Ron Chester

Ron Chester

A personal blog about whatever I am inspired to write, with links to postings in my several other blogs with more narrow focuses.

It's Not a Dream

My wife and I went to the Korean market and bought a fresh Tilapia fish. For no extra charge, the butcher cleaned the fish, removing the head and the entrails, and we were on our way. The next morning we had it fried, Thai style, for breakfast. Yummy!
The morning after that I had a dream. I got up in the morning and went into the kitchen where she was preparing breakfast. But there was a new large aquarium there, with that large Tilapia fish swimming around inside it. And then I looked in the sink where there were three other large fish swimming around! I was startled awake, as I was thinking,"Oh no, now I gotta buy some new big aquariums!"
Immediately it struck me as the perfect metaphor for life with my new bride.
She has been breathing life into every aspect of my existence.

Innovative Technology for Online Distribution

For years I got my news by watching the MacNeil-Lehrer Report, which eventually morphed into the PBS News Hour. It seemed more balanced than network coverage of news and there were no commercials. But eventually, during one of the two year periods of unending election coverage, I got fed up with even that and I mostly just turned off TV. It's been just the Internet for me ever since then.
Today Dave Winer suggested that what we need now is a "New York Times of the people."
Well isn't that what public broadcasting is supposed to provide?
I thought so, but figured I better look it up. So I did. PBS is funded by the CPB, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Follow the money. What are the goals and purposes of CPB? What does CPB fund?
Their latest statement on that was issued on September 15, 2014, not that long ago!
"CPB acts as a guardian of the mission and purposes for which public broadcasting was established."
"GOAL: Strengthen the quality of public media's content and services, and expand audience reach, by supporting people, organizations, and projects with innovative ideas."
"To achieve this Goal, CPB will provide grant funding to support the efforts of public media stations and producers to make innovative use of broadcast technology, online distribution, social media and mobile platforms to reach audiences wherever and whenever they use media."
Dave Winer is creating innovative technology for online distribution, social media and mobile platforms to reach audiences everywhere on the Internet. Is anyone creating more innovative tools than DW??
Not that I've seen. And freely given, usually open source. And one day I suspect he will release his Liveblogging software for anyone to use, making it even easier for anyone to broadcast to the public.
CPB should be supporting DW's efforts, but in a way that DW is able to maintain his independence. How could CPB fail to support such efforts, if they were pointed out to them?
The pessimist in me: "They would find a way."
We must not yield to pessimism and give up too soon.

Farang Voice from the North

Well one day at least.
Today (25 Feb 2015) my new Thailand Amateur Radio license was issued. Yippee!!
All hams in Thailand who are not native Thai get the HS0Z prefix, so the only question was what the last two letters of my callsign would be. Farang is Thai slang for a foreigner. Not really a derogatory term, but often used in a playful way to poke fun at the expats living in Thailand. We will eventually have our own home in the North of Thailand, hence the Farang Voice from the North moniker.
Of course it's more likely to be Farang CW from the North, as I generally prefer using Morse Code over voice communications with ham radio, but then you have to explain what CW (continuous wave) is to the non-hams in the audience.
I actually delayed submitting my license application a bit when they were issuing licenses in the HS0ZLX to HS0ZLZ part of the alphabet. MD works much better on both voice and Morse Code than those earlier choices in the LX to LZ series. On voice it is Mike Delta when given phonetically, short and sweet. And the sounds on Morse Code for those letters are also short, with a good punch on the D.
When I get postcards made (QSL cards) that hams send to each other to confirm the contacts they made with others, I'd like to find a font that has a wider, fatter zero than the one above, which looks a bit squished, like the S and Z are closing in on it.
Full Disclosure
That picture at the top isn't of my antenna installation in Thailand. In fact it is a picture I took in 2011 of one of the antennas used in my local radio club's (PAARA) Field Day operation. PAARA takes the annual Field Day event very seriously and so we use BIG antennas on towers. In 2014 we were eleventh in the nation, out of nearly 2,700 entries, second in our operating class, less than 300 contacts shy of first place. Hopefully one day I can have a nice ham station in Thailand and my PAARA buddies can come over and work the world from the other side of the globe.
And maybe once again, I'll see my ham buddy, Gerry N6NV, climbing up a tower!
Image by Jim, K6SV

My Barbaric Yawp

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
     of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

from Song of Myself LII by Walt Whitman, in Leaves of Grass

Very powerful lines from a great American poet!
Would he feel that way about my blogging, all of our blogging, our gab and loitering?
Or would he celebrate the fact that nearly anyone these days can easily publish their thoughts to the world?

I bought my own domain,, as my given name is Ron Chester.
So this is where I can present myself to the world.
But is this a proper translation of myself?
Does my name properly identify who I am?
A better translation that I could understand would be "Me."
But only I would understand that, no one else would.

So if I want to communicate with those in the world, I must do my best to "sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."

