3% range. I recently realized that it has fallen into WCRB's trap: it's playing to the local musicians, all of whom love it.

They are about to add a new feature where musicians come to the station and play their favorite records. We shall see...
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Do any of you know a psychiatrist in Massachusetts who takes MassHealth? I have a friend who is having trouble getting help through the usual channels.

Massachusetts does a poor job of looking out for the mental health of people who don't have infinite money.
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I've been largely absent from here lately due to massive amounts of work.

Most recently, I've helped set up a new classical music radio station in the Lake Sunapee region of New Hampshire; built a new studio on Cape Cod for Rede ABR, a group of stations serving the growing Brazilian community in New England; created a "student" Internet "radio station" consisting of a single virtual machine running a suite of applications that creates radio programming out of music and other elements submitted by students and streams it to Live 365, where listeners can hear it; installed a new console and rewired the main studio for the New Hampshire seacoast's leading news-talk station; and troubleshot a thrity-year-old transmitter for a station in northeastern Connecticut. It's been a busy summer.

Today I'm off to Block Island (R.I.) to find out why my client's FM station there mysteriously went off the air a couple days ago. Even though I was able to turn it back on, we need to know what made it turn off, as there is normally no one at the site and no one on the island who knows how to troubleshoot it.
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The last of the great South Boston snow pile finally melted on Thursday, so we can say it is finally summer in Boston.

I've been running around dealing with work situations from Dover, NH, to Gardner, MA and Exeter, RI. Today I made a trip to Cape Cod to set up an off-air monitor for the Brazilian station there that is owned by one of my clients.

Yes, there is a Brazilian community on Cape Cod. It's fairly new, but it now has a radio station to serve it. The tower it uses as an antenna has an osprey nest in it.

Up in Dover, NH the other day I had occasion to do some nighttime work in the antenna field behind the studio building, and there were hundreds of fireflies flashing away in the darkness. It was spectacular.

One of the best things about doing what I do for a living is that one never knows what creatures one might encounter.

My girlfriend wants me to take a vacation, but I was so stressed out by the one I took last October that I am in no hurry to schedule another one.

I am, however, going to Long Island with some friends for a few days later this summer. I'm still trying to work out how to deal with emergencies in my absence. There is a ferry from Montauk to Block Island, but I'd be hard pressed to get anywhere else easily.

Choir is on hiatus for the summer. I haven't had much occasion to sing much these days.

There is, however, "the Applecrap song", which I devised one day while I was having trouble getting some cloud-cased applications to work with a Macintosh at one of the stations. The song consists of the words "Applecrap, Applecrap, Applecrap crap crap" sung to the tune of Johann Strauss, Senior's Radetzky March. I've found Apple's fascist attitude toward its customers pretty frustrating lately.

I miss alt.polycons.

Oh, crap; my phone is ringing...

Duh!

Jun. 5th, 2015 11:11 am
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John Gunther, writing in Inside Asia (1939):

"There are designs 'in' Singapore; there are also designs 'on' Singapore. No one in the area thinks of anyone except Japan, if you mention possible aggression. The best military information available is that the island is open to attack only from the mainland in the north. A sea approach is almost impossible, and though an air attack might do damage, it could hardly result in the investment or occupation of the island. To take Singapore, an enemy would have to land infantry detachments somewhere in Malaya, or possibly Siam, and march south."

That, of course, is precisely what the Japanese did three years later. The fall of Singapore on February 15, 1942 would be called by Winston Churchill the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in the history of British arms.

Sometimes, you can see them coming three years in advance and still not be ready.
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A Boston AM radio station you've probably never heard of just scored a $30,000 commercial buy from Verizon. The station doesn't show up in the ratings. It doesn't even broadcast in English -- nor, for that matter, in Spanish.

You may be surprised to learn that the most widely spoken language in Massachusetts, other than English, is Portuguese. There are a lot of Brazilians in the Boston area, and more on Cape Cod, where my client recently bought another station. Politicians have been courting them for a while; both Governor Patrick and his successor, Governor Baker, have visited the station. Now it looks like the big corporations are starting to take notice, too.

It's wonderful to have a client who's doing better than just treading water. Way to go, WSRO!

Yesterday

May. 6th, 2015 06:41 am
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...was the 197th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.

Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch!
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In the midst of death, we are in life. So it was at Mount Auburn Cemetery this afternoon, on the first really good day of the season, or at least the first one of which I've been able to take advantage.

The American toads (Bufo americanus) were singing. The toad's song is a medium high-pitched musical trill lasting up to 30 seconds. Since toads are poisonous to most potential predators, they show little fear of humans, and I was able to get close enough to them to watch them sing and fight off rivals. The pond was, I was told, ice-covered until a few days ago, which probably explains why the toads are late this year. I would normally expect them to be done by now. They come out of the woods and gardens and congrgate in ponds to mate an lay eggs, from which tadpoles will hatch that will grow into a new generation of toads. The males sing to call potential mates, and they are loud enough to carry quite a distance.

Also calling for a mate was a big tom turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) strutting through the cemetery; His gobbling could be heard all over the place.

Two species of turtles were in evidence: Chrysemys picta picta, the eastern painted turtle, which is almost ubiquitous in these parts; and Trachemys scripta elegans, the read-eared slider, a turtle of the Mississippi valley that has managed to establish itself in Massachusetts despite our brutal winters. I saw two individuals in the pond near the Mary Baker Eddy grave site; the smaller toad pond had only painted turtles.

The cemetery was bustling with birds, including some warblers I couldn't identify along with grackles, house sparrows, and the ubiquitous robin. I was told there was an owl nest in one of the trees overlooking the toad pond, but I couldn't see it.

Spring in New England, when it finally takes hold, is a glorious thing to see. Trees are bursting out in blossom all over the area, with bumblebees and the occasional honey bee busily buzzing from tree to tree. The cherry trees and magnolias were particularly spectacular.

The cemetery is a fascinating place; most of the people buried there seem to be Yankees, some of them with names, like Mehitebel and Cordelia, not often used today. I found Daniel Pinkham, a composer whose music we've sung at church.

Tomorrow it is back to work, alas. I placed an order online just now for 100 connectors for a scary project I've been postponing.
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Stuart O. Landry, Jr., Ph.D., born September 30, 1924 in New Orleans, LA, died March 17, 2015 in Needham, MA. He grew up in New Orleans, the son of advertising executive, author, and publisher Stuart O. Landry and his wife, Laura Saunders Landry. He graduated from Metairie Park Country Day School in the class of 1942, and enrolled at Harvard College (Cambridge, MA) with the class of 1946, but was drafted into the Army of the United States at the end of his freshman year. He served in the 94th Infantry Division and took part in the closing phase of the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion of Germany, finishing the war near Strakonice in western Czechoslovakia. He remained with the Army on occupation duty before returning to Harvard to graduate in 1949, after which he pursued graduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his doctorate.

Dr. Landry taught biology at the University of Missouri, the Louisiana State University in New Orleans, and, from 1963, as professor of biology at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he spent more than three decades. His particular field of interest was the study of hystricomorph rodents, but his interests were myriad, numbering among them the music of Bach, the works of Shakespeare, the mating habits of dinosaurs, and the history of his native New Orleans. He was a lifetime devotee of science and a long time supporter of the environment, progressive politics, and skeptical inquiry.

Professor Landry was married for 57 years to the late Helen Heafield Bacon of Wellesley, MA, and is survived by two sons, Robert and John; a grandson, Eric; and a sister, Anne.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, P.O. Box 703, Amherst, NY 14226-0703
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Verizon's response to the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband Internet service providers as common carriers is printed in International Morse code.

Morse code was intended to be heard not read, and the spaces between the letters in whatever font they're using are difficult to resolve, so even pronouncing it is hard.

Verizon is, of course, full of shit. Of course Internet service providers should be treated as common carriers; moreover, I would go further and insist that no Internet service provider should have any stake in the content he or she delivers. Verizon holds a monopoly on Internet service in many places, including the town of New Shoreham, RI, where every Internet user buys service directly or indirectly from Verizon. Market forces are never enough to protect customers from abuse by a monopolist, and the FCC's decision was the right one.

Verizon! Verizon! Rah, rah, rah!
Three dits, four dits, two dits, dah.
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