Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cringley On The Facebook/Cambridge Analytics "Data Breach"

I don't always agree with Mr. Cringley, but he explains what's going on here.

In particular, his advice to never take any of those "quizzes" on Facebook, is spot-on.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Window Replacement Starts Today

The guys from "Renewal by Andersen" are here, and are "In Work" replacing the windows.

The windows were finished a few weeks ago, but the requested new installation date was the week my wife was back in SoCal, so we scheduled it for this week.

The new windows look great, are twice as thick as the "OEM" aluminum frame windows, and should help knock down our winter heating cost. The installers are telling us must people see a 20%~30% reduction in their heating cost depending on what their source of heat is.

Our first big electric bill was $550, a bit of a shocker, but we also didn't have a ~$150 gas bill, so all-in-all our energy cost for that month was about $100 more than in Long Beach, but we also had much colder weather, and a much bigger house to heat. The cost dropped about $100 the next month, achieved mostly by dialing back all the thermostats a notch, and slightly warmer weather.

Pix to follow later.....

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Easy Round Trip to DIA Monday Night

Drove back down to DIA ( or DEN, depending on who you talk to...) Monday night to pick up my wife, and man, what a difference.

Her flight arrived at 2210, so I left at 2030, filled up the car, grabbed a medium-sized Diet Coke, and hit the road.

Practically zero traffic headed South, and I was in the parking structure at 2145. I didn't check the maps of baggage claim vs parking spaces, so I wound up taking quite a hike from where I parked to where I needed to be. Since she always uses the same airline, I'll map out my parking spot ahead of time the next time.

139 miles round trip, averaged 18.6MPG, and took 3-1/2 hours round trip, including a brief wait while she deplaned and rode the little choo-choo from the gates to the baggage claim.

We were about 30 miles or so outside of Fort Collins when the overhead signs announced a "Crash 29 miles ahead expect delays"

Turns out the crash was just past our exit, so we were able to motor along without delay, and got home right about midnight.

On our way back she asked if Colorado had any other airports, meaning large commercial aviation airports, and I replied that Denver was the only "big" airport, which took her aback a bit. She then mentioned how close everything was in Long Beach, and the ready availability of air flights, and how small the Macy's is in Fort Collins, and........

Yup....another tinge of Culture Shock.....

But she had a great time hanging out with her friends and doing stuff, including a trip to The Getty, one of her favorite places, so I don't mind two round trips to DIA when she goes "home" to see her friends.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

GROAN.......Round Trip To DIA This Morning

And the I-25 South wasn't pretty due to a 7 or 8 car accident on the I-25 Northbound side just North of Johnson's Corner. At first I wanted to say that the lookie-loos on the Southbound side slowed everything down, but really, a seven car accident involving the center divider takes up a lot of room. They were using the frontage road for emergency vehicle access, something I haven't seen since I lived in Illinois, and we had frontage roads alongside the Interstates.

Anyway....got past that minor irritation and it was smooth sailing in and out of DIA at 0900 this morning. Everything was cleaned up, and the crews were repairing things in the center divider on my way home.

And the weather was gorgeous! Mid to low 30's, clear as a bell, and not much wind.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Antenna Pix, and Grandson's 1st Birthday Party

No party pix, but here's a few of the vertical in the backyard.

Yes, the installation is "Pebbles Approved".

Each one of the grey tote boxes has a 50lb bag of sand in it.  I have another tote that size with the SGC-230 autocoupler in it, and a smaller one with the line isolator in it that's also my junction box for power to the SGC-230. I still have to fabricate some radials from the YUUUGE spool of #10 THHN wire I bought years ago, and then install the coupler, radials, and cabling. Monday will be very interesting, as we're expecting sustained winds of 30~37MPH with gusts to 50MPH. I'm expecting it to do some scary gyrations, and I'm sure I'll be lengthening the legs.

As of 2022 local time, and I can hear the wind really blowing. Flipping on the yard lights, the whip is flexing about 30* in the gusts, and the base looks stable.

It's actually pretty "plumb". The apparent tilt to the whip part is caused by the whip being deflected by the wind.

And......up it goes! The "Tip 'O The Whip" is at 35' AGL.

This thing is FLEXIBLE! What looks like an "S" bend in the whip is the antenna reacting to the wind. I've seen photos of the antennas bend over at what looked like 90* in 100MPH winds.

And they survive......

And one last one from the far corner of the lot.

The "windmill" tower in the background is for my satellite antennas, seen here many times in the past. I haven't decided where I'll site that system for its permanent spot. The tree trunk will get carved a bit later this year. And peeking out from behind the tree trunk, is the 5' tripod with the Davis Instruments sensor suite on it for my "real" weather station.

The snow is 99% gone, except for some patches on the North sides of houses, and the yard has dried out enough to walk through it without getting 10 lbs of MUD on your shoes! It shouldn't be any where near this bad next year, as our landscaper/yard guy is going to start seeding and feeding at the proper time. He says he's seen yards here in worse shape than ours, and with some fertilizer, and the right type of grass seed, they bounce back in one summer. The snow here doesn't bother me, but the mud does!

And our grandson's first birthday party was a smashing success!

Besides the 16 family members, we had another 8~10 people drop by, including three of his neonatal nurses, and several work friends and their little ones.

