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[TowerTalk] HJ4F APR 98 Part 1

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Subject: [TowerTalk] HJ4F APR 98 Part 1
From: (Phil Isard)
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 15:26:47 EDT
PAGE 1                                 HJ4F                     
                         APR 98

                             AMATEUR RADIO IS MIGHTY

I don't know about youse guys & gals, but continued warmer weather has
certainly kept me hopping or riding other people's vehicles, to effect
transfer of towers, antennas and assorted RF-conductor paraphernalia. I
like this 'no winter' climate.

The official word is out about the new sun-spot cycle: the games have
begun. 15M has been amazing, for me, viz., Europe on 100 Watts. Now thats
a circuit I can respect.

HJ4F - Hamming Just For Fun - takes on singular significance, this month,
per the lead article [go read it!].

I've had many wonderful comments about this rag, most all beginning with,
"terrific, fabulous, captivating, provocative, engaging...but only
skimmed it, so far". I'm commiserating on whether to have a
contest-of-the-month, for the 1st person to READ the thing, THEN
criticize [I mean as a critic: some GOOD points, also]. It's the bane of
every author so Im used to it. If you want scratch paper, at least you
have to print-out hard-copy at YOUR expense, and I'll never know.

ISSN 1060-9245 is not a new bank-card number or Minuteman launch code.
It's the US government's way of apprising all roving eyes, 'this stuff is
sacred', like a Christmas ball over concrete: meaningful but VERY

I welcome submissions - written & sexual - which can be, effortlessly &
cheaply, forwarded to my personal, email address.

All set? Let 'er rip.   


PAGE 2                                 HJ4F                     
                         APR 98

                                 BUT WHAT'S THE PURPOSE?

In THE TIME MACHINE, George presents his wonder to a group of close
friends, after a splendid, English dinner - George had one of the finest
cellars [wine] in England. After seeing the machine disappear into the
future, they are, on cue, pole-axed. After the initial shock dissipates,
they begin to question the inventor about what he intends doing with his
'contraption'. They want to know if he's ruminated upon the commercial
possibilities [can you imagine visiting the future to find another
George, George Jetson, so you can meet Judy, his daughter, as she shops
for a cell phone? Better you should set your time-dial for Victoria
Secret]. This is tantamount to the old shibboleth about teaching a monkey
to develop telekinetic prowess, only to raise a pencil; it's the
accomplishment, itself, that is the point.

I don't think becoming a Ham is THE point, all in itself. There are
myriad perquisites concomitant with that ticket. For me, one of the most
important, is camaraderie, friendship. Before I got my ticket, I had
fallen in love [wanna hear THAT story? & no cracks! So did she], talked
with Israel - my 1st DX QSO - and been introduced to other marvels. In
CA, I borrowed computer-time at VE1SAT's QTH [Randy was a ground
controller for most of the early  Ham-sats. He was TDY, in the states,
for military satellite work]. When I said I was a Ham, he opened-up his
shack, & home, to me. We already WERE friends, because of the common bond
of Amateur Radio. I found this 1 eventuation, particularly moving. Randy
is not the most extroverted, warm guy around [no denigration intended,
he's just a little more brilliant than the rest of us and this is how it
manifests]. Being a Ham punctured many of Randy's personality barriers,
instantly. I am still touched when I reminisce. It's hard to believe,
looking back, how open & friendly he was. I think he, also, was piqued by
the Emergency Medicine software I was writing.

With computers, you can do any & every thing. That includes total
isolation from human contact. That's sad, really. I want to go on record
that sex is more fun, enjoyable, satisfying, sensual, meaningful, when
you experience tactile PLUS emotional exchange, with another human being
[YOUR choice, of course, as to all parameters]. But you can't LIVE that
way. You can KEYBOARD; virtual reality is SAFE, not satisfying.
Experiments have been done with infant chimps - 98% identical to us,
genetically - and they DIED without contact, during infancy. Human
infants, also, can be diagnosed with 'failure to thrive', as much from
lack of warmth and loving and caring as from physiologic vectors

