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A few words from Rob K9RST…

A Few Good Folks

To run almost anything successfully take the dedication and commitment of only a few good folks.  I am heartened to have worked with so many of fine members of our club who have stood up and volunteered to accept positions on the Board, or for events or even to help one another out.  It doesn’t take much, but when that spirit of community is not around, it can really bring a place down.  I hear stories every day of other clubs whose membership is aging and can’t keep up with the rigors of managing their club or its resources. Such was the case with one of our neighboring clubs who just needed a little help.  Two from our organization stepped up and visited their repeater and did the necessary work that the others just could not do anymore.  Even within our own club, we have many heroes…too many people to mention here but thank goodness we have them.  I know we are living in stressful times. Free time seems shorter and the pace of life seems relentless. So today I just wanted to ask you to take a moment to say thank you to members of our Board or others who give up their time to work for us all.

This time of year becomes increasingly stressful for me since I happen to be in charge of two major public service events.  The Evanston Bike Club’s North Shore Century – a multi-tiered event for more than 2000 bicyclists.  We have had a very long relationship with them…so long I have forgotten the number of years (12 maybe?).  We now provide close to 35 radio volunteers to support their efforts and they have come to rely on us.  This is how you build continuity and strengthen our relationship with our neighbors.  They all see ham radio in a different way – well, in fact, they see ham radio in action.  Most people don’t hear much about ham radio these days (which is partly why the government can threaten shut services like WWV down). Public service is our public face. So, when we stumble, or don’t perform as expected, we are letting the entire community down.  I recently read a terrific article in QST about the ham radio support for the Boston Marathon. 240 ham radio volunteers.  They have been supporting that event almost since the beginning.  And, after the bombing at the finish line, the organizers had to rethink their entire approach.  They made many, many changes, including building out their own radio network, but they kept the hams.  The hams were asked to do additional things, that might not require a radio, but they were there to do what was needed. This year was particularly challenging for the hams in Boston because cold rain dropped during the entire event.  This is absolutely the worst-case scenario for a volunteer.  Over the years, Boston area ham have built a powerful team that has really shown their community what ham radio means.

I am also working to organize the 140 people we need for the Chicago Marathon. This even is also a monster to build out.  We have been lucky that we have built a good team, who comes out year in and year out, but I continue to struggle with the few who sign up and then drop out the week before the event.  I can tell you now that 10 people will come up ill, have an accident, forgot about a birthday party…I have heard it all. This is partly why we try to recruit more people just to have folks whom we can move around if needed.  For Boston, because of the weather, they had to bring in extra shift of people, to support the folks who had already put in long days!  All these events share a common theme: commitment.  For too many years, people gave up on ham radio because we did not do what we said we would do.   I am happy to represent this new generation of ham radio person who understands what volunteering means.  They come prepared (programmed their radios and read the assigned materials) and are willing to serve where needed.  This is what makes me proud to be a ham, when we see people volunteering and committing to the assignment.  For that, I thank each and everyone of your who have served this club or this hobby over the years.  You are making a difference one Q at a time!! (Q is short for QSO, which is short for making a contact over the radio)!!

 

73’s

Rob 

K9RST

 

August, 2018
 
10,000 steps.  That is what some are suggesting it takes for us to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 10,000 steps every day! For our Fox Hunt, I walked about 17, 495steps. I realize that the Fox hunt is not everyone’s cup of tea.  It can be a little stressful.  It could mean cutting through rugged terrain, but if all you did was follow some of the hunters around, it would be a good form of exercise.  Now, most of all those health benefits may have been lost after the event as we gathered for some adult beverages and food! (Well, some people did…hoo-rah for those disciplined enough to only order water!!)

We had a great night. The weather was perfect.  No mosquitoes.  Lots of interesting strategies at play.  The winner, as it has been for the past couple of seasons, was Warren Pugh.  He uses one of these newer synthesized foxhunt sniffers.  When there is a signal to track this device produces an audible tone that get louder as you get closer to the device.  It is amazing how effective these tools can be. Now, even with this assist, it takes some skills to find the fox.  Warren was at the hidden fox site early on, but it took more time to find where it was hidden.  Turns out, last year’s winner, Pete Walter- K9PWT, hid the fox right under a well-placed safety cone. This decoy alluded many hunters.   Pete left behind two of his prized Viking Sniffers for others to use. These little devices are amazing. They do all the work…all you need are feet and a willingness to walk. I offered them to some of our newest hunters, Tami Witbrot and Forrest Lamb.  Well, they found the wee fox and placed second and third respectively. Tami did it even in flip flops!  Proving that you don’t need fancy technology to get the job done, Casey Diers came in 4th with his home brew yard stick antenna.

I demonstrated to myself that even the simplest ideas will work as well.  I ended up using my radio and a paper clip in the antenna mount (specially hand made mount).  I knew I was on top of the fox but could not find it, even going to the third harmonic, so I drifted on and walked right past it. I did not see anyone else, so I figured I was lost or confused and was about to give up. That is when I ran into fellow hunter Marty Boroff.  He had a synthesizer device but with a telescoping antenna. Seeing him renewed my competitive charge to at least find the dang thing.  I knew I was not going to win.  At my age, even placing is a badge of honor. I charged past him to the place where I had been earlier and now found a few other hunters, basically confirming my suspicions.  My fancy dancy Yagi antenna and stepdown attenuator got me to the place, but the attenuator was not working.  It is on my bench now.  That is why I resorted to the paper clip strategy.  I came in 6th but proud that I found it.

Al Hovey handled all communication for the event at the Starbucks in the Glen and had a hand full of people with him socializing.  22 of us ended up at a little Irish restaurant pub down the street afterwards.  It was a magical night. 

This event is a time-honored tradition with our club. For years, we would start at the Harger Center in downtown Highland Park and then do our hunt east to the lake.  We had a very large area to cover, or so it seemed.  It would take many of us 30- 40 minutes just to get to the general vicinity of the fox…and we had to walk through a busy downtown area.  Imagine all of us pirouetting down Central Street with our radios.  (If you don’t know, when the fox broadcasts, you typically spin in a circle to see if you can discern a null or a signal strength indicator. People did ask, “what the heck are you doing? “In the end, the final push would be to find the Fox often cleverly hidden under brush or bush or trash can.  By then it was often quite dark outside, and the mosquitoes would be competing for our blood.  We moved to the Glen a couple of years ago to get a change in scene and try different terrain.  The Glen Town Center, the site of the former Glenview Naval Air Station has some interesting features and so far, has been an engaging place for this event.  I encourage all of you to try it, for the walk alone!
 
Getting Involved

We are seeing some turnover with some of our Board positions this year and will be seeking your help.  We are looking for someone to help manage our web site; help with internal communications; help with our annual action…specifically we are looking for someone with an eye for detail and enjoys tracking sales.  We expect to build a team to support this effort…we need a data cruncher to help manage the sales flow, a web salesperson and a team of folks to check and clean up the gear.  There are many other ways you can support your club.  If you have an interest in doing more for the club, please contact me.  If everyone does a small part, it makes a big job smaller.

ROB’S BLOG
August Blog 2018 10,000 steps.  That is what some are suggesting it takes for us to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 10,000 steps every day! For our Fox Hunt, I walked about 17, 495steps. I realize that the Fox hunt is not everyone’s cup of tea.  It can be a little stressful.  It could mean cutting through rugged terrain, but if all you did was follow some of the hunters around, it would be a good form of exercise.  Now, most of all those health benefits may have been lost after the event as we gathered for some adult beverages and food! (Well, some people did…hoo-rah for those disciplined enough to only order water!!)We had a great night. The weather was perfect.  No mosquitoes.  Lots of interesting strategies at play.  The winner, as it has been for the past couple of seasons, was Warren Pugh.  He uses one of these newer synthesized foxhunt sniffers.  When there is a signal to track this device produces an audible tone that get louder as you get closer to the device.  It is amazing how effective these tools can be. Now, even with this assist, it takes some skills to find the fox.  Warren was at the hidden fox site early on, but it took more time to find where it was hidden.  Turns out, last year’s winner, Pete Walter- K9PWT, hid the fox right under a well-placed safety cone. This decoy alluded many hunters.   Pete left behind two of his prized Viking Sniffers for others to use. These little devices are amazing. They do all the work…all you need are feet and a willingness to walk. I offered them to some of our newest hunters, Tami Witbrot and Forrest Lamb.  Well, they found the wee fox and placed second and third respectively. Tami did it even in flip flops!  Proving that you don’t need fancy technology to get the job done, Casey Diers came in 4th with his home brew yard stick antenna.I demonstrated to myself that even the simplest ideas will work as well.  I ended up using my radio and a paper clip in the antenna mount (specially hand made mount).  I knew I was on top of the fox but could not find it, even going to the third harmonic, so I drifted on and walked right past it. I did not see anyone else, so I figured I was lost or confused and was about to give up. That is when I ran into fellow hunter Marty Boroff.  He had a synthesizer device but with a telescoping antenna. Seeing him renewed my competitive charge to at least find the dang thing.  I knew I was not going to win.  At my age, even placing is a badge of honor. I charged past him to the place where I had been earlier and now found a few other hunters, basically confirming my suspicions.  My fancy dancy Yagi antenna and stepdown attenuator got me to the place, but the attenuator was not working.  It is on my bench now.  That is why I resorted to the paper clip strategy.  I came in 6th but proud that I found it.Al Hovey handled all communication for the event at the Starbucks in the Glen and had a hand full of people with him socializing.  22 of us ended up at a little Irish restaurant pub down the street afterwards.  It was a magical night. This event is a time-honored tradition with our club. For years, we would start at the Harger Center in downtown Highland Park and then do our hunt east to the lake.  We had a very large area to cover, or so it seemed.  It would take many of us 30- 40 minutes just to get to the general vicinity of the fox…and we had to walk through a busy downtown area.  Imagine all of us pirouetting down Central Street with our radios.  (If you don’t know, when the fox broadcasts, you typically spin in a circle to see if you can discern a null or a signal strength indicator. People did ask, “what the heck are you doing? “In the end, the final push would be to find the Fox often cleverly hidden under brush or bush or trash can.  By then it was often quite dark outside, and the mosquitoes would be competing for our blood.  We moved to the Glen a couple of years ago to get a change in scene and try different terrain.  The Glen Town Center, the site of the former Glenview Naval Air Station has some interesting features and so far, has been an engaging place for this event.  I encourage all of you to try it, for the walk alone! Getting InvolvedWe are seeing some turnover with some of our Board positions this year and will be seeking your help.  We are looking for someone to help manage our web site; help with internal communications; help with our annual action…specifically we are looking for someone with an eye for detail and enjoys tracking sales.  We expect to build a team to support this effort…we need a data cruncher to help manage the sales flow, a web salesperson and a team of folks to check and clean up the gear.  There are many other ways you can support your club.  If you have an interest in doing more for the club, please contact me.  If everyone does a small part, it makes a big job smaller.

 Field DY 2018

We said we wanted to focus on making field Day fun for more people and I think we did just that.  Field Day 2018 was fabulous largely due to the many new folks who showed leadership and accepted the challenges. Starting at the top, I want to thank Erich Grauke for serving as my co-lead.  For the 15 or so years I have served as your Field Day Chair, this event has grown in scale and dimensions.  It has under has become a complicated production…that is both a curse and a blessing! It is only possible with the help of many people 

To review and acknowledge a few people, The Demo area was incredible.  It was literally a fair. We had mini seminars on topics like: How to use a Rig Expert; ARDEN mesh networking; APRS; and satellite.  Thanks to Casey Diers for leading the charge with his interesting mesh network demo.  He had a small IP camera in the SSB tent that shipped a signal to his demo area.  He also had a N1MM logging software running so people could see how we were scoring.  Al Hovey did a “Why Ham Radio” discussion for many family groups that seemed to a winner. Greg Karlove outdid himself again with his satellite set up.  He had to fight off Murphy…but with a little help from his friends, they found a work around that allowed them to make at least one satellite contact.  He also showed a handful of folks how to use a Rig Expert meter.  Mike Simmons had a good-sized group gathered to talk about APRS.  Mike Cicchetti and Tami Witbrodt had activities for our younger crowd, although most seemed fascinated by Al Hovey’s bean bag toss.  The activities went on all afternoon and kept people around and engaged.  Kudo’s to the Demo Team for bringing your expertise and enthusiasm to the event.

Ron Settle served as the GOTA chair.  We had many, many operators of various ages and a full set of mentors to work with them.  I enjoyed working with three of the GOTA operators.  We went from folks who had never been on HF to at least being comfortable using the microphone.  There are a million skills sets to learn before you graduate to a full-grown contester, but you must start someplace. Plus, the skills one learns here are all applicable to all radio work.  Antennas, bands, protocols, processes and, of course, talking! Thanks to all who served your fellow hams as mentors.  Last time I checked our score for that tent we had a respectable showing…perhaps 200 points and that was before we calculated the potential bonus points (we can earn up to 500 points in GOTA).

For as long as I can remember, Larry Leviton, John Wass and Howard Miller handled the cooking duties for Field Day. We are very grateful to each of them for their years of service to this club.  Last year, we decided we wanted to make some dramatic changes to the food offerings. Burt Krain stepped up to lead this team…Howard Miller rejoined the group and Burt recruited Tami Witbrodt and Jeremy Dee.  The food was excellent. And many people brought even more goodies: sweets, salads and sandwiches.  Having worked through the night, I appreciated a little midnight snack!  I counted about 92 visitors during this period

The Bonus points represent a sizeable chunk of our final score and I am glad to say we have achieved almost all of them.  We did have issues with one of our generators, but we had spares…hard lessons learned from the past. We did forget some of our safety gear.  I did not bring fire extinguishers, for instance.  My fault, but I had enough on my plate with maddening client deadlines just before Field Day.  It was wet enough out there that I don’t think we were a fire hazard.  Cary Willis created a first aid kit for the event.  Jeff Kraft managed to get us some publicity in the local presses and we had two elected officials visit. Murphy may have squeezed us on the message delivered to the ARRL section manager.  Our Winlink station seemed to be on the blink again.   We sent the message but apparently it did not go through.  We will have to explore what is going on with that later. Mike Cicchetti distributed our signs all over the routes coming into the park. That really helped. And Mark Thompson delivered our fliers to the various locations around town. As mentioned before, we got our 100 points for a satellite contact, even with the issues we faced! The first obstacles we faced was that almost all the passes were too far north of our location to even attempt to reach the birds.  Once they got down to where ewe could work them, we discovered the frequency was not tracking. Randy and Mark pulled down the ARRL message.

Radios. This event could not happen without radios.  Thanks to the Elecraft K3 owners who shared their gear: Don Whiteman, Ron Settle, Dave Hewitt and Al Hovey. Dave spend almost a month testing and updating the computers and radios. Field Day takes a village.

In another display of leadership, Warren Pugh took over the job of being the CW captain.  He helped manage our two CW stations…scheduling folks in so that we had someone in a seat almost all night.  We are still tabulating our scores but looks like we had a solid performance in that areas.  We did have issues with some self-inflicted interference.  CW signals were bleeding into the SSB tent.  We moved antennas and while that diminished the issue, we still had problems.  Funny how what worked in one year doesn’t in the next!

