Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Gonna have a quiet one this year. My YF's brother and his YF are coming over here tonight for a while. They've got a new 'interactive' version of "Pictionary" that runs on the Wii, and my YF bribed her son and his girlfriend so that we could have a whole bunch of us play this (stooopid) game.
Oh, well, at least the pizza will be good!
Have a safe, happy and hopefully prosperous New year everybody!
See you all on the flip side....

Update: "Pictionary" on the Wii is way better than the non-electronic version!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rise of the Muffler Men


While browsing around on Wikipedia for something totally unrelated, I found a picture of the "Gemini Giant" fiberglass statue that stands in front of "The Launching Pad" in Wilmington, IL, one of my hot-rod haunts from days gone by. We always just called him "The Spaceman", but it turns out he's a member of the tribe referred to as "Muffler Men".
The first of the Muffler Men was a giant Paul Bunyan figure made for the PB Cafe in Flagstaff, AZ in about 1962, by Bob Prewitt of Prewitt Fiberglass. Most of the figures produced later by International Fiberglass came from that one mold, often modified to suit what the customer wanted.
The whole story is here on the Roadside America website, and is an interesting look into the people behind these giant glass figures.
For more info on the guys, just Google "Muffler Men", and you'll find more than I thought was possible!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry (and I'm NOT sorry!) Christmas!

After reading about the moon-bat lefty who apologized for attending a Christmas party, I modified my title.
Here's wishing all my friends who do, and don't, visit my little blog a very Merry CHRISTmas, and a prosperous New Year.
I'm not sure about the last part, given the nature of the economy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Best of the Best" Shuttle Launches 1983~2010

Some pretty impressive film in super slow motion of the engines firing, and liftoff.
When I worked for Boeing on the Sea Launch program in the Range Operations Group, one of our responsibilities was to maintain the cameras that took footage like this. They were 16MM, 400 frames-per-second, and were housed in 3/8" thick steel plate housings. The windows the cameras were pointed out of were about 5" in diameter, and made of two layers of borosilicate glass. Depending on the launch profile, the outer window would usually get trashed, but sometimes came through the launch without a scratch.
The housings, on the other hand, got pretty beat up every launch. After each launch we'd open up the enclosures (about 60 1/2" bolts), pull the cameras out, put the tops back on the enclosures, and do a minor sealing up with silicone caulk for the trip home. The cameras and enclosures got a full check-out, cleaning, and complete sealing once we got down to the launch site for the next launch. Every two years or so we had to scrape off the ablative coating and reapply it, and it was nasty stuff to work with!
Anyway....knowing the work that goes in to just getting these films makes me appreciate their beauty all the more.
Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vintage Computing, Part Deux


Well, I finally got enough stuff dragged out of the garage to get a decent PC put together to run "Grim Fandango". My first attempt with the old HP Vectra VE didn't work very well. I had trouble getting the game to install, and it wouldn't play. Then the audio quit working, and I couldn't get it to come back, so rather than spend more time troubleshooting it, I went deep into the bowels of the garage this morning, and dug out what I thought was enough stuff to get something decent running. It took a while, but my trusty FIC VA-503+ motherboard was located, and I spent some time brushing the dust off of it, cleaning the connectors on it, and making sure the fan on the heatsink was good to go. Then I located an AT-style power supply, a 40 GB IDE hard-disk, an IDE CD/DVD drive, a floppy and cables for all the drives, an AT-to-PS/2 keyboard adapter, a 3Com PCI Ethernet card, my Aureal Vortex PCI soundcard, and got my BIG box of memory modules out. I loaded the board with two 64 meg sticks of PC-100 SDRAM (PLENTY for Win98!), checked all the jumper settings, plugged in an ancient NVidia AGP graphics card, crossed my fingers, and powered it up. It powered up OK, but the BIOS settings were all out-of-whack, so I shut it down, and put a new CMOS battery in after cleaning the coin-cell holder contacts. I booted it back up, set the clock, and checked some other settings, as replacing the CMOS battery usually restores it to the OEM default settings for things like type of drives installed, which video slot gets initialized first, and a host of other things. The Windows98 install went OK, but I couldn't get the NVidia drivers to work right with the card, so back out to the garage. I found an ATI "Rage 128 Pro" still in the box, so I brought that back in. As a rule, I prefer NVidia cards over ATI (now AMD) for gaming, but the only other NVidia cards I have for an AGP slot are newer GeForce cards, and the Grim Fandango forums indicate they don't work as well as an older card. I loded all the correct drivers, did the "Windows Update" routine (download, reboot, repeat), and made sure the basic PC was running OK. The heatsink on the video card runs cool-to-the-touch, as does the heatsink on the AMD K6-III/450 MHz processor. Got the game loaded, and it runs smooth as silk! This PC would have been pretty "Hot Stuff" back when the game was released, and even though it runs smooth, the graphics aren't up to the standards of today. "Grim Fandango" was unique in that it used very high quality static backgrounds that the characters moved in relation to, so it has a unique look to it.
I'll post another picture later in the week after I get everything mounted into the new case I have coming. And I still have to find the drivers for the motherboard so I can get things like the drive controllers and AGP slot running at maximum performance. There aren't any "Yellow Ball Exclamation Points" in the Windows Device Manager, but I distinctly remember from using this board years ago that having the correct drivers makes a noticeable difference in performance.
Time to hit the hay here, and listen to the rain. We've had 1.9" since midnight, and more is on the way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ahhhh....The Joys Of "Vintage Computers"

I ws cleaning out some stuff in the garage the other day (actually just separating piles of stuff), and I found a box that had my favorite computer games in it. Now I'm not much of a gamer, so the fact that I even saved these particular games kinda surprised me. The two that I played the most were "Grim Fandango", and the "Descent" series of games. I've also got "Half-Life", but never really got into it much. So, deciding that I'd like to play Grim Fandango again, I started looking at the requirements. The last time I played it, Windows 2000 had just started to become big, and I remember ripping out some hair trying to get the game to play on that platform. Since my garage resembles "Jim's Vintage Radio and Computer Emporium", and one section of my radio room is "Jim's Vintage Software Archive", I figured I had enough stuff (the YF calls it "Junque", notice her spelling of my treasures!)) to build a rig that would run Windows98 at a reasonable rate to play the game. I already had an older HP Vectra VL that I had been using as my hardware-based firewall from when I ran my "Community Wireless Network", and it had an original Pentium 233MHz processor with 128megs of RAM and a 6 gig hard-disk. I dug out an old 3dfx "VooDoo 3 2000" PCI video card, and an Aureal Vortex sound card, my Windows98 discs, and proceeded to get this ancient beast running again. Not being a big fan of Internet Explorer, I looked for a version of Firefox for Win98, but no joy, so I grabbed Netscape 9.0 from the AOL/Netscape archives. Then I had to grab some USB Mass-Storage drivers so Win98 could read my external drive.
My first thoughts are it's not fast enough, so back out to the garage to dig out some more stuff. Well, let's see....I've got an Epox MVP3G-M motherboard (one of the best "Super 7" motherboards ever made!), an AMD K6-III+ good for 500 MHz, and enough memory to stuff the board full. The sound card will fit, and since the "Super 7" motherboards also have an AGP slot for the video card, I can put one of my newer NVidia GeForce cards in for plenty of video processing power.
Hmmm....no case for it! All the computer cases and power supplies I have "In Stock" are for later ATX motherboards, and aren't compatible with an AT style motherboard. Off to eBay, where I found a brand-new TechMedia case that includes the power supply, a floppy, and has built-in speakers. What's really "Deja Vu" about this is that this exact case was what I built several PC's in many (well...10 or more) years ago, and I was stunned to see several vendors still have them new-in-box!
The case should be here sometime next week, and it'll take me a day to build it up, load Windoze on it, and get things running smooth.
More to come..........

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Son, the EMT!

YOW! Just got news from my son that he finished his EMT training with an overall grade of "A"!
We had quite a talk about his training on the way up to Angeles Shooting Ranges the day we went, and he was quite pleased with how things were going. Now he just has to to take (and pass) the NREMT test. He was telling me that the ambulance company he did his ride-alongs with was hiring, so he might leave his current job at a large grocery store chain, and go work for them. After some "time-in-grade", he'll be eligible to go to Paramedic school, which he's really looking forward to. Once he gets certified as a Paramedic, he's thinking about applying to one of the local Fire Departments, or maybe the LAFD Academy.
Yep, his Mom, Step-Dad, and my YF are *very* proud of him.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Obama Busted By Jamie and Adam

Hmmmm....the other night when I was flipping through channels, I thought I saw our famed "Mythbusters" team with Teh One. I'm not sure if Obummer will be making a guest appearance or not (haven't had my coffee yet this morning), but I did find this little clip floating around in cyberspace.
Enjoy!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Not In Log

For those of us who "Chase DX", and collect the QSL cards, the words "Not In Log" are devastating. You KNOW you worked the DX station. You KNOW you had the band, frequency, date and time correct. You KNOW you heard the DX station reply to you. What could have happened? It's anybody's guess, but getting your card returned with "Not In Log" stamped on it is a real letdown.
Anyway....we've all seen this clip many times, and in many variations, but I found a new spin on it called "Not In Log". The technical references are spot-on, but the "Pin in the coax" line had me rolling on the floor!
Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hand Dancers....or something.....

I'm not sure what to make of this. One of my friends sent it to me as a spoof of "River Dancing", but I think it goes a bit beyond that.....


PC Repair Adventures

Haven't posted much because I've been busy fixing/repairing/upgrading/building a bunch of PC's lately. Seems like when it rains, it pours!
My best buddy from college sent me his to completely rebuild for his recording studio. I completely rebuilt it with an Intel i7 quad-core, Gigabyte motherboard, 8 gig of memory and a Windows 7 install, along with getting Windows 7 versions of all his recording/editing software, and getting everything working correctly. Took all his "old" parts and put them in a cheep case so he'd have another PC to use for email and stuff while his main PC is dedicated to the studio. Then I went through the 'little' PC I'd been using to run my FlexRadio Systems 5000A. Clean installation of Windows XP Professional, along with updating the BIOS and all the drivers. That little guy will be for sale in my radio club newsletter. Then had to fix a couple of PC's for the church the YF and I were married in, and upgraded the hard-drives in them. Then my step-son's girlfriend had problems with her laptop, so spent a day getting that one squared away. Then the video card in the new PC I built for my wife to use went POOF!, so I had to get a new one from Newegg and get that one going. In between all this I was building the new PC I'm using for my Software Defined Radio experiments. Needed a Keyboard/Video/Mouse ("KVM") switch so I can switch between this PC and the radio PC. Got one from Newegg, but I chinced on it, and didn't get a very good one. Blew the DVI outputs on TWO video cards before I got smart and RMA'ed the thing back to Newegg. Got a really sweet one from Monoprice, and now I have the radio room PC's up and running like they should be.
And I still have to finish the landscaping project along the side of the driveway, trim the big tree in the back yard, and finish cleaning up the radio room so it's back in good order. Too many cables just hanging everywhere, and stuff that belongs back on the shelves that I had to move to get at the cable runs for the Flex 5000A.
Oh....and the YF just called saying the heater in her car is on the fritz. I noticed it the other night when I used her car to run out to the store for some soda. The hot air stops coming out when you come to a stop sign or red light, so I think it's probably low on coolant, has an air bubble trapped in the system, or both.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back From The Range



And man, am I beat!
I fired SIXTY ROUNDS of 30-30 out of my Marlin 336, and my shoulder is gonna be sore tomorrow! Took about 30 rounds for a rookie like me to (in no particular order):
a) Figure out how to _use_ the scope (I forgot it was 3x to 9x!)
b) Figure out how to use the _spotting_ scope
c) Get smart enough to move the target back in from 100 yards so I could actually get hits _on_ the target
and
d) Get used to shooting the rifle!
After the first five or six rounds, my son loaned me one of those little plastic clamp-on bipods, and I started shooting my Marlin 1894 in 357 to see if I could even hit the paper at 100 yards. I did better with that little guy and its iron sights than with the 30-30 and the scope as it came out-of-the-box. After a few 357 rounds, and adjusting the rear sight, I was getting _all_ the rounds "In The Black", and a good portion into the middle circle, with my 1894!
I was stunned that I could shoot my sweet little 1894 that well at 100 yards.
But back to the 30-30.
During the 5-minute "cease fire" when we could change targets, I pulled the target in to 50 yards. With the 30-30 now more solidly supported by the bipod, and the target in closer, I was finally able to start hitting the paper consistently, and slowly, one-click-at-a-time, I worked the scope adjustments to where what I was aiming at, was close to where the hole in the target was after I fired. Not a good way to explain it, but it was a long drive home in L.A. traffic, and I'm kinda beat.
My son had his Savage .17HMR with him, and he was tack-driving all day long! At 100 yards, he can shoot the center out of the target. Must be nice to have 24 year old eyes! I was suitably impressed, and even some of the guys at the range told him he was doing extremely well. He let me fire his rifle a few times, and it was a joy to shoot. Very low recoil and practically no muzzle blast, kinda like a 22LR on steroids, and I could hit about anyplace on the target I wanted to, which means it hit whatever point the scope had wandered to when I squeezed the trigger!
After several hours of rifle shooting we decided to move down to the pistol range for some practice. He had his step-dad's S&W 9MM, and I had my wife's 357 S&W revolver, and we had great fun blasting away the rest of the afternoon.
Final tally, 60 rounds of 30-30, 200 rounds of 357 (rifle and pistol use), 200 rounds of 17HMR, and 100 rounds of 9MM.
It was our first time at the Angeles Shooting Ranges, and we're definitely going back again. The place is first-class all the way, the staff is excellent, and even the rest rooms are clean! I highly recommend it if you live in the area.
The only nit I have to pick would be to make sure you take an old mouse pad, or other piece of soft, thick "stuff" to rest your elbow on. The surfaces of the shooting benches on the side we used are covered with some kind of indoor/outdoor carpeting that does a real good impersonation of 60-grit sandpaper! My right elbow is raw from rubbing on it, and the other shooters I talked to there said the concrete ( ! ) benches on the other side are just as rough on your elbow..
Sorry we didn't have time to take any 'good' pictures, but my son is supposed to send me the few he took with his iPhone camera, and I'll post those when I get them.
I'm off to the shower, and tomorrow will be Gun Cleaning Day!
Oh, and we had a ball doing it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Range Time!

My son and I are headed out to the Angeles Shooting Ranges today. He wants to try his 17HMR, and I want to try my year-old "new" Marlin 336 in 30-30.
Were also bringing a couple of pistols just in case we get bored with rifle shooting.
He's bringing the spotting scope, and I'm bringing my camera, so we should have some pix to post later.
Gee....I wonder of 200 rounds per gun is enough.......

Monday, November 29, 2010

And Don't Call Me Shirley!


Well, he'll always be Commander J.J. Adams of United Planets Cruise C-57D to me, but to many other people he was Frank Drebin of Police Squad, or Dr. Alan Rumack of Airplane!
Whatever role he played, Leslie Nielsen was a good actor, and will always be remembered.
He passed away yesterday from complications due to pneumonia.
RIP, Commander Adams.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Magic Smoke


No, I haven't let any of the Magic Smoke out of any of my equipment lately, but I thought those of you who work on cars, particularly British cars, might find this replacement item quite handy to have around.
Replacement Lucas Smoke
Side Jokes:
Why do the English drink warm beer? Because they have Lucas refrigerators!
Who is the Lucas Electric Company named after? Lord Lucas, Prince of Darkness!
If you've ever owned a car with Lucas Electric components, you'll know exactly what I'm referring to.
Now, if you've ever worked on electrical/electronic stuff, you've probably heard the term "Smoke Test", which is the first test you run on a recently assembled or rebuilt unit. You power the unit up, carefully checking and hoping you've assembled and wired it correctly, because if you haven't, you'll let the Magic Smoke out of it, and it won't work any more.
In Amateur Radio we have a phrase "Tune For Maximum Smoke", which means to load up a transmitter to the point where any further increase in the loading control makes it impossible to find a "dip" in the plate tuning control.
Usually the plates (Anode) in the output tubes are glowing red (or orange!) before you hit this point, so you generally don't get any more output power by loading the transmitter this far, and in some cases the output power actually drops off.
These days, with solid-state equipment and broad-band output stages, you don't have to do the "load, dip, load, dip" dance when you change frequency or bands. Of course you also can't load up a wet string for an antenna (I've done it. A story for a later date) because the components are fixed value, and even if the rig has a built-in "Antenna Tuner", they don't match a very wide range of impedance, and the equipment will automatically fold-back the output power to protect itself.
And since I'm coming down with a cold, I think I'll "fold back" the covers and hit the hay!
Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winding %%!!**^^$$##!!! Toroids

GAWD, I *HATE* winding these freaking things! Out of ALL the Amateur Radio activities I do, winding toroid coils is at the all-time absolute BOTTOM of my enjoyment scale. I'd rather work on antennas in a blizzard (and I have...) than wind these abominations. Yeah, I know Toroidal Inductors have high inductance for their volume, they're self-shielding, and have a whole slew of other neat properties, but GAWD, what a PITA they are to wind!
When I built my Elecraft K2 transceiver, I bought the coils prewound from "The Toroid Guy" for about $35, and when I bought the 100 Watt amplifier module, I again bought the prewound cores for about $40, and it was money well spent, every penny of it!
The latest kit I'm (still!) building is an LP-100 Digital Vector Wattmeter, which is an excellent piece of equipment. It gets rave reviews over at eHam.net, it's extremely accurate, and has a PC interface so you can capture the data, and make all kinds of Geeky plots of neat things to know about your antenna system.
It also has two toroids to wind.
Now as toroids go, these don't look like they'd be particularly hard to make. The cores are a couple of inches in diameter, the wire is a decent sized gauge, and there's only 26 turns to wind. He even gives you a very clever way to mark the cores, so you can get the windings on "just right".
Yeah, right!
Well, any way, after fighting one for about 20 minutes, I have it wound, but now I have to straighten the windings on the core, then put the bushing through the center so I can mount the core(s) in the coupler housing.
Gawd....I *HATE* winding toroids!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

Even though I haven't had a full-time job in over a year now, I still count my blessings.
I've lost a bit over 35 pounds, my glucose is now "Disgustingly normal" according to my Doctor, same with my blood pressure, my wife is in excellent health with a great job with good benefits, my son is knocking down A's and B's in his new College major, I have a lot of good friends, we have food on the table and a roof over our heads, and we're keeping all the bills paid, with some left over to save. Compared to the past year that some have had, we have a LOT to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

"There I Was............"

At 10,000' feet, in an ice storm, and running out of fuel....
300' under water, surrounded by giant squid, and my air was running out.....
Surrounded by zombies, it's getting dark, and my shotgun just jammed.....

I'm sure you can make up many more of these simply by picking a situation that might have a bad outcome if certain things happen, and they're happening. The question is, how do the pros do it? I mean it's awfully hard coming up with situations for the hero to solve on a weekly basis. One of the reasons I stopped watching 24 was because I got reeealy tired of Jack Bauer rescuing his STOOOPID (but very pretty) daughter every week.
Now, I've seen flow charts in Wired magazine explaining how to do this, but they were so simple...I mean they just cried out for more detail. Well, while I was searching for a quote from Alien (It wasn't a distress beacon, it was a warning!), I stumbled across the TV Tropes website. At last! Every plot device, MacGuffin, and all the seemingly strange twists and turns that professional writers weave into their plot was explained, in excruciating detail.
Pick some genre, like Action/Adventure, and lo-and-behold, it's all explained for you.
Wonderful stuff, but be prepared to spend a LOT of time following all the hyperlinks!
Enjoy.....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Know Your Enemy!

Just stumbled across the "Discover The Networks" website while following some links in articles (Thanks, Anthony!) about Nazi Pelosi and how she finagled her way to being minority leader after her fall from grace. The site is a guide to the "Who, What, Where, and When" of left-wing politics in the United States. One of the links goes back to the Obummer/Billary fights during the nomination back in 2008, and the (in)famous tape the L.A. Crimes refused to release of HRH Obummer meeting with Rashid Khalidi, and suggests that Ms. Clinton is the person who sourced the tape, and that Pelosi threatened to release it if Teh One didn't pressure the Dumbocrat congresscritters to give Pelosi a bone.
Very interesting reading, and it's quite a resource to keep for those times when you'd like to know who's doing what to whom, and why.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Web Economy" BS Generator

Shades of the 'dotcom' bubble! If you work in any kind of field where "Advertising Lingo" is used, or if you work for a place that has a PHB, you should get quite a kick out of this.
BS Generator

BEER RUN!

Not my normal stuff, but this cracked me up so much I'm still laughing.
Kinda reminds me of my (much!) earlier years.
h/t to wirecutter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Long, Busy Weekend....

Spent most of the weekend doing Home Owner stuff, and I ache all over!
One of the things I've been doing is cleaning up the area between the edge of our driveway and the property line of the house next door. It's an area about 22" wide and 30' long that runs alongside the driveway, from our gate to the back yard and the side walk. My wife had put a bunch of "River Rocks" in there over the years after having no luck growing flowers there. Over the years it degenerated into a weed pit, and was looking pretty bad. SO, I told her I clean it up and make it look nice again.
What a job!
I'd sprayed the area with a mix of RoundUP and Weed-B-Gon a month or two ago, and let *everything* in the strip die. It looked like I'd called in an Agent Orange aerial drop, but everything was dead. SO....I started digging out the rocks and gravel. I spent the better part of a week with a "Pulaski Axe", which is an axe blade with an adze on one end. Works great for chopping up hard, compacted dirt. Then I had about six wheelbarrow loads of dirt to move out and sift. Most of the large rocks I put into 5 gallon buckets (SIX of them!), and the smaller rocks I just left with the dirt. I made a sifter out of a 2x4 frame and some hardware cloth (aka "Chicken Wire") with 1/4" holes. I wound up with about 4-1/2 wheelbarrow loads of nice sifted dirt, and the balance was smaller rock. I then spent about a week laying out the property line, making a nice clean cut (you could tell where the two front yards joined by the type of dirt), and installing new redwood boards for edging. I soaked the boards with linseed oil to preserve them, even though redwood is pretty good for rot resistance. I used fence slats for the boards, but I probably should have spent more money and bought "real" boards, as these things aren't exactly the straightest pieces of wood! Shoveled all the dirt back in and leveled it with six bags of paving sand, and tamped it down. I still haven't put all the rock back in, as I was getting pretty burned out on the job, and wanted a break.
WELL.....Saturday afternoon my little sweetie decided to get started on another project we'd been talking about for a few months. She wants to remove the carpet by the front door and refinish the hardwood floor in that area so that water and dirt don't get tracked onto the carpet during what passes for our "winter" out here. She went out and got some 60, 100, and 220 grit sandpaper for our orbital sander, some stain for the wood, a miter box (we have one, but nobody knows where it is), and some nice trim for the edge of the carpet. Sunday morning I laid out where to cut, and started removing the carpet. Getting the carpet cut straight wasn't too bad, and after about 45 minutes I had the area clear. Then I had to pull out all the staples where the pad had been tacked down, and turned the sanding over to her. After a few hours, she had most of the water stains in the wood sanded out, but we're still going to have to bleach out the rest, fill the cracks between the boards, sand it again, and then stain and seal it. She wanted to just sand the stains out, but after I told her she'd put all kinds of depressions in the flooring if she sanded down that far, she decided not to. And now she realizes it's going to be a LOT more work than just "Pull up the carpet, sand the floor, and stain it" like she thought. I've got the trim mitered and fit, and I'll drill pilot holes for the nails today, as I really don't want to tempt fate nailing solid oak trim down without predrilling some holes through it!
Oh, and she asked me how much longer it would take to finish the rock area......sigh.......

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Eve of Conflict

T.L. Davis has his take on what else we need to do now that the elections are over.
Go over here and read his post. Powerful words we ALL need to ponder!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day!


And thank you for your service.......

The Instrucions, and Why We Don't Read Them

Sorry I can't do a copy-and-paste on this, but it's something you'll enjoy reading.
Especially the guys!
The Manual, and Why We Don't Read It.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

That "Mystery Missile"? It's A Contrail **CASE CLOSED**

Got tired of "updating" the other post. Suffice to say, some of the sources I quoted were correct.
Chalk up another one for our crack (smoking!) news teams!
It's A Contrail

Contrail

ContrailScience

From the FAA:
"FAA Spokesman Ian Gregor later released this statement:
“The FAA ran radar replays of a large area west of Los Angeles based on media reports of the location of a possible missile launch around 5pm Monday. The radar replayed did not reveal any fast moving unidentified targets in that area. The FAA also did not receive reports of any unusual sightings from pilots who were flying in the area Monday afternoon. Finally the FAA did not approve any commercial space launches around the area Monday.”

And here's a flight path that matches quite closely in time and position.

AFAIC, it's a contrail!

This guy did some analysis, including pix from the same flight 24 hours later, and he nails it.

And FINALLY, a report by James Oberg as posted on the IEEE Spectrum website.
If Oberg says it's a contrail, IT'S A CONTRAIL.
Period.

"Mystery Missile" Launch Off California Coast?

Had this forwarded to me by a friend. I'm usually on top of these things, at least if they're scheduled. Even the "Secret" launches from Vandenberg have things like NOTAMS published, and the PIO office will give a window during which launch activities can be expected.
This is just bizarre, though!
Mystery Missile Launch Seen off Calif. Coast





****UPDATE****

Turns out there was a NOTAM after all....
NOTAM for LA.
KZLA LOS ANGELES A2832/10 - THE FOLLOWING RESTRICTIONS ARE REQUIRED DUE TO NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER WEAPONS DIVISION ACTIVATION OF W537. IN THE INTEREST OF SAFETY, ALL NON-PARTICIPATING PILOTS ARE ADVISED TO AVOID W537. IFR TRAFFIC UNDER ATC JURISDICTION SHOULD ANTICIPATE CLEARANCE AROUND W537 AND CAE 1176. CAE 1155 WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR OCEANIC TRANSITION. CAE 1316 & CAE 1318 WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR OCEANIC TRANSITION. CAE 1177 WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR OCEANIC TRANSITION. W537 ACTIVE, CAE 1176 CLOSED. SURFACE - FL390, 09 NOV 20:00 2010 UNTIL 10 NOV 01:00 2010. CREATED: 08 NOV 20:52 201

The "Naval Air Warfare Center" folks are my old buddies at Point Mugu/China Lake.

Now I'm wondering just how long it will be before the tin-foil-hat-crowd claim the NOTAM was faked, and this was a "Chemtrail" rocket, alien visitation, North Korean/Iranian/Rogue Russian missile, or something else....


***UPDATE 2***

I just realized the NOTAM is for tonight.
Curiouser and curiouser.....


The Market Ticker brings up some good points....

Here's some links I've dug up discussing what it might be.
L.A. Times

Wired

Fox

Space.com

(Groan) Slashdot

NasaSpaceflight.com

Some of the guys at Nasaspaceflight.com seem to think it's either an optical illusion of an airliner contrail (it's happened before), or a solid-fuel rocket launched from San Nicolas Island. San Nicolas has quite a history of being a launch site for sounding rockets and other 'non-airbreathers'.
These guys know their stuff. If one of them says "contrail", I'd be tempted to start looking in that direction.

And another view from the IEEE, also very good, and also pointed to a contrail.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Demplosion

Just remember, our work is just now starting. We have 'a breather', but we also can't slack off.
Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tail Fins and Chrome!

What could be more **American** on Election Day than to reminisce about the glory days of the American automobilr industry?
Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Get Out There And VOTE!

And keep an eye open for possible voter intimidation and fraud.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Radio Contest This Weekend

So my posting will be lighter than usual.
So far, I've worked China, the Philippines, Australia, New Zeland, South Africa, The Galapagos Islands, Finland, Norway, a whole bunch of Russians, and a handful of countries I've barely heard of.
This contest, the CQ Magazine World-Wide DX Contest, is about the biggest one of the year, so all these little countries show up, and we all try to contact each other.
It's about 8PM now, and the propagation on the higher bands has faded, so I'll call it a night, and watch a movie with the YF.

**UPDATE**
Finished with only 94 contacts, and 16,380 points. Really wanted to break 100 contacts, but family and life have a way of intruding!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Barbara "Call Me SENATOR" Boxer... Time To Get Her OUT!

Got this from a friend in an email and thought I'd share it. Kinda gets right to the heart of the elitism, doesn't it?
REMEMBER....We're at "T-7 (days)" and counting!
THROW THE BUMS OUT!!!!

Call Me Senator from RightChange on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sewing Machine Repair Adventure

