Busy, Busy: ARES Incorporation and My Son’s Enrollment in an Electrician AAS Program

It’s been too long since I’ve posted; for those waiting for my next post on the ARRL Radiogram, please pardon the delay. The last couple of weeks have been unusually busy. More important matters have largely taken precedence over ham radio and blogging, but ham radio has by no means died at the QTH of NØIP and KAØCEM!

ARES® has been thriving here. On July 5, Yellow Medicine County ARES®, Inc. was incorporated. We filed our articles of incorporation with the MN Secretary of State and also obtained vanity call sign WØYMC (Yellow Medicine County) from the FCC! Two nights ago, the board of directors held their organizational meeting at which they adopted bylaws, elected officers, etc. Now we are ready to make application for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Hopefully I will get to that next week.

We had one emergency operation in July, though I sort of backed into it. After I received a phone call from a friend, my son and I assisted in searching for a missing girl. At first I wasn’t even thinking in terms of ARES. Intending to just help our friends, I told my son to throw on his ARES vest to be more visible, I grabbed mine, and we brought our HT’s so we could communicate. Upon arrival at the scene we found ourselves in the midst of many similarly-clad firefighters and EMS personnel as well as police officers and deputies. Long story short, by the time the search was concluded, many more firefighters would be involved as well as local K9, bloodhounds from Watertown, SD and the MN State Patrol Helicopter. Thanks be to God, the girl eventually turned up safe.

The weekly Yellow Medicine County ARES Training Net continues. In July I covered the ARRL radiogram, an introduction to the Incident Command System, and spent one session discussing lessons learned in the search for the missing girl. Thus concludes the latest ARES news from Yellow Medicine County.

And on the home front it appears that by elmering my son Antonio, KAØCEM, I have unwittingly steered him toward a career as an electrician! This past Wednesday he was admitted to the Electrician AAS program of MN West Community College, Canby, as a PSEO (Post-Secondary Enrollment Option) student in his last two years of highschool/homeschool. He surprised me a couple months ago by asking about this, and now he’s all registered for classes and already has a pile of books to study.

That’s all I have time for right now. After dashing this off it’s back to work for me. Hopefully I’ll get back to regular posting next week.

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Filed under ARES®, Call Signs, Elmering

The ARRL Radiogram, Part 2

In this post I’ll describe how to compose a basic radiogram. I won’t wax on about everything involved here — if you want to learn more just click here. Here’s an example that I’d like to explain piece by piece. (Thank you to the Oregon ACES program for sharing a fillable PDF of the radiogram; I used it to create what you see here.)

The four main parts of the radiogram are the preamble (at the top), the address block (just below the preamble on the left), the text (the main body of the message), and the signature (just below the text). For now I’ll ignore the part at the bottom where it says “REC’D” and “SENT” as well as the box just below the preamble on the right where it says “THIS RADIO MESSAGE WAS RECEIVED AT,” since those are just for record-keeping.

Preamble:

Notice that a couple of the boxes are blank. I’ll still explain them, but because they’re optional and often not used I’ve left them blank. The preamble has eight boxes:

  • NUMBER: This is whatever number the originating station chooses. (If you are the first station to send this radiogram, then you are considered the “originating station.”) Typically you start with “1” on the first radiogram of the year and number each subsequent radiogram sequentially. Just make sure that it’s a number with no letters and that it doesn’t start with a zero.
  • PRECEDENCE: Either R, W, P, or EMERGENCY. The first three letters stand for Routine, Welfare, and Priority, but “EMERGENCY” is always spelled out. Unless you’re dealing with a disaster, your radiogram is probably Routine, so put “R” in this box.
  • HX: This is for one or more of seven optional handling instructions: HXA, HXB, HXC, etc. You don’t have to put anything in this box unless you have some special need, like to authorize a collect call for delivery, hold delivery until a certain date, etc. To learn more, click here.
  • STATION OF ORIGIN: Your call sign, if you’re the first station to send the radiogram.
  • CHECK: The number of words in the text of your message. If there is an ARL code used in your message, then put “ARL” in front of the check number. Later I’ll say more about ARL codes — and a dangerous trap that some operators fall into with this box when delivering a radiogram.
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: The location of the person who actually authored the text of the message. If you as the originating station are the one and only person composing it, then this would be your location. But if you’re not, then it may be some other location. Say for instance that your non-ham friend wants you to send a message of his own by radiogram. The place of origin would be your friend’s location, not yours.
  • TIME FILED: This is optional (unless you have entered special handling instructions in “HX” that require it) and is often left blank for routine messages. If you do enter a time, enter the time you (the originating station) created the message. Use 24 hour format followed by an indicator of the time zone, e.g. 1730Z (UTC), 1730L (Local time).
  • DATE: The three-letter abbreviation for the month followed by a number for the day. This is assumed to be UTC unless you have indicated a different time zone in “TIME FILED.”

Address block:

Enter the address of the person the radiogram is intended for. Don’t neglect the phone number (and remember to include the area code!) since usually radiograms are delivered by telephone once they make it to a ham who lives close enough to place a local call. I’ve put dashes in the phone number, which I should point out is technically incorrect but I’ll probably keep doing it.

Text and signature blocks:

Notice that there are five rows, each row containing five blanks? Each blank is for one word. The rows of five are to make it easier to count the words to compare with the “CHECK” box in the preamble. Instead of counting every word, you can just count by fives for every row that is full. This makes it easier for stations in the NTS to rapidly check for missing/extra words after they have copied a message. Here are a few notes on this part of the radiogram:

