Yes the XYL sometimes calls me a grumpy old man since the BBC aired the series with the same name. She even bought me a Grumpy mug! Indeed sometimes there is something that I’m grumpy about. No that’s a lie. There are always a few things that are bothering me. That’s the way I am. But since I decided to keep this a ham-only blog, I will only reveal what has been bothering me on the ham front.
- Is it the poor propagation after a short but intense period of great conDX during October-December 2011? Not really, c’est la vie. Nothing we can do about it.
- Is it the poor behaviour on the ham bands, in DXpedition’s pile ups especially? When I’m listening to the zoo it effectively aggravates me but soon I QSY to work my own DX. Not much we can do about the pigs on the bands in spite of all dedicated educational websites.
- Is it the fact that I don’t know whether to buy or not to buy a second amplifier for SO2R? And if so, what brand/model? No not at all, this is 100% a luxury problem and nothing to get grumpy about.
- Maybe I’m grumpy because I did not participate in the ARRL SSB contest last weekend? No, not even that. Too many contests in a row so I voluntarily skipped the SSB contest.
But there is a side effect of this contest that has gotten me a tad grumpy. In facts it’s a few related straws over the last weeks that broke the camel’s back. The name of the culprit is: “Abuse of DX cluster by Belgian participants in contests”. Note that I don’t use the idiom ‘contesters’.
In fact, the origin of my grumpiness about this is rooted deeply. Maybe it’s even twofold. Nothing against DX clusters here. If the contest I enter has a special ‘assisted’ class, I enter it most of the times. Let’s make it clear: I have no beef with DX clusters and their intended use. It doesn’t even have to be DX that is spotted. Bandmaps need to get filled so bring on the spots. The more the merrier. Apart from lids posting silly comments and busted calls, that goes without saying (does it really, these days?).
The first issue I have with the combo clusters-contest-Belgians is: why don’t Belgian participants in DX contests submit as assisted when they were connected to the cluster? I think I know why. a) because they don’t know what assisted or unassisted is, b) because they don’t care about it and c) because N1MMLogger is the most used contest software and it has Single Operator as the default category in stead of Single Op Assisted. And with reasons a + b there is no chance issue c should get solved. How do I tell they actually use the cluster and not just be connected? They appear in almost every packet spot pile up!
At this point, I can hear most of you think: “What’s the fuss? Calm down ON5ZO, who cares anyway? It’s only a hobby.” Yes it’s only a hobby and obviously not many people care but you can also enjoy the hobby by playing it fair. Especially if you are seriously in the contest. But there is more than this unclaimed assisted thing.
Until now it was only about the ‘clandestine but proper use of the DX cluster’. There is a worse part: Cluster Cowboys gone bonanza! Many moons ago, when I was actively involved in the UBA, I tried to move some things but soon I discovered that some things cannot be moved. Like cluster abuse and complaints thereof. Now I am no longer officially involved but as a log checker I sometimes get to eat in the UBA’s kitchen. Determining cluster abuse and complaints about it have been on the menu each year. I even used this page to try to move things but all I got was an angry email in reply. Some conversation back and forth tempered the anger and got the cat out of the bag: “We are just starting out so how on earth should we know all these things?” Point taken. But the person quoted here is a member of one of the biggest Belgian ham radio clubs – if not THE biggest. That very club has some very good contesters on the member list and not just casual contest participants. So maybe a club should not only teach its members how to connect to a DX cluster, it should also educate them about the use of it and point out where use ends and abuse starts.
Of course that is the view of ‘teacher ON5ZO’ who believes that people should be educated. It’s in my blood. It’s my job. I am always willing to learn myself and I’m glad that skilled and educated people correct me when I’m doing something wrong. Only people that have some authority on the subject of course, quacks beware! But unfortunately I have also learned along the way that Belgians don’t like to be taught or worse: corrected. You soon get the label ‘annoying know-it-all’. On a wider scale there currently is no support from the UBA for contest-specific education. And given the above story, local clubs fail too.
Just like last year there were a few severe cases of cluster abuse in the UBA DX SSB 2012. Self spotting in disguise. Defendant’s plea: “It’s not my own call that spotted me sir.” No, actually it’s your son’s living under your roof. Or your friend’s callsign that is also appearing on the operator list. It almost exclusively happens in the SSB part where there are many Cluster Cowboys participating in the contest. I received a few emails about this problem again this year. But Sheriff ON5ZO has turned in his star and six shooter a long time ago so he has no longer jurisdiction. The CW part on the other hand is mostly populated by more experienced contesters that don’t suffer this disease or in a much milder form worst case. Now the ball is in the UBA Contest Committee’s camp: bark or bite? Or more emphasis on education?
But it was all about abuse of the DX cluster here, right? Sometimes the educator in me wants to write an article about this matter to get it published in either the printed or electronic version of the UBA’s magazine. When I talk it over with some ham friends, they say: “Why bother? What’s the use?” Indeed, why should I bother? Just because it pisses me off? No one is waiting for this I guess. However my grumpiness hit a climax last weekend. There was this clown on the bands who seems to miss the point too. In the contest he managed to get spotted by 28 times by 2 or 3 ‘local callsigns’. It’ll be fun to watch that log get accepted by the ARRL, who calls this ‘cheerleading’. Contest sponsors like K5ZD for CQ WPX tell us we should address these people and apply ‘peer pressure’. For a moment I wanted to do so, but then again: why bother?
There you go, I said it. I feel less grumpy. For now…