Monday, August 23, 2010

Densest Element In The Universe Discovered!

From a friend....just too funny to keep to myself!

A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the densest element yet known to science. The new element has been named Pelosium.

Pelosium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 311.
These particles are held together by dark forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
The symbol of Pelosium is PU.

Pelosium's mass actually increases over time, as morons randomly interact with various elements in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy neutrons within the Pelosium molecule, leading to the formation of isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientist to believe that Pelosium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.
When catalyzed with money, Pelosium activates CNNadnausium, an element that radiates orders of magnitude more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons as Pelosium.

Friday, August 20, 2010

They're Made Out Of Meat!

Sorry bacon lovers, this is a little SciFi movie that I've always liked.
At times, I think they're talking about the heads of the current "administration" in D.C., but then that's demeaning to real, genuine, tasty meat.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


No, not here.
Probably take me about 10e6 years to get there!
Drop by fellow blogger Brigid's site and give her some kudos for running one of the classiest places on the Net!

Basic Radio Bookshelf

One of the things about being prepared is making sure you can communicate to your loved ones when the SHTF. You can use anything from tin-cans-and-string, to CB radios, the little walkie-talkies they sell everywhere, Amateur Radio, and for the big spenders, satellite phones. Getting started in this can be quite daunting, but if you want something more than the range a CB or a $30 hand-held from WalMart can give you, you're going to either have to have a "Radio Guy" in your group, or learn about it yourself. Most of these books deal with Amateur Radio, but the principles and methods explained in them are applicable to all forms of radio communications. So, here's a minor selection from my bookshelf, in no particular order:

The ARRL Handbook for Radio Amateurs
The ARRL Antenna Book
The ARRL FCC Rulebook
The ARRL Operating Guide
RF Components and Circuits by Joe Carr
Practical Radio Frequency Test and Measurement by Joe Carr
Handbook of Electronics Tables and Formulas by SAMS Publishing

I've got dozens more on topics from Satellites to DSP, published by the ARRL and the RSGB, but the ones I've listed are what I consider to be a minimum to have.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Have An Accident, PAY A FEE!

Ouch! The city of Huntington Beach is going to implement a "Pay As You Crash" tax for non residents involved in traffic accidents within the city's boundaries. They're doing this under the guise of a "Cost Recovery Program", but I wonder just how long it will be before they start charging residents.
Here's the link to the article in the OC Register.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Basic Rules of Flying

Way back when, in another life, I used to fly what the guys in the Controlled Airspace Towers called "FLIBS", basically little planes that want to come land where the big planes do. If you know what it means, then you're probably a GA pilot, too.
Anyway, a friend of mine sent me these, and I thought I'd share them, as some are new to me.

* Takeoff's are optional. Landings are mandatory.

* If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger, if you pull the stick back they get smaller. Unless you keep pulling the stick back...then they get bigger again.

* Flying is not dangerous; crashing is dangerous.

* The propeller is just a big fan in the front of the plane to keep the pilot cool. Want proof? Make it stop; then watch the pilot break out into a sweat.

* The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.

* Every one already knows the definition of a 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. But very few know the definition of a 'great landing.' It's one after which you can use the airplane another time.

* The probability of survival is equal to the angle of arrival.

* A helicopter is a collection of rotating parts going round and round and reciprocating parts going up and down -- all of them trying to become random in motion. Helicopters can't really fly -- they're just so ugly that the earth immediately repels them.

* Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself.

* There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

* The only thing worse than a captain who never flew as co-pilot is a co-pilot who once was a captain.

* It's easy to make a small fortune in aviation. You just start with a large fortune.

* A male pilot is a confused soul who talks about women when he's flying, and about flying when he's with a woman.

* Try to keep the number of your landings equal to the number of your takeoffs.

* Asking what a pilot thinks about the FAA is like asking a fire hydrant what it thinks about dogs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

NEW Uniden Scanner Makes It Almost TOO Easy!

