Monday, August 30, 2010

Family Hike

On Saturday the three of us headed to Mohican State Park for a family hike.  It was a beautiful late summer day and a great time to be in the park.  We parked at the campground on State Route 3 and hiked west along the Clear Fork of the Mohican River.  Our trek was short only about four miles but enough to work up an appetite.  Afterwords we drove into the nearby town of Loudenville,Ohio for cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries.


Thursday, August 26, 2010


Peterson Aran XL02

Another of my more eccentric pursuits (by today's standards) is relaxing on the patio with a tobacco pipe.  I have been an occasional pipe smoker for the past twenty years.  What that means is weeks, months and even years elapse between my smoking sessions.  I bought my first pipe from a tobacconist and have always liked procuring my blends from a brick and mortar tobacconist's shop.

First a little history.  I smoked cigarettes for a few years in high school and while in the military.  I gave them up for three reasons.  I had recently met a nice girl who would become my wife and she was not keen on the habit.  The second reason is kind of humorous now looking back at it.  While in the Air Force I had shifted my focus away from running and began to do more cycling.  Running was starting to bother my knees.  After a 5K road race one day I decided that was it and I never ran again except for occasional physical fitness activities required by the military.  From that point on I began riding more and more.  Rail trails, road rides and of course mountain biking as I was stationed in eastern Washington State on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.  Stopping in the middle of a bike ride for a smoke break is rather counter-productive.  In time my lungs cleaned out and I noticed that my ability to ride my bike improved dramatically.  The resulting performance boost realized so quickly made it easy to give them up for good.  Thirdly and most obviously cigarettes really are vile!
Perhaps the most insidious nicotine demon I had to wrestle from my back and cast aside was the smokeless kind.  I believe my use of smokeless tobacco started around junior high and continued for many years.  The high school I attended was a rural school.  Lots of farm boys and Skoal rings worn into the back pocket of Levi's. Smokeless really facilitated covert use, sneaking around teachers and coach, granted once you learned to swallow the juice.  Later in the Air Force while working on jet planes a pinch of Skoal or Copenhagen would hit the spot.  Cigarettes simply have no place around jet fuel!  I tried many times to quit over a five year period and finally put this most disgusting method of delivery behind me about eight years ago.

I am well aware of the health risks involved with the use of tobacco.  My wife has been a respiratory Therapist for fourteen years.  Her specialty is the lungs.  Believe me I have heard many stories about COPD (Cardiopulmonary Disease), Ventilators and breathing treatments.  Imagine spending your last days as an invalid with a machine breathing for you and daily removal of accumulated brown mucous via a suction catheter down the old windpipe. That is if the cancer doesn't get you first.  If you smoke cigarettes you really should quit.  That said I am also a staunch supporter of freedom of choice so smoke 'em if you got em and I won't look down on anyone who does.

Over the past few years I have noticed  that I can put the pipe down for weeks or months at time.  For this reason I don't feel guilty about rewarding myself with a relaxing and contemplative smoke once in a while.  I think about the day or just stare up at the stars above and ponder nothing at all while savoring the sweet aromatic scent of my pipe.  I take care not to inhale any of the smoke. Just little puffs to keep the ember burning.  So after a six month period of not a single smoke I realized my little bit of old tobacco had gone dry and I should probably purchase some fresh.  Might as well a new pipe too.  My old pipe is a fine briar I have had for about ten years.  I made it myself from a block of Italian briar.  I'll discuss that pipe later.
My new pipe is a great Peterson from Dublin Ireland.  This bent pipe has a matte finish on the large bowl that looks great and  smokes cool.  The band is polished nickel. The tobacco tin was vacuum packed and very fresh when I opened it.  Sunset Breeze is a made for Peterson blend of Virginia, Burley and Black Cavendish.  The yellow and brown leaf is the virginia and burley and the black well you get it.  This tobacco smells great. 
Pipes can be made from a corncob or be fine piece of art as unique and colorful as the owner who smokes it.  Like the cigar popularity growth in the 1990's there is a small group of younger men and women who are taking on the old tradition of the pipe.  Just remember as with everything in life moderation is the key.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Every blog post goes better with a picture or two.  I try to keep my image count between one to three pictures per post.  It's often quite a struggle narrowing down a group of photos that lock in with the text and create a balanced and concise layout.
A few pleasant side effects have come about in these last eight months as I have carved out my own little pigeon hole in the blogosphere.  I have not concentrated this hard on writing since I was back in high school.  My spelling has improved quite a bit and because I don't have to work to a deadline I have found it much easier to write only when the creative juices begin to flow.
Another unintended consequence of my blogging activity has been a rekindling of my interest in photography.  I've always had a camera but my wife is the shutterbug in the family so my job is usually carrying around the tripod and lenses and such for her.  She has an artist's eye for a shot and I have learned much from simply paying attention to her style.  Because of this blog I purchased a new camera this summer and now find myself grabbing it in the morning along with my keys, cellphone and wallet as I head out the door.  Interesting opportunities are everywhere if one just watches for them. 
  By reading other blogs and seeing the work of others has really opened my eyes to different perspectives and ideas.  I have seen many images on blogs that are every bit as good as those published in books and magazines.  Unfortunately I don't have allot of time to devote to learning the features of my camera to get the most out of it.  Perhaps when the days grow shorter and colder temperatures force us indoors once again I can sit down with the manual and scratch a bit more than the surface.

