“No Ham Left Behind” Feedback – Where are the Elmers?

In addition to the e-mails about restrictive antenna covenants, I’ve gotten several e-mails from hams who had a hard time finding Elmers. After describing his search, one guy wrote, “How many other hams have been lost
along the way because they couldn’t get just a little bit of real-world
help?”

This situation puzzling to me. Ham radio has had a long history of mentoring. Heck, we even have a special name for amateur radio mentors–we call them Elmers!  In recent years, though, more and more newly-licensed hams are finding it harder and harder to find a good Elmer.

There are probably many reasons for this, but two come to mind immediately:

  1. Everyone is busier than ever. That leaves less time for hams to do hamming, much less Elmer someone else.
  2. As the technology gets more complex, fewer “experienced” hams feel comfortable about the technology. So, if a question comes up about something, and the ham doesn’t know anything about it, he or she may feel embarassed. Who wants to be embarrassed like that? Well, the way to avoid embarrassment is to avoid Elmering, I guess.

When I run into a situation like that, I either try to figure it out with the person (that way I learn something as well!) or refer him or her to someone that I think might know the answer. For example, I have never operated 6m, but I know some guys who have. Should an Elmeree ask a question about working 6m, more likely than not, I’ll refer him or her to the guy that actually knows something.

This isn’t just a one-way street. I have talked to guys who have made an effort to Elmer someone, only to find them uncooperative or ungrateful. I’ve had that happen to me, too, and I can see where that would make someone less likely to extend himself or herself to help out in the future.

About the only advice I can give in this situation is to cut that person loose and move on to someone else who might be more receptive and thankful. Please don’t let that sour you on Elmering

“No Ham Left Behind” Feedback – Restrictive Homeowner’s Agreements

QST finally published my op-ed piece “No Ham Left Behind” in the September issue. I’ve already gotten several e-mail comments. A couple of them have mentioned restrictive homeowner’s agreements as a factor in ham inactivity. While I don’t mean to minimize the problem of restrictive covenants, there are ways to get around them.

First and foremost, don’t move into such a development! I had one guy e-mail me saying, “I know I chose to move here, but….” Well, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. I do realize that this could be a big impediment for youngsters who don’t have the option of moving, but adults have no excuse.

Second, there are a variety of stealth antennas that amateurs can build and use effectively. We had a great presentation at our club from a member who’d moved into a condo and experimented with a variety of antennas that he could put in his attic. He’s now happily working 80-10 with the results of his experiments.

Third, clubs should work to establish club stations. These could be located at a local community college, community recreation center, Red Cross chapter, or Salvation Army facility. Certainly, in the case of the Red Cross or Salvation Army it’s a win-win situation. The club gets a club station that can be used by the members and the agency gets amateur radio capabilities. Our club right now is working with the local Red Cross to set up an amateur radio station in their new facility.

I’m sure there are other innovative ways to get around this problem. If you know of one, please let me know.

I Couldn’t Buy a QSO

Tonight, I couldn’t buy a QSO. I know that band conditions weren’t all that great, but I was hearing a fair amount of stations, and some of the were pretty strong. Even so, I just couldn’t get anyone to answer my CQ.

I called CQ at least ten times, and I could hear other stations making contact. It was getting really frustrating. I was beginning to wonder if it was my breath! Seriously, though, I was wondering if I was having some kind of antenna problem or rig problem. All the meters looked right, though.

Finally, just before 10 pm, I heard VE3OU calling CQ. I called, we exchanged 599+ reports, and had a nice QSO. So, I guess it was just one of those things.

This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

I had hoped to work the New Jersey QSO Party this weekend. With my 40m dipole, I usually do pretty well in New Jersey, so I had hopes of adding another certificate to my collection.

Unfortunately, there didn’t appear to be much activity. I turned on the rig just after 4 pm and didn’t hear a single CW station around the suggested frequency of 7035 kHz. I tuned up to 7235, and did work a phone station, but he was the only one I heard. A bit later, I did find a couple of CW stations, but overall, it was a bust.

Perhaps the date is the problem. People do go on vacation at this time of year, and on top of that, the SSB portion of the North American QSO Party, was going on as well.

Last night, the Flying Pigs held their monthly Run For The Bacon spring from 9 pm to 11 pm. There were quite a few stations on last night, but conditions were less than optimal. Propagation was pretty good, but the bands were very noisy. I gave up after about 45 minutes. I made ten contacts and scored a total of 224 points.

This morning (OK, it’s not the weekend, but it’s close), a crew of men came to trim the trees in my yard away from the power lines. It’s a good thing I was home. They snagged my antennas a couple of times. I’m afraid that if I hadn’t been home, I’d have found them in a pile on the lawn.

After pointing out the antennas to the crew, they were more careful, though, and I even got them to cut down a small tree that I wanted to get rid of. So, all’s well that ends well.

Tech Manual Feedback

Although it’s been published only for about six weeks, I’ve already gotten some kudos and some good feedback on my No-Nonsense, No-Code Tech License Manual.

One new ham commented,

Thank you. I bought the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual and read through it (doing all the questions as I went along). I was doing fine on the questions only missing 1 or 2. As a final study step, I read your manual and it made everything come into focus. It was the perfect study guide. I think I could have passed just reading your manual. I will say yhat having read the ARRL book first, your document was the perfect companion. By the way.. I got 100 on the exam. Again.. thank you.

Another noted:

I used your study guide to teach a two-day Technician class. Even though I only had 2 students, it was a success. Both passed and are waiting for their call signs
to be issued.

The only complaint I got was that there were no drawings or diagrams in the booklet. I feel that there should be several pertaining to setting up a station and hooking up a modem for packet or RTTY.

I was thinking about adding some figures to the manual, where a diagram would clarify an issue. This comment certainly gives me the push to do so. I’d love to get more feedback as well.

ARRL Club Resources

Norm Fusaro, W3IZ sent this to the club president’s mailing list about six months ago. I thought you’d find it useful….Dan

Resources for clubs

Multi-Media Library
The multi-media library has videos and programs that clubs can use for meeting programs. Many new PowerPoint programs are free to download.

Club Callsigns
Does your club have a unique callsign? Download the forms to get a club callsign or renew the club’s existing license.

License Class Search Page
This page lets prospective hams search for license classes in their area. Registered Volunteer Instructors may list classes on the web by following the link from the Volunteer Instructor Support Page http://www.arrl.org/FandES/ead/instructor/

New Amateur Report
The New Amateur Report is a member’s only page that lets clubs download a list of new or recently upgraded hams. Lists can be generated from information selected by ARRL section, Division or from a list of Zip Codes. Reports can be CSV, HTML or .pdf for Avery mailing labels. Access to the New Amateur page is restricted to the club president, contact person and newsletter editor.

Big Club List
The Big Club List allows you to search for active or inactive clubs in an ARRL section and also reports in many formats.

Club Commission Membership Recruitment Program
Under the ARRL Club Commission Membership Recruitment Program, clubs retain $15 for each NEW membership and $2 for each renewal submitted (regular and senior memberships only). A NEW MEMBER is defined as any individual who has never been a member of ARRL or any individual who has not retained a membership for two or more calendar years prior to the application submission.

Liability and Equipment Insurance for Clubs
This comprehensive policy provides coverage for lawsuits resulting from bodily injury and property damage at ARRL Affiliated Club-sponsored activities. This includes concession stands, dances, banquets, parties, auctions, raffles, picnics and meetings, to name just a few. Coverage would also apply for official Club participation, for instance participating in a community-sponsored event. Plus, in addition to the policy limits described below, this plan also pays the court and legal costs of defense for covered claims.

Club Updates
Once your club is affiliated, it remains affiliated. To stay actively affiliated, you must complete and submit an Annual Report at least once a year. Your club’s status will be changed to inactive should 2 years go by without our receiving an Annual Report. Your club can return to active status at any time by simply completing and submitting an Annual Report.

Updates are as simple as:
Locate your listing.

  • Click on your club’s highlighted name to get to its listing.
  • When your page appears, scroll down to the bottom where it says, “Submit updated information for this club.”
  • After you’ve made your changes, click the “submit” button and your update will be sent to us.

After the submitted data is reviewed, updates are made and changes can be viewed on the web in a few days.

Leadership
You’ve heard it before, “There is no “I” in TEAM.” Make sure that you have the tools and skills when your organization is looking to you for direction:

Clipart

Technical Information Pages

Grant Writing
Here are a couple of links to some grant writing instructions

Carl and Jerry – Adventures in Electronics

From the MAKE blog:

In the 50s and 60s, John T. Frye, W9EGV/Popular Electronics published a series of fiction stories called “The Carl and Jerry Stories.” In each story the pair acquired new skills, got their ham radio licenses, and used their knowledge of electronics to get out of a jam or solve a mystery. There isn’t a complete collection of all the stories that I know of, but there are some scans/text online. The stories are entertaining, fun, and I can imagine how many engineers, scientists, and makers got their start from reading these wonderful tales.

I seem to have missed these stories. My dad did not start subscribing to Popular Electronics until shortly after after they stopped publishing them in December 1964.

Backward Sunspot Could Signal New Cycle

Links to the story “Backward Sunspot” have appeared in quite a few of the maililng lists I subscribe to.  Aside from the good news that the backward sunspot  may signal the start of a new sunspot cycle, the article is interesting reading.

Here’s something I just learned about sunspots:

“Backward” means magnetically backward. [David] Hathaway, [a solar physicist at the Marshall Space Flight in Huntsville, Alabama] explains:

Sunspots are planet-sized magnets created by the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo. Like all magnets in the Universe, sunspots have north (N) and south (S) magnetic poles. The sunspot of July 31st popped up at solar longitude 65 degrees W, latitude 13 degrees S. Sunspots in that area are normally oriented N-S. The newcomer, however, was S-N, opposite the norm.

Looks like the fun is about to begin.

Yet More Links

Here are some more links I’ve found useful in my travels through the Internet:

  • Technick.Net. This site contains a wealth of basic electronics information, including pinouts for a wide variety of connectors and interfaces, tutorials on various electronics topics, and a section of circuits. The circuits section is a little light on ham radio circuits, but there are a lot of filter circuits, which could, of course, be useful in ham radio projects.
  • Station Grounding. This eHam.Net article is written by Steve Katz WB2WIK, and if you read eHam at all, you’ll recognize the call. He’s one of the more sane regulars there, and he has certainly earned his technical chops.
  • Clifton Laboratories. This website is the brainchild of Jack Smith, K8ZOA, author of Programming the PIC Microcontroller with MBasic. It has information on his amateur radio projects, including several PIC Microcontroller projects. There’s also some good information on how to work with surface mount devices.
  • Hobby Projects. Hobbyprojects.com is a collection of links to 1000′s of Electronic Circuits, schematics, online tutorials. There is a lot of good information here. Unfortunately, the website design really bad (think “angry fruit salad”), and there are Google ads all over the place.

Something Disturbing

CW operators pride themselves on being friendly. I attribute that to the fact that it’s harder to be hostile and insult someone on CW than it is on phone. Even so, I had a somewhat disturbing experience last night.

I fired up the rig on 40m, and since the Worked All Europe was still going on, I tuned up the band to the Fists frequency (7058 kHz). After calling QRL? and getting no response, I proceeded to call CQ. I got an immediate response, but instead of a valid callsign, the station signed QLF. I just ignored it, and tuned off the frequency, thinking that I may have inadvertently interfered with a QSO, although I heard no one, and no one had responded to my QRL?

About a half hour or so later, I called CQ on 7047 kHz. This time, a station sent “LID” immediately after my CQ. Not believing what I was hearing, I sent a “?” and the station sent “IDIOT”. Amazing. I called CQ again and had a nice QSO after that.

I hope this was an isolated incident. Maybe it was an OM who had a couple of pops and was feeling frisky. At any rate, there’s really no place on the ham bands for this type of behavior.

Have any of you had a similar experience lately?