Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Role Of HF Amateur Radio in Disaster Communications

Does HF still have a legitimate role in disaster communications?
High frequency, also known as shortwave, is the portion of radio frequency spectrum from 3 MHz to 30 MHz; or to describe it another way, between medium wave (including the AM broadcast band) and VHF (which includes the FM broadcast band).

HF is characterized by ionospheric skip propagation (1), where signals bounce off ionized particles in the upper atmosphere. It is this characteristic that makes HF important, and is the reason that we can tune in shortwave broadcasts from around the world. Without getting too heavily into the science behind ionospheric skip propagation, radiation from the sun ionizes particles in the F layer of the ionosphere, between approximately 100 miles and 300 miles above the earth's surface. The ionization is greatest during daylight hours at any given point. The season is also a factor, as is the 11-year sunspot cycle (2),(3).

In practice, an HF operator or frequency coordinator can choose an operating frequency based upon distance to the receiving station. The lower bands within the HF spectrum work best within a radius of zero to 200-300 miles, while the upper HF bands are better for worldwide communications. If the operator chooses the correct frequency, very little power is required to make contact. Amateur radio operators who are into QRP (low power, often simple equipment) regularly communicate thousands of miles using less than 5 watts and often even less than 1 watt of output power. The author has communicated over 1000 miles using 1 watt or less, and once carried on a two-way contact over approximately 15 miles using 50 microwatts. That's one, twenty-thousandth of a watt!

Back to the subject at hand: the majority of public service and other utility communications has moved away from HF frequencies and into trunked systems and microwave backbone links that connect local radio communication systems with others across the state and even across the country. These new systems have much greater bandwidth and can carry more information, for a greater number of users, at a faster rate than the older technology. To the end user, the new systems are easier to operate and more user-friendly, all the while providing more secure communications.

To be sure, the new systems provide greatly enhanced communications capabilities in day-to-day use. But what about during a disaster? These networks are infrastructure-intensive and cost billions of dollars to install. They're not immune to breakdowns, either. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters can bring down these systems just as readily as they can bring down an HF radio antenna. And while the trunked systems can bypass damaged nodes and continue operating at a reduced capacity, such events create greatly increased communication needs. Even if the network does not suffer damage, disasters often overload the capacity of the system to maintain the flow of communications. Have you ever noticed how your Internet service slows down during times of peak usage? The same phenomenon is at work with trunked radio systems.

Consider for example, Hurricane Katrina. Here is what the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association had to say after Katrina: " On September 14, 2005, the 9/11 Public Discourse Project issued a report asserting that the response to Hurricane Katrina was a classic failure in command and control. It found no unity of command—or more specifically, no one in charge and no unified incident reporting system to coordinate efforts of local, state and federal agencies. Fixed communications systems failed with no ready means for their restoration. This was not surprising, given that there exists no incentive for the intensely competitive information systems industry to finance ruggedness, redundancy or rapid restoration." (4)

Here is where amateur radio comes in, with HF as well as VHF and UHF communications. From, again using Katrina as an example: "
During Hurricane Katrina, amateur radio provided volunteer operators to support
many served agencies such as Emergency Management,
National Weather Service,
Hurricane Watch and the American Red Cross. This is business as usual for many radio operators in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, or ARES, nationwide.
After Katrina, amateur radio provided many more volunteer operators to support
an even larger host of served agencies that requested our services. The ARRL
coordinated hundreds of amateur radio operators who
traveled to the devastated
area and provided critical communications capabilities. This work continued for
many weeks. 
The sufficiency and effectiveness of amateur radio
to re-establish communications
systems with equipment they brought in, much of it
owned by these volunteers and
quickly building complete systems from scratch, was
tremendous. Amateur radio
operators themselves were part of the solution, providing experienced communications operators to replace and supplement
local public service
communications personnel in the devastated area. These systems of equipment and operators were very effective, not only for amateur purposes but in support of Emergency Management, Red Cross, Southern Baptist,
Salvation Army and many other organizations.
In each town we set up a High Frequency (HF) amateur radio station to communicate out of the area to Montgomery and the outside world. We also set up
a communications network connecting every Red Cross
facility in a town on a local
short range radio frequency. Our network included
fixed and mobile disaster
vehicle stations."(5)
Of course ham radio antennas can fail during disaster events too, and amateurs suffer power outages as well. But hams who participate in disaster relief efforts have the skills, know-how and equipment to put their stations on the air under all kinds of conditions, including portable field operations. In fact probably the most well-known amateur radio event is Field Day, in which thousands of amateurs all over the USA take to the field with their portable stations for a 24 hour emergency communications exercise.

