Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chuck DeVore for U.S. Senate

I first saw Chuck at the Tea Party event I went to some months ago. He's quite the straight-shooter, and I endorse him heartily.

If you're here in SoCal, I strongly encourage you to go to his website, and read his stance on the issues.

http://chuckdevore.com/index.asp

He's sure got MY vote!


Thank you!

And let’s make 2010 even better by retiring Barbara Boxer!

Well, you did it. We raised more than $60,000 online this month, our best online fundraising month ever. Over 20,000 people have contributed to our effort to unseat Barbara Boxer with an average contribution size of just over $50.

This is an uncommon effort. Typically, campaigns for federal office are driven by the big donors and special interests. Not so with our campaign. I thank you for your support and for your interest in our race.

The next five months will be formative, as we first seek to secure the Republican nomination on June 8th, then move forward to beat Boxer with our message of liberty, Constitutional governance, jobs, water, and domestic energy. I’ve appeared at 220 events in the past year, driven 21,700 miles, flown 30,100 miles, and met with over 36,000 concerned citizens. I’ve worked hard because I know what is at stake.

I know a lot of our supporters are in a bind financially because they have lost jobs. If a donation is beyond your means right now, please consider referring at least one of your friends to our campaign. Fill in at least one name and email address for us so we can keep in touch with one more potential voter and donor.

Again, thank you for your support. It means much to me and to my family.

All the best for a Happy New Year

Congessional Reform Act of 2010

Shamelessly swiped from my buddy Old NFO:

Congressional Reform Act of 2010


1. Term Limits: 12 years only, one of the possible options below.

A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

2. No Tenure / No Pension:
A congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security:
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund moves to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, Congress participates with the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, server your term(s), then go home and back to work.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan just as all Americans..

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

7. Congress must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American people..

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

8. All contracts with past and present congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

The American people did not make this contract with congressmen, congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.


While I think something like this has a snowball's chance as long as we have the foxes guarding the hen house, it sure would be nice to yank these idiot's chain with!


Happy New Year!

Ok, so I'm early again....
Let's just hope 2010 will be better than 2009, and that the economy picks up, most of the idiotic gun laws get repealed, and WE THE PEOPLE can get some elected "Representatives" into Congress that actually do what their job title implies.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A "Love" Tax?

Hey, I needed a catchy headline......
The GF/Fiance and I went to get our marriage license today. It was actually a not-too-bad experience, a rarity when dealing with The Gubmint, as we were able to fill out all the required information online, hit the "Submit" button, and it was in the system when we got to the courthouse. We wound up getting stuck behind a couple of couples who were clueless about how this procedure works, and they had to get back in line after they went and figured out a few things, or they had to go back out to their car to get their ID ( ! ). Our time at the counter was only about 15 minutes, but it was SEVENTY BUCKS to get our license. The GF wanted to go before the first of the year, as it's going up to ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS for a Marriage License.
ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Now I know Los Angeles County, and the entire People's Republik of Kalifornia, are in a major budget shortfall due to the idiots up in Sacramento, but geez...raising the fee for a Marriage License to a hundred bucks?
Oh, well...we've got the license, and All Systems Are GO for the wedding as planned.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Well, it's 18:36 UTC here, so I'm a few hours early, but just wanted to wish all my friends in the blogosphere a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!
My fiance was telling me yesterday that they're not allowed to say "Merry Christmas" at the school she works at.
She says it anyway!
Guess I've taught her not to be PC in the three years we've known each other, and that little "PC" things like this are just another sign of the erosion of the principles Our Country was founded on. Free Speech is now only for those who The Elite have sprinkled their magic-fairy-unicorn-dust upon, and it may only be used to push their rotten communist socialst agenda forward. Anything else gets labeled "Hate Speech", especially saying things like "Merry Christmas", which might offend someone of a different faith.
Tough shit!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!
And if you're offended, go stuff your head in a barrel of dung.......

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fun With My FlexRadio





One of the nice things about having my HF vertical back in operation is that I've *finally* been able to devote some time to getting my FlexRadio Systems Flex-5000A properly set up, and back on-the-air. I hadn't used it in so long that I wound up uninstalling everything on the Windows PC I built to use it, and installing all the latest and greatest stuff from Flex.
I had to upgrade the FireWire driver, and upgrade the firmware in the radio. Never though I'd have to "flash the firmware" in a radio like you upgrade the BIOS in a PC, but then radio has come a long way since I started tinkering in the basement back in the early '60's! While I was at it, I installed the latest version of PowerSDR, which is the software that controls the radio.
The first screenshot was taken earlier today, and shows the operating "console" for my Flex-5000A. All the tuning and volume adjustments are handled by using the mouse, keyboard, or both. The radio has no knobs, although you can use a Griffin "PowerMate" multimedia controller, or a Contour ShuttlePRO to implement the various functions. I have a ShuttlePRO that I use on my audio/video editing PC, so I can just plug it into a USB port on the FlexRadio PC if I "Feel the Need" to turn knobs.
I was listening to 20 Meter (14 MHz) Single Sideband, and the top window in the display shows the frequency I'm tuned to in a Spectrum Analyzer type display, while the window under that shows a "Waterfall" display. The horizontal 'smearing' of the received signals in the waterfall display were caused by my tuning the radio as the waterfall was recording the signals.
The second screenshot was taken later while I was listening to one of the digital transmission modes on 20 Meters, using a program called "MixW2" to decode the signals. MixW is kind of a Swiss Army knife for Hams running digital, as it will decode all of the current modes, display them in a nice window, and log them for you.
My Flex-5000A is a "Software Defined Radio", which basically means the radio just acts as a "Front End" for the RF conversion, and ALL the processing, frequency control, modulation and demodulation is done in software, rather than by hardware in the radio. Since ALL the processing is done in software, the implementation of "Brick Wall" filters is easily done, making adjacent channel interference (a.k.a. "Bleed Over") a thing of the past. While I dearly love my Kenwood TS-950SDX, the last of Kenwood's Big Rigs, and one of the best 'conventional' radios ever made, it can barely hold a candle to the interference-fighting features in my Flex-5000A. Even with the INRAD Roofing Filter kit, and a full complement of INRAD crystal filters in the first and second I.F. stages of my TS-950SDX, there are still times when really strong, close-in signals cause some "discomfort" in the receiver. While I can clean up most of it by using the Slope Tune function in the Kenwood's DSP, and backing down the RF gain some, this can have some other subtle effects if you're trying to copy a really weak signal next to a strong one. With the Flex, I just select either one of the pre-programmed narrower bandwidths, or use the custom function sliders to "make" my own filter, and POOF!, the interference just disappears.
The concept of a Software Defined Radio has been around since the early 1970's, and like a lot of High Tech concepts, was first used by the Military who needed radios that could cover wide frequency ranges, different operating modes, and be easily upgraded. They didn't get popular with experimenters and Amateur Radio operators until the price of high-speed analog-to-digital converters came down. The first radios used a high-end computer sound card to handle the digitization of the I.F. signals and then handled the demodulation/modulation in software. They worked quite well, but were limited by the constraints of the sound card used. The simple built-in sound cards on most PC's don't have the sampling rate and bit-depth required to make a high-performance SDR, and not too many people wanted to buy a $200 sound card to dedicate to "just" their radio.
There are also other SDR's available if you don't want to spend the $$ for a Flex, or if you just want to listen. One of the original, and still one of the best' is the "SoftRock-40" radio, a very simple board-level kit that plugs into a USB port on your PC, and can use either your built-in sound card, or a better one, and runs the (FREE!) PowerSDR software. They're out of the original kits, but Version 5 of the kit should be available soon.
Radio sure has come a long way since I got interested in it!

