Thursday, 9 April 2020

Lots breaking down and a deep sense of dread.

I was going to start this posting with an appreciation of Catherine Catherwood, our Chief Medical Officer. Not now, as she has lost her job after breaking her own rules.

The point being that I usually only trust ideas and numbers and science. I generally do not trust people. People who want to convince me have to produce facts, rather than just claiming to be right. We all know who does that type of thing, and we do not trust him.

When I need advice I turn to an expert.

More of coronavirus later.
This is the time of year for Es to get going, and it has not disappointed - briefly. Things are also doing well on the meteor scatter front, though tropo has not been quite as good as one might have hoped.

There was some early action on 24 March. The earlier tropo which had brought me OZ on 23cms did very little more. Despite the high pressure there was nobody to work. For several days I could call CQ and see my pin in the 2m PSK reporter map at various OZ locations, but having worked all of those there was nobody to talk to. The path across the North Sea on 2m tropo was open for long periods for three days.

The tropo was better to the West where sadly there are very few stations. Mark, EI3KD, was running a special event station on 2 metres to mark the events of 1920 in County Cork. I could not resist that one. I then asked Mark to move to 70cms, which he did and gave me a new DXCC and new square on 70cms.

Despite this, tropo was a disappointment over a period when pressure was high but the moisture content of the air was not suitable.

24 March seems a bit early for a full scale Es opening on VHF, but that is what happened. On 6 metres I worked 30 stations in 21 squares, 5 countries and two continents.
50MHz contacts at GM4FVM on 24 March 2020
On 4m it was not quite as dramatic but it was still an earlier than usual opening...
70MHz contacts at GM4FVM on 24 March 2020
Since then there have been fairly regular stations popping up on FT8 on 6m. Although I have had QSOs, none of it looks like the Es season has started here in earnest, or not yet.

Meteor scatter has produced a steady stream of contacts on 4m and 6m. I have turned on the 100km markers on this map, with thicker lines for 500km.
VHF meteor scatter contacts at GM4FVM, 24 March to 10 April 2020
The most distant contact with Jurek, SP9HWY, at over 1500km was a lengthy affair as it so often is outside a specific shower period. I am looking forward to the Lyrids peak around 22 April when I hope I might make some progress on 10m too. Mind you, if the Es season is underway then 10m might be pretty crowded.
Yes, lots of things are breaking down, not least of all me.

On the day our local dentists went into lockdown my largest filling fell out. I was "triaged" over the phone and told I was not bad enough to warrant attention so I should rely on temporary fillings for the duration. I had never heard of temporary fillings, so this required a visit to the pharmacist in the next town.

And so began my relationship with a gunky slime somewhere between chewing gum and Isopon on the crud scale. It is not really a filling, but it certainly is temporary. It keeps falling out. I suffer, of course, but in a stoical, level headed way as befits a mature adult who knows it is nobody's fault.


Then my 2m linear, which has already been back to DX Shop four times for repair, failed again ...
The LinearAmp Gemini 2 amplifier failed with a false SWR warning .. again.
For an amplifier to have failed five times in two years is really disappointing. I believe that there is some underlying fault which has never been addressed and I will deal with that in due course.

In the meantime some temporary assistance has arrived in the shape of an RM Italy LA250 linear. How long I can keep this is not clear but it solves the problem for now. The good news is that it is not a Gemini, it came from somewhere else, and it seems to work.

After the Gemini had come back from repair for the fourth time I sold my Microset brick amplifier in the expectation that I did not need it any more. Here is the RM, another brick amplifier, but one which seems to be in a different class. Fortunately I still have the 40 amp power supply and I can borrow the sequencer and bias-tee from 23cms. More on the RM once I have had time to try it, but so far so good.

My CUG mast, which holds up my 4m and 6m dual band beam, failed too. The top pulley broke when I was attempting to raise it. This has also happened before ...
Broken weld on mast pulley at GM4FVM.
The pulley has broken off its mounting plate. It is designed in a way to avoid a catastrophic failure in the sense that if it fails the mast does not fall. However, that design is itself a weakness as it involves a weld under strain which, as can be seen in the photo, is subject to corrosion.

CUG masts have been helpful and say that they have a new design where the pulley is riveted to the back plate. I hope to get one of those soon. The mast jammed half raised, but I was able to work the cable through the hole without the pulley and gradually lower it. It is now down and under its own weight, with the lifting cable slack. Possibly the cable was damaged during that operation, we will need to see, but nothing terrible happened. It is just stuck down now.

Now I have to stress that none of this matters much in the great scheme of things. The world is in the grip of a major crisis and my tooth problems, and even my tripped linear and broken pulley, are nothing in this. Some people have lost their jobs, others are at home on reduced pay, and still more alarming, many are in hospital fighting for their lives. Many have already passed away, and even the grieving have their problems as we know here, as funerals are disrupted.

My issues are not significant. However, this is a radio blog and not a corona virus blog. My duty is to carry on and spout my nonsense. I must do my bit. I even keep trying with KST Chat, even though I find it terribly tedious. I have had good chat with great people, but having it on for long periods locks me into a strange inability to act.

I think KST is warning me about the dangers of radio torpor. An induced state of inactivity, in this case induced by the radio. Doing radio because there is little else to do sets it off. Sitting here starting at screens, imagining there is something useful to do, when there isn't. Sometimes, you just need to get up and do something else, limited though that might be just now.

My general state of dread does not come from the threat I am under from this virus. I have been in danger before, as we have touched on here. There have been times for me, as for most of us, when I have been under threat. Usually this hardly gave me time to think. Either it was over and clearing up was needed, or I had already been knocked unconscious - or delirious - by then. Anyway, danger came as a shock, and it was over pretty quickly.

What is happening now is not an acute state, it is chronic. We do not know when it will end. Looking back, wars and so forth seem terrible in the sense that they lasted for four years, or five years, or whatever. We forget that to those present at the time they did not know when it would end. Just as we now do not know when the present emergency will end.

I feel a temptation to think that sitting in front of the radio is an end in itself. But the radio is a cruel mistress as I have noted before. Just sitting here does not dispel the feelings of dread, it increases them. Sometimes I just have to turn it off and go and clear out the garage. Surprisingly, there are lots of antenna bits out there which I must sort out.

Do something constructive Jim. Do not become a total misery (a partial misery is bad enough). Tidy up. Fix things. Made a new plan, Stan (ooops, not a good comparison).

Radio is a hobby. It is not an excuse to hide away. That way lies the sense of dread.

Spring is here and there is plenty to do.

Just do it.

And keep washing your hands.

And speak 2m from the microphone, just in case.



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