Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Old Stuff and Really Old Stuff

When I was on my last bike ride and took a break to look for arrow heads I found an artifact.  I showed it to my friend Mike who is a flint knapper and an experienced arrow head hunter.  Mike is a colleague of mine in the printing industry but also like me Mike is interested in history.  When I showed the grey flint stone to him he told me the type of flint, approximate age of the artifact 2,000-10,000 years old  and a brief description of the steps involved in chipping a tool like mine from this very hard sedimentary rock.   

Right before I found the stone knife I spotted a twisted green tarnished tie wire laying in the dirt.  I noticed what this piece of discarded debris was right away.  The curious thing is the telegraph lines along the railroad grades I now stood were taken down in the 1970's.  I folded the wire and stuck it in the back pocket of my cycling jersey.  After thinking about it for a few days here is what I came up with.  I had to shorten the loop on the tie because it had probably been twisted around the much larger diameter of a Hemingray 42, a common recent glass insulator.  Look closely at the wire off the right side of the insulator. My two twists are a more relaxed angle and then it is apparent where the original twist begins.  I just wanted to see the wire attached to one of my older insulators that you won't find today in the wild.  Insulators look best photographed in direct sunlight.  I love the green glow cast onto the burlap in the first picture.  The micro bubbles in the dome of the Brookfield are a nice detail revealed only after loading the shots up to the computer.   

Pictured above is the Coshocton flint knife and other points found in my own and three surrounding counties.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday Ride

I had a couple hours to kill on Saturday afternoon so I grabbed my camera and took off on my road bike.  The first four miles I rode in town using all the stop and go as mini interval training.  Then fully up to operating temperature I headed out of town for an 8 to 10 mile loop at a brisk pace.
The LeMond is perfect for this type of short high intensity workout.
Out in the country I noticed some bare ground that looked undisturbed except for shallow ruts caused by erosion.  The dirt bank was possibly six feet tall and just steep enough to keep vegetation from growing.  As an afterthought I turned around to investigate a portion of the exposed clay.  Many rains had washed away the loose soil and left lots of small stones and rocks visible on the surface.  I do find geology interesting in general but I am no rock hound.  There is one kind of stone I do keep an eye out for while out in the wilds.  I look for flint and in particular triangle shaped pieces.    

I Found this piece of gray flint that is about 2 3/4" inches long, 1/4" thick at the big end and tapers to 3/16" near the tip.  I believe this object is a small prehistoric knife.  Notice along the flat upper edge about mid point are three or four 1/4" scallops lined up uniformly along the edge.  The opposite side of the stone is smooth and was probably the outside of a bigger chunk of flint stone.  Along the edge of the backside are smaller flakes only 1/8" or less creating a serrated cutting surface.  Both the top and bottom edges are similarly fashioned.  The far left is the tang end of the blade and extended further but was broken off at some time.

Being a gadget guy I can't think of much else as awe inspiring as finding these tools of primitive man.  Artifacts crafted by human hands long ago lying lost and forgotten in the dirt for thousands of years only to find their way back to the hand of man on a whim. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

PSK-31, Close Calls and Armchair Copy CW

This late afternoon shot of the end fed half wave array at KD8JHJ shows the end insulators of the 30 meter wire (middle) and 20 meter wire (bottom).  The 40 meter end insulator is not visible.  At 66 feet long the 7 MHz wire stretches almost to the tree at the far left of the photo.

Early Wednesday evening I was at the controls of my HF amateur radio station observing some PSK-31 signals on the 20 meter band.  Since I got my start in ham radio at the bottom of the 12 year sunspot cycle I have noticed that the 20 meter band usually closes as darkness falls.  Recently I have found signals propagating as late as 10:00 pm local time.  This works out well for me because I am at work all day and only have a short window in the evenings for radio operations.

14.070 MHz was full of stations both North American and DX.  I spotted a strong French station F4FFH calling CQ so I replied to his call.   We promptly established contact and exchanged a cheerful greeting and 599 signal reports.  Erick's QTH was Saint Lo, France.

My next contact was Tomas EA4AZZ located in Coslada, near Madrid, Spain.  His signal was bright and clear.  We exchanged 599 reports too.

