Clays Corner – August

August 1, 2017

Clay’s Corner – Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

I hope Summer is treating you all very well – For us here in the Seattle area – the weather has really been helping

Seattle has been at the top of the charts for the last 2 years when it comes to rainfall accumulation. However, if our current pattern holds, we may be writing this year to another list; a list of consecutive days without rainfall as this summer is turning out to be wonderful – Confirming the fact that we live here for the summers!  Lots of temps in the 80’s and low humidity and beautiful blue skies.    Those of that have live here for a very long time understand that summers are often very dry with long periods of no rain to the point that we become very concerned about wildfires.    I recall doing an EAS session in Tampa Florida a few years back where the average person has a 100% buy-in to the notion that it rains all the time in the Seattle area.  Just for drill I had my host (Ralph Beaver) pull up some climate data.   I picked the month of August where all agreed they would like to have dry weather to enjoy summer activities.    I asked Ralph to look up the normal August precip totals for – New York City, Tampa and Seattle.   They would astounded to hear a local guy report that Seattle was very much the driest of the 3 in August – Our normal is .88 inches.  I’ll let you look up the other locations

I have a party that I communicate with for business that lives in North Carolina – We often compare notes about the weather.   She recently noted that It’s been raining just about every day there for the past month. ATC recently had a couple of fellows out here doing tower inspections.   They commented how nice it was.   I just had to ask them if they missed the Heat, Humidity and Insects.    I wished I had had my camera ready as their expression was priceless.

We were all saddened to hear about the passing of Ellis Feinstein on July 8th in a tragic automobile accident.    For many years he was ‘Mr Scala’.    A truly wonderful, and funny, guy that headed up the southern Oregon antenna company that was known well to all in broadcasting.   He was a big man with a big heart and a wonderful smile.    I recall spending some time chatting with him, and swapping one-liners, at the Broadcasters Clinic in Madison Wisconsin a few years ago.  Memories that are still very much alive with this old guy.   He was just short of his birthday, August 3rd.   He would have been 82.

Have you ever thought about comparing computers to humans?    Try this –

Computers – Insanely Fast – Incredibly Accurate – Utterly Stupid.

Humans – Insanely Slow – Incredibly Error Prone – Utterly Brilliant.

Nothing like looking up to verify the weather – This picture was taken on July 22nd at West Tiger Mt.  At the site known as WTM-1.    Just so happened that the folks that fly these ‘wings’ off of Poo Poo Point caught some great lift and were at probably about 3300 feet.

Regarding the tower in the picture –

  • Yes all the antennas are on the left or west side – There is minimal population the other way.
  • The top black one is 97.3, KIRO-FM
  • The black ‘propellers’ are all part of a Master Antenna used by – KNKX, KHTP, KING, KBKS, KISW, KKWF and KNDD
  • The tall (blueish) pole is a UHF/450 MHz receive antenna
  • The open (No radome) antenna below, in the lower left, is the KIRO-FM antenna that was used for their HD Radio transmission prior to the installation of their new Nautel transmitter.

The picture below was taken with my cellphone camera about 1.5 miles below the summit of West Tiger Mountain.    Yes, the mountains in this neck of the woods are blessed with wonderful wildflowers.  To be honest, I feel blessed to have been able to drive up here for the last 30 years.

Yes, the mountains in this neck of the woods are blessed with wonderful wildflowers.  To be honest, I feel blessed to have been able to drive up here for the last 30 years.

A recent issue of Consumer Reports had quite an article explaining the various means a person can receive television programming.  They did mention the term ‘cutting the cord’.  A recent study shows that some 31 million homes will be doing just that in the coming decade.  In the past all we had was OTA (long before that term was used), then along came cable and satellite systems.  Probably the biggest change was the introduction of wider bandwidth connections for computers and compression schemes that put them in direct competition to the legacy distribution methods.  This same study states that some 17 million will be opting for these new methods in the next decade.  The cord is still there, just a bit different.  TV Broadcasters and program suppliers have, of course, been watching this with great interest.  The next generation of TV standards will more fully embrace all of it.  Farnsworth would never believe it.

