Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Age Surveys

Recently, CQ Magazine contest column editor and all around Big Gun, K1AR reported on an age survey of contesters. Although this was an admittedly unscientific survey, the results were pretty much what we all know - contesters are getting older. The average age for American contesters was 55; the average for European contesters was 45 years of age.

This has resulted in another round of collective hand wringing about how to get more youth into amateur radio in general and contesting specifically. Worthy goals, but we'll leave it to mo' smarter folks than us to figure out how.

From our vantage point here at Lost Island, we've taken a different perspective on the aging of our fellow amateurs. (Who woulda thunk?)

Age is a numerical counting of the time we've spent on this spinning rock making laps around Ol' Sol waiting for sunspots to open up 10 and 15 meters again. They say a man is only as old as the woman he feels, but we try to keep this a family friendly blog so we won't pursue that line of thinking.

Nevertheless, our point is that numerical age is but one way of counting. Perhaps a more important measure of a man, and a woman, is a measure of their maturity and growth as a human being.

With this in mind, we decided to conduct our own highly unscientific survey of our fellow amateurs by turning on the radio and seeing the current state of ham radio, judged through its own medium.

After spending an evening listening to the pileups for FT5GA, we tuned down to the upper ends of 40m and 75m SSB.

The good news is that the reported aging of amateur radio appears to be premature.

Our best guess is that the average age of the operators we heard on the air is about four.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview with a Privately Disqualified Contester

The intrepid reporter over at radio-sport.net has provided excellent coverage of the disqualifications and controversy around the CQWW results for 2008. One of the more troublesome aspects of the CQWW scoring is the rumored "private disqualifications" of certain operators. Certain operator scores posted on 3830 or in the CQWW log database mysteriously disappear from the final results. While some instances might be attributable to human error, others may not be, as some high profile entries have been known to disappear. Officials with the CQWW Contest Committee have to date refused comment.

The Fi-Ni Report has exclusively managed to locate a contester who claims to have actually been privately disqualified from the CQWW contest and is willing to go on the record with his story, as long as his identity is protected. We will refer to him only as Deep Key. We have no way of confirming the details of Deep Key's story, but leave it up the reader to decide if he is believable.

Deep Key is an experienced contester who has entered the major contests for many years. He is not a Big Gun and does not consistently appear in the Top Ten Boxes. Two years ago Deep Key had an exceptionally good year in the CQWW CW contest and submitted his score with hopes of perhaps earning a certificate.

"I thought I ran a clean contest, really I did," claims Deep Key. He submitted his score as usual and forgot about it knowing the results would be out in the usual eleven and one-half months time frame.

"One night in June, I went outside in the dark to switch the matching section on my vertical over from 160m to 80m. It was dark out, no moon. Suddenly I was jumped from behind. Someone threw a bag over my head and I was hustled into a van. No one said anything. I was held down on the floor and my hands tied behind my back. We drove for what seemed like hours, but I really couldn't tell you how long it was."

Scared for his life, Deep Key expected the worst. Finally, the van stopped and he was hustled into a building, the bag still over his head.

"When they pulled the bag off, I was seated in a darkened room with a single overhead light above me shining in my face. In front of me was a table with three people seated at it. All of them had on black robes with hoods and they all wore black masks and had black gloves on their hands. It was just like some star chamber movie set or something."

"No one would talk to me. The people at the table each had a paddle in front of them and they would send me questions in CW. They kept asking if I had used packet during the contest. I told them no, but they kept asking. They said they had proof I was cheating with packet. I kept denying it. It was nerve wracking. One of the guy's fist was so bad, I could barely understand him. He had this weird spacing thing going on. I had to keep asking for repeats. Another claimed that was proof I was a cheater since I couldn't copy CW very well. They keep pounding away at me, all sending on top of one another, over and over again accusing me of cheating with packet."

"Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I broke. I told them, yes, I looked at the packet cluster. I would have done anything to get them to stop. But I didn't cheat. I just wanted it to stop."

"After I confessed, they told me that I would be privately disqualified. My score would just disappear. They said if I ever told anyone about it something much worse would happen to me. Someone mentioned pins in the coax."

"The next thing I knew, someone threw the bag back over my head and I was hustled back out to the van. Again, no one said a word to me as we drove. The next thing I know, the van screeches to a halt and someone pushes me out the door. I hit the ground hard as the van sped away. I picked myself up and took off the hood. I was standing in front of my own house and the sun was just coming up."

"I've never told anyone about what happened that night, until now. I still operate the CQWW contests, but I haven't sent in a log since then. I can't even think about looking at the packet cluster, not even during the week when not contesting. It's really hurt my DXing. Honestly, I didn't cheat. OK, maybe during one of my breaks I glanced at the cluster briefly, but that was just to check the propagation conditions, honest!"

Deep Key has the look of a broken man. His eyes wander constantly, looking at nothing and everything at the same time. Whether this is the result of his experience is difficult to ascertain. Is his story true? Is there a CQWW star chamber working behind the scenes to keep the contest clean? We can't say for sure. Perhaps the mere possibility is enough to give those who would push the limits a little too far pause. But come this fall when the DX begins to fly through the air, at least one operator is sure to be keeping his nose clean, very clean.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Xtreme Contester in Training

Investigative journalists for the Fi-Ni Report (stop laughing!) have obtained video of Xtreme contester Macho Cuesew in his secret lair training for the CQWW contests. It is rumored that Macho's lair may be near the North Korean border, thus this video was obtained at great risk. Bill Clinton was standing by, just in case. Informants tell the Fi-Ni Report that Macho spends hours a day working out as shown in the video, getting in tip-top shape for the upcoming contesting season. These secret training techniques used by Big Guns all over have never been captured on video before.

video


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Cure for the Sunspot Blues

Are your sunspots faded and weak? Is your flux flagging? Then you need Dr. DX's Old Dotty Disk Sunspot Salve!

Applied topically, Dr. DX's Sunspot Salve will help revitalize your slow and weak cycle and give you strong, frequent sunspots . Dr. DX's Sunspot Salve stimulates the development of new sunspots and encourages new cycles by increasing magnetic activity and inhibiting convection. With Dr. DX's Old Dotty Disk Sunspot Salve you can again experience the frequent, vigorous sunspot activity of your youth.


Occasional declines in sunspot activity are normal and natural. However prolonged periods of sunspot inactivity may be caused by stress or more serious factors. While Dr. DX's Sunspot Salve cannot correct fundamental causes of sunspot dysfunction, it can stimulate the creation of new sunspots and shorten periods of inactivity.


Warning. If you experience sunspots lasting for more than 28 days, consult … someone. May cause coronal mass ejections and increased solar flares.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sporadic Pee - A New Propagation Mode

It appears there's a new way of bouncing radio signals around to work DX. Thanks to the eagle eye of W4KAZ who spotted this prime opportunity for turning pee into propagation. Now we'll have to start tracking the space shuttle's dump schedule to look for DX. Who'll be the first to work VUCC-P? DXCC-P?







Where, oh where, are the sunspots?

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Cheating Accusations Surface in Radio Sporting

The summer of 2009 has been a difficult one for the amateur radio radio-sporting (i.e. contesting) community. After years of rumor and innuendo, the CQWW contest committee has publicly lowered the boom, disqualifying a number of top stations and operators. First the CQWW SSB contest saw several top multi-two stations disqualified for apparently being unable to count to ten. Then just a month later, with the results of the CQWW CW contest announced, comes word that the top claimed single op score was disqualified along with several others. While CQ Magazine has remained extremely terse in their announcements of the disqualifications, the website radio-sport.net has provided excellent coverage and commentary.

On the heels of the CQWW controversies comes accusations of contest cheating by another world class top operator, i.e a Big Gun.

The Poisson d'Avril contest was started in 1992 and is held every year on April 1. Every year since its inception the contest has been won by K1DG. While K1DG is an acknowledged world class operator, having won the World Radiosport Team Championship, albeit with family help, the string of 18 consecutive top finishes in any contest is simply beyond credibility. In no other contest has a single operator been able to finish in first place more than a handful of times. Yet, K1DG has won every running of the Poisson d'Avril contest since its inception.

A careful examination of the rules for the Poisson d'Avril contest, which is difficult given that they are published in such obscure languages as Esperanto, l33t, redneck, and pig latin, shows that the contest is not only sponsored by K1DG, but that he also is responsible for all log checking. How such blatant bias has been allowed to continue for so long is certainly a question that senate investigators should ask when this scandal finally receives the attention it deserves.

In what may have been the height of arrogance, back in 2006, K1DG preemptively declared himself the winner of the contest from 2006-2009.

But there is a glimmer of hope that respectability may be restored to this contest. The rules for 2010, which were announced back in 2006, provides new categories and much needed reform. However, like most government reform, a careful reading of the rules exposes loopholes large enough to drive a truck carrying a Big Bertha through.

Will the 2010 Poisson d'Avril contest finally have a winner other than K1DG? We will have to wait and see if legitimate competition will finally be allowed to occur. But we have all suspicions that if K1DG's call doesn't top the winner list, it might well be K1AR, in which case charges of nepotism will likely follow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax


The cry from across the land has been heard! Those desiring their own sticker, mousepad, coaster, or magnet of Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax can now get them here. The talented artist responsible for the good Dr.'s logo, Jeff, K1NSS, is making them available for a limited time (lim t -> infinity). Also check out Jeff's Dashtoons site.

We now return you to your normal radio silence while we wait for sunspots to appear.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Op-Ed: Government Funded Heath Care

Have you seen the TV news lately? With the bands in such bad shape and the late summer thunderstorm season in full swing, I've spent more time than usual with the Idiot Box on to give me something to listen to other than bandnoise. I swear, some of that stuff on TV almost makes the shenanigans on 75m phone sound like intelligent conversation.

I keep hearing the Idiot Box talking about National Heath Care and the government taking it over. Now, I'm not a big boat anchor fan , but Heathkits were still a staple of many shacks when I were a snot nosed Novice. I admit there was a day when I would have welcomed an SB-line in my shack. I still stop and have a gander when I pass an SB-220 at a hamfest. They are still fine amps after all these years. I even owned a Benton Harbor lunchbox at one point in my ham career, but never did work anybody on it.

