My wife has started work to sew some cloth face masks using scrap material on hand.

We’re not going out, except when we need groceries. She almost agreed to me getting take out from a local restaurant for tonight’s dinner but changed her mind.

Oh and puzzle #4 is now complete.


Solved COVID-19 puzzle #3.

Note front page of today’s WSJ talks about a huge jump in jigsaw puzzle sales and of course a shortage.

Our daughter’s birthday fell earlier in our ‘shelter’ period. My wife is being pretty stict so we didn’t try to go get a birthday cake. I made brownies as a make-do solution and we stuck candles in it. We were lucky to have the makings as we don’t generally make desserts.

Sunrise and contrails showing hope is just down around the next corner.
📷 ☀️ ✈️

Taken while exercising early this morning. Quite a few people were out at the same time almost all distancing appropriately.

COVID-19 puzzle #2 complete. Mainly by the wife and teen. It was a late night marathon session.

The first blue sky day in nearly 2 weeks. The temperature was great as well so I spent some time working on the back porch. 📷 🌳

It has rained 11 days in a row here which is highly unusual. I believe it has set a record for March. This kind of weather isn’t doing anything to help moods. 🌧 But the forecast calls for warmer weather and sunshine for most of the week. ☀️

It is done. It was challenging but fun.

We searched the house and found several others we’ve never done. So puzzle #2 starts soon.

I picked up our son’s ‘home learning’ material from school first thing this morning. He carries a lot of his material in his backpack every day so he mainly needed the printed math books. I am a bit worried about keeping him supplied with books. He’s an avid & fast reader 📚

A confused reflection in confusing times 📷

Today’s distraction: construction of a dipole antenna for the 20m band. It’s made out of some speaker wire, an SO-239 and a bit of Lexan I had laying around for an insulator.

Tested it in the backyard and ✅


Texas redbud blossoms felled by the daily storms. 📷

Self medicating 🍷 📷

I got out for some exercise in between waves of rain this morning. Our little creek is being quite the overachiever. 📷

From today’s outdoor exercise.

Status: trees don’t care, birds don’t care, squirrels and rabbit’s don’t care. Still waiting on word from the bobcat. 🌳 📷

I did some routine grocery shopping this morning. It was a bit busier than normal but calm and all the usual employees were there. I’m sure the news would highlight a few shelves that were nearly empty but the true story is there was plenty of all types of food available.

Yesterday a drive in the country, today we started a jigsaw puzzle.

Note: the table we use came via my grandparents. I estimate it is around 80 years old. The top isn’t painted it is a printed image applied to the wood.

Basestation setup for VHF/UHF

The typical rubber ducky and whip antennas included with VHF/UHF handheld transceivers (see previous post here) are inherently inefficient and perform even worse when used indoors, often to the point of being useless. They are generally also limited to 5W of transmit power. For repeater and simplex operation indoors at a minimum an external antenna is needed and a bit more power is helpful as well. For this reason a typical next step for a new ham, after a handheld, is to get a mobile transceiver and install an antenna. Mobile transceivers are commonly used as basestation radios but are also useful when mobile in cars as well as for portable operation during emergencies or just when having fun in a park.

Although I gave a little consideration to an ICOM mobile radio I pretty quickly settled on an inexpensive Yaesu model, the FTM-7250, as it generally has more features for the price and includes a digital mode called C4FM with WIRES-X. More on this digital mode in a later post but a cool benefit is the ability to talk to other radio users anywhere in the world. FTM-7250

I spent a lot more time determining what antenna to get because, frankly, the antenna is more important than the radio. VHF/UHF antennas range from cheap to very expensive and from small to quite large and complex. In multiple instances I’ve seen that objective values show that the more complex antennas actually perform worse. So after many hours digging up data I decided to go with a DBJ-1 J-pole made by Dr. Fong. He is well known for his antenna and RF research and has published a number of papers on the subject of VHF/UHF antennas. He created a simple operation to sell antennas at-cost with the proceeds going to support his students. Once I had narrowed down my choice I emailed him about my purchase and in our email exchanges he proved to be extremely helpful and kind. I consider myself fortunate to have seen a live presentation by him on antenna design, delivered via Skype from his home, a couple of weeks ago. He explained things in simple language and even hams of long experience learned more about antenna design.

The J-Pole is installed in our attic with a coax run to my study. An outdoor installation would perform better but isn’t allowed by our HOA. My setup is more than sufficient to talk on the local repeaters using only 5W or 10W (the Yaesu can use up to 50W when needed). I’m happy with both the radio and antenna and have no plans for changes. And I’m enjoying talking to local operators.

Next post: My first HF radio

We did our weekly grocery shopping today. TP is not in short supply here but I did see a sign saying limit 2 multi-packs per person. I’m glad to see folks aren’t hoarding. And hopefully they’re prepared.

It may be tiny but is a welcome harbinger of spring. 📷 🌸

The flower is barely bigger than my thumb.

Operating portable on VHF/UHF, my first blog post in a series on my amateur radio journey

In early February the FCC issued my Technician license and I received my General license a couple of weeks later. I dove into operating with both feet so I am creating a series of posts to document my journey. This first post explains my initial setup for VHF/UHF repeater and simplex operation.

As soon as I passed my Technician exam I - like most everyone - was in a hurry to get my hands on a radio and get on the air. And like most I decided to start with a handheld radio. These are self-contained transceivers with respect to both power and an antenna. When seeking advice on what to buy there were two primary schools of thought. One said to buy a Baofeng radio because, although they perform poorly and are difficult to program, they are very inexpensive. A lot of people consider them throw-away buys and are happy with these as a start.

I took the second recommend route which was to start with something that performs better and is more reliable and hence would be something I could use in the long term for Skywarn, emergency comms and public event support. I specifically chose the Yaesu FT-60R. It is an older design but works very well and has a great reputation. Unlike Baofeng, Yaesu has a long track record of investing in R&D to advance radio technology and I was happy to support their commitment.

So far I’m content with my decision but I would have purchased the Yaesu FT-70DR instead. It costs only slightly more but brings digital voice encoding which turns out to be quite useful. And the System Fusion feature in that radio allows communication across the country, even the world. Unfortunately I let some FUD proffered by a few discourage me from valuing digital mode.

Next post in the series: my base station setup for VHF/UHF

Someone who glanced in our pantry might think we have laid in dry soup supplies for a quarantine or zombie invasion or whatever. But nope, this is our standard supply About 8 different kinds. The Nongshim hot & spicy, topped with an egg, is my fave. 📷 🍜
// @burk

Someone who glanced in our pantry might think we have laid in dry soup supplies for a quarantine or zombie invasion or whatever. But nope, this is our standard supply About 8 different kinds. The Nongshim hot & spicy, topped with an egg, is my fave. 📷 🍜