There was something bothering me about RAC president Geoff Bawden’s reply to Sparky who wanted links to RAC from a club website that had links to a certain blog that was critical of RAC to be dropped.
In part of his reply, which appears in the president’s emailed newsletter, Geoff suggested that a blog is just one man’s opinion and is subject to the same errors and inaccuracies as can be found everywhere on the Internet.
Of course this smacks of saying my s**t doesn’t stink but actually it’s worse than that.
One of the tricks of the crafty politician when faced with an accusation they can’t defend is to demean the sender. It’s a sinister slight of hand that Rob Ford in Toronto uses with great success when he calls the media who are hounding him maggots.
I started my career in journalism as one of the maggots and if I was still active I’d get a t-shirt made that said “MAGGOT” and I’d wear it with pride. Seems this time the maggots got it right when it comes to Toronto’s mayor.
It’s the same thing with RAC.
Here we’ve got a member-driven, non-profit association being run like a private company. You see in a private company the board of directors are responsible to maximize the profits of the organization for the benefit of the shareholders. Period.
That’s their primary and sole purpose.
In a non-profit, member-driven national association it is the duty of the board of directors to do two things. First is to ensure the financial stability and transparency of the organization. Second is to provide services to the members.
A national association like RAC also has a secondary responsibility to offer services to all Amateur Radio operators in Canada whether or not they are members. Only by representing all the constituents, members and non-members alike can RAC claim the moral authority to speak for all Hams in Canada.
What RAC should not be doing (and has been doing for a long time) is ignoring the needs of the non-members and worse, has now announced a two-tier membership policy thus splintering the membership into a two-class society. This is not a good thing.
Seems ordinary members aren’t as equal as some exulted members who for an extra cash amount are going to get special privileges like an enhanced newsletter and other goodies.
This goes back to a previous blog posting where I suggested that all members are equal but some members are more equal than others. Oink! Oink!
Yes it’s true. I’ve renewed although this time for the cheaper E-magazine-only amount. I’m looking forward to getting The Canadian Amateur in full colour on my I-Pad. TCA is one of the best things about RAC and should be better valued and promoted within the Canadian Amateur Radio community.
If it were up to me I’d electronically distribute a stripped down 10-page black and white version of TCA to every Amateur Radio operator in Canada who wanted it. And in those 10 pages, in addition to teasers about what was appearing in the full-colour edition available with a membership to RAC, I’d add several pages of compelling copy about why membership in RAC was so valuable and vital to the growth of Amateur Radio in Canada.
As it is the mean-spirited concept that if you give away the milk nobody will buy the cow as voiced by some in RAC suggests that our executive believes there is no appreciable value in a RAC membership if the magazine isn’t included.
That might be truer today than in past years based on performance but let’s be charitable here and say that the few volunteers who remain in the governing circles can only do so much.
However let’s not forget that there is lots that goes on behind the scene and some of these volunteers are working very hard on your behalf. What RAC does so very poorly is promote this work and that’s a great shame as it leads to a basic misunderstanding of what value there could be in our national association.
The board and executive members would do well to remember that they should not be trying to govern a non-profit membership-driven organization but should serve the members with all their hearts and minds and in doing so they might not be so alone.
I am not the sole believer in this concept.
So why did I renew?
What pushed me over the edge was a comment in our President’s Newsletter which came last week via email.
In his rosy report about romping off to B.C. there was a mention of an email to Geoff by presumably a member asking that the RAC website stop linking to a particular club because that particular club’s website was linked to a blog that made unfortunate remarks about individuals.
I’m not sure which blog the member was referring to but Geoff wisely suggested that RAC cannot police the internet (Although I bet the thought was considered.) and that blogs are almost invariably just one man’s opinion and usually do not represent the formal view of any organization.
Geoff is quite right but his statement about representing the formal view of any organization smacks of orthodoxy to me. I mean do you really think the “president’s report” represents the “formal” opinion of anyone with the exception of the writer?
And since “inaccurate information can be found on the internet and that a blog may contain inaccuracies” does that mean that anything or everything from RAC or in the president’s report is without error or even contrary opinion?
No this is too convenient a statement.
RAC is an organization of several thousand individuals. The president is but one voice and not necessarily the most informed or even the most intelligent although in Geoff’s case I’d be last to suggest either possibility.
The RAC directors, all seven of them, are individuals again blessed with individual talents and challenges. And then we have the dwindling number of members of the national executive.
Some previous members of the RAC national executive were legendary for their prickliness and inability to work within a group. They asked ways too many questions and didn’t accept answers that didn’t make sense. t bet many even questioned the emotional and mental stability of at least one individual who really p.o. people.
Of course I am describing myself in the above paragraph and any resemblance to current or former members of the national executive is a flight of fancy and misdirected thinking.
But let’s get back to Sparky’s email to the president. It’s true in this blog at least I do talk about individuals like Geoff and the directors and the national executive. That’s part of what to expect when one takes on a leadership role.
An old fire department captain friend of mine was coaching me on leaderships skills back when I was just a boy and he told me something I never forgot and it was this:
The Indians have the right to bitch and the chiefs would be wise to listen.
Politically incorrect these days but the meaning is clear.
If I were on the RAC executive again I’d want to being me and people like me into the tent. Why? Because it’s way too easy to throw rocks when you’re outside the tent and way harder to do so when you’re sitting in circle inside the tent.
When I was the vice-president of public relations for RAC that was job one as far as I was concerned. Whenever I could discover the identity of a critic I did all that I could to contact directly and see if I couldn’t help them express their concerns more directly and forcibly to me.
You see, what Sparky doesn’t get, is that your critics are still engaged with the organization. They still care. Sometimes they care beyond all measure. What you want to avoid at all costs is to cause your members and your potential members to tune you out.
That’s what’s happening to RAC right now.
Members and potential members are voting with the dollars and aren’t renewing because they are indifferent to what happens to RAC.
Members aren’t volunteering for positions as the “Help Wanted” ad has been running in TCA for months now. This is not a good sign.
I do see we have a new treasurer and welcome Dorothy Brown. I don’t see any call sign associated with her name so I hope Dorothy will become a licensed amateur so she too can enjoy the benefits of our wonderful hobby.
Ms Brown does show up at an opportune time. As president Geoff boasts RAC is back in the black and while I may disagree with the methods employed to balance the books, our financial situation was untenable and we should thank Geoff for his hard work here.
Finally I would implore our RAC leaders to fully embrace president Geoff’s comments that “we must strive to grow this great activity by being open to all and supportive.” Those who continue to serve at RAC might also join Geoff and “practice with civility” in their dealings with members and potential members alike. There’s a couple of former execs who I think should get a call and apology for past sins noted and forgiveness on all sides.
What a Christmas gift to the Canadian Amateur Radio community and to all of the Sparky’s out there who may object to the way to the way we make sausages but find themselves enjoying the result.
That’s why I renewed. I still care.
And that’s the question.
I’ve got my second notice and if I wanted to make a small point (okay a very small point) I wouldn’t renew my membership in Radio Amateurs of Canada.
Aside from the obvious “what have you done for me recently” question there is my ongoing profound disappointment in the way RAC has been managed.
RAC always seems to find a way to wield a stick when it would be so much easier to offer some honey.
Case in point is the way RAC sold all our addresses to Kamar from Johnson Insurance. Love Kamar and at least in the ads in The Canadian Amateur he’s got a headset on but of course he would. I’ve just started throwing away everything that arrives in the mail from RAC because none of it is of interest to me.
Worse is the way RAC is now penalizing clubs if they don’t submit their RAC insurance forms on time. Who voted this in? And if it wasn’t voted in, who thinks they can arbitrarily demand clubs fork up $100 if they’re late in renewing.
This is typical RAC behaviour and it’s not in the interests of Canadian Amateur Radio operators and especially not in the interest of RAC affiliated clubs.
This is dumb beyond words and makes sending RAC $56 such a challenge.
I am going to do so in hope and anticipation that the current RAC executive group just quits and goes away and then some of us (and it wouldn’t likely be me) can step in and create an Amateur Radio friendly organization again.
