Monday, November 29, 2010

And Don't Call Me Shirley!

Well, he'll always be Commander J.J. Adams of United Planets Cruise C-57D to me, but to many other people he was Frank Drebin of Police Squad, or Dr. Alan Rumack of Airplane!
Whatever role he played, Leslie Nielsen was a good actor, and will always be remembered.
He passed away yesterday from complications due to pneumonia.
RIP, Commander Adams.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Magic Smoke

No, I haven't let any of the Magic Smoke out of any of my equipment lately, but I thought those of you who work on cars, particularly British cars, might find this replacement item quite handy to have around.
Replacement Lucas Smoke
Side Jokes:
Why do the English drink warm beer? Because they have Lucas refrigerators!
Who is the Lucas Electric Company named after? Lord Lucas, Prince of Darkness!
If you've ever owned a car with Lucas Electric components, you'll know exactly what I'm referring to.
Now, if you've ever worked on electrical/electronic stuff, you've probably heard the term "Smoke Test", which is the first test you run on a recently assembled or rebuilt unit. You power the unit up, carefully checking and hoping you've assembled and wired it correctly, because if you haven't, you'll let the Magic Smoke out of it, and it won't work any more.
In Amateur Radio we have a phrase "Tune For Maximum Smoke", which means to load up a transmitter to the point where any further increase in the loading control makes it impossible to find a "dip" in the plate tuning control.
Usually the plates (Anode) in the output tubes are glowing red (or orange!) before you hit this point, so you generally don't get any more output power by loading the transmitter this far, and in some cases the output power actually drops off.
These days, with solid-state equipment and broad-band output stages, you don't have to do the "load, dip, load, dip" dance when you change frequency or bands. Of course you also can't load up a wet string for an antenna (I've done it. A story for a later date) because the components are fixed value, and even if the rig has a built-in "Antenna Tuner", they don't match a very wide range of impedance, and the equipment will automatically fold-back the output power to protect itself.
And since I'm coming down with a cold, I think I'll "fold back" the covers and hit the hay!
Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winding %%!!**^^$$##!!! Toroids

GAWD, I *HATE* winding these freaking things! Out of ALL the Amateur Radio activities I do, winding toroid coils is at the all-time absolute BOTTOM of my enjoyment scale. I'd rather work on antennas in a blizzard (and I have...) than wind these abominations. Yeah, I know Toroidal Inductors have high inductance for their volume, they're self-shielding, and have a whole slew of other neat properties, but GAWD, what a PITA they are to wind!
When I built my Elecraft K2 transceiver, I bought the coils prewound from "The Toroid Guy" for about $35, and when I bought the 100 Watt amplifier module, I again bought the prewound cores for about $40, and it was money well spent, every penny of it!
The latest kit I'm (still!) building is an LP-100 Digital Vector Wattmeter, which is an excellent piece of equipment. It gets rave reviews over at, it's extremely accurate, and has a PC interface so you can capture the data, and make all kinds of Geeky plots of neat things to know about your antenna system.
It also has two toroids to wind.
Now as toroids go, these don't look like they'd be particularly hard to make. The cores are a couple of inches in diameter, the wire is a decent sized gauge, and there's only 26 turns to wind. He even gives you a very clever way to mark the cores, so you can get the windings on "just right".
Yeah, right!
Well, any way, after fighting one for about 20 minutes, I have it wound, but now I have to straighten the windings on the core, then put the bushing through the center so I can mount the core(s) in the coupler housing.
Gawd....I *HATE* winding toroids!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

Even though I haven't had a full-time job in over a year now, I still count my blessings.
I've lost a bit over 35 pounds, my glucose is now "Disgustingly normal" according to my Doctor, same with my blood pressure, my wife is in excellent health with a great job with good benefits, my son is knocking down A's and B's in his new College major, I have a lot of good friends, we have food on the table and a roof over our heads, and we're keeping all the bills paid, with some left over to save. Compared to the past year that some have had, we have a LOT to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

"There I Was............"

