About ve3hg

I am a federally licensed Canadian amateur radio operator. I hold the call VE3HG.

The Wake-Up Call

I haven’t felt much motivation to write here or on any of my other blogs (Peter West Photo, Peter West Public Relations, Toastmasters, Yoga, Coaching, VE3HB) what with the holidays and contests and general busyness.

So as I nurse a very sore shoulder injured in a fall down the stairs (I’m okay but I’m considering giving up my house cleaning chores) and waiting for four video renderings to upload to a private DropBox folder for my Toastmaster club (First Oakville Toastmasters) where we record the three speeches of the night and the subsequent evaluations, my eye was caught by a headline in this morning’s Globe and Mail.3465

The article was subtitled “Disaster Preparedness” and the main headline read: “Victoria earthquake an urgent wake-up call.” Here Benjamin Perrin, a law professor at U of BC and a former public safety adviser for the PMO wrote that when, not if, B.C. gets hit with a bigger earthquake than the 4.7 magnitude Christmas quake, the results will likely be overwhelming and deadly.

Perrin suggests that the poor state of schools and hospitals in the area will likely cause those buildings to collapse in the face of a magnitude 9 or greater quake snuffing out the lives of school children and hospital patients and staff.

Of course, Perrrin is saying something should be done and he’s right.

Here in Canada we get lulled into a sense of “it-can’t-happen-here” thinking right up to the time it does happen here. I’m thinking of the Quebec ice-storm and Barrie, Ontario tornado. Both were unexpected and deadly.

With our national organization thankfully on death’s door when it comes to growth let alone the ability to plan for any future perhaps it’s time for those who care about emergency preparedness to start to reorganize on a national basis?

CCO 2014 AGM and BBQ

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Well over 100 of the best contesters in Canada attended Contest Club Ontario’s annual general meeting and BBQ at the world-class contest station of John VE3EJ.CCO-1-37

A gathering of some of the most active and IMHO interesting Hams in Ontario (and a few from elsewhere including a YL from SP-land) enjoyed the annual meet and greet.

Donated prizes for the annual fund-raising draw were spectacular with everything from a Peet Bros. weather station to a bunch (9) gift certificates from RigExpert thanks to Yuri, DZ. There were lots of other donations which were announced to club members via the club’s email reflector.

If you’re into contesting, even in a small way, you’ve got to join CCO. The club supports many plaques and award in some of the big contests as well as the ever popular Ontario QSO Party events.

The club’s own sCOOre awards and endorsements for achievement were a highlight of the event and thanks CCO for my 10 million point endorsement. Not all of those points were raised by QRP contesting contacts but I’d say a majority sure were. Inspires me to QRP contest even more this year.CCO-1-56

Photos from the event are available for viewing at my Flickr gallery.

I was lucky enough to be awarded by endorsement by my mentor and friend Tony, VE3RZ (left in photo).This is the guy who moved to the high ground on Guelph Line so he could work the DX I can’t even hear on the lowlands on the north shore of Lake Ontario. That’s Paul, PC, in the background who is another one of the Corbeil Contest Club gang down from North Bay.

RAC Day at RadioWorld

Radio Amateurs of Canada had their own day on Saturday at RadioWorld under bright blue skies and warm weather.RACDAY-1-56

After the really brutally cold winter this was one of the first decent days to sit outside and meet and greet.

RAC president Geoff Bawden was there (third left) as was Ontario South director Rod Hardman (second left) and several senior ARES coordinators. In the photo Geoff and Rod are joined by RadioWorld’s Angelo Meiffe on left and Jack Summers on right.)

I’ll have more to say about RAC and especially ARES in a future post but for now a BIG thank you to RadioWorld for their hospitality in supplying hot dogs, coffee and water as well as setting up a training room for the forums which went all day.

Here’s a link to my own online photo gallery of images from the day.

N.B. Hams Get DD Exemption

Great news: The New Brunswick government tabled new legislation this week that provides an exemption to that province’s distracted driving law for amateur radio operation.

New Brunswick hams fought long and hard to get this exemption and hams in every province should take note and take similar action.

And before the usual Sparkies get their Depends in knot and figure out how to reply to a blog post, the operation of amateur radio equipment in moving vehicles by the driver has a history going back to the beginning of the automobile.

