July 24, 2011
The Rookie Ham Radio Operator and Public Service Events
After a hiatus of nearly six years, I immersed myself back into the amateur radio hobby. I was originally licensed in 2003 and was only active for about two years. When I recently keyed up the mike after that break, I felt like I was absolutely starting over.
I plunged back into the hobby on the slopes of Mt. Washington at the epic Climb to the Clouds auto race. Two weeks later I was back on the peak nearly at the top working a bicycle race. Six days later I was deep in the trees at the New England Forest Rally.
Amateur (ham) radio operators volunteer across the USA, and I'm sure other nations, to assist in communications at countless events. Marathons, car races, dog-sled races, bicycle events, etc. These are all non-emergency events, but emergencies can and do happen at any time during these contests.
Ham radio operators pride themselves with being able to mobilize and communicate during emergencies, so it's a natural to have hams at public service events. They have the equipment and the training. It's a core strength of the hobby.
I made mistakes at each event that could have been prevented. Some were due to my rookie status, others might be a mixture of my inexperience and oversights on the part of event organizers.
Here's my short list of Do's and Don'ts for a rookie ham operator working a public service event.
This is just a partial list of suggestions. I'm sure experienced ham operators have a boatload of other tips that can make public service work go off without a hitch.
At my last event, the New England Forest Rally, I made a terrible mistake. It caused the most popular stage of the rally to be cancelled. I felt horrible after this happened, and I'm sure the drivers wanted to choke me to death.
Because I was a rookie, I thought that meant to stop all cars on the course, as I didn't know if the cars passing me were about to come upon the wreck.
Not having anyone with me, I immediately got out my red cross card and waved it at drivers who were zooming past me. The INSTANT I displayed the red cross, the race stage was over. My action caused drivers to slow down and stop, ruining their run.
What the "Stop all cars" call on the radio meant, was to stop any further cars from starting. My suggestion, to all race organizers, is to come up with a word or phrase similar to MayDay, that is ONLY used on the frequency to communicate what should happen in an emergency situation.
I so wish I could replay what happened and have the organizers agree to broadcast this over the radios: "Red Cross Red Cross - All stations display the Red Cross." But what do I know, I'm just a rookie.
July 8, 2011
Casey Anthony's Verdict - Connecting Dots and Reasonable Doubt
Several days ago tens of millions of people were glued to their television sets or computer monitors watching Casey Anthony's reaction as her verdict being was read aloud by the clerk in the courtroom. I was one of them. After hearing the verdict for the first three counts, I knew the twelve jurors that decided Casey's fate had taken their eye off the ball.
Hundreds, no actually, thousands of hours of debate have happened about this salacious trial. All too often I feel that people forget about the real victim. That was poor Caylee. Just about everyone I've talked to about this trial is outraged at the verdict.
How could the jury not connect the dots? How could the jury not get beyond a reasonable doubt?
Let's look at the evidence.
First we've got a bag of bones. How does a body get in a plastic bag and have duct tape around it to close it off? If you're in the bag, you can't tape it closed.
Casey Anthony has a history of lying. She was the last person to see little Caylee alive.
The skull had pieces of duct tape across the mouth and nose. We, the public, will probably never be able to see the crime scene photos, but know that it's true. The lead prosecutor said that in an interview last night on Fox News. The photos we saw were digitally altered out of respect for poor Caylee. That's how gruesome the death was.
The disappearance of Caylee was not reported for 31 days. Do you know a parent that would do that? Can you explain that fact to me? Can you give me other examples of parents who have waited days and days to report a missing child?
The coroners could not rule an exact cause of death. I got that. The decomposition of poor Caylee's body was so complete, there was no flesh left to prove the duct tape was on her actual mouth and nose. I'm with you on that.
But why would strips of tape be put on the face of a dead child that allegedly drowned? Can you explain that to me? I sure can explain to you why duct tape would be put over the mouth and nose of a child.
Stay focused. Review the facts again.
We've got a dead child - one that's been murdered. It's a horrifying homicide, not an accidental death. Kids that die in swimming pool drownings don't have tape on their faces and end up inside plastic bags in a murky swamp blocks from where they live.
Kids that drown end up on those stainless-steel tables in the morgue hours after the body's been discovered in the pool. The coroner's van takes the body there after the 911 call. You're with me on that, right? I want to make sure you and I agree on what happens when a child drowns in a pool. The coroner puts the body in a bag, but then on that table for the autopsy. Right?
Put yourself in that jury room and stare at those facts. Forget about anything else about Casey's care-free lifestyle during those 31 days. Who cares about that. Who cares about the tattoo. Who cares about the lies of her parents on the witness stand.
Keep your eye on the target. Think. You're a juror. You've got a defenseless child that's a victim of a grim murder. Your goal is to connect the dots in a case and punish the person that peeled the duct tape from that roll. Your job is to get beyond reasonable doubt.
Remember, we've got a dead child.
Now, let me help you get there. Oh how I wish I was in that jury room.
Let's go over some other facts.
Less than ten years ago another person was reported missing from her home. This person was eight months pregnant.
This person's husband, and the father of the child, was the last person to see her alive.
Five months after being reported missing, the body of a small child washed ashore followed by a torso that was later identified as it's mother. The torso was missing the hands, feet and head.
DNA testing conclusively identified the body, but the cause of death was not determined. That's very important to know.
There was all sorts of other evidence, but you can go over that on your own time.
Oh, you need to know something else. The husband of the torso, his name is Scott Peterson. He's on Death Row in San Quentin prison in California awaiting execution.
Where are all the blog posts and articles claiming that an innocent person has been convicted of this horrendous crime of murdering a pregnant mom and then cutting off her head, feet and hands and then dumping her in a bay? If you've got links to them, by all means put them down below in the comments.
Okay, let's get back to work.
So what was your question about beyond a reasonable doubt? Tell me again where you've got difficulty with that concept?
The jurors in the Scott Peterson trial had no issues with it.
Casey Anthony, as well as OJ Simpson and a handful of others are why we have a phrase in the English language. You know it. I'm sure it's passed across your lips.
He/she got away with murder.
Yes indeed, Casey Anthony got away with murder because her jury didn't have the strength, the courage, the guts, to do what the jurors did in the Scott Peterson trial as well as many others where there was a clear path beyond a reasonable doubt.
July 4, 2011
AsktheBuilder.com Deadwood Debacle
On July 3, 2011 I was trying to get caught up on some business chores. One of the things on my list was to send the final email to a small segment of my AsktheBuilder.com newsletter list. This small segment were subscribers that were no longer opening and reading my newsletter. It was a stern email that basically said that if they didn't respond to a call of action, they would be deleted from the list. Guess what?
I made a mistake and sent the terse email to my entire list of well over 100,000 subscribers. In the screen shot here, you can see just a few of the choices on the list. The trouble is, the software defaults to the All Subscribers choice. I blew right past this and clicked the Send Now button far at the bottom of the page.
As you might imagine, some where taken aback by the email, some were confused, most shrugged their shoulders thinking it was a mistake, but a handful went ballistic.
Once I became aware I made the mistake, I sent out a long email explaining what happened. Both emails are at the bottom of this blog post. The terse email is the first one. It would make total sense to you if you had read the two other emails that I successfully sent to the small segment.
I wasn't bothered in the least by the rude responses I received from a handful of subscribers. I've come to know, after publishing a free newsletter for nearly 14 years, that a certain percentage of the population is self-absorbed and horribly selfish.
Perhaps you've run into some who belong to this group where you work. Maybe they're your neighbors. Surely they're not your friends. They stand out like a lighthouse on a foggy night. And just like a lighthouse, you steer clear of them to avoid problems.
For your enjoyment, I've decided to publish some of the best responses, both good and bad. In a period of just 24 hours after sending the rogue email, I received well over 1,000 pleasant emails from subscribers who were blown away by the rude responses that were polluting my Inbox.
It's impossible to print all the wonderful emails I received. Some brought tears to my eyes. Especially the follow-up email from Tina in Canada.
Here you go. I've decided to not publish the names of the guilty. They know who they are. Also, on purpose I've not done any editing of the comments. Not for punctuation, grammar, spelling or proper formatting and English. We better start paying attention to what's going on in our public schools!
".....Maybe you need to polish the crystal ball with some Stain Solver!!"
Okay, are you still with me? Here's the first email that got that select groups panties in a twist:
Dear INSERT SUBSCRIBER NAME HERE,
Okay, this is it. This is the FINAL nudge email you'll get from me.
I reached out to you last week and you may have been on vacation, sick or abducted. No matter, but I didn't hear back. It's time to prune the deadwood from my email list.
If you want to continue to receive my FREE weekly newsletter you need to do just one thing. It will tell me that you are active and want my free tips. Do this:
CLICK this link which will take you to the AsktheBuilder.com home page.
Don't forget - Do it Right, not Over,
Here's the email I sent out after I discovered the error:
Dear INSERT SUBSCRIBER NAME HERE,
About two hours ago I sent out a message to my entire email list.
But the message was only supposed to go to a SMALL SEGMENT of my list. Guess what? I FORGOT to select that small segment from the enormously powerful and complex software that powers my newsletter. I sent the message to the ENTIRE list.
Oh my, did that cause problems, confusion, laughter and anger.
Go figure. :->>>>
Grab a cup of coffee, tea or water, and sit back and read this. I
First I want to say how interesting it is to read replies to my
Everyone gets the exact same email, but the reaction to them are as different as night and day. You might enjoy a few of the responses that are pouring in, yes POURING in.
Here's one that gets the Great Sense of Humor Award:
".....Maybe you need to polish the crystal ball with some Stain
Here's a response from the "I, Tim Carter, am an IDIOT" email. He gets the Zero-Tolerance Award:
"This happens too much and too frequently. Take me off your list."
This one gets the Chill-Out Award:
"Why are you insulting me? If this is the way you treat people I
This one gets the Potty-Mouth Award. It was from a woman, oh my!:
"I think you're very rude, take your f****** newsletter and shove it! I don't give a s*** if you stop sending it or not. Better yet I'll block you, hows that for rude , you piece of deadwood!"
And more responses to the "I, Tim Carter, am an IDIOT" email:
"Well, what can I say.........."
"yes you are an IDIOT"
"Everyone has a bad day. I Am open minded."
"tim,,,,I enjoy your tips,and I like your videos. what I don't
"No worries, Tim I like your style!"
I think you get the picture. Some have far more tolerance than
The Long Story
I've been doing my AsktheBuilder.com newsletter for about 14 years I believe. It's not perfect, but I try to do my best.
It's not as regular as it should be. Sometimes life gets in the way.
But I really started to grow the list about three years ago.
I use very sophisticated software to manage and send the
It has built-in tools that allow me to see if I'm doing a GOOD job.
I'm sure you can see how that's helpful to me as I want to keep you engaged. I want to produce a newsletter that you enjoy getting. I want to know that you're happy.
Here's an example.
Week in and week out when I do a tool or product review in the
But the software is not perfect. Just like me.
It's all very complex, and I don't pretend to understand all the
Yes, things happen at your end that prevent you from opening a
You may save the emails and open them months later reading them all at once. I get that.
Evidently, other things can confuse the software. For example, it
It appears that if you read my newsletter on a Blackberry device,
There's a good chance that if you have images turned off in your
Make sure I don't end up in your Spam Folder. Add me to your white list or to your Contacts. That's very important.
I believe you get the picture.
Here's why it's important for me to know that you've opened and
Let's talk about SPAM. Let's say you don't want to get the
But some folks get angry and instead of going to the Unsubscribe
Guess what? It's not spam. Remember, yoou signed up for the newsletter and asked me to send it. Spam is something you never asked for.
When you mark my newsletter email as SPAM, I get penalized and
The big email houses like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, will stop
If you don't want the newsletter, just unsubscribe or reply to me
Please understand that it costs me money to send the newsletter to you. As the list grows, it costs me more and more. I'm sure you
I'm also starting to sell advertising in the newsletter so it can
Now that you know all of this, I hope it makes sense that I delete
I need to only keep you on the list if you're interested. It's best
Sorry for ALL the confusion earlier. I hope you understand now
Enjoy the Fourth of July! I'll have a REAL newsletter for you on
Do it Right, Not Over
Posted by Tim Carter at 2:29 PM
July 2, 2011
Climb to the Clouds 2011 Auto Race
Ham radio operators from all over New England gathered at the base of Mt. Washington on June 24-26, 2011 to assist in the epic Climb to the Clouds auto race, one of the oldest automobile races in North America. I happened to be one of them. My call sign being W3ATB.
