Saturday, November 28, 2015

FINALLY Home!

BLECH........The Explorer wouldn't start this morning. Another hotel guest gave us a third jumpstart.

Plane to Salt Lake City was 45 minutes late arriving in Denver.

Our connecting flight was scheduled to depart 50 minutes after our scheduled arrival, and was one set of gates away.

We barely made it. We were literally the last two people to board the aircraft.

Then because that aircraft had been sitting most of the day at Salt Lake, where there were minor snow squalls moving through the area, it had to be de-iced again.

We left Salt Lake 45 minutes late......

So our "2100" arrival time in Long Beach wound up being about 2225....

I'll unpack tomorrow....I'm trashed......

Friday, November 27, 2015

Headed Home Saturday

After I shut the laptop down tonight I'll pack it, along with all my other stuff except for what I'll wear Saturday.

We had a wonderful time here, as usual, and actually took a few hours today to drive by 6 of the homes I've got in my saved properties list.

We didn't get to look inside any of them, but just doing the drive-by confirmed that yes indeed, the people who take the pictures used in the listing are quite creative with camera angles!

One house looked really sweet "on paper", BUT the listing photos don't show the neighbor's yard with cars-on-blocks, the other neighbor's yard that looked  like a used Jeep/ATV dealership, or the house down the road a few hundred feet that just looked plain "weird".

One we looked at had NO garage at all, the garage having been converted into more living space. Don't know how I missed that in the listing, as a BIG garage is very high on my priority list.

Another had a HUGE yard, but the fence around the yard in the photos was gone! Since the photos were taken months ago, hopefully a new fence is in the works.

BUT....two of the ones I had saved were true gems. One has a very nice yard, with a "nature area" that the back yard abuts to, almost guaranteeing that the land will never be developed, and the other was a knock out. 30,000 sqft lot, a large garage/workshop as a separate building, and looked to be in excellent repair. It's been on the market for almost 6 months now, with the priced dropped $20k at the end of October.

My "local connections" are looking in to it to see if there might be code violations or other headache-inducing things wrong with it. They seemed to think it was still a bit overpriced considering the "comps" in the neighborhood, so they're going to discreetly nose around a bit on our behalf.

My wife has said she wants to seriously "run the numbers" on it when we get home. She's now thinking that we could go ahead and buy it, and let the kids rent it until we're ready to move. That's probably the only scenario I'd EVER consider being a landlord in!

And with family renting it, I could make repeated trips out here with a truck moving our extensive collection of "stuff", greatly easing the entire moving process.

AND...we had another "episode" of our Ford Exploder refusing to start. It's one of these keyless-start cars, loaded with electronics, and methinks there be some gremlins lurking within this particular one. The various modes of the electronic traction control quit working, and the auto-fold mirrors don't always report for duty.

I'd have to give this model of Explorer a strong "NOT Recommended", and we're going to tell Budget to send this one to the showers when we turn it in Saturday afternoon.

See you all on the flip side.........

A Few Pictures From Thanksgiving Day

These are from when we went to pick up the kids.

Their little house is actually in Bellvue, Colorado, very close to Laporte, which is where we're looking for houses.

My stepson greeting my wife:







A neighbors house:





Our rental car, which required a jump start here. No idea why the battery appeared dead. When I started it again up in Cheyenne, the Ford "Sync" screen appeared on the previously dead entertainment center, and announced "Performing required system maintenance".
The car's been OK since then.





Looking out to the East:









Neighbor's house on the North:


So far we've had a great time. It was good to see our future in-laws again, and catch up with thwm on what's been going on here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving to All! ...UPDATED...

Posting this early as we're going to have to make an early start tomorrow.

The big gathering of my step-son's fiancee and all her family will be at her younger sister's place in Cheyenne, Wyoming, about 50 miles North of here.

And since we have some serious winter weather about to hit the Fort Collins area, we'll have to leave early, and drive carefully.

