I am Walter Underwood. Welcome to my weblog. My freshman physics professor was fond of the phrase “intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.” My friends and I thought that a “most casual observer” would be a damned handy thing to have available in the laboratory, because you could just ask them and skip the experiments. I’ll be sharing my observations here.

If you are looking for the Walter Underwood who you met at Rice University, Ford Aerospace, Hewlett-Packard, Objectivity, Infoseek, GO.com/Disney, Inktomi, Verity, Autonomy, Netflix, Mark Logic, Chegg, Troop 14, All Saints’ Episcopal, or Saint Mark’s Episcopal, I am probably that guy. I worked on the Ultraseek enterprise search engine through five companies and nine and a half years (and thirteen layoffs). It was a fun ride.

I have a lovely wife and two wonderful boys. Our oldest son is developmentally disabled and has a wonderful service dog from Canine Companions for Independence. Our other son is a licensed occupational therapist.

I love to hike and backpack, and I’ve been working with Boy Scouts to teach lighter, more enjoyable packing. I talk about this a bit in an article for Gossamer Gear about the Scoutmaster load.

I am a licensed radio amateur, K6WRU, Amateur Extra. I’m active in amateur radio emergency communication with Palo Alto ARES/RACES and Santa Clara County ARES/RACES. I combine hiking and amateur radio in Summits on the Air (SOTA).

12 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi Walter, Great articles and information. Going to Philmont in August and looking at Gossamer backpacks. The Mariposa seems to be the best. Will this handle the gear. Trying to cut back and go light . Lots of articles about packing light at Philmont. Any help would be appreciated. With Troop 29 in Wilm De. email is cdaney @wwd-cpa.com


  2. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa is certainly big enough for Philmont, even if you have bulky gear, like a synthetic sleeping bag and fleece jacket. It is popular on the John Muir Trail, where you are required to carry a bear canister.

    Philfood is bulky, but not any bigger than a bear canister, plus it is easier to pack. And it gets smaller until your next resupply.


    • Hello Walter I was wondering if you could help me with locating a Scout Radio Merit badge. It has proven difficult for me to locate even through the Silicon Valley council. The badge I am trying to locate is for a troop of Radio Scouts in Russia that I am sending some uniforms to. The Patch I am looking for is the purple circular patch with white trim it is very close to the international scout patch but this one has the Radio Headphones and lightning bolts on the logo. You have a image of it on your blog here. Do you know if they still make this patch? would it still be available? in a quantity of say 10 patches? If so how can I get them? I gratefully appreciate your help. R Viscara Troop 394 in Santa Clara California.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Walt.
    Thanks for all your insight during the Boy Scout Leader Outdoor Training at Boulder Creek last weekend.
    Just read your blog – top to bottom.
    Wonderful stuff, and great insights.


  4. “Guy Shopping,” spot on.
    To my wife’s consternation, I’ve also been re-supplying with the same tried and true products (guy shopping) for 40 years.
    While some products drop out of the market place (Macleans toohpaste), others keep on a steady roll (Dry Idea – part of marketing beta test in 1981, and buying ever since).
    I save my real shopping efforts for new / better gear.
    P.S. Reread your blog – keep finding great tidbits – thank you.


  5. Thanks for taking the time to write your blog. I have a ridiculous amount of tabs open now after binge reading your entries. Came across via cool tools. Have a good one!


  6. Just stumbled into your blog – from a post in the never-ending Elecraft saga about /QRP.
    I like the varied content!

    Discovered that the link to your “scoutmaster loadout” in the “About” section:
    “…. talk about this a bit in an article for Gossamer Gear about the Scoutmaster load……”


    no longer works – throws a 404. Seems interesting. You might want to track it down and fix the link or post the content elsewhere?


  7. I just discovered your history of Morse code in Boy Scouts and found it very interesting. I was required to pass the Morse code requirement for the first class rank. I was just asked by my son to give a presentation about Morse code to my Grand son’s scout troop. I looked up the first class requirements and discovered that Morse code is not a requirement. Investigating further I found your article. I hope to include some of the information in my presentation, crediting to you, if OK with you.
    I will put together a couple of code practice oscillators for demonstration purposes.
    I think it is a shame that Morse code requirements are gone from Amateur Radio as well(I use it every day on them Michigan Traffic Net QMN) 73 Stan K8SB.


    • Feel free to use it and I appreciate the credit.

      Personally, I am delighted that Morse is no longer a requirement. I came back to amateur radio after decades out of it because Morse was gone. When I was studying digital communications in college in the late 1970s, Morse was already inferior to digital modes.

      We’ve had Scouting in the US for over 100 years and Morse was only in the requirements for 46 of those years. Even then, it was one option.


  8. Walter, I found your post on the Rice History corner talking about the Rice Amateur Radio Club. I can’t seem to get a hold of Dr. Reiff, who holds the latest license for the club in 2016. Do you have any leads as to who I need to get in contact with to help get the club back in operation?


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