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Clay Freinwald

Clay’s Corner for May 2014

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineer's perspective since September 1986


Under the heading of – Why don’t people listen to scientists and engineers  - - -


The SR530 or Oso slide has been a tragic event to be sure.  The good news is that our industry really covered the event very well.  Interestingly, the first news of this tragedy came from the National Weather Service via the EAS.  As the media dug a bit deeper into this situation it became clear that Engineers and Geologists knew about the risks of people living in that area and the local government did little to stop issuing building permits as property owners were eager to sell their land and builders eager to build houses.  Could it be that the profit motive caused warnings to be ignored? 


The May issue of Discover Magazine has a piece worth reading on how there have long been warnings about what would happen should a big hurricane strike NYC, yet no one wanted to hear about it.  Seems to me there was even a TV program produced that foretold what would happen.  It got in the way of making profits while building in harm’s way was approved. 


Interestingly, Geologists have been trying to warn us in the Puget Sound basin about the ‘big one’.  Yet how many continue to ignore these warnings?  I have been voicing concern that all too few broadcasters will have a functional station after this, certain to take place, quake.  It’s my belief that our post-quake area will likely have only a hand-full of stations on the air and those will likely be those that do not have news departments or the structure to be able to get emergency information to the public.  Why do you think that this is the case?  I suspect a couple of things are in play here – 1) Spending money on being able to survive a huge earthquake takes money away from the bottom line and this is something that stockholders would never understand.  2) The reaction that a large percentage of our population has when you mention – science, math, geological warnings, engineers etc., causes a severe case of ‘Deer in the headlights’.  This is serious stuff – and most folks don’t want to be concerned with it.  History is full of stories where people ignore those that they should pay attention to, and end up paying a high price for it. 

The recent cluster of quakes off the northern coast of Vancouver Island should send a wake-up call to everyone that the earth is active in these parts and this 6.6 is just a little one compared to what is predicted.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these predictions is the fact that they are based on history.  They say history repeats itself…and so do major quakes.


I have been having discussions with folks at WSEM about what to do after a major quake hits this area.  In a previous column I listed the services that would be out of commission and for how long.   Let’s take a look at what our world will be like after a major quake.  Just about all utilities will be out.  Massive power outages will force citizens to turn on their car radios or, if they are smart enough, to start cranking on that wind-up radio to try and find out just how bad it is.  Then again, few likely own them because this would require paying attention to warnings and spending money as a result.  (How many battery powered radios are there around these days anyway?).  Cellular and land-line phone systems will be either not working or will be so overtaxed as to be useless.  Once they are able to locate a functioning radio station, the question will be how to get official information to their listeners.  With all conventional communications system knocked out, quite possibly this will once again be Ham Radio to the rescue.  I can see those emergency management facilities becoming a beehive of coordination and disaster recovery and the Hams proving the communications circuits to the broadcasters who will be informing the public.  You noticed I did not mention TV.  There are a couple of problems here: 1) TV stations are generally not very hardened and 2) There are very few portable, battery powered or crank up TV sets.


The bottom line is we have a lot of work to do to prepare for our ‘big-one’.  The first step is to try and find out how to get those with the power and authority to listen to those scientists and engineers that have been sounding the warning for year.  Let’s hope we don’t witness a massive scale Oso within this highly populated area.


Another item for this category is Climate Change.  Why is it that this has become a political issue?  Is it because a former elected official came out on one side of the issue that our highly polarized society feels that if ‘he feels that way’ then I am obligated to feel another?  This is a story for another time, unless you operate KKMO or KVI, whose antenna systems are just above sea-level (Most of the time).

I was recently up at South Mountain dealing with some other issues.  A number other folks were there for other purposes, among them, Bill Wolfenbarger.  Bill figured that we got acquainted back in 1969 when he was at ‘Colorful’ KOL.  Bill is one of the very few that has made the transition from Engineer to owner in this business.
 

Bill Wolfenbarger

 
One area where there will be a number of openings is on the technical side of this industry.  The average age of broadcast engineers is increasing at a steady rate.  I am not sure that those in management positions are prepared for what’s coming.  Likely most of them will want to hire another IT guy figuring that the old guy that retired or expired was not necessary anyway.


