But I’m Exempt!

That’s likely going to be your first comment to the cop that’s pulled you over and is about to write you a new hefty ticket for distracted driving if he or she spots you holding a microphone while driving.20100105_cop-writing-ticket_614mz

It might help to be carrying a copy of the legislation, but that precludes the concept that the cop is willing to read your handout. The cop may just write out the ticket and let the courts decide about your exemption. That’s not helpful.

I’ve suggested that the Ontario RAC directors and our newly minted communications person write a letter (an email will do) reminding the major policing services in Ontario that we are exempt and get it out right away while the topic is front-of-mind.

RAC has an explanation of where they were back in 2012. It’s 2014 and I don’t know what RAC is or isn’t doing to make our temporary five-year exemption. Our current exemption expires in 2017.

Amateur Radio usage in a moving automobile by the operator of the vehicle was never part of the problem of distracted driving and banning the use of microphones by Hams (while allowing taxi cab and garbage truck drivers to do so) won’t be part of the solution.

In demonstrations with ministry staff, we adequately demonstrated the difference between holding a cell phone and a ham radio microphone.

Come on RAC now’s a good time to do something to help your members in Ontario.


Distracted Driving Fines Double

The fine for distracted driving in Ontario is going from roughly $150 to $275 in a couple of days.Security-guard-talking-via-walkie-talkie-device-via-Shutterstock-615x345

Since Amateur Radio operation is exempt, this might be a wonderful opportunity for our Ontario directors plus our new unelected director of communications and fund-raising (How do we get an unelected salaried director? What is this a French-language thing? If so, it sure doesn’t serve the rest of us when it comes to clarity.) to send an email to the major police services in Ontario plus the Ontario solicitor general (who is responsible for policing) and the association of Ontario chiefs of police or whatever they are calling themselves reminding them that Ham Radio operation is exempt.

Cops don’t like the fact we’re exempt as it’s really tough to tell the difference between a driver holding a cellphone in their hand and a radio operator speaking into a microphone. To the cop in motion, both look like cell phones being held in a hand.

BTW guys attach the regulation which is available online but hyperlink it in the text to avoid spam filters.


More RAC Thoughts

Having waxed so eloquently and enthusiastically about the changes we’re seeing at RAC in my last post (below) I have a couple of late thoughts.

I wonder if our new director Vince Charron is actually a board member? If not, why is he being referred to as a director?

Second I noted in the RAC emailed newsletter (Can you guys not figure out blogging?) that director Charron is “working” at RAC headquarters. Does this mean he’s being paid?

And, if he’s being paid, did I get any say in this? It’s conceivable based on the amount of digital traffic going through here on a daily basis I might have missed this information.

Anybody know anything??

I’m not sure where I stand on any of this but I can’t remember being in the loop. Of course, that’s happening a lot these days and RAC is the least of my worries. Remembering to wear my pants when I go outside is higher on my list.

RAC Is Looking UP

imagesLooks like the old stale RAC has got some new thinking emerging at long last.

Case in point RAC now has a Twitter account @RACTWEETS! Plus the RAC Facebook site is really active.

If you’re active on social media you’ll know the power of Twitter (people launch revolutions with it among other things) and Facebook (over a billion users and growing) to keep members informed and involved in the decision-making process of their organization.

Talking about decision-making our Ontario South Director Rod, VE3RHF, moved a motion at the RAC Board meeting which was passed to publish the minutes of board meetings prior to their formal acceptance at the next board meeting which could be two months down the road.

This means we, the members, can see what was discussed at a board meeting shortly after the meeting via draft (in other words not yet accepted by the board) minutes of the meeting. (Even my Toastmaster club does this as the secretary emails out of draft set of minutes immediately after each meeting and the chair of the next meeting asks for errors or omissions before formally accepting the minutes as is or as corrected. Pretty simple stuff but RAC has never been doing this being more secretive that the Kremlin.)

With sole exceptions of personnel matters involving paid staff (who have professional reputations to maintain) and financial issues (where disclosure of specific information could be detrimental to the organization) there is nothing the board members or executive members discuss which should be consider private and privileged in a non-profit, member-supported hobby organization.

The way we’ve been doing things for the last number of years was both unhelpful, even distractive and caused some of us to be highly suspicious of the motives behind this behaviour.

Mostly I put it down to board and executive members being ignorant of how to conduct themselves as leaders of a transparent and public group. Sure mistakes have been made over the years but attempts to hide or minimize the situations made them worse.

I’m thinking specifically in how past RAC boards have mishandled the appointments and dismissals of volunteers. IMHO it’s been simply appalling and inept. Having said that, I am hopeful based on some of what we’re reporting above, that the current board and executive are starting to show some understanding of their role and the concerns of their members.

I think we should thank Southern Ontario Director Rod, VE3RHF, for his work and I encourage you to read his blog posting on his personal blog (because RAC hasn’t figured out blogging yet) the Canadian Radio Research Lab (CRRL – that should create some visceral reaction from some).

And while I am at it, let’s thank Vincent, VA3GX/VE2HHH, RAC’s new director of communications and fundraising for his initiatives.

I am not privy to any information but that’s never stopped me before.

It appears that with Vincent’s recent arrival there is new energy to revamp the awful and creaky current RAC website. Vincent’s saying we’re going to have a better, newer, friendly (I am tempted to comment!) platform to benefit all members, Amateur Radio operators and the general public.

Good heavens might we have accidentally attracted someone who understands the basics of public relations? All members and AMATEUR RADIO OPERATORS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC? Oh glory be!!!!!

Plus Vincent is likely behind the Twitter account and the promotion of the Facebook page.

This is momentous change in thinking if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly.

Finally (and only because I have been such a rabid critic of RAC in the past) I want to point out Vincent’s promotion in the February 2014 RAC Report of the Maple Leaf Legacy Circle. Read more about how you can help RAC by leaving a legacy gift in your will (You do have a will don’t you Sparky?).

I’ve got to stop. I think I’m starting to tear up 🙂

New Tower Issues

Seems the government caved on its policy that cell towers under 15 meters do not require public (or municipal) notification before installation.DSCF2059

The February 5th IC announcement can be found here.

While the announcement only affects the erection of cell towers, there’s no reason to think that aggravated neighbours and frustrated municipal officials may well attempt to drag Amateur Radio towers into the discussion.

Fortunately we have Radio Amateurs of Canada’s vice president of regulatory affairs Glenn MacDonell standing up for us and issuing a press release stating “RAC does not believe this policy change announcement was generated by problems caused by the Amateur Radio community.”

To which I say “duh” of course not it was due to public pressure about cell towers. Read the government’s press release.

MacDonell goes on to say RAC is going to speak in the strongest of terms to IC that no changes be made in tower siting rules as they may affect existing Amateur Radio antenna installations.

To which I say “serious” dude?

The issue isn’t about existing structures erected on private property but about the possible use of this new policy to thwart the installation of new structures under 15 meters in communities across Canada.

You see when I was installing my tower about 10 years ago, IC made it pretty clear that Amateur Radio operators had to advise their neighbours of the pending installation. Of course neighbours who objected (and I had two who did) were outraged when they discovered they had no say in the final outcome.

After requesting help from RAC (which was immediate and effective) and speaking with my town’s engineering department (The chief of which made it perfectly clear that if I didn’t exceed 15 meters, the town would have absolutely no interest in my installation.) I proceeded to gather documentation which I presented to IC’s Burlington office and the town’s engineering department (thus anticipating visits to those offices by my neighbours) that supported my installation of my legal and approved tower.

So the tower went up and relations with my neighbours fell to the point that I had to call police on one of them after a series of harassing events took place. The other neighbour (who I subsequently learned had substance abuse issues) went insane and sent us a series of very disturbing letters.

