Watts News

Monthly Newsletter of the
Olympia Amateur Radio Society
P.O. Box 2861, Olympia, WA 98507

 December 2001
Edited by George Lanning  KB6LE 

Table of Contents

  •  2002 OARS dues now payable
  •  SETI -- the ultimate DX?
  •  Oh, to be 6 again!
  •  Mail disruptions lead to vanity processing suspension
  •  Treasurer's Report as of 11/30/01
  •  Progress?
  •  Axioms for the Internet Age
  •  Reindeer
  •  From the Oval Shack
  •  From spark to space
  •  FCC clarifies CORES amateur implementation
  •  Church bloopers

  • --back to OARS home page


    2002 OARS dues now payable

    All members - remember that your membership dues for 2002 need to be paid at the first of the year. Make your check for $20 (or $25 for family membership) payable to OARS and mail it to the P.O. Box address given above, or give it to Treasurer Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW. Ed will accept cash, also. OARS thanks you for your continuing support!

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    SETI -- the ultimate DX?

    Here's a last minute gift idea for you!

    Dear fellow radio amateur,

    It's not often that I get to present something as...well...COOL as this: Introducing, "Tune in the Universe!" -- a new book on CD-ROM, published by ARRL.

    "Tune in the Universe!" is as much a tutorial as it is an invitation to join the journey for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). It's written by H. Paul Shuch, N6TX, Executive Director of the SETI League. Now don't go changing frequency on me, yet...

    I admit, I was somewhat skeptical about this new CD-ROM. Why should ARRL and Amateur Radio operators be interested in such a search for ETs? After reading through Paul's interactive book, the answer is obvious. Radio amateurs will find themselves easily caught up in a great adventure. Imagine -- hams searching for signals of unknown origin. Sounds like the rarest DX!

    This search involves a lot of LISTENING--something you'll learn a lot about in "Tune in the Universe!" And, for those of you who enjoy hands-on experimenting, "Tune in the Universe!" includes details to build your own SETI station. This is Amateur Radio Astronomy at its best! If you're a microwave experimenter, you may find you already have many of the building blocks to get started.

    What do radio astronomers do while they're trying to find the MAGIC FREQUENCY for our cosmic companions? They listen to the songs of Dr. SETI! Paul's second passion in life is music, and he's included 18 songs that tell the whole history of radio astronomy. I actually found myself stomping my feet to a few of these. This CD-ROM is as much entertaining as it is educational.

    "Tune in the Universe!" ships in late December. Place your order now. I've included details, below.

    Hams, amateur astronomers, science fiction enthusiasts, and anyone with the burning question ARE WE ALONE? will enjoy "Tune in the Universe!" The CD-ROM also makes a great gift -- sure to put a smile on the face of any ham! 

    Happy Holidays.

    73, Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R
    Publication Sales Department
    ARRL Headquarters

    "Tune in the Universe!"
    ARRL Order No. 8543 -- Only $24.95
    QUICK ORDER http://www.arrl.org/catalog/?item=8543


    Prices do not include shipping & handling charges, and are subject to change without notice. To order from ARRL, please use the links in this message to visit ARRL's secure online catalog: http://www.arrl.org/catalog/.

    Or, call our Publication Team toll-free in the US 1-888-277-5289, Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern time.

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    Oh, to be 6 again!

    A man asked his wife what she'd like for her birthday. "I'd love to be six again" she replied.

    On the morning of her birthday, he got her up bright and early and off they went to a local theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park: the Death Slide, the Screaming Loop, the Wall of Fear, everything there was! Wow!

    Five hours later she staggered out of the theme park, her head reeling and her stomach upside down. Right to a McDonalds they went, where her husband ordered her a Big Mac along with extra fries and a refreshing chocolate shake. Then it was off to a movie, the latest Star Wars epic, and hot dogs, popcorn, Pepsi Cola and M&Ms. What a fabulous adventure! 

    Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed. He leaned over and lovingly asked, "Well dear, what was it like being six again?" One eye opened. "You idiot, I meant my dress size!"

