I think that for most of us, we have had a difficult and challenging year. The Covid-19 virus and its affect on our entire lives has had a profound effect on the way that we view our lives, and our relationships to our families and friends. I used to think that I was the ultimate social distancer. As an amateur radio operator and working from the home office, social distancing is as natural as riding a bicycle. But after a sustained period of lock down, I am realizing that I long to be back in the groups of family, friends, and the different communities that make up my life.
Forgive me for not writing for the last few weeks. I post new episodes every week, even it I don't write here.
The truth is that I have writer's block that comes from Covid lock down depression. I am good a working all of the time, have a beautiful new office and am working on the "lab" for the rest of my projects. And while I make a joke that hams are the original social "distancers", I betray the fact that I really like to be with people in person. I am praying for a speedy end to the pandemic that that we and the ones that we love come out of it unscathed. I am looking forward to live everything, seeing peoples faces, reading their lips in a noisy place, and seeing a smile.
We are moving fast and furious on the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo, returning in March 2021. I spent September looking at technology that could be used to enhance the Expo to make it more user friendly, including video platforms for making casual contacts, like tuning through 20 meters in the evening. I have recommended some of my discoveries to other hams wanting to have virtual ham club meetings and smaller events. I am happy to share what I discovered.
I would like to have a few panel discussions at the Expo. If you have ideas for discussion topics, please reply to this message.
Since my last message I posted three episodes:
Bob Weed, W7SCY
Stan Johnson, W0SJ
Ralph Haller, N4RH
those episodes are up on the QSO Today website for your enjoyment.
I just posted Rick Miller, N1RM. While I was moving through his interview, he stopped me and asked if he should tell about his US Navy service. Of course, I said. It seems he was a Russian submarine hunter. I am glad he told this story as it was extraordinary.
Have a good week, stay safe, and 73, Eric 4Z1UG
The Covid-19 Pandemic has created a lot of free time due to business closures, social distancing, and lock downs. There are countless examples of re-invention that has happened since last March. The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo was my example of reinventing myself to get through this crisis. My XYL, Karen, too, wrote a book for the our grandchildren about her going into quarantine after being exposed to the Covid-19 virus at her school. This illustrated book is called "Bubie in Bidud". Bidud is Hebrew for quarantine. Once this one is published, she hopes to publish more children's books, in addition to her busy schedule teaching on Zoom to her students.
My friend and fellow Israeli amateur, Mark Rosenberg, 4X1KS, interviewed in the QSO Today Podcast Episode 220, decided to become a novelist with his free time. He recently published his first book, Recon Time, by his pen name, Sebastian Blunt. When he premiered the book, a few weeks ago, he wanted his friends to write reviews of the book to put up on Amazon and other on-line book sellers. I told him that I wanted to read it first.
My idea of a vacation is to sit next to a body of water and read novels. I am a great fan of Tom Clancy like books, fast action thrillers, so I downloaded Mark's book, Recon Time, on my Amazon Kindle and started to read. I couldn't put it down. It was a great combination of high tech entrepreneurs, Washington DC swamp, American Revolutionary War history, including fancy weapons and drones, all topped off with an alien invasion. Mark got all of the pieces right and therefore I told him that I would recommend the book to my QSO Today audience. It was great fun.
Don Keith, N4KC, is another ham radio operator who I interviewed back in April of 2015 in Episode 39. Don also writes great action thrillers mostly involving submarines. His book series, Hunter Killer has become a movie starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman. Still, with all of this creative energy, both Don and Mark are very active in amateur radio.
The moral of the story is that we amateurs know how to channel our time and energy, especially if we have spent a lot of time in the hobby. Since the beginning of the pandemic, sales of amateur radio equipment and accessories is through the roof. It's not surprising since the time off gives us the time to fine tune the shack, build antennas, and get on the air.
Ria Jairam, N2RJ, first got on the air in 1997, from her native home island of Trinidad/Tobago. She immigrated to the USA, pursued a degree in electronic engineering and while pursuing great ham radio mentors. Ria is now an established electronic security professional, mother, ham radio contester, and the recently elected ARRL Hudson Division Director. No doubt, that even during this pandemic, N2RJ is more than busy than ever. She shares her story and interests in this QSO Today.
73 - Eric, 4Z1UG
It is only now that I have begun to watch the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo presentations from last August. I said then that running the Expo was like being the groom at your own wedding. There is so much to do that you don't have time to eat the food. So it was with the Expo. There was a lot of back office and administrative work to meet all of the obligations to every party to the event. While I have started with the team to begin working on the next Expo coming in March 2021, by inviting speaker applications and starting sponsorship sales, I have a little more time to just watch the presentations one after the other.
The only thing that I can say is WOW! The presentations were terrific. Our team did not have time to pre-screen the presentations. Just to check that they were presentable before loading them onto the Expo platform. I admit that there were some technical and production glitches, but all of this virtual stuff is new to all of us, including many of the presenters to the Expo. As I have said in the past, we learned a lot, and from that knowledge we will help our next round of presenters to make excellent contributions to the next Expo.
We conducted two surveys from the lists of registrations and attendees. I am grateful that over 10,000 survey responses were returned to us to help us to understand who came to the the Expo and what we could do to make it better the next time. What was an interesting result is that over 60% of the amateurs that registered to come to the Expo do not and have not attended in-person live amateur radio conventions, hamfests, and conferences for a host of reasons. And, these same individuals happen to reflect the QSO Today listener demographic of older, tens of years of experience in amateur radio, and the highest license classes in their respective countries. This is very exciting news, because it means that even if we were not locked down in a pandemic, that our Expo is a valuable asset to the amateur radio community.
I have since attended a number of on-line expos just to understand the user experience and their effectiveness at sharing and getting the word out. I am convinced now that when everyone is back to hopping on airplanes to attend conventions, that there will also be a virtual component to all future conventions. This is good news to videographers and Internet infrastructure providers. But it is also good news to amateurs. Imagine being able to see the presentations that you missed at a convention that you attended because you spent your time in the exhibit hall or flea market. Maybe even being able to ask your questions later of the host.
The pandemic has caused a lot of misery. It has also changed us in many ways. It has subjected us to self examination and caused us to assess our skills as well as dig into our imaginations to make our lives work around it. My XYL, the high school teacher, and her colleagues, have re-invented the delivery of education to their students over Zoom, with Google Classroom, in an effort to keep their students from falling behind. While getting back to the classroom is the goal, a hybrid of live and virtual may end up being the long term benefit. Tough times test our resolve and make us better.
I have delivered a number of great QSO Today episodes over the last few weeks without writing this message. My apologies if you are a reader of these messages. Even if I don't write a message there is still a new episode of QSO Today every week, each one with a unique story to tell.
I caught up with Keith Schlottman, KR7RK, who was a speaker in the Expo in August. KR7RK lives in the Tucson, Arizona area and is now a SOTA Mountain Goat and Super Sloth. Keith happens to own his own business and when the spirit moves him, he heads for the hills, even during business hours, in pursuit of another SOTA activation. Keith will tell you that even during the pandemic, SOTA is great amateur radio fun, good exercise, and all while social distancing. Of course he goes into more detail about his SOTA successes.
73 - Eric, 4Z1UG
The Ham Expo is now finally over for us here at QSO Today. All of the reports have been generated, surveys returned and tabulated, and the last tasks are almost finished. In another two weeks we will start work on the March 2021 QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo to have enough time to make all of the upgrades from the lessons that we learned from the August Expo.
In Israel, we are in the middle of the Jewish High Holiday season, that began with Rosh Hashana last week, and ends with the 8 day Sukkot holiday beginning next week. This is my favorite time of the year in Israel. The weather is cooling down, the days are beautiful, and the Sukkot holiday is outdoors. It is also a very special social and family time.
We are also in our second lock down that began yesterday due to a spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases. So the holidays this year are not social and family time. My next door neighbor, who has been diagnosed with the virus, went to the hospital yesterday. His family also tested positive, but are hardly symptomatic. All of us on the street see each other every day, masked up and social distancing. Whats-app also keeps us up to date on who needs what and who needs help. The pandemic has brought us all closer as we all have our personal and public struggles.
We Israelis are great in a short term crisis, but we need coherent arguments for continuing the long haul. I know this is also true in the rest of the World. Instead of 100 meter diameter limit, we have a 1000 meter limit. I even found a website that helps me to draw a circle on a Google map to know what 1000 meters from my house looks like. Pathetic. The rest of the rules for public gatherings, like prayer services, require an advanced degree in mathematics to figure out the formulas for what makes a "capsule". Everything is closed and the police are stopping traffic in Jerusalem to keep the socializing to a minimum, unless you are headed to a protest.
As an amateur radio operator, I think that I am in a better position. I tell folks that amateur radio operators are natural social distancers, and we know how to communicate around the world for our social outlet. I am also telling people and believe it myself, that I am doing a "gap year", where I am separated from family and friends, to learn and try new things. The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo is my example. I would be lying to you and me if I said that I am not anxious for this to be over. I really am a social animal in spite of what I tell others.
