The Reflector August 2010
Hope everyone enjoyed the month off from club activities, though I’m sure the extreme and dangerous temperatures of late have brought outdoor plans to a standstill. While reading Mitch, K4TPD’s monthly EC report, he mentions that he recorded 103.3 degrees on July 31st, which was the hottest temperature he’s recorded since he started keeping records in 2002.
Field Day was also brutally hot, and indeed Pete, N4ETA, got sick on Friday while we were installing antennas and missed the rest of the event.
The Field Day score sheet went in with plenty of time to spare, and at 6084 points, was about 1000 points higher than last year. I’ve seen reports of groups running more transmitters with less on the scoreboard, so we did really well. There’s more to discuss in a separate article later in this edition of the Reflector.
For those of us ARES oriented, we were immediately back in the saddle on the Monday and Tuesday afterwards with HURREX-2010 which was a statewide hurricane drill. As this exercise had the storm coming in from the Atlantic, our area played more of a supporting role, but according to our state Traffic Manager, Charles, K4GK, there were in excess of 500 stations and over 90 counties involved during the actual exercise on Tuesday. That’s really great given the timing on a weekday.
One of the outgrowths of that exercise is a new HF Digital net on Sunday afternoons at 5:30pm. We’re starting out on PSK-31, and are on 3583 kHz. Upper sideband. The plans are to get everyone comfortable using this mode then move on to others so that everyone has a “well rounded arsenal” of digital modes to choose from. The Net Control is Jim, WB4NWS, who is EC for Cherokee county, so watch for his call if you want to participate.
The fall season is already heating up for us with activities. We’ll be starting this month with Tech/General classes on August 14th and 21st at Archbold. There will be test sessions following both classes, so we won’t have a separate session at the library.
Lowell will handle the General class and I’ll handle the Tech. Remember too that the Tech question pool changed as of July 1st, and if you haven’t looked, it is now somewhat more difficult than the last. Again, see the separate article later in this newsletter.
I was also contacted by Irv Nesmith, who runs the Thomasville airport, about us participating in the annual “Fly-In” which is the second weekend in October. After a discussion with the club officers, we’ll be doing a special event station again; with a slightly different direction…the kids will be the operators.
You didn’t have to look far at Field Day to see a lot of “young-uns” running around, and this is a perfect event to get them on the air again, without being as much under the gun for making a lot of contacts. Plus, they also get to see some interesting airplanes, which makes this a good family outing. And because of the PEACH and PITS trailers, set-up and tear down is much quicker, and you have a place to sit down and rest after looking over the “Flight line”. So, if you have kids who are already licensed, or not (we’ll have a Control Operator present for those unlicensed)…mark your calendar for Saturday October 9th, and come on out to the Thomasville Airport.
On a sad note, I heard from Ivan, W4FWL, and he is packing up for a move back home to Alabama sometime in August, and was unsure at “press time” if he’d be able to make the meeting, but if he does, he’s indicated he has some antennas and other items needing a good home so he won’t have to pack them up.
Ivan has been a TARC member for a number of years, and is a member of the VE Team, and an Instructor when we do classes. We’ll all miss you Ivan, and you go forth with our best wishes and prayers in your move back home.
Jim Pinson, N1HJ, lost his mother during the month of July and we send both he and Chantal our condolences and prayers following her loss.
On a cheerier note, we’ve got a good program for the meeting this month, featuring Gerry Gross, WA6POZ. Gerry is president of 10-10 International, but his presentation will be on a “DX-pedition” to Jordan, including his getting the chance to meet King Hussein, JY-1. If you’ve always wanted to take part in a DX-pedition, this program should fill in the blanks about what all is entailed, and we thank Gerry in advance for doing this for us.
So, make your plans to be with us at the Plaza on Saturday, August 7th. As usual, plan to arrive at 6pm for supper, and the meeting will follow at 7:30pm. I look forward to seeing YOU and your family there!
TARC is sponsoring classes again in August and the dates are set for the 14th and 21st. We’ll be in the classrooms downstairs at Archbold, and the classes will run from 9am to 4pm both Saturdays, with a test session on both days.
If you need study guides, I need to know as soon as possible to get them in here now. Lowell, Dewey, Zach, and I will be the instructors.
We do recommend that you begin reading the material now and taking tests online before the classes start. There is a lot of material for 2 days, and the best way to help us help you, is to get started early. The best site for on-line tests is www.qrz.com.
