What’s wrong with ham radio – revisited

Hey I already did a post with this title seven years ago.

What’s wrong with amateur radio?

When I was almost three decades younger and as many decakilograms lighter I was subscribed to a skateboarding magazine which featured a readers input page titled ‘What’s wrong with skateboarding?’. This struck me as a magazine dedicated to something offered its readers a page to vent their issues. By the way this taught me more English than the schoolbooks and three hours of English class every week. Now what has this to do with ham radio?

My last post here was three and a half months ago. My last QSO was more than five months ago. I didn’t emit a mW of RF in over five months. That is, to say the least, a very extraordinary situation for ON5ZO. I just couldn’t be bothered. Why? I don’t know. Actually I think I know.

It’s a combination of various things. A very shitty period at work, as a starter. That affected everything. The poor propagation wasn’t inviting either. Furthermore I have this ‘been there, done that’ feeling about the hobby. Combined with the steep decline of the solar cycle, there was little incentive to lure me into the shack. Once in a while I peeked at to see A/K values that probably turned the ionosphere into a dummy load. Occasionally I looked at the online DX cluster and saw some whopping activity on 50 MHz. But I don’t have an antenna for that band.

Another important  factor in this huge dip in radioactivity is a major renovation project. In April I took down thirty six square meters of old and discolored wood and plastic ceiling. Then we had these ceilings redone with plaster board. I had to sand down the joints and paint these ceilings with two coats of primer. Right now I’m painting the finishing layers.

In July we started round two of the project. I tore down the bathroom, toilets and kitchen to bare walls and floors. Then we removed 36 m² of floor down to the concrete base plate of the house’s foundation. We took out every inch of galvanized pipe and replaced it with modern insulated plastic plumbing and new brass distribution taps. About time as these steel pipes had accumulated a lot of dirt and rust inside after forty three years. And the galvanic coating was gone over almost the entire length. A major leakage in progress.

I also did a substantial upgrade of the electric wiring with a new distribution panel and circuit breakers. A must if your better half doesn’t settle for less than a furnace that dissipates 18 kW (!!!) ‘pot down’. The kitchen now has dedicated circuits for each appliance. The old plumbing and electrical wiring had been a thorn in my eye since we bought the house but this was the only way to get it right: strip down to the concrete and remove everything. And after fifteen years we finally had the guts and cash to do it.

This project took a lot of my time and energy to prepare. Calculate, plan, draw plans, find contactor and suppliers, get price quotes, study (plumbing isn’t my thing). Pick taps, sinks and shower from the catalogue. Shop around for a new kitchen and appliances. What color will the new floor be? Tough negotiating when your wife has a completely different taste. We hired a contractor to do the heavy work and supply the equipment but I helped out a lot and did all the electric work. Actually I took only one day off in five weeks before this weekend. Summer holidays my a##. But it’s a once in a lifetime project so I needed to get it right.

And now we have new floors everywhere except or the living room which we’ll tackle next year. We have new toilets and a big shower with modern tiles on the wall. The coming week the cabinet maker will install the new kitchen. The steam hood and the Madam’s Mega Furnace are up and running already. Glad to eat a freshly cooked warm meal again. And what a luxury to actually have a toilet and a shower again. I had to make the best of life without these things for two weeks. No comment.

So this is why there was zero activity coming from ON5ZO’s radio shack. I did some ham radio related stuff though. For the eight year already I checked the logs for the UBA DX contests (SSB + CW). Most things are automated and I even added a small improvement to the code to make the manual work easier. The code can track most bad QSO but there is a small fraction of contacts that needs to be checked by a human. It’s about 1000 QSO for SSB and 2000 for CW. That is less than one percent of the total contacts.  

I was also contacted by two people who claim they have a shoe box of QSL for me. One from my previous club and one from my current club. The first box got discovered by accident and must be standing there for a few years already. Add to that the huge backlog of QSO cards that I have here and I’m facing a boring and obsolete job.

And there is a stack of four unopened QST magazines waiting to be read too. I really drifted far away from the hobby.

What’s wrong with ham radio? Nothing, but sometimes you need to step away from it to see it.

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