Posts Tagged ‘common sense’

Peoples is crazy!

When I was a kid, I vaguely remember a comedian on TV, who would say in a thick, mock German accent, “Peoples is crazy!” or something very similar to that.  That line kept running through my mind tonight as I volunteered as a CERT member for South Plainfield Emergency Management at the South Plainfield High School graduation ceremony, held at the football field.

Jost Field – the South Plainfield High School Football Field and Track facility.

We provided a whole bunch of services. We directed people to parking spots, and as it was a hot day – we handed out cold bottled water to anyone who desired it, we provided “a presence” and kept our eyes peeled for anyone who looked like they might get ill or faint, or might otherwise need assistance.

By the end of the ceremony, 260 high school grads received their diplomas after many speeches, much cheering and screaming and hoopla.

The best came at the end of the night, though, as dusk was falling and the near full moon started to rise.  On three separate occasions, I kept spectators from jumping over the chain link fence and running onto the football field to greet their graduates.  In each case, I’m not talking about kids here. I am referring to older “Dad types” who should have known better than to attempt such a stunt.  On each occasion, as the improbable was about to be tried, I simply but firmly stated, “Please go around to the gate and don’t jump over the fence.”  The first two guys said nothing – and just complied.

The third guy?  Oh, he was a good one. A rather snarky “And why should I listen to you?” was what I got for my request.  Rather than argue, I just very politely asked, “Sir, do you really want your son or daughter to remember their high school graduation night as the time that Dad had to go to the Emergency Room to get stitches in his leg after he cut it while trying to jump the football field fence?” He looked at me, thought about it for half a second and went around to the gate.

Peoples is crazy!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Follow up – Saw my fence jumper today at the A&P – yep, the third guy.  While I was shopping, he tapped me on the shoulder, shook my hand, and thanked me for preventing him from doing something “potentially very stupid”, as he put it.  Sometimes it’s all worth it.

Another new one; but not QRP.

I got another new DXCC entity into the log tonight; but it was not QRP, and even at 85 Watts it was a bit of a chore.

The station was A61Q and the entity was the United Arab Emirates. The band was 17 Meters. For whatever reason the DX op decided not to work split; but to stay simplex.  That made for pandemonium.  I found him by tuning around, and when I saw/heard the pileup, I checked the cluster, and sure enough, he had already been spotted multiple times. It’s no exaggeration to say that a melee ensued.

At the beginning, he was as loud as A45XR was from Oman the past couple of nights.  I thought I stood a good chance with QRP and started there.  The pileup was a zoo and I threw out my call many times with no luck.  I sensed a pattern – A61Q would call “CQ DX” and the ensuing cacophony of chasing stations followed his “K”.  It turned out that he was working stations that he could pick out as the calling died down, and everyone started listening (funny how that works, eh?).

As I sensed his pattern, I thought I stood an even better chance. But then the inevitable started happening – the band began to change.  He went from 599+++++ to 599++, then eventually 599+, and then eventually just 599.  At that point, he looked like he might fade fast; so I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and turned the K3 up to 85 Watts.  It took about a half dozen calls or so (waiting for the avalanche of calls to die before throwing mine out), but I finally heard my call coming back to me.  We completed the exchange (stations were actually calling him while he was still working me!!!) and I listened for a while as I put the QSO information into my log.  Within the next ten minutes A61Q was becoming covered by the background noise.

I heard plenty of other DX; but for some reason QRP just wasn’t working for me tonight.  I didn’t hear any more new entities; so after A61Q I kept it to 4.8 Watts (I always stay just a bit below 5 Watts – call it a quirk).  I did end up working N4FOC on 20 Meters and then John N8ZYA on 30 Meters before pulling the plug for the night.

Getting back to the pileup situation, though. Folks – the most formidable DX weapon you have is your ears. Use them!  You have two ears and one key (or microphone) – that should tell you something. Listening is more important than transmitting.

It seems like when “exotic” DX comes on the band, people just snap and go crazy or something.  Here we have a station working simplex, which is bad enough – but we also have a gazillion or so chasing stations that just aren’t listening!  When the DX calls “WB4?” – why are W7 or N6 or AA5 stations throwing out their calls?  Isn’t it deathly obvious that he’s trying to work the WB4 station?  And please don’t tell me you thought the was calling for something else.  You know, if you couldn’t hear him well enough to know that he called “WB4?” then you shouldn’t be trying to work him in the first place.  Just because a DX station is listed on the cluster doesn’t mean that you should click your mouse and immediately start throwing out your call. See if you can actually hear him first, OK?  If you can’t hear him, how are you going to know that he’s calling you back?  Common sense, right?

If A61Q had worked split, the situation might have been better, but that assumption is not a lock, either.  But if everyone had been listening and not sending out their calls needlessly while simultaneously foaming at the mouth, then the DX station could have worked a whole bunch more stations than he had.  The pandemonium slowed things down exponentially.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

My name is Larry ….. and I am a Lid.

There! That sounds like the beginning of an Alcoholics Anonymous story, doesn’t it? I’ll explain my confession about being a Lid in just a little while.

Actually, the evening started well. After dinner, I was able to get on the radio for a bit and found some activity. My first goal was to work some QRP DX. Now that I have entered the Club 72 DX Marathon, I don’t want to be the only US station entered and show up dead last. To that end, I was successful and worked PP1CZ from Brazil on 17 Meters. To my delight, I found activity on 10 Meters also, and I was fortunate enough to get 6Y5KF from Jamaica and LU1FAM from Argentina into my log. I entered the PP1CZ and LU1FAM as official QSOs for the day.

Now, onto the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunts and my liddiness issues.  The first Fox was easy. I was easily able to find Jim K4AXF. Since Jim is located in Virginia, that’s a real easy shot from New Jersey on 80 Meters. Using the KX3’s Dual Watch feature, I had Jim’s pelt within 16 minutes from the beginning of the hunt.

The second Fox was Jerry N9AW. Normally, Jerry is an easy catch for me. Most Wisconsin and Minnesota Foxes are. Sometimes I think I have a pipeline to that part of the country. But this time his signal was weak, so I waited for a while before calling. Sure as anything, Jerry’s signal started improving. Again, using Dual Watch, I was able to figure out rather easily where he was listening. I began calling, but for some reason, I just wasn’t making it.

That’s when I discovered my error! I looked down and noticed that after I had worked K4AXF, I had turned the split function off. Horror of horrors! I had forgotten to turn the split function back on and I was calling N9AW on his calling frequency!  The “Prime No-No” of Foxhunting! If I could have dug a hole, I would have jumped in and closed it up after myself. I had probably angered a whole bunch of my brother and sister Hounds. Imaginary mutterings of “Lid” stung my ears. My deepest and sincerest apologies, my fellow Foxhunters. I have violated the sacred Foxhunters Code of Conduct. I will accept the 40 lashes with a wet noodle that I am entitled to.

After rectifying my mistake, though, I got Jerry in the log in very short order. In fact, it only took one call. Amazing how well things can go when you use the equipment properly.

My fellow Fox hunters are a kind and magnanimous group, so I doubt anyone will give me grief. But that won’t be necessary, as I will give myself plenty, and will do my best to make sure I don’t make the same mistake a second time.

Being a Lid is no fun.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

One Mo’ Time !

Fox Hunter’s Code of Conduct
I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
I will only call if I can copy the Fox station properly (so that I will know for certain that he is calling me and no one else).
I will not interfere with the Fox station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the Fox frequency or in the QSX slot.
I will double check to make sure I am operating split, if necessary.
I will use full break-in if at all possible.
I will wait for the Fox station to end a contact before I call.
I will always send my full call sign.
I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
I will not transmit when the Fox station calls another call sign, not mine.
I will not transmit when the Fox station queries a call sign not like mine.
When the Fox station calls me, I will send only the required exchange of RST – S/P/C – Name – Power out
I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
I will resort to attempting duplicate contacts only if I am very certain that I was not heard the first time.
I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Enough to drive you batty!

I wasn’t going to post about this; but I’m sitting here and have a few moments while I wait for my daughter to call. She’s on a Girl Scout field trip to the NJ State Police Training Academy.  The girls should be back at the troop leader’s house in about an hour to 90 minutes, so I have some time to kill before going to pick her up. And I’m too tired to go downstairs and turn the rig on. Just got back from our Church’s Friday Lenten Fish Fry. I’m part of the clean up crew and there were only four of us this week, to clean up after 400 fish dinners were served. To say I am beat is an understatement.

Last night I participated in the 80 Meter QRP-L Fox hunt. The Foxes were Paul AA4XX in North Carolina and TJ WØEA in Iowa.  I was able to hear them both well, and work them both – Paul was pretty much 599 the entire evening.  TJ started out ESP but was also 599 before the night wore on too long.
They both started at 0100 UTC and were doing quite well, running the packs of baying hounds in an orderly manner.  But I felt really bad for Paul as he had to QSY a couple of times during the 90 minute session.  Why?  Because someone would start calling up a net right on top of him.  
OK, OK …… I understand that Paul was a QRP station running 5 Watts and the Net Control Station may not have heard him. But no “QRL?” – not even one?  I was there when this started, and yes, the frequency might have sounded empty to the NCS – but that is never, never, never, NEVER an excuse for ANY station to start transmitting without double checking to see if the frequency is in use.
It’s good operating practice and it’s good manners.
I was on Facebook with some of the other Hounds after the hunt and brought this up.  TJ WØEA asked me, “You’re going to blog about this, aren’t you?”  (My friends know me so well.)
My answer to him was that I didn’t plan on it as I have beaten this dead horse over and over again. But it bears repeating, even though I might be reported for harming this poor horsie.
Good operating practice and manners will only rule the day if we make it a point to make them rule the day.
There’s no excuse for being a Lid – NCS or not.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

DX Code of Conduct

This post will deal with a phenomena that is occurring more and more frequently, I believe.  But it hasn’t been noticed by me alone, it was also noticed by Jim K9JV, who posted about it on QRP-L this morning.  I touched upon this  in my recent post about pile up behavior; however,  this is a very important topic, so here we go again.

Jim was trying to work both P29NO and 9M4SLL.  The pileups were big and unruly.  While it is the domain of the DX to try and control the pileups, it remains the responsibility of those trying to work the DX to do so in as “professional” a manner as possible.  Jim pointed out that several stations continued to throw out their calls, even though the quarry was clearly calling for a station whose call was in no way similar to those of the perpetrators.

This is maddening!  K9JV was furious (and justifiably so) that when  P29NO was calling “K9?V”, a KØ, a VE and a W2 kept plaguing the aether with their calls.  I had a similar experience a few years ago when I was trying to work an Iraqi station.  I was one of those competing in the pileup, and the Iraqi station suddenly began sending “W2L?”   He meant yours truly of course, yet I was obliterated by a W4 station, and no, it wasn’t a W4Lsomething (I could have accepted that) – the station didn’t even have an “L” in their call at all!  Jim was lucky as he ended up working P29NO. In my case, the Iraqi station subsequently went QRT and I never got him in the log.

What causes this kind of behavior?  Are people truly that stupid and discourteous?  I don’t know the answer to that, although I am tempted to offer an unfounded and uncharitable guess.

But I think part of the problem may lay in the way that I think DX is encountered today.  At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, in the days of old, we used to find DX by twiddling the dial and listening for it.  You spun the dial knob, up and down – back and forth, straining your ears to find that foreign amateur radio op.  If you were lucky, you were able to hear him, you worked him and you were good to go.  Or you listened for a pileup, and you located the station they were all calling, determined if you needed him, and then you joined the fray.  But in essence, YOU had to locate the DX station yourself, either by dial twiddling or by locating the goal of a pileup.

Today, things have gotten immensely easier; but at the same time, we have invoked “The Law of Unintended Consequences”.  Allow me to explain with this scenario:

A station twiddles the dial – he finds and hears (for example, we’ll use a DXpedition that just concluded) TX5K.  He works him.  Then, proud of his accomplishment, he posts TX5K to the Internet (in the days of old, the PacketCluster), wishing to share the bounty. Immediately, on the screens of Amateur Ops the world over, it appears that TX5K has appeared on 18.073 MHz (for example).

Nowadays, with the myriad of the logging programs and rig control programs available, an Amateur Op can just point and click with his mouse and “Viola!” there they are, on TX5K’s frequency.

I think the problem is, that many (but by nowhere near all) ops don’t pause to listen to hear if they can actually hear TX5K.  Or may be they can, but they hear him only marginally at best.  In fact, they hear him so marginally that if they were tuning across the band on their own, they wouldn’t have been able to tell that it was TX5K in the first place – but hey, their computers tell them that he’s there, right?  So what do they do?  They start throwing out their calls in the hopes that somehow he’ll magically get louder and that they’ll be heard in return.  Heck, in many cases they can’t even tell that he’s working split!  So they call right on the listening frequency, which then invokes the ensuing cacophony of “UP”s and “LID”s being sent.

It gets to be one, big frustrating mess.  And this doesn’t even take into account the zoo that can occur if some quack, who literally enjoys jamming DX operations, gets involved.

So what should be done about this?  Closely and completely adhere to the “DX Code of Conduct” – that’s what!

The DX Code of Conduct was formulated by Randy Johnson W6SJ.  You can read about it here.

I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
I will only call if I can copy the DX station properly.
I will not trust the DX cluster and will be sure of the DX station’s call sign before calling.
I will not interfere with the DX station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the DX frequency or in the QSX slot.
I will wait for the DX station to end a contact before I call.
I will always send my full call sign.
I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
I will not transmit when the DX operator calls another call sign, not mine.
I will not transmit when the DX operator queries a call sign not like mine.
I will not transmit when the DX station requests geographic areas other than mine.
When the DX operator calls me, I will not repeat my call sign unless I think he has copied it incorrectly.
I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.

Having wonderful tools at your disposal does not abrogate your responsibility to operate in an unselfish manner. You must still be courteous to your fellow Hams.

I am so taken by this credo, that I am posting the DX Code of Conduct badge on the side of this blog, to be a reminder to myself and others.

Oh, and QRP Fox hunters …… your situation is a bit different, so let’s adapt these:

Fox Hunter’s Code of Conduct

I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
I will only call if I can copy the Fox station properly.
I will not interfere with the Fox station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the Fox frequency or in the QSX slot.
I will use full break-in if at all possible.
I will wait for the Fox station to end a contact before I call.
I will always send my full call sign.
I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
I will not transmit when the Fox station calls another call sign, not mine.
I will not transmit when the Fox station queries a call sign not like mine.
When the Fox station calls me, I will send ONLY the required exchange of RST – S/P/C – Name – Power out
I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
I will resort to attempting duplicate contacts only if I am very certain that I was not heard the first time.
I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.

If we all do these things, life on the bands can be much more pleasant.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Pile up behavior

I was in the basement, cutting up some cardboard boxes for the recycling pickup tomorrow.  To dispel the quiet and to have something to listen to, I turned the radio on.

I worked K6K/MM on 17 Meters.  My friend Bob W3BBO worked them last night on 20 Meters and let me know that these folks are the DXpedition that is heading to Clipperton.  I worked Clipperton back in 2000; but that was with 75 Watts (QRO).  I will try again; but QRP this time (of course).

From there, I tuned up into the SSB portion of 20 Meters.  I figured I would listen to either some guys chewing the rag, or some guys working DX.  I ended up listening to guys try and work some DX.  To be honest with you, I don’t even know who or where the station was.  He was working simplex and the pile up was not huge; but he wasn’t calling CQ, either.  He had enough stations to handle.

Why do people insist on calling a DX station when they can’t adequately hear him?  I ask this, because there were guys throwing out their calls, while the DX station was still in QSO with the previous station!

It seems to me, that if you can’t hear the DX station well enough to know that he’s still talking and hasn’t finished …… what makes you think that you’ll hear him come back to you?  Do these folks think that propagation is going to magically improve so that a 2X contact can be made?

I’m not getting just on the SSB guys.  It’s no better on the CW side – heck, it’s no better in the QRP Fox Hunts!  I can’t tell you how many times guys just keep throwing out their call signs over, and over and over until you want to tear your hair out.  Call signs being spewed out when the Fox is in the middle of making a contact with someone else.

If you can’t hear THAT, why even bother to try to work them? Unless you can hear him well enough to respond to you, it seems to me that you’re just setting yourself up to be thought of as a Lid by your peers.

That old saying holds true – “You can’t work ’em if you can’t hear ’em.”  But maybe we should also add, “You shouldn’t try to work ’em if you can’t hear ’em!”

Just sayin’

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!


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