July 2012

Here the Unknown Editor will relate to some recent personal experiences in traveling, followed by some relevant comments on the recent International Microwave Symposium up in Montreal in June 2012, if you can stand reading that far.

Mrs. Fowler's Class

This is certainly off topic, but too bad. The email below has to be one of the best pieces of social engineering spam ever:

Hello and greetings from New York and Mrs. Fowler's 4th grade class!

I hope it's ok that I'm contacting you directly! My class is currently working on special "Hobbies & Crafts" unit and as part of an assignment, the students had to go home and find an educational website/resource(s) on a topic of their choice, along with a list of related websites to share those resources with (this is where you come in). My job of emailing their lists of sites is quite the task as you might imagine...

www.microwaves101.com is on one of the students' (Ryan B.) lists, as his father is a fire fighter and he is interested in radios, and his suggestion for you can be seen below:

"Amateur Radio Resources: Scanners"
(note I disabled the link... UE)

His suggestion is for you to add this link to your resource/links page on http://www.microwaves101.com/encyclopedia/ham.cfm> so that others may benefit from it and hopefully learn something new! Some sort of extra credit will be given to the students with the most implemented suggestions to reward them for their hard work!

Thank you for considering playing a role in our project, and please let us know if you post the link so I can share them with Ryan and the class!

Have a great week!

Mrs. Nancy Fowler (and Ryan Byrk)
Tawasentha Hall, Room 224
By learning you will teach; by teaching you will understand. - Latin Proverb

Why would little Ryan want us to post a link to a spam site? Is there really a Mrs. Fowler? Some people believe this is real. Here's sucker with a PhD. How about a link from Oak Ridge National Laboratory's web site? Come on people, where is your spam sense?

Motel Hell

I am not one to complain much, so long as a room has AC and doesn't smell bad. About 25 years ago I stayed overnight at a White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China, as a tourist taking a train from Hong Kong. This hotel was purpose-built in 1983 to generate hard currency, it must have been the nicest place to stay in the entire city. Two things still stick in my mind about staying there. First, was that the tap water (and shower) reeked like raw sewage. Second, although the toilet in the room had one of those "sanitized for your protection" paper bands wrapped around it, when I broke the seal and lifted the lid, I found out that the last person to use it hadn't bothered to flush something that maybe he/she was quite proud of. Talk about unclear on the concept of "sanitized"... In any case I am sure the White Swan offers excellent service these days.

Perhaps the worst hotel experience I have endured as at the Esplanade in White Plains, New York. This hotel is actually an old folks home with some spare rooms. That explains why you might encounter confused old men in their underwear out in the hallways. Because it is an old folks home, don't plan on any amenities such as working air conditioning. If you are there in the evenings you might wander downstairs and check out a Bingo game or sing-along. Read some great reviews of the Esplanade here.

Here are some more recent problems we might all encounter at hotels these days (not specific to Montreal..)

That stupid magnetic key that gets wiped clean by your cell phone. If this isn't modern mediocrity at its best, what is? How about we move out with an RFID key that doesn't suck? When you try to patent that, remember who gave you the idea...

How about those desk lamps with a couple of outlets on the base? Those are really handy, I might ask Santa for that. But what about a hotel that installs them and hooks them to a wall switch, which kills the light and the outlet? How do you like waking up to a dead phone and laptop? How does the front desk like getting complaints about this every day? How about rewiring the room, or adding a warning sign to the lamp?

What about that curved shower rod. It always seems so stressed out holding all that torque against a couple of screws two inches apart, that mess is not gonna hold up long. Why not follow some good advice on the position of the shower rod and forego this lame solution?

And what about calls by the front desk to your room to "see how you are doing". Front desk should not disturb guests. How do they know if we are knee deep in dead hookers? Leave us alone, please.

The Sleep Number Bed has been adopted by Radisson. The only thing you can say that is good about Sleep Number is that they dropped their ads from the Limbaugh show. Here is my complaint: the sleep number bed is an air mattress. There are three stages of domestic life after you get out of college, which have to do with guests: When you are young and poor, you might buy an inflatable mattress for your guests... then later you might get a house with a guest room and a real bed. At my age you close your house from guests, if anyone wants to visit, you pay them to stay in a hotel. The point here is that an air mattress is crap, it is not a real bed. It is for camping. It makes you sweat. Having an air compressor in your room feels like you are sleeping in a gas station. Read other people complaining about Sleep Number here.