The little guy made out like a bandit, and he now has "doubles" on some toys between here, his parent's place, and his other grandparents place! And he got real silver dollar from his Grandpa Jim to put away for a rainy day.

And the best part? After things wound down and it was only immediate family, everybody just pitched in, and we had the house clean and back in order in a very short time.

All in all, a VERY pleasant day spent with family and friends.


As of 1400 local time, the vertical is still standing, the base shows no signs of movement, but the Tip 'O The Whip is swinging back and forth through what looks like a 45* angle.

One minor casualty occurred during the night. One of the black lids wasn't fully snapped on to the tote box, and is now laying against the fence. I'll put it back on the tote, and put a couple of cable ties on it and it's mates to keep the lids on the boxes......

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Vertical Antenna Up

Pix tomorrow.

I think I'm going to have to lengthen the base legs. I'll get another 3 pieces of angle iron that size, overlap them, clamp them together, and then drill them. Right now they're only 6' long, and even with a 50lb bag of sand on each leg, it might not be enough to keep it from tipping over.

I still have to fabricate some ground radials, and then I can install the autocoupler and line isolator, along with the feedline and control cable for the autocoupler.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Dirt Bike Does Ski Jump

I'll bet he clanks when he walks.......

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Supra Arrival

In the beginning........

And then the driver from Reliable Carriers called indicating Ms Swan had been picked-up, and was on her way to Colorado!

The original plans for the car were to park it at my son's place, drive the Jeep towing a trailer to Colorado, rest a few days, and then fly back to LAX or LGB, have my son pick me up and take me to his place, check the car, and then head back to Colorado.

Well, between seeing the "Next Services 134 Miles" signs while I was pulling the trailer, and planning the trip back in the Supra, I realized I had some deferred maintenance on the engine that really needed to be done before heading out on an 1100 mile trip through some pretty desolate and uninhabited territory. There are "soft items" on this engine that need regular maintenance/replacement at specific intervals, like the timing belt and tensioner, and if you want that legendary Toyota Reliability, you follow the schedule. And since ALL the hoses and clamps appear to be original 33 year old items, they need to be replaced, too, along with new belts and a new water pump. It's pretty silly to tear down the front of the engine to replace the timing belt AND tensioner (another "$25" part), and not replace the $25 (gasket included!) water pump. I have all the parts sitting on the shelf now, but last September I found myself out of air speed, altitude, and ideas all at the same time, so the car got bypassed.

Then we got packed and moved out here, found and bought a house, and had some issues requiring our full attention, including a garage, basement and house full of boxes, and that  meant the car sat longer.....

And longer....

And longer....

So I made the decision to get it shipped here, and went with Reliable Carriers, based on their media exposure (TV and print), their 50 years of experience moving cars, and little else. Went online, requested a quote, and received a reply a short time later. I bit the bullet and accepted the $1407 cost for door-to-door enclosed transit. My credit card was charged at the speed of light, and I sat back and waited to hear from them.

And waited....

And waited....

And waited some more. After almost 4 weeks, I called them to see what was going on and was told it hadn't been assigned to a truck yet. The person I talked to was very helpful, and explained they had a big auction in Scottsdale, a major car show in L.A., and business was up 25~30% over last year. He made a note in my file that I was getting very concerned that a month had gone by, and NOBODY had contacted me. If I would have called to get the quote and spoken to somebody, I probably would have been given some kind of rough estimate of time-to-pick-up. But I didn't, doing the whole transaction over the web. What caught me totally by surprise was the complete LACK of communication. HEY! It's the year 2018, and modern Enterprise Software makes it pretty damn easy to autogenerate emails at the conclusion of an electronic transaction. I don't know how many times I've bought something online, and was bombarded with emails containing order status, shipping status, and delivery status. Yes, I know shipping a car is different than buying a new TV, but the software managing such transactions should do more than just accept your order and charge your credit card. Their website also has NO provision for a customer log-in or creation of a customer account. Pretty crude stuff for 2018.

Now being a "Sample of ONE", I'm not going to slam them, as it's always possible I'm the one that fell through the cracks. But as Rev Paul noted in a comment to a previous post, all those "reality" car shows on the Velocity Channel make it look like you call them, and POOF, a tractor-trailer appears the next day. *Maybe* for Wayne Carini, but sure aint gonna happen for me!

Last Tuesday I received a text from the ex saying Reliable had called her, and would be there to pick up the car in a couple of hours. The truck showed up, and other than a completely dead battery (son triggered alarm, couldn't turn it off, battery died under load and was never disconnected), the loading process went smoothly, and the driver called me that night from somewhere in Utah ( ! ) to give me an update and introduce himself. He called again on Wednesday and Thursday night, and on his last call he said he would be there Saturday late morning or early afternoon. Friday morning he called from Johnson's Corner in Loveland, about 20 miles away, and asked if I knew what the weather forecast was. I read him the NWS report for Fort Collins, and he decided that he'd rather get the delivery out of the way today than wait for Saturday and fight the snow.

So, about 90 minutes later he calls for final vectoring in, and I went down to the corner to flag him down. Since we live on a cul-de-sac, he parked on the road in to our section so he could unload. The hand cart on the side walk has the new battery I bought the day before.

First peek at her after FIVE MONTHS.

