Greater than the sum of its parts.
Along the summer I’ve collected bits and pieces of topic suggestions and ham radio news. Any one of them by itself is not worthwhile as an entire stand-alone Off Grid Ham article, and a few are not even directly ham radio-related. But collectively they are a buffet of ideas that off grid amateur radio operators will find interesting. Keep sending in your thoughts. Nearly everything you see on this website originated from reader input.
So, here’s what made the short list of my short summer stories:
Virtue signaling…in someone else’s backyard. ham radio news
The International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) published this exceptionally geeky and very deep study that can be boiled down to one simple and obvious statement: Most people don’t want to live near energy infrastructure (ie, power plants). While a few solar panels on the roof aren’t particularly objectionable, dozens of huge wind turbines or a conventionally-fueled power plant in the neighborhood is another story. If it matters, the IAEE is supported in part by petroleum producers. ham radio news
I certainly believe in renewable/sustainable clean energy. However, I do not think it should be forced on anyone, and that would include building infrastructure near residential areas. This was an international study, so it’s hard to know if the political views of the respondents were considered. Here in the USA, we have a large contingent of “Learjet liberals” who moralize about how everyone else needs to sacrifice to fight climate change. Meanwhile, they themselves live opulent lifestyles that puke out more pollution and carbon in one day than most of us will produce in a year. ham radio news
There is an underreported story from several years ago where a very famous political family, along with a few of their rich friends, killed a wind energy project because it would ruin their view of the ocean. It’s not a coincidence that power plants, garbage dumps, sewage treatment facilities, etc., are never built in wealthy areas.
Off grid toolbox.
Sure, it’s a lot of fun to operate off grid ham radio. What about the tools and parts required to set up and maintain everything? If your off grid setup is just a portable QRP radio or a handheld, your maintenance needs are modest. Those with larger home systems, mobiles, portables, generators, etc., need to have the resources to keep them going.
Periodically go through your tools and supplies. Make sure everything is where it should be and nothing is missing. The other day I had to run to the hardware store for an electrical part. After the job was done and I was putting things away, I discovered that I already had the part in stock. It was just buried under a bunch of other stuff. Had I followed my own advice and been more organized, I could have saved myself that hardware store run. ham radio news
When the “you stupid dumbass!” self deprecating moment passed, I spent a little time inventorying my stuff. There was a lot of clutter and seldom-used tools. I found two pairs of the same pliers in my home repair tool bag, and no pliers at all in a separate tool kit I keep for electronics work.
My physical asset organizational failure, however minor, was 100% my fault. Luckily, the “penalty” was not very severe, but in a SHTF situation when small oversights can vastly change the outcome of the incident, details matter.
Even nothing costs something. ham radio news
A statement by the FCC, confirmed by the ARRL, says that the FCC is “unlikely” to start charging the controversial $35.00 application fee for amateur radio licenses “before 2022”. That isn’t saying much since 2022 is only four-and-a-little-more months away.
While I don’t think $35.00 every ten years is a deal breaker for anyone, there is a larger principle here. The FCC long ago abdicated their responsibility to administer licensing tests and does not meaningfully enforce communications laws on the ham bands. Hell, they won’t even send you a printed paper license. So what exactly are they giving us for our $35.00? To paraphrase a popular 90s sitcom TV series, they are a government department about nothing.
It’s a moot point anyway. The fee is a done deal so there is no merit in parsing it any further. If you want to be a ham, it will cost you $35.00 just to get in the door.
By the way, renewing your license early does not extend the expiration date and buy you more time. If you’ve been thinking about getting your first license, or upgrading your current license, do it soon and save yourself a $35.00 totally junk fee.
Hippy farmers can’t catch a break. ham radio news
Another deep and geeky research article out of Colorado State University affirms that cannabis production has a huge carbon footprint and consumes an amazing amount of energy and resources.
The authors state that growing pot outdoors requires 96% less energy than indoor farms, but nearly all cannabis is grown indoors, which involves energy-hungry grow lights, climate control to accommodate a year-round growing season, and of course water. Local ordinances often prohibit outdoor cannabis farms. Complicating things is that because cannabis is still illegal on the Federal level, pot growers do not qualify for tax breaks and grants intended to encourage energy-efficient farming.
Being a farmer is hard. Being a pot farmer is really hard. If someone could find an affordable way to adapt renewable energy to cannabis farms, pot would be a lot cleaner. This article from Mile High Magazine explains the CSU study in plain language.
Field Day any day. ham radio news
Field Day 2021 has long faded from the rear view mirror, but you don’t need a special day to practice your off grid radio skills. Parks On The Air (POTA) is a fun and popular way to get off the grid as well as bring some positive public exposure to amateur radio.
My only criticism about POTA (and it’s a small criticism) is that it is run like a quasi-contest. There are administrative hassles involved and it’s more structured than it needs to be. Still, it’s a hugely popular and worthwhile program. Of course, nothing is stopping you from plopping down in any favorite park and operating outside of the POTA system. Operating is operating, right?
Earlier this summer I brought my portable setup to a gun club where I’m a member. I announced on the club’s social media page a few days ahead of time that I’d be out there with my stuff and anyone who is curious is welcome to stop by. My expectations were low but it was a huge success! I was so busy talking to the numerous club members who came to see me that I didn’t have time to do much on-air operating. Next time, I’ll recruit a buddy to assist. One of us can run the radio while the other handles the face-to-face interactions. It wasn’t even an official club event. I was going out there to test my gear anyway and threw it out on social media for the heck of it.
So how have you been?
I hope everyone is doing well in a world where so much is going wrong. Keep those suggestions and feedback coming…your ideas are what push this blog forward.
One of your best posts!
Thanks for your support, Jim. I hope you’ll refer all your friends to Off Grid Ham.
Always enjoy your articles, keep them comming as time permits.
I’m glad to hear that you appreciate my efforts. I post one article per month, sometimes two. I’d like to more, but wow, this is almost like a full time job and I already have one of those!
Always nice to see a new article of yours pop up, Chris 🙂 I know all too well what you mean about clutter. I was looking for my Anderson power pole connectors just last week. I know I have a couple of hundred of the dopey things in a big plastic bag, but could I find them? Sheesh… But I did turn up a massive variable capacitor that must be older than I am, a box full of vacuum tubes of various types, an automated espresso maker, and a Kenwood TS-2000 transceiver, and my certified scale weights from about 30 years ago when I used to repair and certify commercial scales. Yes, I’m a pack rat!
Lots of things on the “to do” list – My much repaired dipole came down early in the summer. I have a replacement ready to go up but can’t do that until the tree service gets here and takes down a massive old ash tree in the backyard. I need to winterize my little Yamaha inverter and the big Generac generator, need to change oil, clean them up, get a new starter battery for the Generac. And, of course, make sure they actually work.
I thought this would be a good summer to finally become decent at morse code, get the little FT-818 out and try my hand at QRP CW. Even put together a backpack that holds everything I need so I could take the rig along when I go out on the bicycle. Between one thing and another that never happened either. Sigh.
The ultimate of-grid activity, gardening, canning, drying food, etc. is currently in full swing here. Mrs and I have put up something like 50 pounds of tomato sauces, what seems like a half ton of beans, beets, pickles and peppers.
In other words, semi-organized chaos and always great fun!
I consider myself a well-organized person, but yeah, sometimes things can get away from me.
Instead of one large toolbox with everything in it, I prefer several smaller packages. One tool bag is for general home repairs and improvements. I can solve 90% of my problems with whatever is in that bag. It’s also what I take when I make “house calls” to fix broken stuff for friends and family (yes, I’m “that handy guy”). Another tool box is solely for electrical work. A third is for servicing my off grid batteries. The fourth is for electronics/radio work.
But there is still more. I have “The Box Of Seldom Used Tools”. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s all stuff I rarely use but don’t want to get rid of, such as that Harbor Freight carpet kicker I used for one small job ten years ago and haven’t touched since.
Lastly, I have a box of corded power tools that don’t get used a lot: Circular saw, angle grinder, electric drills, etc.
I also have large power tools that won’t fit in a box: Table saw, miter saw, air compressor, shop vac, etc.
Yeah, when you have that much stuff and do nearly all of your own work, being organized is a high priority.
Thanks for stopping by. I always enjoy your comments and insights.
I just went through my woodshop a few months ago and got rid of a lot of stuff or put it in storage. If it was something I hadn’t used in the last few years, I either gave it away, sold it or put it in storage. I need to do the same with all my electronics, computers and ham stuff too. But I just know that as soon as I give away or sell something I’ll need it in a few months.
Curios, who is going to enforce all the expired HAM licenses on air? Are we going to turn on each other because you paid $35.00 and I did not as a protest?
Yes, that is a rhetorical question, HAMS have been notorious for self policing and there will be people on every net looking up your call to see if it’s expired.
Then chastising you and telling you you can’t talk
Same when they make the vax DB public record, no vax, no talk.
Stick a fork in us boys, Merica is done!