Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pipes -- Peterson's System 303

One or two of my long time readers might remember I am a pipe smoker.  Pipes are one of my hobbies and as such something I don't get to enjoy as often as would like.  Moderation is key so I guess in this case it's not such a bad thing.  Over the past year I have determined that my favorite tobacco bowl is the Peterson's System Pipe 303.

This Premier grade System 303 is the latest addition to my small rotation.  I love the lighter stain and low gloss finish of this pipe.  The left side of the bowl and shank have beautiful straight grain brought out in dramatic fashion by a late August sun.

I have enjoyed a few half bowls in the pipe smoking slowly to gradually expose the briar to higher temperatures.  I don't have a set in stone method for breaking in a new pipe but for this classic Pete I am alternating between a favorite aromatic mixture and a brighter naturally sweet red Virginia and Turkish Izmir blend.


The Peterson System pipe is a design over one hundred years old and still being produced and sold by the by the same company.  Amazing!  Just like my other 303's this one is a good smoker and a beautiful chunk of briar.   

Lastly the following pictures show close ups of the right side of the bowl.  This side of the pipe has birdseye and interesting character.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cycling Update

Late August signals the beginning of my favorite riding season.  The oppressive humidity and heat haze of summer give way to cooler temperatures and crisp star filled evening skies.  The changing of the fall foliage is still a month away but if one spends any time outside the signs of coming autumn are all around.  The chorus of crickets have reached a fevered pitch both day and night.  Woolly caterpillars make up a random slalom course for my bike wheels as they purposefully make their way across the road.  It's the time of year when I suddenly realize that soon I will be donning a pile of outdoor gear; gloves, hat, jacket, tights and wool socks just to go out for a bike ride.

Saturday I was feeling a bit restless and although there was numerous chores around the house that needed done I opted for a ride.  Cycling is my medicine.  Equally good for mind and body.

A steady breeze was blowing from the North-East so I decided on a route directly North. A long skinny loop where I could enjoy a tail wind to help push me back home on the second half of the ride.  I took my time enjoying the afternoon and took a few pictures.  An old country church of stout sandstone and brick was the backdrop for this blog post photo.

Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Ride Time:  1:50
Distance:  25.6 miles
Average Speed:  13.8 mph
Max Speed:  25.9 mph
HP Velo Odometer:  1946.7 miles  

North Central Ohio countryside


I have also realized my new Motobecane Le Champion titanium road bike has not been out as often as I wanted this season so I have made it a point to get some rides in on 700c wheels before the snow flies.  Last Thursday after work I loaded up and took a short drive to the B & O Trail at Lexington Ohio.  My goal for the evening ride was a time trial to see where my fitness level was after many good rides on the recumbent this summer.  When I'm in the mood to hammer the Motobecane is my remedy.

B & O Trail 20 Mile Time Trial

Bike:  Motobecane
Ride Time:  1:10
Distance:  20 miles
Average Speed:  17.2 mph
Max Speed:  29.2 mph
Motobecane Odometer:  292 miles

Friday, August 26, 2011

Signals from Space

Amateur Satellites

I've heard about amateur satellites orbiting the Earth and read stories of hams out in their backyards waving antennas around scaring the neighbors.  Sounds like fun to me.  Curiosity about this interesting segment of amateur radio finally spurred me into action.  I did a bit of research about an amateur satellite "Arissat-1" launched earlier this year from the International Space Station.

At first glance one would expect elaborate equipment with specialized antennas and knowledge to be required to receive telemetry from a satellite in space.  This is not the case at all.  After I dug out my 2 meter FM transceiver and charged up it's dead batteries I now held in my hand a tiny satellite receiving station.  A programmable police scanner could also be used to tune in the satellites.
Finding the signals

On the Internet I found a wealth of information at the Arissat-1 website.  Most useful was a Pass Prediction Application where I entered my location (grid square) and the satellite I was looking for. The program calculated the times that the next 20 passes would occur over my location allowing me to hear the FM transmissions.  I printed out the page and clipped it to a clipboard for reference outside.

