Vicarious Eavesdropping

That little nap yesterday afternoon…Β πŸ˜’Β screwed up my entire night. Didn’t fall asleep until about 3am, and I was up and down almost every hour on the hour from then on out. I don’t know if I was dreaming, since I was watching a huge storm front going through Illinois and Indiana as I was getting sleepy, but it was either that or I just barely slept through what sounded like a huge downpour. πŸŒ§οΈβ›ˆοΈπŸ‘πŸŒ§οΈπŸŒ§οΈΒ As if someone was spraying a hose against the side of my house. (Probably just my imagination.)Β Meh… now I’m just tired and grumpy and have a friggin’ neck / headache again, but hey… at least it’s Saturday. πŸ™‚πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Took my morning meds and some Aleve, so I’ll be feeling better soon. Also, I’ve got a package on the way. 😯 And how can you be in a shit mood when you’ve got a package coming? 😁 Before bed each night, I usually spend a while listening to the scanner, and relaying any interesting bits to Amy, my night-time / insomnia texting wife. 😏 We use that term jokingly, of course… but everyone (if they’re married) has a real spouse, but then you often have a “work wife”, an “internet wife”, a “texting wife”, etc. Anyway, the scanner is great, but I’m far enough from town that reception is sometimes a problem. πŸ€¨πŸ“»

So I found a cheap, wide-band, glass mount antenna with the bitty SMA connector that my Uniden HomePatrol 1 uses – and it’s supposed to arrive today. Hopefully by one of their delivery people that has the GPS system where it’ll pop up a little map, showing where they are, and how many stops until they reach you. πŸ€“πŸ§­πŸšš Gonna tuck the antenna behind the curtain on the picture window, which somewhat faces towards town, so hopefully it’ll give me just enough boost that I’ll stop getting garbled transmissions.

At this point, $20 was about the limit that I was willing to throw at a possible solution, but I did also consider that my metal awnings could possibly used with a magnet mount ground plane antenna. But not only does that start to get outside of my wheelhouse when it comes to antenna knowledge, but they’re also more expensive, and I don’t have an easy way to run the connecting cable into the house. Besdies, I’m not sure I care enough about “perfect reception” to bother doing whatever I’d need to do to get it perfect. 😏 Most services in the area have gone to digital broadcasting anyway, so I imagine it’s only a matter of time before they start using encryption as well – which would make my receiver useless. πŸ˜• Gone are the days of getting a $20 “Bearcat” scanner at a yard sale that would give you access to almost everything you’d wanna listen to.

Okay, enough rambling… just wanted to bang out an entry to help me wake up and get my day started. I doubt I’m gonna be out of the house much over the next couple of days, having no appointments or obligations (and also wanting to avoid the bizarre 90 degree “fall” weather), so that gives me even more reason to anxiously await the arrival of that antenna for one of my toys. πŸ€“πŸ˜Œ It’s honestly too cheap, so I’m not expecting much, but if it gives me just enough gain re: these two specific channels it’ll have been worth it.

Makes me wish for a “Fall Hamvention” … but I probably wouldn’t go to that one either. πŸ˜…Β I miss Hara Arena.

Usually Goes Unnoticed

Was listening to the police scanner last night, after Amy sent me a message saying that she was in town and was seeing a lot more police activity than normal. 😯 I imagine these will both be things that are at least mentioned on the news today, but with the way the LEOs in town use their in-car terminals as much as they use their radios, it was hard to really tell what was going on at the time.

