Free Shipping for ARRL Members? Not Yet…

Obi Wan Kenobi might have uttered, ‘There’s a positive change in The Force’ these days in Newington. It’s no secret that the ARRL has been suffering from the transition of a career long Chief Officer (Dave Sumner) to a new CEO who can effectively lead the non-profit corporation, also a public charity, which declared a $20.5M net asset figure to the IRS for 2017. The failed interim CEO, Mr. Gallagher, tried to execute an executive style which he perhaps found successful in the financial world but a flop at a non-profit like the ARRL. His retirement after only a brief period in Newington was perhaps best for all involved. I wish him well as a fellow amateur radio operator. He just proved to not be a good fit as CEO of the League.

Obi Wan Kenobi
You’re Our Only Hope!

The realization by President Roderick and the changing Board of Directors that this executive style could not bring success to this transition in executive leadership at the headquarters in Newington CT resulted in the hiring of Howard Michel WB2ITX. He had been at the similar, but the far larger IEEE organization, which operates sort of like the ARRL for engineers and other technologists in the United States. It’s net asset declaration to the IRS in 2017, by comparison, was $415M! But he has shown in the brief time he’s been CEO in Newington that he understands the difference between management and executives in the non-profit world. More to come in a future blog post on that distinction.

At the recent ARRL Board Meeting, Mr. Michel was able to get approval for what seems to me to be a fundamental change in the organizational structure and, hopefully, the culture which drives the some 100 employees of the American Radio Relay League. While I may write more about these fundamental changes that the new CEO has put into action on February 11, 2019, here is synopsis from the League’s website:

‘The Board received the report of ARRL CEO Howard Michel, WB2ITX, who outlined plans to reorganize and refocus the activities at ARRL Headquarters. Michel said providing better value to membership is a top priority, and he sees value creation and value delivery as key components to long-term membership retention and growth.’

ARRL CEO Howard Michel WB2ITX

Better value to membership? Now, that is a mouthful to us members! The operational details of that value proposition will be what members, including former and potential members, will consider and remember. That is, what is the ARRL actually going to do in order for members to see a greater value in their annual dues? They could be convinced with a quick strategic example: offering free shipping & handling on purchases from the ARRL Store to current League members!

Let’s look at this small but important thing of free shipping and handling. As I discussed with Dan Romanchik KB6NU on the ICQ Podcast this week, he and I both are Amazon Prime members. Our British colleague, Martin Rothwell M0SGL, smiled at this recognition during our recording as he works for Amazon across the Pond. Dan and I both stated that we tend to not buy books and related items directly from the ARRL website because of the stiff shipping and handling fees. Instead, Amazon Prime members get free shipping on most items which Dan and I take advantage of with these purchases. So Amazon realizes the retailer’s profit margin from the sale of ARRL products through the website. The League, however, only reaps the wholesaler’s margin.

To be fair, the League does give a few Members Only discounts of, say, $3, off of a $27 book—if the League publishes the book. (Note that the League also resells RSGB publications so they probably have those price arrangements locked in without much margin to discount.) And, there are periodic discounts sent out to members via postcard or email advertisements. I’ve found that they only amount to relieving me of the net shipping charge. I cannot use any other additional discounts such as the annual Birthday Discount that I get during my birthday month. As a certified ARRL Instructor, I get a discount on some purchases but I cannot use any of these other discounts. All of this complexity adds up to the member just using Amazon Prime or just not buying a book or other product on impulse. The moment of excitement passes.

I’m a retired Editor-in-Chief for Springer Media, a very large scientific publisher based in The Netherlands. I ordered all the textbooks in my college bookstore as a student worker back in the early 1970s. In between, I launched two peer-reviewed scientific journals, edited others, and negotiated publication relationships with several major publishers. I’ve been an editorial consultant to a dozen or more textbook publishing houses. So I come at this from decades of experience in the publishing industry, not just the consumer side of publishing. So let’s look at typical publisher (wholesaler) and book reseller (retailer) relationships. Many hams may not realize the pricing structures in place worldwide on book publishing.

But the ARRL will ‘lose’ money by offering free shipping and handling to members, right? I can certainly hear Marketing Manager Bob Interbitzen NQ1R saying that upon hearing this idea. Perhaps not. They may actually make more money. Amazon is a major bookseller (an understatement if there ever was one). The typical wholesale discount to a retail book seller is 55%. Large retailers might get 60% while the independents buying them for 40% of the stated retail price. Thus, the ARRL sells Amazon and perhaps others these books at a greatly reduced wholesale price but not when the point-of-sale is through the ARRL Store on their website.