Those of us that work in the Broadcast Industry, and especially at transmitter locations, have a lot of words and terms that are used for something completely different on the ‘outside’.  Here are some examples that come to mind:

 

Drive – Something that goes into an Amplifier – vs. that letter ‘D’ on your cars shift lever.

 

Bias – A voltage used in RF Amplifiers – vs. something to do with equality.

 

Hybrid – A device used to split or combine RF energy – vs. a vehicle that uses gas and batteries.

 

Cavity – A type of filter used with RF energy – vs. something you pay your dentist to repair.

 

Filter – A device that passes certain frequencies- vs. something you put in your coffee maker.

 

Dehydrator – A device for creating dry compressed air – vs. something used to dry out food.

 

Manometer – A device for measuring pressure difference – vs ....(Not sure I want to go there.)

 

Racks – Device for holding equipment – vs (More slippery slope.)

 

Transmission Line – A device for moving radio frequency energy to various locations within a

transmitter plant – vs the device that moves coolant from your cars transmission to the radiator.

 

UPS – Uninterruptable Power Supply – vs. a competitor to FedEx.

 

Coax – Short for Coaxial Cable – vs. to urge.

 

Tuning – Adjusting a transmitters performance – vs. something you do to a musical instrument.

 

Propagation – Radio waves in space – vs. making more creatures.

 

Level – The amplitude of a signal – vs. something to determine whether something is the same

distance from the earth at both ends.

 

For those of you that still work with, or remember, Vacuum Tubes –

 

Plate – Anode of a vacuum tube – vs. something you eat off of.

 

Grid – Control device in a vacuum tube – vs. something that goes wrong when the lights go out.

Screen – An element within a Tube – vs. something to keep out insects.

 

And the list goes on – (Got an addition – let me know.)

 

How about some memories?  Take a look at this old Test Pattern – Complete with Dumont on the lower right.  When I first got into school to learn about this stuff, the school had a bunch of old Dumont field equipment (lucky we never fired it up).  Thing I recall most about that old stuff was how they switched video sources – (It was before fader-bars.)  One of the cases contained the ‘switcher’ which consisted of an A-Scope and a row of pots.  In those days video source changes were handled in much the same way as audio. 

 

Old Test Pattern

 

For the first time the Washington State EAS Committee (The SECC) will be meeting in Eastern Washington.  Historically the majority of our meetings have been at the Washington State Emergency Management facility at Camp Murray with occasional gatherings at the NWS facility at Sand Point.  On May 13th the SECC will be meeting in Ellensburg at Kittcom.  The highlight of this meeting will be the voting on our proposed new State EAS Plan.  There will be many other items on the agenda, for sure.  If you would like to attend, I’m sure there will be car-pooling from North Bend.  If you would like to participate by phone you will be able to do that too, just as usual.   Details and a meeting agenda will be distributed on the State EAS Remailer May 10th or 11th.

 

Marlin Jackson (KXLY), Tim Schall (now with Townsquare Media), Don Eckis (WSU/NWPR) and I met in Ellensburg recently to deal with EAS Monitoring Assignments.  A great deal was learned about the FCC’s role in EAS via my participation in a recent CSRIC Committee.  As a result, we have revised Tabs 5, 6 and 14, as our meeting was to deal with those issues.  Afterward we had an enjoyable lunch where Don wanted us to know that KEYG in Grand Coulee was the best radio station by a ‘Dam Site’.


After skipping the last couple of years, I managed to make it to the big show in the desert this year and attended the NAB Convention.  The principle reason I was there was to participate in a number of EAS related events.  Both of the Federal agencies involved with the EAS were there in force – FEMA as well as the FCC.  I am very pleased with the leadership in the other Washington these days.


Having not been to Las Vegas in a couple of years, here are some impressions:  I flew Alaska and landed at a brand new terminal (very nice) was met by Richard Rudman, whom I spent most of the time with during my stay (he was my ground transportation).  We stayed at a hotel south of the strip that was not served by convention buses etc.  Perhaps we were the only broadcasters in the place?  The strip has changed, with a huge increase in the use of glitzy electronic signs.  You think the video billboards around here are impressive?  They are toys compared to what they have there now.  You almost need sunglasses at night to view them.  Seattle has their waterfront ‘Wheel’.  Las Vegas has a new one too.  Theirs is, as you would suspect, huge.  I attended the Nautel NUG meeting where they showed off their new GV series of transmitters.  They certainly raised the bar again.  (Understand Hubbard is buying one for installation on West Tiger Mt).  One name was missing at this year’s show – Harris.  On the transmission side, they are now known as Gates-Air as the name Gates is re-cycled.  I only had part of Monday and Tuesday to look at the ‘toys’ and, as usual, just about all of the LV Convention Center was filled.  Attended the SBE Frequency Coordination meeting.  As usual, someone is trying to mess with the 2-Gig TV Eng Band.  I stopped by the Magnum Tower booth where I learned that indeed it was the Ron Smith that worked on towers in this area for many years that died in a fall from a tower in Texas earlier this year.  Attendance was reported to be just under 100,000, with over 1700 vendors showing their wares.  I was constantly reminded just how many people I know.  After spending 10 years on the SBE National Board, and attending a great many of these events, you get to know a lot of people.  Frankly, more recognized me than the other way around, which is
good, because at this point in life it’s nice that my face somewhat looks the same.  The SBE had their 50 year celebration meeting where they showed a video telescoping the history of the society.  I made it in one frame being presented an Engineer of the Year Award a few years ago.  Dinners in Las Vegas are always a treat as there are a large number of wonderful places to eat.  The highlight of one dinner was Al Kenyon explaining undersea cables.  The good news is all the walking equalized all the calories I consumed and I came back weighing the same.  The weather was decent too.  No blistering heat or sand storms.  On Wednesday night I attended the Amateur Radio reception.  Am happy to note that our own BSW was one of the sponsors.  As usual, I did not win anything.  However Betty Dalke did.  That was close as we were at the same table.  I’m part of the EAS group called the BWWG (You can look it up) and already plans are being made by our leader, Richard Rudman, for next year's event.  So, perhaps, I will return – one more time.


Some people In the news: Nick Winter was laid off from his position in the Engineering Dept. at KPLU.  He is now looking for opportunities.  Doug Fisher, who has lived in Longview for many years, is moving to Olympia.  Working with Doug’s ComTek service is Alex, Jim Dalke’s Grandson.  Doug is looking to hire a Tech.  Tim Schall is now getting settled in with Townsquare media, with radio responsibilities in Yakima and Tri-Cites (he has recently been very helpful with our State EAS program.)  Understand Channel 9 is still looking to fill the position he left.  Buzz Anderson is doing some work with Bill Wolfenbarger in SW Washington.  WSU still has an opening in Pullman.


The following is a picture of the KIRO-FM transmitters at West Tiger Mt.  A lot of history here.  These rigs were first installed at KNBQ at Indian Hill near Tacoma.  In 1987, Nick Winter and I moved them to the present location, where they were the first FM station on that mountain.  Later, under Viacom, the station became KBSG.  These two venerable Continentals were part of the first production run at the Dallas Continental factory, hence the mixture of Collins Gray and Continental beige.  In the present mode, the transmitters operate in parallel.  The station is hoping to purchase a new transmitter this coming year.

KIRO-FM Transmitters

 

Another passing to write about this month – I’m sad to report that Jon Marcinko passed away on April 25th.    Jon did not work in broadcasting, however, he managed to touch many who did.  I first met Jon via Amateur Radio back in the early 70’s.  He and I went on to become friends and together formed the WWARA, the organization that handles frequency coordination for Amateur Radio VHF and UHF repeater systems.  Jon worked mainly in the area of 2-way radio, spending many years with Radio Systems on South Weller St., where he worked with the late Arne Skoog, later working with State DNR and DOT.  Jon was a wealth of knowledge and, for those that knew him, a lot of fun.  One of the most memorable times I recall was when we had made the change in channel spacing on 2-meters to 20 KHz and the folks in Texas were considering doing the same and asked us to come down and attend their meeting.  The next day he and I drove to Austin Texas.  Jon was a member of our 6 meter repeater group that we called Channel 1 (because the spectrum used was TV Channel 1).  Thanks to the efforts of Nick Winter, the call letters for our little club have become W7FHZ, Jon’s original call from which he earned the nick-name 'Fuzzy'.


