Not where I’d like to be…

I had plans for this weekend. In fact I had too many plans for this weekend. Three different plans in fact.


This weekend is the NRA’s Annual Meeting. I’m an Endowment Life member. My wife and I went to the NRA’s past meetings in Nashville and St. Louis. I met a number of internet friends who I had never before met face-to-face. I looked forward to seeing them again.

This weekend is also the Dayton Hamvention. The premier Hamfest in the nation. I’ve been a Ham radio operator since 1972, forty-four years. I had never been to Dayton and I wanted to go while I could.

The MO GOP State Convention is also this weekend in Branson, Missouri. I am a delegate. I had looked forward to voting for Cruz delegates. That was not to be.

In addition, my wife is a Professor at a local Bible College. Their graduation is this weekend with graduation practice and a dinner scheduled for this evening. She’s obligated to be there as one of the leading professors.

Obviously, triage is needed. First the MO GOP Convention is moot now that Cruz has suspended his campaign. I’ve no wish to be forced to vote for that vile, lying specimen of questionable humanity. The platform battle is a waste of time as well. I’ve never seen any of the platform proposals ever evolve into legislation.

I don’t fly. The TSA can kiss my…butt. If I can’t drive there, I’m not going. Louisville, the site of this year’s NRA convention, is a day’s drive. So is Dayton if I have an early enough start. Both start today. I could have made either if I had left KC yesterday.

Unfortunately, I had minor surgery yesterday. I had an infected cyst removed from my left shoulder leaving a golf ball sized hole in my back packed with material to help clean out the remaining infection and to promote healing.

I can’t change the bandage by myself and I can’t see asking a travel-mate to help with such a personal task if my wife can’t accompany me. She can’t.

So. I’m staying home. None of my earlier plans came to fruition. No NRA trip, No Hamvention visit. No GOP State convention.

And, to end a less than stellar week, my Samsung tablet quit unexpectedly yesterday. I had nearly 1,000 ebooks on it. Fortunately, I had backed up my photos and music on the tablet earlier this week. I have copies of my ebooks offline on another server. Nothing was really lost but it will be a pain to move everything to another tablet. I never realized how much I depended on that tablet until it quit.

I suppose it’s just as well I stayed home this weekend. My new tablet, another Samsung, arrives tomorrow. I know now what I’ll be doing all weekend.

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley.


For you non-Hams, QSL means, “I confirm your communication with me.” Today, this occurs most often when we upload our logs to one of several databases, such as the ARRL’s Logbook of the World.

Hams used to confirm contacts with paper, post-card sized, QSL cards. I still send them out. I recently worked a Hawaiian station. We both said we’d exchange real QSL cards. The Hawaiian station sent me an email today saying he had received mine and his was on its way to me. In the mean time, he sent me this electronic version.




A Busy Weekend

I suppose some of you have noticed I’ve not been following my usual five posts per week this summer. There’s been a number of reasons for my reduced output.

  • Burnout from politics and my growing dissatisfaction with the GOP at all levels.
  • My decision to upgrade my Ham radio antenna system. A tree had grown to envelope my old vertical antenna.
  • Building a backup HF antenna, a 40M OCF dipole.
  • Taking off for a trek through the backroads of most of the western states that lasted most of July.
  • Passing a kidney stone after we returned home from our trek.
  • Upgrading my ham ticket from Advanced to Extra.
  • Move and reinstall my vertical antenna.

I’ve completed all those tasks except for the last and I’m close to finishing that.

This last weekend, I knocked off that next to last bullet on the list. I’ve been an Advanced class Ham for over 40 years, since 1971. It was time to upgrade.


Gordon West’s Extra Class License Manual

The class was hectic. It wasn’t a “class” per sé. It was a crash-review of all 700+ questions in the Extra class question pool. I had been studying for the test, off and on, since last Spring. I had both the ARRL Extra Class license manual and the Gordon West manual.

It is much easier studying today than studying for a FCC exam in the 1970’s.

At that time, the questions weren’t published. The only “public knowledge” questions were those whom test-takers could remember after leaving the FCC office and some group collected.

