Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter & Spring Weather

Snow began falling on Kiefer OK this afternoon (29 DEC 09) a little before 5 PM, and it is still coming down. This is on top of what remains from the Christmas Eve Blizzard. Both the current system and the blizzard moved SW to NE. Doesn't that sound familiar?

The systems that create the strongest severe springtime thunderstorms usually travel the same direction. What causes this is a trough will set up to the west of the Great Plains, and this makes the jet stream dip to the south around the trough, creating a "valley" or "long wave" in the jet stream pattern. As the jet stream flows from SW to NE, it sets up smaller low pressure centers that move along the jet stream. These "short waves" become the nuclei of severe weather systems.

Reports came out earlier that an El Nino was forming. El Ninos change weather patterns. If an El Nino is responsible for the current pattern, it might persist into and throughout the spring. We could be in for an active severe weather season in 2010.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Critical Communications

This post has been 39 years in the making.

In my sophomore year in high school, I took a half-year speech course, and I flunked it. I flunked because I was shy.

I was never very athletic as a kid, so I tended to read a lot. I guess that contributed to my shyness. But it also meant I tended to get good grades, and I didn't like flunking. So, I retook the course the next year and passed. In my senior year, I took Speech II, a full year course that explored more than the usual speechmaking. We had debates, and tried different things related to speech.

Thus began my development as a communicator.

The next big step came on 23 JUN 74. That's the day I joined an Oklahoma Army National Guard infantry unit. I signed up for communications. For 4 of the next 6 years, I was a 'commo' man.

Started as a field wireman, and ended as a field radio mechanic. Before they sent me to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training and the field wireman's course, I went with my unit to summer camp. There I learned the basics of organizing communications in a front line combat unit.

That knowledge proved helpful in my most significant military experience. It was during my last summer camp during the last two weeks of May, 1980. Earlier that year, Fidel Castro opened up Cuba's prisons and mental institutions and let anyone go that wanted to leave the country. It was an easy way for him to deal with political prisoners, and temporarily relieved him of the burden of caring for hardened criminals and the mentally ill.

Many of those "boat people" wound up at Ft. Chaffee, AR, where my unit usually went for summer camp. We went there, but not to the barracks. Most of the barracks were full of Cubans being processed, so the engineers set up tents for us on a ridge southwest of the main post.

During the second week of summer camp, our unit would go out to the countryside for a 3-day field training exercise. That year, only the rifle, mortar and TOW sections went.

One night during the FTX, I heard the battalion commander call for the company commander on the battalion radio frequency. When the battalion commander couldn't raise him, I got on and asked why he wanted the company commander, and if I could help. The battalion commander said that some Cubans had gotten out of the refugee compound and were trying to reach a highway.

He needed some troops to go help bring them back to the compound.

I said I'd do what I could. I got on the company radio frequency and contacted the captain. I told him that the colonel tried to call him on the battalion frequency, and he needed some troops to help round up some Cubans that had gotten loose from the compound. The captain thanked me for the information and said he'd contact the colonel on his frequency.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, trucks and jeeps full of troops rolled into our encampment, stirring up a lot of dust and noise. The troops unloaded, stowed away their excess gear, loaded back onto the trucks and jeeps and headed out again.

During those years I was in the National Guard, I also got in on the CB craze. This was when CB radios had only 23 channels, and you had to have a license to operate one. My call sign then was KEG9546. I won't say what my handle was, jus that it was an old nickname from when I was much younger and had an embarrassing problem.

After the National Guard, I developed an interest in writing. Except for a few courses required to obtain associate degrees in computer science and mathematics, I am mostly self-taught. I have written a few pieces for a company newsletter and a church bulletin.

I obtained the associate degree in math because of my interest in weather. I wanted to go to Oklahoma University to become a research meteorologist. The math degree at Tulsa Community College most closely matched the course requirements for the OU meteorology degree.

After obtaining that degree, I decided to get involved in storm spotting and ham radio. In January of 1997, I attended a spotter training session sponsored by the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club. There, I learned about the Creek County Emergency Management spotter program, and a book I could study to pass the ham radio license test.

In March, I passed the test at the Green Country Hamfest, held that year at the Tulsa Convention Center, and the FCC issued me the callsign of KC5ZQM.

Since becoming a ham, I have reported on storms for both Creek County Emergency Management and the National Weather Service office in Tulsa. I have participated in dozens of public service events such as bike rides and foot races. When hams provide communications support these events, they have an opportunity to practice for emergency or disaster communications.

I have not only participate in these events as a communicator, I have organized the communications support when I was Activities Chair for the Tulsa Repeater Organization. In that capacity, I helped to recruit and organize the response by hams in the Tulsa area to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I also wrote the article about it that appeared in the March issue of QST magazine, the official publication of the national ham radio organization, the American Radio Relay League.

