[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of 12 August 2009

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2009 14:32:42 -0500

Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of 12 August 2009

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham
System <http://handiham.org> . Please do not reply to this message. Use the
contact information at the end, or simply email handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

You can also listen to the content online:

Listen to an MP3 audio stream:
Download the MP3 audio to your portable player:
Get this issue as an audio podcast:


Welcome to Handiham World!

Where to go with the equipment program? 

*       Will I be able to keep the rig I have on loan? 
*       Will anything still get loaned out in the future? 
*       Will the new Technicians at Radio Camp still be issued radios?

Where to go with the equipment program? CJ works on gear in teh shop.

Photo: K0CJ, "CJ", works on a piece of donated equipment in the Handiham

We will be keeping part of the equipment program.

Avery Finn, K0HLA, will be retiring from the Handiham staff at the end of
September. Among Avery's many other duties, the Handiham equipment loan
program has been one that has taken considerable time and effort. Without
staff hours to support it, the equipment program will have to be scaled
back, but exactly how far is still a question. Continue reading to find out

To understand the equipment program, you need to look back a few years into
its history. In the days of discrete electronic components like vacuum tubes
and even individual transistors, ham radio equipment was much simpler. That
meant that it could be repaired by our staff of shop volunteers. Equipment
could be donated to the Handiham program, fixed up or modified for use by
members with disabilities, and loaned indefinitely to get them on the air.
Usually it was possible to get several helpers to install the equipment and
make sure that it stayed on the air, and that included putting up and
maintaining antennas.

Today the situation is very different. The ham radio equipment of today is
better and more reliable than ever, but it is complicated, jam-packed with
surface-mount components, and cannot be repaired outside a well-equipped
commercial shop, often one specializing in a particular brand. It was in the
late 1990's that the Handiham shop had to reluctantly stop taking member
rigs in for repair. Donations of used equipment were - and still are -
accepted, but repairs are generally confined to the most basic fixes.
Modifications are usually out of the question, and the equipment is either
set aside for members if it is appropriate and in working condition, or sold
to bring in money to support the entire Handiham program.

Several years ago, Gary Gordon, K6KV, had a great idea: Provide new radios
to our new Technician licensees who passed their exams at radio camp, and
they would be off to a good start in ham radio. Gary began the program with
funding to buy radios for those first campers, and we were able to send new
hams home from radio camp with their radios - all they had to do was wait
for their licenses to be processed by the FCC, and they could get on the

That part of the equipment program had some rough spots, too. We found that
training unlicensed Technician candidates on using the new handheld radios
was difficult and time-consuming in the radio camp setting, especially since
each of them required a control operator and they were already busy studying
for their licenses and had little time to spare during the busy camp week.
Nonetheless, this part of the equipment program is easy to administer,
because now we simply order new radios after the camp is finished, and have
them sent directly to the new licensees. It is one part of the equipment
program that we can keep, even with Avery leaving the staff.

The used equipment program is another story. Getting back to what has been
happening in the recent past, the development of personal computers and the
Internet have impacted the way ham radio operators buy and sell equipment.
As anyone who has tried to run a hamfest will tell you, Internet sites like
eBay have taken a great deal of the used equipment trade out of the local
hamfest arena. This, of course, is simply change resulting from new
technologies. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has really
diminished gift-in-kind donations of good, working ham gear to our equipment
program. Now we have much less donated gear coming in, fewer volunteers who
understand how to work on it, and fewer staff hours to acknowledge the
donations, record and track them, and pair them with members who need the
equipment. Furthermore, storage space for equipment is limited. The
logistics of dealing with it are challenging, too. Well-meaning donors have
left us sitting with old computer equipment or electronic equipment that
presents a disposal problem and can actually cost us money. Others have
offered us towers and beam antennas - all we have to do is to take them
down, which, of course we don't have the staff to do. Members have sold
borrowed equipment and then asked for more. Others want equipment to be
shipped to them but have no money to pay for shipping, no way to install the
equipment themselves, and no antenna system. Some try to "order" specific
gear, as if they are ordering from a retailer with a huge stock of radios.
They get upset when they find out that we don't have exactly what they want
- for free! A small number of members call day after day, asking about
equipment, keeping Avery on the phone answering their same questions over
and over. You can appreciate the patience Avery has to have to deal with all
of this every day.

