Saturday, November 17, 2018

Radio Ops From DN70

The Silicon Graybeard had quite a good post about solar activity and some new theories of predicting future solar activity. While his post concerned a new "Maunder Minimum", and it's effects on the weather, I found it interesting in a different way. We're both interested in the subject because of our mutual interest in Amateur Radio. Hams rely on the Propagation of radio signals to talk to each other. The radio waves from the transmitter travel to the Ionosphere, where they reflect back to Earth, usually 800~1500 miles from where they started. Think of the Ionosphere as being a big Radio Mirror In The Sky, and you'll be pretty close. There are actually several layers of the Ionosphere ( the D, E, and F layers) that reflect radio signals, but we'll just lump them all together for simplicity.

But what "polishes" the reflector? What makes these layers capable of reflecting electromagnetic energy of certain wavelengths? Without going into the Physics of what happens, the answer is charged particles, which is the "Ion" part of "Ionosphere".

And where do these charged particles come from? Well, some come from Deep Space, but the great majority come from our own Sun, and the amount is highly variable depending on where we are in the roughly 11-year Solar Cycle (graphic below from Wikipedia).

The largest spike on the chart represents "Cycle 19", a real whopper, which gave us basically 24-hour propagation below 30MHz to almost anywhere in the world. I wasn't involved with radio at the age I was when Cycle 19 happened, but the Old Timers who taught me the code and Theory for my Novice test had tales that today would sound far-fetched. "Arm Chair Copy" between Chicago and Tokyo with 5 Watts to a dipole on 30 MHz was common, and the few guys who were active on 50MHz told us it was almost as good.

In short, when the Sun is in a "Quiet Period", it doesn't produce the flood of charged particles that it does when it's active. No, or few, charged particles to polish up the old Ionosphere, and radio Propagation takes a big fade.

In the time I've been a Ham, I've seen several cycles come and go, and closely followed the predictions about what the upcoming cycle would be. And I've learned to take most "predictions" with a grain of salt. There are so many models and methods used to generate the predictions that all they demonstrate is that nobody really understands the process....yet. The new method in SiG's post is based on taking the "waveform" produced by the recorded observations, and applying Digital Signal Processing techniques to the data. Since the "waveform" of Solar data is definitely periodic in nature, this treating of historic periodic recorded data as a waveform, and using DSP techniques on it, is definitely new to me. Processing a waveform with DSP like this can reveal many things not evident 'by inspection'. DSP is used to literally "Pull signals out of the noise", and you can recover data buried in the noise by many dB, and get useful information from it.

Perhaps it will lead to a better understanding of the Solar Cycle, with better predictions than we have now.

Fast forward to 2018, and a Little Guy Ham station in Northern Colorado.....

One thing I immediately noticed when I first put up an antenna here was how low the background noise level was compared to Long Beach. In Long Beach, my signal strength meter would read about half-scale, a "7" to a "9", with noise. Power line noise, "wall wart" noise, noise from WiFi routers, cheep TV sets, and a multitude of other noise generators. Here in Northern Colorado, with buried power lines and a distinct lack of large industrial facilities, the meter reads about "1", or maybe "2" on noisy days. This means that I'm a LOT more aware of weak signals that were formerly hidden in the noise.

And with reduced solar activity, we have weaker signals to work with. Not much you can do short of putting up a bigger antenna to capture more signal, or make what ever antenna you have more efficient.

Since I like verticals (yeah, I know..they radiate equally poor in all directions), that means optimizing my installation. The 33' vertical I had up for a while really did work "poorly" because I only had 4 ground radials laying on the ground. To be even minimally "optimized", I would have needed something like 64 of them, and that ain't gonna happen!

It was a noisy antenna, and didn't radiate as well as my BuddiPole. When I set this iteration of the BuddiPole up last weekend, it was 90% of what I wanted; The feed point was about 6' above ground, and both radials were also 6' above ground. This isolates the radials from ground-effects, like soil conductivity and dielectric constant, and gets them close to being in the theoretical Free Space environment. The only things I would improve on is getting it up a bit higher, and adding a couple of more radials, even though everything I've read indicates two is fine.

And it's a much quieter antenna compared to the ground-mounted vertical. This leads me to believe that the 33' vertical would work very well if I had it and the radials 8' in the air, very similar to how I had it installed in Long Beach.

Now I just have to figure out what to use, and get it planted.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Veteran's Day (Observed)

First, to all of you who are Vets, Retired, or currently serving, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service, and all the sacrifices you've made.

Thank you ALL!

I was able to contact NI6BB yesterday, and again today, using my "temporary" vertical. Yesterday the contact was later in the afternoon, and propagation wasn't very good, but we did make the contact. Today's contact was earlier in the day, and propagation was much better.

I'm blessed with a MUCH lower background noise level here compared to Long Beach. All the utility wires are buried here, and since there aren't any exposed 4300 Volt (the two wires all by themselves at the very top of your power pole) lines and insulators being bathed with salt air and causing coronal discharges, there's very little "static", or powerline buzz, cracking and popping. Where my signal meter hovered around S-5 to S-6 in Long Beach, about half-scale on the meter, here it's S-1 or S-2, only lighting up the first or second bar on the meter. I still hear "birdies" and other spurious noises caused by the zillions of little "wall wart" switching power supplies, home networking routers, Plasma TV's, and other consumer devices, but it's not a solid "Wall Of Noise" like it was back in SoCal.

