Great Tribulation

Ham radio enthusiasts prepare for all manner of natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornado, storms, anything that causes normal communication channels to temporarily fail. What we don’t train for is a viral global pandemic along with a complete shutdown of business and society. At least I don’t think we do. I’m not involved with many emergency service aspects of the hobby, but I’ve attended enough Field Day events to understand it’s risks, like the potato salad left too long in the sun.

This isn’t a failing on our part, I’ve found nothing in any ARRL Handbook to address this current situation. The ways we might provide service to our communities in this new reality are just going to have to be worked out as we go along.

The power of wireless communication has always been its ability to call for help. Like when a hurricane hits some large coastal area, radio amateurs can stand in any gaps in the existing infrastructure and call for help, relay messages, etc. The necessary element being that there is some other place, farther away, that’s unaffected by the crisis and capable of sending assistance. But if the storm hits everywhere with equal ferocity, who do you call for help then?

In our current situation, there’s really no one to call to bring help and that tends to neutralize our unique power to shrink distance.

Of course the hobby provides us something to do while stuck at home, and the ability to communicate with other hams can soften the pangs of social isolation.

I’ve heard reports from around the US that local repeater traffic is way up. General welfare nets are popping up all over to check on elder hams and to make certain they have what they need. These kind of activities begin at the intersection of kindness and radio, and I hope these persist long after this viral episode has subsided.

Too often our intense focus on DX and Contesting makes contact with those in faraway places seem more highly valued than those in our own community. Perhaps this will change. The concept of hanging out on two meters seems odd to some, especially when our time could be spent filling the log with endless, vapid contacts. But we can get back to local comms, and we might even make a few new friends in the process who we never knew lived so close. Friends who one day we will meet for coffee. We might even do that using FM simplex and that might become a thing again!

I’m not trying to tell anyone how to have fun, but we find ourselves in a unique time where all the major DXpeditions are postponed and all the radio conferences, hamfests, and conventions are canceled. Radio contests continue, but without multi-operators piled high in some million-dollar superstation. In all likelihood you won’t be doing Field Day with your club this time around. We need a reason to be radio active and we we must be creative or risk wasting an awful lot of what looks exactly like “free” time.

73, stay well, wash you hands.

Two Meter FM References:

  1. Getting Started on 2 Meter FM, Part 1 by K7AGE
  2. Getting Started on 2 Meter FM, Part 2 by K7AGE
  3. Getting Started on 2 Meter FM, Part 3 by K7AGE
  4. VHF FM Operating Guide by K0NR


The Descent

We’re sorta quarantined in place here. My employer ordered me to work from home for the next 6-12 weeks. My wife is still working in public (retail), but her normal schedule is just two days a week and even that might be halted abruptly. The only public places we’ve been lately has been the gas station and the grocery store. Lots of hand washing and maintaining contact with relatives to make certain everyone is okay and have what they need. I suspect that unless there is martial law, people will get bored of this arrangement sooner, rather than later. Gasoline is under two dollars a gallon and the grocery store trips have been interesting…

The American hive mind seems focused on one thing, toilet paper. That commodity is not to be found anywhere in these parts. It’s futile to try and get it via Amazon as they are sold out and backorders online now extends through May. It’s also getting tough to find meat and frozen foods in the local stores. The hoarding reflects the fear that’s obvious. Everyone I talk with says this will all be over in a couple of weeks, but they say that while pushing shopping carts filled with enough supplies for six months.

Jobs and income are being put on hold, the markets are tanking, the recession has started, and the government has made little progress in stemming the flow of bad news, even with all the spigots wide open. The day after dumping trillions into the system the Dow was down another 3,000 points which has to give serious pause to people who take interest in such things while the rest of us have switched into survival mode, doing whatever we’re told and hoping for a better outcome.

