Archive for October 2009

Too Big to Fail

October 26, 2009

After the GM post I began to dwell on this topic. The more I thought about it the more absurd it became.

Size (big), and Success do not come in the same package. They don’t even share the same zip code! They may be mutually exclusive. The truth is, the bigger you are, the harder you have to work to be successful.

So, when someone implies something is ‘too big to fail’, they are delivering an oxymoron. In other words they are acting as morons delivering an oxy.

I don’t know what an oxy is either. Suffice to know it is being delivered by a moron. So, consider the source and act accordingly.

The subject of this post is a tool used by the flim-flam man to redirect, confuse, frustrate, and otherwise offer snake oil as a solution to a serious malady.

We confuse ‘too big’ with ‘too good’. Bigger is not better. The malady is not the failure. The malady is the bigness. The remedy is the failure.

Don’t be mislead by the razzle dazzle.


October 26, 2009

We used to joke that GM stood for generous motors. Today it is no joke that GM stands for government motors. It was too big to fail but the general succumbed anyway.

We hear lots of ads about GM. Chevrolet, for instance, is very proud of their new Impala. They say it looks a lot like a Camry. We currently own a 1995 Camry with nearly 200k miles on it. An LE, four cylinder yet plenty of power. It sips gas at a rate of 32 miles per gallon. Probably closer to 29 in town. We bought it used for $10k when it was two years old. It has gone through two brake jobs, one power steering rebuild, one timing belt replacement, and two CV joint jobs. Total maintenance cost over 14 years comes to $4k. Currently it needs another CV join job, new brake shoes, timing belt replacement, new struts and shocks, and a minor oil leak fixed.

It still runs fairly well. Comfortably seats four adults even on long trips. Plenty of truck space. Can easily accommodate car seats for kids and the original air conditioning (which has never been serviced) can still put frost on a pumpkin.

Should we consider a replacement we would first look at a new Camry LE.

We did and it comes in at just under $20k.

That is a little more than we would want to pay so maybe we should consider a lease instead? But first lets look at the impala.

We did and we are still trying to recover from sticker shock. The 2010 impala comes in three flavors, expensive, more expensive, and rediculous. It starts at $24k and goes to $30k. link

It does not look so much like a Camry now, does it? ( I can use that $10k difference to more than pay for my medical insurance. We prefer medical insurance over so-called health care insurance because we care for our own health.)

Not sure about the impala’s reliability or resale value, but I am inclined to believe it cannot be better (or even equal) to the Camry. Sort of like its gas mileage record. Chevy claims high teens city and high twenties highway for the impala. I find it hard to believe that there could be almost 10 miles per gallon difference between highway and city mileage. I also found it interesting that the more expensive model of Impala gets the worst gas mileage. (I guess they figure if you can waste your money like that, you won’t mind wasting it on gasoline either.) My Camry gets an average of 30 mpg, city and highway combined.

I can still get $5k for my current Camry even after 14 years. Even though the Camry has not been a model performer when it comes to maintenance, considering the use it gets a $4k cost for maintenance over a 14 year period is entirely acceptable. Future maintenance will be of the do-it-yourself kind since I can now get quality parts at discount prices delivered to my front door. link

For instance, replacing both front axles and CV joints now costs $180 instead of $500. (Of course it is going take me the better part of a day to do both axles but it is worth $320 to me). Yes, I have the tools and I know what a bolt looks like.

Since I consider the impala seriously overpriced, there is no point in investigating its possible purchase any further. Why even the new, basic, Volvo station wagon is only $22k! If I lost my mind, had my brain fall out, or became a Liveral, I would still opt for a mini-cooper convertible over an impala!

Sorry, GM. You need to take a second look at your pricing structure.

It used to be said that as GM goes, so goes the nation. I wonder if maybe the reverse is true. The national economy certainly looks like it is on a slide to hell. Apparently it is going to be taking GM with it.

Too big to fail? No, the truth is that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Building a Smarter Planet

October 23, 2009

Are we always going to be plagued with the dumbest of the dumb seeking to accomplish the impossible?

One particularly annoying radio ad has a famous company offering to help build a smarter planet.

