Life's Little Frustrations
08:04 Saturday, 1 April 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 65.86°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 89% Wind: 8.05mph
I was going to post a pic of the radios sitting on the table outside, but I can't. Or rather, it's harder than I care to try right now.
I'd made this little automation that automatically created a note in Tinderbox, with all the html in it to post a pic, and now that fails with a cryptic AppleScript error 1700. Something's changed in either Ventura or Tinderbox, and now I've got to chase down what that is.
When you're young, new things are kind of exciting. When you're old, and you realize that time is a finite resource, you'd like to choose the new things you wish to explore. It's not as much fun when they just appear uninvited.
I've been doing fairly well printing a photo card for Mom every day. I've missed a few, but not many. One of the reasons I missed a couple was because a Pages document I'd been using to print cards on my Canon 100 photo printer, suddenly couldn't print. The printer kept complaining that the media and the size were wrong.
I'd changed nothing.
I deleted the printer, re-installed it, twice. Created an account at Canon's support site, asked a question at the forum and received no response. Decided to just create a new document, delete the old custom paper size. Re-create all that and finally got it working again. That was a couple of days lost.
Do I know how I did it? I do not.
Because I created another card, this one for "portrait" orientation cards, same size paper, and got the same error! It's only "portrait" for the purposes of the orientation of the image in the document. They're both "portrait" as far as the printer is concerned. Again, futzed around with this and that and eventually it printed. Do I know why? No. Have I learned anything? No. Will it happen again? Almost certainly.
Such is life in the 21st Century.
As a card aside, I visited my grandson last weekend and we took a selfie together. I printed a card with it and wrote him a little note in it and sent it to him. First time he'd ever gotten anything in the mail. I'm told he was over the moon about it. He'll be 3 in a couple of months.
Last night, I watched Joni Mitchell receive the George and Ira Gershwin Award from the Library of Congress. Great show, you should see it if it's streaming on the PBS app. Could have done without the gratuitous appearance of the politicians and Justice Roberts, but the rest of it was great.
Afterward, I bought a bunch of Joni CDs, because I don't think I have any physical media and my faith in the cloud diminishes by the day. I figure that someday when the net goes down, I can still listen to Joni on CD.
I have some number of CDs that I'd purchased back in the day, post-separation and divorce. I'd been meaning to take them to Goodwill or something. Mitzi wanted to keep them. I'm glad she did. And when we go hear a local artist perform, I'll usually buy some CDs. I've got an old Panasonic portable CD player that I kept because, at that time, it was also the only AM/FM radio I thought I had in the condo. (It turns out, I also have an old walkman-style Panasonic cassette player with a built-in AM/FM radio.) Kept it for the hurricanes.
Anyway, I've plugged it into the aux port on the Tivoli Model One I got from eBay and I'm listening to those local artist CDs lately. Pretty cool. Who needs "stereo"?
I look at Apple Music, and I'm not even sure I understand what I'm looking at anymore. I just tell Siri to play something and she gets it right most of the time. Not always, and when she doesn't, I've learned it's pointless to keep trying. I just don't listen to what I'd wanted to listen to.
Listening to the Ether
07:43 Friday, 31 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 59.86°F Pressure: 1024hPa Humidity: 88% Wind: 3.44mph
"Ether" being, of course, the anachronistic notion of what the medium was that propagated electromagnetic waves. Analog radio being something of an anachronism itself, it feels appropriate.
Almost went down a rabbit hole on FM antenna polarization, but figured I'd better do this post or it'd never get done, since I overslept (or slept in) this morning.
Both the Superadios (GE trademark name) performed similarly on AM, and slightly outperformed the Panasonic RF-2200 in terms of being able to reproduce weak signals with reasonable clarity and volume. I will say that noise seemed better controlled on the RF-2200 though. I'm not sure why that may be, I'm little more than a dilettante in all this.
I used a Sangean PR-D5 as a digital (DSP) reference radio to identify the specific frequencies I was receiving on each radio. The PR-D5 is noted for being especially sensitive on AM, probably because of its larger than normal ferrite antenna, being similar in size to both the GEs and the Panasonic. DSP radios, when properly implemented, are more sensitive and selective than analog radios, certainly at least in the consumer space. It can also decode RDS (radio data system), so I can see the call letters if I don't hear them, if the station offers an RDS signal.
Later, I'll have to test more pedestrian radios on AM to see what the relative difference between a "super" radio and an ordinary one is, at least at my location. I had four radios on the table in front of me, and that was tough enough to manage, what with turning them to get the best signal and all.
FM was kind of a similar story; but a bit muddled, perhaps because of propagation conditions.
I received more stations than I expected, with Orlando being the known location of at least one of them, based on station ID in RDS. I didn't listen long enough for call letters in each case, and the others didn't decode in RDS. One was in Georgia, one in Gainesville, FL. This was unexpected, but VHF signals can often propagate beyond line of sight because of evaporative ducting. I saw this a great deal in the Arabian Gulf, where you could hear Channel 16, Bridge to Bridge, seemingly everywhere in the Gulf.
With AM, it's routine to turn the radio to get the strongest signal, with the long axis of the ferrite bar perpendicular to the direction of the antenna. Likewise, if there's a strong source of interference nearby, you can turn the radio to point the long axis toward the source of the interference, placing it in the antenna's null, reducing the amount of noise entering the receiver.
I confess I'm somewhat surprised to learn that changing the whip antenna's position also affects reception. Some signals are strongest with the antenna pointed vertically, other times horizontally. In some cases, there were two signals seemingly on top of each other, and you could get one clearly by orienting the antenna one way, and the other clearly by orienting it another way, to include changing its azimuth and elevation.
I thought there might be a simple explanation, but a quick look at the search results suggests otherwise, so I'm going to have to do some reading. At least it'll be interesting.
Of the two GEs, it's I think it's possible the SR II is more sensitive and selective on FM than the SR I, but I'm not sure. The PR-D5 would find a station, and I'd have to play around with turning off AFC (automatic frequency control) on the GEs to try and tune it in. AFC seemed to have a tendency to grab the strongest signal, to the exclusion of the weaker one, this perhaps being the intent of the function.
The tuning experience, in terms of the feel of the dial, is much better on the SR I. The SR II feels a little sloppy with some backlash in turning the dial. It works just fine, it just doesn't inspire confidence. That may just be an instance of sample-to-sample variation.
I remain somewhat astonished at the market for religious programming on radio. I think "political commentary" (demagoguery) and religious programming account for more programming on the air than music.
So, am I happy I spent $380 re-capping and repairing these two radios? Yes. Because I'm an old man, and it pleases me to spend some of my money making old things perform well again. Should you spend over $200 for a 30 to 40 year old radio and fix it up to have a "good" radio? Probably not. Unless you like old things.
Today's DSP radios, again, when properly implemented, will outperform consumer-grade analog radios from back in the day. You can look up what the PR-D5 goes for, but it's not much more than what eBay sellers seem to want for GE Superadios.
I guess I should comment on how they sound. Of the four radios I listened to yesterday, the SR I would be the one I found most pleasing. The SR II could be made to sound better, but it always required fiddling with the volume, bass and treble controls. That tweeter in the SR II can make the SR II sound reedy, less full. At its best, it offers a spectral clarity that the SR I can't match, with clear highs and a crisp mid-range, but it requires fiddling. The SR I always produced a rich, full sound that was pleasing to listen to.
The sound out of the PR-D5 is a bit of a disappointment. It's fine for news and talk, but it seems to perform better with music at higher volumes than are comfortable for "personal" listening. But it seems to me to be an amazing receiver in terms of being able to detect and demodulate low signal-strength broadcasts.
I bought a refurbed white one that looks good on the kitchen window sill. I don't think Mitzi is going to let it remain there, so it'll probably just be a reference radio for me when I'm "playing radio."
The RF-2200 sounds fine. It's great for its purpose, but it's strictly a low-volume affair. I was often having to crank it all the way up to hear weak signals, though the audio was clear. I don't know if there's an issue in the amplifier section, but strong signals played loudly enough so I suspect not.
The GEs seem to have a stronger amplifier driving a much larger speaker with six D-cells compared to four for the RF-2200. And the amplifier seems to respond non-linearly to the volume pots on the GEs. A little goes a long way on that control. I seldom (never?) had that control turned "up" more than maybe a quarter to a third of the way, the volume getting uncomfortably loud above that. And then there was always the fiddling that the SR II required.
So I still need to do some playing around with FM. I want to have a clear understanding of the mis-alignment on the SR II before I describe it to Chuck for possible re-alignment. It seems larger at the low end of the band, and it's a closed loop. At the bottom of the dial, I was getting stations from the top!
And I want to have a clearer understanding of the relative differences between the two radios in terms of their tuning performance. The SR II seemed to be slightly more selective, but then there was that feel of backlash in the knob.
Anyway, something to do outside before the weather becomes unbearably hot.
The Marmot Goes Down Rabbit Holes
09:46 Thursday, 30 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 66.6°F Pressure: 1020hPa Humidity: 64% Wind: 12.66mph
It never fails. I see a news item, a blog post or get an email that kind of sparks a question. Next thing I know, a couple of hours have gone by and I've got nothing accomplished I'd intended to accomplish.
This morning's distraction was rising water tables and salt water intrusion due to sea level rise. Bigger problem in south Florida than here, from what I was able to learn. But I noticed the time and headed out for my walk before I was able to find reports from the surveillance wells in the St Johns River Water Management District, and what the historical trends suggest.
We live adjacent to (actually kind of "in" but for fill) a swamp. Groundwater rise may be a relevant issue in the fairly near term, at least with regard to the health and longevity of the pine trees in the preserve behind the house. They can drown if the roots can't get enough oxygen. Not solely because of sea level rise. This was all silva culture around here. Pines cultivated for wood or pulp. Now they're mowed down to put in developments. A lot of that groundwater used to be held in the trees, but not anymore. So it's higher just because of development. Sea level rise will just make it worse. Suspect it'll all transition to cypress and mangrove at some point, perhaps in my lifetime, but I'm not certain.
Anyway, the GE Superadios are here. Going to do an AM and FM band scan this morning or afternoon as assess their performance. One issue I noticed on the SR II is that the dial marker is off by nearly 2MHz on FM, which is significant. I'll have to email Chuck and see about a re-alignment. There isn't much at the top end of the dial here, but it shouldn't be that far off.
Also received a 1990's Panasonic RF-B45 SW radio. Verified last night it'll receive single sideband, at least on 80 meters. Copied Tennessee, Louisiana, P-cola and a few others I didn't get the location. That's on the whip. Seems in immaculate physical condition. Seller was in Arizona and the radio still has stickers from the audio retailer that sold it originally, so I suspect it's always been in a dry environment. Nice faux-leather vinyl case too.
Anyway, laundry to fold, sub to order, stuff to do before I can play radios.
05:26 Monday, 27 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 68.43°F Pressure: 1013hPa Humidity: 88% Wind: 5.75mph
Chuck Rippel, the gentleman who is re-capping the GE Superadios I bought, reports that one is complete and, while he was able to restore battery connections, the interior of the radio was more badly damaged than just the battery compartment indicated. The radio is working on batteries now, but it was a much tougher job than anticipated. So, reminder boys and girls, don't store battery powered devices with the batteries in them! (HP calculators included.)
Garret Vreeland had some nice things to say about the marmot. Much appreciated. I'd like to see more local blogs in this part of Florida. I've found a couple, but it seems that Twitter still commands most folks' attention, the marmot's included. I plan/hope to make myself scarce there after the May elections, spend more time here and in the Underground.
John P. Weiss offered a meditation on the movie The Whale and honesty in writing. Well worth reading. God knows there's a crying need for more honesty in everything these days.
One of the things I learned in therapy is that the inner voice is a unreliable narrator. Sometimes, not so much recently, but more so back in the Groundhog Day era, it was a struggle to determine who was writing my blog posts. The inner voice, or that other place, from which words emerged that often surprised me. The inner voice isn't just an unreliable narrator, he's often an uncompassionate editor, or a cowardly one. Like a public relations manager.
