Engine No. 17

This weekend I finally collected on one of my Fathers’ Day gifts: a steam-train excursion on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad with Diana.  Leaving from Elbe, Washington, we crossed the Nisqually River and Mineral Creek on a four-car train pulled by 1-4-1 oil-fired steam locomotive, formerly in the employ of the Hammond Lumber Company.

dsc_0600     dsc_0625   dsc_0681

Once we got to Mineral, WA, we enjoyed time wandering through a logging museum, seeing a number of other steam engines in various stages of restoration, as well as several logging cabins and other logging equipment.  Then it was back on the train and back down to Elbe.

After finding a geocache near the train depot, we drove up through Ashford and on up to (but not through) the gates of Mount Rainier National Park.  We then started back down the hill and stopped at the Copper Creek Inn for lunch (the chowder is fantastic…) and then geocached our way back down the road.  We stopped in Eatonville to visit Diana’s dad, and then meandered our way over some back roads into Tacoma.

Our geocaching near the mountain had put me at 1,999 caches.  I wanted to find a fun one for my 2,000th.  We saw that The Drive Through cache, which had been broken when we looked for it previously, had been repaired.  It was fun to figure it out, and cool to reach this milestone.

August 6, 2016 | In: Ham Radio

First Satellite Contact

Saudi-OSCAR 50

Well…I can cross that off my never-done list.  This afternoon at 14:32 local time, using an antenna I built myself, I made an amateur radio contact (QSO) via satellite.

The antenna: a couple of summers ago I put together a tape measure Yagi antenna similar to this that uses PVC for the framework and lengths of a retractable tape measure for the elements.

The radio: my Wouxun KG-UV3D dual band hand-held, programmed with seven adjacent memory channels to deal with the Doppler effect as the satellite passes overhead.

The satellite: SO-50 (Saudi-OSCAR 50), one of the Orbital Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio (OSCAR) satellites put up by amateur radio operators for amateur radio operators.

The QSO: The satellite came over the northwest horizon at 14:25 PDT, in an arc that took it almost straight overhead on the way to the southeast horizon.  I finally started hearing the carrier signal from the satellite about 30 degrees above the horizon.  WD9EWK was working stations from Montezuma Castle National Monument as part of the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) operating event.  at 14:32 he finished working another station, and I transmitted my call and my grid-square (CN-87), only to hear him return my call with his grid square and the identifier for the NPOTA unit he was activating.  I was so stoked that I jerked the antenna out of alignment, quickly got it re-aimed and finished the contact.

I tweeted a thanks to WD9EWK, and he responded that he had the contact recorded, and would be sending me an MP3 of the contact.  As soon as I have it, I’ll post it here…


After playing around with a number of different ideas for my Raspberry Pi, I decided to try making it into an APRS I-Gate, which will listen to APRS data packet transmissions on the 2-Meter ham band, and then forward that data on to the internet so it can show up on such sites as aprs.fi. Read the rest of this entry »


Well…I’ve done it again. Multiple projects going at once, and none are actually getting to completion.

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May was quite the month…and now the empty nest isn’t.

On the 1st, we picked Drew up from his dorm at George Fox.  Doubling up on his engineering classes caused his GPA to slip all the way down to 3.9 for the semester (from the 4.0 he pulled in the Fall term…)  He’ll be in an on-campus apartment next year with three other engineering students.

On the 6th we flew to St. Louis.  That night we stayed at the Fellowship Ranch retreat center outside of Waynesville, MO.  Diana and I stayed in the house I lived in my last two years of high school.  In the morning we toured around the property, which was in the process of being sold, one last time.  Many thanks to Frank & RuthAnn Branham (whom I’ve known since I was in junior high) for their hospitality.

From Waynesville we headed to the Branson area (with a detour to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder farm in Mansfield) to meet up with David and prep for his graduation from College of the Ozarks.  We got checked into our hotel, ran some errands, and then met my parents who had flown into Kansas City.

Friday and Saturday were filled with a combination of playing tourist, David’s graduation rehearsals, and getting together with old friends in the area.  We discovered that David’s roommate’s father and I knew each other from our time at the college…small world, eh?

Sunday brought the Baccalaureate service in the morning, lunch on the lawn (which was interrupted by a midwest gully-washer of a thunderstorm) and then graduation.  That evening we got together with my Aunt and Uncle who had driven over from Kansas.  I hadn’t seen them since my Grandmother’s funeral.

Monday was spent getting David’s dorm room packed out and shipped home.

Tuesday we headed back to St. Louis, but took a round-about way which allowed us to find geocaches in five states in one day: AR, OK, KS, MO and IL.  In the process, we ended up finding regular, virtual, multi, letterbox hybrid and earthcaches, and walking partway across the Mississippi River on the old Chain-of-Rocks bridge.

Wednesday had us flying back to Seattle, and back into the swing of things…only now our empty nest included two young men, and two dorm-rooms worth of stuff.babybirds

March 1, 2015 | In: Ham Radio, IT

Shack Computer Redux


When Drew headed off to college with his shiny new laptop, he left behind a decent Dell small-form-factor Ubuntu machine with a nearly-new 20″ monitor.  I just couldn’t let it sit and gather dust now, could I? Read the rest of this entry »

February 26, 2015 | In: IT

Relaunch of No Sked Required

Well, after getting hacked and my Drupal install totally compromised, I’m going to re-launch with a different CMS.  We’ll see how this goes…I’ve re-posted my old posts, and I’ll be moving on to new items.


Well…it has been a busy summer, and I haven’t gotten around to getting anything written down, so here’s a quick summary.

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June 23, 2014 | In: Family

Gradually Graduating


I’m back to work after a couple of weeks of scrambling, both on and off the job.  The first week was spent getting my youngest through two graduations, a birthday and a party.  The second was partly work and partly college prep work.

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Walking In The Rain

Last Sunday my younger son and I participated in the CROP Walk to support hunger programs both locally (Des Moines Area Food Bank) and globaly. Read the rest of this entry »