In particular, the Tech curriculum is a bit more intense than the last question pool, but remember that it will better prepare you for taking the General class and exam later. And, if you can pass the Tech test the first Saturday, there’s nothing preventing you from sitting in on the General class the second Saturday and upgrading...right?
The classes are free of charge, and the test fee is still $14. And remember parents, if your child is going to take a test; you will need their social security number for the paperwork afterwards when they pass the test. Email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2010 hurricane season has been reasonably quiet but it is far too early to gain any comfort in that thought as we are just now entering the peak months of the season, August and September. In 2002 there were no named hurricanes prior to the last week in July and over the next 6 weeks 12 hurricanes were named with 4 of those major hurricanes one being Ivan that made landfall in Mobile area.
If you missed the weather class at Field Day I thought you might appreciate a quick run down of the key points from the class on lightning safety. Although we had a small class this year I felt that most everyone that did participate took something useful away with them when it was finished.
Each year there are more than 25 million lightning strikes in the United States with the most strikes occurring in the state of Florida. An average of 100 people are killed each year from lightning making it the second leading cause of weather deaths in the U.S.
It is believed that ice particles in the storms collide and the static energy that is created causes positive and negative regions within the thunderstorm. The bases of the storms are generally more negative in charge and the tops of the clouds tend to have a positive charge.
Ninety five percent of all lightning occurs from the base of the storm as the negative charges begin to migrate to the ground or towards other clouds. This feature is known as a “stepped leader” and it creates the crackling sound we all have heard just prior to a lightning strike. A return stroke will come from the ground to meet the stepped leader and once they connect a strong discharge of electrical energy occurs. This discharge heats the surrounding air to temperatures in excess of 27,000oF to 30,000oF and causing the explosion and sound we know as thunder.
Lightning that originates from the top of the storm where it is positively charged are the killer strikes and often called “Bolts from the Blue” They can strike 5 to 10 miles from the storm with cases of strikes up to 25 miles from the storm. They are 6 to 10 times stronger than negative charged lightning and greatly increase the possibility of serious injury of victims struck.
Thunder travels at a speed of approximately five seconds per mile, not the one-second per mile many of us grew up using to judge how far away a lightning strike might be. The National Weather Service recommends that everyone use the 30/30 rule. If there are 30 seconds or less from the flash to the bang you should seek shelter. Also, everyone should remain indoors until 30 minutes after the last lighting strike occurs.
We all need to use good judgment when dealing with lightning and not risk the safety of others or ourselves by sounding the all clear before it is safe to go outside.
DEC NWS Tallahassee, FL
Southwest Georgia District ARES
Saturday, July 24th, four TARC members met a contingent from the GAARES to help install a new D-Star repeater at Archbold Hospital. The repeater, call-sign KJ4PYB was scheduled for installation at the GPTV site in Pelham, but due to issues with antennas and internet access, the plans changed, and temporarily, the repeater will stay here with us, until the Pelham site is ready.
Because its location is in a more sensitive area of the hospital than where the WX4AMH equipment is, it was necessary for us to keep participation in the installation down to a minimum. This was to make sure hospital officials remained calm, as there is a pharmacy right down the hall. So, we weren’t trying to keep it a state secret and exclude anyone from helping, we simply didn’t want to cause John, KE4RWR any undue grief with his employers, or jeopardize the repeater being located there.
KJ4PYB is what is referred to as a “full-stack” with 2 meter, 70 cm. and 1.2 Gig. RF decks. The frequencies are 145.08 MHz, 440.65 MHz, and 1248.75 MHz. The antenna is at about 90 feet, which gives it decent coverage around Thomas County.
The beauty of the system is its Internet connection, which allows it to connect to any other D-Star repeater anywhere in the world, and it works somewhat like Echolink. I listened to the Southeast Weather Net on the Sunday night after installation, and heard stations checking in from all the states between Florida and Texas, plus New Mexico and Massachusetts.
The check-in procedure was also rather unique. With this mode, anytime you key the radio, it sends out your callsign, whether you say anything or not. Because of that the procedure to check-in is to key the radio when your state is called (they refer to it as a “key click”). Your callsign pops up on the Net Control’s computer screen and you’re checked in. He’ll then come back to you for comments.
The downside is that there is a learning curve, and programming the radio isn’t as simple as putting in 145.08 and pulling the trigger. There are a number of parameters to set beforehand. It didn’t make sense to me initially, until I sat down with the programming software (if you buy a radio you will want the software too) and started seeing similarities to the way we used to do packet some years ago. All the additional parameters are simply routing instructions, much like the old ROSE switch that was in Tallahassee back in the mid 1990’s.
Several of us are really getting into this, so if you decide to take the plunge, we can help you get started. It’s really something to hear an Australian station on your 2-meter HT and realize you can talk to him….
NØ Tenna Wizard: by Terry Webb, NØTW
Have You Ever Been the "New Kid On the Block?"
Can you imagine buying a new car and letting it sit unused in the driveway because you are afraid to drive it? You say it couldn't happen to you? Well, how about a new ham that purchases a radio and is afraid to use it because he/she is unfamiliar with on-the-air procedures, is unknown to the old-timers who frequent the repeater, or is a little "mike shy"? Chances are that most of us have experienced some or all of these unpleasant ham radio occurrences. Although the radio may not be as expensive as the new car - if it is left unused, it is a valuable tool and the new ham could become a valuable asset for emergencies.
Do you remember your first real on-the-air QSO? Were you scared? I was. I was 14 years old and in high school. Our school was fortunate to have its own ham radio station consisting of a Heathkit Apache transmitter, Hammerlund receiver, and a center fed dipole on top of a 3-story building. The high school Physics teacher was our club trustee. He would initiate QSOs and pass the mike around for everyone to say hello and tell a little bit about themselves. When it came my turn to talk, I felt like there was a big bale of cotton stuck down my throat! But, after getting through the first contact and getting my own General license, I was off and running and making lots of contacts. Our club station even had the thrill of handling a Mayday call.
The emphasis I'd like to make in this month's column is - "Making Newcomers Welcome to Ham Radio". Being a newcomer doesn't necessarily mean someone who is newly licensed. Sometimes you find yourself operating from a different town while on vacation or maybe you have physically moved to another location and find yourself making new ham friends. In reality though, it is the newly licensed ham that needs the most encouragement and elmering.
I have also heard on-the-air conversations where an "old-timer" chews out a new ham for using CB lingo, asking a dumb question relating to ham radio, or using the wrong procedure. So, rather than providing mentoring and encouragement, the rude ham makes the newcomer feel even more insecure in this situation. I've even heard new hams say if this is the way hams treat others, then they do not want to have anything to do with ham radio.
Many of our club members have had experiences on the CB bands that were not pleasant. Some of my non-ham friends used to listen to Channel 19 to get road information, especially on long trips. But many quit listening to CB, especially when their families were present in the car, due to the inappropriate language used by the CBers. The same thing can and does happen on amateur frequencies as well. I know some hams that avoid the 75-meter band because of a few hams who are drunk and who use foul language.
In just about any aspect of life, it is the experienced person who is expected to show the newcomer the ropes. We've all been there and have had both good and bad memories during our lives. So, next time a new ham or prospective new ham asks you for help, remember the new car sitting unused in the driveway - maybe it will help you to formulate your answer.
Perhaps, sometime in the future when you are listening to the radio, you may hear someone who you have assisted along their ham career operating and telling others about you. You were their "Elmer" and you gave them encouragement and answers when they needed help. Remember, what goes around comes around.
73 and C U on the Bands!
I hope everyone had a good vacation. I am still getting over my last surgery but the doctor has let me start driving. So things are much better.
I want to thank every one for the work at fielday. Especially John Swicord and my wife Carolyn for handling the chickens this year.
I echo Terry N0TW’s thought s on Elmers. Some times you make a lifelong friend. I also want to thank Terry for all he does to help the group
Hope to cu at the meeting Buddy
June 26th dawned bright and hot. Despite some tough conditions due to the extreme heat, members of the TARC “Radio Family” got started early with a simple purpose…come together, make some contacts, and have some fun!
A number of folks had already been hard at it the day before setting up the antennas to be used. In addition to the wire antennas, there were two new “players” on the field…the antenna trailers we call “PITS-1 and PITS-2,” both sporting Moxon beam antennas for 15 and 20 meters.
“PEACH”, the club communications trailer, was sporting a brand new A/C unit that we hoped would help fight off the heat that plagued it last year. We’d also arranged with the EOC to have a real 30-amp outlet installed on the building so we wouldn’t be overheating any circuits leading to a flipped breaker.
We’d decided to add one more station on this year, making us a 4F entry. That meant we’d have a CW station, 2 voice stations and a Digital station, plus GOTA. The additional voice station led to another “innovation.”
Gina, W4GNA, agreed to captain that extra voice station and run it as a “Women’s GOTA.” She made it her mission was to get as many of the ladies on the air as possible during the event.
We had hit a snag for lunch on Saturday as our usual provider of “Firehouse Chilidogs,” Lt. Leo Smart, was out of town on vacation. So, during the week before the event, some experiments took place and the lunch menu for this year changed to “N4NEL Chilidogs.” Speaking for myself, I did enjoy being the guinea pig for the experiments!
Following a test session and a weather spotter class from Stewart, the 2 o’clock bell sounded and we were off on a 24-hour sprint.
The actual band conditions were not at their best again this year, but despite that, the hand-built N0TW Moxons proved to be stellar performers, and the two voice stations used them for pretty much the entire event.
The Digital station had some problems last year, which I found later to be software related. For this year, I chose the latest version of “Digipan,” and loaded it on the trailer’s computer. I also hooked up the FT-897 to it and made a number of contacts at home all the way up to Friday night, to make sure we’d have no further problems.
The CW station had two principle operators, Terry, N0TW, and Larry, K3LB. It was set up in the front room in the trailer, and the Digital station occupied the middle room. As the temperatures soared, the trailer became a favorite place to visit. Suffice it to say, if the refrigerator were to fail, you could easily make do with the new A/C, which easily kept the temperature in the 60’s and had the CW boys closing the doors on occasion to warm up.
TARC events are always centered on our “family” and Field Day is no exception. While I could continue on about the gear, it’s the people running that gear that are most important to me, so let’s talk a bit about who was doing what.
I’ll pick on Colby first as he was all over the place for all 3 days of the event. I’d asked John if I could “borrow” him on Friday to help with getting everything on site. Hooking and un-hooking trailers is a lot faster with two, and in that heat, I was really proud to have him helping me. In fact, we had to hook up “PEACH” a second time on Friday because the Fire Department was worried about the original place we’d parked it.
If you look at the pictures made of the event, you’ll see him in most of them, either operating himself, logging, or cheerleading someone into more contacts. I think my favorite instance was Sunday afternoon when he started calling “CQ Field Day…Someone PLEASE come back to me with a contact…CQ Field Day!” Well, it worked…someone did, despite the call being a dupe…
Bobby also had “dibs” on him throughout the event as Colby was sporting a new license…his learner’s permit. Bobby will tell you he makes a fine chauffeur.
Lowell was in place at the Voice-2 station for pretty much the whole event, and on Saturday, he and Wayne worked a “24-alpha” station that had them both giggling about how much RF was flying at that site. Someone captured that moment with a picture, which caught both of them grinning.
Tommy James took the task of filling out his GOTA sheet very seriously. I’d been curious to see how he was going to do, as I’d noted some changes in him of late. I first met the James family at the Moultrie club meetings and the kids, Tommy and Taylor, were very respectful and VERY quiet. Saying “good morning” to Tommy would usually elicit a smile, a blush, and a quick look elsewhere.
Tommy attended our first Tech class at Archbold, and came really close to getting his license the first time. Even though his parents counseled him against trying again, I saw a new Tommy emerge...one with a gritty determination to keep on trying. Unfortunately, as is usually the case his second swing at the test wasn’t as good as the first…but the fire was lit.
Our next class a few months later saw him back in the saddle, and this time, he went home with that CSCE in hand. About a week before Field Day, he checked in on our Thursday Net and there was a notable difference in his voice. He and his dad had worked a contest together and Tommy got a lot of time on the mic… the timidity was gone and had been replaced with a very confident “Git ‘er done” KJ4SWI.
And once again, that gritty determination got him the only complete GOTA sheet in the group. For his next trick…a lot of contacts at the Fly-In Special event.
A large crowd watched as Taylor made her first contact Saturday night and the cheerleading section erupted with applause when she got a call back. You guessed it…another fire was lit. I’m hearing that I have a date with her at the next class session in a couple of weeks…right Taylor?
The Digital station had a couple of great performances, starting first with Nathaniel, KJ4OSU. Nathaniel sat down and logged for me to get the station started, but paid close attention to what I was doing. I got called away briefly, and when I returned, he and his dad, Wayne, were busy making contacts…quick study huh?
Zach, KJ4LOO, came in later, and after being shown the ropes, took off himself. While I had the appropriate replies programmed in for a single keystroke, Zach preferred the challenge of typing it all out to keep him on his toes.
Gina was busy coaching the ladies on making their first contacts, and I heard that once again someone tried to shanghai HER frequency and had to be asked to leave. In particular, I saw Mary, KI4JOO, and Theresa, KJ4NBG, really getting in there and filling up the contact sheets.
Mo, KI4PZS, came up from Tallahassee, and as he is employed by the Red Cross, gave us 100 points as soon as he came into the room, without even having to pick up a mic. He was also evident everywhere, making pictures, making new friends…making chilidogs…and a few contacts too. Mo indicated he’d been looking for a club to call home, and in the words of Lawrence, KC4LYC, we all say…”Welcome aboard!”
Steve, KJ4UKR, was also everywhere with his camera, as well as being there all three days to help with antennas and anything else. Did you notice him sitting in the grass down front in the group picture?
We didn’t get to see John, KE4RWR for a lot of the day on Saturday. Buddy, WD4CJI was still recuperating from his neck surgery, which left him unable, per doctor’s orders, to be involved with the cooking. John, along with Amanda and Carolyn, took on the task of smoking the chickens, and cooking the corn-on-the-cob that we all so love at this function.
I also saw Dan, KF4WF, busy frying up shrimp to add to the table. I’ll confess I tried one early because I guessed (correctly) that they’d be history before I got there with a plate.
Wynona, Dana, Amy, Theresa and several others got the serving tables ready in short order, and it was quickly apparent that our “kitchen magicians” had once again worked their magic.
In looking back at some of the photos on Facebook a few days later, I noticed that a fellow from one of the other local clubs had made the comment “I’m coming to T’ville next year!” under a picture of our supper table.
The supper attendance was around 90 people and as we do traditionally, we made group pictures before having the blessing and getting down to the real business of eating. If you haven’t seen the group picture, go to www.qrz.com/callsign/w4ucj Also note while you’re there, that we’ve been looked at over 2000 times on that site!
Roy and Lynelle Alligood brought Billy Joe and Dot with them, and I got the honor of escorting Dot back outside to be in the group picture. Mike and Heidy Drawdy were also there and Heidy had just received her new call, KJ4WFD, which someone quickly said stood for “Women’s Field Day.”
Gene, W4AYK, finally got there just in time for supper, and he’d made a marathon run down from Atlanta, where he’d visited the North Fulton group. The Albany club President, Ken, K1KBA, and Richard, WB4TFW, also came down for a while. I think Ken wanted another pass at the BBQ chicken as he and Richard had also attended the Radio Reunion.
We had a larger than usual group stay late this time and as the clock wound around, folks quietly disappeared. John, Dana and the boys had elected to stay overnight, and after a while I missed them, but there was a strange mound of quilts and blankets in the back corner of the room.
On occasion, that mound would emit strange loud noises, which continued through the night. I asked John later what that was and he said “Noise?…I didn’t hear any noises.”
On at least one occasion, I did see a small head pop up, and that was my favorite “future ham in training”…Kyle.
On Saturday at about two minutes to noon, rather than seeing a sign asking “What time is lunch?” I felt a small hand slip in mine and begin towing me in the direction of the hot dogs…two please…no chili, just plenty of ketchup. Also watched him fill up a plate with butter Saturday night, before selecting another piece of corn to roll in it.
Isn’t it great we have so many kids in the group to brighten our day?
Early Sunday morning, I left briefly for church, and on the way back in heard Kerry passing our formal message to the Section Manager, and ten more messages to give us an additional 200 points.
When I walked back in, I saw Thomas and Theresa running the Voice 1 station, and swapping the operator and logger jobs back and forth. You just don’t see husband-wife teams like that enough, and I’m really pleased to see that we have a number of them in the group now.
As I mentioned earlier, Colby was on Voice 2 pleading for a few more last minute contacts. For 24 hours, we beat the airwaves thoroughly for anyone who would answer our calls…
And just that quick…24 hours were gone and Field Day was over. Thankfully, there was a large group assembled to take everything back down. In about 2 hours, everything was packed and ready to roll. I took PEACH home with me that afternoon, and returned after church that night for PITS-1, and the next day for PITS-2. The EOC and Field Day 2010 faded quietly in the rearview mirrors…
The final score will show us about 1000 points ahead of last year with 6084 total points. That should put us high in the score column for 4F, and were it last year, we’d be #3 in the nation. Time will tell if that’s the case this year.
Were there problems? Sure there was…it’s Field Day and if you do it right, you will have problems. It’s the “nature of the beast.” But, we worked through them and we overcame…and had a lot of fun doing it.
More than one of the kids came up and asked when we’d do this again…that counts as a success in my book.
As many people as I have mentioned here, there’s at least two or three times that many more, who all made valuable contributions to the success of Field Day 2010. To mention everyone would take 20 more pages and I’m already running really long. But please know that we do know what you did and appreciate you as a part of the “family.”
And you know what?…the clock is already counting down for Field Day 2011….I can hardly wait!