It’s Fix It Day!

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Putting the MC-60 back together. Finally got around to tinkering with it. It started having intermittent issues a couple of months ago so I was using the Heil headset, which I prefer anyway so I was in no big rush to get this fixed. How the heck does something that’s been working fine for two and a half years suddenly develop a bad solder connection? You’d think it would have started acting up long before this.

Never know, though. Had to take apart the relay box on the remote control system we use to turn the outside Christmas lights on and off. We had that for two years and had no problems, now a capacitor on the circuit board had somehow worked itself loose enough to just fall off the board entirely… I suppose the solder joints were bad to begin with but just good enough to hang on and thermal stress finally forced them to let go. | Corn futures – will their, relative, resilience last in 2016?

Corn futures have fallen this year – but by less than soy or wheat. Can this outperformance last? Or will it fuel raised output, and price pressure?

Source: | Corn futures – will their, relative, resilience last in 2016?

Trying to figure out how the commodities markets are going to move is sort of like trying to herd cats. There are so many different factors involved that sooner or later chaos theory gets involved and no matter how good you are at it everything falls apart.

I really thought corn was going to go down the toilet when the numbers from the 2015 harvest began to come in. We’d had an increase in acreage planted, weather had been decent, yields were quite good, the market seemed poised to drop significantly… I wouldn’t have been surprised if the price fell to under $3, in the 2.8 to 3.0 range.

And, of course, I was wrong. Prices remained remarkably stable even as the harvest concluded with near record numbers.

Now everyone is trying to figure out what’s going to happen in 2016. And while there are the usual doom and gloom purveyors out there, along with the usual eternal optimists, if you ignore the extremes everyone else is indicating that corn pretty much isn’t going to move anywhere in the near future. Barring some kind of extreme weather event or something else that causes wide spread issues, the people who should know this stuff like Rabobank believe prices are going to remain fairly stable. Rabobank thinks it could hit 4.20 in the second quarter, but by the third quarter it will be dropping down to around what it is now.

Looking at the predicted acreage figures, long range weather predictions (which are pretty much a joke if you’re honest) and everything else, I’d agree with Rabobank.

There seems to be no drastic increase in demand in the works. Considering how low oil prices have dropped, there certainly isn’t an increased demand for ethanol. The only reason that industry is even around any more is because of government mandates. A lot of people, engine makers especially, would like to see ethanol just go away. (we just bought a chain saw and it’s accompanied with dire warning about running any kind of ethanol blended fuel in it. My new car… it doesn’t come right out and say ethanol blended fuel will kill it, but it comes damned close)

I don’t have a lot of money tied up in commodities so I don’t really have a horse in this race. I watch the markets mostly for the entertainment value (some of these people are, well, loopy to put it politely). So don’t take this as advice or a recommendation. Frankly I think you’re nuts if you invest more than a bit of mad money in the commodities markets.

It’s fun to watch though and try to figure out what’s going on.

Was That Steak Raised In The USA? Soon, It’ll Be Hard To Know : The Salt : NPR

Source: Was That Steak Raised In The USA? Soon, It’ll Be Hard To Know : The Salt : NPR

If you don’t know what the COOL (Country Of Origin Labeling) was, I don’t blame you. Most of the consumers I’ve talked to didn’t even know the laws existed.

COOL required meat packers to label their products by country of origin. The consumer had to be able to tell if that meat came from the US, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, China or wherever.

This doesn’t sound difficult to do, until you realize that the product in that package could be from two, three or even more places. It’s common practice these days for meat packers to make ground beef from lean meat from one country, mix in fat from another. Or meat from two or more different countries can be included in that stewing beef or chicken pieces package.

It doesn’t sound very controversial, either. Who would possibly object to knowing where their food comes from? I certainly didn’t object to it. I liked the idea. And so do most consumers. We’ve all heard the horror stories about dead pigs floating down rivers in China or the horrific melamine milk contamination that took place a few years ago.

The people who didn’t like it were countries outside the US like Canada and Mexico. They claimed that if they had to label their meat as coming from their country, people in the US might prefer to buy US products instead. And the World Trade Organization that polices such things agreed. So Canada and Mexico were poised to launch a massive increase on tariffs on a variety of US products that would have cost billions of dollars.

So Congress, with some justification, caved in and passed a repeal of COOL on Dec. 18

I have rather strong feelings about this. I rather liked the COOL regulations.

First, consumers seem, to me at least, to have the basic right to know where the products they purchase were made. They also have the right to know what’s in them.

Second, wanting to hide where your product comes from makes me a wee bit suspicious. What exactly is wrong with your product that you feel that if people knew it’s origin they wouldn’t buy it? What are you trying to cover up?

The thing I find most disturbing, though, is that increasingly these treaties are giving outside interests extraordinary power over our internal affairs. In this case, the WTO, Mexico and Canada were able to force a significant change to US law. The Trans Pacific Partnership, which politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have been pushing for hard, makes things even more concerning, giving individual corporations the power to do what Mexico and Canada did here. A corporation could, in theory, sue a country under the TPP, forcing that country to change it’s law.

This seems to be giving an enormous amount of power to not a government which (theoretically at least) is supposed to guard and protect the interests of it’s citizens as a whole, to an entity that cares for nothing but profit, even at the expense of the welfare of the people.

Bulletproof backpacks for kids? Here are 10 sick products you can buy in America — thanks to the NRA

Source: Bulletproof backpacks for kids? Here are 10 sick products you can buy in America — thanks to the NRA

For the paranoid on your Christmas giving list, Just in time for Christmas…

Just in case you’re thinking of rushing out and getting one of these, I should point out that they are all utterly worthless, so save your money. The ballistic armor police and military people wear is, despite the hype you see in these ads, not related to these products in any way. Just look at that photo of the kids cowering under those blankets… Come on, do you think those are going to provide those kids with any protection at all? Even if they did offer some protection, they don’t even cover the kid. They’re totally worthless. As are the ‘bullet proof’ backpacks, ‘bullet proof’ baseball caps and the ever popular bullet proof bible, because of course in a shooting situation that bad guy is only going to aim for that five square inch bible…

So, Grouchy – you had the day off you must have read something exciting, right?

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Oh, you bet! Found this fascinating article on the development of the bailer twine knotter. It started back before the civil war, it seems with this guy named Appleby and after the war he moved to Beloit where he developed a knotter that would work with sisal twine instead of wire..

What? Oh damn, I really need to get a life, don’t I?

The Great VHF Wasteland


I read articles all the time in QST and CQ magazines about how active the VHF/UHF bands are, all the radio operators hanging around up there, all the fun you can have, the hundreds and hundreds of repeaters out there. Thousands of hams are out there on simplex. Dozens and dozens and dozens are working various VHF/UHF contests.

I’m sitting right smack dab in the middle of repeater heaven. There are dozens of repeaters close enough for me to hear located in Manitowoc, Green Bay, Fond du Lac, the Fox Valley. Even a few as far away as Wausau and Suring Wisconsin. Every club and group, every ARES group, every SkyWarn group seems to have one or more repeaters on the air. I have about 27 repeaters plugged into the FDR-400 that I know I can get into with no problems at all, ranging from local ones just a few miles away, to distant ones like Wausau and Suring.

So I turn on the 400, put it in scan, and hear…

Well, nothing. I hear the occasional repeater ID. I hear the occasional kerchunk (that’s a technical radio geek speak term, btw) of someone probably testing if they can hit a repeater or if their transceiver is working.

And that’s all I hear. Repeater IDs, an occasional kerchunk… And nothing else. Literally nothing else. For hours and hours on end. Put out a call and you hear — nothing.

There are only two times I hear any activity on two meters, during regularly scheduled nets run by clubs and ARES groups, and when an ARES group is doing support for some special event. Otherwise, nothing.

Simplex? That’s even worse. You can put your transceiver in fast scan mode and sit for days scanning the simplex portions of the band and hear nothing.

Given all of the articles I’ve been reading in QST and other ham publications in print and on-line, I was thinking it was just something about this area. I don’t know. Just shy, maybe? Seems like kind of an odd hobby to get into if you don’t like talking to people.

But I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and the more I talk with other hams outside this area, the more stories I hear that are identical to mine. Unused repeaters, nothing on simplex… If you do start trying to call, there’s no response. Only activity is regularly scheduled nets, and once those conclude, it’s back to silence again.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even bother any more. The only time the FDR400 here in the house gets turned on is when my wife participates in the local ARES net. I don’t even have a VHF rig in the car any more. My own Yaesu was transplanted into her vehicle when her aging Alinco began having problems.

So is it just area? Is this an anomaly? Just curious.

As always, comments are welcome…


P.S. Now that I have the OCFD up again, I’ve been hanging around down on 75 meters, above 3900, often on 3913 during days, so if you get down there, give me a yell.

Decisions, decisions

While it’s a beautiful fall day out, crisp, cool, sunny, the weather dudes are predicting we’re going to have up to 8 inches of snow by this time tomorrow. So I should take advantage of the nice weather to get the snowblower out, prepare it, dig out the shovels and basically prepare for this early season snowfall.


In the stall next to the snowblower is a 500 HP, 0-60 in under 4 seconds, slightly (slightly? Ha!) hopped up sports car with high-speed rated track tires, beefed up brakes and a suspension to match and alleged to have a top speed just north of 200 MPH. And I know every twisty, curvy backroad between here and the state border. And this might be the last time I get to drive it for the season.

Decisions, decisions…

The hell with the snow… IMG 0236