Thermite: I invented it

In the advanced chem high school class, I wanted to create some rocket fuel.  I tried number of things, like a good scientist, until I came up with a combination of ingredients that did what I wanted… long hot burn.

I had to use a magnesium ribbon to light it.  It was a yellow powder.

My h.s. friend helped.  We put it in a toilet paper tube, stapled one end shut, and lighted the ribbon.  We ran away and hid behind a tree and watched the ribbon burn into the inside of the tube.

It seemed to have failed and gone out.  So he held his mother’s glass coal oil lamp under the tube, on a concrete block, while I pushed the cardboard tube over the flame with my hand.

That is when it exploded.

Molten magnesium burned dots in my eye glasses and we both had our hair singed and eyebrows.  His white shirt looked like buckshot hit it and a drop burned thru his leather shoe.  My hand was burned.  Worse, we both could only see bright orange in our eyes.  I was sure that was to be my permanent vision for my future.  Our eyes recovered.  We brushed the burned ends out of our hair.

We knew this was a great memory.  But we were too close to see the actual explosion and burning.  If only I had known then what I had invented.  Oh, well.

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The Real Nature of the Universe

HOW THINGS REALLY ARE:  Trying to be Awake in a Sleepy Era

C. Harpole, Feb. 20014

In 1958 at the age of 15, I asked myself about the nature of the universe.  I decided that the big bang theory was correct and not the steady state one.  I asked where did the universe/matter and energy come from.  My answer was that “there is a strain on nothing to become something.”*   Quantum mechanics has confirmed the latter and other science has confirmed the big bang.

In later years, I kept thinking about the details of the extension of what science, then, was puzzled about.  I found no help in current science and was very skeptical of the ultimate power of mathematics to solve these problems in ways that would always transfer to the experimental arena.  But, because I saw that every new breakthrough in math and science changed or negated what came before, I knew that Einstein’s theories were only partly correct and that the next breakthrough would change or even nullify the scientific giant of our times.  It is obvious, for example, that the speed of light can be called a constant for a math formula needs, but it does not really exist at a fixed speed.  But, I also knew that this aspect of my thinking was only scratching the surface.*

I started to read about Buddhist ideas back in my teen years.  Returning to these ideas over my next thirty years, I kept being fascinated by the stories from Buddhist legends that the highly advanced, “highly realized,” monk/meditator masters could make footprints in solid rock, could travel in time and to other parallel universes, could actually exist in more than one place at a time, and, overall, knew areas of science much better than science of that day did.  In 1998, I got to see some of those stones with the footprints.  By that time, I had formed my theory of how things really are.  Now, twenty years later, quantum mechanics is filtering down to television shows and something like popular consciousness.  Now, some Western scientists in quantum physics are finally reaching toward what the Buddhist masters knew (and do now know) back even at the latest incarnation of Buddha himself, centuries ago.

I came to know then what quantum physics is now beginning to assert.  That is that, of course, matter and energy are interchangeable but also that matter can act like a wave of energy and that matter/wave energy can be in more than one place at a time, and further that time itself is not what we ordinarily think of.  I felt then and now that everything that was/is/will be is all “happening now.”  That is, that “events” are not located in “one time,” but that they always ARE.  This explains how the Buddhist masters could perceive past and future by disabusing themselves of the idea that all this is impossible, but instead by simply looking and being able to “see” these “always are” events back or forward in time because these events actually “always are” and are there to see.  Then, it is but a small step while looking into the past or future to go there, too. 

This can be understood if we see what quantum mechanics is now suggesting and that is that conceiving is creating.  Einstein said that he believed that the Moon was still there even when he is not conceiving of it nor sensing it.  Einstein was wrong.  To conceive/sense a thing or an idea is to make it manifest;  not to conceive/sense means those things/ideas are just not “there.”  Of course, this issue remains solely within the human realm;  there are other realms which may function in other ways. 

[To add a note here, it is very important to know that what anyone thinks is impossible will almost always keep him from seeing the possible.  The Buddhist masters simply came to be sure that what is normally called impossible is indeed both possible, and for them, ordinary.  Their situation then comes about when the limits of ordinary reality are deeply and genuinely removed.]

Remember Buddha said only that he was “awake.”  All the profundities are capsulated in that one word.  He was/is awake to these factors—including that “to conceive is to make” and that ordinary human rejection of the supposed impossible hamstrings humanity to an erroneous view of how things really are.  There is more to be “awake” to;  see below.

