Friday, October 13, 2017

Post Irma Debrief

Irma affected me more than I know just yet.
First there was the lead up to the storm
Then it CAME.
Finally, was the aftermath.
I know now I'm not done processing it. There was a lot of stress.
It seemed almost immediately after Irma came Maria.
Maria,
Wow.
So  much destruction in Dominica and Puerto Rico.
Ham radio has been called upon to help.
I've been deeply moved by it, I admit. I got into ham radio, in part, to help others. I've worked special events where ham radio has played a role in helping others. Mostly I've used ham radio as an escape.
Today I am convicted.
I thought I was through with ham radio for a while, but I don't think I can be. They needed operators, and this time it couldn't be me. That's not right, it's not who I am.
So I'm coming back to the radio table, better this time. I'm going to focus on operating as efficiently as possible too. My plan is to initiate the following station improvements:
Operating Location:
1. Improve my station with the addition of a narrow filter for CW to cut out QRM/QRN
2. Provide for backup power with the addition of a high amp hour deep cycle battery.
I'm looking at several options Including Deep cycle marine batteries, Gel Cells, and LiFePO batteries.
3. Initiate a protocol for quickly deploying post disaster antennas that can operate independently of tree supports at frequencies that can support sustained in state communication.
4. Long Term: Rebuild the shack. Make it a place that's easy to operate. Right now, it has no AC, no Heat, and can be a pain to be in sometimes. Time to change that, eventually.
Ham Education:
1. Continue to plant the radio bug in my kids, see if they pick it up. I've got four, surely one of them wants to get "radio active"
2. Over the next six month learn more about simple to make gain antennas out of wire and ladderline.
I'm starting with a variation of the G5RV cut for 15 m, and a 20m loop.
3. Teach a local class of some sort in the next year, prepare others for their ham radio license.

I'm putting a reminder on my calendar to revisit this post in January.
We'll see how it goes.

Friday, September 8, 2017

That Last Minute Ham Radio Thing to Do...

...Before tropical storm force winds take down the antenna farm...
Yes, this is a Post about the W3EDP antenna.
In roughly 36 hours tropical storm force winds from Hurricane Irma will be affecting my area. I only have one HF antenna deployed right now, my W3EDP. I keep another one handy, just in case the first one gets damaged in the storm. If you find yourself wanting a quick antenna project to have ready to deploy "Just in Case", but find yourself working last minute, here's an idea.
1. Prep work: You'll need an antenna tuner with a "Balanced line" input. If you don't have one right now, you're not entirely hosed, just design your antenna carefully, use low power, and use the principle of tuning by maximum racket (The louder the static/noise you receive means your antenna is working more better). If you can cobble together a tank circuit to use to tune the antenna, all's the better!
2. Go to Radio Shack (if it exists in your area) , and buy a 100' roll of speaker wire. I prefer the 18 gauge stuff with clear insulation. Size doesn't matter at 100 watts or less, as long as you can create two legs by pulling the wire apart. It will also help if you can get some banana plugs, one red, one black (color not critical as long as you pay attention.) Also acquire some sort of string, fishing line, small rope, for deploying the antenna
3. Once home, take the speaker wire, and pull about 5" apart, tie an electricians knot. This is your input side to the tuner. The knot is not critical, but it can help keep the wire together. That might not be what you want to do, so after you build the antenna, you can untie the knot if you want.
4. From the point of the knot, measure 17' of speaker wire. The parallel strands of wire are usually marked, one side a solid color (or no color at all) and the other side has a stripe. Sometimes, this mark isn't done with color but with texture molded onto the insulation. The important thing is that you want to be able to tell one side from the other. Cut one strand of the speaker wire at 17'.
5. Continuing from the knot, measure 85' of speaker wire, and cut both sides. You now have one short leg, and one long leg with some extra wire attached. Pull the extra wire apart from the long leg of the antenna. Save it! Doing some math (85-17) You'll realize that you have about 68' of speaker wire now. After the crisis is over, you can play with that wire by building an End Fed Half Wave Antenna for 40m.
6. Improvise an end insulator for the long leg of the antenna. I prefer using buttons from old milsurp BDUs.
7. On the input side, strip the insulation off of both wires, about 2"-3" and attach the banana plugs (if you have them). Red on the long side, black on the short. If you don't have them, no worries, just remember that you want to attach the long side to the "Antenna" side of the tuner/transceiver, and the short side to the "Ground".
8. Deploy your antenna. I try to use at least two supports. How isn't important, just get it in the air, with as few bends and turns as possible!
9. Tune and enjoy. You may have better results pulling the short leg apart from the long.

One final warning:

DO NOT EXCEED 100 WATTS TRANSMITTED POWER WITH THIS ANTENNA WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

There are some funky voltages generated by this antenna at certain loads, so please be mindful. I'd suggest staying off of 30m entirely until you can play. The antenna works really well on 40 and 20. It's decent on 15, and poor to outstanding on 10. For 80m you will need to detach the short leg (black plug) and work the antenna against the station ground. This technique may also get you better results on 10m, especially in the technician class voice portion of the band (28.300-28.500).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Feather or Focus (Humpday Haiku)

Feather or Focus

Is consistency
humanity's greatest trait
or greatest weakness?

Perhaps it becomes
a useful crutch for coping.
We do what we must.

To master your life
you must have it or chaos
closes around you.

No consistency
is precarious floating,
on unstable breeze.

To master your life
you must also recognize
hunters follow paths.

Enemies know you
so you must become unknown
but not disgusting.

Have a good fortress.
You grow in quiet places.
Hear His soft whispers.

Fight in the chaos
Embrace inconsistency,
the sign you need growth.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fascinating Things about Regular Expressions and Oracle

I'm finally doing some programming in my role as a programmer at work. I'm a "Support Programmer" which means my bread and butter is correcting the data the "Programmer programmers" didn't get right the first time. Occasionally, I get to modify code, and recently I wrote something that added some functionality to a piece of existing code. To help validate my change, I had to create a query that would parse a log message, and aggregate some data so I could understand what got processed by the code I modified.
I learned the following important facts:

  • REGEXP_SUBSTR is a great Oracle function. There are some quirks with it that need to be considered, but all in all, I'm trying to always use it instead of SUBSTR. One of the limitations in REGEXP_SUBSTR is that for now, there's no support for look behind or look ahead functions. To work around this, I had to take a REGEXP_SUBSTR of my REGEXP_SUBSTR.
  • Pattern matching requires its own mindset. You must not only keep the end result of the pattern you want in your mind, but you must also consider what the pattern is on the way to becoming what you want.
  • TIMTOWTDI is a blessing and a curse. There may be more than one way to do it, but there can also be more than one way to almost do it. This can be dangerous.
As I continue to grow and develop as a programmer, I chase after "The Better Way". Because SQL has a well structured set of instructions, that better way is often subtle, and involves understanding things like profile optimizers, and indexed searches. Every day I respect, and like SQL more.

Monday, May 8, 2017

May News, Plans for the Summer

Here's a report on what's going on in my often scattered brain:
I'm learning to calm my soul: Thanks to Psalm 131. It's a short and deep scripture.

My eldest child turned 12 over the weekend, one year from now, I'll officially be an Old Man, ie, father of a teenager!

Old dogs can learn new tricks, I've learned a lot about using regular expressions in Oracle, and have a detailed post coming about that.

On the Ham radio front, I'm considering downsizing my shack significantly. The girls are more interested in birds than radios, and I'm ok with this. Keep your eyes posted for some items for sale to fund my binocular/spotting scope/camera needs.
There will be good deals to be had!

politics: Always always always remember: Poly: More than one. Tick: blood sucking disease bearing parasite.Don't let them rule you, instead trust in the rule of Christ.I'll have some more interesting thoughts about the role of Christ and the government later.

Bromeliads are amazing, and the T. simulata growing in the backyard named "Choo-choo cha-cha" is doing especially well! I'm this close to being done with an update on that.

Much of life is lived in a boomerang fashion, being that while it doesn't repeat itself, it does rhyme. Currently, I'm reading some of my old college textbooks, and gaining insight into scripture I don't think I could have possibly had when I was 19 or 20. It's amazing how some things improve with age!

Speaking of age, I turn 40 in October, you have been warned.

Over the summer I plan to go birding a lot. By a lot, I mean at least once a week. Doing anything regular is a crazy thing to accomplish. The eyes need to see green things, the heart needs to soar with our avian friends, and the brain needs to be occupied with sorting out the deeper connections humanity has on this planet.

little things in place x become big things in place y.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rebel Hill

Many Yankees came on that cold March night
Between thunder, rain, the late sleet and hail
Pickets taken! Courage fled at the sight
Hearts faltered, hands weakened, and men turned pale

So these wounded men with their wounded pride
Had in vain it seemed paid such a high price
No hope and no more would these Rebels ride
The noble cause, dead, it would not suffice

Almost released, a voice destroyed the plan
"That is the boss!" cried the newly freed man
The Captain now old, faces the hard truth
He's captured by those he fought for in youth

All that is left from history
Is the name his children bear
Where else he's been still a mystery
Buried in New Orleans somewhere


About:
I began writing this poem in the spring of 2014, as the sequi-centennial of my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather's death in a Union prisoner of war camp in New Orleans. He died there from "pneumonia", possibly a complication from injuries incurred during his capture. He was a Captain in the Militia of Rapides Parish. Specifically, he was training soldiers on how to use artillery when he was captured. As best as our family historians can tell, he was born in Canada, joined the US Army in Maine, saw some action during the Mexican American War where he received injuries, and an honorable discharge as a result. He was paid for his service in the US Army with a land grant in Rapides parish, near Alexandria, LA. When the civil war broke out, he would have been an older man, but his family was young. He was called into service by the Governor and given the duty of training Confederate troops and home guard in the use of artillery. When the Yankees captured him, a recently freed slave said that he was not an enlisted man, but rather was the captain of the local militia. He was then sent to the POW camp in New Orleans, where he died April 30, 1864. The location of his grave became part of Canal Street in New Orleans sometime in the early 20th century.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

He is Risen INDEED

Thoughts from this last Sunday:
The kids are in the other room getting Easter Baskets.
I love watching them get a "surprise". Little toys, some candy, it brings joy and helps you understand what Christ means when he said to have a "child like faith".
There's nothing happier than a 2 year old with chocolate.

Sunday service just blurs past me. The same two year old is now a handful. Scared of children's service because of the ever present threat of puppets. Never mind that last week I worked with her using a puppet, that she apparently now likes.
Sunday morning was too much.
After the kids time she goes to the two year olds' class. I caught 5-10 minutes of the sermon.

Eating at a church potluck with small children is a challenge.
And the two year old fears the Easter Bunny.

I'm home, processing the day, wondering:
Have I proclaimed that He is risen? Does anyone know what I believe?
The only direct proclamation I made all day was a single Facebook post (29 likes when I wrote this), quoting an angel at the tomb: "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"
Is this my only witness now? What else is needed?

The early Church used a sort of code, they would great each other with "He is Risen", and the person being addressed would respond: "He is Risen Indeed."
Let's think about what that means:
"He" -> Jesus, born in Bethlehem, son of Mary, son of Joseph (so it was thought), son of God, savior of the world
"is" -> currently, RIGHT NOW, verifiably.
"Risen" -> Once dead, now no longer. Resurrected, without death. Not merely a reanimated corpse zombie Jesus, as the godless mock, but alive with a spiritual body that's physically discernible, rationally observed.
"indeed" -> actually, observably, physically happened, "indeed" means "in deed". A real act. Witnessed by many.

Because He is Risen In Deed, I hope to obtain the same.