QSL – Relived and Then Recycled

Phil is downsizing his life and shack and piles of QSL cards are headed for the dumpster. I’m in the exact same boat and enjoyed reading about this shared experience and discovering how other hams are coping with letting go…

Today I began the sad reality of working my way through my QSL cards. I will be downsizing my QSL cards in much the same manner as I did my certificates. My DXCC QSL cards along with a few other of my favorites will be retired to a photo album as friendly reminder of years past.

Field Day Results

“I need your information again please”
“KE9V and I’m one-delta in Indiana”
“Again?”
“Kilo-Echo-Nine-Victor, one-delta, one-delta in the state of Indiana”
“Got everything but your call sign, your call sign again please”
“KE9V, KE9V — Kilo-Echo-Nine Victor”
“No, I got the KE9V — I need the last letter”
“It’s just KE9V, Kilo-Echo-Nine-Victor — nothing after the Victor”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know there were call signs with only one letter after the number”

True story. But then, Field Day is not really about A-list operators, it’s an event for the every-man. It brings radio hams out by the tens of thousands and for many of them, this is their annual exposure to the hobby. The only time of the year when they become radio active — at least on HF.

Inside the fraternity the debate to define Field Day has never been settled.

Some say it’s a contest, others say it’s an emergency preparedness exercise. Some say it’s just a fun event that brings friends together over grilled meat, campfires, and mosquito swatting. Still others say it’s our annual “dog and pony” show for the media — who do seem to lap this sort of thing up!

I prefer to think of it as a celebration. Our once a year party where the operating is casual and friendly and where lessons can be learned about what does and doesn’t work well in the field. It’s also a rare opportunity to focus on working stations just one or two states away as opposed to the obsession so many hams have with working DX.

That may seem like a rough thing to say, but it’s true. I enjoy working DX and chase it on occasion, but there are thousands of interesting radio hobbyists within 250 miles of our QTH — why do we tend to believe contacts with these souls are less “noble” than a five-second exchange with a chap in some faraway land?

For a second year in a row I operated from home, inside, from commercial power. I’m such a slacker. I didn’t have the time to arrange for a weekend operation from the field so I took the easy way out. Again. Sure, I’m ashamed but at least I’m not scratching insect bites this morning.

So let’s see, four hours in front of the TenTec Eagle operating phone and CW in almost equal number, on 40 and 20 meters only. 100 watts to the zepp at thirty-feet yielded 117 total contacts. Fifty-three of them on phone along with 64 CW contacts. I haven’t tallied the number of states and sections worked yet.

I’m just guessing that 25 different states were worked — it was fun listening to some of the operations and easily imagining their working environment — from sweaty canvas tents to air conditioned campers.

Next year my son (N9AVG) and I plan to rent a cabin overlooking a lake somewhere for Field Day weekend. An almost full-time, almost serious effort to break at least 500 contacts with a single transceiver and wire antennas. But that’s next year…

Misguided Migration

Early mornings in my shack are often spent in listening mode. While catching up on email and the overnight news feeds and waiting on the caffeine to work its magic in getting my day rolling, I usually listen to a few nets. One in particular is a fairly large group, mostly concentrated in the northeast. Many of the check-ins are from those who used to live in that region, but have since fled the cold north for nicer weather in the south.

And in recent weeks, this level of chatter has been on the rise because several others have committed to the same move and are now in that process.

Partly because real estate in the northeast has been moving well lately, and that’s fueling dreams of selling the family homestead in upstate New York for $600,000 and buying a nice place on a quiet cul-de-sac in South Carolina for a third of that.

And because never having to shovel snow again is powerful mojo — especially to those born and raised in the northeast.

I’m probably alone in this, but this seems a misguided migration to me. I don’t like dealing with a lot of snow any more than the next guy, but I can’t shake the notion that the right way to go is north. And as far north as possible. I’m considering retiring in a few years to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or maybe even Canada.

My reasoning is based on a couple of things.

