Friday, August 28, 2009

Cousin QRM on Rubber Clocking

The recent spate of DQ's from the CQWW's has raised the topic of rubber clocking again, especially in the Multi-Single category. Most of us thought rubber clocking had gone the way of the #2 pencil and rubber erasers when everyone starting using computers to log contests. Computer clocks are pretty accurate, and while you might fudge your clock, it's a lot harder to fudge the other guy's clock.

The real crux of most these DQ's was a failure for multi-single stations to adhere to the CQWW 10-minute rule. From discussions online after the fact, it became obvious that many contesters feel the 10-minute rule is about as convoluted as MLB's infield fly rule. I think the problem is a lot simpler.

The other day I was visiting my local Chinese take-out, getting my usual order of General Tso's and Broccoli and Beef, when I had an epiphany. You see, no matter when I go in and order at this Chinese take-out place, they always tell me my order will take the same amount of time before it is ready - ten minutes. It might be at 4:00 on a weekday afternoon and the place is as dead as 10m, or it can be at the peak of the dinner rush on a Friday night when they're as busy as 20m at 0005Z Saturday of CQWW. It's always ten minutes.

I've never actually timed them to see how long it takes for my food to come up. I'm usually reading the free local independent rag they toss over in the corner near the door. It's eye opening to read some of the classifieds for "alternative services" and checking out the bands playing in the local clubs is as close to being culturally relevant as I usually get. I can pretty much guarantee that they rarely, if ever, actually get my food up in exactly ten minutes. Most times it's more, sometimes it's a little less.

The point is, this restaurant can't stick with their own 10-minute rule (well, maybe it's not a rule….). They prepare hundreds of dishes a day, thousands a week, and their best guess is that it's going to take 10-minutes to fix my General Tso's. Most of the time, they're pretty close.

I figure these Multi-Single stations sort of operate like a Chinese take-out. The multiplier guys has a list of hot multipliers he wants to work on another band from the run station. The run station says, "Ok, you got 10 minutes to work them and then I'm going back to the run band." Just like the cook at my Chinese take-out with his smoking hot wok, the multiplier guy hits his hot new band and starts sweeping up multipliers, the metaphorical steam rising from the radio as the tally wheels spin on the score with each new multiplier.

Most of the time the multiplier station takes a bit longer than ten minutes before the steam starts to settle from the new band and he can toss it back to the run band. Those extra minutes spent on the multiplier band adds a little extra spice to the score and are well worth the time. But once in a while, the multiplier station runs out of steam a little early. His ten minutes might only last nine minutes. When I'm waiting for my Broccoli and Beef, I don't mind getting it a minute or two early, but in CQWW, it's a big no-no. On the average, these Multi-Single stations are following the 10-minute rule. In fact MOST of the time they probably easily exceed their 10-minutes before the band change. But most of the time don't cut it. It's got to be every time, all the time. That's why there are new rules and station inspections being implemented.

Cousin QRM is still anxiously awaiting the notice for his station inspection from the CQWW cops. We haven't been able to break into the Top Ten boxes, but if we can get that station inspection, then EVERYONE will know that we're real Big Guns. We plan to video tape it and post it on YouTube, just to document our Big Gun status. We don't mind putting black bars over the faces of the inspectors if they want to preserve their anonymity.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Big Gun Cloning Coming Soon

It's no secret that the average age of the ham radio population is increasing, and particularly so in the elite world of Big Gun contesters. Almost all Big Guns today are members of the Baby Boomer generation. The question is often asked "Where will the next generation of contesters come from?" The answer may be cloning.

A new venture called BigGun Cloning has been launched with the express intent of offering Big Gun contesters and DXers the chance to clone themselves. The capability to generate a genetic duplicate of oneself creates the opportunity to pass on the highly honed skills, not to mention the impressive station, of top notch contest and DX operators to a new generation.

BigGun Cloning said it is focusing on Big Gun contesters and DXers as they are the most likely segment of the ham radio population to have the resources to devote to the endeavor. BigGun Cloning is working with scientists from the South Korean Institute of Cloning Sciences and Advanced Cosmetology to perfect the cloning process. A scientist from the institute explained their breakthrough.

"We have been able to clone sheep, dogs, and cats for over a decade now. But there is no market for cloned sheep, not even in New Zealand. Our breakthrough came when we were able to clone a parrot. The original parrot knew five simple phrases he could say on command. When the cloned parrot was born, we discovered he already knew the five simple phrases. My thoughts instantly went to ham radio contesters. I knew this was a market for this technology."

