Northern Plains Athletics: End of an Era

From roughly November 2013 (I think I ordered the domain on Thanksgiving)  to early 2020 (we know what happened then), I sunk a bunch of time into an endurance event calendar/map called Northern Plains Athletics. It wasn’t used by anyone very much. Soon the website will be gone completely. I’m letting the domain name go free and removing the site from my server. The Twitter account has already been deleted.

This is bittersweet, but I’ve been involved in too many things beyond the time I should have quit them. Maybe NPA should never have happened, but it did let me learn a lot about Drupal and the races happening in the North Dakota/South Dakota/Minnesota/Manitoba region. Perhaps if I’d spent more time traveling and less time with code, I would have been happier–but now I know more about sunk costs.

Because I still have a hard time letting go, I’ve archived the blog posts here, under the Northern Plains Athletics category. It was nice to skim through them again, and maybe some of the contributed race reports will be helpful to someone else.

Finally, here is a CSV file containing the several hundred events (or event versions, because the data structure changed over time) I ended up with. Names, locations, descriptions, date last updated, stuff like that. So if you want some data to play with, or are just looking for a race, this might help. Click here to download.

Get out and race!

Follow me on Mastodon!

Or not, it’s up to you.

I’ve been on the Fediverse for four or five years, using various accounts. Here’s one to follow or interact with if you want to talk to me while I use my real name:

I’ve had an on-again/off-again relationship with Twitter and using my real name, so I won’t be linking that here. Politics, personal stuff, hobbies, work stuff, all rolled together can work for some people, but I’ve never been able to figure out the right balance. I will probably be removing all posts soon, while leaving the account in place to retain the username (and avoid impersonation if it gets reused). The Fediverse makes it easier to partition myself among a few different accounts.

Greasemonkey script to hide “Hot Network Questions” on StackOverflow

It’s not that they’re annoying, it’s that they’re attention-grabbing. I’m trying to get work done here!

// ==UserScript==
// @name _Remove Hot Network Questions
// @include*
// @require
// @grant GM_addStyle
// ==/UserScript==
//- The @grant directive is needed to restore the proper sandbox.

/*--- Use the jQuery contains selector to find content to remove.
Beware that not all whitespace is as it appears.


//-- Or use .hide(); to just hide the content.

Mostly from: See also

CAT control serial port for Xiegu 6100 in JS8Call on macOS 10.14.6

(Long title, but had to cover all the bases)

For my radio, it was `/dev/cu.usbmodem53620077003`. Trying different order of operations (plug radio first, then start JS8Call vs start JS8Call, then plug radio) may have been what I needed to get the right serial port to show up in the list. Below is a screenshot of all the settings that seem to work.

Following this post by HB9TXB Branko, I did also check the list of serial ports using this command in the terminal: `ls -lrt /dev/tty*`.

Delete Windows files that match a filename pattern with “Everything”

Everything is a tool I use daily to replace Windows search, which is painfully slow. In addition to indexing files by name, it allows you to run normal file operations on the resulting list.

I ended up with thousands of files starting with “._” after a OneDrive migration. The eventual solution (after looking for CMD commands) was to just use Everything to search, select all the files, right-click, and select “Delete.”

Screenshot of Everything and a dialog box asking me if I want to delete files.

Winlink Express and Icom IC-7300

Just like everyone else, I’m going to put down the settings that work for me, but they might not work for you. VARA was easier to get working with appropriate CAT control (changing frequency and keying PTT), but ARDOP was a pain. Maybe this will help someone else.

These settings are DIFFERENT than ones shown by SA7SKY here (at least, that’s where I found a copy). Looks like they were using Winlink Express The images below are from

With these settings, you cannot have flrig running at the same time, because flrig and Winlink are trying to use the same COM port. I’m still working on a solution to this.

Above, note that “Enable RTS” and “Enable DTR” are checked (differs from SA7SKY). Baud is set to match my IC-7300.

Below, the ARDOP_Win_Virtual_TNC window opens when you start the ARDOP session, but it is usually minimized by default.My settings above match SA7SKY.Above, “Use Radio’s Internal Sound Card” is checked (you’ll get an “are you sure” popup if you choose the Icom 7300 and don’t check this box), SA7SKY does not have it checked.

QRP Radio Fun

At some point over the winter, I started reading Thomas’s posts at It may have been after I listened to one of his guest appearances on Ham Radio Workbench.

Long story short, last week I got a new Xiegu X6100 from Radioddity. I’ve been playing with it and a MFJ-1984LP EFHW antenna in the front yard for a few days now, and it’s been a hoot to chase POTA activators using only 5W. It’s definitely something I can do for 5 (let’s be serious, more like 15) minutes at a time in between other things.

Some early notes, maybe to follow up on in the future:

  • There are at least two lists for this radio, either of which might help you find an answer to a question. Please note that if you haven’t bought the radio yet, stay away from posts before Spring 2022–the early adopters had some issues that no longer apply.
  • The thin poly line used by arborists can burn when you release it from your hand, maybe use gloves when tossing (or get a lighter throw bag).
  • My antenna is allegedly good for a bunch of bands, but I’m also not sure how the tuner will tell me that it can’t tune.
  • The detent in the main tuning knob is either too small for my finger, or the whole knob is too small. I tend to just roll my finger around the edge to spin fast.
  • The manual is useful to expand out the menu item names, but you need to know a bit about radios to know what they actually mean.
  • Some weird “birdies” that swoop in from the sides, on some bands. See notes in the posts.
  • CW decode doesn’t always work, but you may have to toggle between CW and CWR by pressing the mode button. Or it’s random chance that I got it to work.
  • My attic fan dipole, although it covers everything from 40m to 10m bands, is not very sensitive on receive at all (or more likely is catching too much noise from inside the house). Yesterday I could see stations all over 20m when operating outside on the X6100, but only a few of them inside on the IC-7300 (which should have better receive in general).
    • I don’t think this is because of bad coax, but it could be. I made some notes on my Mastodon account (that I need to write down somewhere else) about testing the IC-7300 with the EFHW and checking the noise floor.

Ham Radio Infrastructure Projects

There are probably more complete and better lists out there, but maybe I can list some off the top of my head.

  • APRS digipeater/iGate
  • Winlink gateway
  • WSPR beacon
  • JS8Call forwarder
    • or is this just everyone running the program?
  • CW Skimmer for Reverse Beacon Network
  • VHF/UHF repeater
    • and repeater network
  • TARPN/AREDN/Broadband Hamnet node
    • I list these together because it seems to depend on the year who is gaining and who is losing ground. Maybe we need to make them interoperable?

These are mainly hardware solutions to get signals and data farther, faster, and in and out of the Internet. Ideas on the software side might be:

  • Standardized packet or digital queries to get information
    • news
    • weather (see Winlink)
    • equipment setup help (???, although I’ve seen talk of Wikipedia access)
    • disaster support (where to get food, water, shelter, etc. after a disaster in the area, although perhaps this fits broadcast best if local broadcast hasn’t been effected)
    • APRS-style location information, without the overhead of APRS
      • E.g., what if I could query a local computer using touch tones to get local information?

What are some other ways to contribute the “infrastructure” of ham radio, to help it remain resilient (and stay fun)?


East Grand Forks: Childcare in the News

Making childcare more available in East Grand Forks has popped up a few times recently. Not sure if this is part of a trend that will accomplish something in the long run, but nice to note.

Mayor Steve Gander proclaimed April 4 will be Childcare Provider Appreciation Day in East Grand Forks, allowing an opportunity to recognize childcare providers. “I urge all citizens to thank and encourage childcare providers for their important work,” Gander said.

Grand Forks Herald, 15 Mar 2022

According to the Exponent, there was an event at Valley Golf Course for the announced day.

And of course it must be something of a deal if the newspaper is writing editorials about it:

Our view: The child care crisis in the Dakotas and Minnesota is bad for business
To us, the growing trouble with child care is among the biggest contributors to the Great Resignation in the Dakotas and Minnesota. It’s why we hope state lawmakers, governors and decision-makers continue to seek landmark solutions.

Grand Forks Herald, 01 Jan 2022

Some info on how short we are (hopefully the growth from January to March does not continue):

“Child care.” East Grand Forks is about 100 child care “slots” short of where it should be, according to Gorte. The city is looking for ways to lure new daycares to town or help existing ones expand via the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, which is run by nonprofit First Children’s Finance and funded jointly by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education.

Grand Forks Herald, 31 Jan 2022

“People who are not participating in the labor force have to have access to childcare so they can participate in the labor force,” Kiddoo said.

Paul Gorte, economic development director in East Grand Forks, said the city needs to add more than 200 spots for pre-kindergarten children. Kiddoo said Thief River Falls, where Northland also has a campus, needs to add a similar number of spots.

Grand Forks Herald, 30 Mar 2022

On 14 Mar, the East Grand Forks school district sent out a survey (via ParentVUE) about childcare and notice of a town hall about it:

Good Afternoon, please use the link below to participate in a survey about the child care needs of East Grand Forks. Availability of high-quality childcare is cucial for East Grand Forks to grow and thrive. East Grand Forks needs approximately 200 childcare slots, especially infant and toddler care, to meet our current needs. Help guide our work on this improtant issue by completing a survey and attending a town hall meeeting on April 25th.

Parent Survey:

Town Hall:

Here’s the Town Hall info from the link:

You’re invited to take part in the discussion and solutions at the town hall!
About this event

Child care is an economic driver for rural communities across the United States but many communities are facing shortages of high quality child care. First Children’s Finance’s Rural Child Care Innovation Program is an innovative community engagement process designed to address the challenges of child care in rural America.

East Grand Forks has a shortage of approximately 210 full-time child care slots. A shortage of this magnitude has a dramatic impact on families and the local economy. To address this challenge, a core team from East Grand Forks has come together to lead the process of investigating why there is a shortage of care in the area. The Town Hall meeting is the opportunity to develop solutions to address this child care challenge for our community.

Child care needs to be accessible, of high quality, and profitable for the child care provider. As a community, we can work together to make this a reality.


Hopefully we can see this community of about 8,000 people come together and get things figured out. I’m not directly involved in organizing any of this, but as a working parent who has had to look for quality childcare in the last several years, I appreciate all the efforts.

Alma Swansen

Looking for information on:

Alma [B? L?] Swansen (Swanson, Swansan, Svensen, Svenson, etc.)
Born about 1872 in Sweden
Immigrated to USA about 1888
Married John Bernard Johnson (1865-?)

Alma Elnora Johnson (1896 – 1914)
Huldah Christenia Johnson (1894 – 1988)
Anna M. Johnson (1892 – 1973)
Harry B. Johnson (1897 – 1969)
Carl R. Johnson (1899 – 1973)
Jennie Johnson (1901 – 1966)
Lilian Johnson (1905 – 1984)
Mabel Johnson (1907 – 1987)
Edna Johnson (1910 – 1977)

Information on Alma from Sweden would be very much appreciated!