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Theres Magic in the Static!

Jun 252017

Posted on June 16, 2017

With a swipe of a MILITARY STAR card, retired Soldiers can make a difference for military communities and those who wear the uniform today. The card,

English: Defense Commissary Agency logo from t...

English: Defense Commissary Agency logo from the DECA website. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

designed exclusively for service members, their families and retirees, offers terrific benefits and is widely accepted at more than 120 Exchange main stores, 500 Express convenience stores and gas stations, 1,700 quick-serve restaurants and 3,300 concessions. It’s also accepted online at as well as Navy, Marine and Coast Guard exchanges and But that’s about to change.

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is working to make MILITARY STAR card the installation-wide credit solution of choice. The Exchange Credit Program is partnering with IMCOM G9 and the Defense Commissary Agency to allow for MILITARY STAR card acceptance at MWR facilities and the commissary.

Surveys have shown that military customers want the ability to use MILITARY STAR across the installation. This expansion is a win-win for cardholders—whether retired or currently serving—and the military community–a single card with one of the lowest APR would address virtually all the payment needs on Army installations. The Exchange already serves Soldiers and Airmen and brings the MILITARY STAR card to Marines, Sailors and Coast Guard members, so this expansion further demonstrates the Exchange’s commitment to increase the card’s usability across the entire military community.

To start the expansion process, the Exchange and MWR began testing MILITARY STAR card acceptance at Fort Hood’s Phantom Warrior Lanes last November. For Soldiers, families and retirees in the Great Place, an easy way to pay for fun is right up their alley—literally! Our testing at Fort Hood has expanded to include almost all Child & Youth Services programs, which generates savings that go right back to Quality-of-Life programs including those same youth services activities, Fitness Centers and more. In the last decade, the MILITARY STAR card has provided $727 million in financial support for these critical, and increasingly budget constrained, programs.

Additionally, MWR saves every American money with every swipe. Because the Exchange Credit Program processes MILITARY STAR card transactions in-house, MWR functions that accept the proprietary card avoid onerous fees assessed when bank-issued credit cards are used. For example, Exchange shoppers saved the military community more than $20.7 million in bank fees last year alone by simply using a MILITARY STAR card instead of a bank-issued credit card.

MILITARY STAR acceptance is coming to your commissary too. The commissary is working diligently to ensure MILITARY STAR card acceptance as it installs a new cash register system while looking for opportunities to modify its current cash registers to allow MILITARY STAR card acceptance in 2017.

The benefits of the MILITARY STAR card are also compelling for the active-duty or retired Soldier. Cardholders enjoy exclusive discounts such as free standard shipping when ordering through, 5 cents off per gallon of gas at the Express and savings of 10 percent at Exchange restaurants. These value-added benefits offer tangible everyday savings for Soldiers, families and retirees who do their part to make our military installations great places to live and work by reaching for their for their MILITARY STAR card.

With MILITARY STAR, a 0 percent promotion is a 0 percent promotion. Unlike other cards, the MILITARY STAR card does not charge a customer for all deferred interest if the customer does not completely pay off their balance by the end of the promotion period. Additionally, cardholders are never subject to late, over limit, or annual fees. The MILITARY STAR card’s 10.99 percent interest rate was also recently cited by as the lowest flat rate interest rate of any retail card, allowing new recruits an affordable opportunity to build credit without the prohibitive interest rate other retail credit products offer—some reaching more than 25 percent.

The Exchange is looking forward to offering greater convenience and increased dividend support to Soldiers, families and retirees through MILITARY STAR card acceptance at MWR facilities and the commissary. If you aren’t a cardholder, you can find out more about the card and apply online at

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our Nation. It’s truly an honor to continue to serve you and your families.

Jun 082017

Jeff Westover June 3rd 2017

Christmas in July promotional banner outside a...

