Friday, June 21, 2013

Spurious Signal Propagation

So much has been going on lately that I started alliterating subheadings in my head to try to keep them straight, and try to organize my thoughts about them.

While pondering them in recent days, they seemed to resemble too much unwanted feedback on a landscape of information and occurrences. I tried to have a serious discussion with my wife about religion - and wound up with a headache instead of anything meaningful. That doesn't usually happen.

All of this reminded me of what in radio terms is called spurious signals, or "undesired signal energy present at any frequency at the output of a device that was not present at the input". It's all the noise that gets in the way of what really needs to come through. More about this later.

Here is a sampling of some of that intentionally organized, yet unwelcome random stuff that stands in the way of real progress in my own personal growth - perhaps more of a picture of how my brain works (or doesn't) than one might like.

Brought to you by two letters of the English alphabet.

Surveillance, Secrecy, Snowden - Past is Present 

Has anyone else noticed that this entire episode started out eerily like the first several minutes of The Bourne Ultimatum, right down to the same media outlet breaking the story?
Hopefully it doesn't follow the plot line completely, even though I'm sure that the reporter Glenn Greenwald and his staff are taking whatever precautions they feel are necessary. The same can be said for their source.

Despite all of the additional revelations and events that have transpired over the last two weeks, I will stick with my first impressions about Edward Snowden after reading the interview that the Guardian conducted with him in Hong Kong, and released two Sundays ago - 

"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he said. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."

Courageous, misguided, naïve, unafraid, narcissistic - these and so many other adjectives have been used to describe the man. I personally think that he did a service to the cause of personal privacy and controls over what the government can find out, and what they can do with it.

I was listening to Mike Pintek talk about this on KDKA last week. He referred to the Pentagon Papers controversy, which this affair is being compared to, as "ancient history".
Please, Mike - we were both alive when it happened, and just because it happened 40 or so years ago does not make it any less relevant. 

Daniel Ellsberg is also still alive, and commented rather astutely in the Guardian on Snowden's actions:

"Snowden did what he did because he recognised the NSA's surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans' and foreign citizens' privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we're trying to protect."

Ellsberg also makes a comparison of the NSA's activities to that of the East German Stasi during the heyday of the former Soviet bloc. The 2006 Oscar-winning film The Lives of Others is an excellent dramatic rendering of what it might have been like to live in a society where the fear of someone listening actually affects the nature of the discourse, regardless of the innocence of that discourse.

That is perhaps the best point I have heard in response to all of the reporting, hype, and outcry - that people will "self-regulate" themselves into what they think is palatable to what the government will tolerate.

This is an affront to the liberty of thought that no free society, that wishes to remain so, can tolerate for very long. The fact that all of this started to become public knowledge on the 49th anniversary of the publication of Orwell's 1984 has apparently not been lost on a lot of people.

The government may choose to throw the book at Edward Snowden, or do nothing at all - let him live out his days with one eye continuously looking over his shoulder. There is, however, enough of an outcry on both sides of the political spectrum - including ACLU litigation and a very popular White House petition demanding Snowden be pardoned - that some action to curtail the NSA's activities will likely have to be considered.

We The People, at least those of us who care deeply about the free expression of ideas and dissenting opinion, will not stand for it. Apparently, many citizens are planning to take to the streets this 4th of July in support of the Fourth Amendment. How appropriate is that?

Sewickley Sewer Street Shutdown Surprise - Prolonged

Over the several months, an ongoing project to connect portions of Aleppo Township and Glen Osborne to Sewickley's sewer system has resulted in several street closures and other traffic-related issues - many not communicated in a way motorists and citizens would probably appreciate or expect.

This trend apparently continued with the closing of Beaver Street in the heart of the Village two weeks ago. The Herald's story, dated Tuesday June 4, announced the closure and detour of Beaver at Logan Street to last two days.

The Quaker Valley School District sent a mass e-mail the previous evening, attempting to quickly notify parents of the closure. Communications Director Tina Vojtko made it a point to write that "we were just informed late this afternoon" of the impending detour - I imagined I could almost hear the banging of annoyed fingers on Ms. Vojtko's keyboard as it was being written.

I can't tell you if I was surprised or not to go to church two Sundays ago and see the closure - and associated heavy equipment - still in place. It was later reported that the "2 day" closure ended a little over a week after it commenced.

From last year's closure of Beaver Road in Glen Osborne, to the recent single-lane restrictions on Route 65 in the same community, up to and including this last closure, whomever is responsible at Sewickley Borough needs to make a better effort at communicating restrictions on traffic flow and other services, especially if those delays take longer than expected.

