Monday, February 6, 2012

Update on the future of this blog

Hello there. I'm sure by now you've noticed the total lack of updates on this blog. Allow me to explain the two primary reasons why I have not updated my blog in a while.

1. Job Searching
I have devoted much of my time to finding meaningful employment. As a result, I haven't had the time to post updates here anymore.

2. Writing
I became the Montreal Hockey Examiner on Examiner.com in November 2011, where I write daily articles about the beleaguered Montreal Canadiens. That has been going relatively well, although the team has been struggling greatly. In January, I began writing about the Habs for a second site, TheHockeyBeat.com. Writing for two sources eats up a lot of my time, which leaves me no time to devote to updating this blog.

So what does the future hold for MDX? At this point in time, I don't know. Perhaps I'll return to blogging someday, but until that day arrives, I am forced to put MDX on the back burner for a while. I won't be deleting the blog outright, though; everything will remain as it is.
 
I hope this explanation clarifies the lack of updates here. Thank you for your understanding. if you would like to get a hold of me, you can follow me on Twitter @MarkEDavid

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

AM radio band + better nighttime signals
= random stations on your radio that you
wouldn't normally hear in your area.
^ If you know where the above title is from, you win my approval.

If you read this blog with some level of regularity, then you'll know that I'm a longtime radio geek, and that I've worked for several radio stations, including 1650 AM Radio Shalom.

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved radio. I used to take my mini transistor radio to bed with me at night, hide it under the pillow, and when my parents left, I'd turn it on, plug in my headphones, and listen to my favourite stations before heading off to sleep.

When I got a relatively cheap stereo system as a Bar Mitzvah present, I started listening to the radio more and more. The coolest thing about this stereo system was that instead of having a knob for the tuner, it had up and down buttons, like an elevator. This made it much easier to switch stations.

Anyway, one evening, I was scanning through the AM band, and I started picking up more stations than usual. Many of them weren't even from the Montreal market. Intrigued, I kept doing it, because it was interesting to see what kinds of stations I could pick up. I later found out that if I moved the radio or its antenna in different directions, I could pick up even more stations.

Fast-forward to today. I've since learned that I was not alone in my interest in AM dial scanning, and that the art of picking up out-of-market radio stations is called DXing. DX is an abbreviation that comes from the days of the telegraph, and it is short for "distance" or "distant".

In recent days, I've been doing some late-night DXing. It's often better to do this at night, as the signals are often clearer at night. According to the Wikipedia article on AM band DXing, when the sun sets, AM stations whose signals are usually impeded by the D-layer of the ionosphere begin bouncing off the the F-layer instead, which makes for better reception of both stations in your broadcast area, and those from other places. I usually position my radio in front of my window so that the signals can beam in better.

The more hardcore DXers have special ways of logging what they find, and even have DX clubs and such. My logs are simple; they consist of a table I created in Microsoft Word that lists the frequency (kHz), the call sign, the location, and one-word review of the reception (Good, Fair, or Poor). Other DXers will log things like the amount of time listened, and what exactly they heard on each frequency.

DXing is fun because every experience is a new adventure. Below are some highlights of far-off stations that I've logged over the past few days:

-WTIC 1080 AM, Hartford, CT
-WWVA 1170 AM, Wheeling, WV
-WEEI 850 AM, Boston, MA
-CFTR 680 AM, Toronto, ON
-WJR 760 AM, Detroit, MI
-WVMT 620 AM, Burlington, VT
-WPRO 630 AM, Providence, RI
-WHJJ 920 AM, Providence, RI
-WBZ 1030 AM, Boston, MA
-WWMK 1260 AM, Cleveland, OH
-WYOS 1360 AM, Binghamton, NY
-WDRC 1360 AM, Hartford, CT
-CKPC 1380 AM, Brantford, ON
-KXEL 1540 AM, Waterloo, IA - The furthest station I've logged thus far.
-WNWR 1540 AM, Philadelphia, PA

The majority of these stations were all-news or news / talk formats; the AM dial is usually full of these. I usually listen to each station I find long enough to hear a station ID with a call sign and frequency, and then I plug that information into Google and Wikipedia to find out where the stations are from. Also, I always seem to pick up the same five or six legendary AM stations from New York City, such as WFAN 660, WABC 770, and WCBS-AM 880, among others.

If you like playing around with your radio at night, you should consider hopping on the DX Express. You'll be pleasantly surprised by what you might pick up.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - Ten Years Later

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. To date, this tragic event is always remembered as one of the worst attacks ever on the United States. It affected many people around the world, especially the families of those who lost their lives.

It is often said that when an event such as this one occurs, everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing at the time. I am no exception.

On September 11th, 2001, I was into my second year as a student as Centennial Academy, a private high school in Montreal. Unfortunately, I was leaving early because I hadn't been feeling well that day.

As I was heading downstairs from my class to leave the school, I ran into my friend Stefan, who appeared to be in a hurry.

"What's the matter?" I asked him.

"Something crazy just happened," he replied, a bit out of breath.

"What happened?"

"Someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center in New York City."

"What? How? There's no way that's possible."

"I'm not kidding, man. Go check out the news."

As soon as I got home, I threw off my coat and school bag, and ran for the nearest TV set. I switched it on, tuned to CNN, and sure enough, Stefan had been right. CNN was showing footage of two airplanes flying right into the Twin Towers. Then they switched to footage of the city below. People were running all over the place, and the entire area was covered in dust and rubble. Soon afterwards, the two 110-story towers crumbled to the ground.

And just like that, it had happened. I was shocked; I couldn't speak at all. This kind of attack was unthinkable. Why would anyone ever do such a thing? Stefan was right; this certainly was crazy. Devastating, too.

I later heard that many schools in Montreal, including my own, had let their students out early because of the World Trade Center attacks. And then the rumours began. Suddenly, it seemed that planes had crashed almost everywhere. Heck, I even heard a rumour that a plane had crashed in Hampstead, which is right next to Cote-Saint-Luc, where I live. Of course, that wasn't true, and if it had been, we probably would have heard about it.

The same day, another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon Buliding in Arlington County, Virginia. Would the attacks ever stop? I thought. Eventually, they did, but not after claiming the lives of nearly 3,000 people. Many of these individuals were members of New York City's police force and and firefighting squad. On that they, their heroic efforts made them truly deserving of the superlative of "New York's Finest".

Lest we forget this most tragic day. So many lives were lost, and so many families were devastated by this event. Since then, the United States made it their business to crack down on terrorism and significantly increase homeland security. Their efforts have not been in vain. Earlier this year, under the administration of U.S. president Barack Obama, Osama bin Laden, the man behind the World Trade Center attacks, was found in Afghanistan, and promptly disposed of. It was a major victory for the U.S., but nothing could replace the thousands of people lost in the attacks ten years prior.

So today, on the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, let us all take some time to reflect and remember those who perished. Even if we did not necessarily know all of these people, it is important that we never forget them. The U.S. may have gotten rid of bin Laden, but the war on terrorism wages on. Nevertheless, the U.S. will continue to tirelessly fight the good fight, for the good of us all.

We must never forget, and we must never surrender.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tragic Plane Crash Claims Lives of Numerous KHL Players

Nearly all of the members of the KHL's
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team have died
in a tragic plane crash.
Just wanted to get on the ol' blog today and do a quick tribute to the Kontinental Hockey League's Locomotiv Yaroslavl team. I just read this morning that nearly all of the players on the team perished in a terrible plane crash this morning.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl's roster consisted of several former NHL players, including forward Pavol Demitra, and defencemen Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins. There were a few survivors, but they are are listed as being in critcal condition.

So far, this offseason has been one of the saddest I've ever seen. We've heard about the deaths of NHL enforcers Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, and most recently, Wade Belak. And now, this happens. These events have been as tragic as they have been saddening.

My heart goes out to the families of the 43 people who were killed in this crash. From what I've been reading, the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players were very much looking forward to the start of their league's new season. It's a shame that things turned out as they did.

May they all rest in peace.

Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog has more information on this story here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Commentary: CKAC Montreal to Flip to All-Traffic Format

I'm back after a one-day rest from regular blogging. Several news items have emerged since them, and one of them hits very close to home, radio-wise.

As of 10 AM on Sept. 2nd,
the sports talk format on
CKAC 730 AM is no more.
A flip to an all-traffic format
is imminent.
This morning at 10 AM, CKAC 730 AM, which had been the home of a French-language sports talk format, dropped its format and announced that it would be launching an all-traffic station branded as Radio Circulation 730 on Tuesday, September 6th. Many elements of CKAC's sports format, including broadcasts of Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Alouettes, Montreal Impact, and Universite de Montreal Carabins games, have been moved over to sister station CHMP 98.5 FM. The latter is a French-language FM talk station that has been in existence for several years. CKAC is currently playing random music, interspersed with a recorded annoucement from Cogeco Montreal president Richard Lachance announcing the upcoming changes.

Ever since the closure of CINW 940 AM and CINF 690 AM in January 2010, Cogeco had applied to the CRTC to launch this all-traffic format in English on 940, and in French on 690. However, their decision was expedited recently by a $1.5 million sunsidy from the Ministere du Transport de Quebec. Thus, the idea to re-launch 690 was immediately thrown out, and the decision to flip 730 was made instead. The application to re-launch 940 is still alive, though, and Cogeco is pressuring the CRTC to have a hearing with them about acquiring 940 as soon as possible.

On paper, a station with an all-traffic format sounds highly bizarre and unconventional. When 940 and 690 were running all-news formats, they gave traffic updates every 10 - 15 minutes or so. The new station on 730 will be doing so continuously throughout the day. Many people are wondering whether or not this is a good idea. Montreal blogger and The Gazette copy editor Steve Faguy, A.K.A. Fagstein, has said on his blog that the decision to launch an all-traffic station is a bad one, and is also a big waste of money.

I personally don't see how an all-traffic format could work in this city either. Yes, there are often traffic issues in Montreal, but what happens if there's nothing significant to report on? Do the announcers just sit there and kill time on the air? Think of what would happen at a major news outlet like CNN if there was no real news to report on. They wouldn't have much to work with, and they'd spend their on-air time hemming and hawing.

The other problem I see with this new format is that it could get very boring and repetitive fast. Let's say, for example, that it takes the Radio Circulation announcers 15 minutes to report on traffic updates from around the city. If nothing changes after that 15-minute period, then the announcers would literally have to repeat the same news over and over again until something new happens. And what would happen overnight when there is virtually no traffic anywhere? To me, that just doesn't make any sense.

Cogeno is taking a massive gamble with this new format, and it's one that I don't think will pay off in the end. They'll be taking an even bigger gamble if they manage to get an English equivalent on 940. According to Fagstein's post on this subject, Cogeco is scheduled to have a hearing with the CRTC about the 940 application on October 17th.

I don't have a crystal ball in front of me, but I predict that Radio Circulation will run into many problems. Although the Quebec government is footing the bill, this idea, to me, does seem like a waste of funds and resources. If the station does, in fact, fail, I have a feeling that Cogeco will return the sports format to CKAC. If not, then they can always try to put it on 690.

The interesting thing about all of this is that CKAC was a relatively popular station, and was doing fairly well in the Francophone ratings for the Montreal radio market. However, when the Quebec government offered Cogeco the subsidy, they suddenly got dollar signs in thei eyes, and they decided to change CKAC's format immediately.

So in the end, this change is being made strictly because the government dangled a fat and juicy carrot in front of Cogeco, who was more than eager to gobble it up.

Radio Circulation will make its official debut on Tuesday, September 6th at 4:30 AM. I'll try to get an audio recording of it, if possible.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mark's Top Websites

Update: I tweeted a link to yesterday's article to Greg Benson of Mediocre Films - @mediocrefilms - on Twitter yesterday, and he said the bit about his YouTube channels made his day. Is that awesome, or what?

And now, to today's post about my favourite websites on the Interwebs.

Every day, billions of people around the world surf the Internet for a wide variety of reasons. It could be for doing research, connecting with friends, reading news headlines, looking for jobs - I do that a lot - , watching videos, or even taking care of personal finances.

Naturally, everyone has a series of different websites that they frequent on a daily - or hourly; hello, Facebook - basis. Here is a list of some of the websites that I visit.

1. Facebook
Like many people, I have become a Facebook junkie over the years. I joined the popular social networking site back in 2006, when it was in its infancy. Five years later, Facebook has blossomed into one of the most popular websites in the world. Almost everyone I know uses Facebook and has a profile there. The site allows you to connect with friends and family, share photos and videos, and even play games, some of which are rather addictive. Facebook has taken a bit of a hit in recent years because of provacy issues, but founder Mark Zuckerberg and his crack team of programmers are constantly developing new and interesting ways to keep your information safe. If you're not already on Facebook, you really should be. MySpace is, like, so 2006.

2. Twitter
As little as two years ago, I was opposed to the idea of using Twitter. I didn't really see a point of micro-blogging - all posts must be 140 characters long or less - and I thought that it was only for celebrities. Earlier this year, I changed my tune. Several of my friends were using this platform to communicate, so I decided to jump on the Twitter bandwagon and see where it would take me. It turned out to be a good idea. I follow people more than I Tweet - most of my Tweets these days have been links to my articles on this blog - and I find it interesting to learn about what several people I admire are thinking daily. Some Tweets provide useful news updates, while others are just plain funny or random. But it's all part of the process at Twitter, and I'm certainly enjoying the ride. If you're interested, you can follow me on Twitter. My account is @MarkEDavid.

3. TSN.ca
The official website of The Sports Network (TSN), Canada's answer to ESPN. Basically, TSN is exactly like ESPN, only with hockey coverage. ESPN provides very little NHL coverage, but I digress. TSN.ca is my one-stop shop for sports news, and their coverage is excellent. They literally cover all the bases, so you can get your updates on the latest happenings in your favourite sport(s) quickly. They also have lots of video highlights for those who love to re-live those epic sports moments again and again. If you're a sports junkie like I am - okay, I'm mostly a hockey junkie, but still - stickhandle your way over to TSN.ca today, and get yourself in the loop.

4. Yahoo! Canada
Yahoo! Canada has been my default homepage for as long as I can remember. It serves as the portal to all of my web surfing adventures. In addition, it also houses my two e-mail accounts - personal and business - and provides useful news updates. Usually, when I want breaking news updates, Yahoo! Canada is the first place I look. They also have some interesting specialty articles and blogs - their array of sports blogs are very impressive - and they've got fun games to play, too - my all-time high score on Text Twist is 129,000 points; challengers welcome. Basically, if you're looking for a good place to start your daily web surfing expeditions, Yahoo! Canada is the place for you.

5. RadioInsight
I'm a fan of many things, one of them being radio. Like with the other things I follow, I like to stay on top of what's happening in the world of radio. RadioInsight, managed by long-time radio enthusiast Lance Venta, is one of the best places to get your radio news fix. Lance digs deep and often has information about upcoming format changes and other such things way before they're officially announced. As a collector of airchecks myself - I've been doing it since 2007; I specialize in format changes - I often look to RadioInsight first before deciding what to record, and when. Lance also runs a cluster of other radio-related websites, including the Format Change Archive - some of my format change airchecks are featured there - which is an online database of format change airchecks from the past and present. So if you like to stay a few steps ahead of what's going on in the wide world of radio, be sure to visit RadioInsight.

6. BuzzerBlog
BuzzerBlog is to game shows what RadioInsight is to radio. Managed by Alex Davis, who has several years of industry and production experience, BuzzerBlog provides its readers with up-to-date information about the world of game shows. In addition to providing extensive coverage of North American game shows, the site also keeps tabs on what's happening in the U.K. Alex and his team of contributors also give detailed set reports and behind-the-scenes info about new productions on occasion, in addition to video highlights of significant happenings. As a game show fan for many years, I like to stay updated on the game shows I watch, and I have this site to thank for introducing me to several new game shows like Take the Money and Run and It's Worth What?, which I reviewed in earlier posts. So, to sum it up in a Jeopardy!-style clue, "It's the blog with all the latest game show news and information." *presses buzzer* "What is BuzzerBlog?"

7. That Guy With The Glasses
Would you believe that this site is actually run by a by a guy with glasses? Well, it's true, my friends. That Guy With The Glasses, often abbreviated as TGWTG, is the brainchild of Chicago native and occasional animator Doug Walker. The home of the wildly-popular film review show The Nostalgia Critic - produced, written, and portrayed by Walker himself - TGWTG features a wide variety of videos about everything from video game play-throughs to comedy sketches, all of which are sure to appeal to everyone's inner geek. Although Walker's material is the primary focus of the site, TGWTG also has numerous contributors who specialize in different subjects. No matter what your geeky interests are, TGWTG is sure to have something that will suit your tastes.

And there you have it, folks. Seven of the websites that I make a daily habit out of visiting. Obviously, I visit other websites outside of this one - YouTube being one of them, but that was the subject of yesterday's post - so I may do a follow-up article later on. I hope you enjoyed this article. As always, stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mark's Top YouTube Channels

If you're like me, and you enjoy watching videos on YouTube, chances are, you're subscribed to several different channels that produce content you enjoy. Theses channels may be funny, interesting, insightful, or just plain weird. But either way, they produce videos that keep you coming back for more.

The following is a list of my favourite channels in YouTube, in no particular order. You may have heard of some of these channels before, but if not, you're in for a treat - and a bit of a learning experience, at that.

1. MediocreFilms & mediocrefilms2
You can't say hilarious without mentioning Mediocre Films and its creator, Califorina native Greg Benson. Specilalizing in funny, crazy, or just plain bizarre videos, Greg's sketches, vlogs, and occasional forays into douchebaggery are always sure to get you laughing. The primary channel, MediocreFilms, features Greg's comedy sketches and various other things, while mediocrefilms2 features vlogs and anything else not featured on the primary channel. Of special interest is the official YouTube channel of Yeshmin Blechin, one of Greg's most popular characters. Regardless of which Mediocre Films channel you watch, you'll be in for some great, laugh-a-minute action. The fun never stops with Mediocre Films.

2. JPizzle1122, A.K.A. Jogwheel Productions (Formerly ideo Productions)
The brainchild of Bostonian Jonanthan Paula and his co-contributors / partners-in-crime Jory Caron, RileyMcIlwain and Ryan Lewis. This channel is most famous for their hit show, Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This?, where microwave scientists Jory and Riley put random things into their microwave(s) so you don't have to. The Microwave Show, as it is often called, recently ended its run after four years and 300 experiments, but Jon and his friends continue to produce cuting-edge content daily. You'll find sketches, movie reviews, and even roller coaster rides, among other things. Definitely worth the visit.

3. Jon's World
If you like the content on Jogwheel Productions' main channel, you'll be sure to like the content on Jonathan Paula's personal channel. Here, Jon rants about news headlines (The World According to Jon), plays popular video games (Game Time), and shares his random adventures (Jon's Adventure Vlog). I enjoy his rants, and his Adventure Vlogs are always fun to watch. If you like this kind of stuff, head on over and check it out.

4. Epic Meal Time
"Bacon strips, and bacon strips, and bacon strips," and lots of videos about gargatuan gastronomic - and highly fattening - creations. That's what these Montrealers - they're actually from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, but that still counts - do on their channel. Join Harley Morenstein and the gang for lots of fun with food. Each meal is usually more epic than the one that preceded it, and watching how they make the epic meals is just as fun as watching them eat it afterwards. If you're a foodie, and you love to experiment with different kinds of food, Epic Meal Time's videos are sure to please you.

5. FPS Russia
I discovered this channel through a guest spot that this channel's creator, Dimitri, did with the Epic Meal Time guys, aptly titled Russian Meal Time. The primary focus of this channel is demonstrations of various kinds of firearms. Now, I'm not really a fan of weaponry, but Dimitri's presentation style make the videos fun to watch. Needless to say, this "Professional Russian", as he calls himself, has a pretty "explosive" personality, so to speak. If you like to wake up to the smell of napalm in the morning, consider checking this channel out.

6. mrSimon34
What do you get when you cross YouTube Poops, musical creations, and other auditory oddities? You get the interesting works of England's Simon McClure. Computer animator by day, unique content producer by night, Simon's always got some cool stuff to share with his audience. Also worth checking out are Simon's alternate channels, The Electric Cheese, mrSimon's Scraps, and the web music label he founded, ROFLTrax (A.K.A. Breakbit).

7. College Humor
I absolutely love these guys and the stuff that they make. An extension of the website of the same name, College Humour's YouTube channel features hilarious sketches, parodies, pranks, randomness, and much more. And the best part of it all is that you don't have to be enrolled in a college in order to enjoy their content. How awesome is that?

Well, there you have it. I've gotten countless hours of enjoyment from these seven YouTube channels, and I hope that you do too.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss some of my favourite websites on the vast super-highway of information that they call the Interwebs. Stay tuned for that.