Then I noticed a strange prefix I could not identify off  the top of my head.  HZ1DG/ND was calling CQ DX and working other stations.  I kept watching the transmissions and eventually learned his name was Abdul and he was located in Khamis Mushayt in south western Saudi Arabia.  After wrapping up the current contact he began calling CQ again and I jumped in answering his call.  QRZ? appeared on my screen.  This means "Who is calling me?"  I sent my call several more times but after a short pause Abdul went back to calling CQ.  I was only getting about 50- 75% of his copy so he may have received even less of my transmissions.  I was disappointed to say the least.  This would have been a neat contact to put in the log and would have been my longest distance 2-way at over 7000 miles.  This is the challenge that makes DXing fun.  I've learned to tell whether a station has partially copied my signal by watching their actions.  Because of the QRZ? and delay I'm pretty sure Abdul saw something on his monitor but my 50 watts was not enough to bridge the distance and present readable data. 

Later after my digital work I was in the mood for some Morse Code so I drifted down to around 14.054 MHz and transmitted some CQs using my AME single lever paddle and K-5 electronic keyer.  After several calls with no takers I tuned down a bit more and at 14.043MHz I found KB4JR calling CQ.  I answered the call and met Bernie in Lake Wales, Florida for the first time.  Bernie's signal was strong and he was sending very good code at about 15 words per minute.  I set the keyer to 16 wpm and we had a pleasant conversation about our ham careers, the weather and our families.  Receiving strong signals and well sent code is known as "Armchair Copy".  Meaning the other station is so easy to read you can sit back in your easy chair and copy all the sent information complete.  This type of QSO is my favorite and in my mind is the meat and potatoes of amateur radio.  It's nice to get to know the op at the other end and especially enjoyable to do so under optimum conditions. After we signed off I got busy right away and filled out a QSL card thanking Bernie for the excellent QSO.    

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

30 Meter Multi Mode Weekend

I received this notice from the 30 Meter Digital Group of which I am member #3385.  This is a good opportunity to just observe or participate in radio contacts using the various digital modes on the 30 meter band.   I have some other engagements to attend to this weekend but I will find some time to get on the air at some point and see whats up.

30 Meter Multi Mode Weekend
When: September 25th & 26th
Where: 10 MHz - 30 Meter Band (10.100 – 10.150)
Objective: To promote experimenting and using different digital modes on unique 30 Meter Band.

Those of you who want to participate using the more common modes of CW, BPSK31, RTTY, we welcome that, but those wanting to try other less used modes please do so and turn your RSID on to help others know what mode you are transmitting (common modes no need for RSID, do use RSID on the less common/exotic modes).

A number of digital mode groups will be participating this weekend so if you have wanted to try out a new digital mode or make some contacts using less common digital modes this weekend might be of interest to you. There are a number of multi-mode digital software programs so this is also a chance to get on the 30 Meter Band to try them out. Most of them have RSID/TXID (Reed Solomon Identifier- automatic mode detection and tuning).

This event is NOT a contest…no set times…no rules…no exchanges…no winners other than those that participate with casual use of the 30 Meter Band knowing that others with like interests will be on this weekend to experiment, ragchew, DX and have some fun trying different digital modes!

Where on the 30 Meter Band to find different digital mode activity:

(Note: these are suggested only and observations of known digital mode activity)

10.100 – 10.130     CW
10.1239                       WINLINK-Pactor
10.129                          EMCOMM
10.132                          SSTV-Narrow (MP73-N)
10.134 – 10.138       FeldHELL
10.136                          CMSK
10.1345 – 10.138    OLIVIA, MFSK
10.1386                       MEPT/WSPR
10.139                          JT65 (WSJT)
10.1405                       PROPNET (BPSK31)
10.139 - 10.141        WSPR (QSO MODE-WSJT)
10.140 – 10.141       BPSK31 QRP
10.140 – 10.142       BPSK31 - DX Region 1,2,3           
                                        (or BPSK/QPSK, 31,63,125 <125hz)

10.142 – 10.145       RTTY, MFSK,THOR, THROB, DOMINO,                                                                OLIVIA,  CONTESTIA