This was the second time I had passed the Extra Class written test. When I took the test to upgrade from Novice, I, like all the other hams at that time, took the test at a FCC office under the eyes of one or more of the FCC engineers. In my case it was the Kansas City FCC office (apparently soon to be closed, I hear.)

There were two engineers giving the test that Saturday in 1971. I knew both of them, not that that helped me any. Instead, their expectations of me were much higher.

There was a large crowd of hams at the FCC office that Saturday. I don’t remember how many, now; more than twenty, I believe. The usual practice was to give the Morse code test first and then, if you passed the code test, you were given the written test. That Saturday, there were too many Hams to be tested to follow the normal test pattern (plus the FCC office closed at noon. We had to be finished by that time.)

We lined up and, like many of us did in the military, counted off by twos. The “Ones” filed off to take their code test. The “Twos” went into a classroom to take their written tests. I was a “Two.”

As a Novice, I had to take the General/Technician test first. Then if I passed, I could take the Advanced test and the Extra. The senior engineer belonged to the same ham club as did I. He gave me my test sheets and kept me under his eye.

I quickly finished the General test and passed it. There was still time available so he stuck the Advanced test under my nose and said, “Take this, too.” I did.

Looking back, I thought the Advanced test was easier than the General test. I still had some free time. The other group was still taking their code tests.

The Morse code tests started at 5wpm for those wanting a Tech license, followed by the 13wpm for those seeking a General and Advanced class license. There were a few going for Extra. They were still waiting to take their 20wpm test.

Rather than sit around in the classroom doing nothing or wandering around in the lobby and having passed the General and Advanced test, my FCC friend gave me an Extra class test and said, “Do this one, too.” I hadn’t studied for the Extra class license, but I found many of the questions were similar to those on the General and Advanced tests, just more so.

I passed it. I don’t know by how much. My friend wouldn’t say, so I suspect I was a squeaker. I do remember his firm handshake when I passed it.

By that time, the code group had finished and it was my turn. In the 1970s the code test was generated by a machine reading a paper tape. It was perfect code running exactly as the required speeds. It was also 5-letter code groups. In later years, the code test became a multiple-choice test. I wasn’t interested in a Tech license and no one in our half of the group did either. We started off directly at 13wpm.

To pass the test you had to correctly copy “x” numbers of characters in a row. I had been using the on-air ARRL code practice sessions and was confident that I could pass 13wpm. I did. Since I had passed the Extra class written test, I took the 20wpm code test. As I recall, I needed to copy 100 characters correctly in a row. I gave my copy sheet to the engineer giving the code tests. He had a template that he used to grade the test. He kept shifting it all over my code sheet looking for that magic 100 correct characters.

He could only find 98.

So, I didn’t get my Extra class license that day. I went home an Advanced class. I never tried to retest for Extra until this last weekend.

Sometime in the Spring, I saw on Larry’s List, a ham radio email list, that our local W5YI group was scheduling a class for Extra in August 2015. That class was held this last weekend. I attended and passed the Extra class test late yesterday.

My timing is perfect. My test will be sent to the W5YI coordinator for confirmation and processing and then sent to the FCC. Usually, it would take about ten days to two weeks for my upgrade to appear in the FCC database.

But, as I said, my timing is perfect. The FCC will be taking their database down next week for maintenance. No 10-14 day turn-around for me. No, I expect I’ll have to wait two to four weeks for the FCC to work through the backlog.

Regardless, I passed. After forty years.

Playing in the dirt

Some have asked what I’m doing. My answer? Playing in the dirt…with my Grandson.

I’ve an ongoing project to upgrade my Ham Radio antenna system. I added a 40M OCF (Off-center-dipole) to the side of the house in June. Now it’s time to re-install my vertical. When I first planted it some fifteen years ago, the nearby trees were much smaller. Over time they grew and one tree’s upper limbs reached the antenna. I had thought just to trim the limbs but that proved to be less than satisfactory. I decided to move the location of the vertical antenna.

That project started last week after Mrs. Crucis and I returned from our excursion through a few western states.


Grandson Andrew starting the hole.

We, or rather, Andrew, discovered that digging through the accumulated thatch and grass root system was harder than it looked.


