Rocky Mountain SMPTE Section January 2002 Meeting Report
Over 100 members gathered at AT&T's Digital Media Center in Denver on Thursday 17 January 2002 to witness the highly energetic performance of Gary Sgrignoli, Zenith Electronics Corporation on the ATSC, VSB Transmission System. The eight hour presentation was orchestrated against a background of more than a ton of test and measurement and video display equipment. Gary provided a 300 page tutorial containing the relevant charts graphs and procedures for setting up transmitters, checking coverage, dealing with multipath, and getting to the magic 15 dB S/N that makes ATSC work.
For many, seeing a NTSC signal with 15 dB S/N, and suffering the varying degrees of degradation, alongside an 8VSB signal identically impaired, dramatically illustrated the superiority of even these early generation DTV receivers. And then of course there was that very pretty picture.
The event was largely orchestrated by Greg Best, consulting engineer from Colorado Springs.
We are grateful to Andrew, Encoda, Larcan, Itelco, KCNC, KMGH, and KUSA for their sponsorship. The eight hour event was committed to video tape, and upon review, may be made available to the Chapter lending library and sections may be made available for streaming on the AT&T streaming platform.
This article was first published in Front Range TechBiz, Volume I, Issue 25, and appears here with permission. A subscription for Front Range Techbiz is free by writing to www.frtechbiz.com.
In 1984, cable pioneer Dr. Richard Leghorn began lobbying U.S. cable television operators with a simple message: Join forces to establish common technology standards for the good of the industry.
The idea was ahead of its time. The industry caught up in 1988, when executives like John Malone warmed up to the idea of an industry R&D consortium. Funded with $10 million annually by cable operators contributing two cents per subscriber, Cable Television Laboratories (CableLabs), based in Louisville, began working on technical specifications relating to things such as combining optical fiber and coaxial cable in a network.
But as cable has evolved from tubes for TV delivery to Internet infrastructure, CableLabs' stature has grown. "It has exceeded what we anticipated in importance to the cable industry and to the national information infrastructure," said Leghorn, now 81.
Today, CableLabs has 140 employees, 50 visiting engineers and a budget of $33 million. A board of directors that includes the leaders of networks controlling 85 percent of the U.S. and Canadian cable TV markets guides operations.
CableLabs works on specifications that dictate how millions of people will watch TV, access the Internet and use the phone. Along the way, its work both has boosted the cable industry's competitiveness in broadband and provided fertile ground for entrepreneurial efforts within the cable industry and beyond.
Standardization is main achievement
Cable modems, whose standardization has been CableLabs' greatest success, are the backbone of its key efforts. According to Dr. Richard Green, CableLabs president and chief executive officer, cable modems cost $2,000 when introduced in the early 1990s. "Now, you can go to Cir-cuit City and buy one for $80," Green said.
This drop in price is a result of CableLabs' DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard. Work on this began in 1995, not long after the cable industry plowed head-on into the Internet. At first, operators worked independently with hardware manufacturers, concocting a slew of competing standards. This jacked up prices, as manufacturers couldn't scale production and faced little competition for a given modem specification.
With DOCSIS, every CableLabs member - whose 53 cable operators include Comcast, AT&T Broadband, Time Warner and Cox Communications - has committed to the same spec, making cable modems a sort of commodity. The result: More than 10 million DOCSIS modems have shipped globally, according to Green. According to Mark Coblitz, Comcast's senior vice president of strategic planning, no one company would have been big enough to drive such scale.
Before modems hit the shelves, CableLabs certifies them by testing their conformance to DOCSIS and for interoperability with a variety of cable modem termination systems (CMTS) at the cable headend. CableLabs is testing dozens of modems and CMTS boxes against its second-generation DOCSIS 1.1 standard, which boosts security and supports quality-of-service differentiation for different classes of data, a requirement for services such as voice over IP and videoconferencing. Twenty percent of CableLabs' revenues now stem from certification fees.
PacketCable should lower costs
PacketCable, a major CableLabs project that commenced in 1999, builds on the DOCSIS 1.1 standard. Coblitz, a former chair of the PacketCable project committee, said the PacketCable specs will standardize the way cable operators deliver Internet protocol traffic, lowering costs as it does so.
CableLabs also is working on a number of other projects, some of which are extending the bounds of its traditional technologies and markets. They include:
- OpenCable is a CableLabs effort to standardize the operating-system software in set-top boxes. This will let developers of interactive television applications such as program guides, games and pay-per-view systems create a single application for multiple systems instead of having to customize for each operator. CableB2B, which was launched in early 2001, is developing a flavor of extensible Markup Language specifically for the cable industry.
- Other services are placing CableLabs much closer to the consumer, which Green said is a new relationship for his organization. Go2Broadband, available at stores such as Circuit City, allow customers to enter their address to check for cable broadband services before buying a modem.
- CableHome is a home-networking standard that Green said will focus on allowing consumers to network their home easily. "We don't care how (the data) gets in the house."
Commoditizing large swaths of cable infrastructure may force manufacturers of some network components to compete less on product innovation than on price and volume. But it also creates a large, predictable market for new products that is attracting entrepreneurs.
Jason Schnitzer has spent years at CableLabs developing the DOCSIS standard and is now chief technical officer of Andover, Mass.-based Stargus. His company is developing network management equipment that will help cable operators track the different classes of bandwidth used for applications such as VoIP, streaming media and corporate data - all of which will be possible as cable infrastructure standardizes around DOCSIS 1.1. "By creating this open-standard technology, (CableLabs) created an opportunity for Stargus to build to that standard," Schnitzer said.
David Spear is president and CEO of Cedar Point Communications in Derry, N.H., which is building cable media switching systems to provide video and data services based on the PacketCable specification. "From day one, Cedar Point has used the PacketCable requirements as the basis for the architecture, designs and discussions with clients," he said.
Amateur Radio News
By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
The FCC has written a Cincinnati AM radio station and the electric utility serving that region to help resolve an unusual and longstanding interference situation affecting local amateurs. Sharon Bowers of the FCC's Consumer Information Bureau wrote Clear Channel-owned WLW, which broadcasts on 700 kHz, and Cinergy Corp citing numerous reports of apparently spurious signals associated with WLW transmissions that have been monitored over a wide area and frequency range.
"Many of these reports indicate that, although the noise is associated with WLW transmissions, the strongest signals appear to be originating some distance from the WLW transmitter site, possibly on a high-voltage tower owned by Cinergy Corp," Bowers wrote. "From the extent of the reports and the wide geographical area involved, it is likely that there are multiple sources involved." Bowers conceded that some of the reports received by the FCC do not involve WLW transmissions and likely are typical electrical noise problems.
