Friday, February 25, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Friday at last.  This has been an exciting seven days in
the KKBG-FM/KHLO-AM news room.  With the
turmoil in the middle east, the nasty mainland U.S.
weather, and the continuous rise in the daily cost
of living, there are sufficient stories to keep several
news people busy.  Never a dull moment this month.
I'll paraphrase an old Chinese saying--"may you be
blessed (or is it cursed) by living in exciting times."
The news from the amateur radio front is just as
confusing and strange as the happenings in the so-
called "real world."

During a recent break from the daily schedule of
newscasts, I purused the 24 February 2012 edition
of "The ARRL letter".  Usually, I just glance through
the e-mail edition and file the few stories I consider
worthy of later inspection.  But today, there were
several stories that show both the highs and lows
of our hobby, and by tenuous extension,  the current
state of our nation and people. 

In the good news category, New Zealand hams are
doing a great job of maintaining public communications
in the city of Christchurch following that devastating
earthquake earlier this week.  There are many stories
such as this.  Amateur radio operators have a proud
tradition of pitching in where our talents can be used.
For those of us in Hawaii, the performance of amateur
radio operators during Hurrican Iniki some twenty years
ago was in the highest traditions of the amateur service.

In the warning category is the ARRL effort to oppose
certain sections of HR 607 (The Broadband First
Responders Act of 2011).  This bill could affect
amateur radio allocations in the 420-440 MHz spectrum.
The ARRL is asking you to contact your congress person
and to urge that the bill be changed to protect vital emer-
gency operations that occur on those frequencies.  Al-
though I don't agree with the ARRL on many topics, I
feel this erosion of spectrum to commercial interests will
set a bad precident.  Of course, these frequencies aren't
"ours" and the FCC can allocate use of this segment as
it sees fit.  To be fair, these frequencies would be used
to supplement the spectrum now available to police, fire,
and other first responders.  This may be another case of
"use it or lose it."  If regulators find that certain frequencies
are under utilized, we amateurs may find those areas denied
to us.  Just a thought.

On a more positive note, the IARU is moving toward getting
some shared amateur radio use in the MW portion below
500 KHz.  Amateur radio operators could succeed here,
Several groups of amateur radio operators have secured
experimental license to  see what is possible in this area.

And finally, before I step off my infrequent soap-box, there
is the tragic tale of the yacht "Quest" which was captured
by Somali pirates with the resultant death of three amateur
radio operators on board--Scott Adam (K9ESO), Jean
Adam (KF6RVB), and Bob Riggle (KE7IIV).  This is
reminiscent of an ill-fated German DX operation to the
Spratly Islands more than 20 years ago.  In both cases,
amateur radio operators were caught in dangerous
situations that could have been avoided.  Why would
otherwise rational people willingly enter an area where
the chances of coming out alive are dicey at best?  If
huge ocean going vessels can be captured and held for
ranson and their crews threatened with execution what
makes these amateurs think they have the special gift
of survival?  Is it possible to be so dedicated to the
search for DX that we ignore plain common sense?
Didn't either of these hams keep up with current events
or monitor warnings issued by their governments?  I
guess not.  Such ignorance can be fatal.  It's one thing
to be a journalist assigned to cover an area or a military
professonal ordered to serve in harm's way, but another
thing to just act foolishly.  Of course, we don't know all
the facts, but doesn't it seem odd to throw caution to the
wind for the sake of a QSL card or to enter an area where
outsiders are considered infidels worthy of death?  If soldiers
have a rough time of defending themselves against tribesman
in the mountains of Afghanistan, what makes hams think they
will fare better off the coast of Oman or in any other hot
spot?  After serving many years in the Air Force and covering
almost four decades of news, I 'm truly amazed by the lack
of awareness shown by many amateur radio operators. 
Afterall, De-nile is not necessarily a river in Egypt.  Now that
I've vented and made a few of you upset, I'll climb off the
podium and return to some form of rationality.  Besides, the
day is nearly over, and the lower half of 40-meters awaits.
Have a good weekend. 

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM