Monthly Archive for July, 2010

Why You Might Want To Join RAC

Okay so you’re a ham radio operator in Midwest City, Oklahoma and you get a letter from the city telling you that you are in violation of Section 27 of Midwest City’sOrdinances dealing with nuisances (of which you are clearly one) so now what?

First off you go lookup Section 27 which reads:

“In addition to other public nuisances declared by other sections of this Code or law, the following [is] hereby declared to be [a] public nuisance: Operating or using any electrical apparatus or machine which materially and unduly interferes with radio or television reception by others.”

Then you send a copy of your national organization, the American Radio Relay League, who get their general counsel to fire off a letter to the city manager telling him that since interference is a federal responsibility, the ordinance is null and void. Which might be easy for the general counsel to say but the individual amateur who received the notice saw that it included a demand that the amateur remedy the problem in one day or face fines of $100 minimum or 15 days in jail.

The ARRL has urged the city to rescind Ordinance 27 immediately and reminds the manager that the individual amateur has the full support of ARRL in any action he may choose to take in this connection.

Of course, here in Canada you could save yourself $50 a year in membership fees and go off and fight city hall on your own or you could join Radio Amateurs of Canada. It’s your choice.

Where is RAC going?

I can’t help but shutter when I read the management troubles besetting our national police force. The situation was ugly and it’s getting uglier. So what can our national amateur radio organization learn from this troubling situation?

RAC is a national organization. As such it probably won’t come as much of surprise that over the years we’ve developed some intrenched ways of conducting business. Special interest groups have formed to work on some great projects that may have regional or local significance. Day to day new issues arise and are addressed to the best of our abilities. Friendships and alliances are forged and life goes on.

Over time, it gets increasingly difficult for the organization to keep doing business as usual. In fact, the concept of usual eventually flies out the window and there are sporadic complaints about how things are done and worries expressed about where we are going. Membership drops and finances are affected. Collectively we start grumbling about how “those guys” are doing it wrong. And perhaps, most damaging, we don’t get involved and just let the situation deteriorate.

Now I don’t think for a moment we’re in the same situation as the RCMP but RAC, as is any organization, whether be your amateur radio club, the place where you work or even life in your own home is subject to change over time. And when that time comes, it’s important to recognize the opportunity to realign and refresh the organization.

And that’s where RAC is right now.

We have an opportunity thanks to the vision of President Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW, and the support of the RAC Board of Directors and Executive group in bringing John Bartlett, HK3OZ, on board to lead us through a national change process. Now how we’re going to pull this off is another question. I’d love to be able to afford to bring all the stakeholders who wanted to participate into a big conference room for a week-long vision quest.

What would we talk about? Well we inherited our management structure. It’s worked for some years now but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. How? That’s what we need to talk about. Same thing with where do you think RAC should be in 2015 or 2020 and how do we get there? That’s what we’d talk about and we’d want to include everyone. And when I say everyone I mean everyone: members, past members, non members, supporters, critics, government, CW guys, QRPers….well you get the point. We’re a national organization and we’ve got to include everyone in the discussion.

Now don’t roll your eyes :) If you haven’t been on one of these group visioning processes you don’t know what you’re missing. If you have you know the enormous benefit that can result from the enormous effort needed. It’s not an easy process but when everyone is involved and there is a willingness to be completely engaged and transparent change can happen. I’ve personally been involved in several lengthy group processes and I came away a much better person for it and a much stronger member of the group.

So getting all of together isn’t realistic. So what should we do?

Well we could start the conversation here. John and Geoff both have the ability to post directly to the blog. I’m looking forward to what they will have to say here. And we want to hear what you have to say.

So let’s get talking. It’s your turn :)

If you had a magic wand

What would you like to see in your national amateur radio organization?

That’s a question being kicked around the RAC executive thanks to an initiative by John, HK3OZ, a former RAC director and VP of PR currently living in Colombia (thanks John for the correction). So how would you improve (notice I didn’t say fix!) your national organization? How would your RAC look in let’s say 2015?

