Sunday, June 27, 2010

Field Day Fun and Other Thoughts

Well, our annual Field Day event is over for another year. Nobody was injured (it's happened), no major equipment problems at any of the stations on site (a few "nail-biters", though), we all had a great time, and my friend The Wandering Minstrel even stopped by Friday while I was setting up. We had several elected representatives of local government show up, and the Police as usual stopped by to see how we were doing this year. One of our club members is retired LAPD, so we always have both the LAPD and Port of Los Angeles Police drop by to say hi. Our "Get On The Air" (GOTA) station was a huge hit this year, due to us having it on the grounds of the Fort MacArthur Military Museum, and a lot of the visitors there took the short walk "up the hill" to drop by and see some serious Amateur Radio operations. We previously had to have the GOTA station in the immediate vicinity of the other stations to be inside the 1000' diameter circle the rules specify, but this year, due to some construction at the North end of the area we use, we had to move the entire operation several hundred feet to the South, which put Fort Mac inside the circle, and they graciously allowed us to operate there.
BTW, if you live in the Los Angeles area and like Military historical things, please drop by and visit the Fort MacArthur Military Museum. It's a trip though the history of the defense of the Port of Los Angeles, from 1910 through the Nike missile era. And if your historical bent runs more to things nautical, please drop by the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, another time capsule of POLA history, and the host of my radio club
We ran class 4A this year, which means up to 4 simultaneous transmitters, and running without "commercial" power. I don't have the final number of contacts made, or the total score, but I made 35 satellite contacts, an all-time record for me on Field Day. You get a 100-point bonus for making the first contact, and then any other contacts count as 1 point each. My previous "best" was 5 contacts, so I kind of ground my previous performances into dust! This was the first year that everything I used worked "As Advertised", so it was well worth the time I spent on it since June 1st to hammer out all the bugs I've experienced the last several years, and really learn how to use the equipment I have, both the stuff I've had for years, and the stuff I just built. Just having all the right "Black Boxes", cables, and software doesn't mean you know how to use them, and how they interact with each other. You might be well-versed in theory, and be able to explain exactly what all your gear does, but until you've used it on a regular basis, you don't really grok it. Just like I know people with $3000 "Race Guns" that can barely hit a target at 10 yards with them, and I've seen people in some of the training classes I've taken who had old, well-used, out-of-favor firearms, and they could work magic with them, I know people with the latest $10,000 Amateur Radio rigs who can barely turn them on, and people with gear made from cast-off and WWII surplus parts that are superb operators.
So now is it time to put the gear away for another year? Nope, I'm going to weather-proof what needs protecting, replace a few connectors on some control cables with better quality ones so they don't cause the random, hard to trace down 'weirdness' I had Saturday morning, and leave most of it set up for continued use.
Oh, and I'm going to spend more time at the range. Pounding away for the last month on this particular radio setup made me realize that unless I train with and use my defensive firearms on a regular basis, those skills, too, will atrophy.
And I don't want that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Loaded Up and Ready to Go!

Well, the Jeep is about 80% loaded and ready to take off for the Field Day site Friday morning. I can't believe how organized I managed to get this year, but then I guess that's what happens when you start planning and testing 4 weeks before. I got tired of making multiple trips to my car dragging one or two small items every year, so I bought some good sized plastic tote bins at Lowe's. The radio, power supply, rotator controller and PC interface, along with all the manuals, fit in one tote box. The other one has some of my tools and supplies (soldering iron, heat gun, heat-shrink tubing, cable ties, crimpers, connectors, etc, etc), and the third one has all the rest. I also shortened up most of the cables this year. I just couldn't see having 75' of rotator cable when 30' was plenty. Same with the coax; the cables I made years ago were about 50' long, so I made some new ones this year that are 30', like the rotator cable. Saves a bunch of space, and a LOT of weight.
All I have to load Friday morning is the mast with elevation rotator, the cross-boom (with the preamps already mounted), the antenna, my 5' tripod/8' mast for my GPS antenna, and then slide the ladder in last.
In the meantime, feel free to check out some pix from our past Field Day events.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Awwwww.....RATS! One O' THEM daze....

