Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Radio Jerk International

It all started with a tweet from Kevin McDougald of The View from Seven:

Source: Twitter and the CBC

Being an occasional shortwave listener and CBC fan, this CBC story interested me.  The thought of owning a piece of Canadian broadcasting history,  as impractical as it was, really appealed to me.  I started daydreaming about what I'd do with the transmitter if I bought it, but stopped myself when I started seriously considering it...

Kevin has been following my antics for a while!  So, I decided to share a story I've never shared:

True story

I received the shredder in '08 when I acquired a lot of equipment from a shuttered dotcom.  I had to barter a truck and crew to move it into my garage, because it was that huge.  It's largely irrelevant to this story, but makes for an interesting side note.  I was going to commission a plaque that read "got mielke?" to mount on the unit, but not many people would have gotten the joke...

Our story would have ended there, a what if that had been a brief blip in my imagination, if not for my old buddy Derick of Around This Town fame:

This, of course, got me thinking.  What would happen..?

Well, nothing, really.  We don't have the resources (or space) to repair and maintain the unit, let alone run it... but let's pretend.

Imagine this popping up in your rss reader or blogroll:

The GimmeSomeMoney campaign has been a huge success.  Not only did we raise enough to pay for the transport, installation, and repair of the transmitter and antenna, we also prepaid the first year's lease on the new broadcast site in Headingley.  All the legal stuff has been taken care of, and our first broadcast as Radio Jerk International will take place at 0200 UTC on 7310khz.

Contrary to popular belief, we will not be bringing back Maple Leaf Mailbag as we are not affiliated with Radio Canada International, nor do we have the rights to do so.  On the same token, no, we have not coaxed Peter Mansbridge out of retirement.  These are false rumours spread on social media.

It's certainly an interesting thought.  I've toyed with the idea of running a pirate radio station over shortwave in the past,  Lord knows I have the equipment and rebellious streak to do so, and the possibility of running my own independent station (legally) is intriguing.

It's also a lot of work and, despite my enthusiasm for the media, shortwave radio is as dead as Telex on this continent.  There's also the chore of producing content on a regular basis, which would be an issue considering I can't be arsed to update my own established blogs on a regular basis...

I could always sell radio time to carefully screened clients.  That'd be fun for a while.  I'd sell time to all the left-wing nuts, anti-conservatives, and hippies, just to balance out all the right-wing nuts and ultra-conservative "religious" types so prevalent on AM and shortwave these days.

Yeah, that would be fun for a while, but it's just not me.

You got the radio frequency from a friend.  14426khz usb.  Sure, this archaic technology was a pain in the ass to set up, but since the demise of Net Neutrality and ensuing crackdown on independent speech online, this is the only way to hear the latest word.

You plug the radio into the line-in jack on your PC and fire up the decoding program.  After a few minutes, a series of odd clicks and digital noise bursts break through the static.  A message slowly appears on the computer screen:

Conceit and Sociopathy
On Slipping the Leash, part three
February 11th, 2018

If I actually did buy the transmitter and restored it (myself) to its former level of functionality, I would probably misuse it.  Seriously, I would probably use it to broadcast blog posts, missives, zines, propaganda, and subversive texts as radio faxes or SSTV images across the world.  Legally or otherwise.  24 hours a day.  My stuff and others.

That sounds a lot more like me.

So, if you had a powerful shortwave transmitter at your disposal, what would you do?  Let me know in the comments!  Winner receives online validation from myself!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Perpetual Self-Improvement Game (part three)

Happy New Year to all my readers, spammers, and bots!

Now that the holidays are over and we're winding down, it's a good time to go over my New Years Resolutions.  Hell, as I'm in the middle of a series on self-reflection, it's the perfect time!

I've been thinking about the changes that need to be made, where I'd like to be (and more importantly where we want our family to be), changes in philosophy, etc, and the interesting part is that we don't really need to make many changes.  By and large, we're on the right track, but still have a few things to sort out.

