Tuesday, 28 December 2010


Well, we arrived safely in Bangor, GI.
After our Monday ferry was cancelled we were re-booked on the slower Ulysses super ferry. This is variously reported as the largest ferry in the world and the largest on the Irish Sea routes.
Anyway, we arrived at Holyhead about 4 hours before our ferry was due to sail. Try as we could, they would not allow us on the 12:00 fast ferry. I guess it was full, but I still think it was unfair not to have been offered the option of the fast ferry since that is what we paid for. I shall be sending a stiff e-mail to the booking company! This has lost us a whole day and over £150 in unplanned costs.....

More pleasantly, fuel is really cheap in Eire. Around £1:00/ litre for diesel. Needless to say, we topped up before crossing the border into Northern Ireland. This must be the only border in Europe where you can drive across the border, changing the speed readout from MPH to KPH or vice versa, as you go!

I'm relieved to see there is no water shortage problems here in Bangor, unlike large parts of the Province. It is getting serious in some areas, from what we see on TV!

The car temperature gauge was reading 10C as we arrived in Bangor. That must be the warmest it has been for months.

More tomorrow.

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Location:Northern Ireland

North Wales

Now in Bangor. A pretty smooth drive up except for the M6 which was very slow from around Stafford to Sandbach. It was just the volume of traffic that slowed it, together with spray from the persistent light rain.

Of course it is raining more heavily this morning, in Bangor.

We are off to catch the ferry at 14:10, so a little bit of time to check out Brunel's Britannia bridge on the way over!

There was some sort of emergency in the Straits last night with the Air Sea Rescue helicopter out looking for the source of an emergency call from close to the bridge. The bridge is about 1/2 mile from this hotel, but no noises to awaken us......

More words from the ' other side'.


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Location:Falkenham Rd,,United Kingdom

Sunday, 26 December 2010

New Year

Tomorrow we head off to Bangor, Northern Ireland. But, since Irish Ferries informed us this morning that they have cancelled the 17:15 Holyhead to Dublin ferry tomorrow, we have had to re-book onto the 14:10 on Tuesday. This is a bigger, slower ferry than the cat we were booked on.
As a result of the change in crossing we have decided to travel as far as Bangor, North Wales tomorrow. So then, Monday night in Bangor and then Tuesday night in Bangor! Just different countries....

More from Bangor!


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Location:Falkenham Rd,,United Kingdom

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


A good flight from Vancouver to the UK, only marred by the fact that my car battery was flat when I retrieved my car from LHR Long Term car park. The guys there soon sorted that out with jumper leads.
I could see no obvious reason for the flat battery. Nothing was left on?

I was far too tired to get on for the UKAC this evening.

I'm not sure when I will blog again, but I have been contemplating making this a regular place for thoughts on my radio activities.

Thanks again to everyone who read the blog over the last 12 days. I hope you enjoyed the 'trip' as much as we did.

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Monday, 18 October 2010


About to go QRT from Vancouver.
I will update the blog when I get home. Thanks to everyone who read my words. From the comments received, it appears we had at least a few people along with us on the trip.

Those whales......wow! They made the whole trip worthwhile.

Sam and Shirley on Granville Island and about to check out and lose WiF...........

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Granville Island

I swear I didn't know!
Leaving our room last evening, I happened to look over the glass balcony outside the room. Not 8 foot from our room door.......a Micro Brewery.
Yes, just 8 foot from the top of one of about 15 fermenting tanks.
It appears that this hotel is also the location of the island's Dockside Brewery!


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To show there is some radio content...

Mast on Mount Seymour

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Location:Granville Island

Missing picture again

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Location:Granville Island, Vancouver

View from Mt Seymour

May the Swartz Bay with you!

With apologies to Spaceballs......

This must be one of the most spectacular ferry routes in the world. Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island to Tsawassen, Vancouver.
The BC Ferry passes through a narrow inlet between some of the islands on it's way out into the Strait or Georgia on its way to Vancouver.

