true horror.

Today, I witnessed something I’ve never seen before, and something that horrified me.

 

Trump Tower lobby (Miguel Mendez)

I walked into our news control room at work as the satellite feeds were all set up on a vacant podium in the lobby of Trump Tower.

 

We were a few pages* into the newscast when Trump walked out and prepared to speak.

 

The reaction in the room was one of collective disgust, fear, and anger.

 

The fact that we have a “leader” that can universally invoke that is just staggering.

 

I’m flabbergasted that he’s now claiming the “alt-left” is a thing, and a very harmful one at that. Strange that this alt-left didn’t exist until a tweet today, as far as I know, while the alt-right was well established and documented from well prior to Trump’s being elected.

 

I made some very dire and horrible predictions when Trump was being elected. They aren’t exactly mirror image accurate, but there are some horrifying parallels being drawn. Communities are being turned against each other down political, socioeconomic, and racial lines, while Trump taunts a very irresponsible up and coming nuclear war machine in North Korea. The upward distribution of wealth out of middle and lower class communities continues to suck harder every day, causing stock market indicators to soar into the green… A false indication of prosperity while everything stagnates.

 

Where I work, most of the staff are long time veterans. They’ve seen a lot happen around them… Miami burning in the 80s, the Gulf wars in the 90s, Hurricane Andrew, face-eating zombies in Miami, you name it…

 

Nobody could recall ever seeing this same universal reaction of disgust at anyone or anything.

 

That’s a new, horrible accomplishment.

 

*Though the scripts are electronic nowadays and only usually exist within the teleprompter or an iPad, they are still arranged as “pages”. It works, that’s all I know….

Don’t fly United unless your name is Soulless Bovine 16385-B

The general role of an airline is to provide safe, comfortable, and efficient transportation of passengers and their baggage from one city’s airport to another.

gaspers
United Airlines is full of hot air. Literally.

United Airlines fails at all of this.

 

Here’s my experience with flying United.

I arrived at Miami International Airport at about 3 AM for a 5:40 AM boarding to an early morning flight. At 3:30 AM, the TSA checkpoints were supposed to open. They didn’t open until 4 AM. Thankfully there was no line. This opened out into MIA’s concourse G… which had no air conditioning at all. The temperatures inside the concourse were over 90 degrees. Thankfully, my flight began boarding on time…. but some passengers were already showing signs of heat exhaustion.

This overheating condition would turn out to be a curse on every leg of this trip.

I had a flight from Miami to Sacramento, California. I won’t really bother with digging out my small mountain of old boarding passes (I call them Broken Promise Slips) to find exact flight numbers, but yeah… The first flight was going to be Miami to Chicago’s O’Hare airport, O’Hare to Denver, then Denver to Sacramento. Sound ridiculous? Well, it was too ridiculous to…. * drum roll * fly.

 

The first flight boarded, and then the captain came on the intercom— “Good morning everyone, we are now completed boarding and ready to push back, but we’re first going to try to resolve a problem with the electronics on this aircraft that have been acting up all morning.”

South Florida brain drain, personified by a dead Airbus A320

One hour later, they tried turning the plane off and back on again.

This did not resolve anything.

They tried it again and again.

Three hours later, they gave up and let us get off the plane if we wanted. However, the official status of the flight remained “DELAYED”, not “cancelled.”. NEVER cancelled, because this would force them to make good on our travel plans.

I called customer service at 1-800-UNITED-1 and got an agent in what had to have been the WORST Indian call center I’ve ever experienced. I could hear three different agents shouting in the background behind the one I was talking to, and the agent I was talking to sounded hopelessly uninterested. Upon learning there was nothing she could quickly do to just put me on a later flight, she hung up on me. I actually heard the receiver clatter into the cradle as it disconnected.

I went to a ticket agent who said they couldn’t do a thing because all flights out of MIA were full. He identified himself to me as being “the boss”, whatever that meant. However, he put me on a flight out with an itinerary that would have taken me to Houston then to Sacramento as standby.

I went to the gate and waited for that flight. This terminal had air conditioning. I was #2 on the standby list… with 30 passengers after me. They had room for only one standby passenger, so I didn’t make it. Right before boarding started, I saw a sight I’m sadly very used to with air travel — an exhausted horde of passengers who look like they’ve been stuck in a terminal without a shower for two or three days dashing to the gate to board after being screwed over and bounced from overbooked flight to flight with seemingly no hope of escape.

None of them made it on either.

I spoke to the gate agent after boarding completed and he called some other magic phone number, where he was instructed to concede and book me a ticket on American Airlines.