This weekend I was waiting to pick up my wife from the hospital where she works.  Glancing up from the staff parking lot I noticed a brick smokestack that I presume vents off the exhaust from the Hospital's incinerator.  I've looked at this feature a hundred times but as I sat there marveling at such a tall structure made out of bricks It suddenly occurred to me what a unique subject it would be for my lens.  So instead of my usual method of using photography to augment the subject matter of a particular blog entry here is a post that celebrates the simple act of taking a picture with no preconceived intent.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Black Crowes -- LC Pavilion -- Columbus, OH

This Sunday evening I took my wife to Columbus, Ohio to see the Black Crowes play a live show.  Outdoor venues are my favorite way to experience a concert.  Outside the music just seems crisper and lacks the reverberations that often muddy up the sound during an indoor performance.  The atmosphere inside some of the old concert halls is indeed magical but keep in mind that many of these historic buildings were designed around orchestra and vocal performances before amplified PA systems even existed.  In other words with rock and roll a little volume goes a long way.  How the audio sounds at an indoor venue depends a lot on where one sits in relation to the loudspeakers.  The same holds true at outdoor shows too but for me being out under an open sky and enjoying the music without it bouncing around off four walls and a ceiling is tops.

The afternoon was beautiful and the band took the stage as the sun set behind the back wall of the amphitheater. The Crowes played two long sets without an opening act.  The current tour celebrates the band's 20 year anniversary.  This show was significant for me because I saw them play during their first tour in support of Shake Your Money Maker.  I'll keep this review short and sweet: They Rocked!  With 20 years of practice I can say without a doubt the Black Crowes have their sound dialed in.  

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Day Afield

Pnuematic and Spring Piston Air Rifles.  Fun for boys of all ages.

Friday, August 20, 2010


In the spring I try to plant at least a couple tomato plants.  This year I grew one plant with cherry or salad tomatoes and one with Early Girls.  Not much better than sliced tomato fresh off the vine with a little sea salt.

I used to grow a larger garden and even did some canning but over the past 15 years the two silver maple trees in the back yard have grown so big that they block out the sun for most of the day.  A flower bed on the south side of the garage provides just enough space for a few plants and receives sun for most of the day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wm. M. Nye #310-001 Speed-X oval base telegraph key

Going back through some of my older picture files I came across this image of my Nye Speed-X telegraph key described recently in my QSL Card post.  I picked up this key at my first Hamfest in 2008.  The hardware is handsomely nickel plated and under the black crinkle finish is a zinc alloy casting produced from the same molds dating back to the 1930's.
The Speed-X brand has changed hands a few times in the past 80 years.  Speed-X was started in 1934 in San Francisco by Stewart Johnson.  The brand was then sold to Les Logan in 1937 who produced keys for a decade then sold the line to E.F. Johnson in 1947.  Wm. M. Nye acquired E.F. Johnson in the early 1970's and has been producing the Speed-X brand ever since.  The Nye Speed-X is a unique example of a current American made product that can be purchased by an amateur radio operator or telegraph enthusiast that is virtually unchanged in quality and design from the era when code was king.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recumbent Ride

Today I had an evening to myself so instead of succumbing to any one of many nonproductive pursuits I decided to bust out a quick 30 miles on the recumbent.  I headed over to the B & O Trail in Richland County.  Conditions were optimum with overcast skies, light breeze and a temperature around 85 degrees.  

The outward bound leg I completed in 55 minutes and made it back to the car in 1:56:02.  The first 15 miles is slightly downhill so maintaining a 17-18 mph average is easy but on the return trip I usually suffer a bit more and just keep above 15 mph.  In any case I am happy to log another sub 2 hour 30 miler.  My average speed was 15.5 mph.

