Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man

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February 2007
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Obituary for Hal Stone

Filed under: Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 4:25 pm

From the Verde Independent comes the obituary, written by Dorothy Dobson-Stone, of our friend Hal.

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Sirius Radio Chief Urges Merger

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 12:06 pm

From The New York Times: Sirius Radio Chief Urges Merger

Of course he does. He needs XM subscribers to bale him out of his one-half-BILLION-dollar payment to Howard Stern, along with his other mistakes.

Keep an eye on this subcommittee; if your representative serves on it, let them know you do not want this anticompetitive, monopolistic merger to go through. At the very least, this “combined” company should be forced to give up one if its frequency spectrum licenses…let the FCC bargan-basement whichever they give up to another company to allow competition. Otherwise, every satellite radio subscriber in the country is screwed, and at the mercy of whatever Mel Karmazin decides to do…which based on what he did to Sirius, ain’t gonna be good…

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My thoughts about Hal Stone

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 6:35 pm

Everyone who knew Hal has lost a friend. And my tears for him were shed when I sat down with my daughter Wednesday evening, and gently told her he was gone…I found it impossible to hold it together when she ran into my arms weeping.

But now, I’d rather tell a few stories, most of which make me laugh. Understand, most of these stories are from my perspective, which is going to be a little different than anyone else’s. Many will be punctuated with photos, or video, or audio…I like to think Hal would appreciate that, especially considering how he put his book together visually, organizing the layout via graphics and then writing the text to match. And I know this, because I was around during that time…I got to see early drafts of chapters, and was the “go-to” guy when it came to doing non-standard things with the computer software he was using. You might recognize the photo on the right as the one from the cover of his book…but look at it carefully, as this was the way that publicity photo looked originally before Hal added the “S” on Jughead’s shirt, the buttons on his cap, and the other design elements he preferred over the original. If he were here now, I’d also probably say he spent hours making the guy in the photo more handsome, to which he would have a mildly obscene rejoinder. (That he inscribed this photo to me is an alteration from the original you couldn’t pay me to remove.) I don’t profess to have his eye for design, and he’d probably have a fistful of suggestions to make this look better, but I’ll do what I can to make him proud.

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Goodbye to Hal from the New York Daily News TV and Radio

Filed under: Old-Time Radio, News — Charlie Summers @ 11:55 am

From the New York Daily News: R.I.P. Jughead

David Hinckley, writer for the Daily News who has always been generous with his comments about the Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention, posted a goodbye to Hal Stone in his latest column. (Thanks to Sean Dougherty for the pointer.)

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NASA’s plan for unstable astronauts: Duct tape, tranquilizers

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 11:29 pm

From CNN: NASA’s plan for unstable astronauts: Duct tape, tranquilizers

So NASA has written procedures to deal with a stressed-out astro-nut. Good to know.

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Merger Would End Satellite Radio’s Rivalry

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 4:07 pm

From The New York Times: Merger Would End Satellite Radio’s Rivalry

From the article: “The nation’s two satellite radio services, Sirius and XM, announced plans yesterday to merge, a move that would end their costly competition for radio personalities and subscribers but that is also sure to raise antitrust issues.”

XM subscribers are screwed, with Mel taking over the programming of the combined system…assuming the merger goes through.

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More on the passing of Hal Stone

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 10:36 am

Dorothy (Hal’s wife) asked me to let you know she appreciates all the good wishes that have been pouring in. Hal’s wishes were that no services of any kind be held; in the sincere hope that this does not violate these wishes, I hope anyone interested stops by Lois Culver’s IRC chatroom this evening, 8:00 pm EST, 5:00 PST where we’ll hold an informal celebration of Hal; bring your own bottle and stories. For information, contact me via the “Contact the Webmaster” form over on the sidebar (and forgive that I’ll be sending out a form letter with instructions, it’s understandably a bit busy around here today).

Instead of flowers, Dorothy has requested donations be made to the American Heart Association’s Research Fund. Condolences should be sent to:

L.O.F. Communications
Attn. Mrs. Dorothy Stone
P.O. Box 587
York, PA 17405-0587

I will forward them off to her twice a week.

I will be posting my personal remembrances of Hal later; possibly tomorrow, as I’m working today to gather together the photos, audio, and video I want to use to show you the Hal Stone I knew.

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My Friend, Hal Stone, is gone.

Filed under: Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 7:24 pm

This is not a posting I ever wanted to write. According to Frank Cernese, my friend Hal Stone died today, February 21, after complications from his valve transplant surgury.

I will have more information as I receive it, and thoughts on my friend later. Right now, I have to tell my daughter, who loved her “Uncle Hal.”

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Merger Announcement Snafu

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 8:59 am

Two huge companies, both focused on audio, and they can’t even get a conference call running without things breaking down.

More on this story later in the day.