Why the government would want to worry about maintenance and repair of Griefkits is beyond me. They were decent rigs in their day, and anyone who enjoys nostalgia has every right to preserve and enjoy their green boxes all they want. But why should the government spend our tax dollars to help keep these boat anchors running?

What makes Heathkits more deserving than Hallicrafters or Collins or National rigs? They were all American manufacturers of fine radio equipment, in their day. Shouldn't they, and their fans, deserve the same support?

No sir, the LIDS do not support government funded Heath care. If you want to keep your Heathkits running, that's all well and good, but do it on your own dime!

73, Cousin QRM


Monday, September 7, 2009

New Tools (Toys) for the Contest Season

The LIDS just got back from a road trip to the Stinkbait Hollar Hamfest and Contest Symposium last weekend. All of the new products for Big Guns are introduced there. Dayton is too far a trip and too many Shack-on-a-Belt wannabe Squirt Pistols for those catering to Real Big Guns. No, the Stinkbait Hollar Hamfest is the place to go to get the real lowdown. If you've never been, put it on your calendar for next year. To get there, just head south on the big interstate until you hear banjos. Then you're getting close. Look for the signs. Or stop and ask directions. If you dare.

Below is a short list of must have items for the new contest and DX season. Without them, you'll be hard pressed to maintain your Big Gun status as the pileups will be fierce. With no sunspots, we all may be CQing on 160m during the day trying to scare up Qs. Don't say we didn't warn you. Ours are already on order.


Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax

Do the bands sound noisier to you lately? Does your signal seem weaker than it used to be? It's probably not all due to the
lack of sunspots. As antennas age and weather, corrosion on the wire and tubing surfaces and result in decreased efficiency and increased noise.

Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax can ameliorate those problems. Infused with state-of-the-art nanoparticles of room temperature superconductors, Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax will coat and protect your antennas, cutting though the existing surface corrosion and providing a new layer of high conductivity coating while also sealing it from future corrosion.

Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax can add dB's to your
dipole, varoom to your vertical and yowweee to your Yagi. To apply, use a rag and coat the entire antenna with a generous coat of antenna wax. While buffing is not required, it does add a shine and luster to your antenna making it sparkle like new.

McElroy Key Grease

CW operators, does your key make too many mistakes? Does your straight key stutter? Do you find yourself ditting when you meant to be dahhing?

It's not your fault!

Even the finest of paddles get rusty over time. Bearings and pivot points collect dust and dirt. Contacts oxidize, The result is erratic operation, resulting in Sloppy Fist Syndrome (SFS), characterized by missed dits and extra dahs.

McElroy's Key Grease can fix these problems and more. McElroy's builds upon the latest in tribological science and superconductivity research to create a key grease that combines a synthetic lubricant for the bearings and pivots with superconductive nanoparticles to lower the resistance of all electrical contacts. McElroy's Key Grease is the secret of success of top cw ops the world over. Periodic application to all mechanical and electrical connections of your key will ensure it stays in competition condition.

No animals are harmed in the production or testing of McElroy's Key Grease although several were very annoyed. Not responsible for excessive QRQ operation or carpel tunnel injuries resulting from the application of McElroy's Key Grease


M2Timer

Do you run Multi-2 in CQWW? Do you fear the dreaded DQ for accidental 'rubber clocking'? The new M2Timer will eliminate those worries. The M2Timer is an advanced hardware/software product that monitors for adherence to the CQWW Multi-2 10-minute rule and GUARANTEES* that you won't ever rubber clock, even accidentally.

The heart of the M2Timer is a GPS disciplined Cesium clock to insure timing accuracy to within 0.1 ns. The clock interfaces with your logging computers and all major contest logging programs (CT, N1MM, Writelog). The M2Timer software monitors the logging of both the run station and the multiplier station to insure compliance with the 10-minute rule. The basic version of the M2Timer locks out the PTT of the multiplier station if it tries to violate the 10-minute rule. The advanced version of the M2Timer attaches the amplifier HV supply to the multiplier station operator chair seat. If the multiplier operator attempts to violate the 10-minute rule, the amp HV is switched to the chair seat. No operator will attempt to violate the 10-minute more than once. Ever.

Having one of these insures you'll pass that CQWW committee inspection!

*Guarantee requires use of the advanced version of M2Timer.


EST-Detector

If you are a serious contest Big Gun, you know that you now have to worry about that dreaded station inspection from the CQWW contest committee. The EST-Detector (K3 model) is a new device that detects the presence of CQWW officials, providing needed warning before the dreaded knock on the door. Based on proprietary technology developed by water dowsers and psychics , the EST-Detector can detect a CQWW committee representative from a distance of 500m or more. It provides a visual alarm in the form of a flashing red light and an audible warning in the form of a 110 dB buzzer. With sufficient warning, you can have a hot cup of coffee waiting for the CQWW cop when he appears at your door.