The cool side of curiosity.

One of my favorite radio stations is WKGR (also known as The Gater) which specializes in classical rock music. One day as I was listening to a song I was particularly fond of, there was a short interruption in the signal that briefly took the station off the air. Later the DJ came on and said there was a problem with the transmitter in Martin County that got fixed, so he replayed that same song.

I’ve since become aware that the radio station itself is not far from where I live here in West Palm Beach, and I’ve even driven past it numerous times. On the building itself are logos for some of the other radio stations that serve my area. That got me curious about where the DJ’s work. For years that curiosity kept nagging me until finally I decided to send an e-mail to the afternoon DJ to put to rest this nagging question once and for all.

I have a question that’s been nagging me for quite a while. Years ago I remember hearing you say that the transmitter for the Gater is in Martin County, and I know the radio station itself is on 45th Street. It does look like a rather small building for the radio stations serving our area. I keep thinking it must be crowded in there! Is there a separate location where you DJ’s broadcast from?

Later on that same day I got this response.

Actually our building is huge. There are 50 desks (not all occupied) in the sales area. We have 6 on air studios, a giant bullpen, 10 bathrooms, manager’s offices, on-line too. Call me and I’ll give you a tour sometime.

Even better, the DJ gave me his phone number. I’ll take him up on his offer for the tour of the station as soon as I find some time in my busy schedule. Finally, I’ll get to meet one of my favorite DJ’s in person.

It’s cool to be curious.

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Jamming with the Jup.

I work in the town of Jupiter, Florida, where I don’t think many of its residents are aware of their town having its own radio station. The call letters are WJUP-LP but it’s better known as The Jup. It broadcasts on 103.9 on your FM dial and is a low power station, so its signal is weak and doesn’t cover as wide an area as the larger radio stations do. But it does serve up music from decades past, including songs I haven’t heard in years, so this station is a real treat to tune in whenever I drive through Jupiter.

I remember this station started out as WJTW, which also featured older music along with interesting stories on the history of Jupiter as well as information on historical places to visit in Florida. Since then the station has grown to bring its own DJ on board along with hourly news and frequent weather reports.

This seems to be a unique concept in radio stations. A low power station that covers only a small area and allows local businesses there to advertise their services to give the station a hometown feel. I can’t help wonder how many such stations there are in this country.

You can listen to The Jup’s online stream here.

UPDATE: It looks like this station’s changed again. It’s been recently acquired by Omega Church Radio and now plays gospel music under the new call letters WOIB.

Recording Internet radio with Audacity.

Earlier this week, South Florida’s only classical music station was sold to an outside media company that has already changed the station’s format to contemporary Christian programming. This is a huge loss for fans of classical music throughout South Florida. Alas, all is not lost. Classical music programming can be now accessed online at YourClassical, where you can access live streams of music as well as fine programs such as Performance Today and Pipe Dreams.

While it’s nice to be able to listen to classical music online, I still wouldn’t have anything to listen to during my long bike rides. I would have along my portable radio tuned to Classical South Florida to add a majestic soundtrack to my ride but with that station now gone, I was left to ponder other solutions.

Then it dawned on me that I could record a few hours of the live stream at YourClassical and then put it on my iPod for later listening. The tricky part was finding the right program to do this. Previously I was using Easy Hi-Q Recorder to record off my regular radio through an external sound card. In fact I hadn’t used it since I upgraded to Windows 7 several years ago, and when I tried it out last night, it failed to detect my sound hardware, not even after following the documentation to get it to work with Windows 7.

I tried a few other free Internet radio recorders such as Station Ripper and StreamWriter but they didn’t work for me either. They do pick up other online music streams with no problem, but not the one at YourClassical. I’m thinking that one stream is set up to play only through web browsers. So I was stuck.

The solution happened to lie in a program already installed on my system. Audacity came in handy some years ago when I needed to record my vinyl records to MP3 files, and now it’s come to the rescue to help me record the music stream at YourClassical. The hardest part was configuring it to record directly from the sound card, but I managed to figure that out in a few clicks. Selecting “Windows WASAP” from the sound input menu did the trick, as shown here:

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Problem solved. From now on when I want to record the YourClassical stream, I just manually start the stream at the web site, fire up Audacity and record away. I can even schedule it to record the stream during the night while I’m sleeping. When the recording’s finished, I save ito an MP3 file for later transfer to my iPod for some musical enjoyment on my next bike ride. It does sound like a bit of work but I consider this an ideal solution using free software that requires no upgrading to a “pro” version for me to fully utilize its abilities.

Where legendary music lives.

There’s a new radio station in Palm Beach County that’s been on the air for just over a year now, and it’s one that’s refreshingly different from the other stations on the FM dial. Legends Radio does not play the latest hits, the loudest rock music or the angriest rap lyrics. Instead, it plays mellow standards from decades past as recorded by some of the biggest names in music, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Michael Bublé, to name a few. There aren’t too many radio stations in my area that play this kind of music 24 hours a day, and it’s literally a breath of fresh air.

There are some pleasant on-air personalities who keep the music coming all day, but my favorite is Dick Robinson, who happens to be the founder of Legends Radio and the host of American Standards by the Sea, which is broadcast nationally and can also be heard online. He too plays these golden standards and talks about the music he plays in his very soothing, down-to-earth voice that makes this show such a joy to tune in.

I was so delighted with Legends Radio that I sent an e-mail to Mr. Robinson to let him know how much I enjoy the music and to express my hope that this station stays on the air instead of coming and going like some of the other radio stations in my area. I received a response from a staff member telling me that they’ve been getting lots of e-mails from listeners who too enjoy Legends Radio and assured me that this station is planning to stay on the air for a long time to come. This is truly timeless music that needs to continue spanning the decades to reach new generations of music lovers and it’s nice to see Legends Radio doing its part to keep that music alive and well.

In appreciation of NOAA Weather Radio.

Right now, as you read this, the National Weather Service is broadcasting the latest weather conditions and forecasts for your area, commercial-free, 24 hours a day via NOAA Weather Radio. At the same time, there are thousands of similar stations coast to coast working tirelessly to keep the rest of the nation updated on their upcoming weather conditions as well. I make sure I spend some time each day listening to these broadcasts, yet at the same time I wonder how many people do too. In listening to NOAA Weather Radio, I have begun to develop a deep appreciation for this valuable service I feel that too many people often ignore.

I think the only time people do tune in is when severe weather threatens their area. I live in South Florida myself, an area familiar with thunderstorms, tornadoes and of course, hurricanes. When such weather strikes, I can be sure there will be advisories and warnings in active circulation on the weather radio airwaves.

When threatening weather approaches, there’s no doubt that people will purchase a weather radio while shopping for emergency supplies. Once the storm passes, the radios most likely end up hidden in storage or sitting on the shelf collecting dust, and that’s a shame. Even during calmer weather it’s still worth tuning in for current weather conditions and temperatures. Here in Florida, there’s information on tides, sunrise and sunset times, observations of marine conditions and even the water levels of Lake Okeechobee. In the evening hours there are reports on the times of the highest and lowest temperatures of the day as well as record temperatures from the years past. It’s interesting listening.

I remember when weather radio had human announcers sounding like they were talking through a CB radio but those days are gone. Nowadays computers do the talking through text-to-speech synthesis. I’m grateful the technology has evolved to the point where it’s possible to understand what the synthesized voices are saying.

These days it’s easy to be overly critical and spiteful of all the government does, but the services provided by NOAA are truly valuable and deserve greater appreciation.

Listening to the radio in the sky.

During a recent flight home, I was listening to my iPod when I suddenly heard its synthesized voice tell me that the battery was running low. Not good, considering the plane had just reached its cruising altitude.
So I reached into my carry-on bag and pulled out my Sony Walkman radio and plugged my headphones in. When I turned on the radio, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could actually tune in some radio stations even while high above the clouds.
As I was tuned to one radio station, I noticed something else of interest. Although the signal was fairly strong when I first tuned in, the signal would soon weaken and fade out just minutes later. At that point, there would be another station I couldn’t tune in previously. I’d listen to that station for a few minutes before its signal too would fade away.
It’s even more interesting when you think about it. Here’s a plane flying through an invisible valley of radio signals so fast that radio stations come and go in a matter of minutes. If there’s a radio station playing a song you don’t like, just wait a few minutes and it will go away.
I’m even finding it interesting to listen to the commercials. Usually they’re followed by the station’s call letters along with the name of the city within range of your radio. I sometimes hear the station’s web address, which I jot down for visiting later once I get home. Those too offer clues for the cities the plane flies over during the flight.
And of course, as soon as the radio picks up your favorite station, chances are your flight is almost over. Now you can be the first to make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and your seat belt is correctly fastened.
As fun as it is to listen to the radio during the flight, be mindful of the rules of the plane. Radios, cell phones and personal electronic devices should be switched off during take-offs and landings, but during the flight at cruising altitude is the ideal time to really make those miles fly with your trusty radio.

International radio signals.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is only 50 miles away from South Florida, yet the signal from its radio station broadcasting at 810 kHZ comes in crystal clear here in West Palm Beach. In fact, during the pauses for station identification, the announcer says the station serves the Bahama Islands and South Florida. I tune in this station during my morning commute for news and weather specific to the Bahamas, and tune in again during the ride home for some lively island music.
Meanwhile, in Belle Glade, Florida, is WSWN, better known as Sugar 900, which is a gospel radio station whose station identification message says it serves not only South Florida but also the Bahamas.
It’s awesome that these two radio stations in neighboring countries are acknowledging their international audiences. Listeners in South Florida can keep up with current events in the Bahamas just as easily as listeners in the Bahamas being able to keep up with all that goes on in South Florida.
A few years ago while strolling around on the deck of a cruise ship docked at Nassau, I pulled out my AM radio to see what radio stations I could tune in, and that’s when it really hit me. A lot of the stations I was able to tune in were broadcasting right from South Florida. But of course. Since South Florida can easily tune in the Bahamas, why wouldn’t it work the other way around? It’s too bad, though, that some of the South Florida stations don’t acknowledge their international audience as Sugar 900 does, but it can’t be easy considering some of these stations carry nationally syndicated programming.