Posts Tagged ‘rant’

Enjoying the journey

There's an active post on the ARRL NPOTA Facebook page, where someone is lamenting the fact that some of the NPOTA Activators are not loading up their logs to Logbook of the World in a "timely" enough manner to his satisfaction.

I think we have to keep in mind, that for many of the Activators, this is not a "free" exercise.  Maybe they have to pay to get into a National Park, perhaps not. Destinations a long way from home involve gas, wear and tear on the car, perhaps even lodging and meals. There are also other considerations that don't involve money, but still involve expense. Time away from home, friends and family.  These all factor into the equation.

Yes, Activators are putting the Parks on the air, because they want to. No one is holding a gun to their heads. So they pretty much ignore the personal expense because they're having a good time and are getting some personal satisfaction from doing their activations. At the same time,  they are giving all the Chasers something invaluable, too.  They are giving you a good time!  They are providing you with something fun, something exciting, and new. 

There have been anecdotes told of those who have their dwindling interest in the hobby rekindled because of NPOTA.  In my own personal experience, I had a dormant Ham come up to me while I was activating the National Gateway (RC08) at Sandy Hook, NJ.  He saw my antenna and me, sitting at my little table, putting The Hook on the air.  He bicycled up and introduced himself with this name and call and proceeded to ask me "What's going on?"  He then proceeded to tell me how he was licensed, but was inactive. I in turn, explained all about NPOTA and portable ops. Not only was his interest in the hobby rekindled (you could tell by "that look" in his eyes), but he also brought his young son over to take a look.  You could almost see the light bulb go off over his head. To him, the idea of not being stuck in a Ham shack, but being able to be operate outside in the sunshine, with the breeze in his hair struck a resonant chord with him. It was almost like he never thought of the possibility before.

Let's also not forget that NPOTA is not a contest.  Yes, there's a Leader Board and yes, stats are being kept; but that doesn't mean that NPOTA is radio sport and nothing else. If anything, it's an operating event - designed by the ARRL to put a new, shiny face on our wonderful hobby.

With that, I'm going to go off on a tangent here, and am going to state my personal opinion that Amateur Radio has gone somewhat off the rails and has become too much "radio sport". We worry too much about DXCC tallies and contests in general. Look, I'm as guilty as anyone else in that regard, as I run a QRP contest each August ........ but what's happened to the rag chew?  When was the last time you had a QSO with a DX station that was more than "599 TU"?  When was the last time you talked about the weather with a foreign Ham, or about some other subject not related directly to radio?

I remember when I was a Novice in the late 70s, and actually had conversations with DX stations!  I know, unheard of, right?  And the QSL cards I received actually contained friendly letters, sometimes with photos of the DX Ham's station or hometown.  Why have we largely gotten away from that?  That was the best part of the hobby!

Before I get accused of contest bashing - let me state that radio sport has its time and place. There are people that exist only for that - and that's fine. That's another facet of this hobby that is perfectly legitimate. However, it seems to me that we've let a little bit too much of that mentality creep into the rest of our hobby.  We worry too much about scores, standings and results. I think what we need to do is slow down and enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the destination.

The journey is the fun part and the destination should be the fond memories of the things we enjoyed along the way. We need to exist for each other, not just for standings, results, wallpaper and trophies.

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

Enjoying the journey

There's an active post on the ARRL NPOTA Facebook page, where someone is lamenting the fact that some of the NPOTA Activators are not loading up their logs to Logbook of the World in a "timely" enough manner to his satisfaction.

I think we have to keep in mind, that for many of the Activators, this is not a "free" exercise.  Maybe they have to pay to get into a National Park, perhaps not. Destinations a long way from home involve gas, wear and tear on the car, perhaps even lodging and meals. There are also other considerations that don't involve money, but still involve expense. Time away from home, friends and family.  These all factor into the equation.

Yes, Activators are putting the Parks on the air, because they want to. No one is holding a gun to their heads. So they pretty much ignore the personal expense because they're having a good time and are getting some personal satisfaction from doing their activations. At the same time,  they are giving all the Chasers something invaluable, too.  They are giving you a good time!  They are providing you with something fun, something exciting, and new. 