    The moral of this story is: If a woman speaks and a man is actually listening, he will still get it wrong.

    -- from David ZL3AI via packet

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    Mail disruptions lead to vanity processing suspension 

    Recently announced changes in mail handling procedures at the FCC's Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, office have effectively halted processing of Amateur Radio vanity call sign applications. The FCC has processed vanity applications received through October 14. Vanity applications received after that remain on hold for now.

    "We understand that mail directed to the FCC Gettysburg office beginning October 15 was being held pending the start of special handling precautions to address any biohazard contamination concerns," said ARRL VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ. He said the FCC is tracking the receipt date for each piece of mail.

    Because the FCC gives equal priority to paper and electronic vanity applications, all vanity processing was being suspended until the mail situation is resolved. Citing a need for heightened security measures, the FCC announced November 14 that it had moved the Gettysburg office's mailroom offsite, to the rear entrance of 35 York St, Gettysburg, PA 17325.

    The FCC did not announce, however, that mail received at Gettysburg starting October 15 had not yet been opened, pending arrangements to handle it without the possibility of endangering personnel. Jahnke said vanity processing should resume once the FCC begins to open its mail backlog. Just when that might happen is not yet known. Vanity processing typically takes 18 days.

    Jahnke said the mailroom situation also could affect some Amateur Radio renewals. He said amateurs who filed for renewal in a timely fashion may continue to operate beyond the expiration, if the mail delays cause the license to lapse before the renewal occurs. He said applications from those filing for renewal near the end of their two-year grace period will be accepted for processing if they get to the FCC before the grace period expires.

    -- ARRL Bulletin ARLB050

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    Treasurer's Report as of 11/30/01

        GENERAL FUND (checking account)

        Previous balance     $ 2,058.01
            Income                 0.00
            Expenses              51.68
        Ending balance         2,008.90

        REPEATER / PACKET FUND (savings account)

        Previous balance       $ 931.88
            Income                 0.00
            Expenses               0.00
        Ending balance           931.88

    -- Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW, Treasurer

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    The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) of 4 ft 8.5 in. is an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

    Why did the English build them that way? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

    Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

    So why did the wagons have that particular odd spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? The ruts in the roads, which everyone had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels, were first formed by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

    The U.S. standard railroad gauge of 4 feet-8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

    Specifications and bureaucracies live forever.

    So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back end of two war horses. Thus we have the answer to the original question.

    Now the twist to the story.......

    When we see a space shuttle sitting on it's launching pad, there are two booster rockets attached to the side of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRB's. The SRB's are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRB's might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB's had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run thru a tunnel in the mountains. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

    So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass!!!

    Don't you just love engineering?

    -- thanks to Ben Bennett, N7IVM

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    Axioms for the Internet Age

    -- from David ZL3AI via packet

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    According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year (the only members of the deer family, Cervidae, to have females do so), male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring.

    Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolf to Blitzen, had to be a girl. We should've known. Only women would be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night, and not get lost.

    -- from "The Joke of the Day" via Internet

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    First let me wish you the very best for the season:

    Happy, Happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home.

    -- Charles Dickens

    We have reached the end of another year. And with that I have finished my year as the OARS president I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to a couple of our members: Lee Chambers, KI7SS, for his efforts in advancing the cause of amateur radio in so many ways; George Lanning, for his efforts with the monthly newsletter and the OARS Web site. As Martha Stewart would say, "These are good things." Thanks again.

    Winter is upon us, I think. Please drive safely, keep your equipment ready to operate, and don't miss the "Potluck" at Lee's house .

    -- 73, Dan KB7DFL

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    From spark to space

    ARRL Special Bulletin 13 -- Spark, ARISS QSO mark Marconi transatlantic centennial 

    The sound of a spark transmitter was heard once again on an amateur band to mark the centennial of Guglielmo Marconi's first transatlantic radio success. It was 100 years ago, on December 12, 1901, that Marconi -- at his receiving station in Newfoundland -- copied the three dits of the Morse letter "S" transmitted from 2000 miles away in Cornwall, England. An Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact with students in Newfoundland also was successfully completed.

