Once Upon A Time

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Photo from the Internet

When our kids were growing we took them to the Chambers Street Medical Clinic. The architect of the building had been environmentally conscious of his task and built it without disturbing a stand of oak where a few families of squirrels lived. Over the span of 18 or 20 years several generations of squirrels came and went. But one thing remained the same, the the small pharmacy attached to the clinic always kept a store of peanuts for them. The squirrels had access to this store each time the door was opened. For years I watched the parade. Finally, one day, a squirrel was waiting for someone to open the door. My turn had come. I pushed the door open, but the squirrel didn’t move. He just looked at me. “You’re opening door the wrong way. You have to pull it open,” he pharmacist said from behind the counter. I followed his directions. The squirrel scampered inside, chose a peanut and then then headed for the trees.

Signs of the Anasazi

QRP The Hard Way

I tuned my radio to 14.060 MHZ then held my breath while listening in the headphones.  Instead of copying Leo, KB7LOC, I heard what sounded like the War of the Worlds soundstage.  But what should I expect on this frequency in the middle of the night?  My being here was no chance event, but rather the result of carefully laid plans that might never produce a single positive result.
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In April 1999 Barb, KC7BSY and myself, N7NET, traveled from Oregon to Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and rented a comfortable spot to pause.
Many folks arriving at such desert locations search for stout walking sticks, large water bottles, and perhaps wide-brimmed hats.  For us radio people, however, digging-in means configuring VHF and HF radio stations.  While Barb doesn’t share my CW enthusiasm, she enjoys two-meter radio and has more than once conducted the local two-meter traffic net when the NCS fails to show.
Our adventure began in earnest after purchasing a used fifth-wheel trailer.  It came furnished with pots and pans, dishes, and silverware.  Located more than a mile from the nearest power grid meant we had top generate our own power.
With limited funds, our final choice consisted of a single 75-watt solar panel and two 6-volt, deep-cycle flooded batteries wired to provide a 12-volt power source.  Only then was it time to consider a radio.
My old Swan 400, still in Oregon, had served me well during the ’91 Gulf War but it was a power hog.  The new radio would have to be solid-state.  After a day of searching the Internet at the Ajo City Library, I chose an MFJ-9420 transceiver with a CW board.  And a G5RV wire antenna from AES in Las Vegas which completed the system.
MFJ reviews claimed there is no hotter receiver available. The speech processor on SSB is no slouch either.  During the hours of midday sun the output to the coax measured just shy of nine-watts.  It was enough signal to fetch sideband QSLs across North America, including Hawaii and Alaska. After sunset the power output reduced to a needles-width greater than five, close enough to qualify for QRP.  Then, as though Leo had his ear to ground, Barb copied his message off the National Traffic System.
“It’s from Leo, KB7LOC.  He wants to do some CW QRP,” she said.
Leo and I both attended tech school at Keesler AFB, Mississippi during 1956 – 1957. After school he went to an early warning radar site atop a Nevada mountain. I went to Charleston AFB, South Carolina. We didn’t meet again until 1991 during the Gulf War while we both served in Oregon Army MARS. The reunion was mind boggling.
QRP? Not a problem, I thought.  His QTH, Seal Rock, Oregon, some seventeen hundred miles to the north-northwest will be a walk in the park for this little hummer.
“So, how are we going to do this QRP?” I asked him over the payphone.
“I want to try out my newly acquired, gently used HW-8. I teach guitar and Wednesday evening is my only free time. How’s your schedule?” he asked.
He pauses upon learning the only rig I owned is a 20-meter mono-bander. “Well, it doesn’t sound hopeful, but let’s give it a shot.  I’ll call you every Wednesday starting at seven, my time.  I’ll continue sending for one minute. If you don’t respond I’ll continue every quarter-hour on 14.060 plus or minus QRM.  If we haven’t connected by eight I’ll secure my station until the following Wednesday.”
We began.
It was QRP the hard way, his one-watt and my five passing in the night.  After several Wednesdays the escapade took on a flavor of hopelessness, but we labored on.
One night I heard his suffix, a squeaking LOC. His frequency is too high, sounding more like an Irish penny whistle than a Hot Water Eight.  Catching my breath, I listen with all the strength I can muster.  Then KB7LOC finds its way through the dark. I issued him a signal report of 224.  He sent me a 335.  Then he’s gone, vanishing into the night like a wisp of cigar smoke.
Highlights of our second contact have escaped me.  His QSL card is my only proof it ever occurred.
Our third time the band is filled wall-to-wall with atmospheric noises.  I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Apocalypses Now.  Leo reports my signal as a perfect 599.  His signal, however, is heterodyning with another station that’s dead on. The echoes and ringing are reminiscent of a carrier fresh in from the Polar Region. I send him a 221, and I think that is generous.
 Three contacts were our grand total for the winter of 2000.  We should have tried harder for more QSOs.  But neither of us foresaw the future.
In September 2007 Leo became a Silent Key, taking with him all our chances of another marathon.
His will left the HW-8 to me.  It needs work.  The band switches probably need cleaning. When I’m finished using it I’ll be casting about for someone with good ears who is interested in doing QRP the hard way.

