Monthly Archives: April 2014

Weather Wednesday – Weather And Ham Radio

Welcome to another Weather Wednesday. This week I’m going to pick up where I left off with my Simpsons Sunday blog and cary it over to Wednesday. Weather and ham radio do have a relationship in many ways. Most hams keep track of the propagation and listen for openings. What this means is that they are listening for signals that are farther away so they can talk to more people, especially on the VHF and UHF bands. This is called dxing and I personally like to do this because it is interesting to hear where people are from and to either hear a conversation or get into one with someone way out of town.
Hams also keep track of sunspot cycles too. At the peak of the cycle the propagation is very very good on certain bands. Atmospherics also comes into play here because this also plays a roll in propagation in that when thunderstorms are in the area, you hear crackling on am radio or what ham’s call static crashes. These are very good for judging how far or near you are to a thunder event.
All you have to do is listen to your radio during the day and for a bit at night on both the am and fm bands. You will notice an increase in the amount of stations you can pick up at night, especially on clear nights and when the winds are light. The summer is probably the best time for an opening to occur and it gets really exciting when it happens.
Another way ham radio and weather come together is with volunteer organizations such as SKYWARN and CANWARN. The ham radio community make up the core of both organizations but anybody can get involved. If you have a passion for the weather and want to help out the Weather office with spotting it this is for you. This is normally the time of year, when Warning Preparedness Meteorologists all over the world are training and retraining volunteers on storm spotting. I have been a CANWARN member since 2008 and I enjoy going to the sessions every year. I get to meet good people and learn a few things along the way too.
There are nets for both CANWARN and SKYWARN volunteers to report on severe weather in their local area and they can be very short to as long as 9 hours or so. I have a feeling that there might have been a longer net then that but I’m not sure.
Another way that weather and ham radio come together is with the recent inclusion of the Weather Radio channels on VHF radios. Some of them also have a weather alert option built in and there are also some models which have Specific Area Message Encoding on them. Personally, I don’t use the weather alert option because I have enough standalone and combined weather radio receivers for that. Also, ham radios, scanners, Marine radios and some GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service ) radios have 10 channels…. 7 NOAA weather channels and 2 marine continuous broadcast channels. The other one is blank but was used by NOAA years ago.
If you would like more information on all I have written hear, you can use the internet to look it up. Also, if you are going for your ticket your study guide will hopefully have some information on all aspects of propagation.
73 all.

