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.