Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Becoming A Better Communicator

A while back, I was thinking on a practice that some churches have, and I saw something that hams could adapt for our own purposes.   Don't worry, I'm not going to get religious on you here.

Some churches, from time to time, will have testimony meetings.  In these meetings, rank and file members of the congregation will speak about recent experiences that had spiritual significance, or they will relate their conversion experiences.

While reflecting on this, I realized that I have a ham radio testimony, that is, a story about how I became a ham radio operator.  Every ham has a ham radio testimony.

Why should we concern ourselves with this?

Consider this question: What makes ham radio, ham radio?  What makes ham radio different?  Is it the radios?  The science, the technology?  No, because other people have radios and all radios work on the same basic principles.  So, what does make the difference?

We do.  Hams make ham radio what it is.  We make ham radio what it is by what we do with our radios.

This has implications, not just for recruiting, but for public relations in general.

Think about your own experience.  Most likely, someone or a group of people influenced you in some way to become a ham.  Maybe a friend, relative, teacher, co-worker was a ham and they impressed you with their station, QSL cards, awards, etc.  One ham in Tulsa was part of an organization that puts on a big bicycling event, and he decided to become a ham when he had seen the job that hams did supporting that event its first year.

As scary as this thought might sound, a living, breathing ham is a better advertisement for ham radio than any brochure.  I'm not putting down brochures, for they can present information about ham radio is an attractive manner.  But, no brochure can tell someone how much fun it is to talk to someone in another country with out a huge long distance charge on their phone bill, or the satisfaction felt from calling for help when a runner or bike rider goes down.

Several times I have heard a local ham say that everyone needs to be a ham.  I've never agreed with that because I know some people that don't belong on ham radio, and I can think of at least one ham that I wish wasn't a ham.  So, ham radio is not for everybody, but I will say that everybody should be for ham radio.  They need to know what ham radio is and respect it for what we do with our radios.

A ham's testimony can be a valuable tool for letting the public know about ham radio.

But I have another reason for talking about ham radio testimonies.

I have been a ham since March of 1997.  Since then, I have tried to be as active in the clubs as I can be, so I have been to plenty of club meetings.  One thing that you can count on to happen at a club meeting from time to time, is that the newsletter editor will BEG for articles.

Several times, when that has happened, I'll hear someone off to the side say, "I can't write!"

What wrong with that picture?

Ham radio is a form of communications.  Essentially, it is talking on radio.

Writing is also a form of communications.  It is talking on paper, or nowdays, through a word processor.

If you are a ham, that means you can write!

A common misperception is that writing requires talent.  Of course, some writers are talented at creating clever phrases and vivid descriptions, but writing is a skill that anyone can develop.  Sure, developing that skill takes time and effort.

Another common excuse is, "I don't have anything to write about."  Well, I just gave you something to write about - your ham radio testimony!

Even if you don't submit your testimony as an article for your club's newsletter, I challenge you to write it out anyway.  Do it for yourself.  See as an exercise that will help you become a better communicator.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and challenge you to do something I haven't done myself.  Not only that, I will offer you some help if you have no idea how to get started on writing.

I have written my ham radio testimony and uploaded it to an online file storage and sharing website.  Here is the download link, if you wish to see it:    


I have also created a simple writing plan I call the 3-6-3 Writing Plan.  It's available here:


Beyond the 3-6-3 Writing Plan, I will offer additional help.  Once you have written your testimony, and if you want someone to take a look at it to see if it needs improvement, you can send it to me via email in a text file, or in a Word, Open Office, or PDF file.  I won't make any changes, but I will tell you what changes need to be made.  My email is:


The last thing I want to say about ham radio testimonies is this:  Don't just tell the story of how you became a ham.  Include a summary of what you have done as a ham radio operator, and tell about the parts of ham radio that appeal to you the most.

Finally, I will relate a story that I hope motivates you to follow up on this.

Years ago, a famous novelist was asked to give a lecture about creative writing at a college campus.  When he came out on stage, his clothes were a bit disheveled, his hair uncombed and his eyes a bit bleary as if he were hung over.  After he reaches the podium, he looks over the audience for a moment and then says, "I assume that everyone here wishes to be a writer."

Everyone nods in agreement to that statement.

Then he said, "What are you doing here, instead of sitting at your desks writing something?" before he turns and leaves the stage.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Vote?

Anyone who has not been living under a rock in the USA knows, we have an election coming up.  By this time, many people are reaching their saturation point for political advertisements and discussions.  One of my Facebook friends has gone so far as to say that continued political posts showing up on his newsfeed could affect the poster's friendship status with him.  I feel his pain (annoyance, actually, but for some people it could be approaching their pain threshold).

Even though I have not contributed much to the political discussion this cycle, I do intend to vote.  I believe in the value of voting.

Now, I can hear some of the common objections, and I'd like to answer them.

"My vote doesn't count!"  Really?  If you vote doesn't count, then why do politicians and political parties spend so much money to get your vote?  Even for those running a low budget campaign, they have to get out to knock on doors, or go to places where people gather, such as malls, parks, concerts, fairs, etc.  They put in time, effort and money to get your vote, so it must mean something to them.

