Thursday, July 05, 2007

Practice makes prefect, er, perfect

They say that practice makes perfect. I'm not sure that it makes perfect, but it does help you make fewer mistkakes mistakes.

I have read enough stories about folks going on trips where they've forgotten some key component that's needed to make their radio gear work. While Grand Cayman isn't exactly Scaffold Reef (there seem to be some electronics stores on the island, even a Radio Shack), I don't want to wind up running around for half a day to find a missing cable, especially one that won't be easy to find and that I've got sitting at home.

Over the weekend, I pulled out what I had expected to take to Cayman with me and set up a "station" on the patio table. I had created a spreadsheet (using Google Docs -- one nice
advantage is that it's "always there", as long as I can get to the Internet) with the list of items that I needed and started going down the list and taking the items outside. I didn't take absolutely everything for this initial pass (I will do it again), but I did take what I expected to be the key components to construct my station. (Notably, I didn't take spare parts, like fuses, etc.)

Things went remarkably well for a first pass, but I did discover a few things: First, there was a particular extension cord that I'd planned to take with me, but I discovered that my son had appropriated it for use in his bedroom. Guess I'll need another one.
Second, while setting my station up outside I discovered something very interesting. The LCD display on my Icom 706MkIIG is polarized. So are my sunglasses. Now, that's not necessarily a problem, but in this case it is. You may remember from your grade school science class that if you took took two polarized filters and turned them at right angles then placed one on top of the other, you can no longer see through them at all. In this case, it appears that my sunglasses are polarized one way and the display is polarized the other way. (Generally, filters seem to be polarized either horizontally or vertically). I never noticed this before because even though I've taken the radio on a couple of trips, I either had the radio inside or (before that) I had a different pair of non-polarized sunglasses.

This isn't really a big deal, but to me, the value of trying this out was to find something that would have been at least an annoyance. Now, I've got a solution, which is to bring along a cheap pair of non-polarized sunglasses.


  1. Fantastic! This is exactly the way to help ensure that you bring all you need (and only what you need). I have done this exercise about a dozen times over the last three years and usually learn something each time. Perhaps an extension cord should be longer, or a few more barrel connectors should be included in the kit. As you've pointed out, that one forgotten component doesn't need to sound important for it to derail your operation!
    I would make one more point: once you've got a good collection of stuff, let them live together from now on. "Borrowing" a component from one set-up to complete another tempts fate. Better to own a couple of duplicate parts (so they can live with their respective kits) than be short that part on a deployment.
    Take care. Bon Voyage!
    -- Scott (NE1RD)

  2. Thanks Scott. I probably should have given your blog some credit for "inspiring" me to do this.

    As for "borrowing", the only thing that's not duplicated is the 706, which I normally just have sitting on my desk monitoring a 2m repeater. (I have another radio for "base" HF.) Everything else, including the power supply, is duplicated. I mentioned in my post that this was the first pass at this. After I do the "2nd pass", I'll put everything away in a bag.

    Incidentally, the #534 wire from The Wireman arrived today; I'll spend some time over the weekend making up some radials.