News

January 26, 2021

Greetings from the High Country.  This marks my 23rd newsletter to members of NC Section since becoming your Section Manager on April 1, 2020.

WEATHER MATTERS

After some weather that reminded locals about what winters used to be like, things have gotten milder.  Most of the snow that hung around here for more than a week, when the evening had temperatures in the mid-20’s and daytime highs up to 35, is gone.  The temperature at 9 am was 50 degrees near Tweetsie Railroad but the ski slopes built up snow bases of 44-74 inches so there are a lot of opportunities for skiers to enjoy themselves.

I went out on my deck this morning and saw a lot of fog shrouding Boone and other valley areas (I am at 3850 ft amsl and quite a bit above the fog down in the valley).  The temperatures dramatically vary across Watauga County:  Deep Gap reported a 9 am temperature of 36 degrees while higher elevations (like my location nine miles away) had 9 a.m. temps around 50 degrees.  Later this week, we are expecting a light snowfall in the range of 1-3 inches.  As I finished up this newsletter around 3 pm., the temperature had risen to 57 degrees and all of the old (natural) snow and ice had disappeared.

If you want information on current weather data across the High Country and nearby areas, go to https://www.appalchianwx.com. This site collates data from the North Carolina State Climate Office and has information on current temperatures and wind chills while also including data from lower elevation locations so that you can see how temperatures drop as you go up higher in elevation.  If you want to see what the weather looks like on a current basis, go to www.resortcams.com where you can see video from a variety of locations.

 COVID INFORMATION

Vaccination efforts are meeting with mixed success across the state.  There have been some megasites that have administered vaccines to a couple of thousand people at a single site in one day and there are a number of successful smaller sites where everything ran smoothly.  On the other hand, there are locations where people waited in line more than two hours and were turned away or who were contacted that their scheduled appointments were cancelled because of a lack of vaccine..  North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services has promised the hospitals and health departments more certainty about how much vaccine they will receive each week.

Locally, there have been vaccine success stories.  A drive through site at Watauga High School administered 1100 doses last Saturday and I got my first shot at the Health Department about ten days ago and was vaccinated within ten minutes of my appointment.  Yesterday, I made an appointment for my second shot.

When trying to get information about where and how to get the vaccine, many older persons may not have a computer or may not feel confident using a computer and instead try to call for information.  Health Department staffs are overwhelmed by phone calls, phone lines are busy and sometimes the department phone system shuts down under the call volume. 

Help an older person in need by offering to help them getting signed up for an appointment.  This can be done by sending an email or going to the Health Department  website to schedule an appointment.  This is so much better than trying to call because having hundreds of people trying to call about the vaccine is overloading the staff, shutting down the phone system and frustrating older persons who are worried and cannot get through.

So, if you know of a ham or someone else who is computer-challenged, offer to help get them signed up for their COVID vaccination.

As to the seriousness of the problem, I know several people who come down with COVID-19 with varying symptoms.  Some have had significant gastro-intestinal issues, some became severely dehydrated, some have become severely dehydrated and others have had significant breathing problems but most report feeling significantly weaker after their bout with COVID.  I know a couple of hams who succumbed to COVID so I hope you take the pandemic seriously.

If you think you have COVID, call your Primary Care Physician and follow instructions on getting tested.  Don’t spread the virus to others. Wear a mask, frequently wash your hands, socially distance and, as soon as you can, get the vaccine.

ARRL MATTERS

The ARRL Board of Directors met via Zoom on January 15-16.  About a week prior to the meeting, ARRL members could look at the agenda (www.arrl.org/board-meetings).  A week after the meeting, the reports prepared back in November and December and distributed to Board Members prior to the meeting were posted on the ARRL webpage ( www.arrl.org/committee-reports).

Your attention is particularly directed to the Executive Committee, Administration and Finance, Programs and Services, and the Electromagnetic Compatibility (Spectrum) Committee reports but each of the reports that are now available for your reading are interesting to various constituents in the ham radio community.

It is expected that the Board will release the minutes of their deliberations in another two weeks after the minutes are found acceptable by each Board Member.  Most of the time, what the discussion was, and who voted which way is not reported; moreover a motion offered that received no second is not mentioned in the minutes.

Some participants at the Board meeting have unofficially shared information that the Board:

  1. Reacted with alarm over news reports that the rioters during the January 6 assault on the US Capitol may have used amateur radio equipment.  The FCC issued an “enforcement advisory” that the use of amateur and personal radio service licensed radio equipment should not be used in the furtherance of criminal activity and such use is prohibited.  As a result of the news coverage, and because of the FCC enforcement advisory, the ARRL issued a somewhat confusing statement to members reminding them about the purpose of amateur radio.  Most Section Managers got inquiries from members as to why the members had gotten the ARRL emailed statement about the purpose of amateur radio. 
  • Decided that due to declining advertising revenues ARRL apparently will allow QST to accept ads for non-ham items and equipment such as marine gear, hunter tracking devices, and other tasteful items that may be in some way related to electronics.
  • Will be replacing ARES Connect, the reporting system for ARES activities.  Prior to the Board Meeting, Paul Gilbert, Director of Emergency Management, sent a message to the Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators that ARES Connect was being abandoned and until a new system is developed, SEC’s and EC’s should revert to using paper reports.  The message was not well received and later it turned out the change is due to the existing software contractor parting ways with ARRL. 