    David Wilson, VE3BBN, near Niagara Falls, Ontario, built a low-power rotary spark transmitter and had permission from Industry Canada to use it December 12 from 9 to 10 PM Eastern Time (0200-0300 December 13 UTC). The operating frequency was approximately 3550 kHz. 

    Wilson says the transmitter has a bandwidth of 20 kHz, and AM mode reception with a wide IF bandwidth works best. He transmitted "MARCONI S" every minute during the one-hour period.

    "This is a very low-powered transmitter with 10 W spread over 20 kHz (3-dB points) and having very broad skirts," he said. He said the spark signal is highly unlikely to interfere with normal amateur operations, but a test signal was copied at distances of at least 250 km (approximately 155 miles). Wilson used an 80-meter Windom antenna.

    VE3BBN invites signal reports via e-mail, David Wilson, VE3BBN, david@computan.on.ca.

    An Amateur Radio on the International Space Station contact December 12 between Frank Culbertson, KD5OPQ -- operating NA1SS on the ISS -- and students at the Marconi site in Newfoundland also marked the Marconi transatlantic centennial. During the contact between NA1SS and Marconi Radio Project special event station VO1S, 10 students got to quiz Culbertson about life in space. Culbertson is completing his tour of duty aboard the ISS this week. The ninth-grade students were winners of a crystal-set building competition associated with the centennial observance.

    The contact was arranged with the assistance of Memorial University of Newfoundland, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs.

    -- ARRL Special Bulletin, ARLX013

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    FCC clarifies CORES amateur implementation

    The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has clarified several issues regarding Amateur Service implementation of the Commission Registration System -- or CORES. Starting December 3, everyone doing business with the FCC -- including amateur licensees -- must obtain and use a 10-digit FCC Registration Number (FRN) when filing.

    Amateur licensees now registered in the Universal Licensing System (ULS) already have been cross-registered in CORES and issued an FRN by mail. The FCC said it planned another cross-registration by November 28. Amateurs can check to see if they have an FRN via a ULS license search. Many Internet call sign servers, including ARRL's, also can provide this information.

    Once CORES becomes mandatory, the FCC will "auto-register" all amateurs who seek to register in ULS and will issue them an FRN. Amateurs then should use their FRN in place of their Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN--typically an individual's Social Security Number) when filing applications with the FCC. New or upgrade license applicants not previously registered in ULS will be registered automatically in both CORES and ULS when they provide a TIN on a license application filed through a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator.

    Although both ULS and CORES will contain a licensee's FRN, updating information in one system will not update the other. For amateurs, CORES registration will replace ULS "TIN/Call Sign" registration, but the ULS will remain the Amateur Service licensing database within WTB, and only ULS will associate an individual with a particular call sign and FRN. Once CORES/FRN becomes mandatory, those registering in ULS will be redirected to CORES registration. 

    Going away December 3 will be the so-called Assigned Taxpayer Identification Number, or ATIN, which the FCC has been issuing to applicants ineligible to obtain a Social Security Number, such as foreign applicants and club station licensees. An FCC Public Notice this week said applicants that have been using ATINs "must now register in CORES." The FCC said it will accept ATINs only "during a short transitional period" after December 3.

    CORES will offer exemptions to amateur clubs and to foreign entities not holding a TIN/SSN. Club station applicants also may use a trustee's TIN/SSN or a tax-exempt club's IRS-assigned EIN. 

    The WTB says that starting December 3, "all passwords will be maintained in the CORES database." Amateurs also may use FCC Form 160 to register in CORES, and those doing so will be mailed a CORES password for on-line access.

    The FCC continues to work out the details of how amateurs, CORES and ULS will coexist. Amateur Service testing with CORES is planned for early November.

    -- ARRL Bulletin ARLB046

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    Church bloopers

    -- Eoghann, MM5AAU, via packet

    --back to table of contents
    --back to OARS home page

    Happy Holidays !