American Kestrel

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest raptor in North America.

I am still waiting for my amateur radio operator’s license to be issued. My name is similar to one on an “alert list” so the automatic system pulled my application and put it in queue for review by a real person. The estimated time is weeks. To say that I am a little bummed by this outcome would be an understatement.

But I have plenty to do. I am working on my station and there is a lot to do to set up an HF station. I have equipment, but antennas are an issue. I built a simple 40m dipole and erected it in my backyard. The matching transformer arrived last week (I will learn to build them as well), so I need to attach it to the mast and then tune the antenna to resonate at the middle of the 40m band.

In the meantime, I just put up a random wire antenna, stapled to the top of the fence along my backyard. I ran the feed line into my workroom and attached it to my transceiver last night. Reception is better than with the previous instance and I can hear traffic on the 80m and 40m bands. The bands are not open much right now because we are at sunspot minimum and so there is not much energy to drive the ionosphere, which is where much of the long-distance propagation occurs.

Morse code and the digital modes are going to be the mechanic for making contacts until the Sun becomes more active. I decided to make a real effort to learn Morse code while I wait for my license. I also will work on my portable station so I can operate away from town and all the noise here. I have plenty of access to quiet areas with elevation so low-power operation is viable. Besides that, I will get away from the house, be outside, and can camp a little. Both The Girl and I will like that.

There is plenty of other work to do, too. I have a bunch of images to review and process. The little raptor above was one of my recent captures. He/she flew up near me and posed prettily while I ran the camera. The Carson River floodplain was where I saw my first Kestrel and I see them often. They are furtive, though, and do not often provide me much time to capture an image.

I am enjoying the better weather lately. The Girl and I are walking the Carson River daily and the trees are about to leaf out. I hear blackbirds calling, woodpeckers drumming, and the geese are still honking. The river is up a little as the snow begins to melt and it looks like there will be abundant water this year. I heard one of the ARES members talking about releases from Lake Lahontan in anticipation of snowmelt and they are spilling excess water into the desert down near Fallon.

The Girl just wandered in. She is looking for breakfast and an outing. I need to retrieve the Fuji’s batteries from the charger and prepare it for another wander. I want a bite, too, but do not feel like cooking this morning. Subway has some decent breakfast sandwiches, so I think I will wander over there and pick up something. Then we can drive out to river, enjoy some sunshine, and spend some time outdoors. Perhaps Mother Nature will bring me a treat.

Pi Day 2019

Among other things that I do, I am an engineer. (Yes, I am doomed to a life of social ineptitude, see: this.) I am fascinated by all things mechanical and electrical. Therefore, the value represented by the Greek letter π is of special interest (and use) to me.

And, as it turns out, there is a day set aside each year (in fun) to remember π — March 14. Therefore, at 1556h today, I am taking a moment to celebrate six significant figures of π.

Happy π Day!

Resurfacing

This beauty watched The Girl and I as we approached. I spent a few minutes making some captures and talking to the raptor. It was a magical experience and something I live for.
I realize it has been a long time since I wrote anything here. A lot of water passed under the bridge.

Several of my projects all needed work done. Some of it was on deadline and some of it just needed to be done so that other parts of the project could proceed. So I found myself working a lot and having little energy left over for some of the other things that are important to me. One of those things is this space, where I enjoy parking some words and some of the images that I make as I wander through this life.

A few weeks ago a friend and I were sharing our weekly breakfast. We meet at the Red Hut Diner, spend some time bullshitting and some time talking about more serious things, and just enjoying fellowship. We are quite different and that is OK. I think that having people in my life who think differently than I do is not just intellectually stimulating, but it helps me steer away from confirmation bias.

While we were breaking bread and chatting, he told me he was preparing to sit the Amateur Radio Operator Technician Class license examination. I was reminded of my own intention to be licensed. I went so far as to purchase a manual a few years ago. But life got in the way and I let the intention go unattended.

“I’ll sit it with you,” I said. He looked at me, a little startled.

So, after seeing that my manual was out of date, I ordered a fresh copy (they change the question pool every few years and update the manual). I started working through the manual and then decided that I could probably pass the General Class exam as well. So I ordered that manual.

Neither of these manuals are very technical. There is a little in there, but nothing too challenging for an engineer. I emailed the examination coordinator and he gave me the details. He mentioned that one can take all three examinations, although he didn’t recommend that one take all three.

In the middle of this, I caught the flu. I was really ill for several days. It was the fever that was the worst. I continued my studies as I could, but I was really out of it for several days. A good friend brought me some supplies and I survived.