"All politicians are crooks!"  That's the best reason to vote!  Here in America, you get to choose your crook!
Let's say you have to cross a bridge, but you can go on either side of the bridge, left or right.  On the right side is a crook who wants to take $500 from you, and on the left, one who wants to take $500,000.  Now let's say you are part of a group of 11 people, and you have to cross the bridge together all at the same time.  Five want to go on the right, even though the crook on that side is ugly and appears threatening.  The other five want to go on the other side because that crook is handsome and charming.  Which crook would you choose?  Would you leave that choice up to other people?  That's what you do when you don't vote.

You want more reasons to vote?  Get out your wallet or pocketbook and make a list of everything in it.  Now go over that list and put a checkmark by every item that comes from a government agency (money, driver's license, etc.).  Do the same for every item that represents something regulated by the government.  Each checkmark is a reason to vote.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why Amateur Radio?

This is an excerpt from the TRO Signal Bulletin for 02 SEP 12:
As ham radio leaders are fond of reminding us, amateur radio is a hobby.  Most people that become hams do so because they enjoy doing things with radios.  Ham radio offers many opportunities to have fun, as well as chances for education, personal development, and fellowship.  But why should the government continue to allow ham radio to exist?
Much of what we do can be, and is, done by professional technicians and engineers.  If anyone wants to work with radios, they can go to school to get the training or education they need.  
Most of the professionals design, build, and maintain the communications systems used by the military, law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical, emergency management and other government agencies, as well as the broadcast industries that keep the general public informed.  Don't forget those that work to keep both the landline and cellular phone systems going. These systems do work most of the time, and nowdays, we see more and more interoperability incorporated into these systems.  In light of how well these system perform most of the time, someone might question the need for amateur radio.
But what often happens to these systems in major emergencies and disasters?  They fail, due to damage to the equipment, loss of power, or they become overloaded by the amount of traffic they have to handle immediately.
When this happens, the professionals concentrate their efforts on restoring and repairing these systems.  But vital messages still need to be passed.  The professionals don't have the time to handle this traffic.  What is obviously needed is a backup system already in place or easily deployable.  Amateur radio is that system.  That's why, "When All Else Fails...."

Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator, recognized this at a recent conference, where he said, "But when you need Amateur Radio, you really need them."

For more about this conference and Fugate's remarks, go to this website:
The TRO Signal Bulletin is a text-only publication that I produce on behalf of the Tulsa Repeater Organization, and I send it out over the club's WA5LVT Yahoogroup.  It focuses on ham radio events and activities in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.  To receive the Bulletin, you can sign up at the WA5LVT Yahoogroup here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WA5LVT/

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Abortion: A Different Viewpoint

 The anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision is coming up.  Because this is an election year, the abortion issue will be on people's minds again, at least for a while.   The debate will flare up again, with both sides putting forth the same old arguments.  Very few minds will be changed.

I gave considerable thought to this issue before I made up my mind.  I also did something that few people have done - I have read the Roe v. Wade decision for myself, to see what it actually said..

As a result of this effort,  I have developed a view of abortion that I have not heard anyone else espouse.  I don't think that Roe v. Wade needs to be overturned.  I believe that Roe needs to  be ANSWERED.

I say this because the Roe decision applied directly to only one law in one state, Texas.  Because most abortions laws had the same basis, the states with similar laws considered them invalid and unenforceable.

What was the basis of the Texas law?  The health of the mother.

The Texas law was written in the 1830's, before it joined the Union.  Most of the states that had anti-abortion laws wrote them around the same time, and for the same reason.

Abortion was a dangerous procedure back then.  Many women died, if not from the procedure itself, then from complications.

By the middle of the 20th Century, medical practices improved enough that abortion could be performed without threatening the life or health of the mother.   So, the basis of the law was no longer valid.  We do not need laws without a sound foundation.

Now, you might be thinking that I have just made the case for abortion rights.  However, the Roe decision did say something that makes me say it needs to be answered.

The Roe decision did say that the state (that is, the government) had an interest in protecting life.  It stopped short of recognizing an unborn child as a person covered by the Constitution.  That leaves us the issue of personhood.

How can we establish personhood for an unborn child?  The answer is simple.  Establish identity and you establish personhood.  The only way to establish identity for the unborn is through DNA.

Whenever an egg is fertilized, the DNA of both the male and the female combine to form a new DNA pattern.  Because the new DNA contains parts of both parents' DNA, it can be matched to both.  But it cannot not be matched to only one.  Therefore, the argument that the fetus is part of the mother's body is invalid.  If it were, it would have her DNA and only her DNA.

It is this property of DNA that allows law enforcement to identify murder victims and murderers, rapists and other criminals.  DNA is often used to settle paternity disputes as well.

In light of this, the best way to end abortion would be for some state legislator in a pro-life state to write a law recognizing the unborn as persons with the right to life under the Constitution.  Once such a law is passed, signed, and tested in the Supreme Court, then other states will begin to enact their own laws.  When enough states have passed such laws, then a movement could be made to pass a Right To Life Amendment.

I could say more, but that explains the core of my perspective on this issue.