30 September 2011

shortwave reception, sep 2011

It was a great month around here for shortwave listening. Opportunities combined with good conditions is a beautiful thing. In the past, I've used a couple regular locations for outdoor shortwave listening. This month, I tried a new location, and found that it had everything I wanted: a pleasant walk on a paved sidewalk, adequate lighting, not much automobile traffic, and very little environmental noise. Being outdoors, away from buildings with electrical wiring, and away from overhead power lines is arguably the best way to experience shortwave listening.

Some of these receptions were indoors with my Eton E5, occasionally with the Degen DE31 active loop antenna. Some receptions were outdoors with my Tecsun PL-350. All receptions took place in northern California.

Received stations:
• China Radio International
• Deutsche Welle
• Radio Australia
• Radio Netherlands
• Radio Taiwan International
• Voice of Russia

• 14 Sep 2011, 2304 UTC, 11840 kHz: I got a strong China Radio International signal with my Eton E5 and the Degen DE31. This broadcast comes from Sackville. CRI reported on the American hikers imprisoned in Iran. There were brief mentions of the American and European economic situations, with what I'd call cautioned optimism. I hope they don't dwell on this topic too much; it's already constantly in the news over here. Tell me something about China or Asia!

Now they're discussing Libya sanctions. When will we see resolution of who controls the Libyan government? And the Taliban are trying to disrupt the transfer of power in Afghanistan. France suffered a nuclear waste explosion, killing one and injuring four others.

Stories involving Hong Kong and the RMB currency, and Sony PSP pricing, were hard to follow due to fading. "You're listening to the Beijing Hour." "Coming to you live from the Chinese capital." This might be the first time I knowingly heard a live CRI broadcast, assuming it wasn't a replay.

Drunk driving arrests in China have plummeted since May, although no reason was mentioned. Chinese couples who give birth to children abroad to get around the family planning policy will have to pay social services fees if the foreign-born children are brought back to China. Many couples go to the USA to give birth to additional children. The family planning policy is not strictly a one-child policy; if both parents are both former only-childs, they can have more than one child. This was news to me.

Kids in big cities have unbalanced eating habits. School officials don't focus on nutrition when preparing student lunches. A balanced lunch should provide 40% of the necessary energy for a day. In some countries, school lunches are planned by professional nutritionists. Japanese students have to attend a nutrition class at a young age.

"That's all we have time for in this edition of the Beijing Hour." But there's seven minutes left in the hour! Schedule information and various recorded CRI promos followed.

• 15 Sep 2011, 0019 UTC, 9445 kHz: I found a strong signal, and thought "This sounds like Dutch." And it was! Radio Netherlands, Dutch to North America. Is this really broadcasting from Bonaire? Could they please transmit English to me? Not during this time slot, mind you. I'm happy that there's a Dutch language broadcast, even if I don't know the language. I just want an English broadcast at some time during 0300-0700 UTC. I should email them again.

• 0200 UTC, 9680 kHz: This is a strong Radio Taiwan International broadcast, coming to me from Okeechobee. They used to relay through Delano, didn't they? That transmitter site is closed though, as far as I know. Taiwan is seeking newer fighter jets from the United States. Taiwan's first lady will throw the first pitch at an upcoming Giants/Dodgers game in Los Angeles. Weather: Taiwan, partly cloudy, 27-30C. Beijing, partly cloudy, high of 19C. Tokyo, partly cloudy with a high of 32C. "RTI news, programs, pictures, and more, online at english.rti.org.tw."

Military plane crash. Two military planes crashed, killing three air force pilots, and the wreckage has been found. The investigation is ongoing, but one possibility is that one or both of the planes deviated from their flight plans. One of the planes is from the 1960s. President Barack Obama still needs to make a decision about supplying Taiwan with new fighter jets. (An agreement was reached some time after the broadcast.)

Singapore makes it easy for foreigners to become citizens. However, it's very hard for foreigners to become citizens in Taiwan. China wants to be known for innovation, and not just for being the world's factory. Next is a segment about convenience stores in Taiwan. The average Taiwanese goes to a convenience store 15 times per month. They go to pay bills, renew a driver's license, get train tickets, purchase inexpensive coffee, use an ATM. When traveling abroad, Taiwanese people don't know where to go to shop, and stores can be closed on Sundays. Stores are open every day in Taiwan.

