Tag Archives: ham blog

Ever been to Cornbread Road?

My favorite amateur radio blog comes from Jeff Davis, KE9V. If you have been following Jeff’s blog through the years you’ll have seen a constant evolution of his site and content. In addition to his ponderings of the current state of ham radio, Jeff has produced a number of engaging podcasts. Long Delayed Echoes was Jeff’s podcast series that covered a great deal of the early history of amateur radio. It featured selections from Clinton B. DeSoto’s 200 Meters & Down as well as other significant historical sources of ham history. In addition to his written contributions to QST (see the May 2005 issue on page 56) Jeff has also shared his talent for fiction with us. He has several other ham radio related stories that he posts now and again on his blog (… it is worth checking his blog frequently because once in a blue moon he will put links up to his stories… my favorites are QRP Christmas and Tragedy on the Trail).

Besides his blog, Jeff prodigiously uses social media and you would likely enjoy his ham radio musing that can be read via Twitter and Google +.

Jeff combined his podcast talents along with his fiction writing skills with the production of Cornbread Road. All 13 episodes of the serial are currently available and on the 30th of September, Jeff has promised us a final installment. I’m looking forward to that!

4th of July

I have been here in Korea for just over two weeks and am settling in at Camp Red Cloud, located north of Seoul. I think I’ve done a poor job in the blog of laying out the last month and half in which there has obviously been some significant changes in what I am doing.

On May 20th, I graduated from the School of Advanced Military Studies, culminating my two years at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, knee deep in graduate-level text books and Army field manuals. One of the requirements for graduation was to write a monograph on a military subject. I choose to write on the early history of MARS prior to World War II, when it was known as the Army Amateur Radio System (AARS). During this years Hamvention at Dayton, I had the opportunity to present the paper and I am pretty happy on how it all came together. No significant research had ever been done on early MARS history so I spent the majority of my research combing through primary sources and even conducting a few interviews with the few remaining former members of the AARS. If you have an interest in MARS, the history of radio in the Army, or the origins and organization of radio emergency communications, the paper is available here at no cost. One facet to the history of the AARS that I found intriguing was the relationship that grew between the AARS and the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The ARRL recently posted a short article I wrote on the subject and you can see it here if you are interested.

My assignment following school was to Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division. To actually get there, I elected to take a less typical means of transportation for part of the journey. I decided to take Amtrak from Kansas City to Seattle, where I would board a government contract flight to Seoul. I had ridden trains quite a bit in Europe, but never had taken a train for more than a short distance in the United States. I had also recently read Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service, A Year Spent Riding Across America by James McCommons. If you are interested in passenger rail travel, enjoy a good road trip, or would like to know why train travel fell victim to the car culture, you will enjoy this book. The author, James McCommons, travels all the primary Amtrak routes (with mixed experiences) and talks with US rail movers and shakers around the country. Overall, he said Amtrak was good and getting better. I decided to see for myself.

One of the countries more historic and picturesque routes is that travelled by the California Zephyr. Originating in Chicago, the train traces its way west, climbing through the Rockies west of Denver and on to the Sierra Nevada’s an into California, terminating near San Francisco. My folks still live where I grew up near San Jose, so California was great for a stop over. I could then take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight from San Jose through Northern California, central Oregon through Eugene and Portland, then on to Seattle.

The train ride west was wonderful and I did write a post about it. The stop over in California was a lot of fun. Arriving during the early evening of Thursday, June 10th, I was able to get some sleep and meet my dad for some QRP portable field operations. We headed up to the Santa Cruz Mountains, above Saratoga, strung up a 40m dipole and had fun playing with my FT-817 and KX1. Although we didn’t achieve any great DX contacts, it was a great time. Saturday morning we headed over to a local monthly hamfest known as the Electronics Flea Market @ De Anza College. De Anza College is a little known junior college which has overseen the growth of Silicon Valley. Although I did not find anything I couldn’t live without, I enjoyed roaming around and seeing what the vendors had.