Write Ten Ideas a Day

I'm reading Choose Yourself by James Altucher, a blogger I've been following for quite a while. The Kindle edition cost me the princely sum of 99 cents. On Amazon it currently has 812 five-star reviews and 199 four-star reviews out of 1,161 total reviews. That was good enough for me to take the plunge.
This morning in the chapter, Let's Get Specific: What Should I Do? I read, "The way you get good ideas is do two things: (1) Read two hours a day. (2) Write ten ideas a day. By the end of a year, you will have read almost one thousand hours and written down 3,600 ideas. One of these ideas will be a home run."
Well I probably already read two hours a day, most days, and I'm having ideas, including business ideas, all the time, So why not write them down?
I already have a list in Google Keep for Blog Ideas, so I added a new list there, called just Ideas. I immediately put six ideas on the list. I don't know that I'll come up with ten ideas every day, but that's okay. It should help still my mind, if nothing else. [ "I need a dump truck, Mama, to unload my head." Bob Dylan, 1965. Dump truck image from here. ]
I decided to document this new addition to my daily routines by writing this blog posting. To confirm the correct spelling of his name, I went to my RSS feed for the author's blog and discovered that his most recent article (unread) is called, "FAQ ON HOW TO BECOME AN IDEA MACHINE." Hah! Well imagine that. His book was published in 2013, but the most recent article on his blog is on this same subject! It starts by saying, "I started coming up with 10 ideas a day and I’ve written about this several times before: it saved my life, my career, my friendships, made me better friendships, partners, opportunities, a wife, better relationships with my kids, and oooga-booga (lots of kisses)."
So the item he just wrote about (again), on 6 January 2015 is the same one I gleaned from his book this morning. Awesome! Is this like a sign from God? Check back in a year to see whether I had any idea that was a home run. It certainly seems to have worked for him!
So I read his FAQ. Turns out he says I should make sure I write down at least ten ideas a day, so my six wasn't enough. And he says to list ideas on a particular theme every day. Neither of those parts was mentioned in the book, so I guess it's a good thing I stumbled onto his FAQ. But don't just believe me, read it for yourself.

Caring — Mattering — Is the Motive Force of the Internet.

This is Clue #24 of the New Clues written by Doc Searls and David Weinberger, as a follow-up to their famous The Cluetrain Manifesto. I have a strong feeling this new update is going to become a classic manifesto about the Internet as well.
I like this Clue #24. Caring or mattering are certainly key forces that inspire me to write postings in this blog, as well as what I post on the silos: Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
It is certainly not just music that motivates me to write, but I liked the above image, which I stole from the top of a recently inactive blog. I hope that blogger doesn't mind, but I'm happy to remove it if he/she does.
Other References
New Clues on Medium, as a Listicle, and translated into Italian, Italian, German & Catalan.

Father's Day in Thailand

Today, 5 December 2014, is the 87th birthday of the King of Thailand, HM Bhumibol Adulyadej, the longest reigning monarch in the world. His birthday is celebrated as Father's Day in Thailand. I spent a good part of the morning reading tweets about the King and retweeting many of the best postings. The Twitter hashtag #WeLoveKingTH was in the top ten of trending hashtags all day long and as I write this, it is in the #1 position, with #2 held by #longlivetheking, #6 held by #Happy Father's Day and #Thailand coming in at #8.
One of the first messages I retweeted summed up really well how the Thai people feel about their king. It said "My king never wear crown I only saw him walking around carrying a camera and map helping his people." There were many variations of this with a huge variety of pictures and videos showing the King meeting with his people all over the country, in their villages, out among them and helping them with whatever they needed.
Another popular theme was to state that the King kept the promise he gave on 5 May 1950, the day of his coronation, when he said, "เราจะครองแผ่นดินโดยธรรมเพื่อประโยชน์สุขแห่งมหาชนชาวสยาม," which has been translated as, "We shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people." From what I have seen, the feeling among the Thai people is essentially unanimous that he kept this promise. For an American, this is an amazing unanimity to witness, but one that has been very well earned from everything I have learned.
I can't think of any American who made such a sweeping promise and was then recognized as having kept it over a period of more than six decades. We should all aspire to such integrity!
[ Image of the King is from this Tweet. ]

Learn Morse Code

Would you like to learn Morse Code, or improve your grasp of the language? There are many approaches and lots of good software programs for learning CW. The method I've used the most in the last decade is the code course produced by Chuck Adams, K7QO. There should be a Wikipedia page about this guy, but there isn't. I learned about him in the 1990's when I was very active in the QRP community, attending the monthly meetings of the Norcal QRP Club and QRP forums at Pacificon and elsewhere. Chuck is a member of the QRP Hall of Fame (since 1998) and a legendary high speed CW guy.
Some years ago I got his code course from him on CD and really liked it. Yesterday I happened to come across mention of it again and I got inspired to get it again. Now he offers it as a free download on the Internet, which is how I got it this time, here in Thailand. My CD of the course is back at home in Silicon Valley. Well now I have it in my Google Drive account. I can run it from there with my Chromebook or my Android phone with a wifi connection. Or I could easily download parts of the course directly to either device and run them without any need of an Internet connection.
It took me hours getting the downloads and unzipping them into Google Drive with a slow wifi connection, but it was worth it, as now I can easily practice CW no matter where in the world I am. It is totally simple to use. There are hundreds of mp3 files that play the CW for you to copy and then corresponding text files to check your copy. Easy.
The manual that comes with the course will give you a good idea of what it's all about. It also tells the story of how he got started with CW, teaching it to himself in two days to a speed of 12 wpm! I guess you could say he had an aptitude for the language, but anyone can learn the code and his course is a really good way to do it. You just need to download and then unzip two files from his website and get started. Once unpacked, there are over 870 files in all: mp3 files for the CW, txt files to check your copy, and three pdf files. I have linked to the manual, which is one of the pdf files, so you can read about the course right away, rather than waiting for the giant course file to download. I found that two of the mp3 files (077.mp3 and 363.mp3) would not unpack from the zip file correctly. I sent an email to Chuck and two hours later the files arrived in his email reply. Sweet!
In the manual, Chuck offers to be your mentor in learning the code and learning from a master is a great way to go. When you read the manual, it is obvious he knows what he's writing about and he gives welcome encouragement from the start, while also making it clear that it will take some work. Isn't that the case for all worthwhile activities?

Little Silver Hands No More

I stumbled across the news that Manitas de Plata ("Little Silver Hands" in Spanish) has died and was surprised to learn that he had sold 100 million records during his career. I recognized the name right away and knew that one of those records was in one of my boxes of LP's in my garage. I'm not at home right now and didn't have the heart to ask my brother or father to find it in the boxes. It has been decades since I listened to it.
But it was quite a revelation when I first discovered it, while a student at Oberlin College, although I have no specific recollection of how I came to know about it. A very weak image in my mind suggests that it was an LP that was being played before meals at the wonderful, life-changing Tank Co-op, where I ate during my senior year. Surely it was the first album I ever owned of a guitar virtuoso, long before I had ever heard of my friend, John Fahey. I had it positioned in my mind alongside my LP's of the trumpet virtuoso, Rafael Mendez, who had been my musical hero at one time, and had performed in my hometown and signed the program for me after the concert.
At the time I thought MDP was the greatest flamenco guitarist ever, but in my reading now, I learn that he was self taught and he broke some rules of that style. I don't care. It was an inspiration to listen to someone play guitar in a way like nothing I had ever heard, someone who had clearly honed his amazing skills to perfection. But it was a narrow style and I never sought out more from the man. Very soon after, I discovered Bob Dylan, who was worthy of further study for a lifetime to come.
A Google image search turned up the Manitas de Plata album I bought, Vanguard VSD 79224, produced in 1966, my senior year at Oberlin. While looking through You Tube, I found Malagueñas Flamencas, which seemed familiar, but I discovered it is not on the tracklist of the Ole! album.
Two Gems
And while there, I discovered two other gems, both worthy of your time. If you don't click on any other link in this posting, at least click on these two. The first I found, captured a surreal 1967 private concert at the UN in New York, of Manitas de Plata, with his singing cousin Jose Reyes, both enthusiastically creating music, while an attentive (and performing) Salvador Dali jumped up and down from a chair, drawing a rider on a large horse, presumably inspired by the music. The camera also captures a small leopard on a leash, under the seat of one of the patrons in the audience. "Unique" might be the best adjective to describe this video!
The other is a 1968 video of Manitas de Plata and his brother performing for a radiant Brigitte Bardot at the height of her popularity. If you're too young to have witnessed her chrismatic sexual appeal, start with this video, showing a gorgeous, transparent and guileless admirer. Could she have been seated any closer to the guitar? The obituary at the start of this piece, says that "He spent all his money on women and fancy cars," and the fervor in this performance seems to reflect a sexual seduction, and a hope on his part that he might be spending his money on this captivating woman. The Sixties really were a special time!

Wet Feet in the House . . . Get Used to It

In my experience, if you travel or live with others in Thailand, your feet are going to get wet in the house, every day, several times a day. Get used to it, there's no use in fighting it.
Why Is This?
First of all, Thai people, like most Asians, don't wear their shoes inside the house. They leave them outside the front door. In Thailand, where it is usually hot, socks are often not worn either. So that means bare feet in the house, although house slippers might be worn on them.
But not in the bathroom. The reason for that is that the bathroom floor is often wet. And that is because the shower area is usually not separated from the rest of the room in a Thai bathroom. If someone takes a shower, the entire bathroom floor may get wet. And so, when you go in there in your bare feet, they are gonna get wet, probably several times a day. There may be an absorbent rug just outside the door of the bathroom, to help dry off your feet as you come out.
Of course there are exceptions. The four star hotel we always stay at in Bangkok has the shower area separated from the rest of the bathroom (a big reason it is my favorite) and this is probably common at the more expensive hotels. But usually we stay at very affordable places, where the shower is not separate from the rest of the bathroom.
When it comes time to buy or build my own house in Thailand, you can be sure that the shower will be kept separate from the rest of the bathroom and I will keep my feet dry, except when showering!