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Showing posts from December, 2019

Last post of the decade

Here is my 793rd post of the decade, my 1271st post since this started back in 2007.

Of course, a few entries have been lost along the way and the name of this site has changed multiple times causing chaos in some of the links on the oldest entries. Also, I've quit and returned more times than I can remember and I regret doing all of that. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Maybe I was trying to reinvent something that didn't need to be reinvented in the first place. Maybe I should have just stayed the course.

I have stayed the course over at the podcast. Sure, there have been a few hiatuses and bumps in the road along the way but 471 episodes since 2013 is not too shabby.

I end the decade optimistic for the future although I am always uncertain about what exactly I'll share here and on the podcast. But, instead of fretting over all of that as I have done in the past, my plan is to get out of the way and just let time take care of it for me.

I am confident that ideas will pop up and there will be plenty to write here and speak into the microphone. It may not happen with certain regularity like the ticking of the clock but it will happen when it is supposed to.

I hope you, whoever you are and wherever you happen to be reading this, have a fantastic 2020 and beyond.

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas and a happy 2020 to you!


I'm going to spend a few days reading books and sitting outside with my radios in between visiting with family and friends and, of course, eating and drinking a fair amount of coffee!

The No Social Media Tablet

On Black Friday, I very briefly bought and tried out the Onn 10.1 inch Android tablet that was a $59 special. I tried it because my iPad Air 2 is now five years old and is slowing down and I wanted to try something a bit different from iOS. I did not like it. Back to Walmart it went the next day.

But then the 8 inch version of the same tablet caught my eye. Walmart had it for full price - $64. I did not want to do that but I did take a peek over at eBay and there it was refurbished for $39. I put it in my cart and was surprised to find there was an additional 15% off bringing the grand total including shipping and tax to $33.15.

What did I get for $33.15? An 8 inch tablet with specs close to the Kindle Fire 8 but without the limitations of Amazon's Fire OS. This tablet runs Android 9.0 and for what I wanted it for, it is fantastic. I'm pretty surprised.


What did I want it for? I wanted a device where there would be no social media beeps and boops. It's simply for reading books, checking my to do list and looking things up. For example, I take it with me when I am going to listen to my radios so I can look up details on the stations I hear. 

Eventually, I plan to use it for note taking and to store documents I might need to refer on a semi-regular basis.

I also bought this case for under $10 shipped on eBay.

Is it perfect? No. It doesn't have a wake function when you open the case. It can get a little slow when scrolling big webpages. There is only one speaker but it sounds decent.

What having this tablet has done is make me realize that my eventual iPad Air 2 replacement will be a nice Samsung Android tablet. I like how customizable it is and how the notifications work much better than on the iOS devices I have. And, since I use Google services for nearly everything, all of what I need is integrated right into the tablet already.

Merry Christmas to me!

SW Radio Log (12/21/2019)

Yesterday, I wrote about spending a few minutes listening to amateur radio on my Grundig G5. Later last night, I decided to listen to the same bands on my Tecsun PL-660 to compare the performance.

I was blown away by how much easier it is to fine tune single sideband on the Tecsun PL-660. For some reason, I didn't remember this and my Tecsun PL-660 had been packed up in storage until earlier this week.

The reason for it being packed away is that FM and Air Band are misaligned and there is no fix (older firmware) and I hadn't been listening to shortwave much over the summer and fall.

But, wow! What a difference! The G5 is very challenging to fine tune for some reason so I believe the PL-660 will my radio of choice when I want to listen to the ham bands which is pretty fun for me because you never know what you are going to hear and I have heard discussions on conspiracies, alien landings and politics recently!


Here are a few of the confirmed locations I heard this afternoon around 2PM CST:
  • London, Ontario
  • Connecticut
  • Indiana
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Quebec

SW Radio Log (12/20/2019)

I had a few minutes around 2:45PM CST to sit down with the Grundig G5 at the kitchen table so I went right over to 40 meter band to listen to some amateur radio.


I didn't have my headphones on since I only had about 20 free minutes so I didn't catch call signs but I did hear amateurs announce that they were in the following locations:
  • Clarksville, New Hampshire
  • Elgin, Illinois
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey (city was not legible)
The Grundig G5 is perfect for listening to amateur radio since it can decode single sideband transmissions. My Tecsun PL-660, that I recently pulled back out of storage, has the same ability but seems to be a tad more noisy on shortwave.

Enlightened

After a few years of using Todoist, I finally achieved the status of Enlightened. What does this mean? In a nutshell, the more tasks you complete, the more karma points you get, sort of gamifying your daily tasks.

I didn't pay a lot of attention to the karma in Todoist. It was fun to see the status in each year-end report that Todoist sends out but that was about it. I haven't been using Todoist for the karma feature.

I use it because it was the solution to years of trying and failing at different systems to keep my daily tasks organized. Notebooks, Franklin Planners throughout the 90's, Palm Pilots, you name it. I tried them all and I read all the books including Getting Things Done and I guess the system I use today is closer to GTD than anything else.

I use these tools (I'm sure I've written or talked about this before):

  • Microsoft Outlook - my work calendar is there and is not integrated with my personal calendar. I flag emails that need to be followed up on. I keep my inbox fairly close to zero at all times, no more than 15 in there at the end of each day. I don't use tasks in Outlook at all.
  • Google Calendar - all four of us in this house have Google Calendar on our phones and our own calendars which we share with each other and EVERYTHING goes in there. Work schedules. Appointments. Concerts. It's one place each of us can look and see what everyone else is doing. 
  • Todoist - Anything and everything ends up here. Many recurring tasks like checking the air filter or giving flea and tick stuff to the dogs is in here also. Any work task that I need to put off until the next day is noted here also. All family Google Calendar events also end up as automatic items in Todoist.
I did fairly well before Todoist but Todoist was life-changing for me. I can't imagine handling the volume of work I do at work and keeping track of everything going on at home without it. It makes my life easier because items don't get forgotten if they make it in the app. Also, I don't hold myself to getting it all done TODAY. Items get postponed often and that's just life. Not everything has to be done on a particular day. The key, for me, to productivity is flexibility. Know what HAS to be done and do it and know what can't be done and let that go until another day with the confidence of knowing it's still out there in the list and won't get forgotten.


Bad example

When it comes to leading by example, I am a bad example when it comes to spending lots of time with an internet connected device in my hand.

Sure, working in IT, I have to stay connected to a certain point but my lazy evenings (when I have an evening to be lazy) have a tendency to turn into a few hours in my recliner mindlessly focused on my iPad. Even if the TV is on and a movie is playing, my iPad is open. I'm distracting myself from my own distractions. I am double-distracted.

I am currently reading a book about this because I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to have a more distraction-free holiday break and, instead of just making that declaration suddenly and then failing like I typically do, I've been doing a bit of preparation to make it happen, slowly but surely.

I know a total disconnection is not possible or even beneficial but I am paring down a few things, such as deleting the real time suck apps which, surprisingly to me, are not social media but news apps and the like.

I'm about a third of the way through the book. Here's a passage from the beginning that I thought was a bit dramatic the first time I read it but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much time I am spending on a machine sucked into distraction:
Bill Maher ends every episode of his HBO show Real Time with a monologue. The topics are usually political. This was not the case, however, on May 12, 2017, when Maher looked into the camera and said: The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking. “Philip Morris just wanted your lungs,” Maher concludes. “The App Store wants your soul.”

Nice catch: WVON on 1690 kHz

I was walking through my house just a bit ago tuning around on my Sony SRF-39 and down at the end of the dial, there was WVON on 1690 kHz coming in loud and clear. So, I went to my Sangean PR-D4W and it was coming in like a local station.


For a 10,000 watt station about 460 miles away, this seems like a pretty nice catch until you consider that there are only seven stations in the US and Canada on 1690 kHz. Not many stations ended up in what was once known as the expanded band so the few stations that are up there have a good chance of being heard quite clearly for miles and miles as WVON demonstrates here.



AM Radio Log (12/13/2019)

I had about 15 minutes to sit down at the kitchen table with my Sangean PR-D4W starting at around 12:59PM central so here are a few of the notable stations I heard including one I don't recall hearing here before.