By this point I’d been in MIA about six hours. The airport just looked… third worldly. This would change very quickly, as American has their own terminal there, the “Super A” terminal. It’s beautiful. I could hardly believe my eyes. The flight had no standby list, boarded on time, got there on time, everything was perfect. It arrived at… I don’t even remember, O’Hare? Some airport that looked like a giant Habitrail hamster cage made of glass. It had a cool neon sculpture in an underground corridor. I dunno. I got up to waiting for the next flight out to Sacramento via United, and there was a standby list of 36…. for an Airbus A320. I had an assigned seat, luckily. It boarded and left after some weird delay and arrived in Sacramento just after midnight local time.

As the plane taxiied to the runway, the A320’s air conditioning stopped momentarily, which is perfectly normal. While you’re on the ground, the A/C is usually fed by “bleed air” from the compressor stage of the Auxillary Power Unit in the back of the fuselage. The APU is kind of a utility generator that provides a few vital functions before the main engines start. Its bleed air is diverted to air start turbines in the main engines to kick them into action, which is why the A/C will pause just before you hear the main engines spool up.

It never returned after main engine startup. An extremely weak pissing of warm-ish air pressurized the cabin just before the takeoff roll and that was it– the rest of the flight was at a cabin temperature of 86 degrees. (Temperatures measured using a small digital thermometer I forgot to remove from my bag when I packed everything. Oops)

As the drink service cart went by I saw Chinese bottled water on it. Yes, seriously – the water bottles were labelled in Chinese text and looked like they’d all been severely scraped up in handling. I declined anything from those water bottles….

Passengers were complaining, of course. The crew did nothing about this and didn’t even offer an explanation. Later, upon reading some technical info on the A320 I learned that 86 degrees is a magic number: it’s what you get if you grab the cabin temp knobs in the cockpit and just spin ’em to the right.

Adding in the time zone differences, this trip took just over 24 hours. Average speed: 124 MPH. This is not the kind of speed commercial air travel using modern high speed jet aircraft likes to boast about, for sure.

 

The time I spent over on the west coast was wonderful but all too short, and before long, I was starting out at the municipal airport in Redding, California, for a little puddle jump to San Francisco to continue back east.

As I was going through the security screening, a TSA agent called some Code Something and the metal gates started quickly rolling out of the ceiling, sealing off the checkpoint area and leaving about a dozen of us trapped inside as a scramble of activity began around a little old lady and her suitcase in the X-ray machine.

Agents swarmed around her and the machine’s monitors.

I saw a strangely familiar form—- wait, could it actually be— something I’ve angrily blogged about?

 

Sure enough, I heard both “Looks like an ear piercing gun…”

And “You’re better off just getting it done with a needle”. This came from a TSA agent. So they ARE there for our safety!

The metal gates began to roll back into the ceiling, freeing us to continue.

The little United by SkyWest CRJ-200 pulled in on time. Due to the tiny size of this jet, what would be a normal carry on bag wouldn’t fit its overhead bins, so they had us check our bags right next to it on the tarmac. It departed on time as well, and as soon as it was in the air, the cabin temperature was wound up to “FORGET IT!”. It went as high as 96 degrees during the flight. We all stumbled off the plane drenched in sweat. About the first ten rows worth of passengers were allowed to claim their bags right there next to the plane but then a gate in this little chute they used to keep us from wandering out onto the ramp was slammed shut and we were quickly herded into the terminal with the instruction to pick up our bags at baggage claim.

 

Our bags never arrived at baggage claim until several phone calls were placed. At this point I was running out of time for my connecting flight, or so it seemed.

 

The flight started boarding on time, on a beautiful new Boeing 787! This one was bound for Houston.

Maintenance crews were bustling around one of the aft lavatories for a bit, but about 20 minutes after scheduled departure they seemed to be done, and deplaned.

“This is your captain speaking. We’re ready to push back and take off as soon as we receive our maintenance paperwork.”

 

“This is your captain…. Sorry, we have received no updates, we’re calling a supervisor…”

My phone still gets a signal so I try 1-800-UNITED1. I’m hung up on again.

THREE HOURS LATER….

“We’re sorry about the delay, if you wish to deplane now you may, but do so quickly…”

Just before takeoff roll, the A/C becomes a warm trickle. Temperature would reach about 82 on this flight with very little airflow. The “gaspers” (see a picture of Airbus gaspers at the top of this post) above the seats don’t really help because they’re so far overhead.

The plane was HORRIBLY loud. When I took off my headphones I was treated to about the same sound and intensity as if someone had started a wet/dry vacuum next to my head. More Chinese bottled water on the beverage carts.

Landing at Houston took place long after my connecting flight would have ARRIVED IN MIAMI, so I went to United’s customer service desk. They gave me hotel and meal vouchers (an amazingly generous $30 in meal vouchers, wow!). I’d have to miss a day at work that I’d never arranged for previously and judging from my boss’s lack of reaction to this, he wasn’t pleased.