Some of the things I'm working on:

1.  Get Fit.  As in the first part of this series, I'm still tipping the scales at 230 lbs, which is not my ideal (doctor wants me at 200).  I don't drive as much anymore (opting to take the bus), but also ride my bikes whenever I can.  We also want to take more walks as a family.  Hoping to shed the 30 lbs by this time next year.  Speaking of bikes:

2.  Ride my bikes more often.  I spend more time tweaking, cleaning, building, customizing, and reading about bikes than I spend actually riding them.  I've commuted to work on occasion (17 kilometers each way) and would really like to do it more often.  Ditto for exploring the little-seen parts of the city.

3.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose.  This is a no-brainer for me, as I tend to repair or repurpose things rather than throw them out, or at the very least recycle them properly.  Of course, I can always do better.  To this end, I'm finally going to make an effort to learn to solder electronics.  I have several electronic items that need repair (chiefly my Japanese MSX2 computer), most of which requires desoldering old components and soldering new ones.

4.  Plan for retirement.  This is something I have neglected for far too long.  I have twenty-two years 'til retirement, assuming a retirement age of 67 (also assuming I live that long).  The original plan went south during a particularily difficult period, but now that things are back to relative normal, it's time to get back on track.

5.  Reduce my stress level.  This is something I've never been good at doing.  When I was younger, I used to thrive on stress.  Hell, I was a stress junkie!  But I'm not as young as I used to be, and prolonged periods of stress wear me down.  I've learned to relax a bit, and am at a point where I no longer feel a constant need to be doing something, but could use more de-stress time.  Thankfully, we have a sauna at home (came with the house, bourgeoisie FTW!) that I really should start to use...

6.  See my extended family.  I have aunts, uncles, cousins, and now several second cousins I haven't seen in years (outside of social media).  It's about bloody time we reconnected.

7.  Be a better neighbour.  We've been in the neighbourhood for two-and-a-half years, and we don't really know our neighbours.  Should really make an effort...

8. Be more engaged socially and politically.  I got tired of politics twenty years ago and have been largely apolitical since.  Unfortunately, I've since realized that being apolitical is a privilege at best, a cop-out or excuse at worst.  There's far too much going on these days to be lazy and lackadaisical, and we're letting the assholes who fart the loudest drown out the rest.

So, that's about it.  Nothing I can't handle!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ten Years Later: War of the Dead

Ordinarily, I wouldn't post something like this, but this is a bit of an accomplishment for me.

Ten years ago, I bought a PC Engine game called Shiryou Sensen: War of the Dead, one of the first horror-themed ACTION-RPGs.  I'd played it on a PC Engine emulator a few times, and felt it was worth owning.

It's a frustrating game, with event triggers that don't always trigger, an annoyingly long password system, and a feature/bug that prevents levelling up past a certain point (by killing you).  Frustrating, to be sure, but the game is also a lot of fun and has a fairly intricate plot.

I've been playing the game off-and-on for the past ten years, constantly going over my notes, re-translating things I got wrong, and trying to piece together an interesting story.  Thankfully, much of the game is in Hiragana and Katakana, so I wasn't stuck trying to decipher complex Kanji.  Despite being functionally illiterate when it comes to Japanese, I got by.

I decided to play War of the Dead over my Christmas break, starting from the beginning and using my notes as a guide.  Rather than dig my PC Engine Duo-R out of the basement, I used an emulator instead: the demo version of Magic Engine .98 for Mac OS 9, which I downloaded onto Nadia.

The timed-demo version only allows for five minutes of play before timing out, but the authors themselves suggested a workaround: save your game in the emulator and reload.  This gives you another five minutes of play, and you can repeat the process indefinitely.

And so, I played through Shiryou Sensen: War of the Dead this weekend, in successive four-and-a-half minute chunks.  Going by my notes and not using a walkthrough.

This morning, not half-an-hour ago, I finally beat the game.

