Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Boston Bombings and Personal Security

Political discussions and cometary have no place in this blog, so please don't get all wrapped around the axle by the title of this posting. 

I have a long time friend, Jim Fitton, W1FMR, who recently sent me an e-mail with an attachment that really got me thinking about my personal security in general and our radio hobby in particular. I've known Jimmy for over 40 years. We are both QRPers (low power under 5W) radio amateurs, experienced homebrewers, and members of the QRP Amateur Radio Club International. Since I am an only child I don't have a brother. If I could place an order for a brother I'd want Jimmy to apply for the job! 

Initially I started this blog in the belief that the information contained in the e-mail Jim sent me was valid. However, shortly after posting this blog I had second thoughts and pulled it from the site. These feelings prompted me to Google on Juval Aviv and I found a number of incongruities that impacted his credentials. 

Having pulled the original text I will go ahead and quote one portion of the e-mail allegedly credited to Aviv regarding our inadequacy as American citizens in the war on terror and what could possibly happen during the next major terror event. Even if the quote is bogus, it points out a few things that need to be addressed regarding our personal security and the security of our loved ones. 

Allegedly Aviv was the Israeli Mossad Agent upon whom the movie "Munich" was based. This docu-drama outlined the hunt for the Palestinian terrorists that killed the Israeli athletes in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, W. Germany. Although it is questionalble that Aviv was ever a Mossad agent  he boasts credentials that are impressive. Allegedly he is a security and counter-terrorism consultant for Congress. 

Personal Note: Those of us who have served overseas whether it be in the U.S. military, Foreign Service or as commercial contractors, have had a bit of psychological conditioning that the normal American citizen hasn't. Namely we have been cautioned to be alert and aware of your current situation and surroundings. To be vigilant especially for bags, brief cases, suit cases,  and backpacks left unattended in populated areas. These are one of the most common methods used by terrorists to deliver bombs. An unattended bag is suspect and should be reported immediately to police, security personnel or EMS personnel.  Do not hesitate: DO IT, NOW!!!

The one thing that really caught my attention in this e-mail was  the following quote allegedly attributed to Aviv:

"Does your family know what to do if you can't contact one another by phone? Where would you gather in an emergency? Aviv says that the U.S. Government has in force a plan that, in the event of another terrorist attack, will immediately cut-off EVERYONE's ability to use cell phones, as this is the preferred communication source used by terrorists and is often the way that their bombs are detonated. How will you communicate with your loved ones in the event you cannot use phones, internet? Bottom line, you need to have a plan!"

That is a chilling thought if, in fact, it is true. If the U.S. Government restricts cell phone access to the general public, there would be no way to contact loved ones, family members, etc. One of the first things I would want to do is contact my wife, Pat, KB3MCT, and our kids to let them know I was OK. Since cell phones are the prefered means of communications for everyone, being denied this communications medium would definitely pose a problem. 

Personel Note: Several years ago, at a New Year's Eve party, Pat and I tried to contact our kids to wish them a Happy New Year via our cellphones. The local sites were inundated with such a high volume of calls that we could not get hold of any of our kids for several hours! This quickly brought us to the realization that cellphones have a definite weakness: in times of high volume use, the sites overload and calls are not put through or are dropped altogether. Similar things occured during the terrorist attacks of 9-11. Cellular phones were  totally unusable in the New York City area during and immediately after the attack. 

Enter Ham Radio! That's right....good old Ham Radio...."When all else fails......." and all that. There is a wide selection of small handheld transceivers (HTs) on the market today that offer dual band (VHF & UHF) ham band coverage in addition to FM commercial outlets, EMS and FIRE frequencies (for those places that are not on a digital trunked system) along with FRS/GMRS channels, and VHF air-band. The cost: $40 and up! That's right....thanks to our Chinese friends you can pick up an FCC type approved dual band HT for around $40 or so. These marvels of miniaturized communications offer several hundred memory channels and can be programmed with all sorts of frequencies in addition to the local repeater splits in your area. They are smaller than a pack of cigarettes and have a good battery life. Slip one of these little babies in your pocket and you will have instant back up comm in the event you are caught without cellphone coverage.

This is one more reason to become "radio active" and get that Technician class Ham Radio license. For all you Ham Radio old timers (OTs), pick up a small HT and keep it on your person. Let the government shut down cell phone sites, we have V/UHF FM along with very robust local repeater systems through out the US! 

That's all for now. I have got to go recharge my Bao Feng HTs! 
Vy 73
Rich K7SZ        

Have you ever actually heard this son-of-a-bitch?

My love affair with shortwave listening goes back to the tender age of about 10. Not coincidentally this was the same age I received a really nasty shock from my Dad's Arvin console AM/SW radio receiver. I guess you could connect the dots and say that my involvement with shortwave and radios was "shocking"!

I started listening to SW with my Mom and Dad. Several nights each week we would spin the dial on that old Arvin (which I still have, by the way, although the cabinet is no longer functional) and explore the world via the various SW broadcasters. This was in the mid to late 1950s when television broadcasting was just starting to catch on in the Inland Empire. We had spotty TV coverage from Spokane, and no one liked staring at a snowy  TV screen. These evenings in front of the old Arvin with my parents provided me with a great learning experience via the SW bands. 

That old Arvin got a real workout. Not only did I DX (look for distant stations) on the SW bands, I also prowled the AM broadcast band (commercial FM stations just didn't exist at that time), especially after local sunset, DXing the various AM stations I could hear on a simple antenna. The really neat thing about DXing AM broadcast outlets after local sunset was the Midwest AM stations and, at times, stations east of the Mississippi River that would come booming in. I never tired of listening to the variety of programming available at a twist of the radio dial.

In 1962 I was in high school, John F. Kennedy was in the White House, and Hallicrafters radio company fielded their new S-120 AM/SW receiver. Mom and Dad were sympathetic to my "need" for a smaller SW receiver I could use in my bedroom (freeing up the TV set for their use), so a deal was struck. Dad picked up the tab for the new S-120 (about $70 at the time) and I signed my life into servitude in the form of doing non-stop lawn care work for my family as well as several other families in the immediate neighborhood.

The S-120 was my dream machine, offering a compact world-band  receiver in a handsome metal enclosure. To my "experienced" eye, it was magnificent! Now the world was truly at my fingertips. Over the next several years I spent a lot of time in front of that radio set DXing the shortwaves as well as the AM broadcast band. I collected numerous confirmation cards (quaintly called QSL cards) from some of the SW outlets that I wrote to listing the dates and times and detailing  what I had heard during their broadcasts. It was the experience of a lifetime!

It wasn't until 1965, while in college, that I was exposed to the Hallicrafters SX-117 and SX-122  receivers, Then I realized exactly how limited that old S-120 really was. Somewhere along the line the S-120 was traded off in favor of a better receiver, and, of course, there was this side hobby of Ham Radio that seemingly ate into my SW DXing time. 

Over the years I procured several S-120s which I restored (mainly replacing the aging electrolytic  caps in the power supply section and aligning the receiver) only to give them to friends who had become interested in listening to the shortwave bands. 

Finally, I found a working S-120 on e-bay and won that particular auction. Cost of the receiver: $30 plus shipping. It arrived and as I unpacked it I felt the rush of my teenage years and how much I loved to scan the airwaves looking for SW DX.  The receiver was dingy and needed a cabinet repainting, along with the obligatory replacement of the PSU filter caps and the selenium rectifier. I vowed to keep this old SW warrior and lovingly set about restoring the set to its original glory days. 

The cosmetic cleanup was pretty straight forward. The case required repainting so that was accomplished with a can of Krylon spray paint after a light sanding of the cabinet with 220 and 400 grit sand paper. The color was close but not a perfect match, which was OK since Hallicrafters had many shades of gray that they used over the years. 

The old four-section paper electrolytic cap that was mounted above the chassis was replaced with individual new modern electrolytics. The selenium rectifier was also replaced with a 1N4007 silicon diode. This resulted in a slight increase in B+ voltage but nothing really critical. 
Interestingly enough, my first DX with the "new" receiver was Radio Havana Cuba somewhere on 6 MHz (the dial is not terribly accurate and I haven't gotten around to aligning the receiver yet)! That took me back to the early 1960s and the on-air rants of Uncle Fidel Castro! Ahhhh, the Good "Ole Days"! (The Cuban missile crisis comes immediately to mind!!)

While the S-120 is a horrible receiver by today's standards it is still my link to my early days of radio. What's yours?

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