Which, finally, brings me to my subject: clubs. WHY? For What? What's the
purpose, need, function?? I'm a little disconsolate this question arises
with such alacrity. The question of good citizen, attending town meetings
and voting aside, the phenomenon of today's club member seems to go
against the lowest SWR. Here are some, common, characteristics of today's

1]      No more than 60% of dues-paying members ever show-up at
2]      you, rarely, meet greater than a 60% cross-section of the

3]      about 83% of THIS 60% never attend functions, special or
competitive events

4]      these ghosts assume financial responsibility for all that is
done, by paying dues timely

5]      they never ask for anything in return

6]      they never vote for, or against, the activities their money

7]      most meetings/clubs are local, meet in a centralized locus &
meet infrequently

8]      those putting-in an appearance, show-up regularly, do most of
the work then retire to
        their domiciles

That's a little nuts. Other organizations have more smarts:

1]      they have modest dues
2]      they have NO, regular, meetings
3]      they have NO regular, active participation, in ANYTHING,
4]      they have NO centralized meeting place, by any stretch of
geographic imagination
5]      you don't have to get dressed, for meetings
6]      you don't have to leave home [with or without 'it']
7]      you don't even have to be aligned with the purpose, goals or
SOP of the group
8]      all you gotta do is write a check [& most of us have free
9]      they put-out a great, slick, glitzy mag


PAGE 3                                 HJ4F                     
                         APR 98

But they achieve their 'goals'. Members pay their dues, allowing monetary
realization of project goals. They just help pay for whatever is going
on. That may be the organization's raison d'etre, but if you're in this,
you're cheating yourself, and the rest of us.

Cogitate, a moment, on the number of orgs toward which you can shovel
money. The trap is, of course, you FEEL part of something grand; you
SUPPORT the future, with a slip of paper, with special OCR characters
across the bottom. Yet you never get involved. You don't contribute, of
yourself. This, false, sense of belonging, precludes doing, learning,
accomplishing, being responsible. As Kant would say, "I belong, therefore
I AM". Bullshit.

I'm not derogating the internal fuzzies generated by being part of
Amateur Radio. Analogously, I feel a VERY special bond with pilots. While
FAA limits my participation in decision-making, financing - HA!! There's
8 Billion bucks, in the Aviation Trust Fund, MY money, & the goddamn
government won't spend it cause it makes the government look more
solvent. Think of that the next time an Air Traffic Control, 1968
computer goes down, or there's a plane crash, like Ron Brown's, cause the
ILS or NDB was 'out' - I DO participate in community-awareness groups,
airport friendship committees [keeping the public from bull-dozing-away
air-fields], aviation seminars, fly-ins... I can hear you shouting, "I go
to Ham fests, which support Ham groups"; a mere variation on the
check-writing theme. Amateur Radio is 1 of a few remaining activities
that allow, if not foster, zero human contact. Yet, each activity
promulgates this sense of brother/sisterhood. It must be satisfying
because so many of us do it. BUT, it is detrimental to the personal
growth for which we all claim to yearn, long, need. From the moment we
are born to the second we die, we search for love, affection, tenderness,
contact. We WANT to be part of something but take aim with, only, a
checkbook. We stifle our own growth - emotional, life, personal, hobby -
by relegating the 'work' ethic to that 'Cain's 60%' [remember the TV
show, with Mark Richman, now PETER Mark Richman, CAIN'S HUNDRED?]. We
want to associate, and be, with people sharing our interests, hopes,
views, skill-level. But the more we stay at home, immersed in our own,
private, non-worldly milieu, the worse time we have finding people like
ourselves or people to act as role-models [I know: we can always grab a
QSO and interact. But let's be honest: ragchewing - exchange of REAL
information, data, knowledge - is a sub-specialty of our hobby. NAME, QTH
& RST are as satisfying as sex without orgasm or a gourmet meal without
swallowing]. What we end-up emulating is bureaucracy; centralized power;
surrender: we SURRENDER our power, gifts, talents, contributions, to a
select few. If I may digress, our ancestors went to WAR over these very
points; to RID themselves of such status quo not adopt it!

So why clubs? One of the greatest learning experiences is 'being' with
_________ [name something, someone, etc..]. Native AmerIndians are always
fascinated by the white compulsion to be constantly jabbering. Just be
and enjoy. Aside from associating with 'our own kind', swapping war
stories, hearing about new developments [Kay Cragie not included!],
helping each other, it is the human contact that fulfills our primal
urges [no, not those urges, you clowns]. The help, the warmth, the
satisfaction, the opening of new horizons, the AHA!! experience, of which
psychologists speak so reverently, arises OUT OF human contact.
Hanging-out is part of the vernacular but it is a very real psychological
process. In fact, it is a NECESSARY survival skill. Our ancient, hominid,
forebears survived, not only because of their genes but because they
formed communal groups, if only in caves. Just as they did, by
congregating [no, it's only Eskimos, Innuits, who have that charming
custom of sharing wives/women with guests, so don't get excited,
hormonally] we must, should, ought to - that's a moral imperative - meet
people who can answer our questions; pass-on our experiences, triumphs,
foibles, failures; proffer help, aid, succor, assistance, comfort -
losing a tribander to ice is NOT a thing to be borne in solitary lament -
let alone putting it back in the sky; guarantee we are suffused with the
pride and traditions of our hobby. If all this sounds tribal, you've
grasped the basic essential.

More than ever, we need each other. Agreed, we don't need a committee,
review board or panel to be a friend or give someone some help. But
wouldn't it be nice if we had a group, a gathering, a local cave, where
we could be assured of finding the solution to a present need? It DOESN'T
take much to drive 5 miles to library or fire-house. It DOESN'T take
physical effort to enjoy something which you, already, enjoy.

As the complexion of economics, world governments and our hobby meander,
inextricably, through the machinations of who-knows-what forces, we have
only ourselves on which to be SURE, on whom to COUNT. I'd hate to go to
Radio Shlock because "I've got questions, "they've got
answers" [they don't know an SWR bridge from holes in teeth]; how many of
you would like to depend upon HAMTRONICS [Trevose Electronics, Preston
Funk's scourge left to rot our hobby] for answers? It is a shameful,
shameful era, for Amateur Radio, when Mr Siwek, his 2 sons & their wives
- all of Siwek Plumbing & Mill Supply - provide the atmosphere and forum
which Hams should be emulating, with reference to where to go for answers
or be with those who share my dilemmas [lots of contractors buy there,
e.g., concrete experts...].

THAT's the purpose of the club: to preserve, protect & perpetuate what we
are, who we were and what we desire to become. Don't get pissed if you
see nothing but strange faces, at a meeting, and hear wild, non-Amateur
efforts, if all you've been doing is writing dues checks. Don't feel you
need a shrink when that vague, gnawing, uncomfortable emotion washes
through-out your, Ham, spirit. Don't look to AMSAT to put your, flagging,
interest in Hamming, into orbit. Look to Dr. Karl Meninger [founder of
the, world-famous, Meninger Clinic]. When he would lecture, all over the
world, his favorite part was the Q&A sessions. Someone, invariably, would
ask, right off the mark, "What should one do when they feel the need for
professional help"? Naturally, everyone expected Dr. Meninger to say,
seek-out the best head-shrinker in your area. But, to his delight, and
the audience's shock, Dr. Meninger always had this answer, which he meant
as - the best - therapy: "When in need of professional help, the very
first thing you should do is something for someone else". The heart, if
you will allow, of mental health is to give of yourself, for the
enrichment of others.

This is what Amateur Radio needs, today, to survive. The old-time,
old-fashioned, time-honored, professionally-approved, psychiatrist-tested
ploy of getting together, having some fun and, in the process, forgetting
our OWN travails, helping others in the process. Not a bad definition of
Amateur Radio...


PAGE 4                                 HJ4F                     
                         APR 98

                      DID YOU KNOW THESE PEOPLE ARE WITH RF?

