Tuesday, November 4, 2008

HAMing it up again.

Over the last several weeks I've been putting together my "Go-Kit" for call-outs in times of distress and disaster. It involves having a couple of radios that can operate on battery power when necessary, extra radio goodies like connections, wire, tools, and antennas. One of the problems for going mobile or at a temporary site is having an antenna to hook to the radio. Most use some variety of magnetic mount antenna. That just applies to the roof, or trunk, or hood of a car or truck. It also can be taken indoors and put on the top of a metal file cabinet, or other metal box like an refrigerator.

It's also good to have an antenna mounted to the vehicle for both moving and stationary use. This can be the mag mount or one attached to the vehicle in an alternative way. I have both. The mag mount will be available for some inside work and while in motion. The other antenna is for stationary use on the vehicle. I've rigged an plastic tube on the tire rack of my Jeep. I can stick a "push-up" painter's pole into the tube to hold it upright. The push-up pole will extend to 12 feet. In the tube the pole tops about 16-17 feet. This will sometimes be necessary if I get in a low lying area. It helps to get the signal on a more "line-of-sight" to the other antenna/radio, where ever it may be.

I've put this together from a mobile antenna that I already had, bought an adapter to attach it to the pole, and of course I had to buy the pole and plastic tube, so I've got minimum dollars spent to get it ready. On 11-16, I'll be working a marathon at a check point. It will be a chance to see how well both antennas work.

As part of getting the go-kit ready, I had to program several frequencies into the radio. Now, I have a book describing the process and it is involved. The easier way is to get a computer program and adapter cable and put all the necessary frequencies into the program and then load it into the radio. This is what I've done. However, if I go out of my local area I'll have to put in other frequencies. For that I 'll take the book of instructions and do it manually.

Next comes next comes a personal go-kit. Clothes will be loaded at the time of need. Some items can be set up before hand. Rain gear, bug repellent, flashlights, food, water, sleeping equipment, all can be put together over a period of time. Most of this stuff is non-perishable, but the food will take some thought. MREs are available, as is sportsman's freeze dried food packets. Caned food is OK, and other stuff will be chosen for long shelf life and compactness. I'm not worried about hot food, I eat out of cans at home without benefit of heat anyway. I do have a single burner propane stove for heating water for instant coffee.

So, I've still got things to put together, but I got a little time. Baring some emergency out of the blue, it will be next spring before hurricane season when the need for go-kit becomes critical.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blogs, are they a complusion?

I don't go to blogs all over the Internet. Too much to read and so little that I'm interested in. Still, the Bad Astronomer, authored by Dr. Phil Plait - you can find him over at this location: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/ is almost addictive. He writes in clear and lucid prose and has hard core ideas on science.

Today he has written on Bender's Game. This is not science, but SciFi of a sort. For those of you not familiar with animated TV viewing, this is based on a collection of characters of odd appearance and actions. A lot of fun and slapstick comedy. It looks a lot like The Simpsons, also on TV. Now a lot of folks think that cartoons and animation is for kids. Not so! While a lot of TV cartoons are directed at kids, a few are really for adults(look to animated Manga as example). This particular cartoon has the silliness for kids, but the dialogue carries adult content. Not that it's x-rated, just deals in topic and referents that a kid would not understand. So, apparently a new movie of the cartoon is coming out, or is already out, whichever. I don't watch that particular cartoon program. I'm more a Simpsons and Sponge Bob Square Pants type. Well, I have grand daughters of an age who watch Sponge Bob and when they're over for the night or weekend, I watch a lot of Sponge Bob because they watch a lot of Sponge Bob. Truth told, I think Patrick Starfish is about the funniest and dumbest creature on earth. What makes him so funny to me is I know people like him. Some even sound like him sometimes.

And writing of the grand daughters, they will be over for tonight. Two of them have the day off from school tomorrow and the third has to go (different schools). I'll be getting up early to get the oldest off to school, like 5:30 getting up. She has to put on face and do hair and them we stop off for some sort of breakfast on the way. So, I guess I'll see a lot of Sponge Bob and maybe some Dora the Explorer and probably some of the living persons shows on Disney Channel. All a bunch of precocious, smart-arsed kids if you ask me. What? You didn't ask? Oh well. C U later.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oh, little toe, my little toe.

