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