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. .-.-.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Friday

At it again. Over night was quiet for us in the radio room. Much business was going all night as more evacuees came in from the Houston/Galveston area. At one point last night it was announced that anyone living in a one or two story home on Galveston Island should evacuate immediately or face certain death when Ike arrives. Galveston has a 17 foot high retaining wall across part of the island. It will not stop the waters. There is a forecast storm surge of 22-23 feet at land fall. Watching several different TV news and weather channels I'm getting a lot of info on the expected storm surge at both low tide and high tide. It is expected to cover a wide area up and down the coast of Texas. The highest will be from the eye and to the right of the eye over into Louisiana.

Radio-wise, our local traffic is still quiet, but the Texas Emergency Net on the amateur frequencies is becoming busy. It was declared as an emergency net earlier this morning. That means other Hams should stay away from casual contacts and keep the frequency open. We've checked in with the net and are listening.

As Ike draws near to the coast, some forms of business speed up, like getting those last few people out and into shelters, and other things slow down. One rule is to keep people from harm. That applies to emergency responders and support personnel as well as citizens. "Hunker-down," is the word. Several hours before Ike hits, weather and water conditions get bad enough for everyone to hunker-down and just wait. That time is spreading from the coasts around Houston/Galveston now. The only exception seems to be TV crews who will stand in 100mph winds to show views how bad it is.

We have visitors wander in from time-to-time. Some are other EOC folks who just want to see what we do and what we have in equipment. We also have official visitors from outside. Big political and business people who have influence to resources and funding for the EOC.. We put on a good face and provide explanations of who/what/how we do our job. We try to speak plain English and watch carefully for the "glazed-eye" look. When we see that we revert to grade school English because we've overloaded capacities of our visitors.

We remain in a "wait for it" condition. Shelters are filling up, services to them are being rendered. More later as things develop.

Update at Noon: On the local news it was announced that there are up to 1,000 more busses headed for San Antonio. If you figure 30 persons @ bus... whooo, thats a lot of people we will be hosting. Some of them may have to go elsewhere. We have just over 350 pets sheltered - PETA would be proud. OK, more later, maybe.

C U later. .-.-.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Thursday

5 o'clock came way too early this morning. Had to get up that early to shower grab breakfast and drive the 20ish miles from home to the EOC. Over night, or rather yesterday evening, several helicopters arrived and are staged ready for transport and search/rescue. There are several fixed-wing aircraft staged also. Also over night Ike seems to have veered more to the northwest and is forecast to strike somewhere close to Houston. If this happens, gears need shifting right now. All the folks that came from and are still coming from the Corpus Christi area may have to turn and head home. Problem is, if Ike goes further up coast, San Antonio will need all the room and resource available. The mid coast area has about half-million folks that could be effected. Now, if Ike goes into the Houston area, over five-million will be effected. Way more people will evacuate in all directions and at least half of them could come to San Antonio. Watching various TV channels like "The Weather Channel," and news channels, all are advising Houston area folks to move west and northwest. We are bracing for the influx. Expectations for the rush are looking at this afternoon and through the next days. Then, those who did not get out of the way will be transported in after Ike blows away. There is a mad scramble to prepare additional shelters with cots food supplies and all accouterments needed.

More later if we don't get too busy in the radio room. C U later. .-.-.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Wednesday

Well, the news is out. Everyone should know that hurricane Ike is headed for Texas. As an Amateur Radio operater, I have volunteered my services to the San Antonio Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and my ARES group who supply operaters for the EOC. We will be on duty 24/7 until Ike blows itself out. I'm pulling the 6am to 2pm shift all week. I have Sunday off and expect to come back on Monday and the rest of the week or until a "Stand-Down" is called.

Presently, there is little to do except check that all our radios are on and functioning. Later today, as more folks come in from Corpus Christi, we may have radio action. We help pass info out of shelters to the various agencies here. We also pass info back to the shelters from the EOC.

There was a short break from the Gustav huricane and the EOC never went completely down. Ike was already churning along out in the Alantic and so a skeleton crew was staffed in anticipation. Over the last several days a slow build-up has been going on all across South Texas and especially here at the EOC. We were called to action as of today. We don't yet have any Hams at shelters because there are no shelters open yet. Probably later today some of the other Hams will go out.

Early this morning, 6:30ish, FEMA gave a report that there were just over 20,000 cots and blankets here and being unloaded. Other agencies were also giving statis reports, but the 20,000 cots caught my ear.

I'm working with Bob Rodriguez, K5AUW. He's a couple of years younger than me, but been a Ham since he was a kid. Knows radios inside and out. Good guy. Part of our duties is working the HF radios. Presently we have two of them set for the South Texas Emergency Net, and the West Gulf ARES Net. We expect they will get real busy later in the week as Ike comes in and blows down other forms of communications.

As we go along I'll give out additional blogs. Expect the next tomorrow, unless something exceptional comes along later today.

UPDATE: Wednesday evening.

Spent the day at the EOC and watched as people started coming in from the Corpus Christi area, and various facilities and agencies started taking action to deal with the inflow. There is continuing concern for San Antonio. If Ike comes in and hits SA, we will have a lot, A LOT, of our own folks to care for. Many may have to be evacuated to "elsewhere." Elsewhere has no yet been defined (that I've heard anyway). But, I wanted to update you on things. Like, I left the EOC just after 2p and ran around buying bags of ice and stuffing the freezer with them. Also bought lots of bottled water. Already have plenty of caned goods and dry stuff for eating. A ton-o-candles for light (if/when the power goes away). Got the Jeep gased up and ready if I need to get through standing water. Then, at 5p I sat down at my radio at home and presently am monitoring the Emergency frequency we at ARES use in the EOC. The reason? While the two guys at the EOC at sharp and have good ears, they might get busy with other communications and miss something. I monitor and if needed, I pick up the slack, write it all down, call on phone or email to the EOC and pass the info to the two guys on official watch. The monitor acts as fall-back for message traffic. I'm on until about 10p or so, then it's off to bed and back to the EOC tomorrow morning at 6a. Workwork... workworkwork. More to follow tomorrow.

C U later. .-.-.

Monday, September 1, 2008


I'm a Ham (Amateur Radio Operator) and as such I'm occasionally called on to assist with communications when some sort of emergency or disaster occurs. Gustav is one such occasion. The San Antonio Emergency Operations Center was activated on Sunday morning and I was asked to assist by working the evening shift. The SAEOC consists of virtually all agencies that will have a need to provide assistance and coordination of services to those persons affected by an disaster or emergency. There is a building designed to house the operations. From there the various agencies talk directly with each other and then disseminate information to the individual agencies' employees providing services. The EOC has extensive communications capabilities. Many of the communications are interoperable, meaning they can talk to each other via radio, Internet, fax, and other electronic means of communicating. However, most of these systems are centralized and dependent on the equipment continuing to function. These systems are great for most situations and certainly fill the need for everyday use. Then comes a storm and electrical service is interrupted, communications towers are blown down, underground cabling is flooded, and the whole thing stops. That's when we Hams step forward and provide basic communications to keep emergency responders, well, responding. Our systems are not dependent on centralized sources of power or equipment. Our radios are individually owned and cared for. Our systems can be set up in the middle of a muddy field, under a tent and powered from batteries and/or small generators. We communicat with other Hams inside the area of need to pass info back and forth to agencies in crisis. We communicate with other Hams outside the area of concern to pass requests for supplies, equipment, and aid for the agencies in need. We also, as time allows, pass information on peoples' welfare. When you live in an area struck by a disaster or hurricane and can't get information out to loved ones living outside the area, we can pass basic information about your welfare to relatives and friends outside. When you live outside the area, we can pass requests for information into the area and hope someone can contact the people you are concerned about on a face-to-face basis, or find out where you've gone (shelter or hospital or where ever).

So, that's what I've been called to do. Volunteer Hams work shifts in twos and threes at the EOC ready and standing by to provide communications when all else fails. And, its not just when other systems fail. We also help by communicating during times of overload. An example: a shelter may be located at a school and there are limited numbers of phone lines available to call for supplies, keep track of who is there, how many are there, and what is needed to support them while they are there. We try to have a Ham standing by with the shelter directer. When phones get tied up, the shelter directer can turn to the Ham and through the Ham make request for any or all of the needed services. Since there are Hams at the EOC, the request comes in and is directed to the appropriate agency for response.

Yesterday evening I was there and it was quiet. Some evacuees had come in by buss and plane. As they were unloaded, counts of persons were made and shelters alerted. They were then taken to the shelters and their needs arranged. We even had pets come in with the evacuees. Pets are provided for as well. Among the pets was one chicken.

Now that the storm has come ashore, there may be more evacuees coming to San Antonio. If so, the EOC is on-duty and ready. AS part of the EOC, the Hams will be there. I'm scheduled to go back at 4pm for an eight hour shift. One note on the operations. It's designed to house a hundred or more people, and lots of electrical equipment. It has full facilities for restrooms, eating, and taking a short break from the action. It's designed to survive hurricanes and tornados. It's a big building. It also has a very efficient air conditioning system. In the great room it stays comfortable. We are in a small room with three air ducts in the ceiling. It gets cold in there. Today, I'm wearing warmer clothes than yesterday. By the time I left last night, I was shivering. Brrr.

C U later. .-.-.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Odd bits

As the title says, this is odd bits of thought and observation. First, school is starting soon and Grandma and my child sitting will soon be over except for the odd holiday during school. Just as well. I sometimes take my shortwave radio out to the other house to try to listen. Their house is soo noisy. All the lights are variable, and computer controlled. All the little rheostats in the light switches are uncontrolled radio broadcasters. Not strong in the sense of reaching across town, but within the house they all make so much noise it takes a strong signal to be heard. There is a lot of development, both homes and business on that side of town and a lot of traffic on roads not designed for the volume of traffic. Makes for stop and start driving which eats up gas. Our car - a hybrid - has a neat feature. When you stop at a light or stop sign, the engine stops. It stays shut down until you take your foot off the brake, then the engine starts and you drive off. Complicating the traffic on the narrow, two lane roads is the construction on both side as development progresses. Lots of construction traffic. Big dirt and gravel dump trucks coming and going. Lots of dirt and dust in the air. Occasional chunk of dirt or rock flying around from the trucks. And in the middle of all this mess, the roads are being redesigned and rebuilt. Now there is additional mess. Progress, ain't it wonderful.

The other morning as I towelled off from the shower, I noticed the the umpteenth time that I had a lot of forehead to dry off. It's not like I just discovered this. No shock to the system. I've been losing my hair for years. I still have some on top. There is maybe ten or twelve strands that get combed straight back. The sides are in great shape. I have that "Male Pattern Baldness" thing going on. My son was into full pattern when he was in his twenties. Now, rather than mess with it, he shaves his head. Of course that may also be style and fashion on his part.

Some rain is coming toward us as I write this. It comes from the northwest and should get here about an hour from now (midnight). I have taken the precaution of disconnecting all my radio antennas from the radios. If there is a lightening strike close by, it may help. If I take a strike directly on any one of my three antennas, there will be enough power to jump from the disconnected antenna lead-ins to the radios and fry everything. Still...

I'm "odds and bits" depleted. So its off to bed. One more child sitting this week - tomorrow - and the rest of the week is ours to do with as we please. Grandma will sleep in, and maybe go off to work to her semi-retired work position. Twice a week from whenever she gets there in mid morning to somewhere in mid afternoon, and then home. Me? I run off to book stores for free reading and a coffee. Or I'll monkey around with the radios. Or, run the Internet to see whats out there. OK, I'm off. C U later


Monday, August 4, 2008

On the Air

Well, I spent the better part of two days sorting out and setting up the radio station. I tried to follow plans and suggestions found in the ARRL Handbook. It shows how a station should be set up for best performance. As much as possible, I followed it and then sat back to admire. It doesn't look all that impressive - as compared to some Hams. Once it was all hooked up and everything in place it was time to give it a try. The evening and into the night of the second day I listened and hunted for someone to converse with. There are several "nets" found on the lower frequencies. and I listened to them carefully. One operating here in Texas was sounding strong, so I tried to jump in. Now, the jump in is usually welcomed if one follows custom and manners in doing it. One announces ones self by giving the call sign (in my case its KD5MSW) and waiting to be invited in. I made several calls with no response. I tried a couple more time and then two different Hams said they could hear someone trying, but the signal was not strong enough for them to get a good "copy." I was a little discouraged, but decided I needed to work on the antenna to get it "up to snuff." The next day I went out in the heat of the day and added additional wires and cleaned all the connections. That evening I listened again. The background level of noise from thunderstorms halfway around the world, electrical devices in my house and in the neighborhood and other stations a long way away almost covered the same group from the night before. Still, I listened and tried to jump in. No one heard me. I guess my little vertical antenna, ground mounted, was not putting out enough. I was supposed to be transmitting with the maximum power the radio is capable of, but maybe it wasn't getting all the way into the "ether's." Maybe what I was doing was "heating up the atmosphere." That means all I was doing was putting radio waves into the surrounding to no avail.

What I need at this point is for some knowledgeable and experienced Ham to come over with some test instruments and check out the antenna and radio. Make sure the radio is putting out, make sure the antenna cabling is not damaged and is passing the electrical energy, check to see if the antenna is defective and shorted in some way. Maybe it just my location. There are places on earth where radio signals seem to get lost. Sounds mysterious, but its really a case of local ore deposits, level above ground, surrounding buildings, and a lot of other variables. Maybe I'm just in one of those places. I hope not. If that's the case, I'll have to set up as a mobile operation. Not necessarily in a car, but able to take my station to the top of a hill, or open flat area away fro buildings and electrical noise. I'll up date at some time in the future on how it turns out. C U later


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Addictions and Other Ways to Spend Money

Yes folks, I have an addiction. Over time it changes - in that the addictive things changes. When I was a young man I was addicted to guns and knives. I acquired them and wanted more. Money, being always scarce, was a limiting factor that kept me from being institutionalised. Then I discovered motorcycles. I had several of them over the years. Rode all over the country. Fell down many times and have numerous scars to prove it. Old biker saying: "Only two kinds of bikers; those who have fallen, and those who will fall." That addiction came to an end when the wife could no longer sit in the saddle long enough to enjoy a nice ride. Next addiction was four-wheeling. Got a Jeep. Started "fixing" it up for better trail performance. When I switched addictions from four-wheeling, I'd put almost as much into "fixing" as I had paid for the Jeep to start with. I bought the Jeep new in '91. Switch was because wife had two back operations and the shape jolts and bounces were more than her back would tolerate. My next and continuing addiction was/is a Mazda Miata. Bought a used one and started "fixing" it too. Well, it drove ok, but with better suspension and body stiffing it would handle so much better. If I'm gonna drive it to a higher level of performance I needed a roll-bar and better brakes. Got 'em and it helps. Now, the problem is not enough power out of the engine. It's gonna take more of that scarce money.

