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.

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”.

Soup Under Pressure

My wife decided to try pressure canning, so she made a spicy soup from a recipe in the Ball Blue Book and then canned it in several quart (liter) jars.

We had some of the soup and it’s very good–nice and spicy and then she canned the rest. Following the processing, after the canner lid was removed, all of the jars made the satisfying “clink” sound.

She is quite happy.

Canning lids are normally supposed to only be used one time for actually canning. I do save the used lids for when I need one that does not need to form a seal, such as freezing or storing dry goods. Right now I have a good supply of lids, but they are currently very difficult to find, so I have ordered some reusable lids and sealing rings from Tattler Products.

Today, my Wife…..

In the past, I was always the one to do the “fancy cooking”. We would share the “normal” day to day cooking, but, for some reason, the “fancy cooking” was my domain. By fancy I mean breads, cakes, jams, jellies, marmalades, long prep time stews, canning foods, and similar things.

Recently, she has been trying some of the fancy cooking stuff and last week, while we were at the hardware store, she saw (and bought) a copy of The Ball Blue Book….. If you’re not familiar with this book, I think the following link about the Ball Blue Book is very good. Hopefully they don’t mind my linking to their page.

Interjecting something somewhat unrelated. About 32 years ago, I decided a woman that is an engineer, comments how she loves the smell of old hardware stores, likes to go to auto parts stores, can spend days in a used books store, just about steals my 1950 Jeep so she can drive it, likes to backpack…and tolerates me…is amazing, precious and special.  So, I married her. 🙂  We thought it was a great idea at the time and 32 years hasn’t changed our thoughts on it!

Anyway, this morning she went to the grocery store, bought a large bag of frozen blueberries and then asked me to get half a dozen half-pint canning jars, lids and jar bands from the top shelf in the pantry.

She proceeded to make blueberry jam. The only thing I helped her with was showing her where the tools (jar lifter, funnel, and such) were located and moving the large pot of water onto the stove.

When she took the jars out of the water bath, all the lids made that nice “click” sound as the vacuum formed and it looks like the jam is setting up nicely.


Last week my wife went to her oncologist for a regularly scheduled check and the doctor is worried that a spot on her upper abdomen might be a recurrence of  her cancer.  I’m hoping the spot turns out to be nothing, but I am a bit worried.

So, until all the tests and examinations by various doctors are complete, we are in limbo….



Been Busy

Two household emergencies and one college algebra test.  That’s what I’ve been working on this weekend.

One was a smoking electrical outlet that the electric dryer plugs into.  I’m good with electrical stuff and not much surprises me.  Thankfully my wife caught this and got it under control before it caused any real damage.  It took me 30 minutes and $29 to fix the problem.

The other was a busted (as in it shattered) toilet at my mom’s house.   The toilet part was easy.  Fixing the other related stuff that had been “overlooked” when the house was built was what took 2  four hour days to fix.  But then plumbing issues always seem to be this way.

Then tonight, “Dad. I’ve been studying college algebra the past few nights, but I’ve got a few questions and the midterm (exam) is tomorrow.  Can you help?”

The electrical stuff was easy, the plumbing stuff was annoying and the algebra stuff with our daughter was priceless. 🙂

Play-Doh meets Vector Cross Products

My wife is a nuclear engineer who followed her dream of becoming a high school physics teacher.  I’m an electrical engineer.

As an aside, our “pillow talk” can get rather geeky. 🙂

Tonight when I got home from work, she asked me to pretend to be a student while she practiced explaining angular momentum; the current topic for her AP physics class.

Angular momentum involves vector cross products, and that causes vectors to go in all sorts of directions.   Trying to show vectors in all three dimensions using the weird supposedly 3 dimensional looking drawings on a 2 dimensional chalkboard falls flat (geek pun) as an explanatory tool.

So, we got some pens and I held them while she moved them around, but we soon discovered that more than our four hands were needed to hold everything “just right” and it was tough to move the whole thing around so the students could see it from different viewpoints. We looked like we were playing the old game of Twister and that might make it difficult to keep the students on track.

Then it hit me.  I got some shish kabob skewers, broke them in half so I’d have more vectors and stuck them in an apple…the apple serving to hold things in place so the whole thing could be rotated around so the students could see that even though the skewers…err vectors…may be at weird angles, they are still perpendicular to one another.

My wife made the observation that the skewered apple would only last a short time, and decided that Play-Doh would hold the vectors as well as the apple and have the benefit of lasting longer.

So most of the evening, she’s been sticking shish kabob skewers into a little ball of Play-Doh and moving the thing around while she rehearses her presentation.  It’s actually fun to watch.

When she finished with the momentum stuff, we somehow we got onto the topic of what happens “if one drilled a hole all the way through the earth and jumped in”….Newton’s shell theory, among other things, leaps to mind.  It’s late and nearly time for my head to hit the pillow….uh-oh…. 🙂


A lady that I recently came to know had been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2005.  This is a stage where there is a reasonable chance for a cure–one where the cancer never comes back.

In 2010, after five years, the cancer came back to other parts of her body.  It was now stage 4.  With any type of stage 4 cancer, there is little hope that treatments will cure the cancer. Instead the goal of the treatments is to, for as long as possible, keep the cancer from spreading.

The cancer in her had been at a standstill.  Today I found out the latest medical tests showed there was “minor” progression of the cancer.

The progression was deemed minor because it hadn’t grown much, but it was considered a major concern because the cancer had invaded her bones.

Cancer in the bones won’t kill someone.  Rather it just weakens the bones and causes problems as the bones loose strength.  The concern is that the cancer now has a “home base” from which it can attack other organs.

So, now she needs more treatment.

When cancer advances, the treatments become more desperate and more damaging to the body.  Eventually a point can be reached where the treatments are as life threatening as the cancer.  It is like a game of chess where the king becomes more and more trapped–eventually reaching the point where no move will eliminate the danger.

This is where hospice is called.

This is what happened to my fiancee.

Remember when I said the lady had been originally diagnosed at stage 2?

Tomorrow it will be three years since my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer at stage 3.

Today is one of the days where I need to work extra hard to remind myself of the quote, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

How I met my wife.

The first time I saw her was at a hiking club meeting.  The tables in the room were set up in a U shape, with the folks running the meeting standing at the open end of the U.  I was sitting at the bottom of the U and she was sitting on the (speaker’s) left side of the U.

I noticed her right away.  Black short hair, 5′-4″ tall, kind of thin, glasses.  As requested, we all introduced ourselves with our name, the division of the company we worked in and our position within the company.  She was a nuclear engineer working about 60 miles from where I lived and worked.  She was nice looking, smart, and as near as I could tell had no “off-limits” rings.

She disappeared before I could get a chance to talk with her. 😦

The next time I saw her was at a camp out put on by that club.  I got to talk a little bit with her and she seemed pleasant enough.  I hoped I had left the same impression.

The third time I saw her was on a Christmas walk up an urban mountain trail.  She was with her dad.  I hiked nearby them and when she went ahead of her dad, I swooped in, talked with her a bit and then asked if she’d like to go out.  The answer was yes.

She stopped and waited for her dad and the three of us talked awhile.  It turned out her dad, before he retired, did the same kind of work that I did, so I was even able to talk with her dad even before our first date.

The date, as described earlier, was kind of a disaster, but we had a good time and we had quite a laugh over it.

The middle of May I proposed marriage.  It was one of those things that I *just* knew was right.  Now that I think about it, it was a good thing she said yes.  We were at the junction of the Boucher and Tonto trails in the Grand Canyon.  Had she said “no”, it would have been an awkward walk and ride home.

I never did get her an engagement ring.  She didn’t want one as she was afraid that the diamond would get lost during one of our outdoor treks.  What she wanted was a simple gold wedding band and that is what I got her.  I have one too.  They are engraved with the wedding date.

I think that first date was a blessing in disguise.  It showed us that we could still laugh when life doesn’t go according to our plans.

Grand Humor.

The pictures I posted earlier were my idea of humor. Two scenery pictures and a picture of a pile of ice cream do not do justice to the Grand Canyon.  But that’s how we do it; hike the Grand Canyon, take a couple of pictures and eat ice cream.

My wife and I have been walking around in the Grand Canyon for more than 25 years.  I asked her to marry me at the junction of the Boucher Trail and the Tonto Trail.  In all that time, I’ve never liked to take pictures of the Grand Canyon.  I find it hard to experience the place while being on the lookout for the ONE PERFECT SHOT, which (like I said earlier) will not do the scene justice.

So, when we do walk in the ‘canyon, we take a few snap shots and think about ice cream.

This time was my wife’s idea.  It was an 8 hour trudge of what normally is an easy 4 hour walk.  We walked down to Indian Gardens and then back out.  The two scenery pictures were taken just above the 3 mile rest house, one looking down at where we were and one looking up at where we were going.  The last picture was taken at the ice cream shop at Bright Angel Lodge.

Our 16 year old daughter took about 2 hours to walk down and about 2-1/2 hours to walk out.  We were proud of her.

My wife and I took 2 hours to walk down and about 6 hours to walk out.  I was proud of my wife.  6 hours can’t compare with 2-1/2 hours, but unlike my wife, our daughter doesn’t have a bunch of recently abandoned “hide the bald head from the sun” hats.

Nearly every Memorial Day weekend my wife and I day hike rim to rim to rim (it’s one hell of a long walk in the park).  Her breast cancer treatment’s lingering effects caused a two year interruption.  We’re hoping we can get back to our old ways in time for next Memorial Day.

And if our daughter day hikes it with us, I’ll get her the pink shirt that I saw in the store today.  It’s not a breast cancer shirt.  This one says, “I’ll bet you wish your girl friend could hike like me.”  If it’s no longer available, I’ll get one printed up for her.