At 10,000' feet, in an ice storm, and running out of fuel....
300' under water, surrounded by giant squid, and my air was running out.....
Surrounded by zombies, it's getting dark, and my shotgun just jammed.....

I'm sure you can make up many more of these simply by picking a situation that might have a bad outcome if certain things happen, and they're happening. The question is, how do the pros do it? I mean it's awfully hard coming up with situations for the hero to solve on a weekly basis. One of the reasons I stopped watching 24 was because I got reeealy tired of Jack Bauer rescuing his STOOOPID (but very pretty) daughter every week.
Now, I've seen flow charts in Wired magazine explaining how to do this, but they were so simple...I mean they just cried out for more detail. Well, while I was searching for a quote from Alien (It wasn't a distress beacon, it was a warning!), I stumbled across the TV Tropes website. At last! Every plot device, MacGuffin, and all the seemingly strange twists and turns that professional writers weave into their plot was explained, in excruciating detail.
Pick some genre, like Action/Adventure, and lo-and-behold, it's all explained for you.
Wonderful stuff, but be prepared to spend a LOT of time following all the hyperlinks!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Know Your Enemy!

Just stumbled across the "Discover The Networks" website while following some links in articles (Thanks, Anthony!) about Nazi Pelosi and how she finagled her way to being minority leader after her fall from grace. The site is a guide to the "Who, What, Where, and When" of left-wing politics in the United States. One of the links goes back to the Obummer/Billary fights during the nomination back in 2008, and the (in)famous tape the L.A. Crimes refused to release of HRH Obummer meeting with Rashid Khalidi, and suggests that Ms. Clinton is the person who sourced the tape, and that Pelosi threatened to release it if Teh One didn't pressure the Dumbocrat congresscritters to give Pelosi a bone.
Very interesting reading, and it's quite a resource to keep for those times when you'd like to know who's doing what to whom, and why.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Web Economy" BS Generator

Shades of the 'dotcom' bubble! If you work in any kind of field where "Advertising Lingo" is used, or if you work for a place that has a PHB, you should get quite a kick out of this.
BS Generator


Not my normal stuff, but this cracked me up so much I'm still laughing.
Kinda reminds me of my (much!) earlier years.
h/t to wirecutter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Long, Busy Weekend....

Spent most of the weekend doing Home Owner stuff, and I ache all over!
One of the things I've been doing is cleaning up the area between the edge of our driveway and the property line of the house next door. It's an area about 22" wide and 30' long that runs alongside the driveway, from our gate to the back yard and the side walk. My wife had put a bunch of "River Rocks" in there over the years after having no luck growing flowers there. Over the years it degenerated into a weed pit, and was looking pretty bad. SO, I told her I clean it up and make it look nice again.
What a job!
I'd sprayed the area with a mix of RoundUP and Weed-B-Gon a month or two ago, and let *everything* in the strip die. It looked like I'd called in an Agent Orange aerial drop, but everything was dead. SO....I started digging out the rocks and gravel. I spent the better part of a week with a "Pulaski Axe", which is an axe blade with an adze on one end. Works great for chopping up hard, compacted dirt. Then I had about six wheelbarrow loads of dirt to move out and sift. Most of the large rocks I put into 5 gallon buckets (SIX of them!), and the smaller rocks I just left with the dirt. I made a sifter out of a 2x4 frame and some hardware cloth (aka "Chicken Wire") with 1/4" holes. I wound up with about 4-1/2 wheelbarrow loads of nice sifted dirt, and the balance was smaller rock. I then spent about a week laying out the property line, making a nice clean cut (you could tell where the two front yards joined by the type of dirt), and installing new redwood boards for edging. I soaked the boards with linseed oil to preserve them, even though redwood is pretty good for rot resistance. I used fence slats for the boards, but I probably should have spent more money and bought "real" boards, as these things aren't exactly the straightest pieces of wood! Shoveled all the dirt back in and leveled it with six bags of paving sand, and tamped it down. I still haven't put all the rock back in, as I was getting pretty burned out on the job, and wanted a break.
WELL.....Saturday afternoon my little sweetie decided to get started on another project we'd been talking about for a few months. She wants to remove the carpet by the front door and refinish the hardwood floor in that area so that water and dirt don't get tracked onto the carpet during what passes for our "winter" out here. She went out and got some 60, 100, and 220 grit sandpaper for our orbital sander, some stain for the wood, a miter box (we have one, but nobody knows where it is), and some nice trim for the edge of the carpet. Sunday morning I laid out where to cut, and started removing the carpet. Getting the carpet cut straight wasn't too bad, and after about 45 minutes I had the area clear. Then I had to pull out all the staples where the pad had been tacked down, and turned the sanding over to her. After a few hours, she had most of the water stains in the wood sanded out, but we're still going to have to bleach out the rest, fill the cracks between the boards, sand it again, and then stain and seal it. She wanted to just sand the stains out, but after I told her she'd put all kinds of depressions in the flooring if she sanded down that far, she decided not to. And now she realizes it's going to be a LOT more work than just "Pull up the carpet, sand the floor, and stain it" like she thought. I've got the trim mitered and fit, and I'll drill pilot holes for the nails today, as I really don't want to tempt fate nailing solid oak trim down without predrilling some holes through it!
Oh, and she asked me how much longer it would take to finish the rock area......sigh.......