  • Punctuation: Don’t use any punctuation marks. At the end of a sentence where a period would normally go, write “X” on a blank (it counts as a word and is pronounced “X-RAY” when read over the air). Don’t write “X” at the end of your last sentence, though. For a question mark, write “QUERY” on its own blank line (it also counts as a word).
  • ARL Codes: ARL codes are a handy way to say a lot with only two or three words. For a listing of all the ARL codes, click here (it’s toward the end of the document). “ARL FIFTY” means, “Greetings by Amateur Radio,” and that’s what the recipient will hear when finally a ham calls him and reads the radiogram to him. Note that the number “FIFTY” is spelled out, and both “ARL” and “FIFTY” each count as a word. If you used, say, “ARL FIFTY ONE,” that would count as three words. Warning! Don’t confuse the “CHECK” in the preamble with the ARL code you are trying to send. In the example I’ve shown here, “ARL 15” is in the “CHECK” box, but all that means is that 1) there is an ARL code in your message 2) there are 15 words total in your message. Frankly I wish we didn’t have to put that “ARL” in the check box because it’s confusing and can be disastrous. Just read the story in the Operating Manual about the time a poor ham delivered a radiogram and mistakenly interpreted “ARL 13” in the “CHECK” box for “Medical emergency situation exists here” (the meaning of ARL THIRTEEN, if it were actually in the text of the message). After the family received this botched radiogram, they threatened to file a lawsuit!
  • Wording: Be concise. The fewer words the better, as long as it still makes sense.
  • Closing: Closing words like “sincerely,” “love,” etc. should be included in the text of the message, not the signature.
  • Signature: The name of the person(s) writing the text. The signature goes just below the text as shown. At first this is a bit confusing when you’re staring at a blank radiogram form because it’s not obvious that the top border of the REC’D/SENT boxes doubles as the line for the signature. But that’s where it goes — above that top border, not below it. It has nothing to do with “REC’D/DATE/TIME” or “SENT/DATE/TIME,” which are for record keeping as the radiogram is sent and received. Note: the signature does not count toward the number in the “CHECK” box of the preamble.

I hope this is helpful! In my next post about the ARRL Radiogram I’ll discuss how to send it using a voice mode like SSB.

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Filed under Operating Practice & Procedure

The ARRL Radiogram, Part 1

Radiogram at the desk of N0IPWho knew the ARRL radiogram could be so easy to send and receive — and so enjoyable? All those old-time NTS operators, of course! The National Traffic System — the “Relay” in the American Radio Relay League — has been around since 1915, yet never have I had the courage to take part until now. I wish I’d done it sooner. My son, a ham for only a month, has already passed two radiograms of his own! How about you? Would you like to give it a try?

Click here to learn more about the NTSThe first step is to find a net that is part of the NTS. I found one by searching the ARRL database (click here) for a “Section Net” in Minnesota. Unfortunately the database is a bit cluttered, so it may require a bit of patience as you sift through the listings and tune around listening for a listed net. But that’s not a bad way to start, really. Patient listening will get you far in this hobby, especially when you’re trying to learn something new.

Once I found the MN Section Phone Net on 3860 kHz I listened to a few sessions before checking in. My biggest fear was that I might be asked to receive a radiogram without understanding the procedure. But I didn’t have anything to worry about — surprisingly, very little traffic is actually passed these days. The same is true of the SD NEO Net which immediately follows the MN Section net on that frequency.

We need more radiograms in the system. It doesn’t matter how trivial your message is, honestly. Know somebody who has a birthday coming up? Send him a radiogram! It is a novel way to send a greeting, and it helps keep the NTS running the way it’s supposed to. As the ARES EC for my county I have a vested interest in the proficiency of the NTS, which works closely with ARES during a disaster. But I digress.

The ARRL Operating Manual For Radio AmateursTo learn how to send and receive a radiogram I turned to The ARRL Operating Manual For Radio Amateurs. The chapter on traffic handling is very well written; read through it a couple of times and you’ll be ready to handle radiograms by a voice-mode. CW is a little tougher because it involves unique prosigns and Q-signals — the book is indispensable as a starting-point, but I’m still not ready to check into a CW traffic net quite yet. I’m listening when I can, though, and learning.

Before passing a radiogram in the NTS, I practiced sending and receiving a test-radiogram with my son on 2 meter simplex. Then I practiced sending a test-radiogram to the Yellow Medicine County ARES Training Net on our local 2 meter repeater. We were ready to do it for real. On the next Training Net my son sent me a bona fide radiogram bound for his friend in Virginia. No turning back now — I couldn’t let my son down! The next chance I had to put it into the NTS was with the SD NEO Phone Net, so I tuned in, gulped, and took the plunge. Pretty soon the radiogram was on its way and I was grinning. This is easy!

In my next post I’ll describe how to compose a radiogram. Obviously I’m new at this, but that also means some of these things are fresh in my mind. I hope it will help one of you get on the air and send a radiogram!

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Heartwarming: My Son Takes My Old Novice Callsign, KAØCEM

Novice Station KAØCEM, circa 1978.

Novice Station KAØCEM, circa 1978.

Today my son, Antonio, was granted my old Novice call sign from 1978: KAØCEM. He has wanted this call sign ever since he began studying for his Technician license. What a moving thing this is to behold my son showing such honor to his father, if even in such a trivial matter as an amateur radio call sign. It gives me pause to contemplate my relationship with Antonio and the man he has become.

Back in 1996, when he was born, I could not foresee the year 2012. I’ll never forget that day when we came home from church to hear a message from Antonio Maset, the director of our adoption agency. Our hearts leaped to hear him say that a baby boy had been born the night before in Guatemala City. Mr. Maset said he would call back later that evening. We spent the afternoon with another adoptive family with a boy from Guatemala, and my wife and I looked at each other in awe when the mother told us we should have a name picked out when Mr. Maset called us back. Watching her boy and imagining a son of our own like him, our minds whirled as we tried to grasp the magnitude of what was happening.

When we went home and waited for the phone to ring, the minutes crawled by like hours. Finally, the phone rang and my wife and I each picked up. Antonio Maset was on the line with Helen de Rosal, the lady who ran the home where this little baby would spend his early days. We eagerly told them that we did indeed want to adopt this little baby, and we told them we wanted to name him after Mr. Maset. Thus was my son named Antonio before he left the hospital that day. Five months later, after our lawyer in Guatemala City finalized the adoption with the courts, I flew to Guatemala to bring Tonito (as we called him then) to the American Embassy for a visa. And a day later, I delivered him into my wife’s loving arms at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport as my daughter and a host of smiling friends and relatives looked on.

Antonio’s last lab in book one of the Electronic Learning Lab: a frequency meter using 555 & 4046 chips.

Now Antonio is sixteen, and he has chosen my old Novice call sign as his own. As heartwarming as it is, this symbolic gesture reminds me of far more important things about my son. Most importantly he has given himself to Jesus Christ; as a Christian he is as much my brother in the church as he is my son. He has grown up to be a respectful, hard-working young man who disdains teen culture and loves ham radio because he gets to talk with adults who treat him as an adult. He adores his sister, respects his mother, and honors me not only as his father but as his homeschool-teacher. He keeps up with his chores, and he willingly tilled and planted the garden this year. He loves playing classical guitar, riding and training horses, and reloading various kinds of ammunition.

