Get a flu shot!

I know this is off-topic, but if you haven’t already, get a flu shot. You don’t want to come down with this flu.

How do I know this? The flu hit me yesterday. I was incredibly sick for about 14 hours. I couldn’t keep any food or liquids down. It was very nasty. I’m better today, but still not feeling very hungry, and I’m very tired.

Around here, they cost about $20, if your health insurance doesn’t cover it. This is one time I wish I’d heeded my wife’s advice to go get one.

The Desiderata and Amateur Radio

On the wall of my home office hangs a poster with the poem “Desiderata.” While I’m not usually one for  sappy sentimentality, I do find the advice offered in this poem resonates (no pun intended) with me. Some of the advice is certainly applicable to ham radio:

  • “Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit.” Ever attended a club meeting or participated in a discussion on an amateur radio mailing list? Need I say more?
  • “Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.” Ever been to a hamfest?
  • “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” I find myself thinking of this passage often. Recently, there was a discussion on a ham radio mailing list about a guy who’s built eleven towers on his property. If I obsessed about stuff like that, I’d just give up on ham radio.
  • “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own [ham radio] career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.” Do what you can and have fun with it.
  • “Be careful.” Remember to be safe when setting up that antenna.
  • “Strive to be happy.” If you’re not having fun with ham radio, find another hobby.

Amateur radio in the news: Wisconsin, Kansas, Manitoba

Amateur radio, Morse code useful yet today
At first blush, it might seem quaintly antiquated to hear that ham radio and Morse code still have enthusiasts in the 21st Century, what with all the smartphones and Internet-enabled tablets available. However, you can bet your nearest copper wire that not only do ham radio and Morse code adherents still have a place in modern society, but they actually are making it a safer place for all of us, especially in emergency situations and during severe weather outbreaks. That was the primary message being sent during the third annual Kid’s Day of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which took place Sunday in Whitewater’s Cravath Lakefront Building.

Wichita amateur radio operators can offer key link in emergencies
For Mark Spaulding and other amateur radio operators, communication is key. The retired Beech demonstration pilot is a member of the Tec-Ni-Chat Amateur Radio Club and part of a group of about 30 amateur radio operators that volunteer as part of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) for Sedgwick County Emergency Management.

Ham radio enthusiasts keeping old technology alive
Some ham radio enthusiasts in Winnipeg are sticking with an “original” form of wireless technology, despite the popularity of Twitter and text messages these days.


Bar code’s co-inventor dies at 91

A couple of weeks ago, NPR reported that N. Joseph Woodland, a co-inventor of the bar code passed away at the age of 91. I found this to be a very interesting story. First, because the bar code was really so far ahead of its time.

The original patent was applied for in 1949, and issued in 1952, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first bar code was actually scanned. It took that much time for the scanner and computer technology to be developed enough to actually read and process the bar code. This was long after Woodland and his co-inventor, Bernard Silver, sold the patent for $15,000.

The second reason is its connection to Morse Code. The story reads,

The only code Woodland knew was the Morse Code he’d learned in the Boy Scouts, his daughter said. One day, he drew Morse dots and dashes as he sat on the beach and absent-mindedly left his fingers in the sand where they traced a series of parallel lines.

“It was a moment of inspiration. He said, ‘instead of dots and dashes I can have thick and thin bars,’” Susan Woodland [his daughter] said.

Woodland’s New York Times obituary has more on this story.

And now for something completely different……

Yesterday, I did NOT go down to the Hands-On Museum and operate WA2HOM, as I usually do. Instead, I participated in a family tradition – making sausage before Christmas. Romanchik is a Slovak name, and the sausage we make, klobasa, is the Slovak version of the Polish sausage kielbasa. Yesterday, we only made 25 pounds, but in the past we have made up to 80 pounds in a single sausage-making session.

Here’s the recipe:


  • 10 pounds pork butt
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 3 cups water or ice
  • 1/4 pound sausage casings

The secret to making good klobasa is using just the right amount of garlic. When my family makes sausage, Brenda and I are in charge of adding the garlic. The first thing we do is peel one head of garlic for each ten pounds of meat. We then put the garlic in a blender, add some water, chop the garlic, and then let the mixture set for at least half an hour.

Next, we cut the pork butts, also known as Boston roasts. The butts average about 8 pounds and have a bone. To make sausage, you have to cut out the bone and then cut the meat into small cubes. While cutting, look for and remove any glands within the fat.

Cut away and discard unwanted fat and gristle, but don’t throw it all away. Fat absorbs the garlic and marjoram, and without it, the sausage will not be as flavorful as it could be.

Place the meat into a tub, add the spices, garlic, water or ice, and mix. We use ice instead of water. This adds the appropriate amount of moisture and keeps the meat fresh at the same time.

To get the proper amount of garlic, my sister and I add some garlic to the meat, lean over the tub and smell the mixture. Then, we look at each other, and say, “More garlic.” We repeat this until the smell is strong enough to suit us. One way we know that we’ve added enough garlic is if our mother can smell the garlic as she comes into the house.

After you’ve added enough garlic, let the meat mixture marinate for at least an hour. In the meantime, you can clean the casings. Natural casings come packed in salt, and before you can use them you have to rinse them, both inside and out with cold water.

The final step is to grind the meat and stuff the casings. The grinder we use has a sausage stuffer attachment so we grind and stuff in one step. To do this, you take a length of casing, tie a knot in one end, and slide the casing onto the sausage attachment. With this arrangement, the grinder grinds the meat right into the casing.

We package the sausage in plastic freezer bags and freeze most of it. In a good bag, the sausage will keep up to six months in the freezer.

I think this classifies as a home-brew project. What do you think?

HamQTH.Com an alternative to QRZ.Com

I got this message yesterday from Petr, OK2CQR, proprietor of HamQTH.Com:

I’m very happy that I can inform you about recent news at

What’s new?

Small statistic:

  • 1,343,209 callsigns in database
  • 11,883 registered users
  • 7,018,773 queries to XML search
  • 6,521,517 QSO in the log from 953 different callsigns

Did you know that DX cluster at HamQTH can colour the spots according to QSO you have in the log?

We have almost 50 times more users using XML search than web visitors every day. It’s fine, but please encourage others to register at HamQTH and update their profiles. Without that, XML search won’t be accurate. Thank you!

HamQTH is a real alternative to QRZ.Com. Check it out.

The end of ham radio?

Mayan calendar

Is this calendar predicting the end of ham radio?

Is this the end of ham radio (or the world, for that matter)? The website for special event station N0D says:

According to one of the three Mayan Calendars, the end of the world will occur on December 21, 2012. To celebrate this—literally—once in a lifetime event, Special Event Station N0D (Now Zero Days) will be activated for three days during and possibly after the end of the world. December 20; is a celebration of the end of the world. December 21, the day of destruction, we will be on the air as long as possible. December 22…that is a little iffy right now.

The site is a real hoot. You can even take a look at the QSL card that you won’t get if the world actually does on December 21.

Amateur Radio Videos – 10/19/12

Here are some more videos for your amateur radio viewing pleasure.

History of the transistor radio. The PBS show History Detectives featured a segment on the Regency TR-1 transistor radio, the first transistor radio ever made, and some of the other early transistor radio models. The website says the show will air on October 28, 2012. (I know it’s only October 19, but the PBS website says this show will air on October 28.)  Look for the segment at the 28:45 mark.

K6BBQ at Pacificon 2012. Rem, K6BBQ, ask some amateur radio celebrities, including Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, and Gordon West, WB6NOA, some amusing questions.

Ham Amateur Radio Doing Illegal Crap.  Want to get your hackles up? Watch this video. I’m not sure what the author’s motivation was in making this video, but it’s sure to get a few of  you worked up.

From the trade magazines – 092612

Three more articles from recent editions of the electronics trade magazines.

HeathkitHeathkit: A right-time, right-place business. Heathkit was a popular electronics company for decades before its demise earlier this year. Former employees Lou Frenzel and Chas Gilmore share some memories and discuss the factors that led to its closing. Lou Frenzel is W5LEF.

In the article, he notes how he was instrumental in developing the Heath/Zenith line of computer kits. At that time, I was a fledgling test engineer working for Memorex (remember them?) making the 8-in. floppy drives that were an option for those computers.

Real-world testing of wi-fi hotspots. This article talks about both the RF testing and data communications testing needed to ensure a good wi-fi hotspot.

How to simulate cable in SPICE. This article covers the two main loss effects related to cables (the skin effect and dielectric losses) and presents a simple cable modeling method for use in standard SPICE simulators.

IARU Region 1 Monitoring System newsletter available monthly

While each of the three IARU regions has a monitoring program, the Region 1 monitoring program seems to be the best organized. They have a great website, and their monthly newsletters for 2010-2012 are all available there. In addition, the site has other information including radar systems on shortwave (PDF, 10 MB), frequency allocation table, and How to start an Intruder Watch.

Comparing this to the IARU Region 2 Monitoring System Web page, you can see how good it is. The last bulletins, for example, were published in 2009.