Friday, March 29, 2013

CQ WPX Contest This Weekend

I was just cruising around 20 Meters after dinner looking for some slow-scan TV, and all of a sudden I noticed the band get packed with wall-to-wall signals.

Turns it's the CQ Magazine "WPX" contest this weekend.

The object of the contest is to contact as many different "prefixes" as you can, and exchange a signal report and contact number.

A "prefix" refers to the first part of a callsign, which is where the station is located.

For example, I live in the FCC 6th Call District, so every callsign in Kaliforniastan has a number 6 in it.

A typical callsign would be W6XYZ. Or it could be K6XYZ, or WA6XYZ, and so on. The "W6", "K6", and "WA6" are the prefixes to the callsign, and each would count as a separte prefix.

Foreign callsigns, like "PY" for Brazil, "VK" for Australia, and "ZL" for New Zealand, also have unique prefixes, but also have an additional "multiplier" factored in to their point value in the process of determining your total score.

Contests like this are a good way to make contacts with new countries, but since it's so brief "Roger ZL2ABC, copy 5-9 #444. Please copy my 5-9 #675", and very artificial, many people almost don't consider it contacting whatever area of the world you just "worked".

I'm kind of benign about contests. I operate in them once in a while, but mostly go to the 17 Meter band where contests aren't allowed. I'd much rather TALK to somebody on the radio, as in having a real conversation with them, then just give them a signal report, and move on to the next one.

Sadly, it seems the art of conversation is becoming rare on the Amateur Radio frequencies, as some people just don't want to do anything other than swap reports and say "73".

And that's a shame, given our reputation as "Communicators".

Thursday, March 28, 2013

GROAN.....It's Still Pouring.....

WELL....the finger is doing much better, but I spent a couple of hours at the doctor's yesterday getting and abscess checked out.

The lab results came back from the swab they took of the finger, and sure enough, it's an MRSA bacteria.

Since the Keflex the walk-in clinic doctor prescribed me is totally ineffective against this particular strain, my regular doctor told me to stop taking it, and prescribed two new antibiotics for me to take.

Lacking lab results, I'm sure the doctor at the walk-in ordered what he thought was an appropriate antibiotic.

I'm now taking Clindamycin and Trimethoprim, which from what I've read is a pretty potent combination.

As far as the abscess goes, it started out looking like a pimple, right on my belt line, and got very irritated. Within 48 hours of having my finger checked out, it was huge, painful, and draining on its own.

The draining on its own was a Good Thing, as my doctor didn't have to open it up, but holy feels like a red hot poker jabbing me!

At times like this I realize how fortunate I am to have good quality medical care, a decent job, and a loving wife to "take care" of me.

No, I'm not playing it up, but she does make sure I follow doctor's orders!

And my doctor told me to stay home from work, get plenty of rest, drink LOTS of water, and come back Monday morning to see how things are progressing.

So, I'm off until Tuesday. With this bum finger and sore-at-the-waistband, though, I can't do any of the tinkering I'd normally do in my off-time, and that's a bummer.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heard Back from the CMP!

Well, just as with Old_NFO, they're saying 30~60 days minimum, but at least the order was accepted, and I'm "in the system"!

Time to order some of their ammo so I'll have something to feed "Duke" with.

We have received and verified your recent order. There is nothing that we will be able to tell you about the order until we have input all orders received ahead of yours into the system. Your order will now advance to our sales area and from there to our shipping area.  Please note, that unless otherwise listed, our order to ship time is at least 30-60  days. You will receive other emails as the order progresses.

Your customer # is XXXXXX. The order will not show as pending on the estore until the Sales Department processes and assigns an order number to it. If you have any problems logging onto the estore, please let us know.

Thank you for your order and your support of our program.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

When It Rains.....It POURS!

Well, as if it's not enough that my darling wife and I are concerned about her grandson, I have a small medical issue of my own that just popped up out of nowhere.

Thursday night my right index finger started to get sore, and since I use lots of hand tools, all the time, I just wrote it off to getting old.