And now, he’s a ham radio operator — with my old Novice call sign. He wants to master CW, but until then he is active on 2 meter FM and 10 meter SSB. He has registered as an ARES operator, and last night he even passed his first radiogram on the Yellow Medicine County ARES Training Net (a radiogram that I need to pass along on the MN Section Net today!). Not bad for being a ham for only one month!

I pray that God will guide Antonio as he continues to grow in wisdom and stature. Son, may you always keep amateur radio and your other pursuits in their proper place, and strive above all else to bring glory to God as you seek to know him and love him — not only to live well, but to die well.

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Filed under Affections, Call Signs, Priorities

I Posted This Using 40 Meters!

Wow! Would you believe I’m posting this by email using WINMORE and Winlink 2000? That’s right, the words you’re reading were transmitted over HF.

My laptop is hooked up to my Kenwood TS-440S with a DigiMaster Pro+, and as soon as I finish this email I’m going to send it over 40 meters. RMS Express will send it off to a Radio Mail Server (RMS) station, which will then send it over the Internet.

For all you CW lovers, I’m still with you. This technology doesn’t hold a candle to the feel of a key in my hand! But it is tremendously valuable for ARES work, no doubt about it. If you lose cell phone, long distance service and Internet in your area during a disaster (as happened just a few days ago up on the North Shore of Lake Superior during the catastrophic flooding in Duluth), this is the only way to get an email out — and email is perhaps the single best way to convey detailed information to the outside in a situation like that. The software is free, and it’s easy to use. What a great way to cover that “extra mile!”

That’s all I have time for right now because I have a bunch of things waiting for me that are more important than ham radio. But I wanted to take a few minutes to give this a whirl since I just got my WL2K account last night before hitting the sack. Have you used Winlink 2000 to some good purpose, perhaps in an emergency? If so, please share your story.

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Filed under ARES®, Digital Modes

Inexpensive Programming Cable for Kenwood Mobiles

To program my Kenwood TM-V71A dual-band mobile I needed a cable to connect the radio to my computer. Kenwood sells such a cable (the PG-5G) as do other vendors, but they are all a bit expensive. Looking for a less expensive alternative, I searched Amazon.com for a cable with the right connectors. (I really like Amazon.com because of the free two-day shipping that comes with my Amazon Prime membership!) Immediately I found a cable for $10.20 — the 3′ Hosa DBK-103 — and was pleasantly surprised to find this helpful review posted by William Bowen, K8WHB:

I bought this HOSA cable to connect my Kenwood TM-D710A 2M/70CM ham radio transceiver to my shack computer. Hosa advertises this cable for use in connecting a computer to various electronic musical instruments. They need to widen this recommendation – the cable will work on any device that uses a 8-pin mini-DIN connector for an RS-232 port that is wired in the standard Apple layout (crossover of data & control signals from the DB-9 end to the mini-DIN end).

I’ve seen cable from other vendors for this purpose, and some of the prices are just nuts (Kenwood wants $38 for an equiv. cable!!) and the construction quality of some of the other cables I’ve looked at is a bit suspect. The Hosa cable is well built with good strain reliefs on both ends & uses good quality shielded cable. That last item is very important when the cable is to be used in a radio shack, since one does NOT want to get RF feedback back into the radio’s control ports, especially when you are doing packet radio.

I’d HIGHLY recommend this cable to any ham that has a radio or other equipment that requires such a cable – it is a HIGH quality cable at a very attractive price.

Since the Kenwood TM-D710A takes the same cable as the TM-V71A, I figured this was the solution for me. I went with the longer version, though: the $12.75 Hosa DBK-110 10 Foot Synthesizer Controller Cable, 8-pin Mini-DIN to DE9.

To make serial cables work with my laptop I need a serial-to-USB adapter. These adapters have a chipset in them that require a driver on your computer. The two most common chipsets are the FTDI and the Prolific. I’ve had mixed success with Prolific before (if you’re using Ham Radio Deluxe, stay away from it or you’ll get the blue screen of death!) so I went with the excellent FTDI chipset and purchased this adapter.

After the UPS truck arrived this morning I went out to my pickup, plugged these cables together and connected my laptop to the Kenwood. They work great!

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How a Cross-band Repeater Helps My Family

Yesterday my son, Antonio, got his call sign: KDØSGL! He’s been putting his HT to use, too. It came in handy yesterday evening when we were at opposite ends of Walmart, and this morning he took it along with him when he went to mow grass for a widow. My daughter dropped him off along with the lawnmower, and I waited to hear Antonio on the radio so she could go pick him up when he finished. We have a couple of “private” channels programmed in our radios for simplex on 2m and 70cm with a sub-audible tone set for CTCSS.

My own personal repeater, sitting in the driveway!

The thing is, our handhelds don’t go quite that far if one of us is indoors — and I was. No problem! Once my daughter returned with the pickup, I just set my new (used) Kenwood TM-V71A to cross-band repeat between our two channels. It is as simple as turning it off and turning it on again while holding down the [TONE] button, so it only took a second. When my son finally called me, he was sending to the high-gain antenna on my pickup on 2m and being rebroadcast on 70cm at 50 watts. Needless to say he boomed in on my handheld on 70cm when he finally called, even though I was indoors. And when I replied on 70cm, the Kenwood in my pickup rebroadcast my signal on 2m at 50 watts, booming in on his handheld. He would have to have been mighty far away for us to have had trouble communicating.

One thing I like about the Kenwood TM-V71A is that you can set it to identify every 10 minutes using morse code when it is in repeater mode. I have it set to do just that. Sure enough, while I was working indoors waiting for Antonio to call, I heard “NØIP/R” a couple times in morse as my own personal repeater announced itself.

My friend tells me to watch out lest I drain my battery doing this, so I’m being careful how much I use my mobile radio in cross-band repeater mode. But for short periods for just my son and I, it is the perfect solution to extend the range of our handhelds.

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I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Three of Mr. Fagen’s beautifully-restored, award-winning aircraft. Photo copied from fagenfighters.com.