For some time now we have been hearing the term ‘Fake News’.  Certainly, the last political season showed how stories based on ‘alternative facts’ were planted to permit the news media to spread false truths to benefit one side or the other.  Reminds me of malware that uses legitimate means to spread bad stuff.  Then there are those news outlets that appear to many to have an agenda that plays right into our politically polarized society.  I have friends that openly tell me that they get their news from sources that tell the news the way that want to hear it and refuse to consume information from those that they don’t agree with.  Which makes me wonder what happened to the days when ‘The News’ was just that – a bunch of facts with no agenda.  With news sources slanted left and right it’s not hard to believe that someone is going to see an opportunity to ‘make a buck’ by being in the middle.  We will see whether there is indeed a market for the truth.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that a couple big names in news, CBS and BBC, are joining forces and have started sharing content.  Wonder what ‘Walter’ would say about this?

The move of Entercom from their long stay at the Metropolitan Park West Tiger to their new digs at 801 5th Ave has been a huge undertaking.  Thankfully Matt Green and Lowell Smith have had a lot of help.  They leave behind a lot of things that were created by Dwight Small over the years.  His attention to detail was very evident.  This move will eliminate one of the last big PR&E console installations (they had many).  In the end, no one wanted the big ABX 8 track console and it went to the dumpster…Some of the smaller boards will live on in various locations.  Could be that KING-FM is the last major station in Seattle with one of these legacy audio mixers.  The days for that too are numbered, as I understand that that station too will be moving to a new location in a couple of years.  On the topic of KING-FM, I have learned that long time station manager, Jennifer Ridewood, is going to retire at the end of the year.

PR&E was started in Southern California by Jack Williams.  Their attention to detail made them the choice of broadcast mixing consoles for many years.  The company also produced several other products including cartridge tape equipment and studio furniture.  The quality that went into their products is the reason for their continued acceptance and the fact that they keep on working.  PR&E was sold to Gates Air and more recently to Wheatstone, who recently announced that they are now producing the DMX mixer.  Like the name Gates, PR&E has deep roots in our industry.

One by one the big analog radio installations, many of which were still using the PR&E equipment, are being phased out in favor of the new AOIP (Audio Over IP) systems.  When the computer revolution started…no one would have thought that the networking of computers would have revolutionized radio, and for that matter, TV, so rapidly.  The analog patch panels are in the dumpsters and the RJ45 based connection points are now firmly in place.  Gone are the walls full of telephone type ‘punch blocks’ and ‘frame wire’.  Having just recently lifted a power supply for one of those old consoles got me thinking about how linear power supplies were all that we knew back then and how heavy everything was.  Like a lot of things I’ve experienced in my very long career – time marches on and change is very much a part of it.  Perhaps the only thing from the past that is still in use are the big towers used by broadcasters.  Add another coat of paint and they keep on doing their job.  But on top, those old ‘light bulb’ based red lights are being replaced with LEDs.

For those of you not in the Vancouver area you have no idea of what the ‘format’ is for AM 730, however, this will likely give you an idea:

Indeed, they are all traffic – all the time.  A lot of radio stations will air traffic reports, with news/talk stations doing them more frequently.  I’ve long wondered why more stations, especially AMs that are trying to find their way these days, are not doing what CHMJ is doing.

Apparently, a US Radio station is going to give it a shot, however with significant differences.  In this case the vehicle will not be an AM Station but rather an HD Channel on an existing FM.  On the up-side – they don’t have the expenses that operating a big AM involves.  On the down side, there are significantly fewer receivers out there.  The good news is the market for an all-traffic operation is for people in vehicles and this is what, perhaps, they are betting on.  As new vehicles are coming with HD Radios, certainly a lot of eyes will be on Pittsburgh.  The station is not going 24/7 traffic but rather 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.  Which makes sense as there are not a lot of traffic concerns at night.  (There are those in Seattle that could argue, however.)  Content will come from CBS Radio’s new national traffic and weather product, provided by Radiate, augmented by local reporters.

