Go With The Flow

6 Mar

This is a classic example of why CW operators are so passionate about their craft. The article was originally penned by Nancy Kott WZ8C (Silent Key) and posted by Bruce Prior N7RR.

Morse code. These two words conjure up more emotions than any other phrase in Amateur Radio. For some reason, Hams who enjoy Morse code are fiercely protective of it. When the no-code rumblings began, people started taking sides. It even brought mild-mannered hermits out of their shacks and motivated them to write letters to the FCC and the ARRL. The threat that the bandspace dedicated to code might be taken away brought them together in a way that has never been seen before.

 

Why would they care? No one is going to make code illegal; no one is going to make them stop using code. So what does it matter? What is it about code?

 

You may assume they feel that they had to suffer through the code test, so everyone should. Or they feel it is a filter to keep out the riff-raff. Sure, there may be some of that – on the surface – but to bring out feelings this explosive, it has to go deeper.

 

I started thinking about my own experience. When I moved to Metamora in 1985, my mother would telephone every day, worried about me living in the boondocks. My father, more worried about the rising phone bill than the possibility of me being eaten up by a grizzly bear, suggested that we get our tickets so we could use 2 meters instead of the telephone. My mother said, “I will if you will.” And I said, “OK.” I had taken electronics in college and worked as an electronic technician at Chevy Engineering seven years, so I didn’t have a problem with the theory. But, Morse code? Forget it.

 

“WHY do I have to learn that stupid code,” I whined. “All I want to do is get on two meters. It’s not fair.” I can’t tell you how deeply I resented being forced to do something because of an antiquated requirement. If there had been a no-code Tech license at that time, I would have snatched it up in an instant and not thought twice.

My mother got her No vice license in about six months. It took me over two years to get to 5 wpm. I lost count of how many times I quit and started up again. I fought it every step of the way. When I finally got the 5 wpm in June of 1988 I was relieved. Now I could forget about it.

 

My mother and I chatted happily on 2 meters for most of that summer, until one day we were talking about what I was going to do that night. We were using the repeater instead of simplex and I had a tendency to forget that people read the mail, especially on repeaters. So, I told her I had stopped at the video rental for some tearjerkers, picked up a pizza, bought a new nightgown and planned on spending the evening taking a bubble bath and relaxing. After my transmission, a male voice came on and said “uh, what is the color of that nightgown, Nancy?” and another piped in, “what time does the movie start?” The local guys were razzing me, all in good fun of course, but I was so embarrassed!

 

My father said, “You know, if you used CW you could talk on 40 or 80 meters and no one would hear you.” That wasn’t entirely true, but the idea was appealing. At least there would be a purpose for that darned code. Grudgingly, I started practicing again. My mother upgraded to Extra in a couple months. It took me a year to get to 13 wpm and get my General.

 

During that year, I spent enough time with code that I got comfortable with it and once I got my 13, something clicked and I got my 20 in about a month with barely any effort at all. Suddenly it became fun!

 

After I got on the air at that speed, I couldn’t get enough of it. I’d come home and rag chew. It would make my day to work a new state or a special event station. Getting the mail each day was like Christmas – QSL cards..certificates!

 

What happened when I reached about 13 wpm that suddenly made it enjoyable? While doing research on code courses and how people learn, I came across an explanation: Instant Recognition. When you get to a point that you can instantly recognize a code symbol without having to translate it in your mind or do any sort of conscious thinking about it at all, you have Instant Recognition. Once that happens, it becomes effortless and more like a satisfying game. You aren’t working, you already “own” those letters. They’re part of your subconscious vocabulary.

 

This is where people get into trouble using the so-called short-cut programs. Believe me, there are no short cuts. You have to do the work. Programs with memorization tricks make learning more fun and will get you to 5 wpm – maybe 10 – but they will not give you Instant Recognition, which is what you need to get past that “wall” you hear about. You hit that wall when the code is coming at you faster than you can translate.

 

There are no short cuts. There is no magic pill. This is unfortunate because learning code is boring. Rote memorization is about the most mind numbing thing in the world. But once you get it, it is yours forever, just like riding a bicycle. And it is worth it. Why is it worth it? That brings me back to what I said in the beginning. There is something about code that creates a feeling that is deep seated and very strong.

