Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Lightbulb Came On When the Lightbulb Came On

Sitting on the floor with a battery, jumper wires with alligator clips, a small light bulb, she traces the circuit in the picture on the book. She'd seen me put the circuit together and now she wanted to do it herself.

It all started with a well intentioned mistake. She cares about making sure her mom and I understand when she's cleaning something up. Getting cooperation in picking up her room, or putting away toys is as big a challenge as it can be for any five year old, but sooner or later things start to click, and it begins to come automatically. In this case, she was very proud of the fact that she was taking the batteries out of their packaging and putting them in a smaller box.

Because I don't want the house to catch fire from a shorted battery, I had to explain why putting batteries in a box like this was a bad idea. A couple of years ago, I got a kit from Radio Shack that introduces kids to electricity, circuits, etc. She knew about this kit, and got it out to ask me how a battery works. For the next hour she discovered how batteries work, how motors work, how a lightbulb comes on, and that some parts only work in a circuit one way, and she even did Morse code with a piezo buzzer.

That brought us to the moment when she could do it all by herself, help the electricity make a loop so the battery could do some work.

She just had to hook the alligator clip to the bulb and...

The electricity in the battery made a loop and the light came on.
She of course couldn't wait to show Momma.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finding Obsolete Parts: Furthering This Idea of a STHR

In a recent Post, I put forward the idea of a Strategic Thru-Hole Reserve of parts commonly found in kits made in the mid 90s to today. There's been some good feedback about this, so the next step is to discuss what comes next. I envision a website where people go to share what they have and what they need. Let's say I need a 2SC2166. I should be able to search for the part, select a person with the part, and contact that person to make some sort of arrangement to acquire the part.
Sound about right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Operation Rock Garden Update

While I wait for #3 to bug me about her radio again, I'm working on my 10DE7 project.

Here's the skinny:
I took some parts that look like this:

and turned them into this:

and in the processed learned something about phasing.

Some project notes,
I did make the connection between taps 9 and 7 permanent, that is, soldered the wire in place. I made a short jumper with spades so I could experiment with places to put them on the taps. The first time, I soldered a jumper wire between pins 8 and 9, and didn't get the results I wanted. I thought for a minute that I had a bad transformer. I learned a couple of things in the process.

1. Autoranging digital VOMs can mess with your head. I kept getting jumpy measurements in the milivolt range, and it kept making me nervous. Verifying some readings with an analog meter really helped me settle down.
2. When dealing with AC transformers phasing matters. I should have realized from the schematic of the taps that the phasing a the bottom of one set of secondary taps would be out of phase with the top of the next set, but it took a little experimenting to figure that out.
3. When dealing with an unknown quantity, don't solder things down. I know better, but sometimes I don't do better.
4. Alligator clips for VOMs have their place.

I got to bed pretty late last night, so probably no shacktime tonight.

I have to think some more about plate voltages anyway.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Operation Rock Garden Phase One: Supplies!

I've decided to call my One Tube MOPA project "Operation Rock Garden." Because it is another project that involves a crystal controlled oscillator, I figured, why the heck not?

Phase one deals with power supplies. Not supply in this case, but supplies. There are three distinct voltages for this project, 2 different DC B+ voltages, and an AC filament voltage. Each one needs to be able to handle a certain amount of current as well. bBcause of this, I'll probably need a few solid state parts, like diodes and voltage regulators, for creating a rectifier circuit, or voltage doubler.

Step 1 of this phase is to light the filaments. To do this I need a circuit that can supply 9.7V at 600 milliamps. The easiest way to get there is to take the massive milsurp filament supply voltage I have, and series up the proper combination of taps to get as close to 9.7 as possible.

It came from a homebrew power supply for a Heathkit SB-102, and other than that, I don't know much about it, but I figure if I connect tap 8 to tap 9, and take my voltage from tap 7 and tap 11, I should have somewhere in the neighborhood of 9.45 Vrms, maybe a little more, because this primary is listed at 117 Vrms, and I'm around 120 consistently here.

Backside, showing taps.

I don't see this as an optimal solution, but it can handle the current, and the voltage should stay reasonably under the max. The supply has this lug sticking out of it.

The lug is behind taps 5 and 3. I think it's there so the core can be grounded, but I'm not sure the core needs to be grounded in the application I'm using it.

I will take advise in this matter.

Here's the plan for tonight when I get home from work:
1. Hook up the Transformer, ground (or not) the lug.
2. Construct tube base breadboard.
3. Go to bed. Light the sucker when I'm sure I have at least 9.4 Vrms, and after I've rested.

I'll be listening to 3579 KC while building, and the NoGA Twin Tube 80 will be standing by...

General concensus is that the lug can be grounded with no ill effects, and the filaments should be ok at that voltage.
We'll see if I can get 'er done tonight!