  • 710 kHz - WYJV - Smyrna, TN (28 miles)
  • 750 kHz - WSB - Atlanta, GA - a good signal here for daytime, this station booms in here at night. (250 miles)
  • 770 kHz - WVNN - Athens, AL - Rush Limbaugh was on. His voice sounded kind of odd. Maybe it was just the fact that this station is 126 miles away.
  • 780 kHz - WPTN - Cookeville, TN (50 miles)
  • 790 kHz - WBWR - Ashland City, TN (56 miles)
  • 930 kHz - WKCT - Bowling Green, KY - Also had Rush Limbaugh on and is close enough to be loud and clear. He definitely sounds weird for some reason. It's like his voice has been auto-tuned for some reason. (66 miles)
  • 1060 kHz - WKNG - Tallapoosa, GA - This is a decent catch for daytime and I think it is a new one for me. It is 50,000 watts during the day but still should barely reach into Tennessee out of Georgia. I think the fact that it's cloudy today both here and there helps a bit. (242 miles)
  • 1510 kHz - WLAC - Nashville, TN - this one is a local but I tuned it in to hear Rush one more time and something is definitely up with his voice. Weird. (32 miles)
The Sangean PR-D4W is the best AM radio I've ever owned. It has a feature called AM Auto Tracking which attempts to fine tune each station when you land on it. I've found that it works quite well. The FM side is a mixed bag. Reception is great but the audio does not sound as good for some reason. My Grundig G5 sounds better on FM. This doesn't matter to me since the PR-D4W rarely moves off the AM dial. No radio I have owned has sounded better on AM than the PR-D4W. 



Radio log (12/10/2019 starting at 18:41 UTC)

I had a few minutes at lunch today to pull out the Grundig G5 and tune around shortwave a bit.


Here's what I heard using just the whip antenna:
  • Radio Marti on 11860, 11930 and 13820. I only heard jamming coming through on 13820.
  • African Pathways on 13670. This was loud and clear and apparently transmitting from Mahajanga, Madagascar which is around 9,000 miles away.
  • Radio Habana Cuba on 15140.
  • Adventist World Radio on 15155, notable because it was coming from Talata-Volonodry, also in Madagascar. The signal was quite strong. Maybe today is a great day to hear Madagascar!
  • BBC on 15400. It's a shame we don't get BBC World Service broadcasting to the US anymore. This transmission was barely audible here and originated from Ascension Island, directed to West and Central Africa.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascension_Island#/media/File:Ascension_Island_Location.jpg

Two Sony Radios - SRF-M37W and SRF-39

I have two Sony radios that have been living on the table next to my recliner along side my super-awesome fantastic Sangean PR-D4W which I wrote about a bit last January.

All three of these radios are there for two reasons. First, they are spectacular on AM. Second, the dogs typically wake me up to go outside around 2AM every night and I typically take a bit of time to listen to AM before I go back to bed.

My Sony SRF-39 has long had an honored place in my collection. It is excellent on AM and pretty decent on FM as a bonus but AM is where it really shines. I have listened to it while mowing the lawn and doing other odds and ends around the house.


The SRF-39 runs forever on just on AA battery. Amazing! And, it was a popular prison radio at one time and the clear prison version is a collector's item now

Finally, it was recently featured on Todd Erbert's excellent YouTube channel about radios.

I just picked up my other Sony radio earlier this week at the local help center. I was over there dropping off donations and I went inside to check out electronics and there was a Sony SRF-M37W on the shelf for the incredible price of just one dollar plus tax!

The SRF-M37W appears to be the digital version of the SRF-39 with the weather band as an addition. AM performance is equal side by side. FM seems to be a tick better than the SRF-39. There is an annoying beep when pressing any button which is why I think I briefly had this radio at one time but ended up eBaying it. I won't eBay this one since I am out of the eBay business! 

The weather band picks up nothing out where I live but even my weather radio has a tough time picking up a channel out here.

This radio takes just one AAA battery. I am not sure how long it will last powering the clock which seems pretty pointless since there is no speaker or alarm. I assume the clock is there just so you don't lose track of time working out or something.


Finally, what do I listen to at 2AM? Typically, I listen to WGN in Chicago because the late night show on there, The Nick Digilio Show, is always interesting. You never know what they will be talking about when you tune in. They also have a podcast here for those of you who don't want to sit up all night listening to AM.

Low blood

What a day. I woke up with a headache which I thought was sinus but ended up being low blood sugar which is never fun and it took me about half of the day to recover but hey, it's been about a year since the last time that happened and that's quite the achievement for me.

I keep thinking back to where my eating went wrong over the past few days and I would have to guess it started at Thanksgiving and built up from there? I didn't eat well any day since until today since now I am trying to get things back in sync.

Time to toss out the donuts unless I want to spend more time on the bathroom floor.

I've gone from feeling terrible to getting just about all of my work done plus washing and putting up a load of clothes and cleaning the showers. The work never stops no matter how lousy you might feel.

Thinking of the title for this reminded me of episode 212 of the podcast: