Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I’m learning to “Ham”

As you may know, I have been taking a ham radio class. Well, last night I got to go over to the cannery and watch a couple of men as they were connecting with several “networks” of people. One man, Bill Skipper (my ham teacher) connected with a group of new hams who were practicing their new skills. I listened in as they all gave their call numbers and names. Each one gave a little report and news about meetings, classes and other events were announced. After everyone had reported in, then that group signed out. Next, Sam Neil showed me a few things about the equipment and let me ask a few questions. On the hour a new group, with people from all over the country, started signing in and giving reports. Every Tuesday night they get together and test their equipment and give important information. I heard people from Hawaii, Canada, and all over the USA. When that group had signed out, Sam showed me more things and we listened to the High Frequency, short wave band. I heard someone from Spain, Australia and Kosovo talking. We listened, for a short period of time, to a military channel, a gospel channel and a government training channel. On the hour, Sam switched over to a channel where he practiced his Morse Code skills and he “coded” with someone from Dallas.

I asked Sam about how they helped out during Hurricane Katrina and Rita. He told me some wonder things that happened because they were able to communicate while other sources of communication were down. For just over a week they were able to:
1) communicate with disaster evacuation centers
2) help people get in contact with family outside of the area and let them know that they were alright.
3) help large trucks, loaded with disaster supplies, get to their destinations
4) help police and fire officials
5) help locate stranded people
6) various other and a sundry things

I guess you can say that my eyes have been opened to a whole new world. I had no idea that Morse Code is still alive and kicking. I didn’t know that a person with a hand held Ham radio could connect with the International Space Station. I am really excited and the more I get into it the more I want to learn. There are three levels of licensing for ham radio. I am in the “beginners” class called Technician. Once I get my license, I will be able to talk on certain bands and frequencies. The next level is called General and it includes Morse Code. The top level is called Amateur Extra and you get a lot more privileges on this level. Each level requires a test from the FCC to get your license.

Any one interested in talking a class, or just taking a look at ham radio, may go to the ARRL website and check it out. Their web address is:

One a side note: TF and I had our 35th wedding anniversary last Sunday. We ate out at a fancy steak house where we shared a Prime Rib platter. Yummmm...... Wow, 35 years has gone by so fast...

My Granddaughter turned one year old the day after our anniversary. Go take a look at her taking her first bubble bath.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back from Vegas….

Yes, I’m back and it took me two whole days to rest up after our whirlwind weekend in Vegas. It started off with a monster headache which I did manage to get rid of before I left. I took some Benadryl about an hour before I got on the plane and it helped tremendously. TF and I sat on row 39 or 42 rows. I don’t think I have ever been on such a large plane. Twenty minutes outside of Las Vegas we hit some turbulence that lasted all the way to the airport. The man sitting next to me almost lost it, he was turning white and his hands never left the arm rests. I felt so bad for him. We made it thru the airport and headed for our rental car. The lady at the booth gave us directions to where we were staying, but we got lost anyway. After a few frustrations, we found the Westgate Flamingo Bay Resort where we were staying for the weekend.

Now, let me tell you about our room…..Wow! It was like a condo. The bedroom had a king sized bed with six pillows on it & there was a hot tub in the room. There was a nice shower in the bathroom and a dressing area. You could close off the whole area from the rest of the condo. You enter the condo thru a nice sized living room. There is a small full sized kitchen and dining area off to the right. To the left of the living room was a sitting area with a complete sound system and two comfy chairs. There were ceiling fans in the sitting area and the bedroom. Oh, I almost forgot, there was a washer and dryer off the sitting area. The couch in the living room was made of leather and it was a queen sized sofa bed. The floors were a terrazzo tile, except for the bedroom which was carpeted. I was completely impressed and felt very comfortable there. A telemarketing company had called two months ago offering a package in Las Vegas for $ 99.00 for the weekend if we would listen to one of their presentations. I would definitely say, that we go our moneys worth.

We got checked in and rested up for a while before venturing out for dinner. Just down the street from the resort, was the Rio Hotel where we decided to eat. We had been told that they had a good buffet and so we decided to try it. My favorite part of the buffet was the Prime Rib and the desert area. I circled it twice before I selected several things to try. Yummmmm…. We walked around the Casino for a while before heading to the grocery store for some goodies to put in our refrigerator in our room. TF picked out some cherries, sodas, cookies and some OJ and off we went to crash for the night.

The next morning we went to the presentation where they feed us free breakfast and tried to sell us a time share. After that we headed for the locksmith convention where we walked out feet off checking out all the booths. TF is specialized in the Auto industry so we walked quickly past the commercial and safe areas. He bought some tools and supplies and a few other things before we left. They were having a drawing for a vintage T-Bird (absolutely beautiful). We hung around for the drawing, hoping that we would win. It seems ironic that a man from Australia would win the car. I wonder how he took it home.

Both of us were a bit tired and hungry after leaving the convention so we went to the Paris Hotel and ate dinner at a small restaurant there. After dinner we walked our feet off checking out the water show at the Belagio, pulling a few slots, and just walking around on the strip. We had no problem sleeping that night.

The next morning we had to be out by 10:00am. so we packed and checked out, eating breakfast at the resort. We still had some groceries in the frig so we went to a 7-11 and purchased an ice chest to put them in. Since our plane wasn’t to depart till just after midnight, we had a full day ahead of us to kill. We drove around and ended up at the Sahara, where we parked the car and headed out for our day of checking things out. To make a long story short, we had a good time. We turned the car back in to the rental place and hopped on the shuttle to the airport. It was interesting when we went thru the radar detectors as they x-rayed TF’s bag with all the locksmith give aways inside. He told them what was in there and four people watched it as it went thru two more times, at different angles. There were several screw drivers and other medal tools inside and I guess they had to decide if he was a terrorist or not. TF offered to open the bag, but they decided that it was OK and let us go. We boarded our plane and landed, back in Houston, at 6:00am. on Monday morning. By the time we got home it was 7:00am. Both of us were exhausted and needed sleep. TF got about 2 hours before calls started coming in and I slept till 1:30pm. Back to the real world!

BTW: Did I mention that they were having a heat wave while we were in Vegas? It got up to 114 degrees while we were there. The strange part is that it was still 100 degrees at 11:00pm. It felt like you were walking around in an oven when you were outside. In Vegas you bake, in Houston you drip! It’s hot either way!

On a side note: I have been studying the first two chapters of my Ham radio book. I missed the first two classes so I am playing catch-up right now. I hope I can learn all of this by Saturday afternoon when the next class starts. This looks like it is going to be fun. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Gone for the Weekend

In about three hours I'll be heading for the airport with TF to fly to Las Vegas for the locksmith convention. My head is pounding with a sinus headache and I am working like crazy to get rid of it before I get on that plane. Bonnie will be here to hold down the fort and feed the animals. TF and I will be back early Monday morning. Until then......have a good weekend.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I have a new “toy”

Several weeks ago I saw an ad in the Home Depot flyer of our newspaper. They had an emergency TV/Weather Radio/AM-FM radio/Lantern called the Stormtracker advertised for $ 49.00. I knew I wanted to go get one but I went in later in the week and they had already sold out. I looked on Ebay and found a brand new one for a similar price. With shipping and handling I would come out the same as if I had purchased it at Home Depot. It came in last Friday and I am thriller with it. I have been preparing for hurricane season all this year and this is just one more item to add to our preparedness items. WOW! This stormtracker is awesome. You have four power sources: 1) 9 C-cell batteries 2) Wall plug 3) car adaptor and 4) a hand crank which will work with the radio and Led light on the back. It has NiCad recharcable batteries inside the radio which works this feature. This is perfect for any weather related emergency. Go take a look at it at the Home Depot webpage at: Put the word Stormtracker in the search box and it will come up.

Check out this recipe from the chet day webpage.
Marvelous Mexicali Rice

1 can (15 1/4 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilies
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups brown rice
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
6 Tbs fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
1 1/2 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs chili powder
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt

In your crockpot, mix together the corn, black beans, green chilies, onion, bell pepper, rice, boiling water, orange juice concentrate, 1/4 cup of the lime juice, the cumin, and the chili powder. Cover and cook on the low heat setting 2 3/4 to 3 hours. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs lime juice, the cilantro, and salt. Mix well. Serve hot.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Things work out in the Lord’s time….

As many of you know, I have been helping my friend Felicia prepare to move. First we worked on packing the things she would be taking with her. Next we sorted thru items that would be tossed or given away. We rented a U-Haul and delivered some furniture to people who were getting it. We took tons of stuff to the Salvation Army and we just gave away many things. After that we had to clean the inside of the house and shampoo carpets. We found out that the house needed to be leveled before they could put it up for sale. That has been done and now we are working on the outside. We started all of this in January and it has taken us this long to get this far. Her son is anxious to sell the house and get her moved up to Maryland to be close to him. He is worried that we are taking too long to get all of the work done. I don’t think he realizes all the work that has been done. The outside of the house needs some siding replaced, work done on the chimney and a little bit of painting. Green mossy stuff is growing on the backside of her house and it needs to be pressure washed.

We have been looking for the right person to handle this job. Last week I found out that a friend of ours from church is an all around handy man. I talked to his wife and she sent him, and his oldest son, over to take a look at the house. He walked all around the house and I showed him things that needed to be done. (His oldest son is leaving for the military academy next Monday and they were glad to get the work so that his son would have some money to take to school with him.) I know that this man was heaven sent because of the way it worked out. We went to Home Depot yesterday and purchased all the materials needed for the job and he and his son, along with two other sons, came over and started the work. Today when I stopped by the house, I found the family over there just working away. The dad was doing the power washing and the boys were replacing the damaged siding. It turns out that the dad does landscaping on the side and that is his specialty. He is going to prune and trim in the front and back yard and really spruce up the place. The amazing part of this whole thing is that they took some patio furniture and a few other things as partial payment. They are not charging a lot for the work and they are doing a great job. Like, I said, they were Heaven sent. Once all of this is done, I see no reason why the house shouldn’t sell. I know it has taken six months to get all of this done, but things happen in the Lords time.

Let me tell you a little bit about this family. The father has a master’s degree in education and he teaches school during the school year. During the summer he does odd jobs and landscaping. The mother is working on her Ph d. They have nine children and they are an amazing family. I am in total awe of their abilities.

On a different note:

We had a great 4th of July. We got rained out of our fireworks display, but we enjoyed the breakfast and program at the church. I made the Southwest Breakfast casserole, basically because it was the easiest. You put it together the night before, in the crock pot, and let it cook overnight. It turned out great. I took a long nap in the afternoon and then TF and I watch “Dandy Doodle Dandy” with James Cagney. It is the story of George M. Cohan, the writer of many of our patriotic songs. Later in the day, I cooked some barbequed chicken and sausage and took it over to my daughters for dinner. We had a great time but left before the fireworks. It was raining and I didn’t want to stand out in the rain and get sick. TF and I came home and crashed.

Tomorrow TF and I are going to an Astros game at Minute Maid park. We are playing the Cardinals and Roger, the rocket, Clements is pitching. It should be a great game. I will be missing my first ham radio class because it conflicts with the game. Oh well…

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Oh Say….What do you know?

I was reading the Mini Page in the paper this morning and took the “Words That Made a Big Difference” quiz. I wondered how many of these questions you could answer so I decided to post the quiz. (For those of you that are not Americans, take the quiz and see how much you know about America.) Here goes….Who made these statements?

1) “The New England governments are in a state of rebellion.”

2) “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

3) “Remember the ladies.”

4) “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.”

5) “No taxation without representation.”

6) “I have not yet begun to fight.”

7) “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

8) “We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

9) I am adding this on my own. "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"

Now to this I will add: Declaration of Independence Quiz A Roo

10) What is the Declaration of Independence?
a) A speech by George Washington.
b) Document in which the 13 Colonies declared their independence from England.
c) American patriots yelling about freedom.

11) Who was the first to sign the Declaration of Indepencence?
a) George Washington
b) Thomas Jefferson
c) John Hancock

12) How does the Declaration of Indepencence begin?
a) “When in the course of human events…”
b) “We the people of the United States….”

Ok now…..let’s see how you did.

Answers below….

1) King George III
2) Paul Revere
3) Abigail Adams
4) Thomas Jefferson
5) patriots at the Boston Tea Party
6) John Paul Jones
7) Nathan Hale
8) Benjamin Franklin
9) Patrick Henry
10) B.
11) C.
12) A.

Have a happy fourth of July and enjoy the freedoms we have here in America. For those that are deep thinkers, go over to TF’s blog and read this.