A piece of this discussion must involve what quantum physics now calls “quantum entanglement.”  This idea, articulated in a way in Buddhist lore for centuries, says that two particles (I substitute several or many particles, but that is another story) can be observed to behave in correlation to each other.  These entangled pairs exhibit opposite characteristics but the oppositions are directly correlative one with the other.  Neither one of the pairs determines the other, no boss, but both definitely and simultaneously exhibit correlations which are complete (if opposite, one + and the other -).  That is wondrous enough, but the experimentations go on to show that the two in the pairing are directly correlated regardless of the space between them.  Thus, a change can be introduced to particle A and its entangled partner, B, will be in a correlative sameness (that is, B will change in response instantly–absolutely no delay—and actually must be said to be a correlative same).  Because A and B can be vastly separated in space (time apparently not an issue), communication of information (and exchange of particles) over gigantic spaces is possible and instantaneous.

Then, if a Buddhist master wished to “be” in his correlated or entangled other in the paring, he would be there, not just travel there, but be there and likely is there all the time.  Thus, he could be in two places, at least, at once.  The theory goes, in fact, that the master would live in both places at the same time.  However, he may be an “opposite” (whatever that means) over in his other pair self.

Today, the quantum entangled pairs are only single tiny bits of matter, electrons, but it seems more than likely that single tiny bits of matter, the pair, could be chunks of bits or whole human beings (or other things larger).  It seems reasonable that if one tiny bit of matter exists in this way that size should not really be a limiting issue. 

I postulate that quantum entanglement occurs among many bits of matter.  This idea explains how I can be in two parallel universes (or who knows how many parallel universes) at the same time.  So far, I have only been able to sense two universes, but that could be my self-limiting—my thinking of only two at first and then maybe I have difficulty of adding more.  Perhaps I only was provided two in my plane of existence.  Otherwise, it could be that two is the limit of quantum entanglement pairs.  But then, I always doubt limits.

I do not doubt my two parallel universes “visits.”  I am completely puzzled at how and why I have awareness (consciousness of) of only one at a time.  I also wonder about my paired self over there in the other universe.  I guess we exchange places simultaneously.  It happens when I am not in my conscious not-sleeping self which could be expected to be self-limiting (again, as above), but during sleep the transition must be easier.  I am working unsuccessfully so far at being awake during the change over.  (I am also not aware of being in two places at the same time.)

More, quantum mechanics today postulates that there are many universes and that changes in one are not necessarily reflected in oppositional duplicate in the others.  This is definitely part of current quantum theory, but it does seem to contradict the quantum entanglement idea of “pairs only” and pairs always in oppositional relation.  That is why I postulate that the parings can be multiple, perhaps infinite in number.  Beyond this topic is the supposition that the universes are only levels of infinite other layers of other “places/times” that either contain or live next to our idea of our own one universe. 

Add in the Schrödinger’s catreasoning which seems to say that I could be dead in the other universe.  Or, at least, at one moment of space or other, I am both dead and alive.  Then, events occur so that I either die or don’t die.  If I have understood the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment, I could not really visit the other universe, especially on the chance of being dead there, because this thought experiment seems to limit the cat and I to one continuum of time/space and limits the possible futures, dead or alive, to only two options, either of which are determined by past events.  I say, my idea, that the cat is either “already” dead or is “already” alive because of the idea of a continuum of all events/times—the idea that all things are and are all the time of past, present, and future (as stated above).   I am not sure if Schrödinger’s cat’s “arena” has parallel universesor just two possible futures and one becomes “the one and only.”

Returning to the previous paragraph—“in oppositional duplicate”—there is a possible extension of thinking that relates to Buddhist cause and effect and to the idea that time is a continuum with all pasts, presents, and futures all present to any one powerful master observer at once.  This extended idea is called “retro-causality.”  This idea says that like “the past can affect the future,” the future can affect the past.  This idea has support in quantum theory where a projected particle, an electron, seems to go back in time when an event happens to it (exposure to photons, in experimentations) in a specific way.  Importantly, when the event happens to it, at that moment the particle is in its future relative to its later retrograde action.  Thus, the particle’s future affects its past.

It will be interesting to test if Buddhism is concerned with the future, or even the present, affecting the past.  This situation would “reverse” cause and effect where the effects would modify the causes and would do so actually rather than in the realm of saying, “Yes, what happens now can change our perception of its causes.”  The actual causes would be changed by effects happening in the future.  Buddhism and thinking of all kinds are ripe for consideration of this matter.

There is a Standing Wave in all of everything. 


Along the way, as a senior in high school, I invented thermite, but that is another story.  Also, see “strain on nothing” in another essay.


Why does a dog bark?  He barks to reconfirm his existence.

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Merit award to Somjit

££   AWARD  OF  MERIT    ££




Great mother, caring love of husband, able to conquer all Thailand bureaucracy.


Presented this day 27 june 2014


For meritorious service to her family, overcoming many problems and mastering many difficult rules and

Winning for her family


Mindful of Buddha’s blessings, signing for the world,



Witness to her great works

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Preppers use of Ham Radio

By Charles Henry, K4VUD, ham radio operator

Many preppers want communications options during times of vast calamities that shut off normal cell phone and other means for a long time. Often, ham radio is suggested for this use. Ham radio is not simple, like a walkie talkie or cell phone, but it can have a vital place during smaller or world-wide catastrophes.