It was a dark and stormy night.....
Well, not really, but it *has* been raining on-and-off here the last week or so.
Anyway.....My wife came out of the bedroom the other night, and told me her sewing machine "Wasn't pulling the fabric in", so I went in to take a look. I pushed on the foot pedal and heard the "Ziiiing" of an unloaded motor, and saw that the needle wasn't going up and down. Hmmmm.....has to be a broken belt, so I took the top cover off to inspect things. The first thing I noticed (besides the belt being all chewed up!) was that there must have been a full spool of different colored threads wrapped around the inside of the hand wheel mechanism. She has the operating manual for it, but other than how to thread it and set up what kind of stitch you wanted, and where to put the occasional drop of oil, it was pretty useless. So, since I had the model number (Singer 5107), off I went to Google to see what I could find. I found a free parts list, and paid $12 for the complete service manual, and started calling around this morning for the belt. Several places were closed Mondays, or the phone was disconnected (and the phone numbers were from Singer's website!), and a couple told me "Servicing MUST Be Done By Qualified Professionals!" in a rather rude tone. Geezz....I helped keep my Mom's Singer running when I was a kid, and repaired several other Singers for various girlfriends and their Moms over the years, and have mechanical skills that are just a notch or two above "Normal For A Guy", so I wrote off those places pretty quickly. I finally found a place over in Norwalk that not only had the parts, but was very friendly is suggesting other normal wear-and-tear items that would be nice to get. Got the belt, a "Bobbin Winder Ring" (looks like a slot-car tire), and a couple of spare light bulbs for $12 total, less than the price of just the belt at the only other place that would talk to me. He wanted $24, and it was "Special Order, Pay In Full Before We Order It, NOT Returnable, and It'll Take 3-to-5 Days To Get It".
DUH.....
Got the belt installed, cleaned out big bunches of lint, old grease, and thread scraps, scrubbed the machine inside and out, oiled it in all the places the manual said to, tightened up all the hardware on the table it mounts to and waited for my wife to get home.
She was thrilled, and said it looked like a new machine.
20 minutes later she came back out and said "Honey, it's not working right".
Uh-Oh.....Probably should have tried to run it before I bolted it back into the table! Figured out I had the belt tension set too tight, but it was still binding about half-way through the cycle it runs to make one complete stitch.
Now, if you've ever had a sewing machine apart you'll probably know what I'm talking about. There's one main shaft driven by the motor that runs through the entire "Top End" of the machine, and runs the needle up-and-down, and has the cam assemblies that move the needle back-and-forth to make different stitches. Take the top cover off and watch one run, and it should be obvious how it does things like make the needle go up-and-down. The tricky part is what you don't see....all the stuff underneath, where the "Bobbin Case" goes, and the mechanism that moves the little fabric grabber up-and-down and forwards-backwards to pull the fabric through. I *NEVER* worked on that stuff because when I worked on sewing machines before, it was consider Black Magic that took "Special Service Tools" to adjust, and woe betide the Young Wizard Mechanic who messed up Mom's machine trying to learn it!
But I digress.....
On one end of the main shaft in the upper part of the machine, right by the hand wheel, is a crank throw, and a connecting rod running down into the nether regions that makes all the little Magic Parts go up-and-down, and back-and-forth. It's a pretty clever collection of shafts, cams, bevel gears, and cranks that takes the up-and-down motion from that connecting rod I mentioned, and turns it into a back-and-forth half-revolution of the bottom mainshaft, which also moves the cams and bevel gears, and makes the fabric grabber work.
Now was the time I was glad I had the Service Manual! With the connecting rod disconnected from the upper mainshaft, and moved aside so it wouldn't catch on the crank throw, the machine ran perfectly, nice and fast and quiet. So, I pulled the machine out of the table, and took it into the living room table where I could sit down and turn the machine over to look at the bottom. I found several things that were causing the lower mainshaft to bind up at one particular point in its rotation. These was some dried out caked grease that had to be cleaned out, and under a cover was a set of bevel gears, with more dried out grease, and a loose set screw that held one of the bevel gears in place. These are "Half Bevel Gears", as they're not a complete gear, but only one sector of it, and it had slipped enough that it was running out of teeth and hitting the solid part. And the housing that holds the Bobbin Case was packed full of old lint and other debris that caused a lot of drag on the entire mechanism. After I cleaned everything out, and reset the timing of the gears, it turned over smoothly. I then reconnected the top part of the connecting rod, crossed my fingers, and plugged it back in and pressed the pedal.
Success!
The machine ran smoothly, pulled the fabric through like it's supposed to, and made correct, tight stitches without skipping any, which made my sweetie giggle like a school girl. She still has to adjust the thread tension, as I kinda screwed up the adjustment by grabbing the knob accidentally and turning it.
I'll post some links on the subject of "How Do I Fix My Sewing Machine" on Tuesday.


REFERENCE LINKS:
How Sewing Machines Work
Secret Life of Machines: The Sewing Machine, Part 1
Secret Life of Machines: The Sewing Machine, Part2
Secret Life of Machines: The Sewing Machine, Part 3
Animation of Needle and Bobbin to produce Lock-Stitch

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Abby......

DEAR ABBY:

'I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can't afford
to spend a lot of money to do it. Any suggestions?'


Steve in California..

DEAR STEVE:

'Register as a Republican, and run for public office.'

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fed Up? Vote Anyway!

There's an interesting article in today's Long Beach Press Telegram with the title I so shamelessly borrowed. They gave my favorite for our 37th District Representative, Star Parker, some good press that she deserves.
Read the article, it's short, but interesting.
I haven't looked for their stand on Barbara "Call Me Senator" Boxer, but I'm voting for Carly Fiorina. Boxer has been in office way too long, and has lost touch with the people of California.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Sam I Am" Goes To Washington




I do not like this Uncle Sam!

I do not like his health care scam!

I do not like these dirty crooks,
or how they lie and cook the books.
I do not like when Congress steals!
I do not like their secret deals!

I do not like this speaker Nan!

I do not like this 'YES, WE CAN'!

I do not like this spending spree!

I'm smart, I know that nothing's free.

I do not like your smug replies,
when I complain about your lies.
I do not like this kind of hope!
I do not like it, nope, nope, nope!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Taking Out The Trash

T-minus 18 days and counting.
Read your sample ballots and understand the issues. We MUST start taking back our country.
REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"The Center Cannot Hold"




I've been seeing this quote from Yates quite a bit lately, and I think it pretty much sums up what's happening to this current "administration" in the White House.
I'll bet even that name, "White House", galls HRH Obama to no end.
Anywhoo, this is a link to a rather good read over at American Digest, provided by our friends over at the Western Rifle Shooters Association.
Go read it; it's great stuff!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jack Webb Talks to Obama

From a friend of mine.
If you google "jack webb and obama" you'll find a TON of these, all different, but all true!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Crazy Weather

Last week at this time it was 113* here with 50% humidity, and the dogs were just klunked-out all day.
Today it's 64* and raining. The dogs have been chasing each other all over the house, obviously enjoying the cool weather.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In One Month.....

We can start to take our country back. That is, as long as you've REGISTERED, and actually get your rear out to the polls and VOTE!
Please read all the information you get sent in the mail, and try to research what your local issues and measures mean, and the background on your local candidates. In my case, I've been supporting Star Parker in her bid to unseat Laura Richardson in California's 37th Congressional District, and reading the thick "Voter Guide" sent out in the mail.
Remember, your local elections can have an immediate impact on your neighborhood, and in my opinion, that's just as important as getting things turned around on the Federal level.
So read up, and REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trailer Tower Finished




Well, almost.
I still have to finish wiring the lights up, and then take the tower off so I can tow it down to the DMV and get it registered.
I've added a separate ground wire to each of the light units (tail/stop/license plate and running lights), and I'll connect that to the ground wire coming out of the plug to hopefully eliminate the most common problem I've seen with trailer lights, namely BAD GROUNDS! I've towed a lot of trailers ranging in size from little ones like this, up to double-axle car carriers back in my SCCA days, and 95% of the lighting troubles I've seen and experienced were caused by bad grounds. Using the trailer frame for a ground return saves the manufacturer some money, but it comes back later to bite the owner in the rear, usually at the worst possible time, like 2AM in the rain.
After my stepson helps me pull the tower off, I might even paint the cheapie plywood I used for the deck, or at least give it a good soaking with the 5 gallon bucket of Thompson's WaterSeal we found when we cleaned out the garage.
One of the pictures shows it with the cables all coiled up, along with some of the cribbing I use to level it, the next picture shows it tracking one of the Ham Radio Satellites I operate, and the third picture shows my FT-847 and other support equipment during the satellite pass. My FT-847 is the radio I normally use to operate the satellite station on Field Day. It's NOT the radio I used for the VHF Contest a few weeks ago. I used my Kenwood TS-790 as it has a better receiver for what's called "weak signal" work, and although it can be used for satellite operations, I haven't used it for that due to my lack of a suitable radio-to-pc interface. I recently picked one up, though, so I suppose trying to get the TS-790 working with the rest of my tracking/tuning software will be a project to do Real Soon Now.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Don't Let Your Cat PEE In Your PC!

