All posts by Mike

I keep an electronics test bench and I love repairing old radios or building other electronic or amateur radio projects, usually late at night listening to shortwave or talking with other hams. My Amateur call sign is KM5Z.

Recipe: Buttermilk Chess Pie

Buttermilk Chess Pie
Buttermilk Chess Pie

Buttermilk Chess Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 uncooked pie shell
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 rounded Tbsp. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • nutmeg


Preheat oven to 425°.
Prepare pie crust and set aside.

In mixer bowl, cream butter with sugar. Add flour and combine thoroughly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.
[A note here: don’t beat the eggs mercilessly — just mix ’em.
If they’re beaten too much, the proteins will break down and the pie won’t be stiff.]
Combine vanilla and almond extract with buttermilk and stir.
Add to sugar / egg mixture. Mix well.
Pour into prepared pie shell and dust the top with a little nutmeg.
Bake: 10 minutes at 425°.
Then: reduce heat to 350° and cook 35—40 minutes, until custard sets. It should be firm.

Original Recipe: Ora Calloway, as published in: “The Only Texas Cookbook”, Linda West Eckhardt, Texas Monthly Press, 1981.

Recipe: Mahogany Cake

Mahogany Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: medium
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  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (1 stick)
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (pre-mixed into the buttermilk


Grease & flour a 9×13 pan.
Mix the sugar and cocoa first – the sugar cuts the dry cocoa up and helps it mix better.
Mix everything else in.
Pre-mix the baking powder into the buttermilk.

Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes. Test the center before taking out.


  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 stick margarine or butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 box (16 oz) powdered sugar

Cake must be cool before frosting.
Mix the frosting ingredients and frost the cake.

Recipe: Baked Potato Salad

Baked Potato Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 pounds red potatos
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 8 oz mayonnaise
  • chopped bacon
  • diced green onions
  • 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar
  • salt & pepper to taste


Boil red potatoes until fork tender, about 25 minutes.
Quarter or cut in large pieces.

Mix everything together.

Salt & Pepper to taste – less is better.

Recipe: Grandma’s Chocolate Pie.

Grandma's Chocolate Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • ½ c. cocoa
  • ½ c. all purpose flour or ¼ c. cornstarch
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


Mix cocoa, flour, sugar & salt. Beat the egg yolks, then add to the dry mix.

Then add milk gradually, while stirring in a pot over medium-high heat.

Cook until thick, beating it smooth. Stir (10-15 min).  Once it’s thick, add vanilla after you take off the heat. Pour into a pre-baked pie shell. Put in the fridge to chill, add whipped cream, or use the left over egg whites for a meringue topping.

Colossal Cave Adventure

I’d been working on updating an old php3 version of the Colossal Cave. Time and availability for other tasks (see: scanning 1958 radio & TV home study course…) got in the way. So I took the lazy-man’s way out.

The excellent Arthur O’Dwyer has generously allowed for posting (for historical recording, study, amusement and proliferation about the internet) on this website,  his great translation of the original Crowther & Woods 350 point version of “Adventure”. The work is all his, and we all owe a debt to the Elders: Will Crowther and Don Woods.

I’m so lazy, I borrowed his whole page, so as to not damage the content. Visit Colossal Cave.

My first contact with “Adventure” was at Harris Corporation (Interactive Terminals Group), on Dallas Parkway. I walked into the computer lab (and showroom!) one day to see Kim Shrier busily porting the Fortran version to a Perkin-Elmer Interdata 7/16. (Kim may correct me, some day, if I have the machine wrong).

Sprayberry Academy of Radio – Home Study Course,1945 edition

Finished scanning the Sprayberry Academy of Radio, 1945 edition of the home study course, generously shared by Dave Holder. Some of these weren’t scannable and a few were missing.

I was able to discover the names of the missing booklets from items that were listed on eBay. Perhaps someone else has these and can scan them for me (or send them to me for scanning and return by U.S. Postal Mail). To match, I’m using 300dpi scanning, greyscale. I can crop or cleanup as needed and put into an Acrobat PDF file.

Repairing VTVM Pilot Light

Lurid Red of the new Pilot Lamp
Lurid Red of the New Pilot Lamp

I found a great solution to old tape used in the Heathkit VTVMs for the RED pilot lamp. The lamp is just a #47 bulb, shining through a hole in the top of the meter face. The tape isn’t mentioned in the instructions, so perhaps it was pre-installed in the back of the meter face.



A Cheap Fix
Also Useful for Repairing Antique Pilot Lamp Film


In any case, this tape sometimes falls off or is nearly falling off after 50 years. It also fades and loses it’s reddish glow. An excellent solution was found in the form of a red-neck repair from the auto parts aisle of Walmart: Tail Light Repair Tape, US$2.00.

Tape replaces old, crinkly, peeling tape from this spot.




Above: Below the roll of red, translucent tape, the old pilot lamp film and the new piece cut to replace it.

Left: Adhesive is sticky and the new piece goes over the hole in the meter through which the pilot lamp shines.

Cosmic Stink

Last night, I turned on the Hallicrafters S-120 to catch some C&W music on AM.

Zortch! Followed by (smolder). And a great and unholy stench was unleashed.

It seems I’d left the old selenium rectifier in-circuit. Big mistake. I’d discounted the many comments by “The Elders” on regarding the failure mode of these old rectifiers. Never again. After using it for several months in the office, then occasionally at home, I can now say this: it may have been sitting in storage for 30 years, mean-time-to-failure (MTTF) is about a year.

And if you don’t know what burnt selenium rectifier smells like… you don’t want to.

Replaced the old selenium rectifier (which made a satisfactory ‘clunk’ in trash can) with a 1N4007 diode. Also replaced R21, a 33 ohm Fuse-Resistor which… had done it’s job by going not quite open, but to over 100k-ohms, with a 5 watt, 100 ohm resistor. This value put the DC input voltages at almost the exact levels indicated on the schematic.

Now I’m on a hard-target search for any remaining selenium rectifiers in any of my test gear or tube radios.