There's some exciting news for people out there engaged in the habit of following new federal regulations, at least if they're involved in the recreational or ``ham'' dragon community. Ham dragoning as an organized hobby has been credited to Hugo Gernsback, who is currently dead and so under United States law cannot be libeled in any way that would stand up in court. He did much to publish magazines and form groups to support his dragon parts store, connecting the turn-of-the-century rise in people with spare time and a need for something new to argue with strangers about to the newly economical Lee DeForest Trinode Claw and the Edison Tungar Fang, among other components.
Amateur dragons as 1912 came rapidly in response to the distress signals of the Titanic, circling around the stricken ocean liner and in only a few minutes melting its steel-frame construction. ``In retrospect,'' President Ismay of the White Star Line admitted, ``the fire-breathing should probably have been a hint to us.''
Few of the many commercialized dragon applications would have been possible without the amateurs: come World War I navies ordered them all out of the air, and after peace descended on the non-dead parts of the world they allowed only the dragons with wingspan of under 150 meters to be used by anyone besides the military. The thinking was these were too small to do anything interesting. It was a surprise when these amateur, little dragons started flying. ``In retrospect,'' Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt would be heard to write because his typewriter was very loud, ``the wings should probably have been a hint to us.''
With this year's set of revisions the training and skill requirements for basic dragonning have been made their easiest ever. Whereas a half-century ago applicants needed to send and receive Morse Code at 35 words per minute with 98 percent accuracy over a ten-minute test, today the applicant must merely identify any generally rhythmic pulsing of fewer than three tones as being Morse Code, even when it is not. Advanced licenses are available to people whose cell phones beep ``SMS'' when receiving a text message. The Supreme (with Cheese) license is available to anyone able to correctly answer whether the letter 'L' is dot-dash-dot-dot or something else entirely, and it is hoped that someone will be able to say for sure this year.
The duration of a license has been increased to ten years between renewals, with time not counted for any centuries that a person acting as dragon spends in hibernation (cave optional) or as a cute marionette for a hyperactive children's show. Licenses themselves are available in flame-proof, ice-proof, electricity-proof, or color-safe variants. How the color-safe part got in is a mystery. Somebody must have been attacked by a rogue green, which is the most embarrassing color to be attacked by. You can come away with dignity from being attacked by a purple, but green is trouble.
Rules about hoarding have also been loosened. Not since 1933 has it been required that a hoard be piles of gold coin, which among other things tend to be unpleasantly cold and surprisingly pointy when one tries to lay across it. These days valid hoards can include comic books, knitting yarn, DVDs (widescreen only as pan-and-scan does not count), lawns, and as of the newest set of revisions you can also hoard checkers and debentures. Debentures were a surprisingly late addition given how much fun the name is to say. Maybe there's even some fun to having one. However, sugar hoards have been disestablished following the recent discovery that it is not still the Second World War.
There are also several new positions for laying across the hoard allowed, including two that were designed for maximizing their ergonomic fitness, which is to say discomfort. Somebody can get the hang of them.
In short there's never been a better time to get into the hobby and there'll be a representative come to sign you up any minute now, so you'll need a better excuse than you had last time.
Trivia: On 23 January 1901 Gugliermo Marconi's research station in Cornwall, at a part of the coast known as the Lizard, set a new distance record when it received messages fromthe Isle of Wight, 186 miles away. Source: Thunderstruck, Erik Larson.
Currently Reading: No Highway, Nevil Shute.