And it's a mess! Big Antec case, and the cat did his business right through the top fan hole.
The video card was the first thing in the way and got soaked. A small amount of it ran into the connector on the motherboard, but I was able to clean it, and it looks OK, no corrosion or anything.
After that, the stream went to the bottom of the case, and soaked the power supply, which I pulled, and is going in the recycle bin along with the video card.
So far, those are the only two parts that got damaged, and there's no signs of the "liquid" getting on anything else.
I just rebuilt this for him about two months ago. I told him his 90-day warranty would NOT cover this, and he busted up.
Glad he's a good friend!

UPDATE 1
Man, is this turning out to be a PITA!
So far, I've had to junk the top fan (the "pee hole"), the power supply, the video card, the two cables and brackets that have a pair of USB ports and a pair of FireWire ports, and SCRUB the daylights out of the inside and outside of the case. I cleaned it with SimpleGreen to start, and then flushed it out with denatured alcohol. The case is now sitting out in the sun to bake (it's over 90* here today), and then I'll close it up with a couple of fabric softener sheets inside, and a bag of baking soda for good measure.
And I scrubbed the motherboard with Isopropyl Alcohol, including a lot of extra time cleaning out the PCI Express connector for the video card. After scrubbing it, I treated it with some Caig DeOxIT, which is about the best contact cleaner/preserver you can get.
Hopefully this thing will be OK, and power up. If not, well......I can save the hard-disk, optical disk, CPU, case, and memory. The only problem with that is that this is an AMD Socket 939 motherboard, and they're getting hard to find!
I've cleaned tons of cat hair out of some of the PC's I've repaired/rebuilt for people, but the next time somebody says their cat PEED in it, I'm going to turn the job down, and suggest they buy a new PC.
GAWD, does that stuff STINK!

UPDATE 2
Well, as carefully as I cleaned the connector on the motherboard, it shows some signs of degradation on the contacts inside the video card slot. *I* don't feel comfortable putting this all back together with a bunch of new parts, charging him $250 for parts and labor, and then having it go "POOF!" in 3 or 4 months. It might run forever, but then again it might not. And I'm still not sure if the case will stink or not even though I cleaned it quite wel.
Cat pee is really corrosive stuff!
On the upside, he has a nice HP Pavilion from his deceased brother that cans use the memory, CPU, and disks from this one as upgrades. His brother's PC really needs the drive to be wiped and the OS reinstalled, but he doesn't want to do wipe the drive as it has a ton of family photographs and documents from his brother. I'll check with him later and tell him what I think we should do.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Election Coverage Map

Courtesy of a link from my friend Cap'n Bob.

Root Canal Time!

Well, actually it was Tuesday morning. I had part of a filling pop out a few of months ago, and just kinda let it slide. Sure enough, my jaw started to ache, so I asked my wife to schedule an appointment with the Dentist that we're covered under with her medical plan, and went to see him.
What a mess!
It took their assistant FOUR times to get a decent X-ray of the tooth, and then the "Dentist" walks in and calmly says "We'll have to pull that tooth".
WHAT!?!
Being the curious type, I've always asked a lot of questions at my previous Dentist, who took great delight in explaining what she was doing to a patient who actually understood all the terms, and asked intelligent questions. I just instinctively KNEW the tooth couldn't possibly be that bad, so I asked this new Dentist about the possibilities of getting it *properly* repaired, probably involving a crown at minimum, and a root canal/crown if it really was as bad as he seemed to indicate. "Well....", he started to hem and haw, "I can *probably* call the insurance company to see if it's OK to refer you to a specialist....but I don't know if they'll approve it....".
So? CALL THEM! He seemed a little put off by this, but instructed his office person to call, and low and behold, they approved it immediately.
When I got home, the specialist called me, informed it would be a $100 co-pay to get started, plus anything the insurance wouldn't cover, and I'd have to come in for an examination. Then, I'd go back to the referring Dentist, who would prep the tooth, and then go back to the second dentist would would do the root canal, and fit a temporary crown. After some time, the permanent crown would be ready, and I'd back and have it installed.
The whole process would take about a month. A MONTH!
DUH!
I immediately called my original Dentist, and they told me to come in for a consultation as soon as I could get there. My dentist looked at it briefly, and then turned me over to her new partner, who took the X-rays (digital images, actually, and ready to view in seconds), and said there was no way that tooth should be pulled, and that, as I suspected, it could be saved. As I was waiting, their office manager called the insurance company, which was the same I've had since 1999 but I'm on a different plan now, and tried to find out how much, if any, of the charges they'd pick up. Nada.....the plan my wife has requires you to go to certain Dentists, and if you don't, it's YOUR bill to pay.
Oh, well......
Seeing as I really trust this Dentist, and the one required by my wife's insurance just kinda-sorta creeped me out, I went ahead and scheduled the entire procedure with them.
One of the reasons I like this dentist is that she's got all the latest whiz-bang equipment (she taught briefly at the USC Dental school after she graduated) like the digital imaging equipment, they have all my records, and they're genuinely nice, caring people who do most excellent work. They've won professional awards, she takes off a few times a year to God-forsaken places to do free Dentistry for the locals, and I just felt much more comfortable (even paying the entire tab out-of-pocket) going there.
One of the neat machines she has now, is a 3D imaging "camera", and the PC software to go with it. As she was prepping the tooth, she'd take images of it, and examine them to see how things were going to fit in relation to my other teeth. When she was done, she "adjusted" the images for a final fit, and then sent the file to the little bench-top CNC machining center in another room. As the second dentist was doing the actual root canal work, the CNC mill went ahead and produced the crown to the dimensions specified in the digital file. After a brief trial fit and some adjust ment, she attached the crown, did the final polishing to fit my bite, and I was done.
Total time? A little over three hours!
Yeah, it cost me about $2k, but I know the job was done properly, I was minimal discomfort the whole time, the crown fits perfectly, and I'll never have to worry about it again.
I look at it this way.....if my Jeep needed a new transmission or transfer case, I'd pay that much to get it fixed properly, and at my age, I'd better take at least as good of care of myself!

Friday, September 17, 2010

ARRRRGH...It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!


Arrrrgh, mateys! Shiver me timbers and belay that line!
ITLAPD is today, Sunday September 19th.
So swab those rusty scuppers and fly the Jolly Roger high on the mast, and bring me a noggin of grog!
When I was out at-sea for my former employer, we always had a rip roaring time in the ship's bar, as long as it didn't interfere with operations.
Hoist one for me!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My son has changed his College major.....

My son, who has wanted to be a photojournalist or news/documentary photographer/videographer since he started high-school, has changed his major.
His ultimate goal was to work for National Geographic or perhaps Discovery Communications doing photo/video jobs on amazing things in interesting locations. Changing his major was a Big Thing for him, as he really had that fire that burns in someone that you just know will be good in the field they're studying for. He's taken award-winning photographs, and has had some of his works shown in galleries and museums, and did the video for a couple of really good student films, so he's extremely good at doing the "photo/video" part.
It was the "journalism" part that broke his spirit.
Since he was little, I've tried to teach him to be objective, questioning, balanced, and fair in his views on things. It started when we were watching infomercials, and I'd point out obvious (to me, anyway) flaws in the claims being made for "New and Improved Miracle" products, and why what was being shown wasn't really what was happening. One of our favorite 'inside' jokes is "But wait, there's MORE!". As he grew older, I could see him coming to question things that "Just didn't look right", and asking for hard facts to back up outlandish or questionable claims. He even knows by heart the Carl Sagan quote "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", which made me feel I'd been doing my Dad Job pretty well the first time I heard him say it. And he knows enough to check his facts from multiple, different sources, and dig into those sources to verify their accuracy, before committing anything to print. He always received A and B grades for his assignments, and had worked his way up from being one of the Staff Photographers to being the Photo Editor for the college newspaper.
So what happened?
Well, for one thing, he was getting dismayed over some of the staff not researching their articles properly, and submitting unsubstantiated items for publication. Granted, this isn't a major newspaper, but by the time you're in college, you should know the rules about how to research and write a story that can hold up to scrutiny. He was also upset over the political leanings of the paper, and how it would just parrot whatever the big papers said, but written in a way that made it "make sense" to the students. History got ignored, and the populist/progressive/socialist agenda had the green light.
In short, he just got tired of people not doing their "job" correctly, and the faculty overseers of the paper letting it all pass.
Now when I was his age, I had pretty much been blessed with a set of job skills that were "politically neutral" (Electronics), so other than working with people who I might not agree with politically, I wasn't working in an environment (The Media) where I was constantly bombarded with things I not only didn't agree with, but knew were flawed. I've only had one job in my entire career where being "PC" was not only expected, but company policy, especially at the highest levels. My fellow Engineering-type grunts used to laugh about it amongst ourselves, but we were always wary of what we said, and to who, lest HR come crashing down on us because we weren't "Sensitive to the needs of others" or some other BS.
I know my son is an excellent photographer, and the fire for that "Perfect Shot" still burns in him. He would have made a fine documentary photographer, and perhaps when he grows a bit older he'll get back into it.
For now, though, I'm sure he'll make a fine EMT, his new major, and another area he's always been interested in.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

