Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: War Games: The Dead Code (spoiler)

I was scrolling through the digital cable guide and spotted the words “War Games” so I had to check it out. It was a new movie, 2008 called War Games: The Dead Code starring Matt Lanter and Amanda Walsh. The description in the guide said:

In 1983, a teen computer hacker played a doomsday game against a government computer. In this thrilling sequel, another high school online whiz wreaks havoc when he hacks into a secret government program.

I went into it expecting that it wouldn’t be the greatest move ever, and nowhere near as good as the original. It is a good thing that I set my expectations low, because, well, it just wasn’t a blockbuster. But here is the reason I’m not a movie reviewer, because, I enjoyed watching it anyway!

Now, for some plot. Basically, instead of playing global thermonuclear war, there was something else that I can’t quite remember. Global thermonuclear war made a cameo, of course, it was on the list of games, they pointed to it with the mouse and acknowledged it, but went on to the other game. Basically, the computer, R.I.P.L.E.Y. is some sort of automated anti-terrorist computer that is supposed to automatically find terrorists based on computer algorithms and kill them. Of course, through a series of mostly innocent actions, the teen gets flagged by the computer as a terrorist, and the chase is on.

Guess who is back? Dr. Stephen Falken, back from the dead, again. Not played by John Wood this time, but Gary Reineke makes a good older Falken. An even more important returning character from 1983 is Joshua, AKA the W.O.P.R., which has been running a power grid somewhere up in Canada. The plan is to use Joshua to fight against R.I.P.L.E.Y. There is a lot of cheesy action, this time, instead of tic – tac – toe they teach R.I.P.L.E.Y. that the only winning move is not to play with antichess, which they call suicide chess.

Yes, its cheesy, but I still enjoyed it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Left wallet home, nearly ran out of gas, and other things that went wrong today

What a crazy afternoon I had. It started this morning, or, actually last night. When I got out of the van, I dropped my wallet and it was on the ground all night in the rain, soaked through and through. Thankfully, it was still there. After I dropped Alex off to faith formation I returned to wait in the car for a while because I had a meeting with the Director of Elementary & Family Catechesis. While in the car, I emptied my wallet of all the various things that were inside and ran the heat on high to dry things out. I put the credit cards in my jacket pocket because I didn't want to leave them in the car while parked on the street while I went to my meeting.

Fast forward to later today. The Ravens game was starting to get good as I was about to leave to take Andrew home. So, trying to get out the door while catching the game, I forgot some things. Andrew's overnight bag for one, and I didn't put on my jacket, which is where the credit cards were. I'm about two thirds of the way when I realized that I wouldn't have enough gas to make it all the way, then realized that I didn't have any cash or credit cards on me. I didn't have enough gas to make it home either. So I was in trouble.

Fortunately, there was six dollars in change in the van's little coin holder, whew. That was enough to get Andrew home, but not quite enough to get back home so I called my mom and she met me at a gas station and gave me a little more. Thanks mom!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Alex's Cub Scout Fundraiser

Alex is selling popcorn to support his Cub Scout activities. Most folks that know me know that I'm not a big fan of fundraisers. Last year we bought popcorn from others and just wrote some big checks. This year my check writing ability isn't what it was, so, I figured I'd have Alex participate in the fundraiser.



Alex's online popcorn link: http://bit.ly/hAudI

The online ordering is great since friends and family who aren't local can order from Alex too! We'll add that to going door to door in the neighborhood (competing with all of the other scouts in the neighborhood) and selling to other friends, co-workers, and family (competing with Aaron of course).

The Scout popcorn fundraiser is interesting in that you have the option to "Send popcorn to the troops" as in, send popcorn to military service members. There is a $25 & $40 level to do that. I'm not sure exactly how that works though. I know that in fundraisers I've done in the past many folks just preferred to give a donation, maybe this is aimed at that crowd.

Our biggest disadvantage is that our pack meets on the last Tuesday of the month and a lot of other popcorn selling boys, including Aaron have a head start on us. We'll see how we do!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Philmont 1993

I happened to see a local troop's Philmont group photo on the web the other day and I've been wanting to get mine scanned. Here it is:



Top Row:
Andy Greib, Paul Thomas, Larry Thomas, Shawn Mitchell, and Mike Stumpfoil (Stumpy)

Bottom Row:
Jeremiah (the messiah) Cheipellie, Joseph Durnal (me), Bob (the Ranger), Dave Leasure (McLeasure), Ian Hays.

This and the troop sailing trip the year later are some of the best memories of my teen years.

Difficulty with IIS and port binding

I was having a problem when trying to use the same server for the Exchange 2007 server with the client access role and Office Communications Server edge server role. I know that this is far from best practice, but when you work with small businesses, sometimes the functionality desired exceeds the number of servers the budget can support, especially when they just bought a brand new 64 bit server with a 16 gigabytes of ram which is clearly underutilized.

The problem was with binding port 443 for both Outlook Web Access and the Web Conferencing edge service. Even though I had configured IIS to use one IP address and the OCS edge to use another.

netstat -a showed port 443 listening on the IP that I had assigned in IIS, but when I tried to start the OCS Web Conferencing edge, it would fail, with the event log indicating that it couldn't bind to the port because it was in use. netstat -a also showed 0.0.0.0:443 and [::]:443, meaning that it was still listening on all assigned IP addresses, including IPV6 even though it wasn't enabled. I verified that the OWA site was the problem by stopping the default web site, and starting the OCS Web Conferencing edge service, which worked.

The solution presented itself through the netsh command, which has saved me several times. From a command prompt:

C:\netsh
netsh>http
netsh http>sho iplisten (blank by default)
netsh http>add iplisten ipaddress=xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
netsh http>sho iplisten (shows the OWA IP address)
netsh http>exit

I verified that it worked by typing netstat -a, and it wasn't listening on 0.0.0.0:443 or [::]:443 anymore. Even more convincing was that with IIS and the default website running, I was able to start the OCS Web Conferencing edge service.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Cub World at Camp William B. Snyder Day Three

I managed to wake up late again, so we missed the religious service, but using the coffee delivered to camp before I woke I was able to get Alex to the morning assembly and breakfast. After the morning assembly clue, I had a good idea who Ripley was, and the rest of the clues just confirmed it.

The first activity was Archery, and Alex is good at Archery, he was the best boy in the group, getting one bull’s eye and getting most of his arrows in the target. I did have to remind him several times not to grab the bowstring with all four fingers. There was plenty of space for Adults to shoot as well, so, I took the chance, as I like Archery too. I happened to be the best adult there, aside from the staff member running the station, Archery has always come naturally to me, I should probably do it more often.

It was a long walk to handicraft, and it had started to rain again. The boys didn’t seem to mind. While they were playing hide and seek in Akela’s village, I sat under the pavilion with a Scouter from pack 570 in Frederick Maryland. After talking to him for just a little bit, I thought to myself, I hope I can eventually get to the point of being as dedicated to scouting as he. After their game, the boys made leather arrowhead neckerchief slides. Alex did really well, he got a couple of twists in his wrap that I caught early enough for him to fix, and I helped him with the knots and a few tough parts, but it is mostly boy made.

The sun had come out again, just in time for lunch. I was hoping that they would put the flags up again, but they didn’t. Immediately following lunch we went back to camp and packed up our gear and put it in the car. It was quite a walk from camp to the car; fortunately, our stuff got a ride, so we didn’t have to carry it the whole way.

It was time for the pool again, which Alex has said several times was his favorite part. I was able to get him to focus on some actual swimming this time. He sinks like a rock, but then again, I think all kids do! Despite his lack of buoyancy, once we started working on swimming, he showed some promise. To try and give him something to look forward to, I took a couple of trips down the water slide, where you have to be a swimmer to go. Hopefully he’ll remember this when I’m trying to teach him to swim in the future. The water slides were a ton of fun!

Our final scheduled station was the fort, which is where BB shooting took place. Before BB shooting, the boys learned a bit about branding, and got to pick out a brand and see it put on a piece of leather. They seemed to enjoy this part, but were anxious to go and shoot BBs. But before that, they visited the fort saloon for some finger printing, which left them with black fingers. We had lost a couple of boys from our group that went home early by this time, something we found to be a shame, but it was a long weekend to this point, and part of me wanted to get home too. Finally, they got to go on the BB range. This time, Alex wore the safety goggles over his glasses, and shot very well, again, I think he was the best shooter in the group.



Then it was back to the dining hall dinner and the final flag ceremony. I noticed that they had put the flags back up while we were at the fort. First we stopped at the car so Alex could change into his uniform. We used his freshly made neckerchief slide, which Alex seemed to like, realizing that he had made it himself and it looked good and was useful too. I’m sure Alex will, as I did when I was a cub scout, make many neckerchief slides.