One of the incidents apparently involved an older man… from what I’ve heard, he used to be a doctor or dentist or something… but I guess he’s kinda older and frail now, and is allegedly suffering from some mental issues and possibly some dementia. 😟 But from a short video I’ve seen of the police responding, it sounds like he had a gun and actually fired a shot at the ground as the cops were responding. 😳 People are assuming he was wanting the LEOs to shoot him… but you have to be careful with assumptions. But the video does then show him coming down off his porch, surrounded by cops, getting down on his knees and putting his hands behind his back… and then one of the responding officers comes from behind and kicks him in the back to put him face down on the sidewalk. 😧

It’s a hard thing to watch, because you can put yourself in each person’s shoes. If someone was depressed, so much so that he wanted to die but couldn’t do it himself, that’s sad in itself. Then putting the police, people who are just trying to put in their hours and go home safe each night, in the position where they were probably this close to firing on this guy… you hate to see something that looks like excessive force, especially on someone who may be mentally unstable, but when that unstable person has already fired at least one shot, and could have another weapon in his waistband, you do understand why they may have felt that force was needed. πŸ˜” Sure would have been better to push him to the ground rather than kicking him in the middle of the back like he was a door that was being kicked open though.

The second big incident was an accident on Sheridan involving a motorcycle and two vehicles. The guy on the bike apparently went left of center for some reason, and ran head-on into a vehicle coming in the opposite direction… and then that vehicle went off the road and hit someone in a car in their driveway. πŸ™ The guy on the motorcycle wasn’t wearing a helmet, and unfortunately didn’t make it. But it was even more crappy because Amy told me about it, I was listening on the scanner, she was reading stuff on Facebook… all without knowing who was involved, and it actually turned out to be a friend of Amy’s husband. πŸ˜ͺ

When you listen to “this and that” going down on the scanner, it lacks that teeny bit of “real” since you aren’t hearing everything, you don’t know exactly what’s going on, so you usually end up listening to it as just “stuff going on” in town… but it sure takes on a whole different feeling, especially after the fact, when you were previously somewhat casually listening to everything – only to discover that it involved someone that you actually knew.

But yeah, I didn’t sleep for shit last night, so I slept in until around noon… and grabbing my phone, those were the first things I saw being talked about when I opened my news feed. πŸ₯Ί I was already starting the day without much wind in my sails, but that sad stuff – on a day where everyone else was just having a normal “meh” day or complaining about this or that, while even sadder things like that were happening – it just definitely puts a pin in theΒ “It could always be worse.”Β thought, when I might be feeling a little too sorry for myself about my aches and pains and depression and whatever.

It’s easy to forget that when I’m having a crappy day, that the same day was actually a life-changing day for people that I’ll likely never even know about. I guess the life-changing could be in good ways just as easily as in bad ways like I described above… but yeah, sometimes you unexpectedly get pushed out of your bubble and can’t avoid noticing and feeling it. πŸ˜’

3am Check-In

I’m having one of those nights where I find myself wide awake at 3am, so I came over here to barf out a blog entry… but now that I’ve done so, I realize that I don’t really have anything to talk about. πŸ˜’ Hmm… the night before last, I heard an incident on the police scanner where someone’s couch was set on fire and they were stabbed, and they even had to have a medical helicopter airlift them to a hospital in Columbus. 😳 And that was about all the info that they gave – which was sort of a tease… but of course I hope the d00d is okay.

I dunno… today was just kinda shitty, and this up-all-night crap isn’t going to help me in regards to tomorrow. I’m not going to count on tomorrow sucking though… but I am preparing myself just in case it does. I think that whenever I wake up, I should be able to shake it off and hit the reset button for the beginning of the week. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈΒ We’ll see…

Alright… gonna go time-lapse the night sky again and see how that goes. πŸ€“

EDIT: I think what I need to do, is to just go ahead and say “Okay, you fucked up… tomorrow’s probably gonna be a write off.” and not stress myself out too much about trying to make tomorrow “count” – if I know that it’s just not gonna take. So, if I’m able to be productive or do the things I want tomorrow? Great. If not, then I’ll just cross my fingers, take some Tylenol PMs at a “normal” bedtime hour, and just try again the next day.

The Future Is Now

It’s been a long time coming, but all of the public service agencies in my area have finally switched out their radios, and are now using digital transmitting/receiving rather than the old analog systems that had been in place and unchanged ever since I was a teenager. πŸ‘΄πŸ» So the old police scanners that nearly everyone in Lancaster has… they’re essentially worthless now, at least when it comes to monitoring all of the action in town.