OK, so my last blog was about my kicking the wall and breaking my toe. The wife said I should go to the doctor. She said the doctor would x-ray it. She said the doctor would tape my toe to my foot so it would heal correctly. I said, "No!" Being a man's man, I propped my foot up and toughed it out. After a couple of days I was able to walk with mild discomfort, and great care. I found that walking on the inside of the foot kept the pressure off the little toe. A couple of days later the brusing went away. Now, my toe is still tender and I have to be careful not to squeeze it, of bump it, or put pressure on it, but it's much better now. I'm walking in an almost normal way and it bothers me only after walking a LOT.

So, yesterday I was feeling around on it to see how tender it still was. Not too bad, if I'm careful not to twist it. See, the toe has a distinct outward twist. Whereas it used to fit up against the next toe nice and flush, now it sticks out just a little and has this 1/4 twist to the outside. I also have a hard bump on the joint right at the foot. I may go through my remaing life the proud possessor of a twisted tarsal, a faulty flexor digitorum brevis. Oh, how proudly I'll display it one and all.

OK, so now you're caught up on the toe. With any luck, in a few years I'll kick something with that foot again and maybe put the toe right. I'm not going out of my way to try you understand, but with my luck...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Step this way...

Let's see... this is Wednesday so, I guess I kicked the wall on Monday afternoon. I was barefoot and stepping around my wife to enter the bathroom. I kicked the wall right at the door edge. Caught it with my little toe and "ring-finger"toe (?) on my right foot. Kicked it real hard. Wife heard a crack and of course I let out a string of expletives vile enough to turn an angle in to green slime. Hobbled to the couch and set there in pain. A little later I took some Tylenol and put an ice pack on the area. Things started turning red and the pain leveled off at barely tolerable. Toe was very sensitive to touch or pressure so instead of going to bed later, I tried sleeping on the couch with my foot propped up on a foot stool. The couch is really a reasonable place to sleep. I do it a lot while watching TV. Sometimes I'll wake early - 5:30 AM - and sit down on the couch to watch TV and "run the net." I usually fall asleep for another hour or so. The couch and I are friends in that way. So Monday night/Tuesday morning I was there until about 3AM and decided I'd try the bed. Well, it turned out that the sheet and cover were not much pressure on the toe and I managed to sleep late into the morning. Got up about 7:30AM and discovered the toe was now purple and swollen somewhat. Walking was uncomfortable so I sat around with my foot up on the foot stool all day.

Now, here we are on Wednesday afternoon and I'm able to walk around with considerable ease but with a lot of caution. I may try to put on my sandals to see how that feels. Hope I can. It will be necessary later in the week. Wife is going south to the Rio Grande Valley to visit her father over the weekend. I'll be home alone. I'll get hungry. I'll need to go out to some eatery at least once over the weekend. It wouldn't bother me to go into someplace with only one shoe, and one bare foot, but places have rules about bare footed customers. And, the toe is not ugly but sorta odd looking. My toe is purple and twisted out a little. I don't know if the twist is from the swelling or maybe dislocated/broken toe. Time will tell I guess. If it all goes back into place like it was - laying flat against the other toe - then no problem. With my luck it will stay twisted out and be uncomfortable to walk and wear sandals (won't even think about shoes) for a long time. Oh well, lesson learned here: wear protective footwear all the time, or quit walking. If there is more sad tale to tell on this, I'll update.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hurricane Ike - After Effects

It came, it went. Now the clean up and repair starts. Many will be out of home and needful things for some time into the future. Electrical power is slowly coming back to Houston. Galveston is such a shambles, no one is getting in except law enforcement and clean up people. A task that is overwhelming.

As we at the Bexar County ARES stood down from the EOC, some of our crew packed up to travel to Houston and in the immediate areas to assist with communications. Most of them will be posted at PODs. Points Of Distribution. The basic things of lift are being handed out. Food, ice, toiletries, clothing. Our folks along with Hams from other unaffected areas pass info back and forth about resupply. Keeping the basics of lift supplied at the PODs is a full time job. There are so many in need and long lines form up early each morning.

