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Friday, April 19, 2013

PRODUCT REVIEW - The Best Bicycle Rear Rack Baskets Folding - Wald 582

The Wald 582 sets the standard for ingenuity when it comes to rear baskets. Mounting to the side of almost any rear rack, this nimble basket is the perfect size for packing 1-2 bags of groceries while balancing your load. When not in use, the base of the basket pivots up allowing the side walls to collapse. A simple clamp at the top of the side panels keeps everything secured while the basket is folded up to one inch thick

Bicycle Rear Rack Grocery Baskets, Folding - Wald 582 (Set of 2)
  • Large size: 12 3/4 x 7 1/4 x 8 1/2"
  • Fits grocery bags easily
  • Folds up when not in use - about 1" thick when folded
  • Includes mounting hardware to mount quick and easily to a rear rack (sold separately)
  • Sold as a set of two - weight, about 5.5 lbs total

These baskets are strong and hold up for the long term. These baskets are easy to install and fits well with the standard rack. Its very sturdy in use and easy to operate. I'd recommend adding small lock washers as I did, so I'm not worried about re-tightening on a regular basis. I also added wire ties as a backup but I have been known to put on a belt and suspenders at the same time. I like backup.

I have had extra heavy loads over rough ground on a regular basis without a failure. They also provide a good platform to bungy my Large Alice pack and frame. I’m sure any load you have will be lighter than what I have done to them.

For the best price I have found click the Amazon link below.  
Prime members get free shipping 2nd day.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ham - Is the Coffee Ready?

Some of you could not participate in this years March of Dimes Walk (it was my first but not last) so I thought I would share the experience with you here. As with all Ham related events I found it more fun than you could have anywhere else at any price.

It all started with an email from John (WB****) giving the time (7:00am) and location of the event and that there was a pre event breakfast gathering at a Waffle House at 6:00am.

WAFFLE HOUSE! My pulse raced with anticipation. I had to reschedule several client appointments to get Saturday morning clear but they were all most understanding. Yes, I did play the March of Dimes card. No, I did not tell them how much fun I was planning to have.

Some of you may wonder about my excitement about a Waffle House visit since I am not currently allowed to eat anything they have. The answer is simple, good company and good conversation mixed with an unlimited amount of COFFEE! The elixir of life that makes all things possible-before noon.

Nearly everyone arrived within minutes of each other around 6:00am almost as a group. We claimed territory got seated and the waitress came over and started taking orders. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, waffles ……. and then she came to me ….”Coffee” I said ….”Just coffee?” she ask ….. “And lots of it” I said. Our eyes met and we knew no more words had to be spoken. Every time she came to our table she filled my cup which was always almost empty. And she came often.

I listened as the discussions ranged from politics to cooking, motorcycles, flying, youthful indiscretions and of course Ham radio. The conversation was good, the company was the best, and the coffee was never-ending. All was right with the world. But all too soon it was time to leave.

I must pause this story for a personal rant. I feel I have been faithful in embracing the ham lifestyle over the last 2 years. I have gone from 0 radios to 7 radios, with another one on order, on a waiting list for another, and three others on my “want list” when I find them at the right price. I have built antennas, collected articles and parts, and have dozens of un-finished projects around the house - Only to be slapped down by Eddie (WD****). At breakfast he talked about how he and a couple of others were talking on the portable repeater on the way up. It seems he already had the repeater setup and running in his car! Talk about an extreme Ham! He can travel with his own repeater. That’s just not fair (but it is very cool). How is a new guy ever to catch up? Now back to the story.
End of Rant

Everyone went out to the parking lot started their cars and left. Everyone but me. I turned the key in my car and did not even get a click. My first thought …… “My radios still work they are on a separate battery (smile). David (KA****) saw me pop my hood and stayed to make sure I got started. I jiggled a few cables and it fired right up. David (KA****) said “Thank goodness”. Obviously he must not have been aware that my radios had a separate power source. Before I could explain he was off to the event site and I followed.

We all got on site before 7:00am. Everyone checked out their HTs and I got to meet John’s wife Sharon (who is just as nice as John).

We got signed in at the volunteer desk and went over to the girl handing out the volunteer T-shirts. She looked at me ask me what size I took. I said petite …… She tilted her head slightly to the side and got the same confused look on her face that my puppy gives me when I talk to her. I selected a XXL and moved on.  

John was handing out maps and assigning locations and within minutes the professional machine that is ARES and other Ham volunteers were ready to deploy. It was 7:25am ……. The walk started at 10:00am. I went in search of coffee.

I found the coffee and discovered the one vital piece of field equipment forgotten at home. My car mug (I need to make a checklist). They had a stack of Styrofoam shot glasses they claimed were coffee cups. The object I was holding looked like it belonged in Barbie’s Malibu Dream house. Not having a better option I sat down and started doing coffee shooters.

At 8:45am a loud noise disguised as music started and three large costumed mascots began dancing around. My signal it was time to set off to my assigned station. On the way out I shot a picture of the mascots and a group of 5 cheerleaders saw the camera and jumped into a pose so I shot them too. Little did I know at the time what an evil omen that was.

I was assigned to station 9 the half way/turn around point in the walk and one of the water stations along the route where volunteers hand bottled drinks to the walkers. I got to station 9 and found a nice shady spot to park. There was a nice breeze, the birds were singing and I tuned in the repeater on my mobile to save my HT battery and listened to everyone getting setup and checking in. I started cleaning up the loose trash in my car. Something I do about once a year. Then I found and attached the mic holder kit that had been sliding back and forth on my dashboard for the past 6 months. A PROJECT COMPLETE!

My elation was to be short lived for a moment later a van pulled up and out bounced 15 cheerleaders. They actually bounced ….. and jumped and twirled. But worst of all they talked. What they said appeared to be some sort of code as the words seemed to be English but no logical content could be discerned. And they all talked at the same time at a speed and pitch that produced a frequency wave that could jam any radio. Desperately I tried adjusting my squelch knob but it had no effect on the cheerleaders. My salvation came when they moved a few hundred feet down the road to get warm in the only sunny spot in the area. They were there to hand out drinks and cheer the runners/walkers on, so there was the promise of much amusement ahead.

At 10:00am my HT came alive with the message that the Runners/Walkers had started. At 10:10am a call went out for the pickup van to pickup a participant that was all done in. The first casualty of many.

Around 10:30am the first runners reached my station and some real fun began. I seems that the runners/walkers having passed several water stations were almost all already carrying one or two water bottles. This did not deter the cheerleaders who scooped up armloads of drinks and charged the crowd looking for those in need of hydration. They were not to be denied their chance to render aide.

The scene reminded me of those shows on the Nature Channel where a pack of wolves descends on a flock of sheep trying to pickoff the weak. I was not alone in my assessment. An elderly lady who already had two bottles of water took a third when a pair of cheerleaders sprang at her from different directions. The look on the ladies face could only be described as “please don’t eat me”.

Between waves of walkers/runners the cheerleaders practiced cheers and routines.

At one point the cheerleaders created a small human pyramid. As I looked up at the girl on top in her short skirt, perfect tan, with her arms stretched skyward I could not help but think “if she was holding the center of my portable dipole (inverted V antenna) I could work some serious HF ….. I wonder which way is north?” As I searched my pockets for a compass another wave of walker/runners came around the corner and the wolves were again off after the flock.

The walkers/runners came in all shapes and sizes. From the very young (or those younger than me) to the very old (or those older than me). Mothers with strollers, dogs that brought their humans, teens pretending to be normal, adults trying to act responsibly and everyone enjoying a great day and a good cause.

As the last walker past each station on the return leg each Ham was cleared to return to the parking area for the final gathering. Since I had to jiggle cables again to get my car started I decided not to stop at the parking area but just head on out. I said my goodbyes on the radio and let everyone know I was clear of the area.

On the ride back I left my HT on and tuned to the portable repeater and set my mobile to the local repeater. Just then I got a call on my cell phone from the one client I still had scheduled for that afternoon. They were unable to get their data backup complete so I could look forward to 4 hours of data recovery added to the end of my day, putting me home about 10:00pm. I just smiled and said fine. I felt like I had just come off a long vacation as I listened while each Ham volunteer gave his final to clear the area only to pop up shortly on the local repeater and join in on a rapidly expanding round table that sounded like the breakfast conversations never ended. I just listened to my chosen community and smiled.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The $35 Custom Bicycle

This story starts in another story that is only helps establish a foundation for the story you do want to read. Those who want to skip the foundation and get right to the meat skip the next 6 paragraphs.

Once upon a time I met with a doctor who used words like bypass, open hart, valve replacement and weight loss. I had to loose 50 pounds before surgery. I did. Surgery went well and afterward as part of rehab I worked up to walking 5 miles a day. Life was good.

Then life conspired to trip me up. First my walking track got shut down Second work sent on the road for several months. Third I fell off a ladder and sprained the entire left side of my body. No joke, anything requiring the use of any part of my left side was stiff, painful and awkward. People who saw me thought I was a recovering stroke victim.

The result, a year later I no longer move like a stroke victim. But after months of nothing but sitting at one desk after another and eating road food I am bigger than ever having put on 75 pounds. My muscles sit on the porch in rockers playing remember when, and my left side is still weak.

Time to get back into shape. I started with what worked before, walking. I tried walking in a near by park but the hard uneven paths took to great a toll on my joints. A tread mill was better but my joints would still give up before my muscles really started rebuilding. I was one fat, sore, sad looking puppy.

Then God sent me an angel (I blame him for enough stuff I should give him credit for this) in the form of a casual acquaintance who suggested bike riding. I borrowed my acquaintances bike for a few rides and discovered a new world. A slower paced, gentler world. A world of sights, sounds and places I had not known before. And all the time I was getting stronger and the weight started to fall off. There was only one problem. I had no bike of my own.

I started shopping for a bike. I generally like a problem you can throw money at and it goes away but at that point in my life I was very short on funds. When I discovered that a “make do” bike would cost several hundred dollars while the bike I really needed would be a couple of thousand I was back to being a sad puppy.

Not being one to let a little thing like no money slow me down. I started drawing up the specs of what I needed in a bike on the theory “you can't find it if you don't know what you are looking for”. I consulted the best experts I could find (the internet is great for this) and came up with a custom bike design based on a 80s-90s steel mountain bike frame. Frames of several manufactures and models were specified by the experts. I will not go into all the details of my custom design as it will be different for each person. But the transformation of the design into reality is the real story.

During my research into the design I was introduced to the concept of a bike co-op. A bike co-op is a group of mostly volunteers usually working with a local bike shop and/or a local church who take unloved lonely bikes and rehab them into working bikes for kids and others short on funds at minimal cost or in some cases no cost. I was told I could probably find a bike very close to my specs at a co-op and make the necessary mods to turn it into my dream bike as time and funds permitted. The sad puppy began to wag his tail. I sought out a local bike co-op.

Note: I have visited several bike co-ops over the years across the country and have found all the people to be warm friendly and helpful. Maybe not surprising in organizations made up of mostly voluntaries. The shops themselves vary widely in size and shape but have the same general ambiance. That of a bike shop from bizarro world. Racks floor to ceiling full of bins of bike parts, walls covered with frames, wheels things I still don’t recognize. Several bike stands spaced around the floor with several “bike elf's” around each sand working on a bike. A “bike elf” (my term) is generally half my size, half (or less) my age covered in varying degrees of bike grease and holding at least one bike part and a tool I do not recognize and possessing 1000 times my knowledge of bike construction and maintenance.

I explained my problem to the head “bike elf” who listened intently. At the end of my story he went over to a wall of bike frames studied it for a second then pulled off a small red frame and handed it to me. I was then steered by another “bike elf” to an empty bike stand and shone how to mount my frame. Elf's then started to bring over various bike parts and try them for size and fit. When a match was found I was informed why we had a match shown how to install the part and allowed to do most of the hands on of the assembly myself.

The end result was a bike as close to my specs as I could have expected from a local bike shop. What would have cost me thousands cost me $35 in donations over a three day period. My frame and fork were from the same manufacture (one from the list of my experts) almost all other parts were superior to stock parts on most retail bikes . I only added baskets as an after the fact upgrade. The front one for my puppy and the back ones for general cargo.

The value of the knowledge I gained doing a “frame up” build is incalculable. While I am still far from a “bike elf” I am still far ahead of the average rider. The down side is I feel it necessary to carry more spar parts and tools than the average rider.

I have just started a regular riding schedule and hope time and persistence will provide the results I seek. Future posts will contain some of my better biking adventures and updates on my quest for fitness.   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

PRODUCT REVIEW - Ronco Pocket Fisherman Review

Ronco Pocket Fisherman Review
  • Comes with 2 Bonus Lures
  • Fits into your glove compartment
  • Automatic Anti-Reverse prevents the handle from turning backwards.
  • Great gift idea for youth or adult
  • Attaches to your belt

I got one of these more as something to play with than serious fishing.  I was shocked by how well this worked.  I put it through several line breaking tests and never had the rod or real even offer to fail.  It has become my goto choice for all but the very deep saltwatter fishing.

There is no way this thing will fit in a pocket or hang on a belt well but it will slide into every bag and backpack I have.  It is almost always within reach.  Anytime I get near water, out it comes.  My fishing time has tripled since I started using this little gem.  I have been  fishing this rig for over a year, all kinds of fishing without a failure.

You might not get many of your friends asking to test drive this but you can log more fishing time than anyone you know.  We give this 5 stars.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

PRODUCT REVIEW - How to be a General

The Book to get to be a General

This is the book used by almost all General classes.  It coveres all the questions in the General question pool.  If you know this book the test is a walk in the park.  There is a Kindle version and I tend to like ebooks better.  As a rule they cost less, are installed almost instantly and become part of my traveling elibrary.

If you are working on your General you might like the "Its Good to be General" post lower on this page.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PRODUCT REVIEW - BaoFeng Dual band UV-5R VHF/UHF Dual Band Radio 136-174 400-480Mhz Transceiver

Click the above link for more info

* Frequency Range: 136-174 / 400-480MHz 
* Dual-Band Display, Dual Freq. Display, Dual-Standby 
* Output Power: 4 /1Watts 
* 128 Channels 
* 50 CTCSS and 104 CDCSS 
* Built-in VOX Function 
* 1750Hz Brust Tone 
* FM Radio (65.0MHz-108.0MHz) 
* LED Flashlight 
* Large LCD Display 
* Hight /Low RF Power Switchable 
* 25KHz/12.5KHz Switchable 
* Emergency Alert 
* Low Battery Alert 
* Battery Saver 
* Time-out Timer 
* Keypad Lock 
* Monitor Channel 
* Channel Step: 2.5/5/6.25/10/12.5/25KHz 

1 x UV-5R (VHF136-174 UHF 400-480Mhz) 
1 x 7.4V 1800mah Li-ion Battery Pack 
1 x Antenna 400-480Mhz 
1 x Belt Clip 
1 x ENG Manual 
1 x Desktop Charger ( 100V ~ 240V ) 
1 x Earpiece 

Price, price, price!
Very good audio on TX and RX.
Great battery life.
Good sensitivity and selectivity.
Great features.
Expanded TX without modification.
Did I mention price?

Somewhat Mediocre build quality.(but fine for the price)
Programming cable not included.
Very quirky programming without the cable.
Almost Completely useless manual.
Channel skip and alpha tags only available using the programming software.
SMA Female antenna instead of standard SMA Male antenna.
Slow scan speed.

4 star rating.  Works great for in town and backup.  For the price can not be beat.

This is one of those things that you have to try to belive.  Although it will never be confused with Icom or any of the other major brands it works almost as well at a cost so far less that it is the Bic pen of radios.  I got one as a spare.  I am tempted to get a 2nd one as a 2nd spare at this price.  For less than a good pair of walking shoes this HT will give you countless hours of air time and fun.

Make sure you get a programming cable and save yourself some pain.

Click the above link for more info

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ham - Send in the Clowns

The Memorial Day Parade

There were no clowns, unless you count the pageant moms (but more about that later), but there was every other facet that makes a great parade. There were floats, military vehicles, police vehicles, horses (followed by guys with shovels), Scouts (of every shape and size), pretty girls, fire trucks, goats, dogs, cheerleaders, tractors, trucks, new cars, very old cars and very very small cars. Of course there was the main ingredient for any successful event, volunteer Hams. But I should start at the beginning.

We start, as all good Ham related activities do, with breakfast and coffee (lots of coffee) at a Waffle House near the event. I got there early to enjoy maximum conversation time with Hams I have not seen since last year’s parade.

Why is it in a hobby/community that is centered on communication we do so little of it over the year with those nearest to us but talk weekly or more with those thousands of miles away?

The coffee was good, the conversations great, life just doesn’t get any better than this. But all too soon its time to load up and get to the event.

It looks like an emergency evacuation as almost every vehicle in the Waffle House parking lot tries to pull out on the road at the same time, leaving one old guy in a pickup that was trying to pull in at the time, bewildered and questioning his choice of breakfast places.

We gather at the parade staging area (a church parking lot) and Earl hands out the maps, parade participant lists and makes assignments. Everyone loaded up on sun- block. The participants start filing in and get lined up. Everything went like clockwork.

About then I notice my row was comprised mostly of cheerleaders (cursed again) and all form of pageant winners. There were so many pageant winners they were loaded on floats in groups and I think some were double stacked (the floats not the pageant winners)

There were so many rhinestone tiaras my sun block gave up and took cover. There must be someone in town whose full time job is coming up with pageant titles. I think I saw a Little Miss Junior Pothole Lake View Sub-Division.

And with each pageant winner came a pageant Mom barking orders like a German field officer and trying to make sure their little darling had the best seat on the best side with the best lighting. There was more than one heated discussion among the Moms, very heated. If I had a large tub of Jell-O I could have paired up the Moms, sold tickets and made a few bucks ……….. but that would be wrong........ very,very,wrong.

Eventually it was time to start the parade. The rows unfolded like a large paper snake. Soon everyone was gone without a problem and it was over. Over till next year. We gathered for a group picture and then dispersed. Each alone in their vehicle but still connected to the others by the invisible thread of our radios. Where else can you have this much fun for free?