Following the K-I-S-S Method in Ham Clubs

When great blog topics are published, they deserved to be shared. I have been part of a ham club or two that tried to run themselves like a Fortune 500 company.  Below is a refreshing reminder that our hobby is about learning and fun. Hats off and thank you to our friends at The Noise Blankers for sharing this beauty.

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YOUR CLUB IS DOING IT WRONG
A Noise Blankers Editiorial By K5KVN

I’m not saying our club is the greatest on earth, but I would rent a limo and ask it to the prom.

I have done the club thing since I was first licensed in 1994. Back then, I was a member of the University of Arkansas club (W5YM). I was president for two years, too. After I graduated, I helped start a new club called Amateur Radio Klub of the Arkansas Northwest (ARKAN). I was a charter member and president.

Work and a baby took priority for the next few years and club politics became an unfortunate burden, too. So, I backed out of the club scene…until we started The Noise Blankers Radio Group last year.

Here are three points that make The Noise Blankers Radio Group work well.

Like-minded
We act, work and play similarly. That’s not earth shattering, is it? We all know that people who think the same way tend to get along.

The Noise Blankers have a similar “don’t take things too seriously” viewpoint on the hobby. We think making fun of ourselves is healthy. Our members must share the same viewpoint and be active on social media and the radio. Our mission: “DO RADIO STUFF. HAVE FUN DOING IT. TELL OTHERS HOW MUCH FUN IT IS.”

Find your strength
Our club quickly found a “niche” and began to exploit our best qualities. Put it this way: find your club’s strength and use it to its full potential. Your club may have a membership full of talented webpage programmers. If so, perhaps you set out to have the best ham radio club website on the internet. Or, maybe your club has an abundance of “tinkerers” and you help school kids build kits. For us, it was a common background in professional broadcasting, communications and public relations. We use our similar professional experience (the stuff we do well and get paid to do) to enhance our enjoyment of the hobby.

Stay loose!
Here’s a catchphrase that WBØRUR sent me a few days ago: “Loosen Up The Squelch Bro!” He mentioned it to me and other club members in our 24/7 chat room. (We currently use Facebook Messenger.) That chat room really is active 24/7. It’s where we take care of club business, send jokes, post DX spots, send pictures or share random thoughts.

That “open line” is where we have our best ideas. It’s our 24/7 club meeting. It’s where we came up with the name “Noise Blankers Radio Group.” (Have you noticed we don’t use the word “club” in our name?) One day, we were sending funny ham radio news headlines to each other. There was much LOL. And that’s how hamhijinks.com was born! Then there was the time that one of us suggested in the chat that we should get our VE credentials. That was 11 a.m.; by 3 p.m. we had all passed the VE exam.

From day one, we have worked to keep it simple with a light-hearted focus. We stay in touch with near real-time communications amongst ourselves, take quick action on things that need a decision, keep a “GET ‘ER DONE” attitude and have NO burdensome and antiquated voting/meeting procedures. In this group, there shall be no “analysis paralysis.”

That’s how we roll. It’s a situation that works for our “club.” Your mileage may vary. What works for you? What makes your club great?

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That’s What Amateur Radio is Like…

Written so many years ago, this amazing piece of work holds itself through the test of time.
73!

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ACCORDING to the official definition, amateur radio is “radio communication between amateur stations solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.” A comparable definition might describe a diamond as a “carboniferous solid.” Yet, properly mounted, a diamond is a many-faceted gem of dazzling beauty. Amateur radio, too, has many facets.

This is one facet of amateur radio: it is a hobby. “The ordinary life of the ordinary man from whence spring the great majority of hams is a dull, drab and somewhat dreary struggle,” according to one amateur. “Psychologists tell us that periodically one should drop his work for awhile and try something else, that if it be interesting enough one will usually return with renewed interest and zest.” Then this amateur, a successful professional man, continues: “Amateur radio is my hobby. In its pursuit I find the balm of Gilead.”

He might have added that amateur radio is unique among hobbies in that it is the only one established by federal statute and international treaty, the only one whose practice is limited to qualified, licensed practitioners. This is another facet of amateur radio: it is a means of self-expression.

“Being an amateur gives me the chance to meet people I would otherwise never meet,” says one. “That’s part of it. There’s more to it than that though. If I build a new amplifier or something and make it work I feel that I’m creating something. When I hook up a rig I’ve just finished and I push the key and a fellow in the next state answers me–all this with things I have made with my own hands–why, then I feel like I have accomplished something sort of worthwhile.”

Another describes his facet thus: “I have radio pals in all sorts of odd corners of the world whose signals come whispering to me through the night … out of the jungles of the Congo … from the tiger-infested districts of Malaya … from the interior of Dutch Borneo … from mountain tea estates of Java and India … from the elephant and lion country of Rhodesia, from the burning sands of Iraq…. We wander over the face of this little old world like a bug on an orange.” There are other facets, too: public service by providing emergency communication in the time of disaster, radio contact with expeditions to remote places, experimentation and research, and many other activities that combine to make amateur radio truly “all things to all men.”

