Category: Random Thoughts

Python3Random Thoughts

The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

import this

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren’t special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one– and preferably only one –obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you’re Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than right now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea — let’s do more of those!

Random Thoughts

Letter from Adrian Perkins (83) from Ely, England

GLIMPSES OF A LIFE, 13: NEEDLE RIDGE

1956. Aged 17. School friend Ben and I were having a Spring holiday in Borrowdale in the English Lake District for the second year running. This year Rodney came too and we were camping rather than youth-hostelling. We felt that hostelling had been too restrictive because of the need to pre-book the hostels, and thus our exact route for the whole week.

Following day one’s bus and scramble to the top of Helvellyn via the wonderful and hair-raising Striding Edge, we were trudging down the road towards the field where our tents were pitched:

“Hi! I thought I might run into you lot. Where’d you go today?”

It was a boy from our school two years above us. We hardly knew him beyond knowing his name was Warwick Wilkinson.

“Hi Warwick!” Ben said. “How did you know where we were camping?”

“I overheard you planning, back at school.”

“In other words you were eavesdropping,” Rodney challenged.

“Keep your hair on, Rodney. I’m offering to help you chaps out. Would you like me to take you rock climbing tomorrow? I’ve got all the kit we’ll need.”

“Golly! I’d love that,” I said.

“Me too,” Ben agreed.

“Hang on! Will you …. Are you qualified for this?”

“You’re quite right to ask, Rodney,” Warwick replied. “Yes I am. My dad’s a professional climber. He’s been teaching me intensively since I was ten. So I know more or less all there is to know about rock climbing. Bugger all else, mind! I’m about to fail all my A-level exams next term, but I couldn’t give a damn.” He grinned cheerfully.

For my part I was starting to think we were in the presence of a god.

“So, can we meet at nine o’clock tomorrow at the entrance to Seathwaite car-park?” Warwick asked.

Ben and I reached the rendezvous ten minutes early (Rodney had cried off, and Ben lent him his map for the day). Warwick soon arrived. We took off along the bridleway following the River Derwent upstream to Stockley Bridge. The bridleway turned right across the river, and we continued steeply uphill to reach Sty Head. Here, Warwick turned west along a narrow footpath. We reached a tall, slender pinnacle of rock (680 meters high), with a huge chunk of rock balanced on top of it.

“That,” Warwick said, “is called Napes Needle, and worry you not, we’re not going to climb it. We will be going that way.” He pointed to the massive heave of mountain known as Great Gable, of which the Needle was an outcrop. He showed us how to tie the rope round our waists. He would lead at the top of the rope, I was to be number two in the middle, and Ben number three at the end. He explained that there would never be more than one person climbing at a time. Warwick had planned it in three pitches. At the end of each pitch it was always the first task for the person above the current climber to belay the rope between them with three turns around a suitable pinnacle of rock. As the climber below climbs, the one above will wind the rope around the belay. Thus the person climbing is always protected if he should fall, with, of course, the exception of number one. “That’s why he’s called the leader and knows what he’s doing,” as Warwick put it.

The memory of this climb, beyond the fact that it was wildly exciting, I have largely lost – with the exception of the second pitch. This was along a narrow ledge, about two centimetres wide for the most part, running diagonally up a rock-face at an angle of about 45°. There were a few handholds at a usable height along the way. I had watched Warwick step along the ledge with apparent ease until he reached a small rock platform at the end of the pitch. He belayed the rope and called me on up.

Jesus, I can’t do that! But I must. I’ve just got to. I very slowly stepped along the ledge, face pressed against the rock, desperately grasping at hand-holds in the rock when I could – often no more than swellings in the cliff. About half-way along I took another small step. My foot slipped off. I fell. I continued dropping. Help! At last the rope went tight. But it was stretching. I fell another couple of feet – and I was swinging like a pendulum across the cliff – from side to side about a foot from the rock-face. I pushed my boots forward to drag on the cliff and stop the pendulum. Slowly, slowly with the help of knobs and cracks in the rock I pulled myself up the cliff, with Warwick keeping the rope tightly belayed. I have no memory – none at all – of the rest of that day. Not surprising, I suppose.”