Christmas in July promotional banner outside a venue in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The modern image of Christmas is locked in as a season covered in snow, ice and frosty images of evergreens.1

Ironically, the actual setting for Christmas should take place in the dry desert heat. Christ, after all, was not born on December 25th. Historians usually place His birth in the Spring.

The seasonality of St. Nicholas bears explaining as well. Historically Nicholas of Myra was a year-round figure, placed in not-so-frosty like places in the Middle East. How he came to wear red is easily explained but how he took to sleighs and snowmen is a bit more complicated.

But even more complex is the advent of Christmas in July, an odd seasonal celebration of what is typically associated with cold during the worst heat of the year. Where did the idea of Christmas in July come from?

Like too many things Christmas it is a concept buried in myth and covered in money.

The idea floats around that Christmas in July is actually a sentimental observance by people living in southern climes whose seasons run opposite of those living in the north. Their winter falls during the summer months of their northern neighbors. The modern Christmas for them is more of a season of surfing Santas, Christmas lights on palm trees and days of celebration at the beach. It is supposed that during their season of cold and ice — in July — they drag out the Christmas trees and feast upon traditional Christmas fare while sitting by the glow of Christmas candles and yule logs.

It is a romantic and sentimental notion. But it is absolutely false.

While it is no doubt true that some isolated instances of yuletide-like decorating may take place in southern hemisphere winter there is no evidence of it being a societal norm or tradition.

Christmas in July, it appears, is more about merchandising than making merry.

History records efforts on the part of retailers in America dating back to the 1880s to sell Christmas products in July. Some point to greed and the “crass commercialism” of Christmas as the cause of this but in reality the technology and rural nature of most living in America at the time are the most likely cause.

It wasn’t as if every frontier town had a Target on the corner. In fact, during this post-Victorian era of retailing most purchased not only their holiday goods but their every day provisions by way of catalogs and through the mail.

So any retailer hoping to move Christmas products had to get the word out in July, at the latest.

The products sold then differ little from products sold today. Christmas cards, ornaments and decorations such as wooden advent calendars were pictured in catalogs even long before widespread use of color printing. For many people living beyond major population centers such as New York or Chicago it was the only way to get holiday themed merchandise.

In the play/movie The Music Man a production is made of “the Wells Fargo wagon”, coming to town to bring the instruments that would make up the band. This musical is set in the early 1900s and it does a great job of showcasing the attitudes and anticipation of products delivered on a special order basis to small town America. It was simply a big deal because beyond general dry goods and groceries there was little special about what was offered on a retail basis. Christmas in any form was as specialized as fur coats, tea cups and clock parts.

So even receiving such paper wrapped products in the mail or by way of special freight deliveries became an event. Perhaps that is why Christmas as an element of summer bled into musical and dramatic culture as stories, books, songs and entire plays were crafted that carried a “Christmas-anytime-it’s-not-Christmas” theme. Wikipedia makes note of Christmas in July operas written in the late 19th century and talks of Christmas in July from Vaudeville. All of these seasonal tips of the hat to Christmas were driven from how people were forced to buy Christmas out of season during decades when that was the only way to buy it.

These days Christmas in July has become a season in itself. Hallmark has for decades made a tradition of releasing new Christmas ornament designs in July and cable shopping channels devote entire days to Christmas showcasing of new products. Christmas in July is frequently an event at theme parks, recreation areas and during end-of-summer gatherings as both a way to have fun and to mark the beginning of back to school. Christmas in July is also a time when conventions for Christmas collectors are held and when Santa portrayers around the world gather for their events.

Christmas in July is a purely secular sub-season, devoid of religious significance or times of worship.

  1. Here is another link to another reason for Christmas in July. This time with Vaudeville   []
May 132017

Like everyone else, I peruse the various photo’s that come across from my friends on Facebook. It’s nice keeping up with friends and family and seeing what they are doing. Every once in a while I run across a picture that just hits me. Something about it just stirs something in me and I feel I have to share it. This one is from a friend a work. He was on his way back from Baton Rouge and was somewhere along the highway near Donaldsonville. It’s  a great shot. Enough talk here it is. Good job Dan and thanks for letting me re-post!

Somewhere near Donaldsonville

May 122017

Vintage 1960’s GE 6 transistor pocket AM radio Complete with the Conelrad markers at 640 and 1240

Back when I was a kid  ( in the 60’s) I got a present for Christmas one year that turned out to be my pride and joy. I got a small pocket size GE AM 6 transistor radio. 6 whole transistors! Being that the transistor was a fairly new item in the world of tube radios and TV‘s, this was a great innovation. What a wonderful rig. It even had the Conelrad markings on the small dial at 640 and 1240.1 Being a youngster and not sure of anything except for the constant growing pains and the lack of understanding of anything, this radio became a constant companion. Through it I discovered a whole world beyond the 3 channels on our black and white television. The dial was rife with signals from all over the United States and Canada and it was then that I first discovered the “Magic in the Static”.  My life has never been the same and I carry my love of AM radio, ham radio and electronics to this day. That radio was always with me and was playing every night under my pillow when I went to bed. It wasn’t long after that that I asked my dad that fatal question…….Dad, how does the voice from the studio get into my radio? He bought me a book called The Radio Amateurs Handbook and I was set for life.  These days, I am an Extra Class Ham radio operator and my station besides having one or two commercially made radios, is mainly populated with radios I have built my self. From a 100 milliwatt morse code rig and my very first ham radio, ( A Heathkit HW8 I built my self in 79) to my favorite rig, an Elecraft K2 all band 100 watt rig built from the ground up. I even wound all the coils myself. Do you know how many coils there are in a rig like that?? My fingers will never forget hi hi.

TX RX CW HEATHKIT HW8: P: 3,5 Watts 3,5 MHz (8...

TX RX CW HEATHKIT HW8: P: 3,5 Watts 3,5 MHz (80m) • P: 3 Watts 7 MHz (40m) • P: 3 Watts 14 MHz (20m) • P: 2,5 Watts 21 MHz (15m). 12V à 16V. TX 0,4A; RX 0,1A (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, besides all the Ham gear, I also have a few shortwave radios mainly used for AM DXing ( long distance) and general listening. Still love the static! Well I had built the K2 and figured it would be my last home built radio as the eyes like my fingers and steadiness are getting kinda long in the tooth.  And thats ok. I have a couple of backups and am happy with the station. But (knew that was coming huh?) as fate would have it I ran across an ad posted by a member of a Facebook group I am in.  The ad was for a small AM radio kit using a case design that was popular in the 60’s and 70’s in China. The kit is called the Tecsun 2P3 diy radio kit.  I just blew it off at first but the more I saw it and researched it, the more excited I became. I was looking at a completely different radio but the feeling of being young and holding that old GE was coming on like gangbusters! I finally bit the bullet and sent off for one. My love of AM and the great reviews from US builders sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t expensive as any US kit would have been and the radio case is a faithful reproduction of the original case from China. I received the kit in about 3 days and have been taking my time reading and getting stuff together for the build. It’s not an extensive hard to build kit like some I have built but I want it to be solid and work like it should. I am a bit excited, maybe too excited for an old warrior but excited just the same. My dad passed away just 2 years ago and I know he would love to see this. Anyway, I will chronicle the build here as I work, slowly, on the rig.  I will add pictures and hope that maybe this will inspire someone else to get into radio.

9 May: The radio arrived on the 1st of May and I opened it up just to see what was in the box. As you can see, it came in a small brown box with a happy kid on the cover hard at work. Cool. Opening the box you can see that everything is packaged neatly and in small bags to hold the parts.

Everything packed nice and neat. The radio case is a faithful reproduction of the 2P3 case popular for radio kits in 1960’s China

Heres the box. It actually came inside a manilla envelope HI HI










10 May Ok so I finished a couple sections on the pc board. Here is the audio and the 1st IF section along with the detector section. Build is going well. The manual has no step by step instructions so it is up to the builder to figure out polarity and right components. But good diagrams and parts lists so it isn’t too difficult.

