Playing Catchup

Playing Catchup

Or if you prefer, Ketchup.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

Rather, I simply chose not to.

Here’s what’s been happening with us lately.

Work has been crazy. We’re gearing up for the annual NFB National Convention which takes place in Detroit starting July 2nd. It’s always a crazy, but massively fun, week.

Treva just finished work on a video to promote mentoring of blind youth by blind adults. She put a ton of work into it and it came out exceptionally well!! If it ends up online I’ll link to it.

In non-work related, but completely geeky, news. I upgraded my amateur, ham, radio license to Extra class (the highest level) and Treva earned her Technician class license. Somewhere around the 20th of May I decided that it it had been 14 years and I hadn’t advanced my license very far (I upgraded from Technician to Tech Plus somewhere around 1996 or 1997 which only required a 5WPM morse code test) and I decided it was about time to do something about it.

There were two exams I needed to pass to upgrade to Amateur Extra. The General class exam is a 35 question test on intermediate theory, regulations, and radio wave propegation. The Extra class exam consists of 50 questions on some of the more obscure, but no less important, regulations, advanced electronics theory, and operating practices including Amateur Television and using Amateur Radio Satellites.

When I started studying I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if I could complete the upgrade by the 2009 ARRL Field Day which begins June 27. Field Day is an annual operating event that runs for twenty-four hours during the last full weekend in June. It is an opportunity both to test operating in abnormal conditions, clubs and individuals will often set up operating in tents and use power sources such as generaters or batteries to simulate emergency operating conditions, and as a public relations tool to teach people about amateur radio. It’s usually one of my favorite operating activities aside from public service events. Many years I am unable to participate since the NFB convention frequently falls on the same weekend, but with the 4th of July falling where it does I get to do both.

When I first started studying I thought that it would be cool to take the General and Extra exams at the same time and just “get it done”. I used a combination of the ARRL study guides and Simon, AA9PW’s, Online Practice Exams to prepare. There was a point where I thought I wasn’t going to be able to pass the Extra (some of the theory was killing me), but when I started passing the general exams I crammed for it the last week before I planned to take the actual exam.

That’s when Treva started studying for her Technician exam too. See, I’m definitely a radio geek. I think it iss much easier to use a radio to pass quick messages when you’re at a convention or other event than to use a cell phone. Especially some of these convention hotels where mobile phone coverage is abismal to say the least. I’d kind of been bugging her to get her ham license for a couple of years. We’ve had General Mobile Radio Service licenses for a while, but in areas where they even exist GMRS repeater information is scarce and many urban areas suffer from channel congestion because of the “bubble pack” radios fromWal-Mart and the like. (Most of what we need will be simplex, but occasionally a repeater will be handy.) (You can’t conduct your employer’s business on ham radio, but generally we’re just trying to figure out where the other person is, or I’m being sent on a Diet Coke Run :-)).

I’ve also been playing around with Amateur Satellites. We’ve got several of them up there, and since there are bonus points for satellite contacts during Field Day, I’ve been trying to see if I can successfully use one. So far I’ve almost heard one (I had extremely minimal capture, but couldn’t pull anyone out of the noise) and heard it on a subsequent pass (I forgot to compensate for doppler, and had to move out of the way of a car in the parking lot, so lost it before I could try to make a contact). I’m going to try again tomorrow morning and see what happens.

I wonder if I can convince the apartment complex people to give me a key to the roof so I don’t have to “play radio” in the parking lot to get a clear shot at the sky.

Wow, sorry, this has turned into way more of a radio geekery post than I planned.

You can wake up now… Really, you can… HEY! Wake Up! 🙂

I’ve also been geeking around with a couple of computer projects, but I’ll save those posts for when they’re actually working.

We ditched our cable company at the end of May. Over memorial Day weekend we obtained an DTV converter and antenna to see if we could get the broadcast network channels. Most of what we watch is either on a broadcast network or reruns. We figured we could just keep using Netflix, Hulu, or similar digital streaming/download services to get the rest. I can’t say I’ve even noticed that we haven’t had it.

I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of anything that will not bore you any more than you already are.