I spent the next four hours or so after arriving in the hotel and taking a shower trying to sleep but waking up in a feeling of total panic every few minutes. It was kind of a lost cause. The last thing clean in my suitcase was a black dress and a pair of leggings. I kind of cringed considering one of the recent well deserved pieces of press coverage of United. I checked out and the same guy was at the front desk as when I checked in.

Houston to Miami… Boarded late, there was a further delay, but at least this was nonstop – no way they could screw up but I was totally expecting them to. On this flight, none of the economy class seats recline – the feature had been REMOVED. The plane was filthy. There was a delay on takeoff because a seat belt broke off in a passenger’s hands and had to be replaced. Cabin temperature, of course, went right to 85 at the takeoff roll.

The plane arrived in Miami. This trip duration: 38 hours. Average speed: 81.6 MPH. Could have beat that shit in a single engine prop Cessna.

I was feeling totally beaten up at this point, suffering heat exhaustion, maybe a little dehydration, and felt totally unable to make the drive home from the airport. I sat down on a bench in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel where I’d parked my car and got up like three hours later like the time just disappeared. Finally I made the drive home and collapsed for the next 18 hours or so.

United Airlines was so pleased to serve me! And to serve their mystery Chinese bottled water that I wouldn’t trust, EVER. Holy hell.

I’m never flying with them again. NEVER. So that puts them, Spirit Airlines, and Delta on my FUCK NO list.

I’m putting this in the trafFUCKED category because, well, it’s apparently to get traFUCKED in the skies….

 

I later got a royal chewing out for being gone those days, and for an unrelated subject, also mentioned in this article, also occurring on my own time—- but that one’s going to be material for a rage post that’s currently on ice pending discussions with the union!

 

Truckwall is the worst ransomware

For over a year I’d been trying to rent a storage unit to stash some of my equipment in when not in use. I had no luck for a very long time– every offering I found was either over $300 a month and/or required an astronomically large deposit and a yearly contract. Finally one place I’d gotten on a waiting list with eight months ago had a unit available and it was surprisingly affordable, especially for a climate controlled facility, even after the $10 a month extra fee for the 24 hour access they never disclose anywhere as requiring an extra fee!

It’s built in and around the site of a former large bakery, which left South Florida due to a necessity to consolidate and the exorbitant costs of producing their goods here.

It now houses a large number of climate controlled storage units in the old bakery building and some additional ones in outbuildings, as well as a maintenance facility for rental trucks.

Of course there’s gotta be a reason it’s so cheap, and that’s that it is nearly impossible to access.

Access to the facility is only possible via one road, in one direction, which in turn is only accessible via one small isolated industrial district. During the day, that’s a two hour queue to get in and another half hour to get back out.

At night, it’s perfectly fine…. Until they suffered the Truckwall infection.

A tow truck driver collected the shattered remains of one of the company’s rental trucks from what looks to have been a pretty severe crash. The whole front of the pickup was smashed in and the cab appeared to have been cut open to rescue the occupants. The tow truck driver came in and dropped it…. right in front of the only access gate to the storage facility.

I came up trying to get in as he was filling out his paperwork and asked if he had to leave the truck there or if he could move it a few feet away from the gate to restore access (if anyone is inside the facility right now, they’re trapped as well!!)

He told me that he would…… If I gave him $150 in cash within the next ten minutes. Otherwise he’d just leave.

OOPS! YOUR STORAGE HAS BEEN BLOCKED BY TRUCKWALL!!!

I gave up and left after calling the city’s police department, who outright refused to send anyone.

There are just some things you have to, sadly, come to live with as a fact of life in South Florida, and one of them is that you sometimes you’ll find yourself locked out of where you want to go due to road based stupidity.
Infection resolved!

As I feared, TruckWall had trapped users of the facility. One of them had a large pickup truck with bull bars on the front. TruckWall’s payload was shoved back from the gate…. with slightly more damage than it had originally.

South Florida’s postmortem analysis

This blog is full of me shouting down a hole about how badly South Florida sucks.

But why’d this come to be? What happened to this beautiful tropical oasis?

Here are some theories.

Continue reading »

Your design is bad and you should feel bad for it.

A friend of mine posted a link to this on Facebook and it is literally one of the worst designs for anything I have ever seen.
Straight from the Walmart online marketplace, right next to the counterfeit Duracell batteries

Not that any of these have ever been designed WELL, but this is worse…

It’s literally the worst designed ear piercing gun I’ve ever heard of. Of particular note though, the description suggests it can also be used on the nose or navel. How? No, don’t. Just don’t. On anything.

Also note the random weirdass stud jewelry that comes stuck in a sheet of pink antistatic foam.

A little background on how these things are supposed to work: The tip of the stud (not seen anywhere in the description photos) is pointed. Not really all that sharp, but pointed. The butterfly back of the stud earring is placed in the other end of the gun and it’s driven by brute force (this one appears to use a spring) through the earlobe.

