Barnaby Returns!

05 Jun

Okay, this will be a bit of a replay. Some readers here may not have witnessed my walk on the dark side in the summer of 2008 when, in August 2008  we were deep into a solar slump. I engaged in a little nonsense, and in an attempt to revive Hugh Cassidy’s  Palos Verdes Sundancers, I went off the deep end of the pool into Anole Land. I will post two successive Barnaby episodes here in a single post. Pardon my lack of literary acumen. It was a fun exercise and took the edge off of our tortuous daily schedules which were more ESP than Morse. However, typing extemporaneously for publication is not a strong suite in my quiver of skills, as I am sure you have discovered by now.

For those that do not know what a Texas Anole is here is a shot of one. They are prodigious in number in springtime Texas. They certainly need some sort of productive employment.

Texas Anole

More Adventures of Barnaby August 2008

In July 2008, I began to employ certain local fauna as a replacement for the long lost Palos Verdes Sun Dancers. It is an act of desperation really. Making a CW Practice Schedule daily over the course of a year or more during the nadir of the sunspot cycle is work. Not only is it a chore but a also an example of Extreme Scheduling. You’ve heard of Extreme Sports? Well this is Extreme Scheduling. I don’t say that lightly. My compatriot on the eastern seaboard is an expert at using Icepac, Millstone, WWV, meteor showers or even Voodoo if necessary to help our schedule go uninterrupted. A monumental task indeed. Out of a concern for his well being and preferably, to lighten his load a bit, I began to scratch around for ways to help in the task. The first thing that came to mind was a tribal ritual sort of thing involving the old tried and true “Palos Verdes Sun Dancers”. However they had become defunct. I love that word “defunct”. It puts a real syllabic terminator on their contributions. The buggers have not been heard from since the dawn of Cycle 23.

Early in our current pause in sun spots we all thought that October 2007 was the low. A smoothed sunspot number equalling 3 was the true bottom and it occured in October 2007. Things looked better for a while during December and Janurary and again in Feb/Mar/Apr 2008.Then we arrived at spring and summer 2008. The sunspot numbers again tumbled lower in late May until we arrived at the month of July 2008 when our smoothed number reached an abysmal low of 3.X. We are now 8 days into August and still no spots. If sunspots were equivelent to electrical currents, July would not have blown a quarter amp fuse. It is time to stir up a little action with Barnaby and his friends.

Animal Husbandry aside, I took the safe and sane approach to raising Anole in Texas. I provided an Alpha Male, plenty of good breed stock, provided the perfect Anole conditions and plenty of water and food with the understanding that things like this take some time and nature is not a quick study. Last seen in mid-July, my herd of Anole was alive and well under my Hackberry tree feasting on store bought crickets and backyard vermin. While the herd is not large it is growing well and fast. About August 3rd some doubts about this project began creeping into my thoughts. Originally there were 13 Palos Verdes Sun Dancers. These persons had an average weight of 165 pounds. An Anole weighs between 300 and 450 milligrams. To duplicate the moving mass of 13 Palos Verdes Sun Dancers I would need 2145 pounds of leaping lizards. That, my friends, is quite an undertaking. 2145 pounds of leaping lizards equates to 2,777,775 350 milligram average weight Anoles. A shudder moved across my belly. I may need to recruit some neighbors and increase my pasture. I can only hope that available resources do not outstrip the job at hand. You of course will note, that little has been said of the Palos Verdes Sun Dancers dancing time investment per sun spot. Little is known of steps per hour or hours spent dancing to gin up a single spot. Energy required to gin up a spot aside, I have it on good authority that lots of beer was consumed in this process. Beer, however, is not an Anole shortcoming. They prefer fresh foods-mainly meat.

It is now August 9th. The sun is shining in Texas. We have had almost no rain in at least 3 weeks. Last evening I attempted to do a nose count on our flock of Anoles. I was rewarded with a good gecko count at dusk but little movement was noted. No movement is kind of an extraordinary situation. Normally I can see Anole movements sans radio or wind inputs. Last month they did require some inputs from my Yachtboy 300PE portable radio outputting the unlikely Nancy Sinatra tune “These Boots”. Following that I watched in amazement while they adopted both kinds of music-Country and Western. During both aforementioned episodes a small but clearly defined Dust Devil was noted. A Dust Devil is a long way from a sunspot but it is a beginning. This past evening it almost looks as though these guys are on strike! Now I am confronted with Nada. Nil! Zilch! Lots of Anole but no action. No dancing, no fraternity, no BBQ’s no nuthin. Just an Anole village of small tents and hammocks slung under shrubs and thickets. The summer doldrums, along with no sunspots has befallen my clutch of previously active Leapin Lizards. These are truly the Dog Days of Summer.