Bowers noted that WLW and Cinergy already have "expended considerable efforts" to locate the noise source and cause, but the noise remained "as strong as ever according to recent reports." The letter also stated that, under FCC Part 15 and Part 73 rules, incidental noise radiated by power company equipment or spurious emissions from a broadcast transmitter must be corrected if they cause harmful interference to radio communications. The FCC has requested that WLW and Cinergy advise the complainants within 30 days of the steps they're taking to correct the reported interference.
For the first time, there's an all-ham crew aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 4 crew of Commander Yuri Onufrienko, RK3DUO, and flight engineers Dan Bursch, KD5PNU, and Carl Walz, KC5TIE, is settling into the ISS quarters that will be its home for the next six months. Amateur Radio on the International Space Station school contacts already are tentatively set for January and February.
Penciled in on the ARISS schedule for the new crew are contacts with St Clare School in Waveland, Mississippi, during the week of January 7, and with Harrogate Ladies College (GB2HC) in Harrogate, England, the following week. Depending on the crew's work activities, an effort will be made to schedule one ARISS school or educational contact during a typical week. New amateur radio antennas carried into space for the ISS have been stowed for the time being. Current plans call for them to be installed around the perimeter of the Service Module by the Expedition 6 crew. The new antennas will allow future operation from HF to microwave frequencies, once additional ham gear is brought aboard the ISS.
(Excerpts from "The ARRL Letter" and the www.arrl.org web site)
Telcom Industry News
By Neal McLain
UPDATING SOME OLD PREDICTIONS ABOUT AREA CODES
This being the time of the year when columnists from Ellen Goodman to George Will are reviewing their past predictions, I guess I should do the same. Except that in my case, the predictions weren't made in 2001; they were made in 1994. They were predictions about area codes, and they were published in an article titled "The North American Numbering Plan, Part 2" in the September 1994 issue of this Newsletter. That article was the second in a series of two articles about the change in the area code format scheduled for January 1, 1995.
THE 1995 AREA CODE FORMAT CHANGE
Before proceeding to a review of my predictions, let's first review the details of the 1995 area code format change.
Before 1/1/95, there were 144 possible area codes in North American - or in what's more properly called "World Zone 1." WZ1 includes all areas of the planet that can be reached by dialing 1+ (or 0+). In those days, WZ1 included the United States, Canada, and a hodgepodge of geopolitical entities in the Caribbean. It did not include Mexico, although some contemporary telephone directories erroneously printed obsolete codes that had once been used for Mexico.
The limit on the number of possible area codes was dictated by several factors, but the primary reason was a restriction on the second digit: this digit could only be 0 or 1. This restriction was an artifact of the original numbering plan set up by the Bell System back in 1947.
In September 1994, the last of the original 144 area codes went into service, and World Zone 1 had run out of area codes. Even though several states were running out of telephone numbers in some exchanges, they couldn't get more numbers because of the area-code situation. By the end of 1994, the situation was so severe that in at least three states (Alabama, Arizona, and Washington) some paging and cellular companies couldn't sign up new customers.
On 1/1/95, the restriction on the second digit was changed to allow any numeral in the range 0-8. This change opened up about 500 new combinations that could be assigned as area codes. With this background in mind, let's review my predictions.
Prediction: Many new area codes will be assigned. No question here: this prediction has indeed come true. According to Area Code Info (http://www.areacode-info.com) 219 new area codes have been introduced since 1/1/95. That's more than the total number of codes that existed before the format change.
My predictions missed the boat on one point: I didn't anticipate the popularity of vanity area codes. Lexington, home of the University of Kentucky, is now in UKY, while Knoxville, home of University of Tennessee's Volunteers, is in VOL. Canada's northern territories are at the TOP of the world. Daytona Beach has FUN while Miami gets SUN and Cape Canaveral does the 321 countdown. Several of those Caribbean entities have commemorated themselves: Anguilla (ANG), Antiqua (ANT), Bahamas (BHA), British Virgin Islands (BVI), Grenada (GRE), Puerto Rico (PTR), St. Lucia (SLU), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), and Trinidad and Tobago (TNT).
But Nevada couldn't get 777, so it had to settle for 775. All "YYY" combinations (222, 333, 444, etc.) are reserved for some unspecified future purpose.
Prediction: The 521-529 area code block will be assigned to Mexico so that Mexican telephone numbers can be dialed from WZ1 by dialing 1+ (or 0+).
This prediction was based on the notion that since all Mexican telephone numbers are (or were) eight-digit numbers (including the "clave," Mexico's equivalent to an area code), Mexican telephones could be reached from WZ1 by dialing 1-52X-XXX-XXXX.
This prediction has partially come true: the 521-529 block has been assigned to Mexico on a temporary basis. But it hasn't been implemented, and at this point it never will be, because Mexico has changed the format of its telephone numbers: the old eight-digit numbers have been expanded to ten digits. So it now appears that calling Mexico from WZ1 will continue to require international dialing: 011+52-XX-XXXX-XXXX for areas with two-digit claves, or 011+52-XXX-XXX-XXXX for areas with three-digit claves.
Prediction: Wireless gadgets will continue to proliferate, and many of them will be designed around the availability of regional and national access codes. The wireless PDA, combining the functions of telephone, alphanumeric pager, voice mail box, e-mail box, fax message display, clock, calendar, calculator, caller ID display, personal telephone directory, and interactive game toy, will be the next big whiz-bang consumer gadget.
Part of this prediction has come true: wireless gadgets have indeed proliferated. Wireless PDAs combining a cell phone with various other functions are now on the market. Some of them even incorporate a function that I didn't anticipate: a GPS receiver so that emergency calls can be pinpointed. And I certainly didn't anticipate using a blank PDA screen as a makeup mirror, but that function seems to have evolved by itself.
But another part of this prediction hasn't come true: the "availability of regional and national access codes." At the time, I believed that some "area codes" would actually be assigned to large geographic areas, perhaps even nationwide, for certain types of wireless phone services. So far, this hasn't happened, because the wireless companies want to use "local" numbers, in the same area codes that landline companies use.
Indeed, this very issue was the root of a contentious FCC proceeding in 1995. At the time, Ameritech tried to assign a separate area code (630) for wireless services in the Chicago area. The wireless companies didn't like having to use those "funny" numbers, so they complained to the FCC. The FCC eventually ruled against any sort of "technology-specific" area codes.
But this situation may change soon. At the behest of several state utility commissions, the FCC recently rescinded the prohibition against technology-specific area codes. It probably won't be long before some states start assigning separate area codes for wireless services whether the wireless companies like it or not.
Another complicating factor: "Calling Party Pays" (CPP), a new payment option being proposed by several wireless companies. Under this plan, the calling party would be billed for airtime charges for a call to a wireless phone.
