Fourth of July

Yours truly

Part of the vetting for Eastside Firecorps included taking the first set of FEMA‘s Incident Command System (ICS) courses online:

  • ICS 100 – Introduction to Incident Command System
  • ICS 200 – ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents
  • ICS 700 Introduction to the National Incident Management System
  • ICS 800 National Response Framework

The overarching concept behind these is to put forth an organizational framework for resource management.  As someone who’s been in the software industry, the antithesis of organization, an open mind was needed.  For example, there are forms.  Lots, and lots of forms, that are used to document everything.  And it’s good they do.

I’d taken these in early 2017.  While I did volunteer at the Seattle Marathon last year, I hadn’t actually been involved in an event that employed this idea until the July 4th holiday, when I was part of EFR’s event management for the City of Sammamish Fourth of July celebration.

Before the event, there’s a summary email of general logistics. For example:

The biggest change at this point is that we all need to arrive by 1600 rather than 1700 as previously stated. This will allow us to sign-in, get radios distributed, move equipment, set-up the 1st Aid station canopies and be done prior to our briefing with BC Huffman.

Please review the attached ICS documents, particularly the ICS-204 for a better look at the overall schedule, assignments, etc.
EF&R is providing:

  • 1 Career Engine & Aid Car
  • 1 Volunteer Aid Car (Air Unit Volunteers)
  • 2 First Aid canopies (upper and lower commons) with Jump Kits and PAEDs
  • 1 Gator

The city is planning to provide us with one 4 seat golf cart, tables, chairs, trash bins, ice and water.

We will all be using 800MHz radios (no HAM gear required)

I am still waiting on specific parking info as there is construction on SE 4th that will eliminate the parking we have had in previous years. If you can carpool – even better. Park at Station #82 and drive in as few cars as possible. I will leave that part up to you all.

Dress for Fire Corps volunteers:
Green Polo, black pants, black shoes/boots, cap and pin and of course, your ID badge. It is forecasted to be cool in the evening but hopefully no rain at this point. Bring outer-wear as appropriate for changing conditions.

Crowds streaming in

The ICS 204 contained a gloriously detailed list of assignments, resources, contacts, timeline, and limits of scope.  For example, I was assigned to a team of three (an EMT, a CERT member, and the radio guy), roving around the Sammamish Commons.  It is small part of a much larger document, “Event Action Plan,” the city puts together with each group. (Since these were leftover, I snagged one for my nerdy edification.) Other departments, such as the police, also had packets that outlined complementary functions, including dress code, placement of cones. I am impressed at the level of planning that goes into events like this.

Our role was spelled out as follows:

  • Provide medical support to the extent of your credentialing
    • Log all incidents (including minor issues – band-aids, ice, minor sprains, etc.)
    • Contact Command for any medical situations other than those above to ensure Career crew response, AMB, etc. BC will initiate calls with NORCOM, etc. (see Special Instructions Below)
  • Provide situational awareness, crowd monitoring, etc.
  • Ensure safety during the event and on incidents
  • Request additional resources as needed through Command
  • Engage with the attendees as applicable
  • Assist when requested by Command with Lost Child/Parent situations

Fire Corps EMTs will provide attendee care for minor issues only, including those listed in the previous section. Should a patient require BLS or ALS care; you are to alert Command immediately with a short report and follow the BCs instructions. Maintain patient care until Career BLS crews arrive. The BC will initiate the call, assign resources and transport as necessary. Fire Corps EMT are to resume their assigned tasks as soon as possible

Situational Awareness… and the strangest game of Battleship I’ve ever played.

The initial briefing reinforced the timeline in the ICS204, 4pm – 11:45pm shift. We were then issued equipment (800MHz radios, lanyards with a volunteer badge, clipboards, more forms), met some luminaries, had some opportunity to mingle with the other groups and grab a snack.

With the fireworks not starting until 10pm, we had five hours to wander around the facility as crowds streamed in. The folks working the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) wanted to test equipment, and did some sample radio checkins. It was nice that we had a grid map of the Sammamish Commons to practice our situational awareness. This was my first “real” time using an 800MHz trunked radio. The primary difference is these you press transmit and wait for the beep before speaking. Also the radios are massively heavier than my handheld.

We had the opportunity to chat with one of the pyrotechnics guys and learned they have 12 sequences of 32 groups of fireworks each. They set up everything to detonate over an unpopulated area (though ash and smoke blow around). The fireworks were to begin at 10pm on the dot, with a five minute warning shot, run for ~22 minutes. They were prompt and also well-organized.

Nighttime revelry

An estimated 15,000 people streamed in over the next four hours. What was as amazing was seeing them exit peacefully much quicker. I fielded a few questions like “Is there an ATM?” and “Where is the empanada food truck?” (which, to the amazement of my team, I knew the answer to off the top of my head). Otherwise, we were not involved in any incidence or accidents, an outcome I was totally fine with.

EFC crew Before the event


Tracked down my first RFI this evening! This squiggly thing:

was showing up when I was on 160M and was caused by the charger for my Macbook. The squiggle would start moving down frequency until the radio stopped transmitting (and the computer driving the sound out).

