Friday, March 29, 2019

New (for Me!) Radio Installation

Not new as in brand-new, but a new one to me.

When I got back into Amateur Radio in 1995, there were four new radios considered "Top of the Line", and they were all way out of my price range.

The Big Boys were the Kenwood TS-950SDX ($4600), The Icom IC-775DSP ($4800), the Ten-Tec Omni VI+ ($2600), and the Yaesu FT-1000D ($4000).

The following photos are courtesy of RigPix.com

The Ten-Tec was punching way above it's "price weight" performance-wise, but Ten-Tec always did that. Those radios didn't appeal to me because the fit-and-finish on them wasn't what you expected in a serious radio, and they were always built a bit flimsy. It weighed 16 pounds.




The Icom has a reputation of being a very good radio, but several of my friends had problems at the time with a variety of brand-new, right-outta-the-box, high-end, Icom radios either being DOA, or failing spectacularly in the first few months, so I tended to shy away from certain Icom radios of that time period. It weighed 37 pounds.





The Kenwood was (and still is) a spectacular radio. I have one and love it. With addition of a narrow Inrad "Roofing Filter", it can hold it's own against newer radios costing thousands of dollars. Very smooth, sweet "Kenwood Audio", and you can listen to it for hours. Even though it was sold as part of the Kenwood 950-series radios, it was a completely different design architecture than the other three 950-radios. When QST magazine reviewed it, they said it was so different than the others that they were surprised that Kenwood didn't call it the TS-960S. It weighed 51 pounds.




The Yaesu was the heavy-weight champ. These radios weigh in at 52 pounds. They will NOT slide around on your desk when you plug in your headphones! Yaesu also extensively supported all the DXpeditions of the time, supplying these radios to teams of Hams who dragged them all over the world to extremely remote locations, and ran them 24/7 for days while their operation took place. From "Arctic Cold to Tropical Heat", these radios got the snot beat out of them, and took it. Definitely a SOLID radio!




So even though I'd really like a new Flex Radio 6xxx series, or a new Kenwood TS-890, or (drooool) a Yaesu FTdx-5000, I really don't think I can justify spending $4k or more on a new radio and connect it to the compromise antennas I'm stuck with (BTW...got a 'quickie' antenna project brewing) at this location.

I already have a TS-950SDX, so why not look for a good used FT-1000D to go with it? I have comparable rigs from Hallicrafters and Drake, dating to the mid 1960's, so why not get the other 'book-end' to the Kenwood and fill out my mid 1990's collection?

Took a couple of months, but I found this one, and it's a honey.



The "CQ WW WPX SSB" contest is this weekend, so even though solar activity is bottomed-out, a major contest like this brings out all the Big Gun stations, and the bands get crowded with strong signals.

First impressions are....WoW, what a receiver! I'd forgotten what a difference it made to have IF Width and Shift controls available to zero in on a signal with. My little Elecraft K2 is quite a competent radio, but this thing just blows it in the weeds. True, they're completely different categories of radio, designed to different cost and performance parameters, so I shouldn't be surprised, but it's been so long since I've driven a truly high-end radio that I forgot how good they are at digging out a single, weak, signal when there's a much stronger signal close to it in frequency. Or in the case of a contest, an S9+ signal on either side of an S3 signal.

And keep in mind that this is an entirely ANALOG radio. It has a digital readout, digital controls, and uses Direct Digital Synthesis to generate the Local Oscillators and VFO's, but the entire signal path, from the antenna to the speaker, is analog.

No DSP (Digital Signal Processing) either Radio Frequency ("RF"), Intermediate Frequency("IF"), or Audio Frequency("AF") is used. This is where my Kenwood "cheats" a bit, by having some very good DSP at a "Low IF" point in the radio. The Kenwood also uses the DSP to detect and recover the audio, and process the transmit audio. The Yaesu is nothing but filters, oscillators, amplifiers, mixers. At no point in the signal chain does the signal get digitized, fiddled with, and then reconstituted back into analog, resulting in a different sound.

Kinda like playing a vinyl album on a turntable connected to a good amplifier and speakers vs playing a CD on a new stereo. They can both sound "good", but they also "different".

It's a classic design, done right, with quality parts, and careful attention paid to details like proper filtering, gain distribution, mixer drive levels, and low-noise oscillators.

Anyway...it's nice having a "real" radio again, even if I'm stuck with my BuddiStick for now.......

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ford Raptor to Get the GT500's Supercharged V8

For those times when six cylinders just aren't enough.....



Full article describing the rip snortin', Seven Hundred horsepower engine can be found here at the Hagerty website.

And when you open the hood..........


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Mini Road Trip This Morning.

Took a drive down to Erie, CO this morning to visit the Scuderia Rampante ("Raging Stables") restoration shop.

Yes, they mostly work on Ferraris.

This was a special event hosted by Hagerty, the company I have the Supra insured with.
I'm pretty sure I saw more Ferraris in one place this morning, than the total number I've seen in my life. F40's and F50's, a Lusso, and half-a-dozen or more 308's, including a rare fiberglass bodied one. The 308 (Magnum PI's car, if you don't know) was only produced with a FRP body for the first 10~12 months, and then Scaglietti, the coach builder who made the bodies for Ferrari, switched to steel bodies. The FRP bodied cars weigh about 350 pounds less, making them faster, and in greater demand.

The engine assembly room is just about "Clean Room" clean, and the work they do is absolutely first rate, from what I could see. They don't have an engine dyno, but they do have an engine test cell where they run the recently rebuilt engines through several hot/cold cycles, check it for leaks and funny noises, and then  do a break-in cycle to seat the rings.

And there were engines everywhere! 6 cylinder Dino engines, several V8's, and numerous, glorious, fabulous, V12's. Some were greasy lumps, some were just being taken apart, some were fresh out of the cleaning process but not assembled, and a few were on engine stands being carefully and methodically put back together.

I think I left several quart-sized puddles of drool around the shop!

Sorry, but I didn't take my camera, as there was no "camera policy" stated on the invitation, and I've been turned away from shops when I had a camera with me.

VERY enjoyable morning, and so far the car people are far friendlier and more enthusiastic than 95% of the alleged "Radio People" I've met since we moved here.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Thunder? Yes, Thunder!

Pretty appropriate to have thunderstorms the first week of Spring, but that's what's happening.





Maybe I should look up the Skywarn guys. Might be fun to do now that I live in a place with real weather.

And I just heard a solid report of a  tornado on the ground in Weld County (Eaton) near Weld Co roads 39 and 74.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

New Operating Desk

After a year of using my "temporary" radio setup, I finally upgraded the folding, plastic table to a nice wood table with drawers.



The plastic table has served me well for over 15 years in Field Day duty, but it looked out of place in the sun room, and was about 10" shorter and 6" shallower, so organizing all my stuff on it was trying at times!

Lots of room now.....



And it has drawers, greatly helping to keep desk clutter down down to a manageable level.

Friday, March 15, 2019

That Sinking Feeling.....

Of plumbing repair.

We have a little 15" "Bar Sink" in one part if the kitchen. Like the main kitchen sink, it's a late 1970's cast-iron porcelain sink. Well.....it had a drippy faucet, and the original owners of the house never repaired it. The result was that the sink got severely corroded, and looked "Nasty" per my wife.


It doesn't show very well in the picture, but there's a huge green and rust stain from the water dripping over many years.

So I thought I'd surprise the wife with a new sink.

Which means pulling the old one out, which requires you to turn off the water. AND clean out the cabinet under the sink!



Hmm.....where are the valves, or as plumbers call them, the "Stops"?



A little searching, and cleaning out another cabinet, reveals they've hidden them in the bottom back of the leftmost cabinet!


So, with the water shut off, all the hose and drain connections were undone, and the old sink pulled out. This sink had NO mounting hardware holding it in. I was adjusting the cabinet doors once, and reached up for a handhold so I could stand up. I grabbed the sink, and imagine my surprise when it slid several inches!

So with the sink removed, and 30+ years of dirt cleaned up from where it sat, I measured out and marked where the countertop would have to be cut so the new sink would fit.



It took several additional light cuts to get the clearance I needed for the sink to fit, but I'd rather make repeated light cuts than go all berserker and wind up with a hole TOO big. BTDT!



And after some fettling, the new sink slipped right in. I installed new hoses, as even though I probably could have reused the existing lines, it's a LOT easier to change them now when everything is easy to get at.



I used the supplied special mounting hardware to securely fasten the sink to the countertop, and it's in there SOLID.

And of course, what homeowner plumbing job would be complete without an additional unplanned trip to Home Depot?



I see such a trip happening tomorrow morning............

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Storm Has Passed

For the most part. It's still windy (30+MPH) and gusty (45MPH), and that's expected to continue through the night as the 'backside' of this low pressure system clips us as on it's way out as it moves to the Northeast.

Most of Western Nebraska is shut down, along with big sections of Eastern Colorado and Eastern Wyoming. The Dakotas are next to get clobbered, and all along the Eastern front of this massive low pressure (981mB) system tornadoes are popping up with big thunderstorms.

By now you've heard of the semi getting blown over and the train getting blown off the tracks. The guys on the Weather Channel are comparing this to a tropical storm, due to the very low barometric pressure, the level of the winds, and the amount of moisture it brought with it. I think it's a valid comparison, but had never considered it until I saw them chart similar storms that happen during the late Spring and through the Summer, and the similarities were striking.

1600 yesterday:




1600 today:




We didn't get nearly as much as was forecast, at least not in this part of town. I'd guesstimate maybe 3"~4" total. It started raining, then switched to sleet, then very fine sugar snow. By 1300~1400 it had changed to big flakes, and then tapered off and quit. The Cheyenne weather radar shows the system 'collapsing' and the 'eye' moving to the Northeast.

It left a little snowdrift at the back door:


Which Pebbles blasted right through when she finally decided to go outside at 1430, some 16 hours since her last pit stop.

So we pretty much skated through this one in this part of this city in this part of this county. Yes, I qualified that pretty tightly because while I have no doubts I could hop in the Jeep and get to pretty much anywhere in the city, I wouldn't leave the city for the next 36 hours or so unless absolutely necessary.

Pretty much everything East of here is shut down, and I saw some reports that the ranchers may need the Air National Guard to help them get feed out to their cattle. And it's calving time, and they're worried they're going to lose a lot of calves this Spring.

This is a very powerful storm covering about 8 states, and you just don't screw around with this weather unless you have to.

And as of 1815 I see they've declared "A State of Emergency" in Denver. Looks like all the freeways around and through the city are jammed with vehicles going absolutely nowhere. I heard some radio chatter on the scanner discussing it, and talking about what exits to use, and where people could stay.

It's a Real Good Day to Stay Inside

Youch.....well, it's here.

DIA is pretty much closed, with 1300 flights canceled, runways they can't keep clear, and EIGHTY MPH wind gusts with sustained 65MPH winds.

All the hotels surrounding the airport are at capacity due to the canceled flights.

The Weather Channel keeps making a big deal out of reports of wind gusts hitting NINETY-SIX MPH down in Colorado Springs.

Interstate 80 is closed.

Parts of Interstate 25 are closed.

"All Roads" in the Nebraska panhandle are closed.

And I just heard on the scanner there was 25 car pile-up in the vicinity of I-25 and Rte 34, down by "The Ranch", which is what we locals call the Larimer County Fairgrounds.

1600 yesterday, Tuesday:





1215 today:



The overnight rain-to-snow transition put a load of ice on the screen for the dining room window:



So while we haven't had all that much snow, it's blowing like crazy, and there are times it's hard to see the house across the street. One of our neighbors has lost some branches from one of their big pine trees, and our next door neighbor to the South looks like she might lose a section of her back fence.

And I just noticed that the snowflakes are getting much larger. All the snow last night, and up to 1400 local time, was very fine sugar snow. Now we're starting to get much larger flakes.

The next 14~16 hours should be interesting.

Stay warm, my friends! This stuff will flat-out KILL you, so please be safe, too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Storm Arrival Update

No, I'm not gonna get all ZOMG!! SNOWMAGEDDON!!! on you. I had enough of "StormWatch2017" in Lost Angeleez.

It's 0030 here, and it's been drizzling for a couple of hours.

NWS reports:


Wednesday
Rain and snow, becoming all snow after 7am. The snow could be heavy at times. Widespread blowing snow, mainly before 4pm. Temperature falling to around 30 by 5pm. Very windy, with a north northwest wind 9 to 19 mph increasing to 27 to 37 mph. Winds could gust as high as 60 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible. 
 
Wednesday Night
Snow, mainly before 11pm. Areas of blowing snow. Low around 22. Very windy, with a north northwest wind 32 to 37 mph decreasing to 25 to 30 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 44 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of around an inch possible. 
 
So it looks like we have a serious (to me, anyway) storm coming in. From the forecast, this will be the first real winter storm that we've had since we moved here. And my wife is back in SoCal, where it's expected to be sunny and in the mid 70's.
 
Updates to follow!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Batten Down the Hatches!

Got some heavy weather coming in Tuesday night, with rain and snow, turning to all snow Wednesday morning.

New accumulation predicted to be between 4" and 8", and the NWS is getting ready to release a "Blizzard Warning" for the Eastern Plains of Colorado.

 I would suspect Nebraska and Kansas will get clobbered, too.

 As long as it's not wet snow, I should be able to use the ^^&%^#% snowblower to clear it off now that I've have it fairly well adjusted and know where to soak it with silicone spray so it won't clog. Still hate the damn thing, though.....

So anyway....I'm making a run to DIA tomorrow, as the wife is headed back to SoCal for her oldest son's birthday, a visit to the Iowa to see the new "Lost at Sea" exhibit, and to see her friends again and have a Girls Night Out.

While she's gone I'm knocking a few Honey Dews off the list, like a new faucet/sprayer  assembly for the kitchen sink, a new little "Bar Sink" to replace the one that has a water leak that caused the porcelain to be stained and damaged, and replacing the wall mounting hardware for some of the towel racks and TP dispensers that are (still!) loose on the walls.

Brought in some more firewood, and the dog and I are planning on watching some movies while my sweetie is out of town. The fridge, freezer, and pantry are well-stocked with 'cold weather' food like soups and stews, and I'm planning on trying Larkburger after the snow moves through.

Keep warm and dry, my friends!


Friday, March 8, 2019

TGIF!

Well...not so much since I retired, but still, the weekend is here and The Little Guy will be coming by for the night.

I've been spending more time listening to my little Elecraft K2 connected to the BuddiStick in the back yard. The new power supply works transparently, and I bought a new external speaker to use with the radio.

It's a Palstar SP30B, and it sounds much better than the little Radio Shack/RCA #40-5008 speaker I was using. The RCA speaker is allegedly "HiFi", which means it tries to reproduce the higher frequencies (>10kHz) required for music, while the Palstar cuts off at around 8kHz, greatly reducing the amount of hiss and annoying high-frequency noise, which isn't needed for SSB voice communications.

The black cabinet with a dark grey front panel also matches the paint on the Elecraft quite well.

So while the speaker works very well, the radio bands aren't cooperating very much! The 20 Meter band (14~14.35MHz) folds up and goes 'flat' around local sunset, forcing me to drop down to 40 Meters (7~7.3MHz) or even 75 Meters (3.5~4.0MHz) to find anybody to listen to. I haven't heard much DX on 20 Meters, but 40 Meters has had a number of readable stations from Europe and VK/ZL (Australia and New Zealand). In the Olden Days, 10 Meters (28~30MHz) was commonly used for local chat, but then 2 Meter (144~148MHz) FM repeaters became wildly popular, and many of the local nets and round-table discussions moved there. So, I set the K2 to 28.300MHz (start of the SSB portion of the band) and tuned around a bunch over multiple weeks, and heard zip. Nada. Nil on 10 Meters here. Oh, well.....

And on the VHF/UHF scene, I picked up another Discone antenna to replace the one I trashed in Long Beach, and now I'm figuring out the best place and way to mount it. I have an RG-6QS cable running into the basement workshop from the outside, an "Abandoned In Place" cable feed, so I have a weather sealed penetration through the foundation. That would make siting the antenna on the North side of the house very advantageous, and there's a grounding block at that point, so it's a simple matter to connect some new coax there, and run it up to the new antenna.



I've got the OK to install a wall-mount bracket for it, like I had in Long Beach, but that house had stucco walls, and this house has wood-composite siding. I'll have to make up some 'cheat blocks', like a reversed wedge, to attach to the siding so I have a flat surface to work with.


And even though this is a light weight, low wind-load antenna, I have some questions regarding how to "nail this sucker to the wall", so I'll have to talk with our "General Contractor", the DIL's Dad. In Long Beach, I used expanding anchors driven into drilled holes in the stucco, and both of them held up very well, including the one that had both the weather station and a Comet GP-1 VHF/UHF vertical antenna.

But Long Beach doesn't get sustained 45~50MPH winds with gusts to 65, so I'm a bit hesitant to just lag bolt it into the siding. I'll definitely need some kind of 'backer board' up against the siding to give me the flat surface and spread the load out. With a couple of sections of the high-strength mast I have, this would put the new discone about 5' above the gutters, and in the clear.

