Well like many things in 2020, Field Day 2020 is going to be different this year.
I actually think it’s a good thing. For many groups Field Day has become way too much of Yet Another Contest (YAC) and a reset would be healthy. I remember hearing some guys fussing last year about how Field Day just wasn’t as fun as it used to be and too much work to pull off. Sorry guys, but Field Day is like Christmas. If you’re tired, stressed out, and sort of glad that it is over with then you’re doing it wrong.
While the ARRL has hinted along these lines, consider doing something different this year. Maybe do something more off-grid EMCOMM realistic than YAC (Yet Another Contest) like operation. Maybe pack your gear up and go operate off battery or generator somewhere where you have to improvise more. This could be nothing more than going out in the back yard, a park, mobile on a high point, activating your favorite camping spot, etc etc.
Maybe do more than the usual SSB/CW stuff and also test your digital/packet modes off-grid. Maybe pass some P2P traffic/messages over digital. Maybe see if your state STM will guard some HF frequencies on a schedule for incoming P2P traffic. Try getting that message and acks/replies from point A to B without ANY internet transport while operating off backup/emergency power.
I often come across EMCOMM operators that constantly pick the lazy way of doing things commenting “well if power is out and internet is down I’ll just do this or that.” Sorry but talk is cheap so go out and do it. See if you can actually do it fully off-grid during the optimal conditions of “normal” times. Those that have worked a few real world disasters will tell you that if you haven’t actually tested things under realistic conditions then you are just asking for “I didn’t think about that” gotchas and quality time with Uncle Murphy later on when you really need things to work.
Well I’ve been bachelor’ing it for over a week now. Ah man it’s freakin’ amazing what one can get done when left alone for more than an hour! LOL The XYL went back to work on a long trip that will end in Denver. From there she’s taking a rental down to her family’s place in Iowa to visit with them till I get several items wrapped up here and head west in a few weeks.
Given what is going on now all our plans are “soft” this year but we both are suffering from serious mountain-time withdrawal LOL. Given the Festival de Crazyville going on lately it looks like a really good summer to go disappear into the mountains where it’s easy to unplug from it all.
Fall will equal a lot of work helping with harvests on both family farms. So a couple months of Summer is about all the break I think we’ll probably get this year LOL.
My Field Day 2020 Plans?
Well last evening’s shop project was replacing the coax on my 6m slim jim style antenna (300 ohm twinlead design) from where I made the mistake of originally using solid center conductor RG-58 for the feeder on a roll-up antenna. After a few years of being packed around and used a lot you can figure out what happened inside that coax. Hey it was all I had handy at the time, but lesson learned. Ah those things you learn from actually using/testing your gear under real usage scenarios LOL.
If weather allows I plan on going 1-B portable QRP back at a hilltop camping site on the EM78PP/EM78PQ line. Hopefully I can get some on-air validating of the repaired antenna on 6m SSB and probably work some packet too.
Right now the weather forecast doesn’t look too promising as rain is fine, but I’m allergic to lightning LOL. Unless one is looking for a Darwin Award nomination it’s a bad idea to be on top of a hill, under a tree with an antenna hoisted up into it when lightning is around 😉
Ham Radio Time?
Well between work and playing wannabee farmer and helping with three gardens I haven’t had as much spare time for ham radio stuff as I would prefer. Still managing to get some projects done and have some fun on 6 meters SSB and packet. If you haven’t been on the 6m weak signal modes this Spring then you are missing out on a lot of fun.
Yes even some 6m packet/APRS DX has been flying around lately with the Conway, AR node and VA 6m APRS stations popping in at times. Some asked if K4AF-6 is down. Judging by APRS-IS it appears to have been down since the first of the year. I also didn’t note it on the air a few months ago when visiting family in Haymarket, VA. We had a nice strong opening to that area of VA on Father’s Day (June 21st) and it was not heard but the Calverton VA digi was ripping in at times.
I worked the CQ 160m Contest on remote from my sister’s place in SC. 160m is a band that is growing on me. No VHF contesting so far this year. I know, I know but just too many other conflicting priorities so far. Kind of hoping to maybe work part of the CQ VHF Contest from the mountains, but will probably be busy keeping some fly line wet if you know what I mean 😉
Been working on upgrading station grounds and installing some outside antenna disconnect boxes for the 4-land gear. I wanted to make it easy for my neighbor hook-up or disconnect the main lightning rod HF antennas here for me while we’re gone. Normally my cousin will handle that for me on his daily visit to check on things and feed the animals for us, but wise to have a Plan B. I have considerable lightning protection in place, but the best protection is always physically unplugging things.
Another project completed this winter was to build an identical hamshack desk for the 7-land QTH and then another frame to allow mounting the gear stacked “vertically” to allow easy tear down or moving it around. The first desk I built was originally for the 7-land QTH, but it became part of the 4-land home office/hamshack.
We’ll be looking at some land this summer and considering getting an RV to live in for awhile if we find a place we buy and want to get started building. Thus a perk of keeping the radio gear in an easily moveable frame makes it easy to move things from the shack to the RV as needed. Like any good ham I have my ideas for the ultimate hamshack/geek-cave layout when we settle down and I build the “last hamshack” I’ll probably build. For now this approach works fine and provides consistency between the shacks.
I’m also enjoying getting back in SWL’ing which was my original radio enjoyments that led me to some of my career and hobby choices. Enjoying chasing NDBs, DXing the lower bands, and chasing mediumwave DX when time allows. Spare time project has been installing a couple nice beverage antennas for VLF and mediumwave DXing.
Having some fun on 80/60/30/17/10m robust packet at times. Yes 17m is open at times. I worked the 4-land BBS via the KY Gateway on 17m several times from WY a few months back.
One of the Spring robust packet connections ended with a surprise tail-end connection from a friend /P in Haiti that got a nice DR-7400 modem for Christmas. That link up turned into a 24 minute 10m/17m crossband chat session via the Jonesville and my home home nodes…..gotta love BPQ32 + RP LOL. Was neat to hear what was really going on Brazil (his home country) weeks before it showed up in our news here stateside.
I even worked the KY Gateway on 15m (yes 21 mhz) RP from Iowa (usually a 30/40m path) on a short skip opening. Always fun to see hat you can do with “5 watts and wire” QRP.
Yeah 40 and 30m have been the workhorse bands for a couple years now, but the higher bands are so much less crowded. So even at the bottom of a solar cycle it’s a good idea to keep an ear out for short/e-skip propagation indicators.
On the 2m APRS front I helped an old packet friend over in SE Indiana work on resurrecting the Dearborn County 2m APRS Digipeater. KB9GYO-2 is online from his office in a low power configuration till he can acquire the needed gear better suited for installation back at the old original tower site. Even the temp installation has helped improve 2m APRS coverage in NKY.
The BPQ32 Jonesville node can technically provide APRS digi/gate functions on any or all ports just like it does on the 6m 1.2k port. Over the past few months we’ve done some testing of alternate-QRG APRS on the 2m 1.2k and UHF 9.6k ports and found that approach could work very well if needed. Since we have done some APRS on UHF simplex in the past we may test enabling APRS on the node’s UHF 9.6k port this Fall to have handy if needed. That said, the existing 6m APRS and groundwave into K4KPN-10 should cover most anything we really need.
It’s also been an interesting tool for seeing what the real world mobile coverage of the system is on UHF, 2m, and 6m using APRS setups. I need to take a 220 radio out sometime and see how well it plays across the area, but suspect it will beat UHF and slightly outperform 2m even with half the TX power as that’s what we observe on classic packet uses.
When time allows I’ll do a more detailed posting on what was observed while doing mid-day (to minimize inversion enhancement) during heavy foliage loss season. Basically reasonably solid mobile coverage (modest mobile setup) for 30+miles on 6m, 25 on 2m, 20 or so on 70cm. Note that is mobile packet coverage, not voice coverage. Takes a decent signal level to get 1200 baud packet to decode a moving mobile station, even more so for the UHF 9600 signals. So basically some worst case mobile-to-base range testing.
Even had a little 6m/10m packet groundwave DX fun the other morning while in Richmond. There’s a couple spots down there that we can hit our dispatch repeaters if the band is in decent shape while down at the academy. While eating breakfast at one of them, for giggles, I tried the 10m RP port and got in fine. So I swapped in the 6m whip and worked the BBS via both ports at 64 miles mobile to base. I had to make a meeting so I didn’t have time to try the other ports but 6 and 10 meters were getting it done that morning.
Is W4VPN Still on 80m RP?
Since some have asked….yes it is still there. I got into it from a pit-stop in southern Kentucky the other day as I came back from SC.
