Friday, August 29, 2008

Radio World Readers - a correction to the VR3 Review

Welcome any readers from my review of the VR3 car HD Radio in Radio World. There was an error in my review that couldn't be corrected before the issue went to print. In reality, the radio CAN be forced to automatically re-tune to a multicast channel after a power loss.

Shifting Sands of Programming

Not long ago, I learned that WSKG is revamping their schedule to add Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and one of WEOS's shows, Out of Bounds with Tish Pearlman. The latter will be Sundays at 11:30am, by the way...I encourage you all to tune in, just do it Thursdays at 7pm to WEOS instead. :-)
(actually, during the Democratic and Republican Conventions, OOB is on at 6:30pm)

Anyways, this weekend, unbeknownist to many (which probably isn't a good thing) we're moving Wait Wait Don't Tell Me to 11am on Saturday as well. Previously it's been on at 1pm, after Whad'ya Know. Basically, we're moving things so it's:
  • 10am Car Talk
  • 11am Wait Wait Don't Tell Me
  • 12noon Whad'ya Know (two hours)
  • 2pm Only a Game (rebroadcast from 7am)
This kinda looks like we're responding to WSKG's moves. Actually, that's not the case, and I wish we weren't airing WWDTM at the same time they are...there's no getting around that WSKG's 90.9 signal is much bigger than our 88.1 signal.

No, the real reason we're moving it is because WEOS broadcasts a lot of Hobart Football games. And if it's not Football, then it's probably Soccer. Or Basketball. Or Lacrosse. And most of these games start at noon or 1pm on Saturdays. The upshot is that for most of the academic year, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me isn't heard at all on WEOS's airwaves. That rather sucks, to be frank. WWDTM is a very popular show. And it also works quite well when paired with Car Talk.

So with WWDTM on at 11am, it will usually avoid being pre-empted. Of course, this means that Whad'ya Know is going to get pre-empted a lot, but it's not unusual for the pre-emption to start at 1pm, so at least one hour of Whad'ya Know will get heard.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I clicked 203 times in 30 seconds, which just surpasses "Delusions of Godlike Power" and approaches "Near Death". And all I've had today is a Diet Coke...didn't have time to hit the Dunkin Donuts on the way to work.


The Caffeine Click Test - How Caffeinated Are You?
Created by OnePlusYou - Online Dating Service

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convention Coverage on WEOS

All this week on WEOS is Democratic National Convention coverage, and next week is the Republican National Convention. It's meant a lot of changes...temporary our air schedule: most notably that we've pretty much blown out all music programming (World Cafe and Echoes) in favor of special NPR coverage at night, a little more BBC World Service, a big extra hour of Democracy Now, and we're airing On Point with Tom Ashbrook, a call-in talk show, which is doing a morning and afternoon special each day from the convention itself.

Good stuff, all. I think we're providing a good alternative in convention coverage...especially with Democracy Now and On Point, which nobody else around the Finger Lakes are airing. Well, I hear WRVO is adding On Point to an HD Radio multicast channel, but HD penetration in the Finger Lakes is pretty low; we're airing it on our main channel.

There's an oddity that popped up today, though...and it really perplexes me: we're actually getting calls from people wondering where World Cafe is. We're running tons of promos, had prominent announcements on our website, etc etc. And, ya know, it's the National Conventions. These are kind of big deal, aren't they? Can't we live without World Cafe for two lousy weeks? Especially in Ithaca since, as far as I know, WSKG is not airing extra Convention coverage on their Ithaca signal.

I suppose people are just worried that we'll drop World Cafe permanently, which we've said more than once that WEOS will not do. We do plan to add On Point and keep World Cafe once we get WITH 90.1FM on the air in Ithaca. But we're not about to drop World's quite popular in Ithaca and you better believe we know that. It just seems silly to me; to think we'd even consider it, I suppose.

INSTANT UPDATE: No sooner did I finish this that I realized I screwed up our automation system's programming. It was supposed to wait to switch to the BBC until I made the change myself. Instead, it acted on the backup programming that switched it to the BBC feed automatically at 11pm, right in the middle of Hillary's speech. Crap. The backup settings are there in case Hillary's speech ended early, which was unlikely but was always a possibility.

And since I thought I had it set correctly, I didn't notice the error until nearly the end of Hillary's speech. Crap crap crap. At least I got it fixed in time to catch the NPR analysis.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why Jon Stewart is the Most Trusted Man in America

When Americans were asked in a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to name the journalist they most admired, Mr. Stewart, the fake news anchor, came in at No. 4, tied with the real news anchors Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw of NBC, Dan Rather of CBS and Anderson Cooper of CNN. And a study this year from the center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded that “ ‘The Daily Show’ is clearly impacting American dialogue” and “getting people to think critically about the public square.”
The New York Times has an article today: Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America? Nice article. Great little fluff piece about The Daily Show, what it does, and how it's risen to become a - and this is kinda scary - a trusted news source for many people. But the article dances around what I'd consider the real point here: it's not that Stewart himself is particularly trustworthy. Despite his relentless insistence to speak truth to power, he freely admits that they are not a real news team and if you really look at what they're reporting, they will indeed play fast and loose with a fact if it plays for a laugh.

No, the point is that the rest of TV news is considered so untrustworthy that a frickin' FAKE NEWS SHOW is no more untrustworthy than the rest of the ilk. THAT, my friends, is quite depressing for someone who works in the news business.

God I love The Daily Show, but this is no way to start the day before I've even had any coffee...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Destroy to Create

Word from Current is that Pandora, the "Internet radio service that allows listeners to customize musical selections to their own tastes", is about to die, fiscally. The article says it's chiefly because of incredibly unreasonable licensing fee structures the music labels have set up, and refuse to back down from.

The tone of the article is that, while it'd be sad to see Pandora go away, it might be for the "greater good". In the sense that, in order for the "big, bad, archaic music labels" to ultimately die, every possible revenue source for them must be destroyed first in order to choke them into submission.

I often espouse the "creation through destruction" manifesto...the Tyler Durden Eight Rules About Life, if you will. But here I fear that while it may be the only strategy, it is still a failing one.

I say that because, if I may speak bluntly, many music labels are cockroaches. They're impossible to kill. They're run by soulless, slimy bastards who know that there will always be some wide-eyed doe of a musician willing to sign their life away for peanuts in a deal that makes the label rich and screws everyone else. The music industry seems to attract these kind of people like rats to garbage. Actually that's unfair, the media industry as a whole seems to attract those people. Lord knows I've dealt with quite a few of them in various jobs I've had working in radio, and I've been lucky to only have to deal with a few since I'm mostly on the college/non-commercial side of things. The lessor dollar amounts inherent to this side of radio tends to mitigate the sliminess somewhat.

If you're of the industry and offended by what I'm writing, I say that by no means has everyone I've worked with been a soulless slimy bastard. And I'm not going to say here who I think was one. If you can't handle the potential of accusation, you either don't know me very well or perhaps you need to re-examine your career choice. ;-)

Getting back on topic, the music labels seem determined to pursue a self-destructive model of royalties. A model that guarantees their eventual destruction through alienation of every other participant in the process. A model that maximizes what little short-term gain can be had...and it's not the expense of potentially (and likely) destroying everything in the long term.

But it will be a long, slow and painful death match to that "long term", my friends. These are people who have made a living out of cheating, lying and general scumbaggery for at least forty years. They will learn how to eat their young for a long time before the inevitable finally occurs.

So don't hold your breath thinking that Pandora's death will bring change anytime soon. It will have to get much, much worse before that happens. And it's a damn shame.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Housecleaning posts

"If you've got nothing to say, then don't say anything."

Beats me who that quote is attributable to, but it's certainly true enough in my case. Not that I've run out of things to say, mind you. Just that I don't have much lately that's relevant for the blog. So I'll give y'all a little rundown of what's coming up over the next several weeks that ought to explain a certain lack of posts...

  1. My wife and I are moving, yet again. Fear not, it's not to the land of far, far away like last fall was. This time it's just from Rochester to Canandaigua. Nice little apartment/condo right on the lake. Probably a bit more than we want or need but the thinking is that by all rights we can afford it now (long as we're careful) and that we don't want to move ever, ever again. Well, that's overstating it a bit...but I'll be damned if I move again before 2013. We'll leave it at that. Oh, yes - the reason for the move? Very simple: the commute from Rochester to Geneva sucked. I mean sucked like a Dyson vac - it just never lost the suckage...especially during the snowy winters. This move puts both my commute and my wife's commute pretty much equidistant; we timed it.
  2. It's the beginning of the academic year at HWSC. Like any college, the last two weeks of August, and most of September, are just flat-out insane at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. Gots to deal with all sorts of various issues that are student-related...recruiting new students, managing returning students, filling the shoes of students who have graduated, etc etc etc. WEOS/WHWS is no exception. For an NPR station, we have a lot of students in critical roles here. That's by no means a bad thing...but it does make for a hectic September. :-) We also broadcast a lot of sports and that starts up barely a week and a half from now.
  3. Getting new stations on the air. I have learned, one might say the hard way, that putting a new station on the air is an incredible pain in the ass. I mean, I kinda knew this...I've participated in LPFM "Barnraisings" before, and advised various colleges on how to launch a Part 15 station in the past. But doing it for a "full power" station has headaches one can't even begin to appreciate. Just finding a tower to transmit from has been an exercise in exasperation to say the least...not to mention the licensing and membership issues with all the associations - like NPR, for example - that are involved. I certainly know that any amount of hassle will, in the end, be worth it...but it's quite frustrating to have deadlines...that seemed perfectly blown away on a regular basis.
So that's it. As always I will blog whenever I notice something interesting, amusing or informative. But it's entirely possible that such things will have to rise to earth-shattering levels before I can devote the time to write semi-intelligently about them.

Oh yes, and if anyone needs a nice 2 bed / 2 bath townhouse near Twelve Corners in Brighton, NY? I've got just the place for you if you're looking to move in on Sept.14th or Oct.1st! Contact Blackwood Properties and ask to see #360. Please! I don't want to pay rent on two places any longer than I have to!!! :-(

Monday, August 11, 2008

VR3's Add-On Car HD Radio Hits Target with a Miss, but Makes a Grazing Blow

In my review of the VR3 add-on HD Radio auto tuner, I erroneously reported that the radio could not be forced to return to an HD-n multicast channel after power off.

Thanks to alert reader Tom Wilson, who said his VR3 would indeed return to a multicast channel after power off, I tried some of the other VR3's that I grabbed at the discounted price of $38, and they all would indeed return to a multicast channel after losing power. Even my original VR3 did it.

Why would not work originally? I did a little more testing and couldn't figure it out. Maybe it's something to do with my car's cigarette lighter/power jack? Maybe I just wasn't paying attention to the right thing. Honestly, I couldn't sworn I tested this before writing the review, and the only difference I can think of is that at the time, I was leaving the VR3 plugged into the power jack, and just turning off the key. But trying that now made no difference.

Anyways, as Tom says, just remember to tune to the multicast channel in question, hit the POWER button on the VR3 to power off, then hit it again to power on. Now every time you kill the power at the power cord (i.e. simulated or real loss of power), when power is restored the radio will automatically power up and re-tune to the multicast channel.

Anyways, this does somewhat change the usefulness of the VR3 for in-house monitoring. Unfortunately, after about 10-15 seconds of loss-of-signal it will default back to
the main analog channel. So it's not perfect for in-house'll probably want to rig it so the power is automatically cycled every 12 or 24 hours just to be sure...and yes, you'll have to listen to it now and then no matter what since a silence sensor could be fooled by a radio tuned to white noise instead of real programming.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Future of Crossing the not to Cross at all

I read this article about managing pedestrian street crossing in the Boston Globe today. It's a pretty good article. I like that people are finally starting to realize that it's a losing game to try and make a city be as efficient as possible for cars to the exclusion of pedestrians, buses, bikes, etc.

But there's a gigantic element missing from this article: namely, the elements. Can we stop living in denial that the weather in Boston just plain sucks? It always sucks. It always WILL suck. For at least four solid months of every year, there will be snow on the ground that you can measure in feet. For three months beyond that, you can count on frigid, hurricane-force as not with driving rain. And for good measure, don't forget July and August when it's typically hot as hell and humid to match.

So if you really want to improve the pedestrian experience in Boston, don't make people walk on the street at all. Make them walk above it, or below it. I'm talking about a system like the Minneapolis Skyway, the Montreal Underground City, or any one of a dozen other systems across the globe. A system of walkways and public areas that are in fully-enclosed spaces.

Boston already has a small version of this in the connecting walkways between the Prudential Mall, the Copley Mall, and the Westin Hotel. It's a very handy and pleasant way to walk about five or six blocks in total comfort. Similarly, the system of tunnels under MIT's campus, (PDF) while inherently limited to just serving the MIT area, is also very handy during the winter.

And it's also has the potential to be a prime driver of commerce. Not so much in a true "mall" sense, but you could easily have lots of little news-stand and Dunkin' Donuts kiosks (perfect for commuting times) and some CVS's sprinkled around. Maybe even some mini-supermarkets so you could shop for your dinner ingredients on your way home.

I don't deny this is would not be an inexpensive system to implement. But I would argue that it's probably less expensive than many would think. There's a tremendous amount of public interior space in many buildings that is poorly leveraged at the moment, but could be (relatively easily) connected via a skywalk. Or just renovate the miles of tunnels under Boston that are often just sitting abandoned at the moment.

These tunnels wouldn't even necessarily have to be open 24/7, either. Minneapolis's is not and it works fine. All they have to be is well-lit, well-ventilated (but not open-air) and reasonably clean, and people will use them in droves.

Friday, August 08, 2008


The other day I was driving home, and in Canandaigua I got behind this drag-racing funnycar on Rt.5&20. It was loud as hell and belched smelly exhaust, but it looked really cool. I managed to snap a few covert photos with my cameraphone, including the last one that came out really distorted but in a nifty way. Check out the ultra-wide rear tires in the first pic.