Saturday, December 31, 2005

Aidan Eats Rice Cereal

Yeah, he fussed, and a lot came right back out of his mouth, but he eventually got some down, and seemed really content with about three ounces of formula afterwards, compared to his normal six ounces. And of course, I took pictures!

Alex’s Car Track

Alex got a neat little car track from Amy’s friend Mary Beth. I got a couple of good pictures of him playing with it. I used to play with things like this when I was little, it was a blast to set up, and for me to play with too. Then the challenge came of snapping a good picture of the little flying thing that the car goes into in the end actually flying. Oh yeah, and Alex had to have his eyes open. Trust me, that is a lot harder than it sounds.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Slow on the Ham Radio

I haven’t had much success with the ham radio lately. I’ve been taking a little time to sit down and call CQ, but haven’t been answered for a while. I decided to try and improve my signal with a better antenna, but better is relative, its just a longer wire out the window. At least now it tunes up on 15 meters, and seems to do better on 80, but 40, once my best band, doesn’t tune so well anymore. I’m going to try and add a counterpoise wire, but not sure where I’ll be able to fit 34 feet of wire in this room, especially without it being near something that is RF noisy. If only I had the room to put up a real antenna, and no HOA to tell me to take it down.

Amy's Cookware

Amy used her Christmas present the other night to make one of my favorite meals, fried chicken, mashed potatoes with home made gravy, and baked beans. It seemed to go very well, especially the gravy making part. I don’t know all the details, but apparently, the heat needs to be evenly distributed in the pan for the gravy to work out right.

Most importantly, the chicken and gravy, potatoes and beans turned out great, although, I’m not sure I could tell the difference from when they were cooked in the old pan, but Amy could, and that is what counts.

The down side is that I forgot to bring the chicken that I had saved for my lunch yesterday.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Morning 2005

Amy really took care of Christmas this year. Nearly everything was bought online, with the exception of some white elephant gift exchange gifts that we got at Costco, and an emergency stop to Wal-Mart to get something that wasn’t supposed to arrive before one of the Christmas get togethers, the item arrived on time anyway.

Amy really wanted some new cookware, she was pretty specific about what she wanted, and for once I took the obvious hint and bought exactly what she wanted. The set replaces all of our old pots and pans, which had served their purpose, but didn’t really hold up to continuous use over the last two and a half years. Plus, it adds a chicken fryer, for those who don’t know what a chicken fryer is, like me, they are supposed to be really important for frying food, especially if it starts out being fried and then go into the oven.

Amy kept a good secret with my gift, an MP3 player. I think she really wanted to get me an ipod nano, but even with shopping early, they were sold out. Instead of risking it, she got me one from sandisk, after reading a lot of reviews. I put about 600 megebytes of music on it. It also has am/fm and a voice recorder. One thing I hope to get on it is some Morse code practice. I don’t get to use the radio enough to really practice the code, and with the MP3 player, I’ll be able to listen to it on the train.

Andrew got his first leather jacket; he really seemed to take to it. That boy is very hard to buy gifts for. He also got some books and CD sing along, some toy cars and air planes that Alex will probably get more play time out of than Andrew.

Alex got some flashcards and workbooks, he didn’t seem to interested in them, but I guess that is to be expected. His grandmother gave him a little flashlight; that seems to be his favorite gift of all, for now he seems to like that better than the Vsmile video game system that we bought for all the kids, even though Alex will probably use it the most, for now.

Aidan got a toy he can’t play with, a little activity table. It looks like a great toy for him once he starts standing or walking. He also got a little toy rattle / musical thing and my Aunt Joyce sent him the cutest little booties!

That concluded Christmas morning at our house. It was nice being able to give the children things that they are actually excited about getting. Alex has decided he really likes his video game, Andrew sure liked wearing his leather jacket, Aidan, well, he liked looking at the Christmas tree. And of course, Amy was ecstatic about that chicken fryer and other cookware. I’m going to get a lot of use out of the MP3 player I’m sure.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


My breakfast today was 4 slices of bacon and a can of Mountain Dew.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Second CW QSO

I finally made another QSO using Morse code. I tried and tried during the 10 meter contest and found nothing. Thanks to Ron in Adena Ohio for the QSO, it took me a while to get his call sign, started with a KD, and I just wasn’t hearing the D, I think I was hearing KB, there are a lot of KB’s around here, but the D -.. and the B is -…, sort of close, but it is easy to tell them apart at slow speed. So far, 40 meters has been the band that is working for me, the first was on 7108 kHz and the second was on 7109 kHz. I hope to work CW a little more often so that I can boost up my code speed. It took an incredible amount of time to exchange names, home towns, and signal reports. QSL card with SASE is on the way!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ohm’s Law and More

I was reading my general exam manual, chapter 5, electrical principles, and was being amazed by what I was learning for the second time. I got ahead of myself when reading about parallel circuits, specifically resistors. The first part focused on current, but I was confused, ohms law says that a resistor on 100 volts at 1 amp should be 100 ohms. The diagram I was looking at had two 400 ohm resistors and one 200 ohm resistor in parallel. How did this become 100 ohms? If I would have just read on a few pages, I would have figured it out, but I guess I’m just impatient. How does 400, 200, & 400 become 100? I filled up an 8.5 X 14 sheet of paper figuring it out. Basically, it is 1/(1/400 + 1/200 + 1/400) or 1/(4/400) or 1/0.01 = 100! I’m not a math in my head whiz, it’s a good thing my blackberry has a calculator, I was determined to figure it out. Of course, my theory was confirmed a few pages in the future. I also figured out the section about power (watts), but that was easy, I remembered the basic concept, the book just helped me remember how to associate figuring power with the help of ohm’s law. Fun!

Work Work Work Busy

Wow, it has been a busy few days at work. I was off on Monday, Tuesday I come in and there are all sorts of problems, most notably one of the higher ups accounts got messed up because someone used that account to make a template for her old job title in the old system. They used that template to create a new account Monday and there was some key information that caused the template account to overwrite the user’s account in the new Active Directory. The system DIRXML really sucks, I say that, but I don’t really have a good understanding of it. It was setup and not documented at all. From my end, it just doesn’t work very well. Its deleted accounts, not updated accounts that it should have, and made in general weird changes to accounts in my system. Of course, it may just be set up wrong, all I know, it doesn’t work right.

I have this problem with one of the units where I work that uses a lot of Macintosh computers with the Entourage 2004 mail client. Lets just say they have a lot of issues, not one has to do with the Exchange servers I manage, but for some reason, they choose a mail client that just doesn’t work, and then complain to me about their problems. I think the problem has to do with network communications if you ask me, but they just don’t want to hear it.

Today was interesting. I lost connection to my e-mail, as did everyone else in my office. I couldn’t reach my mail server on the network at all. Being a good systems engineer, I run up to the computer room (they call it a datacenter, but I’m sorry, any room that you can’t keep a reasonable constant temperature or humidity, where you blow breakers, and have boxes and storage, can’t be called a datacenter) to check it out. It turns out all my servers lost their network connections for about 3 minutes. I called the NOC, and they told me flat out that there was no problem and it must have been my PC, funny, when I called them I explained that I had several reports. I informed my supervisor, who wasn’t too happy about the situation, who called the NOC himself, they explained to him that a switch crashed. I have a funny suspicion that someone in the NOC did something to cause the switch to reboot. Of course, its not my problem, but it sure does make me look bad when nobody can connect to their e-mail.

To top it off, I get off the train in an ice storm, the van had 1/4 inch of ice on that I had to get off the windows before I could finish the drive home. The good news is, I worked on my general amateur radio license exam studying.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Andrew’s, no, Alex’s Boots

We did not buy Alex new boots for the winter, so, when it snowed, he needed some boots. I had kept around a pair of boots that Andrew used to wear. Amy put them on Alex and they were a pretty good fit. What will surprise you is that Andrew was wearing those boots when he was six years old, and Alex isn’t even four yet. Of course, Andrew was a little small for his age, and Alex is a little big for his age, but still, that is quite an age difference for the same sized shoes.

ARRL 10 Meter Amateur Radio Contest

This weekend the American Radio Relay League sponsored a contest, one of many that occur in any given year. The contest was specific to the 10 meter Amateur Radio band, or 28.0 to 29.7 MHz.

I had thirteen QSOs for the contest, with four different States and two other countries for a total of 156 points. Yes, that is a really low score, but it was my first real contest. I was very pleased to make two contacts in Washington State, one in Aruba, and one in Venezuela. The others were all local, MD, VA, WV. I probably could have made a higher score but I spent a lot of time Saturday and most of the time on Sunday operating CW mode. While I heard a lot of CW between 28.00 and 28.03 MHz, the license class I have right now is limited to 28.1 to 28.5 MHz. I was a bit frustrated, the problem was mostly that my antenna is just a wire out the window and wasn’t receiving other stations very well. I got an e-mail from Tucson Arizona who heard my signal but couldn’t contact me. I heard him answer me, but the signal was very weak and I didn’t get all of his call sign.

Even though I was frustrated that I didn’t make any CW contacts, I still had fun. I sent out all but one QSL card, the one for Venezuela. The others were all in the US, the station in Aruba also had a US address, maybe someone on vacation. For the Venezuela contact I needed an 80¢ stamp, plus I wanted to get some international reply coupons to cover postage for a return card.

