Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Welcome to Handiham World.

A dip in the pool - first thing this week!

Read/listen here - entire podcast/eletter

Pat shows off his new Plantronics USB headset!
It's time to test our knowledge by taking a dip in the pool - the Amateur Radio question pool, that is. 
Last week we went to the Extra Class pool and examined a question about VHF/UHF operating, which created some controversy:

E2C06 asked, "During a VHF/UHF contest, in which band segment would you expect to find the highest level of activity?"
The correct answer was: C, "In the weak signal segment of the band, with most of the activity near the calling frequency."
Two Handiham volunteer instructors disagreed with the question's wording.
Matt, KA0PQW:
Hi Pat, Just a little bit on VHF contesting. While you are right most of the contesting is in the weak signal part of the band there is an FM-only category. It is also true that 146.52 is off limits, but they do use 146.55 and 146.58 and some other frequencies on two meters. On all of the rest of the bands 6 meter FM, 1.25 meters, and 70 cm and higher you can use the FM calling frequencies. Two meters is the only band that using the FM calling frequency 146.52 is not allowed, so you can certainly contest on 52.525, 223.500, 446.000, and higher bands. Seems to me that question is not well asked. I have seen a few other questions like this, some of which are more opinion than fact.
I hope this helps some. Thanks & 73,
 Matt,  KA0PQW
Bill, K9BV:
I disagree with C (and probably the FCC!) because a contest would wipe out any weak signal operation!!! Therefore, D is the best choice as most contests seem to operate near calling frequency, especially if the contest is lightly attended...
Bill - K9BV
Matt and Bill are both right, but of course the QPC (Question Pool Committee) would probably point out that in any multiple choice exam one is supposed to pick the "most correct" answer.  Even so, given the great variability in contests and usage by band, I'll have to concede that this isn't really that easy to answer. 
This gets me to thinking about the question pools and how some of the questions can seem clear enough when they are first added to the pool, but once feedback is received from the greater amateur radio community, such deficiencies get called out.  In other cases, the technology changes faster than the pool questions, and that can leave questions about legacy technologies still sitting there in the examinations we place on the table in front of the candidates. 
I thought about this last week when I was preparing my audio lecture on television, specifically fast scan amateur television.  There are several - actually more than several - questions related to cathode ray tubes (CRT's) and the scanning technology that has become mostly irrelevant between the time these questions were conceived and today, when LCD screens and digital TV are the norm.  Most of us no longer have any devices with CRT's in them anywhere around the house!
The point is that the QPC always has a challenge keeping the pools relevant to today's technology while also producing clear, unambiguous questions.  This is most definitely NOT an easy job, so be sure to check out the pre-release versions of the question pools as they are posted on the NCVEC website.  Having good questions in the pools is important, and if you spot something that is in error or not clear, you may have a chance to weigh in to get it changed.  It is best to bounce your thoughts off a friend who is familiar with the pools to find out if he or she concurs with your opinion on the question.
Finally, I think we should have a new question this week, and it comes from the General Class pool:
G2B01 asks, "Which of the following is true concerning access to frequencies?"
Possible choices are:
A. Nets always have priority
B. QSO’s in process always have priority
C. No one has priority access to frequencies, common courtesy should be a guide
D. Contest operations must always yield to non-contest use of frequencies
The correct answer is C, "No one has priority access to frequencies, common courtesy should be a guide." 
Guess what?  This is another one of those questions where there is room for interpretation!  In selecting the MOST CORRECT answer, you can often look for qualifiers like the word "always" in the answer.  In this case, three of the four answers have "always" in them, and that should set off the warning alarm that those choices may not be correct.  The reason is that in the real world, "always" covers too much territory.  Few things are "always" correct.  For example, if answer B had read "QSO’s in process usually have priority" instead of "QSO’s in process always have priority", I would have to choose that as the best answer, at least as correct as answer C.  Similarly, if answer A had read "Nets sometimes have priority" instead of "Nets always have priority", which could certainly be the case in a communications emergency during a Skywarn activation, that one would be equally correct. 
Guy with his head in a book
Today's homework: Help keep wrong or ambiguous questions out of the final release. The newest Technician Pool for July 1 2014 release is available for your inspection at the NCVEC website.
Please e-mail to comment.
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Courage Kenny Handiham Coordinator