10.143 – 10.145       ROS (Region 2 –note not legal in USA)
10.144                          FeldHELL (Region 1)
10.142 – 10.144       ALE-400hz
10.145 – 10.148       ALE-2khz
10.145                          ARRL SkipNet
10.147 – 10.148       PSKMail/APRS
10.1491 – 10.1495  APRS

Operating hints for the weekend:

- Do use RSID (RXID/TXID) for the less common/exotic modes (i.e. Contestia,Olivia,Domino,etc)

- Do CQ with RSID for more than just a few of CQ’s, don’t expect to have someone to reply on a less common used mode the first few CQ’s…give it a while for others to find you and the mode being used

- Do use good operating habits – clean signal, lowest wattage to complete the QSO, QRL in common mode first, if band is busy or crowded spread out or use narrower width modes (i.e. if band is busy don’t use OLIVIA 8/500 in the middle of the 30 Meter PSK 10.141 portion of the Band-not good operating habit if the band is busy and you will not make many friends)

- Do have fun and compare modes, wattage, antennas, etc with other operators that are interested to do the same..most the 30 Meter Digital Operators are not Call,599,73 most want a QSO (even DX)

- Do use the other digital ops with more experience most seasoned digital ops on 30 Meters are very helpful and will have the patience to help if needed…also might use and log on to HamSpots (link below)

Go to the link below for more information:

***Please note we are secondary users of the 30 Meter Band and to use good operating procedures

Have fun and hope to see you on the waterfall!

Don KB9UMT 30MDG#0001

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Insulator Post

This telegraph line I found in July and I made the one hour drive this morning to take some photographs of the installation.  This collection is a excellent example of the once common telegraph system that spread to all corners of America.  The land line telegraph established itself alongside the railroad industry.  The railroad right of ways made an unobstructed linear space ideal for stringing up wires on poles. 
People throughout history have been wary of change and technology.  The early railroad bosses were skeptical of telegraphy with it's instruments and batteries and wire.  Not to mention the labor involved in maintaining the lines.  Once the usefulness and reliability of Morse code transmissions over wire was proven an industry was born and quickly flourished.  Similarly in the early days of radio technology ship owners were reluctant to waste resources to take on an extra crew member or two in the form of radio officers.  Before the sinking of the Titanic radios aboard ship was optional.  Radio caught on fast once it proved useful to saving lives.  

Pictures of telephone poles may not be of much interest to most but this is an example of our early communications infrastructure and I believe is worth preserving. Once a common sight to countless boys walking the tracks these sights will soon be just memories.       

Thursday, September 16, 2010

News from Amateur Radio Station KD8JHJ

With the summer season winding down I have not been very active with radio.  Lots of outdoor chores and of course 2-wheeled recreation have taken up major portions of my time.  As the colder temperatures and shorter days of fall arrive I am looking with enthusiasm to ramp up my amateur radio operations.

For the first time in nearly 3 weeks I generated some signals this past weekend participating in the September SKCC Week End Sprint.  I had fun and made contact with several club members for the first time.  I took about four hours on Sunday to go for a bike ride so my score suffered from that absence.  But hey on a sunny blue sky day this time of year the bike has priority.  There will be plenty of time for full days at the desk contesting later this winter.

It's been about six months since I had a working 20 meter antenna and this was my first opportunity to use the 20 meter end fed wire during a Week End Sprint.  I have color coded my contest log to show which QSOs were made on which band.    

 Blue for 7 MHz (40 meters)   Red for 14 MHz (20 meters)

  1:17  WB4OFT    North Carolina
  1:28  K8LJG        Michigan
  1:37  WA0BGV   Missouri
  1:46  KB2RAW   New Jersey
  1:57  WD0ECO   Missouri
  2:11  N1DN         Connecticut
  2:19  N0JL           Iowa
  2:26  K0LUW      Nebraska
  2:34  W6UT         California
  3:00  WA5TCZ    Louisiana
  3:27  W7GVE      Arizona
  3:37  W0MSM    Missouri
  3:45  N6EV         California

14:08  W3RT        Pennsylvania
14:31  W4CU       Florida
15:15  WA0YEI   Texas
15:20  K5FAL      Oklahoma
15:37  W7GVE     Arizona
15:48  N4QLB      Alabama
15:58  N3MVX    Pennsylvania

