RAC Officials Comment

I want to thank RAC Honorary Legal Counsel Marcel Mongeon, VA3DDD, and James R. Hay, VE2VE, (and BTW James what are you doing with RAC these days as I don’t see your name and photo in the TCA executive/director page. Last time we were on the leadership team together we were disagreeing on how to run a functioning blog for the association) for their insightful comments about the issue involving the removal of the last regulatory affairs officer.

Of course I always have some quibble with executives who think they can fire someone (a volunteer) who they’ve not actually hired but let’s not mutter about semantics.

The reason the last regulator affairs officer left as been the speculated up at length in emails and thoughts posted on other blogs and this situation begs an explanation.

So I have been in contact with the gentleman involved and I have offered him the opportunity to respond on this blog and I await his decision and will honour it.

But I hasten to suggest our issues are not about what may or may not have happened in this single incident.

No I am much more interested in what may or may not be a systemic problem that is besieging our national association and one which is creating great pain and upset among many long-time RAC members.

 

What We Could Be Doing

I got to thinking about what we could be doing at our national Amateur Radio organization as opposed to what we are doing which seems to be alienating a lot of Canadian hams.

And let’s be fair here perhaps this alienation is coming from a lack of understanding or even apathy and indifference. After all our main goal is to improve our national organization  and the experience of its members.

So I ask myself what would a trained public relations professional like myself do to help attract new members and re-engage with current members?

Here’s where I would start:

For a group of communicators who use radio wave capable of reaching across the community or across the country it’s curious that we don’t have a national on-air roundtable once a week or so.

I wouldn’t expect a lot of success here but creating a national on-air roundtable would make a statement around transparency and even interest in what our members have to say.

The roundtable need not be political. It might not have anything to do with the association but it would say “here we are” and might be a portal that attracts non-members into our ranks.

Maybe we should also run a national digital (PSK-31 or RTTY?) bulletin service and utilize the bandwidth we’ve been privileged to use?

It has always seemed odd to me that despite our membership issues we haven’t launched a simple member-to-member membership-building campaign.

Of course without a forthright accounting of actual membership numbers there’s no way to set a goal.

It seems odd to me that the members of the non-porfit association aren’t privy to a day-to-day accounting of the actual number of members. I can’t understand how we think it’s okay to withhold this information from the members. Maybe I’m wrong here?

Executive and board members of a non-profit organization are mandated to serve and not govern and that seems to be a problem with many organizations and ends up with the members voting with their feet (and their dues).

If it were up to me I’d put a membership counter on our modern new blog page but that would require an understanding of how to use a blog effectively. The current RAC blog has become a dead-end depository for dreary “official” bulletins. This, in my professional opinion, is simply a waste of bandwidth and shows a fundamental lack of understanding when it comes to social media and member engagement.

I would be showing our membership numbers to everyone so that everyone (members and non-members) could be part of the solution. Remember there are a lot more non-members than members out there.

We need to be attracting more non-members. Hiding this membership information is an incredibly bad thing to do.

Same thing for our finances. We are a non-profit association open to anyone who pays $50 and fills out a form. Our finances aren’t a state secret. All of our financial information should be posted in public on a monthly basis.

After all we have nothing to hide right. Right?

So why do I keep reading emails from people complaining they don’t know what’s happening?

Is it because they aren’t listening or is it because we aren’t talking?

 

ARRL Contest Update

One of the many reasons to be a member of the American Radio Relay League is the VE3TW in His Shack - by VE3GFNARRL Contest Update. This very popular newsletter comes via email and is filled with “news and techniques for the active operator”.

But best of all in most recent newsletter there’s an excellent photo of Stan, VE3TW sitting at his station. I know the photo is excellent as it was taken by Mike, VE3GFN (good for nothin’) who is a retired teacher and professional photographer. (That’s Mike’s photo of Stan.)

The ARRL offers members a lot of benefits including QST magazine (which is my favourite ham radio magazine) along with a bunch of newsletters you can signup to receive. The ARES operation in the USA is a whole lot more active and vigorous than the Canadian component.

The ARRL is of course focused on the American scene but the work of our American cousins often has equal benefit for those of us north of the border. Back in the old days there was even a Canadian affiliate of the ARRL called the CRRL.

Who knows maybe it’s time we asked the ARRL if they’d be willing to take us back in?

 

The RAC Report Revisited

It would be nice to take the RAC Report (a copy just arrived in my in-box) at face value but based on the blowup that’s been taking place behind the scenes I can’t help but question what I am reading.

For example, the RAC management group met earlier this month in Ottawa (where the most recent blowup took place) and the RAC Report admits that the organization has been in survival mode citing insolvency issues and a trending loss of membership.

The report reassures us that RAC is now moving from survival mode to a growth mode and that 2013 is going to be “a great year.”

Okay the report mentions some goals (increase membership among others) but no details were revealed. Might it be that no details have been developed?

But regardless of the lack of details the author the report thanks the participants for their honest, open and constructive dialogue.

I don’t know about you but when I read stuff like this it suggests to me that critical comments are considered less than honest, not open and not constructive. Maybe I am wrong here and reading too much into random comments but I doubt it.

Now why am I so negative about RAC as it is today?

It’s because the RAC of today looks way too much to me like the RAC of yesterday with personal issues continuing to cause hard feelings and unhappiness within the membership. (I may post more about the last issue as details become public.)

Another issue is every director who was welcomed back in the Report was returned to office by acclamation as the candidates ran unopposed or else there were no eligible nominees (not sure what the author of the Report meant by this but there you have it).

These unopposed acclamations were proclaimed as a good thing as it meant we didn’t have to go through the time and expense of actually running an open, above-board elections.

Acclamations are not a sign of a healthy organization folks.

A healthy organization needs new blood, new thoughts and new direction.

The lengthy list of open executive positions that are remaining unfilled isn’t a good sign either.

RAC is looking for a treasurer, corporate secretary, public relations officer, deputy directors and, to use the words of the Report’s author, and more…

Seems the ordinary guys who are still members are voting with their feet and the sound we’re hearing is the tramp, tramp, tramp of people walking out the door.

ARRL DX SSB

I was getting ready for the ARRL DX SSB contest this afternoon (Tuesday) and the 20-meter band was hopping.

Running 5 watts SSB I easily broke a pretty big pileup of mainly US hams trying to work a guy in northern England and then broke another pileup into The Netherlands.

It’s amazing what 5 watts of SSB can do when the band is open.

Here’s hoping these excellent conditions hang around for the weekend.

RAC’s Mission

So what is RAC’s commitment to “the mission”?

Better yet, what is the mission?

Is the mission to grow the Amateur Radio hobby in Canada? Is it to expand the ranks of active, licensed Amateur Radio operators in Canada (and BTW my Canada includes Quebec)?

Is the mission to find ways of re-engaging with our national regulator Industry Canada and the political leadership of the day at the local, provincial and national levels?

Is the mission to represent the members’s interests on the international scene? (And do we really need to expend funds to send individuals on junkets to these international meetings?)

Is the mission to provide meaningful opportunities for those who enjoy the public service aspect of our hobby and create opportunities to come together to work with each other (and not just take orders from some grand leader implementing a master plan) to serve the greater public good?

Is the mission to grow the association itself? Aside from working on increasing the overall membership, should the mission not include the training and development of a continuously changing executive team?

Are there not secondary services that should be part of the overall mission? I’m thinking things like eliminating the old expensive paper QSL bureau and introducing an electronic bureau like the ARRL’s LOTW or CQ Magazine’s E-QSL. How about killing the paper edition of The Canadian Amateur magazine in favour of a modern electronic version?

If any of this sounds reasonable and appealing, then why are we dealing with the issues that have been popping up over and over again?

And perhaps, more important, what should we do about it?

CQ QRP

The March issue of CQ magazine just came in the mail and this month it’s QRP! Woo Hoo!

QRP is amazing. Period. Full-stop.

I used to run a KW in contests and, trust me, someday soon I hope to do so again. But running QRP especially in CW contests where I am less than two S-units below the 100-watt guys there is no practical difference in signal strength or effectiveness.

It comes down to this: If you can work everyone you hear easily on the first call most of the time raising your power level will have no appreciable effect 🙂

Now if you want to hold a frequency and call CQ you’d better be running power and the more power to the biggest antennas located on top of the tallest hill is essential. Or go to the Caribbean with your QRP, 100-watt or 500-watt station and enjoy the immense advantage that salt water and being located near the equator provide.

But we’re not talking about big muscles here. QRP is when you care enough to send only  the very least 🙂 and QRP is mostly a search and pounce mode.

I used to have racks of equipment. I had radios the size of big microwave ovens and the tubes heated the shack. Now I have a radio two-thirds the size of a building brick and about a 1/10th of the weight and an external auto-tuner that’s not much bigger and neither one needs be on the operating table.

