Was That Steak Raised In The USA? Soon, It’ll Be Hard To Know : The Salt : NPR

Source: Was That Steak Raised In The USA? Soon, It’ll Be Hard To Know : The Salt : NPR

If you don’t know what the COOL (Country Of Origin Labeling) was, I don’t blame you. Most of the consumers I’ve talked to didn’t even know the laws existed.

COOL required meat packers to label their products by country of origin. The consumer had to be able to tell if that meat came from the US, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, China or wherever.

This doesn’t sound difficult to do, until you realize that the product in that package could be from two, three or even more places. It’s common practice these days for meat packers to make ground beef from lean meat from one country, mix in fat from another. Or meat from two or more different countries can be included in that stewing beef or chicken pieces package.

It doesn’t sound very controversial, either. Who would possibly object to knowing where their food comes from? I certainly didn’t object to it. I liked the idea. And so do most consumers. We’ve all heard the horror stories about dead pigs floating down rivers in China or the horrific melamine milk contamination that took place a few years ago.

The people who didn’t like it were countries outside the US like Canada and Mexico. They claimed that if they had to label their meat as coming from their country, people in the US might prefer to buy US products instead. And the World Trade Organization that polices such things agreed. So Canada and Mexico were poised to launch a massive increase on tariffs on a variety of US products that would have cost billions of dollars.

So Congress, with some justification, caved in and passed a repeal of COOL on Dec. 18

I have rather strong feelings about this. I rather liked the COOL regulations.

First, consumers seem, to me at least, to have the basic right to know where the products they purchase were made. They also have the right to know what’s in them.

Second, wanting to hide where your product comes from makes me a wee bit suspicious. What exactly is wrong with your product that you feel that if people knew it’s origin they wouldn’t buy it? What are you trying to cover up?

The thing I find most disturbing, though, is that increasingly these treaties are giving outside interests extraordinary power over our internal affairs. In this case, the WTO, Mexico and Canada were able to force a significant change to US law. The Trans Pacific Partnership, which politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have been pushing for hard, makes things even more concerning, giving individual corporations the power to do what Mexico and Canada did here. A corporation could, in theory, sue a country under the TPP, forcing that country to change it’s law.

This seems to be giving an enormous amount of power to not a government which (theoretically at least) is supposed to guard and protect the interests of it’s citizens as a whole, to an entity that cares for nothing but profit, even at the expense of the welfare of the people.

Bulletproof backpacks for kids? Here are 10 sick products you can buy in America — thanks to the NRA

Source: Bulletproof backpacks for kids? Here are 10 sick products you can buy in America — thanks to the NRA

For the paranoid on your Christmas giving list, Just in time for Christmas…

Just in case you’re thinking of rushing out and getting one of these, I should point out that they are all utterly worthless, so save your money. The ballistic armor police and military people wear is, despite the hype you see in these ads, not related to these products in any way. Just look at that photo of the kids cowering under those blankets… Come on, do you think those are going to provide those kids with any protection at all? Even if they did offer some protection, they don’t even cover the kid. They’re totally worthless. As are the ‘bullet proof’ backpacks, ‘bullet proof’ baseball caps and the ever popular bullet proof bible, because of course in a shooting situation that bad guy is only going to aim for that five square inch bible…

So, Grouchy – you had the day off you must have read something exciting, right?

Screen Shot 2015 12 03 at 6 04 39 PM

Oh, you bet! Found this fascinating article on the development of the bailer twine knotter. It started back before the civil war, it seems with this guy named Appleby and after the war he moved to Beloit where he developed a knotter that would work with sisal twine instead of wire..

What? Oh damn, I really need to get a life, don’t I?

The Great VHF Wasteland

Wasteland

I read articles all the time in QST and CQ magazines about how active the VHF/UHF bands are, all the radio operators hanging around up there, all the fun you can have, the hundreds and hundreds of repeaters out there. Thousands of hams are out there on simplex. Dozens and dozens and dozens are working various VHF/UHF contests.

I’m sitting right smack dab in the middle of repeater heaven. There are dozens of repeaters close enough for me to hear located in Manitowoc, Green Bay, Fond du Lac, the Fox Valley. Even a few as far away as Wausau and Suring Wisconsin. Every club and group, every ARES group, every SkyWarn group seems to have one or more repeaters on the air. I have about 27 repeaters plugged into the FDR-400 that I know I can get into with no problems at all, ranging from local ones just a few miles away, to distant ones like Wausau and Suring.

So I turn on the 400, put it in scan, and hear…

Well, nothing. I hear the occasional repeater ID. I hear the occasional kerchunk (that’s a technical radio geek speak term, btw) of someone probably testing if they can hit a repeater or if their transceiver is working.

And that’s all I hear. Repeater IDs, an occasional kerchunk… And nothing else. Literally nothing else. For hours and hours on end. Put out a call and you hear — nothing.

There are only two times I hear any activity on two meters, during regularly scheduled nets run by clubs and ARES groups, and when an ARES group is doing support for some special event. Otherwise, nothing.

Simplex? That’s even worse. You can put your transceiver in fast scan mode and sit for days scanning the simplex portions of the band and hear nothing.

Given all of the articles I’ve been reading in QST and other ham publications in print and on-line, I was thinking it was just something about this area. I don’t know. Just shy, maybe? Seems like kind of an odd hobby to get into if you don’t like talking to people.

But I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and the more I talk with other hams outside this area, the more stories I hear that are identical to mine. Unused repeaters, nothing on simplex… If you do start trying to call, there’s no response. Only activity is regularly scheduled nets, and once those conclude, it’s back to silence again.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even bother any more. The only time the FDR400 here in the house gets turned on is when my wife participates in the local ARES net. I don’t even have a VHF rig in the car any more. My own Yaesu was transplanted into her vehicle when her aging Alinco began having problems.

So is it just area? Is this an anomaly? Just curious.

As always, comments are welcome…

KC9YGN

P.S. Now that I have the OCFD up again, I’ve been hanging around down on 75 meters, above 3900, often on 3913 during days, so if you get down there, give me a yell.

Decisions, decisions

While it’s a beautiful fall day out, crisp, cool, sunny, the weather dudes are predicting we’re going to have up to 8 inches of snow by this time tomorrow. So I should take advantage of the nice weather to get the snowblower out, prepare it, dig out the shovels and basically prepare for this early season snowfall.

But…

In the stall next to the snowblower is a 500 HP, 0-60 in under 4 seconds, slightly (slightly? Ha!) hopped up sports car with high-speed rated track tires, beefed up brakes and a suspension to match and alleged to have a top speed just north of 200 MPH. And I know every twisty, curvy backroad between here and the state border. And this might be the last time I get to drive it for the season.

Decisions, decisions…

The hell with the snow… IMG 0236

A Story of Stupidity

Screen Shot 2015 11 19 at 7 58 50 AM

I am an idiot…

I was going to fire up the rig down on 75 meters last night. I switched on the TS-990, checked all the coax connections, turned on the antenna tuner, turned on the amp in standby mode. I found an empty frequency down around 3915. I put the 990 in AM mode, turned the power down to 5 watts, double checked everything, and keyed the mic to make sure the SWR and all the fun stuff was good. The PalStar’s display told me the SWR was 1.05:1 going out to the dipole and I was putting out the right power. The amplifier didn’t start on fire, always a good sign.

So I kicked the amp into ‘operate’ mode and keyed the mic again…

Now, putting 5 watts drive into that amp in AM mode will generally result in about 107 watts output when you key the mic. I looked at the readouts on the PalStar… I was putting out a whopping 10 watts…

WTF?

I looked around. Sniffed. No smoke. That’s good. Nothing exploded. So why was I only putting out 10 watts?

I bumped the output of the Kenwood up to 15 watts in AM mode and keyed. The amplifier clicked and lots and lots of red lights came on.

Oops…

The amplifier, sensing impending doom, and done what it was supposed to do and shut itself down instead of starting the office on fire or exploding or something equally annoying.

So what was going on? It will do that if there is excessively high SWR or something abnormal going on. But it doesn’t tell me exactly what happened.

Well, first thing that comes to mind is the antenna, that it fell down and was laying on the ground. And since my dipole is held up by a combination of para-cord, bailing twine (literally), a plastic fence post and a very elderly apple tree, and we’d had some pretty good winds, the possibility that the antenna was down was highly probable. So I grabbed a flashlight and went to look. Nope. Antenna is just fine.

Now what? The jumpers connecting the transceiver, tuner and amp together? That seemed highly unlikely. They were almost brand new, ultra-low loss coax with silver plated connectors. But still, such things do happen sometimes. I got out my meter, checked all of the jumpers. All were fine. I considered just replacing them all just to be on the safe side, but I am one of the laziest people I know, and the prospect of spending a half hour or more cutting coax and soldering connectors was not very appealing, especially when the cables tested OK.

So I looked more carefully. I dialed the Kenwood back down to 5 watts output to minimize the damage if something went weird, re-set the amp and tried again. The PalStar’s meter was telling me everything was fine. Power output good, SWR damn near excellent. But a quick glance at the amp’s meters everything looked okay… Kicked the amp on, edged the Kenwood up to 20 watts AM which should have given me about 700 watts output on the AMP, and keyed the mic for half a second…

Holy shit! The meter on the amp immediately jumped halfway up the scale and it immediately tripped out.

Well, that was interesting… Why was the PalStar’s meter telling me my SWR was 1.05:1 when the amp’s meter was telling me it was closer to about 7:1??? Either something inside the amp was funky or the coax jumper from the amp was bad despite what my testing had indicated…

I turned the 990 back on and…

Oh shit

Dear Lord, how could I be that stupid? I wasn’t in AM. I was transmitting in FM. Oh for heaven’s sake. The amp can handle AM, SSB and CW. Definitely not FM. It hates FM. No wonder the poor thing had been tripping out.

But what about the difference in the readings between the PalStar’s meter and the amp? I looked…

Oh no… I felt like banging my head against the wall.

The amp’s meter wasn’t set in the SWR position. It was in the power position. What I was reading wasn’t the SWR at the amplifier, it was the amount of power it was putting out. There wasn’t an SWR of 7. I was reading an output power of 700 watts…

So I’d spent almost an hour trouble shooting a problem that was due entirely to me not bothering to read the display on the 990 and seeing I was trying to transmit in FM instead of AM, and failing to notice that I’d somehow managed to change the meter on the amp from SWR to power…

Wisconsin Farmers Say They’re Hurting From Ag Industry Consolidation | Wisconsin Public Radio

Many Wisconsin farmers reported a bumper crop this year, but it’s not translating into record profits. According to the Wisconsin Farmers Union, low commodity prices and consolidation within the agriculture industry is a big part of the problem.

Source: Wisconsin Farmers Say They’re Hurting From Ag Industry Consolidation | Wisconsin Public Radio

Back when I was farming with my father, there were about two dozen different tractor and ag equipment dealers and service centers within around 15 miles of our farm. There were dealers or service people in almost every small town and city all around us; Clark Mills, Whitelaw, Reedsville, Valders, Michicot, Keil, Forest Junction, Hilbert, Chilton… Pretty much every little town had either a dealer or an independent service facility.

Today your choices are one of four mega-dealers who have pretty much taken over the entire ag equipment market in three counties or more.

Competition basically doesn’t exist any more. If you don’t like the prices at a particular tractor dealer, think you’re getting shafted on repair bills, well, too bad, Charlie, there’s no where else you can go.

Same is true with feed companies, fertilizer sales, seed sales… Competition pretty much doesn’t exist any longer. Your choices are limited to one of an ever decreasing number of suppliers, and that’s it. If you think you’re being overcharged, think you aren’t being given a good deal, well, go somewhere else.

Only there isn’t somewhere else…