Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Legal Front of Radio Contesting

The law firm of Howe, Dewey, Cheatham, and Wynn has announced the addition of Reginald Milquetoast, Esq. to the firm. Reginald will be specializing in rules interpretation of Skimmer and Skimmer-like technology to Single Operator contest categories. This currently hotly debated topic among the contestcenti is ripe for litigation, says Milquetoast.

When asked what contribution he could make to the topic, Milquetoast responded, “In a word - Latin. Throughout the countless thousands of words already written on the subject of Skimmer technology usage in Single Operator contest categories, not once has there been one word of Latin legalese used to defend or justify an opinion or position. Only Latin, preferably from a bonafied lawyer, can bring the appropriate gravitas needed to confuse and stupefy one’s opponents and establish the superiority of one’s position.”

In related news, the firm of Howard, Fine, and Howard, Esq. has announced they will be specializing in contest rules revision with emphasis on new technology integration. While unconfirmed, it is rumored that Howard, Fine, and Howard were involved in the recent National Contest Journal (NCJ) sponsored North American QSO Party (NAQP) CW contest rule revision allowing Single Operators to utilize Skimmer in the contest for the first time in 2011. When asked about the controversy that resulted from the rule revision announcement, Jerome “Curly” Howard, the junior partner responded, “I’m a victim of soicumstance! “

Monday, December 6, 2010

Perils of Modern DX-peditioning

In the golden days of yore (defined as roughly 1946 to 1970), the Golden Gods of DXing risked life and limb to venture to the obscure corners of the inhabited and uninhabited world to activate that rare DX locale. In those days, the journey might have entailed dangerous boat trips, overland treks, or risky flights on planes that saw service in the first World War. None of these could be arranged on Travelocity.

While there still exists DX entities that require similar efforts to reach, the majority of the DX world can be reached by commercial means with regular service. (Although in some parts of the world the accepted definition of ‘regular service’ may be disputed) Hence, only a credit card with sufficient limit is required to become DX.

Cousin QRM recently scrapped together enough quarters from between the couch cushions to fly off to a locale outside the jurisdiction of the FCC, hence it qualified as a DXpedtion even if its position is in the 300’s on the Most Wanted List.

Air travel is a major component of most any modern trip. This means having to walk the gauntlet of the TSA (Traveler Sexual Assault). The TSA’s most recent tool for keeping the free world safe is a new imaging scanner. Critics claim the scanner is a little too revealing. But Cousin QRM had no such worries. When it came his turn to enter the scanner, Cousin QRM did so in the knowledge that the scanner operator had the shorter end of the bargain. However, Cousin began to have second thoughts on the matter when, upon exiting the scanner, the TSA officer quietly suggested that he see a doctor about ‘those polyps’ when he returned from his trip.

After a glorious long weekend of being DX and enjoying being on the other side of the pileup for a change, it was time to return back to Lost Island and home. After the previous encounter with the new-fangled scanner, Cousin decided it would be more prudent to opt for the conventional pat-down search.

After requesting the pat-down search, Cousing QRM was directed to a small, discrete booth out of public view. A short time later a uniformed man entered and asked Cousin to turn and face the wall with his hands in the air. Cousin complied and was subjected to a rather thorough pat-down. While Cousin was a bit uncomfortable with the search, he didn’t think it too unusual until the uniformed man slipped a dollar bill into his belt and left quickly. As Cousin was gathering his belongings and preparing to leave, a uniformed and badged officer entered and announced he was there to conduct Cousin’s pat-down search.

While the pleasures of being on the right side a pileup are immense, Cousin QRM has decided that he shall remain at home and be plain non-DX for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big Gun Secrets #42

(Part of an irregular series revealing secrets of Big Gun Contesting and DXing)

The goal of every Big Gun Contester is find a run frequency in order to allow the radio minions the opportunity to go in their log. Every contest.

With the inevitable crowding due to an excess supply of Big Guns and a shortage of run frequencies, the finding (and holding) of a run frequency is one of those skills that separates the wheat from the (little gun) chaff. Determining if a frequency is clear (enough) to run on is one of those tricks of the trade.

Outside the pressure cooker of a contest, the appropriate procedure to determine if a frequency is available is to send QRL? (on cw) or ask “Is the frequency in use?” I'm sure this is codified somewhere among the AR-Double-L's operating manual or on it's website, if you could find it. Although, opinions are divided, a significant number of Big Guns consider this the namby-pamby approach to establishing if the frequency is clear, at least during a contest. Their preferred technique is to simply call CQ Contest, on the assumption that if the frequency IS previously occupied, someone will speak up to defend it. Unfortunately, some of these Big Guns suffer from selective hearing.

The QRL vs. CQ devide appears to have a regional bias. In a recent unscientific survey, there was a distinct preference for the CQ approach by Big Guns north of the Mason-Dixon line while the QRL technique was preferred by those south of it. This bias toward politeness may explain the lesser prevalence of Big Gun contesters in the Southern regions of the USA.

The latest, cutting edge operating technique to establish if a frequency is available for running is to blend the two previous techniques. The new approach is to call “CQRL” to simultaneously inquire if the frequency is in use and to call CQ. This technique combines the politeness and consideration of the QRL query with the more aggressive CQ to attempt to establish a run frequency. In the case where the frequency is already in use, the Big Gun can legitimately claim they QRL'd to ask of the frequency was in use. Otherwise, they have started their run by calling CQ.

So remember, next time you're looking for a clear run frequency, drop in a short CQRL. If no one chews you out, start running!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's That Time of Year

Sure enough, right on schedule, the topic of Checks in Sweepstakes has reared its head on the always fascinating CQ-Contest email reflector. In a much-ado-'bout-nuting, the argument over the letter of the rules versus the attitude of the ARRL Contest Branch regarding SS Checks will rage for another couple of weeks. It should end right before CQWW CW begins.

As we head into the biggest CW contests of the year (CW SS, CQWW CW, ARRL 160m, Stew Perry), it will soon be time for discussing all those terrible key clicks polluting the bands. Start sharpening your claws, or just pull last years complaints from the archive and post them again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Top Ten Reasons My Rig Is Better Than A Woman


10. My rig doesn't care if I admire another rig

9. My rig only takes seconds to warm up
8. My rig doesn't complain if I keep turning its knobs
7. My rig doesn't complain if I stop turning its knobs
6. My rig doesn't complain I'm not turning its knobs the right way
5. My rig doesn't care if I bring home another rig
4. I can operate two rigs at once, and nobody cares
3. When I get tired of my rig or it gets old, I can take it to a hamfest and trade it for another rig
2. My rig has filters so I only have to listen to the stuff I want to hear
and the #1 reason my rig is better than a woman....
My rig has a volume control and an off switch


Monday, October 11, 2010

Papa Juliet Bingo

Hey! Boys and gals! Are you having fun with the latest DX game to hit the airways? It's called Papa Juliet Bingo.

Lacking any real sunspots, DXing was getting rather tame. But thanks to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and our buddies in the Netherland Antilles, they've managed to manufacture not one, not two, but FIVE new countries right out to box on the magical date of 10-10-10. As of 0000Z on October 10, 2010 NO ONE had credit for these five spanking new entities. So the rush is on to bag all five new ones.

If you're playing at home with the rest of the worldwide DX community, fire up the beam and turn the kilowatt to the Caribbean and look for those PJ stations. To keep track, use the chart at the top of the page. When you fill in a row, shout out BINGO!

What does the winner get? Well, at least two months worth of waiting before the DXCC desk will even accept confirmations for these five new entities, which means, everybody drops down -5 on the DXCC count until next year's DXCC Yearbook is published. But in the meantime, turn on the rigs, turn off your brains and join the madness before these five entities become as common as, well, the old entities they are replacing.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bark Like a Pirate?

The recent Talk Like Pirate Radio-Sport Contest went over like a fresh barrel of rum on a long voyage among the radio scoundrels sailing the Ether Seas, though we're a mite surprised at the lack of skulduggery among the participants. I guess promises of buried treasure for the winner doesn't bring out the cutthroats like it used to.