Can’t tell you how upsetting this was to my wife who had great expectations about living a peaceful life in her new house. Thanks a bunch IC.

Some months after I publicized my experiences, IC changed their policy to say we no longer had to consult with our neighbours so long as we stayed within municipal policies. Of course policies aren’t laws and are really difficult to challenge but I can live with a 15-meter limit if I have to. How I wish they’d made this decision before I erected my tower.

Now we have RAC defending us by speaking in the strongest terms. Really?

Do we know the name of the minister? Have we actually had an annual meeting with the minister in the living memory? How about meetings with deputy ministers or assistant deputy ministers or the guy who take out the garbage?

Can you imagine the reaction to our claims of speaking in the strongest terms?

This sounds a lot like the response to the texting while driving response by RAC which I took up here in Ontario when I was on the executive.

It gets worse.

Cell towers are shrinking!

The more cell towers in a neighbourhood, the more efficient the cell system (And everyone, even the protesters have cellphones). If you’ve got just one cell tower that services your area, then every cell phone competes for a connection to that one tower. This means power levels on cell phones (which vary power depending on signal strength) run at full output thus wasting batteries and heightening fears of health issues and cell service is adversely affected.

Communities where there are lots of cell phone receiving structures have superior cell phone service and units which work with the least power output possible and can always get a connection.

So with public fears rampant, cell companies are steering away from erecting big iron towers and are going to smaller units that can be installed in parking lots and are less than 30 feet in height making them almost invisible to shoppers.

So what we need right now are fewer press releases from RAC obviously aimed at pacifying the Canadian Amateur Radio community and more real meetings with Industry Canada and officials at all levels of government on an ongoing basis.

Let’s face it. We’re just not well organized at all. Do you really think the government has any interest in paying attention to a bunch of old Sparkies who they’ve never met and don’t know and have no voting muscle let alone built-up goodwill for deeds well done in the past?

On the other hand community groups opposed to cell phone towers are vocal and well organized. (Most don’t wear their tin-foil hats to meetings anymore.)

In the link above the C4ST group from Oakville, Ontario had their hand in defeating a proposal to erect a cell tower at an auto shop on Lakeshore Road just west of another site which was abandoned by Bell Canada after a previous loud bitter protest.

Check out the C4ST site.

It features a photo of the property in question (which I bet helped scuttle the deal) and a long summary of events (as seen from the C4ST point of view) and hyperlinks to a ton of very questionable pronouncements about the dangers of cell phones and any sort of radiation.

Anyone without an understanding about how radiation works (You get more radiation from your TV or microwave than your cell phone and don’t even start to compare it to being outside on a sunny day.) this propaganda will scare the crap out of you.

More links follow including the emails, addresses and phone numbers for every imaginable politician and “Mike” the landowner (bet he was thrilled). Checkout their Cell Tower Kit for an example of what we could be doing.

I was the VP of a national PR firm and let me tell you this is propaganda at the highest level and the result of a top-notch effort to create a national group to pressure government to change the rules. Somebody spent some cash on this site (unlike the RAC site which was old, tired and broken when I was on the executive.).

Of course the good news is we have our RAC and their plans to speak in the strongest possible language.

We can sleep tonight.

The Things We Do For Love

On this Valentine’s Day (You did remember didn’t you?) I’m getting read for the ARRL DX CW contest this weekend.IMG_0381

Conditions on 10 meters are great (I just worked E77DX) and I’m intending on going QRP!

But last Fall I thought I had an issue at the base of the tower with one of the connections to the beam and sure enough, after ignoring the issue, it has returned in the dead of winter and thus the path through the snow to the tower.

Think I’ve got a connection that’s failing but a turn with two pairs of lock pliers seems to have temporarily remedied the issue. Not looking forward to trooping out to the tower at midnight.

Going to go to crimping my connectors after the annual trip to Dayton.