Archive for September 2006

Collins 30L-1

September 29, 2006

For the better part of six months I was allowed the use of a Collins 30S-1. Bear with me, the 30L-1 experience is coming up shortly.

I was given the 30S-1 on the condition that I would sell it and send the proceeds to its owner.

I was favorably impressed with the 30S-1. Excellent amplifier of superior construction and materials. Quiet, powerful, fully capable of all touted expectations and specifications.

Shortly after the 30S-1 was sold, its previous owner bought a 30L-1. He paid top dollar for it and found that it did not work when the got it home. After replacing the tubes and fuses it still did not work. He asked me to take a look at the new amp to see what was causing it to fail.

After investigating I found the HV wire to the finals open. I repaired the broken lead and the amplifier worked as expected.

As I used the 30L-1 for about a week I began to appreciate it more than I appreciated the 30S-1. The 30L-1 is a marvel of efficiency and clever engineering, both electrical and mechanical. It is a desktop amplifier with self contained power supply fully capable of an honest 1KW input. It uses four 811a triodes and a solid state, doubler power supply. Its cooling fan is so quiet as to be almost spooky as it sits ready to pump some real fire to the wire when the transmit relay is keyed.

I only used it on 75 meters. On that band it delivered an honest 800 watts output when fully loaded into the dipole. Undoubtedly some of that power was feed through from the exciter but I doubt it was more than 90 watts or so.

The much smaller and lightweight 30L-1 produces nearly as much power as the larger and much heavier 30S-1. In my opinion, the 30L-1 is the better amplifier by far.

Proof Positive

September 26, 2006

Ever wonder how we can prove that what we are doing is preventing something that did not happen?

Once upon a time there was a red neck named Bubba. Bubba was not an ordinary red neck. His IQ was higher than the number to which he could count. Bubba was smart. So smart that he took pre-emptive caution whenever he could, even though he lived in a very safe part of Kansas.

One of his pre-emptive measures was the wearing of an unusual pendant. Not only was it unusual it was also large and never failed to elicit comment. When asked what it was for, Bubba would claim that it kept the wild stampeding elephants away.

“But there are no wild stampeding elephants in Kansas,” the curious would reply.

“See, it works real good, don’t it”, would be Bubba’s reply.

Are there wild stampeding elephants in your neighborhood? Maybe you need a pendant like Bubba’s.

It is better to be safe than sorry. I wonder, can you be safe and sorry at the same time?

Make Your Own Bread

September 26, 2006

bread-d-s.jpg

There are already a large number of bread recipies available to anyone who is interested in making their own bread. Here is one more. It is more of a how-I-do-it than a formal presentation of measured ingredients.

This is white bread. I dont care for whole wheat. Not that I wont eat whole wheat, I just find whole wheat more difficult to make. Whole wheat does not rise as much. At least not in my kitchen.

I take a plastic bowl. Maybe large enough to hold half a gallon or more. I start with four cups of hot tap water, add two table spoons of sugar, add one package of dry yeast, stir, then let sit for a few hours.

Check it and make sure it has a fluffy, frothy head on top of the liquid. If not, start over. This time with fresh yeast.

Start adding flour a cup at a time while running a mixer in the bowl to combine ingredients. While the mixture is still fairly liquid, add a couple teaspoons of salt. Mix some more and add flour until the dough thickens to the point where the mixer bogs down.

Add a couple cups of flour on top of the dough in the bowl and start mixing with a plastic or wooden spoon or ladle. After the mixture begins to take on the consistency of wet dough, clean the dough off the spoon, add another cup or two of flour and begin to kneed by hand.

It will take another four to five cups of flour before the mixture becomes thick enough to be dough. You are done when the stuff no longer sticks to your fingers. It is fine if it is wet and sticky just not so sticky that you cant touch it without it clinging to your hand.

I dont remove the dough to kneed it. I leave it in the bowl. I find things remain cleaner that way.

Form it into a ball, brush it with oil or butter, leave it in the bowl, cover it, and set it in a warm place to let it rise.

You can speed up the process by putting the bowl in an oven set to warm but keep an eye on it. Even at the warm setting my oven gets too hot for this. If I use the oven, I set the timer for 15 minutes and remove the bowl from the oven, placing it on top of the refrigerator for the remaining duration of the first rise.

It takes one to two hours for the dough to rise. It will rise to about double the original size. Punch it down and remove it from the bowl.

Dust a board or table top with flour. Plop the dough onto the dusted surface. Now we have to decide what sort of bread sizes we want. I usually divide the dough to make a couple of small loaves as well as some hard rolls. I use a knife to cut the dough in half, and then in quarters. I shape two of the quarters into fat cigar shaped loaves and put them on a flour dusted cookie sheet. No forms needed.

The remaining two quarters are divided in half two more times and formed into balls by rolling them between the palms of my hands. Dough balls the size of hens eggs will make a roll large enough to be used as a quarter pounder hamburger bun.

The rolls are added to the cookie sheet. The whole affair is covered with a cloth and set asside to rise once more. If the oven was used to heat the dough for the first rise, it is probably still warm and the cookie sheet can be set into the oven and the dough allowed to rise once more.

Dough size will double again on the second rise which will take another hour or two. After the second rise, brush the surface with oil or butter, sprinkle lightly with salt, adjust the oven to 400 degrees farenheit, set the timer for 20 minutes, and let the bread bake. Check on it after 20 minutes. Stick it with a needle. If dough clings to the needle when you withdraw it, give it another 10 minutes to bake. You can also check it for doneness by thumping it with your finger. If it makes a dull hollow sound, it is probably done.

If the crust is not a golden brown, go to broil and give it a few minutes at broiling temperature. Keep a very close watch on it so it does not burn.

Remove from the oven and let it all sit on the counter to cool. Dont cut or try to taste it until has cooled close to room temperature.

If you have been keeping track of time we are now 3.5 to 6.5 hours into our baking project depending on how much time we allowed the yeast to bloom and the bread to rise. Dont start a baking session like this unless you can finish it and that will take a minimum of 5 hours.

This same recipie can be used for making pizza. The only difference between bread and pizza dough is how thin it is rolled.

Train Table

September 25, 2006

Ah, toy trains. I remember my first toy train. It did not need a table. The three rail metal track was layed out on the floor and the engine was powered by an electric motor.

lilboxes20020.jpg

This train does need a table. The track is made of wood as is the train and it is powered by the little hands of a two-year old.

A nice train table and two storage boxes– were priced at $300. I thought that was way too high until I started building it. Building it yourself saves more than half the cost but after the rubber feet bumpers, casters, chalkboard paint, varnish, wood and miscellaneous materials were purchased we were $90 lighter in the pocket.

Before you rush out and spend money on materials be sure you have all the tools to build this project. At a very minimum you will need a table saw and belt sander. It is assumed you also have the normal assortment of hand tools. Electric drill, drills, screwdrivers, paint brushes, hammer, nails and so forth. You would do well to see about gaining access to a drill press to drill the holes through the legs. The legs need holes for screws. This allows you to break down the frame for transport or shipping. If you are going to use the table where you build it, or have a truck, it would certainly be possible to avoid the holes and screws and permanently mount the legs.

Chalkboard paint? Chalkboard paint is fairly common and makes a reasonably good chalkboard. We wanted the top of the table to be a chalkboard so that it could serve a double purpose.

I have also heard that you can make your own chalkboard paint. Here is a link that tells you how to do it.

table1s.jpg

Table top inside dimensions are 48 X 32 inches. This is the dimension of the top itself, before it is framed. The skirt keeps little train parts from falling to the floor. The top dimension is sized to allow colorful landscape posters to cover the top. Makes the train layout look more natural.

table3s.jpg

Here you can see the bolt holding the end piece to the table leg.

chalk.jpg

That is chalk on the chalkboard top. One of the ways of conditioning the blackboard is to cover it with chalk after the paint has cured for three days. Rub chalk all over it. Let it sit a few minutes. Then erase the chalk with a clean, damp rag. This was done before the final trim was installed around the table top. I have not figure out yet how to remove the chalk dust from the patio. I suspect a garden hose will be involved.

See the prevarnished lumber leaning up against the wall? That is the skirt material that will be installed around the table top. It is prevarnished so that we dont slop paint onto our blackboard top. Notice also that the skirt material is clear pine. No knots or imperfections. We cut that wood from a larger pine board on the table saw and discarded those parts that had knots. That is far less expensive than buying clear pine.

afterchalk2.jpg

The chalkboard paint was also used on the storage box covers. So you can either sit on boxes with covers in place or draw on them with chalk or remove the covers and draw on them. Lots of possibillities.

The table legs are 3×3 inch pine and were made from two joined lengths of 2×4. The leg assembly is in four sections. Two of the sections had legs securely attached with glue and dowels. These two sections were fitted to the skirt framing the underside of the table top. Two additional end pieces are attached with bolts and T-nuts. The attachment can be seen in the pictures. A 1/4 inch diameter, 4 inch long bolt passes through the end skirt, through the leg and is screwed into the threaded T-nut that is installed into a hole in the far side of the leg. These holes almost have to be drilled on a drill press to keep them straight and true.

The wood is pine. The actual table top is hardboard that has had three coats of blackboard paint applied. The painted top is glued to a sheet of half-inch thick plywood for support. The finish is Minwax Honey Pine Stain & Polyurethane.

I did not even think of painting the plywood directly with chalkboard paint. My guess is that would not make a very good blackboard. The surface of my plywood was too rough and soft.

The hardboard is VERY hard and the finished side is VERY smooth. Excellent blackboard material. The hardboard blackboard is attached to the plywood with glue alone. Some clamping helps but I did not have the clamps required to seriously hold the parts together and had to rely mainly on gravity and some heavy concrete blocks.

Storage boxes are made from pine shelving. Mitered corners glued and held secure with dowels and more glue. Bottoms of the boxes are hardboard riding in a slot cut into the end and side boards before assembly. Tops covers are hardboard that has also been painted with chalkboard paint.

Insurance as an Investment

September 22, 2006

Somewhere in these posts is a blurb cautioning the reader not to confuse a bad sales pitch for good advice. The guy selling insurance as an investment is the epitome of a bad sales pitch. This guy is news as bad as it is ever going to get.

The pitch usually goes like this….whole life, it costs a little more but it does so much more. It is an investment in your future. A secure way to build the nest egg your heirs will appreciate and the means to retire in comfort while protecting you against the financial burdens associated with an untimely death.

Whole life insurance costs more because it is overpriced for the protection it provides. You can get the same ‘protection’ from term at fraction of the price. Some of the overage you pay for whole life is put into a savings plan earning 1 to 2 percent simple interest. This becomes that wonderful cash value they talk about.

You can borrow against the cash value in your policy. Indeed! They will let you borrow money that is yours and only charge you 8 percent interest. What a deal! Indeed, it is a good deal but only for the insurance company. They will not let you borrow any more than is covered by your ‘cash value’. That way there is no risk to them. If you default, they simply take your cash value to cover the loan repayment with interest.

Of course all of these ‘features’ are presented in the most positive of ways making you believe that you would be a fool not to give them your money and borrow it back at high interest.

Investing in insurance with profit in mind is like entering a donkey in the Kentucky Derby hoping to win big. You would be better off racing against the horses yourself.

Smoking Ads

September 22, 2006

No, these are not hot, these are ads concerning the smoking of cigarettes. They are cleverly disguised as ads aimed at preventing kids from smoking cigarettes, but they mention that cancer causing product nonetheless.

Talk about a coup! I am told that those ads were court ordered as part of a settlement in the governments case against tabacco companies.

Can our government do anything right? Good call on making them sponser public service ads on the hazzards of smoking but allowing them to identify themselves just reminds people who made and still makes cigarettes.

Hey folks, they are still here and they are still a legal product. We still make them and you can still buy them at any store. So, if you are not underage, run down to the corner market and light up.

Okay, I know that is not in the ads but it might as well be, because that is what exsmokers hear.

New Energy Sources

September 22, 2006

Here is some information of a speculative nature with undertones of conspiracy theory suspicions.

It catagorizes some of the more exotic (and impossible) sources where one might find energy. It gives a little history and expounds on topics like Telsa’s inventions, Cold Fusion, Permanent magnet motors, and other interesting and speculative playthings.