Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Book: Soonish

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything.  Looks interesting.  Just released yesterday, and my copy's on the way.  Will post something after reading.  In the meantime... you can get some details over at the authors' promo page.  Yes, I'm sure it involves extensive cartoons, perhaps even humor.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hurricane Patterns

Here's a plot found over at Weather Underground's current discussion of Hurricane Ophelia (more on that in a minute):

If you have to squint, click to embiggen.  The original image is pretty large.

Ophelia is the one shown in red off the coast of Africa, but that's not what this post is about.  Look a the dark blue stripes that indicate repeatedly overlaid storm tracks, and where they tend to hit the U.S. mainland.  Mobile AL to Grand Isle LA are one of the major beam dumps here.  Apalachicola is on the eastern edge of this, but out of the main blast.  There's even a little clearing up around St. Marks.  (No, for you Southern Reach fans, it's not Area X.)  It's kind of nice to see this large-scale pattern plotted out with historical data.

Back to Hurricane Ophelia, it's going in on Ireland sometime in the next day or so.  That's pretty weird and I'm not sure what to say about it.  "Erin go board up."  ...?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Coffeeneuring Stop #1: Mockingbird Cafe

This madness had to start with the Mockingbird.  Here are the particulars:
1. where: Mockingbird Cafe, Bay St. Louis MS
2. date: 10/14/17
3. what: triple macchiato (the real kind)
4. ride details:  a nice September-ish day in mid-October; CX bike; more below
5. 4.4 miles round-trip
 (if you're wondering what all this is about, here's the intro page)

It's still a warm, damp day sandwiched between the hopefully last hurricane of summer and the first real cold front of fall.  After a lunch of spring rolls, it seemed like time for a cup of coffee and a catch-up with the local paper.  A casual ride there through the 4th Ward neighborhoods, then stopped by a friend's house (not in), and took the railroad yard gravel shortcut back.

An Interesting Travel Program

I sometime catch this on a New Orleans public radio station, early on Saturday mornings:

He goes to interesting lands, meets interesting people, and has interesting conversations with them.  Because it's so all-over-the-place, it defies further description.  Just go to the link, it'll take you straight to the show's archive page, and scroll down the places and topics covered.  You can download and listen from there.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Re-Review: Annihilation

Prior to seeing the upcoming movie in February, I had to re-read Annihilation.  If you'll recall from my first review, when I read it a couple of years ago I wasn't all that impressed.  On the second go-round however, it somehow worked better.  Maybe it was because I wasn't playing tourist in my old back yard, or maybe because I could get past the weirdness better to concentrate on the story.  Or maybe just diminished expectations, I dunno.  If all of that is too cryptic and you're still wondering what the book's about, just go read my original review.  Anyway, I'll probably go on and read at least the next book in the trilogy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What We Do on 2 Meters

Every Tuesday evening at 7 pm, the local ham club has a net on the W5SGL repeater.  Sometimes it goes for all of 15 minutes and we're done.  Other times it rolls for an hour and a half.  That's pretty much what happened last night.  For bonus points, the guy who was scheduled to call the net called me fifteen minutes ahead of time and asked if I could run things for the evening.  Sure.  But what would be the tech topic?  Well we just had Hurricane Nate, so I winged it with "What did you do for last weekend's hurricane, as it relates to ham radio?"

The net starts with a few general announcements (club meeting times, etc.), and then launches into a check-in portion.  We don't call a roll of members, we just call for check-ins in four blocks of letters, by the beginning letter of a ham's call sign suffix, i.e., A-G, H-M, N-T, and U-Z.  For example, my call is W4ZNG, so I'd answer in the last group called.  Similarly, W5ABC would answer in the first block.  Easy.  BTW, I just don't get the roll-call business some nets use.  Every time I've heard that method, only about one in five "callees" answers back to the net controller, and it turns into a slow-moving waste of time.  Back to the block-of-letters method, we usually have ten to twenty participants, so that's approximately five per block.  Doubles sometime happen, but they're only a minor inconvenience.  If they ever becomes a real problem we can subdivide further.  Like I said, easy.  Fast too.  We can knock out those fifteen check-ins in about a quarter the time of a similar net using a roll-call.  It keeps things upbeat and moving, leaving time for the fun parts.  Speaking of which...

Then on to the Tech Topic discussion.  Here, the net controller throws out a question or topic for discussion, maybe giving an opening pre-ramble on the matter.  Again, last night I used the recent Hurricane Nate as a springboard, asked "what did you do ham-wise relating to the storm?", briefly gave my story (took down antennas on Saturday, put up the hiking j-pole using zip-ties Sunday morning to quickly get on the air, then got the proper antennas back up by that afternoon), and turned it over to the crowd from there.  That's all it took, and we were off and running for the next hour-plus.  One guy who'd lost internet access during the storm asked about backup land-line connections or anything else that would work.  The consensus response after a 20 minute discussion was to use your smartphone's wifi hotspot, because the cell towers are now so up-armored and backup-powered in this post-Katrina era.  Then the same guy had an abraded coax cable that would be difficult to replace; how to test and weather seal it?  Antenna analyzer and goopy wire sealant of your choice.  Finally there was a question about how resistant to voltage dips the Yaesu FT-100 transceiver's microprocessor is.  It's an important question if you're going to be operating one off a car battery after a storm.  A reply came back from a guy who owns and operates five (five!) of them: FT-100's are pretty sensitive, but you can get a $30 power regulator off eBay that'll make all right with the world.

And with a brief sign-off, that was it for the night.  I'm not going to regularly blog about what happens on this net, but hopefully this'll give some idea for the non-hams about what goes on.  There are worse ways to spend a chunk of Tuesday evening.