Following dinner was the closing campfire. We lost another member from our group, and Alex and I were the only ones left from our camp site. Several of the packs did skits, most of which were quite good. Several involved the boys playing the parts of some of the camp staff. One involved a boy sitting down reading the paper, with other boys coming to him with all sorts of camp problems only to be blown off, then the final boy says “hey Eric, there is a basketball game in the pool” and he gets up, drops the paper, and runs off stage! It was great! Then the staff did a very good skit! Then came the moment we had been waiting for, the identity of Ripley Jebediah Hemingway was revealed. I was right, and though that whole theme was a little over Alex’s head, he still seemed to enjoy it. After the staff sung Scout vespers the final time, we departed. I said to the camp director “We’ll be back”.

What a great Cub Scout program.

Cub World at Camp William B. Snyder Day Two

I slept in a little, so Alex and I had to rush to breakfast, just making it to assembly before. The best part was that coffee was delivered to camp, so, I was able to fuel up for the walk to the dining hall! Alex was at a loss for words for the pack check in procedure, so, he just said “Pack 285 is here”. Other packs, most with a lot more boys, had nifty little cheers, like “Pack 35 is alive” etc. Some simply said “Pack ### all present and accounted for, sir”, mimicking the staff patrols.

After breakfast was the big dig. The boys really seemed to enjoy it, the setup was that Ripley had hidden clues in the sand, and the boys had to find them. They really liked entering through the tunnel. After finding all the buried clues, which added up to look in the tower, the staff climbed into the tower and retrieved the clue box.



After the big dig, the group moved on to nature, but instead, I took Alex to the pool for his swim test. I didn’t expect him to even make beginner, but he wanted to try, and I knew that it would be good for him to try, so, he jumped into water over his head, freaked a little, kicked himself up and grabbed the wall, end of swim test. As they were filling out our buddy tags, I mentioned that there was no need for me to pass the swim test if Alex was a non swimmer, but they told me that I would need to be a swimmer to take Alex, a non swimmer on a boat. I didn’t want to miss nature, so I didn’t take the swim test right away. Alex missed some of nature, but he enjoyed what he saw, he liked looking at all the insects in bottles. They talked about geology, something Alex had already done, and used a baking soda and vinegar volcano to learn about the scientific method. We got a great clue at nature! That Ripley had earned a congressional award. Now, these aren’t your ordinary summer camp staff people, they are some of the best and brightest that the Boy Scouts of America has to offer, and several had earned congressional medals.



Next came lunch and siesta. We didn’t really use the siesta time for taking a nap, we worked on the scavenger hunt with others from our camp instead. Alex wasn’t liking that too much unfortunately. I guess, not everything that seems fun to adults works for kids, at least not all the time. We did pass a neat looking caterpillar though, that held his attention for a bit.



After lunch and siesta was the pool session. Alex didn’t seem to mind being limited to the non-swimmer section of the pool. While he was with his buddy, I took my swim test, which consisted of swimming the length of the pool four times, three face down, and one on your back. The first three lengths were no trouble, but when I was on my back, I could not swim straight at all, I think I covered two lengths zigzagging. I got my buddy tag updated as a swimmer and joined Alex in the shallow end.



The final scheduled session of the day was the ship. On the ship they learned about port, starboard, bow, and stern. They all got to raise some flags, followed by a life jacket drill where they all had 20 seconds to get their life jackets on. With their life jackets on, they climbed down the cargo net for some more activities inside the ship. They had to figure out a code to open the ammunition boxes filled with water bombs, which culminated in a water bomb battle, where Captain Shea got the worst of it I think.



They encourage the boys to wear their uniforms for dinner, and Alex wore his for all three. While not all of the boys wear them, I like the uniform and I encourage (ok, sometimes force) Alex to wear it whenever he has the opportunity. The ham for dinner Saturday night was great! Alex didn’t eat his, so, I ate it for him!

After dinner was free time, there were several activities available. Alex chose the planetarium, boating (paddle boats), and BB shooting. All good choices, except the planetarium was very hot inside. We enjoyed learning about constellations, and the boys got a good demonstration on how and why Polaris stays in the same spot in the sky, and how to find it. The most anticipated activity of the evening for Alex was the boats, which is why I took the swim test! I think this may have been Alex’s first time ever on a boat of any kind and it was very exciting for him. My camera batteries died while taking pictures at boating, but I got a few. Our final free time event was BB shooting, which Alex enjoyed, even though he didn’t hit the target at all. He had taken his glasses off to put on the safety goggles, and it was starting to get dark. It is amazing how much fun a boy can have missing a target five times!



Back at camp we started a fire. I pretty much left that up to the other dads that were there, mainly because I forgot my matches, but I am one heck of a fire maker and couldn’t help but help keep their flame growing after they used up about three quarters of a Washington post. We roasted some marshmallows and turned in for the night, well, Alex turned in and I took a shower. Overnight we had heavy rain for a considerable period of time, starting with some strong thunder storms, with the thunder coming basically the same time as the lightning a few times. We didn’t get too wet, so that was good, and Alex slept through the whole thing!

Cub World at Camp William B. Snyder Day One

Alex and I left for camp at about three o’clock in the afternoon on Friday. After driving for about one and one half hours we arrived at Camp William B. Snyder in Haymarket, Virginia. We were late, check in was supposed to start at one o’clock, so, we had to do a little rushing around getting our stuff to camp and getting ready for the first assembly and dinner and we missed all of the orientations, including the swim test.

Just before each meal, was an assembly outside of the dining hall where all of the scouts and staff would gather report in. Before breakfast and dinner were flag ceremonies performed by the camp staff who set an excellent example for the boys. There were four staff patrols, each would do a little skit before the flag ceremony, and some of them were great, getting good laughs from both the boys and their parents. Dinner was great, but the process was even better. Having missed most of the orientation, it was a little confusing at first. Basically, before the assembly, we would set up the table, putting the chairs down, and getting dishes and silver ware placed, but most importantly, selecting a totem. While we were outside at assembly, the kitchen staff would deliver the meals to each table on platters and in serving bowls. After eating, the (staff person, Kirby, whose title I can’t remember, but sort of in charge) would give a few announcements and say “What time is it?” to which all would reply, “Song Time!” and then they would spin the “wheel of song” that would choose the staff group that would lead that meal’s song. Clean up was interesting too, after singing, the kitchen staff person would ask us to throw away all of our trash and uneaten food, clearing it from all the dishes. Then they’d call for specific items to be brought to the dish washing area. This was also a little confusing at first, but we got the hang of it.



After cleaning up following dinner we again assembled for the opening campfire. This is where the fun really started. The staff had some great skits, really great skits, all setting up for the weekend’s theme: The Cub World Detective Agency with a mission to find out which staff member was Ripley Jebediah Hemingway, an ‘enemy’ secret agent. For each camp session, the camp director draws a name from a list of staff members and puts it in a box, and then places several clues in boxes for each station and saves some clues to be given out at assembly before meals. At the end of the campfire, the staff sung Scout vespers and we returned to camp for lights out.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ham Radio PSK31 Digital Operators

This started as a post on a message board, but I thought I would clean it up and turn it into a blog post. First, some background. PSK31 is a digital radio modulation mode, used by amateur radio operators for real-time informal text chatting. On the radio, I do a lot of listening, so, if there is a station on the air chatting with several other stations, I probably know what was said.

When the station calls for another contact (calls CQ) and I answer, I hate it when this happens


***XXNXXX transmitting to KJ4JGD with me listening***
KJ4JGD DE XXNXXX
HI NAME IS XXX
QTH IS XXXXXXXX
YOUR SIGNAL IS 599
MY RIG IS: XXXXXX, ANT XXXX, ETC. ETC.
thank you for the qso
qsl direct
73 KJ4JGD DE XXNXXX sk sk

CQ CQ CQ DE XXNXXX XXNXXX PSE K

****NE3R (me) transmitting to XXNXXX****
xxnxxx de ne3r ne3r kn

***XXNXXX transmitting to NE3R (me)***
NE3R DE XXNXXX KN

****NE3R (me) transmitting to XXNXXX****
xxnxxx de ne3r Hello my name is Joe from Frederick Maryland. How is the weather in XXXXXX? I see the radio you are using is an XXXXX how do you like it and are you using any add on filters? xxnxxx de ne3r kn

***XXNXXX transmitting to NE3R (me)***
NE3R DE XXNXXX
HI NAME IS XXX
QTH IS XXXXXXXX
YOUR SIGNAL IS 599
MY RIG IS: XXXXXX, ANT XXXX, ETC. ETC.
thank you for the qso
qsl direct
73 NE3R DE XXNXXX sk sk

...