 

I was reading a book called The Flow by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and it dawned on me that this is what makes people so passionate about Morse code! Dr. Csikszentmihalyi is a behavioral scientist. He works at the University of Chicago now, teaching and doing research on human behavior. He grew up in a very poor, war-ravaged part of Europe. He was a curious, observant child and noticed that while most of the adults around him were bitter and unhappy, there were a few who were content and seemed almost happy. When he got older and went to college, he decided to study human behavior so he could see what it was that made these happy people, happy. He discovered that when a person is deeply wrapped up in an activity that meets certain requirements they go into a state of mind he calls “Flow”. Professional athletes and musicians typically go into Flow during their practice sessions. Hams go into the state of Flow when they get on the air. But it doesn’t happen to all Hams, it tends to happen to CW ops, contesters, or serious DX’ers.

 

There are seven criteria for the State of Flow. Let’s look at them briefly as they relate to Amateur Radio.

1 – The experience must have a definite goal.

2 – We must know the steps to reach our goal.

3 – We must have feedback on how we are doing at each step.

4 – We must be able to focus on the event.

5 – We must feel in control of the situation.

 

Ham radio in general satisfies these five requirements. The goal is a QSO. We have to turn the rig on to have a QSO, we get feedback and focus while communicating on the air, we are in control because we can always pull the plug. So far, these Flow requirements could apply to either SSB or CW. But with the next two requirements, important differences occur.

 

6 – Our attention must be completely absorbed in the operation.

 

When we operate CW, especially at or near our fastest copying speed, the operation demands our full attention. If our mind wanders, we miss a letter or a word. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi calls this mental state “optimal experience.” When at this optimal experience, the mind is at its best and happiest. This state also alters one’s sense of time; time flies by faster. When the optimal experience is over the person feels content, satisfied, and has increased self-esteem.

 

Using SSB involves little concentration; you can count the spare change from your pocket or look out the window to check the weather while waiting for your turn to talk. Optimal experience is rarely, if ever, achieved.

 

7 – We must have the possibility of increasing our skill level.

 

When working CW, after a rest, your mind is ready to enjoy another optimal experience. Each experience adds to the proficiency of the operator who develops a desire to increase his speed because he has found that an increase in speed is an increase in fun and self esteem. There is a huge range for improvement; some operators have reached over sixty words per minute.

 

When using SSB, there is little chance of developing new skills. This eventually leads to boredom and cessation of operation. This does not bode well for Ham radio as a whole.

 

Although the no-code license has increased the number of licenses issued, these new licensees are not going to stay with the hobby in the long run because they are not getting the satisfaction of Flow. They might get up to 10 wpm or so, but still don’t feel good about it. They get discouraged and quit or they flounder around wishing they could join in the fun, but aren’t sure what to do about it. They aren’t experiencing Flow because if they try to learn code at all, they are generally learning code with the aide of crutches and therefore not achieving Instant Recognition.

 

If you are going to invest the time to learn code, you should do it efficiently. This will allow you to see progress and cut the time you need to practice. Aristotle was the first one to discover and document that when you experience two things within a second of each other, the brain can easily associate them together. The further apart the two actions occur, the longer it takes the brain to associate them and the longer it takes to memorize them. What this means to us, is that when we hear the symbol for a letter we must immediately, within a half second, say or write, or both, that letter. Dit dah A . Not dit dah umm. A. The very instant you hear the last dit or dah, SAY the letter. Do this over and over and over. Take on two or three letters, one at a time, and learn them until you OWN them. Then add another letter, but still keep reviewing the ones you already know. The trick is to OVERLEARN them so they become second nature.

 

Think back to a time when you heard someone from a non-English speaking country speak English. They will be chatting along, comfortable with the vocabulary, until they get to a word they haven’t used very often. They’ll stop and say `oh,how do you say.?”. They have to stop and mentally translate it because they haven’t overlearned that phrase. Only spend five minutes or so at a time, and spread out your practice sessions throughout the day. Don’t forget to INSTANTLY associate the letter with the symbol. This is critical. The most important thing is to get that instant association going in your brain with the symbol and the letter. You may think you are already doing this, but you will probably be surprised. If you already are at 7 or 10 wpm and think that not having Instant Recognition isn’t your problem, play a code tape and test yourself. If you hesitate for even a fraction of a second, you don’t have Instant Recognition. Having to translate even one or two characters will impede you.

 

Play those letters over and over and using the Instant Recognition half-second technique. If you work on them one at a time, you WILL own those letters and have the whole alphabet in your subconscious and you will find your proficiency increasing and you will get into The Flow of CW.

 

You will then understand why CW operators defend the code so passionately and hopefully you will join us in preserving the music of Morse on the air for future generations.

Thank you for reading this.

73

Glenn VE3GNA CWOPS #457

Grumble Grumble

3 Feb

Totally not radio related, but this has been bothering me for some time.

Many of you were no doubt watching the dissection of the Denver Broncos offence by the Seattle Seahawks last night. Not being a huge fan of anything called “football” when in fact it should be called “passball” or “runball”, I waited for this morning sportscasts to hear the result.

I heard an announcer refer to the victorious Seahawks as being “World Champions”. That’s a total crock. Firstly, the USA does not constitute the “World”. Some Americans may think they are the center of the universe, but I strongly disagree. We in Canada play a much better brand of “football” whereby the offensive team gets three chances to advance the ball 10 yards. We employ twelve men to get the job done rather than eleven. The game is faster and more exciting, IMHO.

Our Saskatchewan Roughriders have not been invited to play against the Seattle Seahawks for the North American title as yet. Neither team has been asked to play the champions from any other country in the world. Oh, wait a minute. Most nations of the world play a different game called “football”. We call it Soccer. The closest thing they might have to our “football” may well be rugby. But wait again, this game is played by big men wearing SHORTS and no padding.

No, the Seahawks are only the US champions, despite the ravings of the sports announcers. Similarly, the Boston Red Sox are only the North American chamions in Baseball. They have not played against the Romiori Giants or whoever won the Japanese championship. Nor have they played against any other country’s winning baseball team. The team that wins the Stanley Cup is only crowned the NHL champions, not the “World” champions. At least one league got it right.

Most other sports are “World” in all aspects. Tennis pits the best from many nations against each other. So does Golf. For that matter so do the Olympics. To be the Olympic champion in any sport is a prize to be held in the highest esteem. With the exception of hockey, the vast majority of Olympic athletes are amateurs. That is they are not paid to play their sport. Granted they may make millions from endorsements. But they play the game for the sheer fun of it and the glory attained when they bring home the gold.

Until all professional sports teams play the game against the best from other countries, they cannot be deemed true world champions.

I’ve spoken my piece. Now I shall crawl back under my rock.

73

Glenn

Latest Issue Of QNI – The Independent NTS Newsletter Is Now Available Here.

7 Dec

QNI December 2013

It Has Not Been Fun

25 Nov

The past few days of my life have not been much fun from where I am standing. The telling of it will no doubt read like the plot of a very bad “B” movie. Be that as it may here goes.

This past Wednesday, I was out running a few errands. I arrived home mid-afternoon, feeling a little bit odd. So I decided that maybe I needed to put my head down and my feet up for a little while.

I lay down on the queen size bed and pulled the comforter up to my neck. About an hour later, I began to sweat. Now I’m talking real sweat, not just a few dribbles. My undershirt and tee shirt were getting wet. Despite that I felt cold, so I asked Barb to add a blanket. That simply exacerbated the situation and the sweating increased.

Then it was supper time. Did I feel like eating? No I did not, but I made the attempt. The dogs were happy as they got most of it. Then it was back to bed and more sweating. Along about midnight I was having some serious hallucinations. I was seeing colours dancing in front of my eyes. I was trying to talk but no words came out. I must have had a serious fever, but didn’t get up to check and Barb was sleeping so I didn’t want to wake her.

About 2 am I had to get up as my bladder was telling me to attend to some unavoidable business. I trudged into the bathroom, leaned over to raise the seat, and “Wham” passed out and fell into the tub. I woke Barb up and she helped me extricate myself from the situation. And, no, I never did use the loo. With her help I was able to remove my tee and undershirt, and put dry ones on. The ones she took off must have weighed two pounds, they were so soaked.

