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A few words from Rob 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. (  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.  



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.




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


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.





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.   


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 Orr


Service our middle name 

From the very beginning of my re-involvement with ham radio, I have been impressed with the service ethic that is a serious part of the ham community. Somehow, it is imbedded in our DNA from our history of passing traffic to our collective dedication to serve when and where we might be needed. Hams radio operators have a reputation as problem solvers.  When I worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross, the largest cadre of volunteers came from ham radio operators, even though the communication truck we were supporting largely was a mobile satellite truck. Most of the time, our work involved creating computer connectivity.  Almost no radios!


This month, I worked the Chicago Marathon with 145 ham radio volunteers.  We had amateur radio ops from 5 states and several distant cities to serve this event.  We have become an integral part of the medical operation and it has become one of the most rewarding experiences of my ham radio life, partly because of the dedication shown by our hams to do their part. Public service has many faces and they are not just at events. Look at the folks who serve on your NSRC Board.


It takes a village 

Your Board is well served with dedicated members who offer their expertise and time to help manage this club. We are very fortunate to this group of selfless individuals, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.  Many have served for many years and have moved into other support positions, like Ron Harroff, who now focuses entirely on our auction.  Ron not only collects the gear, writes letters to the donors, but thoroughly inspects all of the gear to make sure it works as described. Warren Pugh has been our treasurer for a number of years and brought a level of professionalism to our record keeping and fiscal management.  Partly because of his efforts, we now have a solid financial foundation and some reserves to help us weather difficult times.  Our membership numbers have increased thanks to the diligence of Mike Simmons, who helps us find and secure new members.  Burt Krain has taken over from Randy Brothers, who managed many of our behind the scenes records and helped develop our web site.  We call his position internal communication director and basically that involves managing the web site, Facebook, and the eMitter.  He has been working on a program to help do mass e-mailings to our membership. Mark Klocksin has been our net director for several years now and because of his leadership, we have a strong team of net control operators who work our weekly nets.  Ron Settle is the first real honest to heaven radio engineer this club has ever had and he has had his hands full.  We now have four working repeaters, all with daily challenges to keep them in fine working condition.  Ron’s work might be the most invisible to the average club member. We all use the repeaters one way or another.  He is happiest when nothing goes wrong!  Derick Bonewitz is our Secretary and has taken over many of the registration processes that Randy used to manage.  He keeps our business meeting records and all of our membership data.  Derick also have been critical in helping us find better ways to manage our business systems and keeps he keeps us all thinking straight with thoughtful questions and insights.   Don Whiteman has been our Public Service chair this past year, but has also served as our Treasurer, Vice President, and President. He currently is also our repeater trustee and is the most frequent provider of helpful information on almost any question presented on the club’s reflector.  Rich Davidson has been on the board longer than I have and I lost track of how many years.  He is our Education Director and has run a successful educational program.  He also manages our VE sessions.  Dave Hewitt is currently our Vice President and is adding Program Director to his duties.  Dave had been our Program Director in the past and will return this coming year. Robert Landgren serves as one of our weekly net control operators but is also our current Program Director.  Unfortunately, Robert must leave the Board due to family obligations. Al Hovey comes to Board meetings when he is not in Florida! He has served many key positions here: Public Service Director, Field Day GOTA chair and Field Day Hospitality chair. Vic Maiewski is new to the Board and serves as our IT Director, really advising us on our D-Star network and some of the many computer platforms that we have come to rely on. Jeff Kraft is our Publicity Director but as a retired lawyer, he is also doubling as a sounding board for all manner of issues.   Me? I have been President for 8 years, took a break for two years and found myself back on the NSRC bus.  I have been on the Board almost from the time I became a ham. Service is in my blood. It has been my privilege and honor to serve this club.


My point is this is what is needed to run an operation like this and it takes both time and talent.  We have been blessed from the very beginning to have people willing to serve. And make sacrifices.  I am taking the time to write this note to you and not programming my Fusion radio to put in my car!  I am sure many members of the board are in the same spot with other projects they would like to tackle.  We enjoy serving. That is why we are here.  But we cannot continue serving forever. We need new folks to help carry on this club’s traditions. 


In this next year, we will be looking to define and create more working groups.  This effort is to help spread the work load and to help tease out some new leadership. Meanwhile, if you see any of the people mentioned above, please say thank you to them for serving us well.



Between now and then

For me personally, this has been a period of total insanity.  I have been able to garner a few more work projects than I normally handle in the fall and this in combination with our busiest public service events makes life around here more than interesting (oh, yes, throw in a total redo of the driveway and all of the work to prepare for the work!)