As you can see, XXNXXX sent me the same text that was sent to the station he was talking to before I called. In my response, I asked some specific questions based on that information, but got the same thing back, with the last line indicating that XXNXXX wanted to end the contact (sk).

Why does this happen? I think the problem is because many operators simply use macros to send canned information instead of having to type and engage in a real conversation. Sure, macros are good during contests, when you want to knock out QSOs as fast as possible, but for general day to day contacts, they should be used sparingly. Seriously, how interesting could a conversation between two operators using macros be?

I also have issues with people using capital letters on PSK31. Not that capital letters are bad, but they should be used sparingly. PSK31 uses a variable byte length for each character, with more common lower case letters being shorter than less common upper case letters. Sure, capital letters are fine for proper names and the beginning of a sentence, but every where else, lower case is fine.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Durnal Family Reunion, Philippi WV, Day 2

Ok, there were so many other folks there who I don't know their names.

Bill Durnal
Ashley Durnal
Bill's girlfriend
Connie Stout
Allen Stout
Scottie
Wendy's sister & her SO

And several older people that I don't really know. Since BJ & Bill don't mix, he didn't come over but I brought his children, Chloe and Calin (I guess that is how it is spelled).

I know that the highlight of Harmony's day was coming to the hotel for a few minutes and getting on the internet. She also really enjoyed holding sleepy Zoe.

The family fireworks were awesome this year. We started a little early because it was starting to rain.

As always, it was great catching up with everyone.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Durnal Family Reunion, Philippi WV, Day 1

It was great to see everyone again, well, almost everyone. Lets see if I can list the attendees, and no, I don't know all of their last names, but I'll give it a guess.

Robert G. Durnal
Wilma Durnal
Joseph Martin Durnal (that's an easy one)
Amy Lynn Durnal
Alexander Hamilton Durnal
Aidan Joseph Durnal
Zoe Lynn Durnal
Tammy Vreeland
Harmony Stout
Kirsten Vreeland
Brooke Vreeland
Robin Mallory
Kris Mallory
Aaron Mallory
Sonny Durnal
Rebbecca Durnal
Kaleb Durnal
Nathan Durnal
Either Kaleb or Nathan's girlfriend
Diane Zentgraf
Joyce Haggins
Gloria Welsh
Jim Durnal
Diena Durnal
Rachel Durnal
Robby Durnal the elder
Wendy Durnal
Robby Durnal the junior
BJ Bolton
Chloe Bolton
OMG I forgot the baby's name Carlie? Bolton
Joe Sidel
Teddy Sidel

I wonder if I forgot anyone. I bet Robin would have expected me to include Bear, but if I included Bear, there are like 50 other dogs I'd have to include! And maybe some goats and chickens.

Adults did a lot of talking and kids did a lot of playing. Around 9, Amy and I packed up our three, Aaron, Kirsten, and Brooke to go see the fireworks. We always forget that they don't start until 10, but it wasn't bad, we got a decent parking spot.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

An example text radiogram

Here is an example NTS radiogram that I received over the air today. I received it via voice, but I'm going to save it in a file.


14 R HXG KK3F ARL 10 FROSTBURG MD Jun 30
BT
JOSEPH DURNAL NE3R
123 STREET ADDRESS
FREDERICK MD 21703
### ### ####
BT
ARL FIFTY THREE 70 HAD
A GREAT FIELD DAY 73
BT
PAT KK3F
/EX


The BT is a Morse code prosign for break and the /EX is what a digital text formatted message has to have at the end so that the system knows where it ends.

This message uses a format known as ARRL numbered radiograms. The FIFTY THREE stands for Received your _____. It's appreciated; many thanks. In this case, the 70 fills in the blank, which is the message number I used when sending Pat a message on ARRL Field Day.

Alex's Cub Scout Day Camp Achievements

I figured that Alex would do a few requirements and earn a few belt loops at Cub Scout Day Camp, but I was a little surprised at just how much he had done. I remember a little about being in day camp, but I don't remember earning so much.

Wolf Badge Requirements:
1a, Play catch with someone 10 steps away. Play until you can throw and catch.
1b, Walk a line back and forth. Do it sideways too. Then walk the edge of a board six steps each way.
1c, Do a front roll.
1d, Do a back roll.
1e, Do a falling forward roll.
1f, See how high you can jump.
2e, Learn how to raise a U.S. flag properly for an outdoor ceremony.
2f, Participate in an outdoor flag ceremony.
2g, With the help of another person, fold the U.S. flag.
5d, Show how to use a hammer.

Wolf Electives:
4c, Play Ring Toss.
4f, Play a wide-area or large group game with your den or pack.
11e, Learn and sing a song that would be sung as a grace before meals. Write the words in the space below.
11f, Sing a song with your den at a pack meeting. (he already did this one)
17a, Learn to tie an overhand knot and a square knot.
18f (1 event), Take part in two summertime pack events with your den.
19a, Identify five different kinds of fish.
19b, Rig a pole with the right kind of line and hook. Attach a bobber and sinker, if you need them. Then go fishing.
19c, Fish with members of your family or an adult. Bait your hook and do your best to catch a fish.
19d, Know the rules of safe fishing.
19e, Tell about some of the fishing laws where you live.
19f, Show how to use a rod and reel.
20a, Play a game of tennis, table tennis, or badminton.
20c, Earn the Cub Scouting shooting sports Archery belt loop.
20k, Show how to dribble and kick a soccer ball. Take part in a game.
20n, Earn the Cub Scouting shooting sports BB-gun shooting belt loop.
20o, With your den, participate in four outdoor physical fitness-related activities.
23e, Attend day camp in your area.

He earned the following:
Fishing belt loop
Weather belt loop
Astronomy belt loop
BB Gun Shooting belt loop
Archery belt loop
Archery Pin
Soccer belt loop
Badmitten belt loop
Golf belt loop

Completed some requirements for the following:
Fishing Pin – # 3, 4, and 11 (4 of the 5 times fishing)
Wildlife Conservations belt loop – number 1
Weather Pin requirements 1 and 2.
Astronomy Pin requirements 2 and 4.
Outdoor Activity Award – 1, 2, 11, and 13
Leave No Trace Pledge and 1, 4, 5
World Conservation Award – #2 – 1 of 2 parts

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

K8DSJ SK

Don Jones is someone who probably would never been an acquaintance of mine had it not been for Amateur Radio. Outside of radio, we couldn't have been more different, but through our common interest, we shared common goals. Both Don and I were active in our respective county's Amateur Radio clubs and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

Our paths first crossed during Field Day in 2006. Even there, our stations couldn't have been more different. Don had set up the 75 meter station (3.5 MHz) while I had set up the 2 meter and 70 centimeter station (144 & 432 MHz). That year, VHF / UHF propagation was awful while the low bands were hot. Consequently, my station made the fewest, and his made the most. I was so happy to hear that Don was operating in West Virginia during this year's field day, most certainly doing something he enjoyed in his last hours.

One of the biggest ARES public service events in our area, the Hike Across Maryland, occurs every two years, and Don was a key part of the 2007 operation, and I was a first timer. My role was tough in one way, and Don's another. I only had to worry about operating for a short time, but in an area where radio signals are difficult to get out, while Don didn't have to worry much about his signal coverage, but had to be on the air for more than half the day having to bring his power source with him.

As his health declined, I we didn't see him as much, but he still made it to the occasional hamfest, and dinner meeting. The last big thing in my memory was when I took the FCC Amateur Radio Extra Class exam. He was part of the volunteer examiner team that gave me the test. I had taken one of the last exams before the Morse Code proficiency requirements were eliminated. Even though it wouldn't be required in less than a week, the VE team still brought the code testing equipment with them. I almost wanted to take it, but, well, I'd already passed it, and only needed the written exam to upgrade.

Those who don't know some of the traditions of Amateur Radio might not understand the title, Amateur Radio operators often refer to those who have passed away as silent keys, abbreviated SK. The prosign (a Morse Code thing) SK di di di dah di dah also means end of contact. Hams, as we are also known are issued licenses and call signs by the FCC, similar to that of your favorite TV station IE: WJZ, and Don's call sign was K8DSJ, with the DSJ being his initials.

I'm starting to understand something

When I mentioned to a few people that Amy and I were going to take in her four month old (at the time) sister, the response I received was shocking to me. It was as if we were saints, seriously, the praise was over the top. I didn't understand it. There is a child that needs parents, we are parents, and I think we are pretty good parents, so what else were we going to do? And wouldn't anybody who could do the same, do the same?

I'm starting to get it, this has been a pretty painful period in our life, something I never expected, at least not so much so fast. To make a long story short, she was taken into Social Services before we were ready. I never once thought that that was going to happen, as far as I knew she was being well taken care of (and she was, but what happened is a totally different story), living the quiet country life. The worst of it was that one telephone call to me or Amy and the baby would be with us instead of in the system. Not that we were completely ready but in that situation, a stop at Wal-Mart on the way home would have been all we needed to get through the first few days.

Maybe some of that praise was because others knew what we were about to get involved in. I was oblivious, and I put my heart into it, and I'm paying the price, and I'll continue to do so as long as there is hope. And that is what I think folks were so praising of.

Monday, June 29, 2009

NE3R 1B MDC : ARRL Field Day 2009



ARRL Field Day 2009 was much different for me this year than it has been in the past. It is the first time I operated as a single operator five watt portable station and handled everything myself. I didn’t do a ton of preparation either, mainly just analyzing the bonus points that I thought I would be able to earn during my operation and making a quick list of the things I needed to bring with me.

Before setting out on my own Field Day operation, I answered a call to help set up one of the largest Field Day operations in the country, W3AO in Howard County, Maryland run by the Columbia Amateur Radio Association, and the Potomac Valley Radio Club. I should have taken the time to count all of the towers, but there were at least nine, probably more. Their operation uses over one mile of coax, and not the cheap stuff either, the thick low loss coax, which is probably a little overkill, but I guess you can say that about a Field Day operation with a class of 20A, which means they’ll have up to 20 transmitters operating at the same time.

Saturday morning, I started packing for my Field Day operation. I did forget a few things, like the antenna analyzer, which I didn’t really have time to use anyway. It took me about 3 hours to setup, which consisted of getting the HF antenna strung between two tall trees, putting the VHF antenna on a mast, erecting the large operating tent, and setting up the batteries, radios, and computer. I would have had things setup much faster if I hadn’t messed up my first two attempts of getting the line in the tree. I used a bow and arrow to fire a fishing line over a tree, then pull the antenna support line over. The first time, I had a perfect shot over the tree, but my knot slipped and the second time, I pulled the antenna support line too far and I couldn’t reach it. Then I couldn’t get a good shot over the tree for a while, but eventually, I got one that worked out OK. Getting the line over the second tree was a breeze, first shot and all was well.

I got a little bit of a late start operating, and I found that operating 5 watts was going to be a little harder than I’m used to as many stations I tried to contact didn’t seem to hear me. I was using CW (Morse code) most of the time, which is a good low power mode, but my code skills are not what they should be as I have to search the band for a signal, listen to them for a while, getting bits and pieces of what they are sending until I am sure I have it all, then I call them. This has worked out well in past field days running 100 watts, because just about everyone would come back after one or two calls, but with 5 watts, I’d go to four, five, six, or more calls before giving up and searching for a new station. I made a few contacts using the digital mode PSK31, which was interesting. I suspect that many stations operating PSK31 were not experienced contesters (not that I am either) but they seemed to be a little slow, especially compared to the CW operators. I also made a few voice contacts near the end. CW and digital contacts were worth two points each, while voice contacts are only worth one. I guess the big question is would I have made at least two voice contacts for every CW and digital contact I made. Since I was only operating 5 watts, I’m thinking no. My antenna was a multi-band parallel dipole which was oriented to have most of the signal going north and south, so I worked a lot of stations in Florida, the South, New England, and Canada, but fewer from the west. If I had more than one antenna or could have changed the direction of the one I had, I probably would have done a little better. My 193 contacts were worth 360 points multiplied by 5 based on my operating class for 1800!

I did OK with bonus points, but I could have done better. I got one hundred points each for: operating 1 transmitter on emergency power, sending NTS message to the section emergency coordinator, handling ten NTS messages, alternate power contacts, and copying the special W1AW Field Day bulletin, plus fifty because I’ll submit the score via the web form. I’m sure I could have made a satellite contact for 100 points if I would have remembered, but I missed two good opportunities, and the media publicity 100 point bonus is easy, you only have to write a press release and send it out, it doesn’t actually have to get published! My QSO points added to my bonus points put my overall score to 2350.

I was tired, but when it all ended at two o’clock on Sunday, I had to take everything down and pack, which took about two hours. Taking everything down by myself, I had time to reflect on my operation, and how I enjoyed it, but definitely felt that something was missing from previous years, the people. Amy and the children had been with me for at least part of the last few Field Days, as well as an entire club of other ham radio operators. I also thought about some of the other aspects of Field Day, but mostly about the ability to set up a radio station anywhere and contact stations across the country. Also on my mind was weather the NTS traffic was a realistic part of the emergency communications aspect, especially with the method I used to send it called a book. Basically, I sent the same message to ten people, so I only had to give the common parts of the message once, then give a different message number and addressee. After some thought, I figured that that actually might be pretty common. For example, if you have ten shelters in the field and the command center wants to give them all the same message or many folks in the shelter wanting to send a welfare message to family saying that they are OK and where they are.

That was Field Day, in a nutshell. Since I was operating by myself, I didn’t think to bring the camera. I should have, because my setup was pretty neat, looking a little like the Field Day logo this year, without the tower and large yagi antenna.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WMATA aka DC Metro

The Metro board complains too much. They complain about the lack of funding, and blame everyone else for their failure to take cars out of service that the NTSB had said were no longer safe. I’m a semi-frequent metro rider on the red line, and I get annoyed with the higher fares and lower service, but what am I going to do about it? Well, it isn’t bad enough for me to do anything about it. Metro can take all of their older cars out of service today, and simply run fewer trains, and leave people on the platform, waiting for the next one, and the next one, and the next one. This would surely get their attention, and their frustration would be heard by the politicians for sure, and the funding would come. Instead, they keep these older cars in service, and risk lives, knowing that they can just blame congress, DC, Virginia, and Maryland when something goes wrong.

South Carolina Governor: Mark Sanford

So, I had a bit of a blog entry started about Mark Sanford, the South Carolina Governor who disappeared for a few days and his staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. I had written a lot about the trail, but I’ll save that text for something else, but I’ll focus on the other part of what I wanted to say.

Everybody seems to be complaining that the governor didn’t leave anyone in charge while he was gone, to which my thought was, are the leaders of South Carolina that incompetent that they can’t made good decisions while the governor is away for a few days? I don’t know, all the hoopla over this (before we found out what he was really doing) seems so over the top. What could possibly happen that wouldn’t be taken care of by the appropriate person? Wait, they weren’t planning to secede again, were they? What this is, are politicians trying to find some fault where there really isn’t one.

Now that the truth is out, well, it’s going to be an even bigger circus, and unfortunately, they are going to use a silly argument that everyone in the state along with all the kittens and puppies could have died if X Y & Z had happened while the governor was away doing his affair thing.

Alex’s Archery Cease Fire

So, Amy was telling me the story of a parent that caused a bit of a ruckus at the archery range at Cub Scout day camp the other day. I was hoping Amy would blog it but she’s been so busy with school lately, blogging is about the last thing on her mind.

One of the rules on the archery range is that anyone can say “cease fire” if there is an emergency, but only in an emergency, and the boys were given instructions for what to do if they hear anyone at all say “cease fire”. So, the kids were winding up, most with only one or two arrows left, and a parent who was getting bored apparently said something to the effect of “cease fire already, isn’t it time to rotate”. Of course, a couple of the boys heard, and they put down their bows and arrows and put their hands in the air! Once a few boys did it, all the boys did it, because that is what they were supposed to do. The adults running the range and their Boy Scout helpers were a little confused, but then one of the boys that heard pointed out the parent that said it, who got a little talking too.
Alex hadn’t hit the target that day, the first day of Cub Scout day camp, but I’m happy to report improvement, he is hitting the target and hay bale now!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Frederick.Com Segway Video

Interesting:



It is sort of like a commercial, and sort of like a news report, but the content is the truth, people will get their information from the internet more than TV/Radio/Newspapers combined in the future, if not already. Frederick.Com is a great place to find information about businesses and other happenings in and around Frederick.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Amy's Tiger Cub Scout Bridging Ceremony

Amy found out at the last minute that the pack was having each den leader do their own bridging ceremony to celebrate the boys moving on to the next year of Cub Scouts. Of course, we found out at the last minute, so I thought I'd help by trying to come up with an idea. And I did. Socks. My idea was to get the boys all new Cub Scout socks that are blue with gold tops. None of the boys had Cub Scout socks, although Alex did have Tiger Cub socks, but those are blue with orange tops. My idea contained the basic elements. Amy says something, the boys take off their shoes and socks, cross the bridge, and put on their new socks. I'm not sure who's idea singing the song was, maybe Amy's, but it is something I'd probably have thought of too.