SEC’s as a group for several years have complained to HQ about difficulties in using ARES Connect and wanted changes made in the system.  ARES Connect was recommended to the Board by a former HQ staff member.  The software system was a modification of software used by the Red Cross to track member activities.  ARES Connect had as its primary capability collecting information about time spent on activities rather than training records and capabilities of ARES® members.

According to reports, Paul Gilbert will lead a committee comprised of ARRL staff and Section Emergency Coordinators that will ask the EC’s and SEC’s what is needed and the committee will seek bids from vendors in hopes of getting a new system operation in late 2022 or 2023. 

EC’s have been instructed to sharpen their pencils and start recording activity data data on paper. Someone will have to total up the reports from the sections and prepare a report that is used to calculate the dollar value of time donated by amateur radio operators when the ARRL leadership talks to the FCC and FEMA.  In North Carolina, only nine counties have attempted to use ARES Connect and most have dropped it because of its clunky operation, lack of useful data and a failed training campaign over the three years of existence of ARES Connect.  Despite the documented shortcomings of ARES Connect, ARRL poured significant amounts of money into a software system that it is now abandoning.

  • Will conducti an in-depth review of the ARRL committee structure and revise the size, membership and duties of various Advisory Committees as well as determining which Advisory Committees should report to which Permanent Standing Committees. 

Apparently, the decision by the Board in January 2020 to elevate the Emergency Management Search Committee to permanent status in July 2020 went awry because ARRL had not hired a Director of Emergency Management.  The EMD was hired in August 2020 and it was planned to elevate the search committee a standing committee at the January 2021 meeting.

However, in the January 2021 Board Meeting discussions about reforming the DX Advisory Committee and the Contest Advisory Committee, plus the proposed action on the Emergency Management Committee, as well as inconsistencies with between the ARRL Bylaws and the Articles of Association caused concern.  The board apparently decided to postpone action on changing the number and structure Permanent and Advisory Committees until July 2021 so any needed changes to the Bylaws can be presented in July 2021 and be better understood by the Board.  (A discussion of this matter can be found in the EM Committee Report, on https://tinyurl.com/y4zpppjg and on the Facebook page entitled My ARRL Voice).

Following the Board meeting, David Minster, NA2AA, sent out a message to Section Managers highlighting new initiatives approved at the Board Meeting:

  1. ARRL is creating a new working group comprised of Directors, Vice Directors, Section Managers and club leaders to improve communications and point to ways for increased collaboration within ARRL.
  2. ARRL HQ is initiating a number of projects at HQ which will allow members greater access to ARRL technology and will utilize Raspberry Pi’s, Node Red, MQTT and completely rebuilding Log Book of the World and the Awards Program into a new platform.
  3. Explained that the previous day’s email to all members related to the Board’s desire to assure the public and the FCC that amateurs support and adhere to a long-standing  values that promote amateur radio positively.  Section Managers were asked to refer requests they may receive about the ARRL statement of purpose or the FCC Enforcement Advisory to ARRL HQ for comment.

If I have been inaccurate in any of the above summaries, I use the best information available that is consistent with statements made by Board members. 

FCC MATTERS

Ajit Pai resigned as Chair and member of the Federal Communications Commission effective January 20.  He has been a strong proponent of selling spectrum to support 5G and other technologies.  President Biden appointed Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to serve as Acting Chair.  The Commission presently has 2 Democrats and 2 Republican members and President Biden will nominate a fifth member who will be subject to Senate confirmation.

At the present time, the FCC has not acted on:

  1. Expanded hf voice privileges for Technician license holders
  2. Removal of the 300 Baud or symbol rate limitation that prevents use of Pactor 4 on ham bands.
  3. Creation of hf sub-bands for digital users as a means of minimizing conflicts between digital users and cw and ssb users.

Information has been informally shared with the Section Managers by a Director that the ARRL is formulating a new proposal for solving the problem of amateur radio antennas banned by some homeowner associations across the country.  I have no information as to what is being proposed and inquiries should be directed to the Roanoke Division Director Bud Hippisley (w2ru@arrl.org) and Division Vice Director Bill Morine (n2cop@arrl.org).

Members are reminded of the FCC requirement that you have a current email address on file with the FCC.  There is no fee to add this information but the process can be a little cumbersome.  Go to https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsEntry/licManager/login.jsp to add your email address in your Universal License System (ULS) file.