Radio amateurs live in a world of their own–a magic world not open to everyone. The “Open Sesame” that lifts its portals is the possession of amateur-operator and station licenses issued by the Federal Communications Commission. The applicant for such licenses must pass a stringent examination at one of the district offices of the Commission, demonstrating his technical qualifications, his knowledge of radio theory and law and his ability to send and receive the International Morse code. He must first spend hours burning midnight oil, acquiring the rudiments of an engineering knowledge of radio theory. He must practice for seemingly endless weeks until the meaningless string of dots and dashes becomes an intelligible language. He must learn the regulations of the F.C.C. and the provisions of basic communications law, because all radio–including the amateur brand–is a closely regulated enterprise.

The neophyte does not metamorphose easily into the full-fledged amateur. But when he does leave his chrysalis a new world is opened up to him. First he gets a new name–his radio call letters. Thenceforth he has a new identity–even a new personality and new social status.

He finds amateur radio “the means of communications with others on equal terms, of finding friendship, adventure and prestige while seated at one’s own fireside,” according to Dr Raymond V. Bowers. “In picking his human contacts out of the air, the amateur is not seen by them…. He is not known by the company he keeps nor by the clothes he wears, but by the signal he emits.

He enters a new world whose qualifications for success are within his reach. A good homemade set gives him more prestige than a commercially manufactured one. There are no century-old class prejudices to impede his progress. He enters a thoroughly democratic world where he rises or falls by his own efforts. When he is W9XYZ the beginner the radio elders help him willingly and when he becomes W9XYZ the record breaker and efficient traffic handler he willingly helps the younger generation. Without a pedigree, a chauffeur or an old master decorating his living room he can become a prince–of the air. At the close of the day, filled with the monotonous routine of the machine age, he can find adventure, vicarious travel, prestige and friendship by throwing in the switch and pounding his signals into the air.”

His equipment may be of the most elementary kind, and his complete station may cost less than fifty dollars. Yet with such an outfit–with perhaps ten or twenty watts’ power–he can accomplish as much as his operating skills will permit. One amateur in New South Wales, Australia, for example, talked with each of the six continents with a ten-watt transmitter. Another amateur, in Columbus, Ohio, communicated by code with South Africa, Australia and New Zealand–halfway around the world–using only one-half watt of power.

On the other hand, he may have high-powered, completely automatic transmitters rivaling or excelling those of a large broadcasting station and costing many thousands of dollars. A Mexico City amateur is reputed to have spent fifty thousand dollars on his station; another, in San Francisco, is said to have invested over one hundred thousand dollars.

But the enjoyment of amateur radio is not measured in dollars or even in elaborate equipment. It is rather measured by such gauges as service, self-expression, a sense of personal accomplishment.

Friendship is such a gauge too. Even the shyest, most introspective soul will respond to a proffer like this: “Well, old man, let’s know each other better. I’m thirty-nine years old. I own a garage in this sleepy Arizona town of five hundred people. I also do electric welding. I have three children. What do you do?–and how old are you?”

The Chicago dentist whose CQ he had answered responded in kind, and between the Chicagoan and the Arizona garage owner there sprang up a strong friendship. Such contacts occur constantly in amateur radio; the community of the air is a friendly one. And, lest those contacts become ordinary and commonplace, coupled with them is the element of unpredictability. The next amateur “worked” may be a grocery clerk or a retired banker or a housewife or a rancher or a film star or physician.

Fraternalism … good fellowship … ingenuity … public service … the power to annihilate distance and bring oneself closer to mankind throughout the world … the ability to build and create and put the products of one’s hands to work to overcome the miles and hours … thrills and sport and adventure….

That’s what amateur radio is like.

Excerpted from the 1941 classic, CALLING CQ, written by Clinton B. DeSoto.

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New Year – New Resolution…or the same

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Welcome to 2013! What better time to consider a few ham radio resolutions? What do you want to learn… or become more proficient in this year? For me, this year is about trying again on some goals from last year on top of adding some new challenges.

Upgrade time… It had been fun being a General. The HF bands have been very generous to me for the past few years. I have learned from a few great operators that have showed me a few new modes and pushed me to learn more. The beauty of this hobby is that we never stop learning… we can make the decision to stop learning, but that would quickly turn us into the grump we all avoid on the air. Resolution #1- upgrade to Extra.

Finish what I started… last year, I challenged myself to achieve worked-all-states (WAS). I missed it by 10. But no fear, I cut that deficit by half the last two days. I already have the frame ready.  At the same time, I need to knock out DXCC add well. Only 40 countries away for that accomplishment.

Keep on writing…I enjoy writing and love sharing some thoughts on ways we can keep our hobby great. Remember, it is the little things that our fellow radio aficionados do for us that stand out. Do something small for a fellow ham and watch the goodness spread.

