Tim Allen is as Radio Amateur on New TV Show - Good to see, ham radio helped me

12/12/2011

Tim Allen -- star of Home Improvement, Toy Story, The Santa Clause and Galaxy Quest, just to name a few -- stars in Last Man Standing, an ABC comedy airing at 8 PM (EST) on Tuesday nights. Allen plays Mike Baxter, KA0XTT, a married father of three and the director of marketing at an outdoor sporting goods store in Colorado whose life is dominated by women. While Amateur Radio has not been prominently featured in the first episodes, according to John Amodeo, NN6JA -- the producer of Last Man Standing -- it is a part of the show and an important part of Mike’s character. The episode that will establish Mike as a radio amateur is currently scheduled to air in mid-January.

“Tim’s character Mike is involved in creating the sales strategy for the store, including their catalog and Internet identity,” Amodeo told the ARRL. “The store is like Bass Pro Shops or Cabelas. There is a strong self-sufficiency overtone to Mike’s approach to life. Ham radio fits in the story as a means of emergency communication. It’s not directly featured in the foreground story, but at the moment, it’s a background element on the home set. Once I allow something to be put on the set, there’s a chance the writers will feature it. Now that we have actually established Mike Baxter as KA0XTT, we can do more things featuring Amateur Radio.”

To make Mike a ham, Amodeo needed Mike to have a call sign. So he contacted ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, to help him out. “In film and TV, we create fictitious telephone numbers, addresses and brands,” Amodeo explained. “We do this mostly to avoid being sued by real brands and to avoid complications with advertisers. As a producer and a ham, I was torn between wanting the show to be accurate and needing to keep my studios out of trouble. An accurate and positive portrayal of ham radio on TV would be a good thing.” Many TV shows and movies use telephone numbers with a 555 exchange (such as 555-1212), as that exchange is not valid.

Together with Pitts, and with input from Tim Allen, Amodeo created a call sign for Mike Baxter: KA0XTT. Since the show is set in Colorado, they wanted Mike to have a call sign with a 0 in it. “We wanted a call sign that sounded real, but was not valid,” Amodeo said. “The call sign is a 2×3 format with an X suffix. A call sign in this format is an experimental call sign and is not assignable to a radio amateur except in special circumstances. We especially liked the suffix, as it is a play on Tim’s character from his former show, Home Improvement: ‘ex-Tim Taylor.’”

Amodeo told the ARRL that both his studio (Fox) and ABC were “delighted to have a useable call sign. In the past, TV shows just made up some crazy call or used someone else’s without permission. And because we’ve had so much talk about Amateur Radio here on the show, a few of my production assistants took their Technician exam.” Amodeo applied to be an ARRL Volunteer Examiner so he could help administer the exams. On October 6, Amodeo and two other ARRL VEs administered the Technician exam to seven prospective hams. All seven passed, with two making perfect scores.

Since Mike Baxter is a ham, he needed a shack. So Amodeo and the set designers installed an Amateur Radio station in the corner of Mike’s set office. Allen, as Baxter, uses an ICOM IC-9100 HF/6 meter/2 meter transceiver and an IC-92AD handheld transceiver, both provided to the show courtesy of ICOM America. Amodeo told the ARRL that he has plans to add vintage equipment to the shack in the future. “The radio equipment was originally intended to be used as props and set dressing items,” Amodeo told the ARRL. “But since eight of the show’s staff members are radio amateurs, it didn’t take long before we made the radio equipment ‘practical,’ which is to say, actually capable of making radio calls live from the stage when we’re not shooting.” He said that radios will always be on and lit whenever they are shooting scenes in the office.

Pitts and ARRL News Editor S. Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA, have been working with Amodeo to make sure that Amateur Radio is correctly portrayed in the show. Keane also provided ARRL and Amateur Radio-related materials that are used on the set, such as issues of QST, NCJ and QEX, as well as a call sign map, a 2012 ARRL Handbook, a 2012 ARRL calendar and various ARRL stickers (look for one on the HF rig). “We also sent fake versions of DXCC, Worked All States and Worked All Continents certificates, as well as a Morse Code Proficiency Certificate,” Keane explained. “Each certificate bears the name Mike Baxter and has KA0XTT as the call sign. All the certificates have issue dates of December 25, playing upon Tim Allen’s role in The Santa Clause movie series.”

Amodeo told the ARRL that he also installed antennas (courtesy of NCG/Comet) -- a dipole and antennas for 2 meters and 70 cm, “up high, about 50 feet, inside the sound stage. The ultimate goal is to have the hams on our staff make contacts from our stage during down times.”

Last Man Standing also stars Nancy Travis (Three Men and a Baby) as Mike’s wife and Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, Monk) as Mike’s boss. Amodeo also produced the critically acclaimed Sports Night and Arrested Development.

Interesting to see them work this into the story line. I've been a "ham" for many years and I definitely think it helped to spark the curiosity and problem solving skills that have ended up helping to shape me and direct me towards what I do for a living today.

Amateur Radio lead me to doing things like climbing 100 foot towers; talking with people from Russia while driving along the beach (during the cold war even); providing emergency communications for events like the Boston Marathon and Sail Boston; serving as the President of a 200 member non-profit organization; connecting my home computer to the Russian MIR space station in orbit; teaching classes in basic electronics; being a radio test examiner, and much more.

Someone told me recently that there has been an uptick in Amateur Radio license applications and that ham radio is again increasing in popularity. I hope those getting into it get what I did out of the experience. Thanks Uncle Bob (now a silent key) for introducing me to the airwaves.

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Interesting device I played with yesterday - Tablet that docks into notebook keyboard w/touchpad

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The Asus Transformer. I used it for a few minutes and found it to be easy to type on and to navigate with the touchpad. And the touchpad also supports gestures so you can fully navigate the Android interface. The only thing I noticed is that is was easy to tap the touchpad by accident while typing and mess up where you were. There might be a touchpad setting to address this somewhere but I couldn't find it.

This differs from the external keyboards available for most tablets because of the integrated pointing device, USB ports, and card reader that are built in. Oh, and I don't think it uses Bluetooth since the tablet plugs directly into the keyboard.

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Sunrise, I just can't stop taking pictures of you. "Sun@6:41"

Sun@6:41

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You may notice that I post a lot of pictures of the sky.... especially sunrise images.  It's just mesmerizing to me.  Many images I will grab with my iPhone camera.  But for those that cause me to stop in my tracks and stare... out comes the Digital SLR. 

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My poor iPhone screen

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Dropped from just a few feet.  Bummer.

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The North End - Modern Pastry in black & white

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In the background is the sound of hundreds of simultaneous conversations and accordion music. Taken this evening on iPhone 4 with some assistance from the ProHDR app.

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Mural on the side of Trader Joe's in Cambridge MA

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I'm sure many of you have seen this...I pass it once in a while.  Every time I see it I just stand there in the incredibly busy parking lot (shared with Microcenter, Starbucks, etc.) and gaze.  The colors are amazing and this just seems to 'light up' the area.  

This mural is called "Sunday Afternoon on the Charles River" by David Fichter and was commissioned by Trader Joe's.

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Enjoyin' me some racing at LeeUSA Speedway

The first heat of the night. Perfect weather for some racing.

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The blonde kids.

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At times they do get along. 

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Tokenization: What in the world are "high-value" tokens?

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The PCI Security Standards Council recently released ‘The PCI DSS Tokenization Guidelines’.  In section 4 of this document the idea of “high-value tokens” is described.  I have seen comments on discussion groups and some blog posts including PCI Council’s High-Value Token Definition Disappointing that indicate that maybe the Council could have done a better job of explaining this.  Maybe this (greatly oversimplified) example will help.   

You’re at a hotel for a conference and decide to leave your expensive leather coat at the hotels’ coat check.  In exchange for your coat you are given a ticket that has no identifying marks on it, just a number.  What if you were to drop this ticket a few blocks away from the event? If someone picks it up it’s just a ticket with a number on it.  It’s of no value to the person that found it.  It’s a worthless token.

Now what if the hotel coat check gave you a ticket that clearly indicated that it was a hotel coat check ticket and included the date, time, hotel name, and address?  This additional information provides the ticket holder with valuable insight into what the ticket could be worth.  With very little effort, a walk of a few blocks, this ticket could possibly be exchanged for your expensive leather coat.  This ticket is not a worthless token.  It is a high-value token.

With tokenization solutions you can have the same two scenarios.  If someone were to get their hands on a token and this token could not be reasonably presented to any system, process, or person that would exchange it for monetary or product value then it’s a worthless token. 

On the other hand, if this token could be submitted directly into an application where it is accepted as a form of payment (since it’s tied directly to a real form of payment) then it is a high-value token. 

The ideal tokenization design would provide individuals with access to tokens of no value.  Business process usually requires that a few individuals have access to high-value tokens or even the ability to de-tokenize.  If tokenization is implemented correctly, the organization can focus their security efforts on closely controlling and monitoring only the access to these high-value tokens or the de-tokenization process.

 

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Oh my head, why am I going here

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Temps over 100F every day this week.

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Hertz you seriously gave us this car to drive?

When we started driving it was obvious there was a problem. Seriously Hertz?

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Those things from men in black

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Yea, those. The abandoned Flushing Meadows Observation Towers in NY.

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Old City Hall, Toronto

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An HDR photo taken yesterday in Toronto.

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This is one pretty mall. An HDR image of Eaton Centre

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An HDR image of Eaton Centre in Toronto. Taken with an iPhone 4 using HDR Pro.

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Can't unsee this: Jar Jar Binks dancing figure

Unfortunately I will never be able to unsee this. Jar Jar Binks dancing figure.

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Drawing w/my daughter, can you tell what's on my mind?

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Drawing w/my daughter, can you tell what's on my mind?

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I've seen data centers with less security.

No wonder the dryer isn't working

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A loose connection at one of the AC lines gives you arcing. Arcing is bad and will do stuff like this. We're lucky it burnt 'open' like it did. Bad installer...bad.

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