KB6LQS -        Dick Rutan, Voyager 86 pilot [Jenna's ex], brother of
Burt Rutan

KB6OLJ -        Paul L Cohen, famous mathematician

KC4OCA -        Gordon Barnes, TV weatherman

KD6OY - Gary Shandling, TV star, top stand-up comic

LU1SM - Carlos Saul Menem, El Presidente de Argentina [eat-out
your heart, Evita]

N4KET - David French, CNN weather-personality [I don't mean he's

N4RG -  Ralph Haller, FCC PRB Chief

N5YYV - Kathy Sullivan, former astronaut, Chief Scientist, NOAA
[space to weather...?]

tnx N3DG


Grounding meant a lot to Hercules. When he fought Antilla, son of Diana,
he didn't realize each time Antilla hit the ground, literally, he was
rejuvenated and, poor Herc, had to defeat him all over again. He finally
caught-on and threw him into the sea. Why ocean crust didn't work, I
can't say; it's for the Greeks, to answer that.

Grounding, for Hams, is helped by sea - saline, salt - water  but I can't
recommend throwing your antenna farm into the nearest, brackish pit.
Knowledge of soil resistivity, rod electrodes and the environment, can
help in a more practical way.

It is agreed, by experts, that study, analysis and design of lightning
protection systems is easy, compared with all the above, brought to bear,
on earth grounding. Each earth-grounding system [EGS] must be designed
individually. Design parameters are site conditions, soil type, soil
conditions, humidity, rain-fall [climate] which vary wildly and over a
broad spectrum. You might find it comforting, if you've been struggling
with these variables, that, not only is information, but also solid
understanding, of grounding fundamentals, is often unavailable, or
unsought, by engineers [big surprise, eh?], contractors [bigger surprise,
right?] and project managers [when they get out of the executive can or
back from a 3-hour, martooney, lunch].

Grounding can be defined, or described to a younger Ham, as the science -
effort, attempt - to secure low-resistance paths, for dissipation of
current into Earth [actually, you can read that as the capital-letter
'Earth', the planet, the ultimate ground or small-case 'earth', meaning
soil, ground, dirt...]. Not surprisingly, and to maximize profit, there
are many ways the ideal, or near ideal, ground can obtain.

Grounding is the PHYSICAL bonding - connecting - of equipment BY a
conductor TO earth. Earth/earth is composed of, virtually, every
compound, alloy, mineral, structure, material, known to human science and
waste. The range of conductive and insulative properties, of these
materials, is staggering. As a whole, the planet is considered to be a
good conductor. Premised on this, and to establish a reference/benchmark,
[electrical] potential of earth - forget what you can do on a Saturday
night - is assumed to be 0 [zero]. When an object is grounded, it is
forced to assume the same potential as earth, viz., 0 [this must be what
happens when a Ham lies on the ground, mostly Extras]. If the potential,
of a grounded object, is higher OR lower, current will pass through the
GROUNDING CONNECTION, until potentials, earth & grounded object, are
equilibrated, i.e., the same.

The EARTH ELECTRODE is that path - created via a conducting connection -
FROM gear TO earth. Resistance of this electrode, in Ohms, determines how
quickly - and at what potential - energy reaches equilibrium [before or
AFTER your TNC, 940... are fried]. This means grounding is mandated to
maintain an object's potential identical to earth.

Grounding is of import for obvious reasons:

i}      human safety
ii}     protect equipment [and your bank account thus your marriage]
iii}    cost of failure, itself: e.g., losing your 400th DX country
iv}     peace of mind. Stop laughing! An Amateur does things RIGHT,
FIRST time

With gear at, or very near, earth-ground potential, voltage differences
are optimized or minimized, precluding accident or fatality during human
contact [Hmmmm, I don't know how this ties-in with the above article, on
clubs, but it has possibilities].

Along with transient voltage surge suppression, grounding protects
apparatus from - surprise - voltage surges & transients [when I was
working at Shriner's Hospital, the mainframe would crap-out at,
precisely, 14:06, everyday. Aside from the fact they were using a
$250,000 DEC as a glorified typewriter, this was interfering with my lit
searches. I convinced the hospital to have PECO - our enemy in & above
ground, and NOT a potential enemy, a real foe - install a line monitor.
That power was SOOOOOO dirty....]. Even in high-tech, knowledgeable,
limitless resource orgs, surges from lightning cause millions of dollars
of damage - in gear & down-time - every year.