Then the project work was behind, so I was pushing to get work out again as I regained my strength.

Along the way I decided that I would try for the Extra Class license while I was at it. I learn best by immersion. So I ordered the final manual and began my studies while I took practice tests for the other two examinations.

We had a few nice days in this period of time. The sun came out and dried up some of the mud. The Girl and I walked some of our favorite spaces down by Carson River. The red-shouldered hawk in the frame came from one of those walks.

The weather turned cold and snowy again. Today it is spitting snow. The Girl and I will get out in a bit and get a little more walk in. Then I think we will go to the grocery store and retrovision the house. I need some food in the house.

In fact, I just heard her jump off the bed and shake… the ears flapping is always the give-away. My washer load is just about finished, so I can put my jacket into the dryer and start the other load. I should be finished with my laundry tonight as well.

Closing Out 2018

One of the tools I added to my kit this year is this beautiful Council Tool axe. It will serve me well and will be the last axe of this size that I need in my kit.

It is nearly the end of 2018. In fact, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. The revelers will be out partying. Many of them only need an excuse to get out and party.

I will be home with The Girl. We are unlikely to party, although I might raise a glass towards central Missouri and toast Wife, who is missed. (In fact, any time I get a glass from the stock, I raise it to Wife, remembering her life, remembering that she was and is loved, remembering that she is missed, and celebrating her life.)

The Girl is improving. She still seems off, and her right side does not seem as strong or as coordinated as her left. Her right eye seems a little askew to me as well. That is, when she looks at me, in addition to the head tilt to the left her right eye seems to be looking a little to her right of me. I have also noticed that she can no longer catch tossed treats and has problems locating them on the floor, until she uses her doggie-sense to search them out.

But we are walking our normal routes again. We walked more than 3.5 miles this morning and will have walked another half-mile circuit by the time this posts. We also had a nice play this afternoon and a nap. We both like playtime and nap time and it makes life really, really good. I am so blessed to have this beautiful creature be part of my life and am deeply grateful for her companionship and unconditional love.

I continue to encourage her to do things. She is reluctant to jump to the bed now, but learned that she can jump up on the workout bench at the foot of the bed, then jump to the top. We play tug and chase and she is again teasing me with a toy. Her coordination seems to be improving when we play. I am hopeful that there is more recovery to come. At least I am encouraged and thankful that her attitude has not changed and that she is engaged and active.

Among a few other tools, I bought a very nice Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe for my kit. I have an old red-handle Ace Hardware hand axe that I bought about 40-years ago. But it needs a new handle and is nowhere near the quality of this Council Tool axe. This one will go to my kids and maybe their kids after I am gone.

It will be part of my bushcraft kit and will go into the rig when I am out as part of my get-home or emergency kit. I have a small pack shovel that stays in the rig along with some emergency supplies as well.

I put a coat of boiled linseed oil on the handle this afternoon. It will be absorbed by tomorrow and I will add another coat to the handle then. After that I will decide if another coat is needed or not. The handle should be in excellent condition for this dry climate after that.

I also treated the sheath and handle guard with neatsfoot oil this afternoon. The guard seemed a little dry to me. I suspect both of those pieces will need another coat of neatsfoot oil tomorrow.

As an interesting aside, the neatsfoot oil had solidified in the garage with the cold weather. I was a little surprised by that. But a short soak in a sink full of hot water liquified it and a good shake mixed everything back up.

It is time to put away the Christmas music for another year. I added a few new recordings to my collection and culled a few that no longer please me.

But now I need a quick shower and then to get The Girl out for our evening outing. She will then want to be fed (of course) and will then starting pestering for doggie crack until I give in and get her a treat. She no longer wants to wait until sometime between supper and bedtime for her treat; she wants it NOW! Heh…

On Facebook and My Weblog

A couple of weeks ago I received a notice from WordPress that Facebook would disable cross-posting of my blog writings to my page. This morning I noticed that there was a warning to connect my weblog output to a specific Facebook page. That is, I can no longer post my weblog output to my personal Facebook page.

I am unsure why Facebook made this decision. It is likely another move to protect their business. I think it is short-sighted and inappropriate. But, I am also OK with one more disconnection from Facebook. It is not a service that I enjoy and I do not spend much time there. I will not spend much time there.

As a result, if you are interested in what I leave here on this site, then you will have to check it once in a while to see if I have posted something new.

Adjusting My Workspace

After a couple-three months of not writing/posting here, I decided that my weblog is still something I want to do. Since my last post (back in February), I have been plenty busy with work and other things. I have enough work to pay my bills. For that, I am truly thankful and give God the glory for his provision. I have more than I need and most of what I want. I spend some time every day outside with The Girl. It is a good life and I am grateful.

In addition to opening up space for my iMac, I was able to move the PC workstation from the floor to the top of the original six-foot worktable and move the monitors to the left. That left me space to center the keyboard. I also moved my B+W MM-1 speakers to the PC so that I can video conference from the PC workstation while sharing the screen with results.
So, with a break from work and travel, I elected to rework my home office. I found myself cramped with a 27-inch iMac and a new PC workstation with a pair of 28-inch Samsung 4K monitors. So Saturday I tore down the iMac, the PC workstation, and the peripheral support and set them all aside. I turned over the existing six-foot and fastened 1/2-inch cable clamps to the underside of the table and set screws to hold one of the surge protectors. I righted the worktable and moved everything to it and removed the other worktable, a five-foot unit I was using for the base of an L-shaped.

I then retrieved my other six-foot worktable from the garage and cleaned it up. I turned it over and mounted four more 1/2-inch cable clamps to the bottom and screws to mount two surge protectors. With that task done, I righted the table and set it next to the other.

The reorganization of my workspace includes exchanging the five-foot worktable with a six-footer. The iMac was moved from the adjacent six-foot worktable, opening up the workspace, providing me space to write (yes, handwrite, with a fountain pen), and work on small projects. I also added the Audioengine A5+ speakers and a 24-bit DAC to the workstation.
The hard work of lying on my back and wiring everything commenced. It took me an hour to route all the cables to their respective locations. I used cable ties to tie the cables to the clamps on the underside of each table. This keeps the cable mess under control and off the floor. I like having no cables on the floor for two reasons: 1) It makes keeping the floor much easier and 2) The Girl cannot get caught up in the cables and cause a disaster. She loves to curl up under that table when I am working and often walks under the table that sticks out from the wall to interact with me.

I added a set of Audioengine A5+ powered speakers to my iMac. I listen to music (a lot) and prefer speakers when working. I have not found a set of wireless headphones that do not have dropouts. (The exception is my Steelseries Arctis gaming headphones, but they are not really for music.) There was nothing wrong with the B+W MM-1s that I have. But I also want a set of speakers for my PC workstation because I use it for video conferencing through Skype and Google Hangouts with clients and colleagues. I do not want to use a headset for that interaction, so the B+Ws went to the PC and the Audioengine speakers are being given a workout on the iMac.

They are BIG, probably eight times the volume of the MM-1s. The larger drivers and increased volume of the cabinets makes a difference — a BIG difference. I am on my 30-day audition of the new speakers and will give them a real workout over the month. However, my initial impression is very good.

So, that is a summary of what I am up to. I have more images to post and more stories to tell.

Social Media

We pulled into the Red Hut parking lot Saturday morning to get some breakfast. In the pickup next to us this puppy watched use carefully through its tongue-licked window. It was worth a pause for the shot.
The dopamine hit we get from interacting with social media is addictive. FB knows this (hence Facebook and Instagram). Google knows this (YouTube anyone?). I suspect many other companies know it and use it.

A favorite IG’er, @NateArizona, posted a chat on IG recently and talked about this. It made me think (or rethink) my use of social media, particularly FB, IG, Twitter, and SnapChat.

I’m not a big user of any of them, with the exception of IG. But I limit my exposure to IG in that I follow only a few posters and they are either family, friends, or a few photographers whose work I admire. I mostly post to IG, but am unsure that results in any additional traffic here, to my weblog.

I do not receive any meaningful feedback from my posts on IG. I am pretty serious about photography and work every year to improve my sight and my skills. I post a few captures on IG because it’s quick and I enjoy it. But I have only a couple hundred followers.

Therefore, I question whether it is worth the effort to continue the IG exercise or to refocus that energy to working here on my personal webspace. Perhaps I should think about my goals for IG and how those goals fit into my goals for this website. If my photographs are print-worthy, then I could generate some income to offset the cost of equipment and travel to make more captures of interesting places, people, and things.

But, I digress in my stream-of-consciousness fashion. I was really thinking about the social media addiction (a dopamine hit addiction) that so many of us suffer. I followed FB pretty closely for awhile, before a writer I admire referred to it as “an exercise in abnormal psychology.” That captured my attention, along with reading about Fear-Of-Missing-Out (AKA FOMO) and I realized that I was really missing very little, with few exceptions. Avoiding FB resulted in an immediate drop in frustration level (and probably blood pressure) from all that mess.

When FB bought IG I was deeply concerned. I loved the way my follows showed up in the feed when I checked in. I could quickly and easily determine what was new and have a look at the work of creatives I enjoy. When FB abandoned the chronological feed for something far more obscure I was deeply disappointed. Now they are becoming more adamant about showing me feeds that I might like and sponsored posts that want me to buy something. It is becoming unbearable.

The last couple of major elections reinforced my thoughts when I saw how nasty people were on FB. It was a moment when I eschewed the platform, for the most part, only visiting now and again after posting something here to see if I had comments that needed response.

(For the record, I also keep track of a few family members and very close friends there.)

So where does this leave my thoughts? Well, I will continue to use the social media platforms on my current list. I might move much of my photographic work here and post less on IG. I will certainly maintain my distance from FB as that problem of psychology I mentioned. Twitter and SnapChat are not big consumers of my time and energy, so there really isn’t much to do there.

And then there is Ello. I have an account there I do not use much. There are many creatives on Ello. But I do not really grok the platform. Perhaps Ello deserves a little more attention as far as posting my images and some supporting text. If one of my goals is to reach a wider audience with my photographs and my words, then that might be an approach. It is clear that neither IG nor FB is a viable solution. They are both crowded spaces and the algorithms are not intended to provide creators with outreach; the algorithms are intended to keep users hooked and increase revenues. That sounds cynical, but it is what I believe.

It seems I have some additional work to do. But perhaps I better get The Girl out and make a capture for today. I am certain I can find something to catch my eye….

Winter

On walkies yesterday morning, I captured this image over at the old State Children’s Home. We had a lot of precipitation over the last week or so and everything is wet.
So I noticed this morning that I have not written in a couple of weeks. That happens when I get busy with other things.

The weather is poor. This morning it is snowing. I think there is almost six inches of new snow on the ground. It rained, spit snow, and showed a little sun yesterday. There was enough sun to encourage me to get out for a bit and walk. But everything is so wet. The ground is saturated and any new rain will be runoff with little abstraction.

I thought the Carson River might make flood stage. I think it came in just a little less, with a peak discharge of about 9,000 cfs on Monday. I have photographs of the river near River Park and near Mexican Dam. I think I will post them and post-date them to their proper dates.

It is the new year. Happy New Year, friends. I pray your celebrations were safe and enjoyable. I know that I saw the new year in via my normal fashion… snoozing with my dog. Heh…

Life is good. I have more to write and more photographs to make and share.

R.I.P Carrie Fisher

Like so many others, I am adjusting to the fact that Carrie Fisher died yesterday. When I saw the headline, I sat back in my chair and reflected for a few moments. I recalled thinking when I first read of her sudden illness that she would probably not make it. That was simply my intuitive response to the news. I had that feeling.

So, I was not particularly surprised at the news. I had been watching since reading about her heart attack, hoping for the best and that we would have an opportunity to hear that voice again. Alas, that is not to be.

I appreciated her work in film. Who didn’t admire Princess Leia. But I also loved her role in the Blues Brothers. I think that I like that role even more than the Star Wars role. She was so funny in BB.

I intend to read her books. They hit my radar a couple of years ago. I just have not taken time to read them, yet. Now I think I must.

I am so sorry to see you go, Ms. Fisher. I will miss your voice.

The Messy Middle

The messy middle is that place in a project where everything seems to be moving in a different direction.

Every project has that middle time when one is in the thick of it. Michael Hyatt calls this phase of a project the messy middle. It is a time when momentum is difficult to keep and distractions reign supreme.

About two weeks ago I moved into my place. There was an initial flood of things done and then the task of unpacking and organizing became more difficult. After setting up a workable kitchen, bedroom, and workroom, I repaired my bookshelves (new shelf pins, which required drilling out the holes). Then there was a flurry of unloading a buttload of books, and getting them onto the shelves in a semi-organized fashion, and moving boxes from the storage unit to my garage (where I’m staging them).

Now I’m in the messy-middle of this project. I am greatly slowed by the need to process the material in the boxes. I don’t want to just put stuff away; I want to sort as I go and choose which things I will keep and which will go away. This is daunting because of the level of decision-making required. I have to look at each thing, then decide.

So things are now much slower. I have to keep my focus and keep my momentum. I want to get this done. Then I can enjoy my place and the things I elect to keep.

But the lesson about the messy middle is well taken.