It is hard to do honest introspection. That's why therapists have a job. We could use more therapists.
Euan Semple is struggling with something along those lines. We wish him well. (Is my use of the editorial "we" an affectation? We wonder.)
AKMA's been chronicling his efforts at pounding the pavement into submission.
A couple of weeks ago, which I only read a few days ago because I was behind in my RSS feeds, Peter Rukavina wrote an honest post about a recent episode in his life, which I imagine took more than a small amount of courage.
There are honest voices in the blogosphere. You have to kind of listen for them. They're usually not the ones competing for attention. And there are more than the ones I've noted in these dispatches. This is just a small sampling.
Cultivate an RSS feed of honest voices, and it'll help to make you a little less hopeless.
The Slump Test
08:33 Friday, 24 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 61.54°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 4.61mph
Again with a late reading of a blog post, Dr. Drang offered an amusing insight into one of the properties of concrete.
When I was president of my condo association, we had a building burn down, a total loss for twenty homeowners. We had insurance, and back when Florida was in the business of responsible law-making, they made a provision in the statutes for excess loss coverage, such that if a special assessment were ever necessary to fully recover from a loss, it could be covered by your condo (homeowner's) insurance. We were fully insured to value, with a current appraisal, so we had plenty of resources to do a proper job of rebuilding Building 100.
Then I learned that all the top-flight design and build companies, or first-rate architects and general contractors wouldn't touch reconstructing a condo building with twenty owners and potentially 21 litigants.
So we did the best we could, with who we could get. To make sure, I also had a professional engineering firm involved in every phase of construction. The PE assigned to us, Bryan Busse, was on speed-dial on my phone, along with our attorney and insurance adjuster.
When they poured the slab, we had Bryan come out to observe the "slump test," which is used to make sure the concrete you're pouring is the good stuff.
Funny story about the slab. The building is really two buildings with a common roof system and an open center with stairs. The architect we hired worked off the original plans and made revisions to bring the building up to the current building codes; the county and our PE both reviewed the plans. The slab was poured as two slabs, with the center pour done later.
Only days before we were scheduled to do the second pour, the welders doing the shop plans for the stairs in the center notified the GC that the plans for the slab were wrong. There wasn't enough room for the stairs under the revised building codes!
Nick of time. I'm sure we'd have gotten a waiver or something if we'd have poured it and then found out, but who knows? Revised the drawings, re-staked out the slab and all that work and made the second pour in the proper location a week or so later. One of many delays.
But yeah, "slump test." The things you learn.
And it does take a team.
The Behinder I Get
08:25 Friday, 24 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 61.23°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 4.61mph
Trying to catch up on my blog reading. Just read this post from Woeter Groeneveld from over a week ago. Shot him a note to tell him I enjoyed it and relate a similar experience.
I'll not recapitulate all that here, save to say that reading, history especially, and travel are two of the best ways to expand or change your perspective.
Given the crisis we face with the abuse of fossil fuels, reading is to be preferred for the time being. But travel remains a powerful experience nonetheless.
Death of DP Review
08:12 Thursday, 23 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 59.31°F Pressure: 1020hPa Humidity: 91% Wind: 4.61mph
So Amazon's killing DP Review. Unsurprised. Pretty stupid taking down the site though.
I haven't been spending much time there lately, so maybe that's a clue, I don't know. I did go to my profile and looked through all my bookmarked posts in the forums. I downloaded web archives of the pages I thought were useful.
Then I went to the micro four-thirds forum and checked the list of most-bookmarked posts to see if I had missed something that might be useful. I downloaded web archives of a couple of those as well.
Everything that has a beginning has an end. Yours and mine is coming too. (Are? Verb agreement?) Until then, we have web archives.
(FWIW, I'm killing time waiting for a crew to come insulate our garage attic. Gate has notified me they're on the way.)
06:52 Thursday, 23 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 58.91°F Pressure: 1019hPa Humidity: 91% Wind: 4.61mph
The local blood bank comes to our community regularly and I donate. It's convenient and they give you a $20 gift card! So when they were here on Tuesday, I dropped by after taking Mitzi to the airport and gave a pint.
I poke around eBay, looking at old radios. Sometimes I want to see what they're selling for because there's one up on Goodwill. If there's something I'm interested in, I'll add it to my Watch List. I may not be interested in buying it, I may just be interested in seeing what it sells for.
I guess sellers find out when you've added something they're offering to your Watch List, and sometimes they'll offer you a discount. I've taken advantage on one or two of those, and I suppose that data is shared with sellers as well. Who knows? At any rate, I get a lot of discount offers.
I almost took one for a Sony ICF-7601. The particular listing I'm talking about shows it as an ICF-7601L, but the photos all indicate that it's not an "L" model, which deleted shortwave band 1, and added a longwave band. It's listed at $100, and the seller offered me 15% off. So I searched on recent completed listings and found that that radio often goes for much less than that, with all the accessories!
What piqued my interest was a web site about Sony design, so I'd been thinking about adding a Sony portable to my collection. The 7601 is a fully analog radio, with no digital display or processing of any kind. Mixed reviews. Good to great sensitivity, average selectivity, gets overloaded on an external antenna, not a hall-of-famer by any means, but a decent radio.
So I made a mental note to keep an eye out for one. Not the $85.00 one either.
Well, then I saw a Tecsun R9700DX, and damned if it didn't look just like an ICF-7601!
I don't really fully understand this radio manufacturing business. Who actually designs and builds what, who's an OEM, who just slaps a badge on whatever's on offer. The ICF-7601 was still being sold in some markets well into the 2000s, so someone was manufacturing it for Sony.
Well, to make a long story short, the R9700DX looks like the same design as the ICF-7601. So, it's not a Sony; but it's not 30+ years old either. It's an all analog radio that gets the same kind of marks the 7601 seemed to get. It's small, not tiny like a C.Crane Skywave, has an illuminated band/frequency display and it's $59 at Amazon.
That's not the lowest price it's been offered at Amazon either. It had recently been sold for ~$45, so $59 wasn't exactly a deal.
I did have that $20 Amazon gift card. Blood money.
