Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Emergency Alert Messages on Cells

My opinion about the Emergency Alert System as they are used via cell phones is that these alerts should only be use for situations where the masses of people are in physical danger.  That could include impending aftershocks from earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, a mass shooter on the loose (as in Hollywood and in Santa Monica not long ago), flash flood warnings, the North Koreans landing on our shores, an impending missile strike or terrorist hit, etc.

The use of the Emergency Alert System for Amber Alerts and other crimes is an overstepping of the system both because they are not crimes that threaten great numbers of people’s physical safety, and also because their use in this regard will make the EAS a commonplace occurrence that will make people, say in business meetings, react with, “Oh, it’s just another one of those damned things.”  That’s a bad idea for an EAS system’s credibility.

Amber Alerts and various other crimes (car-jackings, other types of kidnappings) have plenty of other outlets such as radio stations and the Internet to get the word out.  In addition, specifically for Amber Alerts, those people receiving the Amber Alert on their cell phones who are not driving can’t really do anything or won’t remember it later if they are driving, and those who receive the information while they are driving are being pressured to break the law, look down at their phones and start reading texts from the EAS while they are driving.  There are enough Cal Trans signs around our freeways to provide Amber Alert information in a much safer way.  For, when the time comes that my cell phone screeches with an EAS message that an asteroid is fourteen minutes away from hitting the western San Fernando Valley, I don’t want to say to myself, “Oh, I’ll check that later.” 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Eavesdropping

One of the apps I got a while back, because my radio scanner that I’ve had for a long time is kind of becoming limited in it’s own way, is a scanner app on my iPhone.  Unlike a radio scanner, an app scanner allows you to listen to transmissions of all sorts from all around the world.  One can choose locations in most counties in every state in the US, and can also choose transmissions from many cities all around the globe.  It’s such an advantage with a scanning app since you aren’t limited to your own areas.

Well, one evening about ten nights ago I was going to sleep and I started listening to transmissions from various countries, popping in and out of a lot of them.  I should add here that the transmissions include different channels that vary from EMT, police, fire, city maintenance, to ham radio, marine, and various types of relay channels.

After listing to various European and South American, and even a couple of African channels, I started poking around the UK (since they speak English and I was ready to actually understand a conversation by then), and then went to a couple of channels on the Island of Man.  And one of those channels was a ham radio channel into which I was suddenly listening to two older men talking.  They each had a steady cadence in their voice, sounded like they were in their 60’s, and after listening a while, I realized that one was on the Island of Man, while the other was somewhere in the interior of England of maybe southern Scotland.  I could tell because they referred to being “on the island” a lot about one of them.  As I listened, I imagined a light rain in at least one of their locations.

So it was like 1:30am my time, and I’m listening to these two men taking turns in their ham radio conversation, carefully executing their part of the conversation, then a small gap of silence, and then the other would start to reply.  The one on the island was discussing at first some kind of unrest or protest that had happened in the last couple of days on the island.  And after a few minutes, the conversation turned to talking about neither one of them having ever left their homes (the Island of Man and England/Scotland presumably).

They started talking about the United States and the things they had heard about it in a way that was really strange for me to hear.  One of them said how they heard that traffic was so bad that it took people in the US two hours to get anywhere, and the other replied that cities like Chicago are so dirty that who would want to go visit it anyways.  They both agreed that they were perfectly happy not having done traveling abroad.

This was so strange for me to hear, or to witness real time I guess is what I’m saying, in that these two older men who sounded like they were probably blue collar people, but expressive and thoughtful enough in how they spoke, had never left their homes their entire lives.  And here I was listening to them without their knowledge in the middle of Burbank/Los Angeles.  I felt like saying, I know what it's like where you are, but you don't know the US (because you've never been here).  I was just so surprised that neither had ever attempted to go anywhere their whole lives.  It was just a strange thing.