Spring Weather Safety Preparedness

tornadoGrowing up in Indiana, spring always brought with it once thing – tornados. Indiana is ranked as the number one state to die from a tornado. Growing up we used to call them trailer magnets, since tornadoes through them around like straw, when they came through.

Since I now live in Texas, it’s clear I haven’t learned. Tornados are scary.

Although most people don’t know it Raytheon does quite a bit with NOAA. Most of the weather information you see every day came through Raytheon, one way or another. One of these efforts is the Weather Ready Nation project where they have safety modules to share what do to for certain kinds of natural disasters. Spring safety is one of the areas of focus in this NOAA post of last year. For some reason, the CDC also has a focus on Spring Weather – that really makes me wonder about the underlying meaning of spring fever though.

In any case, it is a good time to think about what might happen and prepare. Dealing with Indiana weather was one of the things that kept me involved in Amateur Radio growing up.

A Great Glass Blowing Experience in Dallas

For Christmas, I purchased a glassblowing workshop with a Groupon for my wife. This weekend we finally got around to going to the workshop by Aaron Tate at the Marrsart studio.

We were shocked by the range of objects they would let us make in the workshop. Sure, they had the typical glass paperweight but they also had vases, bowls, cups, ring holders… with quite a range of colors as well.

The support staff were very helpful and patient, explaining everything that was going on and why it was being done. IMG_20170319_173337789

Michelle made a ring holder and I made a glass paperweight (with little bubbles in it).

We both decided that next time we’re both going to make bowls, since you actually first create a big blub (yes, like a Christmas ornament) and then suck on the tube to pull into a bowl shape.

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That’s a picture of Michelle pulling the glass to twist the colors into it.

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This is a picture of me turning the colored glass in the furnace that will be in the center of the paperweight. I had to get it up to temperature, so we can work with it more.

Morse code activity

Though my skills with Morse code are not as strong as they used to be, it doesn’t stop me from leveraging it with my other hobbies:

Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to play World of Warships — sometimes with my son who lives many states away. Besides being a challenging, multi-player naval simulation, WoW often provides some history on the ships and men it is based on.

Their latest background post had just a bit on the background of Morse code and its use by the various Navys of the world  – Squall line: Morse code.

It can be strange how various parts of your life can intersect.

Moto G4+

Well my old LG G2 phone (about 3 years old) finally bit the dust — it was dropping the connection to my provider (ATT) at random times. Not a good characteristic for a phone.

I quickly looked around for an unlocked, Android phone that I could buy outright, without loosing an arm or a leg in the process. I hate paying monthly rent on a phone. I settled on the Moto G4+ with 64 GB of on-board memory. Not sure I needed the 64GB upgrade since the G4 does have a SIM expansion slot that can emulate on-board memory, but I learned a long time ago that you should max out your memory when you buy technology since you may not have the option later.

Moto4G

Naturally, once I bought it the G5+ was announced.

From the time I had it custom configured until the time it was dropped off at my doorstep, it took a week. Not bad, since the device had to be assembled in China. I dropped in my SIM card and was ready.

The first phone I received had an intermittent touch screen issue. It took me 2 phone calls with tech support to convince them I needed a new phone. The first call told me how to do various hardware and memory resets. By the time I reordered, they ran out of some of the parts to configure the phone exactly the way my old one was, but that wasn’t a bit issue for me. My new phone was on its way and I received it in exactly one week.

The Motorola/Lenovo help desk was pretty good (as far as help desks go). I was able to talk with a human within 2 minutes on every call I made — I think there were 5 in total.

  • 2 related to the first phone problem
  • 1 related to an issue with the re-order – there was a spelling error in my email address
  • 2 related to shipping back the old phone – also related to the previous spelling error

Granted, that is not the best track record but each time I was talking with a person who knew what had happened before. They were curious and very helpful (having personally  helped folks on the phone many times in my career, I realize the strain that they can be under, so I may be more tolerant than most).

Overall, this is the best Android phone I’ve ever had, so far. All the important software I had loaded on my old phone runs on this one. The conversion from my old phone to this one was painless, taking probably 2 hours with 1.5 of that being Android loading up the 140 applications I had on my old phone (which it remembered). This process is MUCH better than it used to be.

Last weekend was the Dallas FIRST Regional

Last weekend was the Dallas FRC regional. There are videos of the competition available on-line. This year’s competition was steampunk based.

FRC

I’ve been coordinating judging for the FIRST Robotics competition in Dallas for about 8 years now, so naturally there are a significant number of retired EDS and a few Raytheon folks involved.

FRC allows students to start from a standard kit of parts and some state of the art tools (received at the kickoff in January) to build a robot attempting to meet specified objectives. This video is an overview of this year’s challenge – FIRST Steamworks

The goal of FIRST is to encourage the understanding and passion around STEM. It has a proven track record of results that is hard to argue with. 


I was also drafted to judge the Jr. FIRST Lego League competition on Saturday morning. That competition is targeted at grade school students. At least in the Dallas area this competition was sponsored by Raytheon, among others.

Jr

QSO Morse practice app for Android

Over the Thanksgiving break I sat down an wrote a small application for Android to help individuals brush up on their Morse code. There are many apps already out there to teach Morse code but this one is aimed improving your ability to receive the interactions you’re likely to encounter over the air.

It is called QSOSender3, since it is the third iteration I’ve worked on. It generates QSOs based on the speed you’d like to receive. For 5-10 WPM, the simulated QSOs are fairly short but a realistic representation of what you’d likely see on the air. For 10-15, the QSOs are slightly longer and for 15 WPM and higher (see the picture below) they can become quite involved.

I used a grammar based generator to create the simulated QSO, so they can be very different from one to the next. In fact for the highest speed (longest), it is incredibly unlikely that any to generated QSOs will be the same. Have fun… here is a representative screenshot:

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#amateurradio #hamradio