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Drilling U-Channel - 500 Wide.jpg

There’s been an unexpected irruption of normalcy here, while we sail upon the whine-dark seas of modern American life. (I’ve been wanting to use the word “irruption” here, correctly, for some time.) What this means is that I’ve been able to do some of what I want to do, and not merely what my do-it list tells me I have to do. It won’t last, but while it does I’m going to make the most of it.

A number of people have suggested that I write a few short novels to get the size of my list up a little. I wrote Drumlin Circus (53,000 words) in only six weeks, after all. But as I recall, those were very full weeks. So a month or so ago I got an idea for a new short novel, and I’m glad to say I now have 6,300 words down on it; figure 12% or so. It’s whimsical, and whether or not it’s fantasy depends heavily on whether you believe that the collective unconscious is real or not. I’d like to bring it in at between 50,000 and 60,000 words, so don’t expect all-new built-from-scratch universes a la The Cunning Blood. However, I do promise a trademark Jeff Duntemann mayhem-filled action climax.

And a dream repairman. I mean that: A guy who drops into your nightmares and hands you your pants while he gives you directions to calculus class. People who have nightmares love him. The nightmares, well, not so much.

My old writer friend Jim Strickland and I are going to attempt something interesting to keep our productivity up: a chapter challenge. Starting February 1, we’re going to dare each other to get a certain amount of story down in a week, and then exchange that’s week’s worth of story for some quick critique. He’s working on the sequel to Brass & Steel: Inferno and needs a gentle noodge. I need one too, though sometimes what I really need is a two-boot noodge right in the glutes. Neither of us has ever done anything quite like this before. I’ll post reports here as things happen.

Even the do-it list has yielded some things that are actually fun, including a bit of metalwork to make an aluminum grating for my particle board shelves to rest on out in the pool shed (against the several times a year when a hard rain gets under the door and soaks the floor) and mounting some Elfa hardware on the opposite shed wall.

Drilling three 8′ pieces of U-channel for the grate took a little finesse in my slightly cramped workshop. The drill press is where it is (close to the center of the space) for a reason. (See the photo at the top of this entry.) The next major project (as time allows) is getting a solid ground for my station and antennas. I have an 8′ ground rod. I need some bentonite, and a post hole digger. After that, le RF deluge…


  1. RickH says:

    Regarding ‘radio things’, I saw this article yesterday – a Raspberry Pi SDR (“Software Defined Radio”).

    I know very little about shortwave radio, but this might be interesting to those that are interested.

    1. I’m definitely interested. One problem is that the dongles don’t really go down much past 40 MHz or so. (The article mentions this.) To listen to shortwave frequencies (which are below 30 MHz) you need an upconverter to boost the incoming signals up into the dongle’s passband. The article’s comments cite a vacuum tube upconverter, using a tube I actually have in the rack. That might be fun all by itself.

      That said, I’m a big fan of the 50 MHz ham band, and I’ve got a nice new RPi3 on the back of my Toshiba desktop TV set. All I really need is the time for another project.

      Definitely thanks for pointing this out.

      1. Tom Roderick says:

        In the early 1960’s I used to work stations in the Phoenix area regularly with my Heathkit Sixer from Atlanta. It was feeding a home brew 3 element beam through about 50+ feet of the cheapest RG-58 I could find! If I had a watt into the driven element I would be surprised. Maybe I’ll still be around for the next solar max! That was a very fun time.

        1. I dunno. If the lines continue as they’re trending, it could be fifty years until the next really useful sunspot maximum–and we may not see anything like Cycle 19 again for a thousand years.

          Back around 1998 or so we had something called the Junkbox Radio Net on 50.4, every Sunday night at 7PM. It was all AM, all local, with most guys inside of fifteen miles from me. I was using my 99er most of the time, though I had a Sixer (still do, still works) but most of the guys couldn’t hear it. It reminded me of the local club nets we used to have on the NW side of Chicago when I was first licensed, from 1974 (when I got my General) to 1976, when I left home and struggled against the antenna issues of apartment life.

          I had a good 5/8 wave commercial 6M vertical the last time we lived in AZ, and I’d like to have something like that again. I have a single-element horizontal whip dipole for 6M that I made myself and used off the back deck up in Colorado and worked reliably into the Southeast back when there was still a sunspot or two most days. Of course, that was SSB on an Icom IC736, but I do enjoy that band.

          Once I locate a source of bentonite here, I’ll start plowing my ground system, and after that, the antennas will sprout quickly. Stay tuned; I’ll post progress notes here, with photos.

  2. RH in CT says:

    Nothing in the Wikipedia article on bentonite mentions grounding. Googling bentonite grounding gave plenty of info though.

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