Hole finished. 24″ x 24″ x 7″.

The hole is finished and a small ‘sump’ hole dug to provide more stability for the pipe. By this point, a few hours after the first photo, we’d only received a few chigger bites.

Ready for the Quikcrete-b_08072015

Ready for the concrete.

The hole is now ready for the concrete. The pipe continues 3′ into the ground leaving around 20″ remaining above the surface of the concrete. I’d gone to Home Depot and bought four bags of Quikcrete. They tried to sell me eight bags. I thought that was too much.


Four bags full.

I was wrong. Four bags wasn’t enough.


Watered and set.

I was wrong. I bought two more bags.

The first four bags were 50lbs. each. I bought two 60lb bags of a different type that should produce a smoother surface. That is the next task. I’ll post some more photos as the project nears completion.

That was the status as of Friday evening. Sometime during Friday, we must have stirred up a nest of chiggers. I counted thirteen bites on me. Andrew had about the same.

Note to self: use bug repellent next time.

Gang Aft Agley, Redux

I wrote about Bobby Burns poem, To a Mouse, in a previous post. I’m not discussing poetry today, just the foibles of life and planning and how often plans change for one reason or another. Today is such a day.

Today was supposed to be a, “No post today,” day. I had planned to work on my ham radio station, plant a new ground system for the station and antennas, and play in the dirt planting some posts that will hold up a wire antenna.

Alas, life has intervened. Perhaps, tomorrow. If the rain stays away. Digging some post holes could…be a bit muddy.


George Stephanopolos admitting he paid $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

George Stephanopolos has been proven, again, to be a slime ball. He’s been tightly connected to democrat politics and the Clinton Crime Family since he was Bubba’s press secretary in the 1990s.

It all began with a book. A book, Clinton Cash, by Peter Schweizer about the finances of the Clinton Family Foundation and their ‘Global Initiative’ project. The project was, it appears, to be an avenue for the Clintons to receive bribes in exchange for favors.

Stephanopolos was the chosen hitman to attack the book. Of course, he didn’t reveal his current connections to the Clinton Crime Family foundation, nor, until it came out, his contributions, over $75,000, to that foundation.

CNN, who is one of Stephanopolos’ employers, claimed to have no knowledge of the financial connection…until, under pressure, Stephanopolos admitted that he was a contributor to the Clintons. It makes you wonder what Georgie received in return?

By the way, GOPers and candidates are uniting against Stephanopolos. Many will no longer appear on some of the news programs if attended by Stephanopolos. I have heard that CNN will not be hosting the Presidential Debates next year. Perhaps, it will be FOX News instead. Perhaps Megan Kelly will be the Moderator? Works for me!

In case you haven’t heard, Peter Schweizer’s next book is about Jeb Bush. Did you know Bush was a member of a state department sponsored group to help rebuild Haiti after their last massive earthquake? Needless to say, there was massive fraud and embezzlement involved by some of the ‘approved’ contractors, friends of Bill, friends of Hillary, contributors to the Clinton ‘crime’ Family Foundation. Perhaps we shall see what was Jeb’s involvement was to that group?

Survived the weekend…

It was busy! I’ve been looking forward to this last weekend for some time. I mentioned a couple of months ago that my ham radio bug has returned in full force. The connection to this last weekend was the Ararat Shrine Hambash. When I was first licensed, it seemed as if there was a Hamfest every month somewhere in the area. Now there are only three or four a year.

Be that as it may, I had a reason to go to the Hambash. I’d hoped to be able to take my Extra class test. Unfortunately, I was too late and there were too many already testing. I really didn’t expect to pass; I just wanted to see the differences in the testing process. It has been over forty years since my last Ham test.

I took my General/Advanced class tests at the Kansas City FCC office. A ham friend who was also the FCC Engineer-in-Charge, WØAT, administered the written tests. He gave me the General class written test first. Passed. Then the Advanced Class written test. Passed. Then the Extra Class written test. Passed.

The code test was next. Thirteen word-per-minutes test: passed. That made me at least an Advanced class. The Eighteen word-per-minute code test was next. Failed. Only 17wpm. In 1972, you have to get X number of consecutive letters/numbers/punctuation, correct. I was a few letters short for an Extra class ticket. Life and work then intervened and I never went back to retest the code.