Avatar


Went to see the new James Cameron movie "Avatar" last night.
WOW....I'm stunned! Besides having a decent story and good acting, the special effects and CGI were nothing short of amazing. We saw the movie at an IMAX theater in 3D. Now IMAX movies are always enjoyable for me, and the few I've seen in 3D were OK, but "Avatar" was *almost* the best combination od the two technologies I've seen. In some of the scenes the 3D effect was a bit overpowering, but in others it seemed very natural, not typical of the 3D movies I've seen.
The theater we saw the movie in was an IMAX Digital theater, and they don't have the "Seven Story High" screen like the IMAX theater at the Los Angeles California Science Center.
If you haven't seen it, you should go. It's really a visual feast.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weather Station Back Online!






I spent the day before yesterday getting my Davis Vantage Pro2 ISS (Integrated Sensor Suite) installed on the mast my VHF/UHF vertical antenna is on (the mast is plumb; I was leaning around the corner when I took the picture, and I didn't aim the camera squarely!), and running the cable into the house. After I straightened out a wiring SNAFU (Davis uses a straight-through cable, and the one I bought was a cross-over cable), I had the console up and running and reporting real-time weather. Yesterday I cleaned up the rats nest of cables under the GF's computer desk in the living room, added a KVM to switch between her PC and the Weather Server, dusted off my server and a UPS, and got the server back online so I could get the data out to the CWOP (Citizen Weather Observer Program), and out on the Internet.
I started doing this about 5 years ago so I could get real-time weather information while I was out at sea, and had a ball doing it. One of my responsibilities was to keep our C-Band Doppler Weather Radar running, and I got to interact with our Meterologists on a daily basis. I learned quite a bit about weather in the process, and it turned into another hobby of mine.
The server is an older Dell OptiPlex GX270 (Pentium4 with 2GB of DDR memory) I bought cheap on eBay running OpenSUSE Linux and wview software to collect the data from the station console, send it out to the CWOP, and generate webpages to serve up using Apache.
You can visit the station by clicking on the "Live Long Beach Weather" link in my Link-O-Rama, or by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We Hold These Truths.....

Next week, on December 15th, is the 218th anniversary of the ratification of our Bill of Rights. On the way home last night, I listened to a remarkable radio program on Sirius/XM. It was called "We Hold These Truths", and starred one of my favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart, and a cast of other well-known actors.
If you click on the link, you'll go to a website that has the audio. It's just amazing. It runs about 60 minutes, and is available as a podcast.
With all that's going on these days, like the MASSIVE government grab for power and control over our lives, rumors of using the US Military to confiscate our arms, and the calling of Conservative Americans "Right Wing Terrorists", I thought it was time to remember one of the most important documents of all time. It makes us uniquely American, at least for now. With the current "President" having stated that the Constitution is a "living" document, I think every American should take the time to re-read our Bill of Rights, and take it to heart.
These are NOT "Living Documents"! They are what they are, and were written down so we could refer to them, and use them as the LAW of our Country! If you want to change them, there's even a process spelled out in them so you can AMEND them. They are NOT open to interpretation, the are what they are! What the current administration is doing is ILLEGAL, flat and simple. Nowhere in our Founding Documents does it say the government has the power, right, or responsibility to do the things this current administration is not only proposing, but has already done.
And now, without further fanfare, I present the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. Please read it, and notice how many times it mentions "The People".

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."


Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.


Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 7th, 1941

A moment of silence, please, for those who were lost on this day 68 years ago.


Thank you.



My Dad went down to the recruiter a few days after December 7th. He wanted to enlist in the Navy, as he had a trade (Machinist) that he felt would be useful. He failed the physical for the Navy due to being color blind, but was told about openings for men like him in the Seabees, which he then enlisted in. I don't remember where he did his Basic Training, but I do remember him telling me about spending some time in Port Hueneme, and his time "Island Hopping" across the South Pacific. He made light of the fact that the Seabees would usually go in ahead of the "regular" Army, generally with, or right after, the Marines had landed, so that they could get to work building and/or repairing the piers and airstrips required to support further military operations.
Dad didn't like talking much about The War as I got older. When I was just a young 'un, though, we watched "Victory at Sea" every Sunday on NBC. Later on in life, when I asked him things about where he was during certain operations, he just clammed up. I guess a lot of WWII vets are like that, and I respect them in not wanting to relive those past events.

Thank you all who are still with us for your service to our country, and to the world. The world would be a very different place today without your service.
God bless you all.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why I Run Linux



Well, to start with, NO viruses, malware, trojans, or other bad stuff. Linux has had excellent security built in to it from the very beginning. A major difference between a Linux (more properly, a GNU/Linux) platform and a Windows platform is that a Linux platform has a strong implementation of the "Permissions" concept. This strictly divides the "User Space" from the "Administrator Space", meaning a malicious program (a.k.a. "Drive-By Download") will NOT be able to install itself and cause all kinds of grief because it does not have "Permission" to do so. This can sometimes be a PITA if you try install a program as a "User", and the program requires "Root" (a.k.a. "Administrator") permissions. Most programs these days will tell you what they require, and it's a lot better than it was in the old days. There's also methods to put the program in a 'protected' area that will allow it Root privlieges, but keep it from going anywhere it's not supposed to.
I like to 'tinker' with stuff, and since Linux gives you full control over your hardware, you can just about make your PC roll over and bark, if you want. Another advantage is that if you're into programming, or want to learn, most Linux distributions come with all the programming tools you'll need, for free. To buy similar tools for use on a Windows platform would cost hundreds of dollars, or even more for some of the advanced developer's suites out there.
When I first started using Linux back in 1995, there were always problems with hardware support, and some of the early Office type programs were quite, uh, shall we say, 'primitive'? I remember taking about a week to get my modem working correctly, and then another day or two to figure out how to download Netscape, and get it installed. These days with distributions like Ubuntu, it's 95% plug-and-play for your hardware, and the Firefox browser and OpenOffice suite will install automatically.
*SOME* devices, particularly "GDI" printers and scanners, will have hardware that requires the Operating System to do most of the work, and these won't work, or work very poorly, with Linux. When in doubt, use Google to find out if your hardware is Linux compatible.
I won't go much further here, as there are literally thousands of websites devoted not only to Linux in general, but also for all the different distributions out there. If you interested, two excellent books to start with are "Running Linux", and "Linux in a Nutshell", both available at Amazon, Borders, or from the publisher, O'Reilly.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Get Well, Mike!

One of my favorite bloggers, Mike Vanderboegh, has been in the hospital. I wish him well! We NEED guys like Mike to carry the 2A and Freedom fights forward with the courage that they show.
Godspeed, Mike!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

EMCOMMS -Wireless-

Still working on this. For the next section I'll go into some details on the differences between Licensed and Unlicensed services. They both have their places, but require some understanding of the differences.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

To one and all! My you be close to your family on this day!
I'm blessed this year, in spite of getting laid-off last week. I have a wonderful girlfriend/fiance/shootin' buddy, a home to live in, and we're all in good health.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HF Vertical Installation








Thought I'd post a few pix of the installed Shakespeare AT-1011 and SGC coupler.
Works like gangbusters!

*FINALLY* Back On-The-Air!

