My mother in law is home from hospital and I had to figure out some inconsistencies in her discharge orders.

So, I call the hospital on the telephone and give them her name and date of birth, “November 9, 37”. The person at the hospital, “Is that 1937 or 2037?”

I very much hope that the person at the hospital was just momentarily distracted. 🙂


No, it’s not a sanitized version of what I would say if I were to hit my thumb with a hammer.

I’ve been doing some computer programming and I’m using a lot of what are called “regular expressions” to ensure the users entered correct data to the program.

A regular expression is a template used by a “regular expression engine” (a computer program) to decide if some text presented to the “engine” matches a user supplied template.

The concept is quite powerful because the characters to check do not need to be known in advance. So, one can do things like “check to see if what was input was a specific number of letters followed by some optional characters, but the set of optional characters depend on something else within the characters being considered. but only if”… well you get the idea.

What I needed to do was to decide if a user provided the computer program with a set of characters that could be considered a valid time of day in 24 hour format.

This is not as easy as it seems. There must be four digits with an optional : character between the second and third digits. No other characters are allowed. But wait, there’s more. If the first character is a 0 or 1, then the second character can be any single digit, but if the first character is a 2, then the second character is limited to values in the range of 0-3. The third character is always limited to values in the range of 0-5 and the final character can be any single digit.

Any violations to the above criteria means the number can not be considered a valid time in 24 hour format.

It took me about 5 minutes to get the above stuff to work and I was pleased with myself.

I still can’t decide if that looks like what I said when I realized that I have a bunch of date-time calculations to do (that is a huge mess) or when I realized that “despite it being ‘only yesterday’ when I was 20…I’m over 60 years old.”


My mother in law had been trying to ignore a “bad tooth” and, as expected, it finally was “bad” enough that she decided to go to an emergency dentist. The dentist immediately referred her to the nearby hospital emergency department for treatment of septicemia. The doctors are expecting her to remain in hospital for several more days.

Morse Code

After passing the general class amateur radio license test, my wife is learning morse code. She has learned to recognize seven letters at a speed of about 13 words per minute.

She has been working on this for about two weeks and at the rate she’s going, it will be less than a month for her to be able to know the full alphabet, numbers and punctuation characters. She has tried sending, and that needs some work, but I think that will quickly be learned. It requires a sense of timing to send and her music skills should be quite helpful with this.

Home Again

We made it home in the desert southwest. The drive was nice, if not a bit boring, but that’s okay.

At Hope Pass it was slightly below freezing, with rain-hail-sleet-snow and 60mph/95kph winds. When we arrived home, three days later, it was 109F/43C.

It was hard to not laugh as each of us unloaded a heavy jacket, rain gear, several thin layers of warm clothes and a few medium thick layers of warm clothes.

What we did “up there”.

First, there is no vehicle access to Hope Pass, so it’s “walk there”. We needed to be self sufficient so it was really “backpack there”. Backpacking at12,000 feet/3,700 meters elevation is breathtaking.

My wife and I stationed ourselves near the aid station at a point along the trail where the bushes forced the runners into a single file. From this place, we recorded the runner bib numbers, the time the runner passed us and the runner’s direction of travel. This was a safety check to ensure all the runners were accounted for, and to, if a runner didn’t arrive at the next aid station in a reasonable amount of time, figure out where to begin looking for the runner.

We also kept track of runners that voluntarily dropped out of the race, or were cut (arrived at the aid station after a set deadline). Since no vehicles were at this aid station, these runners had to walk back to the “by the road” aid station. When a runner was cut or dropped out, we communicated the runner number and the time the runner headed to the next aid station so that the runner’s crew could be notified where to pick up “their” runner.

Why ham radio? Ham operators are quite skilled in standing up a self contained temporary communications system. My observations was that the system set up and testing was started the day before the race and the “tear down” was complete within just a few hours after the race.

This is not to downplay the ability of the people maintaining other systems to do similar things–they are often hindered by regulatory, economic and technical considerations that don’t apply to ham operators. For a 30 hour race, it’s not practical for commercial, cellular or public safety systems to expand their systems to cover all the “hills and valleys” along the course. Hams have virtually no regulatory requirements for temporary radio sites, do not require a connection to “the outside world” like many commercial systems, and the economic issues are not really applicable.

Llamas & Leadville

I’m amazed that there is cellular internet service in this location. I’m typing this on a smart phone, so this is a short post.

We (my wife and I) will be camping in a place where we can, in the early morning, start walking up to the Hope Pass aid station for the Leadville 100 ultra marathon.

We, along with many other ham operators, will be providing runner safety communications along the course….where there is no other means of communications.

In case you’re not familiar with the Leadville 100, it is a 100 mile/160km running race in the Colorado mountains. For more details, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadville_Trail_100

For what it’s worth, it snowed yesterday and will likely do so tomorrow.

Llamas….they are used to haul all the stuff to set up and operate the aid station. They are ideally suited for the cold and high altitudes.

CO Bound

In this case, it’s Colorado and not carbon monoxide. Tomorrow we are leaving home and heading to Leadville, which is in central Colorado.

We will be participating in the Leadville Trail 100, a 100 mile ultra marathon. No, we are not running the race. We are helping put on the race.

In 2018 we were staying at a campground in Leadville, and one of the race “helpers” couldn’t be there due to a health problem. I had been talking to the guy running the logistics part of the race and my wife and volunteered to help. I guess we did okay. Each year since then we have been asked if we were able to help.

It’s a nice opportunity to help and, just as important, it’s a nice opportunity to go where it’s not 110F/43C.

Ham She Is

My wife sat for her general class amateur radio license and passed the test.

At the house, the radio interference caused by modern electronic devices in homes is so great that only “very exceptionally extremely strong” signals can be heard.

I have a ham radio station that fits into two briefcase Pelican brand transport cases. One case holds the radio, microphone, telegraph key and a few cables. The other case holds some paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, antenna wire and a device that allows the use of a random length of wire to work with the radio. To hold the wire up in the air, I have a fiberglass telescoping pole that, extended is 33 feet/10 meters long and 3 feet/1meter when it is collapsed.

To get away from the interference, we went out into the desert with the camper and set up the station. I let my wife set everything up. I just watched to ensure that she did not do anything that would be harmful to her or the equipment. With no prompting from me, it took her about 10 minutes to get the station on the air. A few minutes after that, she made her first contact–a station in Houston, TX which is about 1,800 miles/3,000km “away”.

Vacuum Tubes and Valves

In the USA, they are called vacuum tubes and in Europe, they are called “Valves”.

If you are old enough to remember switching on a radio or television and having to wait to see the picture and/or hear the voices, then you’ve experienced vacuum tubes.

…..well……….I restore old radios and, over many years, I’ve collected many vacuum tubes. Some I’ve purchased at electrics swap meets/flea markets, some I removed from radios or televisions that could not be repaired and some (most?) were given to me.

In the past, to store the tubes, I would set three small tubes across a paper towel and wrap the towel up. I would put the wrapped vacuum tubes into a box and continue to do this until I was finished. This works quite well, but it makes it difficult to identify a vacuum tube–there are numbers and letters etched in the glass to identify the type of vacuum tube–and I would have to unroll the paper towels until I found the particular tube number I was needing.

A couple of days ago I found a store that sells boxes designed to hold vacuum tubes and I ordered 500 boxes. They arrived today and I think I’m going to have to order more boxes. I didn’t realize I had that many tubes.

The store where I bought the boxes also sells vacuum tubes and I decided to check their prices. I have some tubes that sell for under $3 and I have fifteen of one type of tube that sell (each) for $175. I also have a couple where each “used, but test good” tube sells for over $400.

If I were to sell them to such a store, I’m guessing I’d get paid about 20% of the retail price. This doesn’t offend me because I know what is involved in getting the tubes ready for sale. They would have to test each tube (takes about 1 minute per tube) discard the non functional ones, clean them, store them AND then, finally, make a profit.

I’m not that interested in “their profit”, so I’ll get them all boxed up, the boxes marked and, when I need to use one, I’ll test it before I need it.


“Do you know what I did today?”

“No, child. What did you do today?”

“I stepped in dog sh-t. That’s what I did today.”

That, according to my mother in law, was the exchange between two nuns and the three year old girl that would eventually become my wife. It was related to us when our daughter was almost three years old and I’m sure my mother-in-law had been waiting for “just the right time” to tell us this story. 🙂

My mother-in-law said that she wished she that had not happened, but she also said the nuns just laughed, then suggested that “poop” might be a better word to use and the matter was forgotten (at least by the nuns).

This morning, I was boxing up some more stuff and didn’t notice that our 14 year old dog had an “accident”…until I stepped in it.

So, I guess I accomplished something today. I stepped in dog sh-t.