Digital QST

The premier edition of QST in digital format arrived in my inbox moments ago and here’s my initial review in one word: Fantastic!

All print content, all in colour, added audio and video, even more content than the print version and I’m sold. ARRL you can sent me QST via the Internet and cancel my print subscription.

Not only can we save trees but this version on my IPAD-3 looks spectacular. I can’t wait until there’s a version of the ARRL Handbook for IPad as well.

Now if we could only get the guys at RAC to give up their Gestetner copier and produce an all digital version of The Canadian Amateur then Canadian amateurs might move into the digital age…oh I forgot…spark gap was essentially digital communications.

Guess we’ll have to keep living in the printed analogue world for another decade or so.

Why We Go To Dayton

The Dayton Hamvention isn’t just a flea market.

It’s a gathering of the international amateur radio fraternity. That’s Greg, VAeGGF; Tim K3LR who organizes Contest U and does a first-class job of it; Oakville ARC President Rod, VE3RHF; and Jim, VE3AJ at the registration desk on Wednesday night.)

We meet friends like my buddy John, HK3C, who I’ve talked to numerous times on air and via Skype and met in person for the first time last week.

We get to hang out with the guys from our local clubs who attend. This year the Oakville ARC was well represented. I’m guessing there were 15 of us at Dayton.

If you arrived before Thursday you could attend Contest U or the QRP groups famous Four Days In May gathering.You’ll learn tons of new stuff at either event.

Then there’s the food. In the past we ate really really poorly. It was all fried food and all you could eat.

Last year was so bad that Rod, VE3RHF, and myself refused a second visit to a place that served food in vats. There was a reason most the clientele was obese.

This year, thanks to the guidance of Tony, VE3RZ, we ate very well at some really nice restaurants. (That’s us leaving one of the first-class eateries to be found in downtown Dayton.)

The first was an Italian place and on first glance I thought that dinner (which was wonderful) was going to run $60 or $70 US.

The bill, including two beers, was $25. I thought they’d made a mistake but all the meals ended up in the same price range.

Then, of course, there’s the flea market and if you can’t find it at Dayton it probably doesn’t exist anymore.

The Dayton flea market takes a good four hours of hard walking or two days of strolling to adequately cover.

Treasures abound and prices fall as the weekend progresses. 

Florida QSO Party Wallpaper

Much to my surprise and delight I received an email this afternoon declaring that I had qualified for The Florida QSO Party 2012 Worked All 1X1 Special Event Stations Certificate!

I had no idea! Especially I had no idea as I was working QRP and didn’t keep count of the contacts but here it is certificate number 13.

QRP brings the challenge back to ham radio for me and this certificate is a wonderful endorsement of what anyone can do with 5 watts and modest antennas. (The secret BTW is to pretend that you’re QRO. I continue to be amazed at how many pileups I can break with the Flex 1500 often just using a vertical or dipole.

Why we go to forums

For those of you who haven’t been to the Dayton Hamvention it may come as surprise to learn that it’s not just a flea market (albeit the largest in the world).

On Fridays and Saturdays there are a series of workshops and meetings that take place inside one of the main buildings. We almost always sit in on a couple especially those that have to do with contesting or antennas and other challenging topics.

But there’s another reason we attend the workshops and that’s to take a load off our feet. Once you get 300 or so people in a room it gets hot pretty quick and the results are predictable.

Thanks to Mike, VA3MW, here’s the result with Jim, VE3JMY (I might have the call wrong) and Harry, VA3EC taking it all it 🙂 I was sleeping in my chair at the time just off camera. Trust me it wasn’t the quality of the speaker. It was the endurance of the listeners.

Why have a national organization?

I’m reading the Sunday New York Times and I come across Thomas L. Friedman’s article “Do you want the good news first?” where he describes how the barriers between us and the technological tools to get things done are falling away.

For example, he says that 16 of the top 100 bestsellers on Kindle readers are self-published. That means no agents, publishers, no paper but just the author and Amazon and the readers.

So why can we amateur radio operators use technology in the same way to create a national organization with no association, no president, no officers, no board members, no paid managers, no expensive office, no paper magazine, no paid editor — although I’ve spoken against this before but I was a national magazine editor and have no credibility on this issue 🙂 – no nothing  but members?

Just thinking out loud…


Contest University

2012 Contest U is by far the best year ever.

Thanks to Tim, K3LR and his team, this the best organized  and  best run Contest U in my memory.

If nothing else the workshop by W3LPL on feedlines was worth the price of admission. I’ve now have to rip up my LM400 which I buried and shouldn’t have. Same for all my nickel-based connectors.

Anyone want to go in for buying some heliax?


This is simple. Let’s follow the Barrie Amateur Radio Club’s example as found in their draft Strategic Plan 2012-2016 document.