All day Friday at work I was soaking it in ice water, as it had started to swell, and it looked like blood was pooling under the nail.

Now I've smacked my fingers before with hammers, and gotten various wood and metal splinters embedded, but even though this looked similar, I've suffered no 'mechanical' hand trauma.

Saturday morning when I work up, my finger looked like a big purple sausage stuck on my hand.

Oh, wife took one look at it, about passed out, and said "Get Thee To The Clinic!", or something similar.

Thankfully they weren't busy, and the doctor saw me in about 10 minutes.

After poking around, feeling it, and squeezing it (ouch, Ouch, and OUCH!) he said I had some sort of bacterial infection, and he'd have to "Open it up and drain it", which just about made me pass out on the spot.

I gotta tell you right now, I'm a coward when it comes to pain, ESPECIALLY when it concerns my hands, and the sight of my own blood just about turns out my lights.

He said "Well, you can come back in two days on Monday to have your own doctor do it, but I guarantee it will be much worse, and delaying it is not good".


I gave him the go ahead and he went to get some stuff.

He swabbed it down with Betadine/Povidone, numbed it out with Ethyl Chloride, which is a type of freeze-mist for skin, lanced it, and squeezed it three times to get the gunk out. He also collected a sample for the lab to examine so they could find out what kind of bugs caused it.

He prescribed Keflex  to knock out the remaining infection, and Vicodin "as required" for the pain.

And they gave me a tetanus shot, as my records showed me as not having one since 2004.

It sure feels better, the swelling has gone way down, and it's no longer a purple sausage hanging on my hand.

I won't be using my trigger finger for a while, but I don't really need to when I assist my friend with the NRA classes.

We also went to see Bill Engvall at the Terrace Theater last night. He did a whole bunch of new material about getting old and cranky, along with some "Here's your sign" jokes, and his story about flying with the US Air Force Thunderbirds.

Laughter *is* the best medicine, and for a few hours last night we were able to just put the world on stand by, and have a good time.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Family Medical Emergency

Sorry for not posting, but this week has been pretty rough on my wife.

Her 9-year old grandson is in the ICU, and not expected to come home.

When he was about 6 months old, he started going into convulsions, and having seizures. They ran test after test, and all they were able to figure out was that it wasn't epilepsy or chemical exposure.

At the time, the Doctors said that in 95% of cases like this, they never do find out.

So, his development came to a halt, and over the intervening time he's developed a host of other medical problems.

He's had to be fed with a tube almost all of his life, and because
 he couldn't run around like other children, his skeletal and muscle development have been extremely abnormal.

Last week his parents noticed he wasn't breathing normally, and by the time they got him to the ER, he was gasping for breath.

Turns out he had a collapsed lung, and a massive respiratory infection, most likely caused by aspirating some of his food into his lungs.

They put him on a ventilator, and into a medically-induced coma, as he was thrashing around so much trying to pull out the breathing tube that they were afraid he'd severely injure himself.

Earlier this week they drained his lungs, and took him off the ventilator to see how he was breathing.

His oxygen uptake dropped to 30% as soon as the ventilator was switched off, so they put him back on it.

Thursday they drained his lungs again, and took him off the ventilator to see how he was doing. He didn't start breathing on his own, so they used the bag/valve unit to get his breathing started.

His oxygen uptake dropped to 5% this time, so they immediately put him back on the ventilator.

My wife went to see the little guy this morning, and they'd moved him into an isolation room. With all the antibiotics they've given him, his immune system is compromised, and they're afraid he'll get something really bad from all the microbes floating around in the hospital.

This afternoon we got word his kidneys are starting to shut down, and his blood chemistry is all out of balance, and they're not sure what, if anything, more than can do for him.

At this point I think it's out of the doctor's hands, and in God's hands.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Printer!

Well, my trusty, 9-year old little Brother HL-1440 monochrome laser printer suffered a cerebral hemorrhage this morning when my step-son's girlfriend tried to print a huge document.