From my experience in military, civil emergency management, and ham radio communications, I have come up with a concept I call Critical Communications. Critical Communications is when communications is essential to the management of a critical situation such as combat, a disaster, or in an emergency.

The most important thing to remember in Critical Communications is the communicator's job. The communicator's job is to make sure the right information reaches the right person or place at the right time by the best means. That sounds simple, but it bears a closer look. I will break it down phrase by phrase.

"To make sure." This is the responsibility of both the sending and receiving stations. Both must maintain contact until until they are sure a correct copy of the information has been transferred.

"The right information" is clear, complete, and concise. "Clear" means the information is not vague, accurate, and true. It does not present speculation as facts. "Complete" means that you leave nothing out. "Concise" means that you do not include unnecessary details.

"The right person" is the person who needs the information to make a decision, or the person who needs to act on the information. Sometimes you can't directly send the information to the right person, so you have to get it to the right place, where someone there can pass on the information to the right person.

"The right time" is when the right person can still act on it.

"The best means" are the methods or channels for passing the information that allow you to best fulfill all the other aspects of this job. I have heard some comment that two-way voice radio is not an efficient use of bandspace. But sometimes it is the best means. It requires no dialing, encoding or writing down anything before you begin. You key up and you talk. You only have to wait for the receiving station to answer before you start passing information. However, if you have a large amount of information, or if the information is of a sensitive nature, you should use another means.

I could elaborate more on each point, and maybe I will, but this is enough for now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pecuniary Interest, Ham Radio & Public Safety Workers

The current hot button issue in ham radio involves pecuniary interest, public safety employees, and training drills. FCC regulations state that ham radio operators cannot operate if they have a pecuniary interest in doing so. That means hams can't get paid for transmitting.

From time to time, public safety agencies will hold drills where their employees who are hams will use ham radio as part of the drill. The FCC has determined that that is against the regulations, and they will start enforcing the regulations.

The conflict is that volunteers are not constrained by this regulation, and so hams are free to drill and train as much as they want or they can under the ARES banner. Other regulations restrict RACES training activities to one hour each week. If employees cannot train using ham radio frequencies, equipment and procedures, they will have difficulty integrating ham radio into a real emergency or disaster situation. Time and time again, for close to 90 years now, ham radio has gotten the message through in many situations when normal public safety communication channels would not work. It would be a shame to have a resource available, and not be able to use it because of some regulation.

For those interested in this issue, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts to consider.

The FCC has stated that in the regulations and in its positions on this issue, that ham radio is not primarily an emergency communications service. Amateur radio exists to to promote interest in the science and art of radio communications, and to provide a pool of trained and knowledgeable operators in case of a national need. Yet, when the telephones go out, the police repeaters get blown up or blown away, and power lines go down and deprive working radios and phones the juice they need to run, who shows up and gets people talking again? Hams.

Now consider this: A ham routinely takes a handheld transceiver with him to the office every day. He is the engineering chairman for a particular repeater, and he monitors that repeater so he will know if the repeater has developed a problem, or if someone is misusing it. One day, during his break, he hears someone come on the repeater and ask for directions. No one else answers, so the ham at the office responds. Unless he has clocked out for his lunch break, that ham is getting paid while operating. Is he in violation of the regs? No, for he is not being paid FOR operating.
Along that line, what about truck drivers who are hams, and they use ham radio to get directions while on the job? One could argue that the job description of a truck driver does not say anything about radio operations, so even if they use ham radio to get information to they need to complete their assignment, and they are paid WHILE operating, they are not paid TO operate the radio.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Take a clue from Sarah, Mark

I was kinda surprised by Sarah Palin's announcement that she will resign at the end of this month, but I can see why she did. Despite all the conjecture by the pundits, I think she decided to resign for the best, and most conservative, of reasons: her family. She didn't want to continue to subject them to the scrutiny and pressure they've been under since the campaign last year. If the spotlight was only on her and not on her family, she probably would have stayed. As it is, once the next big scandal breaks, or the next big development in a current scandal occurs, the spotlight will be off of her and her family, probably for good. She also sees this a being good for the state of Alaska, and I can see that as well.

On the other hand, Mark Sanford should resign. The way he acted showed no regard for his family or the people of his state.
He went to see his mistress on FATHER'S DAY weekend when he should have been with his family. This shows not only disregard for his wife, but for his kids as well.
But he shouldn't resign because of how he treated his family. He will have to deal with them personally on this issue.

