Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Public Service Broadcasting (the band) Album

The new album "Every Valley" comes out on July 7th.  But you can get a sneak preview of the entire thing at the article on NPR.

Listened earlier today, and it's pretty good.  Maybe not as stunning as some of their earlier work, but solid, and there's a good theme behind it (go read the article, they'll explain).  Give it whirl.

The Thing that Stalks the Wilds of Canada

Canuck the crow's attacks halt Vancouver mail delivery, as reported by the BBC.

That's no bird band.  That's an ankle monitor on a repeat offender.

Don't forget kids, we now know exactly what birds are:
courtesy of xkcd; and yes, I've blogged this one before

That's right: postal carriers in Canada are being stalked by a dinosaur with a knife.  Personally, I wouldn't set foot north of I-10 after dark if you paid me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Oats Studios

This some innovative, disturbing-ass sci-fi/fantasy/horror that makes the old Alien and Predator movies look like a morning in the park with Mr. Rogers.  Modern production values, competent actors (some names you'll recognize too), imaginative story lines and imagery, and so far as I can tell absolutely no real point.  Still, for whatever it's worth, have a look a their trailer:

No, that was just too disturbing, even the still image.  If you want to see it, here's the link.

Then move on and watch the rest of their small collection of videos.  Or (if you want to sleep better) just move on, period.

ps: Watched Firebase after writing the above.  Reminds me of some David Drake's Vietnam/horror short stories like Contact! and Arclight.  All good stuff, if you can still find it.  Can't quite lay hands on my short story collection of it.

One of the Few Upsides to Hurricane Season

From The Athens News:

It's about re-discovering shortwave radio listening, and how reception is so much better when the power's out.  But you don't have to wait for a disaster to enjoy shortwave.  Use whatever you've got, or pop for a Tecsun PL-660 radio – it's the best all-rounder in current production – and head for a quiet patch outside of town.  Or even in a park inside of town.  You'll be amazed at what you can hear.

Monday, June 26, 2017

20 Years of Harry Potter

As of today, all written up at (where else?) the BBC.  All about the books, the movies, and the cultural influence.

Hard to believe, but there it is.

Ticks, This Summer, and You

Stumbled across a worried-mommy article on Slate today, The Year of the Tick.  Despite the suburban northeastern, almost alarmist tone, it's not a bad read.  Some of the links were of interest too, namely one about how to treat your outdoor clothes with permethrin, and another on how remove ticks by the CDC.  That last one's simple and a non-gimicky, authoritative resource on the matter.

It's an ongoing summertime problem for mountain bikers, hikers, campers, etc. – all the sorts of things that go on in this household.  A couple of points from The Resident Biologist are worth mentioning, in addition to the above links:
  1. Drink your Monster drinks, or at least take vitamin B tab ahead of hitting the outdoors.  Ticks don't like the taste of blood full of vitamin B, and Monster is full of it, maybe along with a few other things they don't like too.
  2. The bumper crop of acorns --> more woods mice --> more ticks problem described in the Slate article isn't so much a "too many mice" problem.  It's more of a "not enough snakes" problem.  Stop putting the genocide on common, harmless snakes and the mouse and tick problem would likely be cleaned out PDQ.
Finally, here's the punch line from the CDC article, if you're too busy to click through:

Then kill it.  Kill it with fire.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A busy week of many small tasks.

Some successes, many things still in progress, but no outright failures.  Of note:

  • "Why is there water under the dryer?  Hmmm."  Moisture coming back up the dryer exhaust and condensing on the cold steel of the machine is why.  A fix is in the works, but it would really help if this month-long rain jag would end.  I've seen humidity before, but this is nuts.
  • Too much jangle pop.  It starts with early R.E.M. (back when they were good), morphs through Let's Active tunes, and finally brings things back around to The Byrds and Bob Dylan.  Beats most of the stuff on radio today though.
  • ARRL Field Day.  Well, more like "air conditioned classroom day" for those of us in coastal Mississippi.  More a matter of safety than anything else.  I put in an appearance, then conversed with other FD refugees on the WARC bands, just seeking a little sanity.
  • Retrieved the road bike from The Corner Bicycle Shop in Gulfport yesterday, all shiny and tuned up.  Replaced cleats and test rode, but roads were too wet to really get out and ride.  Maybe tomorrow at lunch.
  • Go mountain biking?  Pfft, don't make me laugh.  Maybe with monster mudder tires.  And a snorkel.
  • Experimenting with a recent deal of a lightly used QRP radio, a (what else?) Yaesu FT-817nd.  The TCXO and 300 Hz. add-on boards make this thing into a PSK-31 monster, punching way above its weight.  Just had a contact with a guy in the Czech Republic – 5000+ miles on 2.5 Watts.
  • Also experimenting with high-zoot NiMH AA batteries for the FT-817nd, Eneloop Pro 2500 mAH's – the black ones, kind of the Darth Vader of the AA battery world.  It's sobering to think that eight of these AA batteries is about the equivalent of 1/10 oz of gasoline – enough to drive my Mustang about 120 feet at 55 mph.  Even the floor guy at Best Buy was all like "holy crap, what's in these things?"
  • Perhaps it's even more sobering to think that it's relatively easy to talk – directly – to Europe on that same handful of AA's.  The right amount of power carefully applied in just the right way can do remarkable things.
Well that's all of now.  Any of these could've made for a complete blog post, but it's been a busy week.  Maybe I'll expand on some of them in the near future, or maybe I'll come up with something new.

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.