Ham radio, amateur radio, is a hobby as old as radio itself which today is practiced by over a million people world wide. Often self-taught in electronics and radio functions, hams vary in activities from building their own radio sets to experimenting with satellites. Each ham must pass a government test to be legal to transmit. The ordinary use is to try to reach many places on the globe as an accomplishment or to just talk in an informal chat with an interesting person nearby or far away. The point is to use the hams’ knowledge of voice, Morse code, TV or data transmissions to communicate anywhere to fellow hobbyists. Ham radio has a long history of providing vital communications in emergencies where all other methods have failed.

Emergency communication is the aspect preppers should know about.

Preppers need two kinds of communications needs in times of calamities: contact among the immediate prepper family or group and contact with other preppers and with officials that may provide help or vital news.

Contact among family…. Unless the family is wildly disbursed (like hundreds or thousands of miles), prepper family/ group members need what is called INTERCOM. Intercom is short range (couple of miles) radio system which will keep all members in contact with all other members all the time. This system can be the little ear phone and microphone devices you see on police or military in movies (the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE folks have that) or just a walkie talkie for each person. There is a wide variety of walkie talkies which work on various radio bands—business band (like seen on a big construction site) or personal bands which include or are new versions of the CB system or the ham radio bands.

INTERCOM units need to be very portable, reliable, all be identical in bands covered, and have easily recharged batteries (removable is best). They must be simple to use with a volume control and a push-to-talk button. An ordinary system allows only one person to speak at a time, but allows all to hear the speaker. A group of excited people all pushing the talk buttons at once will jam the system, so training is a must. Two-channel units can be placed with the main bosses of the location so that the leaders can talk privately away from the group channel. Commercial business band walkie talkies are best because they are rugged and made for rank novices to use. Their frequencies are color coded, often by the case color. These type units will work well for group INTERCOM.

Whatever type of INTERCOM is selected, the danger is that others can listen to all that is said over them. Thus, if junior is crying for his Mother and disclosing his location, anyone within the short range of these radios can listen in. Too, business band radios have a few very common bands, so finding you on your INTERCOM is easy. See below for discussion of how to avoid this problem.

The other communication that may be needed is LONG RANGE radios. This is where ham radio comes in. LONG RANGE radios can work over many miles or around the world. The distances they work on can be controlled to avoid broadcasting to areas of danger, but whatever is said over a ham radio can be heard by anyone with the proper receiver. People can talk in some kind of made up code for a bit more privacy, but using standard Morse code does not automatically provide total privacy, but gives some because few people know Morse. LONG RANGE radios must exist at both ends of the communication channel.

Ham radio sets do have long range. The sets include a receiver and a transmitter in the same box. Having a receiver is an excellent prepper survival tool because listening is possible to any news or other calls which gives excellent intel (intelligence information like spies do), but just listening does not give away the location of the radio set. A short wave receiver set will do this same function with no transmitter included. All radio transmissions can reveal the location of the transmitter, either by special “sniffer” equipment or by some mistaken comment from the person speaking. Advanced radio finding equipment, likely owned only by the military, is very sophisticated, but an ordinary ham can only get a general idea unless very close to the transmitter being sought.

LONG RANGE transmissions need to be short and identified by recognition of voices or some simple code (a transmitted voice just calls himself George). Basically, LONG RANGE transmissions should be limited to people inside the family or group. Talking to strangers by radio can bring trouble. Thus, unless one group has a familial bond with another group at a great distance (over five miles), LONG RANGE transmission should be kept at an absolute minimum. Exceptions could be dire emergency transmitted calls, for example, but he danger of that has to be evaluated.

If two or more bonded groups wish to use LONG RANGE communications, they must use some kind of coded talk, keep transmissions short, and work on a predetermined time schedule. The latter two items also hold down on electricity needed.

LONG RANGE equipment has another huge draw-back—an outdoor antenna is a must for effective function. These antennas are not really small and certainly call easily visible attention to the preppers’ site. Antennas require maintenance and are easily damaged by attackers or even people just some doing malicious “fun.” It is very difficult to protect a good antenna on top of a 50ft tower, for example. If the prepper wishes to install a temporary antenna, made of wire, then there is the danger of exposure during the set-up and take-down. The rule is that the larger the antenna and the higher, the better it will work. Hams have written articles about making stealthy antennas, but the performance is limited (and will need testing). Lots of experimenting will be needed to discover just how small an antenna can be made and yet do an adequate job. In fact, it is the antenna that is most difficult for a beginner to deal with. Anyone can run a radio with minimal training, but installing, testing, and getting good results with antennas will take a professional or a ham operator’s help (and it is not a short job).

