One of the simplest concepts of UrbanSurvival is “must be present to win.”  You can’t be dead and be a survivor, huh?

Most people don’t know that there are more traffic accidents, plus deaths, in the 100 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day that the whole rest of the year combined.  Summer is crazy-time.

Makes sense when you think about it:  People are on vacation.  The holiday “spirits” get mixed with cars. Bad things happen.  The screaming kids are distracting.  And there’s impatience to get somewhere.  Are we there, yet?  Add it all up and it’s a statistical region of life to be avoided.

While it’s true that only about 1 percent of all accidents happen more than 50 miles from a driver’s home, the majority of their driving is done there, too.  That’s one stat we put in the interesting but not actionable pile.

The worst time of day for an accident is 3 to 6 PM – school’s out, the Uber-like parents are shuffling the little darlings around at the peak of rush hour, when people are impatient, tired, and sometimes hot. Who wouldn’t be angry?

Likewise, the most likely time to die in an auto accident is between midnight and 3 AM.  This is in spite of the good efforts of Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers, and others groups.  The insurance for the “hospitality industry” continues to go up yet there seems no limit to servers wanting to “help” a high-tipping customer.

There are several ways to reduce your risk exposure.

  • Lights on during the day as well as night.  If you can’t be seen, you can be hit.
  • Helmets on motorcycles are the rational choice.  People who loudly proclaim it’s their right to go lidless and ride accordingly, advertise their inability to comprehend statistics.  No problem, it they’re willing to sign a waiver of government aid programs, eh?
  • Stay off the road, if you can, between about 2 PM and 7 PM.  Anxious, busy, distracted (texting) drivers will get you, sooner or later. And if that SOB in the pickup doesn’t get off my ass…well, you know that one.

There are fine points.

For one, my late father, always handy with statistics, worked it out that making three right-hand turns was safer than a single left (across oncoming traffic) by almost a  2-1/2 to 1 margin.

Of course, that takes more time.  So the critical driving technique is don’t turn your steering wheel to turn left until you are rolling into the turn.  By doing this, a rear-ender won’t shove you into oncoming traffic.  Seems obvious, but people are fair to partly stupid.

Another tip:  While it’s against the law on most state highways to travel on the inside lane (slower traffic move right!) I press that as much as possible, especially when it’s not a stretch of limited access road.  In town, I’m always in the left lane.  Reason?  Idiots, pedestrians, kids, braking times.  I’m an old fart…need to think about whether I hit you.  Distance is time.

These are simple things, and God help you if you offer too much advice like this to a spouse at the wheel.  But, since we need all the readers we can get, its only right to mention that we are now transiting a particularly (statistically) dangerous part of the Universe.

It’s why, given a chance, Elaine and I like to stay home in the summer.  Two drinks before dinner if Ure’s aren’t going anywhere isn’t even a discussion.  No driving, no problem.  Generally, I won’t even have one drink if we go out to eat.  Had a beer with a steak sandwich and fries many years ago, though.

I felt bad about that.  Got in the habit of having O’Doul’s when we were still flying the plane.  Great habit to adopt during the 100-most dangerous days of driving, if you haven’t, already.

Advanced Antenna School

I’ve been meaning since Memorial Day to report on my friend Jeff’s entry in this years K0S Strange Antenna Contest.

This is where ham radio ops try to find the weirdest things they can turn into antennas.

People have used about everything made of metal.  A scissor lift, work lift bucket, a military tank, and a couple of years back, I talked to a woman who (yes, there are lady-hams) who had stacked several aluminum lawn chairs one over the other.  She had a great signal from one of the “in park models” in a senior mobile home community there.  Impressed as hell.

Basically, anything that’s metal works on the receive side.  The transmit side, ideally, would be a quarter wavelength (or so) at the operating frequency.  That means at night, on the 80-meter (3.5 MHz) band, a 66-foot flag pole in front of a school or at a car dealership would work well.  Or, a 33 foot flag pole for the 40 meter (7 MHz band) is dandy.  Lots of them around rural Post Offices.

For serious long distance, the higher the frequency, the better the “skip” except you’ve heard me curse and whine for months about the lack of sun spots.  When there is little solar activity, skip is poor.  But, in five years (if the sun spots return and we’re not in a Junior Maunder Minimum), the bands will be hopping.  Working the world on 3-watts will be in vogue, again.

Still, 20 meters can still get through worldwide today, it just takes more time and patience.

Those are the civilian basics of the Strange Antenna Challenge.  Load up a clothes line and talk to Japan?  Barbed wire fence into Eastern Europe?  No sweat.

Here’s what Jeff used this year:  Two ladders:

No “ladder line” jokes.

Seems simple enough:  Take two metal ladders from the work truck, lean one into high branches,, tie off with paracord and mount on a small low-boy table.  Then use the step ladder as the counterpoise (Ground system).  To attach the antenna tuner output, a couple of pairs of (what else?) ViseGrips.

Now a few unsolicited comments on this design.  It will no doubt work OK.  BUT when I was an HF radio guru (how many people get to make $60K while working at their hobby, right?) one secret I learned was that if you want to have the best possible signal, always use a larger counterpoint (ground system) than radiating antenna element.

This was a real problem on sailboats which typically used an insulated backstay antenna.  (Wire rigging from top of mast down to the back end of the boat, lubber.)  The insulators used were super expensive.  I saw an 8 MM wire Norseman insulator on eBay the other day:  $434.85.  People really do pay this much because of the risk of having the main mast come toppling down halfway to wherever you’re going.

Back to point:  When I wrote the tech manual for a certain “smart tuner” outfit in Bellevue, WA. it was made very clear that when you look down from the top of the mast that the RF ground should be significantly larger than the backstay antenna.  Five or six runs of 3″ wide copper foil, laid up and glassed to the hull worked great, bonding the engine, water, and fuel tanks, with a connection to the keel bolts, as well.  Amazing how good that worked.  Litz wire (low inductance) to bond any brass through-hulls into the system, too.

Here’s the secret sauce part (should reader Hank out on the Big Island need to implement), I ran out comparison radiation patterns for the same ladders, just inverting their lengths and using 20-meters as an example.

The first way modeled was as Jeff showed:  Big ladder up, small ladder as the counterpoise (ground).

Notice the gain of this antenna. Yuk.  Even though (intuitively) you would think that a roughly quarter wave tall antenna would work dandy, when paired with the short ladder counterpoise, 0.48 db isotropic is all we get radiated.

On the other handr, when we reverse things (making the short ladder the radiator and the long ladder the ground) we get a lot more for our effort:

In the azimuth plot (points on the compass) the maximum radiation lobe would be in the direction where the base of the counterpoise runs.  Point the ladder legs where you want to talk.

This is the kind of “occult radio knowledge” that makes a real difference in emergency comms (EMCOMMS) work.  It’s counter-intuitive, but what happens is when there is a small counterpoise, everything else connected to ground tries to radiate.  The system is easily visualized as “operating upside down.”

That’s where “RF bites” off metal cabinets and metal microphones comes from:  Ground radiating instead of the antenna.

Jeff, of course knows all this….but since reader Hank on the Big Island may have trouble getting down through the lava for a good ground system (!!!) laying out a series of ground radials, always much bigger than the antenna, ensures the total system will operate “right-side up.”

Even in hot lava, we believe…That gets us to wondering if maybe next year, hank could lay out some copper into the lava flows and have a super-doper radio ground system?  Something for next year’s Strange Antenna Contest?

(Yes, we used a Smart tuner and loaded up some salt-water-soaked string.  Worked for only a few minutes, though, due to evaporation.  As soon as the string dries, it’s time to squeeze-bottle more salt water on…)

Got a note from Jeff overnight:

“I am in Irving at EF Johnson headquarters for two weeks of training. Really neat to go through their museum.  Kw matchbox, anyone? Avengers, Vikings, etc etc…”

OMG! I have been looking for a mint “Pacemaker” which was a 90-watt class SSB exciter.   EF Johnson is big in the government/land mobile/commercial space which is Jeff IRL.  But when I think about all that phenomenal USA-made (great) ham gear (like my Thunderbolt amplifier) makes me envious as hell.  Well done, Jeff!

Write when you get rich,   ac7x/