Moving on to the Crowne Plaza... please stop with the "sleep aides", and consider getting some better sound insulation, or moving another block away from noisy sites such as LAX airport. Lavender spray for the sheets? Don't you wash them between guests?

Chill music... this is especially prevalent at Weston properties. Not that long ago, Musak declared bankruptcy, perhaps because selling elevator music is not a great value proposition. The history of Musak is a proud one, Major General George Squier developed multiplexing after WWI, and formed a company that provided the first content streams to client companies, riding on power lines, as opposed to broadcast companies that stuffed their content with advertising from the beginning. Musak was the original "cable company", and they were pioneers in franchising. But the average person doesn't want to hear Muzak, or "Chill music" for that matter. I realize that you can't play Blues, Rock, Rap, Techno, or Dubstep, how about just silence? Or maybe Chopin, Lizst, Debussy, Dvorak, or Saint Saens? If you want something that no one will object to, you cannot go wrong with Romantic composers on piano.

Listen to this?

Or this?



Here's a hint for frequent travelers within the United States. If you want good service with a smile, wear an Obama 2012 shirt. I have never met a rental car van driver, flight attendant or TSA employee that claimed to be a Republican. The Tea Party is likely to vandalize an Obama sign on your lawn, but none are man enough to bother you to your face.

Speaking of airports, specifically DFW, why can't they add some outlets so people don't have to crawl under chairs looking for one that is not busted? Wait, I know the answer, you want me to join the Admiral's Club for six hundred bucks to support your bankrupt state airline. Not happening. I added an extended battery pack to the ol' laptop to work when I am passing through. Say, how about adding some recycle bins? Or is everything that is bigger in Texas include the Dallas dump?

As for the new millimeterwave scanners that "see your junk", I have no problem with that. This might be a generational thing. Back in the 1970s we actually used the showers in high school during gym class, and went skinny dipping with girls occasionally. OK, it was dark out, and that cop car made me swim to the opposite side of the lake and almost lose my clothes.... but Generation Whatever (anyone from 13 to 33) never stripped down for a shower in front of anybody, even if they were on the high school football team. No wonder scabies and ring worm are the new sports mascots. Now that you are old enough to join a club, here's a suggestion... don't bring your four year old daughter into the locker room. I know it wouldn't occur to you to use it to get changed, but don't act all surprised and upset your kid sees some 70 year old wedding tackle.

Back to the scanners, and some more 1970s personal history. During four summers of college I carried on average approximately ten tons of masonry supplies each week day, on my "internship" as a laborer, which at the time was unofficially referred to as "N-word". Over four years that adds up to over 3,000,000 pounds of stuff I carried, and one outcome of this is I have some gnarly veins sticking out in one leg. The world record for carrying stuff in one day dates back 150 years and belongs to Irish immigrants. The Central Pacific railroad team once laid ten miles of track in a single day, all of which was carried by eight men, each hefting 125 tons. I doubt that feat could be duplicated today, but if it was, it could only be done by Mexicans. Unless you live in Massachusetts, you've probably not encountered an Anglo lifting anything heavy, and if you do live in Massachusetts, no one would actually carry a heavy object, they would use a fork lift or crane.

Why am I mentioning this? Because millimeterwave scanners that now block out your junk see varicose veins and highlight them. Then some poor schmuck has to bend down and feel a bunch of scary-looking legs. Imagine doing that all day? Surely we can do better with scanners, someone go figure that out.

Watch ugly leg veins being destroyed by RF ablation in the video below. Remember, this is a microwaves web site, you should want to learn about medical uses of microwaves.



This was the first "International Microwave Symposium" that was actually outside the United States. Like the first National Baseball team outside the country, it happened in Montreal. Corporate Tool shirts were out in full force! Let's look at some random highlights....

The Good

(perhaps only Marco offered to give her a massage)

The Bad (I waited 90 minutes and paid $40 for this?)

And the Ugly


And the Beautiful....

Santron Girl received many unsolicited proposals during the show no doubt, from lonely and unworthy engineers, and handled all of them gracefully by pretending to only speak French. Keep smiling, someone has to do that in this industry! When I look at her picture, I keep forgetting, what does Santron make? I'll take some of whatever it is, si'l vous plait.


