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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