Before lunch, we headed over to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Founded in 1999, the museum opened long after I had left the Bay Area. Very cool museum!

Then it was back to the train station in San Jose and I hopped on the Coast Starlight and headed north. The train ride was relaxing with some amazing scenery.

I spent Sunday night in Seattle and caught a shuttle bus on Monday to SEATAC. Flying with AMC can be an experience and differs from a commercial flight. The AMC counter was located at the far end of the international terminal and I joined a long line of guys with short haircuts and heavy, canvas green bags. Although I had to check in at 7:00pm, the flight wasn’t scheduled to board until 1am. They didn’t pack the flight, so there was a little elbow room. Instead of flying directly to Korea, our route would take us to Anchorage, followed by Yakota (near Tokyo) and then Osan Airbase in Korea. We got to Anchorage, deplaned for fueling, reboarded and then sat for three hours. Apparently the weather was bad over Japan, so we were held over for about 24 hours in Anchorage. I had been stationed in Alaska during 1993-1994 and it was nice to see that midnight sun again (sunset at 11:30pm with sunrise at 4:30am).

From Anchorage to Japan with a short layover and then on to Korea. The rest of the story is here.

And on the amateur radio side of things… My equipment is here. I shipped over my Icom IC-7000 for HF and a Kenwood TM-D710A to use with my EchoIRLP node. Also on the way is a Davis Vantage Vue weather station that I hope to get on line and on APRS. I need to get my Korean license and have all the necessary paperwork. Just need to get it turned in now. There is a monthly hamfest in Seoul next Sunday that I am going to try an attend – that should be an experience and I will have to bring my camera.

Have you been enjoying Jeff’s new podcast at KE9V.net? Cornbread Road is a Jeff at his best, weaving a tale of mystery and amateur radio in the heartland.

I will endeavor to keep my blog up to date with posts about my experiences here in Korea.

The Ham Notebook

I got my March issue of CQ Magazine and enjoyed the renaming of the Beginner’s Corner column to The Ham Notebook. Columnist Wayne Yoshida, KH6WZ, explains the name change to reflect a column that contains information that every ham should know. Continuing on the notebook theme, Wayne notes the importance of record keeping for on air activity, a way to track contacts for the various awards, changes to the station setup (to include antenna modification, addition of new radios, etc.), and as a project log to reflect what’s on the bench. He points out this “notebook” can be kept in a hard copy format or digitally based to take advantage of quick searches for what you are looking for.
I couldn’t agree more with Wayne. To an extent, I’ve used this blog to keep notes on what I am doing and record successes and failures. I use the blog as a reference consistently. I am a little less disciplined about keeping a dedicated hard copy notebook. I have many of them floating around but I need to make it a regular habit of using the hard copy journal to keep track of what’s going on in the shack.
Speaking of what’s going on – I had the computer that was running my weather station and APRS go down.

The Shuttle K45 is a minimalist piece of hardware that I picked up about 18 months ago. Friday at 6pm the K45 died. I did a cursory inspection of the computer and didn’t notice anything miss. I did some minor troubleshooting to no avail. I figured it was probably the power supply. I took the computer to a local repair shop who determined that it was the motherboard that had gone bad. Back home with a bit of internet research I found that the dead motherboard was an epidemic caused by a handful of bad capacitors. I am going to try to swap out the bad ones and see if I can bring the K45 back to life.
Meanwhile I have swapped in an older computer that I had been using some time back to run the weather station and APRS.

Strategic Communications

The title of this post is a little misleading. As I mentioned before, I am attending the Army’s Command & General Staff College (CGSC) here at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (… I bet you thought I was out here in Kansas just for the nice weather). One of the new requirements we have as students at is to egage in “Strategic Communication”. Wikipedia defines strategic communications as: communicating a concept, a process, or data that satisfies a long term strategic goal of an organization by allowing facilitation of advanced planning. Our requirements as students to engage in strategic communication does not exactly line up with that definition, but I think it gives you an idea of where the Army is headed. The bottom line is the Army wants to develop officers who are familiar and comfortable in dealing with the media in order to get the Army’s “message” out. In the past the military has been traditionally media shy (understatement), either making heavy use of the “no comment” or deferring to our public relations officers. No more. The Army recognizes this is the new media age and those that get their story out first, in a clear and understandable fashion are likely to better garner public support… both domestic and international. Okay… so back to school. My requirements, as related to strategic communications, are to: (1) participate in an actual media interview (television, print, or radio), (2) speak to a community group, school, or other organized gathering of citizens, (3) write professionally by submitting a letter to the editor, Op-Ed piece, or article for publication, and (4) participate in a reputable blog about their military service.

#4 is pretty easy. I think I can figure out how to blog.

#3 not too hard. I can either repurpose one of my existing papers and send in to a newspaper or I can try to be original and maybe send something in to ARRL.

#2 is a bit harder. What I have decided to do for that is put together a presentation of amateur radio operations by military members who are deployed… kind of a DXpedition in a Combat Zone. I have a lot of information on amateur radio operations by folks in both Afghanistan and Iraq and I can use my own experience as well. Then I have to find an amateur radio club to give the talk to. Ideally I need to have all of this complete by the end of March.

…and #1. That is the hardest, in my opinion. Knowing the challenge of this particular requirement, our instructors are allowing us to get credit if we are able to call and get on a radio talk show. This interpretation makes the requirement a little less severe. Now I have to find a radio talk show to call. There are several here in the Kansas City area that I am scoping out:
KCUR: Up To Date
KMBZ: Shanin & Parks

I also found some great advise on how to be prepared before I call at both NPR and KCUR.

Wish me luck.

Era Of The Communicator

I enjoyed AB9RF and KE9Vs recent postings concerning the ending of the “era of the communicator” – I am a big fan of both blogs. Kelly (AB9RF) argues that to continue to attract new hams, we need to focus the image of ham radio not as a means to talk to far away place (as this can be accomplished with any cell phone) but as a means to explore the latest computer technology. I understand her point but disagree with her premise. The best refute is Dave Bushong’s blog 99 hobbies (although not updated recently). As the title of his blog indicates, ham radio is a multifaceted hobby… DX QSOs is just one element. Kelly further argues that the ham community is in danger of loosing some of its spectrum privileges if the community is mired in the past by an aging population of hams who have failed to contribute any innovation to the radio art in recent memory. D*Star, Echolink, WinLink2000, APRS, PSK31, and Olivia immediately come to mind. Look at usage of 2M repeaters in your area – chances are if you wanted to set a repeater up yourself, you couldn’t because all the bandwidth is already filled. As hams, we are communicators, we are innovators and ham radio is what we make of it. Unfortunately, I’d say the key argument to maintaining our amateur spectrum is not in innovation but in disaster and emergency communications support. Now I am not an orange-vest wearing, special badge and whoopy-lights on the top of my truck guy… but from my perspective, emcomm has earned us respect from the general public in the past (… just look at Katrina). I for one am glad there is a devoted following of hams who support emcomm, although I do not fall in that category. I do believe that all hams must maintain a basic capability to use their equipment to provide support in an emergency…. nothing fancy, just the basic ability to pass traffic or relay a message. But I truly believe that the hobby will continue to survive due to the vast variety that is available to we hams, the practitioners of the radio arts. The ionosphere’s the limit… oh, no wait – now you can reach out to the Sun as well.

a brasspounder’s cafe


Check out the wonderful blog of JJ8KGZ. Leo is in the process of assembling an Elecraft KX1 and has also started to share the joy of kit building with his son. Although I am sure there are many non-Western hamblogs out there, this is probably one of the first I’ve really explored and quite enjoy. I’ll be looking forward to Leo’s next post.