Sunday, January 30, 2011

XC Ski -- Mohican State Park

On Saturday I hung around the house playing video games with my son and made some contacts on amateur radio.  During the night we received a couple inches of fresh snow and by Sunday morning cabin fever was rearing its ugly head again so by my second cup of coffee I had my plans finalized to get out of Dodge.

I threw my skis and gear in the car and made the 45 minute drive to Mohican State Park for some back country ski fun.  I consider myself fortunate to have such a great park so close to home.  Mohican is also home to a killer mountain bike trail I highlighted in this post which is located in the northern part of the park.  For cross country skiing the ideal track is the bridle trail network detailed on the map south of State Route 97.  My route for the day was about half of the Blue Trail.  Starting at the staging area I traveled in a counter clockwise direction working my way south and basically skiing a big loop.  I paralleled County Road T-3286 for a short time then crossed C-3275 before swinging back north again.  After crossing the frozen Pine Run and continuing north for another half mile or so I used the new red-blue connector to put me on course back towards the bridal staging area and back to the car.  The connector is the faded red dashed line that parallels T-3234 on the right side of the map.

I estimate my total trip was about 8 miles and I was on the trail for a total of four hours.  Had I continued following the blue blazes I would have eventually crossed State Route 97 before turning west and ending up at the snowmobile trail head shown at the very top of the map.  

Pine Run

Snack break at C-3275 crossing

My Trusty CamelBack Mule.

The Mule is my four season adventure sports companion.  The little pack rides securely and comfortably on my back with plenty of room for a day out in the wild.  I've used this hiking, biking, skiing and even kayaking and like it's namesake it is always up to the task.
One important thing to remember this time of year is once you have gotten a drink hold the tube up in the air and squeeze the bite valve so the water runs back down into the reservoir.  When pressure is released from the valve a seal is created and the tube remains empty.  If this step is forgotten the whole thing freezes solid in short order.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


A few months ago I found this image of a World War Two recruiting poster.  I can't recall now where I found it but being interested in things telegraphic I stuck it in my picture file.  What caught my eye was the semi-automatic bug key, the slightly furrowed brow and the look of mild concentration on that pretty face.

Recently my curiosity about the WAVES got the better of me and a couple mouse clicks later I landed at the NHHC or Naval History and Heritage Command website.  You've got to love the military and their incessant use of acronyms.  Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service began in August of 1942 when Mildred McAfee was sworn in as a Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander.  McAfee was the first female commissioned officer in the history of the U.S. Navy and was the first director of the WAVES program.

From the start the WAVES was an official division of the Navy whose members held the same rank and pay grades as their male counterparts.  The vast majority of WAVES performed clerical duties although women quickly proved adept in aviation maintenance, the medical professions, communications and other non-combat support roles.  The World War Two era brought about dramatic changes in the military and these pioneering women deserve great credit for stepping up to serve their country in what was up until then an exclusively male institution.

The Navy recruiting poster pictured above was made from an oil on canvas painting by John Philip Falter.  Following is a short note about the painting from the NHHC website:

"This woman operates a telegraph key. The Navy ran a school for radio personnel beginning in 1942. Research suggests that John Falter used a Naval photograph taken during March 1943 of Virginia L. Scott as the basis for this image. She is sending a message from the code room of the Radio School at Madison, Wisconsin. The Navy used this painting to print 40,000 posters, 71,000 window cards and 57,000 car cards in June of 1943."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Excellent QRPp

The other day I received a QSL card from WB6YTE out in Chula Vista, California confirming a PSK-31 digital contact we made back in March of 2010.  After consulting my log book I found a short entry describing how I experienced QSB or fading signals and I had lost contact with Ed shortly after we had exchanged our basic information.

Chula Vista is about 1963.5 miles away from my house half way between San Diego and the U.S. - Mexico border.  Something I like to do when I make faraway contacts with my ham radio is look up the other station using Google Earth or Free Map Tools.  Interestingly as I zoomed in on WB6YTE's location I could plainly see the aluminum elements of his tri-band beam antenna glinting in the sun.  The Tri-bander is the antenna on the left pictured above on the QSL card.  

By all means the Internet and Google Earth are amazing examples of modern technology but what really blows my mind is the fact that Ed used just 1 watt of power to transmit his signal and my wire antenna a mere 34 feet off the ground here in Ohio was able to not only receive but transmit a response back across the continent to southern California.   

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Livestrong LS10.0E -- Initial Observations

Last week I posted some pictures of our new elliptical trainer.  After a few sessions I can report without a doubt this machine can deliver everything from a mild intensity fat burning workout to a serious lung busting beat down of the cardiovascular system.

I spent the first week on this machine getting a feel for the mechanics of operation and testing the parameters of resistance and incline available.

