Monthly Archives: May 2012

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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Filed under Nets

Please Consider Donating to Get YMC ARES® Started

[Update 6/30/12: GOAL ATTAINED! Thank you so much to all who have contributed to the Yellow Medicine County, MN Amateur Radio Emergency Services® Group. Thanks to your generous contributions we now have the $500 needed to get incorporated and apply for 501(c)3 status. This status will make future donations tax-deductible and will make us eligible for grants that are otherwise unattainable. Thank you again!]

Would you please help launch the Yellow Medicine County, MN Amateur Radio Emergency Services® Group? Even just a few bucks from each of my readers over at (where this blog is syndicated) would be a tremendous help. I just accepted the position of Emergency Coordinator here, and I’m really starting from scratch. There are only a few active hams in our county right now (I’ll be trying to recruit more, believe me), and we’re strapped for cash. Even with sacrificial spending on our part we’re going to have trouble scraping together the approximately $500 needed to get incorporated and apply for 501(c)3 status. This status will:

  • make future donations tax-deductible (helpful when trying to raise money)
  • allow ARES® volunteers to deduct mileage and other expenses (helpful when trying to recruit and retain new members)
  • make us eligible for grants that are otherwise unattainable

If you would like to donate, just click the button below. I’m using my wife’s PayPal account for now (once we’re incorporated, YMC ARES® will have its own account), but your donation will be tracked and every penny will go toward the YMC ARES® Group. If we reach $500, I’ll post an update right away and take down the appeal for donations in the sidebar of my blog.

Donate to YMC ARES®!

Thank you so much for considering this!

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Filed under ARES®

Olivia — the Magic Mode

I have to give credit to Gary L. Robinson, WB8ROL, for the title of this post. I met him on the air tonight using Olivia 500/16, and pretty soon I was reading his article about this mode . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Olivia 500/16. Image obtained from

My introduction to Olivia took place yesterday afternoon at a meeting in a little coffee-shop in Marshall between the MN ARES® ASEC, Section 5 DEC, Lyon Co. EC, and myself (at which I accepted the position of Yellow Medicine Co. EC, but that’s another story). They explained that FLDIGI is the software they are training people on, that every Thursday evening at 8:00 P.M. there is a MN ARES® digital net on 80 meters, and that they are using Olivia 500/16 for this net.

Well, my power of recall being what it is, I’d forgotten all about it till I heard the clock chime 8:00 while I was doing the dishes (after dining on my wife’s fabulous slow-cooked chicken). “Honey,” I asked, “would you mind if I left the rest of the dishes to you? I’d like to go check out a net on the radio.” I sure am blessed with a sweet wife — she took over without batting an eye while I dashed downstairs and started hooking up my laptop to the interface while firing up FLDIGI.

Sure enough, there was the net. I “listened” (How do you say it? Read?) for nearly an hour, and finally checked in right as the net was closing.

Well, tonight before going to bed I decided to try it again. This time I went up to 20 meters where I had a nice ragchew with Gary, WB8ROL (my first “real” QSO). We hit it off right away — his career path took him from law enforcement to programming just like mine did, we both have bad backs, and we both like cats and penny-whistles — but what really got my attention was his website: This fellow is a veritable evangelist for this mode! If you haven’t read his QST article about Olivia, click here and enjoy “Ghost QSOs — Olivia Returns from the Noise.”

I can attest to what Gary writes about in that article. As the band began to fade, his signal dropped until I couldn’t hear it at all. All I could hear was static; I assumed I’d lost him. Not only couldn’t I hear him, I couldn’t see anything on the waterfall display. But incredibly, letter after letter appeared on the screen as Gary typed his last message!

Olivia really is “the Magic Mode!”

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Filed under ARES®, Digital Modes

Finished With First Half of the Electronics Learning Lab (with Guest Blogger Antonio)

My son, Antonio, has reached the midpoint of his work with the Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab I wrote about last November. Just a few days ago he finished the first of the two workbooks (click here to view PDF). I really liked the second-to-last of the labs — a “fully adjustable siren.” Here’s the schematic, followed by my son’s take on this part of his homeschooling curriculum:

The End of Book One of the Learning Lab

The last lab of book 1: a frequency meter using 555 & 4046 chips.

I have reached the end of book one. It has taken me six months to complete the book. The things that I have learned are both great and valuable. To be able to understand parts (such as resistors, capacitors, and different types of ICs) has been a great help.

It has been a real joy to have my dad help me with my projects. We both learn something new each time we do a lab. With this lab you learn how to put together circuits. You also learn to think about what the circuit is doing. Once you really start to understand the basics you are able to figure out parts of the projects without looking at the step-by-step instructions.

Grade: A!

This lab kit has so many neat and interesting projects. You get to build things like light-dark meters, adjustable sirens and so much more. By using this lab I am able to build a code oscillator and many other useful things. Anybody who wants to know more about electronics or who has never learned about them should consider getting one of these lab kits from Radio Shack. Once again let me just say that I have really enjoyed working with this lab.

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Filed under Elmering

Neat Find in the QST Archives

When I was a boy my father paid for my membership in the ARRL, but when I got out on my own I let my membership lapse because of the cost. When I finally joined again last year, I mainly did it so I could use the outgoing QSL bureau. Since then, however, I have come to appreciate other benefits of membership. One of those benefits is full access to the QST Archives. They are a treasure-trove!

The other day while doing a little research for some blog posts that are in the hopper, on a whim I searched for “Granite Falls,” the small town where I live. Sure enough, I got a hit — from September, 1969. It’s just one photo and a caption, but it’s an eye-opener. It shows that once upon a time Amateur Radio was used in an emergency here. For sure I’ll be showing this to the Emergency Manager in our county:

September, 1969 issue of QST, p. 66. Copyright © 2012 American Radio Relay League, Inc. - All rights reserved.

Using I looked up the fellow on the right, WAØJRA, and sent him an email inquiring about Amateur Radio here in Granite Falls back in those days. I’m looking forward to his reply.

Have you searched the QST Archives for references to your own city? Try it!

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Filed under ARES®, Clubs