This is NOT a test…

Apparently, I’m not the only one who was scared of these as a kid.

For those of you not familiar with US television, that is an example of the weekly Emergency Broadcast System test that every radio and TV station in the United States had to do sometime during the week between 8:30 AM and local sunset. Station managers hated it; they were forced to give up a minute of precious commercial time to do this silly test that no one took seriously except the poor kids who had this come up during the afternoon cartoons. The purpose of the test was to ensure that the EBS equipment (basically a tone generator) was ready and able to warn the viewing or listening audience that the Emergency Broadcast System had been activated.

Orders to activate the EBS on a national level would come from the President of the United States, and the message itself would come from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (better known as NORAD). NORAD was also responsible for testing the Teletypes that each broadcaster was required to have to receive the message. Every Saturday morning, someone would run the paper tape through a Teletype in Colorado Springs and send the message to all of the stations, who were required to log it and make the log available to the FCC if asked. The procedure was the same in the event of an activation, the only difference being the tape used to send the message. The two tapes were kept side-by-side so they would be readily available to the Teletype operator.

You can see what’s coming, right?

On February 20, 1971, 43 years ago today, the guy at NORAD, a nice man named W. S. Eberhardt (long since retired), grabbed the wrong tape and, instead of sending the test message to every Teletype in the country, sent a message, complete with verification words, that an Emergency Action Notification had been sent on the orders of the President of the United States and that the station was to either leave the air immediately or prepare for further instructions.

And, with one notable exception (WSNS-TV in Chicago), nearly every TV and radio station in the United States ignored the message. They figured that the activation message came at the same time that the weekly message came, and it had to be a screwup at NORAD. Which, of course, it was.

There’s a page on the Internet that discusses the EBS and the goings-on of February 20, 1971, that has examples of authenticator cards, copies of FCC regulations, and links to other sites that talk about the Emergency Alert System, which replaced the EBS in 1997. They’re kind of fun to read.

We now return you to our regular programming.

Two for Tuesday: Shirley Temple

We lost Shirley Temple Black, former child star, former Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, and former US Chief of Protocol, last week. During the worst days of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt remarked, “As long as we have Shirley Temple, we’ll be all right.” I have pictures of my mother, a Depression-era baby, with her hair styled in curls just like Shirley’s. Of course, as all child stars do, she grew up, and after a number of films as a teenager, she retired from making films in 1950. Seventeen years later, she ran for Congress, and started her diplomatic career with a brief appointment as a representative to the United Nations in 1969, after Hnry Kissinger heard her talking about Namibia at a party and was surprised that she even knew about it. Her abilities as an ambassador were questioned at first, but she surprised everyone with her ability.

Our first song by Ms. Temple is “Animal Crackers In My Soup,” from the 1935 film Curly Top. I’ve never really given the lyrics much thought. They’re kind of disturbing, especially when sung by a six-year-old.

The second song today is “On The Good Ship Lollipop,” from 1934’s Bright Eyes.

Rest in peace, Shirley Temple Black, our Two for Tuesday, February 18, 2014.

#ROW80: Markdown time

Hunter Emkay had a post on her blog this past week about writing her posts in Markdown, a text-to-HTML conversion tool that’s gained some popularity. With Markdown, I need not use any of the buttons at the top of the screen for formatting these posts. I can use keyboard characters and the WordPress Markdown will convert everything into HTML for me. I’m disappointed that there doesn’t appear to be a way to specify that links open in separate windows. Perhaps that’s an enhancemet request, or maybe I could get my Perl skills out of mothballs.

Anyhow, enough about that. Let me know if everything looks all right. On to the ROW80 update…

Click on the picture to link to the website!
Click on the picture to link to the website!

I could just about copy the update from last week in here, and it’d still hold true.

  • Write 30 minutes a day: Been good about doing that, sometimes writing an hour or more. In the past week, I’ve been busy removing or shuffling scenes around, writing new ones, and basically cleaning up what I have. Nice thing about Scrivener is that I can relocate things outside the story area but still have them as part of the project, so I don’t lose what I’ve written. I also managed to import a bunch of stories that I had written in Word or Google Drive all at once, and Scrivener, bless its heart, kept all of them in separate scenes. How did I ever work without it? 🙂
  • Read 30 minutes a day: Not this week. My Kindle is still on more-or-less permanent loan, and this week also brought with it the distraction of men’s figure skating at the Olympics. More on that later.
  • Decrapulate office: Managed to get the table cleaned off. There were a lot of loose papers hanging around, leftovers from the printing process, that had just been left on the table. I gathered them up and put them in a folder to see whether they’re needed or can be discarded.I had stuff on the table from last year

As promised: This kid skated his heart out and placed ninth in the men’s figure skating at the Olympics. I think he did better than that, but what do I know? Here’s the pride of Highland Park, Illinois, Jason Brown, from earlier this year.

I have to hand it to him, he took his ninth like the champ he is. He’ll be around for a while.

Anyway, until next week, straight ahead.

Two for Tuesday: Tuck Andress

I’m writing this ahead of Tuesday, when more snow and winter weather is predicted for the area. I don’t know what the weather will be like when we actually get there, but maybe you can tell why I chose today’s artist.

A few Christmas seasons ago, I picked up an album called Hymns, Carols, and Songs About Snow by Tuck Andress, today’s featured artist. Tuck and his wife Patti Cathcart have been working together since the late 1970’s and been married almost as long. They released their first album, Tears of Joy, in 1988, and have recorded fifteen albums both together and with Tuck as a solo artist. His style is somewhat like that of Lenny Breau, but he adds a lot more effects, such as slapping the strings and playing rapid staccato lines. He has perfected the technique of playing multiple lines (melody, bass, and harmony) and often sounds like two guitars playing simultaneously. Tuck & Patti’s website is here.

Our first selection is Tuck playing Carlos Santana’s song “Europa.”

Our second selection features Patti singing a lovely cover version of The Beatles’ “In My Life.”

Tuck Andress, your Two for Tuesday, February 11, 2014.

#ROW80: Pre-Snowmageddon edition

Yes, they’re predicting more winter weather for Monday night through Wednesday. This might be more freezing rain and sleet than snow, but it sounds messy. All of the TV stations have been sending out messages about the impending weather, probably to ensure that the governor, the mayor, and the head of GEMA are all aware that there is bad weather on its way. Let’s see if they get the message this time…

Click on the picture to link to the website!
Click on the picture to link to the website!

I’ve been writing like crazy. Not doing much else, but that will likely change this week. The update:

  • Write 30 minutes a day: it’s been closer to an hour a day, maybe more. Yesterday I found myself writing backstory, so now I have close to 12K words that will have to be shaved down to under 10K to make it a short story, or built up to 20K to make it a novella. I keep learning more about the kid every time I sit down to write him. It’s fun on the one hand, frustrating on the other.
  • Read 30 minutes a day: ‘Fraid not. Mary’s had my Kindle.
  • Clean the office: This week Mary and I had to complete additional paperwork for my disability claim, and she decided to do it at the desk, which was covered with stuff. So she moved it all to my comfy chair, so the desk is nice and clean, but the chair is a mess. It appears that I’ll have some time in the house this week, so getting the chair and the table cleared off will be a priority.

My various educational projects have been going so-so. My courses in Advanced Web Page Design and Ajax are going pretty well, and have given me more ideas for the web page I keep threatening to build. (Maybe by my birthday, at the end of March. Or maybe by Mary’s birthday on Easter. Or maybe never.) I’m also taking a class from Iversity called Monte Carlo Methods in Finance. It’s been a shock to the system. The course prerequisites said that the participant should have a fairly good understanding of differential and integral calculus and statistics, both of which I have. Or thought I did, anyway. It would seem that there are two types of statistics: one for business and social science majors, the other for math, engineering, and physical science majors. I have the former, I need the latter. And I took my courses in calculus, real analysis, and differential equations almost 40 years ago, and haven’t given them much thought since.


Despite all that, I’m enjoying the class. The instructor does a fine job of explaining things and he’s not too hard to understand, unlike my first college calculus professor, who was also from Spain.

Anyway, off to write some more of Blake’s story. I was watching the women’s figure skating this afternoon, and saw who he’d fall immediately and madly in love with…

(Come on, you know you do it with your characters, too.)

Until next week, straight ahead.