Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What a Ham I am (Part 1) - moving on up!

I'm not sure what the occasion was. I believe it was in the year 2000 and we were selling our house. One of the lookie loos meandered into our loft above our living room area.

My dear husband had claimed the loft as his space, marking it with his computer, plaques, books, etc. The lookie loo - a guy - pointed to our framed set of Ham radio licenses, his and hers, on the wall. He grinned at me.

"I did that to my wife, too."

That told me I was not alone. Men, who are avid Hams, often like to get their wives or significant others involved with their hobby. And I was one of them - one of the fraternity (and sorority) of Hams.

And what really are Hams in the context of geekdom? Ham is slang for amateur radio operators. Here is an introduction from a really, really old video:

Back in the 1980s, when my husband "did that to me, too" - talked me into getting a Ham radio license - there had been five levels of Hams as defined by the FCC: Novice, Tech, General, Advanced, Extra. Later a sixth was added - Tech Plus.  All had required some level of code proficiently.

That is Morse code, such as : Di di di dah dah dah dit di dit  .... (That is the universal HELP signal - SOS)  At this time, most us Novices had to bang out code on a paddle or key. For the entire alphabet check out the video below:

As a Novice, we only had air privileges with Morse code and limited band frequencies on which to broadcast. I recall, in the early 1980s, listening to a cassette tape to practice up on code to pass at the 5 words per minute requirement for Novices. And in that tape was this gem:

"Jonathan Livingston Buzzard keeps quiet except when flying over my shack."

This was special in that it used every letter in the English alphabet.  And it was cute, in that the novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which had been a big hit in the 1970s, was still fresh in our memories. But when I started to copy "Jonathan ..." I knew the rest of this old buzzard was coming right for me, which kind of defeated the point of the code practice.

A few years later, with much encouragement from my husband - who would go on to get his Extra class license, I moved up to Tech Plus. That meant that I had passed the test on the written level for General class (the class above Tech), but did not take the code test to pass for General.

Then the code requirement for General was 13 words per minute. And I just was not ready for it. So I sat fat and happy for the next 25 years as a Tech Plus, which was good enough for normal purposes. And though my dear husband reminded me I had opportunities to convert to General, I just did not do it.

I am a very bad Ham.

The amateur radio licensing rules had evolved much in the last 30 years. Now, there are only three levels: Tech, General, Extra. Novice was dropped. So was Advanced. Yet, Novice, Tech Plus, and Advanced are still grandfathered in. No code is required. Yippee!

Finally, this April 16, 2011, I studied up and passed the General level!

Will I be on the air soon?

That will be a subject for another post. And Field Day is coming.


and for you non-hams that means - best wishes.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons: International amateur radio symbol

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter - The Sign of the Prophet Jonah

What a big fish story!

How often do to we hear that - especially when we think someone is exaggerating, really telling a whopper - and that ain't no Burger King (R) hamburger.

One of the biggest fish stories ever - as some may consider - is the story of Jonah.

This prodigal prophet ran when the Lord told him to preach those hated Ninevites. I don't blame him. Those Ninevites were not very nice.  And that was an understatement.

While Jonah took the next boat for Tarshish - the opposite direction of Nineveh, a big storm hit. The sailors cast lots, and the lots pointed to Jonah as the cause of their distress.

Jonah confessed and to save the ship cast himself into the sea. The sea calmed. The sailors feared the Lord and offered sacrifices.

Meanwhile,the Lord prepared a big fish to swallow up Jonah. And he was in the belly of that fish for three days and three night. (Jonah 1)

Was God through with him? The Good Lord gave him a second chance.

And now for the rest of the story. ...

Inside the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed "from deep in the realm of the dead" (it seems he died in the fish) and the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land. (Jonah 2)

Then, the Lord came to Jonah (very much alive) the second time and called him, again, to preach to the Ninevites. This time Jonah obeyed - sparking the biggest revival recorded in the Old Testament. All of the Ninevites from the king on down believed God and repented in sackcloth and ashes. And the Good Lord spared them. (Jonah 3)

Instead of rejoicing, Jonah was quite bummed out about it all and sulked. He revealed the real reason that he had run from the Lord: He knew the Good Lord was compassionate and merciful and would forgive the Ninevites if they repented after hearing his message.

But the Lord had a good talk with him. The God of Israel was also the God of the Gentiles, and He was concerned for the Ninevites, the little children, and the animals. (Jonah 4)

As echoed by the Prophet Ezekiel:

As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD,
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked,
but rather that they turn from their ways and live.

Ezekiel 33:11

That is quite a fish story!

What does that have to do with Easter?


The Lord Jesus believed the big fish story. When His critics were hounding for a sign, He said these words:

A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!
But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish,
so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. ...

Matthew 12: 39 - 41

Jonah did not survived in the fish. He died. The belly of the fish was "the realm of the dead" (Jonah 2:1-2). Yet, Jonah was spit out very much alive (Jonah 2:10) on the third day (Jonah 1:17).

Likewise, Jesus died and was buried and - like Jonah - rose from the dead on the third day.

The Book of Jonah is a critical book in the Old Testament in that it teaches the Resurrection.

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.
Otherwise,  you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15:2-4

According to the Scriptures, dying and rising on the third day is the Sign of the Prophet Jonah.

The Resurrection is the Crux of Easter and the Gospel.

And what does the Lord requires of us in the 21st century AD? The same as the Ninevites in the 7th century BC. He asks that we believe Him. God is rich in mercy. (Ephesian 2:4)

To all my readers - have a Blessed Easter, this anno Domini (in the year of our Lord) 2011.

Question: Do you have any unusual Easter stories?

Photo from Wikipedia: Jonah and the Whale

Sunday, April 10, 2011

For want of a thermistor the Moon was lost .... 41 years ago

For Want of a Nail 

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

So says an old proverb - small actions have huge consequences as they did 41 years ago ...

On April 12, 1970, the third planned mission to the moon was launched.

The Crew of Apollo 13

James A. Lovell, Mission Commander - command module pilot of Apollo 8, back-up commander for Apollo 11
John L. Swigert, Jr., Command Module Pilot
Fred W. Haise, Lunar Module Pilot

After Apollo 11 - the mission which put Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, Apollo 12 repeated this marvellous feat.  By the time Apollo 13 was schedule to fly, most observers were bored with this space travel going to the moon thing. The mission started out as a real yawner.

Until April 13, 1970, Commander Lovell said the following that has since become a catch phrase.

"Houston, we have a problem ..."

An explosion had crippled the service module (for the accident report, click here). A real life drama played out before the eyes of the world the next few days. And Ron Howard made a great movie about it in 1995:  Apollo 13

Apollo 13 has been known as NASA's Successful Failure and I witnessed it happen in real time - 40 years ago.

Question: If you are over 40, do you recall Apollo 13 in real time?

Picture form Wiki CommonsApollo 13 Insignia

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kindle? Nook? Whatever?

As we blast into the second decade of the 21st century, eReaders and eBooks are popping up all over.

I have read a few eBooks via my computer.  Here I can download PDFs and look at them with the Adobe reader.  And the PC software to read Kindles and other types of ePubs can be downloaded for free. That makes sampling the goodies easier as various eBook sites display their wares.

When my tax rebate comes, this Baby Boomer is about to make the plunge and break the bonds of my PC to get a dedicated eReader.

Now, the conundrum. What to buy and get the most enjoyment and bang for the buck?


At first, iPad sounds like it's the the most flexible as it can read most anything.

But it's really another computer. It's relatively expensive, if it's sole purpose is to be an eReader.  And I already got a laptop and I'm not a mac person.


The new Kindles look most appealing. The price is reasonable. The reader very light. I read some good review on readability and battery life.

But it is only in black and white and limited to Kindle formats and does not read other forms of ePubs.  (Except for PDFs)


I'm leaning very heavily for a color Nook.   It does color, obviously. It supports ePub formats and PDF. Barnes & Noble supply the largest selection of eBooks.

Unfortunately, they don't do  Kindle.

Oh, well. You can't have everything.

Question for eReader aficionados:  Which do you prefer?

Picture from Amazon Kindle & Sony eBook