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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hamfests, balloons, and bad weather

Well, Dayton has come and gone, and once again I missed out.

I haven't been to Dayton since 1999. That was when my wife and I found out she was pregnant with our first child.

Ever since then, something's come up to take the chance of going to Dayton out the window. No money to go, usually. This year, though, the high gas prices and work commitment kept me from going.

But I'm going to the Knoxville Hamfest this Saturday. My third year going since a big blowup I won't go into. Due to the ballooning project I've been involved with, however, things have gone along better and I attend strictly to do the balloons and occasionally buy something.

I need an antenna mount and a dual or tri-band antenna, and plan to sell a couple of radios I no longer need.

I've always enjoyed going to hamfests, for several reasons:
  1. Camaraderie. It's nice to put a face to a voice you hear on a local repeater or a callsign you hear.
  2. Bargains. I get a lot of stuff cheaper than from eBay. No shipping fees!
  3. The sights. Oftentimes I just stop and stare at the porcupines in the parking lot or the trailers in the flea market with equipment you only see at a hamfest.
The University of Tennessee ARC is going to try and launch a balloon, if the weather cooperates. Nothing big this time around. Just a demo to show people how it's done.

The first time we launched a couple of years ago, it was called "pie-in-the-sky" and we threw a bunch of moon pies on the payload and sent them up. Why moon pies? It hadn't been done before!

Last year we sent up a video camera but lost the payload. I hope to one day go up to recover it, but it's (literally) an uphill climb to get to it.

After the trans-Atlantic flights this winter, I was hoping we were going to do a zero-pressure demo, but time is not on our side.

The way the weather is going, we may not even get around to doing a launch. The forecast is currently 50-50.

I hope it's not as bad as the weather today. We had nickel-sized hail here at the house (I was at work) and some real close lightning strikes.

Not as bad as Iowa, though. Tonight a tornado hit a boy-scout camp and so far 4 are reported dead.

It's bad when weather hits like this, but it makes SKYWARN and weather spotters all the more valuable.