Now, I've jumped into Amateur Radio and started building my radio station. I've already got about a thousand $$ in the set up. Money has slowed me down, but I've gotta have more radio.

See where this always leads. I'm like a lot of guys (it's not exclusively a guy thing) in that I want more, more, more. Over the years of my addiction there is no accounting of the total monies that have gone to supporting this most vile affliction. Vile or not, I love it. See, I still have guns and knives. I don't have motorcycles, but I do access to one. I still have the Jeep. I'm currently driving the Miata as both daily transportation and fun (addictive need) car.

Over the years my wife, AKA, finance officer, has helped me deal with the addiction. She has limited the money so I never fell to the addiction to utter ruin. Now, we are in our retied years and bills have been paid off - except for the house and her new car - so there is "disposable cash" available to me. So far she has let me use those monies for my addiction. Funny thing though... I'm so well trained to limit spending on these addictions, that I find it hard to spend in wild abandon. Still, now that I'm setting up my radio station, there are many thingies, devices, dealies, doo-dads that will be needed to improve and make the radio more powerful. I don't want to just talk to the world, I want to yell, I want to bounce it off the Moon, I want to equal the output of HAARP in Alaska. In time my friends, in time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Science vs. Creationism

The arguments rage on over at Dr. Phils' blog - http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/ - on scientific evidence and Creationism's supposed evidence of the origins of "Earth and Everything Therein." Dr. Phil is near-rabid about this topic. He presents many good points and sometimes seems to denigrate religion generally. I don't think this is his intent as so many of his loyal readers have religious beliefs varying from seeing no conflict between religion and science to the sharp divide between Creationists and their explanations of the origins of earth and the disparity of explanations presented by current scientific thinking and proof. These arguments take place a couple of times a week over at Dr. Phil's blog and it sometimes seems that he takes up the stick of science and stirs the mud of Creationism just to see what bubbles to the top. Most of the repliers, myself included, try for a reasoned reply supporting science, but allowing those with religious beliefs to write their piece without harassment. But some of the repliers (Creationists) resort to name calling and quoting other Creationists who quoted still other Creationists. Sort of like looking into two mirrors set facing each other where we see the same thing over and over with diminishing clarity and focus.

Dr. Phil, AKA, Bad Astronomer, AKA, the BA, is on the move today and will have a lot of reading to do when he settles in for the day. I hope he can find the time to stick his finger in the eye of some other fringe pseudo-science as well. We shouldn't spend all our thoughts on just those loony Creationists.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dolly came, Dolly went

In my last blog I wrote of being ready to do community service as a Ham. I was all prepared and waiting. Then... Well, while it did damage a lot of property and drive some folks from their homes. It was not the storm of the century, and the local Hams were not called to duty.

My brother lives in the Rio Grande Valley and had to endure many hours of storm wall. His location was just on the edge of the eye and it never came across his place. He was just inside all the top winds and rain. Even so, he suffered only a few lost shingles and water up into his yard. The power went off and he and his family had no power for 30 hours. Others in the area are still without power or ice. Ice has become the prime commodity, more valuable than money itself. He has suffered through several hurricanes and was not too concerned with this one, but at the last moment decided to get some supplies (food, batteries, etc). Now, its a little know fact, but when stocking up on food, some items are an absolute must. He got several cans of Spam/Treat, potted meat, and jerky. These are all survival foods for these instances. You make up a bunch of sandwiches with the potted meat, wrap them and place them in the back of the fridge. There, they will keep very well even if the power goes off. In fact, they'll keep so well that if you forget a few remaining sandwiches, they will be edible at least six months after.

My sister-in-law and father-in-law are there in the Valley also. He lost his wife a week before the hurricane to cancer and sister-in-law was down from "The Metroplex" to stay with him for a couple of days. She was supposed to fly home the day the hurricane hit. She checked today with the airline, but no flights yet. The local runways there have standing water and planes can't come or go. Maybe by Monday she'll get out. She has missed a couple of days work already and really can't go too long. Father-in-law lives out in the country so his getting power back may be way down on the list for the power company. They were out trying to find ice today with no luck. He takes insulin and needs to keep the med cool. He's in the same boat as many others in the Valley. Diabetes is high in the population down there. But, things will get better with time. The Valley can go another five or six years without a hurricane, or forever as far as the folks down there are concerned. It did bring us (folks in the San Antonio area) beneficial rains. We're still down about 6 inches for the year. Came close to breaking the drought, but not quite.

I seem to be rambling on about all this, so maybe now is a good time to stop. C U later.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Community Service

With hurricane Dolly churning along the coast and just now going ashore (07-23-08, 17:01UTC), I'm monitoring the local Emergency Coordinator radio frequency. The local EOC has a complete Amateur Radio station and it's being manned by volunteer Hams. The Hams activated the station early this morning and asked for other Hams to "sign in." At this time we are all on stand-by waiting word of how much involvement the San Antonio/Bexar Co. area will have. It depends on how much damage and recovery is needed as the hurricane goes further in land and spends it's self over the semi-desert of West Texas and Mexico. Since the hurricane never got to a Cat-3, our services may not be needed.

The services Hams provide in these situations is having Hams located at evacuation centers and hospitals to help pass information in and out of the EOC, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other groups supporting evacuees. Hams also stand-by at other key facilities like police and sheriffs' departments to assist if those departments' communications fail. That doesn't happen often, but Katrina showed everyone just how fragile emergency responders systems can be.

I've been monitoring all morning - from about 11:30UTC - and will continue until bed time this evening. Tomorrow may bring rain and thunder storms and maybe some evacuees from the Rio Grande Valley. Many folks down there live in sub-standard housing and it doesn't take much to put them on the street. If there is a lot of damage to the Valley, the local agencies there may have folks transported to us. So, I'll be listening closely for the next couple of day. If the call up comes, I'll go and do whatever is needed in the Ham-ish way.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Study pays off

I found a place to take the Amateur Radio upgrade test before this coming Saturday. One of the Hams gives tests almost every Thursday at his home. This was one of the Thursdays testing took place. I had been studying and taking practice tests all of last week and all of this week up until about 15:00 CDT today. Many of the practice tests I passed with only a few (2-3) missed questions. I must have over studied because I missed 6 questions. I know if I had a chance to go over the test I would see how I was confused on the answers and chose the wrong answer. I feel certain that I knew all the right answers, but read too fast, or put the X on the wrong multi-choice answer by mistake.

