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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.

Hamvention

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.

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Other Arrangements

Interesting times that include a market crash and spreading global pandemic that has all but closed America down.

Just six weeks ago I listened to one analyst pontificate that Trump would be unbeatable in November thanks to a soaring economy and peace breaking out all over. The turnaround in those fortunes over just a few short days has been stunning to witness. I’m certain that a hundred years from now when our progeny studies the history of these trying times they will be stunned by its rapidity too. We’re passing through a remarkable slice of human history, but this too shall pass.

I can’t believe Art Bell, W6OBB (SK) missed this…

Social isolation is being touted as the best way to slow the contagion. That shouldn’t be too difficult for us, most radio amateurs have been practicing it our entire lives. And with all the hamfests and conventions being on hiatus, it becomes even easier to just hangout around the shack and only interact with others from a distance, via radio.

Yeah, I know. They haven’t called-off the Dayton Hamvention yet.

It doesn’t seem very responsible to conduct an event that draws 30,000 people from around the planet to one spot during the opening stages of a global pandemic. Nearly everything has voluntarily closed, but not Hamvention. I have no inside details. Perhaps they need the Governor of Ohio to order them closed to get out of having to pay Greene County?

It seems pointless to hold out in the hope that things will improve much over just the next 6-8 weeks. Besides, attendance will be greatly reduced and I imagine many vendors won’t show up either. Same for those who usually visit from outside the US.

This virus seems to present a higher risk to people over 60 years of age. And it’s more deadly for men than women, and can be downright brutal on those with heart and respiratory problems. Now close your eyes and remember last time you were at Xenia. How many in attendance were over 60 years of age? How much gray hair did you see? How many of those electric scooters did you walk around?

This virus is surely licking its chops at the chance to visit a large crowd like gathers at Hamvention. That’s what makes the delay in announcing its closing seem irresponsible. I’m pretty sure the government will shut it down, but only time will tell. It’s not like I’m rooting for Hamvention to lose, but too many people have approached this like a hurricane or snow storm. Stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper while holing up to watch movies for a few days and this will all blow over.

We’re going to have to learn to make other arrangements to keep it all together. Sorry, but this thing is not going to come to a clean, orderly conclusion – just in time for Hamvention.

Stay safe, stay well, and wash your hands…

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Canceled

Was it really just a week ago when I wrote I hadn’t yet canceled plans to attend Hamvention?

Shortly after I posted that there was an announcement from the organizers of that event that said only that they were monitoring the situation but that the big show remained a go. I suspect that may change over the next few weeks as events like these have been scuttled from coast-to-coast due to the spreading global pandemic. Hamvention creates a special kind of health risk given the average age of most radio amateurs. The CDC released the following this week:

Americans over 60 should stock up on food and medications and avoid venturing out as the coronavirus spreads

“Over 60” is a significant portion of licensed radio amateurs in these United States and it seems a little dicey to bring 30,000 high-risk people from around the globe together in a Petri dish called Xenia. I can’t imagine what sudden good news might appear over the next 60 days that would make this an acceptable risk? I seriously doubt the event can be re-scheduled for later in the year so it seems possible, maybe even likely, that after all these decades the Dayton Hamvention might not happen in 2020.

In the event that the show goes on, I wish them well, but have decided to sit this one out.

In fact, I’ve canceled all my plans to attend any ham radio events for the rest of this year. I’ll miss seeing friends and the fraternal camaraderie, but travel and hanging out with crowds simply doesn’t seem like a good idea in these days of COVID-19.

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Impact

I haven’t yet canceled my plans for Hamvention.

Having prepaid for much of the trip, I’m not anxious to toss in the towel too soon. If Hamvention were canceled I hope I would get most of what I’ve already paid back. And cancellation seems at least a possibility thanks to the Coronavirus. Some states have already banned public events with more than a thousand people. Large trade shows are being canceled or postponed around the globe.

The attendance last year in Xenia was reported at over 32,000 which, at a minimum, should put it on the disease control radar in Ohio. Air travel will be difficult, if not impossible, for those global radio enthusiasts, organization officials, and equipment vendors who make the annual trek to Dayton. Many others, like me, will doubtless skip this years event out of an abundance of caution. So even if the 2020 Hamvention takes place as planned, a much smaller crowd should be expected to attend.

Nothing has been announced by Hamvention officials. But with only 70 days to go before the big show kicks-off, any cancellation announcement should be made as soon as possible so plans can be adjusted accordingly.

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Whiteout

I’m home from a few nights in Toledo where a lot of snow was expected, but only a portion of it showed up. It snowed for 36-48 hours without stop but the ground was warm enough that most of it melted on contact. There was about three-inches on the ground when I left there this morning, but it had stopped falling.

But somewhere on the three-hour drive home I passed through a 10 mile area that was a complete whiteout. Visibility was nil with many cars and trucks having slipped off the road. When I emerged on the other side, it was all sunshine and clear skies.

I see where plans for another DX operation are being changed due to Coronavirus quarantines. The CDC now says it’s inevitable that the pandemic will visit the US and probably in a big way so they are telling people to “be prepared” which sounds like good advice but I’m not sure exactly what we can do? Suggestions from a multitude of articles on the subject say things like stock-up on hand sanitizer and make plans to stay home for 14 days which all seem a little weak to me.

The federal government seems minimally engaged at this point as Trump is more concerned that negative news will tank the stock market and that could cost him votes in November. So the threat is being downplayed which has set off all kinds of alarms in my head. If Trump says it’s not bad then it’s probably already terrible and we’re facing viral Armageddon…

Despite having prepaid for a lot of Hamvention related activities, I’m going to wait and see how things look before deciding for certain to hangout in close contact with 30,000 radio enthusiasts from around the globe.

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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.

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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…