Not much of an ending, a little blurb about the main character, Lyla Alphons, and a cute picture of Lyla and support orphan Carol suggesting they all lived happily ever after.

Still, after ten years, it was worth it.

Now, onto something else... I never did finish Ys II...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

I'd like to thank all my readers (and bots) for consistent blog view count and for keeping the faith in 2017, and hope to see you all in 2018, where I'll make a consistent effort to update more frequently.

So, on behalf of myself, Jillian, Astrid, and Czarina, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and all the best in 2018!

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Feverish Fixing of Nadia, Part II

She's back in action!

For the umpteenth time, I've resurrected Nadia.  Longtime readers will know what I mean, but for those who don't (or won't click on the link), Nadia is my Apple Powerbook G3 "Lombard", bought in 2006 to serve as my main blogging and writing machine.  I named her after retired British adult film star Andrea Spinks, aka Nadia, of whom I was, er, enamoured at the time.

My reason for hanging onto (and repairing) a nearly twenty-year old laptop?  Stubbornness, for the most part, but the most important reason is that I like it.  I like using it, I like the form factor, I like that it's easily repaired, I like the apps in both Mac OS9 and OS X 10.3.9, and I still have all the hardware I've bought over the years.  I made an investment, damn it!

Unfortunately, things ain't the way they used to be, as many of the apps I loved no longer work.  Ecto, the blogging app I used, will no longer connect to Blogger/Google as it can't handle newer authentication protocols.  Neither can Microsoft Entourage 2000, OS X's Mail app, most websites, and my WebDAV clients.

The standard Facebook and Twitter took forever to load in their web incarnations, but the mobile versions still worked as beautifully as they did back in 2011.  Google+ doesn't work, though, which kind of pisses me off.  Ah well.

It was fun fooling around with the Powerbook, but as stubborn as I am, it'll never be more than a novelty or curiosity piece as it stands.  So, I took a calculated risk and downloaded a utility called xpostfacto, which lets one install Mac OX 10.4 onto unsupported Macs... such as Nadia.

I say "calculated risk" because I've been down this road a few times before, and it's never ended well.  I usually end up with a Powerbook that will no longer boot.  This time, however, I was determined to make it work.  So, I downloaded xpostfacto, threw in my 10.4 DVD, set it to upgrade my 10.3.9 install, and after an eternity, I was booting into OS 10.4!

It took a lot longer for Nadia to boot, but once up and running she seemed normal.  My installed apps worked, although a touch slower than in 10.3.9.  Out of curiosity, I tried a System Update, and practically jumped out of my chair when the system actually started updating!  This came as a shock to me, as the update servers for OS X 10.3.9 no longer work.

After a few hours, Nadia was running a fully upgraded 10.4.11.  SSH works, web pages display correctly in Safari and TenFourFox, Google+ works (eventually), and all my old stuff still works.

Most importantly, I can get on the Usenet, which is 90% of my internet activity these days.

Here I am, Usenetting like a motherfucker

My ISP dropped Usenet support a few years ago, so I've subscribed to a couple of free Usenet providers who only deal in the non-Binaries groups.  I've also subscribed to RSS Feed-to-Usenet service GWENE, and its sister service GMANE (a mailing list-to-Usenet service) so I can read RSS feeds from my favourite blogs and websites in my newsreader.

10.4 also lets me run SyncTERM and MultiMail (neither of which ran under 10.3.9), which meant I can once again log into my favourite BBSes and get updates from all my favourite message echos!

Party like it's 1989!

It took a few hours of work, but I turned what was essentially a nostalgia piece into a daily driver!  For what I need in a computer, Nadia can do the job.  Anything else I can do on my Android tablet or Linux box.  If I ever decide to take her mobile again, it's just a matter of getting her batteries re-celled.

Here's hoping she lasts another couple of years...

Monday, December 18, 2017

On Slipping the Leash, part one

Monday morning, I slept in.

