Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brain Freeze

Well, I finally did it - sort of.   Like so many things in life,  the first time wasn't exactly a charm, but at least I'm past the hurdle of taking the first step.   I went on the air last weekend with CW and carried on a Morse Code conversation with a faceless stranger in New York!    Frankly, it was terrifying, although he was so very, very nice.     I would be more proud and excited if my brain hadn't gone flat on me -- no kidding, I had no idea what he was saying, the Code sounded like gibberish to me, even though I could clearly hear that he was going slowly for my benefit.    Fortunately, I had my "Elmer" (a seasoned Ham there to help me) at my side, and he copied the responses for me and told me enough to allow me to make a semi-intelligent response.    I had no problem at all TALKING in Morse Code (except for a few stutters), but my listening skills just disappeared.   My Elmer taped the conversation to prove to me that I really do know what was said, I just couldn't listen properly in my panic, and of course he was right.   So it was a good news/bad news kind of experience.    And more evidence that I need to kick up my practice schedule!   My Elmer says it's also more evidence that I need to go on the air more often to get over my serious case of nerves.  :-P

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Flying By!

The year is more than half over, and summer is getting near the end -- where has the time gone?!    And when will I get my lazy butt in gear?!??

Not a lot is new.   On the amateur radio scene, I helped build a dipole antenna this week, which was really interesting and a lot of fun.    I hope to help build one at my house soon, too.    Shouldda taken some photos, but hopefully there will be other antennas in my future.   I received my new call sign and was disappointed in it -- AC8OU -- I had hoped for one of the shorter "2x1" or "1x2" signs, and a friend encouraged me to ask for one, so I'm going to apply for a change.   Asking for a different sign makes me feel like a high maintenance diva, which I generally wouldn't dare to do, but in this case I can't see what it will hurt.   It's not like I have a relationship with the FCC, after all.  

With my Extra exam behind me, the plan had been for me to throw myself into Morse Code practice but it's been a very lazy week.   I don't dare let this barely-learned skill slip so I need to get back to work on it soon.  Today would be good, but maybe tomorrow.     I'm still doing really well at 5 words per minute, but I'm getting lazy about increasing my speed and even slacking off at practicing sending code.    My friend is suggesting that it's time for me to go on the air and I can't avoid it much longer, so I had better get my skill set sharpened and ready!  

The weather has finally been cooler here this week, thank goodness, so I've gotten to walk several times lately.    And I finally found a local pond, just a few miles from my house, where I can catch a few fish and lose a few flies.   It's not ideal, too many trees and fences around the perimeter of the pond, but it's better than nothing, and it was a fun way to spend an hour yesterday.
I finally picked a handful of ripe cherry tomatoes from my garden, and another tomato looks like it will be ready soon if no critter gets to it first.   Slim pickings this year, that's my entire harvest so far.    Thank goodness for the Farmers Markets!
And last in the no-news category, the neighbor's adorable little black kitten, Matilda, is trying to move into my yard and my house this week.   She is a tempting little bit, and keeps sneaking in whenever she can, but her little-girl-owner is ever vigilant, and we spend a lot of time passing Matilda back and forth over the fence.

I hope your week is going well.  :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Extra! Extra!

It's funny how sometimes life can take us where we didn't know there was a way to go.  And for me this journey into amateur radio and Morse code began with a joking comment about qualities that the Perfect Woman would possess.     I didn't know this 5 months ago, but it turns out that there are three levels (or "classes") of amateur radio operators.   The entry level class is called "Technician," the next level up is called "General," and the final upgrade is to "Extra."    I took and passed my Tech and General exams in March, and the other day,  I  took and passed the Extra exam.   Whoo hoo!    

So now I am copying Morse Code at somewhere around 7 1/2 words a minute, which is not amazing, but it is amazing to me.    And I hold the highest possible license grade for the hobby.   Soon I'll get a new, hopefully even cooler, call sign.    This foray into the Unknown, and beating my brain into conquering study areas that were totally foreign to me, took less than five months.     

And alas, I am apparently still not the Perfect Woman.    Maybe there are other qualifications out there that I can add to my resume for Perfection, though, so keep those ideas coming.     For now I'll just keep practicing that code.   And enjoying the summer.    Because, even if it doesn't feel like it right now, I know that I am capable of things I never dreamed of, and anything can happen.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chasing Happy

I've been a little blue and lonely lately.   I've been single for way longer than a person should, way more than half my life, and it never gets any easier.    And when, as happened lately, I had a wonderful string of busy-ness with friends, the drop back down to solitary is heart breaking.    As you can imagine, my job at a hospice reminds me daily not to feel sorry for myself, but ironically it also reminds me that life is short, way too short to spend alone.

I've tried a million ways of meeting people with little success.   I've probably mentioned that I have my quirky facets, and it is the rare man that I find interesting.    Worse, they don't generally hang out at the places that are recommended for meeting people, so I pretty much need to wait for the Universe to set them in my  lap, lol.    But I work hard on the not-feeling-sorry-for-myself part of the equation. So I've been on the hunt for things to do by myself that will feel like Fun, even if not the Ridiculous Fun I truly crave.

I've gotten back into my usual go-tos, target shooting and farmers' markets, and enjoy them both, although (let's face it) not as much as when I have someone to do them with.   Still, no complaints, shooting clears my mind and fresh produce does a body good.  :)
Today I "discovered" a nature drive just ten miles from my house.    I was out looking for safe and quiet place where I can fish alone, but found instead this wildlife drive in the Shiawassee Flats.    Since it was mid-day in mid-summer, I didn't see a whole lot of wildlife, but did enjoy the usual Michigan assortment of deer, dragon flies, red-winged blackbirds and (a recent staple around here) wading egrets.    Best of all, being in nature soothes the soul, and I guess I needed that.    I would have liked to find a trail, and a place to fish, but the signs asked that we not get out of our cars, and I am a rule follower at heart, so I kept my butt in the driver's seat.   It was a beautiful drive, though, and I'm sure I'll do it again at other times of year.