Friday, July 16, 2010


At first glance you might think this blog is about some obscure Chinese or Mayan word. Now, really. A Mayan word would start with Dz and probably not end with the "g". Those in the know are aware that the term "Dx" stands for long distance as it applies to ham radio. With a good ham radio capable of operating on frequencies between around 2Mhz to 10Mhz, a licensed operator can make contacts hundreds and thousands of miles away.

Ham radio equipment is not cheap and usually isn't space convenient. Like hospitals and government, a ham shack is usually continually expanding. You generally start with a radio and an antenna. The radio usually needs a separate power supply. Most antennas aren't perfectly adaptable to changing frequencies and an antenna tuner is needed to make the antenna work well. Since operators like to know how much power they are generating they have a separate power meter or one incorporated into the antenna tuner. When hams (a licensed ham radio operator) notice how little power their meter shows they are transmitting, they decide to add a linear amplifier. A linear amplifier increases their signal output from usually about 100 watts up to 1000 watts or more, even though the Federal Communications Commission has rules limiting the output on certain frequencies to much less than 1000 watts.

Hams are always looking for ways to make their antennas higher, longer, thicker, thinner, more directional, more omni-directional and generally more functional. These endeavors lead to greater output...from their wallets and more input from their wives and neighbors. Contrary to the rumors, a properly tuned rig (combination of all ham radio equipment) should not interfere with neighbor's tv reception.

The number of radios in the shack magically multiply. The Dx equipment, for HF (high frequency) radio, is overkill for local communications. Ham operators usually accumulate a variety of radios that include VHF equipment for local to medium range and often UHF equipment for very local communications. Radios range from large base units to mobile units that fit in a vehicle to hand held (HT or handie talkie) units that can be clipped to a belt.

The most important requirement of a ham radio system is the most logical one. You must have someone, somewhere to talk to you. It's not much fun having half of a tin can telephone. It gets really boring really fast. Add the second person component and hams will talk endlessly about to others describing their rig in detail, then letting the other person describe their equipment and layout.

Personnally I prefer to use a radio similar to a telephone. I like to talk to family, friends and others about topics I would discuss over the phone. Why not use a phone, some would ask. When emergencies arise and power is out, hams are usually the voices that are heard through the airwaves coordinating rescue efforts. That standard answer aside, it's just cool to talk over equipment that is not taxed, charged by the minute or impeded in general by someone else.

Currently only one member of my family has a license, Lonehawk. He and I attempted a few times to connect. When we finally established communication, it worked better than we thought it would. Granted, we had to wait till 11pm CDT to do it, but there is something calming about hearing the familiar voice in the darkness that you know is hundreds of miles away. True, the call usually starts out, "I can hear you. Can you hear me?" but the sense of accomplishment makes it all worthwhile. The world isn't quite as large as it once was and at least one conversation less lonesome.



Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twi Dilemna: Edward vs. Jacob

Stop by any conglomeration of two or more females these days and you will likely hear a heated debate in progress: Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. If you have never read any of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, then you will most assuredly be in the dark about the discussion.

Suffice it to say that Jacob, a teen werewolf (Hmm, I think that’s actually been done before. Anyone ever heard of Michael J. Fox?) and Edward, an immortal, vampire teen, are the heartthrobs of every reader possessing ovaries. Forget the fact that both were always considered monsters throughout history that slaughtered mortals in a very bloody manner. We are to forget that a snake is a snake and accept that both these individuals are different from what we have learned. In fact, we are supposed to accept that they are different from others of their kind in the series.

Edward, who can hear every thought of every person except, of course, his mortal girlfriend, is evidently the perfect man, the perfect boyfriend. I tell all my guy friends who have not read the Twilight series that if they want to understand how the female mind works they need to read these books. I’m not saying that women understand men, but that they think Edward and Jacob are nearly perfect.