ONE: Define yourself. Some executive members of RAC still think they’re running a club in the tiny community of Upper Rubber Boots (and you pick the province). This is parochial thinking of the worst kind as it excludes some hams and is preferential to others. We should ask our national organization executives to have a national view and if they don’t to please quit.

Two: Forget the Past. What’s done is done. It’s been pretty awful but it’s over or at least should be. Only forward looking statements and thinking should be coming out of RAC. This alone would point our national organization on the right path. (Changing the executive – see below – will help.)

Three: Create real value for your members and create a positive experience for every licensed amateur radio operator in Canada and every potential amateur radio operator in Canada. In other words do things that works for your members and encourages others, even compels them, to join the association.

Four: Speak of the perceived value of (a) being a ham radio operator in Canada and (b) joining Canada’s only national (so far) association of licensed amateur radio operators.

Five: Engage all members in this quest. Stop empowering the privileged few and engage everybody especially your critics (who these days are legion). Try to remember the best executives serve, they do not govern.

Six: State your mission in compelling and emotional language that engages the hearts and minds of your audience. Move towards actions and words that shock and awe rather than bore and bother.

Seven: Dream big and start a national dialogue (You’d actually have to talk to members to do this.) about where RAC is going to be in five or even 10 years.

Eight: State your core values in personal doable terms. Get your members to write this document. It’s too important to leave in the hands of the experts.

Nine: Let your members develop strategic areas of focus. Here’s where you get the involvement of the membership and the attraction of non-members.

Ten: Rotate the leadership. I’m tempted to say launch them out as most of them are as old as stale bread and thoroughly entrenched in their thinking but at the very least recruit new blood (based on the success so far, most members won’t have anything to do with running RAC in its present form) and have a plan that has the current leadership team replaced in five years. That would bring a ray of hope to some 🙂

Finally, remember the RAC top guys are going to be at Dayton so if you’ve got something to say they will be there ready to listen 🙂 Tell them what you want to see in your national association.

See everyone there. WX in Dayton looks perfect.

RAC Could Learn From BARC

Looks like the Barrie Amateur Radio Club has been blessed to have some leaders in their club who understand the importance of member engagement and vision statements for future planning.

Our national amateur radio organization hasn’t been so blessed and remains locked down in a post-1984 command and control mentality. I mean honestly folks when was the last time your national organization had any time for you the members?

Try suggesting a change to anything. Let’s pick the website which is in sore need of redevelopment and see how far you get.

Sure stuff gets done but is it the right stuff? And is it stuff that has any impact or interest for you? A certain huge restructuring document concerning how RAC sees amateurs responding to emergency situations seems to have been authored by one person and ignored by the rest.

On the other hand the Barrie ARC seems to be orienting itself to future growth rather than be fixated on past persistent problems.

Here’s the basis of the Barrie ARC’s  five-year approach to planning as authors compared the traditional approach to planning to what they called the modern approach.

Traditional Approach    vs    Modern Approach

Stability  vs  Free for All
Long range planning  vs  Real time execution
Predict the future  vs  Shape or adapt future
Detailed action plans  vs  Management options
Formal alliances  vs  Web of informal alliances
Aversion to failure  vs  Failure expected
Financial constraints  vs  Time constraints
Sequential  vs  Multi-tasking
Focus on retention  vs  Focus on recruitment

This is very sophisticated and modern management thinking. Read all about it at the Barrie Amateur Radio Club’s website.

The Barrie club concludes its plan with this bold statement:

“In the next five years, we aim to be one of the most progressive, enthusiastic and friendly amateur radio clubs in Canada, support ham radio for all in our community. “

If your club engaged in a similar quest you’d be way ahead of our national organization which BTW is going to be at Dayton again this year so you can tell them personally what you think of the job they’re doing so far.

the Ottawa ARC held a two-hour QRP contest at Britannia Park in Ottawa on Sept. 17, 2011.

Here’s a video of the event. Notice the different antennas which ranged from big verticals to a Par End-Feed antenna bungee-corded to the picnic table. Signals sounded pretty good.

This looks like fun. BTW that’s me and my Ten Tec R40/20 on last year’s Field Day.

Twilight Island DXpedition

Here’s a note from Igor VE3ZF:

Hi Peter,
I came back yesterday from Twilight Island (Manitoulin Island District) – operated as a VA3RAC in OnQP 2012.
I do have some very interesting pictures of this expedition and I would ask you – can you put some pictures related to this VA3RAC DX expedition to the Internet?
I hope it may be interesting to CCO and another HAM`s…
I am enclosing some pictures – see below, this is related to HyGain TH7DX installation on small Twilight Isle ….I can select few extra very interesting pictures as well….
Igor VE3ZF