Coping: Learning Your Learning Style

I’m going to tell you how to learn ANYTHING, but we’re going to start with a discussion of ham radio to begin with.  So if haven’t picked up a ham radio license, pay attention! 

My friends Gaye (survival woman) and Sheldon (survival hubby) up at www.backdoorsurvival.com are planning to pick up their ham radio licenses.  The reason for more focus on this is that this weekend’s outburst of earthquakes (L.A., Yellowstone, and the Oklahoma shimmy) has moved it up their priority list from a “fixing to get ready” to a “time to get ‘er done” item.

They’ve both got the ubiquitous Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two Way Radio 136-174/400-480 MHz Dual-Band Transceiver (Black) radios which are great entry radios.  And programming software and, and…..

The problem is, however, that the programming booklet that comes with the radio is a football-field away from simple.  This is not an uncommon problem with ham radio equipment.

Over the years, admittedly more than 50 of them, I started off on three simple knobs on the radio receiver (volume, Morse code beat note, and tuning) and on my first crystal-controlled (single frequency) radio, there was a tuning knob, loading knob, and an on/off Morse key.  That was it.

Nowadays, the manual for my Kenwood 590S runs about 80-pages and explains how to use umpteen levels of digital signal processing, the radio’s built-in receive and transmit equalizers, shaping of the Morse waveform, which antenna port to use…and loads more.  Nearly 50 controls if you count the push-buttons.  And you should:  Most of them control more than one function on the radio, depending on if you make it a short button press, or hold a button in more than one second to call some other function.

Between her professional commitments (real work) and her web site (more real work) Gaye’s got just about zero time to sit down with a Mojito and just “spin dials” for a few hours to “get the hang” of her radio.  That’s how many people like to learn, but time just doesn’t always show up when needed…

Even if she did have the time, there may not be much “hang-getting” since the quality of manuals on many pieces of imported equipment only make sense if you understand current trends in menu design to control the microprocessors in modern radios.

Incomprehensible manuals are, sorry to say, a plague of life.

Even really great simplifications of the Baofeng manual (like this one) can be daunting.

What to do to speed up the learning process?

I realized (from our chit-chats this weekend) that there may be a lot of people who are in the same boat:  The $30-35 for the radio wasn’t a big deal, but the programming and licensing?  And how much time is this going to take because time ain’t infinite!  .

So I suggested that they (Gaye and Shel) read the outstanding first license study guide by Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, which can be found online here.  Free. 

My son (KF7OCD) has used this with a couple of Technician class license sessions he’s taught and seriously, if you just read the material, your odds of passing are about 90% the first time around.  It isn’t really fast…it just take however long it takes to read 50-pages.

Now let’s talk about learning styles:

As a former postsecondary administrator, the way to learn depends on person.  People who like music, poetry, and are good writers, are called the “right-brain” people.  Theory appeals to them.  They read novels.

The “left-brainers” are people who love math, computer programming, and the hard science of things.  Theory isn’t so interesting as formulas and procedures, to them. They read more nonfiction.

If you’re like Gaye & Shel,  what will likely work best is to sample a little this, a little that. 

To do this, read the study guide, but have the radio nearby so when you get to a concept, you can look at the radio and maybe there will be something about it in the manual. If you don’t feel compelled to pick up the radio, no worries.

Depending on which way your brain works, you may lean a little more toward formula, or a little the other way into theory.  But, the best possible learning is when both sides of the brain have something to work on.  There are tons of learning styles:  Tactile, aural, visual, mixed…pick those that suit you.

Oh, this may be why construction crews listen to country music on the job site:  Feed both sides of brain.

Elaine and I were working on house addition construction again this weekend and putting in furring strips for drywall is brain killing work.  So we fed the other side of the brain (music, light jazz) while working.

Anyone who doesn’t feed both sides ends up being unbalanced, but in some professions that works.  This is where engineers come from.

But at times of peak concentration (landing an airplane, doing brain surgery) music off, total focus of both sides of brain is best.  Banging 2-by-4’s (after you’ve framed a few houses and can eyeball a 5/8th’s inch cut) is less so, hence the music.

Where do you get the incentive?

Set a deadline for yourself.  I won’t tell you when Mr & Mrs Survival will go take their ham test, but you can hit the American Radio Relay League website.  Toss in your Zip code, and you should be able to find something.

If not, look for a local radio club and just show up at one of their meetings.  Ham radio people are warm and friendly.  Ask whatever questions you may have, but bear in mind that because of the hobby, many ham radio types will answer the simplest questions with incredibly long answers.

These will invariably be close to perfect, but they call into the “Ask him what time it is, and he built me a watch factory” category.

Deadline setting is critical.  Every person I know who is successful (annual incomes over $300,000, or so) runs their life to deadlines.  Danger:  You can become a control-freak, but if you have deadlines and meet them, life tends to pay out bigger jackpots.  Because you get stuff done.

What’s Not in the Study Guide

If you’ve completely forgotten high school physics, the part of the study guide that can be most intimidating is the beginning where Ohm’s Law and such are covered.  Here’s my 1-minute workaround for that:

Not in the ham book, but this may help understand electricity:

Think of electricity flow through wire as being like water flowing in a garden hose.

Electromotive force (Volts) is like the pressure in the hose.

Current (the amount of energy flowing)  (measured in Amps) is like the volume of water flowing in the hose.

Volts times Amps = power (in Watts).  Watts is like Work being done. Just like the  water coming out of the end of a hose can do work like turn a water wheel.  More water (current) or more pressure (volts) turns a bigger wheeel doing more work.

The basic equations assume you know:

Volts is abbreviated “E”

Current is abbreviated “I”

Power is abbreviated “P”

And Resistance (in Ohms) is abbreviated “R”

The first rule is the rule of P=I*E   (pie)

Power [ P ] equals current [ I ] times voltage [ E ]

You hair dryer  is 120 volts.  We know (from the label)  it is 1,500 watts.  So P/E=I.

By substitution then, 1500/120 =  12.5 amps.  Which is why a 15 amp circuit breaker doesn’t pop when you dry your hair!

But what is the Resistance of the hair dryer? 

Rule # 2:  Volts equals current times resistance.

Second rule rearranged for what we don’t know  is E/I = R

(or E/R=I   ) but we know the Volts and current in Amps. 

So your hair dryer is on 120 volts.  We solved current as 12.5.   Thus, when we measure the hair dryer resistance across the plug (not while plugged in for crying out loud!) it should be about 9.6  Ohms.

Say we have  a 3 Watt flashlight in the bug out bag powered by two 1.5 volt batteries.  How much current does it draw?

P/E = I

Which means 3 volts/3 watts = 1 amp.  Two C cells won’t deliver one Amp very long, so the light will dim rather quickly.

One you lock the idea that EMF/Voltage is pressure and the current is the rate of flow through those wire “hoses” life becomes really simple.

I can already sense the emails from fellow hams that will fall out of this.  They will go something like “George, your water pressure and voltage analogy falls apart when you get into complex reactance on antenna feed lines!”  Yes, if probably does.

But I’m solving a problem.  Passing a test.

In life we begin with simple concepts (Stove hot!  Do not put hand on stove!) 

Later on in life, when you’re running a powder-coating operation, you will have learned more complex rule sets.  But the idea with rule sets is to start with bite-sized ones and then update the “code” as you learn the nuances.

I think one of the reasons some people never get around to a ham radio license is because hams tend to complexify things to death.  At its simplest level, we put energy into an antenna in one state and suck a tiny bit of it back out in another, amplifying that little sample so we can make sense of something.

Digital signal processing, field effect transistors, phased arrays, and enough formulas to grid-lock Stanford scares the crap out of newbies.  It’s why graphical interfaces rule the computer world.  And then the phones, and now the television…. one click to objective is what people want.

George & Panama’s [Excellent] Chainsaw Adventure

Work the system! 

Learning is simple as hell, once someone tells you that learning is a process and you can shorten the hell out of it!  But everyone forgets that…even me.

Saturday, Panama, who’s been cutting up this huge fallen pine tree (about 36” in diameter (big sucka) complained that the chainsaw was losing power.  It would start (when choked) but wouldn’t keep running.

He’d baptized it in diesel, blown out the crud with an air hose from the shop, and was spinning this, checking that…

After he’d dicked around it for a half hour it occurred to me “George, you idiot!  Why are you watching your BroInLaw working hard instead of smart?  Inventory resource and overcome, you fool.  Solve this with him!”

6-minutes later, in the comfort of my office, we had found a video on YouTube showing the EXACT problem with out Husqvarna Rancher 55 20” blade chainsaw.  Cracked fuel line and bad filter caused precisely the symptoms we were seeing.

Instead of paying up $400 for a new chainsaw(I picked ours up when it was $239 new, 6-7 years ago, – remember I told you to invest in tools, right?) the video not only informed us it was a fuel line and filter issue but showed how to replace it.

5-minutes later, the fuel line/filter was ordered from eBay at $14.99 including shipping.

Yes, even Ures truly falls into the time trap…and make notes on how to live your life quicker/smarter.  I beat myself up in the head for it during my hourly one-minute review and critique sessions.