Well, even though I had somewhat "OK" performance using the built-in antenna "tuner" on my Kenwood TS-950SDX, the antenna system still wasn't working properly. I dug out the 'spare' SG-230 coupler, and pulled the suspect unit out of the enclosure. I had noticed two 'not-quite-right' things when I first installed it. The PL-259 connector on the input cable didn't look properly installed, and the threaded portion of the output terminal was loose. Since there's a specific warning in the SG-230 manial to use *two* wrenches when tightening the connection, this raised a red flag with me, but (DUH) I went ahead and installed it anyway, hoping for the best, even though I *know* better. Since I had nothing to lose, I pulled the cover off the suspect coupler to give it a look-see. The connection inside the coupler to the output terminal is a threaded brass rod, going through a ceramic standoff, and there's a lug on the end of a wire going to the output of the matching network circuit board.
The nut was 'finger loose' on the inside of the box!
I retightened the nuts on both ends of the brass rod, making sure the wire was nice and tight, and checked the rest of the connections inside the box.
The RF input coax had loose connections, and the power/control leads were also loose in their terminals!
I tightened everything nice and snug, and put the cover back on. I also replaced the PL-259 on the input coax, as I found (as I suspected) that the connector the previous owner had installed had the wrong adapter for the smaller RG-58 coax used for the input lead, and it was very poorly soldered.
Back up the ladder, install the coupler, connect all the cables, and head to The Shack.
SUCCESS!
It loads up on all bands from 160 Meters (1.8~2.0 MHz) through 10 Meters (28.0~29.7 MHz) with a 1.2:1 VSWR or better. I'm surprised that it loads so well on 160 Meters, as a 24' antenna is waaaay too short for decent performance, but it works, and I'll take it even though I've never operated on that band.
And the receive performance is very nice. I'm blessed with a fairly quiet location here, with local noise levels of about S3 on 40 Meters, less on the higher bands, more on the lower ones.
All I have to do is take a bunch of pix, put the covers back on the two plastic enclosures I'm using to weatherproof the coupler and isolation balun, and neatly dress the cables.

Monday, November 23, 2009

WHOO-HOO! Back On-The-Air!

Spent the day running the coax and tuner power/control cable from the patio area into The Shack. I spent some extra time trying to make it look "pretty" so the fiancee would approve. I could probably get away with sloppy cable runs and dangling wires, but then besides making her shake her pretty little head, it wouldn't say much about my workmanship, would it? So far, the only "problem" is that when I turn on the Astron SS-30M power supply I've been using to power my FlexRadio 5000A, my noise level jumps from about nothing to S-7~S-9! This is a terrible thing to hear, and while it *could* be a problem with the SG-230 antenna coupler, it sounds like typical switching power supply noise. I never really noticed this at my apartment, as I had pretty bad AC powerline noise, and if the Astron really is generating hash, I might not have noticed it.
Oh, well....out to the garage to dig out my Astron VS-50M, a linear supply, which does not generate switching noise. I'll update this later......
Yep, it was the switching supply! Installed the linear supply, and all is quiet.
Now to figure out why the doggone SG-230 won't match the antenna! I bought this used on eBay and never checked it. I noticed that the RF Input connector on the coax seemed "loose", so perhaps that could be causing it. I've got a 'spare' SG-230, so I'll probably just swap it out Tuesday morning, and see how it goes.
The internal tuner in the rig is able to find a match with 1.5:1 VSWR on almost all the bands, so I can live with it for now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Back On-The-Air Monday!

Well, the BIG 24' HF vertical is up on the patio roof, the coupler (tuner) is connected to it and the isolation (choke) balun, and all the counterpoise radials I'm going to use for now are installed. Stringing 4, 34' #10 wires from the ground buss I made out to the furthest points of the yard was more work than I thought it would be. Two of them run almost 'textbook perfect' from the ground buss out to the far coner of the roofs on our garage, and the neighbor's. The other two run back towards the house, then up a bit, and are stapled to the eaves for the remainder of their length.The fiancee's youngest son is a weightlifter, and he muscled the complete antenna and base support up to the edge of the patio roof while I guided it, and then with a mighty shove, slid it far enough that it would stay there. The two of us then got it centered, and I fished the 25kV #14 GTO wire down through the roof, trimmed it to length, and put a lug on it to connect to the hot terminal of the coupler. Monday morning I'll start running the coax (Davis RF 'BuryFlex') and the coupler control cable to The Shack. After a bit of testing, I should be ready-to-go!
It's taken me about twice the amount of time I thought it would, not to mention the $300+ cost of the building materials I needed. At least I got a brand-new 8' fiberglass Werner ladder out of the deal!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Thing Leads To Another.....

Well, I finished up doing the refurb on my big HF (shortwave) vertical antenna, and decided to do a little work on the patio roof, where I'm going to install it.
What a mess!
Our "patio" is one of those prefab kits that has all the lumber and brackets, and after you pour a concrete pad,you assemble all the bits, and presto! Instant patio! Well, the guys who installed it (it was already done when the GF bought the house) didn't do a very good job of screwing it together, and it was pretty shaky. It's a simple structure, consisting on some 4x4's bolted to the slab, and some 2x8's forming a "box" around the top, with another 2x8 running down the middle. To support the "roof", there's 2x2 stringers running across, and then the corrugated plastic "roof" is screwed into the 2x2 stringers, and the 2x8's that make the perimeter of the top.
The first problem was that the 2x2's were only nailed to the perimeter, and NOT to the 4x8 running down the middle! This let the whole shebang of strings and plastic 'float', move around, and in general not be very sturdy. And they were warped. And some were rotted out. I replaced the dry rotted ones, and "doubled up" the five in the middle with some clear pine 1x2's, and deck screws, giving me an effective "2x4" in the center of the structure. But what about the middle being of 'floating' construction? Well, a quick trip (or three) to Home Depot netted me some nice galvanized "Strong-Tie" angle brackets and matching screws, and I've spent the last two days screwing the whole top of the structure together. There's 16 stringers, and I added four brackets to each, for a total of 64 brackets. Each bracket had to be manually placed to get it "square" with the stringer, and then I C-clamped it to the 2x8 until I could get a couple of screws driven in. They're square on the stringer, but some are kind of 'strange' looking where they're screwed into the 2x8. I figured it was more important to have them square with the stringer, and not twist it up any more than it is, so I don't stress the 2x2's. Each bracket has eight screws, so in the last two days I've driven 512 #8x2" screws into the brackets. I've broken two bits, dropped numerous screws, moved the (new) ladder countless times, opened, positioned, and tightened my C-clamp way too many times, tripped over my extension cord a bunch, and recharged each of the batteries for my Makita drill at least three times. I couldn't use the Makita to drive the deck screws into the 1x2's I added to the existing 2x2's, as it just doesn't have enough torque to do it, even running on slow speed. Good thing I have my trusty old Milwaukee 1/2" chuck Super Hole Shooter, as it didn't even break a sweat.
The patio roof is now at least as strong as the rest of the house, and should support the 30~40 lbs of my assembled vertical "No Sweat".
I've got my SG-230 antenna coupler mounted in a plastic box to keep it out of the elements, and I'll be mounting that under the patio roof, and connecting the output terminal to the vertical with some #14 "GTO" wire, commonly used for neon signs. The voltage on the output of the coupler can easily exceed 10kV on frequencies where the antenna presents a high impedance, and I've made an aluminum tie plate to connect all the counterpoise wires to the "ground" terminal on the coupler, avoiding the mess I had when the vertical was on the roof of my former apartment building. I still have to run the coax and control cable for the coupler, terminate the ends, and figure out some way to get the assembled vertical up on the patio roof, and shove it to the center. I wanted to get this finished for the weekend, as the ARRL is having the 2009 "Phone Sweepstakes" this weekend, but it looks like I'll probably not have things done in time.

Oh, and the GF and I have decided to get married. The special day will be February 14th, 2010. Her "BFF" is a pastor at a local church, and will be doing the ceremony for us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day

Thank you all for serving, and may your fallen comrades rest in peace.

AARP? NO WAY!

