HAMMING IT UP: Amateur radio enthusiast Bob Firehock, who participated in the national emergency preparedness field day June 22, can tell you everything you want to know about different types of antennae and how radio waves bounce off the earth's ionosphere. But he, like the rest of the amateur radio community, is at a loss to explain the origins of the phrase "ham radio."

"There are many stories," he said. "It's not an acronym ... one story, and there are many, is that it started with Morse code. The telegraph operators of olden days, they could tell your telegraphic signature, because even though it's just an electric signal, people have different patterns and beats and emphasis. There were operators -- this is the story I heard -- who were clunky and were ham-fisted. So they were like, 'These amateurs, they're hams.' Some people say that's one of the derivations.

"You could find 20 different stories," Firehock said.

GREEN (AND GOLD) DAY: The popular fireworks nights hosted by the Oakland A's include an upcoming pyrotechnics display themed to the music of Green Day, the megapopular band that got its start at Pinole Valley High School.

In announcing the event on Twitter, the A's referred to one of the band's songs:

"@Athletics: On 8/31, have the time of your life at @GreenDay themed fireworks show! The East Bay band will also throw 1st pitch."

That tweet brought a response from the apron-decked @OaklandAsPieGuy that also referred to a Green Day song: "On August 31, Green Day will be performing 'Boulevard of Broken Sewer pipes' during the fireworks show."


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It's elementary, my dear Watson: While walking in Pittsburg's Old Town, Joyce Gunn noticed spelling errors on two city locator maps. And they weren't the names of businesses that were spelled wrong, but schools: Marina Elemenatry School and St. Peter Matryr School.

Gunn, a retired Contra Costa County librarian who oversaw branches in San Ramon, was at first pleased to see the informative signs until she looked a little closer and saw the spelling mistakes.

"And then maybe it was not so neat. I catch stuff like that," said Gunn, who contacted The Eye after an item ran last week about the presence of an Old Towne sign on California Avenue directing people to Pittsburg's Old Town.

Gunn first emailed her concerns to City Manager Joe Sbranti this past fall.

"He emailed me right back, telling me it was going to be fixed right away." But when the changes were not made, Gunn sent another email in March.

"Occasionally, there are errors and we try to catch all those mistakes," said Sbranti, who said the signs are changed once a year to take into account the changing business landscape. "I'm not sure of the status, if it's changed yet or is about to be."

And just to add to its sign problems, the city limits sign for Pittsburg on eastbound Highway 4 was knocked down.

Who YOU GONNA CALL?: A recent item on the Antioch police logs caught a second glance from The Eye -- not because of what happened, but who fielded the call.

On a recent morning, California Highway Patrol dispatchers received a call from a woman telling them someone was trying to come into her house. The call was transferred to Antioch police.

The location identified on the police logs was 300 L St. -- same as the police department. That led to some confusion on The Eye's part.

According to Lt. Tammany Brooks, police use the department's address if no address is given, so the service call registers in the department's system.

In Antioch, police accept wireless 911 calls from the major carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.), though if a cell tower's range of coverage extends to Highway 4, that call is automatically routed to CHP.

Also, calls go to the CHP if the caller uses a smaller service provider.

Staff writers Gary Peterson, Chris Treadway, Eve Mitchell and Paul Burgarino contributed to this column.