News & Notes

Last night I went out to the seawall at Fort Monroe to see if I could see the Space Shuttle Discovery as it headed away from the Kennedy Space Center towards it’s link up with the International Space Station. I was out on the fishing pier, scanning across the Chesapeake from Norfolk to Virginia Beach just before the launch time (2047 Eastern). I had my PRO-548 monitoring the 2M repeater up in Gloucester where WB7URZ, Randy, was giving out a running commentary of the launch to those of us trying to catch a glimpse “Main engine start, she’s on the way”. I was quite cold and the wind was strong, biting my ears and exposed fingers. Word was passed – Discovery was on her way. I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for…. a streak of light? Crackling over the scanner was Randy saying he didn’t see anything and another ham also saying he wasn’t see anything either. The wind was consistently sapping my internal heat… I saw lights from a helicopter, lights from aircraft… the stars… the constellation Orion was above Virginia Beach. I turned and started walking back towards the truck. Then I saw it…. a bright dot of light, moving from south to north about 10 degrees above the horizon…. moving fast! The scanner crackled, “I see, do you see it?!”… “Cool”… the bright dot continued it’s movement, flickered, and diminished in brightness. “She just dropped her external engines….” And across the horizon, getting fainter, the dot continued.

Other news… I tried my first bottle of beer from my first attempt at brewing. I had four bottles in the fridge that have been cooling, one I had added brown sugar, two I had added white sugar, and the last was half and half. I forgot to label what was what. I pulled out a bottle and brought it over near the sink. Wasn’t sure what would happen… would it explode with too much carbonation? I popped of the lid slowly… I could hear the carbonation being released. That was a good sign. It didn’t explode. I poured the bottle’s contents into a glass… it looked like beer. Light golden in color, slightly cloudy (like the book said). Not much carbonation. A little bit of bubbles on top, but not much. I tasted it. Cool, beer-like. But not quite right. I took the glass and sat down. I looked at the color… the color was good. I smelled it. Slight vinegar smell (which the book said meant that something got dirty during the process). It kind of had more of a hard cider taste. My guess is that this bottle had all brown sugar. I’m going to try another beer today and see if the experience is different. I also want to mix another batch of a different flavor and get it going.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(1) Home Brew: not talking about building an amateur radio project… talking about beer! I am the recipient of a Mr. Beer Deluxe Edition Home Brewery kit. Last week I completed the initial steps; mixed the wort with water and yeast. So now the batch has been fermenting for a week. I’m now waiting for my shipment of bottles so I can bottle this batch to complete the fermentation. I’ll probably experiment with the sugar types to see what that does with the flavor. I hope to be bottling by mid-week and then it should be about two more weeks before I get to start tasting the results.

(2) PRO-528: picked up the Radio Shack PRO-528 scanner. I got a USB programming cable and the Scancat Lite Plus software to program the scanner. I’ve loaded Hampton’s city frequencies for the police and fire, freqs for Langley Air Force Base, some 2m repeater freqs, and the FRS/GMRS freqs. So far, the scanner is working great.

(3) I got a QSL card from Hawaii! Just need my Alaska card for QSL for Worked All States.

(4) Model Rocket: fired off a model rocket on Saturday. Three times – all successful. The first launch with a B engine went pretty high, but the last two really took off using a C engine. The parachute worked well and the this is the first time I think I’ve ever returned home with a rocket (my other rockets being lost over fences, behind backyards, etc.). Of course that was all about 25 years ago. What I think would be fun is to build a rocket with a big enough payload that would carry a GPS and 2M transmitter to do APRS.

(5) Haven’t been on the air lately – I’ll try tonight.

Weekend wrap up

Got to see a bit of the air show today from a nearby park that has a good view of Langley Air Force Base. Had my Bearcat Scanner (BC245XLT) with the Radio Shack antenna and was able to monitor the Air Boss as well as the air/ground communications for the Golden Knights parachute team.

Tired to contact the special events station at Fort Knox (W2P), but the propagation just wasn’t there. I was able to make two other SSB contacts while trying as well as a PSK31 contact with a Swedish amateur radio operator on St. Martin.

Worked on cleaning the radio room.

Started looking at using my TH-D7A for accessing a DX packet cluster… but I’m not sure if we have any packet clusters in the area. We’ll see.

I’m looking at getting an amp for my FT-817 so I can use it for portable operations without having to pull the IC-706 out of the shack.

Finished about 30 QSL cards to be sent out tomorrow.

Weather Display works on Ubuntu!! I need to transition my weather station from the radio room to the linux box out in the garage. I need to figure out how to do do the FTP upload and webcam.

Started working on a webpage for Old Point Comfort Lighthouse activations:

Washington – Spokane to Tacoma

Daily Mileage: 291
Total Mileage: 4014
Total Number of States Traveled: 20

I departed Spokane fairly late, knowing the trip to Tacoma would be one of the shorter legs of the trip – staying in the same state for the whole leg as well as using an Interstate (I-90) instead of the slower (aka scenic) US routes.

It was raining (of course) as Spokane slid away in the rear view mirror… the terrain was fairly arid and flat with only small hills as I-90 passed the towns of Sprague and Ritzville… and the rain slowly tapered off. I stopped in Moses Lake for gas and a quick cheeseburger and was surprised to find a Starbucks. The coffee stop was busy with families traveling for Easter – some wearing Sunday best, either coming from or going to a family function, church service, or both. Passing through George and Vantage was fairly scenic. George is known for it’s Gorge (The Gorge at George) where they have concerts overlooking the Columbia River. The views are really impressive and I regret not stopping to snap a quick picture. Passing through Ellensburg, I started to climb the Cascades and the rain picked up. There was a little bit of snow here and there on the ground. The rain really started to come down as I passed through Cle Elum and Roslyn (where they used to shoot the TV series Northern Exposure). I checked the weather station and the only warning was to watch for standing water. Finally summiting I-90 at Snoqualmie pass I could hear some of the die hard skiers using their FRS radios on my Bearcat scanner.

Coming off the summit, I stopped at North Bend to get a coffee refill and stretch the legs. Not much further west, I took Washington’s Highway 18 south east towards Tacoma. I’d driven WA 18 a number of times and the construction that was going on 10 years ago was still underway. I imagine with all the rain, it’s hard to get a project finished. WA 18 made for an easy drive (still raining) into Federal Way, connecting with I-5 and heading a bit south into Tacoma.

Fully Caffeinated

I’m posting from one of the Starbucks in Newport News, VA that has WiFi access. I’ve set up my Belkin’s GPS in the truck and it gives directions verbally – it’s worked well on a test run… we’ll see how it does tomorrow.

Overall a productive day – I got a cell phone, P.O. Box, and finished the loan paperwork with the Toyota dealership.

I’ve been using my scanner to listen in on the amateur nets, but I haven’t made a contact yet. I’m going to hook up my mag mount antenna tomorrow for the trip.