He should resign for how he treated the people of South Carloina. He took an oath to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and the State of South Carolina, and to faithfully discharge the duties of his office. By acting the way he did, he violated that oath. What if something had happened in SC that required his attention? They had no way of contacting him, of finding out where he was. If an important decision needed to be made, do they wait for him to get word of the situation and contact them? Or does the lieutenant governor step in and assume power, and possibly expose himself to charges later? If the delaying the decision costs lives, who do they hold responsible?

Mark Sanford's actions show he was not thinking of his family or his state. They also show that he did not exercise control of his personal desires. And he thinks he can still govern the state?

I know he will probably never read this, but if I were given a chance to talk to him, I'd say "Think again, Governor, and take a clue from Sarah."

Now, don't take this as that I'm totally against him. I would like to see him reconcile with his family and become the father he should be. But for his political future, unless he shows that he will not allow personal issues to interfere with his official duties and responsibilities, he does not deserve to hold office.
As to wether or not he deserves a second chance in politics, that is for the people of South Carolina to decide. An apology to them would go a long way towards ensuring his future involvement in politics. A resignation would be better, because that would show he is serious about not taking on the duties of a political office until he has resolved his personal issues.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guess I better update...

I don't know if this blog has many fans, but if anyone does follow this online journal, I guess I owe you an update.

I've had my car for a year
now, and so far the only repairs I've had to have done to it are replacing the starter, drive belt, and belt tensioner. First the starter went out, but it picked a good place to do so - my driveway. Had it towed to the garage, but the tow cost only $30 dollars. The wrecker service is located here in Kiefer, and they give a discount to anyone having a car towed to Hankin's Auto Repair, I guess because he is so close. I had him replace the belt too, because it looked like it needed it. Then a couple of weeks later, the new belt falls off. The battery had enough juice for me to drive it back to the shop, and the mechanic said the tensioner was bad. The new belt had a twist to it when he first looked at the car, and the parts store replaced it under warranty.

The car needs more work, but any car 12 years old needs work. As long as it keeps getting me to where I want to go, I'll be satisfied. Despite things slowing down in my job, I still manage to stay one month ahead on my payments.

For a long time I've had a desire to engage in art, particularly drawing. I used to draw some as a kid, but everything was awkward and off-balance. I turned out to be a good drafter, but that kind of drawing is not artistic by nature. It can be, if someone applies an artistic eye to it. Also, Autodesk has produced a program, Impressions, that can take CAD files and change them to make an artistic presentation. I don't think my computer could handle Impressions, so I don't have it. I'm not really satisfied with Paint or the OpenOffice drawing programs. I recently downloaded Inkscape. I haven't done anything with it yet, except to look at some of the tutorials. Maybe I'll get to play around with it some and learn how to actually make some art.

Here is one of the more artistic things I have done with a drafting program:

One thing I am good at is puns. At church, I never sit in the same spot from one service to the next, I move around. Also, I take my tamborine and shake it during the singing. So, I've been asking people if those things qualify me to be a mover and shaker in the church.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Little Perspective on Old Age

As I age, and as I watch my mother age, I have become aware, sometimes painfully, that parts of the human body wear out or do not function as well as they used to. But I have also noticed that one part seems to retain its ability to function, but for many this part will need assistance from artificial devices. Someday, if you find yourself complaining about this or that part of your body not working, or not working like it used to, remember this: even if you are complaining through dentures or implants, you mouth still works!!!

If you can complain, you can also laugh and sing. Which is better?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I have a disease...

Yes, I have a disease, I've had it for a long time, and I will probably never get over it. If you think that's bad, well, I don't want to get over it! The disease is known as SDS - Supercell Deprivation Syndrome.

This disease has no cure, but it does have treatments. The clinic that provides these treatments is Tornado Alley. The ingredients used to make these treatments are deep layers of moist air, instability, lift and shear. These ingredients combine to create cumulus towers, anvils, flanking lines, lightning, wall clouds, and sometimes tornadoes. The side effects of these treatments are hail, heavy rain, sometimes flooding, sometimes damage, sometimes death.

No one likes the last two side effects. That's why many storm chasers and all spotters participate in the severe weather warning process by reporting what they see to the National Weather Service and/or local emergency authorities and/or local media.

I almost got a treatment Tuesday. Local TV stations first mentioned the possibility of severe weather that day. Sunday and Monday, I began looking at the Storm Prediction Center's website for Convective Outlooks. Sure enough they showed a moderate risk for most of SE OK, a good chunk of NE TX, and parts of western AR, and NW LA.

The fist significant storm of the day developed west of OKC, dropped a tornado on Edmond, tracked on up to the NNE, dropped tornadoes on Logan and Pawnee Counties, and kept on across Osage and Washington Counties into KS. It was TOR warned all the way, but at the most it produced a rotating wall cloud over portions of Osage Co. Another tornado later tracked in from TX, and hit the town of Lone Grove to the west of Ardmore. The other tornadoes did some damage, and not many injuries, but the last one killed 9 people. I am not happy to hear about that.