The next morning, I awoke and got up to have a little breakfast. I have gotten in the habit of late of having Raisin Bran most mornings. I poured a small bowl and added some milk. It was an effort, but I finished it, then returned to bed. I was in and out of that bed for most of the day and evening. I had some hot soup for dinner and returned once more to the bed. Believe me, I was one tired and sick old man. I didn’t know what I had gotten but I new it couldn’t be good. I thought of contacting my family doctor but knew he would simply say to go to the hospital. I felt that I could do better by simply staying in bed and drinking plenty of water. More water in equals more water out, right? Oh yeah, more water out all right, just not how you might think.

I don’t think I spent more than a couple of minutes on the porcelain ring. If I stood to pee, I would fall over so I sat and dribbled. Don’t laugh, when you get old you will see just what I am saying.

By Friday I was feeling a little better, but now I had a new problem. I figure I was vanquishing the beast from my body and it was making itself known with violent cramping. If you have ever had the situation whereby you know you need to go, but you just can’t go fast enough you know what I mean. There was obviously a ton of pressure up there. There was no way I could go to work, so I phoned my employer and told him of the situation. He agreed to cover my shift. I told him I should be OK by the next day but would let him know.

Back to bed and more sweating, and numerous trips to the bathroom. I really don’t know where all this watery stuff comes from. You’d think I would be 5 or 10 pounds lighter after this ordeal. Maybe a couple but no more. Saturday night I went to work as per usual, not feeling near 100% but I need the money. Was in the throne room three times in seven hours there. Luckily it was a quiet night so I didn’t inconvenience any customers.

I arrived home Sunday morning, and promptly went to bed. I awoke about noon and had a little cereal – yes Raisin Bran, in case you were going to ask. Today has seen some improvement. I am not sweating anymore. I have a semblance of my appetite back. I still spend an inordinate amount of time on the cylinder. But I think I have the monster tamed. Now if only I could identify it.

Barb thought it might be stomach flu. I was thinking something a bit more serious like salmonella. We both had a salmon sandwich at noon Wednesday. The only difference was that I had mayo on mine. I don’t know if checking the mayo will tell me anything. The salmon had to be OK or we would have both been sick.

All I can say is whatever it was, it sure knocked the bejesus out of me. I still feel weak periodically, but am improving. I won’t be dancing any jigs anytime soon however. It is too darned cold outside to do anything there. I still have to get the Christmas stuff out and put up around the front of the house. That will have to wait for a warmer day, if there are going to be any. Good luck with that, according to the Weather Channel.

Like I said it has been a fun few days and from the feeling I have right now, I better get my butt back into the throne room.

Good night all

Glenn

Update From The Phillippines

12 Nov

The following report was forwarded via e-mail from the IARU Region 3 chairman regarding the total devastation in the Phillippines after Typhoon Haiyan struck last Friday. We should all keep the citizens of the Phillippines in our prayers in the weeks to come.

73

Glenn

Typhoon kills many thousands as disaster unfolds

Estimates of those people who died when monster Typhoon Haiyan (also called
Yolanda) hit the central Philippines on Friday ranges up to 10,000, with
many injured and nine million people affected.

The full damage and death toll of the fiercest typhoon ever recorded on land
has overwhelmed emergency services, supported by the military and at least
five major Ham Radio Emergency Operator network stations.

Ramon Anquilan DU1UGZ, of the Philippines Amateur Radio Association (PARA),
reports that among the chaos HERO stations are helping authorities and residents.

In Tacloban the capital of Leyte which was smashed by winds, its streets
filled by ocean surges and is now a swamp-like smelling mess.

Ramon DU1UGZ said that RADNET with Nathan Eamiguel DU5AOK, Vilma Eamiguel
DU5VIE, and the members of their local club are working hard.

“Their HF station is located on the second floor of the Tacloban City Hall,
powered by a generator maintained by the local government unit. Two metre
band communications is simplex because there is no electricity to power their
repeater.

“The VHF members serve as field personnel who go on various errands – verification
of requested information, liaison work, and bits and ends.

“The officers led by Nathan DU5AOK dispatch their members based on the priority
traffic handled by the HF station.”

He said the Tacloban HERO station has been used by the Red Cross to track
a relief vehicle verifying the welfare of its volunteers who were stopped
and ransacked by those impatient for aid to arrive.

Other requests for help came from the National Telecommunications Commission
(NTC) regional office in Tacloban that needed hand-held radio contacts.

In his report he talks of another local club ACCESS 5 attached to responding
government agencies and relief organisations. A military HF station is linked
with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Council (NDRRMC)
which is located inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“However ACCESS 5 is using VHF very effectively acting as guides for rescue
and retrieval teams in the field, just like some RADNET volunteers,” said
Ramon DU1UGZ.

In Eastern Samar, Lester Price DV5PO (also ZL5PO) based in Borongan is providing
valuable situation reports. Lester and his wife had a very lucky escape -
they held on to the doors of their house for four hours until the surge waters
receded, that claimed around 500 lives in the coastal barangay or village
alone.

Another third HF station activated by the Department of Science and Technology
(DOST) is using equipment from Nathan DU5AOK and his friend Dominique walked
half a day to the government centre in Palo and the DOST Regional Office.
Dominique, who is actually the office driver, and the Regional Director,
Dr Eduardo Esparancilla alternate as operators.

In DU7 (Cebu, Bohol and Negros Oriental islands including the island province
of Siquijor), the Cebu Amateur Radio League (CARL) has dispatched a team
to the Municipality of Bantayan – located in the northern tip of Cebu.

This municipality is the hardest hit in Cebu with an estimated 90 per cent
of structures levelled. The CARL team (previously reported on) is handling
HF traffic. Another component is the Chocolate Hills Amateur Radio League
(CHARL) based in Tagbilaran City in Bohol – an area struck by an intensity
7.2 earthquake recently.

The club station DU7BC along with its members Gerry Marmito DU7AU, Ador Lamoste
DU7AL are ready to monitor and relay messages between Tacloban and the principal
receiving stations.

The third DU7 component is from Dumaguete City. Roy Alcantara DU7DDJ together
with James DU7JGU (Island Province of Siquijor) are leading NORAD-7 with
long range communications to the Dumaguete local government unit passing
traffic from Tacloban to their area in Negros island. NORAD-7 members also
act as field operators and runners.

In DU6 (Panay, Negros Occidental and neighbouring islands) heard are Bobby
Garcia DU6BG in Iloilo, Iver Astronomo DV6ILA and Arnel DV6WAV in the Roxas
Provincial Capitol as they are embedded with the Provincial Disaster Risk
Reduction and Mitigation Council (PDRRMC).

Scattered all over the archipelago of the Philippines are stations receiving
outgoing traffic from Tacloban and the other affected areas.

Among them are Jojo DU1VHY, Thelma DU1IVT, Romy Isidro DV1SMQ and Max 4F1BYN
- acting as the main receiving stations on a rotational basis since HERO
activation began.

Other stations are also active in receiving outbound welfare traffic, mainly
to inform family members and relatives of their conditions – Totie DV1TEE,
Lito DU4DF, Atty. Albert DU4ABA, Bobby DU6BG, and Ramon DU1UGZ.

On standby as relays are Doc Piciong DV9DOC, Marlu DU8WX, Butch DU1RP (PARA
SecGen on his mobile station in Davao City), and others.

Another facet of the operations is the use of Echolink by CARE-4 in Naga
City (DU4) and COMPASS in Tondo, Manila (DU1).

Ramon DU1UGZ said, “Basically, the Tacloban and other stations in the disaster
areas permit only outbound traffic as priority messages.

“This is a policy decision by NTS Co-Chair Jojo DU1VHY and as requested by
RADNET. We can classify the messages as follows: We Survived Messages, institutions/government
agencies to their central or partner offices in Manila, and urgent requests
for specific form of assistance or relief items.?

The relief and retrieval operations are moving slowly and the HERO operations
are probably going to last a week or more from today.

He said that Telecoms companies are steadily restoring cellular mobile services
and today there was intermittent limited coverage in Tacloban.

“As the primary telecoms services are restored, there will be less reliance
on the amateur radio service in Tacloban.

“This will mean a more difficult period because the remote areas not reached
yet by government and other agencies will now demand communication links.

?Our assets will be thinly spread resulting in gaps which only a robust service
such those found in first world countries,”” said Ramon DU1UGZ.

Currently an average of one to two minutes is spent per message, and depending
on band conditions, the rate of traffic per hour would be 40 to 60 messages.

A more in-depth analysis is not possible until all HERO stations are closed
and submit their log details.

Ramon DU1UGZ notes that news media has started to notice ham radio, but don’t
understand that the HERO network is playing an important role in the disaster.

“Although there’s some very brief TV exposure they are yet to adequately
report on the voluntary service it provides, and the emergency communications
to the agencies and community in times of disaster,” he said.

The typhoon cut a path of destruction in central Philippines on Friday, but
the fast-moving Category 5 weather system missed the densely populated capital
of Manila.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino inspected Tacloban City where almost
all buildings were lost as huge surge waves came through its streets. He
pledged that local authorities are to house about 45,000 families and give
them food.

The President said he was lost for words to adequately describe the enormity
of disaster affecting 36 provinces. He has declared a national calamity.

A large international relief effort is under way although it remains mostly
chaotic with rescue workers struggling to reach some remote areas. Some 22
countries and the European Union have pledged help.

Also the losses include 71,000 hectares of agricultural land with crops of
rice and corn hardest hit.

- Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee.

Pictures from Pelee

4 Sep

Last week my wife and I along with her sister spent several days travelling through Southwestern Ontario. We journeyed to Niagara Falls, but did not stop as the weather was simply wet and miserable. We carried on to Fort Erie where we spent the first night.

The next day we drove to Kingsville, near Leamington, where we took the ferry to Pelee Island. It had stopped raining but the humidex was in the low 40′s which for you less enlightened is well above 100 deg F. I found our time on the island to be enjoyable but my companions were somewhat less enamored. Frankly they couldn’t wait to leave. So we did, on Wednesday afternoon.

The third night found us in Wallaceburg, where we once again spent the night, and returned home the following day. What makes the stops on Pelee and in Wallaceburg unique from my perspective, was being able to pass messages directly into Ohio and Michigan on two meters. As most of you know, I live to pass traffic. I passed several messages Wednesday afternoon while awaiting the ferry to Mike KC8WH in Tiffin OH near Sandusky. The following evening I checked into SEMTN on 2 meters and passed a batch into Michigan to several different fellows. I am sure that they, as they were used to getting my messages with a Westplain ON place of origin, were thrilled to get them from Pelee and Wallaceburg.

I am attaching a couple of pictures from Pelee Island to this post. One of them is a picture of the world’s smallest winery. It is a scaled down version of the original winery built on the island in the mid 19th century. This winery was the first in Ontario, and has since become a ruin. There is still a winery on the island to this day, producing a variety of local wines.  If one is interested the model winery is available for the “smaller family”. Given that it is onl;y about 5 feet high it would be difficult to enter. Even the stone used to construct it is scaled down to match the original as much as possible.

The other picture depicts a local highlight. At some point in the past someone either on purpose or not, added a pair of old shoes to the branches of a tree on the northern end  of the island. Over the years, visitors have added their own and now there are over 250 pairs of shoes in the “shoe tree”.

73,

Glenn

Pelee 001 Pelee 002

A Great Show

15 Apr

Thursday evening past, my wife and I travelled to the city of Kanata, west of Ottawa, to attend the Harlem Globetrotters game against the Global Selects. We had seen them once before, some forty years ago in the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.  This time we had excellent seats, – on the floor at the south end, directly under the basket. Being in the second row, we were able to see everything but were unlikely to have a player land in one of our laps.

Needless to say thew show was tremendous. The modern version of the Globetrotters may not be a wizardly as the earlier incarnations, but they still know how to put on a show. To the tune Sweet Georgia Brown they put on a show of precision passing and great shotmaking before the actual game. During the game the fun continued, with the inevitable bucket of water directed at the fans followed by one filled with confetti.

They even encouraged a four-year-old boy to join them on the floor to attempt some of their moves. This kid did an amazing job of it too.

Attached are several pictures I took at the game. They are smallish but I imagine if one were to copy and paste one could enlarge them without much effort. I also shot some video clips which I will try to upload at a later time.

73,

Glenn

Globetrotters 007 Globetrotters 008 Globetrotters 009 Globetrotters 001 Globetrotters 002 Globetrotters 003 Globetrotters 004 Globetrotters 005 Globetrotters 006

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.