A pancake dish popular in Thailand was invented in Taiwan. (I had to look this up afterward: Thai shrimp pancake.) The two female reporters briefly discussed how people sometimes confuse Taiwan and Thailand. When one woman tells someone she is from Taiwan, sometimes another person mentions that they visited Bangkok, which is in Thailand.

"You're listening to Radio Taiwan International. Check out our website at english.rti.org.tw." "Ilha Formosa--a look at Taiwan and its environment." Increased CO2 in the water could threaten clownfish.

The highlight for me during this hour of English broadcasting was the "Occidental Tourist" segment: Taiwan is a city that never sleeps. Food options during the middle of the night may be more plentiful than the options during the day. Night markets allow you to feast almost until sunrise. The reporter mentions several areas where rows of bars can be found. There are some 24-hour dim sum restaurants. Taipei also features a 24-hour bookstore. Supposedly, half of the cars in Taipei are taxis, and it's very easy to find a taxi. Taipei has a small downtown area which is easily bikeable. Karaoke is also a popular activity, and private rooms are available so you won't embarrass yourself in front of strangers.

Listening to this hour of Radio Taiwan International programming reminds me that this is one of the better shortwave broadcasters that I currently receive. The cultural segments they include in their broadcasts help me learn something about Taiwan, and especially, discover something more to like about Taiwan.

• 0300 UTC, 15425 kHz, "This is the Voice of Russia." The headlines were spoken rather quickly, and a bit of fading interfered with the clarity, so I was unable to follow. Summary of news stories: 2004 political crisis in Haiti. Tourists stuck in Bulgaria. Financial assistance is available for families impacted by the September 7 plane crash. "That was the news from Moscow." So, after that brief news segment, the rest of the broadcast has been about Russian music. I like music on most other shortwave broadcasts, although Russian music typically doesn't do anything for me.

• 17 Sep 2011, 0337 UTC, 7415 kHz: This must be WBCQ! It's an elusive station for me, but I got it during an outdoor listening session. References to illuminati, Israel, Palestine. This show features a woman and a man in a telephone interview format. The woman seems to be reading submitted questions. "I can't answer that," he would say, when he lacked the relevant knowledge or couldn't make a prediction about the future. Something about Libyan gold. A question about General Petraeus becoming a presidential candidate. On the real estate market, "A house is a place to live, not a gambling chip." (No argument from me.) Filler music was by The Police, "When the world is running down..." "WBCQ, Monticello Maine, USA."

• 0406 UTC, 9330 kHz: WBCQ again! Excavations near Bethlehem. "The bible is not a book of fables." "This is Science Rocks" (Science Rocks is a show listed on WBCQ's program guide). "Our vision is to get people back into the bible." They offer a quick study pocket guide, and their mailing address is in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. "There is a better way to live than how we are living now."

During these two WBCQ receptions, I was walking around a small city, and I found a city block where power lines were not running overhead. My radio was nice and quiet there, instead of blasting me with unwanted static. And WBCQ has nicely isolated frequencies in the case of 7415 and 9330 kHz, so adjacent channel interference wasn't a problem. So once I found the quiet block, I stood in the path of a flood light so I could see my notebook and take notes.

• 23 Sep 2011, 0404 UTC, 7240 kHz: This is a Deutsche Welle broadcast in English from Kigali, Rwanda. The Kigali transmitter site loves California for some reason, and I get to benefit! This reception took place in a new listening location with very little noise. I should make this my new regular spot for outdoor listening.

Wall Street is approaching its lowest levels for the year. Pope Benedict is visiting Germany for four days and is facing protests about sex abuse scandals. Protesters in Berlin criticized the pope's views on gay rights. European nations are considering legislation similar to France's law that bans burqas. There are signs of economic slowdown in Germany and China.

• 0429 UTC, 15240 kHz: This is Radio Australia. A big news story of the moment is the possible neutrino (subatomic particle) traveling faster than the speed of light. "When we find out how the universe works, we find a way to use that information." Two boats of asylum-seekers were intercepted and sent to Christmas Island. Australia has been able to maintain strong Standard and Poors ratings due to its stable financial policies.

I couldn't hear the Radio Australia signal too well, but there was nothing else I wanted to listen to at that moment. So I kept it on the earphones and picked up bits and pieces of the broadcast. And my mind wandered. I started thinking about Australia, its location on earth, the Pacific ocean, and wondering about daily life in that part of the world. It was a fun diversion to try to imagine myself being removed from my America-centric life.

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