 

More big news for Amazon – Their guy, Jeff Bezos, has passed Bill Gates and is now the richest man in the world.  When you consider how big this little Seattle based outfit has become, perhaps this was bound to happen.

Time for another look at Radio (12+) Ratings in Seattle.  First, the top 10:

  • The Bellevue based KQMV whose city of license is Bremerton continues to be a strong #1.
  • Non-commercial radio does very well in this market with KUOW in #3.
  • KNKX continues to make gains, moving up to #5 in a three-way tie with KZOK and KISW.  Quite a story here where the listeners purchased the station from Pacific Lutheran University changing the call letters from KPLU.  Since that time they have continued to gain.
  • A lot of people are wondering what the pending merger of CBS Radio and Entercom will do to this picture.  In the last survey CBS has three of the top 10 and Entercom two.
  • A couple of the area’s legacy 50 kW AMs, KIRO and KOMO, are well below the top ten in mid pack.
  • In the race for the Sports Audience – KIRO is clearly beating KJR.
  • For Country, CBS’ KMPS is doing well against Entercom’s KKWF, which makes the coming merger even more interesting to watch.
  • We are in Radio Market #13 with just over 3.7 million.

Encouraging news for radio owners – Nielson recently reported that Radio continues to reach more Americans than any other platform….93% of the US adult population each week.

If you are or work for an EAS Participant, i.e., an FCC licensed facility that participates with the Emergency Alert System (EAS)….It’s time again to be thinking about the coming National EAS Test and the, introduced last year, Electronic Test Reporting System (ETRS).  There are some changes that you need to know about.  Rather than bore you with all the details, go here for the info you will need – http://www.thebdr.net/articles/fcc/eas/eas.html.  Contact the CORES Help Desk for assistance with creating an FCC Username Account at CORESHelpDesk@fcc.gov or (202) 418-4120.

Despite rumors to the contrary, the FCC has been issuing fines.

  • $66,000 is the amount to be paid by KIBH-FM, an FM Station in Alaska.  Among the reasons, years of multiple warnings related to its EAS, Public File, Station Logs, Main Studio Staffing and failure to designate a chief operator.  The Commish has been seeking answers since 2013.  Not good to ignore the FCC!  Have to wonder, considering the station is an NCE and in a town with likely few resources, if they will reduce the fine.  Considering the number of violations, license revocation may be on the table.

Another Seattle area company has been in the news for a couple of reasons:

  • MSFT is eyeing the spectrum in the ‘outback’ that may not be used immediately as a result of re-packing.  This has hit a nerve, perhaps based on the fact that a good deal of TV spectrum is being lost in the re-pack process.  There are those that see opportunities for future TV operations, translators etc., will be eliminated if the software giant gets its way.
  • The company has announced a good amount of restructuring that will see it laying off a number of people.  The reason cited – re-focusing on cloud based solutions.

There are many ways to rate or identify an area’s business climate.  You have seen me write about this quite a bit in recent columns because the Seattle area is booming.  One way to look at this is the number of construction cranes in operation.  Those are the big ‘T-shaped’ structures that are used today in constructing large buildings.

For the 2nd year in a row, Seattle is the ‘Crane Capital of America’.   Apparently no other city is close.  At the start of July there were 58 cranes at work in the city.  Anyone that has driven through can testify that it looks like a ‘forest of steel’.  I selected some cities from the list to help put this into perspective:

  • Seattle – 58
  • Los Angeles – 36
  • Denver – 35
  • Chicago – 34
  • Portland – 32
  • San Francisco – 22

Probably a good time to mention the results of another study – in case the title was ’39 Cities where most Americans can’t afford their homes’.  Here are some findings regarding Seattle:

  • Only 48.6% of households are able to afford monthly payments.
  • The Seattle metro area is among the most affluent in the United States.
  • The typical area household earns $75,331 a year, roughly $20,000 more than the typical American household.  Still, higher incomes are not enough to cover the area’s housing costs for a majority of residents.
  • The price of a typical single family home in the area is $377,300, higher than in all but 18 other U.S. metro areas.

