Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two things

that I want to "talk" about tonight.

First is that tomorrow night is the Annual Zombie Shuffle.  This is a really fun Halloween themed QRP Sprint which is the brainchild of Paul Harden NA5N and his wife Jan NØQT.  The official rules can be found here. The Sprint runs from 6:00 PM local time to Midnight local time.  I will only get a few hours in towards the end of the contest because tomorrow night is the monthly meeting of the local radio club.  As I am the newly elected Secretary, so I kinda gotta be there! (Somebody has to take the minutes!) So look for W2LJ tomorrow night (late), because if you work me, I am worth extra points.  Since I was a Maya King in last year's Shuffle, and an Elvis the year before that, I am automatically an Elvis for tomorrow night.

You're probably saying to yourself, "What the heck is he talking about? Elvis" What?"  Just check out the rules that I linked to above and it will all make sense, I promise you.  Oh and by the way, my Zombie number is 858.

The second thing I wanted to touch on tonight was a Letter to the Editor that showed up in this month's (November) edition of QST.  It appears on page 24 and was written by Sean Cowdrey KJ6TTR from Camarillo, California.  I have never written to the editor of QST in my 35 years as a Ham. I was sorely tempted to because of this letter - it really annoyed me in several ways.  I would like to re-post it here; but that would probably get me in big time copyright trouble.

The gist of the letter is that Mr. Cowdrey is a fairly newly licensed Ham, earning his ticket in early 2012.  I guess he must have had some bad experiences out there on the Left Coast.  He goes on to bemoan Morse Code, those who use it, and those who think that present day Amateur Radio exams are too easy - "crotchety old timers" as he labels them. He goes on to define "crotchety old timers" as anyone who's been licensed for more than 10 years.

Well, this "crotchety old timer" genuinely feels bad for Mr. Cowdrey.  It has been my experience here in New Jersey that new Hams are made to feel as welcome as possible.  Any and all VEs that I have had the pleasure to work with have been nothing less than encouraging, welcoming and professional.  I am trying to think if there's ever been an incident that I can remember of a newbie being dressed down by a veteran Ham on a repeater or at a club meeting or any other occasion, and for the life if me, in all honesty, I can't.  I have heard rumors of such things happening; but to have personally witnessed it? Nope, never, not even once in 35 years. I don't know how new Hams are treated in California, but in New Jersey they are welcomed and made to feel like one of the group.

At the same time, I was also annoyed by Mr. Cowdrey.  In the letter, he makes several statements which really irked me.  I am going to type these in here so you will know what I am talking about.

"From a technical standpoint, other allege that new hams don't even know how to cut wire dipole antennas to the appropriate lengths. While failings such as these may afflict a few of us, it is an inaccurate generalization when applied to the new ham community as a whole."

He then goes on to say two more things:

"I have only occasionally encountered rude behavior, and that has come mostly from operators licensed more than 10 years ago."

"For those who insist on bringing back Morse code testing, coupled with exams that require knowledge approaching that possessed by an electrical engineer, I submit that if you got your wish Amateur Radio would be dead in 10 years.  I think that it is high time that these crotchety old timers lighten up."

Well, Mr. Cowdrey, I AM sorry to say that I have personally witnessed brand new Extras that couldn't figure out how to cut a dipole antenna if their lives depended on it.  In my case, rather than say something negative, I just helped to build the antenna and explained the "why" behind it.  But seriously ...... an Extra not knowing how to cut a dipole?  Something is wrong there.  And if you don't know how, then at the very least, you should be going back to your license study material to review and figure out how and why on your own.

Rude behavior, Mr. Cowdrey is NOT confined to those licensed longer than 10 years ago.  In Ham Radio, like life itself, you are going to have good and bad apples.  Stick with the good and avoid the bad, but at the same time, don't make a Federal case about it. Man up, for crying out loud and carry on.  Nobody comes with a lifetime guarantee that their feelings won't be hurt.

That last paragraph is the one that really frosts my pumpkin, though.  Not so much the Morse code issue, because that's a dead horse that I am not going to beat on, but "exams that require knowledge approaching that possessed by an electrical engineer" ...... really?  Don't you want to learn something out of this hobby?  Is the sole purpose of Amateur Radio to just get on the air and start blathering away?  Or is there more?  Personally, learning the basics of electronics for my license, and then going on from there led me to a wonderful 22 year career in electronics repair.  And the great feeling I get when I successfully troubleshoot a problem or build something with my own two hands is priceless. Studying for those tests was a very small, minuscule price to pay for the enjoyment that Amateur Radio has given me.  The sense of accomplishment that I received from going from Novice to Amateur Extra is something that I doubt I'll ever experience again. Oh, and my knowledge base comes absolutely, positively nowhere near that of an electrical engineer. I think we're being just a tad overly dramatic, there.

But what I'd really like to say to Mr. Cowdrey (if I could) is that "while failings such as what you have encountered may afflict a few of us, it is an inaccurate generalization when applied to the older ham community as a whole."  If you don't want us older Hams to lump all you Newbies together, then perhaps it would be wise if you didn't lump all of us older Hams together.

"Nuff said.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

1 comment:

VE3WDM said...

Good evening Larry, in all the years of reading your blog I have not seen you this hot under the collar......but rightfully so! As being a "crotchety old ham" my self I can say that I have been to clubs were I am brand new and sit all alone and leave having no one come to see me. So do I get upset or move on......I move on! I am not sure about the test in the states but up here in Canada you for sure do not have to be an Engineer. To be honest I was not thrilled at all about having to learn CW (not now but back in the crotchety days you had too)I said I will do it to get past the 5 wpm test and never use it again. Well has that bit me in the bum or what! You know what Mr Cowdrey it's a hobby so relax,explore and have fun. There is going to be much more in life to stress you out and give you gray hair. People will be people and such is life....we hams have the good, the great, the famous and well the ones that can peeve you off!
Mike