In fact, the background is so quiet here that I notice my radio could use an alignment. Things that were covered up in background noise before are now noticeable, and I'm making plans to do a complete re-alignment of my little K2 transceiver. I built it back around 2001~2002, so I've had it quite a while, and it's been dragged hither, tither, and yon since the initial and follow-up alignments were done. I don't let it get banged or bashed around, and keep it securely packed, but still, components drift and change values slightly with age, and I have much better test equipment now than when I first built it.

I think it'll be a nice Winter Workbench Wonder to tinker with on those nights it's too cold to hang out in the garage.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Veteran's Day Radio Ops

So, in anticipation of my buddies at NI6BB onboard the Iowa manning the station all day, I went ahead and set up my BuddiPole in the vertical configuration, and got everything else connected and powered up.

The green stuff wrapped around the feedpoint is stretch wrap, a good way to get some rather temporary but effective weather protection.

The antenna consists of a 15-1/2' vertical radiator, and two 25' radials. The length the radials was determined by a length of 16 ga speaker wire I had laying around. I split it down the center of the two conductors, crimped a lug on each piece, and presto! I had two radials. Technically, they should be a bit shorter (about 1/3 longer than the radiator, per an old rule-of-thumb), but it's not super critical.

The feedpoint is about 6' above ground, and the two radials are also about 6' above ground, so this qualifies as an "Elevated feedpoint with elevated radials", and greatly reduces the "Ground Losses" of radials laying on, or buried in, the ground. To be effective with radials on the ground, you really need quite a large number of them (64 is a good starting point!), which is the main reason why my 33' vertical didn't work so hot with only 4 radials when I had it up.

And while I was out playing with the BuddiPole,  my wife and grandson were out doing some stuff. He gets quite a kick out of playing with the dog, and you can hear him laughing the whole time.

Grandchildren are truly wonderful. Hard to believe he was 10 weeks early, and his Daddy could hold him in his hands.

Here he is 18 months later, running around like you'd expect him to.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

It's Official!

Just received notice from the Friendly Candy Company that my vanity callsign has been assigned.

All I did was change the numerical designator from "6" for Kommiefornia to "0" for Colorado.

Hmmm...with the recent "Blue Wave" of insanity that swept my new home state yesterday, maybe I should start spelling it as "Kolorado"?

Nah....just doesn't have the right ring to it.

Anyway, I printed out a reference copy, and now I can send that to the DMV in Denver to get my Amateur Radio plates for the Jeep.

Flat On My Back

For the last 36 hours.

Plugged sinuses, coughing fits every 15 minutes when I lay down, etc, etc, you know the drill.

If I'm not feeling better tomorrow, I'll head over the Urgent Care Clinic my medical provider runs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Election Day

And I won't waste too much ink, too many pixels, or an excessive number of electrons writing about it.

We mailed in our ballots last week, and I don't have a clue about any "Blue Waves", "Red Waves", backlash, or anything else.

We have a critical (to us) Governor's race, and a "Must Not Pass" proposition on the ballot.

The (R) candidate for Governor has been the state treasurer, has a solid record, and has campaigned throughout the state.

The (D) candidate is a rich guy with some questionable business dealings, and has basically only campaigned along the Front Range (Fort Collins to Pueblo), completely ignoring half the state's population.

And we have a proposition that would require a 2500' setback (buffer zone) for oil and gas operations. I haven't read the entire bill, but the gist of it is that it would kill oil and gas production in Colorado.

SO....time to make some popcorn, fire up the tube, and sit back and watch.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Gate

WELL....let's start at the beginning. When we bought the house, the entire fence run on the South side of the house was disintegrating, and needed replacement FAST.

Since the tree guys needed access  to the backyard, we scheduled the fence guy to come out on the same day so he could remove the single gate and posts, opening up the entire short run of fence between the South run and the house.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the short run with the original single gate. Still kicking myself over that one.

Here's a pic of the tree service truck that was hauling the chipper. The one panel to the immediate left of the truck is an original one. The section running to the left an out of the frame belongs to our neighbor Sara, and she had it replaced while our fence was being rebuilt. You can see how weathered the wood is, and it was cracking and splitting on the pickets and the posts.

SO....during the week or so after we moved in, all the old fence posts had been replaced, new panels installed, and a custom double-wide (14' total; two 7' gates) gate was built and installed.

This is it before the gates were installed. In a reply to Beans in my previous post, I said he used two 4x4 posts at the gates. I goofed; He used a single 4x4 post. I've had my level on the two 4x4 posts you see in the photo below. They're still dead plumb on all four sides, so they've held up.

And when the gate panels were finished and hung, it looked quite nice. Nice and square, and the gates opened easily.

And looking at the back shows it has "good gaps", a car term meaning everything is in alignment, evenly spaced, and square.

One thing you'll notice, is that there's a significant gap at the bottom of the gates. The area seen above had a gravel bed with a cast-in-place concrete border, which runs around the entire yard at the fence line. Sort of like having flower beds along the fence line, but a LOT lower maintenance. Well...the fence guy said "It's a landscaping thing", and the fly-by-night Bozo landscape guy said "Oh, no, it's a GRADING issue, and I don't do that". The gates lead out to a common "drainage area" for our yard and the yard next door. Bozo Landscaping, LLC called it a "swale", and all of the houses I saw growing up in Illinois had them.