Even though I feel short of my 2012 goals, it was a fun attempt. Fun is what keeps this hobby great. As long as we still have fun, our hobby remains magical.

So…what are your ham radio goals?

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The Power of One

For nearly two decades, I have been an amateur radio operator.  The hobby was introduced to me by a middle school science teacher who captured my imagination with this hobby by creating the mystery of the airwaves. When we stop and think about it, it is truly magical how our voice or digital signal is not only transmitted, but received and deciphered by another radio aficionado.  After twenty years, that same magic and mystery still captures my imagination and all of this was instilled by one quirky science teacher twenty years ago…the power of one.
With the recent boom in 10 Meter DX activity, I set a goal for myself to achieve both DXCC and WAS before year’s end.  A lofty goal, but something that is certainly achievable in between the balancing act of the kids’ school activities, competitions, and daily life. Considering my time on HF has been limited because of the family factors, the recent sunspots have given all radio amateurs renewed excitement.
Being the grandson of Irish immigrants, since becoming a ham in 1992, I have always wanted to have a confirmed QSO with the Emerald Isle.  Such an opportunity was presented to me this past October.  Gerry, EI9JU, was working a decent North American pile-up for well over an hour.  With my rig running 50W into a G5RV, I was having little luck getting through the pile-up.  Hearing that Gerry was starting to wear-our from the litany of QSOs that he was having, he happily announced that he had taken his last call and was going to go QRT for the day.  In haste, I called, “Gerry, can you hang in for one more?” and gave my call-sign.  Gerry obviously had a decision to make; acknowledge the one last desperate call…or he could have just as easily shut his rig off and called it quits after a successful afternoon on the air.  How many times have we been presented with this situation not only in our radio activities, but in our lives?  How many times have we heard from a child, “just one more story, please? The power of one at hand…
With his delicate Irish brogue, Gerry came back to my call for “just one more.”  Feeling like I was making my first ever ham radio contact, my voice was filled with excitement, which I am sure that Gerry could sense.  In our short QSO, I explained to Gerry that I have been a ham for two decades and he was my first Ireland contact.  Once we were able to finish our on-the-air ‘high-five’ for this accomplishment, I told him about the areas where my Grandmother and Grandfather were from in his homeland.  What was great to find out was that he lived all not too far from my Grandmother’s home town of Sligo.  I thanked Gerry for hanging in for just “one more” as it was a very special contact for me.  Gerry expressed his thanks to me for being involved in a momentous occasion for a fellow ham.
The story does not particularly end there…a few weeks later, on the eve of my birthday, what I had perceived to be a standard birthday card arrived in the mail.  Considering it had my address on it with a unique identifier of “USA” at the bottom, I was a bit baffled.  Enclosed showed the epitome of class in amateur radio operating.  Gerry obviously was well aware of the enormity of my contact with him.  He enclosed his QSL card with the message “thanks for giving me a reason to keep the old beam up on the tower.” Obviously, Gerry had some serious thoughts of taking the 10M beam down.  With The Power of One at hand, Gerry showed me the class and dignity that I need to possess in not only my operating skills and ham radio manners, but he showed me how powerful “one more” can be…especially as my son is getting really good at convincing me he needs “one more” piece of candy before bed.  At the same time, Gerry will keep his 10M beam up on the tower to give other Emerald Isle seekers the opportunity for the unique contact.   Bail ó Dhia ort to you, Gerry…the Blessing of God on you.
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Everyday a Hamfest

In being an amateur radio operator for 20 years, an upcoming hamfest still generates a great level of excitement and anticipation for me.  The combination of seeing good friends as well as hidden treasures adds to this allure of learning something new or finding that one missing piece needed in the hamshack.  Like the holidays, some only get to one hamfest a year.  Others attend several throughout the year in various places with some making the annual trip to Dayton for the World Series of hamfests.  No doubt, whether we attend one or ten a year, we all share the same anticipation for the upcoming hamfest event.  With this level of excitement generated, we can use that same level of excitement and anticipation everyday…having our own personal hamfest everyday.

Without going into a litany of reasons as to why we radio amateurs go to a hamfest, it is certain that nobody ever dreads or complains about having to go to another hamfest.  We may hear this complaint from our better half or non-ham family members, but us radio aficianados treat every hamfest as if it is the only one we will ever go to.  The challenge presented is to live everyday as if it were a hamfest.
Picture a lifestyle where we look forward to interacting with people we chat with everyday on the air.  Most of us have coworkers that we talk and communicate with everyday…do we present ourselves everyday with that same level of excitement as we do when meeting our fellow hams at a hamfest or while on the air?  We have the ability when we are excited about the early hamfest morning…the trick is to believe that you are living your own hamfest everyday.

Even though we may not get on the radio or have to opportunity to search endless rows of flea market item, but if we change our perspective and believe that we can find, do, or learn something new everyday, we can truly live everyday a hamfest.

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