Woke up today and when I started this PC it gave me an unending string of errors as it booted up. Tried to repair the file system by booting a Live-CD, unmounting the disks, and running fsck on them, but no dice...the main disk was hammered with corrupted files. Spent the morning installing a new hard disk and reinstalling OpenSUSE 11.2. Probably take me the rest of the week to get it tweaked back to how I like it.
Then I went out to fill my new gas can for my generator, and the first place I stopped at wouldn't let me! "Sorry, we don't allow gas cans to be filled here". DUH! Well, I'll never fill my Jeep up there again, either! The next two places had some newer type of Kaliforniastan-approved anti-smog pump nozzle, and I couldn't get either one of them to seal well enough to the little 2-gallon gas can to put any fuel in it! I finally gave up and came home. I think I'll just siphon a couple of gallons out of the Jeep to fill it with.
Ran the generator with a 1200 Watt load on it until it ran out of gas, and then changed the oil in it. As I was pouring the new oil in, the puppy came out and stuck her nose right in the drained oil!
Ever try and get used motor oil off your dog's snout? Yeah, I didn't think so. At least she didn't step in it and then run back in the house. I could just imagine my wife's expression if she came home and saw little oily puppy paw prints through the house. Yeah, that would have gone over *real* well.
I just home Tuesday is a "better" day, although I have to admit the things I'm griping about are really pretty trivial compared to all the other $h1t that's going on in the world.........

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

To all the Dads out here.
I'm out on the porch playing radio. My satellite station is working better than it *ever* has; the program I use to run the radio and antenna controller interface is doing everything it should, and over the last several days I've made in excess of 50 contacts using the Amateur Radio Satellites AO-7, FO-29, VO-52, and HO-68. Field Day should be quite good this year, and I'm tempted to set it back up in the driveway after Field Day is over. I have a few things to do before I take it all apart and load it in the Jeep Thursday night, like change the oil in my generator
Oh, and the wife is taking me to the local Outback tonight for dinner.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Apollo XI Lift-Off In Super Slow Motion

Stumbled across this while looking for something else. The film was shot at 500 frames-per-second, and when played back at normal 24 frames-per-second, it stretches about 30 seconds of time out to around 9 minutes.
I've got a bunch of video like this from my former employer, as we used to make a "Mission DVD" for the customers and Launch Crew. You'll hear the guy talk about the ablative coating used on some of the equipment, and how it's supposed to burn off to protect the equipment under the coating. One of my jobs on the Range Team was to maintain all the launch cameras and housings. The ablative coating is a bear to work with. Really messy, and toxic stuff requiring special handling. At one time we recoated the camera enclosures (they're made of 1/2" thick steel plate!) every mission. Stripping the stuff off and reapplying it got to be such a PITA that we talked to some of the Range people down at Cape Canaveral. They told us to just wire brush the charred areas, and recoat the places where the coating was getting thin. It saved us HOURS of back breaking labor. The fused quartz camera windows also got replaced every mission. They were a double layer design, and about half the time the outer window would shatter. One time we lost both windows, and the exhaust plume took out the camera in that position. We were able to save the film, but the camera was pretty blasted!
Enjoy the video!

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Mark Gray on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Gunblogger's Glossary

A good read of terms commonly used in the blogosphere and elsewhere. Sure wish I had this when I got started. I asked some pretty lame questions!
Shamelessly borrowed from The World's Most Dangerous Librarian.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm Tired

Good read from Dennis Miller radio:
I'M 63 AND I'M TIRED

By Robert A. Hall
Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts State Senate
Dennis Miller Radio

I'm 63. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day, I've worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven't called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement in sight, and I'm tired. Very tired.

I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

I'm tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to "keep people in their homes." Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I'm willing to help. But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them with their own money.

I'm tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In thirty years, if they get their way, the United States will have the economy of Zimbabwe, the freedom of the press of China, the crime and violence of Mexico, the tolerance for Christian people of Iran, and the freedom of speech of Venezuela.

I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family "honor;" of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers;" of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery;" of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.

I'm tired of being told that "race doesn't matter" in the post-racial world of Obama, when it's all that matters in affirmative action jobs, lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more than anyone, and in the appointment of U.S. Senators from Illinois. I think it's very cool that we have a black president and that a black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.

I'm tired of a news media that thinks Bush's fundraising and inaugural expenses were obscene, but that think Obama's, at triple the cost, were wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control weight and stress; that picked over every line of Bush's military records, but never demanded that Kerry release his; that slammed Palin, with two years as Governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but touted Obama with three years as senator as potentially the best president ever. Wonder why people are dropping their subscriptions or switching to Fox News? Get a clue. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004.

I'm tired of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and mandrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America, while no American group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance.

I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We also own a three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore's, and if you're greener than Gore, you're green enough.