So how about some other locations?  Denver came in at #32, but very close to Seattle.  Want to be where it’s really expense?  Rated #1 was Santa Cruz, California where only 16% can afford the monthly payments.  Perhaps we should not feel so bad?

Bad news continues on the AM front with 3 more AM’s going silent –

  • WMEX – Quincy, Mass (Signed on in 1934)
  • KKON and KHLO – Hawaii

Turning our attention the big bright thing in the sky.  Certainly the Eclipse has been in the news…But so has the fact that the sun is heading toward another minimum in its 11-year sunspot cycle.  What impact does this have on us?  Ask any Ham Radio operator that operates in the H.F. spectrum and he will tell you that it’s not as much fun.  If you are chasing far away AM Radio stations, you might look at this natural cycle differently.

The NAB is out with their annual list of finalists for the 2017 Marconi Awards.  The winners will be announced on Sept 7th at the NAB Radio Show.  Scanning the list looking for stations in our area…Slim Pickens this year!  Only when I came to this category did I get a hit –

Large Market Station of the Year

WRIF(FM), Detroit

WTMJ(AM), Milwaukee

KQMV(FM), Seattle

WKRQ(FM), Cincinnati

KYGO(FM), Denver

As they periodically do, the FCC released the first Quarter Broadcast Station Totals.  The headlines are:

  • Little change in the number of TV Stations
  • More commercial FM Stations
  • A bunch more Translators
  • As expected, less AMs

Watching the FCC’s Daily Releases I see that, one by one, the area’s TV Stations are filing the required documents for their changes as part of re-packing.  Around the Seattle area, you will see tower activity on most of the big towers in the city, but only one of the West Tiger towers.

I have to wonder what the impact of the Sinclair/Tribune deal will have on this.

The big concern about re-packing is the amount of money that has been set aside to pay for it all and the fact that there will be some negative impact on some 600 FM stations that share towers with TV Stations.  At this writing it appears that support is growing to address this issue.

ATSC 3.0 is in the news too, with many broadcasters expressing excitement over new opportunities.  Perhaps predictably the American Cable Association is not pleased and has made their feelings known to the Commish.

While browsing around I found an interesting item – The 50 highest paying jobs you can get without a college degree.  The issue is that there are a number of jobs for which there is not an associated degree program, however there are likely other, alternative certification requirements.  Thankfully there are, in many states, training programs that prepare a person for employment.  Our state has a number of technical colleges that fill this role.  Here are some examples I pulled from the list:

  • Locomotive Engineer (yes, the term Engineer can be used here).  Median annual wage – $57,670
  • Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment – $59,280
  • Electrical and electronics repairers – $75,670
  • Media and communication equipment workers – $ 75,700

Keep in mind that the market a person is working in will alter these numbers as they are averages.

From the ‘are you ready for this’ department – Its reported that a dermatologist to the stars is advising us that we should wear sunscreen when using cellphones and computers to avoid damage to the skin similar to sunbathing.  Wonder what your co-workers would say if they saw you applying sunscreen and wearing sun-glasses at your desk?  Funny how we never heard these warnings back when we were using DOS based programs and using Green or Amber monitors.

Once again Mike Brooks (KING-FM) has found something that he would like to share with my readers.  In this case, he snapped a picture of a vehicle that, at first glance, appears to be in the business of delivering RFI, which every broadcast engineer knows is Radio Frequency Interference.  Normally I would like to provide a link to their web site – however in this case – I will leave this up to you to do the research.

 

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On June 30th, a number of us met at the West Tiger-2 Site for some spring cleaning (late spring).   Left to right are Arthur Willetts/Daystar, Terry Spring/Ion, Alex Brewster/CBS, some really old, bald guy, named Clay that works for American Tower and Rob Purdy/Hubbard.

 

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While cleaning out my shop recently I ran across this box – How many remember this name?   They also, for a time, made broadcast equipment.  Yes, the contents are intact…wrapped in tissue paper.