Here’s a few of my thoughts to get the conversation started:

  • There have been some complaints about RAC being an “old boys” club. That impression isn’t incorrect. RAC is run by seven regional directors who are the only people who can vote on issues that come up at the board level. When I look at the photos of the board that appear in The Canadian Amateur on page 4 they all look like elder statesmen to me….okay so some of them are younger than I am but you get my point. The other 11 folks on page 4 are on the RAC executive and cast no vote. Only one is a woman and there are no visible minorities. Surely there are some licensed amateurs who don’t fit the profile? So would I change this? You bet. How should it change? I don’t know! So let’s move on to point two;
  • Anytime there’s a perception of an “old boys”club part of that perception has to come from fact that some people are in the club and most are outside of it. So how can we bring everybody to the table? I believe that it’s blogs like this one and others written by RAC members that can be part of the solution. There is no great mystery here nor an conspiracy. RAC is a national organization run by volunteers from across Canada. It’s a miracle that we exist at all :) let alone work so well together;
  • Now one of the other complaints I’ve heard is RAC is too secretive.  I don’t disagree however it’s not secrecy that’s the issue but our collective inability to find a means to create a national discussion. Heck we have problems getting everyone connected on a national teleconference (last night was nightmare. Thank goodness for cellphones and Skype.) once a month. But how about this: We create a national President’s Council that meets by teleconference or email reflector directly with RAC’s president every 90 or 180 days. Maybe the discussion takes place on a Saturday morning and goes for a couple of hours? It’s a thought. Anybody interested?
  • What else can we do? We can easily grow our membership. It might even be possible that someday every Canadian ham was automatically enrolled as a member of RAC. This idea is going to take some work. To that end, I’d suggest we should have a vice-president of membership. We don’t have one and I can’t for the life of me think of why not!
  • Speaking of membership we need to work with Industry Canada to clean up the list of licensed amateur radio operators. Estimates suggest the current list has 60,000 names on it but we know that some hams hold two or more licenses. My guess is the actual number is much,much lower and that RAC with 5,000 current members is capturing at least half of the active amateur radio community;
  • RAC has some administrative issues to address but these are small potato issues and just require some time and effort to fix and I’m not going to worry about them here;
  • What’s of greater need is more volunteer assistant directors in every province. I don’t think there’s a limit to the number of assistant directors and in places like southern Ontario and all of Quebec we need many more assistant directors to help grow our national organization. Contact your regional director to volunteer.

There’s a ton of other wonderful stuff we should be talking about. The Youth Educational Program comes to mind. All of us need to be involved in encouraging young people to get their amateur radio tickets. The experience of the ARRL shows it can be done and just wait until Amateur Radio is actively promoted in China when the world amateur radio population will take a great leap forward. ARES and the NTS are legacy programs of great value that don’t get enough attention. We (and I’m talking about you and me here) could do more to promote DXing and contesting and satellite operation and the list goes on. What’s need most to make this dream come true is people just like you to come forward and volunteer some your time, talent and maybe even your treasure (there are ways to financially support RAC and our national programs).

RAC would certainly benefit from a national public relations initiative headed locally (all news is local) by the assistant directors. To that end I’ve added a new page that includes a complete public information officers’ kit. If you’d like a pretty version I can send you a PDF. Just email me at ve3hg@rac.ca

Continue reading ‘If you had a magic wand’

RAC Teleconference

So while all of you are DXing, ragchewing, rig building or one of the many other aspects of the hobby a bunch of volunteers from across Canada spent tonight on a teleconference discussing how to make Radio Amateurs of Canada a better national organization. The monthly teleconference brings the RAC board members and executive together. Lots of interesting things get discussed and while the names and faces change but the one thing that remains is the overall caring for Amateur Radio and Radio Amateurs of Canada that I can hear in the voices that come across the wire.

How can you help?

First renew your membership or take out your first membership in RAC.

Second ask all of your amateur radio friends to join you in creating a better national organization.

Third get involved. We’ve got lots of opportunities for individual who want to help.

Finally, fourth keep sending me your comments and emails.