Wikipedia has a nice picture of one:

Bringing in two BIG trucks for the tree removal really beat that area up, busting up the nice concrete border and some large pieces of slate that were there, as well as depressing the ground permanently, as seen below.

Fast forward from last November from when the gates were built to the first howling snowstorm we had. Sorry, no pix available as the news crew couldn't get to the site, but it wasn't much snow. It was the 45MPH sustained winds with gusts to 50 that clobbered it.

The latch failed, causing the left side gate as seen above to tear the drop rod out of the ground, and swing full open. Then the wind would shift, and it would slam shut. Why did the latch fail? The buffeting caused by the wind shook the lag bolts loose, and they soon pulled completely out.

I used some 1/2" wide, 48" long cable ties to secure the gates shut, no small feat in a 40MPH wind.

OK...I'll admit it. Right here, at this point, I should have called the original builder and screamed "HELP", and I didn't. My error. BIG mistake. I remember having something else on my mind we were dealing with at the time, but I admit I should have at least called him. I screwed the latch back in, and left it cable-tied shut until we needed it opened again in Spring, at which the young handyman guy straightened it out some, and installed some longer lag bolts.

Then we got clobbered with some Big Spring Winds, sustained 45+MPH with gusts of 65+, and it blew open again. Out came the cable ties until I could figure out what to do.

Yep....should've called the builder again, but I didn't. About this time, the Windbag Bozo Landscape Company offered to fix it, and my wife said to go ahead. He put in a much better latch, and two additional drop rods to anchor the bottom edge better when the gates were closed.

And it worked quite well until I noticed the gate was getting harder and harder to open. I loosened the lag bolts on the hinges while pulling the gate square with a ratchet strap, and the gate leveled out OK, at which point I ran the lags back in. As soon as I released the ratchet, the gate sagged, leading me to believe the holes the lags originally made are now oversize from the battering these 7' gates received from the wind. It was better, but over the summer it's sagged really bad, as seen in the pix below.

 We no longer have "Good Gaps" on this side.

While the other side is fine.

And this is where the two gates meet.

OOOPS! Kinda hard to put my "Katie Bar The Door" (KBTD) kit on here.

From the outside.

So the first order of business is to get the gate leveled again by pulling it straight (I'm going to jack the lower end this time, too, for some stability) as I loosen the lags holding the hinges to the post, then drill through holes for the new hardware, then install same. Then I can put the KBTD kit on it, and hang the "Closed Until Spring" sign on it.

Hardware measurements are completed for this phase, as well as for installing the KBTD kit, and hardware will be purchased tomorrow.

BTW...this is a temporary patch that I made to the gate latch. It's also an example of why you don't use lag screws for something like this. If you look closely, you can see the original mounting holes for the fixed part of the latch just down and to the left of the bolt heads. These are the holes the fixed part was in the last time the latch blew. I moved the fixed part "up and over" a bit, and added flat and split washers to it. It hasn't loosened since I did that last Spring, so it looks like the lock washer helped. Properly installed through hardware should fix the "Moving Hinge; Sagging Gate" issue, and the KBTD kit should mitigate the wind buffeting issue.

And we still have to resolve the landscaping/grading issue.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Oh, Lordy It's WINDY!

And I just hope the gate holds together.

The NWS just issued a Severe Thunderstorm Alert for this area, warning of possible winds in excess of 60MPH. We're just on the far Northern edge of the warning, but the folks in Loveland and Greely look like they might get hit with it.

"The Gate" has been a continuous PITA ever since we had it installed. The builder and I have different definitions of what "Heavy Duty" means, and he didn't take it to heart when I told him I wanted it built "commercial strength, like a corral gate", and he got hinges and a latch that weren't up to the task.

One big boo-boo he did was to mount the hardware using the included lag bolts. The buffeting by the wind loosens the lag bolts, allowing more slop in the gates, meaning the wind batters them even harder, loosening the hardware further and faster, right up until the latch blows apart, and the gates start swinging and banging, requiring some emergency repairs.

You have to use through bolts, preferably galvanized, with flat washers under the bolt head and the nut, along with a lock washer under the nut. That's going to get done in the Spring when I replace the gate hardware.

So for now, thanks to Extexanwannabe, I now have a viable solution.

It's called a "Stake Holder", and is basically a big bracket that you put on either side of a door, and when it's "Katie, Bar The Door!" time you slide a 2x4 through it, and the door is rendered in-op.

Or so it goes in the movies.....

I bought four of them today, and now that I've made a sketch of what I want to do, I can measure the thickness of wood on the fence I'll have to drill through, and know how long of through bolts I'll have to buy.

I have to cleverly position these things to take advantage of the structure that holds the pickets, as the pickets have about as much strength as cardboard, and I don't want to start adding "structure" to the gates. I eyeballed it today for a good 20 minutes and then made a sketch, so tomorrow I'll take a bracket and tape out there, measure how thick the wood is I have to go through, add a fudge factor to that, and I'll go buy the bolts, nuts, flats and split locks, and a couple of good 2x4's, in cedar, if they have them.

Then I'll measure, drill, bolt, and slide in the 2x4's and put a "Closed Until Spring" sign on it.