There have been anecdotes told of those who have their dwindling interest in the hobby rekindled because of NPOTA.  In my own personal experience, I had a dormant Ham come up to me while I was activating the National Gateway (RC08) at Sandy Hook, NJ.  He saw my antenna and me, sitting at my little table, putting The Hook on the air.  He bicycled up and introduced himself with this name and call and proceeded to ask me "What's going on?"  He then proceeded to tell me how he was licensed, but was inactive. I in turn, explained all about NPOTA and portable ops. Not only was his interest in the hobby rekindled (you could tell by "that look" in his eyes), but he also brought his young son over to take a look.  You could almost see the light bulb go off over his head. To him, the idea of not being stuck in a Ham shack, but being able to be operate outside in the sunshine, with the breeze in his hair struck a resonant chord with him. It was almost like he never thought of the possibility before.

Let's also not forget that NPOTA is not a contest.  Yes, there's a Leader Board and yes, stats are being kept; but that doesn't mean that NPOTA is radio sport and nothing else. If anything, it's an operating event - designed by the ARRL to put a new, shiny face on our wonderful hobby.

With that, I'm going to go off on a tangent here, and am going to state my personal opinion that Amateur Radio has gone somewhat off the rails and has become too much "radio sport". We worry too much about DXCC tallies and contests in general. Look, I'm as guilty as anyone else in that regard, as I run a QRP contest each August ........ but what's happened to the rag chew?  When was the last time you had a QSO with a DX station that was more than "599 TU"?  When was the last time you talked about the weather with a foreign Ham, or about some other subject not related directly to radio?

I remember when I was a Novice in the late 70s, and actually had conversations with DX stations!  I know, unheard of, right?  And the QSL cards I received actually contained friendly letters, sometimes with photos of the DX Ham's station or hometown.  Why have we largely gotten away from that?  That was the best part of the hobby!

Before I get accused of contest bashing - let me state that radio sport has its time and place. There are people that exist only for that - and that's fine. That's another facet of this hobby that is perfectly legitimate. However, it seems to me that we've let a little bit too much of that mentality creep into the rest of our hobby.  We worry too much about scores, standings and results. I think what we need to do is slow down and enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the destination.

The journey is the fun part and the destination should be the fond memories of the things we enjoyed along the way. We need to exist for each other, not just for standings, results, wallpaper and trophies.

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

The Radio Amateur’s Code

The Radio Amateur's Code

CONSIDERATE...He/[She] never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL...He/[She] offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, the IARU Radio Society in his/[her] country, through which Amateur Radio in his/[her] country is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE...He/[She] keeps his/[her] station up to date.  It is well-built and efficient.  His/[Her] operating practice is above reproach.

FRIENDLY...He/[She] operates slowly and patiently when requested; offers friendly advice and counsel to beginners; kind assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the marks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED...Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

PATRIOTIC...His/[Her] station and skills are always ready for service to country and community.

The original version of this was written in 1928, by Paul M Segal W9EEA, and it's been modified over the years as things change with the times. The core message remains the same though, as it's pretty much timeless.

The one trait that I want to touch upon today, is the "Balanced" one.

The Radio Amateur is:

BALANCED...Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

Sometimes, I think we forget this one the most, and the evidence is not that hard to find. Take a wander on over to Facebook, or listen to a repeater and it's pretty obvious that some of us become seriously preoccupied or obsessed with such activities as NPOTA, contesting, DXing, county hunting, SOTA, etc.

Amateur Radio, on the whole, and these activities in particular are good and wholesome things. For instance, I'm certain that a lot of our wives, husbands and significant others would rather have us in the shack, yakking away on our radios than spending the month's mortgage money in bars,saloons, casinos or race tracks.

But it's easy to lose focus and become obsessed.  Radio sport that involves chasing that elusive country, county, SOTA peak, NPOTA entity or whatever should never become the focus of our lives, or our reason for being.  Just as purchasing that new rig, antenna, or piece of test equipment should never result in being unable to pay the mortgage, rent or put food on the table. It should also never result in the kid's college fund being raided.

Do you enter the shack on a Friday night for a contest, only to emerge late Sunday evening or early Monday morning?  That's not good, my friends.

Even an essential thing can become bad, if you're not careful. Are you that someone who HAS to be at every civic function or training class?  Even public service, as worthy and noble a cause as it is, should never become between you and your family.  Before going out to respond to any disaster or emergency, the health and welfare of your loved ones should always be your top priority. If they're not taken care of, you don't go.

The bottom line is that there's more to life than Amateur Radio. In our quest to satisfy our passion, sometimes we forget that. Family, friends, loved ones and those relationships are way more important, and should always come before getting that high score, or working that 300th country or buying that newest, latest and greatest radio.

Always keep in the back of your mind that the greatest gift you can give your family is your time. If you're doing OK with that, then you're doing a good job with the "Balanced" part of The Radio Amateur's Code.

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

The Radio Amateur’s Code

The Radio Amateur's Code

CONSIDERATE...He/[She] never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL...He/[She] offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, the IARU Radio Society in his/[her] country, through which Amateur Radio in his/[her] country is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE...He/[She] keeps his/[her] station up to date.  It is well-built and efficient.  His/[Her] operating practice is above reproach.

FRIENDLY...He/[She] operates slowly and patiently when requested; offers friendly advice and counsel to beginners; kind assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the marks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED...Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

PATRIOTIC...His/[Her] station and skills are always ready for service to country and community.

The original version of this was written in 1928, by Paul M Segal W9EEA, and it's been modified over the years as things change with the times. The core message remains the same though, as it's pretty much timeless.

The one trait that I want to touch upon today, is the "Balanced" one.

The Radio Amateur is:

BALANCED...Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

Sometimes, I think we forget this one the most, and the evidence is not that hard to find. Take a wander on over to Facebook, or listen to a repeater and it's pretty obvious that some of us become seriously preoccupied or obsessed with such activities as NPOTA, contesting, DXing, county hunting, SOTA, etc.

Amateur Radio, on the whole, and these activities in particular are good and wholesome things. For instance, I'm certain that a lot of our wives, husbands and significant others would rather have us in the shack, yakking away on our radios than spending the month's mortgage money in bars,saloons, casinos or race tracks.

But it's easy to lose focus and become obsessed.  Radio sport that involves chasing that elusive country, county, SOTA peak, NPOTA entity or whatever should never become the focus of our lives, or our reason for being.  Just as purchasing that new rig, antenna, or piece of test equipment should never result in being unable to pay the mortgage, rent or put food on the table. It should also never result in the kid's college fund being raided.

Do you enter the shack on a Friday night for a contest, only to emerge late Sunday evening or early Monday morning?  That's not good, my friends.

Even an essential thing can become bad, if you're not careful. Are you that someone who HAS to be at every civic function or training class?  Even public service, as worthy and noble a cause as it is, should never become between you and your family.  Before going out to respond to any disaster or emergency, the health and welfare of your loved ones should always be your top priority. If they're not taken care of, you don't go.

The bottom line is that there's more to life than Amateur Radio. In our quest to satisfy our passion, sometimes we forget that. Family, friends, loved ones and those relationships are way more important, and should always come before getting that high score, or working that 300th country or buying that newest, latest and greatest radio.

Always keep in the back of your mind that the greatest gift you can give your family is your time. If you're doing OK with that, then you're doing a good job with the "Balanced" part of The Radio Amateur's Code.

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

So sad

I was browsing Facebook today when I saw this sad post (not verbatim) in the Amateur Radio group. "I am leaving the hobby after 10 years. I am tired of having people tell me that unless I have thousands of dollars of equipment, and lots of land for antennas that I am not a "real Ham" (I hate that phrase!).  Have a nice life."

I feel badly for this individual, and I suspect there's more going on here under the surface.  But, if that's the definition of a "real Ham" then I'm not one, either ...... and I've been at this "Ham Radio thing" for 38 years now.

I am not going to insult anyone's intelligence by feigning that I don't own expensive Amateur Radio equipment.  I do.  But when you look at my shack compared to a lot of others out there, mine is relatively modest.  No, I'm way beyond two tin cans and a wire, but I'm also do not own enough equipment that would equal the GDP of a small nation.

In the same breath, let me say that I do NOT begrudge anyone from owning enough equipment that would equal the GDP of a small nation. Hey, if you are wealthy enough, and you're not ignoring the basic needs of yourself or your family in order to fund your hobby - more power to you.

The second part of his definition is nearer and dearer to my heart, though.  I have never been in a situation where I felt I could put up the kind of antennas that I would like to have.  At both my QTHs, the one in East Brunswick, where I grew up, and the one in South Plainfield where I currently live - both are typical NJ suburban lots that are 50 feet wide by 100 feet long. (15M X 30M).

I had a G5RV here in South Plainfield that took so may twists and turns that it looked like I was playing the three dimensional chess board from Star Trek. Everything I have has to fit on my property, even the radials under by Butternut have twists and angles to them.  I'm not complaining, just stating the facts. Do I wish I had plenty of land where I could lay out a classic Beverage antenna for 160 Meters - or even put up a half wave dipole for 160 Meters?  You're darn tootin' I would.  But I don't, so I'm not going to shed tears over it. As bad as my case is, at least I can have outdoor antennas. A lot of people have to live with a lot less than I have, and I think about that every time I am tempted to complain or feel sorry for myself.

In the end, you make do with what you have.  I'll probably never make DXCC Honor Roll, but I am closing in on 200 countries worked. Given the antennas that I have (and had), I think that's a pretty fair accomplishment.

The bottom line is that you can't let another person dictate to you what something as wide in scope as Amateur Radio..... is. Amateur Radio is many things to many people.  My excitement over working Australia with 5 Watts might make you yawn.  Your excitement over having your 100th message passed this month might earn just a shrug of my shoulders from me.  Are either of us wrong?  No, both of us are enjoying what we like best in a hobby that has enough room for everyone!

So the next time someone tells you that you're not a "real Ham", just smile and walk away. Anyone who truly thinks they know what a "real Ham' is, is just kidding themselves, anyway.

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

A semi-annual rant about learning CW

I have been seeing this posted more and more on CW minded Facebook pages:


This is the worst! Yuck! Argh! Ack! Ptooey!

Please take my word for it! As I've told so many times before, I know the frustration of not being able to learn CW. I put off getting my license for at least five years (maybe more), because I could not wrap my brain around the code. And one of the major reasons for that lack of brain wrapping was because someone thought that they were doing me a good turn by handing me a chart similar to the one above.

From personal experience, I can tell you that making the jump from audio input to visual input to brain is the perfect recipe for frustration and resignation. I made the mistake of hearing, trying to visualize and then decode.  What you need to do is skip that visual step. Morse Code is a heard language, and unless you're in the Navy operating signal lamps, it's primarily an aural language. To this day, I have extreme difficulty (in fact, I don't even bother) when people "type" out cutsie messages using periods and hyphens to make dits and dahs in print. I have to hear it to de-code. No ifs, ands or buts ..... I have to hear it.

Think about it for a second.  When you were a baby, how did you learn to talk - by reading, or by listening to your parents and siblings?

So thanks be to God for the Hams who taught my Novice class. They handed me a set of ARRL Morse Code cassettes with only one word of instruction - LISTEN! And in the end, that's what did it, but the damage had already been done. I had to "unlearn" my past efforts and had to re-learn the direct step of "hear, then de-code".  For me, that damage lasted well past 5 WPM.  I was stuck at the 10 WPM barrier for a long time, and it was only by the Grace of God that I was able to get up to 13 WPM within 6 months in order to earn my General ticket.

So my advice for those wishing to learn Morse?

1) Ditch any visual aids, as if they were a rattlesnake or the plague.

2) Listen to letters being generated at a speed of anywhere from 13-18 WPM. Let the spacing between the letters determine the code speed. If you listen to Morse being generated slowly and drawn out, you're more than likely going to suffer the 10 WPM plateau like I did.

3) Limit your dedicated practice sessions to no more than 15-20 minutes a pop - two sessions a day, max. At other times, I find it helpful to have Morse playing quietly, almost subliminally in the background while driving, doing chores, etc. IMHO, it gets your brain used to hearing it, and before you know it, you're going to be picking out characters without even realizing it. Lastly, I never liked the concept of listening to random characters once I learned the alphabet.  From then on, I found it most useful to listen to actual words and not letter groups. Let's face it, unless you're a spy, you're going to be on the air making conversation - not sending clandestine messages.

4) Once you've learned all the characters and numbers and basic punctuation, and feel somewhat confident in being able to de-code, then get on the air and make QSOs. Real live QSOs are without a doubt, the best vehicle towards increasing your code speed. You can find a lot of beginners hanging out in the 7.120 MHz neighborhood of 40 Meters.

5) Relax, and don't get down on yourself. We all learn things at different speeds. Some people are quick studies and then there are people like me. But if you stick with it, you will get it - I promise.

6) Make full use of W1AW code practice and all the free CW learning software that's out there. Personally, I keep "Morse Trainer" by Wolphi on my phone. It's not a free app, you have to pay for it, but it will generate Morse at speeds up to 60 WPM.  I keep it set at 40 WPM.  Can I de-code Morse that fast? No way in heck! But I can tell you that after listening (JUST listening - not even trying to decipher) code at that speed for 15 minutes .... code sent at 25 or 28 WPM sounds a lot slower than it used to.

I suffered the double whammy. I had to "unlearn" the aural to visual to brain process; and then once I actually learned the code, I had to unlearn the "code letters sent at 5 WPM" error.  Look at me now - CW is my most preferred mode and I am comfortable anywhere around the 25 WPM mark! On a good day, if I don't tense up, I can go for short bursts of 30 -35 WPM. The bottom line is, that learning and becoming proficient with Morse Code is not impossible, in most cases.


Take it from someone who thought it was.

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

Conditions sucked yesterday

Apologies for my bluntness, but it is what it is.

After completing a bunch of yard work, I got set up for the QRP-ARCI Summer Homebrew Sprint. All I heard was a bunch of nothing.  I ended up working K4BAI and N4BP and that was it. Discouraged, and thinking that it might be my portable antennas (which performed just fine for Field Day last weekend), I left the park early and came home. The HF9V and the W3EDP antennas connected to the shack KX3 weren't hearing any more or any better, so I guess it was just a bad propagation day.

So this morning, I noticed a post from another Ham in the Facebook Field Radio group. He didn't have any luck either in his own personal portable ops trip yesterday. He was wondering whether it might be his antennas or a case of an unacceptable SWR ........

So of course, someone had to pipe up with "Try a 100 Watt radio next time. Life is too short for QRP."

That just burns my biscuits. So I fired back with, "Propagation sucked yesterday, and can we do without the "Life's too short for QRP" line? Not only is it untrue, but it's really overused."

A bit later, I got a pang of conscience, feeling that I might have been a bit harsh with that line, so I added, "I've got nothing against QRO (use it myself sometimes). I have been at this Ham Radio thing since 1978 and have been 99 and 44/100ths % QRP since 2003. I'm not trying to make it a "religion" or force anyone into it, but I still get amazed and shake my head sometimes as what 5 Watts will accomplish. But still ...... whatever peels your potato. If you like QRO, fine - QRP, fine - CW, fine - SSB, fine - digital, fine - there's room for all of us. The more the merrier."

Really, there's no reason to ever demean or diminish what someone likes about Amateur Radio. Even if for the life of you, you can't understand why someone would like to spend hours chasing after some little island in the middle of nowhere, or why someone chases signals that you can't even hear with your own ears, or why someone just won't give up on an old, antiquated form of transmission that was invented over 100 years ago and has been dumped by just about everyone else in the world, or why some people seem to get together for hours just to kibbitz about old times or enumerate their aches and pains, or even why someone would "waste" their entire weekend working a contest while simultaneously "clogging up the bands".

If it's what you like, then that's all that's important - and don't let anyone tell you different.

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

Subscribe FREE to AmateurRadio.com's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

 
We never share your e-mail address.

Please support our generous sponsors who make AmateurRadio.com possible:

KB3IFH QSL Cards

Hip Ham Shirts

Georgia Copper

Ham-Cram
Expert Linears

morseDX

Ni4L Antennas

N3ZN Keys

West Mountain
R&L Electronics


Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on AmateurRadio.com!

Have a ham radio product or service?
Consider advertising on our site.

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!


  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor




Sign up for our free
Amateur Radio Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address: