My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Surfin': Getting Off the Grid Part Way

This week, Surfin' further explores the possibilities and practicalities of getting electricity from your own resources.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jim Rice's Hall of Fame Plaque

Jim Ed Rice

Baseball's Hall of Fame finally welcomes Jim Rice into its hallowed halls today and the event brings back memories of my all-time favorite Red Sox player.

First time I encountered Jim Rice was in 1973 when I attended an Eastern League AA game at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury between the Waterbury Dodgers and Bristol Red Sox. Fred Lynn was the big attraction for the Bristol team in 1973, but on that day, Mr. Rice slugged not one, but two home runs out of the unfriendly confines of Municipal Stadium. Municipal Stadium had the reputation as a lousy place to hit the baseball because it was built in a tight valley on the banks of a river; the air was always heavy with moisture and not conducive to hitting one out, but Mr. Rice hit two that evening.

On July 18, 1975, Pop and I attended a game at Fenway and sat in the "triangle" in the centerfield bleachers. During the game, Jim Rice hit a home run over our heads, as well as over the wall behind our heads. I was in awe. Mr. Rice accomplished the impossible before my eyes hitting a ball completely out of Fenway Park by clearing the back wall of the centerfield bleachers! Sox owner Tom Yawkey said it was the longest home run he ever saw hit in Fenway.

The fall of 1975 found me attending school in Springfield, Mass, but I was following the pennant race more closely than my studies. My roommate, Russ Schott, another diehard Sox fan, dubbed Mr. Rice "Jim Ed" that fall and that nickname has been stuck in my mind ever since.

Sidebar: When the Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, Russ Schott phoned me to celebrate that glorious event. I had not heard from Russ in years, but Red Sox blood is thicker than water, and that historic event was a cause to celebrate long distance.

In 1976 or 1977, Russ and I organized a bus trip for our classmates to Fenway for a Sox-Yankee game. We charged $12 for the outing and in addition to the bus ride to Fenway, the $12 included a bleacher seat ticket, a grinder (that Russ and I made), and access to two garbage cans (one at each end of the bus) full of ice cold canned beer. We filled the bus and got a free ride for our troubles.

Just to show you how the times have changed, we did not purchase tickets ahead of time. Instead, when the bus got to Fenway, Russ and I got out of the bus, ran to the ticket window and bought 42 bleacher tickets (at 50 cents each), then we ran back to the bus and handed out the tickets. You could not do that today.

The game was a typical Sox-Yankee barn-burner. We sat right behind the Yankee bullpen and I remember ragging Catfish Hunter so loudly that he glared at me while he was warming up. The Sox won and everyone had a great time despite the fact that we lost a few souls, who never showed up for the return trip to Springfield.

Back to 1975... Jim Rice and Fred Lynn were the "Gold Dust Twins" and led the Sox into first place, but at the end of the season, Jim Ed injured his wrist and had to sit out the playoffs and World Series. He did not play in one of the greatest World Series of all time and to this day, I think his absence was the difference between the Sox losing and winning that Series.

Hitting, rather than pitching, has always been my favorite part of the game and Jim Ed was the greatest slugger I had ever seen in a Sox uniform. Off the field, I loved the way he kept the press out of his business. Instead of kowtowing to the leeches that work for the Boston area media, he made it clear to them to stay out of his face. That probably cost him a few sportswriters' votes for various awards during his career and the Hall of Fame post-career, but he had more integrity than most ballplayers and stuck to his guns.

Did I mention that Jim Ed and I share the same birthday? He is a year younger, but I won't hold that against him.

Besides Red Sox yearbooks, scorecards, baseball cards, and spent Fenway tickets, I don't have much Jim Ed memorabilia. I do have some posters and his autograph on a 1978 team-signed baseball that now includes four Hall of Famers (Jim Ed, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, and Dennis Eckersley) along with other Sox stars of that era (Luis Tiant, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, George Scott, and Butch Hobson). That ball is one of my favorite Sox collectibles.

To tell you the truth, I was surprised Jim Ed made it into the Hall of Fame after being snubbed all these years and I was very happy he finally made it in. After all, we aren't getting any younger!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Surfin': Getting Off The Grid

This week, Surfin' explores the possibilities of getting electricity from your own resources.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

my moss is getting moldy

Last night, the local weather man claimed that at the rate this summer is going, it is going to be the coldest summer on record around here. I don't mind the cool weather, but the mass quantities of precipitation and lack of sunshine this summer is having its toll on the local environment.

