When All Else Fails

That was the ARRL’s tagline for promoting Amateur Radio during times of crisis.

Here’s another quote. This one is from today’s National Post front story about Canada’s Robocall scandal but applies in several different places at once if you get my drift:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

You see what I mean?

Anyway another scary comment about communications failures comes again from the National Post. The 400-page Fukushima Report that examined Japanese government response to the tsunami and explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant makes for terrifying reading.

Incompetent actions by officials not only delayed attempts to cool the severely damaged reactors but actually hinder emergency operations. Officials at one point considered evacuating everyone within a 250-mile radius of the plant which would have included most of the residents of Toyko.

And here’s no surprise to Amateur Radio operators: Officials lacked basic knowledge of how to respond during a disaster and officials of the prime minister’s office had problems using their cellphones to communicate with an underground crisis management centre at the P.M’s office.

When all else fails indeed.

The Limits of Leadership

I am very thankful for my time both at RAC and the subsequent months after.

My experiences have confirmed everything I thought I knew about working with people.

For example when I was the president of one of the largest and oldest Toastmaster clubs in the world I very quickly learned my chief responsibility was to ensure executive meetings started and ended on time. And if I wanted to be considered a very good president then I should supply coffee and cookies.

My main role was to get out of the way of my excellent executive team.

Now some executive groups aren’t as competent and motivated. That’s a shame because when you’re working with volunteers, you need a great team in order to be a great leader.

If you’ve got some individuals on your team who aren’t team players or who are political players it’s your responsibility to get them to move along. Not to do so will kill any initiatives or new ideas from the other members.

Second, when you are a leader it’s been my experience that it’s your responsibility to directly engage others especially those who disagree with you.

During my year as president of the Toastmaster club I engaged the services of my biggest critic to be my presidential mentor and I asked one of the most vocal members to organize some of our biggest annual events.

What I didn’t do was ignore my critics.

When I was RAC’s VP of PR one of my self-assigned roles was to engage the critics (and we had a few) directly and continuously (where appropriate). With the sole exception of one individual who wanted nothing more than to be left alone (which I respected), we managed to win over most critics and at least quiet down the rest.

So how would I deal with a jerk like me if I was RAC? I would have thought the answer was obvious 🙂


Thoughts To Consider

Here’s a quote from Kierkegaard:

Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards.”

So what has our national association done for us recently? And more importantly is it what we, the members, wanted? (Of course that would necessitate engaging in an ongoing conversation with members.) Was whatever was  done for the good of Ham Radio?

For example, where’s the initiative on bringing in new members to the fold?

Where are we on getting younger people (that’s anyone under 50) interested in our hobby?

Where is the collective executive mindset around representing all Amateurs in Canada (and my Canada includes Quebec) and not just a selected few who coughed up $50?

Another quote from a more contemporary philosopher.

John Lennon said: ” Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”


I wasn’t sure you could run RTTY at 5 watts but my successful completion of the NAQP RTTY contest yesterday has me convinced.

Running five-watts (I know it was 5 watts because now I’ve got an Oak Hills Research WM-2 QRP Wattmeter…full scale at 10 watts or 1 watt or 100 milliwatts. Neat!) out of the FlexRadio 1500 driving the MMTTY RTTY engine inside of Writelog using virtual audio software and virtual port software all working together for the first time since I bought the rig was really really exciting.

Using an 80/40-meter dipole, the custom 80-10 Butternut-based vertical (which worked fine at 5 watts) and the 40-10-meter Hygain Explorer at 16 meters I could work everyone I could hear and heard RTTY signals from across Canada and down to California, Texas and Florida.

RTTY is great fun. You never know who you’re going to decode next. If you’ve got a rig with 500Hz CW filters or better 300 Hz filtering you’re going to have a great time at any power level. During the international contests there’s no thrill like getting called by rare DX who just pops up out of the noise.
While any rig can generate RTTY, using the Flex means you’ve got a panoramic display as wide as your screen. Honestly I can’t think of a reason to go back to an old-fashion rig that only allows you to hear what’s on the band. With the FlexRadio you get to see what’s around you on the band.

Honest Flex. You guys should send me a new 3000 for all the guys who have bought rigs based on what they read here 🙂

Drowning Kittens

Every time I post something about what should we do about the state of Amateur Radio in Canada I get a big boost in readership numbers. I also get a handful of supportive e-mails and comments.

And yet somedays it does feel like I’m drowning a bag of kittens.

I’ve been told from the highest levels of our national organization that they have an awful time recruiting volunteers. I think the reason is pretty understandable.

If you can’t articulate a vision of what to expect when you recruit volunteers, why should anyone want to volunteer when you have no idea of what’s going to be asked of you.

