The Amateur Amateur

Welcome to the new home of The Amateur Amateur

The American Radio Relay League has indicated that it no longer wishes to publish the column,
so I have set up this site as its new home. My thanks to all of you who have sent me messages of support. They are greatly appreciated.

The Amateur Amateur is a column about my experiences in ham radio. Since I have little technical expertise and not much knowledge of electronics, I make a lot of mistakes. I consider myself to be just an amateur amateur radio operator, but I keep pressing on and trying new things. This column details my triumphs - and foibles - and I try not to take myself too seriously. Whether you are an experienced ham or new to the hobby, I hope you find these chronicles of my efforts to be entertaining.

Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H

October 2014

The Amateur Amateur: The Cable Family

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H

The Cable Family

The Cable Family

coffee mug with pencils

The evening started with a pencil rolling off of the table

cable with USB connector

Crimpy preparing to make his move

cable raceway

Raceway from which Coldsolder took his dive

coax with PL-259

Coldsolder, smug after beaning the man

UPS and cables

UPS and cables, all awaiting their chance

pencil sharpener

The pencil sharpener while still intact

bags and boxes

Deployment bags (somewhere in this mess) broke the fall

They creep around the attic,
their purpose enigmatic,
their layout is erratic,
The Cable Family

Looper: Oooohhh, I can barely move. Somebody help me out.

Snaky: Just be patient, he used a really cheap tie-wrap on you. The tension on your loops will stretch it pretty soon, probably break it altogether.

Looper: I hope so. I feel really cramped in here.

Squiggles: Quit complaining, Loops, we've all been there. You'll be free soon enough.

Snaky: Yeah. The tie-wrap will probably self-destruct on its own. Even if it doesn't, he'll find some reason to cut it himself. He always does.

Squiggles: (laughs) Hah! Yeah! Look at all the dead ones lying on the floor!

(All of the cables snickered)

Looper: I wonder why he does that?

Shorts: Something to do with experimenting. He just can't control himself.

Tangles: Thank goodness for that!

Snaky: He's always changing things. Every time he tries to clean up down here he messes it up again within a day or so.

Shorts: I'll drink to that!

Tangles: (surprised) You've got current going through you? You're only plugged in at one end!

Shorts: (mirthful) You bet! And he doesn't even know it!

(Laughter among the cables)

MisLabel: Speaking of clueless, he still hasn't figured out why I don't work!

cartoon cable

They dangle down the siding,
no effort made in hiding,
the property value's sliding,
The Cable Family

Crimpy: Hey! Hey! Quiet! He's coming down!

Snaky: Okay, okay, who's in a good position?

Squiggles: I can get him if he comes close enough.

(All the cables waited silently)

Frayed
Decayed
Homemade

A balding, overweight man entered the radio shack. He moved slowly so as not to disturb the piles of bags, boxes, and half-forgotten projects lying on the floor. Sighing, he sat down in the shack's only chair.

Squeeeeek! the chair complained.

The man reached for his reading glasses, which were lying on the table. As he picked them up he dislodged a pencil, which rolled toward the edge.

He was not quick enough to catch it.

The pencil hit the floor.

Tangles grabbed it, broke the point, and ripped off the eraser.

“Crud,” the man said as he retrieved the mutilated pencil. He rolled his chair forward so he could get another one from a ceramic mug on the desk.

Crimpy threw himself under a wheel of the chair.

Cruuunnch!

Alarmed, the man rolled his chair back. He look down in dismay at the mangled USB connector he has just run over.

Crimpy savored his victory. Though now functionally useless, he was still happy. Later he would talk to Plugless about what it was like in the retirement box. (The man never threw anything away.)

cartoon cable

From rafters they are dangling,
their purpose is a-strangling,
it's really hard a-wrangling,
The Cable Family

Groaning, the man leaned down and eased the computer out from underneath the table.

Several cables went taut, but were not able to pop themselves free. The man was being careful this time. He disconnected Crimpy, held him up and inspected him carefully.

“Might be able to do something with this..,” he muttered, and then tossed Crimpy into a box full of other broken items.

As he moved the computer back into place, several cables took the opportunity to leap beneath it.

Grunting with effort, the man used one hand and a foot to hold the computer in place while he struggled to get the wires out of the way.

The cables weaved and dodged and giggled quietly as they evaded his grasp.

After five minutes of effort the man, now perspiring, finally managed to get the computer back into place.

“I give up,” the man said, shaking his head. “I'm not going to get anything done tonight.”

The cables shivered in distress. The evening was still young. They usually got at least two hours of entertainment out of the man before the veins in his forehead started bulging and he lumbered back upstairs.

cartoon cable

Electrically unstable,
they creep beneath the table,
they'll get you if they're able,
The Cable Family

The man's joints creaked as he stood up.

Seizing the moment, Coldsolder slid off of the cable raceway above and swung down toward the man.

“Oww!” the man yelled as Coldsolder's heavy connector bonked him on the head.

He tried to swat Coldsolder out of the way, but the stiff coax swung right back and smacked him on the nose.

The man's eyes streamed with tears. Unable to see, he stumbled forward and banged his shins on the table.

Squiggles vaulted out and wrapped himself around the man's ankle.

The man backed away from the table.

Squiggles held on tightly.

And then everything happened at once.

The uninterruptible power supply that Squiggles was plugged into was jerked from beneath the desk. Numerous power cords stretched and strained. The electric pencil sharpener, being the lightest item on the desk, fell down and smashed to pieces on the concrete floor.

Pencil shavings flew everywhere. A goodly number of them got sucked into the interior of the computer.

Arms flailing, the man toppled. Fortunately, he fell onto several deployment bags. The only damage suffered was that a tube of silicon grease burst open and filled the bottom of one of the bags with a gooey mess.

Unable to contain himself, Shorts sparked and gave off pungent smoke.

Confounded
Unbounded
Not grounded

“What on Earth...

The cables went still and silent.

It was the woman.

They were afraid of her. Legend had it that years ago a cable called Twentyguage had tried to snag her. He'd disappeared from the shack and had never been seen again.

“Explain to me again why you do this,” the woman said as she helped the man to his feet.

“Id's by 'obby,” the man replied as his sinuses filled.

“Right..,”the woman murmured, helping him toward the stairs.

The cables waited as the couple made their way out of the basement.

As soon as the door had closed they all broke out in celebration.

The evening's antics had been all-too-short-lived, but glorious nonetheless.

So gather with your pliers,
we're gonna cut some wires,
the warranty expires,
on The Cable Family

Glitches in the System
A series of cartoons about what really happens when your radio breaks down

Click here
to see previous columns.

All previous columns are now in Web-page format.

Visit
Stan Horzepa's "Surfin'"
blog.

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