Weeks ago I called Fagan Fighters & Warhawks, Inc. inquiring if they could use help with communications at the Ray Fagen Memorial Airshow on Saturday, June 16. The answer was yes! They had a gap in their communications between the airport and their remote parking lots. I put out a request for volunteers and started doing some tests. The challenges I faced were:

  • Terrain and distance: The first overflow lot was at a casino located quite close to the airport but down in a valley. The other overflow lots were located in the City of Granite Falls itself, down in a valley and far enough away to make it impossible for handhelds to communicate with the airport.
  • Intermod: The AWOS (Automated Weather Observing System) station on the airport blows away my handheld on some 2 meter frequencies.
  • Manpower: Out here in the sticks finding ham-volunteers is not easy.

Repeater coverage is patchy out here and not an option for handhelds at the airport. It quickly became apparent that to conquer terrain and distance we would need to set up a station on high ground running either as a net control station or as a cross-band repeater. Since I wanted to run a net anyway, I elected to simply run a simplex net. CTCSS would be necessary to combat intermod at the airport. I drove around until I found a likely spot at the top of a bluff roughly midway between the airport and the City of Granite Falls (where some overflow lots were located), and I secured permission from the property owner to set up a net control station for the airshow. After tests demonstrated significantly better performance on 70cm than 2m, I settled on 70cm, specifically MN ARES simplex channel HU-CHARLIE, 443.000 PL 203.5. I worked with a fellow at the airport and tested to make sure we would not interfere with their radios, then announced the plan by email to the group of volunteers who were forming up.

I was overwhelmed by the willingness of these volunteers (KCØPMF, ABØRE, KDØQEA, KCØQNA, KØNUT, KCØYBG and KCØYFY) to drive all the way out here, especially considering that they knew they’d be stuck in parking lots during the airshow. We needed their help since there aren’t very many active hams around here that I know of. Including myself we had eight hams lined up for Saturday morning.

After filling a cooler with water bottles, pop and ice I zipped over to the airport early on Saturday to find out who was in charge of parking. When I introduced myself to him I found out he had not heard anything about our involvement. I gulped, then explained that a ham would be assigned to shadow him and relay messages between him and remote lots. I encouraged him to ask anything he wanted of his shadow and we’d try to get it done for him.

When I set up as net control high on the bluff around 10:30 A.M., I assigned tactical call signs to make things easier: the ham shadowing the parking-director was AIRPORT-1, his partner was AIRPORT-2, the hams at the hayfield lot were HAYFIELD-1 and HAYFIELD-2, the hams at the gate were GATE-1 and GATE-2, and the ham at the casino was CASINO-1. At first I wasn’t sure just how helpful we would really be, but pretty soon we were very busy! Without us the parking-director had no way of knowing how full the lots were getting (information he needed to redirect traffic to the next lot) nor where the greatest demand for buses was at any given moment. We helped him with these things as well as a couple of miscellaneous tasks, including a search for two missing children (who were soon found). We finally shut down at 4:00 P.M. after the flow of traffic died, and then we all met at the airport office for a debriefing.

The parking-director said that at first, when I introduced myself to him that morning, he was a little irritated because he had no idea we were coming. I don’t blame him! My fault for not tracking him down. But after having worked with us, he said, “I don’t ever want to do another airshow without you guys!” He was positively glowing as he continued to praise us. I credited the volunteers who did the real work that day, and I encouraged the parking-director to spread the news about what we can do. This was a great opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities and work out some kinks in communicating in this area, too.

So many things came together to make this happen. Not only did these volunteers drive in from up to 80 miles away, but several others helped me prepare. Alfio Levy, KJ6JGS, went the extra mile and priority-shipped the Kenwood TM-V71A rig I bought from him last week so that I could get it installed in my pickup in time for the airshow. Caleb Streblow, the fellow who is courting my daughter, machined a bracket for me last week so that I could get a dual-band antenna mounted on my pickup. And Andrew Rosenau, KCØYFY, lent me his crimper, supplied me with Anderson Powerpole connectors, zipcord and fusing, and helped me with testing our radios around the area prior to the event. My thanks to all!

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Filed under ARES®, Portable Operation

My Son Passed His Tech!

My 16-year-old son, Antonio, has been studying hard for his Technician license, and yesterday evening three VE’s — Dean, NYØI, Scott, KBØNLY, and Terry, KCØQED — paid us a house call. When they showed up, I was out in the driveway installing a dual-band antenna on my pickup. They crowded around, watching me, helping where they could, and chatting while Antonio grilled steaks in the back yard. Pretty soon the aroma of grilled ribeye had our mouths watering!

Terry, KCØQED, left, and Antonio (nervously contemplating the exam), right

After one of the biggest feasts we have ever had, the testing began. Antonio was pretty nervous at first, but he breezed through the test easily. Terry scored it, turned to me and gave me a thumbs up! While the other two VE’s scored Antonio’s test, I went and got the Wouxon KG-UV6D HT (with leather case, high-gain antenna, speaker-mic, and emergency AA-battery pack) I’ve had waiting for him. He smiled as he opened the box and started taking things out and putting them together. Antonio called Grandpa Mitchell, NØARQ, to share the good news. Just for fun he also took the General exam, and surprised himself by coming closer to passing than he expected — now he wants to study for that!

Antonio is interested in ARES® (he got an ARES vest yesterday, too), but he’s also interested in other aspects of amateur radio. Yesterday evening he said he would like to start up our CW lessons again so he can work HF CW, and he also wants to join the ARRL and the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club.

Here’s a slide show with a few more snapshots from yesterday evening. Congratulations, Antonio!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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YMC ARES Training Net Begins!

Last night at 8:00 P.M. I held our first Yellow Medicine County ARES Training Net. The plan is to do this every Monday night at 8:00 P.M. and to cover a specific learning objective each time. Dean Herzberg, NYØI, graciously agreed to let us use his 2 meter repeater in Milan for this.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I’m trying to mimic the Arizona Emergency Net. They have been doing some excellent work, and you can listen to recordings of their training nets online (click here for their archives).

Yesterday’s topic was “Tactical Call Signs.” After explaining the concept of tactical call signs, I assigned one to each operator, asking him to acknowledge it. Then I put the operators through a little exercise. I explained that I would call each one of them with his tactical call sign, and after he replied with his tactical call sign, I would ask him a question. When he answered the question, he was to conclude with his FCC call sign. This is standard format; signing with the FCC call sign tells net control that the operator considers the exchange complete. Here’s an example:

Net control: “EOC-1”
EOC-1: “EOC-1”
Net control: “EOC-1, what is your favorite mode?”
EOC-1: “My favorite mode is FM. NØJXI”

The stations who checked in did a great job. The whole net took only about 15 minutes; I tried to make it short, sweet, and to the point, and since we didn’t have many check-ins it didn’t last long.