$43.85 delivered. Should be here tomorrow.
Signal to Noise
05:25 Thursday, 23 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 59.79°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 89% Wind: 3.44mph
Both GE Superadios arrived, separately of course. The photos in the listings didn't include the battery compartment, so although both bodies looked in decent shape, and both antennas were present, I wasn't sure if I wouldn't be finding damage from battery leakage in one or both.
It turns out that the SR I did have battery damage. The terminals had corroded away. I didn't open the cabinet, so I don't know how much may extend into the interior of the radio, but the batteries were at the bottom and the radio looked, from the amount and distribution of the dirt and dust still on it, like it was stored upright. It still worked on AC from the cord, so that was encouraging.
The SR II looked slightly better. There are a couple of small blemishes in the speaker grill paint that can probably be touched up, and the chromed plastic tuning knob shows a couple of blemishes in the fine knurled lines around the circumference. Not bad for something over thirty years old!
As it happened, I decided to have both radios refurbished at the same time. I corresponded with Chuck, and he seems to think he can repair the battery terminals. That was important to me, because the interior of Saul Haul is an rf-dirty environment. In a better world, house current would come in two flavors: 110v AC for high power requirements, and low voltage DC for all the rest, like LED lighting.
Compounding the noise problem is the aluminum foil IR barrier on the roof decking, it's also an rf barrier. While FM radio from the local stations works pretty well everywhere in the house if the radio has an antenna, everything else struggles, to include cell phones.
So to do any sort of "band scanning," since it's forbidden to mount anything as hideous as an antenna on your house or in your yard (exceptions for satellite television because they have a better lobbyist), you have to go outside. Which, thanks to Mitzi's new screened enclosure, is a comfortable proposition these days!
I checked out the SR I on AC outside and it worked fine on FM. Since the cord is fairly short, and the only outlet is below the window that has my Ambient weather station in it, on AM it was also picking up noise from the weather station. I think, or hope. We'll know soon I guess. I guess I could have unplugged the weather station too. Oh well.
If you want to find out how well a radio works, one place to start is to see how well it receives local stations, which leads to the question, what are my local stations? You can find the answer at this web site. Enter your Zip Code and you'll get a list of AM and FM stations whose service areas should cover your location. They're in two tables, with FM displayed first. The lists are sorted by predicted signal strength at your location.
Select all the data in the first table (FM), launch a spreadsheet (I used Numbers), and paste the table into the spreadsheet. In Numbers, I created a second table for the AM stations. The links in the station call letters should come over. You can click on those and get data from the FCC about the station, which is pretty cool.
I tried using these tables on my iPad, sitting outside and discovered something I guess I already knew. The touch screen uses capacitance as the touch-sensing mechanism, and an antenna is nothing more than one element of a capacitor (both elements if you include ground). So my radios were picking up all kinds of noise from the iPad's screen.
So print your tables. But first, sort them in ascending or descending order by frequency. I didn't do that, I'd scan the dial, check the freq then look at the table, which involved a lot of visual scanning up and down the table. And the frequency scale on many old radios can be off by a little or a lot, so it helps to scan the radio up and down several kHz or MHz for closely spaced signals to figure out which one is which. You may be picking up signals not on the list, depending on the sensitivity of your radio, or propagation conditions.
If your radio can receive all the signals in the list, then it's at least a decent radio. If it can receive more, then it may be better than decent, or propagation conditions are better than usual. This is the fun of "playing radio!" Which is it? Do I have a "super radio," or is vhf ducting taking place?
Anyway, what I have to do now is go through and populate the lat and long position of all those stations and then calculate the line of sight distance to Saul Hall.
Next little experiment is to take something like this page at Wikipedia, a listing of all the 50kW radio stations in the United States, and see which ones I can receive. Read the legend carefully at the top of the page. Not all 50kW stations broadcast at that power level at night.
Anyway, something to look forward to when you're retired, right? Thanks for dropping by.
09:49 Monday, 20 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 44.67°F Pressure: 1021hPa Humidity: 52% Wind: 13.8mph
We watched the first episode of Extrapolations, an Apple TV+ series that looks at what the future might look like.
I don't think people will find it very entertaining. That is to say, I don't think it will have the effect its producers seem to intend. Briefly glancing at some of the reviews, I'm not alone in that assessment.
The series does depict the broad outlines of how I think things are going to look. Progress on some fronts, chiefly technology, will continue. There will be whizzy new things to distract us from the catastrophe unfolding before us.
Capitalists will continue to get rich. People will still be having babies. The most important things in people's lives won't be the disaster, it'll be the same things that are most important in people's lives absent a disaster, their families, their jobs, themselves, their money.
But it's not very well done. It's not satirically funny, I didn't relate to any of the characters, nearly all of which were more caricatures than people, and it's not frightening in an immediate sort of way.
"Calling Rangoon, Come in Rangoon"
05:45 Saturday, 18 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 66.67°F Pressure: 1007hPa Humidity: 75% Wind: 10.36mph
Or Yangon, rather.
The Panasonic RF-2200 arrived safely on Thursday afternoon. We were getting ready to have company, so I only spent a little time with it, but my initial impressions were favorable. I've since spent much of the morning yesterday, and part of the afternoon playing with it and I'm quite happy. I have yet to open the cabinet and look at the work, but I'll get to that.
"So what's up with the radios thing?" you may wonder.
Apart from being an old retired guy with too much time on his hands and more disposable income than sense?
Good question, perhaps.
It seems to me that I've been satisfying various itches from my youth or early adulthood, when I had less time and money.
I've been down this route now with cameras, the Apple II, calculators and now radios. And, leaving out cameras, that order is roughly the reverse chronological order of my youthful fascinations, though I bought my HP-41CV after I had my Apple ][+, I may even have been on to my //c (which came before my //e) at that point. But I did have a TI programmable at USNA, and used it to good effect. The camera interest, was first, when my parents got me a new Konica compact 35mm rangefinder for graduation, or my birthday or something.
I loved that little camera, and better cameras were more expensive, which largely squelched (Heh. A radio pun.) any interest in acquiring better cameras; and the cost of film and processing limited the amount of production I got out of that one. (Thankfully!) Mostly shot slides.
With regard to the calculators, I had one of the more "limited" TI programmables, 56, maybe? And I was comfortable with TI's algebraic order of operations. I had seen some HPs, and Reverse Polish Notation seemed like some sort of voodoo. It kind of scared me.
But the HP-41C (I bought a later model, the CV with built-in expanded memory) was getting a lot of hype about being the best programmable handheld on the market. As I recall, the TI-58 was its competitor, and I really had little use for a programmable of that power; but I was a young, single lieutenant on shore duty with disposable income, so I bought one to see what all the fuss was about. Still have it. (Along with an HP-41CX, and a host of other HPs, to include my most recent senseless acquisition, an HP-71b.)
What seems to be taking place is that I'm kind of resolving old questions or desires from faint echoes of fomo (fear of missing out). I acquire things I couldn't have when they were new, or didn't have for one reason or another, but wanted. I use them, learn about them, experience what it was like to own them, and then much of that desire is satisfied, and I can let them go.
I gave away thousands of dollars of Apple II hardware and software. Spending my children's inheritance, perhaps literally. I think the camera and lens thing has been largely satisfied. I may get the mZuiko 8-25mm zoom at some point; and if I won the lottery or something I'd probably get the 300mm/f4 and the 150-400mm, but for the most part, I'm satisfied with the lenses I have and could probably even stand to part with a few more. Photography has stuck with me as an interest. There's little new anymore in the technical developments to excite me. But I still enjoy taking pictures.
There's a box of HP calculators that are redundant to my "collection." I have plans to give that away soon. Mitzi's still on Facebook, so I'll ask her to join an HP interest group and find someone to take it off my hands.
What makes all this relevant to this rapidly growing missive is that I seem to be beginning to understand what's going on inside with all this. So I can foresee myself acquiring a bunch of radios and then having to dispose of them in some way. This growing realization has saved me some money already, though I still struggle a bit.
The heyday of shortwave radio listening is long past. There's little on there to listen to for entertainment or edification. What one appreciates today is the sensitivity of the radios and the changing dynamics of propagation conditions; and perhaps some satisfaction with trying different antenna designs or configurations. Similarly with medium wave, or more colloquially, AM radio.
In that regard, I seem to have made a fortunate choice in getting an RF-2200. It's an analog radio, there may be an IC in there somewhere, I confess that I'm not as intimately familiar with the design of the radio as I will be when this particular itch is scratched. But as an analog, consumer (today we'd probably say "pro-sumer") product, it is, like the GE Superadio, perhaps the highest expression of the art. Sony fanboys (and other manufacturers as well) will object about now, and that's fine. They're probably right; but in terms of the experience of using a radio of this era, this is about as good as it gets. Yes, it drifts a bit, but that's actually kind of fun.
I sat outside yesterday evening and listened to hams on the 20-meter band, using the radio's built-in whip antenna. It's definitely a finicky experience, but I could hear a guy in England, clear as day. Wasn't pegging the needle by any means, but intelligible.
And that was it. I could recall the feeling I had as a teen in my parents' basement, calling CQ on 80 meters in CW (Continuous wave, or "Morse code" for the totally uninitiated.), and the thrill of getting a reply from someplace far away. Most of my contacts ran north and south because of my antenna.
I don't know if that's nostalgia or something else, but it was fun experiencing that feeling again. I've listened to hams on my little DSP radios, but it wasn't the same experience. Superior in most ways, but didn't recall the experience of youth. And I have a zoom meet-up every weekend with Tinderbox users, many of them in Europe. There we all are. Seeing and hearing each other in remarkable fidelity! But it doesn't offer the kind of thrill that plucking a signal out of the ether from thousands of miles away in a little box attached to a little aerial does. Don't ask me why.
Back in the day, it wasn't exciting enough to keep me doing it on the regular. It was often cold in the basement, always damp. I did enjoy the hum of the radios, a separate Hammerlund receiver and I forget the brand of the crystal-controlled transmitter. The faint smell of ozone, I guess. But it was kind of like work. I probably spent as much time listening to hams on sideband, wishing I could just talk. You had to have your General Class license (or Technician if you just wanted to work VHF/UHF) to use single side band (SSB).
I eventually let the hobby go, much to the disappointment of my parents perhaps, who spent not inconsiderable sums of their limited income on my gear. Uncle Robert helped me get it at a hamfest, because there was no way we were were buying that stuff new. The only thing I still have is the code key.
Anyway, I've been looking at other radios of similar vintage, including the GE 7-2290a. My finger has hovered over the "Buy Now" button a few times. It's not unreasonable money, but then I'd have to ship it off to get re-capped. And in the end, I'd know what the experience would be like. Not superior to the RF-2200. Definitely looks cool, but I don't have a house where I can set up a display.
I've got a GE Superadio I and II inbound, a Sangean WR-11, which is just a tabletop radio but I like the design. I let the other Monarch RE-760 (the Godzilla radio) go, price was getting a little dear; but I may still keep an eye out for another one. (Writing that last sentence seemed to wither the desire even more, so, probably not.)
It's easier to get your license today, no code requirement. I live in an HOA so antennas are a challenge, and we have a small rf-unfriendly house, so no possibility of my own "shack." But mobile seems to be where most of the action is today. Small, low power radios, portable antennas. Thinking about it.
But I think I'm fortunate that I've learned a little bit about myself, such that I think I'm pretty much done buying radios. Going broke, thrifting. The RF-2200 is just about perfect for me. Small enough to not take up much space in the command cave. Good enough to want to actually use it. And it looks great.
I think the GEs will likewise be welcome here, though I may have trouble finding someplace to put them.
Here's a little video of most of the objects of my obsession. I have no interest in the C.Crane, likely a fine radio. But I have the RF-2200, and will have a Superadio I and II; and almost bought the 7-2290a.
Going Broke "Thrifting"
05:55 Wednesday, 15 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 46.26°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 63% Wind: 8.05mph
Technically, I suppose, I haven't been "thrifting." That is, I've just been buying junk online at eBay and Goodwill, not visiting thrift stores.
Visiting thrift stores would probably be the wiser thing to do, online auction sites make it far too easy to surface other products than the particular one you're looking for. The good news is that items under auction often give you some time to think it over. That has saved me some money.
This most recent adventure was prompted by another semi-unicorn, the GE 2880B am/fm radio, later dubbed the "Superadio" (Yes, one "r.").
There are three variants, but only the first two are considered genuinely "super." There's a gent in North Carolina who will restore these radios, and make some upgrades. I've been in correspondence with him about the service. It's not inexpensive, but these radios are kind of unique in terms of the history of consumer portable radios, perhaps representing their finest expression in terms of receiver sensitivity and audio quality, albeit they are not stereo radios.
As luck would have it, two specimens were up at shopgoodwill.com at roughly the same time, auctions ending a day apart on Monday and Tuesday. Monday's was a Superadio I, which wasn't badged as a Superradio, as the subsequent models were. There was a sticker applied by GE at some point, labeling it a "Superadio," so most people consider it officially a "Superadio." The biggest differences between the I and the II are the addition of a tweeter in the II, chromed plastic controls and "Superadio" on the cabinet badge.
There are even two versions of the I, the earliest lacking external antenna connections and having no chrome on the any of the controls. The 2880B has chromed band and afc switches, while the originals were just gray plastic.
I'd recently been sniped on something I'd bid on, and this radio appeared in better shape than anything reasonable currently on eBay, so I waited until just before the auction closed and went in with the highest amount I was willing to pay. Turned out to be enough, because I won the auction for $25.00, significantly less than I anticipated! Shipping on this listing was reasonable, so the whole thing came in under $40.
Since I got it for less than half I was willing to pay, I figured I'd take a shot at the SR II as well. Looked to be in similar cosmetic condition. Neither listing showed the internals of the battery compartment, so there could be an unwelcome surprise on delivery, but both were supposedly "working."
Got the SR II for $22.00! But it was listed with a little Jensen handheld so shipping was more and "handling," but the whole package came in under $50.
Once I have both radios in hand, I'll have to decide which one to have refurbished first. I plan to do both, but I'll give my wallet a chance to catch its breath after I do one of them. The service is more than both radios cost altogether. But it's a technically skilled effort, and by all accounts it's a first-class job, so I think it's worth it.
Once refurbished, these radios should continue to perform well past my lifetime. Assuming anyone is still broadcasting analog signals by then, which is a serious question these days.
Goodwill stores vary in the promptness of their shipping, so it's uncertain when I'll see these. Hopefully I'll have them in hand by the end of the month.
In other old tech news, Adel, the gent re-capping my Panasonic RF-2200, received the radio and sent me photos and videos of the results of the work. It's been shipped back and should be delivered tomorrow. Looking forward to tuning around with it, and later comparing it with one or both of the GEs.
There is some discussion about the future of AM radio, as I suppose there has been for quite some time. What's driving the current theme is the desire of car makers to omit AM radios from new car models, claiming it's too hard to filter electronic interference from the EV powertrain. It's a bogus claim, and likely just a cost-cutting measure.
But what is the utility of AM radio today? Well, in New Zealand, apparently it was one of the only ways the government could get any information out following a recent typhoon, with internet service being down in many remote areas. In an era of increasing extreme weather events, AM radio may be one of the most reliable forms of long-range, broadcast media.
But will analog "amplitude modulation" survive? There are technologies to make medium wave frequency radio (the AM band) all digital. If that were to come to fruition, analog AM radio would go the way of broadcast analog television, and there'd be nothing on the "air" these old radios could decode in the medium wave band. And I suppose it's likely FM would eventually follow suit, if there were some government incentive or mandate to convert AM to digital.
For now though, as an old fart, it's kind of rewarding to obtain and enjoy these examples of old high-end technology, and give them a few, perhaps fewer than we think, more years of useful life.
07:21 Monday, 13 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 65.21°F Pressure: 1005hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 4.61mph
I think a thoroughgoing analysis will have to wait for another day, but do see this film. It's a gem.
There's a lot going on, and it's lovely to look at. Bill Nighy is brilliant.
It's about losing your way, finding it again and living an authentic life, even if it's only near the end.
All any of us ever really have are each other, and moments to live.
A Quick Test For Mark
12:29 Saturday, 11 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 67.73°F Pressure: 1010hPa Humidity: 49% Wind: 8.05mph
Just checking some export behavior here. Nothing to see.
So Many Rabbit Holes
06:31 Saturday, 11 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 54.81°F Pressure: 1008hPa Humidity: 87% Wind: 8.05mph
I can't say I've ever been diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder, but I do have a short attention span. Novelty seeking behavior, which the internet affords seemingly limitless rewards.
The Monarch RE-760 arrived and it cleaned up very nicely. Love the way it looks. I'll take a pic one of these days.
It works, but it's pretty deaf on the low end of the AM (or MW for "medium wave" for the radio geeks) band. I've got my eye on another one. If I'm successful, I'll pull the chassis out of one and see if I can restore its hearing.
Goodwill's online auction site is another rabbit hole. I've got two little nonsense radios inbound. One is one of those hand-cranked "emergency" radios. The other is an old general purpose, large portable with AM, FM and weather band coverage, which, frankly, I didn't need. Reasonable price though, comparing it to eBay.
Typing random search terms into Goodwill's site can provide endless hours of entertainment. I missed an opportunity to get a Tivoli Model One for about $50 last night; because one thing led to another ("Ohh! What's that???"), and I forgot about it because I didn't set up a reminder.
Snipers exist on Goodwill. The interface isn't as responsive as ebay, so it's tricky to time it well. And for some reason, most of their auctions end after my bedtime. So I slept on the Model One. It went for $36, which seems like a great price, but that can be deceptive with Goodwill. You always have to estimate the shipping cost before you bid. It varies widely. That particular store was reasonable, so the radio would have cost, with shipping and "handling," about $50, which I think was reasonable for that specimen. The finish on the cabinet was near perfect for a radio that was about 18 years old. There's a nearly identical one on eBay listed for $50, with $15 shipping, with a scratched up top. It's a local seller, so I might be able to arrange local pickup. We'll see.
There was a $45 Model One on eBay with $15 shipping, also in very good shape. Listing said it accepted offers. Seller had zero feedback and no other items listed. I submitted an offer for $40, and the item was taken down.
The cause of my distraction was part of an Elegoo robot car kit. I didn't know what that was, so I had to do some "research." It's an incomplete kit, but it includes the cpu. A newer version, complete, is $55.00 an Amazon, so once you factor in shipping on it, as a "spares" purchase, it's not a remarkable deal.
But I did end up buying a new one on Amazon. Why? I don't know.
I spent some time studying the manuals of my two Sangean HD radios. I have the tiny portable HDR-14 and a table top HDR-18. The smaller one has memory for 20 preset stations, while the HDR-18 only has 10. The 18 is much easier to program than the 14. It wasn't clear from either manual if you could store individual HD channels for a given station. It turns out you can. It can take several seconds for the digital channel to decode though, so give it some time.
I mostly use the digital channels with the local public radio station, WJCT. They offer three digital channels, one of which is the Electro Lounge, which I like to listen to.
The RF-2200 went off to be re-capped on Wednesday, should arrive at the service today, I'll check the tracking on that. Good communication with the guy who's going to do the work, so I'm optimistic.
Inside Saul Hall (our house) isn't a very friendly radio environment. There's a lot of electronic noise from the LED lighting, and the roof decking has an aluminum foil backing to help lower the temperature in the attic. It does better as a faraday cage than an IR barrier, in my opinion. But Mitzi's recently completed screened addition, with comfortably upholstered chairs, has made a nice space to play around with radios outside. Antennas will remain a challenge due to HOA rules and penetrations, but it's better than being inside the house.
Mitzi told me that a member of the women's club that she serves with on a committee is an amateur radio operator. That surprised me a bit. If so, and if she's active, it may facilitate making arrangements for taking a license exam. We'll see.
I've been keeping up with mailing a card to mom every day. I need to start paying attention to which photos I've sent her. I don't keep individual files of every card, just replace the image in the same file for a given card size. Feels pretty good getting some use out of these expensive photo printers I've had for many years.
In other news, I'm reading Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich , by Harald Jähner and Shaun Whiteside. It's less sensational than Savage Continent, which I stopped reading about halfway through, but equally depressing.
There must be a whole area of academic study on the matter of "truth and reconciliation," for lack of a better term. How human beings come to terms with their inhumanity to one another, even if those terms are largely unsatisfactory. We have our colonial past, killing and displacing indigenous people, and slavery, which we seem largely incapable of confronting. The Balkans, Rwanda, Cambodia, South Africa, Armenia, the list goes on.
It feels like the general response by those responsible is to ignore it, bury it, suppress it.
Perhaps thereby, inevitably, to repeat it.
Germany, publicly at least, appears to be the exception. But I'm not sure how genuine it is.
A post for another day I think.
I'll close on that happy note, and go take a walk. I think I'll need pants. It's a little chilly this morning.
Little Blue Heron
09:21 Thursday, 9 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 66.38°F Pressure: 1019hPa Humidity: 65% Wind: 13.8mph
Crossed the street to walk on the multi-purpose path since the landscapers were edging the sidewalk. (Noise and smell.) So it was easy to spot this little blue heron.
My New Toy
14:20 Tuesday, 7 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 85.57°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 51% Wind: 14.97mph
I should probably set this up and do a glamour shot with a "real" camera, but I wanted to do a quick post. This is a Panasonic RF-2200 multi-band radio, as mentioned recently.
Arrived this afternoon. I'm afraid the seller didn't package it very well. It rattled when I removed it from the box with the thin amount of bubble wrap. Three plastic stand-offs had broken off in the cabinet. They don't seem to be essential, I believe they just offer more rigidity to the cabinet. I'll glue them back into place if I have to.
The SW band switch knob is present, it just doesn't remain firmly on the shaft. I believe I can fix that as well. It has to be removable though, to service the radio.
I put four D-cells in it and tried it out in the backyard. Got reception on all bands except SW1, likely because it was nearly noon.
A gent on eBay offers a re-capping service specifically for these radios. Opinions differ on the necessity for re-capping, but I'm persuaded that it would be money well spent on this radio, so I'm going to have it performed.
The good news on this particular radio is that the AM ferrite bar antenna locks into place, and rotates smoothly with a satisfying ticking sound. The whip was photographed as extremely bent in the listing, but I was able to correct most of that. The interior of the cabinet is clean with no evidence of corrosion or battery leakage. Could probably do with having some dust blown out.
I'm excited to have this radio, and look forward to listening to it.
The Fondness of Absence
19:36 Sunday, 5 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 68.95°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 86% Wind: 10.36mph
I am the master of the meaningless non sequitur, if that's not a tautology.
Obliquely, opaquely, I am referencing my lack of productivity here.
It was a busy week. We had guests Friday and Saturday, the place needed to be straightened up, taxes prepared and I have a new hobby/passion/obsession - old transistor radios.
I more or less declared RSS bankruptcy this evening, skimming through more than a couple hundred posts, starring a few in what I expect will be a vain hope of revisiting.
Apologies to one and all who missed the marmot.
So, some updates:
Spoke to mom this morning. She's received three of seven cards I've sent so far. She reported that I didn't have her correct address, despite the fact that I've been shipping radios and little grab-sticks and the like to that address since she moved there. Correction made. Hopefully the rest will find their way to her. Judging by her smile, I think she likes them.
There's a blog post I meant to revisit and link to about how Gen-Z doesn't know how to print. Forget Gen-Z, I've forgotten how to print. I used a different card size for one card, which required a new envelope. That consumed more than an hour of one morning; and entailed a robust degree of salty sailor-talk. I finally got it to work, but I have no idea how I did it and I'm not certain I can replicate it again.
I need to take a more deliberative, investigatory approach to solving these little dilemmas, and make clear notes.
Figure the odds.
Somehow I stumbled into the radio thing again. Cameras, computers, calculators, and radios. Oy. I have a couple of transistor radios from the 60s to the 70s on hand. First was a Panasonic Panapet 70, the "ball and chain radio." Got a blue one for Christmas as a teen. They're ridiculously expensive for what they are today, because there's no price for boomer nostalgia. I bought a white one that looked pretty nasty. Fortunately, it cleaned up pretty well. Still works about as good as I recall it did when it was new.
I have a really bad looking yellow one on the way, with a cracked bottom. Some guy here in Florida was selling the bottom half of a red one. Problem solved.
My most exciting acquisition is a Hitachi TH-841. Mine is in slightly better physical condition than the one in the link. No chips, but a small crack I can fix, though it was advertised with no cracks. I also paid significantly more than that etsy one, mostly because I'm a dumbass. But I'm learning.
It has cleaned up quite well, and it works fine. It's six inches long and three and half high, so it doesn't take much space on a shelf where it looks quite cool. These radios have a much larger ferrite loop medium wave antenna than a more conventional "portrait" handheld. Not always the case, so it pays to check.
I've got a much larger radio, the Panasonic RF-2200 inbound. I will play around with it a bit before I decide whether to send it off for refurbishment. Jay Allen knows more about radios than I do. I can clean, but I don't think I can align. There's a guy who offers a service on ebay, specifically for this radio, so I may go that route. We'll see.
Finally, there's a Monarch RE-760 on the way. Delayed, apparently, by UPS. Probably get here tomorrow. I like the style, but what especially attracted me was the brand name, Monarch. I get kind of a Godzilla vibe with this radio. Might display it with one of these, which I have, because of course I do.
If there's any good news to report, it's that I've successfully talked myself out of buying five, new to me, contemporary multi-band radios in the last several days. None of them offer anything I can't already do with the six I already have, which are some very good ones, to say nothing of the six or seven I gave to my son and his boys.
Anyway, I expect "this too shall pass." But for now, it's an amusing diversion.
Like a Hawk
10:13 Sunday, 5 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 73°F Pressure: 1016hPa Humidity: 75% Wind: 11.5mph
This morning's keeper. Not a great shot, but I hadn't seen a hawk in a while. The OM-1's bird recognition kept the focus off the branches that make this image less than great.
I think I've mostly got the "workflow" figured out. I use Image Capture, which imports the images to an SSD in a folder organized by camera. Each SD card is named for the camera it serves, so the images all end up in the right folders.
Right now, I'm using RAW Power by Gentlemen Coders to do the initial review, and first edits like cropping and basic adjustments. I like the Lighten and Deepen adjustments under the Enhance panel. I may make some specific color adjustments.
People's experiences seem to vary, with many recommending doing noise reduction first. I've found that there always seems to be some modest color shift with Topaz DeNoiseAI, and if you try to do any adjustments after noise reduction, then you get weird posterization artifacts. I'm working with jpegs, which I know are limited to 8-bits in the color and luminance channels (and I've probably used those terms incorrectly). But if I do my adjustments first, it generally comes back looking fine. The same can be said for SharpenAI. RAW Power allows you to send a copy of your image, since the adjustments are baked in on the return trip.
Sue me, I'm not and never will be a "pro."
RAW Power is like Photos and seems to always want to do its own thing with file extension case, exporting ".jpg" despite the original filename being ".JPG". So I export to a folder on the desktop, watched by Hazel, which changes the case of the file extension back to ".JPG," sends it to Photos, then deletes it from the folder. I only mention this because RAW Power will export directly to your Photos library, but then you have to manually change the file extension case, if you remember to, which I seldom did.
If I have to, I can do minor tweaks in Photos, then run the script for posting here, where Hazel once again changes ".jpg" back into ".JPG".
I still need to reconsider the size of the images I want to post here. They really do seem to suffer on export, being reduced to 1000px width.
Anyway, the beat goes on...
Jupiter and Venus Redux
06:32 Thursday, 2 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 61.77°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 6.91mph
Clouds cooperated yesterday evening. Shot this with the 75-300mm zoom on the OM-1. Could've used the 100-400, but I don't think it would have resolved much more, perhaps another moon? ISO 25,600 shot with noise reduction by Topaz DeNoiseAI. I'm not the most skilled user and I'm afraid it shows. Still, kinda cool.
06:11 Thursday, 2 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 61.48°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 0mph
On Sunday, I joined the weekly Tinderbox Zoom meet-up. (Alternates between Saturdays and Sundays at noon, Eastern time. Link and agenda usually posted in the forum.) Mark Bernstein had emailed users that the topic for this get-together was "What is Tinderbox For?" It attracted a large number of users, including James Fallows who may be familiar to some of you. Writer for The Atlantic, NPR commentator, Tinderbox user. I'm unashamed to admit I'm a fan.
It was an enjoyable experience. If you're someone who's read about Tinderbox, or might be interested in trying it, I think this might be something of a gentle introduction.
Apart from being a remarkably powerful and flexible tool for working with ideas, it also has a generous community of users built up around it, who can make much of that power and flexibility accessible.
Note to Mom
05:59 Thursday, 2 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 61.86°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 3.44mph
I've undertaken a new project. Along with printing photo books (two completed so far), I'm going to print and mail a card to my mom every day.
Mom's going to be 90 in September. My brother visits twice a week, and she has her meals with fellow residents. My other brothers and I call regularly. I'm usually Sunday at 11:00. But I figure this should give her something else to look forward to, assuming I can keep up the effort.
I bought a bunch of card stock, a few different kinds, from Red River Paper, along with envelopes to mail them. I write a little note about the picture or what's going on here. I mailed the first one on Sunday, so she should have received a couple by now. I'll find out this Sunday.
I also need to look into how images are being exported for this little automation I have going on. I think they should look a bit better than they do.
On a Tinderbox note, the Suggested (links) notes are all image posts, which makes sense.
Venus and Jupiter
07:24 Wednesday, 1 March 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 67.98°F Pressure: 1012hPa Humidity: 89% Wind: 1.01mph
Venus and Jupiter nearing their closest appearance in the sky. May not see them tonight, when they'll be reversed and Jupiter will be below Venus, because of clouds.