The most common place you find these things is in kiosks and stores in the mall. Claire’s uses a variation made by Studex and theirs has a disposable sterilized plastic cartridge that goes at the end. The gun itself can never be fully cleaned or sterilized, but at least most of it is not in contact with the person it’s used on. Thanks to this, infection caused by bloodborne pathogens left on the gun itself is at least rare. The complications caused by the body trying to heal a rough bruised hole created by jamming a somewhat dull metal stud through, that’s another story. This one, uhhhhh….

good luck

On this design you just get a little stack of steel plates with a notch in them. The outer one is bent to hold the butterfly back of the earring. Sort of. I can’t really imagine how it keeps it lined up such that the stud will align with the hole in the end – chances are better it just kind of crashes into it and either further tears the hole by skewing at an angle, or launches the backing into space.

But it’s not covered with any sort of disposable part…. and it couldn’t even be effectively wiped down to clean it because it’s got all those gaps between the plates.

A felt tipped pen and a magnifying glass are also included for your convenience. I can’t even understand why, as there’s no logical reason this thing should actually make the hole where you want it to land.

 

It should be no secret that I think the ear piercing gun is one of the worst products of modern misengineering, but this just… this deserves some kind of award. This is BAD and whoever designed it should feel bad for it.

Yeah. Do yourself a favor and go find a member of the Association of Professional Piercers if you’re looking to get any sort of piercings and want the process to go as well as possible.

And do beware of the utter bullshit that shows up in the Walmart “marketplace”. Same goes for Sears. It’s all the ecommerce equivalent of the Opa-Locka Hialeah Flea Market or something.

STUPID DEVELOPMENT UPDATE!

A few years ago, I met a guy who came down here to South Florida after graduating with a master’s degree in community planning.

He could not find a job in Southeast Florida at all, because no planning exists. “Communities” do not exist. What exists is just spray and pray.

Here’s what’s making me mad due to its total illogic and general idiocy.

American [Wet] Dream Miami has not died, sadly. The developers are on board and Miami-Dade County, seeking a new economic engine to the region, is pushing for it to get built as soon as possible.

The State of Florida doesn’t think it’s going to work and may step in to stop it, as they realize the critical lack of transportation and other infrastructure to support the project. Broward County looks on horrified yet powerless to stop it, like a damsel in distress.

Speaking of damsels in distress, let me digress a moment and share with you one of the fucking creepiest ad campaigns I’ve ever seen:

This shit makes me cringe so hard in so many ways, but— I’m not one to speak, I’m just the engineer.

So, since the last time I’ve yelled obscenities at the wall about this thing, they’ve released some informative graphics on the project:

Please note the “Graham Project” – even MORE townhouses. Gr8. Why the hell does it have “DEMO VERSION” watermarks?

The Graham Project is just fucking stupid. Do you really want to live there and find yourself locked up in 1-5 hours of traffic just to get to anything as common as a full sized grocery store? Great! You’ll love this place. The only planned access appears to be by the feeder roads to the mall.

Sprawl kings Lennar Homes also want to shit out another development over protected wetlands to the south of the Graham Project.

And now, site leasing plans revealing an interior floor plan!

First level. Click for full size, but the resolution isn’t much better.
Second level. For some reason the image won’t scale the same way. I can’t even.

The ski slope looks like a robot dick. I’m sorry. It does. There’s no denying that.

And now, here is why this shit will fail and fail hard.

Miami-Dade County’s economy has been in a meltdown since the mid 1990s that is now almost complete. Miami’s got effectively two classes: The rich, who either come from old money, own big foreign corporations…. and those who attempt to make a living working in what businesses are left in Miami-Dade County, or— the flat broke.

Studies have shown that Miami is one of the least affordable cities to live in (or around). Rental housing? Forget it. You pretty much need to be ready to buy a property to live in Miami-Dade County, and you need to be ready to buy that in cash, because you will be competing with foreign cash buyers for that property who just want to sit on it to pad their portfolio with some crap houses that keep a more or less stable value.

Nobody who is going to work in this shit show will be able to afford to live in Miami-Dade County.

Nobody who is going to work in this shit show will be able to afford the time and expenses to commute from anywhere that housing still remains affordable.

And, most importantly:
RETAIL IS DEAD. DEAD. DEAD AS FUCK. STICK A FORK IN IT, IT IS FUCKING DONE.

Yes, I realize the alternate use of this little fuckball is that it contains a half assed “theme park” and water park in its two large open spaces, in addition to what appears to be a specially constructed lake where you can… go fishing?? I don’t get it. Also, where’s the water coming from? If you’ve seen my previous posts on this cocksplat of a plan, I’ve brought up the question of where they’re going to get water. Florida is in drought again this spring, and we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. I hope you’re ready to deal with begging for sustenance from the Department of Water and Power. 😉

FUUUUCK THIS NOISE.

