Monthly Archives: March 2009

Just Pretend You Don’t Know Me!

It was not the first time, and certainly not the last time. It has happened to you at least twice, too. You don’t exactly want to tell people not to “mail” you, in case they might, someday, actually say something to you. Even though they have never sent you a personal message they wrote themselves. And so you will receive those emails intended for everyone you’ve ever emailed.

A few months ago I forwarded a message to two people, thinking it was a good idea to share this one. I didn’t share it with more people because it seemed just a little iffy, just didn’t fully seem on the level. I addressed it to two friends I felt sure would examine it.

One of them replied in short order and said something to the effect of, “Jim, it is a hoax. You can look it up at http://factcheck.org. I did and you can see the explanation for yourself. I think people are just phishing for email addresses. I never forward messages like this unless I research them first.”

A couple of examples come to mind. One is a warning, for the third or fifth or more years, to program ICE numbers in your cellphone so emergency workers can know who to call for you. Another is a warning about some health hazard or other, again something old and worn by now and not meriting copying to “everyone you know”.

And there are countless versions about legislative considerations. You can see these yourself at http://snopes.com or http://factcheck.org. So many of these (maybe all of them?) ask you to help your friends by just sharing the message. If you forward this message to everyone you know and they also do so, we can stop a former democratic party presidential candidate from selling books about global chilling. . .

Okay, great lesson for me. Researching messages forwarded to me might keep me from forwarding messages that clog email and internet and waste people’s time, while possibly only adding a bunch of email addresses out there in the aether for someone to stumble upon and sell. I don’t want to contribute to this.

Last week I received three messages about a Social Security scare. Is the US Congress really granting Social Security benefits to illegal aliens? Again, you can check this out at either factcheck or snopes. No, I didn’t forward it.

The third message was a reply all from one of the hundreds of recipients, and his reply was short and to the point.

He said, “When you receive a message telling you to forward to everyone you know, just pretend you don’t know me!”

Ditto.

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Rain today won’t help dry conditions?

We were, delightfully, caught in rain on our way home from church this morning. The rain started as a lightly falling shower and briefly increased to a soaking rain. For the past three hours we’ve enjoyed gray skies and consistent pattering of rain on our Airstream’s roof.

Rainfall, for us, creates a different day’s plan. Outdoor living occupies a major part of most day’s activities. Our rainy day out-of-doors space includes a 7′ X 16′ covered patio, just large enough for four chairs closely spaced. Rainy days focus us on the wonder of God’s creation as we listen to liquid sunshine beating a rhythm on the Airstream’s roof, skylights, and awnings. We read the newspaper and other media and find other indoors activities.

The few little rainfalls we’ve had in the past two weeks have greened up the lawns and golf courses a little bit. And the rain provided us a little fun as we read the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspaper. Today’s local news from Melbourne reports, “Rain today won’t help dry conditions”. Doesn’t it make you think, “What, will the rain dry things out?” I read it again and realized, Of course, rain wets the conditions. Right? Boy, those editors are sharp.

HAMS ASSIST WOMAN INJURED IN DESERT ATV CRASH

This article is well-written and a great account of emergency assistance rendered by hams. I thought you’d enjoy it. Some of us (many?) don’t carry FRS radios, but may have two hand-held portable ham radios that would more than suffice for the short-haul communications near the site. And either our truck’s radio or especially our RV’s radio would reach the local repeaters to communicate up to 65 or 100 miles away.

The following article is from the American Radio Relay League, the member advocate organization of American amateur radio operators like us.

==> HAMS ASSIST WOMAN INJURED IN DESERT
It was a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, when Hal Whiting, KI2U, Todd Kluxdal, Kluxdal’s father and Whiting’s two sons decided to go out to the Poverty Mountain area in Arizona to search for airplane crash sites. Whiting, who lives in St George, Utah, and Kluxdal, who lives in Mesquite, Nevada, took two vehicles that day. According to Whiting, they always take two vehicles, just in case a problem pops up: “We always have two spare tires, extra gasoline and a tow rope. We take enough food and supplies to stay two or three days.” In addition to the extra equipment, Whiting took the one thing he never goes without — his ham radio.

“It was a bit after lunch, about 73 miles into our trip,” Whiting told the ARRL,” when we were flagged down by a man wanting to know if we had a satellite phone, since he couldn’t get coverage on his cell phone.” Whiting didn’t have a satellite phone, but he asked the man if this was an emergency. Whiting said that the man told him that one of his friends had been injured when her ATV rolled on top of her. “I told him I could call for help on my ham radio,” he said. The injured woman was knocked unconscious by the fall, but had regained consciousness and was speaking coherently, but was in pain.

“I picked up my mic and put out a call on the 146.910 repeater, one of four repeaters run by Dean Cox, NR7K,” Whiting said. “I called for assistance a couple of times when Mac Magee, N6LRG, in the Arizona Cane Beds, answered.”

“Mac lives about 50 miles away from the accident site,” Whiting said. “It’s funny — it’s usually Washington County hams who are on the repeaters, since that’s the direction they’re pointed in. But Mac lives in Mohave County. And the accident happened in Mohave County. We were lucky, since if the call was answered by a ham in Washington County, there would have been a delay in them getting the info to the proper authorities in Mohave County, but with Mac answering, all our information went right to the proper place.”

That morning, Magee told the ARRL that he came into my shack “and for some reason, turned on the 2 meter rig and it happened to be on the 146.910 repeater. I usually have a problem with the repeater ‘hearing’ me, so I rarely use it. About 11:20 Arizona time, I heard someone call and say they had emergency traffic and needed help. I fully expected a bevy of hams to answer the call, since so many are in range of that machine, but after his second call, and no answer, I took it.”

Magee said that the calling station had been flagged down by another motorist. “He told me there had been an accident in the vicinity of Poverty Mountain,” he said. “I really had no idea where that was, but I began to write down details. As soon as I had basic info, I called 911. The Mohave County Sheriff Office answered; I explained who I was and what the call was about.”

The dispatcher asked Magee for the coordinates to the site, and Magee relayed the request to Whiting. “I looked at my GPS and gave Mac my coordinates, but he said the dispatcher wanted the coordinates from the accident site,” Whiting said. “So I got in my 4-wheel drive and drove down the ridge to the site, about 5600 feet above sea level, and got the coordinates. I had to drive back to the ridge, another 1000 feet up, to call Mac back, because I couldn’t get a signal down there.”

Whiting told the ARRL that in addition to his ham radio, he also carries a set of FRS radios. “I gave one of the FRS radios to Todd and he drove his Jeep down the ridge to the accident site,” he said. “I kept the other one and Todd was able to relay me information about the injured woman’s condition and I was able to relay that information to Mac who in turn relayed it to the 911 dispatcher. Mac put the mic right up to the phone so the dispatcher could hear exactly what was going on.”

Magee said the 911 dispatcher requested more information: “While Hal was replying, I held the phone up to my radio speaker. When he finished with the details, I asked them if they copied that. The dispatcher said he did, and they held me on the line. Hal and I talked a while as he gave more data. When the dispatcher returned, they said a chopper was being dispatched from Phoenix! Well, we finished that call after they had the actual accident site GPS coordinates that Hal had passed on.”

With emergency help on the way, Kluxdal returned to the ridge and he and Whiting and his group went on their way to go check out an airplane crash site, the original intent of their trip. “The family members told us to go on and get on with our trip, so we did, after making sure they were all okay,” Whiting said. “So we left to go to the crash site, about 3-4 miles away. As we were getting ready to return, we saw the helicopter overhead, taking the injured woman to the hospital in Las Vegas. We returned to the top of the ridge and a sheriff’s deputy was there and he told us that our GPS coordinates were off, but only by 20 feet! He said that the helicopter crew was real happy that they were so on-target.”

Whiting said they were glad to have been able to help. “This is a remote area,” he said. “There’s only one way in, one way out with no shortcuts to get in and out. There are only dirt roads, and it can get very muddy when it rains a lot. I was out that way two weeks ago and got stuck in the mud there, but it was all dry this past weekend.”

Whiting said he learned a few things after this trip: “I am glad I had my radio equipment with me, and I am glad there was someone listening on the repeater to take the emergency call. Having the spare FRS radios created an efficient means for relay with a non-ham person, and having the GPS equipment provided a very effective means for the helicopter rescue team to locate the accident, since they did not want the road designation information but the exact patient coordinates. It would have been useless to have my equipment if there had not been someone listening. This proves that there is a good reason to keep your radios with you and in good operating condition.”

Whiting, who was first licensed in 1976, is the ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator for Washington County. A CAD Manager and Aerial Photographer for Bulloch Brothers in Mesquite, Nevada (he and Kluxdal are co-workers), he is currently teaching an Amateur Radio licensing class to 13 prospective hams at the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St George.

Magee said that before this incident he had never been involved in an actual emergency. “I have established emergency communications networks, in particular for the LDS Church in Newbury Park, California, where I was the Stake Emergency Communications Coordinator.” He told the ARRL: “Our communications group won the first worldwide test of the system back in the late 1980s. This is like ARRL Field Day, but involved mostly LDS members and facilities, then under the name of Mercury Amateur Radio Association (MARA) . I feel very pleased in knowing that I had the opportunity to serve in this rescue incident and that every penny I spent on my system, radio and antenna was certainly worth it. In these days of extensive cell phone service and coverage, isn’t it satisfying to know that ham radio can still be of use for public service?”

Thanks to ARRL for this great article! This article is from The ARRL Letter, Vol. 28, No. 11, March 20, 2009.

Last Dance

Yesterday we had our last dance class of the season. Ancient Oaks RV Resort offers a lot of volunteer opportunities and, fortunately for us, someone volunteered to organize dance classes. Al and Darlene use video tapes and dvds with dance instructions on them, and we all watch and try to repeat what the instructors did.

One couple might seize upon the correct dance steps first, and everyone says, “Hey! They got it, we’ll watch them.” Debbie and I have learned the waltz, sixteen step polka (our best), and cha-cha. We’re not really competent in any of these and only through a lot of practice might we even be brave enough to display our new talent.

A month ago we might have had up to eight couples in dance class. Things are slowing down a little; today we were three couples. The decline in dance class attendance is representative of what’s happening across the resort. People are heading north.

Tonight was the annual golf banquet, celebrating a dozen weeks of matches and awarding prizes to the top six duos. My partner and I won fifth place and only one point separated each of the places, fifth through first. Only a few golfers were absent from this celebration. But we heard many stating they were leaving next week.

After all, if there’s no golf league activity, why would folks stay? Hmm, how about tennis, shuffleboard, horseshoes, line dancing, aerobics, card-playing and great socializing, among other activities? We’ll stay a little longer, thank you.

Plumber’s helper or a push rod?

Last summer while at Bozeman, MT, a call came on our club’s radio net asking for a toilet plunger. It seems the caller, who shall remain unnamed, had a blocked toilet in his RV. He asked the other listeners on the morning net if anyone could loan him a plunger. They offered him a stick instead. A stick?

If you’ve seen most RV’s toilets, they are gravity flush from the bowl through a neck and straight down into the holding tank. This arrangement is inexpensive, extremely simple, and darned reliable. But accidents do happen. Oh crap! Yeah, sometimes movements stop on the way down, wedged in the narrow neck between the toilet dump valve and the tank.

Who hasn’t heard of, or used, a plumber’s helper? Many, if not most, Americans have indoor plumbing. Almost all residential indoor plumbing includes a siphon flush toilet. The siphon refers to a means of creating a trap for water to separate sewer gases from our indoor environment, while still allowing body waste (and whatever else your family throws into the toilet) to flush from the bowl into the sewer drain piping. And the siphon, depending upon specific design, can sometimes be just a little too curvy or small for the job.

What then? Most households have a plumber’s helper somewhere in, or near, the bathroom. A plumber’s helper hardly has an equal for the job of clearing a blockage from the bottom of the bowl at the siphon’s mouth. A push or three of the plumber’s helper will almost always clear the blockage and allow the bowl to flush and refill. This works because the plunger uses hydraulic force of water displaced from the plunger cup, as you push the handle, to clear the siphon of obstructions.

Okay, back to the RVs. Without a siphon trap between the bowl and the waste piping, waste and water dump straight down to the holding tank. Well, this is usually what happens. What if it doesn’t? The blockage is in the neck, or pipe, below the bowl. A plunger is not the tool of choice, unless one wants to turn it around and use the cup as a handle. A plunger won’t help because there is not water to capture in the cup and force downward.

Now what? The unfortunate RVer last summer quickly received at least a half-dozen offers of “a stick” to clear the blockage. A small diameter toilet brush would work, or any sort of stick of approximately 18 to 24 inches length will work fine. The remedy is simply to push the obstructing waste down through the neck. The waste will then fall into the tank.

A push stick would be a one trick stick, and where could I store it? I’ll just use the johnny mop, and clean the brush and bowl when I’ve cleared the blocked toilet pipe. Sticks and bricks houses have plumber’s helpers, we have a johnny mop in the bathroom. Luckily our johnny mop almost exclusively serves as a bowl cleaning tool. And only rarely, we may use it as a push rod.

Recent Attack on Nike Missile Site

attackers defaced this missile assembly building

attackers defaced this missile assembly building

An unknown number of attackers recently infiltrated NIKE Missile Site HM-69, near Homestead AFB. They recklessly entered area despite heavy security and counter-measures. The only reported losses are to the integrity of this gallant memorial to the Cold War. The punks apparently sprayed graffiti at several locations in a remote area of the former missile site. Plans are underway to increase surveillance and repair the damage.

Ranger describes the purpose of the launch bunker

Ranger describes the purpose of the launch bunker

The ICBM program was anchored at this outpost, deep within the Everglades National Park. Nowhere was the NIKE Missile defense so engaged and tested as at HM-69, according to our tour guide, Kirk Singer, Captain, USMC Ret’d. Captain Singer provided an excellent narrated tour of the missile site, showing us the missile assembly building, the three missile barns, and the launch pads.

Visitors expressed shock and outrage at this vandalism. Most of the visitors grew up well aware of the Cold War and appreciate the service valiantly given by the servicemen. A half-dozen of the men in our party served in the U.S. Armed Forces during that tense period. Several of the visitors were actively engaged in some facet of the U.S. air defense forces.

A highly suitable perimeter defense agent

A highly suitable perimeter defense agent

We all left with a greater appreciation for the training and duties carried out by our Armed Forces. And we carry an increased disappointment and anger toward misguided souls who express their art on national monuments. Maybe a well-stocked moat around the missile site would work? Hey punks, look who’s waiting for you!

Gorgeous Great Blue Heron

Gorgeous Great Blue Heron

There are more photos from our visit today to the Nike Missile Site and from the Everglades National Park. See the rest of our photos from today’s trip here.

Buick, Chevrolet, or Dodge?

I walked the perimeter of Ancient Oaks Resort this evening, on errands. I signed us up for the golf league banquet, bought an $8 Mizuno driver to add to my golf bag, begged off from tennis tomorrow morning, and picked up our mail at the park post office. It is really neat living in this sort of neighborhood, where we can walk to everyone’s houses in short order.

Ancient Oaks Resort has 686 sites, all paved and with full hook-ups (water, sewer, electricity, and cablevision). Almost all sites are occupied. Less than 1/3 of the sites have motor homes or trailers. Most sites have a park model (single-wide with or without an added room along its length) on the site.

All sites have vehicle parking in front of the motor home or trailer or park model. And some sites have, in front of their dwelling unit, a car or truck, a boat, a golf cart, and bicycles. The age of residents (minimum age is 55, no maximum age) and their physical condition leads some to opt for three-wheeled bicycles and others for no cycle at all. Some, like us, walk a lot. Others use scooters, golf carts or their cars for in-park errands.

Each time I walk the park I seem to notice different things. Tonight, not for the first time, I was surveying the motor vehicle collection. It is not as varied as I would have thought. Let’s see how well you can guess the makes and models of the cars/trucks in this retirement community. I’ll ask you a series of questions in this short quiz, and give you the answers below.

1. What is the make of car most frequently found in this park?
2. What is the loudest motor vehicle in the park?
3. What is the second most annoying vehicle noise in this park?
4. How many of each of the following makes are represented in the park: Audi; BMW; Volvo?
5. How many of each of the following makes are here: Acura; Infiniti; Hummer; Mercedes; Saab; VW?
6. How many Honda automobiles (cars, not SUVs or vans) are here?













Answers:
1. Buick
2. Mark’s truck, directly across the street from us
3. Golf cart back-up alarms — How long must people back up?
4. One each [but they’re such nice cars]
5. None [why none?]
6. Two — one Accord, one Civic. But there are many, many CRV SUVs and Odyssey vans.

How did you do? I would have flunked had I not written the test myself. And unless you are in this park you couldn’t have known the answer to #2 although you may, in any neighborhood, be able to relate. You really can’t help but learn, more than you wanted, about when they come and go, you know?

We weren’t surprised by Buick winning first place. And the relatively new and very popular Lucerne models have helped make Buick #1 in this park. If we honored second place, it would go to Chevrolet, helped especially by the Malibu and Impala models but also with some of the ultra small models.

But we were at first very surprised to find only two Honda cars and so few of the other former great imports. I wonder if this might reflect on the marketplace back home, where these folks are from. Toyota and Lexus are well-represented here, but not Honda or many other import models.

Could it be because, as another neighbor suggested, this park is “middle class”? Well, yes, perhaps to a degree. But given one more piece of information about the vehicles I think the answer may be more plain. Where is home to the owners of these vehicles?

Many of the residents of this park are from Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and other big manufacturing states. I think we can count on one hand the number of residents from the northeast states, but Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan might represent half of all residents. Do you think a retired person from Detroit would be more likely to own a Buick than a Volvo? Maybe so.

When I walk I am not counting, just noticing. I can’t walk and keep track of information very well. Information just leaks out, replaced or over-ridden by fresher content. None of the above is, nor is it intended to be, anything other than my observations and conjecture. Why do people buy this and not that? Marketing people are getting pretty darned good at this, but I don’t know why anyone does anything.