So, The Little Guy is here, and I built a nice fire for he and Grandma to sit by and read "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss. He's not sure if he likes the snapping and popping of the fireplace, but he sure likes to stare into the flames.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Woke Up to 5" of Snow, B-Day Party a Smash, 3"~5" More Snow On The Way

Nice, dry, fluffy stuff, too! And I'm either getting used to using the ^&%$$%#!!! snowblower, or it's "working" better. Took my can Of PB Blaster! silicone lube, and SOAKED all the areas that get hit with snow, and trundled it out this afternoon. Did our sidewalk, and continued on doing the sidewalks for our neighbors on either side. Cleared half the driveway, and then got the shovel out to do the steps leading in to the house. Spent over an hour doing what I used to be able to do in 30 minutes, but "That's Life".

I tossed out some ice melt on all the foot paths to keep the still-falling snow from building up.



And then the MC put on his hat, and said "Let's get this party started!".



First order of business is the tearing of paper.....



A little golf set from Uncle Drew!




WoW! A Tee Ball set!


And my first two-wheeler!


And a slide for the big backyard our new house has!


The Little Guy got quite the haul! This was about half the stuff he got, the rest being clothes and books. He LOVES books, and we're doing our best to foster and nurture that interest. He loves to look through books, and if they have pictures in them.....WoW! He looked at my library in the basement the other day, realized Those Are All BOOKS!, and gave me a really strange look.

And as the presents were opened, the cousins awaited....



The Three Amigos.....



And topping it off? Cake and Ice Cream! What's a birthday party without cake and ice cream, eh?

And it was good, as evidenced by the thumbs up.



Hey, Bar Tender! Give that cute girl over there a round on me!



So we had a wonderful 2nd Birthday Party for The Little Guy. To think that two years ago when he was born 10 weeks early, he only weighed 2-1/2 pounds, and his Daddy could hold him in one hand, and to see him today made our entire family stop and give thanks. Watching him grow up is fascinating, and the older he gets, the more we interact, and the more fun we have. He was a bit upset that the basement door was closed, because he wanted to go down to the workshop. So, all the men folk trooped downstairs and watched him explore the workshop, turning knobs on the radios, going through my box of coax connectors (bright, shiny things!), and doing typical little boy stuff. We look at our grandchildren so differently than how we looked at our own children. I suppose it should be obvious to us, but I still marvel at how different it is.

So we had all the relatives over today, and made some plans for the upcoming warmer weather. We're planning a "St. Paddy's Day Shootout" up at the ranch outside of Wellington, where #1 son got his backstop scooped and arranged last Fall. This is the backstop for his "100 yd" range, and he'll be building a longer one this summer. The "Long Range" is planned for at least 300 yds for now, but he has room to do 1000 yds safely. He's also been dragging tons (literally) of new and used 4" and 6" "Drill Pipe" to the dump as a "Clean It Out" contractor, and is going to find a new section for me, cut it to 12', and square the ends. Then we're going to make a flange that fits the base for my Shakespeare AT-2011 vertical, and weld it on. After the weather warms up we're going to sink 4' of the pipe in the back yard, back fill it with concrete, and I'll finally have a proper support structure to get my "Big Stick" vertical back on-the-air. Now I'm back to sourcing a suitable outdoor-rated "NEMA" box for my SGC 230 autocoupler.

And the weather service is predicting another 3"~5" of snow tonight, a retraction from the 5"~7" forecast earlier today, with a low of -4* Sunday night. The snowblower is back in the garage melting and draining, and the batteries are back on charge. I ran it for over 30 minutes today, and the little electronic "Gas Gauge" on each pack showed greater than 80%, so it appears that battery life is "As Advertised".

2330 here, very light snow, and I'm hitting the rack. Herding a bunch of 2 year olds around takes a bit out of you!

Friday, March 1, 2019

2330 Here Where It's 30* and Snowing

Not very hard, though. It started around 2100 and has tapered off (for now!) to just a few flakes, leaving about 1" of accumulation. My "Snow Gauge" is a 12" stainless steel scale attached to the glass top of the patio table. Not super precise, but better than no gauge at all.

The forecast says "Up to 3"" overnight, with more coming in all day Saturday with the possibility of another 3".

And Saturday night is expected to bring an additional 2" to 4".

March is historically the 'snowiest' month here, with an historical average of 12".

The Little Guy finally crashed out around 2115. He knows something's up, but he's not sure what. All the adults were playing with funny hats tonight, and he loved it.

Since his birthday is the same day as Dr. Suess, guess what theme the party has......



If you guessed:



YOU WIN!


I'm sure a splendid time will be had by all......