One of the sheets of paper in the tray was wrinkled, and when it fed, it caused a massive paper jam.

It jammed so badly that the rear paper exit door popped open!

After farting around with it for about an hour, and having other things planned for today, I bit the bullet and bought an HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color Laser printer.

Now since one of the things I had planned today was to clean up the Radio Room, and since I had to literally tear apart the shelf unit that has my (poor, dead) laser printer, Canon Color scanner, and a good portion of the test gear I keep in the shack, it was a nice way to kill two birds with one round.

I was a bit leery of buying this printer at first, since the Linux Printing page (now "OpenPrinting") didn't rate it very high, claiming some of the functions didn't work properly.

And in fact, I had already run down to Best Buy and purchased the replacement Brother sells for my little HL-1440, an HL-2270DW, which the Linux Printing page states "Works PERFECTLY".

While stumbling around the Best Buy, I had noticed the HP printer, and the fact it was on-sale, my wife's two favorite words.

After I got back home with the new Brother, I thought about it, and remembered HP is generally pretty good with Linux support.

Sure enough, I Googled for "linux hp laserjet pro 200", and it took me directly to the HP Open Source support pages for their printers. After reading a bit, I saw that they have far newer drivers for this printer than OpenPrinting does, so I took the Brother back, and exchanged it for the HP.

I think the main reason that OpenPrinting kind of slammed this model printer, is that the driver you get directly from HP uses a closed-source "Binary Blob" similar to how NVidia supports their video cards under Linux, and this greatly disturbs Open Source people.

So, back to Best Buy to exchange it.

While I support Open Source, I don't have a problem with a manufacturer using some proprietary, closed-source code in their drivers, as long as the product works "As Advertised".

I preconfigured the printer for the IP address I used on my network for the Brother, and headed over to the HP support page.

The HP driver downloaded from Source Forge, and when I ran it, I was impressed with how thoroughly it asked questions, checked the system, found and downloaded the required dependencies, built the software, and installed.

Good job, HP!

Oh....and since this printer has built-in networking, I was also able to retire the D-Link print server module I had plugged into the printer port on the Brother, and eliminate a piece of hardware.

Now to configure my wife's PC, and the future daughter-in-law's laptop, and I can call it a night.

And I got the Radio Room cleaned up, too!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Corned beef is cooking for dinner...CHECK!

Irish Salt Bread purchased............CHECK!

Potatoes being readied.................CHECK!

The potatoes are the important part. Since I'm half Irish, and half Polish, potatoes were akin to religion when I was growing up.

And my sweet little wife knows that, and treats them with the reverence they so deserve.....

Friday, March 15, 2013

Whole-House Filtration and RO System Installation Complete!

These guys were GREAT, once they got here.

The main filters and salt container were installed, plumbed in, leak tested and flushed, and then they did the under-sink unit.

And they plumbed in the ice maker for the fridge, too!

As soon as all the water in the heater is replaced, we should be able to enjoy showers more, and the laundry should come out better, with less soap.

It wasn't a cheap system, and ate up most of our tax "refund", but it's something we'd both wanted for the house for quite a while.

Oh....and I took my share of the "play money" we set aside every year, and ordered my M1 Garand from the CMP.

Yes, I went "traditional", and ordered it in 30-06.

I'm not one for naming my guns, but I think I'll call this one "Duke" when it gets here!


OOOPS! I Spoke Too Soon....

They arrived about 2 minutes after my previous post.

Equipment is staged, holes have been drilled, connections are being soldered, and other activities are taking place.

And again, they apologized profusely for not being on time.

Seems the "Special Deal" through Home Depot has been selling like hot cakes, and they're up to their eyebrows in work.

And one of the two guys is one that came the other night, they're both very knowledgeable and professional, and this should be an easy installation for them, seeing as they can easily get to all the pipes to plumb the system in to the house.


Waitng for the Plumber, or Someone Like Him....


We bought a nice RainSoft whole-house softener and filtration system last week,

It was a "Special Deal" from Home Depot, and included 0% financing as long as we pay it off in 24 months.

WELL....the installation company was supposed to come out Wednesday, between 1500 and 1730 to site the installation of the tanks, estimate the amount of plumbing required, and install the under sink part.

They didn't get here until 1900, and by then it was too late to start anything other than the site survey, and drop off about half of the equipment.

They told us that somebody would be in contact Thursday morning, to show up Thursday afternoon, and install the under sink pre-filter, RO unit, and final filter equipment.

They didn't call or show, so I called the office at 1600.

At 1730 the office manager called, and *promised* me that somebody would be here between 0900 and 1100 to start the installation, and that they would call 30 minutes before arriving.

It's now 1125, and no call, no show.

I'm going to call them back at 1130, and try and find out what's going on.

The guys that came here Wednesday seemed really sharp, and answered all the technical questions I had to my satisfaction, and apologized for not being able to meet the promised schedule due to some unforeseen problems at the installation they had just finished.

They showed me some pictures of the one they had just came from, and I have to admit it was a difficult installation, and they pulled it off beautifully.

The house was on a corner lot, with a very small backyard, and the owner didn't want anything visible from the street.

They dug a pit to mount the equipment in, plumbed it in to the house, backfilled it, and put a fake fiberglass "rock" over the exposed components.

I'm sure it took them a lot longer than anticipated!

Of course, that does *me* no good, as they haven't come back, or called, since the office gal called Thursday evening.

I sure hope the damn equipment works better than their scheduling process in getting a crew out here for the installation!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Here's One for Old_NFO!

He's probably already seen it, but I thought I'd share it with the rest of you.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Another 18 Students Graduate from NRA "First Steps" Course

Well...we trained another 18 people today.

Some had shoot before, and were very good.

Some had never shot before, and got better as the class progressed.

And three young ladies had never held a gun before, and admitted to being scared when the class started.

At the end of the day, all 3 young ladies were "9 ring or better" for their 30 allowed shots, and kept saying things like "What's all the fuss about?".

And in our "The Law and Firearms" section at the end of the class, everyone was appalled at the legal wranglings and loss of our rights that's taking place.

And everyone said that they wished they had gotten more involved at an earlier date so they could write to their congresscritters, and state their views on what was going on.

One of the students even said "It's a Bill of RIGHTS, not a bill of WANTS", which I thought was a pretty good way to put it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quiet Week.....

Not much going on. I've been going to bed pretty early this week to try and get plenty of rest while the antibiotics do their magic on my sinus infection.

It's working so far, as I'm able to breathe, and I'm not coughing all night long. The persistent headache I had has gone away, and my low fever (101*) has dropped back to "normal", which for me is about 97.9*.

Morale at work is pretty low, and I've moved all my personal stuff out of my office area on the ship.

Since there's NO CHANCE we'll be going out for at least a year, I figured why keep the stuff on board.

The manager I'm more or less permanently "om loan" to told us this morning at the O-dark-thirty daily meeting that the "voluntary layoff" was directed at a few specific people they're trying to get to leave "quietly". He didn't mention what group they're in, but I have my suspicions about which one it is.

And Saturday is another "NRA First Steps - Pistol" class that I'll be helping my friend with.

ALL of his "First Steps" classes are booked solid through the end of March, and he told me all the April classes are getting filled in, too.

I just hope we can scrounge up enough 22LR to keep the students equipped!

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Big "Uh-OH!" at Work

I stayed home today as I'm still under the weather, and had a doctor's appointment. They've now got me on two antibiotics to try and knock out this sinus infection that's been plaguing me for several weeks now.

And my doctor had some 3D imaging done of my head (yeah, yeah, I already know it's empty) to see if he needs to get an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist involved. Hopefully the course of antibiotics will knock it out, and I'll start feeling better.

On the work-front, I received an email from a fellow employee. Seems there was an all-hands meeting today, and the company is offering "voluntary layoffs", where if you agree, you'll get 4 weeks pay, and a kick for your COBRA medical.