WRTC – the video

I’m not suggesting that you’ve not got better things to do but here’s a link to the entire 24-hour WRTC-2010 contest as worked by R34P. Here you can hear what it sounds like to be in control of contest-quality station in full flight. The audio, provided by K5ZD and W2SC who were referees, is pretty good and it’s really quite educational if you’re an up-and-coming contester.

Maybe it’s just me but I found the recordings pretty exciting. :)

The WRTC-2010 web site also has a link to photos taken during the contest and WRTC volunteer Oleg Beov, UA6LP, has posted a video of the setup for one of the stations. The raising of the tower with beam attached shows one way how to do it.

Remember this is contest took place during a period of low and uncertain solar activity.

Banner year for Amateur Radio in USA

According to the American Radio Relay League there were more than 18,000 new Amateur Radio licenses issued in the first half of 2010 which outpaces the 2009 numbers by over eight per cent. Last year our American cousins saw a total of 30,144 new licenses issued an increase of 7.5 per cent over 2008. As of June 30, 2010 there are 694,346 Amateur Radio operators in the US which amounts to almost a one per cent rise in over all of 2009. According to the ARRL there has been a spike of applications coming from General and Extra class radio amateurs who want to give back to their community by serving as ARRL examiners and instructors.

HELP! RAC needs you

Thanks to the hard work of Doug Frame, VE3JDF, the Ontario South – Niagara RAC Assistant Director, we signed up or renewed 25 new members for Radio Amateurs of Canada at Saturday’s Ontario Hamfest 2010 which takes place in Milton, Ontario. RAC also needs to thank the Burlington Amateur Radio Club for so generously offering to refund the ticket price to anyone who took out a new membership in RAC.

There are lots of big hamfests scheduled across Canada and helping out the assistant directors by staffing RAC membership booths is the number one volunteering opportunity RAC can offer. Staffing the booth is easy, fun and it gets you into the hamfest early :) Some areas, like southern Ontario, are chronically understaffed by volunteers. If we agree that growing a strong national organization is in our personal best interest then we need tog get involved in RAC.

In photo: That’s me on the left with Doug, VE3JDF and a couple of the hundreds of hams who dropped by the RAC booth to say hello.

So what do you need to get involved?

One your membership needs to be current. If you’ve allowed your membership to lapse or if you’re not a member yet here’s the online link to the membership form.

Now as to the booth itself. If your team doesn’t have a table top display have a look at the blog posting I did on how to create one for under $25 (or so) here. One lesson I learned on Saturday is next time I’ll bring about $60 in change (and I’ll make sure I take $60 home with me) as the membership in Ontario is $56.50 (including HST) and you’ll be constantly making change for new members with $60 in $20 bills.

The easiest way to sign up new members is ask everyone who passes by the booth if they are a member. If they say yes thank them for their support. If they say no or they’ve let their membership lapse tell them if they sign up today you’ll handle the mailing for them. Tell them you can take cash, a cheque or a credit card (the credit card information is just handwritten onto the form). That’s it. No hard sell but you’ve got to make the “ask.” Any of you in sales will be familiar with this asking concept. And it’s important to make the ask while you’re standing up behind or in front of your booth. Sitting at a booth where you are selling by talking to people passing by you must be standing. We use chairs behind the booth in Milton.

Another tip is to have four people staffing the booth so you can have two people on and two people off (likely checking out the fleamarket) and don’t fall into the bad habit of talking to your booth mates as potential new members are walking in front of you. This takes some awareness to do but it pays off in increased membership sales.

Finally if you can get the event organizers to announce the location of the RAC booth or if they are willing to refund the entrance fee for memberships these are great encouragements to get a few more memberships.

Now here’s some news!

I got my official thank you letter from President Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW, who personal thanked me for my membership in Radio Amateurs of Canada. Not only that but there was a genuine official RAC membership card attached. So for all you folks who have wanting the welcome letter to again be part of your RAC membership go thank Geoff. And by the way go thank the volunteers who stuff the 300 or so envelopes each month.

Sometime I wonder if RAC is thought of like we’re the ARRL with a multi-million budget and lots of staff people.?

RAC has always been a handful of volunteers who take some of their personal time away from the hobby, family and work to make ham radio in Canada better for every licensed amateur whether or not they are a member. And why do we serve none  non-members? It’s because that’s what national organizations do. They don’t have a parochial view but see a bigger picture for us all. Is it perfect? No. But despite my claims to the contrary neither am I. So we make do with what we have.

But how does it work? There’s a great shot on page 23 of the July/August issue of The Canadian Amateur that shows Chris Wiesner, VA3SM and Norm Rashleigh, VE3LC staffing the RAC table at the Smith Falls Fleamarket. I can think of other ways to spend my Saturday morning but strangely enough I’ll be with Doug, VE3JDF at the Ontario Hamfest in Milton, Ontario. And, that’s how it works. RAC members from across Canada volunteer to help make their national organization stronger and more vital to the health of amateur radio in this country.

So do you want to preserve and enhance your amateur radio experience in our wonderful hobby? Then join or renew your RAC membership today. You can do it online here. And best of all, now you’ll get a letter thanking you for your support and as a member you’ll have the opportunity to pitch in and help the hobby. It doesn’t get better than that :)

WRTC-2010

The World Radio Team Championship 2010 being held in Russia is going online big time this year. The WRTC pits equally qualified teams of two against other equally qualified teams working from pre-setup contest stations all in the same region of the same country. This year there are 48 teams.

The event begins on Thursday, July 8th with contestants arriving in Russia. On Friday there are competitors’s and judges’s meetings with the contest starting on Saturday, July 10 at 1600 Zulu and ending at 1600 Sunday, July 11.

You’ll know the contestants by their special call signs  that start R31…R32…R33…R34,,,R36…R37…R38…R39…with each of the prefixes followed by a single letter (R31A, R31D…etc.).

All amateurs worldwide are encouraged to get on and work the contestants who will be on CW and SSB.

Here’s a link to the rules.

Scores will be posted online as the contest progresses.

Online video will be streamed here. And photos from the event will be posted here.

This year from Canada Yuri, VE3DZ and Yuri, VE3XB are competing as are Lee, VE7CC and Dale, VE7SV who will be joined by John, VE3EJ and Jim, VE7ZO who are defending their world championship 2006 win.

Fox Hunting

No not the fox hunting done with dogs and horses but fox hunting where somebody hides a transmitter and then there’s a race to find it. I’ve participated in a few of these over the years and a well-placed transmitter can be really hard to find. Most of the fox hunting I’ve done has been on two meters and the transmitters were homebrew units capable of transmitting a CW identifier signal every few minutes. If somebody duct tapes one of these boxes, that are virtually invisible until you practically step on them, to a bridge abutment or hangs one from a tree in a valley following the signal can result in a lot of driving and walking around.

In Europe fox hunting is often done on 80 meters using very different techniques and equipment. We got a note about the preparations for Amateur Radio Direction Finding contest (ARDF is apparently different from fox hunting according to an article on the RAC website)

Preparations for ARDF World Championships Sept. 13 to 18, 2010 in Croatia.Preparations for ARDF 2010 in Croatia – June 10, 2010 interim report.

FARSC continues to have twice-a-month practise sessions, and we have also participated in an ARDF event held in Surrey May 1 hosted by Surrey Amateur Radio Association. At that event, our participation included an outreach program where we were paired with novice hunters to show them how the game works.

Also at Surrey, we met another person with experience in ARDF who is joining the Canadian Team–Les Tocko, VA7OM. His addition has just been accepted by the Croatian organizing committee.

This past weekend, June 7, the Victoria group hosted an 80m hunt for 4 visitors from Vancouver, including Amel and Les of the Canadian team. So far, the Vancouver groups have not got a set of 80m gear, but we have loaned them one Tx and a receiver for demos/practice. Les has built his own 80m receiver and proved its effectiveness last Saturday.

ARDF is a strenuous sport but I see that the international committee has just announced two new categories of competition. The first for YLs over 60 and the second for OMs over 70 so there’s time yet to build your 80 meter receiver and get into shape.