Field Day 2018

There were scant formalized opportunities for field day this year as local clubs either didn’t have a formal program (Redmond) or weren’t actively open (Issaquah), so I joined my friend K7IP in Ocean Shores to mess around with radios and do some geocaching.   We operated from the public beach south of town.  (4WD very helpful for getting there.)

K7IP (Doug) setting up the kite

For the first morning, we used up a Kite antenna.   The kite was tethered to his truck by string, which stands out a little better.  The second line is 135′ of #12 magnet wire.  We were originally going to feed this to my 9:1 balun, but tightening the screws sheared the wire. We added a long counterpoise and just ran it direct to the radio.

Kite antenna

The kite was pretty steady in the breeze and we kind of forgot about it until it was time to take stuff down.

Kite antenna, looking up

I used my elecraft KX3 at 5-12W for most of the time.  To the right, you can see the wires feeding directly into the radio.  The internal tuner on this is pretty amazing.

KX3 sitting on the bed of the truck

The radio was powered by a 15Ah lithium phosphate (LiFePO4) battery encased within the black, pastic box behind my laptop.  I also had the 6Ah battery that I took to college visits last year.  (Fun fact: the FAA allows one to carry lithium batteries on the plane, but limits the capacity to 100Wh or 101-160Wh with airline permission.  The 6Ah is fine, but the 15Ah is not.  I use the LiFePO4 because they’re well-engineered, and safe.)

Practically, we were limited by the laptop charge (for digital mode & logging) and my bladder.  We went about 3 1/2 hours during the run with the kite before taking a break.

My humble station

We had a late start Sunday morning, but tried a more conventional Buddipole setup. This was the first time I’d used one, but found its engineering very thoughtful. Every connector had a snap-on rubber cover, and there were velcro bands for attaching things to other things. We mounted it on the truck bed, tethered to the sides.   I’d have to do more tests with it.

Day 2: Buddipole on 17/20/30m

As soon as 11am hit, the traffic died down a lot, but we stuck around making some FT8 contacts.  Even though you’re supposed to adjust it when switching bands, the automatic tuner in the KX3 was able to adjust enough.  I will need to do some more experimentation with this antenna.

Notes to self:

  • Operating from the beach was nice.  Setting up and taking down the shelter was a little dicey with the moderate wind, but once done, the tent pegs were enough to anchor it down.
  • The Kite Antenna worked better than we expected.  Next time, we want to try a thicker wire (24 gauge was a little too brittle for connector) and extending the spool of wire as far out as we can (e.g., more than 131′) and try lower bands.   The counterpoise was a good idea.  We had a ground rod, but I could only bang it into the sand about 8″.
  • We operated about 7 1/2 hours at 12W on the 15Ah battery, but I estimate we could have gone several hours more before switching to the backup.  This exceeds my bladder capacity and attention span by a lot.
  • Voice bands are seriously busy during the “contest” phase.  Trying to break in was frustrating.  I’d move over to the digital bands (17M & 30M) for a break.
  • Next year, I want to learn enough CW to practice that.  (I’m currently at three letters – K, M and E ;-o).

Fire Training Support

Part of my volunteer work for Eastside Fire & Rescue Fire Corps involved helping out with non-suppression activities at the Washington State fire training facility east of Seattle.  Activities included everything from setting up tables, carting crates of water around to different stops, running errands, and filling air bottles.

Overlooking the facility

This is a model used to simulate an airplane fire:

Simulator for airplane fires

This section simulates a fuel-based fire (such as a car accident):

Model for cars on fire

and, finally, a simulated building fire.  The top-floor on this building has been condemned (structural integrity lost over the years).  They spend the morning loading the wooden pallets on floors and lighting them to generate lots of smoke.  There is a simulated accident where they have to haul an injured person downstairs.

Burn building

These are air bottles that we fill up.  The firefighter systems are such that we can pop the old one off the back, insert the new and let them get back while we refill it…

Oxygen bottles

using a fancy machine like this that can do two bottles at a time.  The ones you see here are being prepped for filling next – the actual bottle filling is done inside the reinforced vault so if there’s an explosion, we aren’t injured.   Filling a pair of bottles takes about two minutes.

Oxygen bottle filler

This is a fire training class filling their own bottles. These men and women were very fit.

Firefighter training group filling their own bottles
The event was mid-week, for which I used a volunteer day off.  (The other, unfortunately, has to be a group function at work.)   This was definitely the most unusual activity.  Other things we do are volunteer at community events like Salmon Days and 4th of July fireworks crowd marshaling.

Is (New Technology) is Killing (My Hobby)?

<tl;dr> Betteridge’s law of headlines applies, “No.” </tl;dr>

In the ham radio communities, a rash of posts are going around about how FT8 / the Internet / Millenials / Nobel-prize physicists are destroying amateur radio:

Every one of my hobbies has these discussions about newcomers and/or a technical innovation leading to a decline in the perceived enjoyment their of a long-time group.