Trump

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In my years on Earth I don’t recall a more hateful person taking the Office of President than Donald Trump. Is it because while growing up he never had to deal with the word NO? Or is he unable to shed his negative attitude? Whatever the case, he doesn’t seem to play well with others.

During my period of active military service I witnessed many commanding officers taking over squadrons to which I was assigned. Some laid back to witness the situation before they began making changes. Others set about reinventing the wheel on day one. The ones who didn’t wait until they had a feel for their new responsibility seldom occupied the commander’s office for any respectable length of time.

Many years ago someone stated that presidents took the office bringing many different viewpoints. But by the time they had served their term they shared many of their predecessor’s views.

If this statement holds true for Trump he has some distance to travel before he resembles anyone I can recall.

Please Meet Patches

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About a week ago I spotted an abandoned puppy taking shelter beneath a building at the nearby volunteer firehouse.

I’m an easy mark, I guess, so I took the dog home because she didn’t have anyone else who cared. We entertained hopes that the local animal shelter or the vet could help find a home for her. But she has not been that fortunate yet.

So we provide food, water and shelter while enjoying her kisses and her loyalty.

APRS

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The APRS System

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The GPS Course Plotted On A Map

An amateur radio friend living in Portland mailed me an APRS TNC, a radio device that allows hams to send very short messages worldwide. I’ve been involved with it before using connection cables and such. This is the latest – to my knowledge – connecting with Bluetooth.

My first TNC from 15 years ago, even though it, too was solid state, was about the size of a 1,000 page novel. This one is small enough two of them will fin in an Altoids mint can with room left over.

I feared I might be getting in over my head, but it worked pretty well. While awaiting a TNC/radio cable to arrive I connected it through WiFi and walked around as far as my Internet signal reached, and it showed my course, speed, and elevation.

That TNC, radio, 12” antenna, and an Android tablet make up the entire system which will fit in a large pocket.

Amazing.

As soon as I’m sure this system works I mail it back to him and order one for myself.

Doing What I Must

We live near a busy highway.Trucks as well as cars. So we always walk our dog, Mr. Black. As a result he’s pushing 13, older than any dog of ours yet.
During the first week of February while on our afternoon constitutional – his and mine – I discovered a newly weaned black pup lurking under an outbuilding near the volunteer firehouse. By her reaction to our presence it was apparent someone had dropped him off, 20 feet from the highway and then driven away.
Somebody needed to do something to protect this young life before it perished. Reflecting on an experience still vivid even after 40 years I couldn’t walk away.
It was during the winter of 1971 Barb and I saw little boy about three years old playing in front of a house while his mother was inside visiting. Barb said we needed to caution the mother, but I said we would only succeed in pissing her off. It was not our place to say anything. And we drove away.
About an hour later the little boy was hit by a passing car and killed. I could have saved that little boy’s life, but I didn’t.
Fast forward 35 years. Our next door neighbor walked out his front door, got in his car and began backing out of his drive without bothering to see where his toddler was, who was playing behind the car. I unloaded on the dunk bastard. He never spoke to me again. But saving a young life made dumping our friendship worthwhile.
All these tragic memories came surging back last week. True, it was only a dog, but it was one of God’s creatures and I had the power to change the outcome.  I brought the dog home hoping the vet or the animal shelter would help re-home her. So far much for wishful thinking.

Bonny and Clyde

It was midsummer 1928 in western Missouri. The wheat harvest was in full swing. Weston and Wilfred had thrashed into the night, until the dew had settled on the fields. Moisture had made them wait until late morning, after the sun had dried the wheat bundles before they could continue. Rain was in the forecast, a sure disaster if the harvest wasn’t finished. Wilfred, the older brother lived with his new wife in an aging house near Rucker Siding, about two miles west of the small town of Walnut.

Weston, having visited the field they’d worked the night before found it dry enough to continue and had stopped by the Rucker house to share the news. He would be there only a moment, so he left his new 1928 Ford V8 idling in the driveway with the drivers door open. Little did he know that Bonny and Clyde were doing the Farmer’s Bank in Walnut. Nor did he realize they were in the market for a faster vehicle than the Chevrolet they were driving.

Stepping off the front porch, Weston found his Ford gone. In it’s place stood a Chevrolet with the engine idling and the driver’s door open.

Your Craft: Why Do You Write?

It's All in Finding the Right Words

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Your Craft: Why Do You Write?

My First Thoughts

When I write, I research. For me, the facts,,, sometimes, even the smallest detail… are important! (I hate to discover a fallacy in a novel. The storyline suddenly stops and all I can think about for the next half-hour -or longer- is… Don’t they know how to Google?)

Often my personal writing leads me to questions about life, and the things in life, that I had never ever thought about asking …nor did I even think that I needed to know. Suddenly, there is a flurry of inept fingers and misspellings on the keyboard because there is a fact that is so overwhelmingly relevant in my life I cannot wait to discover the answer.

As I Continued to Process Why I Write

There are far more nuances than conclusions in my quest to discover the WHY of my writing…

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