I’ve been having some weird computer problems over the last couple of weeks.  On Thanksgiving morning I went into my office/ham shack and found my main computer was off and would not boot.  It was so dead that I didn’t even get the POST (Power On Self Test) beeps.

I spent quite a bit of time checking all possible causes and even had the power supply tested at a local computer store.  I was left with the conclusion that the motherboard was dead.  You may remember a while back we had a serious lightning hit which did a lot of damage to electronics around here.  After that event I had to replace (among other things)  the motherboards in two different computers.

At that time, just in case, I purchased an extra board for possible future use.  I was able to replace the board in the dead computer with the spare and all was well again.  I didn’t even need to reload or reconfigure any software.  That was a definite blessing.

This in itself is nothing surprising but it gets more interesting.  After retuning home Monday from a doctor visit I found the PC connected to my radio gear was also dead.  It would try to boot and get part way into the process and then shut down.  Again I suspected the power supply and opened the case to take it out.  I was surprised to see that the CPU heat-sink was just dangling by its wires and no longer attached to the processor chip.  Clearly, without the heat-sink the CPU would overheat in a few seconds and its self protection circuitry would shit it down.

Closer inspection showed a plastic tab that held the heat-sink on had broken off.  How this happened I can not guess as the PC was just sitting under my radio desk as it had for several years. Its mother board was identical to the one that had failed in the other machine and I had not yet disposed of the bad board.  I was able to remove the plastic clip from the dead board and replace the broken one.  New heat-sink compound and re-seating everything was all it took.  Then all was fine again.

This story has several morals:

  • Spare parts are good to have around.
  • PCs can fail mechanically as well as electrically.
  • Even a ‘dead’ component can be useful.



I’ve been having some health issues over the last month or more and I just noticed how much medication all of this has involved.  As I’ve said before, I don’t want this blog to degenerate into a “Tom’s Health” commentary so I won’t add more details but I think this picture says it all.


All my friends know I am an office supply junkie.  I have shelves of special paper, file folders, sheet protectors — you name it.  One of my worst faults is writing instruments.  Pens, pencils, markers, highlighters and such.

I have a few favorites, each for a special purpose and I would like to recommend some of them to others who share my same vice.

On the left is a beautiful, hand crafted fountain pen made for me by a friend and master woodworker.  This is a wonderful pen for journaling and for when you just want the silky smooth feeling of putting ink on paper.  There is also a certain nostalgia in using what many consider an ‘Old Fashioned’ pen such as this.

Next on the left is my work-horse, the Pilot G-2 gel pen.  This is my choice for general writing and I have many around the house.  They come in various sizes but I favor the 0.5 mm tip. They write smoothly but on some paper can have a problem with smudging.  One problem is that when I loan one to someone it tends to not return home.

Third from the left is the Uni Ball Vision Exact, essentially a very fine point pen, almost like a Rapidograph technical pen.  If you need precision writing or drawing this is a good choice.  I like it because it works well with templates and lettering guides and because it does not smudge as much with glossy, non-porous paper.

Next is the trusty Pentel automatic pencil.  This has been my standard lead pencil for years and I use it for general notes and always when copying Morse code over ham radio.  No worry about broken or worn down points and it glides smoothly over most paper.  Again I use the fine point but also have a couple of the larger (0.7mm) size which have  different feel but work just as well.

Finally, for completeness, is the classic yellow #2 wooden pencil.  I don’t use them a lot but love the aroma of the cedar when you sharpen one.

иконографияКартиниOn 07/09/11 I reached a major milestone in my ham radio career.  On that day I received word that my latest submission to the ARRL DXCC program had been accepted.  This application was my final step in receiving 5-Band DXCC (5BDXCC) which means I have contacted, and confirmed via QSL cards,  100 or more countries on five different amateur radio frequency bands.

This is the culmination of an effort I started over 30 years ago and something I am very proud of.  As of the above date I have the following totals: 103 countries on 80 meters, 109 on 40m, 167 on 20m, 164 on 15m and 118 on 10m.  Here is the 5BDXCC certificate I received today.

In addition to the 5BDXCC I also received endorsements on my CW (Morse code) and Mixed (CW+Voice) DXCC totals which brings me to 325 and 329 countries respectively.  Currently the DXCC program recognizes 341 ‘countries’ and when I have worked all but 9 of them I will be eligible for the DXCC Honor Roll !

In addition to the certificate shown above, the ARRL offers an optional plaque for this award.  I ordered one and it arrived a couple of days ago.  It really looks great.



Previously I posted about the humorous Police Report clippings that my friend Sarah in Bozeman Montana sends me from time to time.  Here is the latest batch.

I particularly like the one about the “large, four-legged buffalo, brown in color and wearing fur.” 🙂

Last night we were woken by the weather radio at about 3am and continued to get alerts for hours after.  Around 5am the emergency warning sirens went off and Jan and I took to the basement. We had very high winds, some say up to 80 mph.

After the storm had passed our yard looked like a war zone.  We lost at least 12 large pines, some 12″ in diameter and ~40′ tall. They were slapped down like they were balsa wood.  Patio furniture was scattered all over the yard.  The glass topped patio table is a twisted wreck with broken glass scattered around.


Our favorite tree, a maple just off our deck, was broken off 3′ above the ground.

The back yard was nearly as bad with many trees down and debris everywhere.




We are, at the moment, without power and I am running this PC off our generator which also allows us to keep the refrigerator and freezer cold (though we have to alternate power to one or the other.)  The radio says 40,000 people in the area are also without power.

The only damage to our house itself was some aluminum flashing that was torn off and a piece of siding pulled loose.  All my antennas look intact (save one wire antenna hit by a falling tree) and my tower and outbuildings are also fine.

Here is a link to pictures of other area places damaged in this storm.  (Note: I don’t know for how long this link will be valid.)

I’ll update if anything changes.

Or – I Can Row, Canoe?

Back in the ’70s and ’80s we spent a lot of time canoeing on local Iowa rivers.  Nearly every nice weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day would find us on the water.   Sometimes it was just Jan and I in one canoe, but often it was with a group of from 3 to 20 canoes and up to 50 people in the group.   Often we would camp along the river on sand bars or islands.

For several reasons we have not continued this practice into the ’90s and ’00s.  Just recently my two sons (Steev, Allan and partners) were here for a visit and we decided to get out on the river again.  Here is a picture of the group (minus Jan who took the photo.)  L. to R. Jeannette, Allan, Steev, Greta and me.

We rented canoes at a nearby County park which also provided us with all the needed gear and transported us to the put-in point.  Here is the trailer load of canoes ready to head upstream.

It didn’t take long to get to the put-in and within half and hour we were on the river without incident.  Here is Steev and Greta underway.

And here are Allan and Jeannette.

One of the things that makes canoeing in a group extra fun is being able to barge all the canoes together and just float (with minor steering when needed.)  Jan particularly likes this  because she can just sit in the canoe and, as she puts it, “play hostess-mostess.”  Here she is in action.

Another feature of many of our canoe trips is the lunch stop.  When we had estimated that we had covered half the distance to the takeout, we found a {relatively) dry sand bar and beached our canoes.  Here is our simple setup for our picnic lunch.

After lunch a few of us decided to take a dip in the river.  It’s quite shallow and the bottom here was sandy.

The rest of the trip was pleasant though we had a strong headwind which made paddling a little more difficult but we still completed the trip in about 5 hours.  In another hour we were home again and some of us decided on a little apres-canoe soak in the hot tub.  A great ending for a fun day.



We can put television in its proper light by supposing that Gutenberg’s great invention had been directed at printing only comic books.

—Robert M. Hutchins