This is an amazing time to be alive and we’re literally traveling through a slice of human history that our great-grandchildren will read about in their history books. I’m certain of that because the most interesting parts of mankind’s story are those parts filled with the greatest challenges, suffering, risk, and how it was overcome. If you doubt for even a minute about the historic nature of these times then consider this, not even two World Wars could shutdown all the bars.


As expected, Hamvention was cancelled. First time in 68 years and with it, a lot of the ancillary programs and meetings have been nixed too. DX Dinner, Contesting University, FDIM, Collins Collectors Association the list goes on and on. Now comes the business of refunds. For tickets, vendors and flea market booth holders there are options being offered by the Hamvention folks:

  1. Obtain a refund
  2. Obtain a 2021 ticket instead. (to be mailed around January 1, 2021)
  3. Donate to Hamvention (no refund)

This will be a big hit on the Greene County economy, but no more than anywhere else. We’re going to just have to rub some dirt on it, walk it off, and wait for the next shot at the biggest ham radio show on earth.

More Cancellations

Most other hamfests and radio conventions that had been slated for the next 3-4 months have already been cancelled. That includes all of them as well as most radio club meetings in my area. Hell, you can’t even visit and tour W1AW and HQ right now so we’re just going to have to cool our jets and wait this out.

Stay home, stay safe, wash your hands.


ARRL International DX Contest

The deep freeze that’s crept across the country showed up here last night. What had been 33F at dinner time yesterday turned into 2F by the morning commute to work today. This will pass quickly as temperatures are supposed to return to the 40s a little later in the weekend. Still, this won’t be the time for any other antenna work. The temporary wire strung up last weekend will be employed for a few hours in the ARRL International DX (CW) contest this weekend. This event is usually good for 50-75 entities, and that would go a long way toward my primary operating goal for 2020, but given the less than ideal antenna situation, I’ll be pleased to work even a fraction of that.

Good luck!


ARRL BoD Minutes

Minutes from the January ARRL Board of Directors meetings have been made available to the public. Details about the vote that ended the CEO position held by Howard Michel, WB2ITX are slim:

13. President Roderick opened the floor for nominations for Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Carlson nominated Dr. Michel. President Roderick stated that this would be a Yes/No vote. Ballots were distributed, collected and counted by the tellers with the following results: Yeas, 6; Nays, 9. Dr. Michel was not re-elected Chief Executive Officer.

The Board was on break from 9:40 – 9:59 AM with all returning as noted above except for Dr. Michel.

And then a short time later:

15. President Roderick opened the floor for a discussion preceding the motion to appoint an interim Chief Executive Officer. A debate ensued on whether the vote should occur today or tomorrow following a discussion of the details of the interim position. There was a conversation regarding what the title of the interim officer should be, and the Board agreed that the title shall be Interim Chief Executive Officer to comply with the By-Laws.

16. On the motion of Mr. Stratton, seconded by Mr. Norris, it was VOTED that:

Whereas, A vacancy exists in the office of Chief Executive Officer;

Whereas, The ARRL Board of Directors wishes to ensure continuous leadership for the ARRL during the period of its search for a new executive officer;

Whereas, Mr. Barry Shelley has previously served the ARRL with distinction in a capacity as Chief Financial Officer and interim Chief Executive Officer;

Whereas, Mr. Barry Shelley, N1VXY, has agreed to serve as Interim Chief Executive Officer during the period of the ARRL’s search for a new executive officer;

It is accordingly resolved:

(1) That the President of the ARRL is authorized, with the assistance of such staff and legal advisors as he deems necessary, to negotiate the terms of an employment contract with Mr. Barry Shelley to serve as Interim Chief Executive Officer of the ARRL for such terms as are reasonable;

(2) That the proposed contract with Mr. Barry Shelley be submitted to the Board of Directors for final approval prior to execution.

After discussion the motion was APPROVED.


Scrambled Eggs

In the shack a couple hours before sunrise this morning. But with no antenna other than a wire in the attic it’s not like I’m trolling for DX on the low-bands. It’s 30F outside and though a snow/rain mix has been falling since midnight, there’s no real accumulation, the ground it too warm for it to stick. Before walking in here I put chicken in a pot in preparation for the noon meal, made a pot of coffee and stuffed the last of my Plum Pudding barrel aged tobacco in a sure-enough Mark Twain Missouri Meerschaum. Mornings like this are made for low-band DXing but I’ve settled on eavesdropping on a few friendlies on 75 meters while shaking off the cobwebs with the first cup.


Sometimes I wonder if Sunday mornings will still be this enjoyable after I retire?

I purchased tickets for the SWODXA DX Dinner (Hamvention) online last night. The hotel has already been booked so the plans are nearly complete. I’ll be at FDIM on Thursday and plan to spend Friday at Xenia then that evening I’ll be at the DX Dinner. I’d like to visit the Air Force Museum on Saturday, assuming its open then. I’ll be home late Saturday evening and that will end my 39th excursion to Dayton.

Best wishes for a speedy recover to Bob Bruninga, WB4APR who told the APRS world he will be out of action while doctors determine how to best treat the football-sized tumor in his gut.

Over the last month everyone around here has been sick, including yours truly. Some weird bug that has us coughing without end and feeling a little under the weather without fever. We had avoided the flu so far. Until this week when one of my daughter-in-laws went to a doctor who diagnosed her with Influenza Type B. It’s fairly late in this flu season so hopefully it will pass without much more difficulty. Our immune systems need to recharge given that the new coronavirus appears destined to span the globe. We’re overdue for pandemic, perhaps this will be that?

Having foolishly waded into the shallow end of the ARRL CEO controversy, I’ve become disillusioned with the response. Life is too short for ham radio politics. I’m an ARRL Life Member but I’m done with the organization. I’m not sure why the internal strife of a shrinking non-profit organization gathers such an interested, rowdy crowd but there’s plenty of dysfunction to pick at if you’re so inclined. I remember well the days when 73 magazine would arrive in the mail and Uncle Wayne’s monthly column would often take up a quarter of the magazine with complaints about the ARRL. I dismissed those as chumming the water to sell magazines but maybe he was on to something. One thing is certain, he’s grinning from ear-to-ear with this latest soap opera drama in Newington.

I’ve been engaged in a long conversation with a couple of radio friends about where we’re going with the hobby. These conversations almost always conclude with some minimalist definition of a simple, off-grid, low-power station, using wire antennas and CW only. More recently the discussion has warped a little to include publishing original content via AX.25 packet over HF. So not just off the power grid, but off the Internet too.

Yeah, I know, it’s foolish. Everyone knows ham radio can’t work without the Internet…


ARRL Stumbles

The practically new ARRL CEO has been shown the (revolving) door. According to the terse announcement from Newington:

At its meeting this weekend, the ARRL Board of Directors did not elect Howard Michel, WB2ITX, as the ARRL Chief Executive Officer. Beginning Monday, January 20, Barry Shelley, N1VXY, will become interim CEO. Mr. Shelley was ARRL’s Chief Financial Officer for 28 years and CEO during 2018 before his retirement. The board has created a search committee to select the next CEO. More details on this and other matters which took place at the board meeting will be released shortly.

This one will be difficult, if not impossible, for the ARRL to explain to members. If it was a personnel issue we will never hear it as those are not disclosed. If it was a lack of confidence by the BoD for the CEO’s bold new direction, then there’s so much uncomfortable explaining to do that no one at HQ will be likely to do that either.

It’s no secret that members have been generally impressed with the new direction proposed during Michel’s short tenure to grow the organization by enhancing member services. Apparently, he’s also been busy trying to mend rifts between the crusty old dudes (who members won’t stop electing) and newer Board members who have ascended out of growing member frustration.

Whatever the reason, and whether members ever hear the truth about it, this is a massive failure for ARRL. Particularly, for the Board of Directors who only recently were “shaken up” and mandated to “fix” the many problems facing a century-old organization that appears to be shrinking right in front of a great cloud of witnesses.