“The typical wholesale discount to a retail book seller is 55%.”

I do not know what the ARRL’s financial terms with Amazon or other retailers is. But it is highly unlikely that it differs substantially from these industry norms. After all, amateur radio operators are hardly a significant market for Amazon to break with their acquisition norms for retailing. I wish it were different but it’s not. The actual financial relationship that the League has with it’s retailer on books and other items could be something very, very different. I want to acknowledge that. But, if it is, that’s another issue. Moreover, shouldn’t that information be made known to the membership?

So, if the ARRL could do something to stimulate more direct sales to members from their website, they would recoup the wholesale discount to Amazon on each of those sales, right? What could drive more members away from Amazon (especially Prime members) and back to the League’s Store?

If CEO Howard Michel’s intention is to increase value to League members, giving them free shipping and handling because they are members would do that. And, it would do that in a tangible and visible way to the entire membership of some 150,000 out of the 750,000 or so license holders in the U.S. Trading out the typical 55% wholesale discount to Amazon (and other retailers) to increase the value of membership would actually result in a higher profit margin to the League, all things being equal. Mr. Michel would indeed qualify as the Obi Wan Kenobi of the ARRL should he bring this about. The League should, at least, run honest numbers on this change to see what the financial impact might be on current revenue.

The business of increasing the value of membership in the American Radio Relay League: that would be a good deal. And a good deal for both members and the League itself!”

But it would also be like a lightning strike to ensure that the membership sees and believes that this reorganization of the ARRL Headquarters means business. The business of increasing the value of membership in the American Radio Relay League: that would be a good deal. And a good deal for both members and the League itself!

Will they do this? I don’t know. But your telling CEO Michel and your Division Director that it’s what you want would help get it on their minds. And having the CEO and Board of Directors listening to you hams, whether you’re a current member or not, is definitely a good deal!

Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Directional antennas, multi-mode digital voice, and lousy propagation

Stories you’ll find in our February, 2019 edition:

The Development of the Directional AM Broadcast Antenna
By John Schneider W9FGH

In the early years of AM radio broadcasting, all stations utilized non-directional antennas made of wire and suspended between towers or buildings. Interference, especially at night was severe—enough to disrupt reception of the desired station—and if the frequencies of the two stations were slightly separated, there would be a heterodyne beat note. As a result, only a few widely spaced stations could operate on each of the AM broadcast channels in the entire country at night—many of which shared time on a single frequency. As antenna technologies were developed and improved in the early 1930s, a few progressive stations began experimenting with multi-element directional arrays. John gets into the details of those early experiments that led the way to today’s AM antenna arrays.

TSM Reviews: Jumbo MMDVM Hotspot
By Mark Haverstock W8MSH

Over the last few years, several hotspot interfaces have appeared on the market such as DV Mega with Raspberry Pi, DVMega with Bluestack, Shark RF OpenSpot, and DV4Mini—all hovering around the $200+ range, making them a bit pricey for all but the most dedicated digital radio users. However, a new wave of digital hot spot, manufactured in China, are finding their way onto eBay, Amazon, and other online sites. These Multi Mode Digital Voice Modem (MMDVM) boards are not developed to replace repeaters, but rather to supplement them. In areas where there is no repeater, a hotspot lets a user connect directly to a digital network via the Internet. In areas of heavy repeater use, a hotspot allows the user to access the digital network without competing for an available time slot. Mark tells us how all of this works in actuality.

Piggy Bank Ham Radio: Part 3
By Cory GB Sickles

In the third installment of his Piggy Bank Ham Radio series, Cory explains the concept of literally saving pennies for cheap adventures on the ham bands that can have much bigger payoffs. His advice includes how to assemble the most useful tools at the best possible price; how to improve your soldering skills to repair older equipment that may need only a small amount of work to be useful again; making use of off-the-shelf technology you may already have to further your amateur radio activities. Cory provides good advice for new hams and veterans of the bands alike who want to spend more time on the air and less time looking through online catalogs and wishing they were.