But how does the calling party know that calls to certain numbers are essentially toll calls? A voice announcement ("this call will incur a charge of ...") raises its own set of complications. How does a hotel owner bill a guest who makes such a call? What about digital PBXs (like Rolm's CBX) that digest the dialed number and don't cut it through until the call is actually connected? Putting all CPP phones in a separate area code would help solve these problems: hotel switchboards and digital PBXs would be able to screen the calls based on area code.
So this part of my prediction still stands: some area codes will be assigned on a regional (or perhaps even national) basis for certain wireless services. Indeed, two such plans are already under consideration:
The California Public Utilities Commission is considering statewide area codes for all wireless services, including CPP.
Canada is considering nationwide use of code 600 for CPP. Canada already has the exclusive right to use code 600, and it currently uses it for ISDN and a few other special services.
Prediction: What we now call "area codes" will lose significance as indications of geographic location. Just as "LOcust" and "UPtown" dissolved into the regional inventories of seven-digit numbers, area codes will dissolve into the continent-wide inventory of ten-digit numbers. In much of North America, this prediction has not come true: most area codes still clearly define specific geographic locations.
But there are exceptions. In states and provinces with overlay area codes, two or more area codes define the same geographic area. Two states (Connecticut and Maryland) and one territory (Puerto Rico) now have statewide overlays. And five cities (Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, New York, Philadelphia) have "triple overlays," with three area codes covering the same area.
So this prediction still stands.
New FCC Mailing Addesses
By Tom Smith
Effective on December 18th, the FCC now has a mail contractor to receive all of its mail and hand-delivered paper filings. All messenger hand delivered filings for the Commission's Secretary should be delivered to 236 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Suite 110, Washington, D.C. 20002. All other hand delivered documents including non-US Post Office overnight mail is delivered to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capital Heights, MD 20743. All Post Office delivered filings are still addressed to the FCC at 445 12th Street, SW Washington, D.C. 20554, but are delivered to the FCC Capitol Heights facility.
All hand delivered filings must have any envelopes removed and disposed of before entering the building.
The FCC has also changed the FAX number for general correspondence to 202-418-0188. The FCC will not accept filing of applications or comments by FAX.
From FCC Release (www.fcc.gov)
Relief Fund Exceeds Expectations
The Relief Fund for families of the six broadcast engineers lost at the WTC on September 11 has been successful beyond anyone's expectations. Initiated by SBE and the Ennes Educational Foundation Trust on September 13, the Fund has received more than $168,000! Each of the six families received $18,000 from the fund by December 3 and will receive another $10,000 by January 7. We have received notes of appreciation and gratitude from several of the families thus far.
Every dollar contributed is going to the six families. SBE and the Ennes Trust are absorbing any expenses related to the fund.
As the financial loss for many of these families is very large, we continue to accept your tax-deductible contributions. Make your check payable to, "Ennes Educational Foundation Trust" ("Relief Fund" on the memo line) and send to: SBE, 9247 N. Meridian Street, Suite 305, Indianapolis, IN 46260. The Ennes Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization as designated by the IRS. Its EIN is 35-1506445.
SBE Partners With Nab To Produce Broadcast Engineering Conference
For the eighth straight year, SBE will partner with NAB to produce the NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference held as a part of the NAB Spring Convention in Las Vegas. Seven members of the ten-member committee are members of SBE. They include, Milford Smith, who serves as committee chairman, SBE President Troy Pennington, former SBE national officer Tom Weber, Andy Laird, Jeff Littlejohn, Ted Teffner and Lewis Zager. Representing the Ennes Workshops is SBE Board member, Jerry Whitaker.
The NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference will begin on Saturday, April 6 and continue through Thursday, April 11. A special workshop will be presented on Saturday by the Ennes Educational Foundation Trust and also a tutorial by the Broadcast Technology Society of IEEE. Technical papers and panels will be presented beginning Sunday morning.
For information about registration, go to the NAB web site at www.nab.org/conventions. Members of SBE are eligible for the special Partner registration rate, a savings of $230 of the non-member rate.
2002 Leader Skills Seminars Set
SBE has scheduled the two-part Leader Skills Seminar for June and August, 2002. Course I will be held on June 5-7 and Course II on August 7-9. Both courses will be held in Indianapolis at the Marten House Hotel and Conference Center. Dick Cupka, who has instructed management training and leadership skills specifically designed for broadcast engineers for more than 30 years, will be our seminar leader. To register or for more information, call Angel Bates at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or e-mail Angel at firstname.lastname@example.org. The seminar fee for each course is $475.
Check out those Air Conditioners
From SBE Chapter 3
Once again, it is a good time to service air conditioners in your remote shacks. Window units should be removed and taken to a car wash for a thorough washing from the inside out on condenser fins. Check line currents while the compressor is running on base mounted units, clean coils, and oil fans where possible. An impromptu inspection of an electrical panel at one of our sites recently revealed a tripped breaker on one of two air conditioners. A reset resulted in a low growl, lights dimming, and another quick trip of the breaker. An inspection outside showed evidence of an oil leak under the unit. A professional was called, and our suspicions were confirmed. Probably a solder joint on a line gave way on the newly installed unit, blowing oil and freon out until the compressor had no lubrication and it seized or ate its way into the motor coils. Fortunately, it was covered by warranty, but it would not have been by the time it was needed during warmer weather! Another item to check after cold weather begins, is the rodent guard around your motor-generator. Mice love warm blocks, but they also chew on wires and the mess from their nests plugs up radiators which usually blow from inside to outside on such units. Always feel the radiator cap or the top of the radiator to make sure it is warm. A cold cap can be an indicator of low coolant, worse yet, the block heater or its thermostat may have gone out, and the motor will not start when needed if it is cold! An amprobe is a handy device to check line currents at your motor-generator transfer switch. Record the current on each line for reference, and check from time to time to make sure the lines are evenly balanced as well. From these readings, you can check percentage of standby capacity used, and by checking with air conditioning on and off, and estimate of percentage of cooling capacity used can be made as well (3.4 BTU per watt, and 12,000 BTU per ton of air conditioning). It will not account for cooling lost through walls and roof, but if you are close, investigate further when it does get hot, and you will know when to recommend to your GM that it is time to add or replace that old A/C unit. An amprobe is also handy for checking flashes per second on your tower beacon, how many of your obstruction lights are out, etc. Give it a try!
SBE Resume Service
Have you ever wondered how to get your resume into the hands of organizations with openings in your field? Let SBE help with our Resume Service, available to current SBE Members at no charge. Organizations can use the SBE Resume Service to fill your broadcast industry positions for a processing fee of $35. For more information, call the SBE National Office at 317-846-9000 or e-mail Angel Bates at email@example.com.
Tower Industry Part 13 - What To Expect
By Vicki W. Kipp
For the final article in a series about the tower industry, tower industry experts will predict what to expect for the tower industry during the next few years.
Each tower industry expert who I interviewed for this article shared unique and interesting thoughts based on their involvement in this industry.
Bernie Heinemann is the owner of Wave Communications/ Skyline tower company in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He is a founding member of NATE (National Association of Tower Erectors)
Larry Kitchens of is a field superintendent for Kline Iron and Steel of Columbia, South Carolina. He supervised the reinforcement of the Madison Candelabra Tower for the addition of DTV antennas, and the installation of those antennas.
Rich Wood owns Resonant Results, LTD. in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, and consults on AM, FM, and TV transmitters, transmission line, and antenna issues. He is a founding member of NATE.
No one would argue that the past few years have been a great time to be in the tower business - it's been a booming industry thanks to two technologies: wireless telephone and digital television. But the brisk pace can't last forever.
Wireless telephone service was the technology that started the boom. According to Kitchens and Heinemann, however, the cellular/PCS boom is over. Heinemann summarizes, "There is still a lot of work going on, but it is more fill-in and fine tuning rather than new carriers starting up." Wood is more optimistic, replying, "Another 100,000 cellular and PCS sites are slated to go up in the next 8-10 years."
The other driving technology is the transition of broadcasters from analog to digital television (DTV), which creates a need for fortification of towers and installation of massive TV broadcast antennas for hundreds of TV stations. The FCC requirement that commercial stations broadcast in digital by 2002 and non-commercial stations by 2003 has tower companies hustling to finish all of the installations in time. Kitchens predicts that the DTV tower work boom will continue for now and end between 2004 and 2006. Wood gives a longer estimate: "It will be eight years before the final configuration. When NTSC ends, those antennas will have to come down."
The experts do agree that when the tower work boom subsides, there will be an excess of tower technicians. Excess tower technicians may be laid off, and the hourly wage of the tower technician is expected to drop.
Consolidation of many small family-owned tower companies into large companies has been and will continue to be a trend. Rich Wood explains, "Most small companies are eager to sell to large corporations because it is their golden opportunity to sell out for big money." As the tower industry matures, specialization has occurred. Consistently, I got the message that the largest companies will concentrate on new tower construction and reinforcement, while smaller companies will focus on maintenance tasks such as repair, lighting, and painting. Wood explains, "The large companies have not gotten into tower maintenance yet because they are concentrating on big money in tower infrastructure build out." Most of the experts agreed that American Tower Corporation and SpectraSite Corporation are the biggest players in the tower industry.
Tower owners are requiring tower technicians to complete approved safety training as a prerequisite to working on their towers. In my opinion, more tower owners will set this requirement to decrease their liability. In addition to tower climbing safety courses, there are also courses on limiting exposure to electromagnetic energy and installing and maintaining tower lighting. OSHA rules will continue to be a main concern for tower company owners and employees. Experts predict that OSHA will continue to enforce existing rules and add new rules. When asked if new rules from OSHA would hinder work, Kitchens responded, "It will hinder our work to a degree, but if it's going to make it safer, everyone is in favor of it." Wood states, "OSHA will continue to move compliance so it constantly gets tougher [to comply.] They favor bigger companies. The tougher rules raise the cost of doing business and drive the smaller companies out of business." Commuting is an expensive part of tower work. Besides mobilizing to the tower site, tower technicians also have to commute up the tower to perform their work. Ascending to the top of the tower at the start of the workday and descending at the end of the day can add up to several hours of climbing time. Technicians will be doing less climbing as more towers are built with elevators. Man-riding, also called "riding the [winch] line", will be done to save climbing time. A tower technician rides in a "man basket" attached to a winch-driven line. Although efficient, man-riding has its risks and has become a touchy subject between NATE and OSHA. Experts predict that NATE will continue negotiating with OSHA to reach agreement on standards for riding the winch line safely. A drum winch (Figure 1), a power-driven spool wound with wire or cable which is used to lift or pull, is a required tool for raising men or hardware up a tower. Winch drums can be used for jumping the jin pole (moving it up the tower), power tagging loads, temporary tensioning of guy wires, and man-riding.
Traditional mechanical winches are dangerous because their planetary gear can be kicked out of gear and allowed to free wheel. They are poorly designed for fine movements. With a mechanical winch, the operator must manually control the single brake system. The mechanical winch is being phased out and replaced with the planetary type hydraulic hoist winch with an automatic braking system. New hydraulic winches will be "man-rated" meaning that they are rated for lifting personnel.
GIN OR JIN POLE?
Due to a lack of standardization for the jin pole (Figure 2) - a steel device used to give a height advantage when stacking consecutive sections of tower steel or equipment in place- controversy surrounds the device. Even the spelling of the word 'jin' or 'gin' is debated. ComTrain instructor Winton Wilcox says, "OSHA has been trying to get us [the tower industry] to tell them what a jin pole is for years. NATE is trying to standardize the spelling of the word jin to g-i-n. ComTrain wants to standardize the spelling to j-i-n since we believe that the word g-i-n means something entirely different to the tower technician. Others want to spell it g-y-n."
Jin poles are custom created for a specific job. They vary in terms of size, rated strength, and design. Many jin poles are built in someones garage. The lack of standardization and load rating of a jin pole is a problem because the pole needs to be sized to the specific task at hand. Since fabricating a jin pole is expensive, it is usually reused after the original project. When a jin pole is reused on a different job, there is a risk that the pole could be overstressed by the load or that it could overload the tower. Either situation could cause a tower to collapse.
Until recently, few formal standards existed for the manufacture of jin poles. However, that is starting to change. In 2001, the TIA/EIA (Telecommunication Industry Association/Electronic Industries Association) Safety Facilities Task Group Subcommittee drafted jin pole standard 'TIA/EIA-PN-4860-Gin Poles' which specifies structural standards for steel jin poles used for tower work. Jin poles will become safer as standards are set, and the poles are clearly marked with load ratings, equipped with measurement devices that display how much force is being placed on the jin pole, and outfitted with mounting devices to make it easier to attach the gin pole to the tower.
SAFER BROADCAST ANTENNAS
Tower technicians who work on broadcast towers complain that it is very difficult to comply with OSHA regulations when climbing a broadcast antenna because most antennas do not facilitate 100% tie off. "Why is a climber so well protected when climbing the tower to the base of the antenna and then asked to climb the last 100 feet in the open - with no support - at night - and have no available tie off points?" asks Heinemann. "I feel we will see more effort put into this area, both in new antenna construction and retrofit kits for existing ones." Kitchens recommends a temporary safety climb cable from the top to the bottom of the antenna. The mountings for the cable could be left on permanently, but the cable would need to be removed after tower work. Wood was not as optimistic about creation of an antenna safety system: "Tower technicians could be considered 100% tied-off on an antenna just using two lanyards; the extra system is not necessary." Wood explained that a metallic safety system would be problematic because it would alter the RF coverage area, while a non-metallic safety system would be unreliable because it would be susceptible to the effects of RF.