Hurricane Harvey Amateur Radio Net

This is a bit of footage from the amateur radio HF (High Frequency) Hurricane Harvey watch net. One viewer made the comment that, "All I hear is callsigns and not much else. Do they ever actually talk about anything?" Here was my reply:

"You mostly hear the net control station. Net control is usually outside the affected area and runs an amplifier and a very good antenna setup. Stations reporting might be running low power, temporary antenna, and maybe even battery power. So you may or may not hear them. But what's important is that net control hears them, or another station is able to hear and relay to net control. This is not broadcast radio, and should not be expected to sound like it.
Also, a lot of the action is on other frequencies so as not to tie up this, the main contact frequency. Stations make contact via the net control, then move off frequency to communicate. For example, in the video you can hear net control take a checkin from a station 25 miles south of Dallas. Then you hear the National Hurricane Center (which I think is in Miami, FL) ask the net control if the station checking in has VHF or UHF contact into the affected area. VHF and UHF are used for local communications, and the Hurricane Center is well outside VHF/UHF range. The Dallas station replies that he has VHF contact only (It's a bit too far for UHF). Hurricane Center wants to talk to him further, so Net Control gives them time to make contact after which they move to a different frequency to continue their communications. While they are making contact, you can't hear the Dallas station but you can hear Net Control and you can also hear the Hurricane Center, but not as strongly."

It really is fascinating to listen to this going on, but you have to understand what is actually happening because as the viewer pointed out, you cannot hear everything. Also the video only captures a small snapshot of the big picture. In fact while I was listening, the net control announced that the hurricane was currently making landfall. Unfortunately I didn't have the camera rolling at that moment, so I started filming again and commented on that fact. This was approximately ten minutes before 9 PM Central DST.

It's worth pointing out that listeners in different areas might hear different parts of the net. A listener in South Carolina for example might hear the Hurricane Center very strongly, but hear the Net Control only weakly or not at all. The same listener might also hear the station in Dallas quite well. A listener in Houston with only a 2 Meter VHF mobile or handheld radio might hear or even be in contact with the station in Dallas and other local hams, but obviously will not hear any of the HF action.
The great thing is that any licensed ham who is interested can get involved in this sort of public service activity.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What is ANTIFA?

We hear a lot in the news lately about a group called Antifa, or anti-fascist. But who are they? The assumption is that they are some new group of people who oppose the Trump presidency and support the new wave of feminism, homosexuality and left-wing ideology. That is true, but doesn't tell the whole story. I was interested in knowing more about this group. One thing I learned is that it is not new at all.

I'm posting some snippets from Wikipedia. Yes I know, statists and supporters of the old media hate Wikipedia because "anyone can edit it." Instead they espouse blind trust in authoritative sources such as the government, establishment media and large publishing houses. New media (such as yours truly) provide the information along with any available sources and ask you to follow through with your own research and thought.
We've learned a lot in recent years from people who are in the know about current events, but are not officially allowed to tell us. Wikipedia is one outlet for such information. With that in mind, I decided to capture a snapshot of the current information about Antifa before it changes or disappears.
Again, check the references and do your own research.

 "Antifaschistische Aktion, Antifascistische Aktie, Antifascist Action or Antifascistisk Aktion — abbreviated as Antifa (German/Dutch/English) or AFA (Scandinavian) — is a far-left, extra-parliamentary, anti-fascist network in Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Canada, the UK and the United States of America whose stated goal is to "smash fascism in all its forms".[1] Some of its members are influenced by the theory of triple oppression, and all of its members claim to oppose sexism, racism, and classism. The point of the organization is to exchange information and to coordinate activities between local groups.