Monday, December 8, 2014


so the band was pretty well non-productive at 21-2200UTC yesterday. Noise floor way too high, and I couldn't hear anything over the whole CW section.
I tried calling CQ a few times, no spots.
I checked out the RBN for North American to North American Spots on 80m CW, and what was getting spotted seemed to be close in single hop (maybe) type contacts. Exactly what you'd expect when the Solar Conditions have the A index at 13, and the K is 4. RADIO BLACKOUT.
It was frustrating.
I did call CQ CBLA, and I did call CQ AWA, just don't think the propagation was there.
Maybe next time.
Fortunately, over night the conditions cleared up, and things could be shaping up for an interesting late evening on 3579. I can't guarantee I'll QRV, but now would be a good time:

Eastern U.S. Sector Infrared Enhancement 4
The map above is from, and seems to indicate that everything is moving off to the east, and the next system isn't off the west coast yet. I should be set for some contacts in the midwest, possibly the North East, if there's no snow/rain static.
Weather is supposed to cool down here. That's down to 50 tonight, and low 40s the rest of the week.
We shall see!
In the mean time, I have a regen to complete and a powesupply to ponder.
Hope somebody out there gets QRV tonight on 3579KC.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Our brothers in the AWA are undertaking a noble effort right now in the realm of retro-innovation.
They are currently using homebrew amateur radio gear patterned after homebrew circuits of the 1920s and 1930s in their "2014 Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party and W2ICE Special Event Station"
Link is here:

We're not worth any points for these guys, but I'm calling on all CBLA members to attempt contacts with these stations during the last two hours of the contest. Several CBLA members are participating and have expressed their willingness to QSY to 3579 KC for this event.
Our mission parameters:
1. Contact 1 (or more) AWA 1929 QSO Party stations on 3579.
2. Submit a log mentioning the CBLA.
3. QSO with other CBLA stations immediately after the QSO Party.

#003 out, happy hunting!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Strategic Thru-Hole Part Reserve

On twitter the other day, @imabug lamented the demise of a favored component

The ensuing discussion was great, and I began thinking about the last tweet I made in it:

I made it as an offhand glib remark, and reference to the strategic petroleum reserve created during the 70s, but there was also a little "Ha-ha only serious" going on too. It would be nice to have such a thing. It won't be long before @imabug needs that J310 and the box is dry, what if we had that reserve.

I think of it as a sort of social network with two lists, one of stuff you have available, one of stuff you need. The list of stuff you have available you don't use in projects, just store well. Trade as you need to on your own terms.

Hand Full of Parts 2.

Thursday, G asked me about building her radio as soon as I was up and drinking coffee.

"Wouldn't you rather run some errands with me instead?" I asked. I didn't want to push radio on her.

"Ok!" She just wanted to hang out. That's cool by me too.

After we returned, she wanted to play out back again, and she did so, my wife and I could hear her singing outside. I stepped outside to keep an eye on her more better. As I crossed the threshold of the door the question came again:

"Daddy, can we build my radio some more?"

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Uh huh!" she said, blonde hair bouncing as she ran to the shack.

We sat down and she informed me that she wanted to keep testing the capacitors while I stuffed holes and soldered. I laughed, and said "OK"
Things went well, and I invited her over to clip a lead or too. She liked that, I figured she would, since she loves cutting her own hair, why not give the radio a cut too!
The fun lasted about 20 minutes, and then G decided to practice casting with her Barbie fishing pole, so that's what we did next.
This radio has less than 20 parts, and it's already taken me longer than the SMK-1.
Something seems a bit more fun about it though.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hand Full of Parts...

One of the ideas I'd been toying with doing for the "Great American Teach In" involved breadboard building a regen live. I found a circuit in W1FB's design notebook, and began assembling the parts for it. I asked my daughter's teacher when the teach-in would be held, and she indicated that the new principal rescheduled it in the spring. I shelved the parts, thinking I would wait until winter to test the circuit out, I didn't want to rush.

The parts sat on my workbench tucked into a corner, out of the way, but not completely out of sight or out of mind.  I prewound the tank circuit on a pillbottle, and put the handfull of parts the radio needs inside it. All except a pot, and a couple of caps. I'm still debating what to do about the tuning cap. The circuit calls for a 100pf variable cap, and I have some orange trimmers that would work (max 70pf), if I left it on a quasi-fixed frequency, perhaps in the neighborhood of 3579 KHZ (wink wink). On Sunday, my five year old (call her G.) needed to play outside, and I decided to go out, and monitor her from my shack, perhaps snagging a QSO or two on one of the high bands. Here's what I saw when I walked into the shack:

had to take this in sideways

 I needed to tidy up a bit.
I did some tidying up and now my shack looks a lot better. Still needs work, but progress is progress. One of the things that popped up front was the little regen kit...

My big girls have shown some interest in what their Dad does in the weird looking, funny smelling shed in the back yard, and they frequently ask me for a "radio project". Usually, what that means is taking one of my old junker radios, and tapping various parts with screwdrivers. I'm cool with that most of the time, keeps them busy, and maybe one day this seed will grow into a desire to learn radio. The five year old has been showing interest too, and she popped in the shack while I was cleaning up.
"Can I have a radio?" she asks, normally, she gets the little Vectronics 80m Direct Conversion radio kit I got when I was single, lived in Atlanta, and wanted something to accompany my NoGANaut. The last time she "Fixed" it, she destroyed several components on the board that I would have liked to junk off of it.
"Baby girl, last time, you broke parts I can't fix."
"But I'm five now, and I'm not a baby, I want to build my own!"
I can argue with cute, and I can argue with logic, but when you combine cute and logic, what can I really do?
"Ok, come check this out,"
I took out the kit, showed her the parts, and we looked at the schematic:

 We began looking around for any of the parts that were missing in the kit. I'm still looking for a 1k pot, we found a 500 ohm pot, and I might try that, and if it doesn't work, we'll make something up as we go along.
Soon we had to get back inside and get our supper. Every day since then she's asked about "putting together her radio". Yesterday we started populating a board with some of the parts. We haven't 100% settled on a final box for this, probably do an altoids tin, because I've got about a million of them. 

We had to find some caps:

Searching for Unobtanium

 An ever elusive component, the 100pf NP0 capacitor foils every effort I make at homebrewing. I set G to searching them out from a jumble of leads and discs that comprised a baggie of "assorted capacitors" from RadioShack. There were NO 100pf caps in the whole thing. Fortunately, my SK Elmer, W3IRZ taught me that 3 33pf caps in parallel work very well for a 100pf cap.

learning by doing
When the task of sorting the caps got to a stopping point, G wanted to play with the DVM, she learned that a cap is "good" if the 1 shows up on the ohmmeter. She also learned about potentiometers, and how turning the knob makes them change value. After stuffing the board with a few resistors, the 2N4416, and the LM386, we called it a day.

She's already asked me about her radio once this morning, maybe we'll make time to learn about soldering!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lite Em UP! Setting up for a Totally Tubular Winter Ham Radio Experimentation

I'm building a single tube MOPA. Yes, the same one I seem to almost build every year. :-)
This year, however, I have a plan! When you have a plan, you can win!


The tube is a 10DE7, a higher heater voltage tube version of the 6DE7.
The circuit is a Crystal controlled Colpitts Oscillator. The only reason I'm doing this as a Xtal Colpitts is because I want my first foray into the world of tube design to be easy. I've built somebody else's tube Colpitts (The NoGA Twin Tube 80), so I figure that this will be a matter of scaling the design to the tube. Next I'll try a PTO Hartley. I've got the brass screw and nylon tube to wind a coil on for that!
I will handle this project in three phases:

1. design power supply. This tube has an interesting heater voltage requirement, so I have to solve that lil problem first. Also, need something that will give me around 300vdc for B+. I'm thinking voltage doubling circuit at first, just to see if I can do it. I'd use the same back to back radioshack 12.3v transformers to isolate the AC and then double the result. that should get me around 330v. I can drop voltage with a resistor if necessary. I want to QRV, not optimize right now.

2. Design the Oscillator and make it oscillate. I want to design the circuit in such a fashion that the compenents are accesable, but not dangerous. I'll socket the crystal somehow, and make sure all B+ voltages stay tucked away, shielded from wandering and little fingers. I want the board layout to be identical to the schematic layout, so I can understand how things are working, and I can tinker with values at will.

3. Design and build the final stage, including a way to remotely switch between receive and transmit. If I've done my calculating correctly, I should be able to get 3-4 watts out. High hopes? Yes. But we will do it as we are able.

Once QRV with this radio, I'll work on a receiver, probably something DC, and involving that Hartley oscillator. It will glow in the dark too, and will be used primarily with this transmitter.

Like I said, that's the plan!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Late Night Ruby Fun

Late Friday/Early Saturday morning, after the wife and kids found solace in sleep, I sat awake in a fevered pitch to patch my laptops and ruby install. I had to install the bash exploit patch, because security!

I also had to take a good stab at compiling the ruby TK library that comes with it.
No luck there though.

I had an adventure when I updated Ruby to Ruby 2.1.3. Basically, I deleted my whole ruby installation and recompiled from source. This left me with no ruby gems. Fortunately, because of my previous late night ruby thinking session, I had a list of gems. It's a slightly dated list, I'd installed the rubyXL gem a couple of night ago, but it is a good start.
I've automated gem installation before, using a simple script to install the gems from a list. I decided to create a couple of stand alone methods and a short script to 1. Create a list of gems currently installed on the system. 2. Install the list of gems (while determining if a gem has already been installed). 3. Determine if any gems in the list I have are missing without installing any new gems.

Objective 1 was easily accomplished. I took my one-liner from the other night and broke it down into a method using a "do... end" block.

I chose to do the method this way because I believe it makes the method more readable. Plus, the rest of the methods in the file are multiline by necessity and it echoes their format.

Objective 2 provided more of a challenge. The original script I wrote installed all the gems listed whether they were already installed or not. Sometimes one gem depends on another for installation, so it gets installed before a gem further up the list. You can still "install" the gem, even if it's already been installed as a dependency, but this adds to the time the script takes to execute. I decided that if I had already installed a gem, whether as a dependency or as part of a previous installation, then I didn't want to reinstall it.

That was a good enough place to stop for the night.
Some cautionary notes:
I'm doing this on Ubuntu 14.04, and you'll see a sudo in there. A unix purist might say that it would be better to su to the superuser and execute without the sudo. I got no problem with that. Understand what you are doing when you use sudo. I execute this script because I wrote it and I know what it says. Don' t do nothin' with sudo you don't understand. That's how things get borked fast.

Also, I don't check for the existence of the gemlist.txt file. I haven't needed that functionality so I haven't created it.

Last night when I got home from work, I watched a little tv while doing laundry,  and then remembered that I'd left my little script here hanging. I still needed a way to check and see if a gem was in the gemlist.txt file.

The hardest part about writing this script was figuring out how to get two arrays created and then subtracting them. For some reason split wasn't behaving as expected. I chalk it up to general tiredness.

At the bottom of this file, I stitched my methods together using an if else ladder.

Everything works!
I know that choice #2 isn't really doing what it says it does. If a gem is already installed on the system, but not in the gemlist file, then it's not on both lists, and it's not installed, nor is it placed in the gemlist file.

Also, I'm sure that there's a better way to do the menu. Perhaps using a hash or something.
One thing this file won't do is install gems that aren't in your install path. Currently I have one gem installed that's built from the gemspec in the gem itself.
One way around this would be to store the gemlist in a csv file or perhaps a spreadsheet, and carry the installation path in there.
Right now though, the file is useful.
I've saved it as a gist on github.

Maybe you can find it useful too!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Way to Commit Soldier!"

I'm not a soldier, but that is one of the funnier lines in Madagascar 3.

The pertinent quote begins about 35 seconds in, but this whole scene is what I would call "high comedy".

I do however, want to commit, especially when it comes to committing more code that is. For 13 of the last 14 days, I've made at least one commit to projects I'm working on under Github. I want better programming skills. I believe that the best way to become a better programmer is to read code every day, and write code every day. Sometimes, the code I write isn't very complicated. Saturday I restructured the way I had some test steps written in a code library that will serve as the math problem generation engine for an application I'm developing for my kids. It wasn't very complicated, didn't change the world, but my habits were shaped into a design where such a refactor becomes automatic in the next code library. Other projects I've been working on are an effort to track student reading habits that reports out to a spreadsheet, and a ruby gem that serves as a wrapper for the EBird API.
I'm practicing and learning several different things at once. In my own code libraries, I'm practicing how to develop using the  "Red, Green, Refactor" methodology of cucumber and RSpec. I'm also learning how to write tests that make sense for code libraries that already exist, and I'm learning how to upgrade a library with the latest implementation of that library's methods and objects.
In short, I'm having fun, lots of challenging fun. It's the sort of fun that leads to more and better opportunities for employment and personal development. Committing every day reminds me of what I love about programming, each solution to a program is a unique implementation of patterns, and I love those patterns. It's like the rotunda in Beethoven's works, not the same, but the same is there when he gets around to it. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes chapter 5:

  18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.  19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
 I hope your work helps you find enjoyment. I know what little bit of programming I do at work helps me enjoy my job. I know it encourages me to seek out further skill so I can advance and enjoy it even more. Committing code every day shows me the enjoyment of my toil, and I believe there's nothing better you can do than enjoy whatever it is you are doing.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Some Quick Late Night Ruby Fun

I should be asleep, but I'm not. Instead I'm up hacking around with ruby, taking some online classes, and generally having a good time.
In an effort to train myself in one discipline, I'm taking some online classes for ruby/ruby on rails/webdevelopment.

The kids and wife have all gone to bed, so I went through a course level about the ActiveSupport library, and started playing around in IRB with what I had learned. Eventually I found myself exercising one of my favorite ruby "koans" : writing a list of the gems I have installed on my computer into a text file. In the past I wrote this as a script that I would execute shortly before system updates or new ruby builds, so I can quickly install the ruby gems I use.