I am in dire straights. Not only am I short 2.5 million Anoles, the ones I have are becoming lazy slouches. I’m going to have to stir the pot a bit. I will begin vigor training by playing sessions of W1AW code practice recorded from broadcasts made on 40 meters. This accomplishes several things. It stirs the Anole Pot and it also tells these slovenly no accounts how bad propagation is. Hopefully it will not cause them to rebel and begin yet another musical genre and have them take up classical banjo or 12 string guitar. I could record some of this weekends paltry excerpts from the WAE on 20M and blare it out over the Anole Homelands. I think I heard several EU’s leaking through the E Layer firewall we have showing up on Millstone just now. In any event, drastic action is required and I must find the solution soon or our Cycle 24 is doomed to failure and another Maunder Minimum will undoubtedly be upon our souls. If this fails we may have to suffer hearing Al Gore yak about a new Ice Age! As they say in the News Biz, News at 11….

More Adventures with Barnaby and the Bogen Amplifier Plan “B”

More on the adventures of Barnaby and our attempt to replace the Palos Verdes Sun Dancers.

When last we met I was appalled by the degree of lethargy that had befallen my troop of Sun Dancers. Baraby and company seemed to have turned a deaf ear towards my pleading and prodding for some superior dancing efforts. It seemed as though no amount of cajoling could move these slovenly creatures to action. I had to resort to the time honored method of child rearing-”Old age and cunning trump youth and energy every time”!

After almost 5 days of cunning, I have News! Good News! Wonderful News! But let me begin at the beginning.

Sunday saw me resort to playing W1AW code practice sessions to my battalion of twerps and layabouts. I snuck out to the yard and planted a 5 inch PM speaker within earshot of the sleeping, snoozing, lackluster bunch and blared 40 meter recordings of ARRL HQ radio at them. No! Not RTTY! A CW practice session! By Sunday evening I started to see some movement; albeit limited movement and at the cost of peace of mind for my neighbors that was bordering on S-9 TVI. They were not happy campers. I tried to reduce the volume and speed up the pitch. I tried to slow the recording which I thought would act like reverse psychology and rev the erstwhile gaggle into a frenzy. My early efforts at cunning were of limited success. Beginning on Monday morning I changed tactics. First, I attempted to measure the current activity level by counting thumps per minute. I did this by crawling out to the barracks bush on my belly. I really tried to be stealthy in my approach and was succeeding until, at about the halfway point, my sprinkler system snapped on in my very zone! The accompanying screech put the whole crowd down for a nap that lasted well into the afternoon. Heck! This wasn’t working. So much for stealth and age.

Enter “BOGEN”. Bogen is an artifact leftover from my Pops garage sale shopping days. It is a magnificent black bodied vacuum tube power amplifier with 100 watts output. Now we’re cookin! A whole new plan is beginning to take shape. I will put the amp to use in a way that my neighbors are appeased and my twerps get benefits, and hopefully, my results will perk up a bit. You see, BOGEN has a 70.7 volt output tap.

Early evening Monday found me inserting 4 copper ground rods into the soil around my Barrack Bush Bivouac. I separated the grounding rods by 8 or 9 feet and wired 2 rods in parallel such that I had 2 sets of 2 electrodes to connect to my amplifier. To the electrode pairs I wired my 70.7 volt taps from “The Bogen”. The inputs to Bogan could be driven by my prerecorded tapes made from W1AW, any prerecorded source like music, or (in a fit of creativity) by my Logikey K-5 keyer speaker! Thus began the silent but deadly dance training for my lazy Anoles. This is going to be amazing.