When you get to be "my age", you'll get inundated with mailings to join the AARP. They actually start mailing sooner, when you hit 50, I think, sorta like priming the pump.
They offer good discounts on all kinds of stuff, like AAA where you just show your card, and the vendor knocks off 5 or 10%, so I joined 5 or 6 years ago. Then I started getting TWO mailings from them; one at my PO Box where I have 99% of my mail sent, and one to my apartment address. I'd get 'renewal notices' at my apartment address, and invitations to join at my PO Box address. That was exactly the opposite of how my membership was setup; I joined using my PO Box address, and tried to get them to stop the duplicate mailings to my apartment address. I never could get their incompetent "customer service" to understand that I had two addresses, so I canceled my membership.
Then I started reading about them in other publications, and the issues they supported, and decided I was glad to have dropped my membership.
WND has a good article on just how Left Leaning the AARP really is, and gives some insight as to why they're supporting the "Health Care Reform" bill. Makes interesting reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Antenna Maintenance.....

...Is best done when your antennas are down, like mine are right now. My primary HF antenna is a Shakespeare Model 120 Military Antenna. It's a multi-section antenna, with a really stout "Flange Stand-Off Base" that's damn near indestructible. It consists of a Model 120-31, an eight section, 32' stationary antenna, with a Model 120-28 Flange Stand-Off Base. The individual sections are a fiberglass tube with a radiating element inside, and they screw together by means of metal endcaps. Although they're Genuine U.S. Military grade, mine was up in the elements for almost NINE years, and was showing some signs of deterioration when I took it down a few weeks ago. The gelcoat on the elements isn't very thick, and the sun and smog took their toll. It was *almost* beginning to delaminate, and I'm sure the military would have just scrapped it out, and put up a new one. Not wanting to toss something that's still electrically good, I scrubbed the element sections with denatured alcohol to clean off the crud, and then painted them with some Rust-Oleum outdoor paint. I gave them a fairly heavy coat, as I wanted the paint to penetrate into the 'glass, let them dry 48 hours, scuffed them with some ScotchBrite, and gave them another coat. They look pretty good, and as soon as I reinforce our patio roof a bit, I'll put the antenna back up, mount the antenna coupler and a choke balun, and run the cables.
The nice thing about this setup is that you don't have to run all the sections, but can tailor the total length to what frequencies you want to cover. All eight sections gives you 32 feet of antenna, a quarter-wavelength on 40 Meters (7.00-7.300MHz), exactly what you want for long distance ("DX") communications. Five-eights of a wavelength is actually better, but starts getting pretty "floppy" for a vertical antenna made like this one. The bad thing about running all eight sections is that you now have a FULL wavelength on 10 Meters (28.00-30.00MHz), which results in a less-than-optimum radiation pattern, with most of your signal going skyward, rather than out at a "low angle", which gives maximum ground-wave distance, and "Good DX" when your signal bounces off the ionosphere. My solution is to leave off the two bottom sections, which gives me 24', almost the magic "Five Eighths Wavelength" on 10 Meters, while still being completely usable on 40 Meters, although a bit short for best radiation and "Take Off Angle". There *are* times when you want a high take-off angle for regional communications, and I'll get into that (it's called "NVIS") as part of my "Wireless EMCOMMS" series.
What about all those frequency bands in between 40 Meters and 10 Meters? Well, I use an SGC Model 230 "Smartuner" at the base of the antenna, with 4 counterpoise radials cut for each band. This allows me to operate on any frequency I'm licensed for between 7MHz and 30MHz, and I've actually used it at 54MHz, although the tuner isn't rated for that frequency.
SGC has a wealth of information on their website about setting up low-profile or clandestine antennas for those times you really need to be in touch, but don't want your "neighbors" to know you have world-wide shortwave communications available.
I know I could have purchased any one of the various commercially available "All Band" verticals on the market, but the nice thing about using an antenna coupler/matching network (sometimes called an 'antenna tuner', but it doesn't really "tune" the antenna) at the base of a long radiating element is that you don't have the losses associated with the "traps" that are used to separate the various segments of the antenna by frequency, along with worrying if they were made correctly, weatherproofed correctly, and other things.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Remington 1100 TAC4 Mini-Report





Well, now that I've settled in here a bit, I took a day off to do some gunnie stuff. I was curious to see how my new Remington 1100 TAC4 would pattern with the ammo I commonly keep on-hand. I've always admired the 1100, and I finally bought one. The fit and finish are nice, but it's a bit different to load than my 870, requiring you to push in on the carrier release before the carrier itself will swing up, and allow you to push the shells into the magazine. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but for the first time out with it, I was pretty fumbled fingered. This particular gun came with a Hi-Viz front sight, which snaps on just aft of the front bead sight, and has a colored transparent rod in it to give you a "Fiber Optic" effect. It comes with a bunch of different colored rods to suit your mood, I guess. It caught enough of the light in the dimly lit range to be more visible than the bead sight, but out in the shop area, under the store lights, it *really* lit up. It's 100% plastic, so I have my doubts about its durability, but it was a nice touch that Remington included it.
As far as the ammo I used goes, I have some Remington "Green and Yellow Box" ammo part #"12B00", some Federal "Power-Shok" part # "F12700", some Wolf "Power Buckshot" no part # on box, and some Winchester Supreme "High Velocity" part # "SB1200". I also tried some of the "Estate" brand birdshot that we train with at the range, as I'd heard it wouldn't cycle the gun properly. Out of the five Estate shells I fired, two of them stove-piped, and the other three cycled and ejected properly. Except for the birdshot, all ammo was off-the-shelf "00 Buck" loads purchased from Midway or Sportsman's Guide. Nothing special, just plain old "Double Aught Buck". The only surprise was the Winchester High Velocity loads. Man, did they ever KICK! Huge roar, big spout of flame out of the barrel, and the one other guy on the range came down and asked me what in the H3LL I was shooting. The first round of it really caught me off guard, and the barrel wound up at about a 45* angle!
Potent stuff, to say the least.
All targets were placed about "Halfway Down" the range, which is about 25 feet. Probably a bit far for a Home Defense distance, but I wanted them to spread a bit. Since the 1100 TAC4 has changeable choke tubes, I went with what the guys at the range recommended, which is the "Improved Cylinder" tube. I tried to keep my aimpoint at the center of the orange area, and I think I was pretty consistent. The tightest pattern (for THIS gun, on THIS day, with THIS lot number ammo!) was the Federal, which also gave the tightest pattern in my 870 Express. Not sure if that surprises me or not, as if I go back tomorrow, I might get different results. Whatever the case, I feel safe in saying that all the rounds I fired would be acceptable for home defense *as far as accuracy and spread goes*! I don't have a Box 'O Truth to test penetration with, but I *do* agree with him that's it's fun to shoot stuff.
As far as the new target hangers that my friend the Wandering Minstrel has commented about, I didn't have any problem with them. I duct-taped the top edge of the target to some cardboard, and put some duct-tape on the little binder clips (The Original "Bachelor's Chip Clip"!) that grab the target. I think the extra thickness of the cardboard allowed the clip to grab a little more securely, and I'm sure the duct-tape didn't hurt either. I understand why they changed the target hangers, as replacing one used to cost about $50, and now it costs one coat hanger and two small binder clips, but I agree with Minstrel, it just looks El Cheapo, and doesn't anchor the target very well without some kind of backing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It Can't Happen Here



The SyFy channel was running a "V" marathon tonight, so in between unpacking stuff and moving boxes around, I caught a bunch of it. I really liked the two mini-series when the came out in the early 80's, so I checked out some of the history of the series. The writer of the series claims it was inspired by a 1935 book by Sinclair Lewis, of all people, called "It Can't Happen Here".
If you'd like to read a FREE e-book version of the original Lewis work, you can find it here.
I haven't read it yet, but it looks pretty interesting.
Makes me hope we'll see some of these appearing soon.
Sorry for the sloppy 'air brush' job, but I can't figure out how to make GIMP give me that runny spray-can look.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

GROAN.....I'm Moved!

Thanks to the GF's son, Mike, and his buddy Steve, we got the last remnants of my stuff out of my old bachelor pad.
I'm trashed, and so's the GF.
Now to call DirecTV and have them install a new dish, call The Phone Company and have them terminate the service, and turn all my keys in on Monday.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In The "Home" Stretch!

GROAN....down to moving the last of my stuff out today. My landlord said it's OK to leave what old furniture I don't want, and he'll leave it up to the new tenant to decide if they want to keep it. I have the rest of my networking equipment to box up and move out, a box of books (UGH! Like moving a box of CONCRETE!), a case of "still good" MRE's, a big wire-frame storage rack that thankfully knocks down, and my laser printer.
I'll sure miss my little bachelor pad, but life progresses, and my GF is the best gal I've met in so long that it was worth the wait. Did I mention she loves going to the range, and can handle full-power 357 loads out of my S&W TRR8 without flinching?
And she's a great cook!
Oh well....back to moving. Next week I'm going to refurb my weather station and get it back on-the-air, refurb my HF vertical and get it mounted so *I* can get back on the air, and start photographing and listing on eBay all the collectible SciFi "Action Figures" her deceased hubby had been stockpiling for his "retirement fund".
We have almost ONE THOUSAND of said figures, from the little 6" ones, up to the full-size 12" ones. I swear we could restage The Battle of Stallingrad in the back yard!
And then there's the baseball cards, plastic model kits, pins, PEZ dispensers, and the FOUR THOUSAND comic books, all in nice little plastic sleeves, and indexed in an EXCEL spreadsheet.. It's gonna take six months to dispose of it all........

Monday, October 26, 2009

BUSY!

Been really busy getting moved, so that's why the EMCOMMS articles are on hold.
Almost done, though. We moved my big TV and all the other audio/video gear today, all the computer and Amateur Radio gear is moved, and all I have to do is pick up some odds and ends, and vacuum the old place out for the landlord.
I *told* the gf I had a LOT of stuff, but she didn't believe me until she started helping me box it up to move!
My bachelor pad was just one big room, a good-sized kitchen, and a bathroom. My son always described it as being a cross between an NSA listening post, and an explosion at a CompUSA! The building looks positively barren with all the antennas and weather monitoring stuff off the roof. One of my neighbors got the kitchen table and chairs, another got my nice big comfy leather sofa, and the rest I'm leaving for the next tenant.
GAWD I'll be glad when I'm finished! Next to plumbing, I hate moving the most!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

EMCOMMS Wired or Wireless?

I'll post a bit more about wireline stuff if anybody wants. Otherwise, I'm working on the "Wireless" section since I understand radio a whole lot better, and I think it has more utility for local, regional, and CONUS applications.
Feel free to ask away, or point out any "errors" you think I've made.

And Now, For Something Completely Different....

Whoo-Hoo!
Channel 105 on Sirius is now "The Monty Python Channel"!
Wonder if they'll ever have a "Fawlty Towers Channel"?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Home-Made Electronic Components

In doing some research for the EMCOMMS articles, I ran across this fascinating page at MAKE about home-made electronic components.
I've seen several home-made vacuum tubes, and experimented a lot with various types of crystal detectors, I even made several "Fox Hole Radios" when I was young (see more here), but nothing like this stuff.
H/T to the Retrotechnologist for leading me there.

Monday, October 19, 2009

EMCOMMS -Wired Equipment-

Wired or Hard-Line Equipment

I'll start with some "Wired" equipment, since most people can relate to having wire between two or more locations. I'm not a "Telephone Guy", even though I did work for Western Electric out of college. I'd always wanted to work for AT&T Long Lines, but that's another story!
The military is (or was) fond of using "Field Telephones" for semi-permanent locations. Popular US equipment were the EE-8, TA-43, TA-312, and the later TA-838 units. Like most US military equipment, it was robust, well-designed, and easy to install and repair. If you can get these cheap (which I doubt!), then go ahead and use them. These units will require a battery to power them up, and some good old 'twisted pair' wire to connect them. Some of them even had a Ringing Generator to alert the person on the other end you were trying to call them. These were hand-cranked magnetos, and could put out one heck of a jolt if you got across the line while it was being cranked! Like most phone systems, the "Talk" circuit is D.C., and the "Ring" circuit uses A.C. There's nothing special about the wire used to connect the phones. As long as it has two conductors, and can withstand the environment, you should be good to go. Lamp cord (or zip cord), "Bell Wire" for doorbells, Thermostat Wire, or speaker wire can all be used. I've even seen people use electric fence wire since it's insulated from the posts by the stand-offs, and isn't *obviously* a telephone circuit. The gauge isn't that important, either. Anything 24 gauge or larger is fine. Stranded wire is preferred, as it unspools easier, and is more flexible. Telephones in the US generally use two colors for the wire that makes up a single "circuit" or "pair", red and green. The red wire goes to the "ring" connection, ("Red Right Ring" as they say), and the green goes to the tip connection. "Tip" and "Ring" come from the names of the parts of the plug the operator would push into the switchboard when they wanted to "connect" the calling party to the called party. They looked very similar to a modern stereo head phone plug. The 'tip' is the very end of the plug,, with the point on it, the 'ring' is the little band of metal further up the plug, and the body is called the 'sleeve'.
Since you don't want to pay "Collector's" prices for simple telephone equipment, two old desk phones can be wire up to make a perfectly serviceable comm-link. This guy has a good article on using an old desk phone as an extension to his working field phone, and there's tons of people with explanations of how to set up a simple phone system for very low cost.
Here's some Google hits to get you started with a wired system:
Farm Collector, Military Phones, Surplus Phones

And if you're interested in old phone stuff in general, try the Antique Telephone Webring.
The prc68 website also has a good list of military telephone stuff.

And if you're interested in the old Ma Bell stuff, here's the evolution of the American Dial Telephone.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

EMCOMMS Overview

OK, as promised, here's general overview of what I plan on covering.
This is pretty rough, and not quite finished, but I'm pretty busy moving this weekend and wanted to get something posted.
Feel free to comment or ask for additional sections, and I'll try to get something posted.

EMCOMM OVERVIEW

I. Purpose and Background
The purpose of these articles is to guide the new user, non-radio geek, into the world of maintaining communications when the normal system breaks down. I'm hoping you've provided water, food, medicine, shelter, and other items for you and your loved ones, so I'm not going to cover that.
If there's a natural disaster (Earthquake, Fire, Flood, etc) of some sort, or a man-made disaster (Riots, Terrorist Attack, Civil Breakdown, "TSHTF"), you can bet your rear-end that most 'regular' means of communications will be unavailable. The cell phone system will be overloaded, and even if you have a land-line available to you, it, too, will most likely be an unreliable means of communicating during the duration of the communications outage.
The reasons are many, but a lot of it boils down to the fact that while Ma Bell designed the system to be very robust, it was never designed for 7 million people in one area to all pick up the phone at once and dial out. In The Old Days, one of the things we were taught was that after some disaster, if you saw a pay phone with the handset dangling, please hang it back up, as an off-hook handset will request a dial tone, and enough of them off-hook would overload the system. In some cases (think 9/11 or Katrina), a major switching center might have been taken out, and all telephone and Internet communications in the affected area would be knocked out. Of course, there's always the possibility that The Government will deliberately shut things down, but I won't go there, either.

II. Scope
I'll be taking a few liberties here in an effort to make this as simple as I can, as I'm intending this for my fellow gunnies, and I'm going to assume that most of them don't have a background in communications. If you do, fine, and bear with me. If you don't, that's fine, too, and hopefully you'll at least absorb some of the basics. Most of this will cover voice communications, as that's what people are most comfortable with, and it's fairly easy to train people to use.
If you know Morse Code, and can use it, or you're an Amateur Radio operator, then these articles are probably too basic for you.
Keep in mind that NO communications system that you'll likely have available will be 100% reliable. We also won't go into secure or scrambled/encrypted communications, as if you have the gear capable of doing it, you're also far beyond the audience these articles are directed at. If you need a somewhat secure system, then work out a code with your group members ahead of time.

III. Equipment
I'm breaking the equipment down into two areas; “Wired”, and “Wireless”. I'll expand each of the areas, and give some reasons why you might want to use one over the other, depending on your requirements.

IIIb. Wired
"Wired", or "Hard Line", communications are those that rely on an actual physical connection. Whether it's a piece of copper wire between two field phones, a fiber-optic link between two computers, a hollow 'speaking tube' on a ship, or two tin cans and a piece of string, they all share the property of having an actual, physical connection from Point A to Point B. They can be very simple, to very complex. The simple systems are easy to deploy, troubleshoot, and keep running. Some don't even require a power source, although their distance is limited. Wired communications are fine for fixed station and point-to-point use.
IIIc. Wireless
“Wireless” communications are those which do not rely on an actual physical connection. Smoke signals, Semaphores, Heliographs and pocket mirrors, and even shouting at each other fall into this category, as does Radio. Since I'm a “Radio Guy”, I'll focus more on the radio aspects, as that's what I do best.

IV. Protocols for Communications
1. Analog
Analog systems are the oldest and 'simplest' systems in use. They use a signal which varies in level to represent the human voice. The louder you talk, the bigger the signal is, and the louder it sounds on the other end. The various frequencies in the voice are transmitted pretty much “As Is”, although the design of the equipment typically limits the bandwidth to about 2.7 kHz, with the frequencies from 300 Hz to 3000 Hz being sent mostly unaltered. These frequencies correspond to what's called “Communications Quality” audio, and contain the frequencies required for understandable communications. Not “HiFi” by any means, but more than adequate to do the job, and usually recognize the person talking. The original telephone system was all analog, and actually connected the pair of wires running from your telephone, to another pair of wires running to another another telephone, forming a complete “circuit”. A working system can be made with two old telephones, some wire, and a couple of batteries. Some systems are entirely 'Sound Powered', and don't even require the batteries.
2. Digital
Digital systems are much more complex, in that they take the analog signal, and convert it into a series of ones and zeroes, and then reconstruct the analog signal on the other end. This takes a lot of “stuff” to do, and is pretty hard to build from scratch. The telephone system has gone almost 100% digital in the Central Office, although the line to the subscriber is still analog. Even though you might have DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), the “bits” in the digital part of DSL are still sent using various discreet frequencies, but at much higher frequencies than voice uses.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Emergency Comms (EMCOMM) For All

Well, when I first started this blog I said that I'd be doing a few pieces on Emergency Communications, and I've been working diligently on that. I'll be breaking it down into several sections so it doesn't get too long-winded in any one article. I'll *try* not to get too technical, but if I do, you can always ask me for explanations. And since this is on the Web, I'll sprinkle the articles with hyperlinks so you can do further study on your own.
I doubt if I'll wind up with a Web Opus like "Absolved", but if I can help bridge the gap between my fellow gunnies and my fellow radio geeks, then it will have been worth the effort.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ahhhh....The Joys Of Home Ownership.....

Spent part of the afternoon under the bathroom sink installing a new faucet, drain, and supply lines. 3 days ago we had "Bathtub King" come out and resurface the sink and counter top. They were the "Cultured Marble" type (read: "PLASTIC") and over the years the basin had deteriorated to the point it was cracked and pretty fugly. They did a great job, so to go with the "new" look, I decided to put a new faucet on. Actually I have to back up to the day previous, as we told them I'd have the faucets and drain removed for them when they got here.
WELL....the shut-off valves didn't, so I had to shut the water off to the entire house to avoid flooding the bathroom. Thankfully, the guy across the street is a *real* plumber, and showed me how to connect a hose _between_ the outlets of the old valves until I got new ones, so I could turn the water back on to the house. With that out of the way, "Bathtub King" proceeded to grind out and "Bondo" (he actually used something else, but everybody knows what "Bondo" is) the damaged area. Then he sprayed the new finish on, and left for lunch while it cured. 3 hours later he came back and sprayed the clear overcoat on, at which point we had to wait 72 hours for it to fully cure.
Back to the valves.....The plumber and I don't "talk" the same when it comes to tubing (measured by OUTSIDE diameter) and pipe (measured by INSIDE diameter), so I bought the wrong size valves....TWICE! He finally said he'd get the right ones, and when he came back the next day, we had the new valves installed in about 15 minutes. This afternoon the finish was cured, so I put the new faucet, drain, and supply lines on.
It looks beautiful, and now the GF sees why I didn't want to just clean up the old faucet and drain and reinstall it.
Last month we pulled all the appliances out of the kitchen, and tore up the old linoleum. Two of the guys that live in the apartment building I was living at are expert tile guys, so the GF and I went to Home Depot, and bought the tile, baseboard pieces, and the (matching!) grout. She wanted the tiles in a "brick" pattern, rather than just a "square" pattern, so it took him a couple of extra days because he had to custom cut a LOT of the tiles. It also looks beautiful, but between the backer board, mortar, and thickness of the tile, the floor is now about 1/2" thicker, and the dishwasher would NOT fit back under the cabinets! Took me two days with a belt sander and a 40-grit belt to *carefully* remove enough of the wood under the countertop so the dishwasher would slide back in.
The "Tile Guys" also reset a bunch of the brickwork in the front porch that had settled over the years, resulting in a lot of loose bricks and cracked mortar. I was stunned how fast they did it. I figured it would take them at least a day to do it, but having the right tools, and experience, makes a big difference. They just knocked all the loose bricks out, used their tile saw to cut the old mortar off, and had all the bricks reset in about two hours!
Earlier this year we had all the windows replaced, the roof replaced on the house and garage, and painted the exterior. A lot of this was "Deferred Maintenance", and things that she'd just let slide, due to some family issues, but the house is pretty spiffy again.
Our next "project" will be to build an addition off the back of the house for my workshop/radio room, and get the electrical service upgraded.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Governator Signs Ammo Bill!

