Friday, June 28, 2019

Mid-Summer Break

I'll be taking a brief break from blogging for a week or two.  No particular reason, it's just a hot and stormy season here on the MS Gulf Coast and I'm taking some more time to catch up on various things.  Nothing bad, definitely not quitting blogging, just... taking a break.  In the meantime, I'll leave off with today's APOD and wish you all a happy upcoming Forth of July.

It's got little to do with the Fourth of July, but it's a pretty picture of noctilucent clouds over Paris.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

My Gut Feeling is that This is About Right

Elite Runners' Gut Microbe Makes Mice More Athletic – Could It Help The Rest Of Us?  at NPR

Not much I can add beyond "read the whole thing, it's short."  You want biological analysis?  You're at the wrong blog, buster.  We talk physics 'round here.

But damn, I could've used another 13% performance in last Sunday's race.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

New Backpacking Gear!

No, I haven't been shopping.  Section Hiker has a new article up: 

The rest of the world is out hitting the great outdoors, but here on the Gulf Coast we're bracing for the Bad Season.  Ah well, we'll get our Good Season the other 8 months out of the year while everyone else is enjoying their snow and ice.  In the meantime, there's plenty of time to browser-shop.

Plenty of interesting stuff at the article.  In particular, that O-pen water purifier, the new Therm-a-Rest high R-value mats, and the fast-acting beer cooler caught my eye.  Not running out to spend money on them, but still interesting.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Song of the Day: Replacements' "Alex Chilton"

It just suits my vaguely cranky post-MTB race mood at the moment.

Bonus: 10 Best Replacements Lyrics at diffuser

Lots to read at that last one.

Meh, I got nothing else today.  It's hot and stormy here.  Just like inside my skull.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Good Article, Good Pictures

BAYSAVERS: They could turn the clock back 100 years at the St. Joe Star

That's a poor headline.  It should be more of "they could roll back 100 years of ecological damage."  Their core idea is to install locks on the Gulf County Canal and the Intercostal Waterway to keep the fresh water where it needs to be and out of where it doesn't belong.  Makes a lot of sense, so take five and read the article.

But wait, there's more!  Beautiful panoramic pictures of Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Lake Wimico, and surrounding areas.  Even if the article isn't your thing, the pictures are worth the click-through.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Probably a Bad Idea

Mountain bike race at Chickasawbogue tomorrow.  On one hand, the only podium finish I've ever managed was at Chickasawbogue.  On the other, the only tooth implant I've ever needed came about as a result of a race at Chickasawbogue.  We'll see how it goes this time.

Can it be much worse than this retro-90's eye assault?  Very likely yes.

post race: All went well.  No record times, but no injuries.  Pre-ride on Saturday paid big dividends on Sunday.  A good time was had by all.  Pictures, maybe, later this week.  I didn't take any, so will have to wheedle a few friends for them.

Old Car Pre-Flight Checklist

Article at Eric Peters Autos.  Read, heed, and don't trash a classic car over a dumb mistake.

Seeing how the Mustang is up to seven (!) years now, this stuff is starting to apply.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Finished Ringo's "Black Tide Rising" Series

John Ringo's Black Tide Rising series is a page-turner to be sure, and it introduces a few new ideas into the zombie apocalypse genre.  There's enough biology up front to make the whole thing at least sci-fi plausible, some interesting questions about the ethics and legality of shooting zombies are raised, aspects of the economics of how to keep a zombie killin' effort going for the long term are introduced, along with the repercussions of working with remnants of the military and government.  Sounds interesting right?  And it is to a point, but with a story this big, John Ringo has to introduce some outsized characters, and just one Mary Sue is not enough so he's written in two of them.  Here, here's a link to TV Tropes detailing all the stock characters and plotting devices therein.  It's not really a spoiler, but it will give you a better idea of what's going on here.

Meh, it's summer and the series was a good page-turner with just enough brains and I had a lot of fun reading it.  Call it 3 out of 5 stars.  It's just that after plowing through all four books in quick succession, you know that feeling of starting a bag of spicy potato chips and not stopping?  It's soooo good while it's going, but when it's over, there's a little bit of a spice-and-salt hangover?  Yeah, just like that.

Both come in four varieties.  This is not a coincidence.  OTOH, comparing to Zapp's chips is pretty high praise.

There are a couple of related anthologies from various authors, and I might get to those sometime before this summer's over, but only if the beer is cold.  There's also an extension of the series, largely by another author ("with John Ringo") that I'm going to take a pass on.

Remember to Get Yer Solstice On Today

The actual moment will be two minutes before 11 CST.  Personally, I plan to start my lunch bike ride then.  Don't tell my dermatologist.  Picture from APOD.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Small Solar Made Easy

From an email to a friend, earlier this week:
Hey [redacted], yesterday somebody at the trailhead mentioned solar power while camping and you seemed interested.  Here's approximately what I'm using: with  I say "approximately" because this is a little newer gear than mine, and is packaged up much more nicely.  Less of a handraucically operated science project, more of plug-and-play.  Anyway, it'll damn sure charge up a cell phone and a laptop, grind your coffee beans, and have plenty left over for camp lights.  And yes, it's from a ham radio retailer, but they're about $20 cheaper than direct from the manufacturer's site.
And of course, it'll run a ham radio just fine too, but that's a whole 'nother discussion.  Three more notes: (1) Sorry about the block text, blame Blogger's quote mechanism.  (2) "at the trailhead yesterday" (with pic)  (3) Approximately what I'm using (with pics).

The great thing is that small solar has gotten affordable, lightweight, and easy to use – or just sum it up with the one word practical.  It's really all come together in about the last four or five years.  If you've looked at solar in the past and moved on (usually with good reason), now might be a good time to take another look.

Anyway, solar power, all the cool kids are doing it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Summer Solstice on Friday

Sunscreen: Check.
Bike: Check.
Whisky:  Check.
Megalithic monumental structure: Nah, no rocks here on this end of the Gulf.

Article about solstices at Vox.  Nothing surprising, but it is a briefly interesting read.

Monday, June 17, 2019

You Can't Take It With You

... but maybe it can take you with it?

Cremated, of course.  Not like there's a mummy riding shotgun or some such.

I dig my Mustang and all that, but this is taking it a bit far.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

What a Bunch of Goofballs!

Oh damn, but that was a fun mountain bike ride this morning.  Had a good bunch out.

Yes, it was hot, but I think acclimation is pretty much complete for this summer.  Some proud few of us rode through to a little after noon, and it just wasn't all that bad today.  Sure wasn't cooler, so it must be acclimation.  Yes, nature fixes were gotten today!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Get Your Nature Fix

Two hours a week is key dose of nature for health and wellbeing, according to a new study.

Hm, sounds plausible.  Certainly sounds about right from personal experience.  Maybe the weather will be nice this weekend.  Forecast seems to be improving.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

5 Lessons from Apollo

Article over at Politico: Five Lessons from Apollo for the New Space Age. TLDR version:
  1. "Innovation on demand" works but is unpredictable.
  2. Incentives matter.
  3. Rivalry matters.
  4. NASA is good at development but bad at operations.
  5. Public cheerleading is overrated.
I don't agree 100% here, especially on item #4, but it is a good quick read with some significant ideas to ponder.  No matter the few flaws at the article, learning from past lessons is always cheaper than re-discovering.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Busy Week of Many Small Items

There hasn't been a lot to post lately, so here are some micro-posts to fill in the week:
  • Nice MTB ride last Sunday.  Bugs were vicious, so there are no pictures.  Got 27 miles in.
  • Looks like the Morganza Spillway may not be opened after all.  link at nola
  • Attended a colloquium today about the 50,000+ year old cypress tree stumps on the bottom of the Gulf off of Alabama.  Nothing really new that wasn't blogged about here last year.  The speaker btw, DeLong, is one of the diver/scientists in the video at the link.  Again, nothing new, but I did get to hold a piece of recovered wood.  How often do you get to hold something from a current investigation that's about 10x older than the Egyptian pyramids?  So that part was cool.
  • Speaking of cool, we had a little front blow through yesterday.  Days are still hot, but this morning the house thermometer read 67F on the back porch.  That's a cold, dry arctic blast by June standards.
  • Looks like rain this weekend though.
  • Still plugging away at #3 in John Ringo's Black Tide Rising zombie novel series.  Probably won't bother reviewing here beyond saying that they're a glorious waste of time, completely indefensible as works of literature, and are compulsive page turners.  Just when I'm sick of the improbable action and am leaning toward swearing off the series, an interesting twist happens and I'm down for the next installment.  Trapped like a rat.
More later.  I'm not going anywhere, but there may be a little bit of summer slowdown.

Something New and Unexpected

News of this new radio popped over the transom this evening:

Apart from a minimal and cryptic non-story at qrznow, a single youtube demo video, and a Spanish club page with the same pictures, there's no real info out there about the device.  It looks like the slick little ultra-portable QRP radio everyone wants.  On the other hand, it really has popped up out of nowhere and it vaguely smells of vaporware.  On the third hand, those pics of circuit boards at qrznow are awfully convincing.  Time will tell.

If this turns out to be for real, expect a review here in the medium-near future.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

60 Years Ago Today: X-15 First Flight

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the first unpowered drop flight of the X-15.  Here's a nice summary at This Day in Aviation.  Since then we have developed a whole gamut of manned spaceflight technologies, been to the Moon, successfully built a small fleet of spaceplanes, and built a series of space stations.  Robotic exploration of the solar system is 100% on track, and next up will be a systematic search for traces of life on Mars.  There now exists a constellation of satellites for communications, weather observation, and research applications.  Space telescopes have literally opened our eyes to previously-unguessed behaviors of the universe.  Moreover, we are currently seeing the dawn of reusable commercial launch systems, for both manned and unmanned flights, as well as – face it, we all want to go – space tourism.

It is easy to say "but we haven't been back to the Moon, and what about Mars?" and be all down in the dumps.  And, true, events have not unfolded in the dramatic ways that the golden age of sci-fi predicted.  But realistically, we're not doing badly with getting out into and staying in space.  It is a hard project, probably harder than anything else humanity has ever done.  Hard to do technically, sure, but even harder to fund and harder yet to keep pushing out toward some poorly-defined yet clearly worthwhile goals.  But we are making progress.

In the meantime, it is good to reflect on the fact that more time stands between us and that first X-15 flight than between then and the Wright brothers' first flight.  Also, at $0.99 for the kindle version or about $8 in paperback, it's a good time to pick up and read Scott Crossfield's autobiographical account of the X-15's development.  For a review of it at this blog last fall, click here.

Friday, June 7, 2019

More New Antenna

A while back I built a 2m monoband slim jim from 450 ohm window line (notes here).  Works great, and I've used it many times while backpacking and camping.  But I thought it'd be cool to have 70cm capability too.  Those get a little complicated, so I ordered one from N9TAX's place.  Arrived yesterday and the rain let up enough that I could hang and test it today (more on that in a minute).  Ten feet of attached RG-58 cable, straight to an SMA connector: no fuss, no muss, no adapters, and minimum weight, 0.48 lbs in fact.  Perfect to use with the FT-60 HT, it gets the antenna up about 15'.  That's out of most ground clutter, gives a little extra range, and is an easy height to hang.  There's a 16' cable option, but that just seems like extra weight for how I intend to use this thing.  Nicely made, as sturdy as the monobander I built but with a helping of "we've built thousands of these things" polish.  And, of course, it'll work on 70cm.

So... how well's it work in real life?  Reached the Biloxi 2m repeater (25 miles) and the Diamondhead 70cm repeater (6.7 miles), with good reports from other hams on each, all at 5 watts.  That's about all I could expect it to do.  This is that easy solution when you need a little more range than an aftermarket whip antenna can give, without going to a full-on base setup.  Perfect for taking along hiking or biking.  It's not so much a mobile solution as a portable solution, but it for this level of performance it doesn't get much easier.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Surprise: New Antenna!

But this one's nothing exotic.  The rubber boot on the Mustang's AM/FM had weathered out and cracked.  Water was getting in and reception went in the tank come wet weather.  So... eBay to the rescue via a "Genuine Ford Parts" site and a $20 bill.

Top: Old and Busted.  Bottom: The New Hotness.
Ignore the "Wash Me" written in the dirt.

The change-out was trivial, about as mechanically simple as any conventional threaded hand-tightened screw gets.  Post-mortem on the old antenna revealed that, as long suspected, it does in fact incorporate a loading coil in the base.  I've always been impressed by this radio system's performance.  It makes late night AM DXing on quiet rural stretches of highway enjoyable, and a good way to pass the long hours of a nighttime drive.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Up to 25 Cups a Day

That is an impressive number.  In a new study, subjects were sorted into three bins: less than 1, 1 to 3, and 3 up to 25, and arterial stiffening was tested for each group.  No correlations were found between level of coffee consumption and arterial problems.  Good, I'll take it, with a triple espresso on the side.  link to article  RTWT, it's short and has so-bad-it's-good humor smuggled in.

Three observations: (1) 25 cups upper limit?  I'm guessing they had to cut things off there due to the quantum properties of people who consume more than 25 cups per day.  I mean, it's hard to measure somebody's arterial stiffness when you can't localize the person's limbs due to the jitters.  (2) These levels of coffee consumption may not stiffen the arteries, but the study did not seem to address stiffening of the eyelids.  (3) Overall, it's good news.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Radio Programing Notes for the FT-2900

Having pretty much decided to kick Old Reliable to the curb in the near future in favor of the new dual-band radio, I had to go looking on the interwebs for easy programming instructions for the thing.  Why now?  Why not.  Shoulda looked this stuff up years ago, but I'd managed to get things working and all... Anyway, here's an easy 1.2 page cheat sheet for the FT-2900:

Why on Earth won't Yaesu put this information in their manuals?  Yes, yes, we get it Yaesu: the features are all "Easy and Convenient!(tm)"  So why not tell us the how and why of the features in said manuals?  Gah.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Dirt Rag Turns 30

If you mountain bike (and you should), this is the only magazine that matters.

Happy 30 DR, and many more returns.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Today's Link to Awesomeness

Today's APOD post is a link to live stream video from the ISS.  So many good things to see.

Two Week Impressions: Yaesu FTM-7250DR VHF/UHF Transceiver

Responding to one of those "you bought it from us, would you now please review it" emails, here's a short piece I wrote up on a recent radio purchase.  Enjoy!


I needed a dual-bander for my home shack that could put out something in the 50 watt range, and this one had the best combo of features and price.  The Fusion digital aspect is a bonus, which I may dig into later.  So far though – two weeks – it's all been analog FM, and I'm getting good signal reports. Manual programming is pretty easy (you tube has at least one good how-to video), and operating is even easier.  The lack of a squelch knob bothered me at first, but the auto setting works well.  The fan is quiet, and it does keep the temperature under control.  In an hour-long QSO at 50 watts, the finals temp never got above 125F, which isn't even up to "parked car in summertime" levels.  The front-firing speaker is a nice feature, and the sound quality is fine for voice comms.  Beyond that... it's compact, and it does everything it should.  Finally I have to mention the price again.  It's about the best deal going on a dual-bander from any of the Big Three.  Throw in a sale at MC and this buy was an easy choice.

Now... the only problem is that I still love my FT-2900, but have no real use for it anymore.  Guess some friend is about to get a deal.


Well, that's all for that quick review.  As to why I bought this thing, along with an exhaustively detailed programming guide, I'll point to last week's post.  Going from 75 watts down to 50 is a loss of about 1.8 dB.  I never like taking a step backwards, but in reality it's only a small change that'll never be missed.  More than anything, I'll miss that ginormous heat sink on the 2900.  I mean, lookit the thing (pic right); like something that came off a Harley engine.  It is good to step up to having the 70cm band now though, and circumstances now dictate that I have it.  Anyway, if you're interested in a good, clean, used FT-2900R 2m radio, I'm hanging onto it for a few more weeks, just to be sure everything's holding up.  After that, say sometime in July, it may go on the block.