Just hope the gate holds together tonight.....

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Well, the candy is out in the big Halloween dish, and the sound-activated flickery lights that emit snapping, buzzing, and other "electrical" noises are all set up.

I didn't do the speakers and light projectors as the front yard is really soggy, and even with a GFI on the circuit, the wifely unit was uncomfortable with me running power across the yard.

And The Kids are bringing over the Little Guy so he can Trick-or-Treat in the neighborhood for the first time.

As fast as he is now, I wonder what a couple of candy bars will do to him....

They had an All Hands meeting yesterday informing them that the yogurt factory they both work at has been sold, and things will continue as normal for the foreseeable future. Their health insurance premiums will be going up (duh....) under the new owners, but the coverage will supposedly be better.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Oddz 'N Endz

After the "monumental" (for us) amount of work we did cleaning out the back yard, the rest of the leaves fell, covering the yard again.

Even little Pebbles was wondering where the h3ll all this stuff came from. "But Dad....didn't you and Mom have this all cleaned up?"..... wife used her new BFF APP,, and found a couple who are cleaning the back yard, AND the front yard, for us.

They raked and blew the leaves into piles, bagged them, hauled the bags out, and even mowed for us.

Front AND back yards, very nicely cleaned, mowed, and raked, and about twenty five bags hauled away.

All for $100.

Probably would have been more, but his mower mulches as it mows, so the volume of stuff collected is less than I expected.

Considering the trash service we use charges $3.50 per bag, we would have paid $87.50 for just the 25 bags, so $100 for the whole enchilada is money quite well-spent.

"Big Eyes"

I've had these large binoculars for about 8 years, and finally got around to setting them up and using them.

They're "100 x 22", which means they have 100mm (~4") objective lenses, and they have a magnification of 22 times.

I bought these from Big Binoculars, which is now Oberwerk, the name brand of these. This particular model is no longer listed, being replaced with a 100 x 25 model.

They're made in China (duh....), supposedly in the same factory that makes the military optics for the ChiCom military.

They're of "good" optical quality, but not particularly user-friendly.  I set them up to look at the Moon, and even with my tripod legs fully extended, and the center post of the tripod fully raised, I still had to bend down to look into the eye pieces, which made getting them adjusted properly a chore. 

With this tripod, they'd be great for terrestrial use, but I'd need to shorten the tripod and use a chair for astronomical use.

So, they went back in their box for future use.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Snow Blower Adventures, Part III and "-30-"

"Jeremy" (the "J" in "JW Logistics"?) called me again this morning about 1045 and said they had my item, it was on a truck, out for delivery, and I should have it "in a couple of hours".


At 1811 tonight a large truck pulled up, and two big, burly guys unloaded it, carted it up the driveway, and plunked it down in the garage for me. They took a picture of it on their cellphone, and typed in a bunch of info. I asked one of them if they knew where it came from, and got "ummmm...Home Depot. The warehouse". So either HD sent another one out, this one made it's way back to the HD warehouse and was sent, or I guess it doesn't really matter. Kind of a First World problem, and nothing to blow a fuse over.

No missing hardware or parts, no tools flung through the air, and I had it together in about 30 minutes.

I charged the batteries when I was assembling it, and after about 4 hours they were charged, so I took it for a test drive around the garage.

There's not too much difference between speed #1 and #2, but I think #3 would be too fast to plow with. The controls work smoothly, and when you engage the drive, it has a "soft start", so it doesn't just jump to the speed it's set at.

It seems to be balanced nicely, too, as it's fairly easy to lift the auger portion of it up to glide over a bump, or move it some distance without the little outrigger skis dragging.

The only thing I'll have to get used to is that this thing is direct-drive, with a solid axle; no differential. That means both wheels are driven at the same speed, which makes turning a tight corner difficult.

So, we'll see how it goes the first time we get enough snow to need it. The operating manual claims 40 minutes of run time, and that should be enough for slow-poke me to clear the small amount we have.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Snow Blower Adventures, Part II

WELL......"Jeremy" from the shipping company called this morning about 1045 to set up a pick-up time for the other person's tabletops. He knew not much else, like where's my snow blower, or if the other customer had called to complain. He said he had a truck "close by" (down in Longmont, about 25 miles South of here), and that the driver would "be there in a couple of hours".

So since it was another very pleasant Fall day, I decided to polish out the headlights on my Jeep while I waited.

They needed more than just polishing.

They laughed at Novus #3 polish, about the most aggressive thing I'll use with power tools. Buffing plastic to restore a smooth, flat, scratch-free, optically clear surface is as much art as science. And if you use power tools and aggressive abrasives on plastic, you can easily overheat it, and either "smear" the surface, or melt the surface, both of which might destroy the item you're polishing.

I wound up having to wet sand the living snot out of them, first with 600 grit paper, and then finishing up with 1500 grit paper. It was like deep cleaning the Supra paint all over again. Copious amounts of yellow sludge were produced as I kept the area soaked as I sanded. It's WET sanding, and on something like this you keep it flooded to wash away the grit and crud you're cutting off the surface. Otherwise the stuff you just removed could scratch the surface you're trying to clean.

After about 45 minutes per headlight, I felt they were smooth enough that I could resume machine polishing, starting with the #3 Novus, and then moving to the #2.

Another 45 minutes per lamp, and they were looking remarkably better than the hazy, yellowish lamps that were there before.

Then I replaced both the Low and the High beam bulbs with new ones. The ones in the car are the ones it was made with back in 2006, and 12 years for a set of OEM bulbs is pretty good. I put in some Sylvania "Silver Star" replacements. Not the crazy expensive ones, but the ones two steps up from what was in it. Took about 30 minutes to do the four bulbs, and I put on gloves and wiped the new bulbs down with denatured Alcohol. A dab of silicone grease on the terminals, and I was done.

Firing up the engine and turning on the new headlights was dazzling. What I saw on the garage door before were big, yellowish splotches of light. Now I see the clearly defined pattern of the low beams, and turning on the high beams really makes a light show.

The low beams are 55 Watts, and the highs are 65 Watts, so I shouldn't have to worry about overheating the plastic lamp assembly.

Then I added three quarts of coolant (how'd that happen?), a half-gallon of windshield washer fluid, checked the power steering and brake fluid levels, and checked the oil.'s now 1630 and no truck? Wonder when they guy will get here?

Anyway....peeled off all the heavy masking tape I had on the edges of the metal so I wouldn't burn the paint, cleaned all the sludge and crud off the front of the car, scrubbed the fog lamp lenses clean of years of road crud and bug splats, and did a final hand polish and sealant application on my "90% clean/100% better" headlamps. Cleaned up the tools and garage, and low and behold, at 1810 here comes a truck. It's not from "JW Logistics", but from some other place. No, the guy doesn't know anything other than he's to pick up two pieces, and haul them somewhere. Nice enough guy, but a drone to the electronic tablet he was carrying around, and constantly checking and inputting to.

Oh, well. I guess I wait for either the snow blower to show up, or to hear from the shipping company again.

These guys are making Home Depot look really bad........but I've got nice clean headlights!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Snow Blower Adventures, Part I

I'd post a picture of it, but even though it shows as "Delivered", it ain't.

No, instead what the IDIOT trucking company JW Logistics, a Home Depot sub) dropped off were two 36" x  72" , 75 lb each, solid wood tabletops.

And the address on the shipping label, clearly printed, easy to read, not covered up, and in front of God and Everybody, clearly shows an address on Weld County Road 7 in Berthoud.

Berthoud is about 20 MILES South of here, as the crow flies.

I would have held the truck if I'd seen them get delivered, but it happened when I was blowing leaves in the back yard, and I had my PPE ( 27dB noise reduction!) on.

So I wrote down all the info on the label, and called the 1-800 number printed on the label.

After about 15 minutes of Phone Menu Phunnies, I finally got a live person. They took some of the information, and put me on hold, came back, asked for more info, and put me on hold again.

Lather, rinse, and repeat for 45 minutes.......

Young guy finally comes back and tells me the shipping company is closed today (at 2pm on a Wednesday?). and that the shipping company will get a hold of me, either by email or telephone, and have a nice day.

Holy Freaking DUH!

That's it, guys? You're washing your hands of this?

This is the second time I feel BURNED by Home Depot and their "Ship To Home" option. The first time was an oversight on my part (ship to store was free; ship to home, not), but since they didn't state the shipping charges, I assumed they were reasonable, and clicked "OK".

OOOPS! They clipped me about $70 in shipping........ouch. Well, they just pass the charges from their subcontractor along, tacking a bit on, I'm sure, so OK, my error.

This time HD didn't really burn me, but their choice of an incompetent delivery service did.

Don't the drivers even LOOK at the label on what they're delivering? I can understand screwing up a local delivery; there's two other streets with names very similar to ours, and it's like that all over. Court, Circle, Ave, and Street can all be different places with the same first name, like "Adams".

But geez......the wrong CITY?


I'm flabbergasted. Even back in the Stone Age paper map days that would have been quite a blunder.

I'm just glad it wasn't a drone making a "drop shipment". It probably would have taken out the front porch..........

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Fall Cleanup, Part II

Tally from this mission:

Eighteen "35 gallon" and "50 gallon" bags of leaves and sticks from the backyard and side yard.

The little $35 Ryobi leaf blower works a treat! On high-speed it will blow the egg-sized rocks out of our border areas, and the gyroscopic action of the spinning fan blade makes it hard to turn certain directions. Low-speed works great for sweeping the leaves out of where you don't want them, while keeping the dust down to a manageable level.

We're holding off on the front yard because the maple tree still has over half it's leaves.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Fall Cleanup

Groan.........TWELVE big bags of leaves raked up today, and we're maybe half finished with the back yard.

It would have been much worse, but we nuked the cottonwood tree the week we moved in.

And we haven't even started on the front........

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Pleasant Fall Weekend

Well, the house passed muster when I got the wife home from the airport, and she was happily surprised at the stack of "TODO" items I knocked out while she was gone.

I've finally got my act together regarding picking people up from DIA. I park on the roof of the West terminal parking lot, about row "J" or so, and go into the terminal where I proceed to the statue of Elrey Jeppesen, which all the arrivals  have to pass as they go to the baggage claim areas. This is about as fast a way in-and-out of DIA as I've found yet. I'm sure Well Seasoned Fool knows some other shortcuts, but this one seems to work OK for me.

70* and sunny outside all day, so I set the cam covers out in the sun like I did the other day, and within 20 minutes my IR thermometer indicated they were at 135*. I left them bake for a couple of hours while I did some other yard work.

And of course, the grandson had to explore the garage for a while, pull his wagon out, and go for a ride through the neighborhood.

After that, he "helped" us pick up the bounty of sticks in the backyard (the wife wants to use them for "kindling"...), stack them in "his" wagon, and help us trundle them back around to the front of the house where they can be stored in the garage to "cure". About a year before we moved here I bought a big box of fatwood, and the stuff is amazing for getting the fireplace going. Most of the sticks we picked up are cottonwood, with a few from the ash and maple. I was advised not to burn cottonwood if I wanted to keep my neighbors friendly (it stinks when you burn it), but I suppose a few sticks won't hurt.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Winterizing, Part II

Been pretty quiet here as the wife went to Kalifornia for a week to visit with her three best friends, all of who had birthdays over the weekend.

So, it's just me and the dog until she gets back Thursday night. I spent today cleaning the bathrooms, and then sweeping and mopping all the ceramic tile in the entry way, kitchen, and sunroom. As hard as I tried, the dog got away from me once when I let her back in, and she almost got out of the tiled area with muddy paws, so that's why all the tile need cleaning. I'll do the heavy duty vacuuming Thursday, and the place should pass muster for her when she gets back home.

Outside the house, we have a backyard full of leaves.....

And a side yard full of leaves.....

All from this one tree, in slightly less than 24 hours.

Just amazing how some freezing rain, and below freezing temperatures, can shock the trees into dumping their leaves. We weren't in this house yet at this time last year, so we missed the first snow and freeze, and the attendant leave drop. There were two snows and freezes last year between when we got here, and when we moved in, so the trees were already pretty bare when we looked at the house, and while we were moving in.

The maple in the front is still holding on, but not for much longer.

When the sun hits the multicolored leaf litter from the maple, it looks quite pretty, much prettier than what I can capture with the puny little built-in flash on my camera. All quint and rustic and stuff. Guess that's your reward for having to clean it up!

And while I was out in the back, I noticed all these little dead dudes on the patio table.

The dark pole going up through the table is the umbrella mast. I thought I'd seen some wasps ( ! ) crawling up in there a few weeks ago during the last warm spell. Guess the freeze nailed 'em, so I'll have to open up the umbrella and clean out any critters that sought a winter home there, as we're planning on moving the umbrella to the basement before the next snow. Would have been really bad news to have those suckers wake up inside the house!

So, all the hoses are coiled up and stored inside with the sprinklers, the little styrofoam "hats" are over the outdoor spigots, and I picked up the foam board insulation from Home Depot. I'm thinking of going back to get one more sheet so I can make a "blank off panel" for the outside of the basement egress window just like I'm going to make for the inside. I can't see doing both sides of the windows in the front of the basement. The two of them combined are less than 25% of the surface area of the big window, and the window wells for them are much shallower and smaller. Plus that side of the house is in the house's 'wind shadow', so those two windows never get hit with strong winds, like the huge window in the back does.

I suppose there'll be a post or two coming about the windows.....

Friday, October 12, 2018


For the CSU Rams!

No, I'm not turning into a football fan, but hey, hometown stuff and all.

The only reason I mention it is I heard some racket coming from outside, and stepped to hear quite a fireworks display. It was coming from the North-Northwest, and while I could see the flashes and hear them, it was all low-level stuff.

The only thing up that way is CSU, so I wondered if maybe it was homecoming weekend for them. A quick check of the schedule shows that yep, this is Homecoming Weekend, with all the traditions that go with it in the Midwest.

Homecoming was a Big Deal when I was in high-school, but not so much at the community college I went to for two years after high-school. The Junior College football team was pretty mediocre, and with most students staying a maximum of two years, it was hard to build any kind of momentum.

I'm just glad I wasn't planning on heading up that way tonight, as I'll bet the students are having quite a celebration of it.

Good to see young people upholding traditions here in Free America.....

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Soyuz to ISS Booster Failure, Crew Safe

Latest from SpaceNews.

Fixed the link. Appears to be a 1st-2nd stage separation problem around 120 seconds into the flight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

First Snowfall

And I didn't take any pix because it didn't stick around very long.

Got about 2" of big, fluffy flakes that melted almost as soon as they hit, only piling up on the grass and trees.

Going down to 27* tonight, and predicted 20* on Sunday night. Then it goes back into the 60's so I can finish up all the winterizing here.

Ordered one of these from Home Depot:

Which was pretty much my last Big Item to buy for here. It's a 24", dual-stage, self-propelled model, that comes with two 40V, 5.0AHr batteries and charger.

Yup, it's electric, and it's battery powered. The "Self Propelled" feature was a must-have for the wife to use it. She's never muscled one of these around, so I want it to be at least "usable" for her. No, I'm not going to stand inside with a hot cuppa and watch my poor little wife do the driveway and sidewalks! But knowing her, there's times she's gonna get all wound up tighter than an 8-day clock if I haven't cleared the sidewalk and driveway in a "timely manner". Hey...the city gives you 24 hours to shovel! I know, I a good neighbor and all, and do it reasonably fast, but I think noon is "reasonably fast" most days.

And I do very good work.....