Cousin's own Demon DX Dog caught wind of the happenings and demanded to be allowed to participate. While we tried to explain to D3 that allowing he could barely understand human language (i.e. food, sit, go, and occasionally no), there was no way he could speak pirate. But he threatened us with charges of specie-ism if we didn't let him play. In order to avoid any entanglements with the ACLU, PETA, or the Justice Department, we relented and allowed D3 to play. So the op you heard that sounded like he had a really bad cold, may not have been a congested contester, but the infamous D3 himself.

(P.S. Don't upset D3 by asking if he's related to Minni Pearl)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Alien QSL Bureau Announced

Headlines raved this week, perhaps erroneously, that the United Nations was preparing to name an official ambassador to represent earth in preparation of alien contact. While some have guffawed at the idea of an ambassador to aliens, the idea is not without merit. If an alien ship parked itself in orbit around earth and sent out a "Take me to your leader" message, who would we point them toward? While I'm sure there is no shortage of political potentates who would self-nominate themselves for the position, the scramble for supremacy would look like, well, a typical UN meeting . Appointing a nominal talking head to be the face of earth would hide what a bunch of squabbling children we really are for probably at least an hour to two.

Nevertheless, we applaud the UN for being so far thinking, even if they weren't. The collected members of the Lost Island DX Society have never been accused of being deep thinkers, but we know how to ride the coattails of a good idea when we see one. So the LIDS are announcing the establishment of the first Extraterrestrial QSL Bureau to assist The Deserving in getting confirmations for (future) extraterrestrial QSOs. With the price of domestic and international postage going up every year it seems, one can only imagine the postal service's rates for Alpha Centauri. An SASE might bankrupt an individual.

The LIDS Extraterrestrial QSL Bureau will assist in bundling terrestrial QSLs and transporting them to their destination via rocket ship or whatever means is most cost effective. It will likewise receive, sort and distribute incoming QSLs from extraterrestrial locales, making it cost effective for our extraterrestrial ham radio friends to confirm all those W4 cards.

Don't send any envelopes to the LIDS Extraterrestrial QSL Bureau just yet. Details of the bureau operation will be forthcoming after initial Contact.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pirate Contest

September 19 is the annual Talk Like A Pirate Day. It is a celebration of all things Pirate and Pirate-like by spending the day talking in your best Pirate vernacular. To help fly the skulls and bones (figuratively), the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS), who's logo should be the skull and bones, is sponsoring the first Talk Like A Pirate Radio-Sport Contest, running from 0000Z to 2359Z, September 19.

Pirates be found on all HF bands, and no, we're not talking about that P5 that showed up on 20m. Use phone only, pirate slang is a tough row on cw. Call "Sea-Q ye Scallywags!" or "Ahoy Pirates!" Exchange is Aahhrr-ST and your Pirate name, e.g. Buccaneer Bob, Peg-leg Pete, etc. Romeo, while a right clever pirate name, is not allowed in this contest. If you work any land lubbers, try to clue them in, but if not, just wish the bilge rats "Ahoy" before making the squiffy walk the plank.

Score is the total number of unique pirates worked, work 'em once per band, times the total number of Pirates and landlubbers ye work. Count any beauties ye work double. Triple if they "Aahrrr" you back with a lassie pirate name.

Any Son of a Biscuit Eater found paddin' his log, looking at the cluster, or other sich clever biz'nes will be properly keel hauled and left to Davy Jones' Locker.

Submit all scores and lies in the comments below. Send any pieces of eight to the LIDS, it might help your score. Judging will be by a council of Pirate LIDS and will be as fair an' honest as the Poisson d'Avril contest. Deadline for entry - when we say it is.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Meeting of the Big Guns

Word has reached the Fi-Ni Report of an unprecedented meeting of the minds among the contestcenti. Several months ago the heads of the Five Families of American contest clubs met in a top-secret location identified only by the code name Aytonday to discuss a dire threat to amateur radio-sport, aka contesting. The Dons and Capos of the five largest contest clubs gathered in secret to address the sluggish Cycle 24 and potential remedies. In attendance were the heads of the Yankee Candle Contest Club (YCCC), the Primarily Virginia Radio Contesters (PVRC), the Funky Radio Contesters (FRC), the Sorta-inda Middle Contesters (SMC), and the No Chance Contest Club (NCCC).

News of the secret meeting was smuggled out via carrier pigeon and NTS traffic nets. The cabal discussed ways to address the sputtering performance of the current Cycle 24 solar cycle in an effort to increase contest activity and scores.

Suggestions ranged from asking for a federal bailout for Big Gun stations to a proposal to inquire of the Louisiana family, uh, contest club if they had connections with the New Orleans voodoo community who might be able to do something to address the problem. It was suggested that the residents of 14.230 would be suitable for human sacrifice if needed. A suggestion to move all the contest stations to the Caribbean was deemed impractical, at least at this point.

The most promising proposal presented was to attempt to resurrect the Palos Verde Sundancers to see if they can breath some life in a asthmatic sun spot cycle. However, last seen, the Sundancers were doing an afternoon review show in a Reno casino for the seniors catching the Early Bird special at the buffet. Its uncertain if they can be coaxed back to their old dancing grounds, especially since it now resides in a gated community that probably won't look kindly on such shenanigans.

Unable to reach a consensus, the heads of the Five Families departed and went in search of amplifier tubes with handles.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preparing for the Contest Season

Jumping Jehoshaphat! Here it is the first of September. Summer is semi-officially over and we're staring down the barrel of the 2010 Contest Season and the Lost Island DX Society hasn't gotten even one of the summer antenna projects completed. Plans for the pair of rotating 200' towers with stacked mono-banders ran into a snag due to a lack of space and money, so we're now trying to get a tribander up on a rusty old Rohn 20 tower we found in the weeds over on the neighbor's property. The SB-220 is still sitting in pieces at the club station waiting for the magic smoke to be put back into the power supply. Macho Cueso and Leche Dinero have spent the summer touring with a Lucha Libre troupe, so their preparations to dominate the Xtreme division of CQWW have been put behind schedule. It's time to start getting serious.

To get you in the proper frame of mind at least, make sure you've got your stocks of Lost Island DX Society paraphernalia. Whether you're a Big Gun or a Pea Shooter, attitude is everything and the LIDS have plenty of that. Whether its at the next hamfest or club meeting, come out of the closet and proudly let everyone know you're one of the LIDS.

Sunspots or no, the big contests cometh. Let's make some RF!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Green New One

In the north Pacific, ocean currents spin in an invisible giant whirlpool, bumping up against the land masses east and west, while flirting with the chilly arctic waters to the north, and the warm equatorial waters to the south. This is the North Pacific Gyre. Sounding like a monster from ancient mythology, the North Pacific Gyre is a large system of ocean currents that roar unseen among some of the most beautiful ocean in the world.

But all is not well in the North Pacific Gyre. In the heart of the beast, between Hawaii and California, lies a floating jetsam stream of man-made debris, mostly plastic detritus, a byproduct of the modern world. Estimates are that 225 million pounds of plastic is floating in the Gyre , covering an area as large as Texas, which sounds like a Texas size claim in itself.

A group of Dutch architects have a plan to make lemonade from these petrochemical-based lemons. They are proposing to collect this plastic waste and recycle it to create a habitable floating island out in the Pacific ocean. It will be called Recycled Island. Obviously a lot of thought went into this concept, much more than went into the name, although since the Netherlands is known for its marijuana bars as well as its excellent beers, we can't be entirely sure of the origin of this idea. Nonetheless, this has to be the greenest idea to come along since I ate that baloney sandwich out of the vending machine that was a week out of date.

Recycled Island will include residential housing, agricultural land, beaches, and tourism outlets, all built with recycled plastic as the building material. Think Lego-land without the vibrant primary colors. There is a rumor that either Hedi Montag or Pamela Anderson will be the official spokesperson for Recycled Island and it's (recycled) plastic world.