While the possibility of creating cloned contesters is seen as an exciting step forward in technology by some, others see problems. If a station owner and his clone enter a contest together, could they actually enter in the single operator category since they are genetically identical? The CQWW contest committee refused to rule on any hypothetical situations, but did say that genetic testing may be included in the new station inspection regime if deemed necessary.

BigGun Cloning will be offering group discounts for multi-op stations and contest clubs. No word on price or expected availability at this time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Contest Ruling

Here's a new topic for the contest lawyers to discuss: if a contest operator has multiple personalities, does he enter as a single-op or a multi-single entity? Discuss among yourselves. Bonus points if you can provide examples.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Contest Cheats, New Rules

The following is an editorial from Cousin QRM. It does not necessarily represents the views of the Lost Island DX Society, the Fi-Ni Report, NASCAR, or the AP Stylebook.

Recently the Fi-Ni Report MFWIC complained I haven't been pulling my weight around here. (For those who aren't familiar with the term, MFWIC, pronounced 'miff-wick', it’s a pseudo-military acronym for Mo-Fo What In Charge). As anybody who has seen the Cousin knows, it's quite a job to move my weight around, much less pull it. But I have been slack sharing my wisdom with all the Big Guns and Big Gun Wannabees that look to the Fi-Ni Report for all the news that ain't.

The big news in the world of contesting is that some stations cheat. Oh really? Color me surprised. No, the Big News is that some stations got caught AND punished for cheating. That is news.

I'm not one who believes that cheating among contesters is pervasive, but as the late great Dale Earnhardt was once quoted as saying, "If you ain't cheatin' you ain't trying." Frankly, I never was a Earnhardt fan. My hero growing up was Bobby Allison. Bobby never raced dirty and the only time he did anything on the track remotely unsportsmanlike was when he stopped his car and went over and punched out Cal Yarborough through the window of his car. Cal deserved it though for intentionally wrecking Bobby's brother Donny. But back to contesting.

Even before ole' cuz was a snot nosed Novice, there have been California Kilowatts and Italian "300 watt" amplifiers. Rubber clocking was easier in the days of handwritten logs with pencils. With the rise of packet clusters, self-spotting became the new way to drum up pileups. All are just wrong. For whatever reasons, contest sponsors seem to have been hesitant to DQ entrants, more so in recent years than long ago. I'll not speculate why.

But Cousin QRM is happy to stand up and cheer a loud "Well done!" to the CQWW contest committee for their recent actions. The rumor mill has it that more DQs are expected for the CQWW CW contest results due out any day now. Boy, that's gonna stir the hornet's nest up. The contest reflector will so busy discussing the CQWW, we probably won't get around to discussing cut numbers or Sweepstakes checks until mid-October at the earliest.

If I was a devious minded person, I would think this whole DQ business was publicity stunt by the CQWW folks. Think about it. The contest and DX world is all abuzz. Everyone is anticipating the 2009 contests to see who gets disqualified this year and what extraordinary lengths the Big Guns will go to avoid getting DQ'd. This is brilliant. No sunspots to create band conditions, generate interest and controversy by DQ'ing a few blatant offenders. Find a couple of belligerent competitors to complain loudly about their DQ and it will be a show worthy of WWF. Maybe Macho Cuesew can help out?

The CQWW contest committee has added a new rule for 2009 requiring competitors to allow "a scheduled visitation by a representative of the CQ WW CC during the contest ". Oh the howls from the peanut gallery. Some seem to think it is somehow offensive, an insult that someone wants to check up on them. Cousin thinks they doth protest too much.

Actually, Cousin QRM would welcome a visit by a CQWW contest committee representative during the contest. In fact, I encourage it. Please, please, please come check up on me.

I got nothing to hide. Plus, the way ole' Cousin views it, the CQWW committee isn't going to waste it's time on the little squirt pistols in the contest. They're only going to bother visiting the Big Guns. So you see, getting a visit from the CQWW committee is like a Big Gun stamp of approval, almost as impressive as being a member of the Lost Island DX Society. In fact, I'll go so far as to argue that you ain't really a Big Gun if you haven't been visited by the CQWW committee. Puts things in a different light, doesn't it? Once the big boys get their panties untwisted, they will see the light and be begging for a visit from the CQWW committee, just like Cousin.

Now, if you have been cheating, well, you'll get what you deserve. But, if like 99.5% of the contesters, you run up a big score using legal hardware, hard earned skills and old fashioned butt-in-the-chair time, you have nothing to worry about. Once word gets around that the CQWW committee visited you, and you got a clean bill of health, everybody will know that you're a serious competitor, and a good guy to boot.