Still, life goes on…I have gotten a large number of emails from concerned folks looking to see what ham radio is doing to support Puerto Rico.  I personally was not aware of anything but did ask around.  Most of the people who wrote, I passed their names on to the ARRL, because I figured they would have a more global picture.  I did hear that many companies were using hams in their place of business to set up health and welfare traffic from PR to us…but with no power and no infrastructure, communications have been strained.  I was heartened to see that the ARRL is deploying 50 hams to stay in PR for up to 3 weeks.  To my knowledge this is the first time that has every happened. Generally hams deploy through a served agency (Red Cross or Salvation Army or some other entity.)  What has happened to that island is hard to watch. They are on the verge of a true disaster in the making. Being an island, there are no quick solutions – not that there ever are…but the amount of support they need will take years to recover.  It is an unfortunate fact, that too many people have come to totally rely on cell phone for their communication and I am not sure what ham radio support there is in PR right now (I abbreviate PR because I can’t spell Puerto Rico very well!).  You have to have people in the disaster area and a systematic way of managing the traffic to help get the word out.  Social media isn’t working when the entire infrastructure is destroyed.  There is more that ham radio can do for people caught in these circumstances. As a group, we need to do better, but I am glad that we are doing something.  I know there are several nets here in the US that have been handling hurricane relief traffic, some of them have been monitoring internet sites for information. 

Meanwhile, we did successfully complete our support of the Evanston North Shore Century. We had 36 hams help out…and not all from the NSRC.  We deployed lots of technology and actually pulled some new faces into the mix.  It was great to see all of the new people who got involved.  This is a great event and a terrific partnership for our club.  The Evanston Bike Club runs this event for charity and pulls in as much as $40,000 which they in turn return to the biking community.  They are a great organization.

This event will be a major part of our upcoming meeting…which I will not be able to attend because of an out of town video project.  So, you will get to hear from new folks who helped make the event a success.

My garage is still loaded with Bike event equipment and now I have to make room for the Chicago Marathon.  We have 135 hams supporting this event from 5 states; 12 radio club groups, some from as far away as Peoria and Madison Wisconsin. This has become the premiere ham radio public service event…serving one of the world’s top marathon’s.  I have been proud to have been part of this great event and ever proud of the number of fellow hams who have stepped up to help.  Our club is well represented.  NSRC folks are the leaders in many of the aid stations, but we are not the largest club represented!  There is a group from the Southside, WillCom, lead by Jerry Watts, who double the number of folks we bring. We also get strong support from Dane County, Wheaton Community Radio Association, York Radio Club, Lake County and several others… who routine bring 6 or more radio ops to the event.  Not only is working the Marathon intense fun, it is also great practice for real world events.

So, if you are not on the team this year, please consider joining us next year.

There was a recent QST articles that suggested we tackle what we learned from Field Day and put it to practice.  Well, your fellow NSRCers are doing just that…there were at least two groups who took to the parks and set up some impromptu events.  I was part of a team that met near my house.  With a simple canopy, table and a few chairs, we had three stations up and running in a matter of minutes and worked people across the US.  I would love to see us do many more of these events and build on this momentum. 

Well, I have got to get back to preparing for my role at the marathon (and work)

73, Rob K9RST

K9RST Blog- A few words from our club President

As I watch with mystifying horror, the devastation in Texas unfold, I am reminded of just how vulnerable we all are in times of natural disaster.  This monster storm has just been amazing to watch. Day after day, the rain continues to pour in. They are talking about it being a once in a 1000 year rain! (what does that really mean?!!)   And because this has been more of a flooding event, much of the infrastructure is still in place, so cell phones and radio networks still function well.  What is not working are the roads and usual transportation routes.  And the scale is hard for me to fathom. Some have said the affected area is the size of Lake Michigan. I am moved by the number of people reaching out to assist in any way they can…got a kick out of the folks from the Cajun Navy (bunch of random folks with swamp boats) who came to people’s assistance.   Disasters truly can bring out the best in us…and also the worst. So far, however, things have been reasonably well managed.  The issue will come when people return to their homes and work places to begin re-construction. I spent three years working on a team to rebuild houses in Biloxi.  It has taken years for people to return to normal down there and now we are talking about an urban area many, many times larger.  It is going to be a mess.


Seeing this event also triggered my own desire to respond.  Having served on the Red Cross Emergency Communication Truck (ECRV) for almost 10 years that pull to help never really goes away. Alas, for me now, it is more a matter of just making a donation of money and not time or resources.  I always said to my team of 50 volunteers who served on 4711, the truck assigned to our region, the folks from the Midwest are often the best poised to help.  Generally, we are spared huge catastrophic events like this…although we have had our share of flooding and tornadoes as well.  The call for help is a powerful siren.  And as ham radio operators, we have a special place in this environment.  Maybe not with this Texas disaster, but there will be other places and times when we will be called.  Are you prepared?


We have spoken about this often in our club meetings.  All disasters are local.  So, to be prepared means having your own house in order.  I asked my wife this morning, if we had to leave right now, what one thing would she grab?  What would you grab?  It is an interesting question to think about.  Once important lesson my Florida cousin taught me during the hurricanes they often faced, in a real disaster have cash.  Often credit cards will not work because power is out, pumps don’t work for gas and water is a premium.  So, being  prepared yourself is a key first step.


Beyond that, volunteer.  But here is the key: if you want to volunteer, it is almost too late!  Most disasters do not allow people to self deploy. It is always best to be part of a recognized group that responds and get credentialed and trained.   The other point worth considering is that the real need starts tomorrow. When the storm final relents and people need to rebuild, that is when people will really need your help.  This call will go on for years to come!


Where does ham radio fit into this picture?   I am currently working on a planned event called the North Shore Century and the Chicago Marathon.   These two events teach us how to work as a team and be prepared to deliver a product (communication messages).  These are live event but they are also great training grounds for other events.  It is more likely that our services will be needed for this sort of response than for a natural disaster…but it could happen.


In fact, as I am typing this note, I just got an email from the Red Cross looking for volunteers to go to Texas.  I can’t deploy this time…as I will be working the Chicago marathon (and business deadlines!).  Readiness partly means being prepared to serve or to lead.  Responding – volunteering – giving of your time and talent is not a singularity.  You need to make it an everyday practice so that when you truly are needed, you can deliver.  Meanwhile, my heart goes out to the people of Texas. 

Field Day

We just ended our club’s 2017 Field Day effort. Once again, we did a great job as a team. Our score seemed to be right in line with past years and we discovered some new talent. Greg Karlove built this amazing satellite set up and worked the skies with authority. Casey Diers served as our safety director, but really spent more time deeply studying the CW and SSB stations. I loved his eagerness to learn all that he can about ham radio. The weather was perfect. It threatened to rain Saturday night and we dug out our tarps and tied down the tents. Then, as quickly as it appeared, the threat of rain went away. Operators magically appeared to do their duties at the CW and SSB tents. Overnight, the SSB tent got a little quiet, but I had fun running on 40 meters with Jerry Weiss, former NSRC President. I hadn’t worked with Jerry in years…and interestingly, he was Prez of the club when I joined and he was the one who asked if I would mind running for president upon his retirement. Well, I had just become licensed and I had no idea what being president meant so I declined. I did serve as program director for 4 years, a position I greatly enjoyed. I loved seeking out speakers and programs that fed the issues that I was passionate about discovering. It was a great way to learn. Along the way, I was asked to be the Field Day chair. Again, I had no clue what to do, and I said yes! At first, I followed the template set by the older guard. For a couple of years, I never deviated from the basic model – radios in the Village Green gazebo and antennas in the trees…all in a line. Everything worked well, and I felt like a hero!

Well, times and locations changed. We left the Village Green when the Park district in Northbrook wanted close to $2000 for the overnight use of the park. It was a great public park and we hated to leave. Several of us embarked on a long search for new venues. We scoured the north shore. Finally, we found a place that seemed possible: Northcroft Park in Lake Forest. In the early days, we did not have enough people to do Field Day and so we partnered with the good folks at the MAC club. They provided necessary manpower, but we had differing philosophies about tactics and we ended our partnership. We slowly built our own team…and it has taken years to recruit the talent and hone our skills. Then one year, the Lake Forest Park District double booked us…and we got bounced. They offered us the Grove Cultural center, where we have been for the past eight years. It is a great place, but totally hidden from the public. In fact, this year when I couldn’t lock the doors to the building, I had to call the Lake Forest police for assistance. The cop told me that even the police weren’t sure where the place was! It was a total shift away from the Village Green…where we often ran into crowds of people who said, “Hey, I’m a ham…I should be out here with you guys (and gals).” We saw much more of the curious public at the Village Green than we have ever seen in the other parks.

Still, we focused on our operating and build up a solid team and have been a consistent and productive operation. We always ranked very high in the state and in the nation. When Randy Brothers came on board, he became the champion contester coach. He stressed valuable skills that have helped us see our scores soar. I continue to focus on logistics and securing the potential 2000 bonus points.

One of the ARRL bonus points asks us to invite elected officials. Well, I asked my Glenview Village President to stop by and to my surprise, he did. He showed up at 7:30 a.m. Sunday! He caught me stuffing pancakes into my face and just recovering from my overnight operating. I grabbed about 30 minutes of sleep and was still groggy. Still no coffee. He hit me with a zillion great questions, many of which I am still trying to figure how to answer: “Would ham radio work if we got hit with a Pulse bomb?” “How long would it take for you guys to get set up, if we did need you?” “Why do you do this?” “Who are all of these people?” “How many points do you think you will score?” On and on…it was fabulous. I had another elected gentleman from Glenview show up around 11:00 p.m. He was amazed. He loved seeing the satellite station work and attentively watched as Greg Karlove made several contacts right there. The whole idea caught his imagination and suddenly he got it. He understand what value ham radio could be to a nation and a community. So, from this point of view alone, Field Day was a success. If we can get a few public officials to at least top to think about what we do and how we could be of service, the next time one of those antenna covenant bills comes up, or they find themselves in need of supportive volunteers, they might stop to reflect on what we mean to the community.

Thanks to all who helped serve our Field Day. Please feel free to drop me note to tell me what you think we can do better to serve the membership and this event. We need a public face…and this is a good one.

73, Rob K9RST