Friday, March 30, 2018

Snow Berms

Another beautiful Spring day. At least the weather was nice on Wednesday. It was only 8°F when I left the house this morning but was up into the low 20s (°F) by the time I left College Coffeehouse. After multiple trips to the transfer station (that's what we call the place where we dump household trash) with the Ural, it was almost 30°F. As I'm typing this in the late afternoon, it's all the way up to 34°F with water running across the road. Things around here are kind of dirty and dingy around this time of year. The snow isn't brilliant white along the roads anymore as all of the sand/ash/gravel/trash that has been scattered on the roads all winter is starting to surface.

The picture above was taken on Thursday on the way back from coffee. The clouds are back and there were even a few snowflakes. This is what just about all of the snow piled up on the sides of the road look like. Kind of drab from all of the dirt but then all of that dirt causes the berms to melt faster. The one thing you need to watch for is water running across the road which could freeze at night. DOT usually tries to push the snow and ice far enough off the road for that not to happen but they don't have control of all of the side roads and driveways.

On Friday, I needed gas in the Ural so I put the GoPro on to see if it still worked. Sort of worked. The USB outlet in the sidecar now has one broken outlet (out of two) but since I can't find the remote anyway, it sort of didn't matter. Plus, GoPro Studio on the Macbook Pro no longer imports the video and its replacement, Quik, is pretty flaky. So, I tried using iMovie. A little more flexible but a whole lot more complex than the simple GoPro Studio.

Happy Easter!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Deleted Facebook

Even though I did enjoy hearing about what relatives and friends are up to, I decided to delete my Facebook account. Not simply deactivate it like I had done previously but actually delete the profile. The public statements given by their executives after the latest data breach really put things in perspective. Basically, you choose to put things into Facebook so you must obviously agree that they can do whatever they want with those little tidbits of information. Collecting and marketing your data is their business and that is what allows them to provide the popular social media service for free. I can opt not to be a part of their business. This is also why I had deleted my Instagram account back when Facebook bought the photo sharing site. Facebook, the company, felt slimy before and it really hasn’t changed. Fortunately, I had never used Facebook as an authentication authority for any applications or websites. If I had, I would lose access to those sites when deleting my account.

Oh well, this blog was originally and will continue to be my “not-Facebook” foray into social media. My Twitter account, @RMachida is still active but the only posts are automated ones from IFTTT whenever I put up a new blog post.

BTW, unless you use Google to find an article, the link to delete your account is kind of buried. And they won’t actually delete the profile for 14 days on the assumption that you will change your mind.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sure Sign of Spring

We just had the hardpack removed from our driveway. Kind of a "thing" you need to do when Spring is lurking around the corner is removing the thick layer of snow and ice from the driveway usually by someone who has the appropriate equipment. Many areas of the country don't really need this done as the snow doesn't just accumulate all winter like it does around here. Even though I was scraping the snow off of the driveway all winter with the plow, there was probably a 6" layer of ice built up. This usually takes a long time to melt. I am planning on bringing the trailer from the storage lot to our house sometime next month after the ice is gone from the road and driveway.

The subdivision road was also cleared down to pavement earlier this week with a grader making multiple passes up and down the road pushing the snow berm well off the road. On the main roads, the snow has been pushed back into the drainage ditches along the sides of the road. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

QSL Card

I received my first QSL card in the mail yesterday. A QSL card is a postcard providing written verification of a radio conversation between to amateur radio operators. The term is derived from shortcuts called “Q codes” originally developed for use with morse code where brevity is key. This contact occurred during the Skywarn event at the local National Weather Service office near the beginning of December that I had participated in. We contacted the operator, CG6AO, who was also participating in the Skywarn event from Calgary. The Canada 150 QSL card is a special one that was being used during the 150th anniversary of Canada as a commonwealth. 