Distilling Learning Into A Process

Do you see the point of the stories here?  The #1 reason people don’t learn what they want is because they don’t define the end point (or immediate goal) tightly and in advance.

I think Gaye (& maybe Shel) want to have a ham radio license  and they want to be able to use their radios in an emergency.  It’s a big, admirable, but time-consuming goal.  Gotta eat it in pieces.  Just learning emergency communications (EMCOM) is a non-trivial week or two if you want to pass the related FEMA coursework and all…(Actually I think Gaye has here CERT done…)

So we need to bust their big objective into a number of subordinate tasks.  Bite-size it.

Task #1:  Study license material.  (Option, have radio handy to play with)

Task #2:  Make appointment, take ham test.  (Repeat if needed)

Task #3:  Define one radio use-case as do that one task.

Task #4:  Learn EMCOM to one level.  Repeat as interested.

Task #5:  Upgrade to next license class (General)

Task #6:  Get on HF instead of VHF

Now, Task #3 can be really simple, or really complex. 

Setting a radio up to receive all the NOAA weather channels, for example, isn’t too bad. You just need to frequencies.  A Google search.

Setting a radio up to work with a local ham radio repeater, however, is one of those “slippery” tasks because you need to know the local repeater frequency, the sub-audible tones used, and what the receiver/transmit offset is.    More Google searches.

So the first step in learning anything in life is what? 

RULE 1:  DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVE TIGHTLY

Now, the chainsaw example – and how people like Gaye and I managed to “get so much done” compared to other people.

Except I have a hard time applying it to learning server intricacies of Linus, but I’m working that one.

RULE 2:  SHORTCUT YOUR WAY TO THE OBJECTIVE

I hit YouTube, Instructables, and eBay and Amazon for parts on a regular basis. 

I would love to have the luxury to study the complete factory service manual on my Kubota tractor when it acts up.  But I don’t have the effin’ time.

I can hit YouTube, noodle out the problem about in five minutes and then order the parts from Messicks in another three minutes.  Parts come, plug and play, problem solved.  Time spent?  20-30 minutes.  Zero shop time bills.

RULE 3:  NO DOWN TIME FOR YOUR BRAIN

Just in the last week I bumped my personal productivity up a couple of notches by spending my treadmill time working on organizing my next hour or work for maximum productivity.

I am doing 15-minutes on the tread mill, three or four times a day to get in a couple of miles a day.  That way, when I get to the weekend, my productivity is humongous.

I was pretty good before, but focusing on the next hour or two of work has really paid off.

If there is something that I need to learn (I’m still having issues with my Linux server development project) I am focuses on this “Define the ONE problem that is blocking progress and solve that.”

Eventually, I will run out of problems and will solve them all.  Right now I’m in Samba hell, but give it time.  Just can’t make my Linux server available on the local networks here…

“A cinch by the inch, but hard by the yard” may have originated among the friends of Bill W, but it’s a paradigm that truly fits all parts of life as we roll into the Singularity (where everything breaks). 

If you ever find some task or objective is overwhelming you, the correct answer seems to be:  Break it down into smaller, bite-sized tasks.

We’re reminded that the Pyramids were individual blocks of stone, not one continuous pour of concrete.

Monday at the WoWW

The World of Woo-Woo research is sometimes another matter.  It seems to show up, when it wants, and leave in likewise fashion.  Still, the experiments continue.

Reader email from Jane is worth discussion:

Mr. Ure,

Pork is a known toxin including parasite infestation. The Eat Right For Your Type a book about blood type, and the Reams method finds this to be scientifically proven.

The book The Blue Zone is a study of centurions looks at the seventh day Adventist community in CA. I’m sure it is the vegan vegetarian diet though.

The time slip we my husband and I experienced was several years ago. At the time I had not read your site and tried to explain it away which now seems totally illogical. MY husband lost his wallet while in town doing his food delivery. He tore our very small Honda civic apart looking for it. I also did the next day before going to town to shop. I told my friend who went with and she looked in the back for it too. When i got back from town, my husband went out to the car, he comes running back in “where did you find my wallet. it was sitting right in the back of the car.

thanx for your work,

jane

Yes, those are the little treats of life, are they not?

One thing of increasing interest:  In what is beginning to look like a Bell curve, the duration of both “abductions”  and “time slips” seems to be centering on about 20-minutes.

It’s almost when discontinuities between timelines occur, they are tolerable until they exceed some threshold.   Or, that is the amount of time trans dimensional travel bumps the local timeline when tunnel through…

Nevertheless, the 20-minute duration is certainly a curve and that says something I think…

More ramblings tomorrow…write when you break even…

George   george@ure.net   (AC7X)

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