Monday, May 23, 2011

What a Ham I am (Part 2) - When lightening strikes

In the first post of this series, I blogged that after more than 25 years as Tech, I moved up to General:  Part 1 - moving on up

During the previous 25 years,  I had my moments on the air, especially when living out in the country.  OM had been very into designing and putting up antennas.    Outside the city, OM put up a tower, many antennas, in a ham friendly environment with no covenants and little RF interference.

Loss of jobs, new jobs took us cross country and back.  In the silent years, we dwelt in densely populated areas. Covenants.  Transmission lines all about.  Much RF interference. Tight spaces.  Definitely not ham friendly. OM, the dedicated ham and antenna engineer he is, made due and was clever with some of his urban camouflage (fodder for another post?).

Finally, we took an early retirement in a small town in fly-over country. Little RF interference, much more elbow room, ham friendly. OM's first antenna went up last summer in 2010. It was like the good old days.  We were in a more rural environs with a beautiful view of the mountains.

Yet, that summer of 2010 had its share of thunderstorms. One in particular was brewing over the mountains in the west. I sat watching the light show from my dining room window. The thunder was getting louder. The lightening flashes closer. Oh my gosh!  It was coming right for us!


Lightening struck. It vaporized the wires of my OM's antenna. The flood of current surged into the house - taking out random appliances.

Goodbye - TV, DVD, toaster, garage door openers, pellet stove motor, electric lights, an ether net port. It spared the refrig, stove, microwave, fans. (At least I had the sense to unplug my computer. It was OK.)  Most ironically, our Dirt Devil hand vacuum - which had been on its last legs - as it was recharging on the wall got a rejuvenating jolt.  Now, our Dirt Devil has new life and holds a charge much better, sucking with more "oomph" than it has in a long time.

When all the damage was assessed and we settled with insurance, the final outcome was not so bad. We did get new stuff.  New garage door openers.  A better TV and DVD player.   But OM was antenna-less.  At least for a while.

This year, OM has erected a non-resonating dipole  with a lightening rod on the very top. Since May, in our part of the country, the weather has been stormy - high winds, thunder rumblings - the wires on the antenna pole are down. In calmer weather, the wires should be up in the air and we should be on the air.
Meanwhile, OM has been fiddling with radio. Well, .... Field Day is coming.

Yikes!  As I have been typing this another thunderstorm is coming in.  Time to unplug the computer ...

Question: Any lightening stories you wish to share?


Glossary for hamspeak:

Ham - Amateur Radio Operator
RF - radio frequency
OM - "Old Man" - A guy, no matter what his age - much like the British term - "old boy"  (In my case, my dear husband)

More references: hamspeak


Animated gif from Wiki Commons: Lightening Sequence

Friday, May 13, 2011

eReaders (Part 1) - Nook

For years, I've been reading from a computer- whether for work on a desktop and for pleasure on my laptop. Daily, I infosnack on various blogs, news, fun stuff, serious stuff, just stuff. And no doubt will continue to do so. I have software to read PDFs, ePub formats, and the Kindle format.

Yet, I did want a compact reader dedicated to reading .  Also, I won't have to haul about hard cover books, paperback, magazine - it's all contained and organized in a small eReader.

Michael Hyatt, the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, has a very good post on this: The Kindle, Nook, iPad, and Reader Compared.  He has a spread sheet which he breaks it out various features and catalogues them.

The iPads and the like look very cool and do so many things in addition to eReader. Yet , it would be another computer to maintain. For me, it was between Kindle and Nooks.

The Kindle is very appealing, easy on the eyes, light weight, good buy for the money. Comments indicate owners love it.

Yet, I have some friends, bibliophiles, who are into gadget and they were sold of the Nook. The wide range of formats it supports, the color features, the large number of eBooks at Barnes and Noble. Though one downside is that the Nook does not take Kindle, the ePub format, which is far more pervasive.

I chose the Nook. Here is their blurb:

My dear husband got the regular Nook - as shown below.

So far, so good. Between the two of us - regular, color - we got it covered.

FYI: I have no financial interest in promoting Nooks, just the desire to spread the info around.

Question: What, if any, eReaders have won you over?

Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Nook

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Royal Inspiration

An estimated two billion people were expected to see the royal wedding, April 29, 2011. Some have questioned those figures ( But maybe they are not so far off if you factor in the record breaking online audience ( It was quite a show! A real life fairy tale played out on the world stage as a commoner, Kate Middleton, married a prince, Prince William, second in-line to the British throne.

In the preceding days and after, much has been written and commented about this wedding. Some have made a profit from it. Some were most fascinated and watched to vicariously experience a royal event. Some have "dissed" the wedding with snarkiness. Who cares about an anachronistic monarchy? Wasn't it thirty years ago that Prince William's father, Prince Charles, married Lady Diana Spencer - only this fairy tale ended in disillusion and tragedy?

As Americans, should we care about the royals and Great Britain? (Especially considering our history with a not-so-well-liked monarch, King George III.)

(In my humble opinion.)

Great Britain has been one of the best American allies. What is good for Great Britain is good for the United States. Frankly, I'm still inspired by their great leaders - William Wilberforce and William Pitt, the younger (whose story of abolishing slavery is told in Amazing Grace (2006) ), Sir Winston Churchill during World War II, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during the Cold War.

This May 8, we come up to the 66th anniversary of VE day, Victory in Europe (, the beginning of the end of World War II. And recently, in theaters was the story of an inspirational British monarch, King George VI - The King's Speech (2010) - who reigned during this time.

Prince William's great grandfather,  the second son of George V, had a speech impediment, which he worked hard to overcome. He unexpectedly ascended to the throne when his older brother, Edward VIII, abdicated. The climax and most moving scene came when the King gave his first wartime speech to his subjects as they entered into World War II in September of 1939. (Below is the real speech from George VI taken from which also has its transcript.)

During those dark days, Londoners in particular felt the fury of Hitler's Luftwaffe - as the capital city was bombed mercilessly to demoralize the population in the terror known as the London Blitz. King George VI, his wife Queen Elizabeth, and the princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) stayed in the Buckingham Palace (which was also bombed) and chose not to flee to safer environs of the countryside where many of the kingdom's children were urged to go.

The King and Queen walked through London during the Blitz ( The future Queen Elizabeth II also put on the uniform and got her hands dirty during the war. She served as a driver and mechanic as shown here in this Life photo.

So why should I care about the British Royal family and their recent wedding?

Much like our presidents, (one of the best in recent times was Ronald Reagan, in my humble opinion), they can inspire people to do not only extraordinary things, but most important - the right thing.

King George VI's speeches to his people during the Second World War were backed up by his actions. He stood with his people as they experienced attacks by the enemy on native soil.  The most intense were from September 1940 to May 1941, the first attacks lasting for 57 consecutive days. The King gave the people the courage to stand up to Hitler and his "supermen."  And ultimately, the people of Great Britain and their allies did prevail.

My thoughts and prayers are that Prince William follow the steps of his great grandfather. George VI's words are still relevant today in the War on Terror and our uncertain times as they were during the events leading up to World War Two.

" There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God.
"If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whateverer service or sacrifice it may demand, then, with God's help, we shall prevail."

George VI - September 3, 1939

This coming National Day of Prayer on May 5, 2011 is held at a time which may portend that dark day are ahead. May our leaders point (as George VI) that our help is in God and that we reverently commit our cause to Him. And with God's help we shall prevail.

Photo from Wikipedia:  The royal family on the balcony