Wednesday, April 28, 2021

In which Dixie hikes the Florida Trail

Weekly vlog installments over at you-know-where.  Five so far, all in the 15 minute range.

They're maybe halfway through, and already the weather's hot and buggy and the alligators are starting to perk up.  Not me man, I'd be looking at depart-NLT-31Jan or push back to next year.  Not that I have any such plans.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

In which Big Clive does something awful.

Re-Distilling Cheap Supermarket Scotch Whisky, six minutes of video.

This is one of those "goofy stuff you've kind of wondered about but were too busy to bother with" channels.  It's a wonderful way of wasting a few minutes instead of your entire Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Happy Erf Day!

 From the wikipedia page:

What?  That's what people are talking about, right?

Monday, April 19, 2021

A PhD in Irish Whisky

Good idea.  Article at Atlas Obscura.  In the process, he's reviving a distilling tradition that was stamped out by trade protectionism, two world wars, prohibition, and several other awful ideas from the start of the last century.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

How To Solar

A while back – 3 years now, time files – I did a how-to talk for the ham club on "how to put together a small 12v solar power system for your ham shack or camp-out."  I was going to post the hand-out here, but instead these links will tell you everything you need to know.  Enjoy!

The best little article on small solar I’ve ever seen:

Another article from the same engineer, discussing safety and code requirements:

Finally, here’s a book covering a lot of this in somewhat more detail:

Tiny House Engineer’s Notebook, Vol. 1: Off Grid Power, by Chris Haynes

It has three very good example systems based on FLABs, all ready to go. Dig around, you can find it in bookstores or online.

ps, 2 days later: If I can throw in one more piece of advice, it's Do The Math.  Calculate the amp-hours you'll really need each day and size your small solar power system accordingly. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Have a Listen

The Patriarchs: An Elegy at the BBC.

While yes, it was written for the occasion of Prince Phillip's passing, it is more generally about his generation.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Another Day, Another Hike

Back to the usual operating table (radio operating that is) along the High Bluff trail.  The ionosphere was miserable today, with stateside stations wavering in and out over the course of a minute or two.  A couple of European big-gun stations were booming in, but my QRP power level couldn't reach back.  Zero contacts!  

Still, it was a nice day in the woods.  I parked at the west trailhead and hiked 3.5 miles east, just to get some trail time in with a reasonably full daypack, to learn how it carries.  Pretty well, as it turns out.  The bugs were out in force but not biting, likely due to an outer coating of sunscreen and and an inner coating of Monster drink.  The day topped out at 82F.  Summer's on the way, but not here yet.

Here, have a couple of pics.

Sand, not snow.

DHMO, the drink of champions.  I could just bathe in that stuff.

Notes for next time:
  1. Probably worth it to use a water bladder rather than bottles, now the weather's warming up.  Weights in the pack better (closer to the spine), more capacity, and you don't have to pause to drink -- a real bonus in bug season.
  2. Big-brimmed hat and sunscreen, check!
  3. Considering a bug shirt, but $$$ and heat.  We'll see.
  4. While the iPhone, PSKer software, and interface dongle all work pretty well, that rig's not as fast on the draw as the laptop running fldigi.  That could make the difference in fast-varying conditions.  3 extra pounds though.  Hm, we'll see.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Target Drone Launching

 I've driven by this site on Hwy 98 many times (in fact just yesterday), but never seen an actual launch.  Mighty impressive.  Additional details at Wikipedia: BQM-167 Skeeter

Of my usual tags, "rockets" seems to fit this one best.  While it's a jet-powered aircraft, it does use a small rocket engine to get off the launch stand.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Warning: Bad Pun in the Mouse-Over

I'm off to do busy things on a busy day.  Perhaps more content later in the week.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Trail Portable Radio is Habit-Forming

Another day on the High Bluff Trail, another handful of contacts.  Enjoying it while the weather's good.

Even though I lugged along everything needed for digital contacts, I stuck with voice.  Sometimes it's just more fun that way.  Taking a clue by four from the last outing...

  1. A 3 oz. lead teardrop fishing weight has about the right heft for getting the antenna line up.  Much easier than using a pocket knife on the throw line.  It also slides through foliage without snags.  Still need to practice with the new weight though.
  2. 50' of coax gave a little extra range to find a better antenna-hang tree.  Very much worth the small extra weight.
  3. Broad-brimmed hat still works great.
  4. Couldn't find the seat pad!  Anywhere!  I know it's around the house... somewhere.  But it was a warm & dry day, so it didn't matter.
  5. UHF-male-to-SMA-female connector arrived today, but I didn't work any VHF/UHF so I didn't use it.
Things are moving along, improving, getting faster on the set-up time.

Don't Try This One At Home, Kids

What really happens when you stick your head into a nuclear accelerator's beam.  You can safely skip the first half of the 'article,' it's just j-school boilerplate about what physicists do.  Search down to '1978' and start from there.

Never tried this one personally, still I don't recommend it.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Book Mention: Rancho Costa Nada for $5

Long out of print, previously mentioned before here at the 'swamp, and now $42+ a paperback copy (travesty!), Rancho Costa Nada is back as a $5 kindle download.  It's the story of washed-up newspaper editor Phil Garlington who describes himself as not smart but merely a smartass with a talent for turning a phrase.  Smarting from his latest firing and having nowhere particular to be, he decamps for a scrap of worthless desert picked up for $325 a few years prior in a moment of irrational enthusiasm while doing a news story on tax auctions.

There's enough content to keep the covers apart, dealing with topics such as how to build a sandbag hut, how to run your power system off a 3-cylinder Geo Metro's battery, and how to deal with the functional-yet-deranged neighbors.  All those little life skills we need to have in our back pockets.

I don't recommend doing this, and neither does Garlington.  In fact, the last chapter is titled "Don't Do It."  However, this mope shows that it can be done, and push come to shove it is an option for almost anyone if pushed and shoved hard enough.  I do recommend reading it, mostly in case Plans A–Z fail and you're down to Plan Greek Letters, in the manner of an extremely bad hurricane season.

Really, don't do this.  Go camping for a couple of weeks instead.  When the chiggers and ticks have had their turns at you, go home and have a shower and a sleep on clean sheets.  But always know deep down inside, rock-bottom FU money is only about a month's rent.

In closing, the main point here is that Rancho Costa Nada is around again, for a very reasonable $5.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

High Bluff Re-Match

250% more contacts than last Saturday's outing on the High Bluff Trail -- that counts as a success!  Of course 10x the power on digital modes and 20x the power on voice tends to make the most of the current poor ionospheric conditions.  First some pics, then on to notes.

Same place, different day.  10x the power.

And 4x the weight.

After struggling with 2.5 watts of digital brawn last Saturday, it seemed like time to step up to the similar 100-watt unit.  OK, that's 100 watts on voice only, have to dial it back to 25 watts on digital modes to keep things from melting down.  Still, it's a good step up.  The price of course is approximately 4x the weight: 6-ish lbs for the FT-817nd & Talon pack, vs 22-ish for the FT-857d & medium ALICE.  Noteworthy contacts were a voice conversation to NC (voice! finally! the ionosphere is recovering!), a PSK-31 chat to Canada, and most importantly, a 5w digital contact to Delaware.  So I still operated QRP today, if only briefly and when the ionosphere momentarily smiled.

Lessons for next time:

  1. That 21' W3EDP antenna (other posts on this beast here)  is easy to hang, but I really do need to bring along a throwing weight.  The pocket knife just isn't heavy enough to easily get some line over a 22'+ limb.  
  2. Also, stepping up from 25' to 50' of coax would be nice.  It opens up some other farther-from-operator antenna positions and just makes the whole tree-picking exercise that much easier.  For a small, small weight penalty, to be sure.  TANSTAAFL.
  3. The new full-brimmed hat did well.  My neck and cheeks feel pretty un-burnt this evening.
  4. Bring the seat pad.  Even if it's not that cold, the table lumber was still wet after last night's rains.
  5. ps: Bring a UHF-male-to-SMA-female connector (I've got one around here somewhere... I think) and leave the FT-60 home.  Unlike with the digital/audio interface, if I'm using the data port (and yes, lugging a laptop along) the switch from HF to VHF/UHF is seamless.