Anyway.....the thing got good ratings, and I don't want to take on another Infernal Combustion Device that I'M the one who has to maintain and make run. Small engines can be a major pain to get running at 10*, BTDT, don't need it any longer.

I don't know how much snow throwing and self-propelling time 200 WattHours is good for, but we're gonna find out.....

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Groan......What Hit Me?

Really under the weather today. Not sure if it's something I ate or a nasty bug.

Didn't even crawl out of bed until 2030 tonight.

Back later.......

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Set Material Condition YOKE!

Well, we're finally at the stage where we have to start kid-proofing the house. He's not only curious, but he's gotten fast! He's way past just walking around, and when he decides he wants to get from Point A to Point B, he takes off at max thrust and can really cover ground fast for somebody with such short legs.

We bought the white gate about two months ago when he learned he could crawl up the steps, hang a left down the hallway, and skidaddle to his room where lots of his toys are kept.

The brown gate went up tonight when the Little Guy and his Daddy came over for dinner, and between cooking dinner and trying to keep an eye on him, it got a bit much.

See, without the brown gate, he can (attempt to) go down the stairs into the den!

And while it's only five carpeted steps, he's at the stage where he's trying to walk down the stairs, rather than turn around and slide down them on his tummy, which he's very good at.

So between these two gates, and another wood one to block the kitchen/dining room door, we can keep him corralled in the living room/dining room area.

I'll be shopping/installing kid latches on all the kitchen and den cabinets this week, something I last did in 1987. He has very good Garage Discipline, as he doesn't touch or grab things like a lot of little kids do, and we've spent hours looking at tools, parts, and equipment, and learning their names. He did NINE laps of my wife's car Friday night, patting it fondly and saying "G'Ma", which is as close as he's come so far to saying "Grandma". And he's starting to say things that make sense. It's amazing to watch his speech develop. When he's playing with his toys he has 'conversations' with them. Occasionally you'll hear a distinguishable word or two, but mostly it's gibberish. The wondrous thing is that he has the cadence, inflection, and apparently the syntax down pat, and I swear I'm starting to understand him. Must be all those years of pulling signals out of the noise!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I Love The Smell of Wrinkle Finish Paint In the Morning

It smells like Ham Radio!

Wrinkle finish paint has quite a history in high-end radio gear and test equipment going back to the 1930's, and probably earlier. Wrinkle finish is different than "Hammertone" which is more of a "splotchy" looking metallic paint. Wrinkle finish takes longer to dry and cure to full hardness than enamel or lacquer normally used, but it can be accelerated with heat.

And once it's fully cured, it's durable! That stuff is like shark skin, and just laughs off bumps and scuffs that would mar other finishes. I used it on the valves covers for my Firebird, and after a few heat cycles that stuff was vicious if you slipped and scuffed your knuckles against it. It felt like about 60 grit, and acted the same.



So anyway, it's durable, and all the "real" radio gear I saw as a kid was wrinkle finished. If you've ever seen any WWII radio gear from an aircraft, you know what wrinkle finish is. And it has a very distinctive odor to it, unlike any other paint or solvent I'm familiar with. Even years after it's been painted, if you have "The Nose", you can still smell it. Not unpleasant, but distinctive. Part of the allure of old vacuum tube radios is the way they smell. The hot tubes with dust and other dirt on them, the big power transformers, the paint and plastics used to make the radio; all give the radio a unique aroma, like that "new car smell", and the heat they emanate make them seem alive. All the Ham Radio projects I home brewed back-in-the-day were wrinkle finish black. It just looked so cool! So professional.....

I'm not sure when car manufactures started using wrinkle finish paint, probably soon after it was invented. The famous "Red Heads" on the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa were wrinkle finish red, giving the car it's moniker.

A REAL Testa Rossa:

Usually the fins and lettering are brushed after the paint is sanded off to make them stand out.

So with my fascination with wrinkle finish paint, and cam covers that woefully needed refinishing, I set off to refurb the set of covers I had collected. In previous episodes here I talked about using paint stripper to get the crud off the insides, and then I block sanded the fins and lettering to get all the corrosion removed. I solvent cleaned them, and took advantage of today's 80* weather to paint them.

Intake side cam cover:

Exhaust side cam cover:

After the paint cures, probably a week or more in this weather, I'll store them in the basement until Spring, at which time I'll bring them out, and sand the fins and lettering back to nice and clean, paint the lettering, and then shoot a coat of hi-temp clear engine enamel on them to keep them nice and shiny.

Should improve the view here considerably.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Forty Degrees and Raining.....Beginning Winter Preps

And we started bringing up the heaters after I vacuumed the dust and other stuff out of them. The new heater I installed down in the basement is working fine, and now the chill in that room is gone. From some reason, I get creepy feelings down there at night, so I'll see if this makes that space more user friendly.

I pulled the vent piping out of the window and took it apart for the portable A/C unit in the guest room, collapsed the hose, and stowed it all in the room's closet. We're not expecting any visitors for a while, and we won't need the A/C in that room. And removing the vent allows us to fully close that window, making that room "winterized".

I haven't drained and coiled up the garden hoses and put the 'freeze protectors' back on the outdoor spigots yet, but that's coming Real Soon Now.

