Contact Points

So let’s start out with a little edit of my previous post. Seems I spoke a moment too soon — this morning around lunch, I punched Refresh on my FCC license search tab and kaboom my callsign has been published! Finally!

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the ham bands I am now known as: KG5RHR. Hello!

I made my first contact tonight on the Austin ARC repeater 146.940 MHz. Was some cool cat named Kevin who lives out in far east Travis County. We chewed the rag a bit, he gave me good advice, talked about Chinese radios. He now has the magnanimous honor of being my first contact. 73’s!

From my side of town, 3 watts and my mag-mount groundplane car antenna is enough for my Baofeng HT to get into the repeater mounted on the KXAN tower in Westlake. I need to try from other areas of town to see what my reach is (my apartment balcony has a direct line of sight to the tower, so I can probably work it with just my rubber ducky antenna). Apparently that club’s repeater is pretty sensitive, and its location and elevation is great, so it’s tough to be in a dark location in this town.

I can’t wait to make my first simplex contact; that’s when I know I’ve arrived.

Also, this is the annual AARL VHF contest weekend where hams can try to make as many contacts as possible above 50MHz within certain time, power, and location limits. It looks like it’s a little too late for me to get in on this, but it’ll be interesting to tune in and see if I can monitor any contacts. Should be fun!

Futile Callsign Checking

Getting impatient. Seems the FCC is taking their sweet time granting me my ham license. I took and passed my Technician exam almost 2 weeks ago, and the examiner said I could have it as early as the following Thursday. The docs I’ve read said if it’s been over two weeks, feel free to call the FCC. Guh.

I know we’re in the perfect storm of events that are slowing down the licensing process. Yeah, I know. They just got off a Christmas shutdown and are catching up. They’re in an Administration change-over. There are no less than two federal holidays this week — Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and today is the presidential inauguration. I’m pretty sure the FCC offices won’t be open to process my CESC form.

I just wanna be able to transmit, dammit! From what I hear, this weekend is a national contesting event on VHF, everybody working the simplex frequencies to make as many contacts as possible over three days. Damn, that sounds like fun. Sure, VHF doesn’t go far past the horizon, but I’m sure there’s a good many hams in Austin that are playing. I wanna play!

I guess I’ll keep clicking “refresh” on the ULS page to see if my name and callsign show up. Le sigh.

Uphill

My life has always been a constant struggle to reconcile that I want desperately to communicate through high art and find my own space on this earth with the finest people on it, versus the mandate that I must wake up at 6:30am and perform the artless needful in order to sponsor my dreams. I see hopefulness in expression, the hope of being able to craft my own reality and be the man I want to be — like all the arty free-thinkers say — but that has never, ever jived with the harshness of my life’s reality: I’m a working stiff. Try explaining to my bosses that I want to be free; if I try hard enough, they’ll let me go to be as free as I want, for free. And then what?

Reality is somewhere in the middle, and I must take both legs in stride to make my life worthwhile.

Trend Resistor

I used to laugh at people who brought laptops to cafes, because cafes are where you go to read papers and socialize and play board games, right?

And then I starting bringing a laptop to cafes.

I used to laugh at people who carried a tablet computer with a detached keyboard to cafes, because if tablets are for portability, why make it worse by carrying a lunky, detached keyboard? Why not just carry a whole laptop?

And then I started carrying a tablet with detached keyboard to cafes.

I predict I’ll be laughing at people who bring VR goggles to cafes, and then eating crow about it some time further into the future. It’s just a prediction.

Licensed

Good news is good news:

This morning, I took my Technician Class license test for amateur radio and passed. Out of the 35 questions on the exam, I missed 1 question (I bet it was that question about transmitting in international waters). So yeah, I passed!

The examiners gave everyone in the test session the option — if they passed their intended license class exam — of taking the next license class exam up. The three classes, from lowest to highest privileges, is Technician, General, and Amateur Extra. So when I passed Technician, they gave me the option to take the General test. I’m like, “Ok, I’ll give it a shot. It’s not like double-or-nothing, right?” Everyone laughed.

Out of 35 questions, with a passing requirement of 26 correct, I missed it by 1 and got only 25 right. Goddammit, so close. So close! So the examiners gave me the option to pay another $15 testing fee for a retake of the General exam with a different printed revision, since I was so close. I threw caution to the wind and went for it. Missed it by 2. Dammit.

But, at least I still have a Technician classification. At least there’s that. So, once my call sign is published on the FCC directory, I can begin transmitting. I can finally push the Push-To-Talk button. The earliest they expect it to be published is next Thursday, so here’s hoping, yeah?

Y’know, it’s kinda like winning second place. There’s a particular psychology of winning that affects how you feel about your victory based on where you stand on the podium. First place winners are the happiest and feel the most victorious. Third place winners are happy and feel grateful for being able to stand on the podium. But second place winners? They are the least happy because they were so close to making first. So close!

My brain is now fried, but at least I’m on the podium. Time to study for the General exam.