Memorial Day 2017

Good Morning. I am the proud mother of a great American hero from Keizer Oregon, PFC Ryan J Hill. I want to begin by thanking Glenn for this opportunity to share our story. And a very special thanks to all of you who set aside a few moments to honor some very brave men and women.

Memorial Day for many means a day off, great shopping deals, family barbecues, camping, the beginning of summer; honoring loved ones who have passed or veterans who have served. While all these are great, it really doesn’t represent what Memorial Day is really about. Memorial Day is the one day set aside to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending and protecting the freedoms that we all enjoy. Since the American Revolution almost 670K men and women have been killed in combat.

Before I go into the events that have brought me here today, I would like to give you a glimpse of who Ryan was.

On April 26, 1986 at 2:00 in the afternoon God entrusted me with one of him most precious treasures, Ryan J Hill. As a single mom it was up to me to teach and guide him. Little did i know that he would in the end be the one to teach and guide me. Ryan had a compassionate heart from the beginning. He was always drawn to the underdog. I didnt want him to be the outsider while growing up as I had been, so i really tried to help him be cool and hang out with the “right” people.

(Story of andy, Aaron and Mike)

Ryan was sharp and a quick learner. I should have known when he came home from the first day of school in the second grade at Keizer Elementary and I asked how was school and he said stupid….

When he attended McNary High school my biggest concern was, would he fit in. High school can sometimes be brutal. Little did I know he would ace the social aspects, but given his view in the first grade of “I’ve already done that” his academics left a little to be desired. He would finish High School at the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program, a military school. He originally went to make up credits so he could graduate on time, but he ended up completing 2 1/2 years in 5 months with an a minus average. It was obvious that he excelled in this environment. His nickname…make me do push ups please.

Just to give you some insight into his mindset, Ryan loved football and played at McNary……..

In July 2005 he would leave for Ft Benning where he would attend Boot Camp and AIT and would go on to be assigned to the 1/26th Infantry Division (Big Red One) in Schweinfurt Germany. When he was in boot camp the drill sgt said as Ryan reached for a piece of cake, Hill you eat that cake your gonna do push-ups; Ryan’s response “I’m gonna do push ups anyway” so he reached for a second piece.

In July 2006 I got the call from Ryan that they were deploying to Iraq into a very bad area. He said to me Mom if i come home God has more for me to do, if I dont then I’ve finished my job.

On Friday January 19th a little after 8pm the earth stood still… I got the dreaded knock on the door. I looked out the peep hole and there they were 2 officers in uniform. I opened the door and told them they weren’t supposed to be there. Shortly after midnight in Baghdad Ryan’s group would be making their final patrol of the night, an IED that was command-wire detonated by cowardly insurgents hiding in the shadows would steal a great man. The unit would come under several hours of heavy fire and Ryan would be the only KIA for Charlie Company that night. Although Ryan was the first among many killed on the deadliest day. Ryan had finished his job. God Almighty said okay you’ve had enough and allowed him to go home. See several of Ryan’s fellow soldiers had already been killed and he took each loss personally. Just like his job here was to protect his family and friends, he viewed his job there as to protect his fellow brothers. In fact he always wanted to be in the lead vehicle which was most likely to be attacked. So when there was a loss he felt like he had failed. I believe he was spared from events that were to come. The attacks got more severe. As the unit found ways to mitigate the insurgents actions, it caused the cowards to escalate the type of attacks they would use. In June 2007 Charlie Company would receive an award at the US embassy from special forces with Ryan’s name on it for the work that was done on January 20th.

The Blue Spader Task force is considered the hardest hit since Vietnam. The commanders were continually asking for help but the requests seemed to go unanswered until July 2008 where the 110 who patrolled Adhimayah were replaced with a unit of over 1000. All in all the task force had 34 soldiers KIA, and 122 wounded. Charlie company suffered the most with fourteen men killed 9 of which were from Ryan’s second platoon.

In 2012 the Blue Spaders received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy.

One of my sons biggest fears is that he would be forgotten. And today you have sent a message that we remember. I remember getting a phone call from him after one of his brothers had been killed. It was during election time and he was struggling from all the negative news reports about the war. He said Mom my friends are dying for people who don’t give a rip. All they care about is did the barista get my coffee right, o did you know Brittney Spears is bald, Lindsey Lohan has a drug problem, what in the world am I fixing for dinner? Meanwhile my buddies are dying and not only do people not know who they are, they don’t care. I reminded him that he told me after he got to Iraq; Mom don’t watch the news it’s really not what’s happening. So don’t watch the news it doesn’t represent all of Americans.