All hams within range of the repeater are welcome to participate in this net, whether or not they are in Yellow Medicine County and whether or not they have registered with ARES. I do hope that this will draw some hams into ARES, though. Now that we have something like this going, it’s time to beat the bushes by sending out letters to local hams inviting them to take part.

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Filed under ARES®, Nets, Operating Practice & Procedure

Gremlins Lurk in the Junk Heap

Three weeks ago my EchoLink station went deaf. Thanks to the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club’s antenna analyzer, I figured out right away that the problem was in the feedline/antenna system. Ever since then I have been either too busy or too nervous to go on the roof, so it has remained a mystery . . . until this afternoon.

Antonio Mitchell checking SWR on the Edison Fong J-Pole

Antonio, my son, went up on the roof with the antenna analyzer while I watched from the ground. He did a great job taking all the tape and coax seal off the PL-259, disconnecting the coax from the antenna, and hooking up the antenna analyzer to the antenna with a patch cord. “One point two!” he called down to me. There you have it — it was the coax! I realized what I’d done. Here I had some brand-new coax in my field-kit, but I ended up grabbing a different coil of junk coax and got bitten by a Gremlin. I found the new, already-terminated coil of coax and Antonio swapped it for the bad length, carefully wrapping the PL-259 with coax seal and rescue-tape. In short order we had the station back on the air.

All that, and Antonio doesn’t even get to use it yet. Hopefully soon! Antonio has been studying hard for his Technician exam this week. He is eager to take the test.

Thanks, Antonio, for getting the EchoLink back up and running for all of us.

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Filed under Antennas, EchoLink, Elmering, Test Equipment

West Central MN Amateur Radio Club

This morning was the monthly meeting of the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club. I joined this club about four months ago thanks to the invitation of Dean Herzberg, NYØI.

June 2, 2012 meeting of the West Central MN Amateur Radio Club. Photo taken by Antonio Mitchell.


It’s the first amateur radio club I’ve ever joined. I wish I’d joined one sooner! Certainly I wouldn’t have had to drive as far to attend club meetings while I lived in the Twin Cities. This club meets in Madison, about 45 minutes away from my house. It’s worth the drive, though. I get to put faces with call signs and catch up on local developments. Speaking selfishly, it’s already benefited me a great deal. Dean helped me mount my dual-band antenna on the roof, and he allowed me to borrow the club’s antenna analyzer, too. I hope I can return the favor somehow. That’s the sort of thing that happens in an amateur radio club.

My son, Antonio, came along this morning, hoping to take his Technician exam. Unfortunately the test-materials hadn’t arrived yet, so he was understandably disappointed. I invited the Volunteer Examiners to my house for dinner when the materials do arrive. Since my son has become adept at grilling, maybe he’ll be the one to serve them steak if they decide to make the trip.

One of the things we discussed this morning was the possibility of helping out at the airshow two weeks away here in Granite Falls. There is a gap that needs filled in their operations, namely the coordination of shuttles running between the airport and remote parking lots. It remains to be seen whether we can muster enough volunteers, but if we can it would be a great way to demonstrate our capabilities and practice working together for the day we assist in an emergency. I’m hoping we will get some more volunteers from another ARES® group nearby. It would really be neat if we had enough hams with APRS to put the shuttles on a map, but that’s a pretty tall order right now. I’ll be happy just to put one ham in each parking lot, one at the airport, and perhaps one NCS at the midpoint if we decide to use simplex. The local sheriff has a portable tower that he has offered for our use, and it might be just the thing for an NCS to use. All these details need to be worked out, but that’s exactly why these opportunities are so valuable — better to figure out how to do these things now rather than in a time of crisis.

If you aren’t a member of a local amateur radio club, I encourage you to look into one. It is well worth your while!

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Have Handheld, Will Travel — Fourth Stop: The Wedding!

I’m exhausted, so I’m going to make this quick. It’s been a full day! Today our dear friend Rachel got married to Wayne, a fine fellow, in the chapel of Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. That of course was the highlight of the day, but what is of most interest on this blog is how ham radio played a small part.

Brent Marshall, K4EMC, Todd Mitchell, NØIP, and John Marshall, KI4JQB

Our good friends, the Marshalls, are staying at the same hotel as we are. Since roaming charges are so high up here in Canada, we all have our cell phones turned off. But two of the Marshalls are hams, and they also brought along an HT. Here is a picture of Brent Marshall, K4EMC, and his son John Marshall, KI4JQB, standing with me at the end of the day’s festivities.

Before splitting up this morning, we agreed upon a simplex frequency and a repeater: the one at the top of the CN tower, VE3TWR. My wife and I went on to Wycliffe College while the Marshalls took in the town for a couple of hours. Thanks to our HT’s we stayed connected, and it’s good that we did. I radioed a subway route to them and, more importantly, passed a couple of messages back and forth between the mother of the bride and Mrs. Marshall, upon whom the harried mother was relying for help. When we were too far apart to use simplex, we used the tower repeater.

Nowadays we rely upon our cellphones so much that we forget sometimes how useful these radios can be. I brought my HT along on this trip for entertainment, but today it came in mighty handy.

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Have Handheld, Will Travel — Third Stop: VE3OSC!

This morning I once again brought my HT outside with me while I sipped my morning coffee. Don, VA3XFT, was my first contact. Don is a friendly, helpful fellow. The first time I met him was yesterday evening, when he heard me calling for Wade, VE3WGK — when Wade didn’t answer, Don called me and offered to call Wade on the telephone for me. I didn’t take him up on it then, but this morning I did take him up on his offer to call and find out more about the amateur radio station at the Ontario Science Centre. When he came back on the air he said that the station is manned every day from 1000-1400 hrs. Thanks, Don!

After another contact with Steve, VA3SF (who, like Don, operated the repeater we were using), I prepared to go to the Ontario Science Centre. My wife decided to come along, making it a grand adventure. We walked to the nearby subway terminal and soon were rumbling along. After transferring to a bus, we arrived at the Ontario Science Centre and made our way to amateur radio station VE3OSC on the fourth level.