I'm tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses while they tried to fight it off? I don't think Gay people choose to be Gay, but I damn sure think druggies chose to take drugs. And I'm tired of harassment from cool people treating me like a freak when I tell them I never tried marijuana.

I'm tired of illegal aliens being called "undocumented workers," especially the ones who aren't working, but are living on welfare or crime. What's next? Calling drug dealers, "Undocumented Pharmacists"? And, no, I'm not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it's been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion. I'm willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic person, who can speak English, doesn't have a criminal record and who is self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honorably for three years in our military...Those are the citizens we need.

I'm tired of latte liberals and journalists, who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement-handicapped kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life-and-death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than themselves. Do bad things happen in war? You bet. Do our troops sometimes misbehave? Sure. Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are? Not even close. So here's the deal. I'll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we'll compare notes. British and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.

I'm tired of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums are bipartisan. And I'm tired of people telling me we need bipartisanship. I live in Illinois , where the "Illinois Combine" of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama's cabinet.

I'm tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

Speaking of poor, I'm tired of hearing people with air-conditioned homes, color TVs and two cars called poor. The majority of Americans didn't have that in 1970, but we didn't know we were "poor." The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars flowing.

I'm real tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.

Yes, I'm damn tired. But I'm also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making. I'm just sorry for my granddaughter.

Say, WHAT?!?


I simply can't believe this.....a warning label on printed copies of our Constituion?
The inmates are running the asylum!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Radio Daze.....

Sorry for not posting lately, but I've been getting ready for the ARRL Field Day event at the end of June. I run the Satellite Station each year, and I always assemble the complete station and test it out well before the end of June.
Well, at least I have the last two years!
Prior to that, when I was in my little bachelor flat, I at least made the attempt to have everything in one big pile ready to transport to the site we use, the Lower Reservation at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. That didn't always work so well, and I've lost track of the number of trips I made back to my place, or my favorite little electronics emporium, to get stuff I either forgot to buy, or just plain forgot to bring.
This year, the only snags I've hit (so far!) have been not being able to find the Comet Antenna diplexer I use for a 70cm filter that I bought last year (bought another one at HRO this morning), ordering some "wrong" parts from DX Engineering (they'll go in the 'junque' box and eventually get used), and not being able to find the wiring diagram I made about 5 years ago when I tried to use a certain type of rotor controller to make the rotors follow my tracking program. Last year I (finally!) had full control of my radio to correct for the Doppler shift of fast moving objects in Low Earth Orbit, and it made operating MUCH easier. This year, I built a neat little kit from Fox Delta that accepts data from the tracking program over a serial port, and make the Azimuth and Elevation rotors follow a specified satellite. I need the correct pinout of the 8-pin DIN "remote" connector on the back of the rotor control box to interface it to the ST3. The problem I had before with the "Brand-X" rotor controller, besides the fact that the supplied "documentation" was sparse and poorly written, was that there are several sources of what the pinout is, and they're mostly WRONG! The pin numbering on DIN plugs/jacks is pretty arcane as it is, and the drawings in the Yaesu manual don't indicate if you're looking at the plug (front *or* back of it??) or the socket (same-o, same-o), and until you've done it once or twice, and had that "ah-HA!" moment, it'll drive you absolutely bonkers. I spent the better part of the weekend one year figuring out what pin on the rotor box had what input or output, and how to connect it to the other PC interface, and I *know* I wrote it down, but that sheet of paper has disappeared somewhere. Having several more years of experience and experimentation under my belt, it'll be a lot easier to document it this time. I'm quite familiar with the Yaesu G-5500 series now, and all I'll do is take the cover off the control box, plug in the 8-pin DIN cable, and buzz-out the leads on the cable to the corresponding points on the PC board for the inputs and outputs, and write it down. Preferably in several places, along with creating a drawing that *I* understand, and saving it on my PC in multiple places and on multiple hard drives!
So, anyway......hopefully by tomorrow afternoon I'll have all the wiring documented, the antenna-to-cross-boom mounting plate turned 90*, and the ST3 controller connected to my laptop and tracking satellites.

Oh, and it's the wife's birthday tomorrow.

Don't worry, ProFlowers (WAY better than FTD!) is dropping off a nice big arrangement before she gets home, and I've got two tickets in very good seats to take her to see "A Chorus Line" at the Pantages on Friday night. Still don't know what we'll do for dinner, though.....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Remember In November To Vote The IDIOTS Out!

Got this from a fellow Tea Partier, and thought I'd pass it on to you all.

Feel free to spread it around!