Friday, June 13, 2008

Ham Radio License

My Dad has had his ham radio license since he was a teenager. I remember his hamshack in the garage when my parents were still married, and his computer radio uber geek den at the house he moved into later. I've been wanting to get my radio license for a few years, as a way to keep in touch with my Dad and to carry on the family hamming. And, well, amateur radio is really cool and fun.

Last Saturday Mike and I biked to Noel Wien Library again. This time, though, we went to take a test. Mike had been studying using the Now You're Talking book and was making consistent 100s on the online qrz and tests. I was planning on taking the test in July, so that I would have full access to the study books. Three days before the scheduled test, I discovered that Mike wasn't using the Technician Class book by Gordon West. Huzzah! Three days of studying and I decided to take a shot at the Level 2 Technician Class license exam.

We got to the library an hour early in case we ran into rain on the way. We didn't, and we spent the hour nervously looking through the newly arrived book section. In the lobby, a children's area librarian was walking around inviting people to view the reptiles in the auditorium. At about 12:50 we worked up the courage to go into the Conference Room beside the auditorium.

Two of the required 3 Volunteer Examiners from the Arctic Amateur Radio Club were already there, and they helped us fill out the forms while we waited for the third VE to arrive. Another person arrived to take his Extra Class exam, and soon we had our tests. Mike finished his in 5 minutes and (we think) made a 100. I took a little more time, but passed. I think I only missed one (the VEs aren't allowed to tell you how many or which questions you missed, only if you passed or not).

Elated, we went next door and visited some cool reptiles from C and W's Reptile Rescue. They had some cool snakes, tortoises and turtles, and spiders. But the coolest animal by far was the monitor. The Rescue Lady was holding the monitor in her arms and he was just hanging out with his head resting on top of her shoulder. He looked so cuddly!

Yesterday, our call signs appeared in the FCC database. And so, even though we have not recieved our licenses in the mail, we are still allowed to use our Technician Class priviledges on the ham radio. All we currently have is a handheld that my dad gave to Mike for Christmas 2 years ago, so our listening capabilities don't have as wide of a range as our license allows. But it is really exciting to listen to the bands we do have access to at the moment. I've had the radio tuned to 146.880 for most of today, and I picked up a few interesting conversations, including the local ARES meeting. I haven't worked up the courage to talk on the radio yet, but I think once I've listened to the way conversations work on the air a little bit more I'll feel much more comfortable with the concept of joining in or starting a conversation.

Mike and I are going to try to get our General Licenses before the summer ends and school takes over our lives again. We also want to have them before we (hopefully) go to the Alaska state hamfest with my Dad, who is planning on visiting in August. I called him to tell him my callsign, and it was one of those super happy family moments.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Noel Wien Library

Noel Wien Library
1215 Cowles Street
Fairbanks, AK 99701

Monday - Thursday 10-9
Friday 10-6
Saturday 10-5
Sunday 1-5
(Closed on Sundays during the summer)

Today Mike and I visited the Noel Wien Library for the first time. It is a pretty easy bike ride from the University area. Once you get past the gigantor Fred Meyer intersection, there's a nice bike lane (sidewalk) that is set a little bit off from the main road. We took our driver's licenses, and since they still have Alabama stamped on them, we each took a piece of mail we had recieved in Fairbanks to prove our residency. After standing in line at Reference, we were redirected to the Circulation desk, where it took about 2 minutes to get our cards. This is my favorite library card design so far, much better than Huntsville's simple book outline or Hiroshima's striped logo. As soon as the librarian handed my card to me, I showed it to Mike and beamed. "It'll be a cool souvenier," he said.

Library Card

Along with our new cards, the librarian handed us two neat and useful brochures about library hours, policies, and a helpful map of the library.

Newbie Brochures

The library is all on one level, which I was afraid would make it hard to find a quiet place to read, but there are many nice spots to sit down and relax. Just a few bookshelves after the Internet area where a teenage girl proclaimed loudly "I'll talk as loud as I want till they throw me out," I was already away from her loud discussions about what to put on her Myspace page. At the other end of the library there is a lovely panel of windows and a set of super comfy chairs in the Young Adult section. Mike and I looked through the YA comics, and then sat in the chairs and watched as two small boys had a race on the sidewalk outside that ended in the younger child falling, getting up and dusting himself off, and then running back to his mother.

Above the YA bookshelves are five or so awesome paintings. These were some of our favorites:

Fox Lady Painting
Jaime from Mythbusters

We've been watching a lot of Mythbusters lately, and Mike said that the last picture looked like Adam and Jaime. After giggling over the picture of Otter Jaime the Mythbuster, we walked around a bit more, picking up some books to check out and a few used books to buy. I didn't see a used book room, or a Friends of the Library store, but there were 5 tables, 2 carts, and another shelf full of books and movies. The books had great prices: 25 cents for paperbacks, 50 cents for hardcovers.

Near the DVDs, there is a quiet reading area with a very cool wood sculpture, "The Woman and the Dog" by Jaques and Mary Regat.

I especially like the bunny in the corner.

Close up of "The Woman and the Dog" by Jaques and Mary Regat

The quiet reading area looked very comfy, with windows looking out onto a small park and many cozy reading chairs.

After checking out our books and buying some used books, Mike and I went outside to see the Story Garden. There was a neat butterfly bench and a Secret Conveyer, but all of the kids were on the other side of the library in the giant field where library fun things were going on. After enjoying the quiet for a few minutes, we walked back to the library's bike racks and then pedaled off to the thrift store.

Butterfly Chair

Used books acquired:Moon Called by Andre Norton, An Exchange of Gifts by Anne McCaffrey, Under the High Seas: New Frontiers in Oceanography by Margaret Poynter and Donald Collins, Omni Best Science Fiction Three edited by Ellen Datlow, and The Sea Around Us by Rachel L. Carson.
Books checked out: The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, Vogelein: Clockwork Faerie by Jane Irwin and Jeff Berndt