Bill, VA3WTT, volunteering at VE3OSC

Bill, VA3WTT, was manning the station. This Scottish gentleman showed us the warmest hospitality, inviting me to come into the booth, sign the guestbook, and check in to a 2m ARES net that was in progress.

NØIP checking in to the Toronto ARES 11:00 daily 2m net

Ken, VA3KRS, was net control and gave me a warm welcome.

Bill also helped me get on 40m, where I tapped out a CQ with some Bencher paddles. For some reason the HF radio seemed deaf, so I’m not sure all was in order at the moment. But no matter! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the station of the Ontario Science Centre Amateur Radio Club. It’s a great idea. I applaud the Ontario Science Centre for including this permanent display, and I applaud all the hams who man it every day.

Bill gave me a very nice QSL card, pictured above, and shook my hand. After saying farewell, my wife and I made our way to the OMNIMAX theater where we watched a documentary on the building of the Canadian Railroad through the Rocky Mountains. It was informative and full of amazing footage of a restored steam engine puffing through some sublimely scenic parts of Canada.

None of this would have happened had I not brought along my HT on this trip. Only because I happened to contact Wade, VE3WGK, did I learn about the station at the Ontario Science Centre. I’m glad I brought the HT, and I’m glad I met Wade and all these other fellows on the air. Maybe when I get back home I’ll even EchoLink back to Toronto and chat with them again on 2m and 70cm.

Here you can see some more photos of our trip to VE3OSC, the amateur radio station at the Ontario Science Centre.

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Have Handheld, Will Travel — Second Stop: Toronto!

The view from Chinatown, Toronto.
You’ll have to imagine the siren.

One hour after finally rolling to a stop in Toronto yesterday, I felt like I had come home. Don’t get me wrong — there are all sorts of reasons I like living in the (relatively) small town of Granite Falls, MN. The congregation I pastor loves the Lord and loves one another, and the area is a beautiful part of the country. But I grew up in the big(ger) city, and I’ve come to appreciate things that for many years I took for granted (and that most of my country friends despise).

Mountain ranges of brick, concrete, steel and glass towering over concrete valleys. Endless streams of people flowing with a rush of different accents, different languages, different colors. Magical groves of old ivy-covered buildings. Flowery fields of shops, inns, and restaurants, some native grown, but even more transplanted from the four corners of the world. Toronto is all of these and more. It’s an unusually clean city, and friendly, too.

Not that it’s a perfect place. I have no doubt that there is a seamy side to Toronto like everywhere else. And let me tell you, the traffic is the worst I’ve seen anywhere. But as horrible as the traffic is, it brings out something great in this city: pedestrians, and a spectacular profusion of small shops that cater to pedestrians.

My daughter in Chinatown.

Cities like this are the last bastion of the small businessman, because the countryside is being has been taken over by big box stores. I shop at Walmart; these people shop at mom and pop stores. The industrial revolution may have begun in the big city, but it manifested itself most fully when it ravaged the countryside. The rural area I know is infinitely more industrialized than anything I’ve seen here.

Anyhow, yesterday evening after a cookout put on by the bride’s family I programmed my HT with a bunch of repeaters in the area. This morning I enjoyed my coffee outdoors, HT in hand. “NØIP portable VE3 listening,” I called. My first contact was on the VA3SF 70cm repeater with Jay, VE3EMP, a nice fellow who welcomed me to Toronto. Then I chatted at length with Wade, VE3WGK, on the 70cm VA3XPR repeater. Wade is the CANWARN coordinator here in central Ontario, and he is also a volunteer for the Ontario Science Centre where there is an operational Amateur Radio Station on display. He encouraged me to email him about visiting this station, and so I did. I’m hoping to visit the station tomorrow, but time will tell.

Here comes the bride!

Afterward we went to Chinatown, where the bride introduced us all to a delightful Chinese bakery. Even more exotic was the taro bubble tea she introduced me to a block down the street. Amazing!

Eventually the bride and her family departed, leaving my wife, daughter and I to stroll around Chinatown.

Who knew the Great White North could be so hot?!

Whew, was it hot! I bought some painted fans for the bride, for the bridesmaids and for my wife, and my wife also got a fancy hat to keep the sun off her fair red-headed skin. My daughter picked up a silk robe and a casual dress, and I bought myself a much-needed new watchband.

Strolling through Chinatown. That guy looks like he has spent too much time at the radio!

This evening, my wife and I went for another long walk. (Did I mention all the long walks I’ve been taking here in Toronto?) We had a late supper at a magnificent little Mediterranean restaurant. I haven’t had a felafel that good since I was in Israel! I was smiling so much and complimenting the fellow behind the counter so much that he gave us some baklava, refusing to let me pay him.

Ah, Toronto!

Photographs taken by my XYL. Thanks, Monica!

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Have Handheld, Will Travel — First Stop: University of Notre Dame!

My wife and I are on the way to Toronto, Ontario for a wedding. Right now I’m dashing this off before laying my head down to sleep in the apartment of a dear friend of ours in South Bend, Indiana. She’s a PhD student at Notre Dame and will be hitching a ride with us since she’s the maid of honor. My daughter, one of the bridesmaids, is already in Toronto since she went out a day ahead of us with the bride’s family. My son had to stay home since his passport didn’t show up in time — he was disappointed but getting to stay with friends made up for it.

NØIP at the Gates of the University of Notre Dame

Anyhow, I brought along my Wouxon KG-UV6D. I would have brought along my HW-8 but space was at a premium. I didn’t use my HT on the drive (I simply didn’t have time to figure out the repeaters on the way and program them on my radio), but once we got into South Bend I hit two repeaters that both came in full-quieting — one a 2m repeater in town and the other a 70cm repeater belonging to the University of Notre Dame Amateur Radio Club. I’m sorry to say that despite many calls I have yet to hear anybody on the two repeaters. Perhaps it has something to do with my timing; the academic year has just ended and things are unusually quiet around here.

My XYL outside the Basilica, University of Notre Dame

I had high hopes of setting up an impromptu visit to the Jerome Green Amateur Radio Station (click here), but I also knew my hopes weren’t realistic since it was a last-minute idea. Next time I’ll try to remember and search out such opportunities in advance.

Basilica, University of Notre Dame

We had a great time exploring the Notre Dame campus, touring the grotto, basilica, and bookstore. (Already bitten hard by the academic bug, I nearly melted when I got near the philosophy section!) Eventually we went out for a late supper at Fiddler’s Hearth, which serves up the best Reuben I’ve ever had in my life (and I’ve had a few).

Basilica, University of Notre Dame

Next stop, Toronto! I am using this website (click here) to find repeaters by clicking on a Google map, so I have the frequencies, offsets, tones, etc. all printed out and in the car with me.

If only I had that HW-8 with me . . .

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ARES® & Incorporation: ARRL’s Policy

Just Google “County ARES, Inc.” (click here) and you’ll see that there are lots of ARES® groups out there who have incorporated. It sure seems like a great idea because it allows you to file for 501(c)3 status, opening doors for donations of cash and equipment, free website hosting for non-profits, and grants that require 501(c)3 status.

But to do this correctly we must ensure compliance with ARRL policy — ARES® is ARRL’s program, not ours! We’re not free to just do whatever we feel like. Here are the two challenges we’re facing:

  1. The ARRL insists that local ARES® groups not incorporate
  2. “ARES®” is a registered trademark of the ARRL that cannot legally be used in the name of another corporation without the ARRL’s permission

According to this document (click here) on the ARRL website:

ARES® and Amateur Radio Emergency Service® are registered trademarks of the ARRL. Any use of these trademarks must have the registered trademark notation (circle R®)

ARES® is a program of the ARRL. Local ARES® groups under the direction of the ARRL field organization or its appointees (SEC, DEC, EC) cannot be organized as a club or incorporated as this will conflict with the ARES® program. [emphasis added]

I emailed the ARRL asking how we should go about incorporating an entity for 501(c)3 status to support the ARES® group here. ARRL Membership and Volunteer Programs Assistant Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, kindly replied. Here is an excerpt from his helpful response:

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service – ARES is a program of the ARRL. ARES is not an entity. The ARES brand is trademarked by the ARRL and may be used with permission from the ARRL.

The job of Emergency Coordinator is a political position in which the EC promotes the ARES program and supports training among the local Radio Amateurs in the community. This is done mostly through the local clubs.

The Emergency Coordinator’s job does not involve fund raising or corporate management. Equipment such as repeaters, generators, etc are supplied by the local Amateur Radio community and clubs. ARES supplies training and coordination. Note the job title Emergency coordinator not manager.

Forming a club or corporation is not only beyond the duties of the EC but also conflicts with the basic ARES requirement.

  • The only requirement to belong to ARES is an Amateur Radio License and a desire to serve.
  • There is no requirement to join any club or organization.
  • There are no dues to participate in ARES.

So I’m not out in left field for wanting some kind of entity to support the local ARES® group — the ARRL clearly depends on local clubs to supply equipment for ARES® work. As far as the EC not getting involved in fund raising, well, I obviously need to wear more than one hat at this stage of the game. There are only a dozen or so hams in the whole county at this point.

The nearest club is pretty far away, so it makes sense to form a new “club” to serve this purpose. The ARRL wants the club to be distinct from the local ARES® group; okay, we can do that. We’ll just clearly state the purpose of our “club” is to support the local ARES® group. You can find a good example of this wording over at the Wisconsin ARES/RACES “501(c)3 Links and Information” Page (click here).

As Mr. Fusaro pointed out, membership in this “club” must never be a prerequisite to participation in the local ARES® group.

I think the name of this “club” should clearly reflect it’s purpose. If the local hardware store has a generator to donate, surely the idea of donating it to the “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Emergency Service®” would be more appealing than donating it to the “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Club.” But my brother, an attorney, has explained to me that since “ARES®” and “Amateur Radio Emergency Service®” are registered trademarks of the ARRL, they cannot legally be used in an entity’s name without permission from the ARRL.

I’m assuming we don’t have permission to use “ARES®” in our “club” name, but I’ve asked for clarification on this. If not, we could always name it something similar, e.g. “Yellow Medicine County Amateur Radio Emergency Corps/Support/Operators Association, Inc.” or something like that.

I don’t want this post to turn into an ARRL-bashing session, but if some of you readers have some helpful insight and/or experience with ARES®-related incorporation, I’d love to hear it.

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The Joy of Elmering (with Congratulations to KK4FKM for His First QSO!)

I got some good news and some bad news Tuesday. The bad news came when Dean, NYØI, let me know he couldn’t get into my EchoLink station. A little investigation proved that my radio is deaf; the problem is either the feedline or the antenna itself. What a disappointment.

But the good news I got that day was so good that it more than made up for the bad news. I got a taker on my offer to be a CW Elmer! Michael, KK4FKM, found me listed over at the SKCC Elmer Page and sent me an email. Great timing — I easily pushed my antenna woes to the back of my mind and set up a SKED with him for yesterday afternoon on 20m.

Kent SP-1 Key

The Key I Used to Work KK4FKM: The Kent SP-1

At the appointed hour I called KK4FKM KK4FKM KK4FKM DE NØIP NØIP NØIP KN. I wasn’t sure I’d hear him since the band was unusually noisy and KK4FKM was running QRP. But sure enough, there he was!

He was buried pretty deep in the QRN; I quickly flipped on my CW filter to isolate his signal. I managed nearly solid copy on the first go-around, but I couldn’t make out his subsequent transmissions. I was booming in there, though, so he had the opportunity to copy plenty of code.

Afterward we chatted by phone. I was moved when Michael told me this was his first QSO! What an honor to be his first contact. Impressive, too, that Michael’s first QSO was by CW, especially considering that he has his General — he could have gone straight to HF SSB if he wanted to, but instead he went the extra mile and tapped out his first QSO on a straight key, QRP no less. Well done!

It turns out that Michael and I have even more in common than our appreciation for CW. He is a police officer in a department about the same size as the one in which I served, and he is a Baptist, too. After a delightful conversation, we set up another SKED before bidding one another farewell.

This is one QSL that I would send if it cost me a hundred stamps! It’s in the mailbox. Congratulations, KK4FKM!

If you ever have a chance to Elmer, go for it. And if you could use an Elmer, don’t hesitate to seek one out. You’ll be doing him a favor. Of all the things we can do in this hobby, Elmering might just be the most delightful one of all.

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My New EchoLink Station: NØIP-R

[Update 6/8/12: The problem was the coax. Thanks, Antonio, for getting it fixed! (click here for story).]