Stock up now, if you can!
I just ordered some more from Cabela's and Midway. Cabela's has stated they'll no longer sell to Kaliforniastan, but Midway hasn't made any statement I'm aware of.
Since this POS "legislation" doesn't take effect until July 2010, I'll be ordering more over the next 8 months.
I pretty much buy my practice ammo at the range (if they have it) as it helps support them.
I'll see what they have in stock later today when I stop in today to pick up my Remington 1100 TAC4.
Yep, "mini" Range Report will be coming!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Please Call To Oppose AB962 and SB585

We only have a few days to call the Governor and let him know we DO NOT want these bills passed.
I've sent emails, faxes, and written letters to express my opposition to these bills.
SB585 is the ban on gunshows at The Cow Palace
AB962 is the ominous "Ammunition Bill" that will place insane restrictions on buying, selling, and even GIVING ammo away TO YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS!
Today I called, and I urge you to do so, too.
Here's how:
1) Call 1-916-445-2841
2) Press 1 for English (no comment!)
3) Press 2 to comment on a bill
4) Listen for AB962 option
5) Press 2 to oppose (VETO) the bill

Do the same for SB585

It might take you a while to get through, as the line is busy quite often, but please, KEEP TRYING

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First Aid Training

In all of our talk and blogging about being "independent", I see lots of writing about things like food storage, weapons training and storage, how to dig your own latrine, grow your own food, and keep the lights on, but I don't see much advice on getting some PROPER First Aid training.
This subject came up as I was yakking with one of my Ham Radio buddies, who was relating to me the story of his wife's recent medical emergency, and how he was glad he'd taken some basic First Aid training as part of his Amateur Radio Emergency Communications training.
I've had a ton of training provided by my current (for now!) employer. Basic, Advanced, First Responder, CPR, Emergency Defibrillator, Blood Borne Pathogens, and numerous other courses, including basic firefighting. Being on a ship with 240 other people, thousands of miles from nowhere, is a really good reason to have every crew member "ready for action"!
While it's important to know the other things we usually blog-on about, please take the time to find some First Aid training in your area. You just might save the life of a loved one, or critical crew member.
The American Red Cross is a good place to start, and they offer both local classes, and online training.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Differences In Outlook

Sent to me by a good friend.
Pretty much says it all.....

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, then no one should have one.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat.
If a liberal is, he wants to ban all meat products for everyone.

If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his
enemy.
A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.

If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly lives his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he loudly demands legislated respect.

If a black man or Hispanic is conservative, he sees himself as independently
successful.
Their liberal counterparts see themselves as victims in need of
government protection.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his
situation.
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
A liberal wants any mention of God or religion silenced.

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for
it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that his neighbors pay for his.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wikipedia Veers To The Left....AGAIN

After seeing this cartoon over at Obama Cartoons, I decided I didn't know who Hannah Giles was, so I Googled for her.
Imagine my surprise when I found this heading on her Wikipedia entry:

"This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia's deletion policy.
Please share your thoughts on the matter at this article's entry on the Articles for deletion page.
Feel free to edit the article, but the article must not be blanked, and this notice must not be removed, until the discussion is closed. For more information, particularly on merging or moving the article during the discussion, read the guide to deletion."

Now, I've generally only trusted the Wikipedia for Scientific and Technology items, things that can be somewhat easily verified by other sources, particularly our old friends BOOKS. I give their other entries the grain-of-salt weighting that I give other sources that I can't verify myself.
I find their Deletion Policy to be pretty open-ended, subject to interpretation, and pretty arbitrary, which of course is their right, since they run the website.
The thing that struck me about this particular entry was not that it was flagged for editing, but flagged for deletion.
There's tons of pages on there that deal with public personalities that get flagged for editing, but this is the first I've ever seen flagged for deletion.
And I use Wikipedia A LOT.
Very interesting....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The RNC

Man, I'm REALLY getting tired of these people calling me. Thank God for caller ID! The last time I talked to them, I told them I was NOT giving any more money to the Republican National Committee until they changed their policies.
When I see them getting back to more conservative values, I *might* give them another donation. In the meantime, I'll spread what little "wealth" I have to individual candidates that I feel are closer to my values than The Party Line. I like Chuck DeVore and wish there were more like him.
We NEED:
Less big government
Recognition of individual RIGHTS
Elimination of unnecessary, wasteful programs
Tax reductions
A strong national defense policy
Supreme Court candidates that support The Constitution
For that matter, we also need elected representatives that support AND FOLLOW our Constitution!
CLOSE THE DAMN BORDERS!
I'm sure there's more I could list, but I think you get my drift....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gun Safes

Gun safes are one of those things that I never really thought about much until recently. Since I'll be moving in with my girlfriend shortly, it's time to buy one, and wow, the choices are overwhelming! I was even surprised to see them at Home Depot in the "Tools" section, but I think I'd rather spend a little more and get one from more of a name-brand kind of place than my local lumber/wallboard/tool emporium.
The first question is How Big? I don't own a lot of firearms (yet!), so I don't need a safe big enough to arm a platoon, but I do need one big enough to handle any future purchases.
Then there's What "Level" Do We Buy? Some of these things look sturdy enough to require a small tactical nuke to break in to. The fire rating changes with the level, which is nice to know, but I'm more concerned with things like ease of installation (Reinforce the floor? WHAT!?), ease of opening, and physical security.
Which brings up What Type Of Lock? By this I mean do we want a dial-type lock, or a keypad-type lock? I kind of favor the keypad, but I want to look into if they have a connector for an external battery in case the on-board battery dies. It would be a real bummer to not be able to get into my own safe!
Next is Where Do We Put It? I'm looking at "closet safes", as we have a closet in one of the bedrooms that's not used for much, and it would be out of sight.
I already have a pistol safe that pops open with just a touch of the finger pads (yes, I practice with that just as much as I practice with my pistols!), and I'll keep that in the bedroom with my 45 inside it. I can't be running off to the other bedroom if something goes bump in the night, or the Goblins start prowling around outside. I just hope I never have to use my pistol to fight my way to my shotgun!
And finally, What About Shipping? These things are heavy, and I doubt if I could just slide one in the back of my Jeep to get it home. I'll probably rent a small trailer, and take the girlfriend's "#2 Son" with me. He's a weight-lifter, and helped the other night when we brought all the floor tile home for the kitchen remodel. I was struggling with a single box of tile (ever pick up a box of 12x12 floor tiles?), and was lugging in THREE of them! He's also been to the range with us a few times, knows The Four Rules, and is a damn fine shot with my Kimber.
I found several places that are fairly local, like "Homeland Security Safe Company", and "Patriot Safe Company". Some of the others offer free shipping, but that means somebody has to be home to accept delivery, and I'd really like this to be low-key, as I don't want a big truck pulling up, and all the neighbors seeing a brand-new GUN SAFE being delivered.
Ahhh...decisions, decisions. Next time I go to the range I'll ask the guys there. It's where I bought my little pistol safe, and they always know the answers to my sometimes arcane questions.
Comments are welcome, especially your experiences with gun safes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"I Am A Shooter"

Brigid has really out done herself this time, at least IMHO! She hits the nail on the head, and describes things that I feel, and know, but can't put into words.
Please go check out her latest posting, "I Am A Shooter". It's a worthy read.
The blogosphere is very lucky to have such an eloquent spokesperson.
Oh, and her recipes are great, too!

Tick, Tick, Tick......

Well, all 35 of us received our "Official 60-Day Notice of Impending Layoff" from the mothership on Friday. Then we went across the street to a little hole-in-the-wall bar for a "Pink Slip Party". The Company is really trying to relocate those who want to stay with The Company to other jobs, and several of my friends are going to do the TDY thing at various locations around the U.S. for the next few months. They had one location I was interested in, down in Ajo, Arizona working on the systems for the Virtual Border Fence that's being installed. It sounded pretty neat (and pretty cush, too!), but I really don't want to be out in the middle of nowhere for 3~4 months. *Maybe* if I could carry my sidearm (lots of "vermin" out there, I hear), AND convince the girlfriend it was a Good Thing, I'd go, but I think I'll use this 60-day period to finish moving in with her, get settled, and do some upgrades on the house. I'm a bit burned-out from all the travelling I've done in the last 5 years (I was gone 19 weeks last year), and looking forward to some R&R. Besides, my previous employer has told me "Just let us know if/when you'd like to come back", so as long as they don't mind waiting a while ( I don't lose my severance package, which you lose if you accept ANY employment before the 60 days is up), I'm perfectly happy to be "Semi-Retired"!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Moment Of Silence, Please

For all those who lost their lives eight years ago today........


Thank you.
I can't hope to come close to all the other remembrances posted on the Web today, so I won't try, but here's my little story.
I was working the night shift at the uplink for the #1 satellite TV broadcaster. Night shift was a combination of tedium and boredom. We set the schedules up on the video servers and compression equipment for the coming day, made sure all the transmitters and amplifiers were working correctly, made our "meter readings", and did our part for upgrades at the station, like pulling in new cable, moving equipment racks, cleaning tape decks, and stuff like that. Usually pretty quiet. The intercom burst to life from the Main Control Room, and we expected that it was for something that had failed, and needed to be put back on-line ASAP. The BOSS (Broadcast Operations Shift Supervisor) was yelling "TURN ON THE NEWS!!!", so we flipped the monitor wall to CNN, BBC, FOX, etc.
It was horrible.
Working at a Broadcast Center is neat because we have access to all the "Raw Feeds", and the stuff the on-the-scene satellite trucks are uplinking back to their respective networks. It's where you'll see the reporters in the field doing their "Air Checks" before they go live. Sometimes it's hilarious because of the comments they make that you don't see at home when your'e watching TV. Reporters with perfect hair, nice suits and ties, and then you'll see them wearing old ratty jeans and shoes when the camera pulls back.
Not today.
I ran out to the main control room, set up some receivers, and started swinging some of our "Wild Feed" dishes around to the satellites I knew would be carrying the live traffic from the field. Within a few minutes we were getting live on-the-scene traffic, and the BOSS patched it to all the 'local' TV sets on-site.
Utter pandemonium. Nobody knew what was going on, the reporters were in a daze trying to get info, and doing their best to fill in with what little was known.

Then the second plane hit.
Thirty-four minutes later the Pentagon was attacked.
Twenty-two minutes after that the South Tower collapsed.
Twenty-nine minutes after that the North Tower collapsed.

So far I've lived through three of those historic "Where Were You?" moments in time.
President Kennedy is assassinated
We landed on the Moon
9/11

I'm not very religious, but I hope and pray we never have to go through an event like this again.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Labor Day Weekend!



A little belated, but best wishes for all!
Spent last night "playing radio" out in the girlfriend's back yard. I was running my Elecraft K2, and my BuddiPole converted to a BuddiStick configuration for the first time. Talked to several guys back east (Missouri, Louisiana, Indiana), a couple more out West (Colorado and Wyoming), and had a nice chat with a guy in Honolulu.
Not bad for 10 Watts to a "portable" antenna! My signal was up-and-down, so one of these days I'll finish up the 100 Watt amplifier for my K2. The rig shown has the amplifier installed as part of the black, finned heatsink that comprises the top of the radio. Mine has a gray cover with the speaker in it, and that gets replaced by the amplifier assembly. Running "10dB down" from 100 Watts makes for some challenging contacts on Single Sideband, but I had no problems hearing stations. The K2 has an outstanding receiver, but 10 Watts is marginal for casual use down at the bottom of the solar cycle like we are right now. If we had been doing Emergency Communications, then the other guys would have been "listening harder" for us, and not just cherry-picking the stronger signals to talk to.

Friday, September 4, 2009

C-17 For America

The mothership sent this out today and requested we spread it around.

C-17 For America

When I think of the glorious history of Aerospace in Southern California, and that this is the last remaining aircraft program in the state, it saddens me.
So much Really Neat Stuff(tm) was invented and perfected out here that it boggles the mind. I was fortunate to get to work on some of it, both for the late, great Hughes Aircraft Company, and then Boeing.
Things I dreamed of as a kid......

(Hay) Fever Dreams

My allergies are acting up again, so last night I took a couple of Benadryl before hitting the hay. Most times it just clears up my sinuses, and helps me sleep, but last night.....Oh, Boy!
I kept having very strange dreams, where I was suckered into entering the "Amusement Park From Hell". The lines for the rides were very long, moved glacially slow, and all the people surrounding me smelled like they hadn't had a bath in months.
They all had this "1000 Yard Zombie Stare", and didn't speak coherently. There was loud carnival music blaring everywhere and the heat was oppressive. Barkers constantly screamed at you to enter the side-shows. The food was inedible and expensive. There were no water fountains anywhere, and you were forced to buy flat soda or stale bottled water, and both were almost too warm to drink.
The person letting you on the rides looked like Freddy Kruger, and talked like Hannibal Lecter, and when you got to the rides, they were either broke or didn't work right.
Roller coasters that went 5 mph, and ferris wheels that made one turn and stopped. Getting off the rides was just as bad as getting on. Freddy/Hannibal was in your face asking you how much you enjoyed the ride, and forcing you to fill out a survey as you got off. The survey only went from "Good" to "Excellent", with no place to write what you really thought of the rides. The paper it was printed on was cheap, and tore easily. The pens didn't write more than one or two characters before you had to shake the ink back down to the end.
It seemed like I wandered aimlessly in the park for days, and finally, towards sunset one day, I saw the exit. I made a break for it, and as I escaped the park into the cool night air, I turned around and looked back.
The sign said "Thank You For Visitng OBAMALAND!"
I woke up in a cold sweat.......

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1911's RULE!!!!

Got my newest issue of "American Rifleman" a few days ago, and they have their "Top Ten Handguns of All Time" listed.
Of course, the Colt 1911 was number 1!
Read more here:
http://www.americanrifleman.org/ArticlePage.aspx?cid=24&id=1777

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Got "RIF'd" Today

Well, we all knew another "Reduction In Force" was coming. I survived the first two, but today was my turn. Out of the 41 of us left on-site, they released THIRTY-FOUR, an 83% staff reduction.
My employer, a very large American Aerospace company, is the Prime Contractor providing integration, management, and technical services at a local site that does Real Neat Stuff(tm). Yes, I'm not "naming names" because technically, I'm still employed by them for the next 75 days or so, and I don't want to violate any terms of my employment which might result in me being 'terminated' rather than 'laid off'. It will take 10 days~two weeks for the paperwork from our client to catch up with The Mothership, and then I'll get my official "60 Day Notice". During this time I use a special charge number, and keep getting paid with my regular benefits. If I fail to find another assignment within the company (not very likely) during this time, I'll be 'separated without prejudice', and get a severance package.
Our client went into Chapter 11 at the end of June, and has been shedding contracts and people every month like clockwork. They (my management, not the clients) tried to keep most of my team together, but it's a business decision out of their hands, and the time finally came to let us go, or in the correct parlance, "Returned" to my division of the parent company.
It was really sad; the guys were all 'stiff upper lip', the ladies were all teary-eyed, and the Head Engineer was visibly upset about having to release us. "We just decimated the best team on Earth" was his comment.
And I have to say, that out of all the jobs I've had in my career, and I've had some pretty amazing adventures, this one was hands-down the best. I had the honor of working with the absolute best group of people I've ever known, and got to do things I only dreamed about as a little kid growing up in the cornfields of Illinois.
So, as one of my co-workers put it, "Sometimes the sound of one door closing is the same as another one opening", and it's time to reflect on what I want to do with the rest of my working career, since I can "retire" in about 5 years.
I have several options open to me, one of which is going back to my previous employer. I left there on very good terms (you're going WHERE? WOW!), and one of the other Engineers I worked with has pretty much told me to contact them if I decide I'd like to go back.
I can also go to another local company that does pretty much what I was doing, but they're a start-up, and I got burned a couple of times working at start-ups during The Great Internet Bubble, so I'm a bit gun-shy about start-ups.
Anywhoo....I've now got the luxury of 60+ days to get myself and all my stuff moved in with my girlfriend, so I'm going to use the time to my advantage, and get regrouped and settled in.
Sure was a fun place to work, though!