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.