  • Cooking: Use of a microwave, Zojurishi, or Instant Pot to help speed meal preparation.  I am not going to forgo hummus awesomeness until tomorrow (to soak chickpeas overnight, boil for a couple of hours, cool, then make hummus) when I can plop dried chickpeas into Instant Pot, having it ready in 35 minutes.
  • Cycling:Electric assist!  Recumbent riders!
  • Geocaching: Cell phone users!   A lot of folks who started in the aughts (2001 – 2009) had access to a dedicated GPS unit, typically a Garmin, but sometimes a Magellan or Delorme.  The market for handheld GPS units is relatively small, so the innovations have been meh.  For example, the Wherigo player hasn’t been updated in over ten years.  However, thanks to phone users, there have been more published through third-party utilities, and some of them are excellent.

    “New” Last update: over ten years ago
  • Programming: Java/Swift/Scratch!   When I was an undergraduate, our department was not well-organized as evidenced by a different programming language each quarter (Pascal, assembly, Modula-2, C, Fortran, APL,  C++, and back to C).  While it cured me of any fear of reading the manual, there are much more productive ways to learn than RTFM.

I would assert that if your enjoyment of a hobby depends on everyone doing it the same way, forever, you’re the one who’s not doing it right.

Fruit and Vegetables

Over on Facebook, several of my friends were posting this meme of ten favorite albums, “no explanations.”  The “no explanations” aspect of the record meme made it just a bunch of random covers someone posted.

Since I have an eclectic, arguably terrible music tastes, I started my own un-meme using fruits an vegetables.  I’m also going to add some recipes and original photos (except for the cartoon):

Day N of Y days. In no particular order, Y all-time favorite fruits and vegetables that really made an impact and are still in my daily diet, even if only now and then.

After laboring to post it, I was thinking how the content gets lost because there’s so much stuff on Facebook.   Fuck that.   I’m going to be back-posting stuff I should have put here in the first place, and then maybe post more than once every nine months.

But back to the fruits and vegetables:

Green beans: Wash and pat dry. Toss with a little bit of oil and schmancy French grey salt, roast at 400F (200C) for 20-25 minutes.

Heirloom tomatoes: Slice thick and alternate with fresh mozzarella and basil. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle French grey salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Caprese with yellow and red tomatoes.

Beets. Golden, orange or red, as long as they have greens. (Not. Canned.) Wash them well, remove inedible parts, and cut into halvsies. Heat 2T oil, juice of one lemon, a chopped green onion, 1/2 teaspoon dill weed, 1/2 teaspoon tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a clove of crushed garlic in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add beets, greens and 1/4C water. Cover and steam over medium heat until tender.

Remove the tough parts, scrub
Roasted, with pomegranate seeds

Cherries! During peak season (late June – July), Bing and Rainier cherries are sold along roadside or the farmer market*. The only way my rate of pitting can approach consumption is through specialized kitchen gadgetry.

The cherry dutch baby: 3/4C flour, 2T granulated sugar, 3/4C milk, 3 eggs, 1/4t salt, 4T butter, 2C of pitted, Bing (*not Google*) cherries, and powdered sugar. Preheat oven to 425F. Combine flour, sugar, milk, eggs and salt in a blender until smooth. In a 12″ cast iron frying pan, melt the butter. Add the pitted cherries and cook 2-3 minutes until warm. Pour in the batter. Bake 18-20 minutes until puffed and golden. Dust with powdered sugar.

Or just make a delicious fruit salad.  Too busy eating to judge!

(*Despite working a block from Pike Place, I still adore my local farmer’s market.)

Bananas. They’re delicious, full of carbs, available year-round, and also facing the bananapocalypse.

Blue Banana cafe, Lostine, OR. 2008 Cycle Oregon 🙂


 When overripe, you can freeze them for smoothies or bake them in breads.  Or leave hidden messages to help the next person waking up have a surreal day:
Banana vandalism

Or worse:

Just say C3P-*NO*
WIth squash friends like this…

Winter Squash are awesome enough that they would merit their own 10-day meme, but I’ll spare you that. Uchiki (red kuri) squash make great pies. Below are photos of the Tamal Pie ( made over Thanksgiving. Somewhat easier to make is the Khoresh-e kadu Halvai-o Alu ba Morgh, learnt during a PCC demo class last fall.

Butternut squash cream supporting pork tenderloins.
Kuri squash pie

Broccoli (mini-trees) goes well in soups, while Cauliflower (zombie brains) can add depth (and fiber) to macaroni and cheese. Both roast exceptionally well and are essential ingredients in one of my favorite staples: Hippie bowls.

Comic by Jim Benton

Lemons, sometimes known in the more polite geocaching circles as “absolutely not a durian,” add a wonderful tart flavor to desserts, keep guacamole and apples from turning brown, provide 99.97% of the flavoring in lemonade, and, in much smaller quantities than shown in the photo, can even be used on pizzas.  Avoid the mistake I made in my youth of not knowing how the zest could be flavorful (a zester is inexpensive ).  They’re also great with Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.

Lemon and parsley pizza