January 9, 2011

QSL cards

Part of the fun of amateur radio collecting cards, called QSL cards, from other amateurs that you've talked to on the radio. Some people like to collect stamps form various parts of the world but hams collect QSLs. If you are also a stamp collector you will find that often a card comes from a distant country with an interesting stamp on the envelope.

Another reason for collecting QSL cards is to participate in the many certificate programs available to amateurs. Whether it's getting your DXCC (DX Century Club) for getting cards confirming contacts with 100 or more DX countries, working all states in the U.S., all provinces in Canada, or the many other awards available, you need the cards to support your claim for the award.

Exchanging paper QSLs has in some respects been expanded by various computerized methods, but many of us older hams still prefer the tried and true method of exchanging paper QSLs, which can turn into a hobby by itself.  Which reminds me: I received some interesting cards from the W1 call area QSL bureau (an economical way of mailing multiple cards) a while back and I have yet to respond to them.  Shame on me!  Somewhere, I'm sure, some ham in Lower Slobbovia is desperately waiting for a rare DX card from Milford, Massachusetts.  OK, maybe I'm exaggerating just a little...

About my own QSL card design: no, I don't drive an Airbus - but my son does, and I'm pretty proud of him!

January 3, 2011

Good night Chesty, wherever you are

Some men become legends after their deaths and others become legends while they are alive.  Lewis Burwell Puller, forever known as “Chesty”, was in the latter category.  Enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1918 he would serve until 1955, rising in rank from private to lieutenant general.  Throughout his career he led from the front, never asking his men to go where he would not go.  For his courage he was five times awarded the navy cross,  a silver star,  a distinguished service cross, and a bronze star with a v for valor, along with numerous other decorations.  In World War II and Korea he became a symbol of the courage that Marines amply displayed in  both conflicts.
His fourth navy cross citation details why the Marines under his command would have followed him in an attack on Hades if he had decided to lead them there: 
“For extraordinary heroism as Executive Officer of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, serving with the Sixth United States Army, in combat against enemy Japanese forces at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, from 26 December 1943 to 19 January 1944. Assigned temporary command of the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, from 4 to 9 January, Lieutenant Colonel Puller quickly reorganized and advanced his unit, effecting the seizure of the objective without delay. Assuming additional duty in command of the Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, from 7 to 8 January, after the commanding officer and executive officer had been wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Puller unhesitatingly exposed himself to rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire from strongly entrenched Japanese positions to move from company to company in his front lines, reorganizing and maintaining a critical position along a fire-swept ridge. His forceful leadership and gallant fighting spirit under the most hazardous conditions were contributing factors in the defeat of the enemy during this campaign and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Stories began to cluster about him.  When he was first shown a flame thrower he supposedly asked, “Where do you mount the bayonet?”    Advised that his unit was surrounded he replied:  “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”  On an inspection tour of a Marine unit he became exasperated at the lack of spirit he saw and finally said,”Take me to the Brig. I want to see the real Marines!”  During the Chosin campaign in Korea when the Marines were fighting their way to the coast through several Communist Chinese corps he captured the tactical situation succinctly:  “Retreat! Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction.”  Little surprise that Marine Drill Instructors at Parris Island will have their boots sing good night to Chesty Puller some four decades after his death.
Puller was an Episcopalian.  However he made no secret that he greatly admired Navy Catholic chaplains who served with the Marines, and had little use, with certain honorable exceptions, for the Navy Protestant chaplains sent to the Corps.  His reasons were simple.  The Catholic chaplains were without fear, always wanted to be with the troops in combat, and the men idolized them for their courage and their willingness, even eagerness, to stand with them during their hour of trial.
On New Guinea one Protestant chaplain complained to Puller that the Catholic chaplains were making converts among the Protestants.  Puller told the chaplain that he should work harder and not come whining to him.  Later, Puller encountered the Protestant chaplain again and Puller read him the riot act.  Instead of being with his men while they were fighting the chaplain had remained behind at the battalion aid station.  “They’ve got a chaplain of their own. Your place was with the fighting men — your own battalion. You remember our little talk about Protestant boys joining the Catholics? Well, conduct like yours is one reason for it. They see those priests doing their duty and see you evading it. I can’t work up much sympathy for you.”
Puller told his officers on another occasion that he had known only a few Protestant chaplains that were worth their ration cards.
He would receive letters from Protestant mothers concerned that their Marine sons had joined the Catholic Church.  He would write back that if the Protestant chaplains had the guts to go where the Catholic chaplains did, where the bullets were flying, maybe their sons wouldn’t be converting.
After he had retired, Puller complained to his Episcopal bishop:  “I can’t understand why our Church sends such poorly prepared men as chaplains when fighting breaks out — they look to me like men who can’t get churches, for the most part. The Catholics pick the very best, young, virile, active and patriotic. The troops look up to them.”
Small wonder that Puller sent his own kids to Catholic parochial school.  Good night Chesty, wherever you are.

January 2, 2011

W1WH's New Years Resolutions

Some of my New Year's resolutions for 2011: getting skinny and speedy...

1. I'm going to get serious about losing some weight.  Going to start up with WeightWatchers (again) and am reading - and plan to put into practice - The Abs Diet  by David Zinczenko.  (Not sure if I was ever actually issued abs, but Zincenko assures me I was.) 

2. Finally, finally, after over 30 years of hamming, I'm going to get serious about building my morse code receiving speed.  Going to get down to basics using the Koch method in concert with the G4FON Morse Trainer.  (For those interested, there are two primary schools of thought regarding the learning of Morse code.  The Farnsworth method involves sending individual characters at a fairly high rate of speed, while using slower intervals between characters.  The Koch method takes a different approach - it starts off with just two characters at predetermined speeds and gradually introduces an additional character after the user successfully copies 90% of the preceding set.  Which one works best?  That's an open debate and seems to depend upon the individual.  I learned Morse code over 30 years ago, but am trying the Koch method (at least initially) to increase my speed...may switch to Farnsworh as I progress.  By the way, if you're just beginning to learn the code, be sure to never, never, associate characters with visual dots and dashes - you must associate characters with their sounds, "dits" and "dahs".)