Working for the Murrow College at WSU the last 4+ years, I have become more aware of the Murrow Awards that are handed out each year.  Some winners need mentioning: In Region 1 which includes Washington, Oregon and Idaho – Overall Excellence in the large market category: Seattle – KIRO-FM and KOMO-TV.  In Region 3, which includes Colorado – Denver – KOA-AM and KCNC-TV.  There are many more winners in various categories.  Another award given to radio stations is the annual Crystal Awards.  The winners were honored at the annual NAB Show Radio Luncheon.  Interesting to note that no station in this area was named….In fact, the only station on the ‘Left-Coast’ to pick up a Crystal was KHHT-FM in L.A.
Sure sounded funny seeing this on ABC News.  On April 16th they ran a story about the worst jobs in America.  Coming in at #196 was Broadcaster.  Considering the turmoil in this business in the last few years, I wonder how many of you that work in this industry would recommend your kids follow your footsteps?  Unfortunately, Broadcasting has lost it’s luster.  Not only are jobs in broadcasting on the low end of the list, but when the Feds are looking for someone to blame, guess who is charged?  Yep, tis us.  Take the matter of the killing of birds.  Likely due to objections over the way towers look, broadcasters became the bad guys on the block because those awful towers were killing our feathered friends.  If you dig a bit deeper into this picture you find that towers may account for a dead bird once in a while. (Frankly I’ve rarely seen a dead bird at the base of a tower after over 50 years of looking).  So who are the REAL criminals in this caper?  The biggest serial killers are buildings and windows.  I think we have all experienced a poor bird crashing into a window.  Next on the list are High Tension Power Lines, followed by Cats and then Moving Vehicles (yes, I have killed a number of birds, perhaps because I was driving in the wrong direction?)  Then comes Pesticides, and then, Communications Towers.  Below Towers, surprise surprise, comes Wind Turbines.  Is it not interesting, and telling, that those Towers and Turbines kill less birds but get all the blame for their deaths?  Oh yes, whose survey is this?  None other than the US Forest Service.


Always interesting when any radio or TV program hits a landmark.  Can you believe that SNL is about to celebrate 40 years?  Then there is Meet the Press which goes back to 1945.  Nothing however comes close to the Grand Old Opry that goes back to 1925, but that was slightly before TV.


Time to look again at things we in this area can brag about.  A survey was recently released on the 9 best states for retirement.  The writers considered factors like income potential, taxes, cost of living etc.  Scoring 7 out of 10 was Washington State.  What they did not elaborate on was – where – in Washington.  I have to think that the cost of living in many Eastern Washington towns is considerably lower than the Seattle area.  Scoring even higher was Wyoming for their low taxes and housing costs.


Another measure of how our area stacks up comes from Gallup.  A measurement called the ‘Economic Confidence Index'.  Using that ‘yard-stick’ WDC and San Jose are tied for #1, followed by metro San Francisco, Minneapolis-St Paul and then – (Fanfare please) at #4 – Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue.


Another survey looked at the least obese US cities.  Sorry Seattle, we must be consuming too many high octane/calorie coffee drinks.  However, Bellingham did make the list, as did Boulder, CO.  Let me know if someone shows up at an SBE Chapter Meeting to measure BMI’s….I’d better skip that meeting.


Here’s something you don’t hear about very often.  US Marshals shutting down a pirate (unlicensed) radio station.  Took place in Boston.  Interestingly you can look on the Internet for the best frequency for an un-licensed station in the Seattle area and quickly see that 101.9 is your best bet.  Apparently others do just that.  Recently, when driving through North Bend I heard one running what sounded like audio from old TV programs.  In the Kent area there is one on that frequency running some sort of Latino program.  I have to wonder where the pirates will go when all the LPFM’s get on the air.  Hmmmm seems to me there a quiet frequency on the AM Band….At least in Kirkland.  What do you want to bet………………….


Finally some overdue recognition for the inventor of FM Radio, Major Armstrong near the famous Alpine tower near Yonkers, N.Y., where the major demonstrated to the world FM on 42.8, a very nice plaque.  Wonder what Armstrong would think today with AM rapidly falling to FM?  Speaking of which, the FCC has received a number of comments in its effort to revitalize the historic band.  In my view there is little the Commish can do, from a regulatory standpoint, that will increase the business viability of the band.  There are a number of reasons why AM stations are dying, to some extent I submit that this is a natural process that should be left to play out.  My guess is that in 20 years we will see a considerable reduction in the number of AM stations.  Perhaps what the FCC should do is let this process play out and, in the process, permit upgrades (more power less directional antennas etc.) for those that survive.  I am certainly old enough to remember when the number of AM’s was much less than it is now.  In those days I recall spending many an enjoyable evening listening to stations from all over the country.  The FCC responded to applications for more stations to the point that the band, in many cases, became overcrowded.  Perhaps, in years ahead, the FM band will go through something similar?


A new radio talk format?  Perhaps.  Word is an AM Station in WDC has changed to ‘Libertarian Talk’.  With our area's apparent acceptance of Conservative Talk  Radio, perhaps we will see it here too?


Read something recently about how utilities are facing a ‘brain-drain’.  A recent piece in Forbes points out how utility companies are faced with half their engineers becoming retirement eligible this year.  Hmm – That sounds familiar, does it not?  Not all is rosy in the world of Engineering in this area, especially if you work for Boeing who has apparently figured that they can save a lot of money by hiring engineers in states where wages are not as high.  Boeing has been teaching us all to not be complacent and to better understand that a company will go wherever to lower their costs.  The bottom line will always trump history and labor unions.


KING-TV surprised more than a few when they recently announced that their home-team home was up for sale.  Apparently the new owners of the station(s), Gannett, have determined that they don’t need that much room.  The question now is – Where would they go?  If they are like others that have changed locations, they will come up with a place where there is no microwave path between the studio and transmitter.  Apparently the move is being fast tracked so we should find out soon.


The little station in Forks has applied to move their FM (KBDB) off their AM tower to a higher elevation site.  That’s a great move for the Twilight Town station as there is little population density in that corner of the world, and greater coverage will be an asset.


The new World Trade Center building in NYC has become a magnet for those that want to climb it…or jump from it.  This has resulted in the head of security resigning (or so they say).  We’ve long heard of the term ‘attractive nuisance’.  When it’s in the biggest city in the country and 1776 feet tall, it’s bound to happen.


Another loyal member of the Octothorpe Society, Dwight Small, contributed the following link: Now you too can become additionally ‘enlightened’ - http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-oct1.htm

 

Did you ever wonder where the word ‘Engineer’ comes from?  The origin is from a Latin word meaning ‘cleverness’.  Wikipedia defines it this way –

An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics, and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical, societal and commercial problems.  Engineers design materials, structures and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost.  The word engineer is derived from the Latin roots ingeniare ("to contrive, devise") and ingenium ("cleverness").


Perhaps we need to temper this a bit and reflect on other occupations where the word engineer is used -   Sanitation - Locomotive - Flight etc.  Then there are questions about those that are P.E.’s.  Can you be a Professional Engineer if you are not employed?


Time to close this edition …I leave you with this contribution from Alan Lentz:


I thought you would want to know about this e-mail virus. Even the most advanced programs from Norton or McAfee cannot take care of this one. It appears to affect those who were born prior to 1965.


Symptoms:

1. Causes you to send the same e-mail twice. Done that!

2. Causes you to send a blank e-mail! That too!

3. Causes you to send e-mail to the wrong person. yep!

4. Causes you to send it back to the person who sent it to you. Aha!

5. Causes you to forget to attach the attachment. Well darn!

6. Causes you to hit "SEND" before you've finished. Oh, no not again!

7. Causes you to hit "DELETE" instead of "SEND.." And I just hate that!

8. Causes you to hit "SEND" when you should "DELETE." Oh No!

IT IS CALLED THE "C-NILE VIRUS."

Catch  you next month, Lord willing, in most of these same locations.  Think Summer!!!!



Clay, K7CR, CPBE