Simpsons Sunday – The Simpsons And Ham Radio

Hello and welcome to another Simpson’s Sunday. This week i’m going to try and talk about how the Simpsons and ham radio combine. For those who don’t know, ham, or amateur radio is a hobby which has been around for more than 100 years. It used to be that you had to know morse code, in order to get your license. However, that has now changed and Morse code is no longer a requirement.
As for who is licensed, people of all ages are on the air with a call sign. Butt, the hobby is and has been stereotyped to be a man’s hobby, however there are women in the hobby too. Men are refered to as old man or om and women are refered to as yl or young lady. The latter is more common on phone and both are common using Morse Code. Oh yeah, a spouse is refered to as an xyl.
I actually became a ham in 2009, when I was 36 years old and I know people who have been licensed as young as 13 years old and I have heard about people who are younger than that, who are on the air. Just for the record, my call sign is VA3WXA. If you happen to go for your license you wil learn about call sign blocks in the country you live in. For example: in Canada the call sign prefixes begin with: VA, VE, VO and VY. In Ontario VE3 and VA3 are the prefixes that are given as valid call signs. The suffix such as mine, which is WXA is chosen in part by myself and Industry Canada. You will learn about how to get a call sign before you take your exam.
Of course, The Simpsons has inserted ham Radio into the show, as a plot device. As a licensed ham, I don’t mind that at all. In fact, I think it’s cool that it is being both acknowledged and satirized at the same time.
There is one example of a character using a Ham Radio and gives out a call sign. Principal Skinner says his call sign is WA3QIZ and his Mother Agnes asked him how to talk on the radio. He shows her where the ptt switch is. She keys up the radio by holding the microphone and pushing the push to talk switch and says “you’re all loosers.” If someone did that in real life, that person would be ignored and thought of as a pest or if it is repeated, as someone who would be thought of as a jammer. They would be tracked down and punished in some form.
I find it odd that neither Simpsons Wiki or Wiki Simpsons mention that Prinsipal Skinner is a ham. I know that David Merkin was a ham at one point, with the same call sign that Principal Skinner used but I wonder if there are others involved with the show who are currently licensed hams. I would love to work them one day. Working them means to contact them on the air.
If you would like to learn more about all the times ham radio has crept into The Simpsons, here is a link for you to check out.
http://www.qsl.net/kb9mwr/files/ham/cartoon/cartoon.html
Just for the record, qsl means understood or I understand. If you are interested in going for your ticket you will learn about what q codes are and the theory behind how we do what we do as hams. You will also learn about how call signs are assigned and of course, you must know the regulations to follow, so you don’t get into hot water..
On another note, happy birthday on Friday to Hank Azaria who turned 50. He does the voices of: Moe the bar tender, Apu, Police Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy and many others we have come to know and love. Another voice that is a classic that he did was for Frank Grimes in the Season 8 episode Homer’s Enemy. The character dies at the end of the episode, despite his best efforts to try and undermine Homer and all that happens is that Homer is thought of as the hero.
He has also been in such movies as: The Birdcage and Godzilla in 1998. Another roll he has done recently is voicing Gargamel in The Smurfs movies. He also has his own TV show called Fatherhood, as he is a Dad with a 4-year-old son. He is also on both Twitter and Facebook and he does tweet a lot.
Back to talking about ham radio for a moment, I would like to congratulate David Letterman as he’s a newly licensed ham. This is the same man we all know and love from his late night TV show and who is retiring soon. Here is an article about him getting his ticket.
http://hamhijinks.com/letterman-issued-embarrassing-ham-callsign/
I hope you enjoy tonights Simpsons episode entitled What To Expect When Bart’s Expecting and next weeks episode Brick Like Me. There are currently trailers for both episodes on YouTube, if you are interested in a preview of what is to come.
Also, don’t forget to check out Chris Ladesma’s blog at http://simpsonsmusic500.wordpress.com/author/simpsonsmusic500/
I also recommend checking out Yeardley Smith’s blog at http://gobbingoff.tumblr.com
She of course, voices Lisa Simpson and both of these Blogs are interesting to me, both because they are associated with The Simpsons but you get a peak into their life outside the show as well.
You can also comment here or you can email me at blindgordie@gmail.com and I will reply as soon as I can to all messages I receive.
One more thing to note is that Simpsons Executive Producer Al Jean is finally on Twitter. His Twitter handle is @AlJean and at this time he has just under 300 followers.
Well, as we say on ham radio, 73, which means all the best. VA3WXA clear.

Weather Wednesday – Emergency Crank Radios

Welcome to another Weather Wednesday. This week I’m going to be doing something a little different. In the past few weeks I have discussed weather alert radios which have Specific Area Message Encoding or SAME on them. This week I’m going to discuss collectively, radios which have an emergency function.
In the past 15 years or so, we have seen somewhat of a rise in popularity in radios which have a feature, which allows you to crank the power. On the radios there is a crank which allows you to crank and crank and crank, in order to bring the flow of electricity to the radio. However, it doesn’t replace the need for AC power to the radio. This only gives you another option to power the unit and some radios have more than 5 ways to do this.
We have also seen the rise in products with solar panels, which allow for strong sunlight to power the radio, or any electrical device which has them. There are some emergency radios which have both features mentioned above and an AC jack with a USB to plug into your computer or an AC outlet.
Another thing that has also happened is the cell phone charging feature, which has become a staple on most crank radios these days. However, not all units charge all phones and most with a USB jack are meant to charge iPhones and other smartphones. Just be aware that some phones won’t charge in the unit, even though it may be fully charge and ready to be used. The iPhone5c can’t be charged with the FRX2 crank radio from Eton without AC power because of how powerfull the phone is and the radio needs to be either plugged in or in the son, in order to charge the phone. Okay, I’m not sure about the latter but I have had to plug it in to charge my iPhone5c.
Another thing is of course, the multitude of other bands you can listen to on these radios, besides the obligatory am and FM bands, there is, shortwave and Weather Radio. Unfortunately the reception on these radios for the weather channels is okay to very pour but it depends on how close to the tower where your local Weatheradio Canada or NOAA Weather Radio transmitter is broadcasting from. This also does not replace the need for a stand alone Weather Radio and should only be used if there is no other option for a weather alert receiver where you are.
I find the bigger and bulky models have a better chance of receiving the WX channels but much less on the am and fm band. I can’t speak for shortwave but I’m sure there are people who have been listeners of this band who can comment on it more than I can.
Anyway, if you are going to buy such a receiver, keep everything I said here in mind. Just look on the internet or go to your local electronics store, which cells radios and you will probably find something.