The first pass on my printout happened late in the afternoon while I was still at work.  I had just picked up Wyatt from school so he was standing by also.  I set the frequency on my little 2 meter rig to 145.950 MHz and opened the squelch control so I could hear the static as I had no real idea what I was listening for or how strong the signal would be.  About a minute into the predicted window the static suddenly dropped and a voice became audible getting louder and more clear.  I heard a female voice identifying the source of the transmission as amateur radio satellite Arissat-1 call sign RSO1S.  The next thing we heard was a greeting in one of 15 different languages followed by the telemetry data, technical stuff such as temperatures and battery voltages and current.  The last thing copied before the signal faded out in a rush of Doppler effect was SSTV or slow scan television.  The satellite was transmitting back to Earth a picture from one of it's on board cameras. 

Later in the evening we caught the satellite transmissions on it's next few passes spaced about two hours apart.  This was a fun little experiment that required no more than to walk outside and is another first for amateur radio station KD8JHJ.  After using the short and inefficient rubber coil antenna on my hand held I see now that the extra gain from a yagi antenna would be ideal for capturing the fleeting signals of these orbiting space travelers.

Under the "hardware" tab at the Arissat-1 website is lots of interesting information such as a Design Review that one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to understand.  The points of the review are arranged into well constructed pdf documents.  It is truly amazing the amount of effort put into this project by dedicated hams and a great example of one of the many activities that fall under the subject of amateur radio.  One of the coolest hobbies on Earth and beyond. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kid Rock -- Saturday August 20th -- Noblesville, IN

This past Saturday my wife and I took a little road trip to the Hoosier State to catch a Kid Rock Show and opener Sheryl Crow.  We arrived at the venue near Noblesville, Indiana just as the sun was setting on a beautiful summer day.

We walked around observing concert goers before finding our seats at the start of Sheryl's performance as night fell around the amphitheater.

Our vantage point was not the greatest for photography but the music sounded excellent from this location.  After a shorter set of her more up-tempo hits to warm up the crowd Sheryl turned the stage over to Kid Rock and his unique fusion of hip hop and southern rock.  The music was loud and clear. Kid's show covered all the bases with lasers, pyrotechnics, pole dancers, whiskey and big American flags.

Kid and Sheryl are an unlikely pair but the chemistry works.

I've always liked Kid Rock but until now I'd never had the pleasure of seeing him and his band perform live.  He really sells his brand but if you pay attention it's readily apparent Kid Rock is a talented musician and showman.  He played the drum kit, a piano and electric guitars on several songs as well as singing lyrics at the top of his lungs.  What I found particularly impressive was a searing cover of Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" with Kid playing the iconic opening licks on the guitar.  Would I go to another Kid Rock show? Certainly. 

Lastly I have to give credit to my wife LeeAnn who drags me (willingly of course) all over the Mid West on her Sheryl Crow adventures.  If it wasn't for her I probably would only leave the house to ride my bike. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Ride

Local Loop

Ride Time:    1:34
Distance:    24.1 mph
Average Speed:    15.1 mph
Max Speed:    29.9 mph
Motobecane Odometer:  272 mi

Nice evening for a road bike ride.    

Thursday, August 18, 2011

News from A.R.S. KD8JHJ

It's been a great summer.  I spent some quality time working on and riding bicycles. As a family we had some adventures and saw a few new and interesting places.  I've gotten back into reading with a vengeance since I got my Kindle ebook. And last but not least the old 9 to 5 that uses up the rest of my free time has kept me busy.  All this has brought my radio-activity to very low levels but that doesn't mean amateur radio is not front and center in my mind.  Ham radio is a great thinking man's hobby.  Electronics, antenna theory, wave propagation and history are just a few of the related subjects that can keep an idle mind firing on all cylinders while away from the shack.

I still get on the air when I can and as the summer winds down and turns to fall the shortening days will curtail my outdoor activities and leave more time for radio pursuits.  On the 14th of August the SKCC Week End Sprint was held.  I always try not to miss this event so I got on the air with my straight keys and handed out a few numbers.  The most notable contact during the sprint was a 2,080 mile cross country connection with Jake KK6L, who lives outside San Francisco, California.  Jake is a very active and enthusiastic ham who is 9 years younger than me.  There is a few of us younger guys out here passionate about radio.  We will keep the brass pounding tradition alive.

KD8JHJ August SKCC WES log

7.056    W3OKC    Pennsylvania
7.053    W1LVT    Vermont
7.057    K8EE    Ohio
14.048    KK6L  California
14.053    N5RKD    New Mexico
7.052    K4ZGB    Alabama
7.053    K4BAI    Georgia
7.113    N0UMP    Missouri
7.050    KI0I    Missouri
7.048    W9DLN    Wisconsin
7.055    W4FOA    Georgia
7.053    N4RE    North Carolina


On the digital side of the radio desk

Unanswered Feld Hell CQ's on 20 meters
 In my last ham radio post I mentioned that I was wanting to make some DX contacts using my favorite digital mode Feld Hell.  When I have the station fired up I usually send out some CQ calls to see what happens.  Most of the time I get no responses.  Hellschriber is an obscure mode with a smaller following than the more common digital modes on the airwaves like PSK-31 or RTTY.

On the 21st of July I was parked on 14.080 MHz and after my second CQ call I was shocked to see SP5APR, the callsign of a gentleman named Stan returning my call.  From 4,569 miles away in Warsaw, Poland Stan copied my Feld Hell signals and reported them 599 and perfectly readable.  Fine Business indeed.


Last night I was sitting at my desk stamping some envelopes for QSL cards.  If I am not monitoring the CW frequencies for Morse code I like to set my rig to the PSK-31 "watering hole" on 20 meters.  This is a great way to see how propagation is working.  PSK stations are operational nearly 24/7 these days on 14.070 MHz.  My software (fldigi) has a feature called "psk browser" that when enabled tracks and decodes all the signals in the 3 KHz  passband of the receiver in a seperate window.  At a glance I can follow up to as many as ten or twelve QSOs all happening at the same time.   The program will highlight the incoming text in red if a certain key word or phrase like CQ CQ CQ is decoded.  Clicking on the text with the mouse will automatically tune the software to that exact frequency and with another click my reply is transmitted digitally out into the ether. 

I noticed while watching the psk browser the station IR2ITA advertising a special call.  He was working other European stations but his signal was strong and providing nearly perfect copy to my lowly wire strung outside to the tree in the backyard.  I assumed "special call" meant special event station so I waited for an opening and clicked a transmission in response.  Franco in Italy got my signal solid and I now have another unique special event station in the log.  I posted a screen shot of our actual QSO under the IR2ITA qsl card image below.  

KD8JHJ in qso with IR2ITA using PSK-31 digital mode

Earlier this week I was reading the SKCC websight and I noted an announcement by Stan, WB2LFQ.  Stan planned to operate a special event station as a single op QRP using CW only (Morse code) commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel, NY.  What a cool special event I thought.  I am a huge music fan and many of my favorite classic rock acts were new up and comers that performed at that legendary 3 day show.  I saw that the event was underway so I set my receiver to the specified frequency on 40 meters.  Soon enough I heard the "CQ CQ de W2S" special call.  The signal wasn't booming in but it was perfectly readable.  5 watts, 500 miles -No problem!  I exchanged info with Stan at a crisp 20 words per minute using my ZN-9A paddles.

I've already sent off my SASE 9.00" X 12.00" envelope and I am looking forward to seeing how Stan designed his unique special event certificate.  The info for the event is still posted on QRZ.com under W2S.  Stan posted the log from the event on his site Here. I found my call in this log contact number 23 out of 155 stations worked by Stan over 30 hours of operation.  Pretty impressive for a one man qrp effort to say the least.

I've read lots of articles and blogs written by experienced hams who describe how our tastes in different aspects of the hobby change over time.  I don't doubt this but for now catching these one-of-kind special event stations has become my favorite radio activity.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shop Notes -- Carbon Boom Installed

Yesterday afternoon after grocery shopping was done and the provisions stored away I had a couple hours free to work on the recumbent.  When I have new bike parts laying around I can't resist the familiar  siren song for too long and I just have to get my hands dirty.

HP Velotechnik with stock aluminum boom.
The first order of business was to cut the shifter cable and pull the front derailleur and chain out of the way.  The computer mount and cable also were removed and tucked safely out of the way.  The Truvative   crankset is held on to the bike by an 8mm self extracting bolt on the non-drive side.  My hex key is about six inches long allowing me to provide just enough leverage to loosen the fastener and free the crank arm.  A couple taps with a rubber mallet on the hollow steel tube that is the axle of the crank and the whole assembly slides right out.