I find it more than just amusing that anyone, anywhere, would have the arrogance to imply that they could build a planet. Never mind a ‘smarter’ planet.

These folk would do well to build a smarter company by getting rid of the arrogant morons they have working in their advertising department.

Perhaps it is not arrogance. Maybe it is just stupidity. People who are so deranged as to claim they can build smarter planets need to do so in a padded cell.

Whatever their qualifications may be, real or otherwise, they certainly do not qualify to provide goods and services to the public.


October 22, 2009

20 percent off, 30 percent off, even 50 and 70 percent off. When I hear this nonsense I take 100 percent off by ignoring this foolishness.

I am not interested in mechants admitting their stuff is overpriced. I already knew that. All I need to know is how much they want for what I might consider buying.

It is called the bottom line and piling a bunch of crap on top of it is not helpfull.

Besides, I have never seen sales on stuff I really need.

Moxon or KT34XA

October 5, 2009

I have been thinking about turning my KT-34 into a three element moxon for 20 meters. Why? Because I think it would reduce the weight by a bunch and work better with my old AR-22 antenna rotator.

Yesterday I was reading up on moxon performance. The two element moxon was consistently 2 S units below a 160 meter loop at 50 feet. Granted, the loop has a capture area the size of Texas compared to the moxon, but this moxon performance is just a little better than what you can expect from a normal two element beam, about 5db.

I am already getting close to 8db from the KT-34 on all three bands. Why would I settle for about 7db on only one band. That is what I would end up with using a three element moxon on 20 meters.

No, it would make more sense to reinforce the mast so that it can take the additional load and just hope the rotator will slip its moorings when the strong winds arrive. It will screw up the feed line but at least save the rotator.

I am pretty much convinced that the winds that did in my HD-73 would also have taken out a prop pitch motor. So going lighter on the rotator should not make that much difference as long as it is not pinned to the shaft of the mast like the HD-73 was.

I am not about to spend 1000 bucks on a heavy duty rotator when I am pretty sure it would get shelled out too.

So the KT-34 is being rebuilt as is the mast. The antenna just needs the feedline attached and the capacitor insulators replaced. The mast needs to be taken down and the bent portion needs to be cut out. Then I need to come up with a clever way to mary the 2.5 inch pipe to the 3 inch pipe without welding. My guess is slip the smaller into the larger for a couple of feet and use two bolts spaced 90 degrees appart. Will also find a solid steel shaft to insert into the hollow of the 2 inch pipe at the junction. The lower 15 feet of the 2.5 inch pipe will be reinforced by welding some heavy streached chain to its backside. This may result in a future bend closer to the top. However, the 2.5 inch pipe is only 20 feet long. That puts the reinforcement just five feet from the top. I am hoping that will be enough to support the additional weight of the extra boom and two elements to convert the KT-34 to a KT-34XA custom.

Custom because the wide spaced additional three band director is going to be an old Mosely tri-band driven element sporting two traps. The extra ten meter director will be made from tubing scaps of which I have plenty.

I have already used the two Mosley traps and tubing to build a rotatable dipole using some scrap tubing. It worked very well on all three bands. All that needs to be done is telescope the tubing further together to make the element shorter and turn it into a director.

The only thing I am short on is boom material. I need to double the length of the existing boom. Increase it by 16 feet to a total of 32 feet. I only have about 13 feet available and it is not all 3 inch. Got three 19 inch sections of boom from an old single bander beam that was destroyed in a storm. Got another six foot section of 2.5 inch steel mast I would rather not use since it is heavy. Then there is a five foot section of scaffold tubing which is extremely light weight and hopefully extremely strong.

There is another 16 feet of mast now being used on the second tiltover but I believe that mast is steel (heavy) and about 1.5 inches in diameter. Probably not at all suitable.

I might be able to use three feet of the 1.5 to make up the difference in boom length for the KT but I am tempted just to let is go short. A three foot reduction in boom length can’t effect the gain that much.

The first task is to securely mount the gin pole mast by drilling holes for bolts in the top plate of the tower. Then removing the tiltover portion and loweing it to the patio. Secure both ends and the middle. Then cut the bent portion of the pipe out of the middle. Move the 3 inch pipe into the garage to weld on the uppper cable stays and paint it.

Next comes the 2.5 inch pipe. Move it off the roof and into the garage to install cable stays and reinforcing chain. Also need to figure out a good way to bolt the two pipes together. Paint the smaller pipe.

Move the finished pipes to the patio and position to bolt them together. Install the cables before raising to the hinge point. Once it is at the hinge point you wont be able to get to the cable stays.

The cables will be installed with a little more foresight. Will be using four cables. One RG6, two RG 213, one rotator cable, and one openwire 450 ohm line.

The 450 ohm line will be terminated to PVC insulators support off the tops of the cable stays. Rotor cable and both RG 213 runs will come down through the cable stays as will the RG6.

One RG-213 to the KT-XA. One RG-213 to the vertically polarized two meter beam. RG-6 to the TV antenna. Maybe use RG six for the two meter beam too? Then there will be the UHF TV antenna wich will use the 450 ohm open wire line for feedline.

It may not be entirely obvious but the two TV antennas need to be fixed mounted. That is, I know where the TV stations are and I need those antennas to point in that direction and stay there. Dont need the TV antennas rotating around with the ham antennas. The UHF TV antenna does not present much of a problem. Just mount it to the mast with two u-bolts. (might need to get new U-bolts to fit the larger mast.) The VHF/UHF combo TV antenna will probably need to be mounted to an extension arm off the side of the main mast. Ten feet below the large HF beam would be a good place. Need to determine the length of the extension arm

There will be a junction box at the top of the mast. Perhaps one at the hinge point as well. All cables will terminate in connectors at the juntion box at the top. This being done so that the antennas can be removed or serviced without worry about feedlines. Just disconnect at the junction box. The juntion box will be located high enough on the mast so that it is accessible from the roof of the garage as the mast it tilted down.

Getting the beam up onto the mast is going to be trick. The last time we did that, we used the step ladder straddling the garage roof peak to gain enough height to attach the boom to the mast. The beam was fully assembled as we installed it this way.

This time we will fully assemble the entire beam on the patio so we can test it. Then dissassemble and take the main boom section and short elements up to install the boom to the mast. This should be fairly easy because the balance point of the beam will have shifted to one end of the boom. My guess is that three elements will be up and one down as the boom is mounted to the mast.

Further assembly will be done at standing height from the roof by rotating the beam to position it then raising or lowering the mast by tilting it to bring the elements into play one by one.

Once all four original elements are installed we can to the XA modification. Add boom sections to the first ten meter director. Install ten meter director. Raise beam higher, install more boom lenghts, install the tri-band director.

Raise the antenna to full height and hope the swr is acceptable on all bands.

The official weight of the factory KT-34XA is 69 lbs. I am hoping my version will be under 60 lbs. Still, that is very heavy. Some of the weight of the previous installation will be offset by lowering the mounting point of the rotator. I am guessing I can set it lower by about ten feet. The only problem there is going to be attaching the saddle shaft to the antenna. Ten feet lower may put off the edge of the garage roof. My extension ladder is not long enough to reach that point. Will just have to play this by ear. I might only get a five foot lower mounting point. I definately do not want to have to install the rotator before I raise the pipe to hinge point. The whole purpose of the rotator mount is so that is can be accessed for replacement since it seems to be most likely part to fail.

Need to make some cable clamps and stays to support the new longer boom. There is a sturdy pipe extending ten feet up from the point where the beam is connected to the mast. The upper reaches of that pipe need a clamp with two ears to enable attaching the ends of two cable stays, one on each side. The cable stays will connect to boom clamps located a few feet in from the boom ends. The stays will be preadjusted to length to keep the boom level and prevent any sag or droop. I have a length of aluminum bar stock that is heavy enough for making clamps. I just hope there is enough to make three clamps. The mast clamp is no sweat but the boom clamps will need about six to eight inches of material per side times two. Need at least three feet of stock. Clamps will be bolted together and have extensions to permit attaching the stays. They should be a tight fit to the mast and boom so that they will not slip.

This is longer than I intended. Sort of thinking out loud and sort of off topic at the end. Then this is the ‘Off Topic’ blog. (more…)