22:18  F6HKA     France
22:36  K5YQF    Texas
22:48  K4FP        Florida
23:16  W5ZR       Louisiana

The time is shown in UTC so remember the sprint starts at 00:00 UTC which is 8:00 PM my local time.  I divided the list into blocks that represent my operating periods.  Even though this is a meager collection of data it plainly shows that 20 meters supports longer distance communications while 40 meters works well for regional contacts.  However with the coming of the sunspots and the resulting increase in solar flux, propagation is enhanced on all the HF bands.  This is evident by my two contacts with California stations on Saturday night.  I rarely hear any western US states on 40 meters. 

One of the benefits of contesting from a research standpoint is how it illustrates propagation patterns or "openings" to different regions based on stations heard and contacted.  Granted the more contacts logged the more clear the picture of radio wave propagation becomes for a given period of time.

My 25 contacts placed me 51st out of 135 entries in the 5-100 watt category and 61st out of 171 entries all power categories combined.  I've already got my sights set on next month's sprint and I plan to put in a little more on air time and see if I can raise my record QSO count.

A New Key at KD8JHJ

The NT9K Pro-Pump SKCC Club Key 2010

Yesterday I received my new club key.  This big brass beauty weighs in at four pounds and feels very solid and precise.  This is my first experience with a long lever straight key.  The 2010 club key was designed by Bill Crosier NT9K with features acquired from several well respected long lever key designs.  Possessing only a small collection of keys myself I am by no means an expert but I can comment after a couple live QSOs I am really impressed with the feel and the quality fit and finish of this telegraph key.  The Pro-Pump is manufactured by a new-comer to the telegraph key market.  Key Concepts U.S.A. is located in North Carolina and judging by this first offering I suspect they will have no trouble selling many of these fine instruments.  When first launched demand from club members was so great the company had to ask that 4 to 8 weeks be allowed for delivery until production could catch up.  

Lastly I would like to thank my wife LeeAnn for the use of her photography studio props and lights that allowed me to showcase this fine key with the class it deserves.


Monday, September 13, 2010

LeMond Road Bike

After trials, tribulations and three trips to the bike shop I finally got my LeMond road bike back in action.  Installing the new cables was not the problem.  I've been doing my own maintenance for over twenty years and actually I enjoy tinkering with bikes and bike tools.  The problem was not having everything on hand to complete the job.  The last thing I had to do before a test ride was pump up the tires and in my haste I failed to pull the pump head straight up from the valve.  Because the pump head was tilted a bit it broke off the tiny threaded screw inside the presta valve stem.  The tube had 80 psi in it and thus was sufficient for a test ride but I would need a new tube before the first serious ride.  Murphy sure had it out for me on this project!

This is my first road bike and I have enjoyed it.  I purchased it new from the local bike shop for a bit over $500.  I'm not a racer so I don't need the cutting edge.  The aluminum frame and triple crank suit me just fine.  In the last five years I have upgraded the cranks to Ultegra, added new wheels and swapped out the stem for a shorter one.  On an upright diamond frame bike I like a carbon fiber seat post.  It really does help dampen road vibration so I put one of those on too.  My plan is to ride the bike for a few more years and slowly add new derailleurs and maybe a handlebar until I find a nice road frame and I will just swap all the parts over to the new frame. 

A couple more firsts came with this bike.  I rode my first and only Century ride (100 miles) on this bicycle.  I set my best ever hour record aboard the LeMond:  19.4 miles in sixty minutes.  As I have said before I like all kinds of cycling and when one has an urge for speed nothing satisfies like a road bike.  I missed riding this bike and the coming fall season is what prompted me to get things serviceable.  Now with my form peaking I have timed things just right for some high performance riding on skinny tires. 

 On Sunday afternoon I took a break from the SKCC Week End Sprint on amateur radio and headed out for a ride.  I stopped at the LBS for some new inner tubes and then enjoyed the beautiful day on a 25 mile loop between Lexington and Mansfield, Ohio.  My route was comprised of flat rail trail, urban city streets and rural roads.  Richland County is hilly so while off the bike trail I did get to do some climbing.
The bike felt great and I didn't feel half bad myself. 

