“This is a simulated emergency…”

Around 8:30 AM today, the local ARES organization started a simulated emergency test (SET) along with many other ARES teams statewide.

The SET message sent out yesterday stated, in part:


According to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, an X17 class flare occurred at 1810Z on Thursday November 6. Shortly thereafter, a significant coronal mass ejection (CME) was launched from active sunspot region AR-2205. The current position of the sunspot makes it highly likely the CME will intercept Earth. Quoting from the Joint USAF/NOAA Solar Geophysical Activity Report and Forecast issued on 06/2200Z,

"A significant geomagnetic response may occur if this CME arrives with a strong southward Bz component. The potential for satellite single upset events, large geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) creating power grid disturbances, and malfunction of sensitive unshielded electronic components is moderate. Fading and blackout of radio frequencies from 300 kHz to 30 MHz is likely. CME arrival is expected to occur between 08/1200Z –  08/1600Z."

All Indiana hams are requested to prepare for possible power blackouts that may occur over the next 24 to 48 hours. Monitor local ARES/RACES frequencies and commercial broadcast EAS channels if an emergency occurs.

To which I say, excellent!  This seems like more than a lot of agencies are doing to prepare for the possibility of a Carrington Event-level, Earth-directed CME.

And to the folks who think amateur radio is old school tech being used by a bunch of fat, grey-bearded, bald-headed types (HEY! –ed.) and that it's no big deal, they've got their cell phones, well…you probably won't have your cell phones after a Carrington CME hits us.

KidsSysAdmins today.

Customer writes in about using our utility that takes one of our encoded system files and translates it to plain text so you can view it.

When I try to look at them using [utility], they scroll by so fast I can’t read them. Is there a switch or something I can use to view one page at a time?

Apparently nobody knows how to use the DOS command line anymore.  There are at least two methods of handling this without needing a switch.  Either redirect the output to a file, or pipe it to MORE.

Jeez.  We are doomed.  It's like in the Foundation series, where the soi-disant technicians and engineers who ran the atomic power plants no longer knew anything about the technology behind them, and couldn't so much as replace a part if it failed.

They were back in the office and Mallow said, thoughfully, "And all those generators are in your hands?"

"Every one," said the tech-man, with more than a touch of complacency.

"And you keep them running and in order?"


"And if they break down?"

The tech-man shook his head indignantly, "They don't break down.  They never break down.  They were built for eternity."

"Eternity is a long time.  Just suppose—"

"It is unscientific to suppose meaningless cases."

"All right.  Suppose I were to blast a vital part into nothingness?  I suppose the machines aren't immune to atomic forces?  Suppose I fuse a vital connection, or smash a quartz D-tube?"

"Well, then," shouted the tech-man, furiously, "you would be killed."

"Yes, I know that," Mallow was shouting, too, "but what about the generator?  Could you repair it?"

"Sir," the tech-man howled his words, "you have had a fair return.  You've had what you asked for.  Now get out!  I owe you nothing more!"

Mallow bowed with a satiric respect and left.

Two days later he was back at the base where the Far Star waited to return with him to the planet, Terminus.

And two days later, the tech-man's shield went dead, and for all his puzzling and cursing never glowed again.

—Isaac Asimov, Foundation, p. 176

Old-time ham radio operators who still remember homebrewing their own equipment snarkily dismiss this kind of thing as "appliance operating".  While I think that may be a little harsh and overblown, when it comes down to someone who only knows how to manipulate Windows through the GUI, I do sort of get their point.

Ham Shack a lack a lacka…

Not that it lacks anything, per se, but it is a pretty basic station. 


Yaesu FT-450D transceiver, LDG YT-450 tuner, with a Yaesu MD-100A8X dynamic desktop microphone*.  There's an SEC 1235M 30-amp power supply hiding behind my license (on top of my mini-CentOS 6 machine, which basically does nothing but run DNS).  Hiding behind pretty much everything is a West Mountain Radio RigBlaster Plug & Play that connects the 450D to the computer for digimodes like SSTV, DTV, RTTY, PSK31, etc.  In the corner under the TV is the Windows 7 box (i5 processor with 4GB RAM I think…I'd have to go look).  Obligatory azimuthal amateur radio map of the world behind everything. 

Behind the UTC clock is a coax switch that I flip for 6 meters vs. HF.  There's an Arrow Antenna GP52 ground plane antenna up on the roof pretty much right over my head when I'm operating.  The HF side of the switch goes to an EARCHI end-fed matchbox antenna** fed with 25' of RG-8X and mounted around the corner of the house hanging from a 31' Jackite kite pole as a ground-mount vertical.