One of the things I'm planning on doing before winter really sets in is to get some sheets of the R-13 foam board from Home Depot. One sheet will go in between the storm door and original exit door in the garage, and the other sheet will get sectioned up so I can put pieces of it in the basement windows. If I cut them to fit snugly, it should cut down on the heat loss through the windows, and keep the basement warmer with less energy input. We have a quote from Renewal by Andersen to replace these windows, but it was deemed "Not Critical At This Time" by SWMBO, so they're still the aluminum framed Heat Pipes like we had topside in the rest of the house.

Same with the garage doors. Even though there's a volume of 'dead air' trapped between the two doors, there's still significant heat loss out of that portal. I'd planned on replacing the 40 year old side door in the garage (it's half glass, the glue joints are popped open, and it's sagging) this last summer, but never got one of those circular tuits from the jobjar to handle it. It's not as bad as the original aluminum framed windows we had replaced, but if you step into that corner of the garage you find yourself in a "cold spot". And I'm also thinking of putting four sheets of some thinner stuff across the garage door on the Toyota side. Even though the doors are insulated, and extra couple of inches can't hurt. It was getting down to 40 degrees in the garage last winter, and my "log" shows 10 nights at temps below 45. When it gets under 50 out there, it starts to get hard to work more than about 30~45 minutes. Even when I was huffing and puffing scrubbing out the paint last year, under 50 was sure to make my fingers stiffen up. I *might* look into some supplemental heat if I can do it inexpensively. Since there's NO natural gas piping on this cul-de-sac, hanging a big old Modine heater on the ceiling is out, thanks to Jimmuh Cahter.

Halloween preps this year (we closed on the house 31 October last year) include one of those little stick-in-the-ground "laser" light shows, a flicker bulb replacement for the porch light, some flickering plastic pumpkins on the porch, and a couple of speakers on the front porch playing spooky music. Oh, and four big bags of candy, per our neighbors.

Snow tire swap is scheduled for sometime in mid-November, as that's when most of the tribe does it, and they've lived here for quite a bit longer than we have.

I had these things on the list for October, but waking up to sub-40 degree temps, and then the drizzle, reminded me that there's no time like the present.

Oh, and I want to get a Farmer's Almanac this year, too. I haven't had one since high-school, but Mom put a lot of faith in their forecasts.

Must be a Midwestern thing.......

Monday, September 24, 2018

One Year In Colorado

Still haven't finished editing up the list of notes I've been trying to keep the last year, but as of the 22 Sept, I've been here one year. My wife arrived a day earlier on 21 Sept.

Yeah, I'm a few days off, but hey....I'm retired and don't count 'em that close any more.

My son, Pebbles, and I left the house in Long Beach about 1000 on 20 Sept, and spent that night in St. George, UT, and then spent the night of 21 Sept in Grand Junction, CO, arriving in Fort Collins the afternoon of 22 Sept.

Took us a few days to settle in, and then "House Hunt 2017" started up. We found, agreed to buy, financed, insured, ordered cable and telephone, and closed on 31 Oct.

- WHEW! -

We moved in on 1 Nov, and proceeded to begin repairing all the little things that are invariable wrong with any "new" home you move in to. And some big things, too, like having a 65' cottonwood tree removed, the roof replaced, and all new windows installed.

So how do we like it? I love it, and my wife still misses her friends, but she's adjusting.

We were here about two weeks, and I turned to her one night and said "I'm Home".

And on my errands today, I heard a radio ad for a self-service dog wash, and they included a variety of shampoos, and all the towels you needed.

I'll try and go through the notes this week and come up with something about the culture shock of moving back to Free America. We've had some amusing incidents......

Saturday, September 22, 2018

MKII Supra Foglamp Restoration - Wrap-Up -

Groan, this turned into a project in it's own right!

For those that missed our previous installments, you can find them here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Murphy Strikes

The particular problem that had me stalled was the length of the LED H-3 halogen bulb replacement I bought:

It's  bit too long, resulting in it hitting the internal light shield inside the reflector/lens, and not seating in the housing:

The "replacement-replacement" bulb is the black one in the opening photo, and it snuggles down just like it's supposed to, and allows the little wire bail latch to close:

Then connect up the wires:

Slide the weather boot back into position:

Slide the reflector/lens with the wiring attached into the bucket, and insert the parking lamp bulb into place:

Mate the pieces fully together, and get the bezel ready:

Then screw the bezel on with some new stainless-steel button-head cap screws so they never rust again:

And place it on the shelf next to it's mate:

And one of the other tasks that was staring me in the face was cleaning up/refurbishing the turn signal/side marker lamps. Since a large portion of these face directly forward, they get hit with all kinds of FOD, and were pitted from it. I used Novus Plastic Polish, which is about as good as you can get, provided you follow the directions!

I spent several hours on each lamp assembly, slowly cleaning the road film and pits off of it, and then polishing it. After the initial cleaning, I started with Novus #3, the most aggressive, and polished the daylights out of it. Then I went to Novus #2, almost a finishing polish, and then ended with Novus #1, a glaze and sealant.

I was stunned at how the color returned, and they took on a deep luster. Most of the pitting on the front surface is now gone, and the sides, which were just weathered a bit, look stunning. Even my wife remarked at how they "looked new".

And of course I scrubbed and restored the backsides as well, cleaning all the wiring, and replacing the incandescent bulbs with LED units:

So as my beloved Heathkit would say...."This completes the assembly of these two units.".

And now it's time to get back to this: