Partly Cloudy or Partly Sunny

What’s the difference between Partly Cloudy and Partly Sunny?

I found a great resource: the National Weather Service Glossary

The NWS defines Partly Cloudy as “Between 3/8 and 5/8 of the sky is covered by clouds.” And Partly Sunny, “Between 3/8 and 5/8 of the sky is covered by clouds.” But here’s the trick, “The term “Partly Sunny” is used only during daylight hours.”

Mostly Sunny is “When the 1/8th to 2/8ths of the sky is covered by with opaque (not transparent) clouds same as Mostly Clear, except only applicable during daylight hours.” While Mostly Cloudy is “When the 6/8th to 7/8ths of the sky is covered by with opaque (not transparent) clouds. Same as Considerable Cloudiness.”

It sounds like the progression works as follows:

Mostly Clear or Mostly Sunny: 1/8th to 2/8th clouds
Partly Cloudy or Partly Sunny: 3/8th to 5/8th clouds
Mostly Cloudy: 6/8th to 7/8th
Cloudy: 7/8th or more

a dog’s breakfast

I enjoy idiomatic expressions. One of my favorite, that I do not personally hear enough in day to day conversations is:

“a dog’s breakfast”

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term as: something or someone that looks extremely messy, or something that is very badly done.

Equally interesting is where the term came from. The Phrase Finder says: This is a 19th century phrase. The origin is uncertain, although most of the earliest uses of it originate from England. An early example was printed in the London journal The Referee, November 1878 in a review of a play:

There is enough material for fourteen comedies crammed into its three acts, and the good things are flung together in a heap like a dog’s breakfast.

The allusion in this metaphorical expression is to the omnivorous nature of dogs and the messy variety of things they might eat given the opportunity. This is not to be confused with ‘ a dog’s dinner’ which has a related but significantly different meaning. [Dressed or displayed in an ostentatiously smart manner.]

Just goes to show that much can change between breakfast and dinner.

Cleaning a J-38

From K6IX’s website:

Here is the method I use to clean my J-38 keys. Some key collectors believe that keys should be left exactly as they are found, but considering the construction, materials, and ubiquity of J-38 keys, I think that carefully and gently cleaning them is appropriate. Do not, under any conditions use wire brushes or other highly abrasive methods.

1. Disassemble the key. Look carefully for, and set aside, the positioning pins in the binding posts (if they are loose) and all of the fiber washers. Put the bakelite and hard rubber parts in soapy water. Put the metal parts in ammonia. Let both soak overnight. Don’t panic, because some of the metal parts will turn black.

2. Carefully wash off the bakelite/rubber parts. If the two knobs are very dull I sometimes us black shoe polish on them. The bakelite you can carefully clean with Flitz (see below) if it is still dirty or discolored.

3. The metal parts I clean first with “Nevr-dull”. It is a “wadding polish” product that I get here in a hardware store, but I think it is also sold in boat stores, grocery stores, auto stores, etc. It is manufactured by The George Basch Co., Inc., Freeport, New York, 11520, USA.

4. Then I clean some of the larger metal parts with “Flitz”, which is a metal/fiberglass cleaner made in West Germany and packaged in the USA by Flitz International, Ltd., WI 53185. It is available in boat stores, and I buy it from West Marine on the internet ( Just get a very small tube of it–it goes a long way. Flitz protects the metal from corrosion.

The most important step is #1. The soaking makes a big difference!

I have started the process of cleaning an ol’ J-38. Here is the before picture:

There is also some guidance (based on K6IX’s recommendations) from N2HTT’s website. Here is what he had to say:

Soak all the parts in household ammonia solution overnight. I collected the parts in groups, so I could figure out how they went back together. Also, I separated the white metal parts from the brass ones, not wanting any weird galvanic thing happening to them while soaking. I had visions of all the brass bits disappearing overnight or something like that. I have a bunch of these all-plastic ice cream jars (the family consumes a bunch of this stuff, good ice cream, great jars) that were ideal for the task. As Scott predicted, the white metal parts turned black overnight, but this is expected and not harmful.

Initial polish with Brasso. This removed the residue from the soaking.

Polish the parts again with Flitz Blue. You can find it on Amazon. This stuff is amazing. You can even use it on the painted parts, diluted.


This is my second effort at cleaning a J-38. The last one turned out pretty well and I gave it to a friend, encouraging them to give Morse code a try. This J-38 will be a loner to local hams aspiring to practice their straight key skills.

The parts have been soaking in an ammonia solution. This morning I realized I did not keep good track of where the rubber and cork washers went. Then I remembered I took step-by-step pictures of the last time I tore down a J-38… which I still have. These pictures clearly show where each part goes. Once I get all the parts clean on this key, I will reassemble, then take very good pictures with another disassembly to hopefully help anyone else looking for how to disassemble and reassemble a J-38.

K6IX has a picture of a disassembled J-38, but the image is a bit small.

… as you can see, there are a lot of small parts. (Image from K6IX)

Linux in the hamshack

I have endeavored to have my hamshack be 100% linux for a number of years. Licensed in 2001, my ham career really got going when I returned to the States in 2005. Upgrading to General and getting on HF, I integrated a computer into my operations. Ham Radio Deluxe was one of the most popular at the time and I used it – great for logging, digital modes, and rig control. When I had fun with APRS, I used UI-View, which was Windows based.

My first experience with linux was in the late 1990s. I had limited success. Not much later, Ubuntu gave me more of an opportunity to use linux for meeting my requirements for computing. I began to dip my toe in, using linux for rig control and logging. I switched to Mint around 2010-11. I found that Mint was easy to use and allowed me to use fldigi for digital modes, rig control, and logging. ARRL’s LOTW could also be used with linux and was integrated into fldigi. It was hard to find any aspect of the amateur radio hobby that required a computer and could not be done with linux.

Except, in my case, for one area of pursuit. APRS and my weather station. I had become a Davis Instruments fan since I got my first weather station in 2005. As mentioned before, UI-View handled the APRS portion and Davis had its own Windows-based software for handling the weather data the console produced. Back in 2011, the standard for linux-based APRS was Xastir. Xastir is a solid application and I had success using it to handle both internet and RF APRS traffic. But Xastir would not play well with the Davis Vantage Pro2. There was internet talk of a work around using a MySQL database. I had no luck. I kept my system on Windows, using UI-View for weather and APRS.

About two years ago, my Vantage Pro2, which I had since I was over in Iraq in 2007, finally died. The sensor package was mounted off my chimney when we first moved in to our current house over a decade ago. A great location for the weather station as it it high and clear of obstructions. Our roof, however, is steeply pitched and not something easy for me to traverse. I had gotten a TV antenna installation guy to install it – he did a great job. I think I had him back a few years later to swap out the battery. At one point, the board on the unit when bad and I replaced it. Then two years ago, one of our dogs shows up with an anemometer cup in her mouth. Perhaps a good sized chunk of hail had it the cup? Outside temperature data stopped working.

The old Vantage Pro2 with missing anemometer cup.

Rather than attempt to fix/repair the existing unit, it was time to replace. Over a decade is a long time to be exposed to the elements. I purchased a new Vantage Pro2 but then had a hard time finding someone to install. The local tv antenna guy took one look at my roof and said nope. A month ago we were getting our chimney inspected and cleaned and the gentleman was showing me pictures of the crown of the chimney. He’d just climbed up there. I asked if, for a reasonable fee, he’d be willing to swap out the weather station (and the VHF/UHF antenna). We struck a deal and now the weather station was operational again.

But could I still achieve my goal of a linux-based APRS/weather station? Enter weewx. This is an application that is like the Swiss army knife of weather station apps. I am not sure of what it does not do. The key aspect is that weewx produces a file (wxnow.txt) every minute using the same format used by APRS for weather data. Even better, the good folks at xastir created a script ( that copies the wxnow.txt information and pulls it into xastir. This was the solution!

And it works! Both weewx and xastir are happily working together on their own minimalist linux box, pulling in weather data from the Vantage Pro2 console via a serial connection while xastir is using a serial connection to transmit the weather data via my TM-D710A TNC functionality into the APRS system via RF. Weewx also creates a simple weather webpage which you can see here.

I kept a careful list of all the steps I completed in installing both weewx, MySQL, and xastir that I will post here soon – in case I need to reinstall. As of now the system seems to be stable and working nicely.