Next year should be more fun, for one, my Morse code speed should be much improved, and I’ll have a general or higher license class to allow me to operate the entire band. And maybe, just maybe I’ll have a decent antenna in the air.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Alex Call’s CQ

Alex is such a cute boy. He is often with me when I’m using the ham radio and he has taken to imitating me. He will take a toy or something that he will pretend is a radio microphone, hold it up to his mouth and say CQ CQ NPQ! He’s been doing it for a while, although I only witnessed it recently. This weekend is the ARRL 10 meter ham radio contest, and at one point Alex was sitting in the chair next to me and we were saying CQ CQ CQ in unison.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Alex’s Booster

After driving Amy’s van for two days, I figured I really needed to put gas in the car last night, I was also going to swing by Radio Shack to buy a connector I needed, that they didn’t have so I had to improvise (a different story). Anyway, I said to Alex, “Do you want to come with me?” Not thinking that I was taking the car and his car seat is securely installed in the van. The damage was done, I couldn’t talk him out of wanting to come with me, so, he cried. I’ve wanted to get him a booster seat for my car for a while now, well, that did it. Amy ordered one while I was out, hopefully it will come soon. Now, whenever I am making a quick trip somewhere, Alex can come with me, like everyone else, he enjoys getting out of the house.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

First CW QSO

I have everything setup and tonight I made my first CW QSO on 40 meters, 7.108 MHz, I made a lot of mistakes, and I had a little trouble copying, with all the resends mixed with the slow speed, it took about 20 minutes to exchange RST (signal report), Names, and QTH (location), but I guess that is to be expected for my first QSO. While Springfield Ohio isn’t very far away, it was definitely sky wave propagation.

I want to practice using CW as much as possible before this weekend; I hope to operate during the 10 meter contest. Stations will get twice as many points from me if working CW mode, since I’m not upgraded to the general license yet.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

FT-847 CW Filter

During my little break from blogging, I purchased a new ham radio that I can use with my new license privileges I got when I passed the Morse code test. After a lot of research into different models and features, and a little stretching of the budget, I settled on the Yaesu FT-847. While not the top of the line, it is the best I could afford that did what I needed it to do.

Now, for the CW filter. Since I wanted to operate CW mode (using Morse Code), I knew I would need a filter that basically makes the receiver receive a narrower bandwidth, since CW doesn’t take up much bandwidth, the stock radio would pick up three or four different stations at a time if the band is crowded.

(the CW filter is the blue thing at the top)

What a difference it makes too, this weekend there is a ham radio CW only contest on the 160 meter band. Needless to say, the band is quite crowded. I knew to get the filter because more experienced operators have said so, but now, I really know why.

Friday, December 02, 2005

QSL from WP3IH

Well, almost. He replied to an e-mail I sent back in September and said that my QSL card was on the way. I had sent him a card with a self addressed stamped envelope. Why does this matter, because this was my first contact outside of the continental United States. Using my handheld radio no less, of course, it was through the satellite. I can’t wait to actually get the card in the mail!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Long time no post

It has been a while since I posted a blog entry. I was secretly holding out until Amy posted something new to her blog, but I guess, I’ll have to be the one making the first post since November 6, 2005.

A lot has been going on, Aidan is getting bigger, of course, and Christmas is coming. It has been busy at work for the most part, and at home I seem to be going non-stop from the time I get home to the time I go to bed.

I read a blog today about camera store’s bait and switch tactics, something that I had heard of before. Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection: PriceRitePhoto: Abusive Bait and Switch Camera Store. Posted a comment, and it got me thinking about how stale my blog was getting. Although, the picture of Alex holding Aidan was on top, my blog just isn’t the same when I’m not updating it regularly.

That’s all for now, I have a lot of updates, maybe they’ll be posted in the near future.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Alex Holds Aidan

It took Alex a while to be OK with holding Aidan. Finally, today, Alex said OK when I asked him if he wanted to hold Aidan.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Aidan is Home

Aidan is home from the Hospital at 3:30 pm on November 1, 2005. I also have pictures:

Aidan a few hours old (and Alex in the background)

Aidan dressed up

Aidan and his Mommy

Sunday, October 30, 2005

It's a Boy

Baby boy Aidan Joseph, seven pounds and fifteen ounces. Born at 1:49PM on Sunday, October 30, 2005.

Here Comes Baby!

We are at the hospital again, and this time we are pretty sure baby will be born. I'm hoping today and not tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Passed Element One

I passed my FCC Element One Morse Code Test yesterday. I can now operate on small portions of the HF amateur radio bands. Specifically 3675-3725 kHz, 7100-1750 kHz, 21,100-21,200 kHz in CW mode (Morse Code), 28,100-28,300 kHz in CW, RTTY, and data modes, and 28,300-28,500 kHz in CW and SSB voice modes. This is a big step for me; I wanted to do this back in 1993, when I got my no code Technician license that allowed me to operate on all amateur bands over 50 MHz. The difference is, without getting two technical, frequencies below 50 MHz are more suited to world wide communications.

Now, I need to get a radio that can use those frequencies. I’m not sure when this will happen, hopefully, before they discontinue the one I want to get. There is also studying for the element three exam for the General license, which will greatly expand my operating privileges on HF, and really make good use of that new radio I want to get. It shouldn’t be too hard, I took the element three on a whim without studying at all and missed passing by one question. I think I could refresh my memory by taking some practice tests online. It should be fun.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Been Busy Learning Morse Code

Not to many blog updates lately. I’ve spent a lot of spare time working on Morse code. I’m doing pretty well, I can copy most everything sent at ten words per minute. The speed is actually fifteen words per minute with the characters spaced at ten words per minute. It is supposed to make it easier to learn the code at higher speed. I should be able to take the FCC Amateur Radio Element One exam pretty soon. My first opportunity will be Tuesday evening at six o’clock. It all depends on when baby is born though. Right before the test, I will play some practice code at five words per minute; this should help me get used to the slower speed of the test. Hopefully, that will be the last time I ever have to use five words per minute.

The best part is, as soon as I pass the test, I can operate on some small portions of the amateur radio HF bands. Most of the bands that work well for long distance communications I’ll only be able to use CW mode which uses Morse Code. Too bad I don’t yet have a radio or antenna to operate on the HF bands yet. I’m hoping to be able to get the Yaesu FT-847 amateur transceiver. Although it isn’t the best performing HF radio around, but it also includes the six and two meter VHF bands and the seventy centimeter UHF band, areas where I also want to operate. The radio is the easy part, the tough part will be the antenna!


Monday, October 17, 2005

Ravens, not in HD?

Having recently obtained the HD service from Adelphia to go with our HDTV, I was excited to watch my first Baltimore Ravens football game in wide screen HD format. For some reason, the game wasn’t broadcast in HD, at least channel 9 wasn’t broadcasting it in HD. When the game was over and they switched to the New England at Denver game, suddenly, it was in HD. I don’t know what was wrong, but I was sure disappointed that I wasn’t able to see the Raven’s win in high definition.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Happy Birthday Amy

We have a few more hours for baby to be born today too!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Drove to the Wrong State

How many people can say they were heading for a particular State, but drove do a different State instead? That is what happened to me last night. I wanted to pick up a power ball ticket, and I forgot all about it while I was in Washington DC earlier in the day. So, after dinner, Amy, Alex, and I all hopped in van and headed for West Virginia. Now I thought taking US 340 west took you right into West Virginia once you crossed the Potomac River. So, once I crossed the bridge, I stopped at a gas station, went in to buy a power ball ticket, and they kindly informed me that I was in Virginia, not West Virginia. The good news was; West Virginia was only a couple of miles away.

National Air and Space Museum

We took Alex to the National Air and Space Museum on Saturday. He was really looking forward to seeing Air Planes, Rockets, Space Ships, and Helicopters. He sure seemed to enjoy the Museum, probably the one Museum that Alex can really appreciate at his age. Of course, his level of interest seemed to fade in and out, but for the most part, he enjoyed himself.

It seemed that one of his favorite galleries was the aircraft carrier exhibit. He got his picture taken in front of an A4.

While he wasn’t too interested in the planetary exploration gallery, he seemed to like the Mars Rover.

While Alex isn’t in the picture, I tried to explain to him the significance of Space Ship One. I think he thought it was an airplane. Of course, some of the airplanes look a little more like space ships, like the X-15, a supersonic stubby winged jet.

In all, it was a fun trip, we visited the gift shop and Alex got a little toy biplane and we shared some freeze dried “astronaut” ice cream.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I watched my first HDTV program last night, Monday Night Football. While Amy couldn’t seem to tell the difference, I certainly could. The picture was very clear and crisp. You could see much more detail less grain and brighter colors. What I wasn’t expecting but really liked was the sounds. Football games are loud, the crowd noise blends in with the announcers, but with HD, you also get surround sound, and the play by play was sent to the center channel, making it easier to understand over the crowd noise. I’m looking forward to watching some shows in HD, although, the DVR hard drive is a little small, I won’t be able to record everything I want to watch in HD.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Still No Baby

Well, we are still waiting for things to move along so that baby can be born. We are just running some errands, keeping busy, right now we are at the post office and I'm posting this from my blackberry.

We also went to the bank to deposit some checks and ger Alex some savings bonds with his child support money. Not that it was a lot of money, just what they took from his biological father's tax return, but, the smart thing to do is to save it for Alex's future.

Hmm, Amy has been in the post office for a while, maybe baby decided he wanted to be born on federal property! Probably not, the parking lot is really crowded, so the line is probably long inside.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Baby is Coming

Well, it begins. We went to the hospital this morning and the doctor told Amy to go home and come back when the contractions get to a certain level. That means that baby should be born today or tomorrow. So, we could be heading back to the hospital in an hour or two, maybe later tonight, but I have a feeling, definitely sometime today.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Blackberry Post

Posting from my blackberry, just to see if it works.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Baby Names

I have this uncanny desire to name our new baby with a name that starts with the letter A. It seems that Amy and I had a good grasp on names for girls, and I had settled on names that did not begin with A, something about having a boy is pushing me toward the A names. Of course, we have Andrew, and we have Alexander, both given names starting with the letter A before Amy and I even met, there is just something that seems right with naming our baby boy with a name starting with the letter A. We can’t use Aaron, the boys have a first cousin named Aaron. The name we’ve been discussing the most is Aidan, which I’ve only seen spelled as Aden, but Amy assures me that Aidan is the correct spelling. Let’s hope the next two children are girls, the names will be much easier to figure out, as we pretty much know what we want to do, or at least what we are compromising on. Then again, they won’t ask me what the name is going to be, so, when the time comes, it’s all up to Amy

Monday, October 03, 2005

Our Tax Dollars at Work (Trash Removal)

I guess I should start out by saying that I work for the federal government as an IT contractor. It is 8:08 on Monday morning and a janitor just stopped by my cubical and emptied my trash bin. I don’t know what bothers me more, the fact that if I would have left an old sandwich in the trash can on Friday afternoon and it would have rotted through the weekend, or that someone was actually paid out of our tax dollars to empty the trash can with one empty soda can in it. While I’m complaining, why do they insist on vacuuming the office in the middle of the day? It never fails, I’m on the phone with a customer and in comes the vacuum cleaner, if you ask me, its disrespectful and down right rude.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Simulated Emergency Test

Simulated Emergency Test

Today I participated in a simulated emergency test exercise. Emergency communications is just one of the many aspects of amateur radio that I enjoy. There wasn’t much planning put into the SET here in Frederick County, but that didn’t stop several ham radio operators form participating. My reports were as follows:

This is N3PAQ reporting from the Ballenger Creek Area 3 miles south of Frederick

First Report – 1025 EDT
Blowing Trash Cans and light debris
Trees standing but bending quite a bit
Estimated Winds 40 MPH
Steady to Heavy Rain

Second Report - 1125 EDT
Winds subsided estimated 15 to 20 MPH with stronger gusts
Steady rain
Landline telephone service unavailable

Third Report – 1232 EDT
Winds light estimated 10 to 15 MPH
Light rain
Landline telephone service restored

I called my third report my final report, although the simulation will run until 2PM today. I'll keep listening to the frequency to hear what is going on. Some of the other operators have much better imaginations than I do.

2005 Jefferson Nickel

It is odd that the year 2005 is almost over and this is the first I’ve seen of this new coin. I really like the design of the portrait side of the new nickel. There are two different reverse designs, one being a buffalo, which I haven’t seen in real life yet, the other a Pacific North West image of pines on an ocean ridge.

I’m quite pleased with the changes we have seen in our currency over the past few years. The fifty state quarter program just makes quarters that much more interesting if you ask me. The redesigned bills from a few years ago looked great, and the second redesign of the twenty dollar and fifty dollar bill. I heard that there will be a new ten dollar bill in circulation sometime soon.

Another Trip to Frederick Memorial Hospital

Ahh, there is nothing like spending the night in the hospital, and I wasn’t even the one admitted. Amy had some more preterm labor contractions that needed to be taken care of. Although we both knew that it was still a little to early for baby to come, there was part of us that wanted him to be born today. I slept in a reclining chair for a couple of hours. Alex started out sleeping on the floor because I couldn’t get him to sleep in a chair. Sometime during the night a nurse put two arm chairs together that made a nice bed for him and he slept there for a while. It’s a good thing he brought his sleep doggy. So, it looks like the doctors might let baby be born sometime after October 5, of course, that is still a little early at 36 weeks, but I guess it is a trade off since all the drugs used to stop the preterm labor contractions probably aren’t the best for baby or Amy.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Blackberry Messenger

I replied to an e-mail that Brad ( sent me on my blackberry the other day. Since our system adds “Sent from my Blackberry …” he figured out that I was using a blackberry and pointed me to the blackberry messenger at I downloaded and installed it, and found it to be pretty cool. So far, my only conversation has been with Brad, I hope to get a little more use out of it. It’s just too bad that my blackberry doesn’t get coverage on the metro. Maybe, if I start taking the MARC train again, the blackberry can make my commute a little more interesting.

Down for Maintenance

I got the following message when I went to post a blog entry today:

Blogger is temporarily unavailable due to planned maintenance.
This downtime will last 1 hour from 4:30pm - 5:30pm (PST).

That’s interesting - I got this message at 9:40am (EST). Something must be broken.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Microsoft Support

I needed to get a hotfix for a specific issue I was having with the Active Directory Users and Computers admin tool. I knew exactly what I needed, but it was one of those hotfixes that you have to contact Microsoft to obtain. So, I called support and requested the hotfix. The support person on the other end asked me a bunch of irrelevant questions that I answered anyway just to get it over with. What came next shocked me, the technician on the phone indicated that the hotfix required Windows XP service pack 3. Of course, those of us that know anything about Windows XP know that the current service pack is only service pack 2. I tried to explain this, but the tech insisted that it required Windows XP service pack 3. Microsoft’s outsourced people in India really suck, its not the first time that I call and nobody seems to have any clue what I’m talking about. The place I’m working for really needs to get a good support contract with a technical account manager and domestic technicians that actually know what they are doing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Car Died?

Maybe, I started it up this morning, and me, being in a rush just put it in drive and pushed the gas instead of giving it time to warm up. Anyway, it stalled and wouldn’t start again. The car has been giving me a little trouble in the stop and go traffic, occasionally stalling. I have no idea what is wrong with it. If I was forced to guess, I’d say that there is something wrong with the fuel pump or filter or something like that. I sure am glad we have the van now! The car’s imperfect operations sort of prompted me to accelerate plans to buy the van, but I’m sure glad we had it, especially after the baby shower and this weekend’s shopping trip, and of course, not to mention it got me to work this morning. Hopefully the car will start later today and I can run some fuel system cleaner through it. If not, its just another thing I’m going to have to get fixed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Great Frederick Fair (2005)

Wow, this is my second entry on the Great Frederick Fair. Once again, Alex had a blast riding rides. This time, I took more cash with me, and he actually got to play a game, a little fishing game where you hook a plastic fish with rings on it, and get a prize. Alex would have much preferred his prize to be that he could keep fishing!

Unfortunately, Amy couldn’t ride any rides, they all had the pregnancy warning. She did get to eat a funnel cake, something she was craving, although the powdered sugar had to be substituted with splenda. I tried it, it wasn’t so bad, but still, not as good as the real thing.

All in all, it was a good night, Alex had fun, and that was the point. Of note – I wore the exact same clothes I wore last year, as you can see in the pictures. Great Frederick Fair 2004

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Wanted to Take Off Today

I really wanted to take the day off of work today. I really need to get to the bank and close on a small home equity loan, but more importantly, Amy had a doctor’s appointment that I wanted to take her to. I’m not much for sitting and waiting at the doctor’s office, but I did say to Amy that I’d be taking off and could take her. I don’t remember it that way, but I’m sure that’s what I said. At first I was thinking about taking only half a day, but there was so much to do, I even thought about taking the whole day off. Work really gets in the way of life sometimes.

Here I am at work, it took several days for the backup guy to actually get around to installing the backup, then, and there were a few problems with it, because the wrong account was used to configure the backup software. Now if the people around here could actually do their jobs, this would have been done on Friday and all the testing would have been completed by Monday. But here I am, at work on Wednesday because the system needs to be tested and ready for production by the end of the day. What am I doing now, well, after a brief problem with another system this morning; I’m once again waiting for the back up guy to finish the required backup testing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Word Verification

For a long time, Blogger didn’t suffer from SPAM comments. Well, that long time is over. I got one a while ago, and then another, and they have been getting worse. I don’t particularly like SPAM, so, I turned on a new Blogger feature called word verification. Basically, as you can see in the example below, it’s a graphic file with a slightly deformed word that you’ll have to type into a box when commenting. I like comments, so, please, don’t let this stop you from commenting on my blog posts.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Register your SmartTrip Card

I’m so glad I registered my Washington Metro SmartTrip card. I ended up loosing it last week, and it still had about $140 left on it. I gave myself a day to find it, but when it didn’t turn up, I called the WMATA and had them disable that card and add the value to a new card and send it to me. It cost $5 of my value, that is what it costs to buy the card outright. But I’ll take loosing $5 over $140 any day. If you have a SmartTrip card that you use regularly, go on over to and register it!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

SO-50 Ham Radio Satellite

I’m going to try and work the SO-50, also known as Saudi-OSCAR 50, ham radio satellite today. I just happened to notice that it is passing almost directly overhead, just a little to the east of Frederick at about 4:35 today. BTW, OSCAR stands for orbiting satellite carrying amateur radio, just in case you wanted to know. The big problem will be actually hearing it, since it only transmits at 250mW on 436.800 MHz. Since I don’t have a beam antenna, I might not have enough receiver gain to even pick up a signal. Still, it will be fun to try.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Exchange Cluster Build

What a couple of days it has been. I dug myself into a hole when I said I could have this Microsoft Exchange cluster built by today. First, I had a hard time even finding the servers that were already racked and connected. Even then, it was tough to figure out what monitor and keyboard they were connected to. Just that wasted half a days worth of work.

Then, two days where the production servers were having various problems that took most of both days fix, monitor, and manage. So, there goes another day and a half that I should have been working on the new cluster build.

I got right back to the build of the new cluster and started having more problems, it turned out that the servers were plugged into network ports that were not configured for the right VLAN. That would have been quick to figure out, except the cables weren’t labeled with the switch ports they connected to, so when I talked to the network guy, he didn’t know what ports I was talking about, and said, find the ports or MAC addresses and give me a call back. I found the ports, and for a backup, got the MAC addresses, and about fifteen minutes later, I called the network guy back but he had left for the day. We finally got it on the network first thing the following day, yesterday.

Enter, the SAN problems. I had been used to NetApp and HP SANs for the most part, but here, they use EMC. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. I had all kinds of version conflicts with Windows 2003, the QLogic HBA drivers, and EMC’s PowerPath software. Eventually, I had to open up a support case with EMC that took two hours for them to respond to. After much back and forth e-mail with the EMC technician, I was able to get everything just right so it would work.

Since then, its been smooth sailing. Cluster server is installed, all the disks are configured, and Exchange is setup and running. Right now, I’m just waiting for the backup guy to do his thing and I’ll finish up. I might actually be done the build today, but I’ll still need another day or two for testing and review.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Costco’s Gas Wasn’t Cheap

At least they had gas for a change, but I didn’t get gas at Costco yesterday. When I drove by Sheetz on my way to Costco, I noticed that it was $2.77, wow, I’m calling that cheap, compared to Costco’s gas at $2.85, I guess it could be called cheap. I was almost completely empty, something I don’t let happen too often. Traffic was so bad yesterday that I ended up using a lot more gas than I expected on my way to and from work. Still, I turned around and went back to Sheetz to get gas instead of Costco. I guess that’s ok, when Costco was out of gas all the time, Sheetz was my fill up spot.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blank Trip

Last night we made what my Grandma Jackie would call “a blank trip”. Amy had talked to her mother on Saturday and she indicated that she would not be working on Sunday. Amy said that we would be coming up to visit after dropping of Andrew, not something out of the ordinary on Andrew weekends. We start by going to my mother’s house for a while, eating there, and then dropping off Andrew at five o’clock. After that, it is about a thirty to forty-five minute drive to Amy’s mother’s house. When we arrived, nobody was home. Fortunately for us, Amy has a key, so, we were able to get in. We figured Amy’s mother would be home any minute, so, we waited, and I watched some football. Alex still had a good time playing with blocks and action figures. After a while went by, we ordered pizza and waited a little long for it to arrive and after it arrived, it wasn’t very good. If I had more time I would have drove up to Dominos and demanded a refund. But, I sucked it up and ate the pizza anyway. After we ate, we cleaned up and drove to where Amy’s mother works, but she was not there and hadn’t been. Amy was worried, so, we called Brian, Amy’s brother. Once I was able to talk to him, he explained that his mother was with him, at the restaurant where he works. Mystery solved. She had left a message on our answering machine, but we had already left by then and didn’t check it. I still don’t know what it says. I suspect, since there were unopened baby shower gifts in the house, that she wanted to meet us somewhere instead of going to the house.

In all, it could have been worse, we could have been locked out and Alex could have had to go to the potty!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Worked Puerto Rico on the Ham Radio

Ok, now I never intended for my blog to be the ham radio blog, but tonight was really cool. I worked three stations on the AO-51 “Echo” ham radio satellite with my handheld radio. I just can’t get over it, I confirmed Puerto Rico and Ohio tonight, I think I may have talked to Michigan, but I’m not 100% certain on that one yet. Based on my experience trying to talk to the satellite with my old radio for transmitting and my scanner for receiving, I didn’t think I’d be able to make these contacts with such ease. The main thing is that the scanner can tune the center frequency of 435.300 MHz, but tunes in 12.5 KHz steps, while the ham radio tunes in 5 KHz steps. Since the satellite is moving so fast, the signal suffers from Doppler shift. When it is coming at me, I have to tune to 435.310 to start, then 435.305, that’s when its close enough for me to transmit. When it passes overhead you tune to 435.300 MHz, and as it moves away, drop to 435.295 MHz, and so on.

On the flip side, I’m out of the twenty-three cent stamps I use to send my QSL cards. Since the cards aren’t fancy, I just send them as post cards. I’ve been told that sending them in envelopes that also include a self addressed stamped envelope is better. I’ll see, I might do that for the Puerto Rico station.

Also on the ham radio today, I made my first contacts ever on the six meter (50 MHz) band and the one and a quarter meter (222 MHz) band. I also made my first simplex QSO on the seventy centimeter (445 MHz) band. Those contacts are because the VHF QSO party, a contest from the ARRL, which was going on this weekend, and because of my new radio that has those bands.

This is great!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Minivan

Yes, it has happened, I’m officially old, Amy and I have bought a minivan. Yes, a minivan. I didn’t post right away because I wanted to snap a picture of it first, then, I just didn’t get around to it. But my recent post about Costco being out of gas I mentioned that I had two cars, and everyone I know knows that I only had one car before.

The van is a Toyota Sienna LE with option package number 5. Don’t get me wrong, it is really nice, for a minivan, even though we gave up a few things to go with a Toyota over a domestic model. Toyota seemed like the right choice for a van that would take us well beyond the five year mark, the trade off was that we couldn’t afford to get it with a DVD player, power seats, or two power doors. What we get is a van with a bunch of airbags and a host of other safety features, eight passenger seating, and one power door. If you really want to know the details, Toyota’s website has a listing of standard features for the LE and everything that package 5 comes with.

Amy has been driving it a lot, she is doing quite well. Although, I’m not the greatest driving teacher in the world, progress is being made. Tonight she drove us up to the Toyota dealer to pick up our license plates. Alex sure does love sitting up high where he can see things out the window. And we all love the one power sliding door!

Costco was Out of Gas

We drove to Costco today to get gas, and there was a big sign saying that they were temporarily out of gas. It is kind of annoying that I’ve been getting my gas at Costco ever since I moved to the area, but now, that the price of gas is so ridiculous, every other yahoo out there decides that they are going to do it too, leaving none for me, a loyal customer from the start. Oh well, its just gas, I still have enough between the two cars to get me where I need to go. If they don’t have gas tomorrow night though, I’ll have to go to a regular gas station, yuck.

Monday, September 05, 2005

First Satellite Contact AO-51

After a couple of tries where I know somebody heard me because they called back to me with my call sign, I finally made a complete contact using the AO-51 “Echo” amateur radio satellite. Although I heard the call sign wrong at first, I was one letter off, I had an “M” where there should have been an “N” and it was easy enough to figure out. I’m glad he said he was in North Carolina, that was a big help because he was a WB7 call sign, since 7 is normally west coast, I knew I had the right call sign when I looked it up.

Many may not find exchanging a few sentences with a random person a few states away very interesting, but to me, it was very exciting. I had heard the satellite a few times on the scanner, but could never talk to it. With the new radio, I was able to actually complete a contact through a satellite, made by volunteers, moving at 17,000 mph, using a handheld radio. I guess it is the geek in me, but now I can say, I talked to a guy in NC with my handheld radio!

New Ham Radio - Yaesu VX-7R

I left my handheld radio, the Realistic HTX-202 from Radio Shack, on the ledge for a while, well, Alex finally decided he wanted to play with it, or at least touch it, because it fell to the floor and broke. I got the HTX-202 back in 1993 when I first got my ham radio license, and it has been a good performer over the years, I’m a little sad to see it go.

I had some clear specifications that I was looking for in a radio, most importantly, being dual band, 146 and 440 MHz bands, with dual receive capabilities. There were three that made my short list. The Icom IC-W32A a good radio with a good price, but its big drawback was the fact that it drained batteries very quickly. Next on my list was the Kenwood TH-F6A, while more expensive than the W32A, it came stock with a much better battery, the 220 MHz band, and a wide band receiver with SSB capabilities. I finally decided on the Yaesu VX-7R, it seemed to me to be the most rugged, it also had a great battery, and I figured that the addition of the 50MHz band would be a better choice than the 220 MHz band (although the VX-7R does have 220, it is really low power, 300mW).

I made a few repeater contacts with my new Yaesu VX-7R the first night, once the battery was charged. The next day I took it up on the mountain and was able to hit some six meter repeaters, make a quick contact on 146.52. I tried a 220 MHz repeater, with no luck. I also had no luck on 70 centimeter or 6 meter simplex.

I also went after the satellite, but that is for another post!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Amy's Hospital Stay

Early Sunday morning, Amy woke me up and said she was having contractions and needed to go to the hospital. So, we quickly packed things up, woke up Alex, and got ready to go. Steve told us how to get to the nearest hospital. It wasn’t very far away. Amy was admitted but needed to be transferred by ambulance to the hospital in Salisbury, the closest one with a maternity department. Alex needed to eat breakfast, so, we took a trip to my favorite Ocean City breakfast spot, Laytons on 16th St, and ate breakfast. Then we drove to Salisbury, about 30 minutes away, to be with Amy again. Then, we got some bad news, Amy was going to be in the hospital for at least 48 hours. Hmm, what to do with Alex, he was already showing signs of severe boredom. After talking to my sister, who said she was going to come back down from Dover to see Amy, I decided to take Alex back to the Ocean City boardwalk so that he could have something to do. He had a ball in the arcade, riding the Ferris wheel, and eating some more ice cream. Robin had called me and said she wouldn’t be able to visit Amy after all, but, Amy’s friend Mary Beth lives in the area and stopped by after work. She was there when Alex and I returned.

Since I had just started a new job the preceding Thursday, I needed to go home so I could go to work. I spent a lot of time on the phone arranging for Alex’s care for the next two days, and also trying to figure out a way to get Amy home when she was released. Alex stayed with my mother Sunday night, and she watched him all day on Monday. Since she had a class in Frederick on Tuesday, she brought Alex to my house and spent the night. Amy’s friend Brandon didn’t have to work on Tuesday so he agreed to watch Alex for me on Tuesday while my mother was in her class. Robin visited Amy on Monday night, and was able to pick her up from the hospital. Since she was discharged early enough, Robin brought her all the way to our house. That was nice of her. When my mom got back from her class, she volunteered to cook dinner for us, that was pretty nice too. Some how, our upstairs bathroom was cleaned up a bit, but I don’t know who did it.

It has been a stressful couple of days, but it looks like things worked out ok in the end.

Weekend in Ocean City

Amy and I were planning on leaving last Friday night to go to Ocean City for the weekend. Well, as luck would have it, my second day of work lasted for about 18 hours and I didn’t get home until almost two in the morning on Saturday. Alex was so excited to go to the beach, and I wanted to spend a nice anniversary with Amy so, we woke up a few hours later, hopped in the car (Amy had already packed for us) and drove to Ocean City anyway.

Amy, Alex, I, Robin, Aaron, and my mother all met in Ocean Pines and we went to the beach for the day together. Aaron loved the ocean, he couldn’t seem to get enough of it, Alex on the other hand, was a little scared of the waves, and he really enjoyed playing on the sand though. We ate pizza and Thrashers fries on the beach for lunch. Some time later, I guess after the sunscreen had faded and we started burning a little, we went to the board walk to get the kids ice cream cones. Robin had promised Alex an ice cream cone, and that is all he could talk about. Alex would say, “Aunt Robin take me to the beach and get ice cream!” Robin also insisted on getting the kids hermit crabs, which we didn’t think Alex would like, but he surprised us.

Amy and I went out to dinner by ourselves that night, leaving Alex with my mother. As we did on our honeymoon, we went to Waterman’s crab house and ate all you can eat crabs. Amy picked and ate 18 crabs, while I ate mostly shrimp and steamed snow crab legs. What can I say, I like the easy stuff. It was a great evening for both of us.

Sunday Morning, well, that is a post!

Another New Job

Finally, I’m working again. My first few days were crazy, an e-mail server was down with a disk array failure and the backups were not all that great. To make a long story short, after trying for a couple of days to save all of their data, we had to restore the e-mail from a backup taken on August second. Even then, we had to repair the database which took about ten hours or so. I was even on the phone for a good hour or so during my trip to Ocean City on Saturday. I think I’ll like the job, it seems like the IT department here is going in the right direction, even though it is federal government work. Its also in Washington DC, so, my commute is horrid. My hours won’t seem to work out very well with the MARC train, so, I make the drive down I270 to the Shady Grove Metro station, and then take the Metro to my stop. The trip takes about an hour and a half each way. I’m glad to be working again, and Amy is glad I’m back to work too.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Anyone monitor 27.185 MHz lately?

((This is a little post to a message board making fun of people who use illegal CB radio equipment, yes, this is what happens when you have a scanner and to much time!))

I don’t know what it is about that frequency; there sure are a lot of over modulated 20 kHz wide AM signals centered on 27.185. Wow, a signal wider than the entire audio spectrum. Must be someone transmitting on gear they know nothing about, but have tried to soup up to do something that they shouldn’t. Oh, and some seem to think, the louder they shout into the microphone, the better their signal will be. News, it’s an unintelligible mess, and I’m not talking about the horrendous English.

For those of you that wish to monitor, first, cover your children’s ears. Second, a quality ground plane antenna can be built out of aluminum tubing with a vertical element measuring 103.292 inches and four radials of 103.292 inches. This antenna would be good for transmitting as well, but we aren’t talking about that right now, if we were, we’d want that vertical element to be 258.23 inches long in order to achieve an RF radiation pattern toward more toward the horizon instead of up into the sky where it may reflect off of the ionosphere and cause interference to other users of the frequency more than 155.3 miles away. Just to be on the legal side, you would want that antenna to be mounted 19 inches below the highest point of the structure it is mounted on, with the highest point of the antenna not to exceed 60 feet above ground level.

The equipment used on this frequency seems to fall in to two distinct classes, legal and illegal. Any general coverage all mode HF receiver is legal to use when receiving transmissions made on 27.185 MHz, as are some scanners than can receive frequencies in this band. Legal transceivers for the frequency 27.185 must be approved by the FCC and are not allowed to be modified. If they must be repaired for some reason, it must be performed by a certified technician. These radios tend to have much better signals than others. There seem to be many illegal transceivers in use on 27.185 MHz, what I find disturbing is that some of them use distinguished names like President Lincoln, General Grant, and even General Washington while others have more mundane names like Galaxy Saturn Turbo, Magnum S-3, or Connex 3300HP. Some transmissions appear to be so distorted that only very low quality, but high power RF amplifier could be to blame, that wouldn’t quite be legal either.

What I really want to know, is, what is up with all the echoes on 27.185 MHz? Are these people trying to hold a two way conversation, or are they just making RF for the fun of it?

You know, I was listening to 29.150 MHz the other day, a rather polite gentleman was discussing an old Collins transmitter from the 50’s that he rebuilt, the one he was using to hold the conversation at that moment. I was receiving him 5-2 on my scanner, the signal wasn’t strong, but it was coming from about 200 miles away. What made it different from what I often hear on 27.185 MHz is I could actually understand what was being said. I wonder why there is such a difference, I mean, its all radio, isn’t it?

I guess, all users of 27.185 MHz aren’t bad, in fact, I’d say the majority who use the frequency do so properly, but the few bad apples in the group, tend to bring down the group as a whole. I guess that is all I have to say about that.

Gas Prices Change (Go Up)

Ok, so, gas prices are high, we all know that, and they probably aren’t going down any time soon. What happened to me yesterday at the pump was a first. I get my gas at Costco wholesale, since I have a membership already, it pays for me to save five to ten cents per gallon on every fill up. I didn’t notice the price on the sign when I pulled into the station, really, would I skip the fill up if the price was too high? Since its Costco, I know it is the cheapest I can get. I pull up to the pump, get out of the car, and the pump had “reserved” on the display screen and didn’t respond to my card or anything. The price on the pump read $2.459. That is a hefty price for gas, but a full ten cents cheaper than the Exxon, the next closest station. After a few minutes, you could see the pump display screen downloading a new configuration, poof, the price turned to $2.479. Wow, the price changed while I was at the pump, ok, things are getting out of hand. Not that there was anything I could do about it, so, I complained to myself, pumped my gas, and got on my way.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A year full of posts, then I slack off

I haven't posted an entry yet this month. I guess, I am just trying to avoid the subject of unemployment, something that has been dominating my life for the last few months.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mommy, I smell something

Alex had a little “clubhouse” set up, basically a blanket draped over some chairs. I was playing with him in his clubhouse and passed gas. Shortly after, Alex said, “Mommy, I smell something.” LOL I just had to laugh, then Alex said something else, it sounded like he was asking a question, “Mommy, Joe poop?” Although to Amy, it sounded more like a statement. Anyway, I couldn’t stop laughing, although, it was all at my expense!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I’m studying Morse Code again

I really want to pass the ham radio element 1 (Morse Code) exam. The FCC is considering dropping the requirement for Morse Code for the higher license classes. I remember when I first got my license, shortly after you could get a technician class license without learning the code, I felt like I cheated and always said I would learn the code eventually. Well, here it is, 13 years later, and I still haven’t done it. If the FCC drops the requirement, I’ll never have the chance. Oddly enough, this has pushed me over the edge and I’ve decided to practice, practice, practice, and take the test sometime soon. -. ...-- .--. .- --.- --... ...--

Ahh, its cool again

Well, it has cooled down a bit. It was so nice sitting outside in the cool breeze yesterday. It was a very hot day and the house was like an oven, each day the house got hotter and hotter. We went out to mail a package and then to the mall for a while. We took Alex to the arcade and he played bowling and ski ball among other things. Not wanting to leave when we were out of quarters, we let Alex play in the play area and went to McDonalds for hot fudge sundaes. It was still quite hot when we left, but around six o’clock or so, the cool breeze was really blowing. There were storms all around, but none seemed to rain on us, I guess that’s good, we were able to sit outside and enjoy the breeze instead of inside with the windows shut. The things that excite you when you don’t have air conditioning!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Three Hot Days

We are still living without air conditioning, and the next three days are not going to be very fun. The forecast for Frederick has the temperatures in triple digits.

