Categories
General

Lock Down

Day seven of the lock down for me. Initially, it was a strong recommendation. Now here in Indiana it’s a firmer suggestion, though no one is getting tossed in the hoosegow for violating the order. Naps and a lot of reading have filled my days. The television is an annoyance I can do without for long stretches of time. The hardest part so far has been not constantly checking my retirement accounts as I watch plans to retire in less than a year dissolve into the virus stream.

I suppose life and pandemics are what happen while you’re busy making other plans. There were many things we could have done to better prepare, but we didn’t, not the government, not me. I’ve been dreaming of moving to a small cabin in the middle of nowhere, maybe in the Upper Peninsula, but have never gotten round to it. Social isolation isn’t just a near-term goal for me, I expect to spend the rest of my life in its pursuit. Assuming things ever get back to normal, if that’s even possible now.

That’s mostly because I don’t see this pandemic as a once in a lifetime event. There are now 7 billion of us sharing this planet and almost half of the people who live here can, on a whim, hop on a jet with carry-on luggage and exotic germs and travel wherever their heart desires, and I don’t see that as a good thing. Globalism has always been a bad idea that looks even worse in light of this novel Coronavirus. I expect another pandemic sooner, rather than later and I don’t see the government taking interest in planning ahead for any threat they can’t see or bomb so we’re doomed to repeat this history and very likely in my lifetime.

And gloomy as that sounds, it also assumes the virus to be naturally occurring.

For all I know, this one could have been concocted in an Army laboratory as a bio-weapon. I don’t have the necessary expertise to determine that for myself. I’m forced to trust someone else to inform me about the origin of a contagion. Do I trust sources on Facebook or Twitter to inform me? The media? How about the orange-tinted fellow who once claimed this whole virus episode to be a left-wing hoax intended to hurt his re-election chances?

Do you trust politicians to tell you the truth? I don’t.

Antennas & Bad Timing

Having all the antennas down a couple weeks before the beginning of a global pandemic was either plain dumb or really bad timing. I’ve been pulling new feed line this week for the VHF/UHF stack. But it’s springtime in Indiana so it’s nice one day and rainy for three in a row. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak and I’m finding it tough to complete those kind of projects despite having plenty of spare time to do it right now.

On the HF front I’ve taken to the field. The “field” being the backyard where the KX3 and AX1 antenna continue to impress me. And that’s handy since I noticed a recent post from Larry, W2LJ about the upcoming QRP to the Field (QRPTTF) event now being a backyard special this time due to the virus and social distancing.

Things to Read

Lots of interesting links are appearing online probably due to us having a little extra time for the hobby. For instance, you can download the book, 200 Meters and Down, the definitive early history of amateur radio. Paul Harden, NA5N made his design plans for one damn fine looking TFD antenna. CQ Magazine is making the March and April 2020 digital editions of that publication free for download. You could download the excellent March 2020 edition of Cheese Bits newsletter from the Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club. And one more, the latest edition of the 432 & Above EME Newsletter is waiting to be downloaded. That should keep you busy and out of trouble for at least a day!

Reason to Melt Solder

If you ever assembled a 4SQRP Cricket transceiver, you might be interested to learn about the club’s latest offering, the Cric-Key designed by Dave Cripe, NM0S. The Cricket series consists of low cost entry level minimalist CW transceivers. This NEW kit is designed to complement the popular Cricket series of QRP transceivers with a useful and easy-to build keyer circuit. It was intended to be a build project at the annual OzarkCon QRP convention until fate changed those plans. It’s twenty-five bucks USD plus shipping and will give you reason to melt a little solder while stuck at home.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay isolated, and wash your hands.

Categories
Ideas

Building Stuff

It would be easy to declare that the weather has been “weird” around here. But that’s lost all meaning since it’s been this way for much of the last decade. And then there’s the weather in Australia that makes our anomalies seem tame.

But lots of rain and temperatures in the 50-60F range during most of December and January in Central Indiana isn’t normal. A lot of folks seem to be loving it. Those who whine at the first appearance of a snowflake. Weak humans. Me, I enjoy winter weather and am disappointed, but it’s more than that.

It would be like if all the birds fell out of the sky dead one day and local residents celebrated the reduction of bird poop to scrape off their automobiles, without considering for even a moment, why the birds died. I don’t think these warm winters without snow are anything to celebrate, I think it means something bad is brewing…

No matter, 50F and nearly constant rain has kept me in the house more than I would like and that has triggered the desire to build something, like maybe a new kit. Here’s one that’s created a lot of buzz so I ordered one to give me something to do on these long, sickly warm, and nearly always moist winter evenings when the sun goes down at 5:30pm.

Like most hams, I’ve become an appliance operator. The excuse for not building things anymore is much the same all over, it’s become too difficult to find parts so why not just purchase commercially manufactured equipment? And that lame excuse has prevented me (and maybe you?) from taking part in one of the more interesting facets of the hobby that I used to enjoy, building stuff.

But it’s not only the excess indoor time that has me anxious to fire up the soldering tools. The January 2020 edition of the Cheese Bits newsletter included an article by Rick Campbell, KK7B entitled Hot-Rodding Radio Gear – a bit of nostalgia AND some observations on current trends in RF design. Campbell has gone back to educating students in an “attempt to pass along skills and attitudes that will help the next generation of Analog/RF/Microwave engineers progress into the mid-21st century”

It’s a great article and I recommend you read it, but it includes rather pointed commentary that hits home:

In the Sputnik era, every radio amateur knew how to start with a CW transmitter and modulate the final amplifier to put a voice signal on the air. Those questions were on the exam. Then came SSB and VHF-FM, and endless editorials about how radio amateurs need to embrace new technology and abandon outdated modes. Yes, SSB ushered in a new era in amateur radio—the era when 100% of radio amateurs became appliance operators. A decade later, FM did the same thing to VHF. Be honest: when was the last time you made a contact with an FM or SSB transmitter you designed and built?

The latest trend in RF engineering is use of COTS, “Commercial Off The Shelf” hardware. Not only have radio amateurs become appliance operators, but professional radio “designers” just string together a set of available commercial modules. Who designs the modules?

Ouch. That hurts a little, but he’s not wrong. And while assembling a little 30 meter transceiver kit doesn’t rise to the level of RF design, anything that produces solder smoke in the shack is better than living the life of an “appliance” operator on a full-time basis.