LONG RANGE radio equipment will most likely have to be from the ham radio market. Surplus military radios are rare and difficult to get manuals about. There are two kinds—tube type and transistor type. The good news about a tube type ham radio is that it is more resistant to EMP and operator misuse. However, replacement tubes must be found and kept on hand, and the radios are only old; all tube type radios are over thirty years old or older. There are virtually no units to be found that are new in storage. The Collins Radio Company made some very rugged short wave transceivers (receiver and transmitter in same box), model KWM-2, that were used in Vietnam and ham radio collectors often can refurbish such units to very good condition, but may end up costing a couple thousand dollars. The operation of these type units are not automatic and abusive or ignorant adjustments will burn the radios out. Training is required.

Brand new transceivers, and some newer used items, are “all transistor.” Transistors are more delicate, especially in EMP (note this includes all new walkie talkies, too). With minimal training, these units are easier to use, especially with a built-in antenna tuner, a must, which will automatically adjust the output transistors to the antenna. Many will run on a 12 volt car battery, but badly regulated generator voltage can damage them. Best to just charge the batteries disconnected to the radios, and then connect them.

At the height of popularity of the Citizens Band (CB) use, millions of these radio transceivers were sold. In their unmodified form, their 5 watts transmission power is only good for five to ten miles over open terrain. They fit in cars well and can have simple car antennas. Thus, they are very good to communicate car-to-car in a convoy, saving walkie talkies batteries. Many CB enthusiasts built modified, higher power CB radio systems. Getting one of these is cheaper than a ham set and has lots of transmit power; however, the CB radio has only 40 channels within one frequency band so it is easily spied on and many times limited in transmit range due to that band’s limits—regardless of transmit power of 1000 watts or more. Because so many survivors will have access to CB radios, the prepper must have one or two at least for listening.

Transmit power can be increased by ham radios and CBs alike with a second box called a linear amplifier. This device connects between the transceiver and the antenna and automatically boosts the output for talking. These are best used with the automatic transistor radio sets and need to be automatic also. The linear amplifier must, then, have a built in antenna tuner inside that amplifier to keep from having to know how safely to tune these items. Two common units with that capability are the Yaesu FL-1000 and the ICOM IC-PW-1 or similar ICOM models; both are now sold new or used.

Note that additional transmit power will not mean that you can hear better; only that you will be better heard. The higher power means that radio can be sniffed and found easier. The antenna still needs to be as good as possible for hearing purposes. Linear amplifiers take lots more electricity, like even 20 amperes.

A complete LONG RANGE short wave transceiver, amplifier if needed, and the necessary antenna can provide 24-hour communication to a variety of distances world-wide. It can be argued that the best use of this equipment is for listening. If there is a redevelopment phase after a huge calamity, this radio system could be of vital help in transmitting, too. A good working ham radio could easily be the center of reestablishing civil order and a return to some kind of post-calamity society. It is a good system to have on hand.


In using INTERCOM or LONG RANGE radios, operators can avoid being heard by snooping invaders by changing the frequency bands often and in a pattern only known to the inner group. For example, after a few words, a trigger word, like “change,” is spoken and all know to change to channel 2 in a pre-arranged order. Soon after on channel 2, “change” can notify all to go to channel 3 and so on. Probably written cheat sheets will be needed. One can see that as the complexity rises, problems of confusion also rise. A LONG RANGE radio operator pair would need this cheat sheet well before any calamity because they are widely separated.

Almost all radio transmissions are controlled by governments both to direct no over- populating the radio bands and to be able to trace illegal uses of radios (like drug traffickers). The first is done partly by having a test which measures the applicants’ knowledge of adjusting radios and of radio laws. Also, UN and other international treaties rules set frequency bands all over the world which keep police radios away from TV broadcasts, for example, and limit ham radio operations within set bands, too. Fortunately, the earliest telegraphers were trained to high standards of keeping secret the messages they passed and maintaining equipment in good order. This tradition of honesty has transferred over to ham radio operators who are very defensive of their bands and to improper uses of them. This tradition affects the prepper, as seen below.

All but a few bands for low powered citizen radios (and all cell phones which are also radios) are closely regulated and monitored by governments to enforce the radio laws. Because LONG RANGE radios will transmit over national borders, governments try to make their citizens obey the laws to avoid confrontations with neighboring nations. Enforcement, of necessity, means governments must know the location of radio transmitting operators and equipment (some governments also want to register all short wave radio receivers, too). A system of assigning call letters, different for each individual ham world-wide, to operators and the necessity of their transmitting those letters frequently helps identify the honest from the law breakers. The culture of ham radio is extremely scrupulous in obeying the radio laws, the operators protect and correctly use their call letters like their own names, and hams do extensive self-policing—correcting their own and even reporting bad apples.

Because hams are so well behaved, the law breakers, called pirates, are more obvious. A pirate will have no legal call letters which immediately shows him up. Hams help track law breakers often.

