Contest Club Ontario AGM & BBQ

Over 80 of Ontario’s top contesters attended the 9th annual general meeting and BBQ for Contest Club Ontario on Saturday at the big contesting station of John VE3EJ’s escarpment landmark.

This year the club was blessed by a group of very generous sponsors including RadioWorld ($500 off an Alpha Amp).

BegaliKeys which donated a Pearl model iambic paddle priced at 270.00 Euros (about $400 Canadian with shipping) which was won by Gregg, VA3GGF, who stole it from me.

Vibroplex Keyers (donated a chrome set of paddles which I think retailed around $200. Also on my personal want list) and Bird Wattmeters (another must have) which donated one of their lab quality wattmeters and one slug (you can get various power level slugs for increased accuracy.

There were a ton more prizes like the WinRadio ERD-1500 which I won. Do you have any idea how insanely great this hand-held device is around the shack. I can trace my coax runs now and figure out which coax goes to which antenna. Heck I can evendetermine if one of my new antennas is even radiating without having to get within 60 feet of it.

One of the Oakville guys won 500 feet of LMR-400 cable.

Anyway if you’re interested in contesting and even if you don’t live in Ontario, this is one of the best contesting clubs in the world. We also win our share of hardware in the big contests.

Check us out. Thanks to John, VE3EJ for hosting and the entire CCO executive and all the OMs and YLs in the club.

Who decides?

Read the first part of my thoughts about Radio Amateurs of Canada (below) and visit the RAC Blog for more details.

RAC is a member-driven, non-profit, association. It’s run by the members for the members. It’s your RAC.

So how come seven directors and 11 executive members (of which I’m one) think it’s okay to meet in private and discuss the future of your organization without you there?

If RAC was a private, commercial interest where the open discussion of decisions could have economic impact on the bottomline or involved the professional reputations of staff then closed meetings would be absolutely appropriate. But a closed meeting of a public organization is just plain wrong. There may be an argument made that the board and executive members won’t feel free to speak their minds in an open meeting. And to that I say nuts.

Here’s what we’re going to talk about this October in Ottawa: What is working and what’s not working and then, if we’re lucky and enlightened, we’ll talk about what RAC could look like if we waved a magic wand and we could get everything we wanted for RAC. Then the next part of the discussion would be around how we could, in this time and place, realize those visions. In other words we’d turn these dreams into SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, tangible or timely – I used to teach this stuff to business folks).

So why would anyone want to keep a discussion about our future secret?

I would think they are afraid of something. Maybe it’s a fear of upsetting some members whose performance has been less than stellar (I’m a candidate for these sort of comments.) but surely men and women with our long histories in business and personal relationships can find ways of pointing out the places we could do better without shooting the hapless volunteer who tried his or her best but fell short? And if some folks think they need to move on or better yet, step up, then let’s let them 🙂

We do this all the time in Toastmasters International where I’ve been a member for over 15 years now. We offer critical comments on all the speeches given in an evening in a way that points out opportunities and is laced with constructive comments for improvement while remaining positive and supportive. That’s the way we should offer our insights to our own volunteers who will get the message in a way that’s palatable and positive.

Speaking of Toastmasters: First Oakville Toastmasters Club is one of the largest and oldest in Canada. We’ll likely hit 60 members this year (most clubs struggle to hold 20) and everyone of those members has a vote on every issue that arises during the year. The executive team of seven has the responsibility of making sure the meetings happen and the program works. They can spend money from their approved budget and make day-to-day decisions without prior approval but anything involving money or a substantive change to our program requires the approval of the membership.

During every two-hour Toastmaster meeting, the clubs hold a 10 to 15 minute timed business meeting where motions are raised, seconded, discussed and voted upon and then implemented. Nothing is done behind closed doors as all executive and special committee meetings are open to all.

Now RAC is a national organization but I’ve been advocating that the monthly teleconference calls be held online using something like Go-To-Meeting which would allow the board/executive team to meet while anyone else could listen in.

Same thing goes for the meeting in October. You should be there either in person or via a live streaming feed on the Internet. The RAC board and executive have nothing to hide. And by holding a closed meeting they are creating a mystery where no mystery exists.

Secret or open – What’s your RAC?

Thanks to the Canadian Amateur Radio community there has been more online discussion in the last month about the future of Radio Amateurs of Canada (the national organization that represents all licensed Amateur Radio operators in Canada) than in the last decade.

Amateurs, members and non-members alike have been invited into a visioning process to set the direction for RAC. This openness hasn’t been without controversy as I suspect some club presidents might have trepidation that members of their own clubs might demand similar openness and free discussion. I urge them to be brave and engage their members in discussion about how to make RAC and how to make their own clubs more responsive to the needs of the members.

Having said that, President Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW, announced yesterday that the RAC board of seven elected (actually mostly acclaimed but whose counting) and 11 executive members will be meeting in a closed meeting to have an open and frank discussion about how we proceed from here. Does anyone else see the irony in the this decision?

In a blog posted this morning, one of RAC’s great friends, Bob, VA3QV in reply to a post by President Geoff asked the question: “Can I Attend The Meeting?”

What’s not working at RAC?

It’s a long list but remember this list is only the list of the symptoms and not the diagnosis and prescription for the cure.

Remember what TV’s “Dr. Phil” says: “You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.”

I wrote out a short list of what’s not happening IMHO and you can find it on the RAC Blog as the last part (7) of the RAC Transformation Process Pages so I won’t repeat it here. But let’s take one complaint head on: RAC has been accused of being an “old boys” club and secretive in its decision-making process. I’ve heard this comment from long before I was on the executive. So this has been a long-standing complaint. So what could we do easily to change this issue?

I’d say we ensure that every meeting of the RAC board and executive be held in public and that all interested amateurs (members and future members are invited) listen in. We have the technology. (Go To Meeting software should do the trick.) I’ve heard some say they wouldn’t be comfortable participating in a meeting with others listening in. Well that’s the way city hall works. Same with my Toastmaster club. While the executive meets offsite, any and all of the members are invited to attend. Also, all decisions that fall outside of their work description are made at the club meetings with the full participation of all attending members who debate and vote on every issue.  (This is usually around 30 members every week.)

You know, I’ve been a party on the monthly teleconferences for a year and half now and, so far, I haven’t heard a thing that could not have been said in public.BTW I’d also terminate the closed RAC e-mail reflector. It’s way too easy to miss the nuance of the communications on it. It occurs to me that I could just stop using it but I don’t want to appear to be uncooperative or unfriendly.

So what’s the next step? It’s involves you getting involved in this change. This is your Radio Amateurs of Canada. You paid your $50 and it’s up to you to get your full value.

RAC STARTS TO CHANGE!

Thanks to the initiative by John Bartlett, VE1OZ – HK3OZ, and RAC President Geoff Bawden Radio Amateurs of Canada is beginning a nation-wide change process. All amateur radio operators in Canada, whether or not they are members of RAC, are being asked for their input into this process.

To help create a structure, John has posted seven documents on the RAC Blog about why change should happen and how RAC could begin this process.

But most importantly of all, we need to hear from you.

Please read these documents and then share your thoughts with RAC. This change is a long-time coming and may not come a moment too soon. RAC is in serious trouble and must make some substantial and likely painful organizational change if it is to survive.

This work is too important to be left in the hands of a few.

Honey: I shrunk the radio

It’s been awhile since I posted to my own ham radio blog as I been very busy on the Radio Amateurs of Canada blog.

I’m back on my own blog because I’ve made some changes to the contest station here at VE3HG. The photo that’s on the header is a shot of the station as it normally is setup. The SB-220 amp is on the left. My IC-756 sits on my Dentron tuner and my monitor over to the right. (I’ve changed that layout since this photo was taken but you get the idea.) So far so good.

But this week my FlexRadio 1500 arrived and it’s up and running… sort of. That’s it in the photo on the right. The little blue box sitting next between the small speaker and my tiny MFJ tuner. That’s the whole radio at least as far as RF is concerned.

You see it’s a five-watt out software define radio and it’s rather amazing. It covers 160 to 6 meters and runs all modes. It’s a very small box and it doesn’t even need to be on the operating table. Everything but the monitor, the key, the headphones (with mic) can be put on a shelf out of sight.

Now in comparisons to my IC-756, it’s at least as good in receive. We’re just recovering from a solar flare so conditions haven’t been there for me to see how it really compares when it comes to really loud stations close in. The ability to bring up a 25 Hz (yes you read that right) filter with no ringing or other digital artifacts is astounding.

But now we come to the sort of department. Seems the 1500 was shipped with issues based in software with the transmitter. CW is impossible by key or keyer. We’re promised a fix is on the way but that’s disappointing. Also my rig is failing to output a signal on 10 and 12 meters. FlexRadio guys said it might have to come back for a calibration and I told them that would be disappointing since it’s a brand new rig. Kinda makes me wonder about their quality control. So far, I am left waiting for directions on what to do. (Bet I was dealing with an engineer and not a sales guy.)

Same thing with the headset I ordered and the USB rig controller. They forgot to ship the headset (although they managed to remember to charge me for it and I had to pay the HST on delivery) and the controller isn’t available just yet and is back ordered.

You know the old saying you only get once chance at making a good first impression. Let’s hope the relationship makes up for the first kiss 😦