The Amateur Amateur: Past Tents

By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
Contributing Editor
January 12, 2008

I often forget things, so I make many lists. Sometimes I make lists showing what lists I've made (one for work-related stuff, one for home projects and so forth). And as you might've guessed, I either lose or forget about the lists. Is there a name for this? Lost List Syndrome? Is there a cure for it?


Make sure that the antenna you're about to erect isn't under a tree.

File voice station

Bags and boxes everywhere (Gary Hoffman and the Deadly Clutter?).

Field digital station

I need a better way to display my poster...such as on a billboard.

I recently wrote about a field station demonstration run by our local ARES group (see A Tale of Three Tents, Part 1 and Part 2.) Some weeks before the event, I practiced setting up a digital field station in my driveway. I took very careful notes of what I did and made a list of things I should address before or during the demo.

Well, I just found that list. It doesn’t do me much good now. I hate to just throw it away, thought, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Make sure that the service department is open before dropping off the car for repairs.Oops. This item belongs in a different list.

Make sure that the antenna you are about to erect isn’t under a tree.I used to laugh at people who did this, but really, who thinks to look up first?

How do I stop the mast from swiveling? Super Glue isn’t the answer.

Security! Will someone be available to watch my stuff while I’m transporting things to and from my car? Will some vital item get “borrowed” and never returned? It wasn’t a problem at the field station demonstration, but I still worry about it.

I’m having difficulty reading the dial of my radio out here in the bright sunlight. Shade is beginning to seem rather important. It was an even more serious problem with the computer screen. Fortunately, it was overcast the day of the demonstration, but it’s still an important question.

Don’t plug a 25 W transceiver into a socket protected by a 5 W fuse. No comment.

The band is dead. Is it bad luck or bad planning? In retrospect it appeared to be bad luck. The band was fine on the day of the demonstration.

There’s a lot of stuff to haul and much of it is heavy. Portability is going to be a bigger problem when I’m not on my own driveway. I figured that I’d taken care of this when I bought a two-wheeled dolly. But the demonstration site was a fair number of hills and valleys away from the parking lot, and it took many trips to transport everything. Obviously this is an issue which requires a lot more thought.

I should’ve known this, but carry spare fuses for every device, not just those that will never blow. It seems like such a simple, easy thing to do that I keep putting off doing it.

Duct tape is handy, but double-sided tape would be better for my poster. My demonstration poster needs some very sturdy support, like, perhaps, a billboard.

How many batteries am I really going to need during the day? I used two 55 aH batteries during the demonstration. The main problem was powering my laptop computer. It sucks up almost as much energy as the original ENIAC did.

There are bags and boxes all around my station. Some passerby is going to fall over one of them. How can I declutter the area? I don’t have an answer yet, but during the demonstration, the participants strung orange, red and yellow warning tape just about everywhere. My wife Nancy dropped by a few hours later and said, “It looks like a crime scene.”

The flies are very irritating. During the demonstration it was bees. I have a tough time thinking about technical issues and personal items simultaneously. I need to make a separate list.

The transceiver and computer take up all of the surface space. What about a writing surface? There was a picnic table available at the demonstration site, but it’s still a good question.

There are a million adaptors in my kit, but will I be able to recharge my hand held transceiver in the field? Amazingly, yes, I could.

I thought I had a log in the bag, but I don’t. No log, no paper, and no pens or pencils. Although I forgot about this list, I did remember to take paper along to the demonstration. And I was wrong about there being no pens. At the very bottom of my bag was a box containing N0EIS’s “quasi-official emergency yellow-and-orange” pens. Thank you, Chuck!

So that’s the list. And in retrospect it wasn’t wasted after all. It reminded me that there are problems I haven’t solved and other matters I’ve yet to address.

For example, I still need to take my car to the shop.

Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant, Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail, [email protected].

© 2008 American Radio Relay League

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