What all this legal stuff means to preppers is that the prepper needs to either obtain a license himself or be very careful testing his communication equipment illegally. American preppers can read for the way to pass tests and get a legal license to use ham radio transmitters inside the ham radio bands. This is the ideal plan because having a real license opens the prepper up to help from hams, many who delight in helping a fellow ham (even putting up antennas, etc.). The ham license opens many bands to the licensee all the time. Using the ham radio sets and gaining experience with how radio waves behave will make the prepper better prepared.

In the USA, radio receivers require no license. However, if the unlicensed prepper tests his transmitting equipment, he must do so carefully with short test transmissions. He can escape the watchful oversight of hams by adjusting his own radio to transmit outside the ham radio bands. Too, the job of monitoring and enforcing all radio transmissions is overwhelming, as you can imagine. Pirate radio users on commercial fishing boats off Vietnam and Malaysia chat often. Rebellious military groups use unapproved bands to coordinate military attacks. Drug traffickers use radios to direct their travels. Catching them all would be like netting all mosquitoes at a backyard BBQ. Thus and sadly, many misuse the radio bands and the practice in the short wave bands is getting worse. Enforcement in these bands are not nearly as important as controlling military and commercial radio transmissions to and from satellites; satellite bands are well away in frequency from the HF short wave ham bands.

Note that most all ham radio transceivers can be adjusted to work outside the ham radio bands. No one should break the law this way. It is much better to simply pass the test and get a legal ham license.

Because getting a ham license includes identifying oneself to federal and other authorities, including legal names and addresses, some preppers may be resistant to having such information on file. However, it could be argued that any calamity that stops the use of currency, food deliveries, electricity, and riots and so on—the real sh^t hitting the fan—will also stop government agencies taking the time to look in computer files (which no longer work) to find a lonely prepper hiding with his ham radio set. The idea that any part of the governments could organize and enforce mass round-up of radios and guns, for example, boggles the mind considering the many other truly overwhelming problems involved. Even military tanks can run only so far without fuel, and getting men to stay at their posts while their families and society are crumbling calls into question how “the government” can come and get you. Anything is possible, but it appears that in the event of a massive, world-shattering complex situation, government officials and military will be much more concerned with saving themselves. For example, it is one thing to fight in Europe (WW2) and an entirely different thing for a military to function with the whole world falling apart. A prepper must examine these factors and decide what is likely best for him and his group.

In sum, ham radio is an excellent part of the preppers’ preparation. It may not save the family or group, and it may be broken just when it is needed. It requires electricity and competent operation. The prepper is best using ham radio if licensed and thus trained in ham radio use. A good working radio should be a part of the preppers’ enclave or hiding place.

Posted in Dying, Future Coming Soon, Ham amateur radio, How to do things for yourself | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yaesu rotor Factory Message



The grease that our technician uses to grease the bearings is Valvoline DuraBlend Synthetic Part# VV278.


In regards to replacing the pot, we strongly recommend that you send the rotor to us to have the pot replaced. We make this recommendation based on past experiences when users have tried to replace the pot but did not properly align and position the pot during replacement and re-assembly. If not aligned and re-assembled properly, damage to the rotor can occur. That being said below are some points to keep in mind should you decide to do the replacement yourself:


  1. To orient pot shaft, place multimeter probes on Pin 1(Brown) & Pin 2(Yellow).  Turn pot shaft until resistance reads 250+- Ω


  1. Reinstall gears on the pot and recheck resistance as described above.


  1. With Rotator top off connect control cable to the rotator and control box.


  1. Set multimeter to VDC and insert probes into Pin 2 and 3 of Control Box jack.


  1. Using the CCW switch rotate until VDC match the following:



G-800, 1000, 2800DXA, G-5500 AZIMUTH=0.540vdc

G-800, 1000, 2800SA=0.180vdc


  1. With the rotator connector facing you, position the Rotation Limiter arm to the right until it just touches the right stop. FAILURE TO DO THIS CORRECTLY WILL DAMAGE THE ROTATOR


  1. Install the rotator top with the raised alignment mark on the top half of rotator case matching the raised alignment mark on the bottom half of the rotator case.


  1. Recalibrate the rotator and control box according to the instruction found in your Operating Manual.


Best regards,


Wes Gray, KJ6OYT

Technical Support Supervisor



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Yaesu rotor repair pic

Close up view of rotor potImage

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How They Have Ruined Football

How They Have Ruined Football

“They” have ruined American football.  A combination of television, the NFL, and the owners and even fans have shaped today’s football in ways much less enjoyable to watch and, likely, rather more difficult for players.

Television as the major source of money for the game began years ago to tinker with the game to suit its needs.  Decades ago, tv began to use the time-out periods and slack times in the game to insert commercials.  Then, breaks were demanded to insert commercials, and a tv man was on the field ordering time-outs and other breaks for a more even distribution of commercials in time.  Soon, the “two minute warning” was introduced to get in tv commercials at the crucial time near the end of the half and the end of the game—times when viewers may have, previously, stopped watching the game for their own breaks when the action normally would stop.  The artificial two minute warning takes the ludicrous notion that coaches and players can not notice the game clock and must be “warned” of it.  Actually, this “warning” is an invention of tv to try to hold viewers over the long commercials insertion with the idea that they will stay viewing to see how the last two minutes will play out.  Some teams, notably Dallas (their “two minute drill”), invented special plays to use in the last two minutes.*

The other strong need from tv is to have the games’ scores close so that the drama of one touchdown can decide the game winner.   “One-sided” scoring games, at the half and the third quarter especially, can motivate viewers to change the channel.  Advertisers can not be happy to have spent millions to present their commercial in the latter part of a one-sided game when viewer numbers have dropped.  Networks showing the one-sided games have priced their advertising time based on numbers of viewers, so a drop in viewers costs money in all sectors of the tv business.

The nature of the football game has also included the breaks in the action while teams huddle up for the next play plan.  This huddle time was fixed by game rules, and commercials of the correct length are inserted then, too.

*Dallas for some years was known to be in a game where one touchdown would win for them.  Their “two minute drill” involved short passes to the sidelines so that only the Dallas receiver could reach it, and then he would step out of bounds to stop the clock.  Several of these plays took the team to a touchdown, often in the last minute or less of the game.  The drama of such a development kept fans of both sides glued to the tv to see this strategy.   The “two minute warning” set up the higher dramatic intensity, and the Dallas team and tv sales benefited.  Apparently, no one wondered that if Dallas could so frequently score with their “drill,” why they did not use it earlier in the game to seal a substantial lead over the other team?  Of course, a substantial lead would create a one-sided score and have viewers tuning away from that game before the end of the game.

The popularity of cable tv led to the offering of two or more games available at the same time slot, further endangering the holding of viewers to one game and the commercials sold on that game.  Of course, dedicated fans of one team would watch regardless of the score, but others could easily tune away.  Methods of counting (scientifically estimating) viewer numbers at various points in any one game impacted the cost of commercial time over the running time of the games.

Tv manipulation of the games has meant viewers are locked into seeing the commercials.  However, two innovations have impacted this situation:  the TiVo and the strategy of Peyton Manning.

TiVo was the early name for using a computer-type hard disk to record the video and audio of any television show.  Although expensive, the device allowed a step up on simple video tape recording because it allowed both the pausing live tv and restarting with no loss of program and also the usual ability for recording of future programming, unattended.  By recording a whole football game, the TiVo-type devices allowed fast forward upon playback to skip commercials (or see them only at high speed and silent).  Also, and most important, these devices allowed pausing live tv and then fast forwarding for the time duration of the pause.  Thus, as the break for the commercial began, pause is activated and left paused for the minute or more of the length of the commercial, and then fast forward through the commercial up to restart normal motion as the game resumed.  This device provided advances on video tape in these ways, and the systems gained popularity and now can be considered nearly standard equipment (and video taping devices are no longer used nor available).   This technology has not been superseded, but it did require frequent manual manipulation by the viewer.  (Automatic commercial defeating was not possible because the commercials occurred at odd intervals and lengths.)   Today, viewers can see the whole game virtually uninterrupted, using this technology, but the nuances of the play-by-play announcers, the rhythm of the game, and other minor action before and after the plays can be easily lost for purists of the game.

A recent and major challenge to tv’s manipulation of football games has come from quarterback Peyton Manning.  Over the last several and the current seasons, Manning has been able to manage his games with both “no huddle” rapid reassembly of his formations and the making changes in the intended play at the scrimmage line.  Manning’s revolutionary restructuring of the game has eliminated tv’s ability to run commercials in any dependable way because he leaves no pauses in the important action for many series of downs.  Also, by speeding on to the next scrimmage, he has grossly restricted a staple of tv coverage of football—the instant replay of the immediately preceding play.  The tv-provided instant replay is now so good that several angles of a play can be run by tv in real time, allowing the viewers to see fine nuances.  However, with Manning’s frequent, yet unpredictable, “no huddle” strategy, tv can not guess when to show a replay (unless there is a time-out or other definite interruption to play).  Further, because he often changes the intended play at the scrimmage line, sometimes twice, tv is more unsure of what to cover with cameras and needs many camera/recorder systems running at once in order for the tv director to have options of what part of the most important action to catch.  Manning has been so successful that other quarterbacks are attempting to emulate his technique, thus spreading this change for tv to other teams’ games.  Tv has not found any way to cope with this technique other than to simply let the game coverage run live.  Sometimes, a graphic is slapped on screen for a time too short to read it.  It remains to be seen if Manning’s technique can survive tv’s need for the old ways of doing things;  a rule change could be called for.