Today, we have made plans to be out of the house for a good portion of the day, starting with a trip to the post office, followed by Amy’s doctor appointment for baby. After that we will take some time to eat lunch, I’m thinking olive garden, a good place to sit down and take your time eating lunch, although, not as cheap as fast food. Alex has been nearly begging us to see the March of the Penguins, so, there is another two hours we can spend in a nice air conditioned place. I might have a job interview tomorrow, maybe Wednesday, still need to confirm the exact date and time, but, I can’t make such grand plans for those two days. Maybe we will go to the pool and just take the mobile phone incase I get called from a potential employer.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Blogging for a Year

If you would have asked me a year ago when I started this blog, how many posts I would have made, I certainly wouldn’t have told you over 200, I probably would have said something like, between 50 and 100.

The header of my blog reads:
This online journal / blog is for me to capture a little slice of my life. The life where I try to balance family, IT work, video games, and whatever. I'll probably post a lot about work, family, news, politics, and odd things that I see or happen.

Going back and reading many of my posts, I think I have achieved what I set out to do when creating this blog, capturing a slice of my life. I’ve written a little about politics, movies, hobbies, family, work, and probably a little to much about video games.

I told myself when I set up my blog that I would get my own domain name if I actually updated my blog regularly. Its been a year, and with over 200 blog entries, I’d say I update regularly, but for some reason, I don’t have much of a desire for my own domain name. I like blogger, and the web address of my blog, is well known, well, at least with people I know.

The biggest thing to happen to my blog in the last year is the addition of blogger images. Not that I don’t have the web space to host my own images, but blogger images makes it a lot easier. Now, if only there was an easy way to move my old hosted pictures to blogger images without a whole lot of work!

Some highlights from the past year

Amy & I get Married

November Andrew Weekend Posts
Trip to DC with Alex

So, what is new. Well, I’ve been through a few different jobs since I started this blog. I don’t typically blog about periods of unemployment. I have re-discovered my ham radio hobby, I sure hope to upgrade to my general license sometime soon, of course, I’ll have to learn Morse code first. I also got a new Xbox and I’ve started playing some new games, like, Knights of the Old Republic and Madden NFL 2005. Most importantly, Amy and I are married and are expecting our first child together, third in all, in early November! I expect that my second year of blogging will be as eventful as the first.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Amy’s old laptop is on EBay

I sure hope we get a good one hundred dollars for it. Considering its condition, I wouldn’t bet on it. We should at least get the listing fee back LOL.


Mystery solved, an earlier post about my interesting night on the ham radio. When a VHF contact seems to good to be true, it probably is. No QSL for the 370 mile QSO from Frederick Maryland to Cincinnati Ohio. That’s not the whole story. I actually was talking to a station in Cincinnati, but through an Echolink (a way to link ham radio operators over the internet) node in Hanover PA, a whopping 35 miles northeast. The signal was weak, because the Echolink node was running one watt on a rubber duck antenna behind a bookshelf.

It’s a little disappointing, but this won’t stop me from running up on the mountain when I suspect a band opening. I think echolink is neat, but there should be someway to identify an echolink station. In fact, Saturday’s tropospheric ducting forecast indicates the conditions for long distance contacts on VHF, I’ll probably be up on the mountain again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Train Mobile QSO & 147.060 MHz

I had an interesting QSO, ham radio speak for conversation (more specifically, a communication with someone), with a gentleman from Washington State. Of course, he wasn’t actually in Washington State, he was on an Amtrak train heading that way and was somewhere in south western Pennsylvania. We were talking through a linked repeater system that I’ve been monitoring recently. I don’t like repeaters very much, but my current base station has to be run on low power and with an antenna that leaves a lot to be desired, limiting my simplex range to just a few miles. Anyway, KD7YVV, George, and I talked for a good twenty minutes, whatever repeater he was using, the coverage was pretty good. I was using the Mid Atlantic DX and Repeater Association’s (MADXRA) repeater on 147.060 MHz with a CTCSS tone of 123 Hz. I’m not exactly sure where it is located, but my signal into the repeater is strong with little or no noise, according to some other operators I’ve talked to on the system. I have decided to monitor this repeater because it transmits the CTCSS tone whenever the repeater puts out a signal. Since the radio in the house gets all kinds of interference, you constantly hear static, unless you are using the CTCSS tone squelch. So, since the repeater transmits the tone, I use the tone squelch feature of my radio and I don’t have to hear static constantly coming across the radio.

Back to my QSO with KD7YVV, one thing we discussed was APRS. He QSY’d (changed to another frequency) to 144.39 MHz and hooked up his GPS & TNC to try and make an APRS contact. He must have been to far from a digipeater because I wasn’t able to find his location report on any of the internet sites. Still, that’s what I like about ham radio, there is always something to do and talk about. When George went out of range, I got a call from KB3LLH, Ralph, in Frostburg Md. He brought up the weather, I don’t mind talking about the weather, but man, I still have no air conditioning in the house, and it has been quit hot and humid lately. I’m looking forward to cooler weather, or a job to fund the repair or replacement of my air conditioner.

More stuff on EBay

I’m selling stuff again. Back in the day, I was really into high end car stereo equipment. Of course, now, with a family and bills, I don’t have much of a use for it. So, I’m selling my head unit, DSP, and amplifier on EBay, along with a few other things. I’m sure the final bid prices for the stereo equipment will be a bit depressing, new; the three items above ran me about $1700. Yeah, I know, I was nuts. I sure do like selling things on EBay, but between EBay & PayPal, the sure do nickel and dime you. I especially hate final value fees, they should waive that if you accept PayPal, since they take you for a ride there too. I guess the old saying, it takes money to make money still holds true.

My EBay Auctions

Monday, July 18, 2005

Amy Reads Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The last book I read was in 1993, Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger. That doesn’t count non-fiction books related to geeky stuff. That book totally ruined the movie for me, it was a very good book, and I probably would have thought the movie was very good too. So, when it comes to Harry Potter, I’ll just wait for the movies, for now at least. Amy, on the other hand, has read all of the Harry Potter books and recently finished The Half Blood Prince. She was looking for some bragging rights, finishing it so quickly, but an updated journal entry by her friend Jack confirmed that he finished the book first. Amy’s brother Brian hasn’t finished it, but then again, he had to work all weekend and her mother was reading another book. She said it was good, but I won’t spoil it for anyone.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Interesting Night on the Ham Radio

I just had to add this to my blog, a post to a couple of ham radio forums that I frequent (slightly edited)

At my QTH (house), I was hearing a lot more APRS traffic and some digipeaters that I don’t normally hear, nothing too far away, but not normal for my setup. Suspecting good conditions for two meters (I knew that APRS setup would be helpful one day). I decided to hop in the car and run up on the mountain and call CQ on 146.58. First, I got a station from WV, about 40 miles from my location, but he doubled on another station. The WV station was mobile and I lost him, but I was hearing the doubled station much better. It sounded like he called phonetically, Kilo-Gulf-4-Sugar-Mike-Echo (sugar? Not a normal phonetic) KG4SME. He responded to me as N3PAV at first, I called again as November-3-Papa-Alpha-Quebec and he called back N3PAQ. The signal was very weak, but clear. Then, the West Virginia station called me again and I couldn’t reach KG4SME again, but I could still hear him talking with another station, didn’t get a call, but the name was Tom. After that I was talking to some stations about 45 – 50 miles to the east around Baltimore and Pasadena Md, the signals from the east seemed to be stronger than normal as well, which also could point to excellent two meter conditions.

If I didn’t copy the call sign wrong, and the station I copied at his QTH, that’s a distance of about 370 miles from my mobile (parked) location at about 1600 feet in Gambrills State Park here in Frederick Md. Is that even possible? I was running my 5/8 wave magnetic mount and Icom IC-V8000 at 75 watts, it just seems unlikely. I sent a letter (the closest thing I have to a QSL card) to the address listed for the call sign I think I heard, hopefully I will get a response confirming the QSL or not.

Karl Rove

I figure it is time for me to say something about this. While a lot of people disagree with me, I think the situation really resembles the Bill and Monica scandal back in the nineties. Clinton said to us, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, while shaking his finger. Rove said, “I did not know her name, I did not leak her name”. Both of these statements might not be direct lies, that is if you believe Clinton actually things that what he did wasn’t sexual relations. But, both statements had a specific purpose, to mislead the public while giving the speaker an out, so that later they can say, “everything I said was true”. The American people are not as stupid as you think, we know what you are doing, we didn’t like it when Clinton did it, and we don’t like it this time.

Should Bush fire Rove, well, I think he should live up to his promise, just because Rove didn’t leak the person’s name, doesn’t mean he didn’t leak the exact information needed to make that conclusion. While it might not result in charges based on the law, the damage has been done. The important thing to note is that the decision is not mine, it is the President’s, the difference is, we all have to live with his decision.

Nothing Much

I haven’t had much to blog about for the past few days, so, I think I’ll ramble a bit.

The new hot water heater is working out great. We haven’t really put it to the test with multiple showers or baths after doing laundry or anything like that, but, well, the floor under it is staying nice and dry.

I might find it hard to part with the ham radio that I’m selling on EBay. I’ve been doing a lot of listening to the HF bands. I’ve been listening to a lot of CW, while I can pick up SSB voice, my temporary wire antenna just doesn’t perform well enough to really listen to anything but the AM broadcast stations.

I’ve been watching some TV and some movies. Last night I popped in the DVD “The Sum of All Fears” a movie that I hadn’t seen in a while. I really should watch a few that I haven’t watched yet, like, “Mystic River”.

Tomorrow, I’ll be picking up Andrew for the weekend. Hopefully, it will be nice and we can go swimming, or at least, not as hot.

Sometime soon we are going to have to make a trip to Costco, its been a while, and we are starting to run out of stuff. I’ve been filling in the gaps with trips to Giant here and there. Maybe, its because I need another thirty-six pack of mountain dew!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dennis on 14.325 Megahertz

I bought a ham radio a while back, hoping to have my general license. It was a bit of an impulse buy because it was a good deal on Ebay. Anyway, since I haven’t even studied or practiced code, I decided to sell it. That and I bought a different radio that I can actually use with my license that I need to pay for.

I can’t transmit, but I can listen, sort of. Yesterday, the big news was hurricane Dennis, so, I tuned in to the hurricane net on 14.325 Megahertz on the 20 meter ham band. Just to listen. Since I don’t have a real antenna, I just hooked up a wire to an antenna tuner and hoped to hear something. My antenna really wasn’t working well at all, I could occasionally hear the net control station out of Miami, but that was about it. Still, It was fun to listen, and, it kept me busy for a few hours yesterday.

Water Heater Installed, Still no AC

They came to install the water heater today. It didn’t take very long and surprisingly, there were no additional charges for anything, which is good, considering what I’ve already paid. I was a little worried about that because it was a much bigger unit than the one that was installed originally. I snapped a photo, that thing at the top is the expansion tank.

I hope I can get my air conditioner fixed sometime soon. We've had it off all this time but today it is very hot and I was hoping to be able to use it. Preparing for the hot weather, I turned it on yesterday, hoping it would work but it didn't. It seems that the compressor is tripping the breaker. I took a close look to see if I could see any obvious wiring problems or signs of arcing, but there were none. So, it looks like a professional will have to be called in for this job.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Google Earth, I actually Used It

So I complained a lot about Google Earth a few days ago. Today, I actually made use of it. I was trying to pinpoint an APRS digipeater on the map when all I had was its latitude and longitude coordinates. After some conversion from degrees, minutes, and seconds to decimal degrees, I was able to do just that. Google Earth has a nice feature that will allow you to draw a line from one point on the map to another and measure the distance, so I used that to see how far I was from the digipeater. The white diagonal line is my measurement; I’m 9.72 miles away from the digipeater. I should be able to hit that on low power, but with my indoor antenna mounted horizontally on my air return vent, I can’t seem to get through, although I can hear it just fine. Hopefully when I get a more permenant antenna set up I’ll be able to turn the power down.

War of the Worlds

Amy and I saw War of the Worlds yesterday. I was expecting a little more, but I thought it was good. We couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this movie and Independence day, basically, if you strip all the details, they are the same movie, even the aliens looked the same. I did like War of the Worlds a little better; it actually had a more “realistic” ending, if you could use such a word when referring to an alien invasion movie. Having no prior exposure to War of the Worlds, I didn’t know what to expect, so, it seemed get a little boring and repetitive about two thirds of the way through. But once they started killing them off (and they started dying on their own), it got good again. I missed a couple of minutes of the movie about half way through, it was quite cold in the theatre and I drank a lot of coke, so, I had to hit the rest room :).

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Amateur Packet and APRS

I have had this MFJ-1278 data controller (TNC) for a while now but I haven’t hooked it up. Basically, a TNC connects a ham radio to a computer to allow the transmission of data on the air. By today’s internet standards, it is a bit slow, 1200bps, but packet radio is one of the most flexible forms of data communications around. In the old days, there were a lot of packet bulletin board systems around, there are still a few, but nothing I can find with my temporary setup. The new thing with packet radio is Automatic Position Reporting System (APRS). Basically, a connectionless protocol for communicating GPS coordinates and short messages. APRS is great for coordination and emergency communications, as well as good geeky fun.

I had to make my own cable, well, I could have bought one for $20, but the parts to make it only ran me about $3 and some skill with the soldering iron. Its not a simple cable either, it uses a 5 pin DIN connector on the end that connects to the TNC, the radio end is a little more tricky, the transmit signal and push to talk (PTT) is on the RJ45 microphone connector on the front of the radio and the receive signal is connected to the speaker jack on the back of the radio.

I had some trouble getting the transmit working just right. The TNC would key to transmit, send the packet, but the transmitter would stick on. Not a good situation. It turned out to be poor grounding. The fix was to tape the exposed metal portion of the antenna connector to the chassis of the radio.

It’s been a lot of fun. I tracked a several commuters on their way home from work. I’ve been working on various settings on the APRS software, trying to figure out what is right, I had a lot of trouble to start because I was using some older commands that don’t really work anymore. I’m such a geek, I basically jumped up and down the first time I got a message acknowledged, probably even more so when I saw my station positioned and messages on

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Robin Updates Her Blog

She posted a good entry on the family reunion in WV.

Family Reunion 2005

I enjoy getting together with family, especially during a big planned reunion where everybody gets a chance to talk and catch up. I think Alex had more fun than I did though. My grandparents have a trampoline and Alex wanted to jump on it non-stop. I think he liked that more than he would have liked their pool down in Florida. I got some good pictures, I’ll post a few of them here. One thing I didn’t get was a good picture of everyone. The picture I have of almost everyone, they are all looking away from me.

Alex and Aaron on the trampoline

Alex and Aaron eating snow cones

Everybody looking the other way

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Google Earth

I was so excited to get Google Earth. So many people raved about keyhole and Google Earth, I figured I’d check it out. The first thing I do is type in my address in Frederick, Maryland to see what it looks like from above. Well, what a disappointment, basically, nothing, you could make out some of the roads, and some dark splotches where houses should be, but that is it. All the oohing and ahing over Google Earth, and for what. The entire state of Indiana, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have the full detail that everyone is raving about, as well as some major metropolitan areas. Frederick however, isn’t on the map, at least not in detail.

Family Reunion

Amy, Alex, and I will be going to West Virginia this weekend to attend a family reunion. Robin and Aaron are coming too. She hasn’t been to one in a while, in fact, this will be the first time she’s been to West Virginia since our grandparents moved back there. The plan is for Robin to come our house tonight, spend the night, and we will leave for West Virginia on Friday, sometime after breakfast.

Alex is going to have so much fun, and if Aaron likes animals, he’ll have a lot of fun too. Last year, Alex couldn’t get enough of the dogs, cats, birds, and chickens. It is back in the middle of nowhere, so, the kids have a lot of room to run around and play without us hovering over them constantly.

There will be plenty of good food for us adults, and for me at least, a lot of catching up with various family. I’ll enjoy taking with my grandfather about our latest computer adventures. I’ll try to snap a picture or two and post it on the blog upon my return.

Robin’s Blog

Robin’s Blog, located at has been real short on updates lately. I’m sure she has plenty to blog about, Aaron is always doing new things, being bad, or whatever. She’s going away this weekend, the same place I’m going which I’ll blog about in a later post. So Robin, what’s up with the lack of blog content?

Supreme Court Decision on Eminent Domain

So I’m a little late with my comments on this one. I’ve made it clear on my local news forum that I disagree with the decision and that if anything, eminent domain should be more restricted. What brings this back to mind is my blog surfing. You’d be surprised how many people have been placing the blame on “Republicans” and “Conservatives”. Clearly, they have not read the decision, or if they have, they don’t have a clue. The opinion was 5-4, with the four dissenting justices being the most conservative on the court, all Republicans appointed by Republican presidents. I hope I won’t have to read another blog or forum thread talking about Bush’s nominations, and how it will make this sort of things worse, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

New Water Heater

I had to buy a new water heater today. Based on the size of our current water heater, which seems a little small, and the recommendations of a plumbing book on the size of water heater that we will need for our family, we had to go with the eighty gallon model. The price for the water heater wasn’t so bad, only $450, but the installation fees, and other required components really racked up. Frederick County requires a building permit for such things, and since I’m on public water, they have to install an expansion tank.

The breakdown:

Water Heater: $450
Expansion Tank: $100
Installation for water heater: $230
Installation surcharge for >53gal: $50
Expansion tank installation: $40
Building Permit: $36

Total: $906

The good news is, I got a $35 mail in rebate.

Frederick County Public Library

It has been a while since I actually used a public library, but a few months ago, I needed to make a photo copy, the cheapest place was the library. Amy, Alex, and I all went together and got library cards at the same time. Since then, Alex and I have gone to the library a few times to get books. We had one book for a while, and I got an e-mail from the library telling me that it was going to be due in a few days. That was pretty cool. The three of us went to the library yesterday to return the book and of course, check out another. I was thrilled to get an e-mail, telling me that the book was due. Without it, I might have forgotten all about returning the book.

One thing that I didn’t like was my experience using their computer system. I needed to print out a job application and my printer didn’t have any ink. I thought, I’ll just run down to the library and print it out. Wrong, their computers did not have Microsoft Word. Now, I understand that Word is an expensive program, but it is used just about everywhere. My suggestion would be that if you are not going to have Microsoft Word, at least load up the free Word Viewer, since there are millions of Word documents out there on the internet, a quick Google search shows about 4 million documents starting with the letter E, you’d think you’d be able to view those at the library.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cleaned Up Computer Desk

I had a mess in and around my computer desk, with the printer, scanner, and TNC on the floor, a bunch of stuff piled on the desk (aka table). So, now there is a pile of stuff on the floor, and all the computer equipment is on the table.

I snapped a picture that I’m going to upload with blogger images, I will see if it is better than putting it on my personal web space and linking to it.

From Left to Right
Dell Dimension 8400
Dell UltraSharp 20” Monitor
Dell UltraSharp 20” Monitor
Microsoft Optical Mouse
Lexmark Z11 Printer
MFJ-1278 Multi-Mode Data Controller (under printer)
HP ScanJet 4100C

Madden NFL 2K5 Super Bowl

I won; a perfect season of 19 strait wins (23 if you count pre-season). I beat the Carolina Panthers, 34-7. It wasn’t a blow out win, but it was a win. I decided to simulate the pro bowl, I didn’t even pay attention to who won. Now, it is the off season, and I have a lot of administrative type work to do on my team. I signed the coaches, but there are some players that I’ll need to replace. This year shouldn’t be to hard, but if I keep wining the way I do, I’ll have the lowest salary cap and might have trouble keeping my good players. I’ll play another season for sure, I hope it is another 19 strait win season, but one thing is for sure, I’ll keep it down to one, maybe two games in a single day.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ham Radio Field Day

I was going to enter the field day contest but it seemed that I would not be able to participate today. So instead I bought a new radio and antenna for the car, expecting to pick up a contact or two while I was on the road. It turned out that I had plenty of time for the contest, so, I parked the car up on a mountain and had a blast. Although I didn’t officially enter the contest, I had a lot of fun making contacts across the two meter band FM mode. Below is my log of contacts.

K4NVA 3A-VA 146.58MHz (Sterling Va)
N3DUE 2A-MDC 146.58MHz
K4VOC 4A-VA 146.58MHz
KB3JQQ 1B-MDC 146.58MHz
W3A0 9A-VA 146.550MHz
W4IY 9A-VA 146.55MHz
W3CAO 146.58MHz (I was in transit)
N3JOZ 1DPA 146.55MHz
KB3JFG 147.57MHz
W3WOD 1C-MDC 147.495MHz (Catonsville Md)
KD4IEA 1D-VA 146.55MHz
AA3T 1B-EPA 146.55MHz
W3KGN 3F-EPA 146.55MHz

Earlier in the day I spoke with N3RO in the neighborhood next to mine on 146.52MHz, the first contact on my radio.

I called and called on 147.555MHz, but there was no answer. That was the first amateur frequency I used when I got my license. My Boy Scout troop used that frequency as a talk around and for organizing transportation. I’ve never heard anyone else on use it, one of these days, I’ll make a contact!

New Ham Radio – Icom IC-V8000

I picked up a new two meter amateur radio the other day, the Icom IC-V8000. I read a lot of reviews, and it was the best radio out of the three other brands. It is also a little more expensive than the others, but not much. I was going to choose the Yaesu FT-2800M because it was the cheapest, but looking at them side by side, the Icom was so much smaller, I had to go with it. My car doesn’t have much room for radio mounting, so, size really does matter in this case. I also picked up a 5/8 wave magnetic mount antenna, I sure hope this can be the last magnetic mount Antenna I have to get, I’d much prefer an NMO mount, but just haven’t gotten the nerve to put a hole in my car.

Mounting Location

Close Up


Antenna Close Up

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More on Social Security

I don’t know why I think I know all the answers, but I like to propose my solutions anyway! First, personal accounts don’t really matter one way or the other. Most of us, at least those of us who actually think about retirement, already have personal accounts that we contribute to in the form of a 401k, IRA, or other sort of savings. Instead of giving us some government managed personal account, how about giving us some additional incentive to maintain our own personal accounts?

I don’t agree with the proposals to pay reduced benefits to those who have paid the most into the social security system. Although, one solution would be to eliminate the $90,000/year or so cap of wages that you pay social security on. Also, raising the age of retirement isn’t a bad idea. This wouldn’t put a whole lot more into the system, but would effectively reduce benefits for higher income workers, without actually reducing benefits. I would personally be affected by this change, of course, I’d rather have the six percent of the extra few thousand I make to put into my own account, I’d gladly give it up in order to help the system.

What can we all agree on, well, we don’t want to pay a higher percentage of our paycheck into social security? Other than that, the issues can get quite polarizing.

I’m going out on a limb with a crazy idea that doesn’t sound like me at all with this one. Maybe the federal government could find some way to require us to put a percentage of money away for retirement. This would impact me, as I do so without the government telling me too. Not everyone wants to risk their money in stock, bonds, or mutual funds, but putting the money in a standard savings account or in some sort of savings bond program might work. Its an idea that I don’t really like, and doesn’t actually solve the social security funding problem, but it sounds like a way to accomplish the goal of higher returns on private accounts without a huge government management system wrapped around it. It would however, effectively be an additional payroll tax.

What do I like about all of the talk on Capitol Hill? They are committed to leave things the same for older workers and those already receiving benefits. Of course, they have their reasons; these older workers are a huge voting block that they don’t want to upset.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Personal Finance – Under Funded Roth IRA

I should be putting away $333 per month in my Roth IRA. Of course, I’m not even close with my measly $100 per month. I’m 27 years old and I have only managed to save about $5000 for retirement. My financial advisor made a point to remind me that my wife and I can put away $8000/year between us. I need to get a job with a good 401k match. At one point, I was working for a company that matched 401k dollar for dollar up to six percent of your pay. I didn’t work for them long enough to take advantage of that match though. That’s too bad; it would have been a great way to save for retirement. Oh well, opportunity missed. I should probably work out a budget that will permit me to contribute more all around to savings.

Madden 2K5 – Super Bowl Time

Ok, so, I’ve gone crazy over this game. It is time for me to play the super bowl. I have had a perfect season, and crushed my two playoff opponents. Now, I will play the panthers in the super bowl. I was hoping the Giants would win, because it would have been a cool rematch of the 2001 super bowl, but they didn’t. Oh well. I sure hope I win, it would be a shame to be perfect all season (including pre-season) and then loose it all at the end.

Game - Week 16

Ok, it happened again, I tried to load up my game for week 16 verses the Pittsburg Steelers and the game just wouldn’t load. I was getting a little upset at the game and then I thought of something, I could just skip to week 17 and simulate all the games that have yet to be played. I would be taking my chances on a win or a loss, but it worked. Not only did it work, but the game was a win, putting my record at 15-0. Week 17 I beat the Miami Dolphins to improve my record to a perfect 16-0 for the season. How fitting, completing the perfect season against Miami. So, now it is time for the playoffs. I don’t really know what to expect. I sure hope I can continue to win. If I should win the super bowl, I guess the game will move on to a new year. I’ll probably end up with some salary cap issues in future seasons, I have signed to really hot players, Andrew (WR) and Alex (QB), that I created to huge contracts for seven years.

Mountain Dew is Good

I sure do drink a lot of Mountain Dew. I drink at least two or three cans each day. It’s a good thing I shop at Costco, man; I couldn’t imagine dropping fifty cents or more on each can.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Madden 2005 – Franchise Game

I had a franchise started in Madden 2005 but it wouldn’t load my 15th game. I was a little annoyed at that. I decided later to start another franchise and I’ve been doing quite well. I’m 14-0 in my first season, that’s right; I’m up to the 15th game. I haven’t played it yet, I sure hope it loads; I’ve already clinched home field advantage in the playoffs. It looks like I’ll be winning the super bowl this year. I was trying to make Jamul Lewis set the season rushing record, but so many teams have been killing my running game it’s not funny. I have however, been able to really rack up the score using my passing game. No doubt it’s because they are often playing the run, and I make a big gain down field. There is some hope, my last game I had 205 yards, but I think I’m at 1800 yards or so with only two games left. More to come on Madden 2005, you can be sure of that.

Andrew Week

Andrew’s Aunt is getting married on July 2nd. Right in the middle of what would be a rare holiday weekend visitation where I would get the weekend and the holiday. I was planning to go a family reunion that weekend and wouldn’t be able to give up just Saturday. Instead, I talked to Andrew’s mother and let her know that I would skip the July fourth holiday weekend in exchange for having Andrew all week this week. So far, he has been fairly good, even played outside a little today. He still would rather sit in front of the TV all day, but we try our bests to get him to do other things. Later this week, it looks like we will get to go swimming, Andrew’s favorite activity. Hopefully we will be able to go more than once this week, I know both Alex and Andrew will enjoy it. I hope to find something else that the kids can do together, I was thinking that they might like to take in a baseball game, or at a minimum, go to the arcade in the mall.