The Discoveries of Hans Christian Ørsted
By Georg Wiessala

The Great Danish scientist, Hans Christian Ørsted, was a pioneer of electromagnetism who paved the way for Michael Faraday (1791-1867), Bohr and others. With his brother, Anders Sandøe Ørsted (1778-1860, who became a jurist and the third Prime Minister of Denmark), Hans Christian epitomized what has been termed the “Danish Golden Age,” from the turn of the 18th Century to the mid-19th Century. It was he who was said to have coined the word “electromagnetic.” The theoretical world in which Ørsted worked was packed with adherents of opposing philosophies but it was a chance observation that allowed Ørsted to claim an important contribution to the science of electricity.

Scanning America
By Dan Veeneman
First Look: Uniden Bearcat SDS200

Federal Wavelengths
By Chris Parris
Tucson Federal Update and DoE

By Larry Van Horn N5FPW
Aircraft Spotting in the Digital Age

Utility Planet
By Hugh Stegman
It’s Time to Expand Aero Band SELCAL

Shortwave Utility Logs
By Mike Chace-Ortiz and Hugh Stegman

Digitally Speaking
By Cory GB Sickles WA3UVV
DV Miscellany

Amateur Radio Insights
By Kirk Kleinschmidt NT0Z
Audio Equalizers—Awesome, Overlooked and Gobbledegooked!

Radio 101
By Ken Reitz KS4ZR
Shortwave Listening in Your Car

Radio Propagation
By Tomas Hood NW7US
Lousy Propagation on 40, 80 and 160 Meters

The World of Shortwave Listening
By Andrew Yoder
Government Shutdown Spurs Pirate Shortwave Activity

The Shortwave Listener
By Fred Waterer
Shortwave Radio Yesterday and Today

Amateur Radio Astronomy
By Stan Nelson KB5VL
Tracking Meteor Activity

Adventures in Radio Restoration
By Rich Post KB8TAD
EICO HF-35: A Williamson-Mullard 520 Audio Amplifier

Antenna Connections
By Dan Farber AC0LW
Stealth: An Ongoing Philosophy

The Spectrum Monitor is available in PDF format which can be read on any desktop, laptop, iPad®, Kindle® Fire, or other device capable of opening a PDF file. Annual subscription is $24. Individual monthly issues are available for $3 each.

Ken Reitz, KS4ZR, is publisher and managing editor of The Spectrum Monitor. Contact him at [email protected].

Ham radio and the condo life

Ham radio from a city condo…….I have been doing it for close to 7 years now and it does have it’s challenges. I have had great success with some cool world wide contacts. In Canada it’s tough to get into the housing market right out of the gate so many younger ham’s are getting their foot into the market with condo living. Then those ham’s who are retiring and want to downsize are considering condo life as well. I am here to say that in condo life there is also ham radio!!

Before we talk about the nuts and bolts of condo ham radio lets deal with some of the basics. I have always found it avoids condo board letters if you read and understand the rules and guidelines of your particular condo. Yes get used to it if you are going to move into a condo there are rules and expectations. What does this have to do with ham radio………well if you are seen as a respectful owner (or renter) of the condo board, residents and property it can go a long way.

For example most condo guidelines (nice condo word for RULES) do not allow “permanent antennas” on the balcony. This rule is yes for Amateur radio antennas but I believe the condo is concerned about the mini satellite dishes springing up or HD antennas. Just one of many challenges a condo radio op has to creatively deal with. In my case I have the MFJ 1788 mag loop and in my newest condo (6 months now) the antenna is portable and it not  “permanently” mounted on the balcony. In my humble opinion having a low key antenna is important. Having whip antennas extending over the balcony or wires making their way down the side of the building just invites a letter from you know who from the office of your know where!!  Like it or not we are all human and once this happens you have the microscope on you…..not a very nice situation to be in.

In a condo your fellow “condo-ites” are very close to you and that means RFI on your part but also on their part as well with all the unfiltered electronics on the market today. The positive outcome to this is you will become very knowledgeable on dealing with RFI. Oh and a word of advise…..I have read this in the past “go see your neighbor and suggest installing filters on their electronics” Up here in the land of snow and proverbial “thank you” we always say to apparently to everything……there is no thank you response from someone you are asking to tamper with their electronics. Rigs these days have excellent filtering and that are some accessories you can purchase to knock out the worst of offender.