09-11-2010

Others have said it far better than I can, but I'll try....
We must never forget.
There are truly evil people in the world who would destroy us.
We must not let them.
We must be brave.
We must be strong.
We must have resolve.
We must never become complacent.
We must never forget.......

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

One of my favorite TV commercials from when I was much younger.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We Start Drilling On Tuesday.....


Or at least that's what my stepson says we can use it for if it doesn't work!
Didn't get too much else done today other than get the tower solidly mounted to the deck, clean up some of the aluminum carnage in the garage, and get the antennas ready for final assembly and test. The 'outermost' four of the eight mounting bolts go through the steel frame of the trailer, so this thing is rock solid and stable. You could probably pick the whole thing up by the tower and it wouldn't flex very much. And in case you're wondering, the orange "Dunce's Hat" you see is a cut-down traffic cone. After I install the mast, I'll use a hose clamp at the top of the cone to clamp it to the mast, and I'll have a nice, inexpensive rain shield for the Azimuth rotator.
Tonight I have to make the power cables for the 300 Watt VHF and UHF amplifiers I have, and maybe I'll mount them to a plate of some sort so they don't go sliding around on the table when we use them, and I might mount a couple of small fans to push some air across the heatsinks to keep them nice and cool.
Time for dinner now. One of the reasons I knocked off early outside is that my stepson has fired up the grill and is cooking a nice Tri-Tip that he started marinating last night. He's quite an accomplished chef, and the YF and I always look forward to his creations.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Project Update

I got the tower partially mounted on the trailer today. I squared it up in its final position, clamped it down, measured everything 3 or 4 times, took a deep breath, and drilled the holes. Then I realized I didn't have any bolts long enough, so off to Home Depot for some 5/16-18x2" galvanized bolts, flat washers, split locks, and nuts. I would have preferred stainless, but my normal supplier for stainless hardware closed early today, won't be open until Tuesday, and I've got a deadline to meet! I also made up some backing plates out of 1/4" thick aluminum flat stock so the hardware holding the tower feet to the plywood won't dig in to the plywood deck on the bottom.
I've got this laid out so I can pull two of the bolts holding the legs to the feet, loosen the other two, and the tower will pivot over to one side so I can get the mast, cross-boom, and antennas mounted without needing a 15' ladder to drop them in from the top.
I should find out Sunday if this works "As Advertised"!
Film at eleven.......

Friday, September 3, 2010

Trailer Tower Project


I'm in the home stretch! I still have to put the fenders on the trailer, wire the tail and running lights, and get it registered and licensed, but it's a "roller" right now, and I'm happy! Spent most of the day fitting and cutting the plywood and shim strips I had to make, and counter-boring six places on the backside of it so it would fit _over_ the bolts that hold the side rails to the cross-members. And doing one of my favorite items from High School Auto Shop, cleaning and packing the wheel bearings! I just don't trust the grease that they packed them with in China, so I washed all that stuff out with mineral spirits, gave 'em a blast of "Gun Scrubber" to get ALL the oily reside off, and then repacked them with some high temp disk brake rated grease. One of these days I'll buy the little attachment for a grease gun that lets you pressure pack them, but for now I put on some gloves, and relived my Freshman year in High School.
Well, part of it, anyway.
Hand-packing wheel bearings is not one of my favorite automotive tasks, but I felt it had to be done, as I've had wheel bearings fail before, and it always happens at Really Bad times, like going down the highway at 65 MPH.
So, the agenda for Saturday is to make up some backing plates for the bottom-side of the plywood where the tower mounting bolts will go, and get the tower mounted on the trailer. After the September VHF QSO Party next weekend, I'll pull the tower off, wire it up, and make an appointment at the DMV to have it "inspected" (all they check is that the VIN on the frame matches the Certificate of Origin) so I can get it registered and licensed. Having the tower transportable this way will make it MUCH easier next year at Field Day. I'm still trying to noodle out some type of leveling system for it, as it's always recommended to have a trailer "4-Square-and-Level" for this type of use. I was thinking of getting four of the hand-crank screw-type trailer jacks, one for each corner, but all the ones I've found require welding, and I don't own a welder.....YET! I looked at getting 4 scissors jacks, but ones that have enough lift cost about $40 each, and I really don't want to spend that much when for about $50 more I can get the weld-on jacks AND the welder.
More to come, including the antenna rebuild, after I post all the pix worth seeing on PhotoBucket.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Busy, Busy, BUSY!

Well, at least I can't be accused of having idle hands.
I'm about 90% finished with my "Extend-A-Tower" project where I took a 4.5' Glen Martin Engineering rooftop tower and turned it into a 9' tower. I added 4' to the legs, and a bunch of cross-bracing to it. With what I spent for the aluminum angle and flat stock, and the cost of the hardware, I could have just *bought* the 9.5' tower! I would never do this again without properly sourcing the metal stock and nuts-and-bolts I used, a realization that hit me when I was over half way through this little project, and need to buy more metal stock and hardware! Yeeesh.....*another* one of my projects that took on a life of it's own and wound up taking twice as long as it should have. It's not that I don't know what I'm doing, it's just that once I got the leg extensions on and added some bracing, it was a little more 'flexible' than I wanted. Since I didn't want it to twist itself to death with the torque loads that the larger antennas I'm installing will cause, I added some "X" bracing to the sides. Well, the "X" bracing stiffened it up torsionally just fine, but the "X" braces themselves were kind of floppy owing to their length. So, I boxed the leg extensions with some more angle, centered on where the "X" braces crossed. The end result is this thing is really stiff, but looks more like an oil derrick than a Ham Radio tower. Fits right in with the history of oil exploration in Long Beach, though!
In the middle of all this I went back down to Harbor Freight and bought the little 48"x40" utility trailer I've had my eye on for some time. The plan is to mount the tower on the trailer making it transportable so I can tow it down to the Field Day site next year, and possibly to some remote sites so I can do some "Mountain Topping" in the VHF/UHF radio contests. The trailer is just about finished, so tomorrow I'll head over to Home Depot and get a piece of 3/4" plywood cut that will be the deck of the trailer. Later I'll get fancy and add some stakes and siding to it so I can load stuff into it without having to worry too much about it all falling out when I tow the rig! The next big contest is the ARRL September VHF QSO Party which is on the 14th, so if I keep my fingers and toes crossed, I *should* be able to get everything finished by this weekend, which will give me a week to test and debug the whole shebang. I've got the antennas rebuilt and ready to do the final testing on, and a pair of TE Systems 300 Watt amplifiers sitting in the garage just waiting to be used. My wife passed her Technician Class exam on Field Day, and is really excited about doing her first contest. She's watched me run several contests, and says it looks like a lot of fun. One big plus is that a female calling "CQ" will get a much better response than a guy, so I think she's going to find out what it's like to be the "Rare DX" on the receiving end of a pile-up!

I'll post some pictures of all the work after the dust settles, and I can download them from my camera......

Monday, August 23, 2010

Densest Element In The Universe Discovered!

From a friend....just too funny to keep to myself!

Pelosium:
A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the densest element yet known to science. The new element has been named Pelosium.

Pelosium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 311.
These particles are held together by dark forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
The symbol of Pelosium is PU.

Pelosium's mass actually increases over time, as morons randomly interact with various elements in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy neutrons within the Pelosium molecule, leading to the formation of isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientist to believe that Pelosium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.
When catalyzed with money, Pelosium activates CNNadnausium, an element that radiates orders of magnitude more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons as Pelosium.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Fought For YOU.....

Thanks to Jeffro at The Poor Farm for finding this one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

They're Made Out Of Meat!

Sorry bacon lovers, this is a little SciFi movie that I've always liked.
At times, I think they're talking about the heads of the current "administration" in D.C., but then that's demeaning to real, genuine, tasty meat.
Enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

FOUR MILLION Visitors!

No, not here.
Probably take me about 10e6 years to get there!
Drop by fellow blogger Brigid's site and give her some kudos for running one of the classiest places on the Net!

Basic Radio Bookshelf

One of the things about being prepared is making sure you can communicate to your loved ones when the SHTF. You can use anything from tin-cans-and-string, to CB radios, the little walkie-talkies they sell everywhere, Amateur Radio, and for the big spenders, satellite phones. Getting started in this can be quite daunting, but if you want something more than the range a CB or a $30 hand-held from WalMart can give you, you're going to either have to have a "Radio Guy" in your group, or learn about it yourself. Most of these books deal with Amateur Radio, but the principles and methods explained in them are applicable to all forms of radio communications. So, here's a minor selection from my bookshelf, in no particular order:

The ARRL Handbook for Radio Amateurs
The ARRL Antenna Book
The ARRL FCC Rulebook
The ARRL Operating Guide
RF Components and Circuits by Joe Carr
Practical Radio Frequency Test and Measurement by Joe Carr
Handbook of Electronics Tables and Formulas by SAMS Publishing

I've got dozens more on topics from Satellites to DSP, published by the ARRL and the RSGB, but the ones I've listed are what I consider to be a minimum to have.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Have An Accident, PAY A FEE!

Ouch! The city of Huntington Beach is going to implement a "Pay As You Crash" tax for non residents involved in traffic accidents within the city's boundaries. They're doing this under the guise of a "Cost Recovery Program", but I wonder just how long it will be before they start charging residents.
Here's the link to the article in the OC Register.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Basic Rules of Flying

Way back when, in another life, I used to fly what the guys in the Controlled Airspace Towers called "FLIBS", basically little planes that want to come land where the big planes do. If you know what it means, then you're probably a GA pilot, too.
Anyway, a friend of mine sent me these, and I thought I'd share them, as some are new to me.
Enjoy!

* Takeoff's are optional. Landings are mandatory.

* If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger, if you pull the stick back they get smaller. Unless you keep pulling the stick back...then they get bigger again.

* Flying is not dangerous; crashing is dangerous.

* The propeller is just a big fan in the front of the plane to keep the pilot cool. Want proof? Make it stop; then watch the pilot break out into a sweat.

* The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.

* Every one already knows the definition of a 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. But very few know the definition of a 'great landing.' It's one after which you can use the airplane another time.

* The probability of survival is equal to the angle of arrival.

* A helicopter is a collection of rotating parts going round and round and reciprocating parts going up and down -- all of them trying to become random in motion. Helicopters can't really fly -- they're just so ugly that the earth immediately repels them.

* Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself.

* There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

* The only thing worse than a captain who never flew as co-pilot is a co-pilot who once was a captain.

* It's easy to make a small fortune in aviation. You just start with a large fortune.

* A male pilot is a confused soul who talks about women when he's flying, and about flying when he's with a woman.

* Try to keep the number of your landings equal to the number of your takeoffs.

* Asking what a pilot thinks about the FAA is like asking a fire hydrant what it thinks about dogs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NEW Uniden Scanner Makes It Almost TOO Easy!


I'm a regular scanner user, and I have several scanners and receivers for listening to all kinds of radio traffic, almost from "DC-to-Daylight". I get quite a kick out of listening to the local airport traffic (LGB has a real honey for one of their ATC's!), and it's nice to be able to punch up the frequencies (I actually have them programmed) for my local PD/FD so when I hear sirens, I can find out what's going on. I firmly believe that we have a right to know what our local agencies are doing, and that includes monitoring their radio traffic. Now I don't mind their using encrypted transmissions for *some* activities, but regular radio traffic should be in-the-clear.
There have been many evolutions of public agency communications, starting with one-way broadcasts from Police HQ at one end of the AM radio dial ("Calling all cars!"), to simplex repeater systems, and on to trunked systems. Trunked Radio Systems are complex computer-controlled entities, somewhat similar to our current "Packet Switched" telephone network. They operate on multiple frequencies/channels, with one called the "Control Channel", which listens for a radio to start transmitting, analyzes the information, and automatically sends commands back to the radio telling it the correct channel it should switch to in order to communicate communicate with other radios in its "Talk Group". It gets quite complicated, so I'll let the reader follow the links to read more about it. Its main advantage is that it allows many users to share a common radio system, conserving the limited radio spectrum available in most metro areas. It's expensive, and has had more than it's share of developmental problems during the early days.
Later came APCO-25, also known as P-25, for "Project 25", which was a switch from analog to digital modulation. Although APCO-25 can operate perfectly well in simplex and repeater operation, combining it with trunking brought us to the current systems widely deployed here in the US.
When the big local agencies (LAPD, LASD) out here went to trunking, I wasn't too involved in scanner-listening, the city I lived in at the time kept their conventional radio system, and the big agencies kept a lot of their radio traffic operating "in parallel" on conventional non-trunked systems for interoperability reasons, and so I never bought a dedicated scanner that could deal with trunked systems. I just confined my listening to conventional radio systems in my area. When they went digital, I had to buy a new scanner that could handle the P-25 systems. My new scanner not only did P-25, but also conventional trunked systems, so by waiting, I got a "twofer".
One of the things about scanning is learning how to use your equipment, and getting a trunking-capable scanner taught me lot, including what a PITA it is to manually enter all the frequencies, talk groups, control channels, is it Motorola, EDACS, LTR, conventional trunked, all digital, analog, or mixed, or etc, etc, etc. The scanner itself could recognize and remember distinct individual systems, but it was still up to me to add the alphanumeric tags so I'd know *what* I was listening to. Fortunately, the scanner has a serial port on the back, and with the aid of a program for my PC, I was able to copy the frequency databases from the Internet, convert them to a form the radio could use, and upload them to the radio. Still, it took time to ferret out current, correct databases (Radio Reference is THE best!), grab them from the 'Net, paste them into the program, and upload them to the radio.
Now Uniden has come out with a new model that's made just for people who want to know what's going on, but don't have the time, inclination, or technical knowledge to get a digital-mode trunked radio system scanner up and running. Called the "Home Patrol", it comes pre-programmed with most major cities by zip code, touch screen display, GPS and USB ports, and has a removable memory card that can be used to load a new database, or to RECORD what you hear.
Availability should be September 2010, and the price is guesstimated at around $600.
Man, we never had it this easy when I got started in radio!