Sunday, December 31, 2017

Good Bye 2017

Small accomplishments. According to my iDevices, I met my modest exercise goals for most months. All except August and September. In each of those months, I missed one day. Filling in all of the “circles” everyday for the year is something to strive for next year. The first picture is Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Not at all what I remember but a good backdrop for Happy New Year. The video below is a quick two minute summary from the year.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New-Old Battery for the Ural

The Ural project of the day was more battery power. When the temperature drops, you have one chance to start the bike. The stock battery will turn the engine over about 4-5 revolutions before giving up the ghost. Usually, this is enough but the last couple of times that I had the bike sitting outside, I had to resort to the Antigravity battery pack. Which, by the way, works great. With it connected, the engine turns over much faster than with the just the stock battery. I still had the group 24 automotive AGM battery from the BMW/Cozy rig including the marine battery box. Since there are no plans for anyone to ride in the sidecar this winter, I removed the seat and fastened the box to the floor. I already had a set of two 4 AWG battery cables and ran them over to the stock battery location. I used the positive post on the stock battery as a terminal and moved the ground cable from the negative post to the battery hold down screw with all of the other negative terminals. What this really does is allow me to procrastinate on replacing the stock battery, Which is only three years old.

Other items that I hadn't installed this winter due to lack of riding are the handlebar muffs. Basically, something to block the wind enabling the heated grips and/or heated gloves to work. I completely forgot about these things. They are kind of a hassle to use as I can't see any of the switches. They are rigid enough to slip my hands in but they have pumped the kill switch. These are just the cheap versions from the local Sportsman's Warehouse but they work well enough. Ideally, I would like to install some Barkbuster shields as they would keep these from putting pressure on the levers. I need to make a constant effort to check that the levers aren't partially pressed due to wind pressure.

I also dug out the Bombardier Modular 3 winter helmet. It has a heated visor and a very claustrophobic face mask that re-directs your breath out the side of the helmet. I couldn't find the power cable but fortunately, it is simply an RCA audio jack.

Thursday Morning Update - Of course, with any change, you have to test so I rode to coffee this morning. A rather chilly -23°C (temperatures sound colder in celsius! It was only -8°F) and just a faint glow on the south eastern horizon.  Even with rig cold soaked, it started literally on the first compression. It didn’t run very well for the first few minutes. Unlike when it's in the garage, I actually let it sit and idle for maybe 5 minutes while I got ready to go. The winter helmet worked great. No fogging of either the visor or my glasses. After getting home, I put the rig back into "storage" as my mom is flying back to Fairbanks tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

First Ride of the Winter

I took advantage of a quiet day to take the Ural out for a spin. It was -5°F (-21°C) but I didn't want to bother digging out the Bombardier winter helmet. I regretted this about 10 minutes later as frost started to form between the Pinlock shield and the visor. It seems like at these cooler temperatures, the plastic used by Pinlock shrinks more than the plastic visor and the seal is lost. When I stopped to take the picture, I removed the Pinlock shield before continuing on. With it removed, I could periodically scrape off the frost from the inside of the visor. The visor of the Bombardier helmet is made double layer so moisture can't get between the layers to frost up. Next time.

I could tell that I didn't have as many studs in the rear tire as it would occasionally break loose, i.e. lose traction, when downshifting. Not really an issue as long as you are aware of it. I still haven't put on the handlebar muffs but between the heated grips and gloves, my hands were plenty warm. I was not intending to ride at these temperatures anymore but since the rig was out, then why not go for a little spin.

My son gifted me with an interesting kitchen gadget. An air fryer. It uses hot air instead of hot oil to cook food kind of like the hot air popcorn poppers. It works pretty well with results similar to deep frying. This morning, the hash brown potatoes were crispy on the edges and the only oil used was a light spray of olive oil. This afternoon, I had to try making fried chicken. I was impressed with the results. Just like regular fried chicken without the oil or the messy cleanup.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

A clear, cold day. Just about perfect for sitting around the house. The rest of the family took off to see the new Star Wars movie. Eventually, the BlueRay version will come out and I'll put off watching it some more. I pulled the Ural out of storage and charged up the battery. There is a slight parasitic draw from the PDM60 power distribution module. I didn't even try to crank the engine as the voltage was in the 11.5 VDC range. After letting the carbs refill with the petcock in the prime position, it started right up. The battery never really went above 13 VDC so it may be time for a new battery. I think that too many really discharges have damaged the battery. I'm a little torn whether to pick up a new AGM battery from WalMart or make up some new cables and use the group 24 battery that I had in the Cozy sidecar...

I had this post started a few days ago and figured that I better get it posted.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice

According to WeatherUnderground, the sun was "up" for 3 hours and 40 minutes today. In reality, we had snow coming down and dark clouds during our daytime. For the next six months, the days will be getting longer now that it is officially winter. Today's snow was heavy and wet and I almost needed to chain up just to plow our driveway. The most challenging part was just connecting the plow as the truck wanted to slide sideways. And this was just in our driveway. We need some real winter temperatures. It was an almost tropical 29°F today.

Things are pretty quiet around here. Still going to the gym a couple of times per week even if it's just to use the treadmill. I picked up the programming cable for the dual-band HT radio and using a free software package called Chirp, I set up the local repeaters plus the NOAA weather channels. There isn't a lot of activity during the day but enough for me to play around with. Still trying to get familiar with the repeater guidelines. Such as announcing that you're tuned in and listening or how to answer. There is another active ham in the area that has a call sign really similar to mine so I always need to use the phonetic alphabet for the last two letters of my call sign. I'm also starting to learn CW aka morse code as it is still used as the requirements are much more achievable here in Alaska.

I finally got around to installing the cables for the four golf cart batteries from the trailer. I then used the "smart charger" to do an equalization. With the garage temperature at about 40°F, that meant a charging voltage of around 15.6 VDC. The "smart charger" is designed for a 60 amp-hour battery and not the 430 amp-hour bank. But it eventually got it done though it took a few days. I then topped up the water in all of the cells again. None of the cells were very low (i.e. no plates showing) but between all four batteries, I added around 48oz of distilled water.

I'm finally done with the IPv6 video and it is now uploading to YouTube. I have it embedded below though I should warn you that the production value is modest, the target audience is pretty small, and it's almost 3 hours long.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

New Orleans and AGU (final)

While waiting for the airport shuttle, I took a walk to Bourbon Street. At one of the bars, there was this tribute to three well known jazz musicians. “Fats” Domino, Al Hirt, and Pete Fountain. This was one of the few places open in the afternoon. I found K-Paul's Louisianna Kitchen, one of the restaurants I had heard about back when chef Paul Prudhomme had a PBS cooking show back in the '90s. There was a sign in the door that said "Gone Fishing".

Bourbon Street itself was barely passable as it was being torn up. Not only the street but in many areas, the sidewalks as well. It’s kind of sad to see the stone and brick sidewalk surfaces being removed. So you need to move from one side of the street to the other depending on what was being worked on. After a couple of blocks of this, I headed a couple of blocks to the south and headed towards the hotel (roughly). I passed a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that had a line outside the door. There was a sign stating no parties of one. Moving on.

For these posts, I just thought that I should include at least a couple pictures of this iconic street even in its current state. I suspect that there won't be a trace of construction in a couple of months for Mardi Gras. Some businesses were cleaning the area in front of their door. Others were full of trash and garbage. I overheard some tourists asking others why everyone is so rude. Like many other places, there are some but I don’t think it was the norm. Maybe in the more touristy areas such as the French Quarter. My flight home is leaving this evening getting into Fairbanks in the middle of the night.

There was a lot of discussion about the NOAA Arctic Report Card. Kind of a depressing end to my experience at this AGU Fall Meeting.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

New Orleans and AGU (cont.)

The morning block of talks I attended was the use of drones to study natural events such as volcanos, floods, and avalanches. What is notable is how much cheaper and how much more capable modern drones are. The DJI Phantom 4 has been modded to carry a lot of instrumentation with ranges of over 10km from the control point. The availability of cheap pieces and parts enable the price to drop by another order of magnitude. I.e. using parts from Amazon and 3D printers, they are building drones equivalent to the Phantom 4 for $140 versus $1500 for the commercial solution. The send block of talks were within the Cryosphere section so mostly ice and snow.

During the lunch break, I ventured outside of the convention center and headed towards the water. The last time I was here, the huge Hilton and attached shopping mall either weren't there or not as close to the water and you could just walk along the retaining wall. Not anymore. It was a pleasant 60°F but many people were wearing winter coats, hats, and scarfs. It was 40°F this morning when I headed towards the convention center so it had warmed up considerably.

I ended up walking towards Bourbon Street before I found what I was looking for. Regional cuisine. Since I couldn't decide what to get, here is the southern sampler. Starting at the 9 o'clock position going clockwise we have shrimp & chicken gumbo, red beans & rice with alligator sausage, crawfish etouffee, and fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce. I was thrilled that my versions tasted similar though these were definitely tastier. Though I've never tried to make fried green tomatoes. They were basically flavorless though the remoulade sauce was pretty spicy.

Since my room was still being cleaned when I returned to the hotel, I headed up to the 18th floor to sit by the pool to start this post. I was somewhat surprised that I still couldn't see the river from this vantage point. The convention center is to the right of the Hilton and behind the Harrah's casino. This is kind of an odd hotel. The lobby is on the 11th floor though looking out the window it’s more like the 5th. Oh well, not complaining. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Orleans (cont.)

The walk from the hotel to the convention center takes me through the French Quarter, one of New Orleans’ biggest tourist areas. Lots of huge hotels surrounding the area as well as at least one casino. I’ve always heard of all of the great food in the area but so far, I haven’t found any. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough and not many opportunities to try any. The examples of things like red beans and rice, jambalaya, and gumbo aren’t any better (in some cases, worse) than what I’ve made at home.

For dinner, I met up with UIC Science and CPS personnel for dinner at The Maison. Live jazz (too loud), good company and better food (finally). I left them at 8:00 to start walking back to the hotel about 1½ miles away. On the way back, I passed Cafe du Monde, someplace I had heard about. I had their cafe au lait and beignets for dessert. Their coffee is brewed with chicory which is supposed to remove bitterness or something like that. Pretty tasty. The walk down Decauter and St. Charles was the New Orleans that I had remembered the last time I was here. The sewer smell was still prevalent though not as strong as it was the last time. People sleeping in doorways and every other shop was a bar or a voodoo place. IMHO, not a very pleasant place.

Monday, December 11, 2017

AGU 2017

First impression, the New Orleans Convention Center is huge. Or at least, really long. After picking up my registration materials (a light blue lanyard), I headed for the Cryosphere talks as they are always interesting. The walk through the convention center was probably almost a mile. I would end up making that trip several more times before the day ended. The hotel is about a mile walk to the convention center but this morning, I was offered a ride by a random person in the elevator. They needed to be there by 7:30am to chair a session and had called for a cab. I must've looked like I was headed for the AGU meeting. The morning talks were interesting and focused on the accuracy of the sea ice predictions for both navigation and heat flow. The room was packed. There are about 22,000 attendees not counting vendors and media.

Around noon, I went to a talk given by journalist Dan Rather. He had a lot of good things to say about the practice of science (friendly audience) and injected some humorous stories. He also talked a bit about "fake news" and how it has been going on for years. What has changed is the speed of propagation. Dan Rather was introduced by the president of the AGU and he also mentioned that this is the first fall meeting being held outside of San Francisco. I had heard that Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, where the meeting has been held for a number of years, is undergoing renovation.

By mid-afternoon, I had walked 6.5 miles and still needed to walk back to the hotel. Right now, I managed to nab one of the few tables and chairs in the convention center. The exhibits open up at 6:00 so I had a bit of time to write this post.

Evening Update - I passed nine miles when arriving at the hotel. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas Party and Fall AGU

Saturday evening was the Fairbanks Amateur Radio Club Christmas Party. I still had no idea who any of these people were but I figured that this was a good way to jump into things. Out of the 55+ people there, I think I knew two and had met about another three. It was held at the Cookie Jar restaurant so the food was delicious and I met a few more people. And picked up more information on HF or high frequency as well as some of the digital transmission modes. HF encompasses the longer wavelength amateur bands which propagate farther.

Today, I was sitting on a plane all day to attend the AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall Meeting in New Orleans, LA. The last couple of times I was in this city were pre-Katrina and during the summer. It was a pretty miserable place and I was not looking forward to coming down here again. When I arrived, it was a very pleasant 48°F. I'm not going to complain about that. Normally the fall meeting is in San Francisco.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Fall's Almost Over

"Fall" is almost done as we rush towards the winter solstice. Total daylight these days is around four hours or so. In a couple of weeks, the days will start getting longer again. I've shown the images from this site before as I like how they show the data. We are on the orange line at the bottom of the figure with extended dawn and dusk due to the shallow angle of the sun. You can also see from the figure, that the sun doesn't get more than a couple of degrees above the horizon.

Weather is on everyone's mind these days due to the unseasonably warm temperatures. Yesterday, around rush hour, it was raining which lead to a lot of radio traffic on the Ester Dome radio repeater. Traffic had slowed to a crawl and we really had bumper to bumper traffic for a change. People weren't very happy. Today was significantly better though the roads were still icy from yesterdays rain.

No riding and the only thing even remotely related to motorcycles was the monthly Airhead get together last Monday at the Roundup on South Cushman. No pictures...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

First Ham Radio

I haven't been posting much as there hasn't been much going on.

Thanks to an Amazon Black Friday sale, I picked up a hand-held, dual-band radio commonly referred to as an HT or handy-talky (Motorola-speak). It is made in China but distributed and warranted by a U.S. company. I also picked up a higher gain antenna than the standard “rubber duckie” antenna. It transmits on the 2 m and 70m bands (144 MHz and 420 MHz) at 1, 4, or 8 watts. Useful for local communication only and with local area repeaters. It took no small amount of Internet searching to find understandable directions for setting it up to use the repeater. Once you've done it once, it becomes easier. Taking the advice of an experienced ham, I cleared all of the settings and started from scratch. BTW, this changed all of the voice prompts to Chinese.

Starting on Friday afternoon at 3pm AKST and running for 24 hours, the local club participated in manning a Skywarn station. Apparently, many National Weather Service offices have an amateur radio in a back room for emergency communication. This is a photo of the NWS setup which has enhanced by the local club. A variety of voice and digital modes were used to contact others. I got the opportunity to talk with another operator in Calgary. My first HF (high frequency) contact. I hung around on Friday afternoon then returned on Saturday morning for a couple more hours.

I left the event around 12:30 to take the General and Extra class ham radio exams while they were still free. The rumor is that they will need to start charging a nominal fee for the use of the testing materials next month. I just made it under the wire to avoid the fee. I passed both exams with room to spare and now have my Amateur Extra Class license. Now I just need to figure out what all of this theory really means. The Skywarn exercise really helped to put real equipment and practice to the words on a page. Or should I say words on a screen.