On a weeknight trail use is generally lighter and seems to be mostly the die hard fitness types be it on roller blades, bikes or joggers.  There was a few dog walkers but not the usual log jams one finds on the weekends when I normally cruise the bike paths.  As I was nearing the end of my ride the clouds cleared out to the west and let the sun shine for a bit before it set.  I captured this image of a marsh along the trail with the setting sun at my back.  In the foreground is an old telegraph pole with it's insulators and copper wires long since gone. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Fun with Morse Code

Monday evening before dinner I went downstairs and turned on the radio equipment.  Since I have been impressed lately with 20 meters and the fact that I have not worked this band for about six months that's where I headed.  I slowly turned the big tuning knob until I caught the familiar CQ CQ call in Morse Code at 14.054 MHz.  The signal was clear and easy to copy.  It sounded like a regional station close to me maybe 500 miles or so. 
But this evening I am on 20 meters not my normal hangouts on 40 meters.  Soon to my surprise I copied the prefix of the calling station "IK"  Holy cow he's in Italy!  I quickly enabled semi QSK, switching the rig off the side tone putting the transmitter on line and answered the call.  IK4WKU, Marco is located near Modena, about 50 Kilometers up the road from Bologna in northern Italy.  When I first returned the call my rig power was set at 50 watts.  Marco's signal report back to me was 559.  On the next over I increased my power to 100 watts and then Marco reported that I was now 589. 
Now that I am comfortable with using the code I like to play with the radio controls during contacts.  It's nice to get confirmation in real time from the other op that the adjustments performed are functioning as they should.
For the next fifteen minutes we exchanged information.  There was a steady slow QSB, or an up and down undulating of the signal strength but I never lost more than a character of Marco's transmission so I was able to put down 100% copy onto my paper.  Another skill I've noticed that has been slowly improving is my ability to go back and fill in the blanks crossword puzzle style.  CW sure teaches one to multi-task.  Marco's set up was a Kenwood TS930 and a Mosley Yagi beam antenna up 22 meters.  He was also running 100 watts, Nice! 
The icing on the cake of which I am very proud was I was able to send perfect code without a single error back to Marco in Italy.  That rarely happens so it makes this contact stand out as one of the best in the log.  Most all of my DX contacts have been made using the the digital soundcard modes but now that I am much more confident using Morse Code these "across the pond" contacts using radio's original mode are really special and great fun. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lake Erie

U.S. - Canadian Border- 18 miles out. 
Nearest Land- Point Pelee, Ontario Canada- 70 miles.

View looking south-west towards Vermilion, OH- 13 miles away.

View from the hammock.

Grandpa and Grandson

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tower Work at KD8JHJ Continued

Tower improvements at KD8JHJ are now complete.  This morning I painted the tower with a fresh coat of aluminum paint.  This is how a communications tower should look- Silver and shiny gleaming in the sun. 
 I painted the same way I did 15 years ago when I painted this tower the first time.  At the very top I used a spray can because at the top triangle with the center tube welded in the middle things are pretty tight.  For the rest of the tower I placed a rubber kitchen glove on my right hand and then a cotton work glove.  I fashioned a hook from copper wire that allows me to hang a quart paint can from the rungs and easily move it down as I go.  The paint is then hand applied much like the finger painting I loved as a child.  With repeated finger dippings into the paint can the cotton glove is soon saturated and applying the paint is easy.  The cuff of the rubber glove rolled out and over the work glove prevents the excess paint from dripping down your arm.
 Hanging on a tower for two hours is a lot more physically demanding than it sounds.  I am glad this work is finally done and I can now enjoy my antenna system.

End Fed Half Wave Array at KD8JHJ
20, 30 and 40 Meters

Tie Down Cleats

Yesterday I cut a piece of 1" maple and screwed three cleats to it and then screwed the whole thing to the base of the maple tree in the back yard where the antenna support cords terminate.  Having a separate cleat for each antenna allows me to easily adjust the tension individually for a uniform look and also quickly let some sag into the wires if high winds are forecast. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

T.G.I.F. and other Odds and Ends

Ah Friday at last.  The sky is clear and blue and the air is a very comfortable 70 degrees.  I decided to throw a leg over the Ti General Purpose Bike  for the commute this morning.  I'm sure it's true that in cities big and small that the mornings are one of the best times to be out and about on two wheels.  The air is cool and the sun has not yet heated up the pavement and bricks of the city.

Obligatory Drive line side picture with the Big Four Depot in the background.

This old depot from the steam era is named after the Big Four Route and the convergence of the Cincinnati-Cleveland-Chicago and St. Louis Rail Way Co.

My commute is very short at about 2 miles.  Just far enough to get energized for the work day yet not get hot and sweaty.  I have to make a short detour to the Post Office to pick up the mail so for that leg of the trip I take the alleys and avoid some of the downtown stoplights.  My morning ride is slightly uphill and then in the afternoons when it's hot I can take it easy and roll down shady residential streets.  Beats the car any day!

