HF Antenna Installation

Added the Alpha Delta DX-LB Plus dipole antenna on tower.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

This past week, I finally decided to install the Alpha Delta DX-LB Plus multi-band dipole antenna on the tower. It was quite a job lowering the antennas to the ground, adding the 10 foot stand off and the antenna on the stand off. I have to say, I’ve had some pretty good performance on it as I connected it. My location is in central Oklahoma and my first call was on 17 meters QRP (5 watts) to Portland, Oregon. Shortly after that, I made a call and was answered in Trinidad and Tobago.

I am very pleased with the performance but I need to do some more work with the guy wire installation. As you can see in the image, there is an elevator installed and the guy wires are installed on the elevator. This leaves me in a complicated decision when severe weather comes. I have to choose between lightning or wind. The guy wires are going to have to be removed from the elevator and be installed on the tower directly. Though the tower is installed to be self supporting up to a 90 MPH wind, I still do not like having it without guy wires in the occasional high winds that Oklahoma is capable of having.

As it is installed now, if I lower the antennas to the ground, to protect from lightning, then the guy wires are lowered as well, leaving the tower with no protection from wind. That is my next project to fix this dilemma. That elevator is incredibly handy because as I get older, tower climbing is more dangerous. Not to mention, Oklahoma is notorious for wasps, and for some reason they love towers. Climbing a tower into a wasp nest is not a good situation to find myself. 🙂

I hope to get this fixed pretty soon but one thing you can count on with our weather is the summers are very hot. If I don’t get this fixed soon, the heat becomes and issue. I’ll post pictures when I get it completed. Thank you for stopping by.

Shortwave Radio Listening

Awesome new shortwave radio.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js My lifestyle has changed so much over the last few years that I’ve barely been using my Amateur Radio license and equipment. Recently I’ve been looking at a few shortwave listening groups on Facebook. While reading around in these groups, I’ve run across a few radios that I thought would be cool. Of course, I could just use my HF radio for shortwave listening, I can’t take it out on the back porch to listen. I thought I would settle on this radio, the Tecsun PL-880. It is really a nice radio with super sensitivity and channel separation. I’ve had this for about a week so far and I love it. It is so cool to listen to. I also enjoy medium wave (MW) AM radio DX at night. This radio does a great job at that as well. This radio does a great job scanning and automatically storing the channels in many pages of channels. It has 3,050 channels of storage. While it is expensive for its size, I am very pleased with it. I also love that it only has one battery that is chargeable via USB. I love this radio and will recommend it.

Trip to New York and Boston

My wife and I decided to celebrate our 29th Anniversary by going on a long desired trip to New York City.  My wife has always wanted to go but has never been able to.  The timing was perfect to be able to go to Boston, Massachusetts for the retirement ceremony of a friend at Hanscom Air Force Base.

We decided to drive on this trip because it gave us the opportunity to see many states that we’ve never been before.  One of those states was West Virginia as shown in this picture below.

Most of my family is from the Western part of the United States so we never  had a reason to go East.  I’ve never really seen much of the Eastern United States, other than Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. We did land at JFK airport in 1991, on our way to England for the Air Force.

One of the places that we’ve never seen before but really loved was a restaurant called Bob Evans.

Apparently this is a well known restaurant around the Northeast part of the country but we had never heard of them.  I have to say, their breakfast was wonderful. We stopped at this restaurant in Cambridge, Ohio. One of the more creepy parts of our trip was when we decided to stop for the night in Springfield, Ohio.  We paid for our room and opened the door to see that someone had already been staying in this room and it had not been cleaned.  You can see how the room looked when we opened the door.

In addition to this, the bathroom was still dirty with someone else’s towels still on the floor.  After complaining at the front desk, they got us another room.  The second room had water dripping from the ceiling in the bathroom with black mold over the toilet.  The next day we drove most of the day and was excited to see this view as we entered Jersey City, NJ.

In the course of two miles, we went from wide open spaces and beautiful scenery to this.  I was a bit alarmed when we suddenly, from out of no where stopped with the bottle neck traffic.  It was New Jersey so we adapted.

We actually stayed in an Air BnB in Jersey City, NJ. People thought we were crazy because this town has such a bad reputation for being ghetto.  Well, there were parts that looked scary but the place we stayed was very nice and the people were nice as well.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people when we got there. I’ve always heard stories about how rough people are there and not very friendly but thankfully that never really showed up in our experiences.  The next morning when we got up, we got on the PATH train from Jersey City to the World Trade Center.  You can see the crowd n this photo.

In the picture below you can see the World Trade Center station that arrived in. You can see how new everything looks after having to rebuild it after the attacks.

Of course, our first stop was the World Trade Center Memorial.

Of the many stops we made, the picture below is of Times Square.  When we arrived in NYC, our intention was to ride the subway around town. We didn’t think it through very well because what ended up being the case was this. We stopped to see one sight, and then looked at Google Earth and discovered other nearby sites, so we walked to them.  Once we got there, we looked at our map again and realized how close we were to other sites, so we walked again.  After doing this all day, we hadn’t realized just how far we walked.  By the end of the day, we had to ride the subway back because our feet were hurting so bad.  I can’t describe how much my feet hurt for days after this.  We ended up walking more than seven miles that day.

The next day we had tickets to the New York Yankees and Boston Redsox game and had planned on riding the subway all the way up to the Bronx.  When we got up that morning, our feet were still hurting so bad.  I just didn’t have it in me to walk the 3/4 mile back to the train station. I convinced my wife that we could just drive over there and pay for the parking.

Well the drive ended up being very expensive and a long commute, but we did it.  The George Washington Bridge cost us $15.00 toll, just to cross the Hudson river.  This doesn’t count the tolls on the freeway getting over there.  In this picture above, you can see the stadium as we arrived.

On this trip, we also went to Boston and along the way, we stopped at several places along the way.  As a 35 year Amateur (Ham) Radio operator, I’ve always heard of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).  It is in a town called Newington, Connecticut.  Since we were already right there, I wanted to stop and take a few pictures. This is the front of their building. We were sort of in a hurry so we didn’t go inside.

We also stopped at Plymouth Rock Massachusetts.  I really enjoyed this because of the history of the place.

After attending our friend’s retirement, we went downtown Boston to see a few sites and then have a nice dinner together.

We really had a good time on this trip, though it wasn’t long enough to see everything. We had an eight day trip, and we were traveling four of those.  Finally, on our way back home, we stopped at Niagara Falls.

We had not planned on going to Niagara Falls but along the way, we started seeing signs as we approached Buffalo, NY.  We both agreed to just drive a little out of our path and go see it before we went home.  It was an amazing site and I am glad we stopped.

This was not a well planned trip, as in preparation.  It was an idea that came up on short notice and we tried to save a little bit so that we could go on this trip without using credit.  Overall, the trip gave us some memories we’ll never forget. I do have to say that we are not that physically fit, and even though the much walking was good for us, it really wore us out.  By the time we got home, we just wanted to relax.  It was well worth it though because we hardly ever travel to visit places and it was a memory that we’ll never forget.

Flickr and Smugmug

Wow!  I just discovered that Flickr was sold from Yahoo! to Smugmug.  I am not sure if this is good or bad but I am cautiously optimistic.  It was widely covered, last year, 2017 that Yahoo! was selling itself and that Verizon was the winner with $4.5 Billion.  To me, that was very sad since Yahoo! was the first search engine that made it big.  As the pioneer, I really pulled for them to succeed but due to poor management decisions, they fell by the way side and shrunk in market share.

Yahoo! acquired Flickr in March 2005 and for some reason, never really put the resources needed for them to succeed, despite having a huge member base.  I joined Flickr with a Pro account in June 2005 and have been a paid member ever since.  They’ve had free versions but I wanted the unlimited account.  When Verizon took over Yahoo!, they merged them with America Online (AOL) under a new brand name Oath.  They sold off Flickr to Smugmug, a long time competitor to Flickr.

As a paid, Pro member of Flickr for 13 years, I’ve always been a fan and though a couple times, I considered dropping them due to Yahoo!’s neglect of them.  Flickr has been a very cool sight for photographers where you can upload your non reduced, original photos and share them with the world.  Now that Flickr is under new management, I am hopeful they can revive them back to relevance again.  I am going to renew my Pro account and hopefully we’ll see some improvements soon.

Many people today think that since Facebook allows uploads and so does Instagram, there is no more need for Flickr.  That is not true because those sights are not geared toward real photographers, with full size photos.  They are not even in the same category.  One thing that Flickr does that I use extensively is post on my personal blog with embedded images that are stored on Flickr.   This is huge because it prevents me from using up all my storage on my web hosting provider with photos.  In fact, the very photo that you see at the beginning of this blog, is hosted on my Flickr account.

While Google has their Google Photos, they are not the same.  They are very nice but they don’t have a designated page where the user can make their photos public for everyone to see.  I have family and friends that do not want their pictures published publicly and with Flickr, I can make some public while others are not.  I can share them with friends only, family only, public, or only me.  Who knows if this change will make things better but I sure hope so. Keep an eye out for my page and I’ll post more on it later as things change.

Wildfires and Drought

I know it seems like I am always posting about our never ending drought but this past week it has reached a critical point with ~400,000 acres of land burning in Oklahoma.  I took this picture from my front yard, this week, April 13, 2018 of the sun before it set.  You can see how thick the smoke was not only by looking at the sun but by looking at the haze between my vantage point and the neighbor’s houses. The amazing thing was these fires that were causing this smoke were 100 miles away.

This picture shows the same view without being zoomed up.  You can see that it was very thick and we had a air quality alert going on at the time.

In the last picture, you can see the view from the backyard with our weather station in the foreground.  Forgive the mess with the tree limbs. We cut some tree limbs and were waiting for the bulk pickup from the city.

Today is a huge blessing as we are getting our first significant rainfall in months.  As of me posting this, we have .56 inch of rain for the morning so far and I can still hear the rain falling.  We desperately needed this rain and I hope it continues for many hours to come.  It is getting old waking up to the smell of wildfires every morning.  It smells like someone is burning in their fireplace but then you realize, that it is not cold outside.

This has been a cooler than normal Spring, though we’ve had virtually no moisture to speak of. Tulsa is 100 miles from us and they’ve had more than three times the moisture that we’ve had here in Oklahoma City.  Hopefully today’s rains are a sign things are changing.  I just wanted to share a few photos of the smoke this week. Thanks for stopping by.

Flying Webs


This morning, we walked out into the backyard to enjoy the coolest morning we’ve had in a long time.  I looked up to the top of the tower to see these long webs blowing in the wind from top to bottom.  This is a zoomed up picture from the ground.  Of course it was a creepy sight so I had to grab the camera and take a few shots.  To give you an idea of the length of these things, look at the beam antenna. It is 15 feet long and these webs are much longer than it.

I did some research and found this is a normal thing called ballooning, each year where spiders build webs and migrate through the winds.  Some will get caught up in the jet stream and fly for thousands of miles.  I’ve seen a lot of spider webs all over the place lately but never really paid much attention until I saw these in such great numbers and lengths on our ham radio tower.  I put myself in great danger taking this picture directly under those birds. I did it for you, the reader. No thanks necessary.

Multicast Digital TV

Since American television stations made the conversion to digital back in 2009, there was the debate whether stations would opt to use their bandwidth for a high definition signal or use it for multicast broadcasting where a single channel will have multiple channels.  It appears that stations are able to do both to some degree.  Most major network channels broadcast at 1080i or at least 720p.  The secondary channels seem to be mostly lower resolution programming. There have been many new multicast networks that have appeared and gone away.  Here in Oklahoma City, we’ve had Antenna TV, MeTV, Get TV, Grit TV, Charge, Comet, EscapeLaff TV, Bounce, among others.  Recently with Sinclair TV stations creating their own networks, they have bumped a couple networks that we really enjoyed. We lost Grit TV and GetTV because they were on Sinclair stations.  So far we’ve managed find Get TV on another station in the local area. I really hope that we get Grit TV back.  We’ve also lost Laff TV and Bounce. I hope we get them back as well.

I do wish they would carry these stations on the satellite companies like Dish Network and DirecTV.  It is clear this is an ongoing evolution with networks becoming either growing market share or going out of business. As someone that has always been into this sort of thing, I am pulling for all of them to succeed.  I am hoping that we get even more of them.  Here in Oklahoma City, I have scanned 58 channels over the air.  That is another issue.  People need to remember to re-scan their TV’s frequently to capture these changes.  To be honest, I re-scan our TV at lease once a week.  I am constantly finding changes with new channels coming online and others going away. It is like a treat to find another channel.  If you haven’t re-scanned your TV with an over the air antenna, do it and you may be surprised.

Sprinkler System Installation

This past week we finally started a project that we’ve been saving for a long time.  We’ve talked about installing a sprinkler system for years but never got around to doing it.  On Thursday, April 13th we had Oklahoma Irrigation install our system for us.  They were over half way through when it began to rain.  They had to stop work until it was over and dried up a bit.  It was too wet to work on it the next day, yesterday.

They were going to come back yesterday but it was too wet. It looks like tomorrow (Easter) it is scheduled to rain again so they may not even be back on Monday.  We’ll see how conditions are.  I will never complain about getting rain so to me, I am okay with the delay.  Yes, the lawn is torn up but this is the third year in a row so I think we can handle it.  The first year, we had a storm shelter installed, then it was the ham radio tower pad and finally, now it is the sprinkler system.  I guess this will force our hand on dealing with the non grass around the storm shelter (cellar).  We are going to have to place some sod around it to get it growing now so that we don’t have erosion.  We’ve been holding off for this very project to get completed.

As you can see in these pictures, the lawn is a real mess.  We wanted to mow it and edge it last weekend but could not because the utility companies had to come out and mark the locations of their lines across the lawn.  They did this with paint and flags so I could not mow the flags over.  I can’t wait to get this project complete and the lawn begin to repair itself.  I’ll keep you posted with more pictures as it moves forward.

New Fence

Recently we had a new fence installed in our yard that we are very proud of. This is six foot steel fence that sits on top of a concrete barrier all the way around the yard.  Our old fence was the standard wood stockade type fence that gets old looking in short order

I can’t say enough about what a great job they did installing it. We used a company called Iron Tough Vinyl Fence. While we did not go with the vinyl, they were very professional and did a more than satisfactory job.  The best part is that it is paid for and we do not owe them anything.  My wife and I have been talking about doing this for a long time but we wanted to wait until we could afford to get it done. We had many colors to choose from but we finally decided on the brown color with the tan trim.

In this final picture, you can see the tan trim a little better. Please ignore the two Crape Myrtle stumps in front of the fence. 🙂  They will grow back thick before you know it. They have to be trimmed back at the end of the season anyway and this allowed the fence workers to get in there without tree limbs in their face.  As you can see in the pictures, there are no leaves on the trees as this was done in February.  That explains the lack of flowers in the flower bed. 🙂  I won’t lie, the fence was expensive though I will not reveal what we paid for it. To us, it is worth it because we live in the city and it gives us the privacy that we desire.  When we moved back into the city, we were concerned that we would not have the privacy that we had at our old house.  This allows us to be in the backyard and not see a single person or window of a neighbor’s house.  It was worth every dime to us and we would definitely recommend one for anyone.