(To be read by den leader or asst)
Tiger Cubs! It has been an awesome year, hasn't it? You all started off, as every Cub Scout does in his journey, by learning the cub scout promise, motto, law of the pack, and sign. This earned you the bobcat badge you wear on your uniforms. Then you made a scrapbook, went on a hike, learned about the food pyramid, visited a museum and a radio station, learned about fire safety, and for all these things and more you earned the tiger badge you wear on your uniforms. But you didn't stop there, you went above and beyond, had more fun, and earned more awards. You built a car and raced in the pinewood derby, you figured out how to drop raw eggs out of a window without them breaking, and you raced in an outdoor obstacle course. Just look at your uniform, look at your badges and belt loops, take a moment to remember. Take a moment to smile.

(To be read by den leader or asst)
Tiger Cubs! I have bad news. This year is over. The good news is that fun isn't! It is time for you to take your place by this bridge, which represents the crossover point you are now at in your lives. When I call your name, come up with your parent, take your place in line, and stand proud.

Boy 1
Boy 2
Boy 3
Boy 4
Boy 5
Boy 6

(To be read by den leader or asst)
Tiger Cubs! For the last year you have been wearing the colors of orange and black. These are the colors of a tiger, and you have worn them proudly! Show honor to these colors, by taking off your hat, slide, and neckerchief and give them carefully to your parents for safe keeping. Consider storing these for your own memories, or pass them down to a new tiger cub who would also wear them with pride.

(To be read by den leader or asst)
Cub Scouts! It is time for you to walk among other Cub Scouts, and wear the colors of blue and gold. The blue stands for honesty, faith, loyalty, and the sky above. The gold stands for good cheer, happiness, and warm sunlight. Before you cross the bridge and begin working on your wolf rank requirements, take off your shoes and socks! Leave your socks behind, your new, blue and gold cub scout socks will be waiting for you when you cross the bridge and become a Wolf cub scout. Walk your journey in them proudly! Don’t forget to take your shoes, because you will need them for many of the activities ahead of you while working on your Wolf rank and arrow points! Now cross the bridge and put on your new socks to take your first steps in as a Wolf Cub Scout!

(Once all the scouts are over the bridge, have socks on and standing with wolf books in hand they sing...)
Scout socks they never get dirty,
the longer you wear them the stronger they get.
Sometimes I think I should wash them,
but something inside me says don't do it yet.
Not yet. Not yet.
(yells) Don't do it yet!


So, there it is. It is sort of a variation of the neckerchief changing ceremony, where the boy takes off their Tiger Cub neckerchief and puts on their new Wolf Cub Scout neckerchief. But that gets done all the time, and well, our boys don't even really like the neckerchief anyway, so what would be in that for them? Not much.

The socks though, were a hit, the boys were very excited to get new socks. My thought from the very beginning was that boys just like socks. I guess I was right. I get the feeling that these bridging ceremonies are mainly for the parents, but we wanted to make sure the boys enjoyed it too!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tonight's Laptop Issues

On my work laptop, I had finally reached my limits with Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 for my demo and test systems. The main problem being that it doesn't support 64 bit guest operating systems, now required for Exchange 2010, OCS 2007 R2, Windows Server 2008 R2, and more.

For some reason, I decided that tonight would be a good night to rebuild my laptop with Windows Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate and start using Hyper-V. Little did I know that my night would involve installing Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 on my home desktop. The installation of Windows Server 2008 just wasn't working from the DVD, I don't know if it was my drive, or the discs, but I tried several copies, with no luck. The DVD booted, and I got passed the point where I deleted the previous partition, but it wouldn't install, and would error saying that it couldn't read the DVD.

Since I had wiped out my computer, and needed to do something to get it back up and running. Did I want to just go back to Vista, maybe Windows 7, but each of those would have required burning a DVD and I didn't know if it would work or not. My solution was to setup Virtual PC on my desktop, install Windows Server 2008 x86 and enable Windows Deployment Services. I was crossing my fingers that it would be able to deploy Windows Server 2008 R2, and it worked great.



Now, it is the early AM and I only have a bare bones operating system. There is so much more to do. First things first, remove the computer from the aaaz.local domain!

How Aidan woke me up the other day

The other day, I wake up to Aidan beside my bed. His sleepy words as heard by my sleepy ears were, "Dad, I see the fire". I think he said it more than once but in any event, I sprung into action mode, thinking that Aidan might be saying that he saw fire in the house or something. A quick look around, nothing, no smelling of smoke. Ok, all is well, glad I didn't wake up Amy! Still, I wonder what he was talking about. As I think back, he sounded like he just woke up, so, it could have been a dream. Who knows, he's three, could have been anything, maybe he just want to make sure I'd wake up when he wanted me to!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Playing with Blogger, Twitter, & Facebook

I've been a total computer geek this evening. Earlier I was doing a lot of ham radio Linux stuff, and now I can't seem to stop trying to integrate all my social network / blogging things! Yes, this is actually a test post.

Amy mentioned in QST

QST is the monthly journal of the American Radio Relay League, also known as the National Association for Amateur Radio. Basically, QST is a ham radio magazine. I am the ham radio operator in the family, and hopefully, one or more of my harmonics (children) will get their license and get involved with radio too. Amy though doesn't have plans to get a ham radio license any time soon.

I don't recall my name ever being mentioned in QST, but I got an e-mail from David, K3PO the other day telling me to check out page 12 of the May QST. Sure enough, there was Amy's name and web site.



The lead time on stuff being printed in QST is pretty long, but it is referencing her blog post on January 20, inauguration day. The one where I admit I’m proud of him.

Linux in the Ham Shack

In some ways, I'm surprised that most ham radio operators aren't running Linux already. Linux & amateur radio just seem to go together to me, but yeah, it seems that most hams run Windows and most ham radio applications are Windows based.

I found a good site full of podcasts on using Linux for ham radio applications: Linux in the Ham Shack.

Some of them are pretty basic, and it was tough for me, an experienced linux user to sit through the first few, but they got pretty good! I found a new Linux ham radio application that I'm going to try called fldigi thanks to those guys.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Force Unleased for Wii - spoiler alert

Well, I beat The Force Unleashed today. It wasn't a particularly hard game, but it was pretty good. I had a hard time playing a character using the dark side of the force. Lets face it, I'm a good guy, even in gaming. Other Star Wars games you get a choice, but this one you pretty much have to follow the path that they give you.

It isn't all bad though, in the end, you turn against the dark side and fight Darth Vader and the emperor.

The story line was pretty good too, which is basically the creation of the rebel alliance. Darth Vader sends you out on a mission where you think your job is to gather the emperor's enemies to fight against him, so that Vader can overthrow him, but it is a trick, and Vader is just using you so the emperor can get his hands on his enemies. In the end, you still die, but you have to fight the emperor hard enough to allow time for the rebel leaders to escape.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

WTF, No Google Toobar for Chrome?

I keep a lot of bookmarks in my Google toolbar so that I can access them from anywhere. I guess that means anywhere except the computer that I'm using Google's own browser, Chrome. I sort of like Chrome, but seriously, you would think that Google would at least let me have the same Google created features that I have on IE or Firefox.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Twenty Mile Hike

The Mountain Club of Maryland puts on an event called the Hike Across Maryland every other year on the first Saturday in May. Since the 1980's, amateur radio operators have provided communications for the event organizers at several checkpoints along the way. The event covers 40.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail from the Maryland and Pennsylvania line, Penmar, to the Maryland and West Virginia line at Harpers Ferry.



For this year's event, I thought it would be a good idea to use APRS tracking for the sweep hikers at the tail end of the line. A few of the checkpoints were equipped with APRS, some with laptops for position display on a map. Late last year I thought I would be able to hike the entire 40.9 miles. It wasn't too long into my conditioning that I realized that I wouldn't be able to hike the full 40. I was hoping for a few more hiking volunteers, but I was the only one available. I decided I could hike 20 miles, from Washington Monument State Park to Harpers Ferry.

The APRS tracking worked pretty well, but the battery for laptop at the last checkpoint died about 45 minutes before I arrived with the last hiker. It was also helpful to have basic voice communications on the trail. While I didn't have to say much, there were a few times when they were looking for a particular hiker, who was at the back of the pack, and I could call back with their location.



I don't know what made me think that I could hike 20 miles :) that is 10 miles more than I had hiked in at least the last 10 years. I made it the entire way, but the last 3 miles or so I was beyond my limit. it is a good thing that as the sweep hiker, you move at the pace of the last hiker on the trail, and some of the folks that had done the 40 miles were moving at a slower pace at the end as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alex Finished Ivy + Bean and the ghost that had to go.

This book was a little longer, at 125 pages.



I just wanted to get a picture of him reading

Am I the last one to create a facebook page?