One of the things I've always wanted to do is "get it on one line" of ruby code. I started by executing the following in irb:

`gem list`

The backticks around gem list tell the interpreter "Go to your native environment (bash in this case) and execute the command gem list". The result is  a list of gems, including all the current versions installed, listed like so:

"twitter (5.11.0, 5.10.0, 5.9.0)\ntzinfo (1.2.2, 1.2.1, 1.1.0)\nuglifier (2.5.3, 2.5.1, 2.5.0)\nwatchr (0.7)\nxpath (2.0.0)\nyajl-ruby (1.2.1)\nzip (2.0.2)\n"

That's cool, but I don't necessarily need to know the versions. So the next step was to remove the versions from gems. I needed a regex and gsub to do that.

`gem list`.gsub(/\s[(].*[)]/, "")

this means, "Give me a string where we substitute everything in between two sets of parentheses including the parentheses and the space in front of the opening parenthesis, with an empty string."
That gave me something that looked like:


This gave me a single string of the list of gems installed. I then rediscovered how to open a file and properly write to the file. Several iterations of using do blocks later, I decide to go ahead and use the script below to write the file all in one line:"gemlist.txt", "w") {|file| file.write `gem list`.gsub(/\s[(].*[)]/, "")}
Now when I use a text editor to view gemlist.txt I see this:


And more importantly, I can use ruby to parse the file, and reload the gems I need to reinstall next time I build ruby!

The end!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Potentially Problematic Plants

True Story:
As a young confident college freshman, I made my first genuinely certifiably stupid mistake with plant identification. Pride was my downfall. I thought that since I'd studied nature from an early age, been a card carrying member of the Audubon Society since I was 9, that I was pretty well qualified to know what was what when it came to plants.

Yeah, not so much.

Turns out that the central Florida region  where I was going to college, sits on the border between subtropical and temperate climates. This means there is a staggering variety of plants. Plus, many times, plants themselves have a wide variety of appearances, for instance; check out all the different ways that "Virginia Snakeroot" can present itself in FL. I find it hard to believe that all of these plants are from the same species, but then again, don't we show the same sort of variety within the human species? Also you have look alike plants that are not related. Some more than others, especially when it comes to things like say, for instance, castor beans and marijuana.

There I was, innocent, trusting, confident and eager to prove myself, on the way back to my apartment from a shopping trip in St Cloud, when I caught a glimpse of a plant out of the corner of my eye: was that weed?
Murrrrwana, Mary Jane,  Cush, Endo, the Wacky Tobacky.
Growing on the side of the road.
So I thought.
I pulled off the side on highway 192 and backed up. I must confess, I don't have much experience with Cannabis, never have used the stuff, never grown it, and I generally avoid people who do. Rule #1 in my life is "Don't invite The Man into your life", and one of the quickest ways to invite the man into your life is to smoke something The Man says "Don't smoke".
I called the Osceola county sheriff non emergency line and they sent someone right over. I waited on the embankment where the Florida Turnpike crosses over highway 192. The deputy arrived, and I said "I think this is weed"
She says to me "It's not, it's castor bean"
Well that was embarrassing. 
Since then I've learned the clear difference between weed and castor bean.
Any time I find myself wondering, "what is it?" I immediately remember this incident from my college years, and the lesson I learned, take time to know what you see.
Recently, in my own back yard, I had a bit of identification drama while preparing the yard for mowing. Two of my children know the Stinging Nettle plant from experience, and along the back fence a plant grows, and it has a very suspicious appearance.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Urtica species, they are among the most useful and tasty plants to have around, I just wanted to make sure the kids knew what was what and where. I picked the grass and weeds from around the plant, being careful not to touch, then took a picture:
Note Stem hairs and on leave

top of the plant

over all plant structure.
The only picture I have of a local Urtica is very blurry, I didn't have the Canon to shoot it with so I used the potato camera on the phone. At the time, I had a kid who was crying because it stung her, so I just pointed, clicked, and then began first aid.

I decided that the best way to id this plant was to go ahead and let it sting me. After brushing against it, it was clear, no sting, no pain at all. What else could it be?
I picked the leaf and crushed it up, no noticable smell, but the closest thing I've seen that doesn't sting is lantana. I picked off a woody part of the plant, and aha! there's that lantana smell!
So it is lantana, probably planted by a mockingbird.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On That Night

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus ate with His Disciples.
On the night He was betrayed, He washed their feet.
He talked to them.
He scared them.
After giving them the cup and the loaf, he spoke some more to them.
John says that he told them very specifically the reason why they had no reason for fear:
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
He didn't tell them He was going away to cause them fear, He told them because He went to prepare a place for them. He didn't tell them that they would scatter at His arrest because He wanted to shame them. He wanted them to understand, Jesus came to do God's will, and God's will would be done. In the world we certainly have trouble.
Sin traps us.
We forget who we are.
People let us down.
We walk through the world, and sometimes it seems we are unforgivable because of what we've seen or done.
Sometimes it seems like the world wins every time evil wins. 
Take heart. Jesus overcomes this world, and through this gathering together to partake of the meal He gave us, we remind ourselves that Jesus always overcomes the world.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Definately Spartan, but a Sprint?

managed to QRV on 20m for the June Spartan Sprint.
I can hardly believe it!


Working nights is a pain for a lot of reasons, there's stress of not being home when my kids are  home, the stress of not being available for social activities, no time for radio when everyone else is doing things like sprints, or nets. There's stuff during the day too, and I do QRV when I can, but there's not the Spartan Sprints, or NAQCC sprints. There's pluses too, like how I don't have to send my kids to daycare, and the pay is good, and the company I work for is a good company to work for, I'm just looking for the sweetspot where I can have my cake, and eat it too.

Enough bellyaching, let's talk SP!

I took a lot of gear for this operation, too much really, I wanted to use my St Louis Vertical, and when I got to work, I realized that I was missing the jumper that goes from my tuner to my radio. Fortunately, I brought a couple of end fed antennas, and since I wanted to try 20m (20 had been good to me during the WPX contest at night), I decided to put up the homebrew end fed for 20m.
Setup went well, and baring any production issues, I eagerly awaited an opportunity to clock out for "electric lunch".

Close to 21:30 local time (01:30 UTC) I realized that production issues would prevent me from taking a full lunch, but that I needed a break, so I took 10 minutes to go outside for an "electric coffee break". I turned the SW-20 on, spun the dial, and best guessed where 14.060 is. I've got it pretty well pegged on this radio, and it wasn't long before I heard one VERY STRONG signal on 14MHz. It was W3KC, in MD running 5w! The end fed was mostly oriented on a slant, with the bottom end in the North West, and the top end in the South East. The far end was bent over a tree branch, so I don't know how I managed it, other than the antenna was mostly straight, ran to a fairly decent height, and had about a 30 degree pitch or so.
That was the only contact I managed. I did hear some TX station, WA5??? but couldn't grab him, QRN is fierce in the work parking lot.
I went back inside happy to make one QSO.
GB Hoyt

Sunday, May 25, 2014


More numbers.
Ham radio club members are obsessed with trading numbers with each other. Every club has numbers it seems, even some of the ones of who don't have dues or officers!
here's some of mine:
QRPARCI (the first number I ever got) 10774
Flying Pigs: 2359
SKCC: 6161
4SQRP: 473
QRP-L Zombie: 1059

and most recently:

the NAQCC : 7276, the number featured as the title of this blog.

On Wednesday night, May 21 (22 May 0200 UTC) I decided to get a lil QRV in an effort to practice my rapid radio deployment skills.
Here's a short video I made when I got to work:

I moved the vehicle once the parking lot cleared out some, and stretched my antenna up and across the parking lot. It was about 6 inches higher than my upstretched hand at the middle. 10-15 feet at the highest. Not exactly the best placement, but I know from experience that this height will get me a good match on 40m, so a tuner isn't necessary.  There's a decent number of QRP operators between FL and GA so I figured someone would hear me if I could hear them.

When I'm at work, I don't really have much time to operate. I get a 15 minute break and a 30 minute lunch break. During my 15min break, I worked like mad to get the antenna fully deployed, and then started calling CQ just to see if I could get a reverse beacon spot, and figure out where in the band I was transmitting. Lo and behold, after the second round of calling CQ, I get a station come back to me! It was Jim, W3GYM, just down the road in "The Villages" FL. We had a short QSO, then I had to head back inside to work.

I copied Jim! W3GYM.

About forty five minutes after my QSO with Jim, things at the work front slowed down enough so that I felt comfortable clocking out and taking a "lunch break". The action began when I plugged the radio in, and tuned up and down the band.

Knowing where you are with "The Killer Watt Radio" is an exercise is best-guestimation. I know that at the bottom of the tuning range, I'm around 7005 KHz, and the top, 7070KHz. I had plans on building a freq mite, still might, but not sure if I want to do that, or just do something with a digital display. I go back and forth. Probably should do a freq mite. When Dave retired the Small Wonder Labs business, he gave the design to the 4SQRP club and they gave me a number, so I should support them.

I tuned up the band, trying to guess where 7030 was, and then down the band, trying to guess the same. Finally, a lound "CQ NA" came on the air, and I worked K4BAI. He's not a stranger in my log, and it is always a pleasure to work him. I tuned around a little more, and heard some more CQ's, but QSB and QRN fought to keep me from catching the whole call. Finally, I copied N5GW, and added DX to the log. Hey, when your antenna is between 8 and 15 feet off the ground, outside of your home call area is DX! I tried to call CQ NA on a clear frequency between these two FB OP, but no luck, only two contacts for me. I took the antenna down and packed up my station when I clocked out to go home that night.

key on my leg, gettin' 'er done!

The important thing about this little excursion was not that I scored well, or that I have a new antenna to share about, or even that I now have all kinds of nice numbers to trade with other people. Happily I got on the air, and made some contacts. Didn't need to make many, just needed to have one.
Mission accomplished.
Now to find another club I can join who will give me a number that I can trade...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

40m is Open

Missed the Four Days in May again, but at least I played radio today some, may even it the band up again.
40m is open!
Started at about 9:30, worked a fella in North Carolina.
(BTW, did the run fer the bacon get cancelled? I missed the memo.)
then, turned on the dx, worked a couple that I've worked before, Peter HA8RM, and  Mauro I1MMR.
Setup is non-standard at the moment. I'm inside the house, running a line out the door, to my end fed half wave antenna. Still need to get out the W3EDP and string it up...
maybe Saturday at work.
Rig I'm running is "The Killer Watt Radio", it's an SW-40 in a custom aluminium case (I butchered something up from Radio Shack the way I wanted to), and a 10 turn pot.
I also modded the bandspread so that it would cover 7.005 to about 7.070 MHz, I can tell you that's about as far as the bandpass filter will take it. I get about 80% max power on the edges of the band because the bandpass filter wasn't designed for a 65KHz spread.
Rig is also battery powered inside, using some 7AH SLA I got from a guy on QRP-L
so yeah,
Ham radio wise, things are looking up!
Life is good.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Broke a Dry Spell

Just this morning, I broke a month long no QSO streak, contacted YU100CER. from their web page:

Radio Club Nikola Tesla YU1HQR Sabac commemorate the 100th anniversary of the famous battle on the mountain Cer 1914 which is located close to the city to 31 December 2014 will use the special callsign YU100CER in memory of the victims. By way of management and outcome, Cer Battle is a masterpiece of the art of war, and as a remarkable example of the transition from the strategic defense of their counterattacks, she is still studying at major military academies, including West Point and the U.S..

For this event special QSL cards will be printed.

So I've contacted the Nikola Tesla Radio club, cool beans!
they were working 15m pretty good, just inside the extra portion of the band at 21.020 MHz.
Also worked a stateside station: K1LGM, Joe in CT.
that was fun too.
all at 5w using the Kenwood TS-140 at 5 watts to my W3EDP antenna.
The youngest harmonic wanted to play outside so I got an opportunity to quickly tune up the radio. CQ's on 20m went unheeded by all except the Reverse Beacon Net. PROOF:

Been wondering what I'm going to write my annual W3EDP post about, and I think I might do it on exploits while portable.
Course, now I got to go have some exploits.
Maybe something RaDAR related?

been pretty active on Instagram (qrprat77) posting pics of flowers, wild edibles, and my growing Bhut Jolokia pepper plant.
homegrown pepper
 that's the raw image of the pepper, three are this size right now.

Been lots of bird activity in the yard lately too. Saw a northern mockingbird eating some lantana berries. and got to thinking. This particular lantana bush sits on my property line, half the bush grows on my side, the other half on the neighbor's. I'm willing to be that this bush is there because some Mockingbird planted it via its digestive tract.
Kid #4 continues to progress along nicely!

Next week I'm taking a test to get certified as somebody who knows something about Oracle SQL queries and using SQL Developer. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.

 That's all I got for now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Social Media Shuffle

lots of excitement in my house right now, so the blag suffers.
  • I've got a new baby on the way
  • I'm studying for an Oracle SQL certification
  • My ham shack is a mess
  • etc.
funny how life rearranges our priorities. I'd planned on building a single tube MOPA over the winter, now winter is gone. Every time I get something done on my to-do list, two more things are added.
one thing at a time
one day at a time
It's all I can handle...
so I could promise to be more interesting in the future, but in reality, if you were following me around right now, you'd realize my life is already pretty dadgum interesting.
I can say this,

ahhhh heck
I got nuthin'

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My Confession

Scripture commands us to examine ourselves before we partake the Lord's Supper. John writes in his epistle on specific thing I think can help us understand what examining ourselves means.
1 John 1:5-10 says
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

As I've matured being a Christian, I've learned something, it's very helpful to have someone you can talk to about the sins you still commit. I think from reading this scripture we can understand that this is what God intends. God does not want you to go it alone. Practicing this Scripture is hard though. We've come to have a negative association with 'confessing'. Let's put that to rest today. I'll go first.

I'm not going to drag out a bunch of dirty laundry, or brag on my sins or tell you about all the things I do that seem like a great idea at the time, even if I know it's not part of God's will. I will tell you about something about myself that bothers me though, and I wonder if you can relate. Jesus told a parable about dirt once, and how the quality of the dirt affected the soil. There was hard dirt where the seed could not even find a place to grow. Next was rocky dirt, and seed could sprout there, but it soon withered when the heat came on because the roots were shallow. Third was ground where weeds had taken over, and buried the good plant, choking it out. Finally there was good dirt, and a crop could be grown. Most days I wake up, and I know I'm option three. My dirt is loose, relatively rock free, but these weeds! I know exactly what Jesus is talking about when he says that the worries of this life choke out the word of God. Have you been there too? That's my confession. I worry about this life and it keeps me from stepping out on faith when I know that's what God wants me to do. These weeds didn't come about overnight, I've been a Christian for over twenty-five years now, I've had plenty of burns, marks, unrealized dreams, forgotten promises, missed opportunities. Fortunately, I also know the cure for these weeds.

The passage that we read together is part of one of my all time favorite chapters of the Bible. I want us to read the whole thing together before we take the Lord's Supper today because I'm tired of the weeds and I want to share with you how we can help pull the weeds out of each other's soil.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In the beginning of the book of 1 John we see the key to getting the weeds out of our life: we bear testimony to what has happened to us, and what we've seen God doing in the world. When we do that, We will be encouraged to make more happen, to bring forth more fruit, then we have more story to tell. We'll come back to this table prepared, not because we spoke a prayer asking God to forgive us, but because we remembered what God did this week, whether in our lives, or the lives of our neighbours. Let's pledge to God when we take the bread and cup today to tell the story of what He's doing in us!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wrecking Ball

What a great song!
Finally glad that it's gaining some notoriety and momentum as a hit.
Apparently it's become "meme"ish and I've seen a lot of people posting others things where so and so is on top of a wrecking ball, in reference to this song. So far I've seen Ron Jeremy, Goku, and even Miley Cyrus.

I remember the first time I heard the song.
It was fall, in Atlanta. The year was 2000, and I was happy to have a new Every Day Life album in my hand. I skated on worn rollerblades all across the neighborhood listening to this album using my g-shock'd Sony Discman. Out of college, on my own, free, and saving the world! The first time I listened to the album, I wrecked hard enough to give myself a scar I still bear on the inside of my right arm, near the elbow. road rash. I couldn't care less at the time. Girls dig scars, and at the time, I was without a girlfriend, and needed all the help I could get.

Now I'm married, have 3 kids, and this song is finally popular! Thanks EDL!

Too bad this one doesn't include the part where Tedd sings "Wrecking balls of the world, unite and take over".

I don't get the "people on wrecking balls aspect of the meme", and I certainly don't want to ever see Tedd Cookerly on top of a wrecking ball, but the song is awesome. Here is a video of Tedd doing something else awesome, even if by awesome I don't mean "Singing an Everyday Life Song"

Sunday, January 19, 2014


I've been stumped by many problems. I'm stumped most often when I attempt a solution to one problem, but have further issues arise because I didn't see that my solution could cause another problem on top of the one I already had! We have a problem with perspective. For some reason we think we can walk around doing things, willy nilly, with no thought as to what will happen next. Chop down some trees? Sure, no problem, there's hundreds of them! And then all at once, when the rains come and there's no trees to slow and adsorb the water, there's a flood, and a mudslide, and a horrible loss of life. Then in our grief, and our ignorance, and our pride, we blame God, calling such catastrophes "Acts of God" as if He's the one that chopped the trees down.

Perspective. We are missing perspective. There's no way for us to know how our actions will affect others just from our limited senses of observation.  Just look at the track record of the meteorologist! The Math behind the weather is well enough understood that we reasonably know beyond the shadow of a doubt that tomorrow will be Monday, and that is all. Fortunately, our scientists who study weather have enough humility to talk about weather in terms of percentages, and they know to be as vague as possible. God is not like that though.

The Bible tells us in Galatians Chapter four that God sent forth his Son in the "fullness of time" to be born of a woman, under the law so that He might redeem us so we could become the children of God. God has perspective. God's perspective allows Him to have a unique sense of timing. It is a modern fallacy to suppose that the miracles and wonderful things the Bible describes and predicts occurred one right after the other. The truth is, these things occurred within a short time frame, to a limited number of people, within the confines of limited space on the planet. These things were not common, or trivial. They had a purpose, and from God's perspective, they were working together to bring the world to a place ready to receive His Son. The world, when it received His Son, did what God knew it would do, reject Him. From God's perspective though, this was still part of the plan, promised from the very beginning, in Genesis Chapter 3. A crippling bruise to the heel of God's promised one brought a blow to the head of the serpent.

We gather today to acknowledge God's righteous timing. We submit ourselves to His perspective, and to acknowledge the covenant God struck with us through the body and Blood of Jesus. Let us take this body, and drink this blood to remember that from God's perfect perspective, we are His Children, and heirs to His kingdom.