Altogether a surreal experience after the cross channel ferries back

Once we got back to Vancouver we decided to visit Mount Seymour Provincial Park. Although the mountain is only around 6000 feet high the view back towards Vancouver and towards the Olympic mountains are breathtaking. You can drive to around the 6000 foot level, but need to walk the remaining trail to the top ( no, we didn't!) at this time of the year as the chair lifts have all stopped.
We are spending our last night back on Granville Island in False Creek, next to central Vancouver.

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Location:Vancouver Granville Island

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Missing photo

View from the jetty

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Location:Port Renfrew

Port Renfrew again

Looking back towards the hotel from the jetty at Port Renfrew

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Location:Port Renfrew


Harbour seal called AJ. She is quite wild, but swims around the Undersea Garden each afternoon, looking to be fed a fish or two!

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Location:Victoria harbour

Lift off

After being told this morning that the floatplane tours have now stopped for the season we were later told that the tour operator had managed to fill a plane and that we were still on the waiting list.
It was well worth the wait.
The float planes are Otters with a single engine. Operating out of the Victoria inner harbour, the flight lasted about 30 minutes and took us out over the Strait and then back over Butchard Gardens, where the pilot circled to give us all a great view.
The flight returned over Victoria downtown before landing back in the harbour approach.

View of the inner harbour and the rear of the famous Empress hotel ( centre bottom).

Later in the afternoon we visited the Undersea Garden, where we watched a scuba diver, in the big, floating, tank pointing out the various marine animals such as a very large octopus. Outside, a wild harbour seal, called 'AJ' gave us an impromptu display of rising up to snatch a fish from one of the Undersea Garden staff.
A nice afternoon was finished off with a visit to China Town. Victoria has the oldest China Town in Canada. It is also the most authentic, with many buildings dating back to the mid 1800s and the original Chinese migrations during the gold rush years.

Victoria, BC

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Location:Over Victoria

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Try again. The last photo exceeded 8MB

Another view from the jetty at Port Renfrew

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Port Renfrew

A photo from Port Renfrew

View from the jetty.

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Location:Vancouver Island

pacific coast travel

A beautiful day on Vancouver Island. The sun shone and so we decided to take a drive along the island SW coastal highway 14 to Port Renfrew, known as the Jewel of the west coast (!) passing through the logging hamlet of Jordan River on the way. The route is along the shore of the Strait of Juan Fuca with Washington state on the other side of the strait and clearly visible from the island. This is a major migration route for whales travelling up the Pacific coast. On this occasion we were not fortunate enough to see any migrating whales, but the views were outstanding.

Port Renfrew is a very small village at the end of highway 14. At the end of the highway is a jetty and a hotel. The Renfrew Hotel closed two days ago, at the end of their season, but the nearby cafe was still open for business. For a small cafe the portions were enormous!

Port Renfrew is at the trailhead of the Juan de Fuca and Western trails. It is also the location of the famous Botanical Beach. The beach is actually a University marine research beach that was set up in 1900. Wild black bears are common in this area. In the surrounding rain forests there are several record breaking trees.

Apparently the jetty is used by fishermen who catch halibut and salmon in the surrounding waters of the Strait.

Altogether a place to spend much more than a just few hours!

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Friday, 15 October 2010

Some nice colours

Another photo.
Downtown Whistler

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Location:Whistler village

Quiet day

We decided to have a quiet day today. We went up to Butchard gardens, some 15 miles north of Victoria, to see the trees and flowers. It is a lovely place, with a sunken garden, Japanese garden and other areas. Best of all, it sits on the coast of Vancouver Island, next to a small cove.
It was laid out by Jennie Butchard and is the site of the old Vancouver Portland cement works. Only the factory chimney remains.

We drove back along the coast in the hope of seeing one of the grey whales. However, it was very rough at sea today and spotting anything out there would have been a problem. We did see one bald eagle.
It seems that yesterday was a good choice of day for whale watching!

in Victoria

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

A bit crowded around her....

A Minke whale surfaces under a bait ball!

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Location:Off San Juan Islanf

Keep clear. Killers about!

A couple of 'L' Orca pod.

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Location:Off San Juan Island

Thar she blows!

Unbelievable! The weather just couldn't have been more perfect and even better still, the crew were claiming this was the most successful sighting trip they've had! I don't know if that is true, but one or two whales sighted in one trip is regarded as good. We saw two Minkes, two Humpbacks ( that's one in the photo), two pods of Orcas ( members from K and L pods) and a lone Grey whale. In addition we saw a pod of Dahl's porpoise and a couple of Harbour porpoise. Add to that a Bald eagle and a Harbour seal!
All in a three hour trip on the Ocean Magic II Zodiac boat from Prince of Whales company.

I'll post more photos later.
Sam in Vancouver, BC.

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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Vancouver Island

I now know the definition of the end of the world. It is Whistler on the day after Thanksgiving!
It was like the Marie Celeste in the village this morning. All of the visitors, except Shirley and I, just melted away overnight. Only the staff of the various restaurants and shops remained!

It was a very lucky chance that rain made us decide to change our plans and come to Whistler last weekend and not leave it until next weekend. Had we have not done so there would have been no Gondola rides and no night life to speak of.

Today we left Whistler and decided to take the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island from Horseshoe Bay rather than take the longer trip back through Vancouver to across to Swartz Bay.

It was a smooth 1.5 hour crossing on the clean and very busy BC Ferries Oak Bay.

From Nanaimo the 120km road trip down to Victoria took about 2 hours.

From what I've seen of Victoria so far, I like it!

Shirley's unnerving ability to search out a bargain brought us direct to a Quality Inn in the centre of Victoria, where the rate we got is really excellent. And we have free WiFi......

I hope to solve the problem of a lack of photos soon.

More tomorrow

From Victoria, BC


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Whistler and Blackcomb

We arrived in Whistler on Sunday evening. It seems this was a wise choice since the Thanksgiving weekend marks the end of the summer season. Had we have come next weekend, as planned, it would have required that we brought skis. Not as daft as it seems as it was snowing here earlier today!
Whistler, scene of the 2010 Winter Olympics, is 2000 feet up in the mountains and about 2 hours drive from Vancouver. It is billed as the best winter sports resort in the world. I don't know about that but it is certainly impressive by any standard.
At this time of year they are getting ready for the winter sports, but for now the main sport is mountain biking. The ski lifts are filled with mountain bikers taking their bikes to the top of Whistler or to the half way station, ready to bike down one of the many tracks dedicated to mountain biking.
The Whistler gondola takes you to the 6000 foot level where you can either take the chair to the top or take the Peak to Peak Gondola ride to Blackcomb mountain. This gondola ride is the longest unsupported gondola ride in the world with a 4.4km span across the Fitzsimmons creek valley without intermediate support towers.
Whilst up there this morning the views were outstanding. However, as we started back, the clouds moved in and the wind got up followed by sleet turning to snow at times. The rain extended down into the valley and Whistler village by late afternoon.

Sorry about the lack of photos but the link from here is so slow that larger photos seem to take for ever to send. Text only is almost instantaneous.

Sam in Whistler.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Beyond Vancouver

Sunday evening and we are in Whistler.
As we'd hoped, the weather was much better today and it was even warm and sunny this afternoon.
We visited Capilano suspension bridge and the rain forest gorge. Very impressive!

After Capilano we moved on to Grouse Mountain, which is only a few km further on up the same road. Wow! What a place. The sun shone and the cable car ride up to the first station was fantastic. From there we took the chairlift to the top. Although there was a storm last night, there was hardly a breathe of wind at the top. Even the new wind generator wasn't turning! At 3000m? Amazing. It did start moving a little later in the afternoon, though.

The views down over Vancouver and out to Vancouver Island are stunning.
Obligingly, the two resident grizzly bears ( in an enclosure at the top) came out to forage and we got some amazing photos of them.
After Grouse mountain we moved on the Whistler. The Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler was newly opened for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The views from the highway rival those from California Highway 1, in my opinion.

We have found a few days accommodation here in Whistler village and with that we have internet access over WiFi.

Hopefully, more tomorrow.

Sam in Whistler, BC

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At last the rain has stopped! Vancouver is experiencing a succession of Pacific storms that have dropped around 6 inches of rain on the city in the last 48 hours.
We had to modify our plans slightly to take account of the weather, which incidently, is abnormally warm over the Canadian Priaries, unlike here.

Today we are going to visit the Capilano suspension bridge and if the weather continues to clear we will visit Grouse Mountain this afternoon. Our change of plan is to avoid the Thanksgiving weekend ( yes, this is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada) ferry crowds on Monday by going on to Whistler first. Hopefully, from the TV weather forecast, it will be drier than here. Although the rain is currently holding off and we can even see blue skies, it is due to return tomorrow and the ferry crossing to Vancouver Island is likely to be rough until Tuesday.

Radio wise, there is a tri-band HF beam on the roof of this building. The top six or seven stories are condominiums. I guess one of the residents is a ham. No sign who it might be, though!
Many of the hotels have TVRO dishes on their roof. Some of them look to be up to around 16 or maybe even 20 foot diameter. I would like to get one of those home!

Sam in downtown Vancouver, BC.

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Vancouver day 1 and day 2 so far!

We have reached Vancouver after an overnight near Heathrow.
The Air Canada flight was on time and lasted just 9 hours. We left Heathrow at 11:30am and arrived here at 12:30pm. I have uprated my appraisement of Air Canada to a 6 out of 10! The food was quite edible and service acceptable. I am still of the opinion that there are far too many announcements on their flights. I think this is aggravated by everything being in English and then French. I really got fed up with the number of times the movies were interrupted. Please note, Air Canada, if anyone from the airline ever reads this.

It was raining when we arrived at Vancouver. Fortunately the rain from earlier in the day had cleared and all that was left was light showers that cleared later in the evening.

We both thought that Vancouver airport was excellent. The Rockies theme works really well. The inevitable immigration queues were exacerbated by far too few staff on duty. All those booths that were unoccupied, but probably installed for the Winter Olympics. What happened to all the staff that were on duty over winter 2009/2010?

We got a Hyundai rental car and drove into Vancouver. Fortunately the USA and Canada Tom Tom maps I had bought three years ago were still accurate and we got to the hotel without any problems.

The hotel is OK, but the room is far too small for an executive room and although there is Internet access, there is no WiFi. That really screws many of those, like me, who want to use the LAN but don't have an Ethernet port on their PC or iPAD! I'm typing this off-line in the hope that I will find WiFi access later today. Since you are reading it, obviously I did!

So, what about Vancouver?

We are in Central Vancouver, in a hotel off Howe Street. Yesterday evening we walked along Granville Street down to the Harbor Centre and up the Lookout tower. At 518 feet it is not the tallest tower we've been up, but the few is spectacular From the Burrard Inlet round through the city and False Creek, the city lights were quite stunning. Unfortunately, the top of Grouse Mountain was shrouded in low cloud, so we didn't get to see the view up there from the Lookout.

This morning has dawned wet. According to the local weather forecast on TV heavy rain is forecast for today with up to 8 inches of rain in places! Such is often the case on the pacific coast at this time of year. I suspect we will have to change our plans for today. Right now we are getting ready to go and get breakfast, whilst the rain beats on the hotel window......

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Sunday, 3 October 2010

That thin slot

I had a question about that strange piece of wave-guide in the previous post.
I am told by the owner that the item is the original 13cm parametric amplifier used for the first amateur radio EME contact. The pump oscillator is not shown.
The reason for the very narrow slit is that it provides the required low impedance match to the parametric mixer diode in the waveguide.
73 de Sam

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Second test with photo, I hope

Test 2

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Location:Back Ln,,United Kingdom

Test of iPad blog

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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Final blog of the 2010 Conference visit

Back home!
I arrived back home on Tuesday after an overnight flight from Toronto on Air Canada. Overall I give Air Canada 5 out of 10 for the experience. Not the best, but certainly not the worst airline.
They really need to pay more attention to the little things that matter to passengers. It really is not acceptable to have non-working entertainment systems on transAtlantic flights, non-reset air progress maps on two flights and constantly interupting messages on top of movies, especially in two languages! It makes it a lot worse, guys.......
When I pay top rates for flights I expect at least a meal on the 2.5 hour Jazz flight between Toronto and Dallas. OK. Moan over. On the positive side the seats were comfortable and I'll probably travel AC again later this year. Ohh, and Toronto Pearson airport is very impressive!

So, to the conference.
A great success and all-thanks to the organisers for organising a wonderful event. I learnt a lot from the many experts that were around and the time spent with SM5SBZ was really useful.

I'm pleased to say that my pre-amps acquited themselves very well in the noise figure measurements. Although the numbers didn't always agree with my own measurements or with measurements made elsewhere in Europe, they were within the expected range.

The Proceedings for the Conference are a weighty tome. They are probably the biggest set produced for any EME conference to date! There is a CD available and that is probably the best bet for anyone wishing to obtain a set of material. The organising group for the Conference (NTMS) have said they will be posting all the slide presentations on their web page. This is a great idea and valuable for a subject like EME where the results of development may mean that results submitted to be published in the proceedings are already out of date by the time of the Conference.

Oh, I did buy the Flex1500. I'm looking forward to using it and to having a 10MHz locked SDR at last. I am now planning a frequency locked 2m transverter (and maybe other bands, in due course) to use with the Flex1500. I didn't buy very much else except another 23cm -20dB Narda coupler. My free door prize was a set of ATC 0.1 to 2pF chip capacitors and a few Minicircuit level 23 mixers. Maybe for that transverter? I also brought back some replacement PCBs for my 8970A noise figure meter. Hopefully, that will solve the problem. Fingers crossed!

With the Conference now over it is time to look forward to the next one. The 2010 Conference delegates voted for it to be in Cambridge, England, in 2012. The UKuG will set up a web page to keep everyone posted on progress and let you know when you can register for what we hope will be the best EME Conference ever. Dallas , Florence, Wurzburg etc will take some beating, however..........

Thanks to everyone who has been following the blog. I hope that you enjoy the next one as well.

73 de Sam

Monday, 16 August 2010

last evening in Dallas

The Conference is over and most of the delegates are now on their way home or may already be there! I fly out tomorrow morning via Toronto.

Left with a full day to fill and with the temperatures still over 100F we decided it wasn't the weather to do much. Since Leif Ashbrink, SM5SBZ, wasn't due to fly out until late afternoon, he joined Kent, WA5VJB; Doug Quagliana, KA2UPW and I for lunch at a Chapps restaurant near the Dallas Cowboys new stadium in Arlington. There was a lot of earnest discussion about 10GHz EME signals and how best to process the dispersed audio returns.

After the meal we went for a quick look at the new stadium before returning Leif to DFW for his flight home.

I'll try to blog from one or more of the airports on my way home tomorrow.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Last day of Conference

Yesterday was just too hectic to find time to blog from the hotel. I had my talk to do, deliver a batch of preamps for measurement and talks to attend (of course).
Dave, G4HUP, and I presented the UK bid for the 2012 International EME Conference. We had a last minute competitor in the form of Japan, so the Conference went to a vote at the evening banquet.
I am extremely pleased to announce the the 2012 EME Conference will be coming to the UK. The venue will be Cambridge. 'Wireless in the DNA' and 'Walking in the footsteps of giants' were the themes of the presentation.
Dave and I would like to thank the UK uG for their support in the bid and to thank Peter Blair, G3LTF, for his encouragement in going for the Conference bid.
We have a lot of work to do before 2012. More details of the Conference will be made available soon.
One of yesterday's major events, for us, was the presentation of the Fraser Sheperd award to Joe Taylor, K1JT. The presentation was made by Dave, G4HUP, on behalf of the RSGB. The UKuG decide who the award is presented to each year.
Our hearty congratulations to Joe on winning the award in 2010. A very worthy recipient.