Unfortunately the old boy’s club voted themselves back into office for another two-year term ending Dec. 2015 so…it is with regret that I inform you that the cheque is in the mail.
When will the directors of Radio Amateurs of Canada wake up when it comes to Amateur Radio Emergency Service?
I can speak only to the Ontario experience where the organization has completely collapsed into internecine back-room fighting that has resulted into a split-off group forming and ill-will all around.
The blame falls upon our directors and the fault that caused this catastrophe lies with some individuals inability to understand that as elected officials, selected “special advisors” and appointed managers, they do not govern but serve not just the paid-up members but all Amateurs in Canada. (This is how you attract new members but the concept continually eludes RAC.)
For example, I’ve hear someone in RAC has now decreed that anyone who joined the breakaway Emergency Communications Ontario Association can’t hold a service position in ARES.
What! Is this true?
Who made this decision? How was this decision made? Why weren’t we told? What are our RAC directors going to do about this mess?
We have a newly acclaimed (as seemingly always) Ontario South Director in Rod Hardman, VE3RHF. Rod is a friend of mine and someone who I believe comes to RAC full of good intentions.
Funny thing was a few years ago I came to RAC full of good intentions and overtime I personally witnessed the reasons why RAC isn’t functioning and does not serve the membership (such as it is and shrinking rapidly) so I quit the position and I’m glad I did.
I refuse to be a member of a “leadership” group who do not understand that they are elected to serve and not govern. It’s a big distinction that is obviously lost on RAC and ARES officials.
It also shows a complete misunderstanding about how Amateur Radio works in emergencies. From the beginning of time, Ham Radio operators have provided public service to their communities in times of need.
The Amateur Radio operators who provide these services are volunteers in the finest sense of the word and not trained emergency responders (despite the silly hard hats and reflective vests). We will never be part of the official governmental infrastructure when it comes to disaster relief not should we try to get ourselves into the tent.
Yes it’s good to be organized. It’s great to have leaders. A plan is always welcome. But it is delusional in the extreme to think a bunch of old men (and a handful of ageing women) are going to join a para-military organization lead by some appointed Colonel Blimp.
With the end of the presidential tenure fast approaching it’s going to be up to Ontario South Director Rod Hardman and his fellow directors to first find someone capable of fulfilling the role of president. The first step of that new president should be to retire all of the unelected special advisors and other RAC hangers-on.
A truth and reconciliation committee wouldn’t be out of the question either. Why not e-mail your director and ask him what is he doing to fix this mess?
Conditions for the CQ WW DX SSB contest were the best in years, maybe even decades, as 10 especially was open from just after sunrise into dusk with all zones active.
Really it was exhausting to keep working so much exotic DX on 10.
And then comes the local station weirdness.
I use the word weirdness to describe stuff that goes wrong which makes no sense.
For example I now have an SWR meter which will only read PEP when the meter’s light is on. This is strange!
My telnet program on Writelog failed (after a mysterious Windows upgrade at 3:30pm) and would not restart despite reinstalling software and restarting the computer…often. And this morning (Monday) it works fine. Grrr.
My voice keyer seems to have developed a bad connection to the rig and will need looking into before I use it again.
My new FlexRadio 3000 worked it’s PA off at 100 watts and overall I’m thrilled with it. It does work better than the 1500 when it comes to shaping software filtering and microphone modelling but the FlexKnob has a noticeable lag when tuning which is not present using it with the 1500. Strange.
The 1500 is still a viable QRP contest-quality rig (at $600) as it runs the same software as the 3000 and with the exception of no VOX, which I don’t use in contests as I say too many bad words, no 100-watts and no ATU, it’s much the same experience on air as its big brother especially on CW where it gives up very little to any rig.
Now the FlexRadio concept with active windows for SDR and then another for your logging program (and don’t get me started with the complexities of RTTY with its windows) can create some interesting moments when you think you’re logging in the Writelog window but actually the mouse or knob is still active on the SDR window. So as you start typing the SDR window changes frequency often going to another band or universe!
This is one of the major issues with any SDR system and can be quite disconcerting at 2 am.
But, for under $2000 with the Flex 3000 you’ve got a competition-class rig that will run circles around all but a few of the top contest rigs ever made. Plus you get a full-screen panoramic display built-in which can cost hundreds of dollars as add-ons in other systems. And, strange as it may seem the rig itself can be sitting on the floor as there are no active controls you need to reach on the box itself.
The big advantage of the Flex SDR is it the quality of the receive signal in your earphones. It’s melodic and unlike my old big box radio not harsh at all. By the end of the 48-hour contest I don’t have a headache anymore. Super. Plus the filtering is a whole new generation of excellent.
Let’s face it contesting is tough on both the equipment and the operator. As a contester your number one desire is to build a station that can take the punishment and keep on ticking.
As for the operator, I’m working on it as I’m still going to hot yoga four times a week.
I am so struck by the similarities between today’s headlines about the scandal that’s sweeping through the Canadian Senate and the issues we’ve had with Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC).
It would seem, if one agrees with the assessment by The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente (and I do), that when it comes to Senator Mike Duffy and claims he misspent on expenses a deal between Duffy and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) fell through and Duffy, being a former journalist, declined to take one for the team and go quietly.
Despite the difference in scale, issues within RAC are similar.
Over the years we’ve had a series of volunteers who either quit in frustration, were dismissed allegedly for cause or who weren’t voted back in by the national directors.
Like Duffy, some of these unfortunates, didn’t go quietly and so we come to the shocking manner in which we recently changed our constitution to allow for the president to be the sole authority (Oh sure the recipient of the president’s actions can appeal to the national directors but really where do you think an appeal would go?) on who stays and who goes when it comes to our national volunteer executive committee.
The fact that a handful of the RAC members (I think it was less than 40 folks voted with one in opposition and that one a director-elect which bodes well for a possible alternative future for our national organization.) retroactively voted to change the constitution after the deed was done (I’m referring to the questionable dismissal of our former regulatory affairs officer earlier this year.) brings me back to the scandal in the Canadian Senate.
Prime Minister Harper is going to face some dark personal hours and the Federal Conservative Party may well feel the furious brunt of voter dissatisfaction in the next election. Duffy, Pamela Wallins and others will just be roadkill and history will forget them. They are but the canaries in the mine.
Here in RAC we must find a better way of treating each other and supporting our beloved hobby. As it is now, IMHO, Radio Amateurs of Canada (of which I am a member) is doing more harm to our hobby than good.
What is happening right now is the apathy of the Canadian Amateur Radio operators has brought us to this place where decisions made in back rooms are ratified after the fact by party faithful in a manner that doesn’t serve the organization or the hobby.
I end with a quote from American anthropologist Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
To misquote a Tom Waits’ song I was big in Japan tonight.
After talking to Harry, VA3EC, at the weekly 6:30 am Saturday breakfast meeting, who had the same lag issue with the FlexKnob on his Flex 3000 (which goes away when the spur control is initiated. Weird!) I got my FlexKnob working this morning.
So if the FlexKnob was working maybe my issues weren’t with the ports or latency in the FireWire setup after all.
Based on that I reinvestigated with new enthusiasm my RTTY setup which with Writelog running MMTTY as the coding/decoding engine connected to the SDR software through virtual port pairs and a virtual audio cable is a nightmare to figure out.
Guess what? I got it running (and promptly wrote down the setup for future reference) just in time to join the fun in the JARTS (Japanese Amateur Radio Teleprinter Society) Contest. This is a very popular 48-hour RTTY contest with tons of Japanese stations (even heard a station out of South Korea) coming in a dusk on 15 meters.
Here’s the proof:
So this line is from the last annual report we’re likely to read coming from outgoing president Geoff Bawden in his report to the RAC membership.
Geoff says it was it a good year. Was it?
Well if you’ve been reading this blog, and lots of Canadian Hams are, then you know I have my opinion. And based on the emails I get, lots of you have your opinions as well and we don’t all agree with Geoff.
For example, we don’t like the secret way decisions are made which affect us. We don’t like the manner in which some of our volunteers have been treated in the past. We’re not happy about the way money gets moved around. We’re not happy to be bossed around by some appointed or proclaimed “officials” who think it’s okay to exclude some and invite others to the party.
That’s not so say RAC hasn’t done anything last year. We just don’t like the process.
Now if indeed this is Geoff’s last crack at the presidential can, then I’m not surprised that his report is so glowing. Give the man his due. Lesser mortals would have quit. I did and so have many others.
I’m debating about doing a point for point rebuttal on the report but I don’t think I want to. (I might change my mind but really I’m starting not to care that much.)
But Geoff and the bunch at RAC still don’t get it.
Here’s an example where Geoff concludes his report with 34 points of discussion.
In specific, number 33 reads: “RAC advocates for Amateur Radio and thus for all Amateurs but provides services to members only (why buy the cow when the milk is free?)“
Why buy the cow when the milk is free!
Oh dear, this is such an out-of-touch response. I’m surprised that anyone still thinks this way at our national association.
Radio Amateurs of Canada is our national association that represents all Canadian amateurs and not just Geoff’s friends and while he gives lip-service to the concept of representing all, it’s not what has been happening.
Of course services specific to members are the privileges that members get for their financial support and they should continue to get those services (like TCA) but whether Geoff and some of the other directors get it or not they are obligated to represent all Canadian Amateurs whether paying members or not and to do so as fully as possible.
The Conservative Party of Canada represents all Canadians when it comes to governing the country. They don’t just represent Conservatives. It’s the same for the Liberals or the New Democratic Party.
If RAC merely represents only the partisan interests of a minority of Canadian Amateurs we’ll end up with an association that governs and does not serve. A place where secret deals are the way of the world and some members are in and some are out.
Already we hear rumours of such happening in ARES where it seems some Canadian Hams are more welcome that others.
You remember these lines from George Orwell’s Animal Farm don’t you?
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Or how about:
“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
You know maybe Geoff isn’t so off with the cow reference after all.
I don’t know what we should say about the folks at FlexRadio!
Imagine charging $1700 for a FlexRadio 3000 when for a mere $600 or so you can get a FlexRadio 1500!
Okay sure the 3000 has a 100-Watt PA and a built-in ATU (which works pretty well in comparison to my other autotuners) and VOX (boy I missed VOX on the 1500) but when I compare the two receivers (and I can run them simultaneously on my 8-core I7 PC with 8 gigs of RAM) there’s very little difference between them.
Yes the 3000 will allow for more aggressive shaping on the filtering but filters with this much shaping can sound a little aggressive (even harsh) when compared to how they sound when opened up. Having said that I can’t wait until the CQ WW DX SSB contest to run aggressive filter settings and 100 watts. Woo Hoo!
But and it’s a big but, the FlexRadio 1500 at 5 watts is an exception rig and not just an exceptional QRP rig but an exceptional rig on its own. And when compared to other rigs on Sherwood Engineering’s Receiver Data page, it’s a clear winner.
Good heavens there must be some guys really PO’d to have paid $3500 to $10,000 to own a radio with a receiver that doesn’t rate as high as the FlexRadio 1500.
So I keeping both rigs. The 3000 for contesting at 100 watts (low power category) or to drive a smallish amp (600 to 800 watts would do it) and the 1500 for contesting in the QRP categories especially on CW where I can work everyone I can hear.
So should you buy a FlexRadio?
Let’s be honest here.
If you’re not somewhat familiar with how to run your PC (You’re going to need to setup virtual ports and a virtual audio cable.which is pretty simple if you’re familiar with computers and a bit of a challenge if this is new.) you might want to consider a big box radio.
An Elecraft K3 comes to mind. Don’t overlook the Ten Tec line as everyone of their radios is one of Sherwood’s top picks including the $1,000 Argonaut 6 QRP rig.
Right now I’ve got a weird issue with the FlexKnob which works fine with the 1500 but lags when tuning the 3000. Thought it was a port issues but changing ports didn’t help. A mouse works fine on either rig. Considering it might be a FireWire issue. We’re working on it
If you take the plunge with Flex you’re likely going to have similar issues but here’s the secret. With Flex you get a box which is continuously upgraded with newer software every few months.
Pretty slick to buy a radio that gets better over time!