Red Hot Radio

As it turns out, just like in audio engineering, in 2-way radio you can’t just look at the power meter and assume your signal is great. It might actually be unintelligible.

Back in my early days (6 months ago), I noticed that my RF power meter seldom hit 100W on voice. I know that the duty cycle of voice on sideband is significantly less than 100%, but even the peaks weren’t hitting it. Frustrated with apparently not getting my signal out of the region, I turned on the built-in audio compressor, tweaked the compression amount, and got that average power a bit higher to somewhere that looked right.

As I learned recently on the regional AARC 10-Meter Net (Sundays 3pm CT on 28.410MHz USB), my fellow net participants complained that there must be some RF feedback into my mic or something because my vocal peaks were seriously hot and distorted. They had been complaining for a few weeks, and I assumed it was some insufficient grounding in my car. While discussing it during a net, I mentioned that I had compression turned on; they asked me to turn it off, and the distortion went away.


So, uh, remember that owner’s manual thing, and the part in it that tells the owner how to configure mic gain and compression? Yeah, so if I follow that, and look at the ALC (audio level control) meter instead of the RF power meter, and if I adjust things so the average and peaks stay within a specified range, then my signal should sound better.

I hooked up my dummy load, went to 10m sideband, spoke gibberish into the mic and tweaked the mic gain and compression amount to a range that makes sense (at least visually). I’ll try an A/B test on the next 10m net to see if it worked.

It’s not the output power that wins friends and gains contacts; it’s the signal quality. You can reach across the country on 10W if your antenna is good, the sky is right, and your signal is clean. Otherwise, you’re splattering your distorted RF energy across the band, you’re burning battery power, and you’re wasting someone else’s time.

Turn Down and In

Hate living in apartments. No idea how badly my sound carries through the walls, but I’ve had a history of carrying a grudge against my neighbors over how much I can hear them. I have to wonder if they can hear just as much of me as I do them, so I constrict myself and my activities in my own damned apartment, trying to be nice, quiet, unnoticeable, just so they won’t have any ammo to hate me with. This is bullshit.

Found myself turning my subwoofer all the way down because I’m listening to music after midnight. All the way down? Really? I can hear no bass. Actually, I can barely hear the music, because I’m wanting to be blameless, blameless against people I don’t even know. Complete strangers who share my wall and floor. Once bitten, twice shy, I’m sure. But why the stricture to this extreme?

It’s no wonder that my lifelong love of listening to and making music has completely died. I can’t feel it anymore. Can’t get into it without the impending fear of hearing that thud, that stomp, that slap on the floor, that bang next door that maybe, just maybe, is a signal from my neighbors demanding me to turn it down. Hell, it’s the kind of thing I’d do if I were them. So any unexpected low-frequency thud I hear pushes me, shell-shocked, into turning it down, laying low, losing my vibe with the music, just to listen for further signals that my neighbors might be sending me. By then, the joy is gone, and I’m conscious of The Other People. I can’t enjoy myself anymore.

I hate apartments. A house is right out of my budget. And a strong sense of self is too expensive to maintain.

Never mind. I’ll rant again when I have real problems.

Movement and Noise

If you’ve not been following along in other forums, I have moved to a new apartment. Moved the furniture on Wednesday, and cleared the last things out the next day. My friends Jerry and Tam helped me with the bulk of all that, and I’m grateful for their help. Now I’m finally free of the tyranny of heavy footsteps above me and namecalling in the halls.

Because I didn’t give the required 30-day notice (since I seriously wanted to get the hell out as fast as possible), the landlady informed me that she would be keeping my entire deposit. If I would’ve known that, I would not have even bothered cleaning the damned place. I gave as much notice as I could, but since everything was moving so fast, I wanted to wait until I actually signed the new lease before I made my announcement. Can’t fault me for that, but otherwise everything happened fast and smooth. My deposit was $300, about half a month’s rent. I’m writing it off, but don’t consider it a total loss. It’s the price I’m paying for peace of mind. My stomach no longer churns and pings when I think about going to my apartment.

The new place is bigger than the old, plus I have a balcony and an outside storage closet. There’s a dining room attached to the living room that’s almost too small for my table, but perfectly sized for my music gear, so I’ll be setting up my studio there. Finally, my gear will be within sight and within mind, instead of being in my bedroom and an afterthought on my way to bed. It’s my hope that I’ll eventually be more productive in my music. I’ll also assume that the floors are a little thicker here, so I can relax and be comfortable with using my audio monitors instead of trying to mix through headphones to keep from angering the neighbors.

I managed to exchange a few greetings with the neighbors next door; nice couple, I assume. Seldom hear them. Haven’t met the neighbor downstairs, but I’ve heard she’s a professional or graduate student. She dresses well, so that’s something. I do hear her on occasion, mainly during the day. I assume she uses the weekends to clean and play some music while she does so. I could hear her stereo, but at least it was during the day. Heard her knocking around this morning, which kinda woke me up a little.

Honestly, I’ll just have to expect that when I live in apartments. There’s absolutely no way to get around hearing your neighbors knocking or slamming. Landlord says this is a quiet complex; that just means there’s little crime and everybody goes to sleep. Otherwise, it’s the internal noises of apartment living that are unavoidable.

Some noises, however, were unexpected, like the loud humming in my bedroom. The hum is from the A/C compressor which is mounted on the roof directly above my bedroom. At least I can control that noise…just don’t run the A/C when I go to bed. Thankfully, winter is coming up, so that’ll be easy enough to do. The neighbor’s A/C compressor, though, I can still hear it, but her compressor’s over my bathroom, so it’s not as loud.

In the evening, around sunset, some of the trees near the complex get crowded by screaming birds as they do their daily quorum. There’s also a family of parrots that live in the cellphone tower just outside my apartment, so I hear them cawwing at times.

My balcony also overlooks the back parking lot of a busy restaurant. Car alarms and door slams.

One of my neighbors is, apparently, a professional bongo player. Haven’t heard him practice yet.

About once a night a trash truck will come around and bang around one of the many, many dumpsters that are in front of the many, many businesses along my street.

It sounds like I’m in for a bad time, but I guess as long as I expect it and learn how to take it like a man, I’ll be fine. At least I don’t have the shitheads in #214 stomping, slamming, and being otherwise intentionally abusive with their noise.

Laid-out flat

Having trouble sleeping lately.

With the warmer weather, I’m going to bed with the window open, which may or may not be a good idea. It’s good in that I get the benefit of ventilation instead of suffocation, but it’s bad in that I get outside noises which, in an apartment complex, means I get neighbors, traffic, and A/C heat exchangers. Sunday night I laid down around 1am and finally got some deep stage-1 sleep around 5:30 am. Would’ve been no problem had I not needed to get up at 8 to go to work.

But sunday night presented me with a lot of problems for getting some sleep done. First off, a desktop fan I’ve had, and nursed back from death, for 10 years has finally given up the ghost. It was rattling, buzzing, grinding, groaning, and making all manner of god-awful noises, with barely a hint of breeze. It’s had a long, long life and has served its use in this world. It’ll now be sent out to pasture and be relegated to occasional spot-chilling of my computer tower.

Add to that the occasional noise from outside, the slapping of the miniblinds on the windowsill as a breeze blows through, some hunger, some stomach cramping, allergies, ear pressure, and BLAH it’s no small wonder that I was able to get 2 1/2 hours of sleep.


Luckily, when I got home from work (after buying a new fan and some over-the-counter Claritin), I poked around online for a short while, then laid down to nap. I slept for what I think was an hour, tossed around a little, then my roomate came home, after which I promptly decided continued sleep was a good idea. Around 2:30am, freezing my ass off, I got up to close the window and turn the fan down and here I am, making a journal entry. Not sure if I’ll stay up or go back to bed. Jury’s still out on that.

Without sleep, nothing else matters.

(post script: I went back to bed. Wow. Slept long and deep enough, in both bouts, to actually have dreams. Was nice, really nice.)