Ice cool

On the weekend, this blogger bought the 2011 album entitled My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men. For those living under a rock (or indeed an iceberg), Of Monsters and Men are an Icelandic folk/rock ensemble with two catchy singles in the weekly Radio Airplay Chart. That top 40 playlist sadly also contains Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift, Pink and Guy Sebastian. Oh well…

Of Monsters and Men © 2012 Dave Lichterman

Of Monsters and Men have crafted an usual record which features the singles Little Talks, Mountain Sound & Dirty Paws. Little Talks was a staple on Australian commercial radio in the latter half of 2012 and was voted runner up in the Hottest 100 on public radio network Triple J.

Hottest 100 Masks for Australia Day © 2009 moggs oceanlane

As the 2011 English language album has not been played yet, it is up to those (often self-righteous) music critics to pick the winners. Critics applaud these cuts from the album:
Six Weeks
Lakehouse
Love Love Love
King and Lionheart

A friend living in the cold, yet visually spectacular Reykjavík has been raving about fellow ‘Icers’ Sigur Rós for many years. Reykjavík is the most distant capital city north – of anywhere! Before the GFC, the city was a favoured haven for uber cool, wealthy or travel savvy Generation Y and Generation X North Americans. Now it’s time for Of Monsters and Men to shine globally for Reykjavík.

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Portable FM radios

European hard core FM enthusiasts tend to use the Grundig satellite 700, Eton E5 (Grundig G5), Degen 1103 (Kaito 1103), Grundig satellite 3400, Grundig satellite 500 & Sangean ATS-909.

These radios require a filter modification in order exceed the selectivity of modern radios with Digital Signal Processing (DSP). Usually replacing the last 150 kHz or 180 kHz filter in the Intermediate Frequency (IF) circuit for a 80 kHz variety does the trick. In unmodified form, the radios rarely provide equivalent selectivity of a DSP radio.

Sangean ATS-909 worldband receiver © 1996 Mysid

Sangean ATS-909 © 1996 Mysid

So why do European enthusiasts go to this trouble? Apart from the obvious fun of learning about the internal circuitry of the particular radio, in this blogger’s experience there are overwhelming advantages in ‘modding’:

  • better performance 200 kHz above local stations;
  • better separation of stations spaced at 100 kHz;
  • better sensitivity due to the narrower filters; &
  • ability to plug in an external antenna (without a plague of images) due to sophisticated attenuation switches.

DSP based radios such as the Tecsun PL606 probably still offer better immunity from strong signals, a key feature of the Silicon Laboratories’ (Silabs) tuner design. For example, at a high rise apartment tower within 20 kilometres (12 mi) of a major FM broadcast site, the Degen DE1121 will start to overload before the Tecsun PL300WT (Grundig G8) will. It is also hard to overlook a Silabs design for the convenience factor: it is a functional radio ‘out of the box’.

De1103 © 2007 Igor K ico.livejournal.com

De1103 © 2007 ico.livejournal.com

In the field

The chief problem with portable radios is that all receivers tend to overload near mountain tops. This can be immensely frustrating. What tends to happen is the listener is increasingly likely to inadvertently make mistakes. Whether it is mistaking images for legitimate stations or missing weak signals (because the weak stations are covered up by distorted images) the experience is often not rewarding!

For this reason, this blogger argues that a portable radio has a limited role to play for field trips. Their use is primarily suitable for inaccessible terrain or very remote areas perhaps 30 kilometres (19 mi) away from broadcast sites. Perhaps this suggestion is a controversial and extreme stance?  (It is important for every writer to remember that enthusiasts often hold strong views. Respect these differing opinions. Entering into robust on-line debates typically ends with instances of dysfunctional behaviour and worse case scenario, a loss of friendships).

Importantly, using a portable radio in a popular location makes it likely for others to think the listener is strange. As this difficult hobby is supposed to be about enjoyment and fun, no one needs to be ridiculed in public. The trick is to switch to a cricket or football broadcast – pretend that is the reason for lugging the radio. Of course, this writer does not need to pretend, although listening to cricket matches (hell, even briefly) can be tiresome when Australia exhibits poor form!

Nonetheless, it’s yet another reason to stick to the safety of a car receiver. Moreover, by using a car radio, a better antenna may be utilized (in many cars, a proper monopole). Car tuner performance makes listening far more comfortable, especially with regard to inter modulation distortion (IMD) – the unwanted mixing of two or more stations. Protection from adverse temperature extremes, in particular summer heat and thunderstorms cannot be lightly dismissed. For example, air conditioning is essential for comfortable mobile DX in cities and towns along eastern Australia.

For everyday use in high rise dwellings, the weaknesses of portables become much less evident. In fact, packing a portable in the luggage is a simple way to turn a potentially boring trip into a DX opportunity.

De1121 © 2010 nice.kaze.com

De1121 guts © 2010 nice.kaze.com

Favourite FM portable

The beauty pictured above and below is the DE1121. Despite the relatively high purchase price, the modified Degen DE1121 is the blogger’s favourite! The designers did made some mistakes; flaws include a complicated user interface and relatively poor build quality. However, this modified radio provides superior FM performance compared to DSP-based competitors with both indoor and outdoor antennas.

Little wonder that Degen’s sister DE1103 remains so popular amongst European FM enthusiasts. Between 76-108 MHz, the DE1103 features better 12 dB SINAD sensitivity than the Sangean ATS-909, that is 0.5 versus 1.8 microvolts.

De1121 station labelling © 2013 FMdxing

De1121 station labelling © 2013 FMdxing

Features of the DE1121 include:

  • Station labelling (all stations can be labelled using a computer);
  • Three level signal attenuator;
  • External antenna input;
  • Full length telescopic FM antenna;
  • 128 kbps MP3 recording (with noticeable artifacts);
  • MP3 playback;
  • Direct frequency entry;
  • Audio Input from other portable radios (to permit recording);
  • High sensitivity tuner (virtually identical to the DE1103);
  • Full aluminium tuner shielding  &
  • SSB decoding up to 30 MHz.
De1121 © 2010 nice.kaze.com

De1121 accessories © 2010 nice.kaze.com

De1121 © 2013 FMdxing

De1121 © 2013 FMdxing

De1121 © 2013 FMdxing

De1121 backlit © 2013 FMdxing

Recommended reading

2012 comparison of portable shortwave FM receivers by Universal Radio (Archived PDF file)

DE1121 world band receiver review by Dave N9EWO

Is DXing a hobby only for the rich?

Mt Canobolas Sharx in-car band scan by Dr Nobody (No longer available)

Portable DSP pain at Point Glorious by FM DXing

European data is compiled from tropospheric loggings in 2012. Enthusiasts who provided loggings reside in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy & Poland. This article was updated in December 2013.

Drugs in sport: What are peptides?

By James Heathers, University of Sydney

By now you’ll have heard the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) is investigating Essendon Football Club. At this stage, there has been speculation about the injection of “peptides” by players in training, without any confirmation that this was the case.

So assuming the speculation has some foundation, what are peptides?

In the literal sense, a peptide is just a very small protein. As might be expected, there are hundreds upon hundreds of known peptides, as many as there can be amino acids combined in short chains. Peptides have a wide range of potential activities, including:

Essendon Bombers FC at The Dreamtime  © 2012 Nick Morieson

There may be no cause for alarm in the case of Essendon, as there are several sports-legitimate and unregulated uses for peptides, per se. Leucine peptides or the hydrolysed protein mixture PeptoPro, for instance, are simply the high-performance cousins of whey protein supplements – essentially, they are “pre-digested” protein fragments designed to aid recovery from vigorous activity.

These substances are no more controversial than ordinary protein supplements. Such peptides can be bought over the counter and require no secrecy.

Certainly, such peptides are never injected.

Worst-case scenario

The ugly and entirely more likely option is that the peptide being speculated about is one from the family of growth-hormone-releasing peptides, of which there are several available: pralmorelin, hexarelin, tesamorelin, or sermorelin, and more.

These various growth hormone-releasing peptides, or secretagogues, stimulate the production of growth hormone by the pituitary gland. This is reminiscent of Lance Armstrong’s drug of choice, erythopoetin (EPO), which stimulates the body to produce red blood cells.

A spike in endogenous growth hormone (which may also be injected directly) is used to aid recovery and muscular growth – and, while not as effective as anabolic steroids for the growth and maintenance of muscle mass, growth hormone has significantly fewer side effects. Significantly, it’s also more difficult to detect.

Shoefiti © 2011 Matthew Kenwrick

Suffice to say, these growth hormone-releasing peptides sit squarely in the WADA banned substances list. Much recent research has gone into identifying their patterns of usage, and how the individual drugs might be identified in blood tests.

Where to now?

The current investigation may have broad repercussions. Representatives of the Geelong and Gold Coast football clubs, and rugby league club Manly, have said they employed some of the people who worked for Essendon’s fitness program.

Given ASADA is involved in this case, there is unlikely to be much clemency if any club is found guilty.

Gold Coast Titans FC at Suncorp Stadium © 2009 Markus

Athletes operate under what is known as the “strict liability” clause, which means an athlete is directly responsible at all times for substances that are found in them, regardless of how they got there – and guilty until proven innocent.

The fact Essendon players supposedly signed a consent form or waiver will be of little relevance either way. But it’s unclear what the position is, as so far we are dealing with a report that a program of drug use existed, and not hard evidence of use.

We can assume more information will come to light and, given the high profile accorded to doping cases recently, we certainly haven’t heard the last of this story.

People have been busted for possession and use of growth-hormone releasing peptides before … and that list may be about to get a whole lot longer.

James Heathers does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at
Read the original article.

Common sense disclaimer: The blog owner wishes to advise that neither The Conversation nor the author James Heathers necessarily endorse the original content of fmDXing.wordpress.com.

You know it makes sense

Some songs voted into Hottest 100 from Australia’s Triple J radio network are always forgettable. ‘Lambnesia’ helps aid the process. But ‘I don’t care, I love it‘ somebody shouts. True enough.

Sweden's Icona Pop © 2012 goStockholmGoeteborg

So the Hottest 100 of 2012 has been compiled. Big farking deal. Time to keep looking. How about list with Dylan, Neil Young and Springsteen in the top 10, that’s possibly better, right? Hell yeah. This blogger invites readers to inspect a list of the 50 Best Songs of 2012 as compiled by Rolling Stone magazine. Oh, and Leonard Cohen and Fiona Apple feature in in the top 20. ‘You know it makes sense’.

It is probably better to not mention that disposable pop sewerage — exemplified by the inclusion of Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber — permeates the top 50. Ouch! Nothing is perfect.