Detector and 1st IF section

This is the audio section.









11 May Well I finished the build and now its time for 2 important steps. ! Turn it on for a smoke test. I have checked all my work, soldier joints and for shorts and open connections, polarity etc. Then time to check current on the transistors. After that is done ( provided all is well ) it will be time to align the if and tuning dial then assemble into the case.

Heres how it looks inside the case.

Here is my complete nostalgic 2P3 radio










I haven’t aligned the radio or the tuning dial yet. After the final checks and turning it on ready to go, the radio worked right off the bat. I was picking up stations from New Orleans and Baton Rouge with no problem. Good volume and stability. I will peak the IF section during some quiet time this weekend. The final step of course was to sign the inside cover and attach the logo in the lower left corner. All in all, it was an easy build and the sense of the old time was there. This radio should be useful and if I ever feel the blues it will calm my sense of the “old days” easily! Get one! You won’t regret it. Remember, theres “magic” in the static!

Serenity 12 May 2017

  1. These were where you were supposed to tune into to listen to news and announcements in the event of an air raid and were mandatory at the time. []
Apr 252017

( Just an added note. FSRN has been a big part of my station for over a year. I came to them late but found their podcast to be one of the best out there. Their loss will not only effect my station but many in the world of low power and internet broadcasting. The void that they will be leaving will be very hard to fill, especially to those of us that rely on very low cost or free content for our stations. The caliber of their reporting and the content contained in the show was on par with the major newscasters. I will be playing their last show on Saturday at the normal time of 8:00 to 9:00 PM Central time. I wish them well in their journey and say “Thanks for the ride, it was fun” —— Serenity)

The long-running independent community radio news program Free Speech Radio News announced this week that its last edition will be broadcast

Free Speech Radio News

on April 28. In a press release, the collective cites a decline in distribution and inability to find a “firm financial footing,” as causes for the closure.

Born from the labor of freelance reporters on strike from Pacifica Network News in 2000, FSRN has provided some of the most consistent grassroots radio news coverage for seventeen years. Two years after its founding FSRN joined back with Pacifica, effectively becoming its flagship daily half-hour national news magazine, syndicated to over a hundred stations.

FSRN remained with Pacifica until September 2013, when the network fell into serious arrears to the news collective, owing about $198,000. At that point FSRN announced that it would close at the end of the month.

Four months later, in Feburary 2014, thanks to listener donations that also included one major funder, the organization resumed independent production, posting daily updates to its website. Then, in May of that year, FSRN Weekly Edition launched, delivering a 29-minute news round-up to dozens of affiliates.

The loss of Free Speech Radio News is truly tragic. It’s unfortunate that community radio stations do not have the collective resources to come together and support such an effort. FSRN has been dedicated to truly grassroots reporting that emphasizes local voices on the ground, with a focus on social justice. The organization’s reporting stands as a strong compliment to community radio stalwarts like “Democracy Now!” by presenting an even more diverse array of voices and stories.

I have and will always admire the work that the staff of FSRN has accomplished, building an international news organization out of a difficult conflict at Pacifica, delivering something that was better and more aligned with the values of community radio—in my opinion—than the program it replaced.

I wish there were a community radio organization, other than Pacifica, that had the resources necessary to support a national program like Free Speech Radio News. I don’t say this to malign Pacifica unfairly. Rather, it’s just an acknowledgement that community radio’s over-reliance on one still-too-centralized and often embattled organization continues to be an achilles heel when it comes to national and international reporting that stands apart from the public radio establishment.

My sincere gratitude goes out to all of the Free Speech Radio News collective members and contributors, past and present.

Here is the full press release:

April 19, 2017
 Free Speech Radio News to shut down
Long a go-to news source for community and independent radio stations across the country, FSRN will publish the final Weekly Edition April 28th, 2017.
For seventeen years, in partnership with hundreds of reporters in communities across the country and around the globe, FSRN has broadcast stories documenting wrongdoing, repression and corruption and highlighting the individuals, campaigns and movements working to bring about a more just and equitable society.
After more than a decade as a daily newscast carried on more than 100 stations across the U.S., in 2014 FSRN retooled and relaunched as FSRN Weekly Edition. For three years, the independent media outlet provided news segments to affiliate stations each weekday, and published a 29-minute compilation each Friday that was broadcast on dozens of U.S. radio stations and online.
With social media algorithms deprioritizing audio content, distribution has declined dramatically. Despite funding from individual supporters and the radio stations that carried our content, FSRN Weekly Edition has not been successful finding firm financial footing.
A project to archive FSRN’s content is underway, to ensure all the work that FSRN has published over the years remains available and accessible in the future.
Apr 192017



For as long as he can remember, Mark Sucato dreamed of flying airplanes.

US Navy 110506-N-1928O-106 The U.S. Navy fligh...

US Navy 110506-N-1928O-106 The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform at the 2011 N’awlins Airshow at Naval Air Station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When he was in grade school, his teacher asked each member of the class to draw a self-portrait. In Sucato’s, he was wearing a flight suit. He watched movies and read books that featured airplanes, and he continually cast his thoughts forward to the day he would be able to climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet.

Little did he know that his chance would come much sooner than he expected.

 Sucato’s father took him to the Texas State Fair in the late 1970s when Sucato was only 8 or 9 years old. There, amid the livestock, food booths and craft tents, was an A-10 Thunderbolt — a jet aircraft like the one Sucato dreamed of flying.

He didn’t get to fly the plane that day, of course, but he did get to sit in the cockpit of the single-seat jet. When he gripped the throttle and imagined rocketing through the sky at the speed of sound, it cemented his plans.

Sucato was going to be a pilot.

He earned admission to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1990, and he was commissioned in 1994. Since then, he’s flown military missions around the world. And now, he’s Capt. Mark Sucato, commanding officer of the Naval Air Station Joint Base Reserve Base New Orleans in Belle Chasse.

The seeds of his career path were planted even before he first decided he wanted to be a pilot. Sucato is third generation military on both his mother’s and father’s sides, and in particular, his father and both of his grandfathers were in the Navy.

“I still get to fly, so I’m very fortunate,” said Sucato, 45. “As CO here, there is quite a bit of the business side of things that needs attention, but every day is different. And some of those days have me in the air.”

Sucato is hoping the 2017 New Orleans Air Show presented by Chevron elicits similar passion in its guests. As many as 100,000 people are expected to attend each day of the air show, being held April 22-23 at NASJRB-NO in Belle Chasse. The event is free and open to the public.

The popular New Orleans Air Show first was held in 1958, but it has been on hiatus since 2011 for budgetary reasons. Sucato is thrilled to see it return.

 “The reasons for having the air show are simple,” Sucato said. “It’s a way for taxpayers to see how their money is being spent, of course. But it’s also about public outreach, which is extremely important to us.”

There will be much to see (and hear) at the New Orleans Air Show. Starting with a parachute team dropping in to present the colors each day at 10 a.m. and ending with a show by the spectacular Blue Angels flight demonstration team in the midafternoon, the theme will include anything having to do with aviation.

In the air, jets will scream by at nearly the speed of sound ( ear plugs are offered on site). On the ground, aircraft both old and new will be on display

for viewing, touching and photographing. And it’s quite possible that guests might be able to get into the cockpit of one, much like Sucato did nearly 40 years ago.

In addition to the sights and sounds of aircraft, there will be ample food and drink options, and the Sony Playstation Truck will be on site. There also will be an additional Kids’ Zone with paintball, a rock wall, an obstacle course, bounce house and more. Participation bands will be sold for entry to the Kids’ Zone.

Ample free parking is available. Follow signs to designated parking areas. A full list of permitted and restricted items, as well as maps to the base, and information on all performers can be found online at

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