Cozy Tales: 48. Home Theater

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In December of 2005 I was making excellent money designing and installing networks for large companies, so I decided to take some of that money and make a home theater for the family. As much as I would have loved to be able to make something as wonderful as the magnificent rooms I’d seen in magazines, our house was pretty small, so I added home theater functionality to our existing family room.

Being an obsessive nerd, I spent weeks researching every aspect of the new project, from large screen HDTVs to receivers to speakers to the wire that connects it all. I was in my element, and since Lauren had agreed to a complete makeover for the room, I had all sorts of leeway with the design. (more…)

Driving to Shillelagh to buy a Shillelagh

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Having an Irish heritage, I remember seeing odd knobby-ended walking sticks in the corners of many houses as a kid. These sticks were commonly called Shillelaghs in my experience, though I’ve since learned that Shillelagh is a town and the walking sticks are properly called Shillelagh Sticks.

If you asked the homeowner about the stick, they would usually just reply with either, “Oh that? That’s just my old walking stick.”, or simply, “That’s my Shillelagh.” Both statements belie the simple truth, however, and that truth is that these sticks are first and foremost weapons. To be accurate, the original Shillelagh Sticks were shorter and more like clubs or cudgels, but when England outlawed them, the Irish lengthened them so that they could also be used as walking sticks, thus subverting the oppressive English law while allowing the weapons to be retained. Knowing this, I had to have one. Getting a real one, though, would prove a little more complicated than I’d anticipated.  (more…)

Cozy Tales: 44. Not so Bright

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As you might have guessed by now, I’m a bit of a nerd. I like gadgets and have way too many hobbies. I play the guitar, have a ham radio license, build my own computers, fix old tube amplifiers for fun and generally baffle my wife with an endless desire to acquire some new toy or learn some arcane skill. My interests have led me to amass a wide ranging collection which includes guitars, tube amplifiers, fountain pens, headphones, cameras, telescopes and a wide variety of other things. Of course, some of those hobbies get me into trouble. (more…)

Cozy Tales: 27. The Table Incident

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We used to have a coffee table in the family room that was a two tier affair. The bottom was just a shelf while the top was comprised of three square panes of glass separated by wood with four pillars in the corners. We’d had the table for years and it had become the centerpiece of our family room, around which our lives continued to unfold.

One night while watching television, Lauren was lying on the long couch perpendicular to the  TV while I sat on the love seat. Cozy sat on the floor near me and Daisy had mashed herself in the space between Lauren’s couch and the coffee table. The dogs loved to be in this space that seemed too small for them which we figured had something to do with their den instinct. Regardless of why they liked those spots, they were always there making it difficult for people to get off and on the couch. Lauren, eight months pregnant with Meghan, had an even tougher time when the dogs chose to lie there, which was all the damn time.

For reasons that escape me now, I decided to sit on the coffee table so I could get closer to Lauren. Maybe we were talking, or maybe I felt the need to give her some smooches. Whatever the reason, it was overshadowed by the events that were about to unfold. (more…)

Cozy Tales: 23. Newf Cam

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Being the computer geek that I am, I decided in 1999 to build myself a monitoring system to watch the dogs from work. Back then you couldn’t buy wireless network cameras on Amazon. Hell, back then wireless didn’t exist yet and very few stores had websites. Also, Amazon was barely a thing.

Working at a local Internet Service Provider when local ISPs could still thrive, I was learning the ins and outs of Internet network devices, and in order to manage and maintain the ISPs network, I had a scorching 128k ISDN connection to my home. You have to remember that everyone else was still using modems, and they were slow. The modems at the time were mostly 28.8k models, with 56.6k being the absolute cutting edge. DSL and cable Internet feeds were still in their infancy so having a dedicated 128k connection to my house was a very big deal at the time. No one out-nerds me! (more…)

Fixing a Loose Knob on a Kenwood TH-D72A

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I bought a beautiful like-new Kenwood TH-D72A on eBay for a great price and was saddened to discover that the encoder knob was quite loose. The seller insisted that this was normal, but I didn’t think that seemed right. I talked to many people online online, some of whom said that their TH-D72A had a loose knob, and many who said it was rock solid. I took a chance and opened it up, knowing that doing so would mean I would no longer be able to return it.

In a nutshell, the encoder assembly sometimes works its way loose on these radios and needs to be tightened. It’s a pretty simple thing to fix, so why pay Kenwood to fix it when you can do it yourself? After posting my experience on eHam and Reddit and getting a few emails from people asking how I fixed it, I decided to write this article in hopes that it might help others out.

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Diamond X50 Antenna Camouflage

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After many years of my wife resisting the addition of a ham radio antenna on the side of our house (I have a nice 7-band off-center fed dipole in the woods), she finally relented. Since I didn’t want to disturb the thin veneer of domestic tranquility by installing a garish monstrosity, I decided to alter my bright white Diamond X50 antenna with the most upscale dressing such that any style-consious wife would be sure to adore: leaf-pattern camouflage! (more…)

Antenna Rigging for the Lonely Ham

In this article I will describe how to install a dipole antenna fifty feet up into the trees without any help. Why? Because self-sufficency is a good thing, especially if you’re lonely.

First, let me set the stage. The first thing you need to know is that I am an idiot. Now, I’m not your typical idiot who is blessed with something as simple as a low IQ. No, I am a special type of idiot: one in which my measured intelligence is in the top two percent of those measured, but whose propensity towards doing stupid things nears infinity. (more…)

The Yellow Box of Power

After Hurricane Sandy, I became slightly obsessed with alternative power, but focused most of my energy on generators, always remembering that I can only store so much gas. The natural alternative to engines and gasoline is solar power, but I wasn’t sure I was looking for a whole-house solution since we don’t have room for batteries and I’m not a fan of selling my surplus energy back to the power company. An idea for a portable solar solution rattled around in my head for years, and while studying for my Amateur Radio Extra Class license exam (K2GAD/AE!), plans started to germinate that resulted in what you see here. I present to you the Internet unveiling of The Yellow Box of Power.

The Yellow Box of Power is a very yellow Pelican box (size 1550) loaded up with 36 amp-hours of 12-volt battery capacity that can be charged by way of normal 120V household power or through one or more solar panels. It is mostly self-contained, is completely portable, will charge laptops and phones, run a ham radio station, or just light up a room. It will even float! Actually, it won’t float for long since I cut a bunch of holes in the side, but it’s pretty darn water resistant. Read on to learn how I made it after a quick rant about the term solar generator(more…)

Teller Signed my Lemon

Being in New York City for work from time to time, I’ve often taken advantage of the ability to score great seats for Broadway shows when buying only one, and this time I scored a seat in the front row of the center orchestra, the day after Penn & Teller on Broadway opened at the Marquis Theater in Times Square. Though I assumed I’d have a good time, my evening turned into an unexpected tale of the kind I like most: one that is fun, and just a little bit left of normal. (more…)