While I can tell the 80m antenna works better on the truck than the car, it’s always fun to see what a few watts of robust packet can do. S3-4 on the mobile and I was most likely at the NF (noise floor) on the other end but still linked up. #GottaLoveRobustPacket
Admittedly I was unable to get into it from SC, but I only had my 40/30m end fed wire antenna available there. Only had some mid-afternoon downtime available and that’s a poor time for that 80m path even with a better antenna. Plus he may of had it offline due to local weather or testing other things.
PS – John KX4O sysop’s that system. Please contact him if you have questions regarding it.
Protests, Riots, Crazyville?
Several interesting exchanges in the inbox lately from friends in my LE and non-LE circles. I could write a multi-volume novel on things and several aspects few consider.
My soundbite answer is summed up as “I stand with the peaceful and innocent.”
As someone with an LE background whose work sometimes has him on the grounds of three different LE academies, I would offer up a caution. Many of your large police agencies are increasingly struggling with recruiting new officers. Policing now pays a heck of a lot better than it did back in my day, yet fewer and fewer folks want to pursue that career. It’s a growing problem in law enforcement across several major metro areas.
This recruiting problem has resulted in more than a few of these agencies lowering the bar on their recruiting standards. More than a few instructor friends have commented that agencies are increasingly hiring folks that they would of never hired just 10-15 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, with a good FTO and adequate supervision most of these recruits will become good officers. Unfortunately some will be walking liability time bombs poorly suited to the challenges of modern law enforcement.
Note: We have over three quarter million police officers in this country. Most do an exceptional job of keeping our communities safe by reasonable enforcement of our laws. Are there bad apples out there? Sure there are, just like any other large group, but I think the fair minded will understand a few exceptions do not equal the rule.
As far as the riots go? Well unfortunately well intended peaceful demonstrations tend to get invaded by certain criminal elements. It’s also pretty clear there’s both money and organized support feeding a lot of the criminal element.
While keeping in mind this is a few weeks old, some good food for thought within. For the hams I know Jon is a ham and think the other two are also hams. For those looking to be offended and upset by the “Roof Korean” comment, its a term they don’t mind and you need to brush up on your history studies.
Are there some serious problems with policing today? Yes. Are some changes needed? Yes, but a lot of what I’m hearing is not going to help. Why not? To fix a problem you have to gather all the facts and then actually identify the root problems versus just repeatedly playing politics with the symptoms and exploiting people.
Unfortunately instead “take a breath, wait for all the facts” rational problem solvers we now get an ever increasing deluge of “we gotta look like we did something” political pandering, camera whores, and frankly insulting levels of virtue signaling. Too many politicians playing distraction from their own failures while acting like they had nothing to do with the collapsing conditions in their area.
Of course our shameful political media complex is a more than willing participant in a lot of this. Hate, fear, lies, and division sells. It’s now all they have to sell. Business is good and thus they see no need to change. It is now all about ratings, views, and clicks. The full truth is increasingly the first casualty of every incident. Real journalism in the national media is increasingly rare and usually only by accident. Sad, but it is what it is.
Most of what I’ve seen offered up lately is just going to make the jobs of the “good” officers out there even more difficult. This will cause more recruiting difficulties, increase the number of officers leaving large metro agencies for other careers or smaller agencies, and add to a flood of early retirements. That’s not theoretical, it’s already happening. Several of my old LE friends comment “glad I’m retired” and others can’t wait to retire or seriously considering relocating or retiring early.
One of our newer deputies out west is from a large SoCal agency and oh the stories of political insanity he can tell. He now enjoys working a low crime area full of good hard working people that for the most part we all get along just fine. Works where he feels welcome, supported by his bosses, supported by the community, gets to be more peacekeeper than revenue generator, and doesn’t even have to be careful about where he grabs lunch or a cup of coffee while on patrol. His comment of “we should of left that sh#%2hole 10 years ago” speaks volumes.
The Seattle Mess?
Thankfully all my Seattle family moved out into the distant suburbs years ago.
Seattle is a good example of a once great city (one of several) that has been “circling the drain” for years now. A city in dire need of productive policy changes versus all the political denial and distraction blame games. The ongoing neutering of law enforcement is ultimately just making things worse for everyone there.
I recognize the following is a long video, but it is a rare piece of actual journalism. Worthy of at least watching the first 30 minutes of if you want some insight into what is going so wrong in several of our major cities. Warning, you are going to see some things that not easy to watch if you care about your fellow man.
To be fair to the good people of Seattle, you could replace Seattle with the name of several other cities in our country.
That’s enough for now.