Once the crankset is removed only the outboard bearing cups remain in the bottom bracket shell.  This is where my new Park Tool BB-19 proved itself indispensable.  The cups were pretty tight and I had to call on the services of one of my favorite tools the big 12" adjustable wrench to coax the cups from the shell.

Every so often I discover another advantage of the recumbent bicycle.  While straddling the main tube and facing forward the bottom bracket is in the perfect position for loading torque on the parts while at the same time holding the bike steady.  I found this experience much easier than working on the bottom brackets of diamond frame bikes stuck in the work stand.

Upon my initial inspection of the carbon boom while holding it up along side the bike I noticed that it seemed too long.  There is a slight bend in the main tube just forward of the head tube/steerer weld.  This bend only lets the boom be inserted so far.  Sure enough when I laid the two booms side by side the carbon tube was a couple inches longer.

The telescoping boom is a unique feature of many recumbent designs that allow the manufacturer to produce just one size frame and then the end user can customize the  reach by sliding the boom forward or aft.  Finally pinch bolts on the main frame tube are tightened securing the fit.

If I installed the carbon boom as is it would bottom out and place the pedals too far forward.  Now I had reached the point of no return and chucked up a cutoff wheel in the dremel.  I cut off the end of the boom just behind the tape as shown in the photograph.  I have to say I do like working with carbon fiber.  The high speed rotary tools cut through the material like the proverbial hot knife with none of the jerkiness, heat and exploding cutting wheels I experience when working with metal tubes.  I swapped the cutoff wheel with an abrasive drum sander and cleaned up the raw edges of the boom and it was then ready for installation.

Before I started I measured the distance the boom protruded from the main tube so I could set the distance of the new boom perfectly.  Notice the clever use of a V-brake style "macaroni" to guide the front derailleur cable up through the boom.  The work proceeded quickly downhill from here.  I attached the crankset in reverse order of dis-assembly, reattached the front derailleur, ran a new cable, screwed on the computer mount and was shortly off on a test ride around the block.

Good fun! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shop Notes -- Park Tool BB-19


At my local bike shop I picked up a Park Tool BB-19 bottom bracket tool for an upcoming project.  I now have three different bottom bracket tools hanging on my tool board.  The older ones are for the square taper fixed flange cartridge type BB and the newer hollow splined axle versions.  All my bikes use the cartridge style bottom brackets so I have no experience with the old school cup and lock ring stuff from the vintage days.  It may seem irritating to have to buy three different tools to do the same thing but I have been wrenching on bikes for more than 20 years and in this time I have seen the components evolve and improve.  

Bottom bracket technology is an area that has seen a dramatic reduction in weight and because of the shift away from the heavy solid steel square taper axle the tools have had to change to accommodate the dimensions of the newest designs.  Progress marches on and being a gear head I don't mind having to buy a new tool once in a while and learn how the new stuff works.

My recumbent bike is the first bike I have owned that uses the 16 notch external bearing BB cups so this is the reason for the BB-19.  A parcel finally arrived the other day from the Hostel shoppe containing this awesome carbon fiber boom.  The boom was a special order from HP Velotechnik in Germany.  I can't wait to see it installed on my bike.

Nothing quite like carbon weave in the sunshine

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not A Race

I'm not a regular rider of charity events but what enticed me to do this fun ride was the unique opportunity to ride my recumbent bike on the world class Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.  The weather forecast called for a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms but the actual conditions couldn't have been better.  Temperatures in the mid 80's and lower humidity than usual made for a great afternoon workout.

The pictures I took from the cockpit of my recumbent cycling machine as I made my way around the 2.2 mile road circuit.  The lay of the land looks relatively flat in my photographs but I assure you this is not the case.  The track was designed using the rolling hills of the Clear Fork valley and as a result one lap is divided fairly even between uphill and downhill.  The only flat segment is along pit row.  The back stretch is a good half mile of steady decent where I easily hit 30 mph in top gear.  Following the strait away was an S-curve and then a sharp 90 degree turn both of which I was able to negotiate at 30+ mph without touching the brakes. 