The EIA/TIA Code 222F tower standard has been replaced by EIA/TIA 222G. Improved tower analysis tools and increased knowledge of construction materials have led to new recommendations. Code G brings more thorough and precise design criteria. Using new theories that require less steel for a tower, a superior tower can be built with thinner legs and thus less windloading. When Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, it caused the collapse of many towers that were never expected to fall. At that time, tower simulation analysis was based on exposing the tower to a very high wind speed called the fastest mile for just an instant. According to the new rules, towers must be able to sustain a three-second peak wind gust.
Bill Harris Society of Broadcast Engineers Denver Chapter
Dear Mr. Harris,
I am the Chairman of the TIA/EIA committee (TR14.7) that writes the standard TIA/EIA 222-F - Structural Standards for Steel Antenna Towers and Antenna Supporting Structures. It was recently brought to my attention that your newsletter published an article stating that a new version of the standard had been published and released. (Tower Industry Part 13 - "What To Expect" - Vicki W. Kipp) Although it is true a new standard is being worked on, it has not yet been published or released to the public. Some of your readers have contacted me to inquire whether they missed something and the standard had actually been published without their knowledge. We do not anticipate the new standard will be published for another five or six months at the earliest. You may wish to inform your readers of this correction.
Craig M. Snyder
In addition, Code 222G will divide towers into three classes (Table 1) There are new specifications for ice loading. Code G requires that a geo-tech report be completed for a tower base area before construction. There are now three classes of soil: sand, clay, and rock. New grounding requirements replace previous requirements for a minimum number of ground rods with a new electrical requirement for maximum allowable grounding system resistance of 10 Ohms. Towers built in states where earthquakes can occur must meet earthquake specifications. Lastly, the new code gives mounting bracket specifications for certain antennas. Whenever there are major modifications to a tower structure, it should be brought up to code G.
Table 1 - Classes of towers under EIA/TIA 222G.
- Class 1 Amateur, CB, and 2-way radio towers and residential wireless towers
- Class 2 Virtually all towers except those named in other classes. Includes broadcast towers.
- Class 3 Towers in which the loss of said tower would result in high hazard to human life and property, and those towers used for essential communication. Built to be indestructible.
The new 222G code is in effect, but following the code is still optional. Even though there is no legal mandate to follow EIA/TIA 222G, the tower owner may be pressured to follow it by their tower's insurer.
Concerns about aesthetics and fear of property value decline may cause citizens to mount a fierce opposition to having a tower built near their home. In some cases, a tower which has been licensed by the FCC is effectively "unlicensed" by a local zoning board. Could relief from tower zoning struggles be on its way? In response to confusing, costly, and unnecessarily long regulations that govern towers and antennas at all levels, a group of spectrum users and allied organizations formed the National Tower Consortium in late 2001. Their goal is to create a national antenna and tower policy that would provide a fair and reasonable structure for antenna zoning and land use regulations. They want to address the fact that the US does not have a cohesive policy to evaluate the rights of properly licensed terrestrial spectrum users. SBE member Fred Baumgartner is the current chairperson of the National Tower Consortium.
CONCLUSION Looking forward, trends predicted for the tower industry include: end of wireless telephone and DTV construction booms, contractor consolidation and specialization, required safety training, new rules from OSHA, NATE guidelines for "riding the line" safely, safer hydraulic winches with automatic braking, jin pole standardization, integral safety systems for broadcast antennas, implementation of EIA/TIA Code 222G, and a call for consistent tower zoning policies from the National Tower Consortium. Will the aforementioned tower industry trends occur as our experts have predicted? Time will tell.
Information for this article came from the following sources: ERI PowerPoint "The New G Code"; Umansky, Barry "Tower Siting: Relief Ahead?" Radio World; ComTrain "Basic Tower Technology".
Tools and Toys for Engineers and Others!
(Sure, you've got a scientific calculator--but do you have this stuff?)
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
In my travels I am constantly reminded of home. My most recent example was at the SBE banquet in Verona NY. On each table was a bottle of wine. As I scanned the label...it jumped out at me... Columbia Crest!
After I left Verona it was off to Madison, Wisconsin where I did some work at a number of Entercom transmitter sites. The highlight of this trip was to go to the site of WOLX. This facility is located about 30 miles North of Madison and sits on a hill (yes, they have a couple of them). WOLX is a grandfathered Class B running 37 kW at 1300 feet. That's nothing out here in Class-C land...but back there it's a BIG station with coverage, thanks to the terrain, out about 100 miles. The site was like a trip into yesteryear: concrete, full basement, two car garage, apartment for the caretaker and history everywhere. WOLX went on the air back in 1946 making it one of the first FMs on the then new band.
Our biggest and most pressing problem is where we are going to meet. In the past we have been able to hold meetings in a variety of restaurants with no problem. Those days have apparently gone. These venues, especially in Seattle, now want us to guarantee the number of people that will be in attendance, etc., etc. Thusly the Swedish Club and the previous location, Ivars at the North end of the lake, are no longer workable. We could get around this by coming up with an RSVP system, etc., but this is not very workable due to many factors. So the issue is now where do we meet? By the time you read this, this decision will be made... at least for the short term. Stay tuned.
Well here we are, another year. Rather than try and predict what will happen, here is a list of some things that 'I hope will happen' in this year...
I. We will find OBL and justice will be rapid.
II. The economy will run its cycle and we can again get on the upward curve with advertising revenues and 401K balances returning to normal
III. Clear Channel will come to town and become a really good neighbor.
IV. DTV will really start to take off and we will actually be able to buy a DTV receiver.
V. IBOC will become the accepted Digital Radio standard so we can start planning the future there.
VI. We will come to more fully understand the impact of XM and Sirius.
VII. All those Radio and TV stations in the area that do not have backup transmitter sites will be moving forward to have them (the lesson from 9-11)
VIII. Rumors of the sale of Fisher and Sandusky Radio stations will be replaced with facts. IX. We will be able to reach agreement as to how we are going to solve our freeway mess so that construction can really begin in our lifetime.
X. We will come up with a great place to hold our chapter meetings.
XI. All of our state's Local EAS areas will get fully up to speed.
Now for some traditional news stuff...