This race was brought back after a ten-year hiatus to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of North America's oldest man-made attraction, the Mt. Washington Auto Road.
This event couldn't have been named better as Mother Nature provided abundant cloud cover and rainfall all three days. In fact, there were so many clouds on the two practice days, the race car drivers were only allowed to sprint up to the halfway point of the Mt. Washington Auto Road. Visibility and the sloppy conditions on the gravel surface past the 4-mile marker made it unsafe to traverse to the top of the mountain.
But on race day, Sunday June 26th, the conditions improved allowing ham radio operators, corner workers, crowd marshals, drivers and spectators to scatter themselves up and down the 7.6-mile serpentine road that leads from the base area to the summit of Mt. Washington.
I've never worked an event like this before, and was full of anxiety about what to do and when to do it. This was compounded by the fact that I hadn't keyed up a mic on a radio in over five years.
Fortunately there were great handouts distributed before the event and I attended an organizational meeting at the site the night before the first practice. These combined to settle me down, but on Friday morning at 6 am when all the hams gathered outside the communications shack, I was on pins and needles. I didn't want to make a mistake that would cause confusion amongst all the other hams and embarrassment for me.
The chief of communications, Robert Lyle, must have known this because he paired me off with a seasoned ham operator, Lee Hillsgrove, Sr. KB1GNI at Station One just above the start line of the race. Lee's calm demeanor and excellent tutoring put me at ease very quickly.
I was amazed at how the Net Control communications hub worked and it quickly started to make sense why each station had to report in about the status of certain cars. Each of us hams were the eyes and ears of the race organizers. That's obvious to any ham that's participated in an event like this, but I can tell you that I've never even given a second thought about being surrounded by invisible radio waves at any sizable gathering.
Sure, I've seen event staff at concerts and fairs use hand-held radios, but I never thought about the complexity of the communications and what was being said. What's more, I never gave a thought to the numerous frequencies being used. We hams were on four different frequencies and the event staff had their own no doubt.
I had an issue the first day of practice with my 5-watt Yaesu VX-7R. Unbeknownst to me it was emitting a 1750-Hz tone burst as I keyed up. Lee was aware of this, but graciously didn't want to ruffle my feathers. Net control, however, let me know that I had a problem.
Lee and I tried to solve the problem wiping rain from the display of my handheld, but the cryptic menu choices gave us no clue as to which item to choose and which way to toggle the choices. Later in the day I got a tip from another ham as to how to easily fix the problem.
The practice days were filled with many more emergencies and incidents than the actual race day. I was very impressed with the level of professionalism of all the operators and Net Control when emergencies and incidents were reported.
On race day I was at station 23 located at mile 5.03 of the Auto Road. It's above the tree line and the base area of the race was in clear view when the clouds would part. The temperature was cool, it was very cloudy and there were patches of drizzle from time to time. I had the right clothing, and was prepared for just about anything Mother Nature could serve up.
We did have a very close call at Station 23 when car number 53 with the Wimpey brothers came barreling around the first turn at our station. They missed going off the road by no less than six inches. Their over correction to get back on the driving line put them into the shallow ditch on the uphill side of the road.
The right wheels were in the ditch for about 50 feet and when they over corrected to get back on the gravel surface they slid sideways, but continued up the road. This mistake was costly, as moments later they had a right rear flat tire from an encounter with a rock in the ditch. They were officially a DNF.
There were too many thrills during the three days of the event, but I thoroughly enjoyed the last competitive run of the day when David Higgins in car 75 made his second record-breaking run of the race. Here's a video I taped as he bolted by my station Sunday afternoon.
I loved being part of the Climb to the Clouds 2011 race and you'll see me at many other places here in New England volunteering my soon-to-be-improving ham skills to help create a safe environment for participants and spectators.