So you can see our dilemma. We have loaned equipment out there, and want to
continue this service. On the plus side, if you already have loaned gear,
you can still keep it out on loan. Let me summarize what we will do for now:

1. The equipment currently on loan will stay on loan.

2. The new radio for new Technician licensees at Radio Camp part of the
program will continue.

3. The Remote Base program will be continued and strengthened, allowing our
members access to the TS-480 as a way to get on HF. We hope to add a second,
higher-power TS-480 sometime in the coming year to help make up for the lack
of loaner equipment.

4. We will continue to accept donations of used ham gear, but we are still
trying to figure out how to handle this, including the storage and

5. While we restructure the program, we will not make any new loans of used

6. Since we do not have the staff to maintain cataloging, packing, and
shipping of used equipment, nor will we have time to answer phone questions
about loaned equipment, we will instead provide the used equipment to our
campers at Radio Camp if it is available.

7. We will not have the facilities to repair any equipment. If you have
loaned gear and it breaks, you can send it to a commercial repair service at
your own expense or else contact us for instructions on how to dispose of

8. Updates to this information will be on the Handiham website.

Thankfully, Avery will continue with us as a volunteer and will be able to
help with the changes to the equipment program and with other activities
like helping our members work with the FCC on renewals and address changes.
The equipment loan program can live on in a changed form, as described
above, but times have changed and we must change, too. 

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager


Office hours change this week

Avery in the ham shack

Avery is not in the office this Wednesday. Because we are getting ready for
Radio Camp, he will instead be in the office Friday, when he will help
George, N0SBU, pack equipment for camp. 


Handiham History Project: W200ZSW

Handiham History Project: W200ZSW

The year was 1988, the bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States
of America. To celebrate with a special event, the Handiham station was
granted a special callsign: W200ZSW. A handsome certificate was available
for making a contact with the station, and that document is pictured here,
thanks to a scan by George, N0SBU, as he works on the History Project.

The text reads:

"The Courage Handi-Ham System joins the Nation and Minnesota in celebration
of the bicentennial of the United States Constitution."

The certificate goes on to explain a little about the Handiham System and
gives the Golden Valley address. The border is decorated with a fancy gold
design, and there is a drawing of the Minnesota State bird, the Loon, which
looks sort of like a duck that floats low in the water and has spots on its
back.  It is signed by Bruce, K0HR. 

Accompanying the certificate, we take a look at a vintage QSL card from a
ham radio operator who made contact with W200ZSW.

Here is a QSL card that will bring back memories for many hams around the
world. Marv Mahre, W0MGI, is a very active amateur radio operator. What you
may not know about Marv is that for years he operated a QSL card printing
business, and his beautiful designs are still tacked onto many ham shack
walls. This particular card was printed on glossy white card stock in three
colors plus black. The cartoon image, which really looks like him, shows a
smiling, bespectacled Marv banging with his fist on a J-38 Morse code key.
Logos for various organizations Marv belonged to at the time, including
ARRL, QCWA, and the St. Paul, Minnesota Amateur Radio Club, as well as the
Society of Wireless Pioneers logo, which is one I didn't even know about,
are displayed prominently on the front of the card.

w0mgi qsl front

w0mgi qsl back


The text of Marv's card is just as interesting. It states Marv's old German
call, DL4HQ, from the time he was stationed in Europe in the early 1950's.
He has always been interested in railroads, and the card says, "RAILFAN".
Finally, at the bottom on the card's front face, are the words "Assistant
Director - Dakota Division".

The back of the card is arranged in the typical "post card" style, with a
space on the right-hand side for postage and the recipient's address. The
left side has a form for the details of the contact, which in this case was
with special event station W200ZSW in May of 1988. The special callsign was
also issued to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the USA Constitution. In
his remarks, Marv says, "My mobile rig used in a hurry to make the contact."

QSL cards are not as common as they once were, and that is kind of a shame.
It was always fun to get a card like Marv's, even for a mobile contact. Hams
proudly displayed their QSL card collections on bulletin boards, in special
plastic QSL card holders, and simply tacked onto walls. Logbook of the
World, which can be used to efficiently confirm contacts, is more practical
these days, but it is just not quite the same, is it? High postage rates may
keep us from sending lots of cards, but you may still want to confirm those
special contacts in this most traditional of ways: with the good, old ham
radio QSL card!

Incidentally, Marv is a member of the Handiham affiliated Stillwater Amateur
Radio Association. He seldom misses a meeting, even the informal Thursday
evening eyeball QSO sessions in Stillwater, Minnesota. On the air daily,
Marv is still among the most active operators in the club.

We will bet that you have vintage QSL cards, too. If you can send a scan or
photo of your vintage QSL cards, we will feature them here. What the heck -
the HF bands are still pretty poor, so we might as well keep ourselves busy
with vintage cards! Please send the images to wa0tda@xxxxxxxx along with a
few words, if you wish, explaining the card or perhaps recalling those days
when you were sending lots of these out. We will also feature your comments
and callsign in the story.


Handiham Nets

WA0TDA at the microphone

Earlier this week, I spoke with a Handiham member from Texas. He was
wondering if we had a 40 meter net. 

"Yes, we have two", I said. "One is a CW net and the other is a phone net."

So I went on to explain about the CW net Paul, W8IRT, runs on Fridays, and
about the Monday nets. I did have to admit that the HF nets have pretty much
died, killed off by the interminably long sunspot minimum and by the
horrible RF noise we have at Courage Center, which prevents us from hearing
anything on the HF bands. In the days before all the RFI, we were able to
pick up a net if there was no net control.  Now we can't even hear anything
on the band. If Handiham members themselves don't step up to the plate as
net controls, the net does not run.

Let's see what we can do about that!

With the end of summer on the horizon, it is time to start thinking about HF
operation again. Take a look at the Handiham Nets page and look for the
information on the various times and frequencies. Monday is the day to
remember, as that is the day we are supposed to run most of these HF nets.
Take special note of the 40 meter SSB net:

7.272 MHz SSB, 14:30 - 15:00 United States Central Time Mondays: This
frequency is a good bet in North America during the quiet atmospheric
conditions of winter, but not so much in summer. During the summer months,
the 7.272 net will begin at 20:30 GMT on Mondays.

This would be a perfect time to start the 40 meter net again, since we will
be at Radio Camp and the 3:30 PM time falls within our Operating Skills
class time.

Read the nets page for more information on all the nets:


Wednesday Evening EchoLink Net

Wednesday Evening EchoLink Net happy guy with headset

It's Wednesday, and that means the Handiham EchoLink net is on the air
tonight. Please join us and check in or simply listen in, as you see fit:


Wednesday evenings at 19:30 hours Minnesota time (7:30 PM)
GMT: Thursday morning at 00:30 Z


145.450 MHz N0BVE repeater (Minneapolis-St. Paul) 
Node 89680 (EchoLink worldwide) 
IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector) 
WIRES system number 1427

Everyone is welcome. You do not need to be a member, and the net is relaxed,
friendly, and informal. 

By the way, our Net Manager Howard, KE7KNN, reminds us that we need net
control stations for the Wednesday evening net and for the Monday through
Saturday morning net. If you are in the Twin Cities, all you need is a radio
that can get on the 145.45 N0BVE repeater, and if you live outside the RF
area, you can still be net control via EchoLink, IRLP, or WIRES. 


Playing with the HAARP

I read plenty of other stuff aside from ham radio publications, but I have
to confess a preference for science and technology related books and
magazines. One article that I found of particular interest appears in the
August 2009 issue of Wired, entitled "Sky Lab". It's about controlling the
ionosphere by transmitting high levels of radio frequency energy straight up
from a massive array of specially-designed antennas. The system, called
"HAARP" is the "High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program", a facility
for the study of ionospheric physics and radio science. It's located in
Gakona, Alaska, which is more or less in the southeastern part of the state
and not particularly close to any major population centers, unless you count
Anchorage, which is 200 miles to the southwest. 

I hadn't known anything about this research until coming across the Wired
Magazine article by Noah Shachtman, but I was certainly interested, because
amateur radio HF propagation depends in large part on the ionosphere. If
HAARP is pumping huge levels of RF into the ionosphere, enough to make
auroras appear over the northern reaches of North America, wouldn't that
affect HF propagation - and VHF auroral propagation - for amateur radio
operators? I decided to head for the internet and search for more resources.

A visit to the Wired website paid off with a list of HAARP articles. You can
locate them yourself by going to the site and putting HAARP into the search
box, but I suggest you start with this one:

Inside Alaska's Answer to Area 51

I bet that got your attention, right?  Find the article at:

Okay, so some of it is secret stuff, but you know what?  The HAARP project
has its own website, which you can freely visit to see some great photos of
the facility and the antenna arrays:

When you visit the HAARP website, mind the warning about the website's use. 

Essentially, HAARP can create artificial northern lights. That has to have
some impact on amateur radio propagation, and it would be interesting to
know if hams have a role to play in getting on the air when artificial
auroras appear. If anyone knows more about this kind of research, and if the
material is not classified and can be freely discussed, let us know. It is
certainly intriguing for those of us who use ionospheric propagation for
radio waves every day! 

If you care to read the Wired article, you will find it on page 70 of the
August 2009 issue or on the Wired website:


This week at Headquarters:

.        The Friday audio lectures return again this week.  Audio will be
posted on Friday, though I cannot promise any new Extra lectures, since
Radio Camp preparation is taking all of my time.

.        Avery is in the office this Friday. He is not in the office today,
Wednesday. Avery returns to normal office hours next week, while Radio Camp
is in session. Pat will not be available at the office during Radio Camp
week and part of the following week. 

.        Next week Radio Camp at Courage North will be in session. I cannot
promise that we will publish a weekly e-letter, since my camp duties take
first priority. The same goes for the Friday lecture notification. We will
be publishing some Radio Camp contact information, and we hope to catch you
on the air! Radio camp will have a working EchoLink node.

.        The Remote Base at Courage North was offline for several hours
again this past week, but has returned to service. Once again, it was
determined that someone at camp shut down our remote base server application
and was using our server computer to run Facebook.  We are implementing new
security restrictions to prevent this from happening in the future.  

.        Speaking of Facebook, there is considerable interest among our
operating skills participants in learning about Facebook. As it happens,
there is a timely 73 minute audio lecture by Joan Becker that you can link
to from our website.  We will have an audio compact disk of this lecture
available at Radio Camp, but you can also listen on line or download the MP3
yourself. Just go to the Tek Talk feed on the right side of the main
handiham.org page, or use this handy link:  <http://tinyurl.com/nf322c> 

.        Bob Zeida, N1BLF, has recorded audio of the August CQ, QST, and
Worldradio digests, so check out the audio page. The Friday notification
email will have a link. If you are a member and are not getting the Friday
audio lectures notification, let us know and we will get you on the list.

*       In Operating Skills: 

*       Volunteer reader Ken Padgitt, W9MJY, reads the August "Doctor is in"
column from QST for our blind members.  
*       Login to the <http://handiham.org/user>  member section of the
Handiham website and find the magazine digests in the Library. The QST, CQ,
and Worldradio digests have been read by Bob Zeida, N1BLF. 

*       Stay in touch!  Be sure to send Nancy your change of address, phone
number changes, or email address changes so that we can continue to stay in
touch with you. You may either email Nancy at hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or
call her toll-free at 1-866-426-3442. Mornings are the best time to contact


Reminder:  Handiham renewals are now on a monthly schedule - Please renew or
join, as we need you to keep our program strong!

You will have several choices when you renew:

*       Join at the usual $10 annual dues level for one year.
*       Join for three years at $30.
*       Lifetime membership is $100.
*       If you can't afford the dues, request a sponsored membership for the
*       Donate an extra amount of your choice to help support our
*       Discontinue your membership.

Please return your renewal form as soon as possible. 

Your support is critical! Please help. 

The Courage Handiham System depends on the support of people like you, who
want to share the fun and friendship of ham radio with others. Please help
us provide services to people with disabilities. We would really appreciate
it if you would remember us in your estate plans. If you need a planning
kit, please call. If you are wondering whether a gift of stock can be given
to Handihams, the answer is yes! Please call Nancy at: 1-866-426-3442 or
email: <mailto:hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 

Ask for a free DVD about the Handiham System. It's perfect for your club
program, too! The video tells your club about how we got started, the Radio
Camps, and working with hams who have disabilities. Call 1-866-426-3442


1-866-426-3442 toll-free Help us get new hams on the air.

FREE! Get the Handiham E-Letter by email every Wednesday, and stay
up-to-date with ham radio news. 

*       You may listen in audio to the E-Letter at www.handiham.org
<http://www.handiham.org/> .  
Email us to subscribe:  <mailto:hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 

Handiham members with disabilities can take an online audio course at
www.handiham.org <http://www.handiham.org/> :

. Beginner 
. General 
. Extra 
. Operating Skills


That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Handiham System!

Manager, Courage Handi-ham System
Reach me by email at:  <mailto:patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 

*       Nancy, Handiham Secretary: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
*       Jerry, N0VOE, Student Coordinator: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
*       Avery, K0HLA, Educational Coordinator: avery.finn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
*       Pat, WA0TDA, Manager, patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
*       Radio Camp email: radiocamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


ARRL </p />
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ARRL is the premier organization supporting amateur radio worldwide. Please
contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you
fill out the paperwork!

The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating
information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is
available to everyone free of charge. Please email wa0tda@xxxxxxxx for
changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and
your new address.


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Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
E-Mail: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

Toll-Free telephone: 1-866-HANDIHAM (1-866-426-3442) 

FAX:(763) 520-0577 Be sure to put "Handihams" in the FAX address! 

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


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