[Update 5/16/12: Yesterday my EchoLink radio went deaf. For some reason the SWR has soared — the problem is with the transmission line and/or the antenna. Happily the antenna has a lifetime warranty, so if that’s the problem it won’t cost me anything. The hard part is getting at it!]

Finally! My EchoLink station, in the works for a month and a half, is on the air and on the Internet. If you want to give it a whirl, go right ahead! It’s listed as NØIP-R, node 695717.

The idea for this EchoLink station sprang from the SKYWARN class I attended a month and a half ago. I was lamenting the fact that Granite Falls, the city where I live, didn’t have access to the hub-and-spoke repeater system used by the Chanhassen office of the National Weather Service (click on the map to learn more):

Granite Falls is about half-way between Madison and Redwood Falls on the left side of this map.

So I asked Dean Herzberg, NYØI, if there were any plans to connect his nearby repeater to the NWS station with EchoLink. Dean replied, “No plans, but I would surely authorize the connection. I can’t, but you could!”

Um, me? It hadn’t dawned on me that I could do this myself. But once Dean gave me the nudge, I was off and running (or at least hobbling enthusiastically). I thought, hey, I already have a Linux/Ubuntu server running 24/7, and I have an old Yaesu FT-1500M in a box — all I need is an interface and a radio.

Finished EchoLink station.

Finished EchoLink station. Gotta tidy up those wires!

So I bought a RigBlaster Plug-n-Play USB interface from Ham Radio Outlet and a dual-band antenna off eBay from Edison Fong, hooked it all together and gave it the ol’ smoke test.

It worked! At first I just set it up on a simplex frequency and connected to the EchoLink test server, with the antenna propped up against the wall. That way I could work out a few bugs at low power and in relative privacy.

The whole thing went on the back burner for about a month due to other priorities, but finally I punched some coax through the exterior wall into my bedroom. That’s where the server has been for a couple years, so that’s where the station went (I have a very patient wife!). I terminated the coax with an SO-239 bulkhead connector mounted on a blank wall-plate. On the exterior of the wall I applied hi-tech IPORS caulking compound (Individually Packaged Orally Reconstituted Sealant, i.e. chewing gum!).

Dean Herzberg, NY0I, mounting antenna.

Dean Herzberg, NYØI, mounting antenna.

But I just couldn’t bring myself to mount the antenna up there on the peak of my gable. Part of it is because I’m slightly handicapped, but mostly it’s because I would rather give up my ham license than go to the edge of my roof up that high. NYØI to the rescue! I’ve written about Dean before on this blog. He’s a great guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Well, Dean came over a couple days ago and put up my antenna for me, then joined my family for lunch. He’s a MN State Trooper and I’m an ex-cop from the Twin Cities, so we had plenty in common to talk about.

I’ve had to fiddle with the settings in EchoLink to get it to work right, but it seems to finally be working great. The two hardest things to get right were decoding DTMF tones properly and keeping two repeaters from chasing their tails when EchoLinked. After finally figuring out the right DTMF settings, I nearly pulled my hair out trying to test them with my HT. Finally I realized that I was de-sensing my Yaesu FT-1500M every time I transmitted with my HT! When I went a block away, it worked fine.

Now the National Weather Service office can EchoLink directly to Dean’s repeater so that they can hear SKYWARN spotters here in Granite Falls. Alternatively we can link his repeater with the repeater in Madison, to which the NWS already EchoLinks during severe weather — all you have to do is punch in the right DTMF code, and my EchoLink station will dutifully link them up.

Now I just need to get a better smartphone so I can run that EchoLink app . . .

Here are some photos of Dean mounting my antenna and of the station itself:

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Dropping in on MN Section Traffic Manager WØLAW, the Legendary Lawman

Robert Meyer, WØLAW

When I moved out here several years ago, it didn’t take long before my phone rang with a radiogram delivered by Robert Meyer, WØLAW. He lives about a half hour away in the city of Marshall, and is the Minnesota Section Traffic Manager. Robert is a well-known traffic handler, consistently ranking at or near the top of the list for traffic handled each month in this state. He retired as chief jailer of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office a couple years ago, hence his call sign.

I’d never met Robert in person before, but I’ve wanted to. Having heard through the grapevine that he had just had his new tower’s foundation poured, I decided to look him up last Saturday when I was in the neighborhood for my son’s classical guitar recital. Even though my son and I took him by surprise, he welcomed us warmly and gave us a tour. What a nice fellow!

Robert led us around to his backyard, a beautiful parcel of lush green grass with songbirds feeding tamely at several bird-feeders. A couple of wire antennas hung from his current tower, disappearing into some trees and a river valley beyond. The footing for his new tower, nestled up against the back of his house, was massive!

As we stood there discussing antennas and songbirds, I mentioned to Robert that I’ve always wanted to handle a radiogram but have never mustered the courage to do it. He could have laughed at me, but instead he kindly encouraged me to give it a try and then invited my son and I into his house so he could find “a few things” to help me.

You should see Robert’s shack! When you step inside the front door of his house, it’s in plain view — a most excellent man-cave adjoins his living room. Pretty soon my son and I were marveling at his equipment, stuff we might never see again except in catalogs! Delving into his well-organized file cabinet, in short order Robert came up with a couple of reference sheets and a booklet to help me handle traffic. He also tore off most of an ARRL radiogram pad and gave it to me, refusing to allow me to pay for it.

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I’m grateful for Robert’s hospitality and generosity, not to mention his labor as Minnesota Section Traffic Manager. He represents a side of ham radio that has long been as mysterious to me as the dark side of the moon — QRO SSB NTS traffic handling. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have looked him up, but I think I’ve grown up a little since then. I’ve really come to appreciate the variety of people I meet in this hobby and the variety of activities they do.

Once upon a time my horizon was limited; if you were on HF CW I noticed you, especially if you were QRP, but I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the ham world. I was cheating myself. I’ve loved CW, but I’m starting to like SSB and digital modes, too. I’ve loved QRP, but I’m also starting to appreciate what QRO can do (and the skill it takes to handle it). I’ve always preferred HF, but as I get to know the local hams I’m becoming surprisingly fond of VHF FM.

So I’m glad I looked up Robert, the legendary lawman — and I’m really glad he welcomed my son and I so warmly. Can you imagine getting a surprise visit from a blogger who snaps a picture of your shack for the world to see? That’s a bit much! Thanks, Robert, for being so nice to us and for being such a good sport.

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