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Sirius Radio to merge with XM

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 3:52 pm

Froim Reuters via Yahoo: Sirius Radio to merge with XM

From the article: “The two main U.S. satellite radio providers, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio on Monday said they would merge in a stock-for-stock deal, a move that has been long expected in the young industry.”

Well, there goes the neighborhood…

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Whatever it Takes, The politics of the man behind 24

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 3:39 pm

From The New Yorker: Whatever it Takes, The politics of the man behind 24.

From the article: “This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind 24. Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming…Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise - that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security - was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. ‘I’d like them to stop,’ Finnegan said of the show’s producers. ‘They should do a show where torture backfires.’”

Ooook…so lemme see if I get this straight; the Brigadier General in charge of West Point visits Hollywood to tell them that the plebes are emulating 24. According to Finnegan, “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about ‘24′?’” He continued, “The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”

Maybe Gen. Finnegan should spend more time telling the kids that it’s a television show. Sheesh, what’s next - they jump off the gym roof because they watched Heroes?

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New bill to keep XM, Sirius from offering local news and alerts

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 11:34 am

From Ars Technica: New bill to keep XM, Sirius from offering local news and alerts

From the article: “The foes of satellite radio are marshaling their forces again, as a bill introduced to Congress this week would bar XM Radio and Sirius from broadcasting ‘locally differentiated services’ such as traffic, weather, and emergency information. Titled the ‘Local Emergency Radio Service Preservation Act of 2007,’ H.R. 983 is cosponsored by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS). Not surprisingly, it has the backing of the National Association of Broadcasters (which has contributed heavily to Pickering’s campaign war chest).”

Seriously, dear Representatives, stop calling bills that take away your constituents’ rights “Preservation Acts.” About the only thing it “preserves” is your re-election campaign coffer. Truth-in-labling…at least tell us who is buying you. And to the NAB: either get your members to step up and compete, or let them go out of business. Heck, most ClearChannel stations don’t have, “locally differentiated services” anyway, so where else can someone get traffic and weather?

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24…Hour Pizza Delivery

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 3:22 am

Ever wonder what it would be like if Jack Bauer were a Pizza Delivery Driver instead of an agent for CTU? Between Seasons four and five of 24… Agent Jack Bauer, with aid from a former US President, faked his own death to avoid an unjust trial overseas. Unable to provide employers with his true identity, Jack Bauer succumbed to working many service industry jobs which he is, sadly, unqualified for.

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Hitachi develops RFID powder

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 4:08 pm

From PinkTentacle: Hitachi develops RFID powder ::: Pink Tentacle

From the article: “RFID keeps getting smaller. On February 13, Hitachi unveiled a tiny, new ‘powder’-type RFID chip measuring 0.05 x 0.05 mm - the smallest yet - which they aim to begin marketing in 2 to 3 years.”

Great. Can’t wait to have these things stitched into every piece of clothing I buy, so I may be tracked more efficiently than current loyality cards handle it…

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Oh, that’ll make everything better…

Filed under: News, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 1:28 pm

So in the same week I post a long-winded examination of XMPR, XM releases a press release touting the acquisition of A Prairie Home Companion and Marketplace. Now don’t misunderstand, that’s nice (a lot of people like PHC; that I am not one of them, and find it frankly annoying, isn’t the issue - although I’m terrified at what I’m going to miss during those promised, “additional encores airing throughout the week,” and while I’m ranting “encores” seems to be the only programming at which XMPR excels), but there’s a real problem.

See, like I mentioned in my earlier post, they will tout this “news” as if it is yet another reason XMPR is a well-run public radio outlet, when it is nothing more than buying a few programs that are no longer locked-up by Sirius…this does nothing to change the major problems XMPR has, those problems I noted so clearly in my previous post, yet the execs will use this program purchase as an excuse not to actually fix the problems, but rather preen as if they are actually spending some thought on the channel.

Which, I guess, makes them a whole lot more like NPR executives than I like to believe. They do what they d*mned well please, too, without worrying much about what the listeners’ want.

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Teacher faces jail time for porn pop-ups

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 7:12 pm

Freom Ars Technica: Teacher faces jail time for porn pop-ups

From the article: “A Connecticut court is siding with the school system in the case of substitute teacher Julie Amero, who has been convicted for four counts of ‘risking injury to a child.’”

This is unquestionably the dumbest court case I’ve ever seen. Connecticut should be embarassed and ashamed at beating up on this substitute instead of fixing the problems the school district clearly has. Jailing a teacher for the work of some sleeze pr0n pop-up writer is completely inexcusable.