Even with these innovations, tv has changed the apprehending of the game via extensive use of head-sized close-ups and many graphics on screen.  Ever since Roone Arledge invented “up close and personal” tv coverage of sports, which revitalized ABC Sports in about 1970, tv has increased its video coverage of the faces of the players, as well as cutting to their bodies after the player’s remarkable mistake or good play.  Today, a close-up of a player’s face, even shrouded by his helmet and face mask (sometimes including a darkened eye shield) is mandatory both to dramatize the tension of the game and to provide an actual face on the otherwise heavily covered and padded players.  The tired standardized sequence is a scrimmage starting with a close-up of a player’s face, a cut to the action of the play (even then holding the framing as close as possible), and then a reaction shot of a player or, nearly always, a close-up of the head coach’s face.  Viewers can expect to see the two coaches’ faces over one hundred times (for the average 130 plays in the whole game) per game.  Many coaches display no facial emotion at all (pioneered by Dallas’ Coach Landry), making the close-ups painfully repetitive and uninformative.  This is a routine exhausted in its repetition.

Close-ups of injured players’ faces are becoming more common (where in earlier days, fallen players were not shown) along with the general trend of emphasizing the injuries and dangers of the play.  (The stress on injuries adds drama to the games.)

The use of worthless close-ups takes away from being able to see the scrimmage arrangement of both teams, a crucial picture to understand the game.  Likely, the increased use of close-ups is a response to the fantasy football “games” individual fans play on their own, formerly in small groups in-person and now via Internet networks of fantasy “coaches.”  In fantasy football, every players’ name and abilities and record should be known to the fantasy coaches in order to compete well.  Then, tv has responded increasingly to personalizing every player and to sponsoring some fantasy football networks with prizes. 

This “personalizing” of players includes extensive on-screen graphics to deliver esoteric statistics for players and games.  Announcers frequently read verbatim the on-screen graphics (why?) or otherwise express some possible statistic that applies to the moment in the game.  Statistics are gleaned from what must be enormous real-time data bases and are fed to the announcers and the graphics keypunch operator very rapidly.  Often the graphics include players’ faces and, of course, overlay part, or all, of the picture of the field of play.  Many of the statistics are calculations of facts trumped-up from very odd circumstances of the players’ or game’s history.  (“Joe is the first round draft pick of the third round of the second level of the ….”)  Perhaps the intrusive graphics are satisfying to fantasy football enthusiasts.

Then, tv has basically ruined the full apprehending of the game and made a new phenomena which is only a partly tangential relationship to the real game and to experts watching it.  Similar to tv’s coverage of baseball (MLB), not being able to see the whole field and the deployment of all of the players significantly reduces the enjoyment of the nuances of the game, as one example.

The National Football League, NFL, has also altered the game over the years based on pressures from tv, coaches and owners, fans and sportswriters, and law suits.  It is difficult to say that the games have been made more enjoyable. 

The NFL is currently under apparently strong pressure to make the game more safe for the players.  Reports of frequent concussions, broken bones, and injuries that take a player out for weeks or a whole season are often heard.  These reports do “pump up” the desired drama of the game but also put the NFL in the position of running a “blood sport” game of gladiators.   Tv emphasizes injuries and especially the danger of injury to quarterbacks.  Quarterbacks are portrayed as more delicate and vastly more important than other players.  The danger to the Quarterback looms over every play and is much discussed by the tv game announcers.  Complicated new rules attempt to limit quarterback injuries, including the parts of his body that can be hit, where he is located on the field, and if he has become a runner of the ball all determine how he can be tackled.  More strict rules on tackling pass receivers have been enacted, and helmet contact and leg tackles, and more, all have what are fair to call “rules of engagement” from military battlefield parlance.  The new rules increase the stops in the games for called penalties, some of which provide for commercial insertions.  Clearly, the NFL is in the double bind of reducing the fans’ love of violent physical play and the concern of lots of injuries to inflame public concern for the game.  Sadly, the day will come when an NFL player dies on the field;  that eventuality must dog NFL officials and owners every day of the season.  The double bind situation appears to have no easy solution.

There are currently so many rules that some infraction will occur on every play.  “Holding” is a major example along with face-mask and pass interference calls.  There is holding on every play, overt or covert, egregious or minor, which—along with the many other possible infractions—places the referees of the game as additional players, or at least in a very real position to alter the outcome of the games.  Skipping over the chance for referees being bribed to make game-changing calls (or players or coaches, for that matter), one must acknowledge that referees do stop the action for tv commercial insertion on purpose, and certainly can consciously or unconsciously (or inaptly) make “bad” calls at crucial moments which throw the game to one team, perhaps undeservedly, over the other team.  Instant replays on tv provide some scrutiny of the accuracy of calls, and the referees’ own replay system can add credibility.  Nevertheless, the very human judgment of the referees is more and more a major factor in the games as the number of rules increase.  The penalty infraction calls do slow the games.

The growth in importance of the field goal is another significant change in the game from the NFL.  One effect has been to shorten the field.  If the kick off puts team A on the 20 yard line, then team A need only move the just beyond the 50 yard line at which it is possible to kick a field goal.  This shortens the field team A needs to play to a little over 30 yards before it becomes highly likely that they can score three points.  In something under twelve plays, at most, team A can advance their score.  Certainly, seven points would be better, but a field goal has the effect of making the game a closer score.  That is, even a somewhat weaker team A can significantly challenge team B with field goals.  This situation increases in likelihood even nearer the goal line.  The field goals, then, can keep scores closer and audiences kept on the channel and the game—and the fees for commercial air time can be maintained.

The effect on the game from owners and fans are much less overtly evident.  Certainly, the owners want winning games and popular players in order to fill stadiums and tv contracts.  The amount of money needed to run a NFL franchise and the amount that can be made from a good season is enormous. 

Real fans exhibit lots of loyalty, often related to the team nearest where they live.  Teams are identified by their home towns as well as their team names to increase that loyalty and pump up possibility of intercity rivalries.  Season ticket sales for games yet to be played are like a no interest loan to the owners as are any up-front payments made with tv contracts.  Fans of all types do enjoy the violence of the game so the “blood sport” aspect of NFL football is very real.  Too, a winning season or extraordinarily popular quarterback can create loyal tv audiences and assist in higher tv time charges.

Overall, then, American football has evolved primarily under pressure from tv and the NFL’s desire to limit injuries.  These changes offer many double binds where the more intrusive tv techniques both inform and deny access to seeing the games.  The NFL double bind of wanting to emphasize the danger of the sport while down-playing the number of injuries provide an interesting dilemma.  Controlling injuries mean more referee interruptions and changes in the game due to infractions called.  However, the fan base is so strong, amplified now by fantasy football, that it will take many more significant changes to the game really to ruin it.  And, today there is no alternative game running at the same time, not MLB for example, so the institution of tv football appears here to stay, flaws and all.

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Yes, sometimes I hear sounds when I roll my eyes.  The sound is not consistently present but does happen.  What is that?

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What We Miss By Not Looking Further

One of my sad realizations is to know of all the truly fine musicians there are in the world who will never be heard beyond a small circle of friends.  Our world has lots of room for stock brokers, if seems, but the really useful people, like great musicians or artists, just do not have a slot so we can know and enjoy them.  For example, I was enamored of Carly Simon’s singing, and I wondered how such a talent could emerge as famous.  Then, I found out that Carly is daughter of the Simon of Simon and Schuster book publishers.  I guess all Dad had to do was send a demo tape of her to the right person who would definitely listen to it and she gets famous.

I wonder how many really talented people are hidden because their dad is not important.  On a group trip, the rather dumpy thirty year old woman sang for us one evening.  She had all the ranges we hear about and sounded perfect to me.  Likely she will marry, have some kids, and sing them to sleep, but never be heard from otherwise.  

I was very sad to think of all that talent in her and probably millions more just sitting there inside these people and never coming out like their talent deserves.  In fact, if you want to get a laugh today, just say “I am a musician” or “I am an artist.”  Hoots of laughter and then the inevitable question, “But how do you make a living?”  You answer, “I sell insurance.” Heads nod.

Wait, maybe that woman singing to her children is all the fame she needs.  Her children are blessed to hear their Mom.  I will have to think some more about this.

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What I Thought Of At Age Fifteen

I thought a whole lot as a teenager.  I read science fiction, the best kind, and I thought a lot about big ideas.  Around the age of fifteen, I decided a number of important things.

1.  The big bang theory is correct.  Back then, in the 1950s, people were still arguing about the “steady state” theory and the “big bang” theory.  I read about it and decided on the big bang.  I have been proved prescient and also correct.  That is very satisfying to me.

2.  I explained, back then, the origin of the universe and things like that by noting that there is a strain on nothing (see herein).  It is the nature of nothing to have this strain on it.  Take away the strain and you no longer have nothing.  This explains the origin of the universe.

3.  Back then, too, I decided that Albert Einstein was correct about a whole lot of things, but that he messed up by declaring that the speed of light is not only constant but that it can not be exceeded.  Wrong on both counts.  I don’t know how long I will have to wait to have these two ideas accepted, but I hope “they” hurry up because I am definitely not getting any younger.

I know you doubt that a little Kentucky farm boy could think these things and at such a young age, but it is the truth.  I think I still have my DATED notebook from that time of my life.  I do not lie.

I also think of how many smart people and smart ideas are thought up by people who you will never hear from.  It is likely there is a fellow somewhere who has already proved answers to lots of today’s big questions, but he doesn’t know about publishing an academic paper or whatever.  

Just like all the great musicians who will never get famous and be heard by millions, there is a lot of really good ideas languishing in the heads of very quiet people.

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