Triple Five group made a half assed promise to run shuttle service between several existing transit hubs to alleviate the congestion. That… just won’t do a thing. They would have likely run shuttles anyway for tourists – Dolphin Mall and Sawgrass Mills have had airport shuttles for years. They transport a few dozen shoppers back and forth a day and that’s about it.

God damn it. I’m not even done here, because the idiots over at Mana Wynwood decided to dig the area a nice posh grave lined in million dollar velvet and bury it. What is Wynwood? Wynwood is an old warehouse/business district that attracted an artists’ scene because it was a good place to find affordable studio space and host some events. Unfortunately, well—

If you’re a Miami native, please try to jog your frame of mind and look at this like an outsider to see how fucking ridiculous it is–

The site of an abandoned RC Cola factory managed to become the preferred site for music festivals and performances. It’s all outdoor – in Florida – no climate control, not even a proper toilet. And now… everything around the abandoned RC Cola plant is HOT SHIT. Just like what’s inside the RC Cola Plant’s portapotties.

So now the plan is, redevelop this area with high density luxury housing, multi-million dollar condos, and high end designer retail that nobody will be able to afford to shop at. Also, the buzzwords “trade center” were thrown out there, but look at every other “trade center” project that’s been attempted in Miami. The “trade center” never materializes and all winds up being “empty-ass class C office space” or ballrooms or other under-utilized shit.

Please note the amazingly good roadway access to this super high density urban development. Oh baby. Fuck you. Fuck. You. (Public transit is available via overcrowded buses that run every 30 minutes on NW 20 ST and NW 2 AVE, if you’re lucky.)

 

Artist’s rendering of…. bullshit, with nauseating perspectives.

What in the actual fuck are you thinking? This is like Brickell City Centre run through a few funhouse mirrors. Unlike the Brickell City Centre, it doesn’t connect to Metromover, so there’s no easy way to just stroll right on in there.

This isn’t … gentrification. This is just plain dropping a Daisy Cutter on the neighborhood and telling everyone fuckety bye. So much for that art community that drew everyone to the area – this will surely make the spaces they work in more valuable as valet parking spots than studios. Oopsie! I’d heard rumblings that there was an effort to provide artists new spaces over in Opa-Locka before everyone just runs out of money and leaves forever, but that’s… Opa-Locka… and safely preparing that space for new use will probably require actual Daisy Cutters.

So previously I’d also questioned the redevelopment of two sites in Broward – the old Plantation Fashion Mall site and the old Boomer’s Dania– those… those seem almost… well designed in comparison. Both are infill developments slated to be mixed use with janky condominium housing and very limited road access. But at least… at least they have road access… and aren’t expected to be quite the same sort of massive overload on the surrounding areas.

Holy shit, nobody has even a sixty fourth of a fucking clue here.

The Florida Repeater Council Meltdown

If you are a US licensed amateur radio operator, please take a moment to read the following:
FCC Part 97.205

§ 97.205 Repeater station.

(a) Any amateur station licensed to a holder of a Technician, General, Advanced or Amateur Extra Class operator license may be a repeater. A holder of a Technician, General, Advanced or Amateur Extra Class operator license may be the control operator of a repeater, subject to the privileges of the class of operator license held.

(b) A repeater may receive and retransmit only on the 10 m and shorter wavelength frequency bands except the 28.0-29.5 MHz, 50.0-51.0 MHz, 144.0-144.5 MHz, 145.5-146.0 MHz, 222.00-222.15 MHz, 431.0-433.0 Mhz, and 435.0-438.0 Mhz segments.

(c) Where the transmissions of a repeater cause harmful interference to another repeater, the two station licensees are equally and fully responsible for resolving the interference unless the operation of one station is recommended by a frequency coordinator and the operation of the other station is not. In that case, the licensee of the non-coordinated repeater has primary responsibility to resolve the interference.

(d) A repeater may be automatically controlled.

(e) Ancillary functions of a repeater that are available to users on the input channel are not considered remotely controlled functions of the station. Limiting the use of a repeater to only certain user stations is permissible.

(f) [Reserved]

(g) The control operator of a repeater that retransmits inadvertently communications that violate the rules in this part is not accountable for the violative communications.

Part H omitted because it is not relevant here but you must refer to it if you’re near Arecibo Observatory.

So now we continue.

Photo: hamsexy.com – in the aftermath of the infamous Dayton Volcano

The Florida Repeater Council was originally established to fill a need to facilitate the voluntary frequency coordination between amateur radio repeaters. This ensures that repeaters on the same or adjacent channels do not interfere with the use of one another and promotes more reliable communications using the repeaters.

In addition, as the coordination agency recognized by the American Radio Relay League, they supply their coordinated repeater listings for inclusion in ARRL publications such as the neat little pocket repeater directory books.

Unfortunately, at some point, egos flared, communication broke down, and it became the worst sort of bullshit secret society. (Communication? People using amateur radio are supposed to— communicate?)

I first became aware of this as an ongoing problem as early as 2000. At the time there were a lot of hams active in the Miami-Dade community and the need was there for several good repeaters with countywide and wide area coverage. When the trustees of these repeaters were approaching the Florida Repeater Council for coordination, either nothing would happen… or they would get coordination, but only if they were personal friends of the then regional coordinator, Nilo W4HN. Very mysterious.

In some cases they’d get coordinated to frequencies already in use.

For a while the FRC also had a statement on their website that suggested that uncoordinated operation of an amateur radio repeater was in violation of federal law. This statement is perfectly negated by the actual federal law, which I have included above for your convenience. Read it if you haven’t already. Trust me, FCC Part 97 is the LEAST painful piece of the FCC rules I have ever read. This was removed after a couple of years and I’m not sure exactly when, so I can’t put up a link to it for you to laugh at them with right now. Oh well.

After a couple years of frustration with this, some of my friends who were being repeatedly screwed over by the FRC by not receiving coordination and then having highly, uh, effective, Papertron 4000* repeaters coordinated onto the same frequencies they applied for, they attempted to attend the FRC’s regular yearly meeting at the Melbourne Hamfest to complain and attempt to get this fixed while they were there in person.

Well…. the meeting was also a mere piece of paper, in a sense. The Platinum Coast Amateur Radio Society had assigned them a time and a forum room at the hamfest. As I recall, it was something like Saturday at 2 PM.

Saturday at about 10:30 AM, an announcement went out over the Melbourne Civic Auditorium’s PA system that the FRC meeting was due to begin in five minutes. The forum room was currently occupied with another event, and none of the FRC board of directors were in attendance. 15 minutes or so into the meeting, it was announced where they were—

At a hotel conference room about a half hour drive away.

Needless to say, nobody was very pleased with them for this.

Eventually Nilo retired his position as director for our region, and the Dade Radio Club of Miami recommended that I apply for this position. I sent off an email to the president of the FRC (now deceased, listed as deceased but still as president on the FRC webpage and never replaced because they haven’t held elections in over a decade.)

We continued to have no coordinator for a couple of years, and during this time, not only were new coordinations impossible, but existing coordinations wouldn’t even expire if the trustees were not sending in updates or notified the council that they were unable to continue operations! Not to turn this into YET ANOTHER “Miami-Dade sucks moldy donkey nuts” post, but around this era, access to good repeater sites was very rapidly dwindling away to nothing due to property flipping, so there was just almost nowhere to put them. Yet, they continued on forever on paper. (This is what I was getting at with that “Papertron” comment above.) There were PAGES of paper repeaters, especially on the 70cm band.

You can’t take it with you. Or can you?

I heard nothing back for about a day then my phone rang off the hook. I got calls and emails from each of the directors insulting and berating me for daring to apply for this position, as to be qualified as a member of the FRC, I would need to be trustee of a previously coordinated repeater, and by attempting to join incorrectly I was now permanently disqualified from ever coordinating one.

I have never answered a caller with that much FCC part 97.113(a)4 disapproved language before. Here I was politely offering to volunteer to assist in coordination activities and they saw this as if a personal attack. Amazing.

You can see above that there is one actual coordinator listed, Dana. Dana holds ALL the data on FRC coordinations, and he was very difficult to work with. If he left, so did every repeater coordination in the state. And that’s … likely what would happen.

Finally, after the FRC’s dealings got even uglier, an effort was coordinated to bring about reform to the organization. They met at the Orlando Hamcation and pulled some of their old tricks – change of venue AND started the meeting earlier than the published time. What happened there was spectacular — the board of directors decided to eject all members (who were paying dues to be in there!). Since this meeting I’m told they’ve also been searching out the hams who joined the petition for reform and removing their repeater coordinations. This is going to be uhhhh grrrrrrrr-eat for the data they supply to the ARRL.

This is the full meeting on video.


Enhanced audio here.

Sounds like a RAGEQUIT to me.

So where does this leave amateur radio in Florida?

…. The same place where it always was. Loss of a repeater coordination organization actually makes almost no difference. The bands just aren’t that clogged, and there just aren’t that many places to put up repeaters, so with a bit of due care, hams can work together to avoid interference between their repeater systems. If you’re not sure if a pair is in use, listen to it for a while, at least with a good mobile radio (driving to the top of a tall parking garage can help).

And, for that matter, if you have an active repeater – PUBLISH IT! There are several directories that are community based.
RepeaterBook.com and RadioReference.com should be used, among others. If you run an open repeater and it uses CTCSS access, set the ID to tell listeners which tone to use, or follow the standard for your area. To be honest, while the little pocket books from the ARRL were neat, their use and relevance has faded nowadays.

And don’t send your contact information to the FRC if you don’t want angry phone calls. Been there, done that, laughed my ass off at them behind their backs.

Filters Of Wal-Mart: Worst. Oil. Filters. EVER.

A little background: I drive a car that was made when Ford and Mazda shared a lot of engineering and manufacturing resources. They both used the same engine, but with different intake systems and controls and stuff. I have the Mazda and the dipstick says FoMoCo on it! In addition, well— nobody but me knows what oil filter it takes. It actually takes a CARTRIDGE type filter. Most of the auto parts stores try to convince me it takes a spin on– it’s not. Anyway, this same cartridge filter is used on the Ford models, and I always got either the Motorcraft OEM filter or the Purolator cartridge for each replacement.

Until last night—-

I went to a Walmart store for some late night grocery shopping fun (with extra bonus pallet jack traffic and floor refinishing fumes) and picked up the Motorcraft filter. I noticed that all the boxes on the shelf looked like they’d been previously handled, and some visibly opened. I picked up the nicest looking one… Then I noticed… the box was rattling as I carried it back to my cart.

Pandora’s box.

This simply has never happened before. I opened the box to see why– what was rattling?!

What?!

The shaking was the plastic cage inside the filter rattling end to end. Curious— I’d never seen one of these where the cage was free to slide back and forth. That seemed like a ludicrously terrible idea, as if it did that with the filter in service in the engine, it’d eventually start wearing through the paper.

Then I noticed it was totally askew.

The whole thing tilted a bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Hey, what’s up with that seam? Normally those are pretty closely bonded.

OR NOT! Not bonded at all! I could totally open the seam up with no real effort.

 

Now I’d like to point out the color of this filter media. Normally, oil filters are made of a thick paper with resin coated fibers, or sometimes a synthetic nonwoven fabric. In the case of resin coated cellulose fiber paper, a thermosetting resin may be used. This is a material that remains workable and flexible during the assembly of the filter, then kicked into its final set state by the use of heat.

This filter shows signs of very uneven heating, coating, or both. No loose fibers were visible… which was a cut above the fresh hell you are about to see here.

Briefly— if you were to place THIS filter in your engine and run it there is a good chance most of the oil circulation would bypass it. Chances are you’d get away without any engine damage.

What follows are weapons of engine destruction.

Fram.

Fram is a name known widely for low cost, retail channel filter products— the cheap ones you’ll find at your local auto parts store. They were originally built by a division of Allied Signal, who have been bought out by Honeywell.

A wonderful testament to the quality of Fram filters follows. This is from the excellent Oil Filters Revealed page that showed me, years ago, that not all oil filters are created equal.

Russell,
I obtained great satisfaction from reading your oil filter survey.

I worked for two years as the oil-filter production line engineer in
an Allied-Signal FRAM facility and I can confirm every bad thing you
have said about FRAM automotive filters. That’s from the horse’s
mouth, as it were.

I’m also a quality engineer and can confirm that FRAM applies no
quality control whatsoever to any of the characteristics for which we
buy oil filters. I frequently saw filter designs which were barely
capable of meeting J806. Many of FRAM’s designs will block and go to
bypass after trying to filter very little contamination. There were
often leakage paths at the paper end discs when these were not
properly centered on the elements. Some designs had the pleats so
tightly packed against the center tube that they would block off in no
time. I had discovered that the FRAM HP1 that I had been buying for
about $20 Cdn was EXACTLY the same as a PH8 inside – the only
difference being a heavier can – no advantages in flow capacity. The
paper filtration media was of apparently poor quality and the process
of curing the paper resin was very inconsistent – elements would range
from visibly burnt to white. FRAM’s marketers admitted that there was
just about no way the public could ever prove that an oil filter
contributed, or did not prevent, engine damage. The only thing FRAM
tested for was can burst strength. Another problem that they have from
time to time is in threading the filter base – often there are strands
of metal left behind on a poorly formed thread.

I have not used a FRAM filter since I started working there. Their
claims are entirely and completely marketing bullshit.

If people really want to protect their engines, a good air filter is
vital (which excludes FRAM from that list as well) and a combination
of one depth and one full-flow hydraulic filter, together in parallel,
will do the job of filtration to perfection.

Thanks for doing a great job in trying to get the truth out! You can
quote me anytime.

[name omitted to protect submitter]

Nice to see that Fram’s complete and total lack of quality control continues to this day. The nice thing about having a car that takes a cartridge filter — NO SECRETS. In fact, I always inspect the cartridge after removing it and letting it drip dry a few minutes to check for any metal or plastic bits. Try that with a spin-on filter!

 

First up– the Fram Tough Guard.

Well, nice to know the resin curing issues were not present as there simply appeared to be no resin. None at all. On handling the filter, paper fiber came off on my hands. The uneven pleating is a little weird but not a show stopper (I’ve even seen it on Purolator filters for the first pleat or so right near the seam) and the seam is at least sealed, albeit… questionably so, with a great besplodging of glue.

But we need to have a look inside.

Hey wait WHAT?
First of all, that sealing ring around the edge appears to literally be a heat sealed on piece of kitchen scrubber. It’s got enormous pores and would allow contaminated oil to bypass right through it. Second, do you see the support structure?

No.

There is no support.

Oil flows through the filter from the outside in. Under high RPM operation, it may be presented to the filter media at a pressure of over 100 PSI. In response to this, I suspect this filter would simply cave in. Combine that with the loose fiber issue and this filter may spell death to your engine. A structural failure of the filter would shower paper fibers through the entire engine, where they can clog the fine oil passages to bearings, build up in the variable valve timing system, jam up solenoid valves, and possibly even block the oil pump’s pickup screen. That’s a whole lot of GAME OVER right there.

 

Well, at least this one only left slight amounts of fiber on my hands, compared to the next model up—

This is supposed to be Fram’s finest. The crem de la…. CRAAAAAAPPPPPPP

A mesh backs this filter media. It looks a little like the mesh that supports the cotton gauze media on my K&N air filter. The K&N, however, never has to deal with this kind of pressure!!

Royal Purple’s oil filter has a similar mesh as part of its media, however, its media is actually

a) bonded together;

b) backed up by a metal tube to hold the oil pressure!

 

Now let’s look at that media— as it RAINS loose fibers all over my hands.

This is Fram’s fancy schmancy “synthetic” media. I guess it’s supposed to be bound together by a resin, but that resin appears to be… just… not cured. Not at all. This filter sheds like our assistant overnight guard at work.

Dear human, please take your other hand off that shiny rectangle and place it upon me as well. And go buy yourself a Purrrrrrrrrrrrrolator.

 

A metal channel is crimped over the seam, and kind of…. rudely crushed at one end. Possible weak spot, as if the media ITSELF isn’t.

The filter media.

what fresh hairy hell is this

 

If the other two filters were merely bad, this one… this one is malevolently awful. This one was shedding little dust bunnies of fiber as I handled it. Touching the surface would raise a layer of fibers. Whatever the method used to form and cure the nonwoven fabric media was, it was not done right– resin not cured, insufficient heat/pressure, who knows. It’s a major ugly quality control issue– oh wait, what quality control?

(Note that the manufacturing has been offshored to China since that statement about the quality control was written.)

So, in the case of the two Fram filters, this “quality” is believable. The Motorcraft one is an odd duck though and I honestly suspect a supplier FAKED IT. Here’s why– all of the boxes on the shelf had wear as if they’d been handled, opened, and repacked at some point in time. I have to wonder– were they boxes from factory rejects or overstock that got restuffed with fakes? Dare I say— could their own service centers be involved, saving the retail boxes from filters they install in customers’ cars and repacking them with bulk packed shit filters? This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen a lot of defective crap hit shelves at Walmart – I once got burned on an entire purchase of *SIX* SD cards there that turned out to be genuine yet defective repackaged Sandisk products.

They also had some filters from K&N and Bosch there. The Bosch filters, as I recall, are Champion Labs “Performance” line filters and they looked just fine.

From K&N’s website.

The K&N’s– they were the “Pro Series” being sold at the HP series’ prices. See this image for why the HP series rules. Not only does it have better filter media inside, but you don’t need an oil filter wrench to install and remove it. The “Pro Series” are just the ‘Performance’ model Champion Labs filter with the K&N name stamped on it and a higher price tag. This same filter element is used in ACDelco OEM filters.

 

In short, do not buy a Fram filter or any oil filter from Walmart unless you really want an excuse to do a full engine teardown and overhaul. And if you want a K&N, spend the few extra bucks on the HP series. You’ll be glad you did. For all practical purposes though, it’s the same as the Mobil 1 filter with an easy installation/removal tool built in.

iShartMedia quality

image

iShartRadio quality:
[Booby Trap commercial]
“This is a test of the Emergency Alert System.”
[Tootsie’s Cabaret commercial]

Heard on WBGG-FM about 1:18 AM. No data bursts were sent. Not even a period of silence.

Let’s not even think too deeply here about what a sin it is to put spots for two rival businesses of the same type in the same stop set. It’s very disrespectful to your advertisers. Then again if they had any respect they wouldn’t be cutting spots in a studio where the equipment has a distinctly audible whining hiss.

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