The group's activities have included handing out flyers, organizing demonstrations, direct action, and property destruction. They believe that physical aggression and violence are necessary to achieve their goals, due to the violence and aggression minority groups face at the hands of fascists and the far-right[citation needed]. In line with their ideology, and as a consequence of being constantly monitored by the police, the group has no central authority. This means it has a flat organization consisting of many independent groupings, without a board or leader. AFA works with other anti-racist groups all over Europe.[2][3] It is also described as a heterogeneous group which in the late 1930s and early 1940s was mostly made up of social democrats, communists, and progressive Christians following the collapse of Nazi government and civil society after World War Two.

The first German movement to call itself Antifaschistische Aktion was proclaimed by the German Communist Party (KPD) in their newspaper Rote Fahne in 1932 and held its first rally in Berlin on 10 July 1932, then capital of the Weimar Republic. During the early 1930s amidst rising tensions between Nazis and the communists, Berlin in particular has been the site of regular and often very violent clashes between the two groups. In May 1932, the communist paramilitary organisation Rotfrontkämpferbund had been banned and, following a skirmish between Nazi and communist members in the parliament, the Antifaschistische Aktion was founded to ensure that the communists had still a militant wing to rival the paramilitary organisations of the Nazis. After the forced dissolution in the wake of the Machtergreifung in 1933, the movement was revived during the 1980s.[citation needed]

One of the biggest antifascist campaigns in Germany in recent years was the, ultimately successful, effort to block the annual Nazi-rallies in the east German city of Dresden in Saxony, which had grown into "Europe's biggest gathering of Nazis".[5]

In October 2016, the Antifa in Dresden campaigned on the occasion of the anniversary of the reunification of Germany on 3 October for "turning Unity celebrations into a disaster" („Einheitsfeierlichkeiten zum Desaster machen“), to protest this display of new German nationalism, whilst explicitly not ruling out the use of violence.

On day of the President Donald Trump's inauguration, protesters used black bloc tactics. Protesters deliberately causing damage were described as members of Antifa, however were generally lone individuals grouped together by loose radical left-wing ideology.[23] In April 2017, local members of Antifa protested against multiple Republican and alt-right speakers in Berkeley, California. Some protesters were also members of the militant left-wing group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN)."

So there you have it. In its essence, Antifa is a violent, militant wing of Communism.


And here are the references included in the Wiki, in case the page changes or disappears:
  1. References

  2. " - Antifascistisk Aktion Sverige".

  3. (in Swedish) AFA Lokalgrupper

  4. (in Swedish) AFA Presentation, Plattform

  5. Pritchard, Gareth (2012). Niemandsland: A History of Unoccupied Germany, 1944-1945. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 110701350X.

  6. Focus-Online. "Demo-Samstag in Dresden: Nazi-Aufmärsche und Linke treffen aufeinander". Focus-Online.

  7. DNN-Online. "Protest gegen Einheitsfeier – Initiativen wollen Dresdner „Einheitsfeierlichkeiten zum Desaster machen“ – DNN - Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten".

  8. (in Swedish) AFA - Aktivitetsguide för antifascister Archived 11 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.,, 2004, pp. 9-11

  9. "Afa riktar ilska mot Migrationsverket" (in Swedish). 1 January 2006. Archived from the original on 3 December 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2015.

  10. "Afa tar på sig mordbrand på nazistgård" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. 2005-12-28. Retrieved 26 November 2015.

  11. (in Swedish) Afa riktar ilska mot Migrationsverket Archived 12 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. SVT 10 januari 2006.

  12. (in Swedish) Slåss med knogjärn Aftonbladet 13.9.2009.

  13. (in Swedish) Aktivister försökte stoppa möte med Sverigedemokrat Archived 11 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. DN 2 november 2006.


  15. (in Swedish) Migration judge threatened by extremists

  16. (in Swedish) Domare som utvisat irakier attackerades Dagens Nyheter 31 juli 2007.

  17. (in Swedish) Hot mot förtroendevalda ny rapport[permanent dead link] Säpo 7 November 2008.

  18. (in Swedish) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 2010-01-17. Ruotsin TV

  19. (in Swedish) Expressen: Afa tar på sig våld mot ND-politiker

  20. (in Swedish) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 2014-04-07.

  21. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 2014-04-07.

  22. (in Swedish) Aftonbladet: Såss med knogjärn

  23. (in Swedish) Expressen:090215: Stoppa AFA

  24. Strickland, Patrick (21 February 2017). "US anti-fascists: 'We can make racists afraid again'". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 1 May 2017.

  25. Wang, Frances (27 Jun 2016). "A protest leader talks about "militant tactics" & "self-defense" to shut down "Nazi recruitment rally"". Twitter. Retrieved 1 May 2017.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Plain Old Fishing Poles

"Plain old fishing poles." That was the title of a forum thread I saw recently. That caught my attention because I am drawn to the simple ways of doing things, and fishing is no exception. I have nothing against the more popular, modern methods of fishing. But plain old-fashioned cane pole fishing still has a place, in my opinion. Some of the most enjoyable fishing I have ever done has been sitting on the bank of a river or pond with a simple fishing pole and some type of bait, pulling in bream or catfish one after another. The forum thread was disappointing in that regard; apparently the term "plain old fishing pole," to the thread participants, was just another name for the same typical modern rod and reel just about everybody uses. So this is my attempt to keep real pole fishing alive, in whatever small way I can.

I'm happy to find that real fishing poles are still available. Whenever I am in a sporting goods store or visit the sporting goods section of a big box store, I tend to notice the simple fishing equipment. In fact I recently picked up a cane pole at Academy Sports on a whim while I was in there to buy .22 Magnum ammo. I also like the telescoping fiberglass poles that have a built-in spool for line storage, like this one:

There are other techniques for fishing with a plain fishing pole besides bank or dock fishing. Poke poling, for example. I think it was an article in Backwoodsman Magazine that introduced me to this technique. Basically you climb or wade along a rocky seashore with a fishing pole that is rigged with a short leader so you can poke it into every water-filled hole you find, to present the bait to any fish that may be hiding in the hole. This technique is most common in salt water, but I have used it successfully in rocky creeks too.
How about you? When's the last time you fished with such simple gear?  


Thursday, January 26, 2017

How To Make Your Own Springs

I found this really interesting because I often have need of a spring to fit one application or another. I buy spring assortments (like this one for example: and have also made a few simple springs from music wire, but there are times when the ability to make a more complicated custom spring would be useful.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Home Made Revolver Plans?

This is a video promotion of a website that sells plans for a home-built revolver. I like the concept, but this implementation has some flaws... one of which will land you in prison if you actually build this as presented, and get caught. And you will get caught if you are in the US and purchase these plans. We will start with that.

Here's the problem: in the USA, handguns must have rifling in the barrel. Possession of an unrifled handgun is a violation of the National Firearms Act and a felony. The penalty is ten years in prison and a ten thousand dollar fine. This law has been in effect since 1934.
There is a way to avoid that, and it involves registering the gun (before you build it) and paying a $200 tax. It takes many months, pretty close to a year in fact, to have your registration approved. I think it's safe to say that no one will be going to that much trouble and expense for a gun like this.

I mentioned above that if you purchase these plans and build one of these revolvers, you will get caught. Here's why: The guy who is selling these plans is very publicly violating NFA, if he is in the USA. While I don't have absolute proof that he has not rifled each (or any, for that matter) chamber of his cylinders, I really doubt that he has. For one thing, he doesn't mention rifling. For another, if you watch near the end of the video where he is shooting the revolvers, you can see that every bullet is tumbling. Each hole in the paper is oblong because the bullets are striking every way but dead-on. Since stabilization is the function of rifling, it's pretty obvious that these guns don't have any rifling. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is definitely aware of this guy; don't fool yourself that they're not. If he hasn't already heard from them, he will. And when he does, they will almost certainly seize a list of everyone who has bought his plans.

It is possible to legally build you own firearm from scratch (federally and in most states) if you are not prohibited from possessing firearms. But if you're gonna do it, make sure the gun you are building is legal, ok? I would make this one legal by attaching a rifled barrel (even a stubby, one inch long barrel) to the front. That would make it legal federally and in most states. I would also eliminate the screw attachment of the front and rear frame pieces, and instead cut the frame out of a single piece of steel or aluminum. You could still remove the base pin to remove the cylinder; that frame piece doesn't need to be removable.
I would delete the safety screw, too. It's not needed. Just leave one chamber unloaded, and rest the firing pin on that chamber. Or, if you really want a safety, make the base pin long enough to extend through the breech plate and block the hammer. You could either thread it or, better yet, make a catch for the front of the frame, with "safe" and "fire" notches in the base pin.