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Apparently, there is another crisis in Chicago – This time the Chicago Broadcast Museum is facing a mortgage issue.

Reportedly they have not paid their mortgage since 2015 and are facing a shutdown.  The museum has been in operation for 35 years.  I have a, perhaps tongue in cheek idea, they might wish to seek out some of those that have been keeping the doors open at iHeart Media or Cumulus for advice.  (I could not resist.)

 

This past month I received an email from KIRO-Radio’s IT Guru, Zack Davies, where he sent me a picture of the back of a pickup truck he shot while in Tacoma.  He wrote, “Does K7MO Ring a Bell?”

 

I replied, saying it was my friend Nick Winter.  Sent a copy to Nick who responded that he was on the 56th St. freeway overpass.   Just for grins, knowing that the average person might not recognize Amateur Radio License Plates and might go to Google it to see what it meant.  So I ‘Googled’ K7MO and learned that a K7M0 is a Pittney Bowes Mailstation.  (We used to call these things Postage Meters)

 

Google is interesting because I entered K7MO and it found K7M0 (note the last character is a Zero and not an ‘OH’).  The fact that many say OH when they mean Zero probably had something to do with this.

Looking at the Google findings was also this item – ‘Mailstation 2 Meter Support’.  Any Ham (Amateur Radio Licensee) is going to instantly spot ‘2 Meter Support’.  2 Meters is a very popular band of Amateur Radio frequencies spanning 144 to 148 MHz.

Digging a bit deeper I did find a link to the FCC Data Base showing his license – K7MO.

This got me wondering about my own call letters, K7CR…I learned that a K7CR is an override key for a Master padlock.

Master Lock K7CR – Override Key for 176 and 176 Padlock.

As well as a block heater to keep your engine warm…

As I dug a bit deeper into the items listed for K7CR, I came across this item that was published in the Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club newsletter written by Harry Lewis.  Kind of weird reading something someone else wrote about you  years ago.  Harry and his Wife Mary were active in broadcasting for many years.

If you are a Ham – Google your call letters and let me know if you find something interesting.  Thanks!

 

While I’m on the subject, did you ever wonder why Amateur Radio Operators are called HAMS?  Here’s the answer, thanks to old friend Warren Shulz, legacy broadcast engineer from Chicago.  Why radio amateurs are called “HAMS” (from Florida Skip Magazine – 1959).

Have you ever wondered why radio amateurs are called “HAMS”?  Well, it goes like this: The word “HAM” as applied to 1908 was the station CALL of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club.  They were ALBERT S. HYMAN, BOB ALMY and POOGIE MURRAY.

At first, they called their station “HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY”. Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to “HY-AL-MU,” using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station “HYALMU” and a Mexican ship named “HYALMO.” They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station CALL became “HAM.”

In the early pioneer days of unregulated radio amateur operators picked their own frequency and call-letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better signals than commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur radio activity. In 1911 ALBERT HYMAN chose the controversial WIRELESS REGULATION BILL as the topic for his Thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator DAVID I. WALSH, a member of one of the committees hearing the Bill. The Senator was so impressed with the thesis is that he asked HYMAN to appear before the committee. ALBERT HYMAN took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the BILL went through that they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fees and all the other requirements which the BILL imposed on amateur stations.

The Congressional debate began on the WIRELESS REGULATION BILL and little station “HAM” became the symbol for all the little amateur stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didn’t want them around. The BILL finally got to the floor of Congress and every speaker talked about the “…poor little station HAM.” That’s how it all started. You will find the whole story in the Congressional Record.

Nation-wide publicity associated station “”HAM” with amateur radio operators. From that day to this, and probably until the end of time in radio an amateur is a “HAM.”

Paul Harvey (RIP) would say, you now know the ‘rest of the story.’

73’s

Warren Shulz

WA9GXZ

Griffith, IN

I noted a short piece in the latest issue of Consumer Reports where they state that TV Antennas are making a comeback.  Gives me hope that those big TV Plans may have a future after all.

Broadcasters appear to be all lined up behind the idea of killing the old Main Studio Rule – Now Pubcasters are telling the FCC to kill the Hourly ID rule too, telling the FCC, “Stations should be permitted to identify themselves on-air in a manner that makes the most sense to the local station.”  Other proposals call for the elimination of the rules calling for a Chief Operator and posting of a copy of the station’s license at the transmitter.  Going to see just how far this de-regulation actually goes.

Recently I was involved with a conversation with several local folks regarding the system that permits continued operation of your vehicle’s radio in the I-90 Tunnel.  Here is some of that thread:From what I learned, there are three racks of equipment, one for each of the 3 tunnels.  Each rack contains a broadband amplifier for AM and FM.  This equipment was installed back in 1995 and has largely been un-touched.  As Mike Brooks suggested, this would make a great SBE Chapter Meeting tour.

Now the big question.  Can we assume that this system will continue to function with the Light-Rail system taking over one of the tunnels?  We can assume there are those Sound-Transit riders that will expect their radios to work just as they do in their cars.

I can just imagine how popular the proposal to install 50,000 cell towers in California is.     California cities are fighting a proposal in the state legislature that would allow mobile phone companies to put up antennas for the new 5G systems over the objections of the locals who bring up the old fears of these new devices being near libraries or schools.  Interesting how the same people that fear the dreaded ‘Electromagnetic Radiation’ will also want greater capability for their own personal communications devices.  As a side note – Telecom contributed 2.4 million bucks to candidates, from both parties, in the 2016 elections.

Here in our area, PSERN is installing a number of new towers.  Had lunch with an old friend recently who was telling me about one of these being installed near him.  A neighbor was very concerned about being ‘radiated’.  Nothing is worse than fear of the unknown.  For more info – check out – Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network.

From the ‘how time flies’ Dept., can you believe it was in July of 1962 that the first satellite used to relay TV between the US and Europe was launched?  Telstar.  Boy, have we come a long way since then!

Received a note from Dick Trumbo, Technology Manager of the local Tegna cluster, informing me that he has hired Tim Schall to be the maintenance engineer responsible for their transmitters.  He added that Tim is leaving Cherry Creek Radio in Wenatchee and they are looking for a replacement.  (I found out a couple of days ago that the position has not been filled.)  This will be Tim’s second TV plant in Seattle, having spent some time over on the ‘other hill’ at KCTS-9.  Welcome back Tim.

While I was at the historic KING5 Transmitter site recently, I could not help but notice some of the high-tech tools that were in evidence – The following item was worthy of a picture to share:

Before I forget it, I should mention a conversation I had with Dick up at the Queen Anne Hill RF Factory.  I noted that his title was Technology Manager.  Asking about this, he said the company has dropped the term ‘Engineer’.  Inquiring what the translation was, he said  ‘Chief Engineer’.  I have to admit that this has a nice ring to it.  Wonder what SBE would do if they were to follow?  Society of Broadcast Technologists?

The Broadcast Technology group is having their annual picnic at 4646 SW Council Crest Drive (next to the Stonehenge Tower) on August 5th.  Food stuffing starts at 5 with great conversations to follow.  It’s a potluck.  Bring a salad, side dish or dessert.  Main courses are provided and prepared by Gray Haertig and Randy Pugsley.

In keeping with my tradition of leaving you with an item to either increase your wisdom or bring a smile –

MURPHY’S OTHER FIFTEEN LAWS

  1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  2. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
  3. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
  4. A day without sunshine is like, well… night.
  5. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  6. Those that live by the sword get shot by those who don’t.
  7. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
  8. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there’s a 90% probability you’ll get it wrong.
  9. It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end-to-end, someone from California would be stupid enough to try to  pass them.
  10. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it….Ugh…For the other foot.
  11. The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.
  12. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day, drinking beer.
  13. Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.
  14. God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.
  15. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

Enough of that – Thanks to whoever it was that sent to me.

As I like to say about this time of year….Enjoy Summer, remembering it is our shortest season.  Lord willing, I will catch you in much of these same locations next month.

Clay, CPBE, K7CR