Offer good only until 5pm Wednesday, so hurry now over to the HR Department and sign up!

I haven't decided what to do, as I have a Worker's Compensation claim in-process, and my sweet wife is worried that any final amount will be decided by my future earnings potential, and if I'm not working, I might not get the amount the lawyer says we'll get.

I suppose I should talk to him about it......

Saturday, March 2, 2013

NRA "First Steps - Pistol" AAR

Gee....I'm using the term "AAR". Never thought I'd get here......

Got to the range today about 1030, and was greeted by the lead instructor, three other volunteer instructors, and twenty anxious students.

Some of them had fired guns before, some had not, and a few were "scared" of guns, but thought they'd be better off knowing actual facts about them, rather than relying on the the lamestream media is reporting.

The classroom part starts with The Four Rules, and then gets into the basic parts of a gun ("Frame", "Barrel", "Grip", and "Action"), and then discusses ammo.

Then grip and stance are taught, moving on to sight picture, followed by a short break.

After the break, we finish up the classroom training by reviewing what was taught, checking stance and grip for each student, and answering numerous questions.

You can tell these are very interested people by the questions they asked, and by their attitude.

While the lead was finishing up in the classroom, the other instructors and I went out into the range area, set up a table, hung targets, and loaded magazines.

The pistols in use were Ruger Mark-II's, slightly modified with dots of white-out applied to the sights. A couple of years ago when my sweet wife took the course, she complained that she couldn't get a sight picture because she couldn't see the sights!

The lead took my suggestion to use white-out, and nobody has complained since then.

The first segment was 20 rounds onto a piece of paper, just to get the students used to handling the pistols, inserting/extracting magazines, and manipulating the controls on the gun.

After questions were asked and answered, stance and grip checked again, we went to 20 rounds on a standard NRA "Slow Fire" target.

As the students fired at their first target, we watched them for things like jerking the trigger, and as always, stance and grip.

The last segment was 10 rounds at a fresh target, this time "scored".

Three of the students scored 98, so we had a 3 round shoot-off to determine the "Best Shot of the Class", who won a nice baseball cap.

So.....we started with 20 students, and turned them in to 20 graduates, with a certificate, patch, rocker, and wallet card.

The class was 100% safe, none of the guns spontaneously "went off by itself", no blood was spilled, and everybody had a great time.

And the next 5 Saturdays are booked solid, so I imagine I'll be spending a whole lot of time helping my friend teach new shooters the basics.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Helping Teach an NRA "Basic Pistol" Class on Saturday

One of my instructor friends dropped me an email tonight wondering if I was free tomorrow to help him with an NRA Basic Pistol class.

Of course I said I'd be happy to help him!

Even when I'm "teaching", I learn things from the students, and some of their questions are a bit amusing, to say the least.

We all had to start *somewhere*, so I NEVER look down on them, call a question "stupid", or demean then in any way. I KNOW I asked my share of "stupid" questions when I was getting started in any variety of my pursuits, and I always say a little silent prayer for all the people who mentored me that aren't with us any more.

The question turned to ammo for the class, and seeing as I have a small stockpile of 22LR out in the garage, I offered to bring some, as his ammo orders are constantly having their delivery dates pushed back. He asked me how much I wanted for it, and I told him I'd look up what the going rate was, and we'd work something out.

HOLY SMOKES........!!!!!

A box of 500 Wolf 22LR "Extra Match" grade was going for EIGHTY DOLLARS when it was last available, and the 500 round box of Fiocchi Biathlon Super Match SM340 was ONE-HUNDRED BUCKS when it was last available.

I bought this back in July of 2009, and I sure don't remember what I paid for it, so "negotiations" tomorrow should be pretty interesting, to say the least!

Supras and Stereos.....

 The repairs on the Fisher RS-2010 are proceeding, but a bit slower than I expected. The failed transistor is an obsolete part number, so I ...