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.
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:


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.

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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

NAQCC CW Sprint Tonight!

I should participate, there's supposed to be prizes.
The kids will be going to bed....
I've got the gear ready to go....
One thing bothers me.
Logging. I lost my e-log due to a computer mishap (may be recoverable, idk yet), and it's keeping me behind at LOTW. I don't have a lot of QSOs to add over there, but I do have a few.
I have another logging program installed on my laptop right now, it uses some N1MM software.
Need to QRV...
info about the sprint/contest/prize:
Tomorrow night, April 11th ( The morning of April 12th for those of you not bothered by UTC conversions), will be the 150th NAQCC Monthly Sprint.  That's 12 and a half years of monthly NAQCC Sprints now - since the club was formed.  In honor of this momentous occasion, the leadership of the NAQCC has planned something special.
Info about NAQCC:
Will anyone be interested in trying to pick me out of the noise on 80m on 3579?
I'll fire up the NoGA Twin Tube 80, otherwise, I'll be QRV at the full QRP gallon (5w) using a Kenwood TS-140s.
My # 7276

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Some Notes about Phalaenopsis Orchids.

I like orchids, I love them, and the more I learn about them, the more I want to know about them. I'm not even prejudiced when it comes to what orchids I like. Right now, in my back yard, I'm creating a little bit of an orchid area. I'm slowly converting an old playhouse into an orchid greenhouse. This project is long running. I've been working on this conversion for over a year now. Let me tell you about the plants that live there.
Right now, I have three four Phalaenopsis orchids. This will be about the first two I got.
This one I gave to my wife for her birthday 2015, the blooms were a light green. It set a spike in 2016, but didn't bloom, so I cut the spike to allow the plant a year to rest and grow nice big healthy leaves. Of course, I then tried to kill it by setting it out in the sun too long one day, and one of the leaves got sunburned and fell off! There was also some damage done to another one of the leaves by a kid, so I cut that section off.

An earlier spike was killed while just barely budded out due to kid injury. Fortunately, it set a second spike. We didn't have green flowers in time for my wife's birthday, but there's a bloom now!
 I can't wait to see how the flowers on the rest of the spike turn out.

 In this picture, you can see more of the overall green tones of the flowers. That's one of the reasons why I chose to buy this orchid for my wife, the "Kelly green" factor :-)

Then there's the $2 big box store clearance special. I paid two bucks for this baby, and it was in horrid shape. The mix it was planted in was horrible, the leaves were really floppy and puckered, and the roots were rotted except for one. Truly a project plant! I decided to give raising it a shot though, so I changed mix, trimmed off the decayed roots gave it a good soak, and held on tight. It didn't take long to set new roots, and a new leaf. I was really surprised to see it even set off a couple of spikes in the winter. When spring arrived the spikes budded out and made flowers.

Totally worth the $2 and time I put into it.
 This is from April 2016. It's been a long row to hoe with this plant, but as it grows, I like the simple flowers it produces more and more.
Phalaenopsis in profile

These last couple of pictures are from this year! The blooms look wonderful.

It just keeps on giving too! This spike is starting to show some great flowers, even though the leaves got sunburned like the last one, the blooms look very good to me.

The two that started this round of orchid collecting for me, in bloom at the same time!

I have two more I need to get some good pictures of. One is a mini phal I got for our wedding anniversary, and the other came from my parents on their visit last August.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Every Day in Every Way"

I'm getting better and better.
These words come from a French pharmacist turned psychologist, Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie. According to him, by repeating this statement every day, you subconsciously influence behavior and produce positive change. I believe there is some power in believing in the positive, especially for the Christian. I'd go as far as to say this is Biblical, and commanded. It doesn't come from the rote repetition of words, but from how we practice sanctification. Sanctification is where our repentance turns to positivity, when the meaning behind our action turns from "in order to..." to "because of". We read this in the Bible:
2 Peter 1:3-11

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence,[b] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[c] and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities[d] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,[e] be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


  1. 2 Peter 1:3 Or by
  1. 2 Peter 1:3 Or virtue
  1. 2 Peter 1:5 Or excellence; twice in this verse
  1. 2 Peter 1:8 Greek these things; also verses 9, 10, 12
  1. 2 Peter 1:10 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

Our lives cannot be stagnant. Jesus Christ has given us the power we need to overcome the world. We must make effort every day, and in every way to get better and better. When we gather around the table, we're renewing the pledge to make our knowledge effective, and effective knowledge makes more Christians, and makes us better and better.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Brief Note for the New Year....

My next post will be about Bromeliads, I promise. I have 7 articles in a draft state, in various stages of completion. One I could schedule for release on a certain day (I might do that), but I think it still needs some work (it's a poem).

Some random Brandon thoughts:

Everyone talks about how horrible 2016 was, but 2016 for somebody somewhere started on January 1 2017. If you faced hardship last year, I promise you, someone this year needs your encouragement.

The old Indian saying about two wolves fighting inside you has some truth. I'm trying to feed the right wolf, but it's hard sometimes.

If you're a Christian, when someone tells you about their past, be ready to tell them about your future.

You can't live life without risking the possibility that something you choose today will make the life you live now impossible. I hope that won't stop you from making the right choice.

Radio things to note:
1. Antennas, I've got some lines over treebranches, but haven't deployed a new antenna yet. I need new support line. When I'm done, I'll have two new antlers deployed. An as yet undecided Ant for 80m (center fed with window line 100' minimum dipole, or end fed half wave?), and the 30-17 meter antenna I've been working on for a while.
2. Gathering parts for radios out of your junque box can be challenging when you seem to always be short a few capacitors. Anyone got a few NP0s laying around, say 1500pF?
3. I got a Baofeng GT-3 mark ii for Christmas, and the joy in operating it astounds me! First, it's easy to program with a cable. Second, my eyes are reopened to the world of local communications. You get to "meet" the other guys in your area that are chasing the same HF DX you are. One of these (or another baofeng like it) should be considered a gift to students who successfully complete a course. For a little bit of effort (programming in the right frequencies) a whole lot of joy could be opened to new hams.
4. Made my first QSO on Jan 1! N3HCN, Dave in MD, on 20m. Band was noisy. Had a short QSO then the kids started getting antsy. Also checked into the first Eagle Net on the NI4CE Repeater system at 8:30 using my new HT.