On Nov 30th a 1627-foot tower near Springfield, Mo. failed due to severe ice from several days of freezing rain. The 33-year old tower was the home of a TV and FM station owned by American Tower. Thankfully no one was injured in the fall. This once again drove home the lesson learned in NYC... that is not having a back-up site can have a severe downside. Lucky for KTXR-FM they apparently had a back-up site. Meanwhile back in NYC the process of coming up with a high multiple station site for their TV and FMs continues. Apparently some are looking at the Alpine area (home of the Armstrong tower) as a possible location and this has brought the natives out in great numbers. New York is learning what NIMBY really means. Unlike building roof tops where the building owners drive the deal, a tower is entirely different. I guess I still find it hard to believe that in the #1 market in the country only CBS had a ready-to-go standby operation. This lesson has altered minds all over the country. It's interesting to note that there were more FM back-up sites than TV. Here in Seattle this is the case also. Granted we don't have a large quantity of TV stations all at one location; so if one tower failed, everyone else would be on the air... however FM radio is much better off in that all but a handful of FM stations would be on the air with the failure of their main tower; Entercom, Infinity and Sandusky are the radio station groups with the redundancy.
From my old buddy Whit Brown came this one.... Two trucks loaded with a thousand copies of Roget's Thesaurus collided as they left a New York publishing house last week, according to the AP. Witnesses were, startled, stunned, aghast, taken back, stupefied... A recent NAB publication reminded stations of possible FCC fines. They give some examples of recent ones... $8000 for failure to exhibit red obstruction lighting and $16,000 for failure to determine and log reasons why EAS tests were not being received. Being a nice guy, thought I'd pass this along. If you really want to open the eyes of your GM as to FCC actions in the world of FINES, go to the FCC Web Site (www.fcc.gov) and download their " Enforcement Bureau Field Operation List of Actions Taken". Drop this on his desk once in a while. Should do the trick. The biggie of the month has to be over KGGO and KJJY of Des Moines. They owe the Feds 16 Grand for EAS and tower violations.
A lot of historical notes were made recently about the fact it was 100 years ago that Marconi was able to transmit radio signals across the Atlantic. I found it interesting that at the time that we were celebrating this event that another date of note occurred at the same time: the Internet is now 10 years old.
As evidence of how Radio is moving forward... The Digital Audio Broadcasting Subcommittee of the NRSC has published its findings. The bottom line... IBOC WORKS!... at least the FM system does... in fact it was determined that the coverage of the IBOC system may in situations where there is interference, etc., actually exceed that of the present analog system. Now the NRSC will work to determine the viability of the proposed AM Digital System. The ITU (Geneva based International Telecommunication Union) has already moved ahead on this one, endorsing the system. According to Ibiquity (the group behind Radio IBOC-DAB) they expect to see a number of equipment makers jumping on the bandwagon and showing IBOC gizmos at the next NAB in Vegas....The folks at CES are already exposed to IBOC and from what I hear a number of receiver manufacturers are ready to jump on the bandwagon and formally launch their products at CES 2003 and show what they have come up with at CES 2002 in Vegas by the time you read this. It will be interesting to follow the reports coming out of this CES to see how the other side views IBOC... could have a lot to do with its success. But what about the FCC? Word is that they are working on the matter. I've not heard when however.
On the subject of EAS... rumors are that the awaited changes in Part 11 will be coming out the end of THIS month. Apparently Chairman Powell told the staff to get this thing out the door. We can thank 9-11 for getting EAS to become a little higher on the priority list at the Commission.
Having trouble with that 950 MHz Aural STL? Integrated Microwave has introduced a line of bandpass filters you might want to look into; they are reportedly about 500 Bucks.
EMP is back in the news. This is Electro-Magnetic-Pulse. During the cold war many electronic facilities had equipment installed to protect them from the effects of this. In those days it was feared that an atomic blast would send out strong electromagnetic waves that would zap and thereby cripple electronic transmitting and receiving equipment. There are actually ANSI and IEEE standards out there. Since 9-11 there is renewed interest in this matter... even consideration that perhaps EMP protection incorporation should somehow be required by the FCC in certain instances. Watch for more news on this front in the months ahead. I remember working on this back in the '60s with the fellow who wrote the book on the subject for the Feds (name escapes me now)... learned a lot... also learned that Tube Gear is much better able to withstand EMP that SS equipment, back then this was an option.
As we all well know we are running out of area codes due to the needs of primarily new wireless gizmos. Well, the FCC may be stepping into this mess and permit states to earmark new area codes 'specifically' for wireless goodies that are the cause of the number shortage. Frankly I like this idea... but the wireless industry does not like it 'cause they, like the rest of us, don't want to have to dial 10 digits. This suggestion will likely be studied to death and maybe in a year or so we will see if the FCC permits it... on a case by case, state by state basis or not.
Were you watching the release of the long awaited 'It' or 'Ginger'? Actually I kind of thought that it was clever marketing. It's been described as looking like an old reel type lawnmower... but the gyro stabilized two-wheeler certainly could find a place in our society. I want to see it go up some of Seattle's hills first... if it does, it could replace a number of bicycles around here for local delivery... and... be honest now... don't you really want to take this for a spin?
Have you made your reservations for NAB-2002? It's again time to get this process moving... Have you followed the progress of TiVo? This is the in-line recording device that lets owners skip commercials and telescope TV programs. Well, the Lexus division of Toyota took a gamble and elected to play ball with the device... they tied in a car giveaway with a spot that owners of the device could recall... apparently it worked. TV stations and Cable Channels need to be keeping an eye on this critter.
Another item that the TV industry is watching is CBS and UPN. What will Viacom do with two networks? Here in our area things are perhaps a bit more interesting with Ch 7 being the CBS affiliate and Viacom's own Ch 11 running UPN. With Mel Karmazin at the helm of this network duopoly operation... the other nets are certainly keeping a close watch on this one.
Speaking of networks... NBC has certainly raised a number of eyebrows with their announcement that they are going to start running spots for hard liquor. It will be interesting to see if the present economic situation drives other broadcast companies to do the same thing.
He's everywhere...Tom Silliman that is. Tom has become famous recently for his climbing of the Empire State Building in NYC. More recently the December 12th issue of the local Journal Newspapers had yet another picture of Tom looking over the lights of the city. Tom is also known as the owner of Electronic Research, ERI. Maker of antennas and towers. Tom has also been featured on a couple of TV shows recently for doing the same thing.
Another reason to believe that magnetic tape is finally going away... recently published stories in the media point to DVD players on a course that will have them overtake the sales of VCRs by 2004. The question is: What then? How long before the old trusty VHS cassette becomes a relic of the past? In the world of audio we have seen the LP replaced with the CD... with which you can now record. The cassette is slowly being pushed out with the MD, which started out with record capability. In the video world things are never easy. It has nothing to do with technology and a whole lot more to do with business. Go to the store these days and you will find racks and racks of DVD movies... but what about the ability to record on them... ya know... like you can with the trusty VCR? Well, several makers of DVD recorders have their answer... and they are NOT ALL THE SAME! There is no real standard here. If you don't mind the fact that you may not be able to play your recently recorded DVD in another's machine you won't have a problem... will all of this end the era of Mag Tape? Not for some time is my guess.