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Why XMPR drives me bonkers…

Filed under: Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 7:34 am

Ok, kids, before getting into today’s rant, let’s recap a bit. I’ve been a public radio listener for my entire adult life, although once pubrad stations started streaming, I stopped supporting my geographically-closest pubrad station (they do classical, I want news) and started listening to stations all across the country, particularly west-coast stations every morning to hear Morning Edition repeated until noon eastern. Especially when Annie was sick and Katie was little, I needed those multiple repeats to actually hear the entire thing. Then certain NPR pinstripes ticked me off by canning Bob Edwards from Morning Edition and went out of their way to infuriate me by telling me they knew what I wanted to hear in the morning more than I did, and oh yeah, “shut up and pay us to do your thinking for you since you’re clearly too stupid to do anything other than write a check,” that I vowed never again to support National Public Radio - there are plenty of other ways to support public radio without giving those weasels a nickel. So far, I have been able to support public radio and not support NPR, unless you count the small percentage NPR managed to cut itself in for when it convinced WBUR in Boston to drop The Connection, bring the shrill On Point to daytime, and take over co-production credits - say what you will, these guys are shrewd at consolidating power if uncaring about the listener. (How have I kept my money out of the hands of NPR? If you’re interested, ask in the comments and I’ll tell you.)

Any-who-how, XM Satellite Radio’s XMPR (Channel 133) has become “my” public radio station - I have often said in this space that I believe a commercial public radio station, one that profits from quality programming, was not only possible but a necessary competition to the staid terrestrial public radio system, which has for too long allowed the NPR tail to wag it. And just like any other public radio listener, I feel an investment in “my” station and desperately want it to succeed and thrive, as if I “own” part of it. (Hey, I pay better than $20/month for XM, and listen mostly to XMPR, so I “support” the station to the same level most folks support a terrestrial public radio station.) So when they continually shoot themselves in the foot (or even higher) I can’t just sit back and say nothing, hence this open letter to them, and you dear reader.

One thing I have griped about in this space repeatedly is the lack of promotion. The previous program director of XMPR had some interesting ideas, many of which were kinda cool, and always hidden under a bushel, and it seems the new PD is heading in the same direction. I keep hearing Arthur Dent sarcastically say, “Ever thought of going into advertising?”

Case in point: The Kalb Report, an occasional series from The George Washington University, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, and The National Press Club. Famed journalist Marvin Kalb moderates discussions about some of the most interesting media-centric topics, and I quickly learned to love the things back in 2004-2005 when they were broadcast live on XMPR…of course, they were almost never promoted ahead of time, so it was something of a hit-or-miss thing to actually hear them - more than once, I found out after-the-fact they had been on, and had to scramble to find repeat slots.

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Space Junk: Orbiting Debris, Once a Nuisance, Is Now a Threat

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 8:33 pm

From The New York Times: Space Junk: Orbiting Debris, Once a Nuisance, Is Now a Threat

From the article: “Now, experts say, China’s test on Jan. 11 of an antisatellite rocket that shattered an old satellite into hundreds of large fragments means the chain reaction will most likely start sooner. If their predictions are right, the cascade could put billions of dollars’ worth of advanced satellites at risk and eventually threaten to limit humanity’s reach for the stars.”

So if space programs aren’t doomed by psychotic astronauts, they are by space junk. Lovely.

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Updated Cincinnati Convention Flier

Filed under: Old-Time Radio, Television — Charlie Summers @ 1:56 pm

Received an updated flier from Bob Burchett on the upcoming Cincinnati’s 21st Annual Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention. Check it out!

icon for podpress  Cincinnati's 21st Annual Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention: Download

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GizmoProject - VoIP that ain’t Skype

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 2:44 pm

A while ago I mentioned I was experimenting with Skype Internet telephany…a fancy way of saying calling people from PC to PC. I rapidly grew intolerant of Skype’s determination to run a web browser without my permission (Skype wanted me to “rate” calls, making the moronic assumption that anyone who was connected to the Internet automatically had a browser running - if you didn’t, as I generally don’t, the program would launch Firefox anyway, constituting, IMHO, the equivalent of spyware), so I dumped it.

But still, I have this VoIP telephone I got free-after-rebate from The Computer Geeks, and I hate having any equipment go to waste. So, what to do…

I discovered Gizmo in a Slashdot article, and in playing around with it have been rather impressed. It seems to be pretty sensible about resources, it does not use a proprietary protocol but instead the SIP protocol, and although not open-source is at least less proprietary and “secret” than Skype (which has internal coding designed to thwart anyone attempting to reverse-engineer the protocols).

Unlike Skype, Gizmo includes voicemail in its free VoIP system, and the obligatory IM system is built-in, too.

So at the risk of having people who strongly disagree with something I say call and give me the what-for, I’m including here a Call me! button…if I’m not at my desk, feel free to leave a voicemail. Yes, you need Gizmo, a mic, and speakers (a headset or VoIP phone works better, they tell me), but if you’re using Skype, you owe it to yourself to at least take a look at Gizmo.

Gizmo Project A Free phone for Your Computer

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