Weather Wednesday – W-R120 Midland Weather Radio

Hello and welcome to another Weather Wednesday. This week I will continue my discussions on individual WX Radios with a look at the W-R120 desktop model from Midland. This replaces the W-R100 and it has some new options added to the menu layout.
This unit takes 3AA batteries and also has a cloning port if you like. Unfortunately it doesn’t say too much about it in the manual.
Like the W-R602 the W-R120 allows you the option of reading the text in: English, French and Spanish. This obviously reflects that both NOAA Weather Radio and Weatheradio Canada broadcast weather information in more than one language and the multi-culture of both Canada and the United States.
It also allows for you to hear the weekly test of your Weather Radio station but it also allows the monthly test to be heard. This is a step up from the models I discussed last week, which don’t have this option and it is recommended that you turn it on. The reason for this is after 8 days or so it will flash “check reception” and an alarm will go off every so often until an alert is issued. I have only read this and have yet to experience it.
Once again, this unit has Specific Area Message Encoding or SAME and I have discussed it before in previous posts.
When you first activate it you may want to get right to setting everything up. It is possible but if you are like me, you want to use the propper menu layout. T get to it after activation the unit, press the select button repeatedly, until you hear static or the voice of your local WX Radio station. The default channel for Midland SAME radios is Channel 4. I’m not sure why but that is the case with all 4 models discussed so far, which are manufactured by Midland.
If you would like to return the W-R120 back to factory default, disconnect the radio from AC power and reconnect it, with a finger on the Weather-Snooze bar and it will go back to the factory default. It actually says it in the manual and it is very important to keep it in mind, if for some reason you need to do this.
Anyway, that is a basic look at the W-R120 Midland desktop Weather Radio.

Simpsons Sunday – Influence On Our Speech

Hello and welcome to another Simpsons Sunday. This week I have decided to try and figure out how the show has influenced us as people.
Some people have stated that we all speak like the characters do on the show and I can agree with that to a point. A friend of mine says “d’oh” when he is wrong about something and he doesn’t even watch the show. I have even started saying “woohoo” when I hear something I like or when I’m happy, just like Homer.
As far as people in other ocupations go, in rock music Les Claypool of the band Primus owns a recording studio called Rancho Relaxo. If you have watched the Season 3 episode Homer Alone, you know that is where Marge goes to get away from the family for a weekend. She has a great time and the rest of the Simpsons family…. well, I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Really, who hasn’t? It’s on iTunes! As far as Les Claypool goes, him and his band Primus wrote the theme song for another animated TV show South Park. It is a great show in its own right and they have also payed homage to The Simpsons with an episode The Simpsons Did It. I have no problem with it because I love both TV shows and I don’t hold it against Primus for writing the theme to South Park. Recently, I went on Google and found a video of Primus playing The Simpsons theme. Unfortunately, I can’t play it on my phone..
Anyway, The Simpsons has become part of our vernacular and the clips being played onvarious media outlets make it even more pervasive. Really, do we want it any other way? I don’t think so. In fact, I love it. The more I hear “d’oh” and “woohoo” and other popular catchphrases it brings a huge smile to my face.
Enjoy tonights episode and keep watch for the couch gag, by Burlington Ontario native Katie Hemming. This is really cool and I’m very happy for her. I hope she passes her exams with flying colors and she gets her first gig soon after she graduates.
Also, don’t forget to check out Chris Ladesma’s blog at http://simpsonsmusic500.wordpress.com/author/simpsonsmusic500/
Also, check out Yeardley Smith’s blog at http://gobbingoff.tumblr.com
She of course, voices Lisa Simpson and both of these Blogs are interesting to me, both because they are associated with The Simpsons but you get a peak into their life outside the show as well.

