Friday, August 29, 2014

How to NOT shit in the woods!

Ok, so what does shitting in the woods have to do with ham radio?  Well, first a little background...

One day back in the early 90's I was wandering through a bookstore (remember those?) and happened to glance an unusual title on one of the shelves:  "How to Shit in the Woods, An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art" by Kathleen Meyer.  "Hmm," I said to myself, "this sounds hilarious, plus it's written by a woman, therefore I must have this book," and so I bought it.

The book is mostly written for the woman hiker who finds herself among nature when the call of duty comes (see how I did that?) calling.  You see it's well understood that for men the world is our toilet, though tips on proper environmentally friendly solid waste disposal, and the consequent paper (or leaf) work resulting from said waste disposal, are welcome to us too.

But I digress... Allow me to get more to the point.  As you can probably tell from this blog's title and subject matter (for the most part) I am an amateur radio operator.  I also have a real love for hiking and the views from atop a nice high mountain summit.  I have recently begun to combine these 2 hobbies by taking part in SOTA operations.  SOTA stands for "Summits On The Air" and involves hiking to the top of a mountain and operating at least 4 other stations for it to count as an official SOTA activation.  The activator gets points for this and so do any hams who contacts him/her.

One of the things I don't like about hiking (besides rain) is having nature call when I'm trying to enjoy nature.  Peeing is one thing.  That's no big deal for guys and we pretty much do it anywhere we like (though there are places we pee that we won't admit to among mixed company).  I'm talking about shitting.  Pooping, dropping a load, taking a dump, crapping, number 2 (not the pencil) or whatever psychologically damaging term your parents made you use as a small child.

I hate it because not all poop is created equal.  It's a rare bowel movement that allows you to take your time finding the perfect spot, one with no snakes, mosquitoes, ticks, angry beavers or large groups of other hikers with women and children among them.  Usually it's a sudden case of diarrhea coming on from that 7-11 sushi you had the night before followed by an old burrito you found in the back of your freezer from the 1972 super bowl back when the Miami Dolphins had an undefeated season and won super bowl VII against the Washington Redskins 17-0, ah, good times.  Anyway, back to the woods and our problem...  So you get one of "those" attacks that demand you find a suitable spot NOW otherwise you're going to have some splainin to do Lucy when you get back home and your wife sees the mess in your shorts!

So you find a spot, drop trou and get into position, find relief and then realize you don't have any toilet paper with you, and neither does anyone you're with (or at least they won't give it up just in case they should find themselves in your position).  Now you need to make due with leaves, grass, moss, poison ivy, hey, whatever's at hand.  Do this a couple of times and I guarantee you'll start putting waste management to the top of your hiking preparation checklist.

Now, all of that said, here's the point of this post:  I don't like to shit in the woods and so I have a system to keep from having to do so!

First, watch what you eat the night before.  The old (or new) bean burritos, sushi, pizza and ice cream, or anything else that you know has a history of giving you the trots.  They call it the "runs" for a reason.

Second, make sure you wake up early enough so you have at least an hour at home before you need to leave.  Get up, make some strong coffee and have your breakfast.  The hour is to give your bowels time to react to the coffee (if you're like me and most people) and let you evacuate in the comfort of your own bathroom where there's plenty of toilet paper and soap and water for the clean-up.

Third involves the secret magic pill:  Immodium A-D.  I buy the generic brand at Costco.  Right after you have your coffee you will want to take 2 of these, then another right after your first poop.  Even if you don't have diarrhea and never get diarrhea or can't spell diarrhea, you want to do this.  I find it keeps me from having to worry about any trail maintenance well into the next day.

There's nothing like NOT having to worry about where you're going to have to shit.  Be it the woods, that questionable looking toilet at the rest area or a spackle bucket on the side of the road.  Home is best and that lets you enjoy your activities.

If you'd like more information about SOTA, check out the website at:

If you want to check out Kathleen Meyer's book, you can get it on

73 for now and good hiking!
Kevin AB2ZI

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

So many resources for ham radio, so little time...

I wish half the resources for learning about ham radio were around when I was a kid trying to get a license or for anything else I wanted to research back in the bad old days before the internet.  With all the websites and search engines available today there's absolutely no reason for anyone not to be able to learn about just about any topic they choose.

When I was trying to get licensed back in the 70's, my resources were a book full of old tests put out by a company called Ameco and their LP Morse Code record (all at 5 wpm).  I didn't have any good theory books breaking it down for beginners.  There was no YouTube with videos to help me.  There was the ARRL Handbook with lots of schematics of tube transmitters and receivers and plenty of ads for Vibroplex "bugs" but nothing like what we have today.

The hardest thing about learning today is with all the resources available you can get sidetracked into different topics fairly easily.  You start researching resistors and end up taking an algebra class to tweak your understanding of ohm's law.

The biggest obstacle to understanding I see these days is that people are lazy!  Too many want to be spoon fed everything they need to know.  They don't put in the effort to find things out on their own, and when I say "on their own" I mean most often not bothering to do any internet searches.

  1. Want to learn something?  Your first stop should be Google.  Google is a website and these days it's also a verb.  You hear it all the time.  "I Google'd that" or "Why don't you Google it?" etc.  Go to Google's search page and type in various words to find websites that can help you learn what it is you want to learn about.
  2. Bookmark your sites and organize them by topic.  Researching low pass filters?  Google "low pass filter", visit some of the sites and copy their locations into a bookmark folder or subfolder.  Here's just part of the listing I got from that search:

    Go to any of the sites and do some reading or play with some of the calculators they bookmark the most useful ones for later.  Speaking of useful sites:
  3. Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is awesome!  Sure, some of the content is not absolutely accurate, but most of the scientific articles (at least those not dealing with evolution) are accurate, plus you should always look at the "references" and "external links" list at the end of the articles to find sources that are referenced.
  4. The ARRL website.  First, I have to say this site is poorly designed.  It's hard to find things on it without spending a LOT of time playing around on it.  After 5 years it's almost just hard to find things.  That said there are a lot of really good resources on the site -- if you can find them.  The QST archives alone are worth a visit and search through.  Here you'll find information on question pools (also available elsewhere), test sites, license classes, FCC rules notices, and lots more.
  5. YouTube.  This one should probably be listed 2nd, but they're all great resources.  YouTube has videos on more than just surprised cats and talking dogs.  You can find just about anything on YouTube.  The electronic videos range in quality and content so you may need to browse through a few on any given subject.  Some of the best (and worse) are the old military training videos.  The graphics are really cheeseball compared to "Transformers 3D" but they get the ideas across.  If you're a real egghead you can even find engineering level videos and stuff from classrooms like MIT lectures.
So, asking people for the answers is OK, most hams love to share their knowledge with others, just be aware that there are a ton of resources out there for you to use and if you do you'll soon find yourself bogged down with people coming to YOU for answers all the time.

73 and good learning.  Kevin AB2ZI