This is the last day of the 2010 Conference and Kent and I will be heading out to the Westin very shortly.

I will plan to blog again later today, all being well.


Saturday, 14 August 2010

Final blog of the day

Back in Grand Prairie after a long day at the conference. I chose not to go to the rodeo this evening, but rather chose to stay back at the hotel and talk to some of the other guys who decided likewise.

I was able to have a long chat to WD5AGO about preamps. Tommy, Al and a.n.other are planning to run the noise figure measurements tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to seeing how my preamps measure up against the 'American Maestro's' best preamps and against some of the others being measured.

Back at Kent's QTH we were greeted by a pair of these critters! In case you are having struggling to make it out, it is one of a pair of your skunks!
I didn't get too close........

My talk on the preamps is scheduled for late tomorrow morning and the EME bid presentation is shortly afterwards.
Dave, G4HUP, was the first speaker of the conference, appearing first thing this morning. Dave, WW2R/G4FRE, also gave his talk today.

Good night ya all.

Friday, 13 August 2010

WiFi access at last.

My but it's hot here! Over 100F again today.
In spite of this we had a most interesting demonstration of 23cm from Paul, WA5WCP, who brought his portable EME system up to the hotel.
The view of jets flying over the dish and hotel as they approached DFW was quite interesting!

Gerald Youngblood, K5SDR, CEO of Flexradio talked about SDR developments at the lunch seminar. My, how this technology is moving along. I am seriously considering buying one of the FLEX1500 radios. They brought a few up from Austin with them.

Response to informal chats to various attendees about bringing the next EME Conference to the UK seem to be extremely encouraging. Dave, G4HUP, and I will be presenting the 2012 Conference bid tomorrow. As soon as we know the result, I will bring it to you on here.......

So, back to the talks now. More later.


Day one of the Conference

Its 7:00am and we are about to head out to the Conference hotel. I hope that the Dallas traffic is not too bad.

Yesterday was rather hectic and there was little chance to blog. I should now have access from the hotel lobby, so i'll get back on line from the Westin a little later.

Tempertaures hit 105F (41/42C) in Dallas yesterday, so we didn't spend too much time outside or in the van.

Last night's hospitality suite in the Westin was the first chance for everyone to get together. All the well-known faces were there and it was a great chance to meet up and swap stories from the two years since the Florence meeting. This is going to be a good conference!

73 de Sam

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Good morning from Dallas.
Currently in Grand Prairie at the home of WA5VJB. The flight down from Totonto by the Air Canada JAZZ Bombarier 705 commuter jet was uneventful and arrived on time.
Plans today are to go to the Conference hotel and meet up with early arrivals.
I also need to get something 'real' to eat. The only thing I have eaten in the last 24 hours is airline food!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

CN Tower

Yes, in the previous blog, if you look carefully at the skyline above the Alitalia name on the plane behind the Polish plane you will see the CN Tower in downtown Toronto. I had to look carefully to see it the first time. Just for good measure, here is a zoomed shot of it. I'm told Pearson is 27km from downtown. I'm not convinced that tower is 27km from here!


Toronto Pearson airport. 11th August 2010

I am currently on my way to Dallas for the International EME Conference. Because of my late decision to go I had to accept a routing via Toronto. Right now I'm sat in departures at Toronto Pearson airport, waiting for my onward flight to Dallas where I should arrive around 9pm (3am UK!) I have a 4 hour stop-over.

I'm taking advantage of the free WiFi courtesy of Rogers Cable....

I will try to blog from the Conference, if there is suitable WiFi access, otherwise it will be nightly updates from the QTH of WA5VJB!

There should be some interesting photos to share with you and hopefully, some news about the 2012 International EME Conference.

73 from a balmy 31C Toronto.