On display was a copy Canada's first satellite, Alouette I. This satellite was launched back on September 29, 1962, and represents the first satellite built in a country besides the USSR and the US. It orbited at 100 km, and helped study the ionosphere for 10 years and sent back 1,000,000 images, although it was designed for one year lifetime spec. Bravo!


An interesting version of Alouette

But what about that song, Alouette, that dough boys came back from WWI singing? It is about plucking the feathers off of a lark, starting with the beak (which doesn't make a whole lot of sense). Apparently poor Alouette is about to become an ingredient in some questionable French cuisine. Je te plumerai la tete means "I will pluck your head". I'd guess that most Americans probably think it is a love song...

Et le bec (and your beak)

Et la tête (and your head)

Et le cou (and your neck)

Et le dos (and your back)

Et les ailes (and your wings)

Et les pattes (and your feet)

Et la queue (and your tail)

Saute Moutons

Saute Moutons literally means "jump the sheep", but in this case the sheep are some pretty big waves. The Saute Moutons boats are specially designed, dual-diesel jet boats (1600 horsepower total thanks to Cat) that can muster 50 knots on a calm surface. Saute Moutons' sheep mascot is named Marty in case you were wondering. They can easily power though the Lachine rapids on the Saint Laurence river in any direction, and you can be a passenger for $67 if you can find 11 other passengers to go with you (seating for more than forty Canadians, or perhaps 20 Americans). The name Lachine was given centuries ago when explorers were looking for the northwest passage, which they though would take them to China (La Chine en Francais). You will experience a full frontal assault of water, especially if you sit in one of the front two corners. The boat can fill completely with water (chest high) but self-bails quickly through two openings on the stern. You can bring a change of clothes, or you can leave yours in the locker room, just put on the raincoat they lend you and no one will know... you might want to take a shower when you get home.

Sorry about the chill-laxing music if you click the video below...


If you want to be a real joker, secretly bring a small fish with you, and put it in your mouth after a big wave. Wish I had thought of that earlier...

So, what is the chance that you will be swept overboard on a Saute Moutons boat? Turns out it is 4 parts per million. At their other enterprise at Devil's Hole at Niagara Falls, they once hit enough water to submerge passengers so that their heads were underwater for five seconds, and two twenty-something year old sisters were washed overboard. No harm done, but a big investigation followed and the boats were modified so that the self-bailers were less restricted. Probably, that pilot took some additional training...

Speaking of La Chine, China and other Asian countries were well represented at the IMS symposium. You might have witnessed some Asians with non-existent company affiliations walking the exhibits, taking pictures of cool technology. An example of the Microwaves101-invented word ChiTar...

Note to Asian microwave companies... , send me your banners next year and I will spell check them for a small fee. I am serious. If you want to put your best foot forward you need to do this. "EM Deisgn", "Swatches", and "Wireiess" were all on sale at Montreal.

Say, just because no one visited your booth, don't be a slob and dump your lunch on the carpet on your way out of town...


The Past, and the Future

In the historical exhibit there was a picture of the "first MMIC". We have said for years that Pengelly and Turner were the first to demonstrate a MMIC (they are in our Hall of Fame), because we only consider an amplifier on GaAs to be the real deal, not a switch on silicon, or a doubler or whatever else happened way back when.


This might be a picture of the future. Here we see a solid state microwave oven, a collaboration between Midea and Freescale. It had to happen eventually, the question is, how long will it take before LDMOS transistors can compete with fifteen dollar magnetrons? Remember where you saw this picture first, some day you will own one of these. I can't wait to apply the technology to a pair of White Castle sliders....




MEMS... if you went to the panel session, you might have heard the word "desperate" a dozen times. The "Might Eventually Make Something" technology has lost all support from DARPA according to MTO program manager Bill Chappel. MEMS and DARPA relationship might be well described as a girl friend that is less than sincere in her intentions, as in the "me love you long time" offer in Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. See Bill wearing a chicken suit here, he is a great guy. It was fun to hear MEMS guys whining about the $100M that DARPA already spent on this technology, especially the part about how it was spread out to 20 different companies... suck it up.


Poutine is a French word for eating vomit. Hope you enjoyed your portion, I skipped mine.

Speaking of food, we could have done a little better at the Sunday reception. There was a couple thousand people, and a couple hundred shrimp. I was hoping to get a picture of the last shrimp stuck to the "shrimp thing" but the guy in front of me nabbed it.

See you next year (hopefully)!


Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!