Mark Klocksin was the SSB tent captain and manage our growing list of operators.  I help manage the late-night shift…and I can tell you we had a steady stream of competent operators and loggers throughout the night.  Sometimes it is just sitting there pounding away makes a big difference. Persistence wins.

Set up and take down.  Well, as I write, we are still cleaning tents and gear almost a week after the event.  Thanks to Jerry Weiss and Gary Gordon for helping Monday, cleaning critical equipment. This year was marked by a double whammy. I decided to move our storage locker and so I had the thrill of moving our stuff from one place to another.  Set up was made more complicated with rains…and I took a fun spill, when my feet got caught up in some rope. Thanks to Chuck Saunders, Hy Alexander and Don Whiteman for managing the antenna set up crews.  We had about 25 people to set up tents and antennas.  I had a small mishap.   I ended up flipping over right into a little pool of water that left me soaked.   Tripped on some rope while setting up the big Army tent.  Mark Klocksin has the incriminating photos and his ransom fees are more than I can afford, so they may be public soon. The only thing broken was my pride.

We will publish a link to our Field Day photos later. 

Overall…Field Day was another solid NSRC performance.  Thanks to everyone who took on new leadership positions and all who hung in there to do the heavy lifting.

 

Rob

K9RST

 

June 2018

Close the door on another successful Hamvention.  This annual trek to radio mecca has been a different experience for me on almost every one of my 15 or more visits to Dayton.  This year was no exception.  I spent more time selling some of our club’s donated equipment.  I had a ball. Selling can be fun. You must spend a couple of days doing research: How much is this item going for these days and how low could we go?  Does the item even work? What is its heritage? Then, the fun begins.  You offer a price. They counter offer. You say, “No” and they walk away. Some come and return and you start over and eventually the item is sold.  It’s a game.  But, you must do your homework.  We sold almost everything we brought.  Now to achieve this end, required spending much more time in our own location and not in the vender market or the forums.  Friday, it rained (it always rains in Dayton), but we sold a good number of items to other vendors mostly before the gates opened!

The rain slowed things down and made the place very muddy, but people persevered (we need a bigger tent!).  Greg Karlove set up our club’s pop-up shelter and brought a most of our gear in his truck. Burt Krain, Eric Grauke, Don Whiteman, Al Hovey all helped to hold down the fort while Greg and I took a break to bargain hunt.  I did find a few of the key items I sought but held off buying a HT radio.  I already have far too many anyway.  I was not impressed with the selection of HT’s out there…most do to many things and seem to have terrible ergonomics.  Too big or too small.  I wanted to get a replacement for my trusty Kenwood TH-F6A (now discontinued) but decided I would just find a replacement membrane for the keypad instead.  There were more vendors this year and more indoor selling than last year, but still the buildings could get very congested, very quickly.

For many years, I have been going to the QRP seminars and events on Thursday.  This year, they had over 300 in attendance.  People arrive very early to get seats, so it was almost full at 8 a.m. and the program didn’t start till almost 9:00.  In general, I did not find the seminars all that interesting this year, but the proceedings booklet that accompanies each speaker was filled with a great deal more information on the topics. 

The best part of Dayton was the housing adventure.  For the past couple of years, I have partnered with Bill Steffey, NY9H, a former Deerfield resident and member of the NSRC. He lives in PA land now.  He found this incredible deal with Dayton University. You can rent a quad dorm room, that sleeps up to 6 people for a flat rate (turns out to be about $100 for 4 nights per person). Unfortunately, we missed the opportunity to get the dorm this year and had to scramble. Bill and I do not like spending money on expensive hotels since you are only there for a couple hours. So, he went on line and found this incredible deal. It was near the university…basically, a single-family house that rents rooms. That is all we knew.  We arrived and were not impressed. First, the guy renting the place didn’t think two adults meant separate beds!  He came up with a mattress and I spent the first night on the floor.  Second night, he promised us the upstairs, where there was much more spacer (so he claimed).  He told us that we were the only people in the building, so we accepted his upstairs offer. When we arrived Friday night, in the first floor common rom, there were several people standing around. Our roommates, it turns out!

He told all of us that we were the only people staying…in their room (it turns out, not in the building!!). Each floor did have one bathroom to share.  When we got to the third floor, it was as he described – a huge space.  The one bedroom was also the toilet and shower. There was no door separating the bathroom from the bedroom. You fell out of bed and could just walk right into the bathroom.  I slept at the other end of the space.  This was a room built into the attic, so the roofline prevented you from standing straight around the edges. I was constantly banging my head the wall.  Look, we survived, and it cost us about $40…it was kind of a dump, but the price was right.  However, next year, we may be looking for a hotel wit a proper shower and bathroom!

The other part of the fun was working 146.520 on the way down.  Held several conversations with other hams. That made the travel fly by.

Field Day is right around the corner.  Hope to make some changes to the design of the event and want to encourage more people to participate in either the radio work or in the social activities.  I know there is a lot going on and some people have been frustrated that they cannot operate a radio.  There are plenty of opportunities to make Field day what you want to make it.  Just let us know and we will try to accommodate.  We will have the usual SSB and CW contest stations and are looking for people who work HF in the GOTA tent.  Sign up now for times…to be a GOTA operator, you should not be generally active on HF and want to use this opportunity to sharpen your skills. 

Stay radio active…see you at Field Day or one of the upcoming meetings

Rob Orr

K9RST


Road Trip

 

One of the best parts of being part of the Chicago Marathon Ham radio team has been the camaraderie from others around the country.  About a month back, I spent two hours on the phone talking to the ham radio folks who supported the Boston Marathon.  They grilled me on all manner of logistic issues and common concerns.  Amazingly, these folks conduct a weekly business phone call every week two months before the event.  There were 8 team leads on the call.  It was great sharing best practices and discussing mutual concerns. The Boston Marathon this year turned out to be a real sloppy, rainy mess.  We have been blessed with several race years with reasonably dry weather, but my fear is the all-day rain event. That would really kick the spirit of the volunteers and could prove to be disastrous for the event.  We have been lucky because you know it will only be a matter of time before that happens.

At one of our last events, a young man came to the Forward Command tent and asked if we needed any help. He had been on one of the mobile triage teams and looking at his youthful energy, I immediately said, “Yes!” You must understand at the end of the Marathon, people are generally totally spent.  Most of us had been up since 3 am. and had a full day managing radio traffic.  In talking to this young 30 something, I asked how he found his way to our event? Todd Johnson, KD9BNQ, lives in Springfield and was in town to visit his aunt. Plus, he wanted to participate in a large ham radio community event. Since he was about half the age of many of the other ham radio volunteers, I was eager to learn why he came to Chicago? Turns out he is an IT engineer at a university and was now the President of a radio club in Springfield and wanted to broaden his experience. I was hooked.  I offered to come down to his club any time to talk about the Marathon, ham radio or whatever.  Be careful what you promise, especially to young people.  He called me in January to schedule a date and so that is how I found myself talking to their club in mid- April.

The Sangamon Radio Club has a great 70-year tradition (and I thought we were doing pretty good with 39 years or so!)  They recently took over the top floor of the local Red Cross building for their meetings and club house.  I have posted pictures from my tour on my Smug Mug account for anyone interested in seeing the place. (https://roborr.smugmug.com/Sangamon-Radio-Club-visit).  They keep all their member badges in a common holder at the door, so you pull your badge as you enter.  They were all very cordial and listened attentively to my talk. Afterwards, they gave me a tour around their club house.  They have three radio positions…. two for HF and often available for members to come in and play radio. The other position is for their VHF/UHF work and digital stations. It was fun to discuss their experience with Fusion or D-Star and other projects they had been trying.  It was clear that these were my kind of people: experimenters, socially engaged, eager to share their experiences. I was a little envious that they had a real space to display their history and give their members (and the public) a chance to get on the radio.  They seemed to be a very active group. Involved with public service, training and new technology…just like our club.  It was a real honor to be invited and tell the Chicago Marathon Story.

Part of the hospitality included meeting up with two club members who offered me a room in their very spacious house.  Roger Whitaker and his wife have been leaders in the ham radio community there for many years. Vicky currently serves the State ARES team with helpful advice for public information officers.  She publishes a monthly newsletter, which we get.  It is often loaded with helpful information and tips.  She used to be a news reporter in New York and so she brings a world of experience to the job.  So here I am in Springfield…largely farm country and they open their house, their ham shack and their daily print edition of the New York Times.  I really felt quite at home. 

You quickly realize the bond that holds all of us ham radio folks together…and it is rewarding to meet new faces.  That is partly what Dayton is for me.  A chance to meet up with many of the ham folks I have gotten to know over the years. So, while it was perhaps one of the wildest months in recent times for me (business travel combined with family funerals), it was also one of the more rewarding. Ham radio is alive and doing well.  

Rob

K9RST

April Blog

Lately, I have been knee deep in programming radios for the Shamrock Shuffle. This is an annual ritual that requires checking all of the radios for the command tent, programming them with new frequencies and generally preparing for the public service season. This is not arduous but it can be brain numbing because so many of my computers have aged out.  My old radio programming laptop has XP on it…and my newer computers don’t have the programming software installed. So, slowly, I have integrated all of the programming software on my newer computers.  Part of the issue is transitioning from serial ports to UBS programming plugs.  It gets crazy fast.  All it takes is money and, just like that, it all works great! 

The Shamrock is the baby brother (or sister) of the Chicago Marathon.  It is a place where we get to play around with various ideas and new modes. This year we are experimenting with DMR and some chat services to provide a back channel.  Over the years, I have maintained some correspondence with the hams that operate the Boston marathon.  On Sunday, we had a two hour discussion about how we both approach this communication during these events.  On the call were 8 people who serve on their communication committee…and, the most remarkable part, they meet every week on Sunday from now till the event in April.  That impressed me.   Even though the Boston event had to virtually reinvent its communication strategy after the bombing incident, hams are still part of the program. Interestingly, they were working actively to remove anything that smacks of ham lingo from their vocabulary…even the words “ham” or “amateur radio.”  They are now communicators.  Not net controls, not command…they are resources.  Part of this to make sure the organizers see what they bring to the table as partners, but the other it to make it clear that they are there to serve the event.   As a group, ham radio hasn’t always done a great job of understanding where we fit into the service equation.  When I got involved with the Red Cross, they told me they would never use ham radio people again! I was stunned! Why not? Well, turns out the previous group got upset and pulled all of their embedded gear out and left them high and dry. This is not a single event…I have heard this multiple times over the years of my doing public service.

We have worked very hard to overcome this obstacle and have made it clear to our volunteers that we are here first to serve…in whatever capacity. We take communication seriously. It has taken a while, but we are being noticed by the served agencies and the event organizers.  That part has been rewarding as we enter our 10 year supporting these events.

I am also preparing for Dayton…at least getting rooms and signing up for seminars.  I often leave Wednesday of Dayton week and got to the QRP event, Four Days in May.  The seminars on Thursday are always superb and attract an audience of about 250.  They have activities that happen all weekend, but I usually end up spending all of my time at the Hamvention.

The NSRC will have its booth again. We are still looking for a few folks to help hold down the fort.  Let me know if you are going and if you can help out for an hour or so.  The booth is in a perfect location, right off the main midway where all of the exhibit buildings are located.  

Well, got to return to packing and checking antennas.

73’s

Rob

K9RST


March Blog

Well, if you missed this year’s NSRC dinner, you missed a great night. Our guest speaker, Skip Talbot, did an incredible job of explaining his work as an active storm chaser. I am reluctant to say professional, although he now does get paid to do some chasing. Largely, this is an avocation; a passion not unlike ham radio or, as he puts it, like fishing. He logged thousands of miles driving through the Midwest and west seeking storms. He says that’s normal. In the end, they were able to only document two storms. When they document a storm, he trains a battery of 4K video cameras and still cameras on the storm. Most of the visual information is used later to integrate it into more sophisticated computer programs to put a ground perspective into what is largely a radar image study. For one particularly nasty tornado, where several of their colleagues got caught up on the wrong side of the storm and died, they gathered the views of 90 other storm chasers and built a comprehensive view of the storm (they used lightning strikes as the sync point!). What they learned was that their colleagues were driving unwittingly right into the path of the tornado and there was no escape route. Their research showed that the usual rule of thumb about planning an exit had flaws.

Also, Derick Bonewitz’s club presentation will be a great follow-up to Skip’s talk - how to manage communications after a disaster strikes, using the virtual alphabet soup of services: FRS, MURS, CB and others. And this is a good time to get your Skywarn studies done. The more folks who are familiar with weather terminology and can accurately report conditions, the more valuable our contribution.

Typically, Skip’s work is used for television documentaries or ongoing academic research. His video and still images were just remarkable. He spoke for about 30 minutes but answered another 35 minutes of questions from the audience. Folks were into it! We had about 70 people in attendance. A good crowd. The food was fabulous and a good time was had by all. Norb Piotrowski, N9SS, won the 50/50 lottery, a nice round $100. He generously presented the club with the prize (for which we are all very grateful). Dave Hewitt did another outstanding job of coordinating all of the dinner elements. It is a huge job and Dave really brought all the elements together.

The dinner has always been a loss leader. We just barely cover expenses. Every year. Chevy Chase raises their rates (and we try to keep pace). We did a major bump up a couple years ago, but our expenses now are closer to $44.00 person (and we charge $45!) It is a great venue. It is really a lot of fun, but I think we need to look very carefully at this activity. We will be creating a survey for you to give us some input. A few years back, we did a wide search for alternatives, but really could not find anything as nice or accommodating. So, we are looking for your thoughts about this event. Everything…venue, meals, format, are up for discussion.

One terrific aspect of the dinner is the slide show that portrays what we have done in the course of a year. It is always welcome fun to re-live Field Day…that hot, sticky summer night…but also many of the other events we do throughout the year. I feel grateful to be part of this active dynamic group. Others have said it, so it is not just my jaded view, but the North Shore Radio Club is among the very best amateur radio clubs in the country.

From the PC files (politically correct). There seems to be a growing PR movement to change the way we describe ourselves…not as ham radio operators but as amateur radio operators. Both have their drawbacks near as I can tell. I suppose on many levels it doesn’t matter what people call us, so long as the world sees what we do. I am not sure they do, entirely. I am hoping we can put together public speaking teams to go out and tell our story to various groups hungry for programs, like the Lion’s Club, Kiwanis, and Scout groups. Many people are always looking for program ideas. If you want to get involved drop me a note.

Finally, I was all set to install my Fusion radio in my car, when the tea pot handle in the kitchen broke. That meant all hands on deck. I now have the handle dissected on my project table. It’s a mechanical problem and not an electronic issue; still I cannot resist the opportunity to fix things. More importantly, however, it keeps the XYL happy. Turns out, that is far more important than Fusion any day. One day soon…I will get that radio on the air.

73 Rob K9RST
k9rst@arrl.net

 

The Wheaton Community Radio Association or WCRA’s ham fest has always held a special place in my heart. For one, it was the first ham fest I had been to in modern times (got serious about the hobby again in the early 90’s).  Back then, they had taken over the Odeon…I’m told it was a two hockey rings, but to me the space seemed massive. It was filled with vendors, exhibits and people. Lots of people.  I took my first Tech exam at their ham fest and passed!  It was painful to see how the event has dramatically shrunk in recent times.  Held at the Kane county Fairgrounds, it is a mere shadow of its predecsor.  I spent most of my time seeking out people, not gear. There just wasn’t that much gear to purchase (and perhaps that is my own perspective because how many radios can one have? Answer: never enough!)

The seminars were terrific.  There were two on ARES and Emergency Management. I do get tired of hearing the laments of some ARES folks about the disorganization and countless re-orgs planned.  I personally think the current ARES leadership is doing a great job of bringing this group back to life. They have appointed a huge number of new people and shook up some old traditions.  I give Ron Morgan and Fritz Bock some real credit for getting this organization up and moving. 

Our next big event is our winter dinner. Saturday night, February 24, 2018, Chevy Chase Country Club.  This is always a great time…Open to all. We try to bring in a program speaker who can talk about something other than ham radio and that plays to the general intellectual curiosity of our audience.  Over the years, we have had some terrific speakers and this year will be no different. Skip Talbot is an honest to goodness storm chaser. He is the real thing.  This is not a hobby but a serious pursuit; a true intellectual, scientific and personal passion.  I think you will enjoy the program. I have heard him talk to a group of certified weather geeks (ok, I am one of them) and he had us all spellbound.  Now, even if you don’t like listening to presentations, come for the food! The food is always terrific at Chevy plus you have the opportunity to just visit with friends. We try to encourage folks to bring their husbands, wives, adult kids. Go to our web site to get information about how to sign up.

Some of you may have heard that we started a campaign to interview some of our newest members as a way to find out more about them and to better understand how we can better serve them.  I just completed my first month and a half interviewing the new candidates and writing a short bio for the Board to review before they vote. This has been one of the best things I have done while at this club.  I have had so many delightful conversations with such a diverse group of people.  It is thrilling to meet them and hear about their ham radio journeys. I am always amazed how many people came to this hobby as a short wave listener (SWL for short).  Makes me wonder how the next generation will discover this great hobby?  Some discovered ham radio after seeing the shortcomings of CB radio. They quickly converted.  Some just knew about this for years and finally had the time and money to get into things.  I would say a larger percentage of our new hams are active only on VHF or UHF (the digital modes, D-Star, Fusion, and DMR), all for various reasons, but antenna restrictions plays an important part.  Anyway, I have loved the experience and now other board members will take on the duties moving forward.  This has been so successful, we are thinking about going back to meet up with some of our most recent new members who did not get a chance to go through this process.  We want to be a responsive club…and we can only do that when we know what brings you here and what you want from this club.

Talking to these new hams has resurrected some fond memories of my own ham radio journey.  I did start out as a SLWer.  I had a wonderful Hallicrafters SX101 that sat behind my head in bedroom and I would roam the bands to hear the world.  It was a magical world to me…and alphabet soup of call signs and mysterious locations.   Through my headset, the world was in my head (eh, to my younger friends, there were not televisions yet…not in my house anyway).  Ham radio didn’t get me fully motivated until I went to college, when my physics professor, knowing of my interest in the hobby, gave me his Kenwood TS520.  Well, that was quite a clever trick!  Now, I had no excuse and I had to get my ticket.  It still took me a while to find the time, as I was totally focused on family raising and building a career. Eventually, it all came together and what a journey it has been.  I will admit that being on the Board, which I did almost from the beginning, has impeded my progress toward DXCC, but I have learned so much along the way.  Everyday there is more to discover and new modes to explore.

This has been a very supportive club, one that has allowed me to grow and expand my interest in the hobby.  The credit belongs to the truly remarkable people who belong to this organization. I hope you find that to be the case as well.

73 

Rob

K9RST

 

January Blog

Happy New Year to all my radio friends.  It is good to be on the other side of 2017!  Now, let’s see what happens in 2018! 

I know I will continue one of my pet peeves into the New Year!  Finding Parts.  Oh my, what have we done to ourselves?  I happen to be one of the few remaining on the planet who enjoys ripping into broken things and trying to fix them.  I recently tackled my dryer. The thing was not drying clothes properly.  Thanks to the web, you can get all sorts of reasonable advice for free.  Getting the proper parts was another issue, however. I successfully diagnosed the problem… looked like a bad thermistor.  I could not find the part I needed online…trying Goggling thermistor! Even with the model and serial number etc. It is incredible how many variations there can be.  So, I resorted to an online chat with Sears Parts Depot.  It actually went very smoothly, especially when you consider he was having multiple “chats” at the same time. In fact, at one point, I wondered if the he was a real person.  I threw a couple of trick questions into the mix, just to double check. “What’s the weather like by you!?” “Do you get a break for the Holidays?”  Took about 30 minutes to do the entire exchange.  He shot me some schematics so we could make sure we were getting the right part and ordered it right there.  Then he asked when I wanted it? Well, like now!  He said his best shot was shipping it next week sometime unless I came out to get it. Sure. When?  Where? Still, he said I had to wait to make sure they had the part. He promised to call and he took all of my numbers. I repeated my preference for the cell phone, which I monitored carefully all day. Well, I never got the call.  Next morning, I got a call on my business line saying the part was in!  In fact, it had been available the day before at 9 am!  They called the business line and not the cell.  Problem now was I could not pick the part up. So I asked my wife if she could zip out.  She did great. She found the place and got the part, but managed to find a few additional stores to visit along the way! So the $20 part cost me probably 15 times more in delivery!! I never heard of the stores, but she was thrilled!  Whatever, the dryer works. 

In the same vein, I have discovered I missed the boat.  I should have been investing in shipping companies.  Man.  I have been working on multi-meter kit off and on for a while.  I am almost done. It was one of the build club projects and I was stuck at one circuit check point because I could not get a verifiable response on my “known” meter.  Finally, I learned that the fuse on my “Known” meter was broken.  Now, keep in mind this is cheapie $24 multi-meter that I got from Lowe’s just to throw around in my travel kits.  I went online and found what I thought was the right fuse…from Lowes! They shipped it to me and all was good till it arrived and I found it was the wrong size.  The picture looked right, but the dimensions were way off.  I needed a 5 x 20 mm ceramic fuse.  I tried Mouser…8,000,000,000,000 possibilities and prices.  I was totally lost.  I finally found a place that had the right specs, the right size and the price…like $1.10 for the fuse, but the shipping was $8.00! I know, my son swears by Amazon Prime – free shipping.  I should have, but I didn’t.  I was willing to drive to the edge of Chicagoland to get the part in my hot little hand, but modern retailing does not allow that.  Everything must be shipped. Yes, I miss Radio Shack or Tri-State Electronics or any number of places you can walk in, look for your parts and buy it. It will take me a long time to surrender my right to purchase from a real personal, at a real store. Sorry, Amazon.  And yes, I will admit that we did our fare share of Holiday shopping online, but I did most of it walking into a store someplace.  Call me crazy! Meanwhile, I ask you all to consider stock in transport companies.  They are quietly making all of the money in this modern economy.

Meanwhile, the meter is not done, but my Fusion radio is upgraded and ready to be installed.  Happy New Year.   

73’s

Rob, K9RST

Of auctions and automation

I would not call ham radio folks hoarders, but as a group we seem to have a disproportionate pile of seemingly useless stuff.  I know my wife often scans my ham shack and storage area with a critical eye, often followed with this ominous question: “What’s this?  Do you ever use it?”  Whereupon I typically respond, well not every day, but when I need it… you know the required response!  The other day I needed a common resistor…and while I have a drawer full of them, I did not have the one I needed.  Now what? Eventually I will buy a replacement…but will buy a small bag and then I will have a small stock pile…and so it goes!  Fact is, with Radio Shack all but gone; there is no just running out for parts anymore.  Keeping parts on hand is one thing but holding on to radios and collecting older gear is another.

 

For various reasons, I helped collect gear from several hams this year that were either leaving the hobby or downsizing.  They all had the same issue.  ‘This was my dad’s or my brother’s or it was given to me…and I just could not give it up.”  And so it collects.  I now have a fairly large collection of my own vintage gear that someday I am going to have to release.  I have the old Kenwood TS520 that really got me started in the hobby.  It was given to me by my Physics professor as an incentive for me to get my ticket. It worked.  I have the old Hallicrafter’s SX100 receiver that I used as a kid.  These aren’t collector items like Collins or Drake gear but they both meant a great deal to me.   I lost the Hallicrafters when my wife was cleaning the attic. She tossed it out after asking, “Do you ever use this?” And I reluctantly agreed figuring marital bliss was more important than my old childhood memories.  Fortunately, I was able to get a very sweet deal for a replacement at Dayton and so it has come back home.  Maybe we are just sentimental?  I don’t know what it is, but hams seem to love collecting stuff.  The really good part of this story is that we keep feeding this urge. 

 

All of the gear we collect from hams has been donated to the Club to sell at our auction.  Ron Harroff hasca basement loaded with gear ready for our coming Winter Classic sales event. He also spends countless hours inspecting, checking and pricing everything that is sold.  His passion for this process is inspiring and I am sure it is taxing.  His basement is stuffed with equipment.  The auction and the proceeds from these sales benefit the club. In fact, as you no doubt learned from Warren Pugh’s excellent presentation on our budget, this little auction helps us fill an annual shortfall in revenues. This “recycling” program helps us balance our books and gives Hams the opportunity to walk away with some classic gems or gear that is needed.  Plus, it is just fun! 

 

Support your Club…add to your collections…enjoy our Winter auction.

 

Growing pains. When I started with this club 80 million years ago, everything was done on paper. We published a paper newsletter, stuffed it into paper envelopes, added stamps and did monthly mailings.  We did our membership renewals by mail and most of our events required mail in paper registrations. How times have changed!  Everything has moved to an online environment. For better or worse, we have embraced the newer ways of doing things and like any transition, there are tradeoffs.  We current accept PayPal for on-line membership…but for all of its convenience, it does often cause back office headaches sometimes.   People nowadays don’t often use their real names in email addresses, so when we get to reconciling these accounts, it is not always clear who sent us the money!  Often we have to write back and ask them to identify themselves.  Ever gotten a text from someone not in your address book?  It can be disconcerting and embarrassing sometimes.  Who the heck is writing to me?  Let’s keep a few time-honored ideas alive…let’s sign documents with our real names and contact information.  It is a simple idea that seems to work pretty well.

 

Happy Holidays to all!

Rob

K9RST

Rob Orr 

rob@roborrproductions.com