Listed across the control panel below the screen are eleven pre-programmed workouts each further refined by data input by the user such as duration, body weight, intensity level or target wattage produced.  Some of the programs use a combination of alternating high resistance and easy recovery periods all controlled by the microprocessor to provide a structured interval workout.  One of my favorite programs is called "Constant Watts".  After loading my weight and target watts using the keyboard the machine chooses a resistance level that allows me to maintain a steady jogging like movement.  The computer brain then monitors power output and makes adjustments to the resistance level as necessary to maintain the desired work load based on watts of power.  

The control panel display allows the user to monitor performance in three different scales. Watts, distance and heart rate.  The inner non-moving handles contain pulse sensors that provide a reading to the computer which in turn calculates an average heart rate.  The instructions note not to grasp the handles too tightly or increased blood pressure can skew the reading.  Although not as accurate as a chest strap mounted sensor providing data to a heart rate monitor I have found this built in system to be comparable to conventional hear rate monitors I have used.    

I am not a serious athlete by any means but I think it is fun to watch the numbers.  On the elliptical display I can clearly observe my heart rate gradually increase as my workout progresses even while maintaining a constant power output.  The attractive back lit LCD screen and large segmented LED displays allow at a glance updates of the aforementioned statistics.

Day 1  Program: Mellow Johnny's Trail (medium intensity intervals)
Duration:  30 minutes
Distance:  3.28 miles

Day 2  Program: Max Cardio (high intensity intervals with incline)
Duration:  45 minutes
Distance:  4.03 miles
Resistance Level:  4  alternating 3-9
Incline:  alternating 40-75% of range
Max Heart Rate: 176 bpm
Max Watts:  157

Day 3  Program:  Constant Watts (steady state)
Duration:  45 minutes
Distance:  4.23 miles
Watts:  75
Resistance Level:  counting down during session 4, 3, 2
Incline: 0
Heart Rate:  145 bpm after warm up - 165 bpm at completion

Day 4  Program:  Constant Watts (steady state)
Duration:  60 minutes
Distance:  5 miles
Watts:  50
Resistance Level:  1
Inclination:  0
Heart Rate:  140 bmp after warm up - 150 bpm at completion

Because I had chosen such a small target wattage for the day 4 workout the resistance level stayed at 1 and no progressive count down of  resistance was experienced even though my heart rate steadily increased over the hour of effort. 

It is also interesting to note that Resistance levels range from 1 to 20.  A person much bigger and stronger than I could still be easily challenged by this machine.  At level 17 the exertion required just to keep the flywheel turning quickly rocketed my heart rate up to near maximum levels.

Each workout was followed with my regular strength training routines comprised of a mixture free weights and cable based exercises.  


Monday, January 17, 2011

Insulator Post -- California Signal

It's been a while since I featured a pretty piece of glass so I can't think of a better way to progress into my second year of blogging than with this California signal.  Although best known for the multitude of purple shades, The California Glass Insulator Company also produced lots of sage green glass.  This near perfect specimen came home with me from the Springfield show last November and is my only example of the common California color.

Pressed from molten glass between the years of 1912 and 1916 at the Long Beach, California factory, this insulator is quickly closing in on it's 100th birthday.  I hope I look half as good when I'm that age!  From the first time I picked up a California I have been enamored with the clarity and wet look of the glass produced by this company.  The "melting ice" appearance I can only theorize comes from the minerals present in the raw materials or as a result of the cooling process once the insulator came out of the mold.  In any case this is a main reason why I like the California brand.    

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Livestrong LS10.0E

This 300 pound thing is called an elliptical.  LeeAnn has a gym membership and a years worth of experience using elliptical trainers.  On her recommendations we pooled our funds and requisitioned this unit for our home gym.
I spent the better part of this afternoon assembling the parts.  The flywheel is huge and the lower link arms, the bars with the treads for standing on pivot on hefty 1/2" I.D. sealed cartridge bearings doubled up no less on machined steel shafts.  I am impressed with this piece of equipment.  Viewing the mechanism from the side reminds me of the piston on an old steam engine,  except in this case no steam, I'm going to be the engine.  The foot treads travel in an elliptical pattern simulating a running movement except without the impact.
Useful amenities are a slot at the top of the control panel to hold a cell phone or music player and of course a cup holder.  This will be a welcome alternative to This.  Good call LeeAnn. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snow Tubing

This week our local ski hill Snow Trails held a charity event called "Will Tube For Food".  With a donation of a few canned goods from the cupboard my family and I scored a free lift ticket and enjoyed an evening of gravity assisted winter time fun. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vibroplex Nameplates

I have had the photography for this post complete for some time but have been at a loss on how to transfer my thoughts on this subject into text.  For the past 18 years I have made a living in the nameplate business.  Industrial Screen Printing to be specific.  My company supplies nameplates, decals, and graphic overlays to the manufacturing industry.  A peculiar side effect of my vocation is that I am always examining the labeling of goods and equipment that I come in contact with.  I know I probably should not judge a piece of equipment by the quality of it's nameplate but this is just something I do.  A high quality, attractive label, while not essential to the performance of said equipment definitely says a lot to me about the manufacturer's philosophy.

During the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th century the world transitioned from manual labor and draft animal based economies to machine based manufacturing.  As a result of this change a specialized industry was born to address the need of documenting certain information for the many manufactured goods being produced in the world's shops and factories.  The nameplate was a way for a maker to proudly display his moniker and trademark on a good that he produced.  Other pertinent data such as patent and serial numbers could be recorded permanently on a metal plate by various stamping or etching methods.  When I am at a garage sale or an antique shop looking at old appliances or tools I like to admire the nameplates on these products from yesteryear. Unlike today the goods produced in times past were built to last and by nature so was the labeling.

The Vibroplex line of Morse code keys are a great example of a mass produced item that began in the hey-day of the industrial revolution and continues on today.  The bold brass embossed nameplate with the "lightning bug" trademark is instantly recognizable by hams and telegraphy enthusiasts around the world.  In my research which really just amounts to scratching the surface of what is out there concerning this company I have learned some interesting stuff.  According to an article by John Ceccherelli, N2XE that appeared in the January 2003 issue of QST, the brass stamped nameplates were first used by Vibroplex around 1920.  A rectangular black and silver nameplate was used on the earliest semi-automatic keys by Vibroplex.  John also stated that the same shop had been producing the brass nameplates from the original run right up to the time his article was published.  A nameplate production run by one shop spanning nearly a hundred years is simply amazing I believe.

According to the "Vibroplex Collectors' Guide", Second Edition by Tom French, W1IMQ there were 22 different types of  nameplates made for the Vibroplex line from 1905 to present.  The only difference between these types, aside from the early rectangular plates, are additional patent numbers and different addresses as the company was relocated during it's history.  Three "A" series, four "B" series and three "C" series plates made up the rectangular versions between 1905 and 1920.  The nine different "D" series plates made between 1921 to just recently are the familiar embossed brass plate.

Now a completely new style plate has been introduced by Vibroplex for all of the keys previously using the brass plate.  This new design is a very attractive and well made nameplate that I presume is screen printed gold anodized aluminum.  From here I will simply speak my mind, my opinion. That is what blogs are for after all.  I don't like the new plate.  I've spoken to a couple hams who share my opinion and I know we can't be the only ones.  I know change is inevitable and progress marches on but in the case of these legendary instruments and their iconic nameplate I think the change was a poor decision.  As I said the new plate is fine and does not effect the performance of the key whatsoever.  I love my new Iambic paddles but the new plate looks too "modern" especially when sitting in it's spot beside the bug on my operating desk with its old style embossed plate. 

I have no idea of the reasons behind the decision to revise the nameplate.  My industry like most are plagued with ever increasing material costs and tightening environmental standards making some processes too cost prohibitive to be profitable or even possible.  Perhaps the hard tooling used to stamp the plates has finally worn out and it would cost thousands I'm sure to retool for the job.  In any case I would like to see Vibroplex acquire some new old style plates and start a trade in program at the very least.  Owners if they so desired could remove and send back the new style plates to Vibroplex and receive an old style in trade with the same serial number stamped.  I would do this even at my expense.  I would have gladly shouldered a price increase of the key itself if that is what it would take to continue with the embossed brass plates.  I know it's a minuscule issue in the grand scheme of things but as a nameplate guy it just gets under my skin.

The following pictures show the plates on each of my four Vibroplex keys.  The plates are bare brass and I love how the embossed detail has begun to tarnish while the back ground remains brighter.  In other words these plates have loads of character and compliment the hardware they are riveted to in a way that can't be beat.
Straight Key -- Type D9 Nameplate

Original bug -- Type D9 Nameplate

Vibrokeyer -- Type D9 Nameplate

Iambic -- (New Knoxville, TN plate)

Here is a photograph of a D3 Nameplate from the  The Vibroplex Collector's Page  Maintained by Randy Cole, KN6W.  Based on the seven patent numbers, the 796 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY address and the serial number it can be determined that the Vibroplex that wore this badge was produced in the years between 1926 and 1939.

This last photograph taken by Bill Crosier, NT9K clearly shows the new style nameplate.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

To celebrate New Year's Eve we like to go out with friends to the ski lodge at Snow Trails in north central Ohio.  The lodge provides a festive atmosphere to ring in the new year and we always have a great time listening to music and watching the revelers.  Different local bands are booked for the entertainment each year.  The Band Mad Gathering played a lively set of new and old rock classics right up till midnight. 

We found the only empty table right behind the drum kit giving us a unique perspective from which to watch the band.  Granted the sound was not the best at this position but it's not very often one can have a front row seat to watch the drummer ply his trade.  From my vantage point I could see the drummer's foot pedal and observe what symbols produced which crash.  Of course being only a few feet from the kit the drumming seemed to overpower the rest of the band's sound but with the set list made up from familiar favorites I have heard many times I thought it a cool treat to experience the music from this angle.

About this resolution business I would like to quote my father-in-law:  "I don't make new years resolutions because then I have to worry about keeping them all year." 
Good Luck in 2011.