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Eve of Conflict

T.L. Davis has his take on what else we need to do now that the elections are over.
Go over here and read his post. Powerful words we ALL need to ponder!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

That "Mystery Missile"? It's A Contrail **CASE CLOSED**

Got tired of "updating" the other post. Suffice to say, some of the sources I quoted were correct.
Chalk up another one for our crack (smoking!) news teams!
It's A Contrail



From the FAA:
"FAA Spokesman Ian Gregor later released this statement:
“The FAA ran radar replays of a large area west of Los Angeles based on media reports of the location of a possible missile launch around 5pm Monday. The radar replayed did not reveal any fast moving unidentified targets in that area. The FAA also did not receive reports of any unusual sightings from pilots who were flying in the area Monday afternoon. Finally the FAA did not approve any commercial space launches around the area Monday.”

And here's a flight path that matches quite closely in time and position.

AFAIC, it's a contrail!

This guy did some analysis, including pix from the same flight 24 hours later, and he nails it.

And FINALLY, a report by James Oberg as posted on the IEEE Spectrum website.
If Oberg says it's a contrail, IT'S A CONTRAIL.

"Mystery Missile" Launch Off California Coast?

Had this forwarded to me by a friend. I'm usually on top of these things, at least if they're scheduled. Even the "Secret" launches from Vandenberg have things like NOTAMS published, and the PIO office will give a window during which launch activities can be expected.
This is just bizarre, though!
Mystery Missile Launch Seen off Calif. Coast


Turns out there was a NOTAM after all....

The "Naval Air Warfare Center" folks are my old buddies at Point Mugu/China Lake.

Now I'm wondering just how long it will be before the tin-foil-hat-crowd claim the NOTAM was faked, and this was a "Chemtrail" rocket, alien visitation, North Korean/Iranian/Rogue Russian missile, or something else....

***UPDATE 2***

I just realized the NOTAM is for tonight.
Curiouser and curiouser.....

The Market Ticker brings up some good points....

Here's some links I've dug up discussing what it might be.
L.A. Times



(Groan) Slashdot

Some of the guys at seem to think it's either an optical illusion of an airliner contrail (it's happened before), or a solid-fuel rocket launched from San Nicolas Island. San Nicolas has quite a history of being a launch site for sounding rockets and other 'non-airbreathers'.
These guys know their stuff. If one of them says "contrail", I'd be tempted to start looking in that direction.

And another view from the IEEE, also very good, and also pointed to a contrail.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Just remember, our work is just now starting. We have 'a breather', but we also can't slack off.
Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tail Fins and Chrome!

What could be more **American** on Election Day than to reminisce about the glory days of the American automobilr industry?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Been Busy....Follow-Up Post Coming Soon To A Browser Near <i>YOU</i>!

 Been a week since last post. Been busy herding grandkids, playing with the dog, yard work, house items, and working on all manner of stuff....