Look Ma No Hands!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Ride

This Friday ride came about by a minor twist of fate.  Yesterday I picked up a pair of brake and shifter cables at the LBS for my LeMond road bike which at this time doesn't have any cables.  My plan was to install the new cables that night and test ride and fine tune the derailleurs the next day.  Just getting started I notice the outer cable jackets I had for the shifters did not seem to be present anywhere in the garage.  I was looking forward to a sporty road bike ride in the cooler dryer weather we have now.  And so because I had to make a second trip to the LBS for new cable housings I just decided to grab the Yeti and ride at Clear Fork since I would go right by anyway.  In the early fall before the hunters hit the fields is my favorite time to do any kind of cycling.

The Stoller Road Trail is named after an abandoned county road.  Portions of that rural route were made impassible when a dam was constructed and the valley flooded to create a fresh water reservoir.  The only telltale signs that a road ever existed in the area is the occasional graded roadbed cut into hill side.  The trail parallels the old road for a half mile or so then you can see where the grade heads right down to the waters edge.  The trail continues on for a total of two miles following the shore line more or less.  Up the hillside is a trail network of  smaller loops with technical climbs traversing V shaped ravines cut into the topography by erosion.   Options are plenty from a flat easy four mile out and back to eight or more if one backtracks and runs the smaller loops in different directions.  My little slice of knobby tire nirvana about ten miles away.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Recumbent Ride - Quarry Loop

On Sunday I decided to ride the 50 mile Quarry Loop.  This ride is a large rectangle with the start finish in the south-east corner and in the north-west corner the Bucyrus operation of the National Lime and Stone Company which has been in business since 1903.

I packed extra water and a snack on the recumbent because this ride avoids all but the smallest rural villages and in 50 miles passes only one soft drink vending machine.  I got started around noon.  The conditions were ideal with low humidity but a steady wind coming straight out of the west.  The first 15 miles were tough but I have to comment again that the aerodynamic shape of the recumbent and rider is much better suited to plying strong headwinds. 

After a few miles I kept hearing the sound of some kind of motor in the distance to my left.  Finally I spotted this airship also heading into the westerly wind.  I watched the Good Year Balloon slowly gain distance on me for nearly 45 minutes.  I can only guess at the forward airspeed of the craft and I don't know whether out of boredom or to gain a few extra knots into the headwind the pilot steadily nosed up the airship then pointed it back down as if following a sine wave.  Strange and I could hear the race and lag of the engine as the ship pitched up and down.

When I set out to ride 50 miles of Ohio soybean and cornfields anything out of the ordinary is a welcome sight.  Especially dirigibles.  The sky was gorgeous and I could not resist some taking some pictures.  This cell phone towers is a visual marker or way point I look for as I near the western side of the route. 

Glass insulators in service
These days clear glass is not used much but occasionally it can still be seen in service.   The above photograph shows an electrical distribution wire atop a wooden pole.  I'm not sure if the glass half spheres are supporting the load of the wire and isolating the wire from the pole or if they provide some protection from flash over during a lightning strike and the steel rod passes through the glass? 

At the 25 mile point I reached the quarry.  I had no idea this limestone quarry even existed until a few years ago when a friend took me on this route for the first time.  The following picture is the old section of the quarry. 

The bridge along the county road that splits the quarry in two was out and being repaired so I had to add an extra five mile detour around the construction site.  The old bridge structure was completely gone.  Scaling the limestone cliffs that the bridge work spans with the recumbent was out of the question.


The active part of the quarry is on the north side of the road that splits the site.  These pictures illustrate the geology of this part of north central Ohio.  Clearly visible is the brown soil and gray clay layer over top of the solid limestone bedrock.  Materials mined from the ground here are used in construction and road building.

At the front gates of the complex I found a boulder filled with fossilized shells.  These remnants are from the days when Ohio was at the bottom of a vast prehistoric sea.  Because of the wind my ride time stretched out longer than what I wanted but still 55 miles is quite a trek regardless of the time it takes.  This ride was a great opener to the fall riding season which is my favorite time to ride.

Bike  Recumbent
Ride Time  4:01:56
Distance  55.45 miles
Average Speed  13.7 mph
Max Speed  28.3 mph