Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Best ISS Video Yet!

Amazing time-lapse video from the International Space Station.
Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Word Verification Is Now OFF

I agree with OldNFO...the new "double captcha" is a royal pain-in-the-butt!
SO...I turned it off, but enabled moderation.
I get so few readers that I doubt if I'll much of a job!

Solar Cycle 24 Predictions


NOT good for those of us who enjoy long-distance HF contacts.
BUT....these guys have been wrong before, and predicting the 11 year sunspot cycle is still more of a "Black Art" than an exact science.

Monday, February 20, 2012

USS Midway Pictures

OK, finally got around to uploading the pictures to PhotoBucket.
Most of them should be self-explanatory to people who've spent time on ships. I only managed to get one picture of the helm on the PriFli/Chart Room/Bridge I was on because there were just too many people in too small of a space to move around with my camera.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

USS Midway

I'll try and get the pix posted later tonight. We just got back from the Midway, a trolley tour of most of San Diego, and dinner at a nice little place in Little Italy.
The Midway was worth every penny of the admission, and the sore feet from FIVE hours of stomping around on her. Had some great chats with some of the docents who were working there. Most of them are vets, and a couple actually served on the Midway while she was in active service. One of the highlights for me was talking to an SBD Dauntless rear gunner who was there in front of the museum's Dauntless. Just an amazing guy, and sharp as a tack at 88 years old!
Besides the pictures I took of the large statue named "Unconditional Surrender" (the sailor kissing the nurse from the WWII photo), we also went to the Bob Hope memorial. Standing there among the statues of various military people "listening" to the statue of Bob Hope do his routines over the P.A. system really got to me. When you see the pictures of all the statues, I think you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

San Diego Air and Space Museum

My wife and I decided to take a long weekend, and head down to San Diego to see some things. This morning we went to the Air and Space Museum, and then headed over to see the USS Midway.
Well....the museum went well, but by the time we got out of there, traffic had gotten to the point that there was NO parking to be had in the lot for the Midway, OR in any of the neighboring lots.
Jam city!
So we headed over to Old Town San Diego, and things were even worse!
Tomorrow we'll go back to the Midway, early in the day, and see some of the other sights in the surrounding area.

In the meantime, enjoy my (poor) pictures from the Air and Space Museum.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Trigger The Vote" with GUNNY

Just got this in an email from the NRA, and it's pretty good.

REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Marlin 60 Owners Do NOT Overtighten Your Scope Rings!


Man, do I feel STOOPID or what!
I wanted to go to the range today to practice with my Marlin 60. The first time I took it out, the open sights were WAAAAY off! Consistently up and to the left. I'd since ordered a set of "Tip Off" scope rings to fit the dovetail grooves in the receiver, and put them on this morning so I could use the little Simmons 2.5x20 scope I had laying around.
I slipped the rings onto the receiver, and tightened them down.
TOO well it turns out.
I heard a small "SNAP", and noticed the rearmost ring seemed loose, and then I noticed I had broken off a piece of the dovetail!
DUH!
I guess I'm just too used to guns being made of steel, and I'd forgotten the receiver on the Marlin 60 is Aluminum.
CAST Aluminum.
Castings aren't nearly as strong as forgings, or machined billet pieces, and this, coupled with the design of the receiver top, made it, uh..., not very strong, and when I cranked down on the screws that secure the mounts in place, it failed.
If you look at the pictures, you'll noticed the grooved top of the receiver. This means there's hardly any metal on the "back" side of the dovetail for support, so the metal just cracked and pulled away when I tightened the rings down.
Do I consider this a design defect? Yes.
Do I consider this a "Stupid Owner" error? Also yes.
I was able to move the rear ring forward enough that I was able to get the scope mounted for today's range session, but I'm really bummed I did this to my poor little Marlin 60.
Yes, I knew the receiver was Aluminum alloy, and probably should have known it was also a casting, given the price of this rifle.
I mixed up some JB Weld when I got home, and used it to attach the broken off piece, so at least I don't have a raw Aluminum scar staring me in the face every time I pick up the rifle.
And the range session? Terrible. First, the place was packed, and I had to wait. That part I don't mind because I'm glad to see them doing a good business. But a lot of the people there weren't very disciplined, there was brass all over the floor, and the guys in the next lane were doing rapid fire with what sounded like a 44 Magnum, and I just couldn't concentrate.
And even with the small scope, I still couldn't hit diddly squat with this thing. I just didn't have the patience today to try and zero the scope, so after 50 or 60 rounds I just packed it up and came home.
Bad day........

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Already??

Wow...the week just flew by.
Been rather busy at work this week, which always makes the time fly by.
The last launch we did had an "anomaly" in the tracking system I run. Analysis of the recorded data from our logs shows that we had multiple failures in the system(s), resulting in some data loss on the primary telemetry downlink receiving system, AND the VEDA data "decommutators", but our fixed antennas and back up recorders filled in the holes, so while things didn't work as they should have, we captured all the data.
SO, after a week of teleconferences and webex presentations, we started actual work to determine which part of the system started the cascading failures. I'm betting it's our Primary Tracking Receiver, which had been acting up the entire week prior to the launch. We had to power cycle it several times to wake it up, and it seems to have lost about 20dB ( ! ) of receive sensitivity.
Considering this stuff was hardly state-of-the-art when the system was built back in the late 1990's, it's amazing we've been able to keep it running as long as we have.
Of course, money is tight, having just come out of Chapter 11, so it looks like I'll have to order a few more rolls of bailing wire, some duct tape, and a couple of dozen packs of chewing gum to get us through the rest of the year.
Oh...and the ship this is all installed on leaves Thursday morning for dry dock, they won't authorize any overtime for us to get the jump on this over this weekend, AND all the test equipment we need to use got sent out for calibration last week. I tried my best to convince TPTB that having *everything* due for calibration at the same time was a BAAAAD idea, but of course I was overruled because they got a price break taking ALL the equipment in at the same time. We're sending a runner over to the Cal Lab Monday morning to pick up the minimum gear we need.
I think what we'll wind up doing is to dump as much data as we can out of the equipment, do some simple RF testing, and then pull ALL the gear off the ship Wednesday afternoon.
Have a good weekend, everybody! I think I'll take my Marlin 60 (in 22LR, of course!) to the range this weekend and get some practice.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spotting Scope Recommendations?

I've read dozens of reviews, and looked through a few at the Turner's store here, but I'd like to know what my fellow rifle shooters use.
I bought one from Cabella's, a Vortex Nomad, a 20-to-60 power zoom, with a 60mm objective, but although it's quite nicely made, it just lacks something.
Or maybe I'm not using it correctly.
Now I've got quite a bit of experience with various kinds of optics, from giant binoculars to home-made 10" reflector telescopes, and I've been doing a lot of photography since I was in 8th grade.
The problem I have with the Vortex scope is that since I wear glasses, I can't seem to get close enough to it to see the full image. I'm not sure if this is an "exit pupil size" issue, or an "eye relief distance" issue.
I also kinda-sorta have the same problem with the scope on my Marlin 336, but NOT with the new Nikon Prostaff "Shotgun Hunter" scope I recently installed on my Remington 1100, or with the scope on my son's stepfather's 300 Win Mag rifle with a BIG Tasco scope on it.

Anybody have any recommendations for a good spotting scope for somebody that wears glasses?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

New Toy....Comet CAA-500 Antenna Anlyzer


Of the Electronic persuasion. It's a Comet CAA-500 antenna analyzer.
Which means I own four of these devices, all made by different manufacturer's, now.
I have an AEA "VHF/UHF Analyst".
An MFJ "MFJ-259B".
A RigExpert "AA-230".
And the new Comet Analyzer.

I also have access to an Anritsu "SiteMaster" and an Agilent Vector Network Analyzer (I forget which one....) at work.

The Anritsu and Agilent boxen are truly magical, with prices to match, while the others are more in the reach of "Advanced Home Hobbyists" like me.

Why so many of the "same" type of test instrument? Well.....The MFJ units are generally good, if you get one made Tuesday through Thursday. MFJ has a history of extremely poor/nonexistent QC, and I've seen it first hand.
Loose/missing hardware rattling around inside the case, poor/cold/missing solder joints everywhere, calibration that's, uhhhh....hmmmm...."You call this calibrated?", and a host of other ills.
Their stuff (the properly designed products, that is) either works well, or not at all, right out-of-the-box.
Mine works, so I consider myself lucky.
The AEA and RigExpert units work very well, are reasonably priced, and I was given the RigExpert unit in payment for fixing a fellow Hams transmitter.

The Comet I bought today because I had a gift certificate from HRO burning a hole in my pocket!

Between one of my fellow radio club members and myself, we have almost every available "hobbyist" analyzer out there.
Last time I checked, my friend had six or seven different ones. We're both RF Engineers, and enjoy seeing different vendor solution to the same problem, i.e. Measuring complex impedance in a coaxial transmission line/antenna system.

Most of these units are plenty accurate and repeatable enough for home use, and a couple are good enough for commercial use.

I haven't had a chance to try it yet, as I'm getting started this weekend on replacing the side entry door for the garage.

I'm sure I'll use my entire vocabulary doing that project!