The question for you is do you care? As you drive up and down the freeway and you see my license plate that says “gold star family” do you know what that means? (well probably most of you do, or do now). Please don’t get me wrong with what I am about to say. I don’t want your sympathy. I just want you to think about your freedom, the price that has been paid for it, and not take it for granted. For you to truly understand you would have to experience it. And that is really something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Imagine your child or grand child one day stolen from you. Not just them, but of their hopes and dreams, their future, the children that you will never know. Perhaps their son or daughter would have been the one to walk on mars, or discover the cure for cancer or be the next brilliant president. Or perhaps they would have been just like Ryan and been one of the most kind, funny, and loving person you ever met, whose goal in life was to protect their family and friends and to make a difference.

There are many days when I am out and observe people and wonder, does anyone remember? As I watch them go about their lives, I wonder do they know the price that was paid for them to drive thru Starbucks safely and buy a coffee or push the granddaughter on the swing at the park. You see for Gold Star families we live Memorial Day every day. This is my 10th Memorial Day since Ryan was killed and yet it seems like it was still yesterday.

On October 5, 2006 Ryan sent a small group of us this email: “2 days ago one of my good friend was lost for doing his duty for our country. He was shot by a sniper and didn’t get a chance to shoot back. He was doing what he was asked of him regardless of the risks at hand. I ask that as you read this you hold a moment of silence within yourself for another of America’s finest that lost the battle he was told to fight. I ask that you remember your freedoms and that we willingly gave ours up to protect our loved ones back home. That you keep us in your thoughts and prayers in good times and in bad. Because to tell you the truth all we wanted was a better life for us and our loved ones. Some of us won’t make it back from this place and we shall never forget them. The rest of us who are here will keep fighting for you and those you love. Thank you for reading my thoughts and the few minutes it took our of your lives….”

So one thing I ask is that as you drive around going about your day being a productive member of the community pause once in awhile, maybe when you see that glorious flag flying, and just whisper thank you.

In closing I would like to challenge with a quote from Ryan’s my space… “A True Champion is one who wants to make a difference, never gives up, works hard and never gives up their dream”. So for Ryan, go be a champion.

Thank you. Freedom isn’t free.

Apple all the way…

I’m not sure why I did it. Perhaps it had something to do with an app on my iPhone that would allow import of a photo… but only from my Apple photo app… not my Google Drive. But I figured I’d be better off being completely in the Apple ecosystem.

I just spent the last 24 hours or so migrating all my data from Google Drive back over to the Apple iCloud. And at the very last, I even moved all my Gmail mail and contacts over to Apple’s email service. This is something I was pretty sure I would never do.

So now I am 100% back on the Apple ecosystem. I never really thought I would go back to the Apple iCloud email. The main drawback it has… I can’t send email as if I’m at my own domain. Gmail allows that. At one time this was pretty important to me. I own three domains and I want to be able to send email as-if from those domains. But I figured what the heck. I suppose I can live with elden.f@icloud.com. So that’s the address my email will be from from now on.

I suppose I should have less hassle now. Everything is Apple. I’m no longer connected to anything Google on my devices and/or computers. I still have some Google docs. And I really like Google docs. But what I have left there are pretty much just backups of stuff I’ve migrated back over to the iCloud.

In theory things should be pretty nice doing the 100% Apple thing. We’ll see. I know that it’s not the absolute best cloud service out there, but I think it should be alright. Sometimes the path of less hassle is the best.

My dad

I watched my father (Curtis P Fenison) pass tonight. Very hard thing. But I have no doubt that he is now exactly where he’s been longing to be for the last 70 years or so since he dedicated his life to Jesus. He is no longer limited by a human brain that struggles to grasp the glory of God. Because now he’s experiencing Him in His fullness first hand. Face to face. I can’t imagine a man more dedicated to his family and to his God. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Below is a video that my brother Les made.

VMware

I’ve been a little bored lately. And my allowance fund has been building for awhile. So I decided to spring for VMware for my iMac along with a memory upgrade to make it a workable thing.

My iMac (which is the latest higher-end model) only came with 8GB of RAM. Some of the iMac models are not even upgradable. Mine is. I had four slots with only two used. At any rate, I replaced my two 4GB sticks with four 8GB sticks for a total of 32GB. That should be enough for some virtual machine fun.

I now have 12 different operating systems installed in VMware. I bought a license for Windows 10… the rest are all Linux. Oh, and FreeBSD just for kicks.

Not sure what I’m going to do with these except just play around. One thing I learned from my previous experience with ChromeOS. And that is, if you have all your data in the cloud, pretty much any computer is a ChromeBook/ChromeBox. That’s because if you have a browser, you have everything right there, regardless of the operating system you happen to be running. So any of these operating systems will serve me equally well, as long as I use a browser that supports my LastPass password manager.

Actually, I find macOS to be pretty sweet. And I really have no need to use anything else. It’s all just for grins I suppose.

Childishness

Twitter is an interesting place. I follow a lot of news people as well as technical accounts. Much of what I hear there is of a political nature. One Fox Business personality that I had been following (@LouDobbs) constantly refers to democrats as “Dimms”. Ok. Time out. This isn’t a grade school playground. Feel free to call them “Dems” if you want to abbreviate but calling them Dimms just makes you look stupid.

I unfollowed him today. I’m sure he would be heart-broken if he knew. Hey, I have to draw the line somewhere. In the interest of full disclosure, I might add that I detest the democrats. I think they are evil. They’ve virtually destroyed this country, and continue in deliberate attempts to do so. But that’s no excuse for childishness name-calling.

Node radio revisited

I will say, messing with the Baofeng 888 radios was a major pain. The main problem was actually getting the second radio from the seller (KD8MST). And when I finally did get it, it didn’t work correctly. So I disassembled both my new (non-working) radio and my old (working) radio to see what the difference was in the wiring.

Both these radios were modified and a cable was wired into the circuit boards to facilitate use as a node radio. I opened them up and sent pictures of the wiring to the seller in hopes that he could identify the problem. He didn’t see any problem, but confessed he may have used the wrong pin-out on the other end of the cable.

The problem I had… once I disassembled these two radios… I could not get them back together. So I simply tossed them both in the trash and wrote the whole thing off as a failed experiment.

I went back to my trusty Alinco node radio with my DB9 A/B switch. Everything is working great. There are only two minor inconveniences.

1) I need to switch back and forth between nodes (having only one node radio to share between nodes instead of each node having it’s own radio).

2) I need to remember to switch on my muffin fan when I’m connected up to something in order to keep the Alinco cool in case the system I’m connected to gets busy. However I did replace my previous fan with one that is now less noisy.

The Baofeng node radio idea really was an experiment. The first one I had worked great. But as I pointed out to KD8MST, my tolerance level for frustration on these things is quite low. I just don’t need the grief. And while the Baofeng solution was much cheaper than what I was using before… I already had a working solution that was perfectly acceptable.

I am truly an “appliance operator” type ham. I want things to just work. I’m not in it that much for the tinkering, but more for the communication aspect. I enjoy having a good conversation. And having a chat with someone you don’t know can be interesting, fun, and also good practice.

Baofeng 888 node radio

This is incredible. I found a guy online who provides a “modification service” for Baofeng 888 handheld radios. This modification allows the use of these cheap radios as a node radio for ham operators such as myself who want to run a local VoIP node. I have two VoIP nodes (one Allstar and one IRLP). And I had them setup using an Alinco node radio.

That Alinco radio is about $165 and it needs a $100 power supply to run it. It also can’t be run very long without using some kind of fan against the heat sink. The fan is noisy and it’s annoying to have to turn it on every time I want to operate.

The modified Baofeng I bought replaces that $265 worth of gear for $37. And it will operate all day long without any kind of a fan. No noise!

I am a happy camper.

Another chance

Ok, I’m going to back pedal a bit from my recent post “The Apple Experiment“. One thing that prompted me to originally move to Google Drive from Apple’s iCloud was because I was having trouble with my only Mac and started using my Chromebox instead. That’s when it became evident that Apple’s iCloud was never really suitable to be a truly platform-independent cloud service.

However, I have since ditched my Chromebox and am now back using Apple hardware again (I actually forked out for another iMac). So… yes that’s right, I moved my stuff back to Apple’s iCloud. It really does mostly work ok. And there is one advantage. Because all my iCloud data also sits on my local machine, I can easily back it up to external hard drives (something you can’t really do with Google Drive).

I am still relatively unhappy with the stability of MacOS. Since my last post there has been at least one instance where I had to hold down my power button to reset again. This sort of thing normally happens when I’m doing something fairly intense.

Originally my big problem with it was happening when I was encrypting 5-6 large external hard drives. More recently it happened when I was syncing a very large amount of data via iCloud. Under normal usage I don’t have a problem. However that is no excuse. An OS that buckles under pressure is still highly annoying.

Ham radio VoIP stuff

I have sort of ditched local ham radio in favor of a couple different VoIP setups. I have two VoIP nodes… one is IRLP and one is AllStar. They both run on the raspberry Pi 2.

I only have one node radio. It’s connected up to a dummy load instead of a regular antenna. Since it’s only intended for my use at home, that works just fine. I have a DB9 A/B switch where I can switch my node radio from one VoIP system to the other.

I was originally running just an AllStar node. But I decided after awhile to add the IRLP node to my setup. While IRLP is not as nice as AllStar for a number of reasons, IRLP has far more of a history and established user base. At least that is my perception.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.

I have a local ham radio that I talk on with an antenna in the attic. Then I have another radio (we’ll call this a node radio) that I have connected to an A/B switch which in turn connects the radio to one of two raspberry Pi systems that are connected to the internet. So I talk on my local radio which is received by my node radio. That audio then goes out over the net via my VoIP nodes. And of course I listen the same way. I control the nodes by using DTMF (touch tones) to “dial up” other nodes all over the world that are also connected to radios (usually high-powered repeaters that are located on hill tops).

So on all these nodes, there is a radio component that facilitates local communication. The VoIP aspect simply allows those radios to connect to each other over long distances via the net.

This is all sort of fun. But it reminds me of the last days in the life of the whole BBS scene. This was where BBS’s were fighting to stay alive by offering internet connectivity and such. That only delayed their death for a short time. In reality the vast majority of ham radio repeaters sit idle and are rarely used. In the Eugene area alone there are well over a dozen repeaters. But only one or two that actually have any activity to speak of.

The Apple experiment

I just moved my domains to Google Domains. As a side-benefit, they now integrate well with Blogger. So the new URL of this blog is w7ldn.com. My other blog is at one of my other domains (moondog.org). And my third domain (eldenf.com) forwards to my Google+ page.

The reason for the domain move? My old domain registrar (NameCheap) had spam filtering on their free email forwarding that I could not turn off. There were some email that I was mysteriously not receiving. It doesn’t seem to me that an email forwarding service should do any spam filtering at all. After all, the email box that eventually receives the mail will have it’s own spam filter, no?

I made the choice last Christmas to switch back over to Apple gear after years away. So virtually all my gear is Apple now.

While I am an Apple fan, I’m not a fan of their cloud services or their email service. I have a number of beefs:

  • With their email service, I can’t send using my own domains. Since that’s the main reason I have my own domains… that’s a problem. However, Google lets me do that.
  • With their iCloud document service (Pages and Numbers) not all of the important features are available on the web or on my mobile devices. Only on a Mac does one have full functionality. Google Docs are entirely web-centered. So I have every feature available to me via the browser regardless of what operating system I am on.
  • With their iCloud file storage service I have to have all my files stored on my local hard drive. The iCloud storage is less of a cloud storage and more of a cloud backup and synchronization facility. Google lets me store everything in the cloud. I don’t have to have it on my machine at all. Again, all I need is a browser and I have access to all my documents, regardless of what computer I’m on.
  • Apple iCloud seriously hosed my photo library on multiple occasions by duplicating photos and making an entire mess of things. It took hours and hours to clean up. I’m guessing it was simply a cloud synchronization issue. Google Drive has no such issues because you have one and only one copy of your files (if you do it right).

When I initially went back to the Mac a few months ago, I migrated all my documents to iCloud. Figured I’d give it all a fair try. After coming to the above realizations, I moved everything back to Google Drive. Now I’m back to using Google Calendar, gmail, etc. Luckily the Google stuff for the most part is operating system independent so it works fine with MacOS.

Still there are a lot of things to like about Apple stuff. But I’m not entirely sold on any particular platform. Last Christmas when I made the decision to go with Apple, I was initially shopping for a Chrome Book. And honestly, that would have worked just fine (and saved me a ton of money).

While I’m on the subject of Apple vs the competition… I will say something about my Macs. I am experiencing a level of operating system instability on both of my Macs that I have never experienced on modern Windows installations. Anyone who tells you that MacOS is more stable than Windows is seriously mistaken. And I say this after having resorted to all the normal trouble shooting measures like doing a fresh install of the operating system (multiple times). Seriously I cannot count how many times I’ve had to hold the power button down and kill my machines because they quit responding.

There may have been a time where MacOS was more stable than Windows. But that time is not now.