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