Not by choice, of course.  Rather than hit "Snooze" on my ersatz alarm clock (my old iPhone 3g), I accidentally turned it off.  When I finally woke up, the clock read 5:55am... I'd have just enough time to get dressed, make myself semi-presentable, pack a lunch, and bolt out the door to catch my bus at 6:21.

While I made it to the bus stop with seconds to spare (and thus to work on time), it threw off my morning routine.  I didn't have time to shower, take the garbage/recycling out, make coffee, or ensure that I had everything I needed for the day.

Such as my cellphone.

I had the presence of mind to throw the aforementioned iPhone 3g (also my music player) into my laptop bag along with my Grundig M400 pocket radio, but I forgot my main cellphone (an iPhone SE).  Thankfully, I have an international SIM card in the 3g for when I travel, but texting is expensive when you and your wife exchange dozens of texts per day, and you're not subscribed to an unlimited texting plan...

So, I was largely without my smartphone for the day, and it felt wonderful!

Jill and I still managed to communicate throughout the day.  We used up my remaining minutes on my international plan, after which we went back to good ol' fashioned email on my work PC.  But I was unable to check Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, my bank account, or even the Winnipeg Transit bus times online.

I found I didn't miss it.  At all.  In fact, it felt quite liberating.

I didn't grow up with a smartphone.  In fact, I didn't get my first smartphone until 2011, at age 38.  I guess I just never felt a need!  My friends all knew where I hung out, and knew if they left a message on my answering machine, I'd return the call in the next week or so.  I could check my MTS voice mailbox from any payphone for free, so getting ahold of me was never a problem if I wanted to be gotten ahold of!

After living my life without a cellphone for so long, going without one for a day was easy.  In fact, I found it caused me to rely on my wits... something I miss.

Jill emailed me to ask if I'd mind busing home from work, as they were running late.  No problem.  I know that my bus to Polo Park comes at 5:18pm.  I also knew that it was snowing somewhat, that traffic was really backed up (because people in Winnipeg forget how to drive when it snows), and therefore that my 5:18 bus was going to be late.

Did I take my time getting to the bus stop?  Hell no, I sprinted!

Why?  Because I know this bus route like the back of my hand.  I knew that the previous bus would be running just as late, and would likely be showing up at the stop in short order.  I don't need an app to tell me that!

Sure enough, the 5pm bus showed up at 5:12.  And I caught it.

I got to Polo Park a little earlier than I normally would, and sure enough, my connecting bus was right behind us when we arrived.

I noticed the unusually long line of people getting on the bus (which was already packed), which told me they'd been waiting a long time.  So I walked back to the shelter, figuring this was a prior bus running late.

I was right, as another #67 arrived two minutes later, and I ended up having a nearly empty bus to myself.  Experience, yo.  Didn't need an app to figure out the situation!

I got home earlier than I normally would, had a warm comfortable ride home on an uncrowded bus, and was not encumbered by a mobile device that constantly demanded my attention... and I got to be smug about it, which is the most important part!

Unlike some of my more recent entries, the preceding story actually happened as told, without embellishment.  Last Monday was a hectic day that started with my oversleeping and rapidly went downhill from there.  Smugness aside, the fact that I'd forgotten my cellphone (or as I call it, slipping my leash) is largely irrelevant.  Most of us, even those of us born during the days of smartphone entrenchment, can do what I did.  It's not hard, it just takes a little deductive reasoning.  But how many people would make the effort?

While I originally wrote this to be a smug little bastard (as is my mandate), I started to think about why things worked out the way they did.  This post is the first in a series of several posts where I look at my life experience and how it relates to the modern day, in advance of my 45th birthday in February 2018.

On another note, after careful reflection, I've decided to re-enable comments (for those with Google accounts) on the blog.  I'll keep them open so long as people act like adults and keep the partisan politics to themselves.  Comments are still moderated so I can weed out the spam.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Welcome to Your New Normal

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