We're looking at rain turning to snow overnight, and snow all day on Thanksgiving, with an estimated high of 20*F in Fort Collins, and 18*F in Cheyenne.

Overnight lows for Thursday/Friday are expected to be 10*F and  4*F.

Makes me glad I brought the liner for my jacket, but wondering if I should have packed my N-3B instead!

Even though I grew up in Northern Illinois, and spent a whole lot of time driving in "real" winter conditions, I'm more than a little out-of-practice having lived in SoCal since 1982!

So, even with a 4WD vehicle, I'm going to take it easy both ways.

My wife wanted to see winter in this area, and I think she'll get her wish!



UPDATE..............

Went and had dinner with the kids, and when we left about 2000 it was misting, and freezing.

Their front porch steps were icy, and we really had to use the hand rails and watch our step.

Woke up this morning, and there looks to be 3~4" of white fluffy stuff all over, and it's snowing, and the flakes are getting bigger.






So, we'll be extra careful when we leave in a couple of hours to pick up the kids and head on up to Cheyenne.

Hope you all have a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Arrived Alive in Fort Collins

Left Long Beach this morning at 0700, and changed planes in Salt Lake City. Got to Denver an hour or so later, picked up our rent-a-car, and were checked in at the hotel about 90 minutes later.

Nice hotel, and the wireless is 12 Meg up-and-down! Just stunning compared to the last couple of hotel wireless connections I had.

Took the kids out for dinner after spending an hour or so checking out their new house and getting seriously assaulted by the two dogs with licks, kisses, lap time, and multiple tummy rubs.

Yep, they sure remembered us, and went completely NUTSO when they heard/saw/smelled us.

I'd told my wife the reserve a 4 wheel drive vehicle for us, and while I claim she got my approval on an "Explorer/Grand Cherokee" sized vehicle, she had reserved an "Expedition/Suburban" sized vehicle!

DUH.......just a bit bigger than we needed!

Turns out that the larger vehicles cost less through her plan than the smaller ones, to the tune of about $50/day!

The agent gave us our pick of smaller vehicles at the lower cost, and we wound up with a 2015 Ford Explorer Limited with 4WD and just about every option you can get with the exception of a sunroof and a V8, and I'm not sure they even offer a V8 in that model.

Anyway, I'm very pleased with it, with a few exceptions, that I'll report on it after I drive it some more.

Over the 14,000 miles it has on it it's averaged 21.2MPG, which is pretty amazing fora vehicle of this size, weight, and capability.

2100 here, and I'm pretty well beat-up from getting up at 0430, and being on the move all day.

Later......

Sunday, November 22, 2015

RATS! I Hosed My Windoze PC......

WELL....I thought I knew what I was doing.

In getting ready for our trip to Colorado, I wanted to check and see if there were any updates for the Magellan RoadMate we use when traveling. Since the Magellan Account Manager software is on the Windoze PC I use for all my Ham Radio stuff, I fired it up and proceeded to do all the updates that come with leaving a Windoze PC turned off for more than a few days.

Update MalwareBytes? Check!

Update AVG Free Antivirus? Check!

Update Adobe Acrobat Reader? Check!

Windoze Update? Uh-oh...there's the little "Get Windows 10!" icon in the task bar. Hmm...thought I got rid of that?

So, I "Search Installed Updates" for KB3035583 update, find it (I must have forgotten to hide it before), and uninstall it.

It requires a reboot, and then the fun starts.....

The PC goes through POST, Windows starts, then immediately goes to the Windows Error Recovery screen, and fails with an 0xc00000e9 "An unexpected I/O error has occurred" error, indicating that Windoze can't "reliably communicate" with the hard disk......

Since we're leaving tomorrow morning at 0500, this will have to wait until our return.

I used the laptop I'm taking with me to check the RoadMate for any updates, and there were none, so this whole exercise was moot.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday Plumbing Adventures......