And most computers of reasonably modern age can run the Flex and your logging program without any effort at all. Most of the computer issues can be directly related to operator error when it comes to the interface between the rig and computer.

But you don’t have to run a Flex. Elecraft has some amazing QRP rigs and I’d like to get my  hands on a KX3 or even a KX1. These rigs are small to tiny and can run off an 8-amp gel-cell for days at a time.

Look my antenna system is nothing special. It is composed of a Hygain Explorer four-element beam with the 40-meter extenders to add a 40-meter dipole and a variety of garden-variety verticals, dipoles, end-feeds and slopers. In other words nothing special.

But during CW, RTTY and even phone contests I regularly work Europe, Asia, South America and Australia. I’ve even worked DX using the vertical and wire antennas just to prove it can be done.

Sure 100-watts during rough conditions would be great and I am looking at what my next 100-rig is going to be (likely a FlexRadio 3000 or a Kenwood TS-590s or maybe a K3) but I’m a much better contester thanks to running QRP.

I’m more aggressive and less likely to think the other guy won’t or can’t hear me. I regularly break pileups into the Caribbean and even into north Africa.

In fact, I’ve had more fun running QRP here in Oakville at lake level than I’ve had with any of my other stations that I’ve set up in 23 years I’ve been licensed. (Now my Dad’s station VE3HG (SK and I got his call sign a few years after he died) located on the second highest piece of land in southern Ontario with a 90′ tower with a four-element 204BA 20-meter beam on top running the old Drake pair was pretty magical in its own right.)

If money was an issue or stealth a requirement I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to setup a QRP station on 40 or 20 (or even better both using an end-feed Par Antenna) and I’d work the world. If you’re not convinced go get a copy of March CQ at Chapters and enjoy the magic of QRP.

ARRL DX CW

Conditions on the weekend for the ARRL DX CW contest were generally fabulous. Friday night on 40 was tough but 20 meters opened early on Saturday morning and stayed pretty well hot until early afternoon when there was a slump.DSCF2109

In photo: That’s the entire station!

One Flex 1500 into an auto tuner, noise-cancelling headphones and paddles.

The computer runs Writelog and I use the program’s memory keyer. This is the most compact station I’ve ever put together and one of the more competitive.

Hook it up to an end-feed Par 40/20 antenna and you too could be contesting! Do it with 100-watts and get DXCC in a weekend!

Sunday started with another early 20-meter opening closely followed by an opening on 15 and then, glory be, an opening on 10 meters.

Here at VE3HG while I have slopers up for 160 and 80 they don’t work well on DX contests and are basically so-so even for domestic contests. My 40 through 10 antennas are as good as it can get on a larger suburban lot.

To score lots of points you need the higher bands to open where you’re more efficient and the antennas work better (as they’re more likely at least a 1/4 wavelength up in the air allowing for lower angle of radiation) so a 10 meter opening is a blessing especially for us QRPers. For an hour or more I worked every station on the band as I tuned from one end to the other.

As I said in a comment to the Contest Club Ontario’s members-only email reflector if I had more power to run, I’d run it but having only five watts makes certain I don’t up my power to 100 watts or even a KW (and thus change categories) when the going gets tough as it did Saturday night.

There’s nothing so satisfying as running five watts and doing 400+ QSOs! I even worked New Zealand on long path (over the North Pole) and Japan and Senegal with ease.

My next goal is to do 500 Qs in another big DX contest but in order to do that I’ll need to makes some improvements in my 80-meter setup (Likely put in a 80-meter inverted-L antenna for next winter’s contesting season.) and maybe rearrange some of the other wire antennas.

ES5TV 15m 8X5 Elements H Frame Stack

I was preparing for the ARRL DX CW test this coming weekend (and after a week of having the flu I’m looking forward to sitting up) when I came across this video link from the ARRL Newsletter featuring the ES5TV 15m 8X5 elements H-frame stack.s_217

This is very likely the largest 15-meter array in the world and explains a lot of the reason we can hear ES5TV on 15 when nobody else is making it across the pond.

For those of you who struggle as I do to erect a dipole on a warm summer day take note of a couple of things.

The 70-meter high tower itself rotates. The motor is mounted at the base and the tower is held vertical in rings that allow for it to move. And it’s a big project well beyond the capability of most of us.

One of the issues of erecting such a massive array (aside from money) is the very narrow beam width of 30 degrees. It’s not likely you’ll work too many weak ones off the backside which is something my HyGain Explorer at 16.6 meters does with ease 🙂

We can only dream 🙂

Here’s a link to photos.