Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Happy Summer Solstice!

Is it the solstice already?  Yeah, guess so.  Here's a pic of a unique sundial, from over at APOD:

Holy cats, it must've taken some serious CAD work to get the shadows and light to line up like this.

ps: it's also Hike Naked Day, at least in some parts of Colorado.  Don't forget the sunscreen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Eclipse Mid-Day, Monday Aug 21, 2017

Here's the expected total eclipse path:

Of course, there'll be plenty to see across most of the CONUS even if you're not in the direct path.  Here's a simulator showing what you can expect to see, given your zip code.  Dig around at that web site, theres a lot of good info there.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Silca Bike Pumps – the news is better

Specifically, 48% better.  After December-before-last's post about the $450(!) bike pump, it looks like Silca has heard the mockery from Fly-Over Country and come out with a more reasonably(?) priced $235 model.

To be fair, this is a big step in the right direction and it really does look like a darned nice pump.  Is it worth it?  Only you can decide.  For me, it's, but I'd still go shopping eBay for a decent used one.

Hey, at least it's serviceable and you can get parts.

ps: bonus post at PM – an introduction to gravel biking.  Not nearly as terrifying as the author makes it out to be, and far, far less terrifying than most traffic riding.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Florida Trail Article

Over at the Tallahassee Democrat:

Some text, lots of pictures, and if you turn your ad blockers off, there's an interesting 10 minute video.  (Don't worry, you won't have to install Adobe Flash yet again.)

I'm gearing up for at least the northern part, but in no particular hurry.  First off, this is no place to be during the summer, nor during deer season.  After that, I've got lots of practicing to do on the far shorter and far closer Tuxachanie Trail.  So file this one under "we'll see," "real soon now," and "working on that one."

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Innovation vs. Regulation & Outdated Management

NPR ponders the question "Why didn't Silicon Valley happen in New Jersey?" and actually stumbles across some of the answers.  But they quickly pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Of Lemons and Lemonade

With the mountain bike stuck in the shop for some unspecified period while the rear shock is sent off for factory service, and the weather finally clearing enough to go mountain biking without scuba gear, there's an obvious problem.  But I'd been wanting to take the CX bike to the woods again for a while now, so off we went this morning.

Overall a good time, if not a lot of miles.  That thing is a handful to handle when the trail turns sandy.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

This Day in Awesome

Stumbled across a new-ish blog recently, This Day in Aviation – Important Dates in Aviation History, and I must say that it is an entertaining and enlightening daily ride.  For example, just up for today June 8th:

First X-15 drop test (1959):

and the infamous XB-70 photo shoot & subsequent crash (1966):

And there's something just about this amazing posted every single day.  You might consider making it a daily visit of your own.  Certainly one more good reason to get out of bed in the morning.

A 4WD Mustang?

Sure, it sounds good to me.  Evidently it was part of an experimental development effort that ultimately lead to nothing.  Read all about it over at Fox.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SSTV: It's Getting There

Rainy weekend, so it's time to play with radio hardware – and curse at linux software, all relating to slow-scan TV (SSTV).  At least the software is free.  Note that this is not "TV-TV" as in moving pictures and all that, but more akin to faxing color still photos over high frequency radio waves very long distances.  Sending moving pictures (boy, does that phrase sound old-timey) takes a lot of bandwidth, about 5MHz.  Sending these low-res stills takes less, about 3KHz.  That's more than a thousand times less, and about the same as voice communications.  Again, pretty similar to faxing over a telephone voice line.  Just without the telephone or line.

Here's a typical, moderately strong SSTV signal on 20 meters.  The call sign indicates that it was sent from Michigan.

hard-linked to Linux laptop ($150+headache), SignaLink ($100+mostly harmless), QSSTV software (free+headache)... 

over-speaker audio linked to iPhone ($50 special+easy), Black Cat CQSSTV app ($3+easy):

Hmm.  These two images are off of the same signal, same radio, acquired at the same time.  The first one is definitely better, but the second one was definitely easier.  Not sure I'd want to conduct a conversation while editing text on the iPhone on the fly, but it is at least a viable backup.

On the whole, both are pretty good and each has its advantages.  Still a few more things to do before I'm ready to hit transmit however.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

More About Linux and Ham Radio

Found an interesting youtube channel that discusses this stuff at just the right level:
This is linked and not embedded so that you don't have to watch a tiny image here at this blog or do a bunch of clicking through.  21 minutes of getting started basics.  I'm sure I'll refer to this many times in months to come, so you get to see the link too.

I know, compared to the usual slam-bang mountain biking around here, this is pretty quiet stuff.  It's been raining for a week now, but hang in there.  Forecast only calls for about another week of rain, then it's back into the woods.  Probably with a snorkel.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Publish and Perish

Dog of a Dilemma: The Rise of Predatory Journals

This has been a problem for a while in the humanities – recall the Sokal Affair – but now it's leaking into medical journals, and by implication starting to rub off on the more rigorous sciences.  Combine people desperate to publish with unscrupulous gaming of the academic system, these sorts of things are going to happen.  Won't end well.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Upcoming Grateful Dead documentary: "Long Strange Trip"

Trailer over at Reason's youtube channel:

More Reason-writing circa 2003 over at their web site: Come Hear Uncle Sam's Band: the hippie capitalism of the Grateful Dead

Can't do good physics without listening to the Grateful Dead.  I tried to claim some new CDs on my income taxes one year as a business expense, but the accountant waved me off.  Probably for the best.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Read the manual? Hah!

Well, read a little.  Just from the Dire Warnings in the four-page SignaLink docs.  Really though, the SignalLink box opened up without catastrophe (despite the Dire Warnings), the jumper board slid in without incident, and the linux laptop recognized the USB device without complaint.  Checked things out step-by-step, listening & decoding a few traces first, then test transmitting a PSK31 signal at 5w into a dummy load, then listening on the Mon and Aux output on the link box, then tried to listen to a signal on a portable shortwave with the antenna folded down and attenuators fully cranked.  That simply overloaded, but at least I could tell things were keying up properly.  Then there was nothing to do for it but to dive in.

Berzerk traffic on 20m, couldn't get a word in edgewise, but 40m had a few things going on and I quickly got an answer from NY.  Then down to 30m, just because its a favorite, where a guy from Guatemala answered right away.  Good signal reports all around.  Remember kids, crank your power down to about 20%.  Clipping is poor form and J. Willard Gibbs is not your friend.

Compared to the old iPhone audio trick, there were about twice as many PSK31 signals visible and readable using the SignaLink box.  That in itself is worthwhile.  By using a manual notch filter to chop out the loudest splattering signal (there's always going to be one), I was able to crank up the RX gain and pull in some weak traces that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.  But I'll still keep the iPhone trick in my pocket for days on the trail.

So yeah, totally worth the outlay.  Next up: RTFM for fldigi (the digital mode software) and neaten up the entire thing, both in terms of cabling and in the software configuration.  Then... get on the air for a while.  Next Up for the linux laptop: Slow scan TV.  Eventually.

So all three "Down to Work" objectives from last Sunday's post achieved, minus the fiddly tuning that will only come with time and some RTFM'ing.  This is a good staycation.

Time to spruce up the place with more pictures.  This magic box is small, think "fat deck of cards" small.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Finished the Heinlein Biography 2nd Volume

... a couple of months ago.  If you're a fan, it's a must-read.  The details, the small incidents that motivated Heinlein's writing, his classic period of the 50's, followed by the wild 1960's response to Stranger in a Strange Land.  And then there's the struggle as his health declined over his last two decades.  That's the painful part.  Heinlein had just made it and in grand style when a lifetime of cigarettes caught up with him at around age 60.  Oh, he put up a fight, cranked out several more important books, did what he could for this world, and tried to enjoy his money.  But there was a revolving door down at the local hospital for him and in the end Joe Camel knelt at Heinlein's gate in the late eighties.

It is frustrating to contemplate how much more he could have achieved.  Anyway, it's for the rest of us to carry on, to keep reaching for the stars while pushing back against the endarkenment.  Getting to be time to read Friday again.

Before I wrap this up, I suppose it is customary to explicitly mention the actual title of the book: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 2 – The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988.  And here are some links to other related Heinleinania around this place, including some comments on Volume 1:

Pfft.  I've got some electrons to go push around now.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Of Linux and Linkage

Spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon at the Southern Mississippi Linux Users Group meeting.  Helpful bunch, got a lot done on my little laptop.  There were just a few simple syntax, searching, and downloading hurdles that needed jumping, and the folks from SMLUG helped me across.

Then it Down To Work Part 1: Sort out the options for a SignaLink box to link the laptop to a variety of ham radios.  Turns out that the old 3.5mm plug interface to SignaLink has gone to the wayside, and now the only option is for USB.  That's a shame, because it pushes my iPhone off the options list.  (OTOH, with Apple eliminating the iPhone's analog port, maybe that ship was already sailing.)  Anyway, options chosen, orders placed, waiting begun.

Next for Down To Work Part 2: RTFM for fldigi and get really up and running on it.  It was pretty easy to get it to do some acoustically linked PSK31 with my iPhone, but that was more of a proof of concept.

Sometime next weekend or later, it'll be Down To Work Part 3: getting the whole USB-SignaLink-radio hardware & software integration going.  Indications from the internet are optimistic to the point of "pfft, this is trivial," but it ain't over until the fat lady sings.  Or at least warbles out PSK31 over 80 meters.

The good news though is that it looks like it'll all work with pretty much any radio in the house, including the various 2 meter FM radios lurking in the corners.  Parts on the way, and then we shall see.

I'll probably be a regular at SMLUG now.

Tux goes to the beach.  Evidently penguins can sail and surf, as well as swim.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Strange Days

Woke this morning and flipped on the bedside radio to find Judy Garland singing AT&SF on WRMI-SW.  That was pleasant.  Then the DJ switched to Marylyn Manson and I've had something akin to mental whiplash ever since.  I'm going to go read about dark energy now.  That'll be less mind-bending here at bedtime.

ps: On the whole, the Andrews Sisters' version of AT&SF is vastly superior.  (And if Marylyn Manson ever did a cover of this song, I don't want to know about it.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Made the rounds last fall, still worth noting.

Jonathan Pie explains a lot in one epic six minute rant.  NSFW language warning.

If you're unfamiliar with Pie, here's a brief summary from Wikipedia:
Jonathan Pie is a fictitious British news reporter, created and played by British actor and comedian Tom Walker.[2] Pie appears in a series of video clips where he rants about the state of politics in the United Kingdom,[3][4][5] presented as if he is a real reporter speaking his personal opinions to camera before or after filming a regular news segment.
 You can dig further if you wish from there.  Bitingly funny humor, badly needed truth.  He posts something new about once a week.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

They have no idea. And neither do the rest of us.

"We Have No Idea" is a new book out from roboticist/comic artist Jorge Cham and physicist Daniel Whiteson that covers the big picture of our cosmic ignorance.  A couple of chapter's in, it's pretty darned good, good enough to go ahead and post up a recommendation for it.  Here's the trailer link for it, and here's the comic-format trailer:
Cosmic ignorance: admitting that you have this problem is the first step toward the cure.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

About those "Irish People Try _____" videos

They're pretty funny.  Here's the classic one, where they dig into Southern food:

No, really, go waste a few hours watching various iterations on this theme.  It'll be good for you.

Too damn many videos posted already.  I'll have to come up with some original content soon.  Ah, at least the lawn's mowed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In a Land Far, Far Away, a Long, Long Time Ago

Jose Ferrier did a promotional film for Leisure Properties, which was trying to develop the west end of Big St. George Island (which they did) and the eastern half of Little St. George Island (which they ended up selling to the Nature Conservancy, and eventually to the State of Florida).  Here's the promo :
(sorry, can't directly imbed vimeo clips, you'll have to click through)

25 or so minutes, and a tad cheesy, but it is still a good watch.  I'm guessing circa 1977.  I recognize a few faces, a few buildings(!), and a few boats.  And all of the land.

Still Breathing

Will occasionally post, when the content and the mood strike.  It has been a while.