Don’t Buy your Call Sign, Register it.

by Steve Miller

Imagine the government actually doing something that made sense. I know, that’s a fantasy that most of us can’t even imagine. Nevertheless, it’s happened. The FCC has petitioned to drop the $21.40 fee for vanity call signs for amateur radio operators. Their logic is that it costs more to process the fee than the revenue it brings in.

When they raised the fee last September, I wondered why they didn’t make it an even twenty-five bucks. After all, it’s something of a luxury just like vanity license plates on your car. Nevertheless, if it costs more to collect money than the money youw6sdm plate collect, then it seems that collecting the money to start with shouldn’t happen. Does that make sense?

I love the vanity call sign program. When I first got licensed, what you got for a call sign is what you kept forever – unless you moved to a new call area. Then you had to give up the call that you loved (or loathed) for one you liked (or hated even worse). I know hams who got calls that were very cumbersome in CW or difficult to announce phonetically. “Too bad,” said Uncle Charley, “Unlike love, your call sign is forever.” Continue reading

Make Social Security Mean Something

by Steve Miller

Pope Francis said that a society that didn’t take care of its elderly has no future because it doesn’t have memories. The Pope is a nice guy but he got it wrong. A society that doesn’t take care of its elderly is immoral. It’s just as bad as a society that doesn’t take care of its children.

Look, we’re all going to get old if we live losenior parkingng enough. It would seem that there would be a personal incentive for everyone to make sure that seniors had it easy when they reach their later years. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to worry about the basics – health care and an income enough to at least sustain you above the poverty line? Of course, some are going to be financially able to make it on their own without help from anyone else. Others, not so much.

There was a time when one could work for a company for a couple of decades and earn a pension that would sustain them through the rest of their lives. Not anymore. At best, you get a 401K that is vulnerable to the ups and downs of the stock market over which you have no control. How many times have we heard about 401K accounts losing much of their value in a down market? What about all the pension funds that fell victim to fraud, mismanagement, or corporate bankruptcy? Continue reading

Time on my Hands

by Steve Miller

I am now in a state of semi-retirement.  That means I am officially retired, carry an AARP card, and claim senior discounts whenever I can.  Nevertheless, I am still seeking gainful employment for a couple of reasons  First,  I am driving my wife nuts and she is returning the favor.  Second, I need the money.

I have enough projects around the property to keep my busy forever.  The only thing is that most of them cost money to complete.  And then there are the hobbies.  Ham radio will drain a wallet faster than the Army Corps of Engineers can drain a swamp.  As technology advances, so does the need for the gadgets to take advantage of it.

Now that I am in retirement, at least to some extent, I have time to do things like catch up on my blogging and update my web page.  Or, more like finish my web page.  I started the last one and never found the time to complete all of the links. You should notice a marked improvement.  All of the Lorem Ipsum placeholder text is gone.  You will have to admit, however, that the Latin did look kind of cool.


Praying Mantis; Mantis religiosa

mantis copyArticle and Photos by Steve Miller

The praying mantis’ looks are deceiving.  It moves about slowly, almost reverently.  It appears to kneel in prayer, lifting its front legs much like human arms, folding its “hands” in prayer.  It’s the only bug on the planet that can swivel its head from side to side in a human like motion, slowly and deliberately.  As I photographed this “gentle” creature, I was amazed at the mannerisms that reminded me of a gentle Buddhist monk.

Despite their appearance and behavior, they’re anything but gentle.  Watching a mantis in close proximity to a cricket gave me insight into the vicious nature of this insect. Once it became aware of the cricket, the mantis stood on a limb completely still. With the exception of its head moving, looking, assessing the surroundings, it was motionless.  Meanwhile, the cricket wandered aimlessly throughout the area, oblivious to the looming threat.  The mantis just waited patiently for the cricket to come close enough and BLAM!  It pounced at lightning speed.  Mantis are not hunters.  They let the prey come to them. Continue reading

LotW — Are You Using It? If Not, Why?

This is an article that I wrote a couple of years ago for eHam. It’s still valid except the postage prices have went up a couple of times and IRCs went the way of the buffalo nickel.

lotw-logoby Steve Miller/W6SDM. The stamp: 98 cents. An IRC: $2.10 – and expect these both to go up next time the post office has a rate increase. Over three bucks and we haven’t included the cost of printing a QSL card and the cost of envelopes – both sending and return.

When I started in his hobby, stamps were a nickel, a gallon of gas was thirty-five cents and I never thought I would see either climb to over three bucks. But here we are and at least we can count on the price of gas going down if Michele Bachmann gets elected (snicker.) Not so for the price of sending a QSL card. Continue reading

Welcome to the “new”

cropped-steves-portrait-w-border-290x290.jpgFor some reason I got the sudden urge to completely reinvent my web site. It’s not that I didn’t have anything else to do.  Maybe I just got tired of the old one, which has been up in its current form for years.

So, I dusted off Adobe Dreamweaver and Fireworks and we will see what happens. I have a ton of plug-ins and filters for Photoshop that I’ve never used. Now, just to find the time.

In addition to a complete makeover of the content, I want to add a blog, which you’re reading now. I also want a forum so that others can discuss some of the subjects that I’m passionate about: Amateur radio, photography, and off road exploration.

As far as design goes, I would like to apply my own experience in using what I learned about graphic design and typography:

  • Simplicity makes a complex statement.
  • Less is more.
  • White space is your friend.
  • The rules were made to be broken.

This place will be a mess for a while as I get everything working.  Thanks for stopping in.