Gawd, I HATE doing plumbing stuff.

Every single stinking time I go to "fix" something, I find 5 other things that need work.

This started a week ago when my wife insisted I replace the fill valve in the bathroom toilet. Since the handle with the lever on it to lift the flapper was all loose and sloppy, I went and bought a new one.

Now, to my way of thinking, "If It Aint Broke, Don't Fix It!", and as far as I'm concerned, the fill valve wasn't broke.

It didn't run continuously, and shut off properly when the tank was full.

The only thing it did was make a slight noise while the water was filling the tank.

SO, I set out to replace the fill valve and tank lever last week, and cleared out the area around the toilet.

I go to close the water valve feeding the toilet (A "stop" in plumber-speak), and it starts leaking. It doesn't leak or even drip when it's all the way open, but start closing it, and water starts spraying out where the shaft comes out of the body. Even fully closed, it leaks.

So, I go out to shut off the water coming into the house, and find I can't turn the wheel on the valve.

The last time we shut off the main water valve was sometime back when we had a full-house water filtration and softener system installed by RainSoft. The guys that did the work were excellent, but they were also a lot stronger than me these days (hey...they were late 20's and I'm 64!), and they really cranked it open.

Fortunately I was able to close the main water valve once I busted it loose with my 12" Channel-Locks, and I left the kitchen faucet open to bleed of any residual pressure, as the shut-off valve doesn't really turn the water completely off.

OK, so I've got the water finally turned off, and take the top off the toilet tank so I can remove the old tank lever.

It was made of pot metal, and the nut holding the mechanism to the tank was completely corroded, and I could NOT bust it loose. As a side note, the new tank lever has a LEFT HAND thread on it, and if they're all made this way, then I was actually trying to tighten it, which explains why the only wrench I could get in there just rounded off the corners, making the nut now impossible to remove with a wrench.

I got my 12" Channel-Locks out again, when I realized I was going to have a bit of a problem getting them in there:



There's barely enough room to lift the tank top and get it off, and when the top is off, you have maybe 4" of clearance!

I can't even get my hands all the way into the tank to reach the flapper valve, which I had to do to get the chain, which had fallen to the bottom of the tank after I disconnected it from the lever.

And yes, the tank is not square on the toilet bowl assembly, but I'm NOT mentioning it to my wife, or she'll want that "fixed", too!

The people that remodeled the bathroom, and installed the counter top, should be dragged out and flogged for doing it the way they did. There's NO clearance in there to work on things unless you have arms like a 10-year old kid.

SO.......Since I couldn't get any wrenches or BIG pliers in there to twist the nut off, I decided to cut it off with my cordless Dremel tool, and a small cut-off wheel. I get my Dremel out, and find that BOTH batteries are dead.......I charged both batteries yesterday, and then today when I went to find the tooling for the Dremel, I couldn't find the box I put all the tooling into after I DROPPED the entire box last year, and spent two hours finding all the little bits and pieces that had scattered themselves all over the garage floor, and under the workbenches.

Off to Home Depot to get replacements for the stuff I misplaced, and will probably find tomorrow afternoon.....

Finally got the old handle cut off, and the new one installed, and then spent about 20 minutes getting the chain adjusted so that it lets the flapper valve completely close, but is long enough, and has enough travel, that it fully opens the valve to let the tank drain.

And that was just to replace the handle. I still haven't (and told my wife I will NOT) replaced the fill valve.

Gawd, I HATE plumbing repairs....

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I Feel A Great Disturbance In The Force......

"The Force" being those like-minded people who observe Truth, Justice and the American Way.

At the least "The American Way" as I remember it from growing up in the 1950's and 1960's.

I'll be nice to you if you'll be nice to me.

BUT, steal my car, insult my wife, break into my house, or kick my dog, and I'll be on you like stink on you-know-what!

Yes, I'm one of those "bitter clingers" who's damn tired of seeing my beloved country being destroyed by the current resident of the White House.

