Categories
Ideas

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

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
Asides

SVHFS Conference

SVHFS Conference 2020 Registration & Call For Papers

The 2020 Southeastern VHF Society Conference will be held in Gainesville, Georgia on April 24-25, 2020. Gainesville, GA is approximately 60 miles north of Atlanta in EM84ch. It is about 1.5 miles from I-985.

The Ramada Inn, of Gainesville, Georgia is the conference hotel for the 2020 SVHFS Conference. The hotel is now taking reservations directly. To book your room, please see the conference page. The conference rate is $80 per night. To secure this rate, call the hotel directly at 770-531-0907. Do not call Ramada central reservations or book through the Ramada Website.

Conference Pre-registration:
Pre-registration is now open through April 15, 2020. Please use the registration form on the conference web page.

Call for papers:
Papers and presentations are solicited on both the technical and operational aspects of VHF, UHF and Microwave weak signal amateur radio. The deadline for the submission of papers and presentations for this year’s conference is March 7, 2020. Please indicate when you submit your paper or presentation if you plan to attend the conference and present your paper in person or if you are submitting solely for publication. Papers and presentations are being handled by Charles Osborne, K4CSO if you have any questions.

Please see http://svhfs.org/wp/conference/call-for-papers/ for complete details concerning papers and presentations.

Categories
Asides

CSVHFS Conference

Greetings VHF+ Operators!

As this year’s Conference President, I, along with the Conference’s host team, cordially invite you to attend the 54th annual Central States VHF Society Conference, which is being held at the Radisson Hotel located on the beautiful riverfront of the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin on July 24th and 25th, 2020.

This year’s event will have all the great activities you’ve come to expect from a CSVHFS Conference: technical presentations, antenna range, noise figure lab, rover row and dish bowl, Thursday evening social activity, Friday evening trade-fest, dealer room, hospitality suite for evening socializing, fun family activities, and a closing banquet with a guest speaker and a prize table.

If you have never been to a CSVHFS conference before, you will find it a great event where you will learn many new things, meet new people, and connect with others you have talked to on-the-air. If you are new to VHF-and-above operating, you will want to be sure to attend the perennial favorite, VHF 101, an alternate track talk designed to get new VHFers successfully on the air. One thing we are certain of: if you attend the CSVHFS conference, you will go home reinvigorated about operating and experimenting on the bands above 50 MHz!

We are sending this letter out early in the new year so that you can make time in your busy summer schedule to attend. From past experience, most attendees arrive on Thursday (July 23rd) and depart on Sunday (July 26th). La Crosse, Wisconsin is easy to get to either by car or air. Interstate 90 passes directly through the city, and the La Crosse Airport (LSE) has direct connections with 3 major airports: Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), and Detroit (DTW). Hotel accommodations at the special conference rate will be available beginning around February 1st.

Registration for the conference will open around May 1st. Be sure to visit the conference website at http://2020.csvhfs.org/ for ongoing updates and further information. Please direct any questions you may have about the Conference to registration@csvhfs.org

We look forward to seeing you in La Crosse in late July!

73,

Bruce Richardson, W9FZ

CSVHFS President

Categories
Station

Tossed Salad

I was out of town all last week and suddenly, it’s Sunday and I’ll be back to work tomorrow. Time flies and apparently, so will the snow later tonight. Forecasts say 4-6 inches of snow so tomorrow’s commute will be an aggravation. It still doesn’t seem like a weather episode that would trigger a winter weather advisory. Guess we will find out soon enough.

Nothing happened in the shack during my absence though the Diamond X-6000A antenna did arrive. I’m still waiting on the cable and some assorted hardware, but the plan to install this over the long Christmas holiday break remains on target.

While I was away a few things dropped online, most notably the 25th episode of TX Factor. It’s always interesting but is published infrequently, so I set a reminder to myself to watch when it does appear only to forget it until the next episode hits the wire. I watched right away this time around and especially enjoyed the interview with Eric Swartz, WA6HHQ from Elecraft.

The December 2019 edition of the 432 and Above EME Newsletter by K2UYH also hit the Web, as did the the latest issue of the the 144 MHz EME NewsLetter by DF2ZC. About the time I got caught up with those, the December edition of Cheese Bits, the monthly publication of the Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club and another must read publication showed up too.

With the to-do list growing by the day, I hate to take on another project right now. But installing a sky camera to capture falling stars and joining the American Meteor Society volunteer network is bound to get added to my list eventually.