But while Al Gore is busy calculating the carbon offset for Recycled Island, you're asking what does this have to do with Big Gun DXing and/or contesting? Well, once Recycle Island is afloat, it should most certainly qualify as a New One for DX purposes. Regardless of sovereignty, Recycle Island will qualify based on the separation criteria alone as a new entity, although if Recycle Island is truly free floating, it might prove a little problematic. But as long as it stays within a single ITU or WW zone, that shouldn't be a big problem.

While it might be argued that a floating mat of recycled plastic isn't really a land mass, most reasonable people would recognize Recycled Island as more of an 'entity' than a group of small rocks barely above sea level at high tide that require stilts to keep from getting your tuchas wet while working a pileup with one arm around a mast to keep from falling in the water.

A New One means a land rush of DXers ready to activate an All Time New One as soon as the melted plastic solidifies enough to walk on. There are rumors, the Finns have already reserved a boat to take them there first opportunity. Once it's officially a DXCC entity, it will become a multiplier for all the DX contests as well. This will insure a steady stream of DX tourists to make sure everyone gets that Recycled Island mult. In the spirit of things, I suggest all Recycled Island QSLs be printed on recycled card stock.

If this idea works out, don't be surprised to see more proposals floated for turning plastic waste into plastic islands. The IOTA gang will go nuts for this. Just think, an island DXpedition where you don't have to clean up your trash. Leave it behind so they can extend the beach out a bit. I suggest adding a little dune over there so we can make the beach topless.


UPDATE:
It appears that Honolulu is having trouble finding a spot for all its trash. So Recycle Island has the potential for TONS of more raw material. Or perhaps there can be more than one Recycled Islands. We just have to make sure they are far enough apart to qualify as separate entities. There may be no limit to the number of DXCC 'countries' we can create.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Five-Nine

At least once a year, some DXer or contester re-starts the perennial question of why the signal report exchanged by every DXpedtion or in every contest is always 59. This is a dangerous road of inquiry, for implicit in the question is the expectation that logic and reason should be the basis of amateur radio activities. When it comes to contesting and DXing, logic and reason are qualities rarely in evidence. Tradition is the triumphant rule in most matters, as it is here. All signal reports are 59 because of tradition. But not the tradition which you might think.

Most contesters and DXers assume the 59 signal report is merely a shorthand way of exchanging the required information without having to think . After all, signal reports are subjective, much like interpretations of the speed limit signs on the highway. Readability 5, perfectly readable. Well, that is when the splatter and QRM of the guy running 1.25 kHz above you isn't wiping you out. Signal strength, 9, very strong signal. On a quiet band, if I had a six element monobander at 100' pointing your way, I'm sure you would be very strong.

But the common 59 signal report we exchange today does not derive from the oft quoted RST system of signal reports. To understand why, and where, we got the 59 exchange from, we must dig back into the very earliest days of amateur radio.

It was 1929 and amateurs radio operators were pushing the boundaries of radio technology and DXing. A group of British amateurs decided to sponsor a test to see which amateur stations could work the farthest and most DX. Today, we would call this a DX contest, but this was before such organized events were conceived.

The British group decided that to prove a valid contact had been made, they would assign each station participating in the test a unique number that they would exchange with each station they contacted, which would then be reported to validate the contact.

A Welsh amateur radio operator by the name of Ergryad ap Tywysog was very keen on proving his station was the best in the British Isles. Ergryad has assembled a monstrous AM station that put out a dominant signal, so he jumped into the test full bore.

Unfortunately, the organizers of the DX test had done a good job of publicizing the event, but had failed to adequately communicate the need to obtain a unique number for each station. Thus, there was some chaos on how the test was supposed to work. Ergryad understood the rules and had gotten his unique identifier number. But Ergryad had a bad habit of randomly switching between speaking English and Welsh, and often mixed the two, which made him difficult to understand. During the test, Ergryad, who had been assigned the number 253, would give his exchange as, "Fi nifer two-fi-tree." In Welsh, "Fi nifer" means "my number".

Needless to say, not many other radio amateurs of the day understood or spoke Welsh. Ergryad's signal was so strong though, he worked almost all the stations on the air, both in Europe and in North America. The other amateurs, many not knowing how the DX test was supposed to work, assumed that Ergryad was saying "Five-Nine Two-Five-Three" just with a thick Welsh accent, and assumed that the five-nine was a signal report and the two-five-three was a serial number. So they quickly adopted the format and began making DX contacts.

After the DX test ended, the sponsoring group realized what had happened. Rather than try and correct the very widespread misunderstanding, they adopted the new format. It proved so popular, that other groups began to adopt it for tests they sponsored. By the time the concept of organizing a formal radio contest developed, the Five-Nine 'signal report' was ingrained among DXers. It wasn't until the mid- to late-60's that high speed phone operators began to realize that careful enunciation was slowing down their rates and hurting them competitively and they developed the technique of giving the signal report as "Fi-Ni", which is actually very close to Ergryad's original exchange. It also laid the foundation for the future founding of the Lost Island DX Society and it's Fi-Ni Report.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Keeping Us Straight

It's 0001Z Monday morning. Around the world, contesters are rejoicing in joy or sighing in relief as they end another weekend of contesting. The contest is over.

But not for a dedicated group amateurs intent on insuring all participants in the contest played fair. The Contest Score Investigators (CSI) are gearing up to investigate evidence of cheating by radio-sport competitors. They will spend countless hours in the succeeding weeks, perhaps months, scouring logs of cluster spots, and audio recordings looking for evidence of rule infractions, whether those of the station's country radio rules or those of the contest sponsor's. This dedicated team committed to the strict rule of law, will continue even after the official results of the contest have been release, meaning their work may go on for more than a year. In contests where competitor's logs are released publicly, the CSI team will dissect the individual logs of competitors suspected of cheating, looking for evidence. Instead of spending hours in front of a radio, the CSI team members spends them in front of a computer screen, running statistical analyses and looking for patterns of suspicious behavior in IP trace routes.

The CSI are not paid by the hour, administrative lackeys, tiny cogs in the giant machinery of justice. No, their mission is entirely self-appointed. No contest sponsor asks for their assistance policing the sport of radio contesting. Their findings carry no weight, except in the court of public opinion, usually on the CQ-Contest reflector. Are their findings anticipated for their insight? Hardly. Almost every report from a CSI analysis results in additional, conflicting analysis from other CSIs. Rarely is a consensus reached or action taken as a result of any CSI analysis. Discussions, or arguments, about them rage for months after the contest or even the final results. While the CSI analysts slice and dice the data from the last big contest, the competitors have moved on and operated several more. Meaning that the CSI's work will never be done.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spies Among Us

No, not those silly undercover UA sleepers! Someone has been secretly recording some of the LIDS it seems. The pictures are a little fuzzy, but that just might be Cousin QRM in the leopard skin skirt. Don't ask, we won't tell. Keep an eye out for this K3NG character.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Open vs Closed

Commentary by Cousin QRM

The recent tiff between the German and the Spaniard HQ stations regarding last year's I-R-R-U Contest (motto: Are You? I Are) has dredged up a new re-occurring theme among the contestrati – Open versus Closed Logs. We haven't quite figured out where in the schedule the Open Log debate should fit on CQ-Contest, so its occurrence is still somewhat random.

In this instance, the Spanish HQ team alleged some definitely unkosher behavior occurring in the German HQ team's log after a review of said log. The German's did not appreciate being the focus of this new Inquisition and denied their team did anything wrong. Besides, they couldn't be responsible for the actions of some over-zealous fellow countrymen, and anyway, the Spaniard's log didn't look exactly squeaky clean, either.

One of the outgrowths of this controversy has been a revival of the arguments pro and con regarding making contest logs open to all gawkers. The Open Log contingent argue that contest sponsors should make all logs available for inspection, since there are no secrets to contesting except keep your butt in the chair and work stations, and if you don't want your logs open, just what are you hiding?

The Closed Log contingent point out that the latter argument was used very effectively back in the 1950's by one Senator Joseph McCarthy, a reference that probably loses resonance outside of North America. Some of the Closed Log coterie argue that there ARE secrets in their logs, and they have nothing to do with phony Qs or rubber clocking. Besides, forcing a contester to open his log for all to see violates his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, another reference that loses resonance outside of the North American borders.

Cousin QRM has thoughtfully weighed the points of both sides in deciding where he and the LIDS should come down on this controversy. After careful deliberation, Cousin QRM has decided to side with the Closed Log crowd. It is far too risky that sneaky competitors will glean critical information from a careful analysis of the LIDS logs. Our hard won competitive knowledge, skills and advantages could be easily erased by clever bit-shifters.

In fact, now that this threat has been brought to our attention, we're getting down right paranoid. How do know we can trust the contest sponsors with our log? Once they finish tabulating our score, what else are they going to do with that log? Hey, the log checkers are contesters, too. Now, I don't want to cast aspersions on the many honest, hard working volunteers who do the log checking for all the contests we enjoy. But it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch, girl, at least according to the Jackson 5. Again, we just can't take that chance.

A contester can be hoisted upon his own petard with an open log, too, as demonstrated by last year's CQWW logs which showed certain Big Guns operating outside of their 160m band allocations. Now, we're all allowed a mistake or two getting too close to a band edge. Just because it wasn't noticed for over two hours during a run doesn't mean it wasn't an honest mistake. Right?

We're also getting worried about those QSL cards we receive following each contest. Could they, perhaps, be a surreptitious way to finagle key portions of our logs out of us? What a brilliant strategy! And all these years we thought we were helping out WAS and county hunting paper chasers. Now, we see the real motive. This goes far deeper than anyone could imagine.

So, effective immediately, Cousin QRM and the LIDS will not be submitting logs for ANY contest, anymore. No logs, no LOTW uploads, no QSLs. Nuthing! No matter how much K5ZD begs, we're not sending in our logs. That doesn't mean we're giving up contesting. Not at all. We'll still be in their fighting just as hard as ever, but we won't send in our logs. Just can't take the chance the wrong eyes might see our award winning secrets. It's a shame too. I'm pretty sure this is the year we will win Multi-Multi on both modes of CQWW. Oh well, guess you'll just have to take our word for it when we announce our claimed score.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Say Cue Feel Day

Next weekend, North American amateur radio operators will crawl from their basement and attic radio rooms, known as 'shacks', and face the bright light of day and oppressive heat of summer to take their radios and antennas to open fields and picnic shelters everywhere to participate in the annual Feel Day.

Feel Day is an exercise to simulate how radio amateurs would function in an emergency situation, such as an extended Internet outage, and would have to actually revert back to the fundamentals of amateur radio, that is, actually using radios. For many amateurs, this is the only time of the year that their monitor glow tan is supplemented through natural means. Sans the modern conveniences of computer control and Internet spotting networks, they are forced to exercise the age old skills of grasping a tuning knob, tuning through a band and listening to signals. These ancient skills have most acutely atrophied among the modern DX'ers and contesters who have perfected the cluster based 'click and shoot' skills so prevalent today. But fortunately, the hand position of gripping a round tuning knob is not significantly different from that used to grip a computer mouse. Although the immobility of the tuning knob has causes some confusion, most mouse-based radio amateurs quickly adapt. Users of trackballs have been reported to have significantly more difficulty adapting to the tuning knob.

Many amateurs find the exercise of ancient skills tiresome and tedious. But they can find relief and comfort in another of Feel Day's tradition - the Feel Day feast. After a grueling hour or two in front of a radio, the weary amateur can retire to the refuge of culinary delights. While the extent of Feel Day feasting varies by group, whether it is a well stocked cooler or an elaborate grilled buffet, one can be certain that it will not include any items made with tofu or with the words 'low fat' on it's label. Some amateurs come to Feel Day and never touch a radio the entire time, but plant themselves at the food tent for the duration.

Whether it's dusting the cobwebs off a J-47 key or dusting off a bowl of campfire chili, Feel Day has something for all radio amateurs. While many spend months planning and anticipating it, after 24 hours outdoors in June battling bugs and Murphy, they understand why it's only done once a year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LIDS in Dayton

The annual Dayton foofarall has passed, and all of the pundits have pronounced it a smashing success/total failure. Regardless of the final judgment, like most of life, we can all agree it wasn't what it used to be. Not that it ever was.

It had been quite a spell since Cousin QRM had haunted the halls of Hara. Despite rumors to the contrary, the reason had nothing to do with an event resembling a famous scene from the movie "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou" that ended with the catchphrase, "… and STAY out of the Woolsworth." Why, there haven't been Woolsworth's around since Cousin was a knock-kneed Novice learning which end of the soldering iron to hold.

Despite having depleted the rig and DXing funds visiting the Mouse House just a week earlier, Cousin QRM and Rusty Key made the trek to Dayton representing the Lost Island DX Society. Besides the dazzling array of rigs and toys displayed by the manufacturers, our primary goal was to try and blend in with the Big Gun DX and contesting crowd over at the Crown Plaza and hopefully learn some of the hallowed Secrets of The Big Guns. There were rumors that Macho Cueso might make an appearance, but alas, border security is much tighter these days.

Our pilgrimage began properly Friday morning with the flea market. Right off the bat, we ran into a tremendous deal for the budding Big Gun - a 5kW amplifier. It was a beauty of construction and reasonably priced at a little over a $1/watt. Rusty was tempted, but decided that he didn't need another driver amp for the shack, so he passed. If some contester or DX'er did not pick it up, I'm sure we'll hear it on 75m SSB one day.

At the inside exhibits, Cousin and Rusty made their way to the booths of the radio manufacturers to ogle radios they could not afford. Cousin QRM made the observation that visits to the Icom and Yaesu booths were a little like a visit to the local topless club. You can eyeball and drool over the goodies all you like, and you might even get to tweak a knob or two, but you know there's no way you can afford to take one home. Strangely enough, the cover charge to get in is about the same.

The highlight of the weekend was getting to spend time with Dash the Dog Faced Ham, or at least his human counterpart, Jeff, K1NSS. Jeff and Dash graciously allowed the LIDS to hang around their booth where he was premiering the second of Dash's books. If you missed getting yours at Dayton, you can order them online, but you won't get them signed by the author.

Cousin spent some time at the Antenna and Contesting forums. The crowd was inspired by NR5M's story of what you can accomplish on a small urban lot and with no budget. It gave us all hope. Rusty Key sat through a talk on how to become a 50 wpm cw wizard and then turned to Cousin and said, "A is dit-dah, right?"

In the evenings, the LIDS snuck over to the Contest Super Suite at the Crown Plaza and waited for someone to spot them as intruders and toss them out (see second paragraph above). But amazingly, no one spotted the Peanut Pistol s and allowed them to stay.

Saturday night the LIDS and Dash snuck into the Contest Dinner and tossed bon mots at the speakers from a far corner while chewing on Not-Quite-Ready-For-Primetime Rib. Dash seemed humored by Cousin's color commentary as they played Spot-the-Big-Gun, which was as easy as shooting monkeys in a barrel, and about as organized.

It was rumored that Rusty Key accidentally got in the line for the pileup contest at the Kansas City DX Club's suite, thinking it was the drink line. The next day, Rusty showed up with a gift certificate, claiming he won it in the pileup contest despite being a no-code Extra. The rest of the LIDS remain dubious and are still on the lookout for reports of a mugging at the Crown Plaza Saturday night. So far, there is nothing to pin on Rusty. Maybe he did get something out of that 50 wpm talk.

Returning ,inspired from the mere proximity to Big Gun greatness, the LIDS are itching for the next big contest. Even if they can't afford the latest DX Machine or a climbable tower, Dayton always serves as a salve for the soul of the DX'ers and Contesters. See you in the pileups. We'll be part of that rumble you can't quite copy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cousin QRM's Florida Visit



Cousin QRM found himself in Orlando last week, but alas it wasn't for a tour of the Florida Big Guns of the Florida Contest Group. The XYL and harmonics were screaming to visit the Mouse House, so Cousin found a cut-rate travel agent online and arranged a trip. Cousin thought he was getting tickets to Walt Disney World, but found out too late that the really cheap tickets were to Walter's Dizzy World. Not the same thing. To describe Walter's Dizzy World as a cheap knock-off does a dis-service to cheap knockoff's everywhere.