Ms Swan was escorted on her trip out here by this brand new AMG Mercedes "V8 biturbo" that the driver picked up at the Mercedes facility at The Port of Long Beach after he loaded Ms Swan on board.

It was quite an operation getting this ready to move to it's new spot on the trailer. The car was covered in thin plastic (like "Painter's Plastic Sheet") besides being strapped down with a ratchet strap over each tire, which was securely attached to the trailer ramps the car was parked on. After completing a checklist, he fired it up, backed it out on the loading platform, then raised the platform with the remote control you can see hanging by the coiled cord, and drove the car all the way forward into the truck.

At this point, I was allowed on the trailer so I could help him swap the battery out, and then after he instructed me on EXACTLY what to do, and what his hand signals meant, *I* fired Ms Swan up, and backed her out on the ramp. He lowered me to the ground, and I drove the car onto our street, headed for my open garage door, and promptly got stuck in front of my own house......!

It turns out that big, wide "Extreme Summer Performance" rated tires don't work very well at 38* on 2" of packed snow over ice. It took about 10 minutes of surprise, anger, frustration, and humor before my "Illinois Winter Driving" program got loaded from the archives, and I remembered how to properly rock the car with whatever little traction was available.

I finally got enough forward momentum going that I was able to get off the ice and on dry pavement, and then over the insane curb we have, and up on the driveway.

The end result?

And we finished just in time, as the snow started to come down pretty heavily as he was leaving.

So, the pack is all back together, and when Pebbles came out in the garage and saw Ms Swan the first time, her tail started to wag.

Sunday is the grandson's first birthday party, and we're having it here. It's the first family event of many more to follow in our new place, so we're in deep clean/declutter/spit shine mode here. Even though the weather is quite nice and things in the backyard are drying up, the vertical antenna project gets pushed to the right some more due to family obs.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Supra Delivered This Afternoon, Utility Survey, and a "Hallmark Cards" Kind of Day.

It started snowing last Sunday night, and by Monday morning we had several inches of white and fluffy. It's been getting down to "zeroish" at night, and 15~25* during the day. We had nothing planned, so my wife read, enjoyed the fire, and played with Pebbles The Wonder Dog, who really enjoys running around in the snow. She didn't care much at first for the paw washing/drying routine when she comes back in, but now she goes to the throw rug and waits for us to get the mud and snow off her paws before she leaves the sun room.

And we've been baby sitting the grandson quite a bit. GrandMomius Prime was done with the flu for a few days, so GM2 took over. He's also been spending Friday nights/Saturday afternoons with us to give GM1 a break. He's been teething, so sometimes he gets pretty cranky, but he's also at the babbling stage, and it's fun to listen to him "talk" to us. Sometimes he has the cadence right, and if he wasn't making baby sounds, you'd swear he was telling you something. He's also just started officially crawling. Full coordination of legs and arms to motivate himself around, rather than rolling. I'm noticing much more in the child development area than I did 30-some years ago with my own son. Different perspective caused by a different time in life, I guess.

Tuesday morning at 1000 my ex sent me a text that Reliable Carriers was coming to pick up the Supra "In a couple of hours". The truck showed up around 1300 and had some difficulty getting the car loaded because the battery was so dead that the engine wouldn't keep running once they took the Jiffy Jump off the battery. They left the Jiffy Jump connected while the engine ran, and after about 10 minutes, the car would idle, so they loaded it up, and off they went.

This immediately put me in overdrive (well.....*my* version of overdrive!) to finish the garage, get another new battery and another "Battery Tender Plus" for when the car is sitting here and can't be driven for whatever reason. I'd started the final push to get the garage ready last week, and it mostly involved getting the last of the Basement Workshop boxes separated from the Garage Workshop boxes and moved to the basement, and rearranging the stuff on the "pie rack" shelves in the garage. And it's a Good Thing I spent the time in the garage and basement the last week or so. ALL "Basement Workshop" tools, equipment, parts, manuals and other errata are now down in the basement, and quite a collection of "Garage Workshop" items made the trip back upstairs and were returned to their proper spot in the garage.

I'll do a post on just the Supra and her trip here as soon as I get the pix off the camera.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Vertical Antenna Project

Seeing as February 22nd is the Iowa's 75th "birthday", the guys at NI6BB are planning a year-long special operating event to commemorate her first commissioning.

Here's the press release:

In support of the Pacific Battleship Center (PBC) 501(c)3 who operates and maintains the
Battleship Iowa, the Battleship Iowa Amateur Radio Association (BIARA) will be celebrating the Iowa's 75th anniversary with a special year long NI6BB operating
event and fund raiser.

The event will run from 22 February, 2018 through 21 February, 2019.

Operations will be commensurate with the availability of BIARA operators and may be on SSB, CW and or the digital modes. Look for us on the DX cluster as we are spotted. You may also e-mail and request a schedule which we will try to accommodate.

Please follow the instructions on www.biara.org and use the PayPal link ONLY to make your tax deductible donation to the PBC. The donor perks of a collectible tri-fold QSL, a BIARA patch and or an Iowa 75th Anniversary custom struck challenge coin are limited editions and their offering may be withdrawn at any time. Please allow 6-8 weeks for
your perk before you send us an e-mail to follow up.

For those who do NOT desire to support the PBC, our REGULAR QSL only will still be available by following the instructions on our NI6BB QRZ.com page.

SO...since I'd like to contact them on the opening day, I put the 33' vertical back on the front burner, and I'll be headed out to Home Depot to get a couple of  Rubbermaid "Roughneck" storage totes to use as weather covers for the SGC autocoupler and my line isolation choke/SGC junction box. These aren't the nice fiberglass enclosures I wanted, but I had a couple of the out in the weather for over two years at the Long Beach house, and they held up far better than I expected. They stayed flexible, and even after all the sun a smog, were still flexible after two years. They should be fine here until I get the enclosure I'd really like.

Since it's supposed to be in the high 50's tomorrow, and it only takes a couple of hours to assemble and set up the antenna, I should be able to be on-the-air tomorrow with the 33' vertical and my K2.

Stay tuned as we go "Radioactive" again.......

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Why California Is Becoming A Third World Country

I found a link to this article over at Wirecutter's place, and just had to share it.

Everything he says is true, and it's getting worse every day.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Well Done, SpaceX!

Pure Science Fiction from my childhood.

Except for the car..........

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

And Another Week Of "Settling In" and Organizing Things Passes....

I spent a good part of yesterday going through my big Craftsman rolling tool cabinet. I had a bottle of "Gun Butter" synthetic lube for my 1911 in the top section of the tool box, and naturally it fell over, AND the cap came off, AND something heavy got jostled onto the bottle.

Yup....the entire contents came out and flooded the top of the tool box with Gun Butter. BUT, it gave me a good reason to empty the top box out, clean out all the glop, and reorganize the top box, replacing or locating whatever had gone missing after The Great Supra Adventure. I had tools in the bag for the impact wrench, and tools in two of the medium sized Tupperware tote boxes.

I rounded up a total of twelve sockets, five ratchet handles, three in 3/8" drive and two in 1/4" drive, several extensions, a couple of screwdrivers, six combination wrenches, and a collection of the dead parts I pulled off the car.

And everything is back in the tool box. I'll tackle the Harbor Freight rolling cabs in a few days, as I'm still deciding if I should split my tools, and keep metric sizes separate from inch sizes. The HF cab has plenty of space, most of it filled with weird tools and one-offs, one whole BIG drawer full of 22LR and 357 Mag, and could easily swallow my metric stuff.

And I "measured" the two coils of Andrew Heliax LDF4-50 cable, and I have approximately 135' of it, easily enough for most of the run for the HF antenna. This length of coax will have about .4dB of loss at 30MHz, compared to around 1dB of loss with Davis RF "Bury Flex", or DX Engineering's "DXE-400MAX" cable.

Will I notice the difference between the hardline and the regular coax? Probably not, but I bought these two lengths of cable 20 years ago, paid next to nothing for them, and they came with 4 brand new Andrew Type-N connectors. I might as well use them for something like this.

The VHF feedline is going to be 7/8" hardline, and will have about .5dB loss for the entire run, an M2 2M9-SSB 9-element antenna, AND I'm going to get another SSB Electronic 2 Meter, low-noise preamp and mount it up there. With 9 elements up at 36', an SSB preamp, and the TE Systems 1412G 175Watt amp, I should have a nice signal with good receive on 2 Meter SSB, something I've always wanted.

And I think I've figured a way to get the wireless Internet down to the "Radio LAN" that I always run as a wired network. I did some research, and came up with a dual-band Access Point that I can plug into my network switch with GigE. These are rated at 1300MBs on the 5 GHz band, so it should easily handle the 250MBs we're configured with. Once it's on the "Radio LAN", I configure it with it's web interface, connect to the 5GHz side of the Xfinity router, and away we go! I'll post my experiences with this device. It should work, and since I ran a "Community WISP" biz for a few years, I should have thought of this earlier. Oh, well....

Still nothing heard from allegedly "Reliable Carriers" about an estimated pick-up date for the Supra. I was going to call them Monday, BUT we had some workmen here, had some medical documents to submit in person only, and the dog almost ate my homework. I'll give them a call Wednesday and see if it's even on their "Logging Sheet" document, or what ever it is they call it that indicates if it's been assigned to a certain load and/or truck.

The garage clean-up in readiness for Ms Swan's arrival is proceeding nicely. Once she gets here, and I can get the spoiler/sunshade bolted on the rear hatch, I can put another 48" rack there, and have more storage than I need right now. And plans for the garage and basement workbenches continue.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Kitchen Remodel Bumped to 2019. New Windows Next On Major Projects List

One of my wife's main gripes with the house is the kitchen. It's perfectly functional, and now that we ironed out a few bugs with all the new Top-Of-The-(Home Depot)-Line appliances, she's quite happy with them. The stove and dishwasher play different little melodies to tell you what mode they're in, along with other information if you learn the little audio codes. They both also have a display panel where you can override anything that might be going awry, a useful thing to have. The "flaw" with the dishwasher was caused by a poor installation (hot water valve barely cracked open), and the "flaw" with the stove/oven was an RTFM kind of thing. The ice maker/cold water dispenser in the fridge doesn't work due to there being no easy way to run a water line to it. That's one of the things to be addressed in the kitchen remodel, along with additional cabinet space, her main gripe with this kitchen. Since I finally learned all the ins and outs of the "Euro Style" hinges on all the cabinets, and replaced a bunch of mismatched hardware, I've got those all adjusted and closing, gaps nicely aligning, and looking good, so "non functional doors/drawers" is now a closed item on the squawk list. So, the kitchen is probably 95%+ in functionality, and maybe 65%~70% in style, and bumped down the list by her second most priority, which was new windows.

So, in a paradigm shift which surprised me, the wife called "Renewal by Andersen" to get a quote on new windows. These are high-end window replacements, and from the sample sections the guy brought, they're extremely well made and sealed. Most of the windows in the house are aluminum-framed "glider" windows, which means the slide side-to-side. The 3 windows in the Sun Room and the two side windows in the den are "casement" windows, which means they're crank-out windows, opening up by pivoting on the short side of the windows, and the entire window swings out. We had some of these in my Dad's house back in Illinois, and I love them. When you open the windows, they scoop up a nice breeze and direct it into the house.

BUT....when it's cold out (like below 20*), you can stand near one of the aluminum framed windows and almost feel it sucking the heat out of the house. And when it's warm out, the windows on the South side of the house absorb heat and the metal window frames radiate the heat into the room. The aluminum frames make a pretty good bidirectional heat sink!

The new windows are extruded from a proprietary compound made from wood bits and some kind of resin. Just looking at the cross section of the extrusion the new window frames are made from, it's apparent a lot of thought went into it, especially when compared to a cross section of a typical "vinyl" window that he brought with him. When the wife had the windows in the Long Beach house replaced, she went with an "economy class" vinyl window replacement, and all the windows came to about $5k, installed. My first wife and her husband had their windows replaced at the same time, and while they only had a couple of more windows than we did, and a sliding glass door, their bill came to about $18k, and man, could I ever see a difference in quality!

So, she popped for the Full Monty on the windows, and replacing all of them, with custom built windows, has a list price of about $37k........!

BUT...Andersen offers a 25% discount if you order in January, which knocks it down to a bit under $28k. With other rebates, Senior Citizen discounts, and some credits from our Home Energy Audit, we'll be down and done, with all new high-quality windows, for right about $21k. Since she just paid off her car, the cash for that will be diverted to the window replacement, and we'll get the loan paid off in less than two years.

Not quite the new kitchen she was thinking about (NEXT year!), but it's a worthwhile improvement to the house, and should cut down the heating bill in the winter.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Yard Looks Great, Hamfest Was Fun, and Some Snow On The Way

The yard guys finished up "Phase 1" of the yard program, and the yard looks really nice. The yard has been graded so the new double gates open easily, the gravel beds are cleaned out, the junipers are cleaned out, the iris bed by the garage has been cleaned out and weeded, all the window wells are cleaned out, and the whole place looks a bunch better. Well worth the $675 it cost to have done.

And I hit the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club swap meet / "Hamfest" for a couple of hours this morning. My next door neighbor was there, and Jed, one of my commenters who stops by from time to time. It was fun to go to an Old Skool hamfest, like the ones I went to in high-school and afterwards. I came "THIS CLOSE" to bringing home a Hallicrafters SX-115 receiver. Definitely something I didn't expect to see there, and it was in Very Good / Excellent condition, easily flippable on eBay for well over twice his asking price, and a receiver I've lusted after. But I held back on some logical reasons (it's not that good of a receiver) even though the other side of my brain was screaming "BUY IT!!".....

And I saw tons of hard-core RF parts for home brewing some seriously high power HF stuff. Tubes (glass AND ceramic!), sockets, air chimneys, anode caps, inductors made from silver-plated 1/4" copper tube, and variable capacitors you really could slice bread with. HV rectifiers, big door-knob capacitors, big filter capacitors, and all the power supply stuff you could want except the iron. I'm sure where you can get a good quality high voltage (Plate Supply) transformer these days. Ever since Peter Dahl stopped, there's been a dearth of suppliers. Granted, I haven't seriously looked for a 2500V 2A transformer, but that one supplier has closed their doors.

No, I'm not thinking of building a linear power amplifier, but it was fun to see all that stuff from when I was a young Ham.

Temperature is dropping, wind has shifted to the North, and we're expecting 4"~8" of snow tonight and tomorrow. This will be the "biggest" storm we've had since we moved here, and the wife is excited/concerned/happy/weird that we're getting "Eight Inches Of Snow!!", the most she's ever seen. I should have bought one of the snow blowers I saw last week, but the wife found a local guy who'll do it for $15. We'll see how well he works out, but I have a feeling I'll be getting a snow blower soon after this storm.

Friday, January 19, 2018

YAY! The Landscape Guys Showed Up!

The landscape guy and his son showed up today about noon, right when he said they'd be here.

He stopped by last week to confirm we still wanted him to do the work, and of course we did.

There's a "river rock" area about 18"~36" wide all around the back yard at the fence line. It even has concrete "curbs"! And it collect leaves and sticks like you wouldn't believe. In the four hours they were here, they cleaned out most of the gravel beds, got ALL of the yard trash that collected around and in the Juniper bushes cleaned up, graded the yard at the new double-wide gate so the gates swing free and easy, and it looks nice. And he took two trailer loads to the dump.

Tomorrow they're going to finish the gravel beds, clean out the window well for the basement egress window, and finish raking up another mountain of trash from the backyard, and get started on the front. They're also getting rid of all the runners and stuff from the various "plants" here that were allowed to run amok.

Next week they'll finish up the Arc Light operation on all the undesired plants, and we'll figure out what we want them to do with the yard other than the typical mow/feed/herbicide/edge and clean up they'll be doing for us. We'll probably have the Juniper bushes around the cottonwood trunk/totem removed, as they're old, ratty, unmaintained, and a couple of them took some big hits when a log (or two) got a bit "loose" on the way down when the tree was disassembled.

For now, we just needed an Industrial Strength clean up operation, and these guys are doing a bang-up job at a very reasonable price.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Life and Work On the House Continue.....

Typical mundane stuff now, like my wife deciding she needs a shelf here, or a picture there, along with more things she keeps stuffing in the Job Jar. Put up a(nother) shelf today in the downstairs/den bathroom, then wrestled with the furniture to put these plastic "glider" things under the feet. Makes it a snap for one person to move the sofa or loveseat. The new coffee table and side tables we got are on casters, so tomorrow when I go to hang a(nother) curtain rod in the den, I can just move the furniture out of the way, and snuggle my ladder right up against the wall to make accurate measurements, and then drill the holes in those places, tap in the plastic anchors, then mount the curtain rod after I feed it through the curtain.

The garage is staying remarkably clean and clutter free, provided my wife doesn't buy something big, which she does, and it comes packed in cardboard with styrofoam, plastic film, and sometimes other fiddly bits like plastic shipping plugs or spacers. All these things give the Fort Collins recycling facility a tummy ache, so you must separate them out from your recycling stream, and discard them with regular kitchen waste. I talked with a nice volunteer guy at the recycling center who told me that aluminum cans and corrugated cardboard are making enough money to carry the other things they're starting to accept. This puzzles me, as there's YUGE money to be made in recycling, or at least that's the impression I got back in Sunny SoCal. Of course, it might have been "The Economies of Scale" kicking in there, as the volume of trash generated by the 18 million people in the L.A. Basin has to be significantly greater than what the metro Fort Collins area generates. Oh, well.....I'm sure not going to say SoCal did it "better" because the huge difference in the volume of trash makes certain items become recyclable by virtue of the cost becoming acceptable. It's a Engineering trade-off, and I'm quite familiar with those......

Still haven't heard anything from the carrier I booked to transport the Supra here. If I don't hear anything by Thursday night I'll give them a call and talk to a live person....I hope!

And I'm down to specifying components for the radio tower and antenna project. The antennas and mast add up to right about 15sqsft of wind area, and the tower is rated at 25sqft at 100MPH wind speed. The tower is rated to 110, but the antennas are only rated to 100, so I'm a bit over half the rating of the tower, which is a comfortable safety margin for me. I'm debating whether to make the foundation a bit bigger. The tower people are recommending a 4'x4'x5' hole with no rebar, and I'm thinking a 5'x5'x6' hole with a rebar "cage" half way between the tower mounting legs and the outer surface of the concrete. My "General Contractor" in-law tells me it night be $75 more to dig and form the bigger hole, and it holds almost twice as much concrete, ~5.6 cubic yard vs 2.9 cubic yards, so figure double for the concrete. If the tower people laugh at me and say it'll twist off the recommended foundation long before the foundation fails, then I'll go with the smaller size.

The main HF antenna will be a JK Antennas "Navassa 5" antenna, fed with 1/2" hard line, and the 2M antenna will be an M2 2M9-SSB antenna, fed with 7/8" hardline. All connectors will be Type "N", and properly weatherproofed.

The tower will be a Universal Towers Model # 35-30, three sections, 30' tall, self supporting, painted a darkish, flat grey-green, possibly with a pattern of some sort.

The antennas will likewise be cleaned, given a coat of a good etching primer, and then painted a flat greyish blue color very similar to what a US Navy aircraft is painted. Since the very top of the mast will be 36', and most of the trees in this neighborhood are well over that height, painting the tower and antennas before I hoist them up will minimize the visual impact of it. I know some radio people get all excited about a brand new SHINY tower and antenna installation, I'm not one of them. I really don't want to get known as "Oh, that guy with The Tower....". I'll also have to fabricate some anti-climb panels, and those will be suitably painted as well.

I have a good Yaesu G-800 rotor that's like new, but I think it may be a bit "light" for these antennas and this wind environment. Whether I go with a bigger Yaesu rotor, one of the MFJ "Hy-Gain" rotors, or go completely rogue and get something like an Alfa-SPID or ProSisTel remains to be decided. The tower company says their factory-installed rotor shelf "Fits all popular rotors", but I'll check with them to make sure.

And it was three degrees last night, and the night before we got about 2" of dry, fluffy snow which has now turned granular. BUT.....Thursday and Friday will be in the 50's and 60's! Quite a change, but we're getting used to it. If it's 25* or less, we don't go out unless we have an appointment. Pretty easy to do when you're retired!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Supra Transport Contract Signed

And after reviewing all the previous quotes, the winner is......Reliable Carriers!

$1400, door-to-door, with realtime GPS tracking of the tractor/trailer. Should take 5 to 7 days, but allowances might have to be made for weather conditions.

Pix of Ms Swan's arrival in Free America will be circulated as soon as available.

The wife is still practicing using a garage, but is catching on to it PDQ. Have to find some bright colored tennis balls to hang on the bright orange surveyor's twine I have and then hang them for her "Docking Targets".

And I'm in the process of connecting and initializing the base station / control unit for the Davis weather station which is now sitting outside on the 5' tripod. Not sure what I'll do for data logging until I find the little Linux PC I put together a couple of years ago to run WeatherView on. I'll have to see if I can sweet talk my wife into letting me put a small table on the North wall of the sun room where the cable sneaks in under the weather stripping on the door. The little PC is about the size of a copy of "Unintended Consequences", but not quite as thick. A small keyboard, mouse, and ~17" monitor could sit there and record the data, crunch it, and give you a nice display of realtime weather. Combine it with a simple turnstyle antenna, an inexpensive USB "dongle" receiver, and with some readily available free software for Linux, and you also have a complete system to capture the data from the 137MHz APT Weather Satellites as they pass over several times per day. Be kinda neat to have all that immediate weather data available 24/7.

Electronics workshop and Ham radio station design studies continue. Infrastructure work is being concentrated on the indoor portions of the project as that's when my carpenter buddy is available and not rushed. He'll be stopping by in the next day or so to go over a "Scope of Work" type of discussion, and we'll proceed with the Electronics and Garage workbenches while we discuss what I'd like for the operating position. Electric Radio magazine has nice cover shots every month, so I've dug out a stack of those to show him, and I've just started searching the Web for pix of other nice operating positions. Some of the dimensions are fixed by my choice of equipment for the two "Vintage" operating positions on each side of the main operating position. I'll "blue tape" this out on the floor and wall just as I did for the workbench, and we'll go from there. I'm not looking for a "Museum Grade" desk, so no fancy veneers or drawer pulls. Drawer selection is something we'll go over, and our dimensions might be altered a bit by what's out there in premade drawer/cabinet modules, just as it will be on the workbench side. And the fact that we'll be buying at least 6 units might give us a little extra pull with that vendor.

At this point the (estimated) budget for the two workbenches and drawer units is $2500, and I suppose the custom desk will set me back about the same. There's a lot of locally made, very good quality furniture and cabinetry here, and some of those vendors will occasionally take a "short run" of 6 to 9 pieces. Or so I'm told.....

It's been unseasonably warm here, and the snow is gone, the back yard is drying out, and the landscape guy is coming by. If my wife had written that last sentence it would have read "and the landscape guy is FINALLY coming by". She's still getting used to the fact that we have Real Weather here, and sometimes you can't always do what you'd like, especially if it involves working outdoors. Oh well.....he was one of the few that returned our calls, AND came out to survey the damage and make us a quote, and the quote was very reasonable, about half what we expected. He told us at that time he couldn't get back to do the work for several weeks as he was finishing some big jobs, but that he would get back to us, and he has. A few weeks ago I helped my wife and her friend who moved here about 9 months ago to clean up the back yard. We got 14 bags of leaves, twigs, sticks, etc, and we just made a dent in it. And that was just the backyard.......

And then we all these "plants" growing places they shouldn't, along with several rose bushes that need to get moved, and that's gonna take some digging, and we just 'aint up to it. The guy who's going to do it knew what they all were, and knew what was worth "saving", and what was destined for an Arc Light operation. And we need the yard graded and sculpted, and whatever else needs to be done, at the new double-wide gate. We knew from the beginning we'd have to contract it out, but it took some doing to even get anybody to show up. I'm getting a fast education in "Seasonal Work" for various industries, and landscaping / yard work is definitely in that category. Late fall and right before Christmas are busy times for those guys, as lots of them have secondary gigs that kick in at that time of year. I get it, but my wife sees the cluttered, mismanaged yard, and wants it fixed, and wants it fixed NOW. It's like when she didn't "get" our in-laws remark that "Oh, hunting season just started" when she was talking to him about getting somebody here to do something for her.

Gotta admit, though....having these kinds of "problems" is orders of magnitude better than the "problems" we potentially faced at our former place in Kalifornia.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Good Gravy.......I Have A Garage Again!

Went to the recycling center this morning with my wife, so I could get the layout of the place, and see it for myself.

We took one huge load of cardboard, and after I saw the size of the slot they have where you feed the cardboard in, I went back by myself with another load.

"Old Mount Corrugated" has been removed from the garage, and stuffed into the maw of the big green machine that eats cardboard.

We still have a few boxes that will have to go, and some Styrofoam that will slowly go into the regular kitchen waste for disposal. I'm surprised that I was able to get so much Styrofoam into the kitchen waste so fast. I thought the supply we had would last until spring, but by carefully cutting up all the odd-sized shapes we had, I was able to pack enough in each week that the pile has almost disappeared.

The 9' satellite antenna tower and 5' tripod with weather station on a section of mast were moved out to the patio area yesterday, and just getting those two items out made a huge difference in what the garage looks like.

Tonight I'll move some more things around, trundle some more boxes of "Workshop Items and Supplies" down to the basement, and "her side" of the garage will be ready for use.

And I sent in a new request for quotation to Reliable Carriers to get the Supra shipped out here. When we first got here I checked out prices for shipping the car and they went from a low of $900 to get it here on an open carrier, up to $1300~$1400 for fully enclosed shipping. The more expensive places have quicker delivery times (3~5 days vs "up to two weeks"), have sterling reputations, and better customer service, so I'm going to bite the bullet and pony up for Reliable to do it. If you watch any of the car shows, you'll see that if they don't have their own enclosed trailer, or have a lot of vehicles to go from "A" to "B" and are on a tight schedule, the high-end auto places will almost always call Reliable. I see Mecum, the people who run large auctions, has also started a custom auto transport service.

I've come this far, and would rather not risk getting the car messed up on an open transport of somewhat unknown reliability to save the $500. I just want to get the car here!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Still Here, Still Busy, Still Progressing

Just been too doggone busy to take pictures of it and then post them.

Materials are on hand to properly connect the new heater to the power circuit, and that will be done once the workbench is built out. The garage workbench may or may not get built at the same time. They'll be very similar in construction, and if the carpenter is looking for work, he might cut me a deal on a "two at once" project. I'm also surfing the web collecting pictures of what other Hams have built as custom operating desks / station consoles, and when I find a bunch I like, I'll go over them with the carpenter and we'll design something sturdy, easy to build, with plenty of access to the rear of the equipment for cable runs, etc.

Still examining how the doofus slammed the ventilator fan into the ceiling in the wife's bathroom. Looks like I'll have to carefully unbend all the mangled metal, pull out what I can, and see what I can build out of the pile of junk that comes out of there. Probably wind up buying another complete fan unit so I can piece together something that works.

Wife likes "her" redone bathroom other than the fan grille not sitting straight and flush....

Here's what it looked like:

Popping the cover off shows what a bash job they did:

This is typical of most everything the previous owners, or their agents, touched or tried to "upgrade".

We have a dozen or so of these expert spackle jobs all over the house:

Instead of using the minimum amount of spackle, they troweled it on with a putty knife and spread it around, making no attempt to repair the texture coat before painting over it.

But we got a lighted water stream in my bathroom sink:

What were they thinking?

Still cleaning up the downstairs storage area, a.k.a. "The Bunker". I'm calling it that because three walls of it are the poured concrete foundation of the house, and it's tucked back into a corner of the foundation such that it would be a pretty safe place to ride out really bad weather.

And it's well stocked with stuff......

Finally bought all the replacement hardware to repair the two sets of "Bi-Fold Closet Doors" that are sitting on the floor of the downstairs bedroom. They were stashed in The Bunker, and I figured out what they were for during one of the FIVE trips we made here with our agent. That will free up the floor space where the doors are laying, and get them back where they belong, making the room look more finished, and giving me more room to store stuff there.

And I'm proud to say ALL the damn curtain rods my wife wanted hung are hung, and the curtains are on them. And I replaced the broken bottom door guide assembly at the bottom of the sliding closet doors in the grandson's room, along with bolting all the covers on the baseboard heater in that room.

And finally, the garage is looking like, well.....a GARAGE after serving as a staging area / storage facility for the last 75 days. The fourth storage rack has been built and loaded with things, and the tower is scheduled to get pulled out of there tomorrow, along with the Davis weather station on the tripod. As of tomorrow we could fit both the wife's little Elantra AND the Supra in the garage, and still have plenty of room to move around and sort the items still remaining in the garage. I'm just going to load everything on "my" side of the garage so we have plenty of room to do a "Fit Check" to see where the best place is to park her car. She's never lived in a place where she can park her car inside, and her backing-up skills aren't the best, so I'm going to make her target such that the car will come straight into to garage, and stop short, with the rear bumper a foot or so from the roll-up door. Then as she gets proficient in using a garage, we can move the target inside further. She's scraped the side of her car a couple of times when backing up, but it was always in a parking lot. This time if she scrapes the side of the car, it will be against the new tracks for the garage door, meaning not only a trip to the body shop, but some roll-up door repair, too.....

Supposed to be near 50* on Sunday, so it looks like about 30% (by volume) of the stuff in the garage will get cleaned out then.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

Hope you all made it to this side of the calendar. Got busy farting around the house doing some little 'nothing' jobs, but things that needed fixin'. Had to re-fix a cabinet door I 'fixed' last night crawling around adjusting hinges and replacing woefully undersized attaching hardware where the fixed side of the hinge screws into the cabinet frame. Pix to follow on that one!

And still sorting stuff in the garage into "garage" and "radio/workshop" piles. I'm at the point where tomorrow will require some major work on The Great Cardboard Pile so I can clear some space. It's going to be in the high 40's to low 50's towards the end of the week, so the semi-portable satellite antenna tower, AND the Davis weather station on a 5' tripod will get moved outside to the back patio area. BTW.....the pair of "rechargeable" alkaline AA batteries in the new little weather station finally went casters up. I'll try reviving them with a charger specifically made for that battery chemistry and see how long they last. The "Lo TX" battery symbol came on last week, and the other day I noticed that there wasn't any data from the remote sensors. There's a solar cell about 2"x2" on the sensor suite, but I wonder if that's enough to RELIABLY charge a pair of AA batteries. I really wanted to like this little weather station, but it's really piling up the "minuses" compared to the "pluses".

Tuesday we're going to see the new "Jumanji" movie, having watched the original Robin Williams version on New Year's Eve to prime us for it. I'm guessing it'll be a little throw-away "Holiday Movie", but The Rock usually puts on a good performance.