The computer runs Fldigi software for digital modes and is otherwise used as a glorified web browser so I can access QRZ.COM and ARRL's Log of the World.  I do also keep a paper log which you can see next to the monitor.

There is no key or paddle because I don't know code.  Learning code is on my bucket list, but right now I don't have time.  I do think this is a fair little station given I started from scratch after I got my Tech license just over a year ago.  I've been an Amateur Extra since the end of last November and I would have had this up and running a lot sooner if the recent Global Warming event had been a little warmer.  As it was, I was outside pounding an 8' copper ground rod into the ground almost before the snow had melted, and the HF antenna went up at the beginning of April.  (The 6M ground plane went up before it snowed.)

"Where does the wire go?"  To the operator's left there is a window.  In the window is an MFJ-4603 feed-through panel.  Six feet outside the window is a ground rod with Alpha-Delta lightning suppressors for each of the two lines.  Then one line goes around the corner to the HF antenna and the other goes up on the roof to the 6M ground plane.

In a couple of weeks, the boy will be down from Fort Wayne and we are going to get the G5RV wire antenna that has been sitting here for nearly a year into the trees.  Then there will be some DX worked.  I've worked Italy and Hawaii with the matchbox and PSK31 digital, but it just isn't a DX antenna in its current configuration.

I can only thank $DEITY that I have a long-suffering but patient wife who actually didn't flinch when I told her I wanted to spend a couple grand on radio equipment.***  Thank you, dear.  Now if you'd just go get a technician license so we could talk on 2 meters…


* This is the item that recently took a short vacation in Hawaii on its way here from Cincinnati, as recounted below.

** The EARCHI matchbox antenna is nothing more than a 9:1 UNUN in a plastic box with an SO-239 socket on one side and 35' of #18AWG wire attached to the other.  The other end of the #18 wire is hanging from the top of the Jackite pole.  You can build this matchbox yourself but I decided to buy one because I don't have a garage-full of radio parts to make it from.

*** On the other hand, she may simply have been relieved that this was the extent of my midlife crisis and that I wasn't telling her I was going to buy a vintage Camaro or Mustang or something.  What she doesn't know (yet) is what a money pit this hobby can be if you really let it all hang out…

It was like a train wreck.

I was tuning through the bands right after work today and happened to be on 20 meters.  And I happened on 14.313MHz.

You have to understand that I've been through there any number of times and there's been nothing.  The HF antenna I have isn't really set up right, or near high enough to work well, so pretty much I just listen to what I can pull out of the static.

Holee shite.  Today it was RIPE.  I heard enough foul language and intentional QRM to warrant the pulling of half a dozen tickets.

And I could NOT TUNE AWAY.  It was exactly like watching a train wreck.  A comedy gold train wreck, but a train wreck none the less.

Sad that folks have to be that way.

UPS, you lie like a rug.

[Updated.  See at bottom.]

So yesterday around noon, I heard BANG BANG BANG DING DONG from the front door.  Not expecting anything, and not having heard a delivery truck pull up, the first thing I did was grab the 1911 and yank the slide back.*  Then I went to the door and opened it.

I guess UPS hires ninjas for Christmastime delivery, because there was no truck and no delivery person anywhere to be seen, and it only took me about 20 seconds to get to the door.

Anyway there was a box on the porch, so I brought it in.  The return address was from DX Engineering in Akron.  I said, “Wow, that’s amazing — I just placed the order yesterday, got free UPS ground shipping, and it’s here already.”  But then I got to thinking…this box is kind of small and doesn’t weigh much if it contains a 6M horizontal loop antenna.  So I opened it and found the four other items I’d ordered along with the antenna, and of course, as surmised, no antenna.


So I figured they must have shipped the antenna separately.  The invoice didn’t say, so I got dressed and stuck my head out the door to see if they’d left it next door (UPS sometimes can’t tell the difference between a zero and an eight, so it was worth the trouble).  Nope, nothing next door.  Well, OK, they must have not had room on the truck so it will come Monday.  No big deal, pouring fucking rain so I can’t put it up this weekend anyway.

A little later I got online to DX Engineering’s website and checked the order status.  Yep, it shipped in two boxes.  So I clicked on the link for box “B” and it pulled up the UPS shit:

upsyesterdaynoont.jpgWell, f*ck.  OK, well, I’ll be hearing from DX Engineering, I guess.  Their customer service is supposed to be second to none, at least from what I read on eHam and other places.

So this morning I get online to see if there’s anything new in this regard, check with DX Engineering, click the box “B” link again, and get this:

upslastnight.jpgIsn’t that special.  So really what you wanted was a fucking signature but your driver fat-fingered the fucking tablet.  And…for what it’s worth…he didn’t stick around long enough to GET the fucking signature.

Assholes.  Next time I will specify FedEx.  Or maybe just drive up there to get it myself.

UPDATE: 12/23, 10:51AM:  On a hunch, checked the front porch.  Guess what was there.  The fucker ninja’ed me again — I guess the signature requirement was BS. UPS is still going to get a shitty note.

Written on the box:  “NOT DAMAGED.  RATTLE OK”



* A few hours after I published this post, I re-read it and realized that some folks might not be aware that we recently had a spate of home invasions in this neck of the woods.  Better safe than sorry when I don’t know who’s at the door.

Well, I’m going to try for it.

Following up this post, I have gone through 88% of the HamTestOnline Amateur Extra study materials, and I am consistently getting 40 of 50 or better on practice tests.  I actually did one this morning where I missed only three, and two of those were because I was doing it on my iPad and clicked the wrong button.  (I’ve managed to lose my stylus somewhere and my fingers are a lot bigger than the stylus, and — apparently — a lot harder to control when trying to click little buttons on a screen.)

That said, I think I’m going to sit for the test at the Fort Wayne Hamfest this weekend.  I’d wait, but I think the next local session isn’t till January, and I want to get it over with. Since I’m going up to the hamfest anyway, what the hell.

I will say that I know a hell of a lot more about radio than I did a week ago.  Whew.

“You can ask me for anything you like, except time.”

Ah, Boney, I can definitely relate.

Ever since June, I have been trying to wrap my head around the question pool for the Amateur Extra Class radio exam.  I simply cannot find enough time to sit down and study it like I need to.  The Technician and General Class exams are, frankly, superficial compared to what you need to know for the Extra.*  While I’m not a terrible rote memorizer**, I want to at least understand how this whole thing we call “radio” works before I walk away with a shiny new license grant.  This does not seem to be the way most folks do it anymore, but I’m old-fashioned that way.

So I compromised a bit.  I’m using the HamTestOnline test prep website.  It seems to strike a balance between rote memorization and actually helping you understand why the answer is what it is.  Plus, since it’s online, I can use it during slack or break times at work, or on the iPad when I don’t feel like sitting at my desk.  (I spent an hour and a half with it in bed last night instead of reading like I usually do.)  What I like about the HamTestOnline method is that it keeps beating you over the head with the things you got wrong until you get them right.  While I do have the ARRL Extra Class book and the associated CD, which includes exam review software, and while that software does let you mark things for later review, it doesn’t just pop up a random question that you missed earlier while you are working on other things.  That really helps cement the concept in one’s brain. 

The bottom line is that I’m thinking I might try for the Extra at the Fort Wayne Hamfest a week from tomorrow rather than waiting till whenever the next VEC exams are here in Indy.***  That’s how much the “compromise” is helping.


* Unless of course you have a great memory and can just memorize the answers to all 702 questions in the current pool and then get at least 37 out of 50 right on the test.

** For instance, I have tonnes of Masonic ritual tucked away in my brain — alas, my rememberer sometimes stutters when I’m on the floor trying to perform it.  Such is life.

*** There is a VEC exam tomorrow here in town, but I am definitely not ready yet 🙂  Plus I have to go to Kokomo tomorrow morning for a meeting, so I couldn’t take it then even if I were ready.



but it has just been crazy around here.  I was planning to put my G5RV in the air this past weekend…and we were barely around the house.

What with fraternal events and Mom moving and the wife finally being able to get out and around and just general fucking BULLSHIT that had to be tended to, I doubt that I had an hour to myself all weekend.  And now it’s cold and next it’s going to rain.


I did have an idea, though.  I have to get some trees trimmed, and I’m thinking I may just ask the tree guys to run the bucket up on the two trees and hang the G5RV for me.  Or at least the pulley sheaves and the rope.  That would be a big help.

I keep looking at the trees and thinking, if I could get up in there with my extension ladder, I could climb the last 10 or 15 feet…and then I remember I’m too fat and on the wrong side of 50 for that shit.  Better to see if the young tree climbing types will help me out.

This is when I wish Dad had planted oaks or pines instead of maples…


I can throw a half-full 8-oz water pod very nearly up to the tree branch I want to hang my antenna from.  And that with my poor rotator-cuff-impaired throwing arm.

That means the boy will be able to get it up there no sweat.