Our folks expect to spend about 5-7 days there and hopeful, be replaced by more folks from our area. Living can be primitive. We understand there is shelter (no other description) and food (MREs) available for our folks, but showers may not be available. I can't speak for others, but if I don't shower every day, about the third day I don't want to be close to me. I can imagine what it would be like for other folks having to work close to me.

If there is still a need by the second week of Oct., I'll probably make the trip too. Hams who are properly equipped are the only ones going. I'm in the process of gather the proper equipment. One thing needed is an independent means of powering the radios. Deep cycle batteries work just fine. Getting two or three of them, charging them up, packing them in some sort of rolling luggage rack, finding room for one or two radios, tools, bits and pieces takes time when starting from zero. I'm getting there, but it's expensive. However, if I go it will all be worth it. And, if/when there is a next time, I'll be ready.

OK, that's it for now. C U later. .-.-.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Monday

Hurricane Ike, now just a lot of rain streaming across the New England countryside, is all but over. Here at the EOC, the people movers, the search/rescue folks are all working at taking increasing numbers of evacuees out of the Galveston/Houston area and placing them in shelters here and the Metroplex area. Our part, the ARES Hams will stand-down at 6am tomorrow. We remain on stand-by for call out to travel to the disaster area. Several local Hams have volunteered to make the trip if called upon. I don't have the necessary "Go Kit" to be of any assistance. I've talked to several Hams having Go Kits and have some ideas on what I'll need. Among items needed are a radio capable of receiving on one frequency and transmitting it on another frequency. To go along with that, I'll need a couple of deep discharge batteries, battery charges (one store bought, the other hand made), and a bunch of odds and ends of wire, connectors, tools, electrical tape, etc. I can spend as much on this as I want, or as the wife says, as little as needed to get by. She has agreed to this as long as I don't do it all at once. I figure I can get set up for about $600.

We have not provided a lot of communications other than checking in with various other ARES groups across the state and with local Hams to insure everything worked and everyone was available and listening. So, form our point of view this has been an almost non-event. I know that may sound cold and callus considering the death (20 I've heard of so far) and destruction (already several billion and counting). I certainly feel for all those who have lost so much and have been displaced. I hope they all get home soon.

Unless something extraordinary happens this will be the last on Ike. BTW, you may wonder what happened to Sunday's blog. I was off Sunday and did as little as possible. Got up late (7:30 a) took wife to breakfast, vegetated the remainder. C U later


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Saturday

Ike came in last night. Came across Galveston and right up I45 to Houston. As I write this there are over 4 millions of people without electricity. Word is that it may take several weeks to get everything fully restored. News media are in a frenzy showing destruction. The expected wall of water that was going to wipe Galveston Island clean, did not happen. There was water to be sure, but not as high as forecast. Upon daylight various responding agencies and the openly curious came out and started looking around. It has been said on the media that this will be the largest search and rescue Texas has ever had. Military, state, and private flying resources from all over the US are staged and ready as soon as the winds are down enough for them to operate. Boats and high-lift vehicles (trucks on big wheels, etc) are ready to go. Everyone is waiting for the word.

Locally, all efforts are directed to caring for the evacuees and getting them ready to go home when it's safe to do so. It could be in a day or two, or in a week or two. Just depends on how badly things were torn up. In the ARES radio room, there has been only local traffic of Hams checking in to see what if anything has been needed from them. The Red Cross is taking care of all the shelters and weather conditions here have been good all through the Ike event. Red Cross has their own communications set up this time and all normal telephone and Internet services are available. We remain on alert in stand-by if we are needed. We are needed in the areas affected and a call has been put out for any Ham available to go to Lufkin, TX, tomorrow for ?long to assist with shelter communications and possibly responder communications damaged by Ike. There may be additional requests for other areas east of Houston and in the Galveston area. The State EOC may put out a call state wide for Hams to assist. Many hams from all over will give their time and use their equipment to give service.

I'm off tomorrow and will be back in the radio room on Monday and every day thereafter until we are told to stand down. If more stuff needs to be put in today, I'll update. Keep watching.

C U later. .-.-.