First, I believe that climate change will manifest itself in many ways that we won’t immediately comprehend. It might move the nations bread-basket north by hundreds of miles. This would be a problem because there isn’t a lot of farmable land “hundreds of miles” north of Iowa, and food production is likely to suffer. When that happens, living in highly-populated areas is going to become an instant problem.

Admittedly, the life altering impact from climate change won’t be felt for another decade so this won’t be a long-term problem for those now over 65. Dead and buried is safe haven from most threats, including this one.

The more immediate concern should be the simmering social unrest boiling just below the surface in America. Race relations aren’t going so well, in case you haven’t been paying attention. Add to that the flood of immigrants pouring into the southern states and a region that hasn’t been on an even keel for a century and a half will become even more unstable.

As these things spill over of course there will be major problems in the streets of the mega-cities, even in the north. New York, Baltimore, DC, LA.

These can be avoided by steering clear of those regions but I suspect the problem will be much harder to avoid across much of the south — especially in the southeast — where a steady stream of retired white guys from upstate New York are going to find themselves instantly in the minority for the first time in their lives.

Chaotic times ahead are inevitable.

You can prepare by stocking up on food and ammo, and that may help for a season. But if you really want to avoid the coming tribulation and have the best chance for survival, I think you need to get away from as much humanity as possible.

If a long stream of cars are headed south, wise men will make haste in the opposite direction.

Field Day: It’s a great tradition

I did not participate in that first Field Day, but the following June my older brother (W3NF) and I set up a small wall tent in an isolated corner of the family 400 acre farm south of Easton, Pennsylvania, and did a token participation using a ’45 Hartley oscillator powered entirely by batteries and a regenerative receiver using UV 199 “peanut” tubes. We made, as I recall, 12 contacts in the 24 hour period, were devoured by mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects, got little if any sleep — but we were young. I was 20; Ed was 24. We were thoroughly infected with Field Day fever and in subsequent years seldom missed one. My total participation must be around 60 and I still, at age 88, show up at FD with my local club. It’s a great tradition.

— George Hart, W1NJM (ex – W3AMR), Newington, Connecticut
Letter to the editor QST Magazine – October 2002

The Beat Goes On

Busy week ahead. My two month hiatus from work is coming to an end and next week, I’ll be back on the road again — with most of July spent in Germany. That means all those little things I’ve been putting off for “another day” now command attention. I did connect the feed line to the rig this morning for the first time in many days. We’ve been stuck with the daily thunderstorm syndrome here in the Heartland for the last month and I’ve been QRT for most of June.

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I listened on 40 for a little while but the bands were noisy enough that copy was much less than enjoyable and I shut things down. I hope to find  a little time this week to box up the Eagle — I plan to offer it for sale soon. I’m not sure what may take its place — maybe nothing.

After nearly 39 years of pounding brass on HF, I’m due for a break. I’d really like to spend some time exploring VHF and higher, much higher. I like to imagine that future forays on the HF bands will be from the outdoors via a small trail radio, like this one.

This weekend is Field Day — the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations. Field Day is a picnic, a campout, practice for emergencies, an informal contest and, most of all, FUN!

There will be more words and photos published in popular media over this ham radio event than any other. It’s more than a contest or emergency communications primer, it’s the best advertising the ARRL doesn’t have to buy. So leave the too small stretched and stained t-shirt with the big pig face splashed on the front of it at home. Better yet, throw it in the garbage — it was never really funny anyway.

Slap on some deodorant and dress nice when you hit your Field Day site — you never know when a camera is going to be shoved in your face. Don’t say anything dumb — don’t say that CW is dead and only a few “old men” still use it. Don’t imply that the hobby is shrinking. It’s not — it’s growing by leaps and bounds. There are more licensed radio amateurs in the US today than there have ever been. We have a swarm of satellites on orbit and even more being assembled. Our emergency response is fine-tuned and ready for action. And above all, ham radio is FUN!

Be careful. Use your head. Be safe. There is nothing sadder in all of hamdom than reading about a radio amateur getting injured or killed during any kind of radio activity. Getting your license may have been a piece of cake but we “play” with things on a daily basis that can easily hurt or kill — you have to be smart.