Unless those who comment have something new to say I won’t be posting replies here.

Amateur radio use while driving a vehicle was never part of the problem of distracted driving especially while using a cell phone to text or dial a number, and the possible banning Amateur Radio use isn’t part of the solution.

Ageing Ham Radio operators still driving their vehicles well beyond the time somebody should have lifted their licenses is more of an issue than the use of Amateur Radio mobile equipment. Now the use of mobile radios by octogenarians who drive is just down right frightening.

I know. I’m a senior and I’m not half the driver I used to be. My time is coming 😦  Meanwhile I can feel free to driver and operate while in New Brunswick.

BTW I got this notice via RAC which credited the efforts of local amateurs and, get this: RAC’s national strategy to address distracted driving legislation.

This from a bunch of guys who can’t agree on what toppings to order on a pizza! I kinda have problems believing this claim as I’ve never heard of a “national strategy” from RAC on anything but maybe I’m out of touch?

FREE Contesting E-Book

It’s snowing heavily in Oakville so today I downloaded Dave K1TTT’s FREE 30th anniversary edition of his 700-page ebook on building a superstation.product_thumbnail.php

If you’ve ever wanted to know the ins and outs of creating a station capable of consistently  scoring in the top 10 (or better even winning) a contest (let alone a category) then Dave’s book is a great introduction.

The downloadable PDF book is available from LuLu.

BTW I foolishly missed being in the Commonwealth Contest last weekend when conditions sounded amazing (again). So this weekend I’m looking at the Russian DX Contest with my fingers crossed.

The Russian DX Contest is different for a couple of reasons. First Russian contesters tend russiato be excellent operators with an uncanny ability to hear weak signals through Aurora flutter.

Honestly I’ve worked Russians who it took me many minutes to piece together their call sign through the flutter, fading and noise only to have the Russian op get all my info (even on QRP) on the first and certainly the second attempt.

But that’s not all. The Russian DX Contest is only 24 hours long and you can work in CW or phone or both. Here’s a link to the rules.

It’s one of my favourite contests. BTW the map comes from EI8IC’s very helpful and informative website.

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.

 

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 🙂

RAC 2014

Happy New Year RAC members. Are you having fun yet?

You are if you’re subscribing to the full-colour electronic version of The Canadian Amateur magazine. As a former national magazine group editor (in other words I had a team of national magazine editors reporting to me) I know a decent little magazine when I see one and TCA is A+ in my books.TCAcover_January2014_large

Now that’s not to say I wouldn’t change the editorial layout (which has gotten stale over the years) and rearrange the order of articles (nobody wants to see political rantings at the front of the magazine).

Readers come for articles that interest them and those are the articles that should be up front  and I would hire a commission sales guy to sell ads (TCA deserves to grow.). This isn’t a job for amateurs!

However the magazine as it stands, especially in the brilliant electronic version is terrific. (Although the concept of hyperlinks seems to be elusive. I’d recommend the editor get a digital subscription to Wired Magazine to see how to produce an online publication that interacts with readers.)

Among the better articles is one by Bill Unger, VE3XT, who has always been one of the good guys at RAC, on how to operate a QRP rig from the field. John White, VA7JW, has a great article on coaxial lightening arrestors and when it comes to QRP, David Conn, VE3KL, has published part one of a two part article on designing and building end-fed half wave HF antennas.

This not to say the other articles in this issue of TCA aren’t equally terrific because they are but you need a subscription to read them.

Which brings me back to a point I’ve made before. If it were me I’d give away the magazine and add articles that explain the value of being a RAC member.

Really can you see anyone shelling out $50 for TCA (especially the tatty print edition) but I can see potential new members opening their wallets when they read what RAC actually does for members and our wonderful hobby.

And RAC could be doing so much more but you’re already aware of my opinions about governance and how that has crippled our national organization keeping it and us back in the dark ages when it comes to working together.

But let me leave this the first article of 2014 on a positive note.

We ageing hams die off (I’m getting to the positive part) or we lose interest and then we move on to our greater rewards. And then new guys show up. And new guys come with new ideas. And if enough new guys take over, we get new thinking and new directions. And I for one can’t wait.

Happy New Year and good DX and contesting to one and all.

 

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.