I didn’t get to test Saturday. I really wasn’t prepared but I thought, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,”…and perhaps I’d get enough correct answers on the written test to pass. Technology and Ham Radio has changed in forty years. I needn’t be bothered to remember my old tube-technology on the current test.

Regardless, it was an interesting Hamfest and the hall was filled, elbow-to-elbow, with people. One vendor had come from Minnesota. I saw a lot of old ham gear of the same models I once owned and operated–Heathkits, two models of Heathkit HF amplifiers (I built one back in the ’70s,) early Kenwood transceivers, it brought back a lot of memories.

Next on my schedule was to rush home amidst driving rain like an upended bucket to get Mrs. Crucis (why does it always rain on hamfests?). We were off to our Grandson’s birthday. He was fifteen this weekend. Time must pass faster as we get older.

Friendsofthe NRA-2015-2Later in the afternoon we were off again. This time it was to the Heart of America Friends of the NRA dinner. I had been to the one in Harrisonville, MO, last year and met many personal friends there. This time my wife came along. Like the last NRA dinner, we met some personal friends and sat with them.

Other than dropping our ticket stubs into the jar for door prizes, we didn’t buy any raffle tickets. I supposed I could have afforded to drop $20 on the top item, a prized Henry lever-action in 44-40. On the other hand, being on a fixed income places restraints on our ‘disposable’ income. In other words, we spend our money carefully. I’d rather spend that disposable income with friends. (And, truth be told, renovating my ham station is not going to be cheap.)

The banquet hall was packed. I don’t know the exact count of people. There were Kansas and Missouri politicos present, a few local PD Chiefs and retired LEOs and many, many NRA members and their families.

The most welcome was the Johnson County 4-H Shooting Team. The team was a collection of boys and girls who were the Kansas state champions. The banquet was designed to be family friendly and there were many more than a few kids present with their parents. When the auction started, two of the items were designed to be for, “Kids-only.” One item was a large watergun. The other was a semi-auto nerf gun. The 4-H kids helped show the auction items throughout the evening. I think they had more fun than the older attendees.

Ted Nugent Stars and Stripes Guitar

Ted Nugent Stars and Stripes Guitar

The top auction item was a Ted Nugent, numbered and autographed, Red-White-and Blue, Stars and Stripes Gibson guitar. It sold for $2500 if I remember correctly.

It was a fun night. Mrs. Crucis won a door prize, a bouquet of flowers. I, on the other hand, won nothing. That was OK, too. Frankly, I don’t think I’d have room to mount some of the prizes.

The weekend is over. This coming weekend is busy, too. Friday is the Cass County Lincoln Day celebration. I’ll be bringing one of the silent auction items like I did last year. I’ll let you guess which it is if you come. Come and be welcome. Tickets are $30 at the door.

Cass County Lincoln Day

Friday, April 24, 2015, 6:00pm, Peculiar, MO, Lions Club.

Guest speakers: State Senator Ed Emery, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler.


I wrote last Thursday about getting back into Ham Radio. I’ve made one addition to the Crucis’ Court website. I’ve added the American Radio Relay Leaque, or ARRL, Centennial Logo to the sidebar and a link to the ARRL Website.

The ARRL was founded 100 years, in 1914, ago by Hiram Percy Maxim. It’s initial members were from the Radio Club of Hartford, CT. It’s grown in membership to over 150,000 scattered world wide.

The Centennial isn’t the theme for today’s post. Change, is. One such change is the appearance of my Ham shack, i.e., my office where I spend most of my day. Usually, my area is piled with books, CDs, various papers, a coffee mug and thermos, plus my PCs.

I decided to clean up the place. Below are three photos. The first one is before I started.


The ‘Before’ of my Hamshack cleanup.

The next when I was half through. Cleaning up included a LOT of dusting. Our cats’ catbox is off in a corner. It doesn’t smell but the kitty-litter produces a lot of dust.


Halfway through the cleanup. You can see my Kenwood TS-570S and two QRP rigs now.

The third is a quick photo of my CW keys. The black middle one was hand-made by a ham from Springfield who is now a silent-key. He was a retired machinist for the railroad and hand made all the components of the key from hard brass including the screws. It is truly a work of art.


The left and right paddles are from Vibroplex. The middle one was handmade by a Ham in Springfield. MO.

This last photo is the finished product. You can actually see my main HF transceiver. The two smaller radios are low-powered, 5-watt, CW only transceivers that I built. I’d like to build more but my eyes aren’t up to doing surface-mount soldering anymore.


Finished. Well, mostly. Still a lot to do.

I can at least monitor the ham bands. There were a couple of DX contests going on over the weekend and it helped to refresh some of my skills…especially CW. I’m woefully out of practice.

I can’t transmit yet. My HF antenna, a Hy-Gain DX-88, is ground-mounted in the back yard. I installed it when we moved into this house 18 years ago using buriedRG-8 coax. That worked for awhile, but RG-8 isn’t made to be buried. Over the years, moisture has leaked into it and it appears to be shorting. It’s OK for receiving but not for transmitting. In addition, my vertical antenna requires a counterpoise of ground radials. I made some, a matched 1/2 wavelength, for each band. That worked well, too. But, eighteen years in the ground has corroded them as well. New radials are needed.

I’ve my project for the Spring. I think I’ll enlist my grandson to do some of the stoop-labor.


Speaking of changes. My ham shack isn’t the only thing changing. Prices of ham gear is up! When I was first licensed in 1972, I was in the Air Force stationed at the now closed Richards-Gebaur AFB between Grandview and Belton, MO. It’s closed and former-Mayor Cleaver destroyed it so it wouldn’t be a competitor to the down-town airport.

Be that as it may, I couldn’t buy new ham gear on what I was paid by the Air Force. A friend was in charge of the ground radio and MARS station. One Saturday we decided to visit Henry Radio in Butler, MO. Henry Radio was one of the pioneers in ham radio and sold a premier Amplifier, the Henry 2K. At the time, it was the Rolls-Royce of ham amplifiers.

Henry Radio has a lot of used gear. Some was military surplus from WW2 and the Korean war. My first receiver was a Hammarlund HQ-100. I paid $50 for it…$15 a month with $20 for the final payment. That was a lot of money in 1972.

The practice at the time, and still is for that matter, was to buy used, insure it’s fully functional, use it for a time, and then trade it in on a slightly better radio. I did that a lot in those early years and built a lot of HeathKit radios and kits, too. I built a HW-101 transceiver and traded that in a few years later on a SB-102 kit. I used the SB-102 for a number of years through most of the 1970s. The Heath SB-102 was known as the Poor Man’s Collins KWM-2. The Collins cost over $1,000. The SB-102 cost a couple of hundred.

The Heath quality, and the fact that the kit’s manual made maintenance easier, has allowed many hams to continue to use their Heathkits through today. It’s not uncommon to go to a hamfest and still see Heath radios for sale.

Since then I switched to Kenwood transceivers. I bought a Kenwood TS-520, new from Henry Radio years later. It was serial number 77. I didn’t notice the rig’s low serial number at the time. Years later I was able to trade it even for a much, much nicer radio. That low serial number paid off.

As I said in the earlier post, I’ve been off the air for a number of years. When I started looking at the prices of new coax and gear, my eyes nearly bugged out at the increase of the cost of gear and parts! Prices has reached the point where a new ham, or a young one for that matter, can’t afford to buy new equipment.

Fortunately for all, the older rigs are still available on the used market and from hamfests. A new ham can still buy the older gear cheaper than new. Older amateur radios have appreciated over the years. Many of these older radios still bring a price equal to, or higher than their price when new.

When you hear a signal over the air, you have no idea what equipment made the signal. A WW2 surplus radio sounds the same and a brand new transceiver when in CW mode. Ditto audio transmissions. My old Heath SB-102 sounds no worse than my current Kenwood TS-570S.

It does take some time, but a ham can accumulate equipment of the years at a modest cost…when looking back. Sigh…if only the new ham transceivers cost now what my SB-102 cost in 1976. I’m glad I bought my stuff when I did. It would be really difficult to buy the same at today’s prices.