Beginning on late Monday evening, I again played W1AW code sessions to my band of Anole Sun Dancing Lizards. Only this time no one could hear the code practice. How kewl is that? You see I was pumping 100 watts at 70.7 volts into the earth through my electrode pairs! Results were immediate and very visible. Firstly, squads and platoons formed into parade formation. Slowly at first, and then more frenetic later, the battalion began a syncopated dance. The dance created little sensation to my ears but I could see it was having a positive effect on the fauna in my yard. Several nesting birds became alarmed and left their nests. Squirrels started running in circles. Its Working! After about an hour of this it slowly dawned on me that we had no Dust Devils. No earth shaking. No Sun Spots! We needed more moving mass with more syncopation and more ground effects.

Enter plan “B”.

Plan “B” is easy. The noise contained in my recordings of W1AW code practice is confusing the Anole Dancers and causing them to get out of step. Signals were weak as recorded and so the level of activity is more a confused rhythm versus a syncopated step. I needed more musical definition. More clarity in my musical presentations. Plan B called for attaching the Bogen to my Logikeyer. With that I eliminated the noise, and, I could change pitch and moderate speed all with one box. So began chapter 2 of the great experiment. I started slowly. 20 words per minute and 400 Hz sidetone. I also reduced power. No sense using so much power that I kill off my herd. I programmed my memory with “CQ Sun, CQ Sun, Grow me a spot, CQ Sun”. I placed a nested command into my keyer programming to repeat the message and I just sat back and watched. Slowly the Anoles again responded. Forming into ranks as if on a parade ground at some army base. Slowly stomping in synch with the Morse. At this point I needed a break, I have been at this all day and my grand kids are beginning to think I am nuts. I left the recorded message playing while we took a swim break.

My wife and I took the kids for a short swim in our pool, and like proud grand kids everywhere, they had to show off their swimming skills and numerous tricks they could do in the water. Like most fellas with projects left in a “running state” I tired quickly of swimming and returned to my shack and its ongoing experiments while the kids and “Grammie” kept on. Emboldened by my early success I pumped up the power a bit with the expected results. The Barrack Bush Bivouac started to shake. Small Dust Devils were shooting up from multiple spots. Other nesting Anole from neighboring yards snuck into my yard to see what was going on. Soon my moving mass of Sun Dancing Anole Lizards had doubled in numbers. This was really working! Then, in a fit of excitement, I cranked up the power from my Bogen Amplifier. The whole 100 watts was streaking into the ground. And then I backed off. The excitation receded to just a murmur. I needed to change my message. It had dawned on me that my message was the problem. Yes, I had succeed in making Dust Devils, bushes shake and geckos dance but I needed more ground thumping output. My message was too – well- unsyncopated. I programmed Memory 2 with “Best 73″ and appropriate commands to concatenate the 2 messages together and to repeat. Again I opened the taps on the power to the flock. The “Best 73″ beat did the trick. The whole bunch began to resemble a New York City collective break dance. Thousands of break dancing lizards doing their thing to the sounds of old Samuel F. B. Morse! Slowly my Barrack Bush Bivouac started to shimmy and I could feel the movement in my feet. I was 24 feet away from the action and now I could feel it in my feet! I again cranked up the power and this time I upped the frequency and speed. I was now playing my message at 30 words per minute with a pitch of 800 Hz. My Hackberry tree began to shake. The kids in the pool started to yell, “Whats happening Grammie”? And slowly at first, then stumblin, fumblin, tumblin across the fruited plain my battalion of dancing Anole began to march with enough syncopation to make waves on the pool. Slowly at first. Then ever more quickly. The wavelets became sloshes and then veritable breakers. The grand kids were screaming and my wife let me know in no uncertain terms I had better quit whatever I was doing… I shut down for the evening. But we have progress…..and tomorrow is another day. I have to go and refill my pool now. We need to check the sun spot numbers in the morning. What a days work! Was that a full regiment out there? More later. Whew!

With the benefit of retrospect, we now know that all the Anole Gyrations were spent to no avail. Livingstone and Penn have prevailed and Cycle 24 is doomed. All in all that is not a really bad thing. I got my full dose of 10M in 1959 and who could ask for more than that? I have yet to build an antenna for 160M or 80M and those bands certainly deserve exploration by little pistols. And should that plan fail I can always return to 40/30M and enjoy the fruits of Mother Nature to my hearts content. It seems we are blessed with bands for all seasons.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on June 5, 2010 in Radio, Stuff


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