So please, Mr. CQWW inspector, come visit old Cousin this fall. We need something to brag about.

73, Cousin QRM

Monday, August 10, 2009

MFJ To Acquire ARRL

In the wake of their acquisition of Cushcraft antennas last week, MFJ Enterprises announced today that they have reached an agreement to acquire the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a publisher of amateur radio literature. An ARRL spokesman stated that declining membership numbers coupled with increasing costs of printing and shipping have eroded the business of the ARRL to a point where a merger with the burgeoning MFJ empire was attractive. MFJ, a manufacturer of radio accessories and antennas, had few publishing products in its expansive portfolio. The acquisition of the ARRL, leaves only the manufacture of actual radios the only portion of the amateur radio market that MFJ does not dominate.

MFJ intends to continue to publish the full line of handbooks and other publications for which the ARRL is known. The ARRL membership journal, QST will continue to be published as an appendix to the monthly MFJ/Ameritron/Hy-gain/Cushcraft/Mirage/Vectronics catalog. Readers should notice few changes.

There will be some changes in the operation of the ARRL though. The world famous ARRL club station, W1AW, will be moved from it's historic Newington, CT location to a new home in Starkville, MS. The call W5AW is currently allocated to the Big Spring Amateur Radio Club of Big Spring, TX but negotiations are in progress for MFJ to acquire the club and its callsign, which can then be re-assigned to the relocated ARRL club station. The most noticeable change may be the replacement of the Connecticut Yankee accent with the Mississippi southern drawl on the voice bulletins.

The planned acquisition is expected to be completed by April 1, 2010.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ham To The Bone Update

Sad to say, still no entries on the Fi-Ni Report Ham To The Bone tattoo contest. This is one even a QRPer could win. Heck, get out a Sharpie and go to, take a pic and send it in.

We did find another pic online of a ham who is truly hardcore and shows COMMITMENT.
KL7FH obviously had no plans to change his call anytime soon. But about that worm..... must be the one at the bottom of the tequila bottle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Correspondance Course To Be Offered

Outside of on-the-air activities, a significant number of radio amateurs spend a majority of their time engrossed in "discussions" on the Internet regarding the interpretation of rules for activities ranging from basic Part 97 FCC rules to various contests. The majority of these "discussions" are unhindered by knowledge or logic. But they all involve activities common among lawyers, i.e. interpretation of "law" and arguing their cases.

Few in the amateur radio community are actually trained lawyers, and those who are usually have enough sense not to admit it. Lawyerly skills are missing in these "discussions" as well as the gravitas a law degree lends to the status of the arguer. Law school is a long and expensive endeavor not many are willing to tackle.

But a new correspondence course will be offered to give those back bench lawyers the training needed to argue their points successfully and a prestigious title to bandy about. The Amateur Radio Lawyers League (AR-double-L, not to be confused with the A-double-RL) is offering a multi-module course to meet this need.

The first module is Contest Rule Interpretation. Topics covered will include: strawman arguments, fallacious allegory creation, and sentence diagramming and butchering. After completing this module, you will be able to wade in on such meaty "discussions" as the CQWW 10-minute rule, choosing a check for Sweepstakes, and what constitutes a "single operator station" and be able to argue at least three positions for each topic.

The second module is FCC Part 97 Rules and Regulations. This module will prepare you to "discuss" such pressing rules as FCC identification requirements, the definition of third party traffic, and applying FCC rules to DX stations.

The third and most advanced module is entitled DXCC Entity Definition and Documentation. This module should only be attempted by those who have completed modules one and two due to its complexity and mind twisting logic requirements. This module will attempt to analyze the ARRL DXCC criteria for DXCC entities and the requirements for accepting operations from rare DX entities. Scarborough Reef will be used as a case study.

Amateurs successfully completing all three modules will be awarded an honorary Juris Doctorate Hamus (JDH) degree from the Dick Bash School of Law and Muffler Repair.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

CQWW SSB Disqualifies Five

First, a humble apology for the lack of Fi-Ni Reports recently. We've been off looking for missing sunspots and collecting bribes for friendly customs officers for the upcoming UP5LID/4Q2LID DXpedition this month. In our absence an alert reader/fanboy(?) tipped us off to the dramatic announcement from the CQWW SSB results, and a possible conspiracy.

Monday, July 27, the CQWW SSB 2008 results were unleashed. The joy of the Top Guns taking home yet another plaque and/or certificate to hang on the I-Love-Me wall of the shack was overshadowed by the almost footnote mention of the disqualification of five Multi-2 stations placed at the end of the telephone book style printout of the contest results. The reason for the disqualifications was explained in the terse statement as “Altering of QSL log times to conform with the 10-minute rule .“ At meetings of the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS) we strictly enforce the 5-second rule for dropped pizza, but we have never attempted to actually understand the 10-minute rule as it applies to Multi-2 operation.

For Squirt Pistols who've never had to worry about such rules, the practice of adjusting log times to appear to conform to off-time or band-change times when in violation of the contest rules is referred to as 'rubber clocking”. See the note following this piece for a historical perspective on rubber clocking.

The effect of the disqualifications goes far beyond the CQWW SSB contest. The operators of the disqualified stations are not only disqualified from the 2009 CQWW SSB contest, but they are now also ineligible for the 2010 World Radiosport Team Championship to be held in Russia. While we hesitate to take joy in the misfortune of others, this does improve the odds of some actual LIDS making the WRTC teams. However, the Vegas odds makers still put our chances of making a WRTC team only slightly above that of our scoring a Brazilian supermodel date for next year's Dayton Contest Dinner.

The buzz about the disqualifications in the contesting world was soon overtaken with discussion and arguments of exactly how the violations were discovered among the entrants' logs. The lack of actual knowledge about the techniques and methods used by the CQWW Contest Committee to adjudicate the contest results did little to quell the discussions. It actually fueled the fires in some cases. The CQWW Contest Committee is notoriously secretive about the tools and techniques used to cross-check and score logs. The contest results are issued as if carved in stone and carried down from the mountain by Moses, with about as much explanation of how they are obtained. The Fi-Ni Report has been informed by a knowledgeable insider that the preparation and adjudication of the CQWW contest results involves high level statistical analysis run on donated supercomputer time and the tossing of runes and reading of chicken bones. However, no chicken blood is spilled, unlike the preparation of the ARRL DX Contest results.

Overlooked among the buzz about the disqualifications is an oddity of how the results leaked out to the contesting world. The first appearance of the results on the internet occurred on a Croatian website with an electronic copy of the results listing from the Spanish language edition of CQ Magazine. Such a confluence of international connections can easily lead to conspiracy theories involving the cognoscenti, the Freemasons and the IMF, but as responsible journalists we refrain from any such suggestions. However, contributions from readers are welcome.

What will be the ultimate result of the 2008 disqualifications? Will the 2009 CQWW contests be run with contestants walking on egg shells in fear of the dreadful DQ? The Multi-2 category will be a little more open with five major competitors gone. If the sunspots don't return, will the whole event be red-flagged until Monday? But this isn't NASCAR. The only prediction we can confidently make about the 2009 CQWW contests is that Macho Cuesew will dominate the Xtreme contesting category. We stake our reputation on that.

Now that the CQWW Contest Committee has taken a definitive stand on the practice of rubber-clocking, we only hope they will begin to address other dubious practices in the contesting world.

A Brief History of Rubber Clocking

Rubber clocking is the practice of altering QSO times in a contest log to make it appear that all contacts occurred during the legal contest period. As an example, if a contest requires a minimum of 30 minutes of off time, an operator might start operating after only 25 minutes of off time and then 'fudge' the log times to make it look like he actually did take a full 30 minutes of off time, giving him an extra five minutes of operating time. Needless to say, this practice is frowned upon. More so when someone is actually caught doing it.

To understand the origins of rubber clocking, we have to go back to the days of paper logs and mechanical clocks. In those days, operators had to actually copy the contest exchange off the air without the aid of a supercheck partial database and manually write it on a piece of paper. They also had tubes in their radios. The time of the QSO was manually noted as well, usually from the shack clock or operator's wrist watch. Back then, men wore watches on their wrists rather than using their cell phones to keep track of time. Blackberries of the time occupied an entire desktop.

A very popular clock of the time was an MFJ 24 hour wall clock with a large dial and hands. In an MFJ cost saving measure, the arms of the clock were outsourced to a low cost overseas manufacturer. The manufacturer produced a large quantity of minute hands using a faulty plastic compound with an extremely low melting point. As a result, when exposed to a hot environment, such as the exhaust of a two holer Alpha 77 running at full bore, the minute arms would soften and sag. The sagging or “rubbering” of the minute arm would result in an incorrect time begin logged. Thus, some Big Guns would accidentally record QSO times that were several minutes off and could potentially result in rule violations. This became know as rubber clocking.

(The preceding was relayed to the Fi-Ni Report by an old timer Big Gun who swears that this happened to him.)