News from KD8JHJ

With the recent addition of the 20 meter end fed half wave antenna at KD8JHJ all the slots on the Alpha Delta coax switch are now filled.  Position 1 connects to a dummy load so technically I could plug in one more additional antenna in this spot.  Position 2 is 20 meters.  Position 3 and 4 are 30 and 40 meters respectively.  The COM position in the middle is the jumper cable to the rig. 
The feature I really like about this desk top switch is how it facilitates disconnection and re-connection of the antenna feed lines.   Part of my lightning safety protocol is unscrewing the coax, coiling and storing it about 6 feet from the desk.  Preventing arc-over in the event of a direct lightning strike.  As you can see in the photograph the coax connectors are also mounted at a relaxed angle that puts minimal strain on the cable just past the connector body.   A fine piece of engineering by an American company I am proud to support.

There is one last erroneous technical detail I wanted to correct from a previous post  where I stated I had measured a 1:1 swr (standing wave ratio) on the 40 meter EFHW.  The correct 1:1 swr falls between 7.040 MHz  to 7.068 MHz or about 28 KHz of bandwidth. 
1.5 : 1 swr  6.954 MHz to 7.150 MHz  (196 KHz bandwidth)
2 : 1 swr  6.884 MHz to 7.209 MHz  (325 KHz bandwidth)

Another busy weekend is just around the corner.  On the agenda is putting some aluminum paint on the tower and a visit to my Father up on the shores of Great Lake Erie.  In between I will try to make some contacts in the SKCC Weekend Sprint and The Feld Hell Club Sprint on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Music Review -- The Black Crowes -- Croweology

This new double cd set from the Black Crowes is a collection of songs selected from the 20 year career of the band.  The set is not just another rehash of the master tapes and labeled "The Greatest Hits".  The songs are stripped down and performed acoustically in the earthy, soulful, southern style that only brothers Chris and Rich Robinson and the rest of the Crowes can deliver.

Sonic condiments that really make this a feast for the ears include fiddle, harmonica, piano, banjo, mandolin and pedal steel guitar.  These traditional instruments definitely enhance the band's usual guitar driven sound.

I first heard the Black Crowes in 1991 when a buddy of mine in the Air Force played the band's original release "Shake your Money Maker".  I can't believe I've been a fan now for nearly twenty years.  I saw the band live a couple of times at the Spokane Opera House in Washington and in Ohio but it's been a few years.  I am going to remedy that later this month.  In the picture is my concert T from the 1993 tour. 

Now for the kicker.  My wife notified me that the cd was dropping Tuesday and as luck would have it I had planned to make a grocery run after work that day.  I made a short detour to Best Buy and there it was to my surprise on sale for $7.99 a double cd no less!  Kudos to Silver Arrow Records and Best Buy for what I can only see as a sure fire way to boost record sales.  The promotion is in effect until August 7th.  The last time I paid eight dollars for a record was when I was in high school and they came on those crappy cassette tapes.

So if you are an old Crowe fan like me or a new one or just like good acoustic rock pick this one up.  It won't disappoint.

Song List

disc one
Jealous Again
Share The Ride
Hotel Illness
Soul Singing
Ballad In Urgency
Wiser Time
Cold Boy Smile
Under A Mountain

disc two
She Talks To Angels
Morning Song
Downtown Money Waster
Good Friday
Thorn In My Pride
Welcome To The Good Times
Girl From A Pawnshop
Sister Luck
Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye

Monday, August 2, 2010

Antenna Checkout: 20 Meter DX

Per my last post I installed a new end fed half wave wire at KD8JHJ for operation at 14 MHz.  Being a typical summer weekend I was pressed for time as usual and had many other things to do and places to be so a simple checkout of the antenna system using the analyzer was all I had time for.  I also had to remove and reinstall a new pool filter because the old one had quit and we had been keeping the water clean with shock treatments and lots of hand straining.  Hard work out in the sun I know!  I never did get to the lawn mowing.

Later that day before dinner around 7:00pm local time I finally got a chance to sit down at the desk and mercilessly force some electrons up to the new 20 meter end fed.

I set up for PSK-31 because there was many strong signals showing on the waterfall.  Power output was about 30 watts.  Here is the first five contacts in order.

DF9YC  Ostbevern, Germany  4,011 miles
SP4JEU  Ostrada, Poland  4,568 miles
F5TTI  Vermelles, France  3,955 miles
IZ5MXA  Viareggio, Italy  4,490 miles
EA1DFU  Burgos, Spain  3,934 miles

DX is a hoot on 20 meters!  Four of the contacts were established by my answering the CQ calls of the respective stations.  The second contact was my CQ call answered by SP4JEU in Poland.  Not only the greatest span covered of the five, this contact netted me a new country for my DX list.  Just a 33 foot piece of wire, no big towers, beams, rotators or amplifiers required.  I also got out my tape measure and made some accurate measurements of the feed point heights above ground:

20m EFHW  feed point:  30 feet
30m EFHW  feed point:  34 feet
40m EFHW  feed point:  38 feet