I listened to much of the action on ham radio. I had heard about the Edmond tornado, watched some streaming video on chasertv.com, and went outside to take a look to see how things were shaping up in the teeming metropolis of Kiefer, and then laid down for around an hour. By the time I got up, the Edmond storm was already moving into Payne Co. on its way to Pawnee Co. I tried to stay in my room and keep up on the action, but I started to feel chilly. The storms that were headed to Kiefer were still miles away to the south. I wound up staying in the front room close to the fire, and watched NCIS and The Mentalist with my mom. The Mentalist ought to be called The Mental Case. Sometime during those shows, the storms moved in. We got some lightning, thunder, hail (not big enough to report), and mostly heavy rain. Still have some water pooled in the ruts in the strip of dirt and gravel I call a driveway.

So, I didn't get to see anything stormwise. It was too dark out by the time things got interesting locally. I'm probably not going to do any spotting after dark, except from inside my house.

The last treatment for my SDS was on June 1, 2008. While working the Tulsa Tough rest stop at the Kiefer City Park, I heard reports of storms hitting Kellyville to the west about 8 - 9 miles. After the rest stop closed down down and the volunteers working the stop had packed up and left, the storms were close to Kiefer. I drove a mile east to the new school complex to get a better view, away from the ridgeline directly to the west. I watched a shallow wall cloud move from NNW to SSE. If it didn't pass directly over Kiefer, it passed just to the west. On the short drive home, I passed through heavy rain and hail. Despite seeing a supercell feature (wall cloud), I didn't report anything. The wall cloud was too shallow and shrinking as it moved by, so I knew the storm was diminishing.

Oh, well, storm season hasn't officially begun yet. Actually, it never really goes away. It just moves on to other parts of the country and sometimes produces snow or ice storms or hurricanes instead of severe thunderstorms.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Family again

About a month ago, my oldest nephew Dave, his wife Coreen, and their son Anakin, moved back to Tulsa after living for 2 years in Maryland.

Today, I received word that I have a new great nephew. His name is Micah, and he weighed over 9 pounds at birth.

I haven't had a chance to see him yet, and I will have to wait a few days. He was a bit jaundiced, and so he has to wear this special blanket to help him overcome that.

So, my many fans (hah!), you are warned! Cute baby pictures will appear in this space soon!


I haven't looked too closely at the bailout package, but if what I'm seeing and hearing in the headlines is true, it will amount to nothing more than a reward for people who have screwed up.

Here is how I would manage the bailout of lenders and finance companies caught in the subprime situation:

1. Not every company affected would get to take part in the bailout. They would have to qualify by agreeing to certain terms.

2. The first term they must agree to is no bonuses or raises for anyone making $100,000 or more, for 3 years.

3. No new high-risk loans for 5 years.

4. High-risk loans must account for no more than 25% of their available capital.

5. Annual audits reported to the federal government for 7 years.

6. Once the company qualifies, they do not automatically receive the amount needed to cover their losses. The amount they receive depends on their customers who have or are in danger of defaulting on loans.

7. The customers must qualify to participate in the program.

8. The customers qualify by a record of steady employment and consistent effort to make payments.

9. Customers must also agree to financial counseling and to living on a budget until their debt is paid.

10. When a qualified customer makes a payment, the program will match the amount of their payment.

This plan should bring some accountability to both the lenders and the borrowers, and it should stabilize the finance industry.

Will it happen this way? This plan has as much chance of happening as me performing a frontal lobotomy on myself.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today and the Future

Well, Barak Obama is now the President of the United States of America. Many people I know are optimistic, and so am I. Some are optimistic because of the President, but not me. I am optimistic because of what America is, and because I believe that God has blessed this land with freedom and resources that few other countries have.

Too many people believe the status of America rises and falls with the President, or with government policy. But many times the people have acted on their own, independent from the goverment, to solve problems and meet needs. Who are the first people to respond to major disasters? The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other churches too many to mention by name. When govenment does show up, usually the first ones there are the local fire department and law enforcement, followed by LOCAL emergency management. That is as it should be, for the local agencies are nearby, and they have resources at hand. When those local resources get overwhelmed, that's when the state and then the federal emergency management agencies should come in.

In short, people should try to solve their problems themselves, or with private resources before relying on the government. Government should be the last resource we look to for solutions. But people don't want to do that, because it will require personal effort and sacrifice. Some will say that is a negative view of people, but the opposite is true. What I am saying is that people do have more ability and resources to solve their own problems than what they realize. That is true hope, and a true reason for optimism.