Concerning the matter of the $35 application fee, the required Federal Register notice has been published and the fee is set.  However, the FCC has not determined how the fee will be paid to the FCC.  Will VEC teams collect it and remit it to the FCC?  Will the application and Certificate of Successful Completion of an Exam be held in abeyance until the applicant directly pays the fee to the FCC?  Will the fee be collected electronically or will checks be accepted?  Stay tuned for more information.

CLUB MATTERS

You may not know that there is a large collection of free video materials on various technologies that clubs may want to share with club members while we are quarantined during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.  Working from home over the past year, ARRL’s Learning Initiative staff has produced seven videos that you may want to consider.  Go to www.arrl.org/arrl-learning-network

A wider selection of sessions prepared by the RATPAC (a group of Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators which prepares two Zoom educational sessions each week).  The RATPAC sessions are popular because they allow hams to interact directly with subject matter experts and ask questions in real time.  Once the sessions are concluded they are stored fordowloading by interested persons who could not attend the live sessions.  If you want a wide array of subjects to consider, look at the list that can be found at found at http://tiny.cc/ratpac-list. This list is updated and remains current.

Additionally, I hope you will take time to register for the Orlando HamCation (cancelled) Forums and Speakers (not cancelled but on-line) on February 13 which includes interesting topics and will highlight rigs from ICOM, Yaesu, Kenwood and Elecraft. 

Go to https://www.hamcation.com/forums-speakers to sign up.

In February, Tim Slay (Affiliated Club Coordinator) and I will hold another Zoom meeting with Club Presidents and Program Chairs for the various clubs in the NC Section.  Ask you President or Program chair to contact Tim Slay (n4ib@arrl.org) to receive an invitation to the opportunity for clubs to exchange ideas and information.

ON THE AIR

The North Carolina QSO Party, organized by the Raleigh Amateur Radio Society (rars.org), will be held on February 28, 2021 from 10 am to 8 pm.  Information can be found at https://ncqsoparty.org.  Your NC Section will once again be a sponsor for the single-op/instate/digital award. 

TRAFFIC

Dave Price, W4DNA, submits a monthly report on message traffic handled by the various nets.  Because of the obsolete email system used by ARRL is it not possible to include a spreadsheet but Dave’s monthly data can be found at the NC Section webpage, www.ncarrl.org .  An abbreviated version of his report for December 2020 is set out below:

W4DNA – NC Section Net Report – DECEMBER 2020
NETNMGRQNILISTEDPASSEDTIMESESSIONSTFC %
 
SECTION NETS 
CNKC4PGN4091521245106281.58%
CSNKV4WN12426245373192.31%
NCENW4DNA5941221138056292.62%
NCMNW3OJO     #DIV/0!
THENAE4MF278  43627 
 
LOCAL NETS 
CWTNN4CNX434949462931100.00%
ENCTNW4DNA118363619231100.00%
PCTNW4TTO226535325631100.00%
 
TOTAL 2183483444336527591.93%

REMINDERS

If you know of a ham who has passed away, drop me a line and include a link to an obituary from a funeral home or newspaper so I can arrange for notice made of the ham’s passing in an upcoming issue of QST.

If you know of an ARRL member who does not receive these newsletters, advise them to sign up at arrl.org.  Log in and under their name is a link, “edit my profile”, click on that and you will be taken to a page, “edit my email preferences”.  Choose “receive emails from Director and Section Manager” along with any other of the email options presented.

Club visits are part of my job.  Drop me a line if you would like me to virtually visit with your club and offer comments.  I have made about 20 visits so far while Section Manager during COVID-19 restrictions on meetings.

CLOSING COMMENTS

Last week, I was amazed when WBTV News (Chanel 3 in Charlotte) carried a news story that an email was sent out by the NCSHP Troop G (Asheville) Commander to Troopers telling them that they need to be writing more tickets.  The Captain stated that it was time for “lazy troopers to get back to work”. 

Some of my friends quickly pointed out that vehicle traffic is down considerably due to the economic slowdown and because many people working from home.  On the other hand, others have pointed out that vehicles are moving faster, due to less traffic on the road, and it is quite likely that vehicles on the Interstates are moving along at 75-85 mph, or even faster.   Some commenters have questioned whether the email was prompted by the fact that 60,000 fewer tickets were issued by the Highway Patrol in 2020 than in 2019 and that court revenues are down as a result.

No word on how the email is being taken by the troopers, none of whom I ever thought of as being lazy.  In fact, the Troopers have a dangerous job and deserve respect.  And, like so many others, they too have been affected by COVID-19 with something like 200Troopers (out of about 1800) having tested positive and having been quarantined at one time or another.

I feel fortunate to have (knock on wood) missed getting COVID-19, have gotten my first shot and have an appointment for my second shot on February 12.

I hope all of you, and your families, stay well as we deal with this rampant pandemic.  Wash your hands frequently, wear a mask when outside home, socially distance and get the vaccine as soon as you can.


73,

Marv, WA4NC

Boone

828 964 6626

Wa4nc@arrl.org