Same thing around bringing new ideas as a volunteer. When new ideas aren’t welcome, why would you want to volunteer? Why have your new ideas ignored or scorned or worse?

Gee I can get all that at home. Just kidding sweetie. And BTW where’s the cat?


The Drake tuner is gone and the LDG Pro II is under review. I’m a little surprised the QRP amp is still here as it’s a perfect companion for the low-power enthusiast. For more info see below or see the For Sale Page above.

Occupy RAC

When I read about the way Toronto City Council is trying to wrestle democratic control back from the tag-team of Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug and read about the fractious scenes at debates of the Republican contenders in the USA, i wonder what we have to do to turn a little association like RAC around.

Maybe we could stage an Occupy RAC movement?

We could recruit volunteers to stand outside the RAC booth at the Dayton Hamvention and answer questions from confused US and Canadian hams about what’s not happening in Canada.

No that won’t work as the event organizers would likely throw us out. Can’t say I would blame them.

How about we call for an administrative review just like they’re doing in Australia where a spat between the PM Julia Gillard and her x-foreign affairs minister has gotten to the point that little is getting done?

But who would we ask to do the review?

No, I guess it’s going to be more of the same old, same old unless, unless some of the senior thought-leaders in some of our oldest and most respected clubs start calling for a change.

What would that change look like?

We could start by asking ourselves what do we wish our national organization to accomplish? The days of publishing a print magazine and running a QSL bureau aren’t enough to justify the cost of running a national organization.

We’re sure not hearing anything from the guys who are supposed to represent us in the regions. And the appointed staff also seem at a loss for words when it comes to telling us what they’re accomplishing on our behalf.

Creating dissension and bad feelings in our national service arm isn’t helping.

Canadian hams deserve better and the presidents of Canada’s largest clubs might just be the people to set Amateur Radio in Canada on the right path.

Stuff For Sale

It’s the pre-Dayton clear out sale 🙂

All equipment is in excellent to mint condition.

LDG-AT-200Pro Autotuner

This is the auto tuner that tunes every antenna at power levels from 5 watts to 200 watts. I’ve used it almost exclusively at five watts with my Flex 1500 and with over 16,000 3D memories it’s super fast and accurate.

What’s really cool is the dual SWR and Power out LEDs. You can tell in an instant whether or not everything is in tune and you’ve got watts going out.

The tuner uses auto sensing so just start transmitting and the tuner immediately kicks in. This is the ideal tuner for anyone with a 100-watt rig or a QRP guy who owns an amplifier (see below for a QRP to 100-watt all-band amp).

Originally sold at $250 and now yours for $190.

Palomar RFL-TX2290LD

Originally sold by RadioWorld in Toronto to a local ham who ran mainly QRP and may have never used it. It’s in mint condition and best of all comes with the original schematic diagram. While the documentation states it runs from 14-30MHz I’ve run it from 160 to 10 meters without issue.

Five watts in gets you 125 watts out RMS or 250 watts PEP. In the real world if I remember correctly I got about 50 or 60 watts out at 160 rising to 100 watts at 20 meters and falling back to 60 watts or so at 10 meters. It has a four-position power switch and a 5-pole Chebyshev filter.

It’s good for AM/FM/SSB/CW with fully automatic mode switching and RF sensing. It draws 25 amps under full load and never got more than slightly warm to the touch. Worked great with the LDG AT-Pro II Tuner on the few occasions I used it. Helps your QRP rig get heard.

This is the perfect small amp for your 5-watt QRP rig. It’s yours for $300.



This is a 2000-watt PEP manual Drake tuner in mint condition. It will match anything and has a built in two-position antenna switch plus aux. Guys who run on 160 or 80 meters often use big manual tuners like the Drake MN-2000 as they are so robust and dependable. This one matches the Drake TR-4 series but would do any shack proud.

These popular tuners don’t come up for sale very often but when they do the usual price is  $225 which is also my selling price for this one.


RigBlaster Pro

While I have the cable for Icom, cables for any other manufacturer are easily purchased on line. The RigBlaster Pro works on any old computer with dual serial ports. I have  all the cables with the exception of the three audio cables which I’d recommend you buy new.

The RigBlaster Pro allows you to connect your computer to your rig allowing for rig control via your software, CW keying with isolation, RTTY using FSK and all the digital modes that are out there. This will get you into digital modes cheaply and easily.

I used RigBlaster Pro to connect my IC-756 to an ancient HP computer that I had a cheap dual serial port board that I installed. The system worked just fine and makes for a bullet-proof interface. Thousands of guys use this identical setup to this one.

The RigBlaster Pro comes with the original manual, CD software programs and power supply.

Selling new at $300, it’s yours for $200.

W1GEE Xcvr Computer Controller Interface

Plug one end into your Icom transceiver and the other into your computer and instant CIV-17 control functions at a fraction of the cost.

K1NU CW LPT cable

Originally sold for $30. Yours for $20. Works with CT, NA, DXWIN and Writelog. Instantly key your rig from contesting and logging software.

New sold for $50. From me $20.

Digital Video Recorder and Cable Tuner

Finally I’ve gone to off-air TV and so I’ve got a hardly used Motorola DCT-6416 digital video recorder and cable tuner bought originally from Future Shop for around $300 on special for $230. Comes with remote. Works great.

Traynor Reverb Mate 30 Guitar Amp

Just bought a new Fender tube amp so my trusty Traynor Reverb Mate 30 amp is up for sale. Bought six years ago for $120 it’s been lightly used and cared for and is in mint condition. Featuring a 10″ speaker and 30 watts of power it’s got great sound and at 20 pounds is an easy carry. Great as a practice amp it has two channels, a headphone jack and EQ.

I see these on Kajiji and Craigslist for around $100 which is too much IMHO as I’m asking $80.

FOR SALES OR INFO EMAIL ve3hg@cogeco.ca 

Back To The Future Again

If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” – Fritz

So as I sit here giddy with excitement over last weekend’s ARRL CW contest successes, I ponder on what is the possible future for Amateur Radio in Canada.

In the simplest terms possible, so that even the most obtuse among us can understand, here’s what I’d propose we should do:

  1. Let us commit to representing all amateur radio operators in Canada and not just a dwindling few ageing old boys (and girls);
  2. Let us build our national organization numbers so as to fund the above*;
  3. Let us make a priority the introduction of new amateurs into our community**;
  4. Let us move from a management style of administration to one that values vision***;
  5. Let us support those executives who work for the betterment of our hobby and bid adieu to those who aren’t pulling their weight****;
  6. Let us seek to heal the rifts that have developed in our national public service arm and end the development of massive plans without consultation;
  7. It’s critical we re-establish relations with Industry Canada*****;
  8. The second uppermost priority of the executive should be to advocate for the future of Amateur Radio with government at all levels*****:
  9. Let us commit to communicating on a daily basis with our members*******:
  10. Finally, and perhaps mercifully so, let’s include Quebec. Our lack of membership in Quebec is shameful and an indication of something fundamentally wrong with our organization and how we’ve run it in the past.
* Job one should be to design an organization that is inclusive of all amateurs and not just those who can afford or are so inclined to pay dues. What’s needed is a membership drive. Other organizations do them all the time. Ours…not so much. Isn’t there an Idiot’s Guide at Chapters?
**Likely through our clubs and consider creating a new “textbook” using Apple’s new text publisher app. We should set a target of increasing our numbers by 10 per cent per year.
BTW you find young people in high schools.
*** Read CQ Canada* for info on vision. Brilliant, passionate and read by hundreds of amateurs in Canada. Not so popular with administrators.
**** You’ll know who is pulling their weight by how often you hear from them on an annual, monthly, weekly or, dare I say, daily basis. I only hear one voice and infrequently at that. Where are the rest of the guys?
***** Technological advancements are going to put pressure on our allotted frequencies. Our relationship with Industry Canada is crucial to our future. Right now, I have no idea where we stand.
****** That’s not happening now at all as witness the lack of results when it comes to permanent relief from Ontario’s distracted driving Bill 118. One meeting doesn’t a campaign make.
******* RAC is still using a spark-gap method to communicate with members. Let’s at least go to AM mode on our way to actual digital communications. You can blog daily but of course you need something to say and the ability to say it at least one of our official languages. What does it say about RAC that I talk more about RAC than RAC talks about RAC?
The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  – Michelangelo

RAC At Dayton

Radio Amateurs of Canada (such as it is) is returning to Dayton again this year after a successful debut last year after being missing in action for the previous 10 years.

Now RAC President Geoff Bawden has sent out a request for volunteers to staff the booth from May 18 to 20.

For those of you who agree with us that RAC needs to better communicate with the Amateur Radio community in Canada and engage its members as opposed to just firing off official bulletins, this might be your opportunity to directly let Geoff know what you’d like to see changed at RAC.

Unfortunately I won’t be volunteering as I think RAC already knows my thoughts on what needs to be  done.

BTW I notice Geoff is now signing his title as president and chairman of RAC. I wonder if title of chairman is new and, if so, has some significance? Maybe I just didn’t notice this before and maybe I just shouldn’t care.