Monday, June 25, 2007

Field Day 2007

This last weekend, as a member of the HP Boise Amateur Radio Club, I participated in a national Field Day event. The event is an annual contest for amateur radio operators to communicate with each other across the country. From the American Radio Relay League (the US National Association of Amateur Radio) website:

For 75 years, Amateur Radio operators across the country have been providing emergency communications when other systems failed or overloaded in a crisis. Each year they take their equipment into unusual locations to test and make sure Ham Radio will always be there to get the message through. This year, is their the 75th anniversary “Field Day” as thousands of Ham Radio operators will be showing off their emergency capabilities this weekend.

The event ran from noon Saturday to noon Sunday. Points in the contest are accumulated by making unique confirmed contacts with another party. The contact is confirmed when each party exchanges the station call signs, locations, and class of the operation (how many radios operating in which formats). Additional bonus points are accumulated for special operating procedures such as running on alternate power, making contacts via solar or wind power, linking with others through satellite communication, having operators under age 18 participate, demonstrating other aspects of amateur radio (such as direction finding), getting new people on the air, etc.

The HP Boise club usually operates, as we did this year, from the HP Boise East Park facilities. Our setup included three main radio stations, a station for non-licensed users to experience amateur radio, and equipment specifically for communication through satellites. We had more than 20 people working the event at different times, but there were about 8 core operators who spent a significant time there. I operated off and on during the day, but worked most of the night shift from about 10 pm until 5:30 in the morning. At this point I was very relieved when another operator woke up from his nearby tent and relieved me of my duty.

It was a fun event and I learned a great deal, not only about making contacts, but radio and wave technology in general. The more experienced operators were happy to share their knowledge. Photos of the event.

In all I logged about 120 unique contacts for the event. My contacts were located in 29 different states with a few from British Columbia, Canada. Here's the list of states (and provinces) where my contacts were located: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

What's my blog rated?

A new online blog analysis tool is available to measure the content on your blog and assign a rating similar to movie ratings. Here it is:What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words: hell (8x), porn (4x), kill (3x), murder (2x), death (1x). I want to draw an exception with the word "Hell" used 8 times. I believe that all 8 of these references apply to Hell's Canyon on the Idaho-Oregon border or the Hellroaring creek/wolf pack area in Yellowstone National Park. Does referring to these areas justify a "R" rating? Regardless, I have no problem hosting an "R" rated blog. What do you think?
Click on the image above to get the rating of your blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Reverend Rob

Well its official. You can now call me "Reverend Rob". A short while ago I signed up for my free ordination as a minister of the Universal Life Church. What you ask, would have caused me to do such a thing? Well, it was a surprise for me as well! This summer I have the honor of presiding over the wedding of some of my closest friends. To fullfil this request, I needed to become legally ordained as a minister (or a judge, but that seemed much more difficult!). <br>The Universal Life Church provides a very easy online method to become ordained. Their legal standing has been challenged and upheld in a number of courts. In addition, the Universal Life Church has a philosophy which is much more in alignment with my personal beliefs than most religious organizations - that an individual's faith is a personal item, not a government or large institution (religious) issue. From the ULC website:

"Every person has the natural right (and the responsibility) to peacefully determine what is right. We are advocates of religious freedom. The Universal Life Church wants you to pursue your spiritual beliefs without interference from any outside agency, including government or church authority."

Of course, after reviewing the Idaho statutes on marriage, I discovered that I didn't really need to be ordained, I just needed to convince the couple that I was:

No marriage solemnized by any person professing to be a judge, justice, or minister, is deemed or regarded void, nor is the validity thereof to be in any way affected on account of any want of jurisdiction or authority: provided, it be consummated with a full belief on the part of the persons so married, or either of them, that they have been lawfully joined in marriage.
Regardless, I believe that I, the couple, and the witnesses will feel better with the fact that I have proof of my ordination.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Population and Climate Change

It would appear the the United States government is at least starting to listen to the scientists and the rest of the world in acknowledging that climate change/global warming is happening and that it is indeed a problem. It's about time! Although, if you paid any attention to the media in the last week, our very own NASA administrator apparently isn't too concerned.

What I find interesting about the public debate is, with all of the options being considered to address global warming, we continue to ignore the largest single contributor to the problem - population growth. In my opinion, population growth is the largest single threat to our planet. We are already consuming more resources than the planet can renew. We are detroying entire ecosystems, driving biological diversity down. And of course, our consumption is producing output which is warming the planet at an accellerating rate. This is acting as a feedback loop, further destroying eco-systems and the resources on which all life depends. When will the population discussion enter the national and world debate?

In a recent study, researchers determined that if couples had two children instead of three they could cut their family's carbon dioxide output by the equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York. Note that the 620 flights is based on the per capita footprint of people in the UK. The per capita footprint in the US is much greater. Anyway, a reduction of this magnitude would result in a huge decrease in a person's carbon footprint, but it only covers a fraction of the story. This analysis considered the carbon used by a family in a year, not the future impact of those children and their children and their children. Population growth, when couples have more than two children, is increasingly non-linear. Thus, the resource usage and impact on the world is non-linear as well.

Our government discusses how China is a regressive regime, yet this is one aspect that they appear to understand to a much greater degree than the United States. They understand that their population growth is a risk to the national and world resources. This is why they have limited offspring to one child in most cases. While not a perfect policy, and one that has a number of interesting side effects, it does at least acknowledge the true problem of population growth and tries to take some drastic action to address it. It is interesting that the country taking the most drastic measures to save the planet, whether perfect or not, is getting strong criticism for the policy (violating the human right of reproduction). When will the rest of the world take population growth seriously?

I am sure that I will be called a communist and/or much, much worse for making such an argument, but I have a slightly different view of freedom. My freedom says that I should be free to not have my world destroyed by you. Should you be free to destory your neighbors world? Its time that the world community starts working and acting as a community. That means that my actions should be measured for not only what they mean for me, but also the impact on others. People speak of their freedoms as if they never have an impact on others. We now know that in the global environmental crisis, nearly every action has an impact on everyone else.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

El Conquistador de Montanas

After sixteen years of road and trail riding on our mountain tandem bicycle, we decided it was time for an upgrade. The decision was difficult as Karyn and I were married on the tandem 13 years ago. We still haven't decided if we will keep the old bike or not.
Our new bike, pictured here, is a full suspension mountain tandem from Ventana. It's called the "El Conquistador de Montanas", meaning the conquerer of mountains (I think). The new frame geometry, full suspension, disk brakes, and other features will take a while to get used to, but the first ride was pretty spectacular. It maneavers very well, smooths out the big bumps, and allows the riders to relax while decending versus constantly fighting the bike over the bumps. We look forward to some long rides this weekend.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

BluePrint for Good Growth

I was recently nominated to a position on the steering committee for Ada County's Blue print for Good Growth. I was nominated to fill one of the two "large Industry" positions on the team. This last week I accepted this position and attended the first meeting.
Being a Growth-o-phobe I wasn't sure that a growth oriented team was right for me. I was also concern about representing myself and big industry. Upon reviewing the purpose of the team and the activities currently underway, I was much more confident that I could contribute to the team, contribute in a positive direction, and support the industry perspective (at least my company - Hewlett-Packard). While being a growth-o-phobe, I do acknowledge that growth in the valley is inevitable. It would be better to ensure that this growth occurs in the most positive way possible for those who live here today, minimizing traffic congestion, air polution, paying for itself, etc. The group is working on all of these concepts. Two initiatives specifcally caught my attention - transit ready development and adequate public facilities ordinances. I believe that both are critically important in the future of the valley.
I'll post progress as it happens.

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Skywarn Spotter Program

Well it official. I have passed the stringent requirements to become a Skywarn Weather Spotter. The Skywarn program use volunteers to report on severe weather events. While the meteorologists can predict weather and use radar and other tools to evaluate a storm from a distance, they lack information on what is happening on the ground. For this they rely on volunteer skywarn weather spotters. I attended the training this last week.
The requirements are quite easy - attend a two hour training session on the identification of severe weather and then call in when you see it. That's as stringent as it gets. You can get mroe infomration from teh link above.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Over 1221 Bird Species Face Extinction

I think most people hear the news about endangered species and don't think to much about it. Maybe they assume that it is an isolated case, maybe they look at the specific species for its less than desirable traits, maybe they assume that if they cared they would have to change their behavior. I don't know why most people look the other way. When I see reports like this I can't possibly look the away! Birdlife International has released their annual Red List update. The Red list takes into account population size, population trends and range size for all 10,000 bird species worldwide and identifies those species that are threatened with extinction. The bottom line - 1221 species are listed as theatened with extinction and another 812 near threatened. This is an amazing 22% of all bird species on the planet! How can we let this happen? While this is going on, and extinctions are accellerating, our government is trying to water down the endangered species act. When will we learn that the human population is dependent upon healthy ecosystems? The article does highlight some success stories, but only when specific programs are put in place. Write your government representatives to increas protections, contribute to conservation groups, volunteer for conservation, decrease your carbon footprint, at least do something!

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May In Motion Results

Each May the Treasure Valley runs a "May in Motion" campaign to promote the use of alternative transportation methods. As a part of the campaign, the organizers track participation reports by encouraging individuals to submit their commute activities. Here are my results for May:
Didn't Work/Vacation/Holiday - 6 days (not counting weekends)
Rode the Bus - 8 days
Rode my bike - 3 days
Work from home - 4 days
Drove to work - 2 days
Ouch! I drove 2 days. This is unusual for me. The two days were in support of the International Space Station Contact at a local school. There was no bus service to the school, it was too far to walk, and I felt I needed to be presentable ruling out a bike ride. Someday we will have a bus system to accomodate these types of activities.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Eagle Cap Wilderness Backpacking

Wow. Karyn and I, along with a friend of ours we call "The Badger", just returned from a three day backpacking trip in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Northeast Oregon. It was an excellent trip.
We debated where to go acknowledging that the snow level had retreated to the high elevations due to lower winter coverage and high temperatures. We wanted a location with few people and mosquitoes so we chose to go as close to the snow line as possible. We were very successful on all counts. This weekend also saw record temperatures in Boise, so it was a great time to leave for the upper elevations.
On Friday, a beautiful clear sunny day, we started hiking up the East Eagle Creek in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. I was excited as this was my first "ultra-light" trip. I have shaved 10 pounds off my previous weight for this trip (5 on the backpack itself and 5 on the tent), Karyn's pack was 8 pounds lighter. I still weighed in at 37 pounds so it wasn't that "ultra". Karyn's pack was 28 pounds. With some planning, we should be able to shed another 5 to 10 from our combined pack weight.
Our destination was Hidden Lake. At 7200 feet above sea level, it would be questionable if we would make our destination. At six miles in The Badger was challenged by a cow elk. The cow barked at him and charged toward him. He wisely retreated. This is unusual behavior unless she had a calf hidden nearby. We did never see it.
Concerned about getting across the raging stream, we took advantage of a snow bridge to cross to the other side. This was about a quarter mile before the trail crossing so we had to bushwhack our way until we relocated the trail. On the steep climb up to Moon Lake, we kept loosing the trail as the snow patches grew larger and larger. We stayed on the South facing slope where most of the ground was clear of snow. Moon Lake itself was still buried in snow. We should have taken this as a sign, but we instead continued up to the saddle to cross over to Hidden Lake. Looking over the ridge to the North facing slope sealed the fact that we would not make it to Hidden Lake without skis. We retreated a mile back down the trail to East Eagle Creek and found an excellent campsite.
The rising peaks around us were beautiful as the Elk called to each other in the valley. We could see a number of groups of Elk, some with new calves along the hillsides. The bonus, we were yet to see any people, and no mosquitoes!
The next day the Badger and I decide to head toward Eagle Cap Peak. We were fairly sure we would not make the summit, but hoped to acquire the saddle below the peak. We searched for a way back across the stream. We couldn't find any. The water was raging and rising. The snow bridge was our best option. Concerned that the rising water and warm temperatures would melt the snow bridge before our Sunday departure, we changed plans and decided to move our camp back across the stream, preserving our safe exit. So we packed up camp and moved.
The second location was not quite as good as the first, but still great. The Badger and I once again headed off toward the peak. A mile into our hike the snow patches began. We spooked up a number of elk, getting to within 50 feet of some. About 2 miles in the going was getting very rough. Snow, water and mud everywhere. There were a number of downed trees as well. We got close enough to see the saddle and determine that we weren't going to get there. We headed back to camp. That night was very pleasant with the Pikas and the birds singing us to sleep.
The hike out was nice and uneventful. The first person we saw during the weekend was right at the trail head as we arrived back at the car. Very nice. I only saw one mosquito all weekend - no repellent and no bites. What a great time of year to go. The new tent was better than our old one AND 5 pound lighter. The new pack was not as comfortable, but I can't see adding the 5 pounds to go back to my old one.

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I-84 to Idaho Hwy 44 Connector Hearing

As a volunteer member of the Public Participation Committee and Transportation Modeling Committee of Compass - Community Planning Association of SouthWest Idaho, I thought I would share information about this upcoming event. For those outside of SouthWest Idaho, this is likely of little interest.
This is to let you know about an upcoming public meeting to discuss a potential roadway corridor connecting Interstate 84 (I-84) and Idaho 44.

The open house meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 12, from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. at Birch Elementary School, 6900 Birch Lane in Nampa. Please attend any time during the four-hour period.

Meeting attendees will be asked to help identify issues and concerns that should be addressed in the Idaho 16, I-84 to Idaho 44 Environmental Study, and comment on possible locations for a new roadway corridor. The proposed corridor would connect to I-84 between the proposed Ten Mile Interchange and the Garrity Interchange. The corridor would continue north, cross the Boise River, and connect with Idaho 44 near the junction of Idaho 16.

If you cannot attend the meeting there will be additional opportunities for you to participate in this study, including a public hearing.

You may provide comments at any time by visiting ITD's web site at www.itd.idaho.gov, and click on Get Involved, choose Southwest Idaho and then select I-84 to Idaho 44 Environmental Study.

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