I think that I might be the very last person ever to create a facebook page. My Facebook Profile. Folks would get a much better idea of what I'm up to if they followed me on Twitter and read my blog. I think I'm going to work on using these social networking sites to redistribute my twitter updates and blog posts and see what happens.

United States Flag Retirement

Cub Scout Pack 285 in Frederick Maryland, of which Alex is a member held a retirement ceremony for United States flags on Tuesday. It was very interesting to see these young boys soak up some respect for the flag.

I remember my early Boy Scout years, my Scoutmaster for troop 494 was very particular about respect for the flag. I failed a board of review for one of the lower ranks because I wasn't able to fold it correctly, and I forgot the symbolism meaning of the colors. I think I passed it the very next week, but it stuck with me long enough to remember it. Folding a flag so that there is absolutely no red showing is a little tough.

Alex's tiger den now performs an opening flag ceremony at every den meeting, and they also performed an opening flag ceremony at one pack meeting. While this is a lot more than is required, I think it helps them learn respect for their country and its flag. The pack's flag retirement ceremony seemed to reinforce the idea.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Internet Explorer 8 InPrivate Browsing

IE8's official blurb on InPrivate browsing.

InPrivate Browsing helps prevent Internet Explorer from storing data about your browsing session. This includes cookies, temporary Internet files, history, and other data. Toolbars and extensions are disabled by default.


At first I thought that roughly translated to, browsing the Internet without leaving behind things that you didn't want your spouse, boss, children, or whoever to see and thought it would be a useless feature.

It turns out that it is a wonderful tool for testing web sites. A recent project at work involved testing load balancing as well as numerous changes to the html and css code. With IE7, that meant deleting your cookies and temporary Internet files often to be sure that nothing was being read from your local computer. With IE8 InPrivate browsing, that wasn't a problem, simply closing it and opening another InPrivate session was all you needed to do.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Microsoft ISA Server 2006 NLB Multicast

I read this article several times: How to change Microsoft ISA Server 2006 NLB from Unicast to Multicast and it seemed really scary at first, but then I realized that it was a lot simpler than it looks.

Basically, if you are setting up a new Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server with service pack 1, also known as Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway, TMG. All you need to do is run this command on the first configuration storage server:

CSCRIPT KB938550.WSF /array:ISA-array-name /NLB:Muticast /Net1:name-of-the-ISA-network

KB938550.WSF is not directly available for download, but is available from Microsoft, follow the directions from KB938550

After running the script, simply setup ISA Network Load Balancing normally and it will be configured for multicast automatically.

One concern I had before I did this was how to change ISA server back to unicast from multicast. A quick look at the script explained it all as it has several examples, including:

To define NLB Unicast for a single network:
cscript kb938550.wsf /array:arrayname /nlb:unicast /net1:netname

To display the current NLB state in ISA storage:
cscript kb938550.wsf /array:arrayname /show

This week I was deploying an ISA Server 2006 with integrated NLB for a customer whose network configuration simply required the NLB to be configured for multicast. Fortunately, Microsoft continues to improve ISA server, and I was able to put this new feature to use.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The conclusion of my 1st YouTube video

Receiving the RTTY Bulliten on 3597.5 kHz. The video doesn't show the display very well, but you can make out some words. You can see in the lower left of the display the dual passband filter engaged that puts a nice notch between the mark & space.



I'll probably delete this one also if I ever do anything of better quality.

Robin and Charlton Heston

After our first Easter dinner on Saturday afternoon, Robin distributed the children's easter baskets. Nothing to facny, just small baskets with some candy and small toys. One of the toys in each basket were bible figures. I was looking at them all while Robin was sitting there. I said something like, Andrew got Golioth, Aidan got David, Aaron got Noah, Zoe got Mary, and Alex got Charlton Heston! Robin looked at me with a look that was part shock and part confusion.



I just assume that everyone in our family has watched the Ten Commandments and knows that Charlton Heston played Moses. But aparently, I didn't know that my sister wasn't in the know, so she didn't get the light joke. That is ok, because Robin not getting it made it a lot more funny, at her expense of course. I laughed so hard I cried.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Updated Fish Photos

I snapped a few pictures of my fish. I've added a few since the last time I've taken photographs.

I have 4 angel fish, here is a good picture of one of them.


A school of 12 neons, I couldn't get them all in the picture!


Here is my blue guppy, near one of my original females, also seen, the cory cat.


Finally, a close up of the corydoras catfish.

Playing with YouTube

I just realized that I have a YouTube account. I didn't sign up for one but now my google account that I use for everything else google, including this blog works for YouTube too. Who knows how long this has been going on.

Here is my first YouTube video, which I'll probably delete if I ever have some better videos to upload.

Alex read Ivy + Bean

Alex just finished reading Ivy + Bean, all 113 pages (less illustrations), and I couldn't be more proud of him. I had him read it one chapter at a time and I'd quiz him after each chapter to make sure he got it. That is quite a book for a kid his age, at least I don't recall reading anything on that level when I was in the first grade. His comprehension seemed to improve from one chapter to the next, perhaps because he knew I'd be asking him questions, then later having him explain what happened in the chapter, and then asking him questions. The biggest trouble was getting him to take the time to read it, often coming down to, "you can go outside and play after you read the chapter".

My take on Ivy + Bean is that is is a book written for girls, because it is about two girls who didn't really know each other, but one girl, Bean, ends up in a little trouble with her sister who she expects to tell on her and the other girl, Ivy, helps Bean cast a spell on her sister, and they become friends. Alex seemed to like the story though, so that is good. I think today I will ask him to explain the book as a whole part. What happened at the beginning of the book, in the middle, and at the end.

I hope to make reading chapter books at this level a regular thing for Alex for the rest of the school year and through the summer. My mom encouraged me to read, but somehow it never became important to me when I was a kid and I only read when I had to. Amy on the other hand reads a lot. Hopefully this will rub off on the children and they will read more books just for the fun of it than I did.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crampton Gap Camping

Alex got a new tent from his granddad and I must have told him that we would go camping because he reminded me. Then he balked at camping in the back yard, so I figured it was about time to take him on a real camp out. I've become pretty familiar with the Appalachian Trail over the last few months and knew there was a camping area not to far from Gathland State Park where I could park the car over night. I packed my pack with a little food, two sleeping bags, Alex's new tent and all the various odds and ends that I'd need for a one nighter. I also packed a book bag for Alex to carry a few of his essentials.

We got to camp with about one hour of daylight left. So we got right to work setting up the tent.



Alex was quite proud of his tent.


Once the tent was set up, we decided that it would be nice to have a fire, so we were off to gather wood and ended up with a lot more than we needed, but that is OK, I'm sure the next camper will appreciate it. I built the fire, calling on all my fire building skills from my Boy Scout days. I was a pretty good fire builder back in the day.



I must have retained my old skills well as one match later, we had a lit fire.



Alex and I prepared camp for bed before it got too dark and spent some time around the fire eating snacks and telling stories. I already forgot what Alex told me about, but I told him about the witch that lived in those woods, keeping it cool so I didn't really scare him.



I had just put more wood on the fire when Alex declared that he was tired. So, he went to bed while I stayed to tend to the fire until it was out to my satisfaction.



About four o'clock in the morning the rain started. I had my pack hanging on a tree, covered, but I thought it would be best to have it near the tent in case it was still raining when we packed up, which it was. After Alex woke up, sometime in the seven o'clock hour, we hung out in the tent for a while, waiting for the rain to stop, but it never did, so we packed up as much gear as we could inside the tent and went out into the elements. I didn't pull the camera out in the rain, so I missed some great pictures.

Despite the rain, the camp out was a success and Alex enjoyed it. In fact, he really didn't seem to mind the rain at all. I guess if we would have had to stay in it all day, it would have been a different story. I'm sure this won't be our last camping adventure in the rain.


View Larger Map

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Now I know what DTE stands for

Amy's van has a little display with miles per gallon, temperature, etc. It also had this thing called DTE, now I knew what it meant, it was the number of miles you had before you ran out of gas. I figured that the E stood for empty, but I couldn't figure out DT. Well, now I know, DTE stands for Distance to Empty. Should I start to doubt my intelligence? I think I should have been able to figure that out.

The Priorities of My Countrymen have Disappointed Me

So, Barak Obama wants to answer questions from ordinary Americans, which are voted on by ordinary Americans via the web. I’ve been browsing these questions on http://www.whitehouse.gov/openforquestions/ and I was a bit surprised, especially in the budget category. I expected that some of the top questions would be related to the budget’s size, the national debt, or other budget priorities. What I read was shocking, the top seven questions were all about legalizing marijuana. While most tied it into the budget as a savings for drug enforcement or income from taxation, the thought of this being the dominant subject in questions for the president regarding the budget is quite a disappointment. I’m not part of the pro marijuana legalization movement, but I understand that it is a legitimate concern for some people, and it is a point of view that should be considered by the government from time to time, but seriously, do the majority of Americans really believe that seventy percent of the top ten questions about the budget should be related to marijuana legalization?

Americans of all political affiliations should be concerned about the President’s budget, if for no other reason than its size. I asked a simple question about federal government agencies and their end of year spending practices which I’ve personally seen waste hundreds of thousands of dollars. I suggested that the President work with Congress to fix this problem by allowing federal agencies some flexibility to roll over money from one year to the next without fear that their budgets will be cut simply because they didn’t spend it all the year before. There were some fine questions about how to pay down the national debt, raising or lowering taxes, eliminating government waste, and other important subjects.

One big problem with the question form is that there wasn’t much room to articulate a question the proper background required for the question to make total sense. I don’t recall the character limit off hand but the first version of my question was about 250 characters over the limit. I had to reword the question many times before getting it to fit properly and still retain most of my original thought. Something tells me that this wasn’t a big problem for the marijuana legalization crowd!

E-Mail is Down

Yes, I work on the email system for my government agency, but my e-mail account has been moved to the new system for testing. Wouldn’t you know it, the new system (which I had no hand in designing whatsoever) is having a hardware problem and they had to take completely down to fix it. This system is so full of single points of failure it isn’t funny, this problem being a good example. Since most of my job revolves around e-mail, well, there isn’t much that I can do right now which is frustrating because I was out yesterday and have some catching up to do.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kid Cuisine & Hungry Man

You know, if I wasn’t married to Amy, I would probably think this stuff tastes good. But compared to Amy's cooking, my meal last night sucked.

Alex's birthday was yesterday and he was able to choose anything he wanted for his birthday dinner. His choice, a Kid Cuisine prepared meal. I don't know where he got the idea that this stuff is eatable, but that is another story, maybe he is watching too much TV. Ok, no problem, I was just going to get them for the kids, and Amy and I would have something good to eat. Well, Amy was sick and didn't want to eat, so while I was at the store, I figured I'd grab myself the Hungry Man turkey dinner meal that was right above the Kid Cuisine. Yeah, big mistake. I thought it would be a good idea because they cooked in the oven at the same temperature, with the Hungry Man taking about 10 minutes longer, perfect timing for getting the childrens' meals in front of them once they are done.

It wasn't all bad, the apple cranberry dessert tasted great, and the corn, once copious amounts of salt and butter were added was good too. I added a little salt and butter to the childrens' corn too. They really seemed to enjoy their meals, and as much as I don't like the thought of it, they might be a good thing to keep around, especially since we have a couple of coupons for them now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Will I Participate in the WPX Contest

One of my more favorite amateur radio contests is the CQ magazine WPX contest. The scoring is based on the amateur call sign prefix, meaning that while each contact you make counts as a point, each one with a different prefix is a score multiplier. So, if you contact N3XYZ, N3ABC, W3QRZ, W3QSL, & KB3ZZZ, your score would be 15, because you worked 5 stations with 3 different prefixes.

This is where my call sign, NE3R is awesome. Early in the contest, nobody seems to care, but on Sunday, folks are really out to get those multipliers, and my station becomes pretty popular. There just aren't that many stations on the air with an NE3 prefix. The FCC shows 29 call signs starting with NE3, but I've only ever met 2 others on the air. Compared to over 15,000 N3 calls, or over 17,000 KI4 calls, NE3 is pretty rare.

Also this weekend is the Greater Baltimore Hamboree & Computerfest, which I haven't been to in a while. That would make a pretty good Saturday morning. Aaron's pinewood derby race is also Saturday which might be fun to attend. So, I have no shortage of things to do this weekend!

Aquarium Update

Well, the aquarium fish stocking is basically done.

  • 4 angel fish
  • 5 corydoras catfish
  • 12 neon tetras
  • 3 kuhli loaches (that I've seen recently)
  • 5 adult female guppies
  • 3 adult male guppies
  • 2 adolescent female guppies
  • 7 juvenile guppies
  • a few guppy fry
  • 4 rosy red minnows

I think that two kuhli loaches have died, as has one of the original female guppies. I added an adult male guppy, a turquoise blue color. I plan on adding some live plants and over time, replacing the fake plants to have a completely live planted tank. I already have a java fern which looks pretty good, I think I might add a few more of those next week. I'd also like to get rid of the rosy red minnows, they have served their purpose of getting the tanks biology going, but now I don't know what to do with them.

No more Windows XP at home

The last computer running Windows XP at home has been upgraded, well, formatted and had Windows Vista installed. My XP installation was showing signs that it might have a virus, which was all the reason I needed to wipe it clean.

Vista runs well on this 4 1/2 year old PC with a recently upgraded video card and 3 gigabytes of memory. I also installed Internet Explorer 8, which seems OK so far, with some slight page formatting issues with gmail.

I'm also using Vista's parental controls on a generic login I created for the children. They can only run programs or access web sites that I specify on a list. Their hours are also limited. Alex came down stairs the other night and said, "I know it's bed time" and we asked, "how do you know that", and he said, "because I can't get on the computer".

My old laptop also got a fresh Linux install. The hard drive had died a while back, and I just now got around to replacing it with a free drive I got several months ago. It is a Dell Pentium 3 with 768 megabytes of memory running Slackware 12.2.

Happy Birthday Alex

Today is Alex's birthday. He is 7 years old. Hopefully Aidan & Zoe don't get into his cake and we can have some tonight. His party was yesterday and his gifts were right on target. A skateboard, helmet, & pads from his Grandma Debbie along Bakugan stuff from my mom, Robin, and a friend.

Alex's main gift from us was back ordered and I didn't realize it. I ordered him the Cub Scout day pack. He still got a box of other Cub Scout stuff: t-shirt, wallet, pencil, reminder band, and for next year, socks, wolf neckerchief and slide, and also on back order, a Cub Scout belt. I think that is everything.

Alex really wanted to have lots of friends over, but we like to keep these things low key, so, we let him invite two friends, but one of them couldn't make it. I think this was good enough for Alex though, maybe next year we can expand on it a little.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jacqueline Charron Gray 1925 - 2009

Well, I haven’t blogged for a while, mainly because I wanted my next blog entry to be about my grandmother who passed away recently.

Jacqueline C. Gray, Obituary

We just had Alex's birthday party, one of those things that Grandma would have attended. I sung happy birthday to Alex in French, something she would have done. Just about everything reminds me of her in some way or another.

I guess it is time to get on with things and start blogging again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Seven more guppies

A few days ago I spotted a few more guppy fry in the aquarium. Oddly enough, they were in the worm feeder that I haven't used in a few weeks. They must have been just a few hours old when I spotted them. It took a while to find them all, but over the next day I was able to count seven, and I'm pretty sure that is it. That is a lot of guppies! For a while, four of them were hanging out by the filter, which leaves them sort of exposed to be eaten by some of the larger fish, but it seems that their little fish brains have figured out that staying in the floating plant will give them the best chance of survival.

The original two guppy fry are growing quite well, they are taking on their guppy like characteristics. I'm still not sure of their sexes yet, but I'm leaning toward female, but they'll need to get a little bigger before I know for sure.

The tank biology and chemistry still isn't quite right. I need it to stabilize before I add some more fish. I really need to get my neons, then the angel fish. I'm planning on having four angel fish to keep the guppy population in check!

My take on the Maryland State Song

I think that a lot of people forget, or would like to forget about Maryland's place in the nation's history. Maryland is a southern state that didn't secede, but Maryland was not treated well by the north, especially during the war. Unfortunately, the south showed little sympathy for Maryland either, although I think that Maryland's treatment by the union was far worse, but that could just be because the Confederate army was pushed to the south in the later part of the war.

I've read some of the interviews and comments that have been given by the Maryland lawmakers that sponsor and support the bill to change the lyrics, and I don't really like their reasons. They seem to want to deny the history of our state, deny that the union marched an army on Baltimore! I like the current state song, it is historic, I even recall learning it (at least a few verses) when I was in elementary school. If the people supporting this bill would just have kept their extra reasons to themselves, I'd be a lot happier.

That being said, I totally like the proposed lyrics also. I like that it was written in Maryland by a Marylander, from Frederick County no less, the same place as Francis Scott Key. The words would definitely be easier to remember, especially for school children.

So, I like both songs, but I don't really know what I would do about this. I'd create two state songs. The original, and title it the historic state song, and the proposed, and simply call it the state song.

Proposed Maryland State Song Lyrics

2009 Maryland House Bill 1241 if passed would change the lyrics of the state song to those of a poem of the same name by John T. White, a native of Frederick County Maryland.

I
We dedicate our song to thee,
Maryland, my Maryland,
the home of light and liberty,
Maryland, my Maryland,
we love thy streams and wooded hills,
thy mountains with their gushing rills,
thy scenes our heart with rapture fills
Maryland, my Maryland.

II
In twain the Chesapeake divides
Maryland, my Maryland,
while ocean ward its water glides,
Maryland, my Maryland.
Yet we in thought and purpose one,
pursue the work so well begun,
and may our state be ne’er outdone,
Maryland, my Maryland.

III
Proud sons and daughters boast of thee,
Maryland, my Maryland.
Thine is a precious history,
Maryland, my Maryland.
Brave hearts have held thy honor dear,
have met the foeman far and near,
but victory has furnished cheer,
Maryland, my Maryland.

IV
"Sail on, sail on, o ship of state!"
Maryland, my Maryland.
May we, thy children, make thee great,
Maryland, my Maryland.
May gratitude our hearts possess,
and boldly we thy claims express,
and bow in loving thankfulness,
Maryland, my Maryland.

Maryland State Song (Current)

I
The despot's heel is on thy shore,
Maryland!*
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

II
Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
Maryland!
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
Maryland!
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

III
Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Maryland!
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

IV
Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Maryland!
Come with thy panoplied array,
Maryland!
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

V
Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Maryland!
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Maryland!
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

VI
Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain,
Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

VII
I see the blush upon thy cheek,
Maryland!
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
Maryland!
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

VIII
Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Maryland!
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Maryland!
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

IX
I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland!
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Don't Procrastinate

Yes, I learned a valuable and expensive lesson today, but I need to rewind about two years for it to make sense. See, two years ago I managed to break my car's outside door handle on the passenger side door. It is just a piece of plastic, so, it was bound to break eventually. At some point, I bought a replacement door handle and put in in my glove box and never really thought much about it since. It did cross my mind that if the driver's side handle broke, I would be in a lot of trouble. Well, that is exactly what happened today. With two door handles broken, there is no way to get into the car. I tried to go in through the trunk, I thought for sure I could unlatch the seat from inside the trunk, but no, all I ended up doing was bending the seat. I ended up having to break a window to get in, there was no other option.

I removed all of the electronics from the car and I'll just leave the window open when it isn't raining. I have tested a method where I use some nylon cord tied around the inside door handle, with the other end sticking out of the car. I have one rigged up on the passenger side now and it tested well. I'll leave it in place, and on a rainy day, I'll rig one on the driver's side too, that way I'll have a backup. If that fails, I can remove the covering from the window that I broke and get in the way I got in the first time. The good news is that it should be fixed on Wednesday. The bad news is that it is going to cost about $550 for two door handles and a window to be replaced at the shop.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Message for President Obama about TV

If there is one thing I don't want to see when I push play on the DVR, is President Barack Obama talking about anything less than an attack on US soil. Fortunately, he was just wrapping up, but I spent the whole show worrying that I would miss the end. So, Mr. President, 24 is more important to me than anything you have to say about the economy.

20 years ago, Frederick High PTA got it wrong

I really enjoy reading the 20/50/100 section of the Frederick News post. This one really shows how the world changes.

Six percent of Frederick High School students plan to seek technical training beyond high school, a recent survey showed. In contrast, 80 percent of the jobs in the 1990s will require technical training, rather than college degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. "Many students just don’t explore all the avenues available," Elizabeth Vest, Frederick High PTA president, said. "Parents are also unaware of how many avenues there are."


Eight percent of the jobs in the 90s won't require a college degree? I think that most folks these days would disagree. These days, it seems that now, more than ever, you need a college degree to get anywhere! That doesn't mean that a degree necessarily makes you qualified for a job, or that not having a degree means that you can't do it, but it has become the benchmark for getting most jobs these days.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Alex receives the Light of Christ

The Light of Christ is the Catholic religious emblem awarded to younger Cub Scouts, Tiger Cubs and Wolfs for completing a series of requirements. For Tigers, it at least as involved as the Tiger Cub badge itself, if not more, because simply trying doesn't cut it, requirements must be completed!


I worked on it with Alex and Aaron over the last few months and they both were presented their awards today.

Aaron, who attends St. Jane Francis in Pasadena Maryland, was the only one in his parish to be presented a religious award, but his was awarded by Bishop Rozanski Archbishop O'Brien. While I think it is cool that the Bishop presided, the reason sucks, because it is due to leadership issues with the parish.



Alex on the other hand received his award at our church, St. John the Evangelist in Frederick Maryland, along with about forty other Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts of various ages (couldn't fit them all in a photograph). Most were from the Cub Scout pack and Girl Scout troops that are chartered by the church, but there were some, like Alex, from other packs, including one boy who received his Parvuli Dei from the same pack as Alex.



Now I just need to figure out how the Pack 285 does the knot of recognition. The way I remember it is that the next pack meeting after the boy receives the religious emblem, the pack presents the knot.



The knot is worn on the uniform on all occasions, while the metal is worn at pack meetings and more formal occasions. The youth religious knot is one of the few that can be worn on a Cub Scout uniform, Boy Scout uniform, and adult uniform.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Zoe Free Falls

Robin had Aaron's birthday party at pump it up. I'm not a big fan of these sort of places, but the kids had a great time. Especially Zoe.



Yeah, the entire point of this post was to show that picture!

Kulhi Loaches Love to Hide

I've never seen all five kuhli loaches at the same time, and they aren't easy to photograph. They are great little fish though. Not only are they nice to look at, but they do a pretty good job keeping food from settling at the bottom of the tank.



Kuhli loaches also have a low bio load for their length, so you can have several of them without worrying too much about how they will impact the tank's biology. In fact, since the kuhli loach is sort of a social fish, you should always have four or five to keep them happy.



I should note that I don't have the best tank bottom for kuhli loaches. While I have plenty of places for them to hide, my gravel is much larger than they would like. Kuhli loaces do better in fine gravel or sand.

Pinewood Derby 2009

Today was the annual Pinewood Derby race for Cub Scout Pack 285 in Frederick Maryland. Things are a little different than they were when I was a kid. They had computer scoring and timing, and a pretty fancy track.



We'll start with Amy's car. The pink shoe with a black bow and black polka dots. Unfortunately, there was only one other leader car entered, and she came in second. She did beat out some of the boys in the heat races though!



Alex's car was definitely fast, winning three of his four races. Unfortunately one of the wins wasn't timed because the sensor was broken in that lane, and the one he lost he lost big time because his car had jumped the track. His average time kept him out of the top three so he didn't get a trophy. Since we really weren't trying for trophies in any of the other categories, like best design or most original, he only took home the participation ribbon and patch.

Alex's car leaving the track!


Alex's car in the lead!


Amy's car in a good race!


While I'm a little bummed that Alex's obviously fast car didn't win him anything, he seemed to take it OK. I'm going to try and get the raw data from the folks running the event and see just how well he did if the slowest score was thrown out!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

DTV - WTF?

So, congress just passed a bill to postpone the date where television broadcast stations had to turn off their analog transmitters from February 17, 2009 to June 12, 2009. We have endured two years of constant advertising about the DTV switch on February 17. I was really looking forward to never seeing them again. I have cable, so I really don't care one bit. I as thinking about getting one of those boxes just in case I went broke one day and needed to get TV over the air, but I never did. I really don't know what good congress expects to come from this delay. I seriously doubt that anyone who gets their television signals over the air doesn't know about the DTV switch. I doubt that anyone who isn't ready now would be ready four months from now. This is a prime example of why congress has such a low approval rating.

Michael Phelps

So, Michael Phelps smoked some pot. I can’t say that I’m happy about it, but I’m not sure that it is as big of a deal as everyone is making it out to be. I never smoked weed (unless you count the occasional second hand), or did any other illegal drugs (yeah, I know, hard to believe). I know that Andrew doesn’t really understand such things, but if Andrew has a sports hero, it is Michael Phelps. Even Alex knows who Michael Phelps is. A lot of children look up to Michael Phelps and the image of him smoking weed will not be helpful when they are faced with hard choices of adolescence. But how much will it hurt? I don’t know any kids when I was young that said, well, such and such big name star smokes pot so I guess it is OK. So, is it really a big deal, I don’t think so, is it something that he should have to deal with, sure.

What bothered me most was the public relations machine spin and coldness. His words “I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.” I just don’t like it, it sounds like a team of lawyers and PR people made it up and told him to say it. If it were really him, I’d expect to hear something like, “wow, someone took a picture of that, what a jerk, well, there is nothing wrong with the truth, it happened, and it looks like I’ll have some explaining to do to the fans, I bet I let a lot of folks down, I’m sorry.” Would that have been so hard?