I read the series, plus another book by Stephanie Meyer called The Host. I enjoyed that book as much as, if not more than, the Twilight books. I’m definitely a Stephanie Meyer fan and will read other books she writes, but let me just state for the record that I am not for Team Edward or Team Jacob. They, along with Bell, are both neurotic and exhibit the normally female self-destructive behavior.
Make no doubt about it. With her looks, talent, strength and she can see the future, I am 100% aboard for Team Alice

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Royal Nonesuch

If you have ever read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, you are sure to remember a couple of characters that crossed Huck’s path by the names of the Duke of Bridgewater and King Looy the Seventeenth of France. They were a pair of scoundrels if ever Mark Twain wrote of any. At one point in their time with Huck, they decided to put on a production of The King’s Camelopard or The Royal Nonesuch. The second title better fit the so called Tragedy as the scene played out in this manner:

“he rolled up the curtain, and the next minute the king come a-prancing out on all fours, naked; and he was painted all over, ring-streaked-and-striped, all sorts of colors, as splendid as a rainbow.”

The production was a scam which went very bad on the next night.

You might also remember the scene from the movie Mr. Mom in which the housewives basically shanghai Michael Keaton and take him to a strip club featuring male strippers.

These two references may appear to the casual reader to be totally random and unrelated, but I assure you they are quite relevant to the setting in which I found myself last night.

The teachers and staff at the elementary school where my wife works decided to go en masse to a play at a small theater in a nearby small town. The play featured two actors in The Mystery of Irma Vep, by Penny Dreadful. The main reason they wanted to go is that one of the two actors is a teacher in their school.
The Mystery of Irma Vep has approximately half a dozen characters, male and female, which are all played rather flamboyantly by the two male actors. The over-endowed female characters wear extravagant drag outfits which in some cases would put The Bird Cage actors to shame.

The plot entails werewolves, vampires, mummies and a great deal of confusion, but as the Duke and the King of Huckleberry Finn’s experience, there is a great deal of humor. I would not accuse them of overacting. I would never do that. I wouldn’t have to even mention it for anyone who saw the play. Let’s just say that Jim Carrey and Chevy Chase might have felt like amateurs in comparison to the actors of The Mystery of Irma Vep.

If the acting on stage has been adequately portrayed here by me, then you might be able to also picture the antics of the teachers and staff. The second reference from Mr. Mom would most accurately describe the audience around me at the play. The only exception would be that no one stuffed dollar bills down the entertainer’s least, not that I saw. Feet stamped on the floor, raucous laughter, cat whistles, yelled comments and rolling in the aisle was the norm, and that was just my wife on one side of me and a friend on the other.

We started the evening by driving 45 miles to a small restaurant to eat dinner. We brought somewhere between 25 and 40 people to the town for dinner and the play. I ordered a banana milk shake to go with my bacon cheeseburger and onion rings. My wife had at least half of my milk shake after tasting how good it was. When the play was over we returned to the drive in, but they had shut down their milk shake ice cream machine. We found a Sonic drive in that was still open and got a few milk shakes there then undertook our return journey of 45 miles home arriving at about 10:30pm.

All in all it was an interesting day to say the least. I know all my female relatives and readers would have enjoyed the evening. Just like most of you think Julia Roberts is the most beautiful actress and love chocolate.

‘Nuff said,


Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Next Samurai

I like to read books. Not like my wife, who reads several books a month, but I still like to read. I like to take my time reading a book to savor it, live in its pages as long as I can. A good author makes me remember experiences I have had and makes me feel as if I am experiencing something I never have before.

When I read a good book I feel the cool, oozing river mud between my toes and practically choke on the foul smell of decay that rises from the brackish slime. When a wizard sends forth a spell from his wand, staff or hand the hair on my head and arms stands on end from the sheer power passing by and my teeth vibrate as the power impacts with its prey.

Many authors satisfy my literary tastes, though I prefer fantasy with magic, swords and mythical creatures, I also delight to read science fiction with its tantalizing view of the world that is about to materialize in a not so distant future.

A friend of mine loaned me a book that does not fit any of these categories, nor does it satisfy the literary taste buds, but it did give me so much to consider that I find myself reading, re-reading, highlighting text and then pondering its applications. While this appears to be a reading ritual you would undertake with the scriptures in hand, the actual book is far from the divine word.

A Book of Five Rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi, is basically a how to book for the Samurai warrior. The chapters entail lessons on how to fight and defeat your enemy. Having said this, most every Japanese businessman has a copy of this book that he keeps with him and studies.

One of the first pearls of wisdom offered is this: Carry a long sword to fight enemies, but also carry a companion sword (short sword) for when the fighting gets up close and personal.

As I have read through the book I can see applications to life in many of the techniques taught for sword fighting. There are many parallels that can be drawn from these examples that can be effective in all aspects of life, but especially in business.
The automobile industry and others have often wondered how the Japanese operate so well. Maybe the CEOs of those and other companies should get a copy of A Book of Five Rings and do a little studying of their own.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Rules of Jason Bourne

I just finished reading the 3 books in the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, then watched the movies. The movies are only vaguely based on the books, but still fun to watch. Throughou the series, Jason Bourne repeats to himself and tells others his basic rules of being a spy. I thought the rules applied to other areas, so I compiled a list. Here is what I noted down:

1. You are not helpless. You will find your way

2. Instinct. Follow your instincts, reasonably, of course

3. Don’t crucify yourself

4. Nothing can be disregarded

5. To blend in, change your appearance, your hair your face.

6. Read the newspapers every day.

7. Stay controlled.

8. The success of any trap lies in its fundamental simplicity.

The reverse trap by the nature of its single complication must be swift and simpler still.

9. Use an advantage given to you.

10. Do the unexpected. Confuse the enemy, throw him off balance.

11. Don’t run. Running identifies you as a target.

12. Opportunities will present themselves. Recognize them, act on them.

13. Don’t make your moves when you’re tired or exhausted. Rest is a weapon. Use it. Don’t forget it.

14. Work on the visual. It’s more effective than anything else. People will draw the conclusions you want on the basis of what they see far more than from the most convincing lies you can tell them.

15. Study everything. You’ll find something you can use.

16. The cleanest escape is one done in stages, using whatever confusion there is.

17. Establish a benign contact as soon as you can. Especially in an unfamiliar face where there could be hostility. The contact could give you the opportunity or the time you need.

18. Avoid elevators whenever you can. They’re traps.

19. Your first reflections are the best, the most accurate, because the impressions are stored in your head, like the information in a data bank. That’s what your head is.

If you noticed any rules I missed, let me know.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ET...Find Home

When you mention a GPS these days most people picture a small LCD screen in their car with a voice that tells them where to turn on the way to their desired destination. Most of these have been given a name by their owners, mine is Gypsy Rosalie, with a play on GPS and a Twilight influence. We opted for the personality with a British female accent.

Our GPS does not have as much personality as my sister’s does. Over in Ireland they use their navigational aid extensively, but one time kept making detours contrary to the directions to see the sights. Finally their GPS said, “I’m afraid you are going to have to work with me a bit, dearie.”

It’s amazing how much we use the GPS just around town when we know exactly where we’re going. I think it’s a Star Trek thing in that we like our computers to talk to us as if they are really as smart as we wish. My laptop has a feminine voice as well to this end. It’s very comforting as I shut it down when it talks to me.

Many people have forgotten the original, yet more portable GPS receivers used by people out of doors, usually hunters or hikers. A small handheld GPS receiver can guide you to your favorite camping, hiking or fishing spot to within about 5 feet. There’s a new low end features unit that will help you find your way back to your car in a parking lot. For its price, though, you can rather buy the real deal. I own a Garmin Legend. The Etrex is a little cheaper for those on a more limited budget.

In addition to find places, there are a number of other things you can do with a good GPS. My brother-in-law likes a game called “Fox and Hound” played with multiple GPS units, multiple vehicles and radios. The idea is for the fox to leave first then call period coordinates as he travels. The hound then tries to catch up or anticipate where the fox will go and catch the fox. The fox must take regular stops to allow the capture.

Another entertaining thing to do is geocaching. Someone hides a container, usually. This may also be a virtual cache where you find a spot, but no physical cache. Normally, though, someone hides a container. The container can be literally any size. The smallest I’ve seen was the size of my fingernail. Larger containers are usually something like Tupperware or an ammo box. Inside the box are a log book and goodies. These goodies are usually just trinkets with no real monetary value.

This cache is hidden somewhere...anywhere. The coordinates and description are posted online. My favorite website is You look for a cache near you, enter the coordinates into your GPS, then take off. The GPS will tell you what direction to travel and how far away it is. When you get within 5-30 feet depending on the accuracy of your GPS and the one who hid the cache, you start looking for hiding places under rocks, in pipes, in hollows of trees or magnetic containers stuck to signs or structures.

Once you locate the container you log your visit and trade a trinket from your pocket for one in the cache. Some trinkets are called travel bugs and you log where you pick it up and where you later drop it off so that people can track its progress. When you return home from your trek you go online again to and log that you found the hidden container and what items you traded.

It’s amazing to think that you can find an object hidden anywhere in the world as small as your fingernail with the aid of a GPS and a great deal of satisfaction comes from doing it. Some caches incorporate riddles or puzzles to solve the location. There is a much larger group doing this than you might think. Some people I have known like to do it at night to make it more challenging. Others locate the hidden cache using topographical maps and compasses. That requires more skill and patience than I have, plus I love gadgets.

Imagination in the hiding leads to pleasure in the finding, kind of like most everything enjoyable in life.

Happy trails,


Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's for You

I spent twenty-five years talking on the phone for work. I’d call customers or they’d call me. For seven years my calling in Church dealt with calling members to either set up an appointment, get answers to questions, or relay information. Now that I’m retired, I still seem to be on the phone all the time.

Phones don’t bother me much, but I try to avoid them when possible. I’m not alone. It seems that everyone in my family is afflicted with the same syndrome. When the phone rings a barrage of “Not me’s” goes through the house. If no one is expecting a call, no one wants to answer the phone. My wife is very much averse to speaking on the phone. If we need to call one of our children the conversation goes something like this:

Wife: Call (add name of child) and ask them (fill in the topic.)
Me: Why don’t you call them?
Wife: I don’t feel like talking on the phone.
Me: Whatever.

I call (add name of child.)

Me: What are you doing?
Child: Nothing.
Me: Ok, bye.
Wife: Wait! Ask (add name of child) if they want to come over for dinner.
Me: Do you want to come over for dinner?
Child: Sure.
Me: Ok, bye.
Wife: Wait! When can they come?
Me: When can you come?
Child: Soon.
Me: Ok, bye.
Wife: So, when are they coming?
Me: Soon.
Wife: What does that mean? What time are they coming?
Me: Soon.
Wife: Did you ask them what they were going to bring?
Me: No, you didn’t say to ask them to bring anything.
Wife: Are they bringing the movie they borrowed?
Me: I don’t know. Are they supposed to do it?
Wife: I can’t believe you don’t ask all the questions.
Me: I don’t know why you don’t call them yourself.
Wife: I don’t like to talk on the phone.
Me: Right....

Ring, ring....

Not it,


Friday, January 1, 2010

On the Open Road

My wife and I have families on opposite sides of the country with us in the middle. Periodically we travel to visit one or the other spending 16 to 22 hours in the car on average depending on which direction we drive. Road conditions affect our timing, but we usually have great weather. One year we sat nearly 6 hours in traffic jams waiting for emergency crews to clear the interstate.

After nearly 30 years of marriage, we have our trips down to a routine. We get audio books to pass the time while the kids watch movies or read books. We know the gas stations we need for the best location and price. We know where most of the Taco Bells are located, though our GPS Rosalie knows where the rest are.

If there are sights we want to visit along the way, we leave early, if not, we drive all night and usually straight through. Part of my routine in packing the van is to declare over and over that everything will not fit in the van, even though it usually does. My family always tells me to tie things to the luggage rack on top of the van. I have to explain that it’s not a luggage rack. It’s a canoe/kayak rack that serves its purpose well.

There is an aspect to our trip planning and packing that always goes awry. We start planning snacks to eat along the way. It always starts small. Usually the few packs of gum, mints and sodas fit in a single grocery bag. Then we buy the rest. We get popcorn and snack mix. We buy cookies. We get some beef jerky. You can’t leave without some water for each person. We add some fruit in case we are in a healthy eating mood. The orange candy circus peanuts are yummy and the kids like eating nerds or MMs. Definitely remember the chocolate.

By the time we are ready to go we have a large picnic cooler full of snacks and a few more within an arm’s reach stashed strategically around the vehicle. We never eat it all while we travel. We often don’t need to stock up before returning home. It’s not wasted, though, because that red cooler turns into my private snack vault when I go visit family. I always have what I need to satisfy my sweet tooth while away from home. If I’m really lucky I also have enough for a personal stash when I get home.

Come to think of it, I need to go check behind the oatmeal in the cupboard for the stash of mint chocolate chip Oreos.