But, I did pass and now I'm able to use a much broader section of the radio spectrum set aside for Amateur Radio Hams. I'll hold this level for a few months and start study on the next level. Maybe by the first of the new year, I'll be upgraded again.

One of the problems with upgrading is the requisite expense of getting the proper radio equipment and antennas to use the broader spectrum. It's sort of like when I was 4XWheeling. No mater what you have in the way of equipment, there's always something else one could use, or even need to better one's abilities and do a little more. Well, as time and money allow, I'll get more and do more. For now it's getting the station up and running. That will take several days at the rate I work. It should time out just about to the time my new license arrives in the mail.

Keep listening, or rather reading at this spot on your dial, er, web site on your computer for more information. C U later. ._._.

Time Travel

I was directed to another blog today about how to deal with meeting your future self when he/she comes back from the future. This is based on the idea that we will discover how to travel back in time and have enough desire to visit ourselves. Why we would want to visit ourselves is not clear to me. There were times that I might have benefited from a word to the wise from my future self, but would I have listened?

Now, there are a lot of SciFi stories about time travel going to the future, and backward to the past. It makes for interesting reading and sometimes mind stimulating thought. You know, "what if..." Well, I may be wrong, but my thought is if time travel is developed in the future we would already know. Do we have any indication of future visitors? Not so anyone could tell. You might argue that there are singular instances in history that might be as a result of time travel. What about some of our early discoverers of things scientific? Some discoverers seem to have been, "out of their time." Not necessarily. The mistake people make from today's view is that our ancestors were borderline stupid. How could some of the things we invented long ago have just been discovered. We must have had help from some more advanced society. That's egocentric thinking at its grate-est (spelling intentional). We know more about the world and things generally now, but our brain power is the same now as it was several hundreds years ago. Indeed our brains have had the ability to think in critical ways and have unexpected moments of putting ideas together to come up with new ways of seeing things for a very long time. We weren't any more stupid then than we are now, just unlearned.

So, the argument that looking to our past to see the future influence of time travel won't hold. The greatest obstacle to figuring out time travel is being able to define and put quantifiable, real definitions on what time is. We don't know where time started, if indeed it did start. And, we don't know where time is going. Oh, we can see a direction it seems to be going, but there are questions of how fast time is moving and why only in one direction. There are questions like, does time progress at the same rate everywhere. Do humans perceive time the same as other living things? Does time speed up or slow down base on event or circumstance, or location? We don't know, and what's more, we don't know how to test any of these questions to find answers.

No, time travel as we have come to know it through SciFi stories will not happen, because it hasn't already happened in the future. So, don't worry about meeting your future self and getting the low-down on future events to make yourself rich. But, if I could just go into the future a couple of days, or have myself come back from a week in the future. I'd have a couple of winning Lotto numbers and walk into the future a rich individual. Too bad it ain't real.


During the summer, Grandma and I are child sitting for our two younger grand daughters. The other day it was just the older of the two and I. So, what does an old guy and a girl 9 years old do? She likes to play on-line games - some are violent and I don't think she should be playing, but it's her parents' decision. In order to try to get her away from the games, I offered to buy her a late breakfast and then go to a book store for some looking around. I've had some success in getting the other oldest grand daughter(14 yoa) to read, so I saw this as an opportunity to get this one into reading. It's not that she doesn't read. Most if her reading is connected with school and homework. No reading for pleasure. So, after a large breakfast (the grand daughters know how to get the most outta Grandpa), we went to Barnes and Noble. I directed her to the kids section and helped her look around. Initially, she wanted books with toys attached. I discouraged that and we continued to look. She finally settled on a book and a magazine. The mag was a "fan-zine" covering most of the teen stars on TV. It included pull-out posters. We got home and she started reading the magazine and looked into the book. So far, so good. I hope over the next several days she'll read the book instead of going on-line.

So, now we come to yesterday. Yesterday it was just me and the youngest (7 yoa). I thought I'd try the same thing with her. In fact, she insisted because her sister went with me the day before and, well, you know fair is fair. So, off we went to breakfast. She wanted Micky-D's and chose chicken nuggets for her breakfast. Then it was off to the book store. First thing she spotted was a toy, a bright, pink toy camera, attached to a book better suited to 3-4 year old kids. I tried to direct her away from it. We toured the entire kids' section and while she looked at many books, she went back to that one with the toy. I know there can be great differences in maturity and interests between kids just two years age different, so I didn't fight it. We got her the book and departed.

Today when I got here (we do the sitting at the kids' home), the youngest started "taking pictures" of me with her bright, pink toy camera. So, I guess I'll try another day.

I've encouraged all three grand daughters to read explaining that reading is so much better than watching TV or playing on-line games. With reading, I explain, the reader can make pictures in their head from their imagination. That's better than looking at a picture made from someone else's imagination. It's a hard sell, but I stay with it. Over time it may sink in. It seems to be working for the oldest grand daughter. Just a matter of maturity I guess. But, that's what grand parents are supposed to do. I'm in for grand parent teaching.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Study, study, study...

I've spent the last several days studying for an upgrade test of my Amateur Radio license. I have a book with additional information for the next level of license and a couple of sources on the Internet to practice the test after reading the material.

There's a lot to understand in the art and skill of being a radio operator. One has to know about rules and regulations of proper and legal operation. There is information on the electronics of radios. Knowing about computers and how they work - beyond turning them on and using installed programs. There's knowledge to be obtained on how radio energy propagates across the "ethers." One must know how radio energy can effect he human body and how much exposure is allowable. There's a lot of mathematics involved too. That's a weak point for me. Math, beyond basic life-skills, is a little more than I normally handle. It's good there are formulas and hand-held calculators. A lot of knowledge, but like most things in life, you don't need to know all of it all the time. A problem comes up, you go refresh yourself on that bit of knowledge and figure it out. Or, get help from a more knowledgeable Ham.

One of the neat things about Hams; most will help a fellow Ham in understanding and learning. Another neat thing about Hams is their willingness to help out their community in times of needs. I've written about this in an earlier blog, and even today with the fires consuming great gobs of California, Hams are helping pass vital and needed information from Emergency Control Centers to evacuation shelters. Hams have even provided complete communications for communities where EMS and police communications have failed. These instances of assistance are not meant to be anywhere close to permanent. They do fill in until regular services can be repaired and put back on line.

But, back to my studies. I've studied and practiced the test. I've been able to pass the practice test several times. So, on the 19th of the month, I'll go test and hopefully upgrade. Getting the higher certification will allow me to communicate across a broader range of frequencies. With the additional frequencies, I can communicate farther across the world and if called on to help in the community I'll have better skills.

So, I'll keep reading and practicing until the 19th. C U later. ._._.

Monday, July 7, 2008

News = Noise

When I was a kid I liked to watch the evening news. John Cameron Swazye was the top newscaster of the time and the Korean war was the leading news story. Over the years (many, many years) I've had a thing about watching the news. I'll watch one network for the evening news and another for the night news. And then there are all the 24/7s on satellite. How can a guy not get his fill? Still...

There is a problem though. When I was a young father with kids old enough to run, play, scream, wrestle and put themselves in front of the TV, it seemed always to happen at news time. My kids would be playing outside with the neighborhood kids, running and hollering and having good clean, and healthy fun. But, as the news came on they all had to run inside and continue their mayhem in front of me and my TV. Always frustrating, sometimes to the point of tearing my hair and gnashing my teeth in futile effort to clear the room of kids.

Today, Grandma and I were child-setting for our two younger grand daughters. They played all day QUIETLY around the house, or watched TV in the back of the house and were almost invisible. At 5:00 pm the local news came on and the girls came in from somewhere in the back to play horsey and piggy-back and squeal, and giggle and scream and thump around. I tried to shush them; to get them to leave the front and go to the back; to sit and read; to do anything quietly. I might as well have been trying to balance the National Budget. I could do neither. So, I sat watching bits and pieces of news stories and heard about every fifth word or so. The commercial breaks however, were both hear-able and watchable. Strange, that.

I've given this some critical thought. I conclude that there must be some as yet undiscovered mental ability of kids to subconsciously tell when the news is coming on and be drawn to it like a moth to a light. I may draw a lot of flak from other critical thinkers about this, but if any of them have kids they'll know I'm right. This may be another example of Murphy's Law, or at least a subsection and paragraph of Murphy.

On this occasion Grandma and I got away when their parents came home from work. I forgot to indicate we do the sitting at the parents house, not grandma's and mine. So, I got to see the 10 pm news without interruption or distraction. Doesn't fill the void, but better than nothing.

C U later. ._._.

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th Hoorah!

Gonna have some much needed showers this afternoon. Going out to daughter and son-in-law to hang out. Gonna burn some meat on the BBQ. May go on a Miata run with the Bluebonnet Miata Club later today. Not much else going on. C U later. ._._.
BTW, hope I don't end up like the cartton next to the picture.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Solar Power

Our sun provides light and heat, and energy in other forms not immediately recognized. For instance, winds: winds are a result of uneven heating of the surface of the earth which causes them. Another instance: oil and coal are produced by plant material growing, falling over and decaying in deep deposits that over long time periods turn into oil and coal. Where does the sun come in? Without the sun, plants would not grow. Rain is produced by water evaporating, condensing in the air and falling out of the sky. Rain water collects in rivers and lakes and oceans. Power is taken from falling or flowing water in the form of electricity or mechanical power. Sun light can be converted into electricity by photovoltaic panels. In fact, all power we use comes from the sun.

The sun does other things besides provide power. One of those things is it's effect on the upper atmosphere where various radio (that includes TV which is actually a form of radio) signals pass through. The photons from the sun strip electrons from gases, mostly oxygen causing ionization. Depending on where the ionized layer is, radio signals will either be bent back toward the earth or pass thought to outer space or be almost completely absorbed. There are several layers of ionization in the upper atmosphere, each with it's own effect on radio signals.

Over long periods of scientific study, it has been learned that sun spots seem to be responsible for some of the effects. The sun spots come and go in an eleven year cycle. Well, about eleven years, but not always. It can vary by a couple of years either side of eleven. Right now we are at the minimum or bottom of the cycle. That means that radio signals on some frequencies don't bend back to the earth very well and communication on those frequencies are scarce. When sunspots are active, with lots of daily numbers, those frequencies come alive with long range communication. In fact, on occasion a radio signal will bend back to the earth and reflect back to the ionized layer several times allowing the signal to go completely around the earth.

Amateur radio operators, "Hams," look forward to lots of sun spots. It allows them to talk all over the world to like minded hams. The predictions for the start of the new cycle, #24, keep getting adjusted a little. It was supposed to start about the start of this year, or maybe sometime in March, or maybe sometime in the middle of summer, or maybe even as late as next year. No one knows for sure. The sun does what the sun does and we can only forecast based on past experience. I occasionally look at the video from SOHO satellites positioned out at the L1 points. They keep an eye on the doings of the sun so we can see whats coming at us. Check'em out at: http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime/mpeg/

The video shows the sun from 06-07-08 to 07-01-08 as it rotates. About 1/2 way through you can see a little, tiny sun spot creep across the face of the sun, but it fades out before it get all the way across. Video courtesy of SOHO (EAS/NASA).

As I indicated, we are at the minimum. It is so minimum that we go several days with NO sun spots, then we'll see a miserly little sun spot that "evaporates" and we go several more days with out another sunspot. Hams are anxious for the cycle to pick up and get going. Come on sun!

C U later ._._.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Folow-up on Field Day

Well, it's over. Another Field Day done and put away. The setup takes as much as a whole day before start to get things into place. There are radio positions to determin and folding tables or picnic tables to locate and place. There the antennas to be strung between trees or poles, or where ever the ends of two wires can be attached. Then there is the power sources, usually portable generators, but sometimes batteries or solar panels. Generators need to be placed at a distance for safety and noise interference. Batteries and solar goes close to the radios. And then there's the food and cold drinks. Usually a BBQ is made up with pot-luck dishes brought, cakes and cookies and pies magically show up. Cold drinks - water and a variety of soft drinks - are iced down and set aside in large "Igloo" type coolers. A lot goes into this event. Yes, it's supposed to simulate an emergency, but since it's not, there's no need to be completely primitive.

At the end today, the take apart goes much faster. Most all of the food is gone, a few bottles of water are left, litter is picked up and disposed of, and all that's left is to take down antennas and disconnect radios. It goes much quicker than the set up.

One of the side benefits of participating in Field Day is the earning of points based on how many contacts are made. There is a weighted system of point earnings based on number of persons running a location, number of contacts per frequency used, distance of contact, and a couple of other ways to earn points. What does all this point earning get an individual or club. Nothing tangible, but bragging rights mean a lot to many of the participants. Being able to claim most points is a badge of honor. It lasts until next year, then everyone involved starts over.

However, some of the "Big Guns" always manage to get into the top rankings year after year. "Big Guns" are individuals or clubs who have extensive antennas, high power signal boosters, expensive radios, and a "go-for-the-throat" kind of attitude in making contacts. Some folks stay awake the whole time so they can stay on the radio. They eat sandwiches at the radio, take minimum potty breaks, and drink a lot of coffee. The two clubs I belong to are not Big Guns and have a relaxed attitude toward points. If they get points, fine. If not, oh-well, everyone had fun, and maybe learned something or polished their skills under less than perfect conditions.

So now we anticipate and plan for next year. We look over what went wrong and maybe how to prevent it next year. After all, this is a practice drill for a real emergency and things go wrong and ways to work around them are better found when it's not an emergency.

Well, I managed to stay out until about 01:00CDT. Late for me, but I got to both club locations and engage in a pleasant social intercourse with my fellow Hams. ._._.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Field Day

The annual amateur radio field day started at 13:00CDT this afternoon. It will run for 24 hours. During that time, many amateurs will make radio contacts with other amateurs world wide if conditions allow, in a simulation of an emergency. The idea is to see how well individuals and radio clubs can work without electrical power from the main grid, instead using batteries or portable generators, or even solar power. The antennas used are also set up as temporary devices. If there was an emergency in a local area amateurs can set up communications to areas unaffected and pass messages out and receive message back in assisting rescue efforts, law enforcement needs, first aid, and many other agencies providing support to citizens affected by the disaster.

Evidence of how effective amateurs are can be found in reports that came out of Katrina, the many on-going fires in California, floods in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and many, many other instances from the recent past and present. Amateurs have always been ready to assist their local communities in those desperate times. And now we are so much more dependent on computer operated systems of communications. From telephone companies and cell phones to law enforcement and local and state governments, all nearly grind to a halt when those systems fail. Amateurs with their radios and independent power can set up nearly anywhere and get vital info flowing to those needed agencies. And on top of all that, amateurs do it all for free.

So, I'm setting at home right now listening to the traffic on several frequencies. I have a couple of amateur radios since I'm a "Ham." My call sign is KD5MSW. Later today, I'll go out to one of the sites where a one of then clubs has set up and lend a hand at making contacts. I may wind up talking to someone in the next town, or across the state. If conditions are good, I may contact someone in Canada or Mexico, possibly somewhere in England or Europe.

When I go, I'll be sure to take plenty of water and bug spray. I'll stay late and try to stay awake while folks talk across the world all night. Time to grab a bit to eat and get ready. C U on the airwaves.

. _ . _ .

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jesus and the Dinosaurs

OK, so I'm out there in the net casting around for odd and unusual stuff. Here's what I found. Before I go any further, I want you to know that I tried to research it, a little anyhow, and this was found here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/bar-art/414998399/. Also take a look at http://logopolis.typepad.com/logopolis/2008/06/beginners-bible-coloring-book.html and PopRelics.com has a reference. Now, it seems to me to be a faked job of slamming religion, but with some of the fringe religionists out there...

Go to the flickr site and look at the picture and read the accompanying text. If this is real (the coloring book and the text) from someones church or group, it is the most veil and heinous of perversions of misinformation. I would think, and hope, that even the most serious of religious people would not accept this as "gospel." Surely the honest adult with at least a high school level of education would know that even by Creationists time lines for the world, that Jesus and dinosaurs did not co-exist. If Jesus did ride dinos, it would have been such a miracle that it would have appeared in several of the New Testament writings.

No, this is utterly laughable if it's intended to be a put-on. Not because of the comic content, but rather because of fact that some people might believe this. At the same time this is a most damnable piece of work for the fact that someone really might believe this. The ignorant among us will grasp onto any clap-trap put out by "religious" people. Note: "religious" people is meant to describe fringe people, money and power grubbers, flim-flam, itinerant, tent revival, ... descriptive words fail me.

This cartoon does bring out a couple of question. Let's suppose Jesus did ride some sort of dino. The type in the cartoon is some variety of raptor, presumably with a nasty habit of eating anything that moved. So, in order to effect control of such a beast, did Jesus use spurs? How about a saddle? If a saddle, was it a riding or roping saddle? Was it a fancy saddle or a rough and worn working saddle? Would he need to wear chaps? How about riding, or dogging boots? Could he break these critters to become working dinos? Oh, the questions abound, and no answers are forth coming.

Enough foolishness. I'm off to bed, perchance to dream of Jesus throwing a leg and riding out of the coral to round up some stray iguanodons. C U later.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

History Channel = Hot Air

Last night I was watching TV and a program on the History Channel came on. It was trying to present the argument that the Bermuda Triangle and a small Black Hole are the same. I watched for a short while and realised that the program was some of the wildest, unproven, unscientific, clap-trap I had ever seen. They showed a man who had made a "magnetic anomaly" detector who then went out on a boat into the Bermuda Triangle to look for those anomalies. Sure enough, his device went off. Now the appearance of the device looked like something a middle-school teen would put together from Radio Shack supplies. It was hokie with painted on, diminishing sized circles spiraling out from the top of it in a crop circle sort of way. It was at that point that I cut away to watch something more based on reality, like wrestling (no, I didn't really watch wrestling).

I've noticed that the History Channel is showing more programs that are fringe-thinking. It's bad enough that they have resorted to ghosts and spirits and those who would find them with night vision devices. But, there should be some standard for a channel presenting historical fact and recreations of historical events. For them to jump off the deep end like this is disgusting.

If this sort of TV programing continues from them - and it probably will - I'll resort to watching Sponge Bob cartoons. At least that is openly foolish and not pretending to be based on reality. Just my cut on this. C U later.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hydrogen = Hot Air?

My son stopped by earlier today, and we got into a discussion on fuel prices, gas, alternative energy sources, and it included a lot of BS. Not from me certainly, but...

He mentioned how he had seen a piece on TV about a guy who has developed a means of extracting hydrogen from water in amounts plentiful enough to supplement gasoline and thereby improving mileage from 10% all the way up to 100%. Big claims, that.

So, as is my way, I dived into the net to see what was out there. As it turns out, there are many varieties of hydro supplement out there. Most use an electrolysis method and then combining the resultant gases (hydrogen and oxygen) into the intake side of the engine to assist gasoline or diesel burn more cleanly and efficiently. Claims and proofs vary from lots of claims and no proofs, to modest claims and supposed proofs based on their testing.

I'm far from an expert and in fact in this case I can't even spell "expert" in connection with my name. But,... Many of the claims seem improbable to impossible. One thought that comes to my mind is, if these devices are so good, why aren't big name companies making and selling them? Why aren't some big "aftermarket" auto parts company testing and building these things. If the devices are so good, why aren't the auto manufactures putting them on the cars and trucks. Don't jump up and speak "that" word. Yeah, you know the word, "Conspiracy." If all this hydrogen stuff is so easy, why hasn't it been used years ago. Electrolysis has been known for a long time. In fact, it was discovered shortly after water and electricity were discovered. OK, maybe that was an exaggeration.

I'm just thinking a lot of this is flim-flam. People who rush out to buy this stuff are probably throwing their money away. Time will tell. When a reputable company comes out with the units for retrofit to existing cars and trucks, then I'll believe it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Perry O. Dollia

Pareidolia, the trick the mind plays on one that allows one to see faces or objects in things like clouds, stains on walls, etc. Many people see religious oriented pareidolia - the face of Mary, or the Christian Cross, or something that those people interpret as a sign from God. The ability to see pareidolia is common because the mind tries to fit unrecognisable or random visual stimuli into recognisable objects. Having a modicum of imagination helps too.

Well, the BA, Dr. Phil Plait, is an astronomer and widely spoke/written debunker of bad science and the edge of sanity thinkers. He has a web site: http://www.badastronomy.com/ where he has written several pieces on pareidolia. He has shown several examples of pareidolia.

I like to cruse the Internet for the odd and unusual. There is more than enough of it out there in web-land. So, this morning I was out in the net and found this cartoon. It is a spoof on the whole concept of religious pareidola and well stated. Herewith I stick it in the blog.

If you are offended by this, I suggest that you think about how Jesus would show his care for the world. It is unlikely that a grilled cheese, or a stain, or an oddly shapened plant, or any other unusual visual appearance would be the Blessed Virgin, or Jesus, or any message from God. More likely, you allow your mind to deceive you with improper recognition rather than seeing what it is in fact. Critical thinking is necessary in this life. Think people, think!

I need to make appoligies to all the readers. You see I used the cartoon thinking it was in public domain. It is not. The cartoon comes from the "Saturday Morning Breakfast Ceral" found at: http://www.smbc-comics.com/ It was my mistake to use another author's work without citing it and giving credit. I'll try to not let that happen again. And a thanks go to "josh" for pointing that out.

Friday, June 20, 2008


OK, so I've pulled your leg long enough. The world IS NOT shrinking. The world is of finite size. What happens is the Mid-Atlantic trench is spreading (as are some other smaller spreading trenches). The pace is in step with all the subduction going on. There are other subduction zones in addition to the Asian area. The reason there are not a lot of earthquakes is the spreading is a form of oozing that is slow and smooth for the most part. Imagine over filling a slice of bread with peanut butter and folding it over then squeezing it. The peanut butter oozes out at the edges. Notice it's a slow ooze. Notice also there was no peanut/bread quake while it oozed?

So, the earth is not shrinking. Good news, that. We are crowded as it is. If we don't stop over populating the world there will be no room anyway. We don't need "The Incredible Shrinking World" (a spoof on the titles of "50s-'60s scifi movies). Let's all take a deep breath and relax.

Shrinking World

Ok, I've noticed something. The world is shrinking. How do I know? I mentioned it in an earlier blog, about checking on earthquakes from this site: http://www.iris.edu/seismon/ a couple of times a day. The site shows where earthquakes 4.0 and bigger occur. The most active area is the Asian side of the "Ring of Fire." The name "Ring of Fire" comes from, in part, the earthquakes. Earthquakes also accompany volcanos, which produces the "fire" in the name.

Anyway, to get back to the shrinking. When you look at the display almost all of the earthquakes are on the Asian side. This is due to subduction. You know, where one tectonic plate is sliding under another plate. Well, when the one slides under the other, it melts and over time becomes magma. Some of it, very little of it, comes back up as volcanic spew. The rest just stays down sorta like those spicy BBQ ribs you ate and are now rumbling around in your belly.

Now, think about this. If one plate is sliding under another, and not coming back up, the world must be getting smaller. "Oh!", you say, "What about the Mid-Atlantic trench?" Well, there are almost no earthquakes from that area. Just think about this for a moment... If the trench is spreading, shouldn't there be earthquakes as the world splits open along the trench? You bet! But, NO! No such earthquakes are happening. Therefore, the world is shrinking. Someday in the far,far future, Japan will be an island just off the West Coast. Sorta like Catalina is now. People will take day trips to Japan for the Saki and sushi.

I can't wait.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What was I going to write...

I had a really good blog in mind and by the time I got logged in, it had disappeared. Well, like the subheading reads, rambles, may not make sense...

If I remember it later, I'll come back and post.


Global warming or not, South Texas can be very hot in the summer. Not as hot as Phoenix, but hot enough to keep me inside. Retired folks like me don't have to go out like poor working stiffs. Went out this mid-morning to do some chasing around - pricing new seat cover for my car, getting some new shirts, car wash, buying lotto tickets - and got back home before it really heated up. Now, at 20:48 Coordinated Universal Time (15:48CDT - 3:48PM) I'm sitting at my computer SWLing. Mid afternoons are a bitch for the lower freqs. A lot of man-made static from power lines, appliances, TVs, other computers - mine as well, and just general noise on the bands. Still, if one tunes around, one can almost always get Evangelical rants from well meaning, but greatly misled individuals who, I suspect really want our money and don't care about our souls.

One of the things I do about once a week on the sjortwave receiver is check with the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Time) time check to see how far off my computer and wrist watch have drifted. The computer has a NIST program that will update the internal clock at a key stroke. The wrist watch must be set manually. I find my watch, a SEIKO, "Railroad Approved" model will drift off about one (1) second a month. Damn and Blast! Why can't I find a watch, at a reasonable price, with better time keeping abilities than that. There are many things in life that upset me, one is a watch that won't keep accurate time. Still, this is the best watch I've had for keeping time, I just wish it were better.

Here's a tip. Next time you are out, buy a bottle of "SoBe" soft drink in the Pina Collida flavor. Don't drink it all, save some for when you get home and pour some Rum, or Vodka, or whatever into the remaining portion. Not bad for home made.

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

Friday, June 13, 2008

At the end of the day...

Coming up on 10pm CDT and news time. Spent the day child sitting my two younger granddaughters. Then went to a Japan Steak House for hot meal. Hot in the sense that the temp was up because of sitting next to a hot griddle. The wasabi was hot too. Good meal fixed by an Hispanic young man claiming to be from Syracuse, NY. Claimed he was Oriental, but no. He didn't sound like he was from NY either. Still, a good meal.

Tomorrow the daughter and the girls and husband take off for Disney World for the week. That means no child sitting. More time to run the "net."

Things happening all over. Big quake in Honshu, Japan (6.5), Celtics won last night, Mars dirt in the oven, the arrow of time presses forward, but may have not always done so. Pineapple based wine is tasty, chilled. Will sleep in tomorrow, maybe as late as 7am or even 7:30am.

News comes on in a minute. C U later.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Entanglement and Quantum Mechanics

A discussion over at http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/covers the concept of entangled quantum states. The effect is that if one photon of a pair of matched photons has a particular state (+ in our case), then the other half of the matched pair would also be a +. Now if they are separated by a great distance and the first one changes it's state to a - (minus sign) the other also changes to a - sign instantaneously. In other words they seem to communicate their state in spite of being separated at such long distances as to be invisible to each other. We're talking about astronomical distances out to the very edge of the universe. So then the idea comes up that because they know their state, and change together while being separated, they could be used to send coherent information. Now, because there is probability concerns involved, only the sender and receiver of the message would know by prearrangement how to read the message. See, you start out by sending the + and - states of the photons in a digital string. But to someone intercepting the message, they'd have to know what basic coding string was being used to decode the message. At this point the explanation of coded messaging goes off into another whole area of encryption theory and really doesn't have anything to do with the entanglement concept except that entanglement could be used to send encrypted messages. A message "in the clear" could also be sent without having to use any tricky encryption.

One idea that comes to mind for entangled messaging is to use it in computers. If you build a computer with entangled photons or any entangled pair of subatomic parts and change one of the pair, you change the other one. This would cut down on the time it takes to compute. One of the things slowing computers down is the physical length electrons have to travel to send computed + and - (1 or 0) in a digital string. Designers try to get around this by packing more and more CPU elements together in smaller pieces. There is a limit on manufactures' abilities to make things smaller. And we seem to be at about the limit with present ingredients and manufacturing techniques. So developing entangled states would speed things up and allow a tighter packing of computing circuits.

I have to stop now because things are not making much sense to me and I know it ain't making any sense to you either. So, I leave it at that.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Day...

Spent the day at my daughter and son-in-law's house child-sitting. The two little girls are out of school now and both parents work so grandma and I go over and hang out until the adults come home. The girls are easy to sit with, they are quiet, play video games, watch TV or swim in the backyard pool. Can't let them stay in the pool too long as they would turn into swiveled, sun-burned prunes.

So, I was away from the computer all day. Oh, I could have taken my laptop and gone on-line through their wifi, but I took a book instead. Reading "Empire from Ashes" by David Weber. It's classic SciFi. Lot's of action, technology, human interest, good guys against bad guys...
All that you could ask for in a SciFi story. And Not one bit of Fantasy. Fantasy is a humbug.

Anyway, because of the child-sitting, I'll be away from the computer a lot during the days - maybe three or four week days a week - so blogging will have to wait until the evening. Since this shows up on the site, it must be evening. Yep! C U later.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Blog

I've been watching earthquakes around the world for some time. I go to a web site (http://www.iris.edu/seismon/) which shows events in near real time. Since the original quake in China back on May 12th, there has been large aftershocks measuring at least 4.0 every day in the immediate area of the original shock. The people in the area must be in a continual state of fear that another large shock will hit and undo all the recovery going on.

I've also noticed that the government seems to be responding to the needs on the people in building temporary housing, and very quickly, if news stories are to be believed. It may not be fair to compare them to our FEMA, but their response seems to be at least as quick and possibly better organized than FEMA. The advantage they have over us is there is only one government to provide the aid. We on the other hand, have several layers of government to wade through to get the aid to the people. If government agencies from local to state to federal are not in line politically, slowdown is inevitable. In China any local resistance is overcome by the central government with threats of severe, individual action against the resister. Here, we have to play patty-cake with everyone to get things done. Even within the Fed there is bickering and back-biting for favorable position. While we may have a slower to respond government, I much prefer it to the oppressive central, single government in China.

Still, ya gotta feel of the people in the devastated area, and wonder when the aftershocks will stop. Brings an interesting question to mind. How long after an original quake are additional shocks considered aftershocks and not a new "original" quake. The answer is probably out there on the net, and I may look it up later. We'll see...

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Right now, 23:00 CDT, Saturday night, Discovery / Science Channel is showing a program on the LHC and giving lots of background info on how and why the things learned from the LHC will be important. It's speaking of the macroverse and the microverse. We will learn about the observable edge of the universe, at something like 13 billion light years. So far back that the early galaxies don't look as they do now. They're ill formed blobs rather than neat spirals and ellipticals. Later in the program we learn the LHC may help us see even further back toward the singular event, or the "Big Bang." How? The LHC will smash protons together at near-light speed velocities and with greater energy than has ever been produced before. Energies approaching what may have existed at the bang, or billionths of a second after the expansion began. It may be that we are one side of a multiverse that snaps back and forth We will go from a low, nearly zero entropy state at the start of the universe to a high, nearly smooth entropy state when the universe burns out and all the energy is evenly distributed across the entire space/time. Just guessing here, but then it may snap to the other side of an imaginary membrane and produce another singularity.

When you read this, if you know anything about this, you may think I know what I'm talking about. Nope, not even. But, I read a lot and watch Discovery/Science Channel a lot and I have a small understanding of what is going on in the research of these questions of origin. Pardon me now, but I'm gonna concentrate on the program.

The Afternoon...

Well, got two coats of paint on the front door and had rain showers all around, but not on the house - yet. Tomorrow, I'll go with one more coat of paint. The new paint is supposed to cover any color in two coats, but I guess my door was more powerful. The sunflower orange color I had on it shined right through on first coat and is still giving a tint to the new paint. So, one more coat in the morning. And, I didn't get paint all over me or the surrounding structure. Well, not too much.

So in awhile I shower and maybe take Grandma (wife) out for a drink. Sonic has good, flavor-added drinks, or maybe to Barnes & Nobles with the attached Starbucks. A cold, chocolate-ty, coffee drink would go down. Maybe more later...


Saturday morning and time to paint the front door. Weather forecast keeps trying to put rain - much needed rain - in the offing. If I sit on my arse and do not paint, it will not rain. If I paint, it will help bring rain. I'm torn between the two options. I need to paint the door as I mentioned in an earlier blog. And we certainly need the rain. We are now in the 6th worse drought in this part of Texas as counted from the start of '08. We had little rain in the fall season of '07 so the drought is compounded. On the other hand, if I paint and it rains, the yard will get much needed refreshment and the grass will grow. The lawn will green up and look nice and the wife will quit going on about watering the lawn. I just can't see wasting water on the lawn when we will be going into water rationing if the drought doesn't break. Plus, if the grass grows, it will need cutting. Guess who cuts the grass? OK, so the yard isn't very large. I can cut it in about 20 minutes, including edging and sweeping grass clippings off the sidewalk. The point here is my having to cut the grass. Waaaaaay back when I was a kid we had an old roter-bladed, push mower - the kind where the blades spin as a direct result of pushing the mower forward. Human power was what made it go and cut. I was the designated beast of burden to cut grass as a kid. As a result, I have a long abiding loathing of grass cutting. Oh, to be filthy rich and have yard people come in to tend that chore. I'd just as soon not have it rain so the grass will not grow. Wife thinks that's a horrible reason to extend a drought. Maybe so...

Well, it's coming up on 10AM, so I gues it's time to get up. Have to wash the door first. While that's drying, I'll find the paint pan and roller. I think I know where I left it. Hope everyone is happy with the new paint when it's finished. Catch ya later.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Digging Dirt

The Phoenix has a scoop-full of dirt and who knows what else ready to go into the oven. Hope they discover everything they think may be there, especially water. Salt may be involved in the dig too. Salt should be a common mineral found widely across the Universe. The trick is finding it in high concentrations like in dried up lake/ocean beds. That kind of find would argue strongly for liquid water in the surface at some time in the near to very distant past. It also might be an indicator of life not dissimilar to life in our oceans.

It would be neat to find gases cooking out of the dirt that only could come from life processes. Asking for to much maybe not, dreamers are good at dreaming. I'm one of the dreamers.

While all this robot exploration is good, if we had people on the surface they might find something overlooked by a machine. They would have considerable higher degree of independent action and ability to take advantage of serendipity. Imagine that the scoop on the Phoenix makes a few scrapes on the ground, uncovers a large rock and can scoop no more. Now imagine the human doing the same thing. What is the most likely action of the human. Scratch the rock loose to see what's under it. Maybe a fossil. Machine wouldn't know squat about that, but a human would. We need humans involved as quickly as possible in exploration anywhere we go. Machines are fine for first dig, so to speak, but humans have the brains and discretion to "go with the flow."

Politics and other bad words

Got back from a few chores. So, I looked in on the Bad Astronomy Blog ( go here: http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/) which I do several times a day. He is prolific in his writings and his topic coverage. The most recent blog from him spoke of polls and election outcomes. I, like many others leave replies. It's almost a compulsion to reply. Most often the reply is directed to him, but sometimes it is in response to others' replies.

I know I usually have time to sit in front of my computer and cast about for things Internet-ish because I'm retired. BA on the other hand, spends a lot of time in front of his computer and I wonder what he does for a living. Oh, I know he's an astronomer, but you can't do much research, or teaching to classes, or working with other of his learned peers while writing blogs and occasionally responding to them. Perhaps his wife has a well paying employment position and supports his endeavors. In any case - good work if you can get it.

Now, about the politics. He involves us all, bloggers and repliers, in his scientific knowledge as well as his political opinions. I don't always agree with him. In fact, he and I are at odds on many issues. That may be due to me being a curmudgeon while he's a young man of world travelled status. My hat's off to Dr. Phil Plait.

Guess I didn't have much to say about politics after all. Oh well...