I'm a regular scanner user, and I have several scanners and receivers for listening to all kinds of radio traffic, almost from "DC-to-Daylight". I get quite a kick out of listening to the local airport traffic (LGB has a real honey for one of their ATC's!), and it's nice to be able to punch up the frequencies (I actually have them programmed) for my local PD/FD so when I hear sirens, I can find out what's going on. I firmly believe that we have a right to know what our local agencies are doing, and that includes monitoring their radio traffic. Now I don't mind their using encrypted transmissions for *some* activities, but regular radio traffic should be in-the-clear.
There have been many evolutions of public agency communications, starting with one-way broadcasts from Police HQ at one end of the AM radio dial ("Calling all cars!"), to simplex repeater systems, and on to trunked systems. Trunked Radio Systems are complex computer-controlled entities, somewhat similar to our current "Packet Switched" telephone network. They operate on multiple frequencies/channels, with one called the "Control Channel", which listens for a radio to start transmitting, analyzes the information, and automatically sends commands back to the radio telling it the correct channel it should switch to in order to communicate communicate with other radios in its "Talk Group". It gets quite complicated, so I'll let the reader follow the links to read more about it. Its main advantage is that it allows many users to share a common radio system, conserving the limited radio spectrum available in most metro areas. It's expensive, and has had more than it's share of developmental problems during the early days.
Later came APCO-25, also known as P-25, for "Project 25", which was a switch from analog to digital modulation. Although APCO-25 can operate perfectly well in simplex and repeater operation, combining it with trunking brought us to the current systems widely deployed here in the US.
When the big local agencies (LAPD, LASD) out here went to trunking, I wasn't too involved in scanner-listening, the city I lived in at the time kept their conventional radio system, and the big agencies kept a lot of their radio traffic operating "in parallel" on conventional non-trunked systems for interoperability reasons, and so I never bought a dedicated scanner that could deal with trunked systems. I just confined my listening to conventional radio systems in my area. When they went digital, I had to buy a new scanner that could handle the P-25 systems. My new scanner not only did P-25, but also conventional trunked systems, so by waiting, I got a "twofer".
One of the things about scanning is learning how to use your equipment, and getting a trunking-capable scanner taught me lot, including what a PITA it is to manually enter all the frequencies, talk groups, control channels, is it Motorola, EDACS, LTR, conventional trunked, all digital, analog, or mixed, or etc, etc, etc. The scanner itself could recognize and remember distinct individual systems, but it was still up to me to add the alphanumeric tags so I'd know *what* I was listening to. Fortunately, the scanner has a serial port on the back, and with the aid of a program for my PC, I was able to copy the frequency databases from the Internet, convert them to a form the radio could use, and upload them to the radio. Still, it took time to ferret out current, correct databases (Radio Reference is THE best!), grab them from the 'Net, paste them into the program, and upload them to the radio.
Now Uniden has come out with a new model that's made just for people who want to know what's going on, but don't have the time, inclination, or technical knowledge to get a digital-mode trunked radio system scanner up and running. Called the "Home Patrol", it comes pre-programmed with most major cities by zip code, touch screen display, GPS and USB ports, and has a removable memory card that can be used to load a new database, or to RECORD what you hear.
Availability should be September 2010, and the price is guesstimated at around $600.
Man, we never had it this easy when I got started in radio!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Geography of a Recession

At what point does it become a "Depression", though? I've embedded the YouTube version, but if it doesn't work for you, or you'd prefer to see it bigger, here's the main page.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Emergency Visit to the Vet This Morning

And it wasn't pretty! We had our little one Coco spayed on Tuesday, and she was doing pretty well. She's a very active pup, though, even with her "comfy cone" on, and by Thursday I noticed she'd popped one of the surgical staples out. We were keeping it clean with Peroxide and applying a bit of Neosporin, but last night when we got home from dinner (Lucille's BBQ!) and a movie ("The Other Guys". Can I get my money back?) with the YF's brother and his wife, I noticed she'd popped another one out, and looking at her incision made us realize we'd better get her in ASAP. So we took her in this morning, and our Vet cleaned it, and put some new staples back in. He gave us some antibiotics to give her twice a day, and said to keep the cone on her all the time, and watch her to make sure she doesn't get dirt into the incision.
So now she's just laying around relaxing (it's a dog's life, huh?) and enjoying all the attention.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Harbor Freight Tool Box Combo

I have to admit to buying stuff at Harbor Freight. I consider (or did) most of their tools to be of the "One Use Throw Away" type, although they've gotten much better over the years, and some tools, like a hammer, are pretty hard to screw up!
I've wanted to get another rolling tool box to keep my power tools and bigger hand tools in for some time now, but going to Sears to get another $300 rolling cab like tha one I bought last year just didn't appeal to me. The quality of Craftsman-branded toolboxes has gone WAY down the last 10 years, and the ones that are in my price range are pretty cheaply made. Very flexible (they "oil can" a lot), the "ball bearing" slides feel like they been lube with sand-laced grease, and even the paint is pretty hit-or-miss. So when I got this ad in the email for Harbor Freight for a the set for $150, I figured what the heck. It's a complete 3-piece box combo for about HALF of what I paid for the last roller I bought at Sears. I didn't expect too much, so I was pleasantly surprised when I started to put it together. It has threaded inserts for the casters on the roller, and the side handles on the top chest. It's not a "Flexi-Flyer" like the last thing I bought from Sears (BTW...whatever happen to Roebuck?), and although I could have painted it better here at home, at least the paint has a good thickness and fairly uniform appearance. And as a nice touch, they included drawer liners of a somewhat spongy nature that will at least keep the tools from rattling around when you open and close the drawers. No, it doesn't have ball-bearing slides, but for $150 I can afford to buy a can of white Lithium grease and keep the slides lubed!
I won't go into where they source all their stuff. I used to be against sending money to to the ChiComs, but considering who's in the current "administration" I think the point is moot.....


ARRRRGH! Went to roll it around in the garage this morning, and realized I have the casters on the wrong end!
Oh, least I didn't have it full of stuff yet!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Boeing, Boeing, Boeing, GONE!

Well the wonderful, business friendly climate provided by our brave and forward thinking "leaders" up in Sacramento has resulted in another business leaving the state.
Boeing has announced that they're moving the C-130 Avionics and B-1B Modernization Programs from Long Beach to Oklahoma City.
Citing a shrinking Pentagon budget, and requests from the Military to reduce costs, the programs are moving.
This would leave the C-17 as the only major project Boeing still has out here, and that's hanging by a thread.
Oh, but we have nice weather, beaches, and lots of sunshine!
More here at the L.A. Times website.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Antenna Maintenance

Been pretty busy rebuilding my "M2" VHF/UHF antennas. When I pulled them off the roof of my bachelor pad, they'd been up there for almost ten years. I hung them in the rafters here at the house when I moved in, and finally got around to taking them down to check them out, and hooo-boy, were they ever crusty! Basically, I'm taking them apart, sanding all the corrosion off the aluminum parts with 150-grit "Wet or Dry", cleaning them good with denatured alcohol to get any skin oils and other "organic" gunk off them, and painting them with a self-etching primer made for bare aluminum. After the primer sets up nice and hard, which seems to take about THREE DAYS in the sun ( ! ), I'll give them a top coat of a low-reflectance flat gray-blue so they blend in with the sky, and hoist them up on the tower I'm extending.
I'm also making up new baluns for them, as the old ones were hard and brittle from being outdoors all these years. I'll be using much higher quality coax, better connectors, and checking them on my network analyzer set to make sure they're 1/4-wavelength at the center of the frequency bands I'll be using. And I'll be sealing them on their mating connectors with some good heat-shrink tubing that has the meltable inner liner so they're sealed up from the stuff we call "weather" out here in SoCal.
I'm about 90% finished with the UHF antenna, and about half finished with the VHF antenna. The UHF one was pretty easy to do as the elements are only about 8" long, but the ones on the VHF are about 24" long and get kind of "whippy" when you try and sand them.
And yes, I'm taking pictures of the whole project, so get ready to be bored by another one of my Radio Adventures!
On the 2A side of things, I snuk out to the range today, renewed my membership, and blasted off about 100 rounds of 45ACP.
And I can still get them all in the black at 25 feet!

Meet Luna!

 Great name for our new pup, eh? She's camera shy, and "Red Eye Removal" doesn't work for dogs! She's two years old, p...