My vegetable garden is a perfect example. My five tomato plants have produced one green tomato so far and I fear it will rot before it turns red. My ten pepper plants have produced nothing and they are so scrawny that I would not be surprised if they produce nothing at all this year.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Teddy Ballgame

Pop was a Red Sox fan, so I was a Red Sox fan.

To begin my indoctrination into Red Sox fandom, Pop bought me my first pack of baseball cards early in the spring of 1958.

I opened the pack containing five cards and one slab of pink gum and discovered a Red Sox player among those five cards, but not just any player, rather it was Ted Williams' baseball card, which happened to be number 1 in the Topps series that year.

Pop was a Ted Williams fan, so I was a Ted Williams fan.

In 1959, Fleer issued an 80-card set of baseball cards commemorating Ted Williams career. (Ted was supposed to retire in 1959, but changed his mind before the season ended.) Almost everyday, Pop brought home a few nickle packs of Ted Williams cards for me and before long, I had a complete set except for one card, number 68.

Pop kept buying the cards so I could get that elusive #68, but no luck. Finally, one day he came home with a complete box of Ted Williams packs under his arm and I finally found #68 to complete the set.

Unbeknownst to Pop or me, #68 was very rare and I was lucky to find it at all. That card showed Ted signing his contract with Bucky Harris, the Red Sox GM back then. Turns out that Bucky had an exclusive contract with Topps, so Fleer had to stop production of #68 and very few of those cards ever made it out of the factory for sale to the public.

Opening Day 1958 at Yankee Stadium, I saw Ted play in person for the first time. I saw him in person a few more times before he retired. The most memorable was on his birthday at Fenway Park, August 30, 1960. The Fenway Park organist, John Kiley, played Happy Birthday when Ted stepped up to the plate, which was kind of special (I don't think Kiley did the same for Don Buddin or Marty Keough). A month later, Ted bid the fans adieu with a home run on his last career at bat.

After he retired, I saw Ted again when he came to Waterbury for The Jimmy Fund. He batted balls pitched to him by Joan Joyce, the famous softball player. I don't recall if the balls were softballs or hardballs, but whatever they were, they all flew out of Municipal Stadium that evening.

I recalled my memories of Ted Williams after watching his biographical documentary on HBO. It was very well done and it brought back memories of Ted's life that I had forgotten and revealed things I never knew. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

lightning update

The printer is dead, long live the printer.

Bad enough that the printer died, but to rub salt in my wounds, I recently stocked up on ink cartridges for the recently deceased printer.

Good news is that N1ED recently gave me two Epson printers that he no longer needed. I got one up and running this morning, so I am back in business.

My homeowner's insurance will pay for nothing because I did not have enough damage to exceed the deductible, so the thunderstorm cost me about $250 out of pocket.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

lightning update

After getting the phone company on the case yesterday, it turns out that the landline and DSL were down because the lightning damaged our telephone causing it to short the landline and DSL. In addition to damaging the telephone, the lightning also damaged the DSL modem and the WiFi transceiver (an Apple Airport).

I bought a new telephone, DSL modem, and Airport today and got everything up and running this evening.

The weather station returned to life inexplicably.

The jury is still out on the printer. Now that I have the phone and Internet back up and running, I will tackle the printer and see if I can bring it back to life.

Friday, July 17, 2009


A thunderstorm blew through last night and one lightning strike did damage. It took out the landline, the DSL, a printer, and my weather station. It may have also damaged a phone, the DSL modem, and the WiFi transceiver, but I can't be certain until AT&T restores DSL and phone service. There may have been other damage, but I have not had an opportunity to check everything.

Odd that we never lost electric service and my APRS digipeater kept plugging away throughout the storm.

Surfin': Hammin' With the Sun

This week, Surfin' travels to a ham radio station in The Bush of Australia where the Sun is everything.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

vegetable status

Weatherwise, it has been lousy around here during the six weeks since I planted my vegetables. Wet, cool, and not much Sun sums it up, but it looks like summer finally showed up yesterday.

Early on, I lost one tomato plant and a bunch of pepper plants. The tomato plant just never took to its transplanting, while the pepper plants suffered from an attack of snails and slugs.

The surviving tomato plants did ok until this week when I noticed signs of blight. The pepper plants have just been slow to grow.

The plants look pale in the photo because the day before, I sprayed them to counter the blight.

The dog (Pumpkin Pie) is looking around the corner for her nemesis du jour: Chip or Dale.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Giant Clawed Dinosaur Unearthed in Utah Desert

According to Discover Channel News, "A multi-institutional team of scientists this week reports the discovery of a giant new dinosaur in Utah, Nothronychus graffami, which stood 13 feet tall and had nine-inch-long hand claws that looked like scythes."

Despite the claws, it was a herbivore.

Read all about it here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

a pet peeve

One of my pet peeves has to do with magazine subscriptions. This particular peeve raised its ugly head again recently when my daughter gave me a subscription to Sky & Telescope as a Father's Day gift.

My subscription began with the arrival of the June, July, and August issues of the magazine during the past four days. The mailing address notes that my subscription runs out with the May 2010 issue.

My peeve is sending me two back issues (June and July) to fulfill my 12-issue subscription. If I thought enough of the magazine to get a subscription, would I not be interested enough to buy those issues of the magazine before getting a subscription?

This has happened so often in the past with other magazine subscriptions that I finally started complaining to the magazines and so far, each time I have complained, the magazine extended my subscription by the number of back issues they sent me.

I intend to complain to Sky & Telescope, too, but why should I have to do that?

Instead of sticking their new subscribers with back issues they might already have, the magazines should start new subscriptions with the next new issue. If a subscriber missed an issue, she/he can always purchase the back issue(s) instead of having back issues foisted on them unwillingly.

Monday, July 13, 2009

got good humidity

I have been monitoring my weather station closely since I got the outdoor humidity and temperature sensors back up and running on Friday afternoon and I noticed two things.

First, the bad news: I lose connectivity to the weather server for a few random hours each day. It may be something amiss with my APRS set-up or it may be network issues.

Now, the good news: I am not only getting outdoor humidity readings again, but now I am getting good outdoor humidity readings. The old humidity sensor always had very high readings, whereas the humidity readings from the new sensor compare favorably with the other nearby weather stations.

Friday, July 10, 2009

got humidity

The new cable for my weather station's outdoor humidity and temperature sensors arrived today. I swapped the old cable for the new cable and that solved the problem; my weather station has outdoor humidity and temperature readings again.

I examined the old cable, but could not see any problems with it. So I assume something internal to the cable or connector went bad.

Surfin’: Makin' Radio At A Higher Level

This week, Surfin' takes you out the door and up the hill to make contacts for awards.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

a new discovery

I like cookies.

I like some cookies more than I like other cookies. For example, I like chocolate chip cookies, but I am not a big fan of chocolate cookies, although I do like Oreos. Go figure.

On Father's Day, my wife Laurie gave me a bag of a new brand of cookies: Keebler Sandies Cashew Shortbread. I like Keebler Pecan Sandies, I like shortbread cookies in general, and I like cashew nuts, so there was a good chance that I would like the new Keebler offering.

Turns out that I don't like Keebler Sandies Cashew Shortbread cookies, rather I love them!!! They are perhaps the best store-bought cookie I have ever eaten and they rank highly with the best bakery and home-baked cookies, too. I highly recommend them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tunguksa Blast Mystery Solved by Space Shuttle?

According to National Georgraphic News today:

"Space shuttles blasting off from Earth may have helped solve the mystery of what came careening down from space to explode over Russia in June 1908.

"The so-called Tunguska event leveled 770 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of forest in a remote area of Siberia.

"What caused the blast has puzzled scientists, because only a handful of people saw the explosion and it left no easily recognizable debris."

Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

where's the humidity?

The rain gauge seems to be working! There was some precipitation this morning and the gauge confirms it.

Next, I plan to tackle the problem with the outdoor temperature and humidity sensors, which I wrote about here. I ordered a new cable from Peet Bros. today and hope that is the cure.

Monday, July 6, 2009

where's the rain?

We had a lot of rain here recently. There were claims that three to four inches fell last Thursday alone. But for a week or so, my rain gauge indicated no new precipitation.

Saturday, I checked it out to see what was the matter. I guessed that something was gumming up the works like dirt or leaves stuck in the bowl of the gauge. To my surprise, I discovered that the cable between the rain gauge and my weather station was cut about two feet below the rain gauge.

The cable is inaccessible to humans, so I assume an animal was the culprit: maybe a bird (perhaps a woodpecker) or maybe one of the squirrels that loves to sample my bird feeder.

But why would an animal cut the cable? The rain gauge, cable, birds, and squirrels have cohabited for over seven years and the cable remained intact all that time. Did the cable suddenly become tasty? It is just another mystery I will never solve.

I patched the cable yesterday and will monitor the gauge closely next time it rains hoping that there was no electronic damage caused by the cut.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!

I am very particular and don't celebrate the fourth day of the seventh month of the year, rather I celebrate "Independence Day," i.e., the day our country's founders signed the Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776.

Friday, July 3, 2009