Here's a technology item that's interesting. Phillips has developed it... it's called Audio Fingerprinting. Here's how it works... say you are driving along and you hear a song on the radio that you like... You dial up a special number on your cell phone, hold the phone near a speaker, the audio is sent to a central data base and in within 4 seconds the display on your fancy cell phone shows you the songs ID info. Pretty clever, huh? Having recently spent considerable time in NY where holding a cellphone up to your ear is now a NO-NO, I wonder what the cops would say, after he pulls you over, when you tell him that you were not talking on the phone but just having your phone listen to the radio for a moment.... Hmmm.
Whereas Clear Channel is 'comin to town' ... I guess I can start writing about them. They recently announced a couple of promotions. Jeff Littlejohn will join a couple of others by advancing to the rank of senior vice president of engineering. Jeff is Sr. VP of Engineering for the Radio Division while Al Kenyon becomes Sr. VP of projects and technology. I find it interesting that they don't have a SrVP for TV operations.
Very seldom does a TV transmitter ever move from where it was installed. TV stations buy a transmitter, install it, run it and then retire it to the dump. Radio stations, on the other hand have a tendency (at least in this market) to move transmitters around to the point that I wonder if the makers of these things should have provided wheels. For instance... KNHC recently purchased a little 5 kW FM Rig for their new Cougar Mt. installation that used to be at Pigeon Point for KZOK. According to Marty Hadfield this used to be in Longview. KBSG's Collins rig has made the following trip: Tacoma to West Tiger to Indian Hill to Cougar Mt. Even KJR's new transmitter at the 850/950 site in Tacoma was once in Seattle.
On the serious side... This was forwarded to me by old bud, Ken Kopp...
HOW TO MAKE A MIRACLE:
1 part of knowing who you are.
Combine ingredients together gently and carefully, using faith and vision. Mix together with strong belief of the outcome until finely blended. Add thoughts, words and actions for best results. Bake until Blessed. Give thanks again. Makes unlimited servings.
May 2002 be filled with blessings for you all.
The End User
Happy New Year! I hope you had a nice holiday season and that you have a successful and prosperous year.
In November, I reported on Excite@Home's Chapter 11 filing, and boldly stated "current Excite@Home users will not be disconnected from their service", as AT&T was to buy the ISP's assets for just over $300 million. But Excite@Home's bondholders objected to AT&T's bid, saying it was too low -in their estimation, about a third of the company's value. To increase the sale price and raise revenues, Excite@Home's bondholders went and filed a motion to force renegotiation of the cable companies' service agreements. This was a risky proposition, because it essentially terminated Excite@Home's existing agreements with its customers - the cable companies - and if the customers went away (by connecting users to alternate ISPs), Excite@Home could face being shut down. The bondholders considered shut down as an unlikely outcome, but quietly, the cable companies began feverishly working on alternate ISP connection plans just in case. The connectivity to 4.1 million cable broadband customers was at stake!
On November 30, a bankruptcy judge granted Excite@Home's motion. And less than 24 hours after the ruling, Excite@Home determined that it couldn't reach a new agreement with AT&T, and pulled the plug on their 850,000 customers. Negotiations continued with the other cable companies and after seeing what happened with AT&T, they quickly executed 90-day service agreements and expedited plans to move users to alternate ISPs. So round one in the game went to the cable companies, but AT&T was still going to buy Excite@Home, right? Nope. A few days after being cut off, AT&T rescinded its offer. Because of these two actions, Excite@Home had no choice but to shut down - which it will do by the end of next month.
AT&T's prep work enabled the company to migrate most of its 850,000 users in about one week's time. The Seattle area fared better than other locations - most were offline for about two days, some (including your author) a bit longer. However as of mid-December, about one-fourth of Seattle users were still offline or reported very slow connections, and AT&T indicated it would take one or two more weeks before all were connected and the network was "up to speed".
And Seattle wasn't the only area having problems (this was observed first-hand by monitoring various message boards dedicated to the AT&T migration). Many users complained of poor communications about the migration, saying they were never told about any possibility of service disruption or that they would lose e-mail and Web pages stored on Excite@Home's servers. Others have expressed anger about receiving incredibly incompetent technical support. Some have grumbled about changes AT&T made to its Terms of Service agreement, including capping download speeds and requiring dynamically-assigned IP addresses instead of the static IPs that Excite@Home provided. Unfortunately for cable broadband users, there isn't much recourse for these grievances other than the message boards - for a couple of reasons:
First, changing ISPs isn't an option for most cable broadband users. The cable company provides both the service connection and the Internet connectivity. The notable exception is Tacoma's Click! Network, which offers connectivity through three different ISPs. Click! just provides connectivity to the ISP.
Second, unlike DSL, the cable broadband industry is unregulated by the FCC because, according to former FCC cable services chief Deborah Lathen, the FCC decided "not to discourage companies from making the large investments necessary to build the broadband network". Lathen feels the FCC should now act to classify cable modem service, and FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said that DSL and cable-modem access regulation should not differ. He has begun proceedings to review all of the commission's policies so they will better reflect the various technologies that provide broadband service. But overall, Powell has not shown an intention to more heavily regulate broadband service.
One outcome of all this is certain: with Excite@Home shutting down, it certainly won't be "business as usual" for the cable broadband industry.
In other news- last month, four Israeli teenagers were arrested after admitting they wrote and spread the "Goner" virus worm that wreaked havoc on computers worldwide. The virus deleted files and clogged e-mail in-boxes around the world, appearing as an e-mail message with the subject "Hi" and a screensaver attachment. The worm also was spread through ICQ programs. It's believed that because the attachment was a screensaver, people were more willing to open it, despite repeated warnings not to open unknown attachments.
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced last month that federal law enforcement agents executed search warrants worldwide against virtually every level of criminal organizations engaged in illegal software piracy over the Internet. The three Operations, codenamed "Buccaneer," "Bandwidth" and "Digital Piratez," struck at all aspects of the illegal software, game and movie trade, often referred to as "warez scene." This two-year investigation included creating a government-run "warez site" which was instrumental in catching the software pirates.
Finally- major kudos to Google for keeping their promise to bring back the Usenet archives! Google acquired the archives last year when it purchased DejaNews.com. The archives date back to 1981, and amongst its 700 million postings are messages about Bill Gates' first cynical comments about the web, the fall of the Berlin wall, O.J. Simpson's arrest and Jeff Bezos' soliciting for programmers to "...help pioneer commerce on the Internet". The archives are available at http://groups.google.com/.
That's it for this month. Please feel free to send your comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
SMPTE Email Notification Changes
(Mailed to All SMPTE Members)
E-MAIL NOTIFICATION FORM
NOTICE TO MEMBERS
In an effort to provide a faster and more efficient way of communicating with its membership across the USA and in the Canadian Region, the SMPTE is implementing an E-Mail Only policy that took effect on January 1st 2002. We believe this measure is the most efficient way of getting time-sensitive information to its members located in North America while reducing costs associated with preparing and sending meeting notices through the mail.
This comes after many representations from North American Sections who feel that e-mail is a more efficient and economical way of getting their meeting notices and other timely information to their members. With the introduction of our new interactive Web site, we now provide a very effective way for members to receive important SMPTE information in all aspects of the Society's activities and E-mail notification of upcoming local Section meetings is the next step in modernizing our communication methods.
The SMPTE will continue to mail its meeting notifications to those members who are unable to receive E-mail and who signify this to the SMPTE Membership Department either by faxing the attached coupon or by returning it by mail to HQ prior to avoid any interruptions in service.
In order to ensure that all our members remain informed and continue receiving notices without interruption, we also invite all members to update their e-mail information presently in our records. You may achieve this by either going to the http://www.smpte.org/ Web site or by faxing this form back to HQ as soon as possible.
Name :______________________________________________Member #:_______________ Company: ___________________________________________________________________ Address:____________________________________________________________________ E-mail (business):__________________________________________________________ E-mail (personal):__________________________________________________________ PLEASE SELECT ONE ONLY _______I wish to receive my Section notifications by email only. =20 _______I cannot receive my Section notifications by email, please continue sending me postal notifications. Signature______________________________________________ Date__________________
FAX TO: Daureen Matera, SMPTE HQ, +1 914.761.3115
Subject: Lost in Space
A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."
The woman below replied, "You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."
"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.
"I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help so far."
The woman below responded, "You must be in management."
"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."
Calling In Sick
Calling in sick to work makes me uncomfortable. No matter how legitimate my illness, I always sense my boss thinks I am lying.
On one occasion, I had a valid reason, but lied anyway because the truth was too humiliating. I simply mentioned that I had sustained a head injury and I hoped I would feel up to coming in the next day. By then, I could think up a doozy to explain the bandage on my crown.
The accident occurred mainly because I conceded to my wife's wishes to adopt a cute little kitty. Initially, the new acquisition was no problem, but one morning, I was taking my shower after breakfast, when I heard my wife, Deb, call out to me from the kitchen. "Ed! The garbage disposal is dead. Come reset it."
"You know where the button is," I protested through the shower(pitter-patter). "Reset it yourself!"
"I am scared!" she pleaded. "What if it starts going and sucks me in?" (Pause) "C'mon, it'll only take a second."
So out I came, dripping wet and buck naked, hoping to make a statement about how her cowardly behavior was not without consequence. I crouched down and stuck my head under the sink to find the button. It is the last action I remember performing.
It struck without warning, without respect to my circumstances. Nay, it wasn't a hexed disposal drawing me into its gnashing metal teeth. It was our new kitty, clawing playfully at the dangling objects she spied between my legs. She had been poised around the corner and stalked me as I took the bait under the sink. At precisely the second I was most vulnerable, she leapt at the toys I unwittingly offered and snagged them with her needle-like claws. I lost all rational thought to control orderly bodily movements, while rising upwardly at a violent rate of speed, with the full weight of a kitten hanging from my masculine region.
Wild animals are sometimes faced with a "fight or flight" syndrome. Men, in this predicament, choose only the "flight" option. Fleeing straight up, the sink and cabinet bluntly impeded my ascent; the impact knocked me out cold.
When I awoke, my wife and the paramedics stood over me. Having been fully briefed by my wife, the paramedics snorted as they tried to conduct their work while suppressing hysterical laughter. At the office, colleagues tried to coax an explanation out of me. I kept silent, claiming it was too painful to talk about. "What's the matter, cat got your tongue?"
If they had only known.
'You're Fired' Software
By Paul Tharp
January 9, 2002 -- Poof! You don't exist.
The newest way to fire employees without a trace is with $500,000 software that does it all, except escort you off the premises, but that too, can be arranged.
At the press of a key, the software dumps you with a memo, closes your payroll account at the bank, cancels your credit cards, shuts down your e-mail, eliminates your parking privileges and locks down your telephone extension and cell phone numbers.
Your name is wiped off any password or company account you ever used - including Fed Ex or even a deli takeout. "We cover the entire life cycle of an employee," said Sharon Tolpin, a spokesperson for Business Layers Inc., whose new "fire-ware" is used by giants such as Chevron. "We provide an entire trail of everything the employee has ever dealt with - equipment, data, everything," she said.
"Laid-off employees are a risk. Companies have a lot of horror stories about what former employees have done to them," she said. "You still have to explain to the person that he or she doesn't have a job any more, but after that, the software pulls the plug immediately. The priority is to get them out of a company system quickly." The software's "big brother" features also alert security to collect any notebook computers, cars, cell phones or other hardware, software or equipment that's ever been allocated to you.
The Rochelle Park, N.J., firm was launched during the height of the dot-com explosion to help companies get new hires up and running at the job as quickly as possible. "Up until last year, our focus was to put people into the system and make them productive instantly. Now, it's the opposite function to take them out," said Tolpin. About 25 major firms have been downsizing with Business Layers software in recent months, averaging about $500,000 per account.
Here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods.
* On a Sears hairdryer: Do not use while sleeping. (and that's the only time I have to work on my hair.)
* On a bag of Fritos: You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside. (the shoplifter special?)
* On a bar of Dial soap: "Directions: Use like regular soap." (and that would be how???.)
* On some Swanson frozen dinners: "Serving suggestion: Defrost." (but it's "just" a suggestion.)
* On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom): "Do not turn upside down." (well, a bit late)
* On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding: "Product will be hot after heating." (and you thought?)
* On packaging for a Rowenta iron: "Do not iron clothes on body." (but wouldn't this save me more time?)
* On Boot's Children Cough Medicine: "Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication." (We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5-year-olds with head-colds off those forklifts.)
* On Nytol Sleep Aid: "Warning: May cause drowsiness." (and I'm taking this because?)
* On most brands of Christmas lights: "For indoor or outdoor use only." (as opposed to... what?)
* On a Japanese food processor: "Not to be used for the other use." (now, somebody out there, help me on this. I'm a bit curious.)
* On Salisbury's peanuts: "Warning: contains nuts." (talk about a news flash)
* On an American Airlines packet of nuts: "Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts." (Step 3: maybe fly Delta?)
* On a child's superman costume: "Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly." (I don't blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)
* On a Swedish chainsaw: "Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals." (Oh my God. was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)
Garneth M. Harris
Newsletter archives are available online.
Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Societies, its officers, or its members. We regret, but are not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Denver SBE and SMPTE Newsletter is published approximately twelve times per year. It is prepared with a combination of text and graphic data. Submission deadline is 10 days before the last day of each month. Other SBE or SMPTE chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original authors, sources, and/or the Denver SBE/SMPTE Newsletter.