Hams are cheap. Losing a 2,000 dollar rig, for lack of 25 bucks worth of
protection - safe Hamming - is foolish. Also, poor grounding can degrade
performance of ANY piece of gear. Mull-over that 1... Lousy grounds can
also increase your cost of operation, fooling you into purchasing
unneeded add-ons [which you should know better, in the 1st place, cause
you're a Ham].

If it doesn't allow YOU to sleep, more soundly, consider the YL, XYL and
the dog or cat. With low resistance grounds installed, you're protected
[and you won't need those good hands from OOOPPSS!!].

EGS have 3, main, objectives: personal safety, equipment protection,
provide a reference point. Personal safety obtains, automatically, when
there is protection via a low-resistance path which, safely, dissipates
any undesired - none are desirable, actually - charges or potentials. The
reference point approaches earth potential, providing the target or
terminus of dissipation.

To be efficient, an EGS MUST have: stability & reliability in ALL
[adverse] environmental postures; freedom from maintenance; longevity
with NO recurring expenditures. Nice to have something without preventive
maintenance schedules, eh?


PAGE 5                                 HJ4F                     
                         APR 98

Air terminals - no, not airports - catenaries - conductors which direct
voltages and currents DOWN, toward earth - bonding connections, surge
suppression and grounding, are the predominant components of an
EGS/lightning protection system. If you're into mathematical modeling,
NFPA's Code 780 explains design and application, of most grounding
devices, with models. However, the spectrum of elaboration, afforded by
number-crunching, is NOT specified for grounding. Therefore, this caveat:
do NOT use, SOLELY, lightning protection models as the basis for
'grounding', as a whole, as grounding is NOT broached by lightning
protection/design professionals [lightning pros, at NWS, couldnt't care
less: they KNOW lightning is gonna hit ground; in fact, they'r eager for
it to happen].

Grounding is of immense gravity because it serves as the end-point of a
[lightning] protection system. Without ground/end-point/terminus, a
lightning protection system [LPS] cannot function, therefore provide
protection, let alone meet any standard or specs. EGS are buried,
invisible to inspection [OK, if you got a back-hoe, you can dig it up]
and unwieldy for maintenance [sans back-hoe]. The EGS segment, of a total
LPS, therefore must be designed with extra care & competence, for safety
and reliability.

The LPS hands-off a high-energy event, viz., a lightning strike, to the
EGS, which is responsible for dissipating or transferring the energy from
man-made metal structures, directly into earth/ground [perhaps more
accurately conceived of, in this instance, as the 'natural' earth]. EGS
must be conductive, durable, heat-resistant and resilient. Impedance
within the EGS must be low enough to minimize rises, in ground potential,
in soil surrounding the EGS [in a sense, insulating it from the rest of
the natural earth. In geologic strata, we may model soils or ground
composition, in this layered, or bounded, fashion]. Impedance must also
fall below a threshold guaranteed to decrease, to the maximum, voltage
potentials on ALL interconnected components, both equipment AND
current/voltage suppression/protection devices.

Fundamentals of EGS begin with soil characteristics, which determine
design and physical construction. The goal is the desired ohmic
resistance, including electrodes [ground rods], electrode spacing and
placement. Dominating design concerns is soil conductivity: ability of
the soil to conduct electricity [which may be conceived in the inverse,
viz., soil resistivity, in siemans [NO cracks!]. Tests for
conductivity/resistivity are very facile, with modern test-gear; it's the
expense that kills you. Resistivity - resistance to current flow within
the soil - determines EGS layout to achieve desired earth-to-ground
resistance [integrity of the path and its facility to conduct into soil].
Soil resistivity factors are moisture content, electrolyte complement
[ions that facilitate electron flow], metal impurities [which might
actually work in your favor] and alterations in microclimate temperature,
both extrema and rate.

continued in PART 2

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