I’m not sure if it was a financial or transparency-based decision, but while they’ve upgraded to a fully digital system, they’ve decided against using encryption. The easiest thing to compare it to is the way that television broadcasts have changed over the past 10 or 20 years. No more analog signals, but if you have a digital cable box or digital tuner you can easily pick up the new transmissions. It’s the same thing with the public service radios… it’s just a different means of broadcasting. πŸ€“ If they went with encrypted systems though, it would be similar to how wireless phones use digital signals, but they’re also encrypted so that nobody but the caller and recipient are able to hear what’s being said. 🀨

The bad news? While you used to be able to buy a $40 scanner to listen to police, fire, and rescue… digital scanners are significantly more expensive. So much so that many people can’t or won’t want to make the upgrade to continue following the activity. πŸ™ And, at least here in Lancaster, an always-running police scanner has been about as common in homes as a stove, fridge, or washing machine. 😏

I had actually been considering getting a new scanner myself, going so far as to have “shopped them out” online so that I knew what I would get if the cost didn’t make me cringe so hard… and while I made the decision then that it was too expensive, hitting that little jackpot at Hollywood the other day has changed my tune. πŸ€— Oh, I still cringed when I loaded up the page of the one I wanted, but I went ahead and ordered it anyway.

The Homepatrol-1 units are basically “Digital Scanners for Dummies.” Where most other next-gen scanners are more computer than radio (with endless programming options and tweaks accordingly) the Homepatrol-1 is more about an easy listening/monitoring experience. It has built-in memory with a database that covers the entire United States, and it is updated weekly by the manufacturer – based off of frequency information provided by the users and staff at RadioReference.com

So, with the way our local departments are still going through changes, as the current frequency information is discovered and updated on the site – all I’ll have to do (in theory) is punch up my zip code in the scanner… and all of the agencies and radio options will automagically appear before my eyes. πŸ˜€ So, along with it being one of the cheaper scanners,Β that’sΒ what actually sold me on it. The ability to start using it as soon as I get it, without having to spend hours figuring it out and programming it. It does have many advanced options though, especially through the included Sentinel software that is used for easier/quicker programming… so yeah, it’ll still be something to challenge my nerd brain as well.

I’m sure it probably seems like a frivolous purchase to a lot of people… but living by myself, outside of the city limits, away from the humans… having a scanner running gives me the sense of “staying connected” with a community that I still consider to be home, even if I’m not in the heart of it. (Plus there’s all kinds of other stuff to search for and listen to on top of that…)

I Vaguely Remember Hobbies

Accidentally allowed myself to feel a little too good yesterday. 😏 As a result I spent a good chunk of the afternoon and evening talking at length with Jim, Amy, Genesee, Ric… and here it is almost 7am the next day and I’m still wide awake. πŸ˜’ Not a big deal, I guess, since I already dealt with the pressing phone calls yesterday. I suppose I’ll just see how long I can stay up, take a nap for a couple of hours, and then hopefully get myself back onto a normal sleep schedule tonight. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ If not… meh.

I ran into Ric (online) as I was watching the Logan Police Department’s live stream. We were catching up with each others’ hobbies, or lack thereof, when he asked me if I had looked into software based radio devices. πŸ€”πŸ€“ I remember Dad talking about being able to buy cards or external devices for amateur radio use, which could be controlled by a GUI on a PC… but I realized that I never looked into it any further than that.

Well, I guess the current “big thing” is police scanners that operate in that same fashion. A few years ago, when many of the LEOs and EMTs started going to trunked or digital systems, the only real games in town were Radio Shack or Uniden police scanners that could easily run in the $300 to $400 range. 😬 But as Hong Kong has a habit of doing, there are now $25 devices (USB? Other?) that you can hook up to a PC that can do the same thing as those scanners (and more) once you find the appropriate software. πŸ˜ƒ

So yeah, that definitely perked my ears… and after I get some rest today I’ll probably get back on the laptop and start doing a little research on those things. The info comes at just the right time too, as my portable scanner is starting to show its age. I’ll update further if I end up pulling the trigger.