Well that is enough for today….in posts to follow I am going to look at RFI, power output and no as a condo dweller you are not a QPRer for life………..nothing wrong with that either!! What antennas I have had that work, some of the better modes (not just digi either)  to work and last but not least what happens if your in a situation were absolutely operating is possible, well I am here to say that you will still be able to get on the air in you condo on HF working DX!
Stay tuned.


Mike Weir, VE3WDM, is a regular contributor to and writes from Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Random Acts of Kindness

About 15 years ago, during a trip to Florida on an oppressively hot August day, I was dispatched to the local super market to get an ingredient for dinner. As I approached the entrance an older gentleman was heading toward his car. He was using his shopping cart more like a walker then a transporter of grocery items.

I noticed his car had a Purple Heart license plates I walked over to him and said, “Thank your for your sacrifice and service.” He literally started to cry, commenting that he had the plates for about 10 years and I was the first one ever to comment on them. In the ensuing conversation he disclosed he was wounded during the invasion of Guadalcanal and was also awarded the Bronze Star.

Starting on that eventful day I approached every veteran I could identify by sticking out my hand and saying, “Thanks for your service.” In the ensuing years everyone recipient would say, “thank you,” and frequently a nice conversation would follow.

When Viet Nam vets returned home they were treated with disdain. They didn’t dare wear their uniforms in public because people would curse at them and frequently they were spit upon.

I am of the opinion that irrespective of our personal opinions of the military and wars we owe a debt of thanks to those who severed, especially those who put their lives on the line. If I can identify a Viet Nam veteran I shake their hand and say, “Welcome home and thank you for your service.”

What is a Random Act of Kindness?

A random act of kindness is simply a deed we do to give pleasure to someone else with no expectation of anything in return. Thanking a vet is just one example, however, the kindness universe is infinite.

We humans tend to complain frequently and give accolades rarely. Have you ever complained to the manager of a restaurant that the meat was overcooked and the server was impolite? Thinking positively rather than negatively the comment could be, both your food and service was great.

The pervasiveness of a lack of positive feedback was driven home during my master’s graduation at Monmouth University. The then New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean was the keynote speaker. He started his presentation with the question, “How many of you know this is the year of the teacher?” Many people, especially students, raised there hand. He then asked, “For everyone, not just graduates, how many of you have had a teacher who made a meaningful impact or change in your life?” Almost everyone raised their hand. Next question from Governor Kean was, ‘How many of you ever took the time to thank teachers who had a meaningful impact on your life?” Almost no one raised their hand.

There is an important point here, just because someone is doing an outstanding job doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate a pat on the back.

What Does This Have to do with Ham Radio?

Nothing and everything. Courtesy doesn’t have starting and ending boundaries. Have you ever thanked anyone who helped you with a difficult point when you were preparing for you license? How about a speaker of at a meeting? Almost everyone applauds the speaker but there is nothing like going up to the speaker and saying, “Great presentation, I learned a lot.” How about thanking the outgoing officers of your club, the publisher of your club’s newsletter or the person who makes the snacks at meetings?

My father’s mantra was, “The measure of a person is how they interact with someone who can do nothing for them in return. I think he was talking about random acts of kindness.

One last thought. Place a phone call to a couple of your ham radio friends and simply tell them, “Since I’ve met you I am enjoying ham radio much more which carries over to the quality of my life.”

Thanking or complementing someone will make you happy and possibly make the recipient’s day. It’s a win-win deal.

Urb LeJeune, W1UL, is the creator of Ham-Cram, a ham radio test preparation website. He writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Hunting For NDBs In CLE241

ZWW - 215 courtesy: VE3GOP
This coming weekend will see another monthly CLE challenge. This time the hunting grounds will be 190.0 - 239.9 kHz as well as any NDBs with carriers on 'half-way' frequencies ‘nnn.5 kHz’, from 190.5 - 999.5 kHz)

For those unfamiliar with this monthly activity, a 'CLE' is a 'Co-ordinated Listening Event', as NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of the NDB spectrum.

Never tried the CLE? If you've ever been wondering what can be heard 'below' the broadcast band, this weekend would be a great time to give a listen and enter your first CLE!

A nice challenge in this one is to hear 'ZWW' on 215 kHz located near Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's a 25-watter and is well-heard throughout North America. Listen for its CW identifier on 215.388 kHz (repeated every 10 seconds), with your receiver in the CW mode .

MF propagation this week has been good and signals in this frequency range should be propagating well if things stay undisturbed for the weekend.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database.

From CLE organizer Brian Keyte, G3SIA, come details via the The NDB List Group:

Hello all,

Our 241st Co-ordinated Listening Event is next weekend. 

Do join in if you can.   First-time CLE logs will also be very welcome.

   Days:   Fri. 22 Feb. - Mon. 25 Feb.,  Midday-Midday, your local time
   Frequencies:    NDBs from 190 - 239.9 kHz
   PLUS:   Normal NDBs with carriers on 'half-way' frequencies ‘nnn.5 kHz’
                                  (from 190.5 - 999.5 kHz)

Both halves are for everyone to try.

Away from Europe many of the frequencies below 240 kHz are busy with
NDBs.  In Europe there are very few, but some DX ones might be heard
from North America and maybe from a few other places.

The normal NDBs which have carriers on the 'half-way' frequencies
e.g. 267.5 OPW,  333.5 VOG,  370.5 LB, 390.5 ITR, 433.5 HEN (not DGPS)
are scattered across Europe but there are very few of them elsewhere.
'Hot spots' are ENG and ITA.

These half-frequencies usually give comfortable QRM-free listening
and probably some good catches as a result.

America has only one or two (e.g. 381.5 SJX in MI) but East and West
coasters might hear some DX ones.

We last used these 'rules' for CLE225 in November 2017.
Please look out for the Final Details about two days before the CLE.

From:      Brian Keyte G3SIA                     ndbcle'at'
Location:  Surrey, SE England                      CLE Coordinator)

These listening events serve several purposes. They:
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the online database can be kept up-to-date
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
  • will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
  • will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
  • give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed

The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other listeners in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

ARRL DX CW 2019 in the books

The setup
Well the ARRL DX CW has come and gone for 2019 and my effort was one of interest only. I knew I had non radio related things to do this weekend and we were out each evening. Actually the contest caught me by surprise as I usually plan ahead and make time. This week I was checking WA7BNM contest site and was shocked to see the contest was this weekend! This was the first real contest run for my new IC7610 rig. Now I am used to the Elecraft K3 but honestly the 7610 preformed for me just as good as my K3 did. I left the filter set at 250Hz and never had any issues when Kilo watt  contesters were side by side belting out their call. The waterfall  on the 7610 was par with my old Elecraft P3 also it was an added bonus that N1MM+ has a spectrum scope fed directly from the 7610. Having the two independent receivers was nice. When I found rare DX but there was a pileup I left one receiver there and checked in now and then. With the other receiver I would continue the search and pounce. I had been away from the 7610 for about 2 weeks regarding CW operating so I at times found I was slow to figure out how some functions were done.
As for the contest I was running 60 watts (not sure of reason for the 60 watt number) and my antenna is the MFJ 1788 mag loop. I am in a condo so it’s a balcony antenna about 180 feet up facing south east. The software was N1MM+ and MRP40 CW decoder for the super fast fisted contesters. On Sunday the winds for some reason really picked up and my MFJ loop was moving around the balcony. I shut the radio down and took it in I would rather save the antenna from damage than taking a chance on getting more contacts.
I made only 25 contact and a score of 1575 BUT my intention was not to blow the doors off  with a great score. Instead after I made contact with a station I would look them up on QRZ.COM and read about either the individual or the contest station. Over all the limited time I was in the contest I had a blast and was very please with the Icom 7610 and the ability of my balcony mounted Mag loop antenna.

Mike Weir, VE3WDM, is a regular contributor to and writes from Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

VE3WDM's QRPower BLOG 2019-02-17 17:03:00

A screen shot of the ARRL DX CW contest
I was on for a short time yesterday afternoon but we had a dinner date to go to in the evening so things were cut short. I stayed on 20m as it seemed to be producing very surprising results including a contact into Japan. I was shocked when I heard his call just come from out of no where! I gave him a call and he came right back to me and in about 5 minutes after he was spotted along with some other JA's the pileup was huge. It was just luck I was where I was at the time and made the contact with 60 watts and my MFJ 1788 loop.
I will see if the propagation gods are smiling down on me today as I give the contest another go this afternoon.

Mike Weir, VE3WDM, is a regular contributor to and writes from Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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