Random Thoughts

Tintoretto’s Last Supper

Tintoretto depicted the Last Supper several times during his artistic career. His earlier paintings for the Chiesa di San Marcuola (1547) and for the Chiesa di San Felice (1559) depict the scene from a frontal perspective, with the figures seated at a table placed parallel to the picture plane. This follows a convention observed in most paintings of the Last Supper, of which Leonardo da Vinci’s late 1490s mural painting in Milan, Italy, is probably the best-known example. Tintoretto’–1594 painting, a work of his final years, departs drastically from this compositional formula. The centre of the scene is occupied not by the apostles but instead by secondary characters, such as a woman carrying a dish and the servants taking the dishes from the table. The table at which the apostles sit recedes into space on a steep diagonal. Furthermore, Tintoretto’s painting features a more personal use of light, which appears to come into obscurity from both the light on the ceiling and from Jesus’ aureola. A host of angels hover above the scene.

Tintoretto’s Last Supper makes use of Mannerist devices in its complex and radically asymmetrical composition. In its dynamism and emphasis on the quotidian—the setting is similar to a Venetian inn—the painting points the way to the Baroque. “The ability of this dramatic scene to engage viewers was well in keeping with Counter-Reformation ideals and the Catholic Church’s belief in the didactic nature of religious art.”

Random Thoughts

Thoughts on Common Sense

Quotes from the printed lectures of Professor Ralph Barton Perry

The absurdities of yesterday are the common sense of today; the common sense of yesterday is now obsolete and quaint. The crank [an eccentric person, especially one who is obsessed by a particular subject or theory] of the sixteenth century was the man who said that the earth moved; the crank of the twentieth century is the man who says that it does not. Moreover, once common sense is thus reflected upon, it is seen to be in part, at least, the result of wholly irrational forces , such as habit and imitation.

Unless you were an extraordinary child you were very curious about what you called the world; curious as to who or what made it, why it was made, how it was made, why it was made as it is, and what it is like in those remote and dim regions beyond the range of your senses. Then you grew up, and having grown up, you acquired common sense, or rather common sense acquired you. […] common sense appears not as the illumination of mature years, but rather as a hardening of the mind, the worldliness and complacency of a life immersed in affairs.

[Socrates] found men busy, to be sure, but strangely unaware of what they were about; they felt sure they were getting somewhere, but they did not know where.

Random Thoughts

As You Like It – All the world’s a stage

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

RadioRandom Thoughts

Costa Rica SOTA Expedition After Action Report

From January 3 to January 9, I visited Costa Rica to go “play radio.” This article will summarize my experience, share some lessons learned, and highlight the success resulting from CW Academy training.

Around January of 2020, I researched a few options for international travel. My criteria required either reciprocal licensing or a pathway for foreign travelers to obtain an amateur radio license. My criteria also included a need for the destination to participate in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) award program. For those who don’t know, SOTA is an award program that grants points to “activators” who climb summits and make QSOs using portable equipment as well as to the “chasers” who contact the “activator.” For an activator, the program’s ultimate award is “Mountain Goat,” which requires 1000 points and typically takes several years to accomplish.

Although I initially planned on traveling to Japan, the country closed its borders to all foreign travelers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, I selected Costa Rica, which had measures for foreign visitors (including mandatory additional health insurance, health screening, rapid testing, and a few others). From June 2020 to January 2021, I closely monitored the US Embassy website and Costa Rican government messages about immigration, and surprisingly restrictions slightly relaxed over time. I simultaneously submitted the required paperwork to Sutel, the Costa Rican FCC, for callsign designators TI2, TI3, and TI5. The paperwork was very specific and required that I list each planned operating location, radio type, power, and antenna type, polarization, and gain. As a note for anyone planning on operating in Costa Rica or Costa Rican territories: submit your paperwork to Sutel as early as possible – 6 months is “cutting it close.” I’d recommend submission a year in advance to assist in navigating additional questions, corrections, and resubmission.

After my paperwork was submitted and my flight was booked, I contacted the Radio Club of Costa Rica (TI0RC) and the Asociacion Radioaficionados Cartago (TI0ARC). Both groups were familiar with SOTA and provided me with insights and a list of a few possible summits to explore. They graciously created a “What’s App” messaging group and contacted me regularly throughout my planning process. Using their recommendations, I visited sotl.as (the SOTA Atlas) and plotted my ​trip through the country. I concluded I could probably activate 2 summits per day, which would be feasible while fac-toring in drive time, available battery time, weather, and daylight hours.

In January 3, 2021, I landed in San Jose and met Luis Arias, and we immediately set out to activate two summits. This plan required a few modifications because of closed gates, area closures due to COVID-19, and access issues; however, we activated both Alto Indias and Cerro Frio within several hours. While Luis utilized a VHF HT, I used my Yaesu FT 891 and wire dipole to work CW on HF. As stations stacked up (Argentina, France, Maine, California, etc.) I called them out to Luis, who told me he would set up FT8 for some DX on his Icom 705. Our conversation quickly switched to the topic of CW.

The following day was definitely a trip highlight. I discovered the Turrialba Volcano was open for climbing with a guide. I was excited because Turrialba had been closed to all exploration for approximately 10 years due to volcanic activity. The only downside to climbing the volcano was that I was only authorized to transmit using an HT rather than a complete HF setup due to time restrictions at the summit. Regardless the hike up to 11,000 ft was literally breathtaking due to the scenery and lack of oxygen. I am proud to say that TI3LSK and I were the first to activate this particular summit, which would not have been possible even two weeks prior. After Turrialba, I summited Volcano Irazu, which was equally beautiful and a bit higher in elevation.

My true “DX” station CW learning experience happened on day 3. Conditions were excellent, and I began calling CQ on 20m atop Cerro Espiritu Santo. I received an avalanche of calls. The only time I remember being more mentally flooded was on my first attempt at activating a summit using CW. Fortunately, I practiced by using Morse Runner before my trip, and I was able to pick out pieces of callsigns. I discovered a few things that helped me.

Before I share my lessons learned, I need to point out that I made my first CW QSO around September 2019 and earned my CWops number in June of 2020. Although I know CW, I am not experienced in running as a station, let alone a DX station. While I have run a station on various SOTA summits, the last solar minimum helped create smaller pileups that were more manageable. Additionally, fewer stations are interested in working California than they would be working Costa Rica.

Given the above, here are my observations. First, managing a pileup with rhythmic and standardized responses makes things flow more smoothly. When chasers know what to expect from me on each transmission, the pileup naturally becomes more organized. I also found that when I used a “?” combined with a partial call, the situation would become worse vs. just returning a partial call. I concluded that a “?” sent in combination with anything leads some to send their callsign despite the question not applying to them; whereas, sending a partial call almost always restrained those I didn’t intend to work at the moment and allowed me to focus on the intended station. I also found that I needed to try and work the loudest stations first. I learned working a pileup is similar to peeling layers off an onion – and often, the more rare callsigns were hidden at the innermost layers. Most importantly, though, I realized that a DXpedition doesn’t require any-thing beyond the radio you bring with you because the best radio is the one you use. For me, 100w and a wire worked out just fine.

I lastly decided that next time I travel, I will probably not plan on activating a large number of summits; rather, I will choose one or two and spend more time on the summit working all bands and making contacts. My purpose for this trip was a SOTA DXpedition to earn points toward the Mountain Goat award. I met that goal at the expense of rushing through the actual QSO phase. I earned points but made fewer contacts than I could have. By my next trip, I will have the Mountain Goat award, and making points will be secondary to making QSOs and generating a full logbook.

On my final day in Costa Rica, I met with the TI0ARC at a local bar. I was surprised when they presented me with an award they created, congratulating me on a successful SOTA Expedition. I was additionally told that TI3LSK registered for the next available CW Academy Basic course and encouraged fellow club members to do the same.

Although I could write a detailed log describing each day, in summary, I activated 9 different summits, including 2 volcanoes. I made contacts with stations across the United States, Germany, Spain, France, England, Czech Republic, Cuba, Sweden, Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, and a few others. In total, I added 76 points to my SOTA score, bringing my total up to 908 (as of the day I write this). I drove several hundred miles and met many incredible people. I walked away with many new experiences, great memories, and excitement to do something similar in the future. I also realized my trip was a testament to the CW Academy program. I will forever be grateful for the time NN7M and K6RB put into teaching me proper code. It has made all the difference for me.

Before I close, I wanted to share one point of comedy during my trip. Costa Rica has a saying, “Pura Vida,” which means “pure life” but is more of a way of life than anything. The term can apply to bad situations you can’t help equally to the beautiful and amazing. On one of the last days of my trip, I was driving from a summit I had just activated toward the next village. Roads in Costa Rica are mediocre at best and terrible at worst, but I rented a 4×4 for that reason. While driving down a hill, the road transitioned from paved to dirt, to overgrown, and finally to muddy. Needless to say, I quickly became stuck to the point that I had my back right tire suspended in the air. Given the situation and my inability to self-recover, I hiked approximately 3 miles back into the town came from. Thankfully my Spanish helped me find someone who owned a tow truck, and we returned to my vehicle. While we were at work recovering my vehicle, a local who was walking by stopped and lectured me in Spanish, saying, “We have a hard time walking down this road; what makes you think you can drive down this!?” Pura Vida? Pura Vida.

Random Thoughts

President Lincoln proclaims official Thanksgiving holiday

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789


Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington