The Amateur Amateur: Dear Santa
By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
I have plenty of toys (thank you for your past generosity). I won't ask for
something ridiculous, such as a 500 foot tower or for all of my hair to
suddenly grow back. I figured, however, that you might be able to
give me more time, as you do manage to visit the entire world in one night.
Maybe it's a quantum physics thing, I don't know. It's probably a trade
secret, so I won't pry. But if you could spare some extra time, I'd be very
grateful. Not a lot, perhaps just a few hours a week.
I spend a lot of time writing things for our local ARES (Amateur Radio
Emergency Service) team. I help with the planning, I maintain the Web site,
I'm the secretary and archivist, and also the net manager. I'm often on my
computer working on a document when something urgent requires me
to stop in the middle of what I'm doing. For example, I may be in the midst
of rewriting an ARES operational plan when my wife tells me that the toilet
is overflowing. Obviously, the bathroom crisis takes precedence, but if I
stop working on the plan, I will lose my train of thought and have to start
all over again. Clearly, I need more time to finish before I rush off
to attend to the plumbing emergency. (We already have a plunger, thank you.)
So, if you could perhaps put a stopwatch in my stocking this year, one with
a "more time" button, I would greatly appreciate it.
This is a multi-part request. I'm a reasonably smart fellow, but sometimes
my brain is not up to the task. I think I need more brainpower.
Part of it is that I am an obsessive-compulsive sort of guy. When I can't
figure out how to do something, it drives me nuts. I just know
there is a solution, and I can't give up until I find it. I usually
do find it, but it may take me years.
Right now I am obsessing about how to get on the HF bands. I have limited
space on the roof of my house (as you already know). I've tried just about
every quirky antenna on the market and they've all been failures. I did once
have some success with a wire antenna, but conditions have changed, and at
the moment I'm not able to put up another one.
I'm not asking for a magic antenna. What I'd like is just a bit more
brainpower, so that I can figure out the solution for myself.
(In lieu of more brainpower, I'll accept an "OCD-off" switch. Less satisfying,
but at least I'll get more sleep.)
I think my brain also needs a faster processor. As I mentioned, I consider
myself to be fairly intelligent, but it may take a loooong time for me to
come up with the correct response. I will, eventually, but by then, the moment
has passed. All I will have managed is to say, "Ummmm", and the conversation
will have moved on, the opportunity will have been missed, and/or the bus will
have run me over.
I just need to be able to think faster. (Then, perhaps, I will be able to
keep up with Morse code transmissions.)
The last part of my brainpower request is a distraction filter. I would,
for example, love to understand electronics a lot better. I have plenty of
study materials, such as books, DVD courses, Internet sites and so forth.
But comprehension of the subject matter comes to me very slowly (that
processor issue again), and I find that I am easily distracted. I may be trying
to understand the intricacies of PNP versus NPN transistors, my brow furrowed
in concentration, when my mind suddenly interrupts with, "What's that smell?
Whoa! Is Nancy baking Christmas cookies!!?".
And that will be the end of my electronics lesson.
Perhaps I just need an "Auto-Focus" button, like the one on my digital camera.
Just a final note on the brainpower thing. I have an older model head,
manufactured in 1947. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't have any USB ports.
Any new additions will undoubtedly require special adapters.
I have a long list of things I would like to try, but just never get around
to doing them. There is the whole field of electronics, of course. I'd
like to understand it. It would be cool if I could analyze a problem
with an electronic device and (gasp!) actually fix it. But getting from
"Page One" to "Congratulations! You're an expert!" seems like such a daunting
task that I never put much effort into it.
I have the same difficulty with Morse code. I know the code, I just
don't have any proficiency at it. If I practice, it doesn't take much to get
me to quit. A stiff neck, sore wrist, or fading signal and I'm gone.
What I needs is motivation. Right now, I look at one of these projects and
say, "Man, that looks like a lot of work" or "That's going to take a lot of
time". I would like, instead, to say, "Wow! That looks utterly fascinating!
Forget sleeping or eating, I need to jump into this project right
Do you think that's possible? Do you have anything in your
gift bag that might do the job, like, say, an overdrive gear?
I used to do a lot more physical activities. I'd be on the roof messing
with my antennas. I'd go to more hamfests. I'd volunteer to man the ARES
table at various events.
Now, however, much of what I do is cerebral (meaning, I do it while sitting
in a comfortable chair). I do wish, though, that I could still get out there
and do more of those hands-on things.
Try an energy drink, you say? Ah. I did. Not a good experience. It made
my heart beat very fast for about five minutes, but the only task I felt
like performing was rushing to the emergency room. No thanks. I appreciate
the offer, but I'm staying away from any hyper-caffeinated products.
I have no idea what else might work, short of an injection of adrenaline.
But, if at all possible, I would really like to have the energy to get all
the way through Field Day next year.
That's about it. Whether you can fulfill my wishes or not, I just want to
say that I, all of us, really, appreciate your efforts.
Whatever shape or form you assume, or spiritual feeling you
inspire, thanks for all that you do.