For those in amateur radio blogademia outside of K/W/N land, the tea party in the United States is a political movement that has sprung up since the current president took office. The tea party started out as a supposedly independent grassroots movement, but has clearly emerged as a right wing conservative Republican organization funded by commercial interests. You can see footage of them here and here protesting taxes and healthcare reform. Google "tea party signs" and make your own judgement.
While it appears this QSO party is the creation of a handful of amateurs and is somewhat an informal thrown-together event, and albeit on that armpit of an amateur radio forum known as QRZ, this is the first time I'm aware of an operating event with a political theme. As if it wasn't enough to have non-stop right wing politics in 80 meter roundtables and on amateur radio forums, now we're luring people into working stations in a somewhat rare state under the semblance of a political movement and agenda. It's distasteful and not in the spirit of amateur radio.
Having politically-oriented operating events could open the door to a whole new realm of contests and special event stations, both conservative and liberal oriented that would offend just about everyone. Can you imagine having operating events such as the Obama Re-election Party or the Sarah Palin QRO Sprint? How about the National Rifle Association Worked All Free States Award or the QRP Pro-Choice Contest? And while we're bringing politics into amateur radio, why not religion? How about a Mosques On The Air weekend, or a Westboro Baptist Church Koran Burning special events station? I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. We don't want to start an arms race of political and religious on-the-air events in amateur radio.
This may come as a surprise, but I did participate in the South Dakota tea party event. I made no contacts, but since there are no rules I awarded myself 10 billion points and I made a clean sweep of all counties in South Dakota. Such is life without rules. Perhaps next year I'll actually get on the air, but make up my own callsign in the spirit of limited government and regulation, and political inanity....
If you missed it, I discussed the issues with proprietary technology and D-STAR here, here, and here.
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The narrator is friendly enough and sounds more refined than many of the roughneck tower guys I've met and worked with, but I have to question the brains-to-balls ratio of the climber. While it may not be required to be clipped in at all times, it's a very good idea, especially at the transitions. I can't fathom why a climber wouldn't clip a lanyard to the tower when pulling themselves on to the very top. He even putzes around untethered when standing next to the beacon light, digging out a carabiner. The other climber comes up next to him and clips in before he does. It would take only one gust of wind or an unexpected move or slip up by the other climber to kill the camera equipped climber.
You can climb untethered and gain some time, but what use is an extra 10 or 15 minutes one day for losing perhaps 40 or 50 years of your life?
"Will those who predicted that ending Morse Code testing would be the death knell of Morse Code on the airwaves, please find your hat and eat it? Would you like Hollandaise sauce with that?"The irony of this is FISTS led the charge against eliminating the code test and even petitioned for more stringent CW testing requirements, 180 degrees out of phase with the direction CW testing, amateur radio, and the rest of the civilized world was heading. FISTS' own petition to the FCC stated:
"...Morse code proficiency assists amateurs in acquiring the very skills that form the basis and purpose of the Amateur Radio Service, and provides something essential to our country - technical skill and experimentation. There exists no simpler entry into the field of radio-frequency circuit design. Without Morse proficiency this easy entrance will be closed."
"Retaining the Morse code requirement encourages amateurs to become proficient in Morse code and many other activities...."
"Failure to keep Morse testing part of the licensing structure undermines many core activities integral to the Amateur Radio Service and nullifies one of the traditional objectives of the Service, i.e., to train a ' . . . reserve pool of qualified radio operators and technicians.' "While the FCC NPRM was open for comments, the FISTS Code Crusader webpage rallied the troops and rattled the sabers to encourage everyone to protect the CW test and all that was good and wholesome in amateur radio:
"LET THEM HEAR FROM US!! Start a petition at your local club!! We will not just sit by quietly and let them dumb us down any further!!" (emphasis added)Presumably a large number of hats sporting Hollandaise sauce will be FISTS caps?
This year the club solicited volunteers for the event as usual, despite no need for amateur radio communications. A bit of a brewhaha erupted when it was asked just what would volunteers be doing. No one wanted to flip burgers or park cars, and rightfully so as radio amateurs want to communicate and are not called amateur car parkers or amateur burger flippers. One would think if the event organizers needed such people, they would naturally solicit volunteers from those who are interested in the athletic event itself, not radio amateurs.
Despite not being requested for communications, the morning of the event a few hams were stationed at the usual route checkpoints as in years past giving updates to each other. Three repeaters on two bands covering four counties were linked together resulting in a sequence of varying courtesy beeps sounding like a battle out of one of the Star Wars movies from the 70s. An amateur stationed on the route received a question from an event participant and asked net control for information. Net control couldn't answer the question as they had no one officially stationed at the event central command. Later in the event a ham reported to net control that there was an injured participant and an ambulance was needed. He was advised by net control to call 911 on his cell phone. After phoning 911 he reported back to net control that an ambulance was in route and gave information on the injured participant. He was then advised by net control to call the event organizer on their cell phone to relay the information.
I'm not an expert at providing communications at events, but having organized communications for several events for our club years ago, I learned a few things.
1. Insure event organizers are aware of just what your club wants to provide. You're an amateur radio club; your specialty is communications.
2. Clearly communicate to your club members exactly what their mission is for an event. Members don't want to just show up for an event and not know what they'll be doing for the next six hours in the hot sun.
3. Make sure your club members who are covering an event are taken care of. This means having their lunch provided, reasonable shifts, and event swag such as tee shirts or hats if other event participants are receiving them. Also, make sure they are called back in when the event is over and aren't left at their stations.
4. Provide value for the event participants and leadership. If what you're doing isn't providing value to others and is just entertainment for your radio amateur volunteers (i.e. "playing radio"), you shouldn't be there.There are some danger signs that should make you rethink your support of an event:
- Event organizers are calling you a week before the event rather than several weeks or months ahead
- Your group spends more time keeping the event running or doing things event management should have done (i.e. putting up missing signs for a race route, hauling trash, etc.)
- You have been asked to park cars or do other non-communications functions and event leadership doesn't understand the value of communications
- The event lacks a central control point or the event organizers aren't interested in the information you're relaying during the event
- Another group has been asked to support the event simultaneously and they have their own radios and frequencies (I had this happen at an event with a group of guys with FRS radios. An event participant was injured and 911 was called by two parties, and two different ambulances were dispatched.)
- The event lacks leadership or you have difficulty communicating with the event leader in the weeks leading up to the event
- You have increasing difficulty getting club members to commit to covering an event