I remember reading about QSL cards way back when I was a kid. And, when looking at pictures of ham stations (aka shacks), you can see a wall of such cards. Collecting them is a popular part of the amateur radio hobby. I had mocked up a card with my info and mailed it off along with a self-addressed envelope along with something to cover estimated postage. Dan from the local club provided me with the information I needed to include on my own homemade card to send to the Calgary operator.

Yesterday (Monday), was nice enough to ride the Ural so it was dug out of storage and the truck is back to outdoor parking. After checking the engine oil and the tire pressure, I headed out to the coffee shop then on to run a couple more errands. I guess that it's supposed to be the first day of Spring, right? Ignore the snow flurries. I think that I'm going to move the top box back a couple of inches so my back isn't touching the box. At the same time, I may come up with some sort of system allowing the position of the box to be easily changed without drilling more holes in either the rack or the box.

I'm typing this while waiting at the local dealer for the third part of the recall. Replacing a tie rod. Hopefully, it gets done quickly unlike the last time.

Update - The dealer was done by 9:15am. No complaints about that. I went home and switched vehicles and rode to coffee again. A bit colder today than yesterday and it looks like the wiring on the Gerbing gloves has bit the dust again. Fortunately, they aren't really needed. And, it's snowing again...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Travel Planning And Too Much Snow

This was the view from the deck at the West Ridge B&B in Elizabethtown, PA. A very nice place with wonderful, tasty breakfasts. This evening (Saturday), we head back home so with the four hour time difference, it’s going to be a long day. Fortunately, only two legs on the trip but it’ll still be over eight hours in the air.

We are starting to plan our travel for the next year. We have been coming to PA two times per year for the last couple of years. Having the Alaska Airlines companion fares help make the trips a little more affordable. With Bridget retiring, we will no longer be constrained by the school district calendar. There are some other constraints but they are not as rigid. We are both bound by the in-state requirement of the Division of Retirement and Benefits for the state if we want to receive the cost of living allowance. We can not be out of the state for more than eighty-nine consecutive days. If we want to continue to receive the Permanent Fund Dividend, we can not be out of the state for more than 180 days and have to explain being out for more than 90 days. Both of these constraints are there to avoid abuse and problems are not unreasonable. We are not planning to be full-time RVers or anything like that but trips a couple of months like my maybe a couple of times per year sounds about right to me.

The RV storage place called this afternoon and asked if I would like them to remove the bulk of the snow from the roof of the trailer. They mentioned that it was still snowing today. Under normal conditions, it is not needed but they were thinking that this was a little more snow than normal. Maybe I need to consider getting some of the snow off of the roof at home (as Bridget has suggested…).

Friday, March 16, 2018

E-Town (cont.)

I’m not sure how well it shows up in the snapshot but it’s snowing. Nothing is sticking but stills flurries. The mornings seems to start out nice and sunny but by mid-day, the clouds are back. We haven’t done any “touristing” as we are only here for a handful of days. By the time we get used to the time change, it’ll be time to head back to Alaska. Last night (Thursday) we did go to a regional food restaurant and had some Pennsylvania staples including a shared apple dumpling for dessert. No leaves on the trees, no spring flowers but at least most of the vegetation and grass is sort of green. Or at least a lot greener than back home.

Piaggio MP3
Photo from
We have been considering a Piaggio MP3 that a friend of ours has for sale. I was thinking of hauling it on the back of the 5th wheel but after looking at several carriers, the MP3 is probably too heavy. Between the carrier and the MP3, it would be over 700 pounds. That much weight hanging that far out behind the trailer wheels is just too much. It may even transfer too much weight off of the hitch to be safe. Unfortunate as I was looking forward to having something to ride while traveling. The same friend also has a scooter for sale so that may be another option.

And a short video of a player piano in the lobby of the assisted living facility.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Monday evening and most of Tuesday was spent traveling. The flight from Seattle to Baltimore was delayed and we didn't arrive at the B&B until around 10:30pm but making the almost mandatory dinner stop at a Cracker Barrel added to the late arrival. We don't have any of these restaurants in AK and I think that there are only a couple in any of the western states.  BTW, the AllStays app claims that overnight RV parking is permitted on their lot. A good reason to stop there even if we aren’t traveling with an RV.

We are spending a couple of days here visiting family. It's not the warm, sunny destination usually associated with Spring Break. In fact, it's below freezing this morning and is only 5°F warmer than Fairbanks. Currently, there are little flakes falling...

Monday, March 12, 2018


It was yet another one of those days. Not only did we lose an hour of sleep due to this archaic practice called daylight savings time but there was this temperature to greet us in the morning. Not that I was planning on doing much of anything today anyway. In fact, I ended up just not feeling very well and taking some ibuprofen. I don't think the temperature had anything to do with it but it certainly didn't help.

I started to get ready for the morse code class which is going to be taught using Skype. I installed a ⅛” audio jack on the keyer so I can feed the output into a two channel mixer. The second audio input is a microphone so I can talk. The mixer is USB connected to the computer and the audio input is set to USB. I’ll need to test the set-up as the class begins around the beginning of April. This is the same setup that I used to record the session at the Internet2 meeting last October. The question is how well it works with that wonderful Microsoft product, Skype.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

More Snow...

The weather is looking grim again. This is the view just outside of where my office is at the university. BTW, the reason that I'm at the university today is that the truck was dropped off at the local dealer this morning for some recall work. Multiple recalls. The oldest one was from 2009. Two of them are automatic and the other two are dependant on their assessment. We'll see if any are done by the end of the day. It was convenient for the dealer shuttle to drop me off here than at home. Plus, I could still walk to coffee.

It turns out that they were able to do the two airbag recalls, parts had to be ordered for the steering linkage recall and the fourth one didn’t need to be done. After picking up the truck, I went to the Airhead get together at the Roundup Steakhouse. The best thing about this location is that it has a salad bar and very good service. It had stopped snowing by the time I headed home. More snow is forecast for later in the week...

Friday, March 2, 2018

Burying the Lead

Another slow week. Still too cold to ride much (-21°F yesterday, +2°F today). Lots of running around this week and needed to plow snow often for the first half of the week. Plus a followup visit was needed to the State of Alaska office as they typed my son's birthday into their system wrong and he was unable to do much of anything on their system. Surprisingly, the visit went very quickly and efficiently. The waiting room was almost empty and the person at the desk had no problem taking care of everything. I guess we just picked the wrong day last week as I was in and out in ten minutes.

The led conversion in our house continued. A couple of 40-watt halogen bulbs in pendant lights were replaced by 3-watt LED bulbs. Almost the same amount of light and the 4000K color was identical. The fluorescent tubes in the kitchen were replaced by LED tubes. The fixture needed to be rewired to remove the ballast. The new LED replacements were double ended so simply wire hot to the four tombstones on one end and neutral to the other end. Now, the kitchen is so bright that I may end up removing two of the tubes and use them in the utility room. Each tube is 18 watts and is equivalent to a 48-watt fluorescent. The picture shows the fixture without the oak cover and diffuser so you can see the LEDs that make up the bulb. In the whole house, we are down to two halogen bulbs. And one of them is the yard light. Do they make LED yard lights?

It's only March 1st and we are already getting 12 hours of light (i.e first light to last light on the figure). No one is looking forward to DST as that means it'll be dark in the morning again. At least for a while. The state government keeps saying that they will get rid of DST but the tourism industry seems to think that the tourists are too stupid to understand and will be confused and upset. I don't know. Maybe they're right...

But the highlight of the week was the Friday evening KL7KC amateur radio club meeting. Bob Heil, as in Heil Sound,  joined the meeting via Skype. He started with some history and explained how his whole audio career started with ham radio. In fact, it even states that in his permanent display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is the only non-musician with a permanent display. It was a great presentation with no PowerPoint. Just off the cuff.