Weather Wednesday – HH54 And W-R100

Welcome to another Weather Wednesday. This week I’m going to continue my series of discussions on individual WX radios. I have a few and they are all quite unique in their own ways including: the menu layouts, the designs and their features.
This week I will actually talk about three models: the W-R100 desktop, the HH54VP and HH54VP2 handheld models. These units are very much the same, as far as the menu layouts. However, there are one or two differences with these models.
Their features include a clock and the Weather Alert radio itself. It and just about every model I will be discussing here has SAME or Specific Area Message Encoding. This allows you to program the radio to alert you of weather watches and warnings for your area. You do not have to worry about getting alerts from outside your local area with this feature.
These radios have the same menu layout and it is very easy to learn where each option is. For the sake of those who don’t have either of them I will provide it here. You can access all the options after pressing the menu button and there are 7 of them. They in clude: setting the clock, setting the alarm clock, setting the channel, setting the location of your Specific Area Message Encoding code or Canadian Location Code, setting the alert type (voice, tone or display), testing the alert and setting the backlight.
Note: this order of the options is when you arrow up from setting the clock and is the same on all 3 models.
The HH54VP and HH54VP2 have a Home/Travel button which has the same function as the W-R602 discussed here last week. The difference here is that these units scan for the strongest signal, rather than finding it right away.
The HH54VP2 comes with a rechargeable battery pack and a charging cradle to put it in, when charging the pack. However, you can charge the radio with the AC adapter and you can also charge the same pack with the HH54VP model. By the way, the HH54VP does not come with anything else, except the AC adapter and the user manual but it is the same as the HH54VP2.
There are plenty of Youtube videos with these radios and they will tell you different things from what I have said here because they were generally new radios for the people making them and they may not have had or have both models.
As for the W-R100 the menu layout is exactly the same as the HH54VP models but it is a desktop and the buttons are situated as such. The Weather-Snooze button is the bar just above the speaker and there is an on off switch on the unit.
Sadly, it has been replaced by the W-R120 and I will discuss it next week.
Well, I hope I have given you an idea of which one of these models would be right for you. If you would like more information, just google one of them.

Death And Retirement

Hello and welcome to another blog post. Sadly, I have to mention the passing of a veteran Hollywood actor, namely Mickey Rooney at the age of 93. He has done a number of films and plays for almost all of his life but one of his major roles for me was on The Simpsons in the episode Radioactive Man during season seven. Nancy Cartwright details his guest starring appearance in her book My Life As A 10-Year-Old Boy, which is just hilarious. I have read that he was only 5 foot 2 inches and that’s even smaller than me and I’m not a big guy myself.
Another thing I should mention is the pending retirement of David Letterman from his career of almost 50 years in show business. He started out on TV and radio as announcers and talk show hosts. He went on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, after starting out at a place called The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. He went on to get his own late night show, Late Night With David Letterman and he has done quite well ever since it started in 1982.
At first he had segments such as: Stupid Pet Tricks and the Top Ten List. The latter still goes on to this day and can be heard on the radio on most stations who rerun it the next morning during their morning shows.
I have always liked the band he had to play him in and out of segments, which is lead by Canadian born keyboardist Paul Shafer. He is also a funny guy in his own right.
Last Friday we all heard that David will be retiring soon and this will sure make for interesting times in late night television, now that: Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Conan O’Brien all have their own shows and are doing well so far. It will be interesting to see what happens. Will his show be retired along with him? Will it continue with a new host? What will happen to the band if it does continue? These are questions that I’m sure will be answered at some point down the road.
In the mean time, I would like to thank David Letterman for his many years of giving myself and millions of other people in North America joy and for all the entertainment over the years. If he hadn’t existed I probably would have never heard of people such as: Larry Bud Melvin and we probably wouldn’t have been able to see and hear Matt Groening, just before the premier of the very first Simpsons episode Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire.
David doesn’t do a lot of interviews but one he did do was with Alec Baldwin on his radio show Here’s The Thing. He goes into detail about his early life in show business and as a radio and TV announcer. He also discusses being a Father and some of how the show runs then and now.
We all thank both Mickey Rooney and David Letterman for all the years of entertaining uss through the generations.