I'm one of those far-right wing nutjobs who asked embarrassing questions in 2008, and said things like "NOBODY knows who this guy is, so be careful".

After all, I grew up in the shadows of Chicago, and listened carefully to my Father when he spoke about Chicago-style politics and Hizzoner Mayor Daley.

Now besides all the job killing regulations, restrictions on free speech, and rampantly enforced Political Correctness, the current resident in the White House is going to allow thousands of unverified political "refugees" into our country, and this man-child says he won't take "NO!" for an answer.

And this person still has 12 months left in his tenure.

We're being stripped of our rights, the Constitution is being flagrantly ignored and bypassed, the economy is in the dumpster, and now we're being asked to allow tens of thousands of "widows and orphans", most of which are young military-aged men, into our country.

The inmates are truly running the asylum.......

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On The Border

From the album of the same name, released in 1974.

I find the lyrics to be strangely relevant.....




Cruisin' down the center of a two way street
Wond'rin' who is really in the driver's seat
Mindin' my bus'ness along comes big brother
Says, "Son, you better get on one side or the other."

I'm out on the border, I'm walkin' the line
Don't you tell me 'bout your law and order
I'm try'n' to change this water to wine.

After a hard day, I'm safe at home
Foolin' with my baby on the telephone
Out of nowhere somebody cuts in and
Says, "Hmm, you in some trouble boy, we know where you're been."

I'm out on the border
I thought this was a private line
Don't you tell me 'bout your law and order
I'm try'n' to change this water to wine

Never mind your name, just give us your number, mm
Never mind your face, just show us your card, mm
And we wanna know whose wing are you under
You better step to the right or we can make it hard

I'm stuck on the border
All I wanted was some peace of mind
Don't you tell me 'bout your law and order
I'm try'n' to change this water to wine

On the border
On the border
On the border
On the border
On the border
Leave me be , I'm just walkin' this line
On the border
On the border
All I wanted was some peace of mind, peace of mind
I'm out on the border
On the border
Can't you see I'm tryin to change this water to wine
Don't you tell me 'bout your law and order
Sick and tired of all your law and order
Sick and tired of it

Friday, November 13, 2015

Attacks in Paris

THIS is what you get when you have open, or extremely porous borders.

I fear another 9/11 here, but worse this time.

And the Islamonazis are telling the Kremlin "You're next".

Wonder how well that will play out........

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veteran's Day

Thank you to all who have served, and are in the service now.

We had our annual Veteran's Day celebration aboard the Iowa on Saturday, and it was great.

Food, live music, displays of military vehicles, and Vets all over the place.

The Army even brought in one of their new helicopters, and set her down on the fantail about 1000.

Sorry for the crappy picture, but all I had with me was my phone, and between operating the radio and helping a few other crew members, I just didn't have time to get close to it.

It's a Eurocopter from Ft. Irwin, and the paint scheme is generic "bad guy".



Anyway....a splendid time was had by all, and we were honored with numerous veterans who had served during WWII, a couple who had served on the Iowa.

Truly the Greatest Generation......

Trump's SNL monologue

For those that didn't get to see, or who don't watch Saturday Night Live, here's The Donald's opening monologue.

Not much to it, though.....



Saturday, November 7, 2015

Me and Windows 10

The Silicon Graybeard has an excellent post on the Windows 10 almost-forced "upgrade" that's coming.

Go RTWT. I'm sure there's some good comments coming, as he has LOTS more readers than I do.....

He and I have exchanged a few emails about the state of Amateur Radio software for Linux, and I assured him it's a very healthy state, and MUCH Ham software for Linux is under active creation and development.

Here was my reply in the comments, edited here for linking and clarity:

I know exactly how you feel.

I have two applications that depend on Windows, and will NOT run under WINE (A Linux program) or the CodeWeavers "Crossover" stuff.

One is PowerSDR that runs my Flex Radio Systems 5000A, and the other is the drivers and software for my Maxtrox High Definition video capture card.

Those two machines will stay with Windows 7, and after Micro$oft stops supporting Win7, I'll just do my best to keep all the required anti-virus and anti-malware software updated, and pull the Ethernet cable out of the machine so it's off my LAN when I'm not updating them.

When the two vendors stop supporting the software on Win 7 is another matter, which I haven't thought much about.

Matrox still releases updates for the card, as does Adobe, who updates their Premiere Pro video editing suite that came bundled with the card. When they completely stop supporting the card, I'll probably try and sell it, possibly with the PC it's in, as the PC was built specifically for that card, and it's pretty well optimized as an audio/video editing system.

Flex Radio Systems has already said they'll be doing one final "rollup" update for PowerSDR, but as with all things Flex, it's anybody's guess when that will happen, so I'm not holding my breath. As long as the radio continues to function, I'll keep a PC to use it with cobbled together, and complete disk images, made weekly, in case I lose a drive.

The only thing I AM sure of is that Micro$oft is not getting one more dime from me......

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Illustrated Guide To Gun Control

From the fine folks over at Western Rifle Shooters Association...




Cool Tuesday

Had a cold front go through last night bringing a little rain and clearing up things a bit.

It's in the mid 60's today, so I'm enjoying the outside weather and doing some work.

Dumped some soggy dirt out of the wheelbarrow and moved the 'barrow off to the side of the garage to free up some driveway space. Have an old BBQ grill and some other things that are getting moved out to the street for the junkman that comes by daily, and that will free up more driveway space. Then I can move the Supra around easier so I can finish degreasing the underside after I get it up nice and high on the jackstands again.

Tomorrow is my "Iowa Day", and we have several things to get knocked out. First is getting a specific antenna reconnected to an antenna coupler down in the transmitter room with an adapter I made that adapts 3-1/2" Heliax to a female Type-N connector. Some of the other guys are finishing up mapping out the connections between some of the Red Phones and the SA-2112(V)4/STQ "Coke Machine" audio router. All the cards were removed from this big box, so we have to manually patch the receive audio, transmit audio, and push-to-talk signals between the pins in the sockets the cards used to plug into, a royal PITA!

Red Phone:




Coke Machine:



And there are LOTS of wires feeding it:



Every one of those big connectors has something like 40 pairs of wires, plus the shields, going into it.

We're only going to map out three or four Red Phones to it, but since we can't figure out the cable numbers, it's hand-to-hand combat with a continuity buzzer and the wires in the connectors.

And we still have the continuing saga of a "bad" URR-74 receiver (MIL version of a Watkins-Johnson 8718) where we've been spinning our wheels for six months. The one guy I'm working with wants to find out exactly which part has failed, and according to the single company that still services them, that's not the way to go. These receivers are loaded with Tantalum electrolytic capacitors with a known history of slowly degrading over time and becoming "leaky". The vendor has told me "Replace part X, and then part Y. If that doesn't fix it, replace ALL the tantalum caps in it." Some people don't like this "shotgun" approach to repair, BUT if you have 40 or 50 parts in the box, and each one has degraded slightly, the end result is that it looks like one or two have failed almost completely, when the real culprit is that they've all failed "just enough" to degrade the entire receiver. You can't say that "this" part or "that" part was the cause when each one of the 40 parts caused 2% or 3% of the "failure". You simply have to replace them ALL to see an improvement.

And I have two more association members that I have to get checked out and cleared on the procedures for operating our Amateur Radio equipment, and them issue them the key to the equipment locker. We're keeping control of the equipment much tighter, as we've had a couple of incidents where people have come in to operate, and found the settings on the radios to be randomly flipped around.

We now lock up some of the equipment, and Management has installed a video camera tied in to the security system so if it happens again we'll know who did it.

Oh, well....lunch is over. Time to get back outside, and back to work!