Summit Therapy & Performance put on the event to benefit the fight against MS.  They did a nice job and I will look to support their cause again in the future.  It's been a while since I did anything for a cause and I have to say I do feel good about helping out.  

Porshe's are a dime a dozen on this track but I'm going to claim the first ever run of another fine piece of German engineering: the HP Velotechnik Street Machine unless someone can prove otherwise.

Ride Time:  1:50
Distance: 27 miles/ 13 laps
Average Speed:  14.6 mph
Max Speed:  35.8 mph

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shop Notes -- Rollastand

I have decided to participate in a charity event next week for MS.  I've been needing an excuse to clean my recumbent bike so I set to work this fine Saturday afternoon in the garage.  By nature recumbent bikes have unconventional frame shapes which will not fit the clamp of the typical bicycle maintenance stand.  Unfortunately this means getting down to ground level to work on the wheels and underside of the bike.

A few years ago I bought this handy device called the Rollastand.  Although designed specifically for motorcycles I have found the Rollastand is perfect for use with the recumbent.  The two black rollers turn smoothly on heavy duty cartridge bearings.  I can easily rotate the wheel and gain access to the hub, rim and all the spokes.  Inspecting the tire and applying preservative is likewise a breeze.

I also have a padded four wheel creeper like the auto mechanics use that I sit or kneel on while performing my maintenance tasks.  For working on diamond frame bikes the Park stand can't be beat but with a bit of ingenuity I have found ways to make working on the recumbent somewhat comfortable and easy.  And as a result more fun.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I Drew A Picture!

This beautiful piece of artwork is actually a light table tracing I made from a photograph of my recumbent bike. (One of my favorite subjects.)  My medium was black Sharpie on paper.  I photographed it and then adjusted the exposure to achieve a floating in the clouds look.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I've always been a bit behind the curve when it comes to adapting new technology.  For about a year now I have been thinking about the Kindle ebook reader.  I had not seen one of these things in real life until the other day when I came upon the display in an office supply store.  As I played with the simple controls of the display unit I was impressed with the user-friendliness of the device and clarity of the screen.  As luck would have it the store was offering a sale and I walked with my new Kindle for twenty dollars less than the advertised price.

The curmudgeon in me used to say I like paper books I don't need another infernal electronic gadget.  In my first week I have finished two books and have three others started.  I can unequivocally say that I love this thing.  Being able to change the font and size of the type is an incredible feature.  One-handed operation is a breeze allowing me to eat popcorn or smoke my pipe while reading.  And believe it or not I don't know everything so I find the on board dictionary and ability to quickly look up the definition of a word a godsend.  In the summertime I do a lot of reading on the patio and I used to hate when the wind turned the pages of an old-timey paper book before I was done reading.  A problem no more!

All of these things have quickly won me over and stole the wind from the crusty curmudgeon's sails.  I purchased the Kindle with the hopes that it's convenience would encourage me to read more and it certainly has.  With the features offered by the Kindle and a good book downloaded it seems easier than ever to lose myself in the movie in my head as the virtual pages effortlessly click by.


Monday, August 1, 2011

"My Insulator" A poem by Dwight Dodge

I belong to an online club called ICON or Insulator Collectors On the Net.  Icon is a great club full of resources and people very passionate about the insulator hobby.  I suscribe to the club's message board in digest form so that it automatically downloads to my email everyday.  I am just a lurker mostly and don't post much to the ICON board but I very much enjoy the discussions about all aspects of the Hobby.  This weekend I saw this poem submitted to the Icon site by Mr Dodge of British Columbia.  The poem resonates with me and I believe captures the magic perfectly.  Great Job Dwight!
-Recumbent Conspiracy Theorist 


My Insulator

I have an insulator

That gleams so very fine

Whenever sunlight streams upon

This glassy jewel of mine.

There upon the window sill,

It captures ev'ry beam.

It stores them up and sends them out

Much richer, it would seem.

Just feel it's solid beauty.

The lines are round and clean.

You touch a part of days gone by

In molded glass of green.

I would like to know just what

It heard when it was young;

When the wires whispered to it,

While on the pole it hung.

Just perhaps, it heard about

The death of some one grand.

No doubt, it heard about a war

That raged across the land.

All it heard, I cannot know.

The present I can see.

It warms the heart to contemplate

What beauty there can be.

Dwight Dodge