Woke Nihilism

On the day of the burning of the Notre Dame cathedral, I was commiserating with a friend at the cafe about the disaster. A real moment.

Then another friend sat with us, tuned into our conversation, and brought up the fact that there are so many black churches that have been burned, and that the cathedral was probably built with slave labor because that was the style of the day, and that the Catholic Church has committed such atrocities and has enough money to fund the repairs on its own.

Look, dude, I get it, but you’re so woke you’re insufferable. Shut the fuck up. This isn’t about Flint, Michigan’s water supply problem. This isn’t about suppressed classes of people. This isn’t about everybody else’s suffering, as if that’s something that can be ranked and prioritized.

This is about a structure, a monument, a human work filled with history, heritage, and generations of longevity, falling to the forces of nature. Let us mourn, you bastards.


Took out the drill and did repairs to my 1:1 and 4:1 baluns. Made the holes wide enough and at the 3/4″ centers necessary to accept the banana terminal blocks. Sealed the interface between the case and the block with a flattened piece of Coax-Seal(tm) for water protection.

Looks better, and now the terminals won’t twist and break the internal wires. The closer terminal spacing but extra case spacing changed the impedance a little; now it rolls off around 20MHz instead of 25-ish MHz previously. Not sure why.

4:1 balun with terminal block
4:1 with new banana terminal block. The banana plug fits perfectly, and now it’s permanently on my 300ohm feedline for ease of disconnection.
4:1 balun with completed banana terminal block.
Finished 4:1 balun, now on my 20m inverted-V dipole, matching better than the previous 1:1.

BTW, yes, those cores are wound with a pair of solid-core doorbell wire. Helluva lot cheaper than enameled magnet wire, and easily available at any hardware store.

1:0 Balun

Severe storms and winds this weekend prompted me to take down one of my two antennas for safety.

I have a 20m inverted-V dipole with 1/4 wave 300Ω twinlead as the feedline from the center insulator to a 1:1 current balun mounted on my wall (the twinlead is transparent at 20m frequencies). The other antenna is a 20m “hamstick” style vertical dipole with RG-8x feedline; this is the one I took down.

Lately, I’ve been having a hell of a time getting anything to match on 40m with my tuner; usually my inverted-V can handle it since 1/4 of the 40m wave is on the twinlead (at reduced effective radiating power, of course), but for as long as a few weeks, it’s just been a shit of an antenna, even on 20m. So my vertical has been my workhorse.

Well, I’ve been having a lot of 40m noise lately at my apartment, and I wondered if it’s because I don’t actually have any 40m resonant gear in the air. So I looked into getting a pair of 40m hamsticks assembled to replace the 20m hamsticks. While kind of randomly checking out my gear (because I was curious how my inverted-V was doing), I put my analyzer on the inverted-V coax and got some seriously strange readings.

Tested the RG-8x feedline with a 50Ω calibrated dummy load, and got 50Ω-ish back. Took two 100Ω resistors in parallel (for 50Ω) and placed them across the 1:1 balun terminals and got 500Ω across many bands. WTF. Pulled it down and shook it; heard a rattle inside. Well, damn.

With the storms, I was worried that it got an induced shock from lightning and fractured the iron core; thankfully, that wasn’t the case. What is the cause is physical stress, thanks to my stupid design of the 1:1 balun. While tightening down the red banana terminal of the pair, I twisted the entire assembly until the wire between the inductor and the terminal snapped. So all this time I’ve been operating that inverted-V with one lead.

1:1 balun with snapped wire on red terminal.

No fucking wonder I’m getting so much RF back into the shack. I and my gear are the counterpoise. And still nobody hears me.

I picked up some banana terminal blocks at the Schertz Ham Fest last year and noticed that there’s an industry-standard spacing on banana terminals: 3/4″. I made this 1:1 balun (and my 4:1 also) at 1″. That just won’t do. So I have to re-drill the cases to accommodate the terminal blocks so I can put actual male banana terminals on my twinlead line so I don’t have to twist anything anymore.

Radio is hard. And I just don’t know why I’m making it harder.

Interstellar Sights and Social Rights

We have the first image of a black hole, and it took a lot of computational power and cleverness to generate it. Great! Holy crap, yes! I’m proud of scientific progress! Katie Bouman and her team did an amazing job!

What’s less amazing isn’t the reporting that Dr. Bouman was the technical lead on the team that created the first image of a black hole — that part’s amazing, remember — but that everyone’s freaking out about making sure we all remember that a woman did it, and we should promote her name, and so on.

I get it; science reporting (and reporting in general) have systemically undermined and downplayed scientific contributions by women. I understand that. But we live in an enlightened age, yes? Let’s just say, “Dr. Katie Bouman and her team calculated the first image of a black hole” and leave that in its glory. Anything further is a bid for reparation.

I love equality. Love it. I’d rather we carry on about her accomplishment, and not bother with the exasperation of making everybody ardently aware that a woman did it. If you want equality, just say she did it. But if you only want reparation, then fine, say a woman did it. Not Dr. Bouman, but a woman.

Please don’t betray her story. This is a moment of scientific progress, and she was an important part of that.