Thursday, November 22, 2012

Phase Shift

I sometimes awaken to my staggering ignorance of anything technological and immediately go to YouTube in a panic to fill my head with tutorials. I wish I could plug a program into the back of my head like the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar and learn Kung fu and quantum mechanics within seconds. But what kind of learning is that? Doesn’t learning require effort in order to become true learning?

I learned very early in college that learning is painful. Frustrating, demoralizing, disorienting. And here I am on that path again. The path of unknowing. The path of frequency oscillation and bandwidth and amplitude and sine waves. In other words, I don’t understand radio. I vaguely remember building one as a Cub Scout and I probably knew more about it then at age ten then I do now at age 65.
It all started with Stephanie Miller. I positively cannot stand that show anymore. I remember the early days of Air America, when they featured cutting edge pundits and comics like Mark Marin, Sue Ellicott and Mark Riley, Sam Seder and Janeane Garofalo, Cenk Uygur and Richard Belzer. There was humor, satire, honesty, truth. This was, admittedly, during the Bush administration, so everyone was pretty much on the same page. And then Air America went bust, Obama got elected, and the left crumbled into miliquetoast apologies for the atrocities of the Obama administration, which in reality had expanded  -  not diminished  -  the atrocities of the Bush administration.  But since Obama was popularly perceived as a good-natured, Harvard-educated constitutional lawyer whose rhetoric was stuffed with progressive values, what could go wrong? What went wrong was everyone went back to sleep. And talk show hosts like Stephanie Miller became cheerleaders for an administration that has proven to be far more abusive than Bush when it comes to civil rights, environmental abuses, the endless prosecution of war, maintaining a deregulated and predatory banking system and saber-rattling at Iran. Not to mention what will be a continued assault on social programs like Social Security and Medicare while Wall Street gets more bailouts, no imposition of regulations, and no arrests. All to be conducted quietly, and peacefully, under the auspices of Mr. Obama, and his winning ways, and hugs to Michelle, and occasionally shaking the hand of a courtroom janitor.
I decided I would return to KUOW. I gave up on KUOW during the Clinton years for the same reason I am now giving up on Seattle’s KPTK. But at least KUOW runs programs like Bill Moyers and David Barsamian’s Alternative Radio. Their news continues to be a little biased toward corporations, such as a report I heard yesterday about WalMart’s commencement of a shipping program, which framed it in such a warm, positive light it was practically a commercial. But the kicker is waking up to the BBC in the morning. Our alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., so it’s nice getting those beautifully modulated British voices with crisp diction and shiny Sterling syllables, even when the content is horrific.
The whole country has now moved so far to the right that progressives like me are mocked by people like John Fugelsang who calls the more radical progressives who accuse Obama of betraying his base and core principles as whiny idealists and dismisses our grievances as childish, unrealistic wishes for lollipops and ponies. No, John, we’re upset because Obama has accelerated the drone program, has not restored habeas corpus, and has signed the National Authority Defense Act, robbing everyone of legal defense in case we are erroneously arrested as so-called “terrorists” during a protest. Just for starters.
Returning to KUOW is a little like returning home to parents you don’t entirely get along with, but you still love them, and they still help give you a modicum of comfort and stability in a world on its way to mass extinction.
The problem is, we can barely get KUOW on our radio. You’d think it was one of the strongest signals in Seattle. It is one of the strongest signals in Seattle. A powerful 100,000 watt signal originating from a transmitter on nearby Capitol Hill reaches east to the Cascade Mountains, west to the Olympic Mountains, south into Pierce and Thurston counties, and north into Snohomish, Skagit and Island counties. So why don’t we get it nice and clear? We’re lucky if we’re able to hear it all. I’ve tried moving the radio to different locations, none too far from the bed, of course, so I can reach it, without appreciable effect.
And so it is that I have entered into the domain of the radio and attempting to understand just how it catches those waves out of the air and converts them into voices and music. The BBC recommends that the best solution is an outdoor aerial. But we live in a condo. Where would we put an outdoor aerial? And don’t they make radios now with some sort of digital capacity? Whatever that means. I just hear digital and think that that will take care of everything.
Today is Thanksgiving. So the radio adventure will have to go on the back burner for a while. Meanwhile, I shall regale myself with baffling YouTube videos about carrier frequencies, kilohertz, electromagnetic waves and high voltage oscillators with adjustable frequencies.

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