On my regular commute down Route 65 this week, I took note of the backhoe, fresh trenches, and pipe staged below where the road passes behind Osborne Elementary School. Hopefully something will be said about it..well in advance..if they intend to disrupt traffic again.

Sewickley Photoplay Philanthropy Shortage

The Village Theater Company is approaching a self-imposed deadline to obtain total pledges of $1.5 Million to construct a new movie house in the heart of Sewickley Village.

They've got a way to go to reach that goal by the end of the month. This past week I sent them an example of how a community comes together to make a great space possible - something that transcends the space itself.

Village Theater Company needs the community's help, at a fundamental level, to make this happen. It starts with financial resources, at this point in any amount. Best wishes to them in their efforts.

Penguins Paradoxically Plummet - Still Supportive

After following the Penguins during their successful campaign through a lockout-shortened regular season, and then over the first two rounds of playoffs that were rocky but eventually successful, it was distressing to see them basically not show up at all the first two games against the Bruins.

Since the Pens' season ended, there has been the predictable amount of speculation, announcements, signings, and accolades. Here are a few observations while we're waiting for next season to start:

1. Despite the post-season reaffirmation of Marc-Andre Fleury as the team's "franchise goaltender", this doesn't really explain or forgive his being thrown under the bus by Coach Dan Bylsma during the playoffs. If the team elects to jettison Fleury after saying this, it will  be tough to get behind anything they have to say in the future.

2. As for Coach Bylsma himself, General Manager Ray Shero apparently believes the team needs stability at the coaching level, and that the current coaching staff is best equipped to manage the team through numerous personnel additions, and perhaps some deletions.
Nevertheless, there's a bit of serious evaluation warranted for the way in which the team basically didn't show up for the first 2 games against the Bruins, and how to prevent that in the future.

3. It's nice that we have Evgeni Malkin for a long time, but the team's overall effectiveness will be diminished if they can't re-sign Kris Letang.

4. Sidney Crosby is probably the best individual player in the NHL. Those who play with him seem to agree with that statement - Congratulations, Sid, on your award.
With that in mind, consider the following statement from Wikipedia:

Although the rules do not specify any other distinction between the captain and his teammates, the captain has numerous responsibilities to the team, particularly in North American professional hockey. The captain is a dressing room leader, and also represents the players' concerns to management. During the game, captains are expected to motivate their teams, particularly captains who are stars or franchise players.

Considering the talent that Ray Shero amassed for this year's campaign, including Brenden Morrow and Jerome Iginla - both of whom left their previous teams as the captain - is there room for discussion as to which of the Pens may be best qualified to serve in that role in the future?

Public Station Programming Problem has Solution Starting

Two years ago this week, I wrote about the loss of jazz music programming on the FM airwaves in Pittsburgh. Two recent events have brought the return of this programming to local radio a significant step closer.

Pittsburgh Public Media announced the closing of their purchase of Bethany College's radio station, and the establishment of studio facilities in Pittsburgh's southern suburbs. According to the Post-Gazette, the group estimated that the station could begin broadcasting jazz music and other offerings of the currently online-only Pittsburgh Jazz Channel by sometime next month.

The group singled out Essential Public Media, the owners of the former WDUQ, for selling them some of that station's old equipment to help facilitate the start-up. It was nice of EPM to try to make amends in this way.

The station's current transmitter site will cover mainly the south and west suburbs of Pittsburgh, on 88.1 FM.  The group states that it will be actively seeking additional frequencies and transmitter sites to cover the remainder of the Pittsburgh area, and is seeking public support to gather funds for that purpose.

Coincidentally, this week the FCC announced that they are accepting applications for Low Power FM station licenses, made possible by the passage of the Local Community Radio Act in 2011. This could be an avenue for the jazz radio folks to gain access to the FM airwaves, while admittedly at low power, but with the proper transmitter placement could attain the coverage goals that they're looking for.

Great credit should be given to the Prometheus Radio Project for helping to spearhead the passage of the law, and for continued efforts to educate and inform non-profits and community groups about the availability of LPFM to inform, connect, and motivate local communities to action.

Come to think of it, there may be an opportunity for some forward-thinking locals to band together and make a go of it in our immediate area. I can say from personal experience that it can be lots of fun and hard work, with intangible rewards, and sometimes meaning beyond words.

Speaking of signals..Radio Free Leetsdale, anyone?

Enjoy the summer. 

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