Upon entering Walter's Dizzy World, the origin of the name was apparent. The main attraction at the front of the park was a 'ride' where they gave you a baseball bat that you placed on the ground, then rested your forehead on the bat end and spun around in circles until you couldn't take it anymore. After that experience, Walter's was much more entertaining, or at least less disappointing. As another example of the quality of Walter's attractions, Walter's "It's a Tiny World After All" merely featured looking through binoculars from the wrong end.

After the experience of Walter's Dizzy World, Cousin's XYL and harmonics refused to be placated by a visit to the HRO store. So Cousin broke into the DXpedition piggy bank and bought tickets to the real thing. Thinking he could still salvage some DX fun from his mis-spent funds, Cousin took his K1 and a paddle with him to Epcot. Rationalizing that if he operated from each of the 'countries' in the Epcot World Showcase, the operations would be as valid as Romeo's, Cousin proceeded to try to find a spot to hang a dipole at each 'country' and operate as /XE, /LA, /BY,/DL, /I, /JA /CN, /F, /G, and /VE. It turns out the Disney 'cast members' don't have a real good grasp of ham radio and certainly don't appreciate the DXCC program. Cousin was hoping to see if Epcot's Eiffel Tower would load up as well as the one at the Paris casino in Las Vegas, but he never got the chance. The saving grace was the opportunity to sample each country's adult beverage. By the end of the day, much of the disappointment had been forgotten.

Still looking to salvage some ham radio fun from this trip, Cousin QRM had high hopes for the Tower of Terror at Disney Hollywood Studios, but turns out it has nothing to do with towers or antennas. However, the ride did give Cousin a taste of the sensation of free-fall, something hopefully never to be experienced on a real antenna tower.

Unfortunately, intensive exposure to so much sweetness and cuteness apparently produced a reaction in Cousin. Cousin's extremities have swelled up and his voice has suddenly gone up several octaves. The attached picture demonstrates how this is affecting his cw sending. So if you hear a really sloppy fist on the air the next couple of weeks, it will likely be Cousin's. Fortunately, there is time to recuperate before the next big contest.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Contester Forgets Contest

Last weekend's popular Florida QSO Party was absent one enthusiastic participant. Die-hard contester Len Krinkleklotz, WD4FLA, of Lands End Ranch, Florida completely forgot about the annual state QSO party for his home state.

"I look forward to the FQP contest every year, even more so than the big contests. It's my own state's QSO party, so even with a modest station I can be the 'DX' for once. Plus, I get to re-connect with lots of old friends on the air then, too. Make no mistake, though, I'm competitive when it comes to this contest, so I go all out," said Krinkleklotz, 66.

So what happened this year? Krinkleklotz got so wrapped up in an online argument on the CQ-Contest email reflector that he forgot about the contest until after it was over.

"For more than a week now I've been arguing with these knuckleheads on the contest reflector about how all this new technology is just ruining amateur radio and destroying contesting as we know it. The back and forth has been furious. Probably twenty emails a day or more. We keep going back and forth with straw man arguments about sailboats, and motorboats, and rowboats. Someone even chimed in something about snowmobiles. I still ain't figured that one out yet."

"Well, I got so worked up that I spent the whole weekend individually dissecting their faulty arguments and rebutting them. Before I knew it, it was Sunday night and I had missed my favorite contest!"

While disappointed, Krinkleklotz is not discouraged. "I want to make sure that next year when the Florida QSO Party rolls around, I'm working a real live human being on the other end and not some contest robot. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to set some whippersnapper straight about how to use cut numbers properly. I just saw his post and he's got it ALL wrong..."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Contester Criticizes New Technologies

Traditionalist contester and DXer Giuseppi Giancarlo, IB1OF (Italy-Bravo-One-Oscar-Foxtrot), is highly critical of new computer and internet based technologies begin introduced into the realm of HF DXing and contesting. Giuseppi, who has been licensed for over fifty years and an active DXer and contester for most of that time, complains that the blending of computer and internet technologies is destroying the core RF basis of amateur radio.

“All this computer and internet stuff is like rowboats competing against sailboats for traditionalist like me. Once they put those big sheets on tall masts, the real, he-men rowers couldn't compete. No matter how many big, strong paisons you had pulling an oar, it's just not fair watching those “sailors” pass you by while they sit there letting the wind do all the work,” said Guiseppi.

“Me, I believe in amateur radio they way Guglielmo Marconi invented it. They won't let me run my spark gap anymore, but I still use my TNT transmitter and regen receiver. And I still log everything on paper by hand. Well, it's actually parchment, and I use an ink-dipped quill and record every QSO in calligraphy.”

A log checker for a major international DX contest confirmed that Guiseppi's submitted logs are on parchment and in handwritten calligraphy. “They are absolute works of art, but it is a complete PITA to deal with them because someone has to read that stuff and enter it all into the computer for cross-checking. His log takes five times longer than any other just because of that,” said the log checker who requested anonymity.

“All this DSP, and Skimmers, and clusters, and internet stuff. Pretty soon, we won't need the radios and antennas all together,” Giuseppi complained. “It's not the way Marconi did it and it's not the way Hiram Percy Maxim would have done it. Ham radio is supposed to be an old man and his radio, that's it.”

Giuseppi's criticisms were aired on both a posting to the CQ-Contest reflector and on his blog page.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dayton Fashion


We're only about a month away from the Dayton Hamvention, so time to start planning in earnest. In particular, the fashion scene is an important component of the Dayton experience. Big guns, little guns alike, the look at Dayton is as important as it is during Fashion Week in NYC. The top photo shows one of the vendors at a recent hamfest hawking the latest in haute couture for public service activities. Yellow safety vests never go out of style in the ham radioverse, just ask around on your favorite repeater.

The LIDS can't compete with the yellow safety vest, but over at the Fi-Ni Report's home for official merchandise, we do have a new shirt in yellow certain to get you the attention you crave, and an apt description of most of the official LIDS. See the second picture above.

We still have official Lost Island DX Society logo shirts and the beeutiful Dr. DX shirts. Order yours now so you'll have them in time for Dayton.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

CQWW Phone Changes for 2010

April 1, 2010, Hicksville, NY – The CQWW Contest Committee announced today that the 2010 CQWW DX Phone contest will be run exclusively on AM (amplitude modulation). No SSB (single sideband) contacts will count for the contest.

The decision by the contest committee is an attempt to merge the growing contest activity worldwide with the increasing interest in boatanchor radio gear as the aging amateur radio population becomes increasingly nostalgic.

“All the time we’re hearing hams complaining that radio was so much more fun in the old days – less QRM, more gentlemanly behavior. And they’re always talking about how great those old radios were. We can’t go back in time, but we can try to re-create those days by having everybody go back to using the gear they had back then,” said CQWW spokesmodel Gene Dylan, W3ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The announcement has sent contesters hurrying to their user’s manuals to see if their current radios are capable of operating in AM mode. “On my radio, I had to go to menu 47-6, subfunction 23, option 17, alternate function ‘b’ to activate AM,” said contester Henri Poisson, AP/F0OL. “It took me four hours of reading and fiddling with the radio to find it. Once I turned it on, I couldn’t believe how inconsiderate those lousy SSB’ers were with their Donald Duck sounding signals.”

Others are rapidly scrounging for AM gear from their youth or before. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of AM-capable radios being sought and sold at hamfests and online swap forums. Heathkit DX-35 transmitters are reportedly selling for $300-500 more than they were just six months ago, which is to say they are now selling for $325-525.

The higher duty cycle requirements of AM will force participants to run radios and amplifiers at much reduced power levels than typical during SSB contests. Some Italian stations are reportedly only able to generate 2 kW of modulated audio with their amplifiers on AM, while several Russian contest stations have reportedly been able to achieve 5 kW of modulated audio while backing down their contest amps.

One of the side benefits of switching to AM for the contest is that most non-contest users of the bands will continue to operate SSB. Thus, contesters will suffer much less QRM from non-participants and won’t be able to understand their complaints.

The switch to AM for the CQWW DX Phone contest is but one new idea the CQWW Contest Committee is considering. If the AM version of the contest does not prove to popular, or propagation does not continue to improve, and complaints from non-participants continues, the committee is considering moving all of the CQWW contests over to QSOnet.com. But for 2010, it will be all AM.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poisson d'Avril Contest 2010

We are once again about to witness one of the most blatantly corrupt, nefarious, perfidious, and unscrupulous events of the year. No, it’s not time for another congressional election. I refer to the Poisson d’Avril Contest, held every April 1st, whether anyone cares or not. This is advertised as the 56th running of the Poisson d’Avril Contest, although records only seem to exist back to 2006.

K1DG, by his own proclamation, has won every running of the contest since its inception. That should make K1DG fast approaching an age that should give others hope of winning this contest soon. Very soon.

Despite rule changes and calls for more openness in adjudication of the results, K1DG has maintained a steadfast attitude of “Nana nana na-na”. He has even gone so far as to retain the services of the law firm of Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga, and McCormick to defend his grip on control of the contest. Frankly, we are impressed. But we’ll still put the LIDS official law firm of Howe, Dewy, Cheatham, and Wynn up against them any day.

The LIDS considered funding a CQWW-style observer to go to K1DG’s station and observe him during the contest. But the plan was abandoned when it was pointed out that the problem was not in the contest, but in the scoring. As LBJ once said, “Let ‘em vote for who that want to, just as long as I get to count the votes.” DG is our LBJ.

So, once again this Thursday, the electorate will sheepishly head to the polls and re-elect the same scoundrels to office. Wait. That’s not for another six months.

So, once again this Thursday, the hopeful and the brash will attempt to de-throne the king of Poisson from his self-appointed throne. Regardless of the band conditions, regardless of the QRM, regardless of activity level, we think we know how this will all turn out.

New 4Q Expedition Announced

Despite the mysterious and possibly tragic end to the LIDS DXpedition to Sri Lanka, another fearless group is mounting their own temptation of fate. May God have mercy on their souls.....

Monday, March 22, 2010

LIDSfest 2010 Opens Up Spring Hamfest Season

One of the sure signs of the coming of spring is the beginning of the hamfest season. While not limited to spring time, spring hamfests are as sure a sign of warm weather as flip flops and tank tops, a combo preferably not seen at hamfests.

Last weekend saw the 2010 LIDSfest hamfest and swap meet sponsored by the Lost Island DX Society held at the Far And Away Community Center in Lake Lid. LIDSfest brought many LIDS and others out of winter hibernation to renew old acquaintances and pick over the goodies in the flea market. Being early in the spring, it appeared that some of the LIDS had not gotten around to taking their spring bath just yet. But any odiferous offenders were masked by the perfume from the lady at the Avon table in the flea market.

The LIDSfest flea market had the usual expected vendors - the Avon lady, the knock-off wallet and purse vendors, the crochet tea and toilet paper cozy lady, and even the Girl Scout cookies - peppered in among the electronic detritus brought in by the diehards. Most of the electro-mechanical bits and pieces appeared to have been originally manufactured during the 50' or 60's and have probably not seen daylight since the last hamfest of the fall. There was a plentiful assortment of flea market vendors selling two and three generation old laptops and even a few Apples manufactured during the period when Steve Jobs was not the head of the company.

A few boatanchor aficionados held court with a collection of Hallicrafters, Harvey-Wells', and Swans, all looking very uncollectable. For the ESSB enthusiast, a multitude of audio mixer boards and other devices that could be dual purposed for the shack or the garage band were readily available.

Beside the LED light and battery dealer sat a lone table containing a modern vintage HF transceiver and a CW paddle, the only one visible in the flea market.

Original plans for LIDSfest 2010 included a forum highlighting the LIDS' UP5LID and 4Q2LID Dxpeditions conducted back in October 2009. However, the loss of the UP5LID laptop containing the DXpedition logs, also containing all the digital photos taken during the DXpedition, made a presentation problematic. As no word to date has been heard from the 4Q2LID team, despite efforts to locate the camp of the Tamil Tiger's baseball training camp, a small memorial service was held in their memory.

Many hamfests also include forums with local or regional officials from the ARRL to discuss current issues of vital importance to the amateur community. Unfortunately, all local ARRL officials, even down to ORS appointees, were previously engaged and could not attend.

No hamfest is complete with the requisite hamfest food. Not to disappoint, the local volunteer fire department, which was providing the food, managed to find some three month old hot dog buns and freezer burned weenies to insure that patrons left LIDSfest with a taste, and heartburn, they would remember all year long. In keeping with other hamfests, the prices of hot dogs were kept equal to the admission ticket price. Plans to offer BBQ at LIDSfest were derailed when a local PETA group threatened to demonstrate. PETA representatives were, however, satisfied that the hot dogs contained so little actual animal product, they would not object to their sale.

By day's end, many happy LIDS left with new connectors and batteries, as well as LED lights. They got to see old friends and make some new ones and tell them both their latest lies. Attendance was good, despite the economy and everyone is looking forward to next year's LIDSfest - same time, same place.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CQ-Contest Schedule



The CQ-Contest email reflector is a wonderfully open, free flowing forum for the world of competitive contesters to discuss the matters of the day within the contesting community. Whether it is the latest for the contester's toolbox to maintain or gain a competitive edge, or merely airing frustrations about the current band conditions or latest contest rule change, CQ-Contest is the predominant forum for active, and not so active, contesters.

Newcomers or occasional readers of the CQ-Contest traffic may have a hard time following the flow of the reflector. Long time avid readers, and contributors, will notice that certain threads make periodic reappearances with some regularity, i.e. everything old is new again. And again. And again.

To help followers of CQ-Contest, the Fi-Ni Report is offering the following schedule for common discussion topics along with an approximate schedule of their appearance. Hopefully this will help the newbie, occasional, and avid reader from committing a faux pax by bringing up a topic out of season. It is also useful in helping contributors plan their arguments for the next round of "discussions".




Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hopes for a New One Dashed

A recent announcement of a DXpedition to the Principality of Seborga briefly raised the hopes of The Deserving that a New One was one the horizon. HA3HK announced an operation from the small enclave in Italy using the callsign T03HK (Tango Zero Three Hotel Kilo), but within days announced he would not be using the daring T03 call.

The Principality of Seborga, also known as a micro-nation, has claimed independence since the early 1960's, due to being overlooked in the Act of Unification for the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, and has even had an informally elected prince, Prince Giorgio Carbone, know locally as 'Your Tremendousness'. We point out the prince's titular title in order to avoid any confusion with the leader of the Lost Island DX Society, Cousin QRM. The LIDS have actively encouraged the promotion of micro-nations for classification as separate DX entities, and the Principality of Seborga certainly adheres to the requirements.

The decision by HA3HK to not use the T03 call (an unassigned ITU prefix) is purported to be motivated by the encouragement of the Seborga ruling council and his desire to adhere to Italian law. Given the proliferation of '300 Watt' amplifiers in Italy, this seems akin to worrying about a smoking ban in the middle of a forest fire, but adherence to law and order is always safest.

Sources close to the Serborga administration have given the Fi-Ni Report exclusive background on why they discouraged HA3HK from using the T03 callsign.

When the Seborga town council learned of the planned DXpedition, they began researching ham radio and in particular the peculiar world of DXing. After reviewing stories in QST, the DX Magazine, and other sources with reports of DXpeditions, they began to comprehend the full impact of the possibility of the Principality of Seborga becoming a New One. While the international recognition of Seborgian independence was attractive, the town council feared the small enclave could not withstand the inevitable invasion of Finns, Germans, English, and American DXpeditioners desiring to activate the newly declared DX entity. Last fall, a bus load of errant Estonians on a weekend drinking binge had broken down in Seborga and nearly destroyed the village square in their revelry and terrorized the local livestock to the point where milk and cheese production was down almost 50% for the following month. On the bright side, they did manage to exhaust the previous year's vintage of a particularly nasty local Cabernet Sauvignon that the residents had begun using as a degreaser.

The local council officially proclaimed that they did not want to antagonize the Italian government and thought the T03 DXpedtion might be considered an act of aggression, hence they discouraged HA3HK from using his desired callsign. HA3HK has announced that he will adhere to the Italian rules for operation by a visiting amateur, including the use of a I-prefix for the operation. There are rumors, though, that he has invited a contingent of ES amateurs to join him on the operation. No word on if they have accepted.

Monday, March 1, 2010

15m Band Reappears After Long Absence

The 15 Meter Band recently reappeared after an unexplained absence of more than three years.

The 15 Meter Band, a workhorse for contesters and DX'ers worldwide, has been missing for over three years but recently made an unexpected, but long overdue, reappearance during the recent ARRL DX CW contest. No explanation of the long absence was offered by the band. When approached for a comment, the sometimes cantankerous band responded with "Wha'sit to ya? Bugger off."

The band, which performed brilliantly at its peak, was often undependable and erratic in the years before it's disappearance. It was known for periodic, unexplained absences, at time failing to show up for weekend contests with no explanation or apologies offered.

The recent three plus year absence has been attributed by supporters to certain solar conditions. However the band has been hounded with allegations of substance abuse for years. It was rumored that the 15 Meter Band has shared time in rehab with such celebrities as Charlie Sheen and Brittney Spears, with whom it was rumored to have been romantically linked.

Representatives for the band claim it is in good health and will only continue to improve with each contest and will soon be demonstrating the performance that made it a superstar at its peak.

The 15 Meter Band's cousin, the 10 Meter Band, is still missing in action with the exception of some small, weak flurries of activities.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rookie Rumblings

The ARRL's new Rookie Roundup Contest won't be run for another eight weeks, but it is already stirring up consternation among the contesteratti. The Rookie Roundup, aimed at enticing newcomers to the wonderful world of radio sports, is also an experiment in dragging the collective heels of the contesting community into the 21st century.

One of the innovative aspects of the Rookie Roundup is the requirement for pseudo-real time logging. Although the details are a bit murky on how it is supposed to work, all log entries are due at the ARRL score server within ten minutes of the end of the contest.

The Luddite contingent of the contesting peanut gallery has been in full attack mode over the quick reporting requirement. Using the straw-man argument of the dyslexic, back-woods rookie with Parkinson's disease and only a 300 baud dial-up internet connection, the Luddite's are decrying the discrimination of this fictitious rookie who will never be able to make the League's ten minute deadline.

There are, however, additional rules in the inaugural Rookie Roundup that have escaped the attention of the armchair contest lawyers.

The exchange for the contest includes the year licensed, referred to the as the "check" in the rules. This exactly parallels the ARRL November Sweepstakes exchange. In the Rookie Roundup, the focus group are the rookie competitors, defined as those licensed within the last three years, so obviously their "check" should either be 08, 09, or 10. However, the question of whether non-rookie participants are as free to be creative with their "checks" as they are in Sweepstakes has not been addressed by the armchair lawyers. For those wishing to argue either for or against a strict interpretation of the "check" definition, there are large numbers of messages on the CQ-Contest reflector from the October time frame that can be cut and pasted with little editing.

The definition of rookie may even be problematic. The rules only define a rookie as having a "check" from the current or preceding two calendar years, where "check" is defined as the "two-digit number of the year first licensed ".

The Contest Litigation branch of Howe, Dewy, Cheatham, and Wynn, LLC, is rumored to be investigating the possibility that the rookie class definition could be extended to a club station licensed within the defined time frame. If so, it is rumored that a contingent of Type-A Big Gun contesters may be preparing to apply for new club licenses.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sprint Warm-Up

It's only four days until the inaugural running of the Fat Tuesday Sprint. For those wanting to enter the LU class, this weekend offers numerous opportunities to hone your skills. Very fittingly, the Louisiana QSO Party is this weekend. I'm sure the Louisiana Contest Club will be well represented. You can train for the Fat Tuesday Sprint while helping our Cajun cousins to laissez les bons temps rouler in their QSO party.

Coincidentally, the good folks at National Contest Journal also scheduled a 'normal' sprint for this weekend as well in order to help you prepare for the Fat Tuesday Sprint. Fat Tuesday rules probably won't help your score in their sprint.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Facts Are...

The Fi-Ni Report's regular readers (although one can argue that anyone reading the Fi-Ni Report can not be call 'regular') understand the unique viewpoint promulgated by this site and the peculiar collection of individuals who comprise the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS). However, occasionally a member of mainstream amateur radio society will stumble upon one of our sporadic missives and incur intestinal distress at the erroneous and even slanderous content that typically comprises at least 80% of any individual Fi-Ni Report.

When one of our reports is taken as factual, this brings a collective smile to the faces of the 100 monkeys with Selectrics we employ in the back room writing copy. (Due to a limited budget for bananas, we can only employee 100 monkeys, which is why you ain't getting Shakespeare here)

For the uninitiated who mistake the Fi-Ni Report for radio-sport.net or Amateur Radio Newsline, let us be clear:

The Fi-Ni Report is to factual reportage what talk radio is to rational discourse. We are as concerned with accuracy as the US congress is concerned with balancing the federal budget.

On the off chance we accidentally publish something factual, we hide behind our first amendment rights and back it up with our second amendment ones. That anyone reads these pages is a continual source of amazement and further proof of the failings of our educational system. That anyone would consider seriously the rambling of a know-it-all blowhard is unfathomable. But then again, 73 magazine did run for 43 years, so maybe we have a future after all.

- Cousin QRM, Chief of the LIDS

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fat Tuesday Sprint Contest

The Lost Island DX Society is sponsoring a new sprint style contest in celebration of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. The inaugural Fat Tuesday Sprint will take place on, when else, Fat Tuesday, February 16, 2010. The Fat Tuesday Sprint differs from the traditional Sprint rules in subtle but important ways, Read the rules carefully.

Rules:
1. Eligibility: All licensed amateurs may enter, but only those of legal drinking age are eligible to compete in the LU category.
2. Object: To make as many contacts as possible during the contest period.
3. Contest Period: 0000Z-o400Z February 17, 2010 (ok, technically Ash Wednesday UTC)
4. Bands: 160m-10m, phone and cw.
5. Contest Exchange: Serial number, name and QTH (state, province or country), Blood Alcohol Level is optional
6. Entry Classification: LU - Liquored up. LU category contestants must consume one shot of liquor (your choice) upon completion of each QSO and before attempting to make another QSO. LU class entrants may work anyone for credit.
S - Sober class. S class entrants may not work other S-class entrants for contest credit, only LU class stations for credit. S class entrants should sign their call/S to identify themselves as such.
7. Use of spotting networks or other assistance. Sure, knock yourself out.
8. Scoring: 1 point per SSB QSO, 2 points per CW QSO; Each state, province, country counts as a multiplier. Multipliers count per band. Final score is total QSO points times total multipliers.
9. Logs are due whenever you sober up (LU class) or whenever you get around to it (S class). Send logs, summaries, and comments to biggundx@gmail.com.

For LU class stations, we anticipate strategy will play a big part. Running stations will obviously lead to a potential early finish due to passing out. A careful balance between running and S&P operation will be necessary to survive the full four hours of the Fat Tuesday Sprint and maximizing your score.

Log checking will be used to detect cheating among LU class entrants. Excessively low error rates, especially later in the contest, will be cause for suspicion and potential disqualification.

S class entrants are encouraged to have as much fun with inebriated LU class stations as legally and ethically possible. This may include, but is not limited to, asking distracting questions, excessive duping, and running extreme QRP. Other suggestions for S class operation welcome.

LU class entries should include a listing of the liquor of choice used. Bonus points will be awarded for submission of certified blood alcohol content results recorded at the end of the sprint. Highest score gets most bonus points. Point values to be decided by the contest committee.

All results of the contest committee final. Not valid in Minnesota or Utah. Your results may vary.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

ARRL Elects First Female President, OOOT Is Apoplectic

At its 2010 Annual Meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors elected Kay Craigie, N3KN, as the League's 15th President to succeed Joel Harrison, W5ZN, whose chose not to seek re-election. Craigie is the first woman to hold the position of President of the ARRL.

Old, old, old timer Woodrow Fusseloot, 1OT, was apoplectic upon hearing the news that a woman had been elected to lead the ARRL. "Carn-sahrnit! What was they thinking electing a woman? Why, they can't even vote, can they? Old Hiram is probably spinning in his grave," said Fusseloot. 1OT , who is 98 years young, was licensed prior to the requirement for prefixes and has consistently refused to use one despite later regulations. He also refuses to give up his spark generator transmitter but continues to fiddle with his 'new-fangled' regen receiver.

Elsewhere, reaction to Craigie's election has been considerably warmer. Heads of national amateur radio societies around the world have sent notes of congratulations and well wishes to Craigie. She has even received a message from the head of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Radio Society (DPRKRS) who said, "We congratulate the imperialist running dog N3KN ascendancy to the throne of the ARRL. The DPRKRS is willing to accept declarations of surrender from the ARRL at our convenience."

League insiders say that Craigie has her work cut out for her in cleaning up the mess created by outgoing president W5ZN. "His office is a total disaster zone. There are coffee cups everywhere, stacks of paper. And there's a stain on the chair that I have no idea what it is or how it got there," said an HQ staffer who did not wish to be named.

Craigie, who is originally from Pennsylvania, now lives in Blacksburg, VA, home to the University of Virginia, also known as the Mountaineers. She is married to Carter Craigie, N3AO, who will assume duties as the ARRL's First Lady to President Craigie.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Scientists Discover That SID Is Actually Caused By Man Named Sid

Scientists have discovered the HF radio propagation phenomenon called sudden ionospheric disturbance (SID) is actually caused by a man named Sid.

For decades scientists have claimed that the sudden, unexpected, short duration loss of ionospheric propagation referred to as SID was caused by a large influx of solar particles that saturated the ionosphere and dramatically increased D-layer absorption. The phenomenon occurs randomly and usually produces HF propagation outages that lasts from tens of minutes to perhaps several hours at a time. Previous studies have linked the occurrence of SID to high sunspot and solar flux activity. The onset of a SID is quite sudden and dramatic and often described as if someone flipped a switch on the ionosphere, turning propagation off. Now, it turns out that may be exactly what is happening.

Scientists now say that the ionosphere is actually controlled by a light switch in the basement of the home of Sid Bloomfield of Nimrod, Arkansas. Bloomfield, who has lived in the same house since 1949, says that when he moved into the house, he and his wife Shirley found a light switch in the basement that did seem to be connected to anything in the house.

"For years I tried to figure out what that switch was for. I'd flip it and try to find a light or outlet that it was hooked to, but never could," said Bloomfield, 73. "I'd eventually forget about it, but every couple of years or so, I'd remember it and flip it and look some more. Usually after a couple of minutes or an hour or so, I'd give up and flip it back, just in case it was hooked to something important."

Scientists discovered that the timing of Sid Bloomfield's flipping of the light switch corresponded to occurrences of sudden ionospheric disturbances in the western hemisphere. They concluded that somehow the light switch in Sid Bloomfield's basement is connected directly to the ionosphere and it has the capability to turn it off and on. The exact mechanism is unknown, but theories based on quantum particle entanglement have been advanced as the most likely explanation.

Meanwhile Bloomfield is happy just knowing what the switch does. "I don't really understand it all. They tried to explain to me about the iron-sphere up in the sky. That's all way beyond me. When they first told me about it, all I could think about was 'There's iron up there?' But I'm just glad someone figured out what that switch in my basement does. Now I know, I won't be touching it again. Of course, the grandkids sometimes play down there in the basement, an' you never know what they'll get into. But I'll keep an eye on that switch and try to make sure it stays on."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Geography Challenged Amateur Pursues WAS Award

Nelson Whizzhiemer, N1TWT, is doggedly pursuing the ARRL Worked All States (WAS) award. Nelson, 22, was licensed less than two years ago and has enthusiastically been enjoying the HF bands. The WAS award is often the first major operating award earned by amateurs. Whizzhiemer has been steadily working new states but is frustrated that he has not worked Puerto Rico yet.

“I haven't even heard a Puerto Rican station yet.” says Whizzheimer.

When informed that Puerto Rico is not one of the United States and thus not required for the WAS award, Whizzheimer expressed relief.

When asked if he had worked Hawaii yet, Whizzheimer replied, “You can't fool me, Hawaii ain't no state. Its overseas somewheres.”

Whizzheimer is a proud product of the public school system.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Flannan Isles

Islands are the DXers crack cocaine. There is mystery and romance that islands inspire, and not just the tropical palm trees and sweet drinks with umbrellas in them kind either. DXers find the romance of glacier covered rocks in the Antarctic to be just as compelling as humid atolls with no hint of shade and homicidal infestations of birds and crabs. The RSGB’s Islands On The Air (IOTA) program is solely devoted to this fascination with islands, big or small, rare or common. For the DXer that finds the DXCC list too trivial a challenge, the IOTA program is sure to provide some interest. A recently announced IOTA DXpedition to the Flannan Isles of Scotland, EU-118, is a good example of the extremes and challenges that is island DXing.

First a little background. Wikipedia provides a wealth of information on the Flannan Isles, namely where are they and why are they interesting. To quote,

The Flannan Isles are a small island group in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) west of the Isle of Lewis. They may take their name from St Flannan, the 7th century Irish preacher and abbot. The islands have been devoid of permanent residents since the automation of the lighthouse in 1971. They are the location of an enduring mystery which occurred in December 1900, when all three lighthouse keepers vanished without trace.

Ahh, a mystery. This is no run of the mill lump of moss covered granite sticking up out of the North Atlantic. It turns out that the island’s lighthouse was finished in 1899. It was manned by a three man crew with a fourth rotating crew member to provide relief. You can imagine in the days before ham radio and the internet, spending an extended period of time on a small rock with two other blokes is likely to get boring rather quickly. Less than a year after commissioning the lighthouse, in December 1900, the relief boat shows up one day to find nobody is home. The light is out, everything is normal in the lighthouse keepers quarters, except for an overturned kitchen chair, but no evidence of the three lighthouse keepers. Theories abounded as to the fate of the three missing lighthouse keepers. The official story concocted by an investigator with the National Lighthouse Board was as follows,

“From evidence which I was able to procure I was satisfied that the men had been on duty up till dinner time on Saturday the 15 December, that they had gone down to secure a box in which the mooring ropes, landing ropes etc. were kept, and which was secured in a crevice in the rock about 110 ft (34 m) above sea level, and that an extra large sea had rushed up the face of the rock, had gone above them, and coming down with immense force, had swept them completely away.”

Of course that sort of explanation just doesn’t make for much of a mystery. This is just the sort of story that is fodder for tales of paranormal activity or alien abductions. These are much more palatable than a mere story of getting washed out to sea by rough weather, so we’ll stick with those.

Alas, like most of the world’s lighthouses, the Flannan Isle lighthouse has been automated to prevent future alien abductions. Again, we’ll steal a quote from Wikipedia.

On 28 September 1971, it was automated. A reinforced concrete helipad was constructed at the same time to enable maintenance visits in heavy weather. The light is produced by burning acetylene gas and has a range of 20 miles (32 kilometres). It is now monitored from the Butt of Lewis and the shore station has been converted into flats. Other than its relative isolation it would be a relatively unremarkable light, were it not for the events which took place just over a year after it was commissioned.

We’re not sure who Lewis is, but we don’t envy him his job.

This June, the MS0INT team plan to activate the Flannan Isles, providing a rare IOTA island group to hungry DXers worldwide. The LIDS look forward to working them and wish them success. Just watch out for the aliens. And Lewis.