November 28, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Ham Radio 

For those of you who don’t recognize it, KC2SMS is a United States amateur radio call sign.  It’s used to identify the station and operator of a “ham” radio station in the US.

It also means me.

I’ve been interested in radio for many years.  During college I was a member of the Rutgers Amateur Radio Club (WA2NPP), but I never got my license.  I just didn’t want to go to the effort to learn Morse Code.

Earlier this year, the FCC (and ITU – the international body governing radio) eliminated the Morse Code requirement for all amateur radio licenses.

When I decided to stop flying, I looked for a less expensive hobby that could be done on my schedule (flying is clearly neither).  I tried some online version of the ham radio tests after doing 20 minutes of looking at a study guide and to my surprise I passed both the entry level (Technician) and middle level (General) tests.  I seem to have learned a lot of the information over the years from one source or another.  I decided to do some studying and take the tests.  It only costs $14 for a testing session and you can take as many levels as you pass for the same fee.

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Yesterday the paperwork went all the way through and I was issued my call sign and license.  I have a Yaesu VX-6R handheld VHF/UHF radio on order that should arrive later this week.  In the future I’ll look into a mobile (car) radio that handles all bands and can be used at home as well.  I don’t think I plan to install a major antenna farm or tower at home – I’ll probably get field antennas and put them up when I want to use them.

I have already contacted the ARES/RACES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) folks in my area.  I’ll start working with them soon, though there is a pause in activity for those groups in December every year.  I also may get involved in traffic nets – the passing of short messages via radio from members of the public to other members of the public with the intent to train for the need to pass important messages in an emergency.

Besides, being an IT person by day, being heavily involved in church, and flying airplanes wasn’t nearly geeky enough.


Hanging up the Headset

November 19, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Flying 

For the time being, I have stopped flying.

There are two primary reasons:  time and money.

With my re-involvement in church, my available time for flying is severely restricted.  Flying and maintaining skills at a proper level requires flying at least once every 2 weeks and once a week is better.  Training for a new rating or certificate requires a minimum of flying once a week (knowing that 1 week out of 4 will be canceled by weather).  Flying that once a week requires about 1/2 of a weekend day with my schedule.  With church involvement, I’ve lost 1 of the 4 possible timeslots.  With youth group, I’ve more or less lost another (the Sunday afternoon/evening slot – particularly with me involved in Confirmation that meets until 12:30pm).  And I still need to do all of the things that need to be done on the weekend – like lawn care, spending time with my wife, chores around the house, etc.

Also, money is … while not getting tight it’s not as free as it used to be.  With reinvolvement with the church I’m giving about half of what I used to spend on flying in a given year to the church.  The other half of my flying budget has been eroded by $3/gallon auto gas, 2% raises for several years where inflation was more like 4%, and the cost of everything going up.

Ever since getting my instrument rating in January I haven’t been flying as much.  I’ve averaged only once a month and I had a two month break in the spring when my blood pressure medication needed to be adjusted.  And I haven’t missed it as much as I might have (though I do miss it some).  The reason for that has to do with my reasons for learning to fly in the first place.

Starting about 2001, management changes at my job began to make my position extremely uncomfortable.  The head of IT at the time took a strong dislike to me and made it a point to harm my career progress.  He also said things in reviews, to me personally, and to others about my performance that my current boss can’t understand.  The problem was someplace between a personality conflict and actual malice on his part.

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I had always had an interest in flying and I needed to find an activity that met a few criteria:  doable by me, complex knowledge required but still learnable with a reasonable application of time and effort, and interesting to me.  Flying met all of those.

And I did learn a lot.  I learned more than just the flying itself.  I learned the concepts of positive control and immediate correction when necessary.  I learned how to tell the difference between a small problem that can be temporarily ignored and a major problem that requires immediate attention.  I learned a lot about “shades of gray” – very important to someone who works with 1’s and 0’s for a living.  I also learned a lot about learning and how I need to learn in order to grow.

In the process I made a few good friends, a small number of enemies, and did something that only a tiny percentage of the population has done.

The good news is that I can do it again when my situation changes.  I can’t say for certain that my church involvement will continue at the current high level forever.  I also can’t say (and don’t want to) that I won’t find a lot of money under a rock and be able to afford flying as a weekday activity (though Dad tells me that there aren’t any rich relatives).  I’ll just need to get with an instructor for a checkout, maybe a BFR (I’m not due until January 2009) and for instrument currency I’ll need some work with an instructor.

A word to those who might be considering learning to fly or who are already doing it:  My situation is different than yours.  If you are able to afford it and put in the time, go for it.  Some people are driven to fly in the same way that sailors have been driven to sail the sea – a nearly primal instinct that draws you to the air.  I know a number of pilots who have that.  I have never had that need to fly – for me it was an interesting hobby.  I do understand and support that need in others.  If you have that need, find a way to fly – you’ll be happier in the long run.

Layoffs again, *sigh*

November 13, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Work 

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I think I need to turn my discretionary spending into discretionary saving.


November 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

I was out sick yesterday.

On Wednesday, I had a sore throat all day.  I gave my boss a warning that I’d probably be out on Thursday – usually a sore throat precedes my sinuses doing their “thick as a brick” impression.

It was worse than that.  I slept all but 6 hours Thursday (or 18 hours total).  By the time I figured out that I’m sicker than I thought and took my temperature it was 100.8.  I started pushing fluids at that point.
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Today I’m at work with only 99.6, but only because I have important stuff to do and a meeting to attend.  I’m going home sick at noon.

I’m supposed to go see the Blue Man Group tonight.  I have to decide whether or not to suffer through or blow the $80 tickets.