I was so glad to meet Jim Heath, W6LG, to do his interview. Jim is just a nice guy. His YouTube videos are just the right length and at the right level for new and returning hams to master new skills or get a refresher on old ones. Jim is the kind of mentor that I had, live and personal many years ago, from the amateur radio club. He also provides wisdom and insight from his personal experience to make his channel a must watch. I hope that you enjoy my QSO Today with Jim as much as I did.
We are lucky as hams to have our hobby and each other during this difficult time. Stay safe and 73, Eric,
I am trying to make sense of this year, this pandemic year. It did create for me an opportunity to see that it was possible to pull off a great ham radio event, virtually. The lessons for me and the people that helped me were huge. One of the things that I learned is that there are a large number of hams that will not go to live events, even if there was not a virus, due to their location, their means, their age, or their health. The Expo was an opportunity to increase their ham radio knowledge, reach out to exhibitors, and potentially make new friends.
I titled this message, "The Gap Year" because traditionally, the gap year is that year between high school and college, where if you could, you traveled abroad, took a Eurail Pass to travel in Europe, or took a year of study. You were out of your element, in a different place and time, away from your friends and family. You were there to experience something new and different. It was, for many young people, transformational.
This pandemic year feels like the gap year to me. My friends and family are at the end of Zoom or Skype. My relationships outside of my marriage are literally at two arms length, out of reach, for now. My only public mixing is swimming laps in a pool 3 times a week. I am told that the chlorine kills the virus. Perfectly safe. Locker room - not safe. Wear my mask from the car to the pool. Use my Corona Virus App to file the daily statement that I don't have symptoms or a fever to be allowed into the pool. Straight forward, but strange.
Most of the things that I like to do include people, often lots of people. The physical presence of people, lots of people, is potentially dangerous. By calling this a gap year, I have hope that it will end, and we will all be back in our element, including live ham radio events. I will be there, if possible, when this gap year is over, in addition to hosting another virtual Expo on March 2021.
73 - Eric, 4Z1UG
I realize that it has been a few weeks since I have sent out a message when posting a new podcast. I am still recovering from the Expo. The post Expo work is large but different. We are all pouring over 3000 plus surveys to understand what we need to improve for next March.
The majority of the Speakers for the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo were former guests of the QSO Today Podcast. Only ten were not. So I am interviewing the remaining ten, so that you will have their ham radio story too. You will find these interviews easily by putting in the their call sign on the search bar at the top of the QSO Today Homepage.
The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo is still open in on-demand mode. This means that all of the great content and speakers are there on the platform, only the chat system is not operational. Until September 9th.
We are putting the Q&A sessions up on the platform now after cutting and editing over 180 GB of video. Sadly, some of the Q&A sessions did not get recorded. We are working on a better solution for next March.
I have had one of the "gamers" of the Leaderboard reveal to me how gaming was done and why all of the top scorers are tied. They in fact have milked every point out of the system to the very last one. Some of these guys are very sophisticated. Of course, the game will be very different in March.
Mark Smith, KR6ZY, "Smitty Halibut" as he is also called, is a relatively new ham that has taken up ham radio project building as one of his key areas of interest. I can relate to him as project building has been my interest over the years. Mark was a speaker at the Expo and is a regular contributor to the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast hosted by George, KJ6VU and Jeremy, KF7IJZ.
Finally, QRP Labs, is ending their sponsorship of the QSO Today Podcast. Hans, G0UPL, is a great friend and supporter of QSO Today. I want to thank him and remind you that all of the links to QRP Labs from earlier episodes still work and support us both. He has some great new projects over there and I for one always look to see what's new at QRP Labs.
73, Eric 4Z1UG
Last week, Al Brogdon, W1AB, was episode 310. Al has contributed scores of articles to the ham radio magazines going back over 60 years. It was a fun QSO for me. Be sure not to miss it.
I somehow seem overwhelmed by the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo preparations. However, I have an amazing staff helping me with all of the details from exhibitor booths to on-boarding all of the speaker presentations to our expo platform. It is a huge job and it is getting done, piece by piece. So I can't wait for you to see it when it opens at 0100 hours Zulu on August 8th with Dr. Scott Wright, K0MD's Keynote Address. Scott is a big supporter of the QSO Today Podcast. I wanted Scott's keynote address to stand by itself, so it is going out Friday Evening, August 7th USA time.
The Exhibition Hall will be open at the same time for the next 48 hours. Most of the exhibitors will be in their booths beginning at 1500 Zulu on August 8th, or Saturday morning USA time.
Our speakers are busy this weekend uploading their presentations to us for some minor editing and on-boarding to the convention auditorium. They have been great and I am looking forward, like you, to view their presentations.
In the middle of all of this, I had the opportunity to have a QSO with Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH. Riley is a well known amateur radio speaker and spent his career working at the FCC. Riley worked there as the wireless industry started to boom and evolve the services like paging, cellular, PCS, and the modern services that we have today. He shares his ham radio story and what impact he had on the FCC during his tenure there.
The COVID-19 is spiking in Israel this Summer. The Summer heat has not made it go away, so stay safe out there.
73, Eric 4Z1UG
School is over for Karen, my teacher and XYL. She is nursing a broken arm from a fall in the house. We have floor tiles that settle that are easy to trip over if you don't watch it. We both didn't notice it until it was too late. So she is on the mend and we are still social distancing as the summer moves forward. The beautiful Summer weather and our exhaustion with social distancing is causing the virus to spike here as our population attempts to get back to normal. A reminder that we are not out of the woods yet and have to continue to be careful.
The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo is also moving at a rapid pace. The ARRL has partnered with us to make us an "ARRL Sanctioned Hamfest" that will result in lots of publicity. Our staff is up to five people including me to get this show opened on August 8th at 0100 Zulu, with Dr. Scott Wright, K0MD's keynote speech. I can't wait. We are still selling booths knowing the many of our favorite ham radio vendors will sit this one out waiting to see how successful we will be. Our Sponsors are great and are working to promote this event and getting their exhibit hall booths set up. I said to one that we will be a success just from the over 70 speakers that will present on the two days of the event and the existing exhibitors who did not hesitate to support this effort. I respectfully ask you to sign up for your free ticket as registration numbers are an important confidence builder to sponsors and speakers.
Here is where I need some help on August 8th and 9th.
I am arranging "talk in channels" during the Expo using Echo-link, D-Star, System Fusion, Allstar, IRLP, DMR, and P25. I think that I have the DMR, D-Star, System Fusion and Allstar covered. I would like to have Echolink, IRLP, and P25 "talk groups" available. Any ideas?
I will also need net control operators on those talk groups to answer questions from a FAQ that I will prepare to help people around the virtual conference hall. If you would like to volunteer, please click on this link: https://bit.ly/3ibEQfx to sign up.
If you have other ideas on how to create an on-the-air presence, please reply to this message. I am open to suggestions.
The name of this post is called "sidewalk EME" because that is exactly what my guest this week, Doug Millar, K6JEY, does to work DX by bouncing signals off the moon. You see, Doug does not have a lot of yard to do EME on 10 GHz. So he assembles his 8 foot satellite dish and 10 GHz rig on the sidewalk in front of his condo in Southern California. He demonstrates that a determined amateur radio operator can make a contact from just about anyplace. I hope that you enjoyed this QSO Today as much as I did making it.
Thanks for listening. Stay safe and be careful out there.
73, Eric 4Z1UG
We are about 8 weeks away from the first QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo, and have started in earnest to sell exhibitor booths to pay for this event. As I write this, FlexRadio and RT Systems have signed to be the first Gold Sponsors after Icom's Platinum position. These companies will lead the way for the rest of the exhibitors so that we can create an amazing and memorable event for the ham radio community. Brad, Emanuela, and I are making calls and demonstrations of the unique platform that we are using to make this event. Its fun and on the edge.
I told a well known ham and business person in the ham radio community as I was making a demonstration for his company, that my first vision of a pioneer is the American settler with his face down in the dust of the Great Plains with a few arrows in his back. Its hard to be first and you hope that the arrows are not deep enough to hurt.
When I need a ham radio logo or QSL Card, my first choice is always Jeff Murray, K1NSS. Jeff was kind enough to do a spectacular job on the "Expo" logo with our name inside of a magnetic loop antenna. Its a beautiful representation (above) of what I wanted to express and besides it will look good on coffee cups and hats.
I had a great conversation with Tim Carter, W3ATB, who is my guest this week. Tim is a relatively new ham, but an old hand in being a media personality. Tim was the first full time remodeling guy with a radio talk show, years ago. Since then he has created a great media business around his building interests. When he became a ham, his first act was to find a mentor to get him to success fast. That is why I called this message from Zero to 60 in four seconds. Tim says in the show that a ham radio mentor is the fastest way to success and enjoyment of the hobby. I can't agree more.
Thanks for listening. Stay safe and be careful out there.
73, Eric 4Z1UG
Eric Guth, 4Z1UG / WA6IGR, is the host of the QSO Today Podcast, and an amateur radio operator since 1972.