CQ CQ CQ #HamRadio Saturday: EXTRA!

ham radio percentWell, I went and did it. Or better yet, they came to me and I did it.

After obtaining my Technician license a couple summers ago, I set myself the goal of upgrading each summer.  Last summer, I obtained the General.  This was the summer for Extra.  This is also the summer when the question pool was to change (and it has, by the time I am writing this).

As you may recall from last week, I had asked my local Elmer to shake the tree a little to see if any VEs could administer an exam before the end of the month. He made some calls and subsequently assured me that it would be pretty hard to pull off. For that reason I was a bit bummed.  I then received a phone call from a local VE involved at that moment in Field Day, where there were several VEs. She asked around and we set up an appointment for my exam for the evening of Thursday, 30 June, in the common room at my place: the last day of the question pool.

I stepped up my review and took some online practice exams.  I carried around my book with all the possible questions (and the answers – which is handy – along with explanations).  I took the test.

My other two exams were perfect scores. The bad news is that, out of 50 questions for the Extra, I had one mistake.  The good news is that I had one mistake.

Therefore, I am now an Extra.

My local Elmer had come over for the exam (he knew the VEs and had originally shaken the tree, as it were).  On confirmation that I had passed, he gave me a nifty key!

Behold, an unused, lacquered brass Signal Electric key.

I am assured that this is quite something.  Sometimes you can tell by hefting a thing and examining it closely that it is exceptional.  I shall have to have this mounted on something and then get to work assiduously on my Morse Code.  It is time to get into CW, and may QRP.   I’d also like to do something with PSK31.

In any event, I’ve done it.

I am very grateful to the nice folks, the VEs, who helped me out in a pinch.

Now if I only had a stable station!


I created a page for the List of YOUR callsigns.  HERE  Chime in or drop me a note if your call doesn’t appear in the list.


Looking at the entry again, and the math that I had to refamiliarize myself with after 25 years of neglect since college physics, I was reminded of scenes involving spherical trigonometry.

And there’s this from Fortune of War (UK HERE).

Yet in the new, smoother, more scientific Navy that was coming into being this was not enough: his youngsters must add a powerful dose of Gregory to their Robinson. He made them read The Present State of Europe, Impartially Considered; he saw that the journals they were required to keep would meet the inspection of the severest board of examiners; he stood by while his coxswain taught them the finer points of knotting and splicing. It was a pity that his material was so indifferent, so refractory to anything but the knots and splices; for his intentions were of the best. In some commissions he had had midshipmen who loved the mathematics too, who doted upon spherical trigonometry, so that it was a pleasure to teach them navigation; it was not the case at present.
‘Mr Forshaw,’ he said. ‘What is a sine?’
‘A sine, sir,’ said Forshaw, speaking very fast, ‘is when you draw a right line from one end of an arc perpendicular upon the radius from the centre to the other end of the arc.’
‘And what is its relation to the chord of that arc?’
Mr Forshaw looked wild, gazed about the day-cabin that Captain Yorke had given over to his guest, but found no help in its neat fittings, its skylight, nor in the nine-pounder gun that took up so much of its space, nor in the blank and hideous face of his companion, Holles, nor in the title of the novel The Vicissitudes of Genteel Life: life aboard La Flèche might not be particularly genteel but it was certainly full of vicissitudes. After a long pause he still had no views to offer, other than that the relationship was no doubt pretty close.
‘Well, well,’ said Jack, ‘you must read page seventeen again, I see. But that is not what I sent for you for – that is not the reason for which I sent for you. There was a great deal of correspondence for me to attend to at Pulo Batang, and I have only now reached this letter from your mother. She begs me to take great care that when you brush your teeth you will brush them up and down, and not only sideways. Do you understand me, Mr Forshaw?’
Forshaw loved his mother dearly, but at this moment he wished she might be deprived of the power of holding a pen for ever. ‘Yes, sir,’ he said. ‘Up and down it is, not only sideways, sir.’
‘What are you tittering at, Mr Holles?’ asked Captain Aubrey.
‘Nothing, sir.’
‘Now I come to think of it, I have a letter from your guardian, Mr Holles. He wishes to be assured that your moral welfare is well in hand, and that you do not neglect your Bible. You do not neglect your Bibles, any of you, I dare say?’
‘Oh, no, sir.’
‘I am glad to hear it. Where the Devil would you be, if you neglected your Bible? Tell me, Mr Holles, who was Abraham?’ Jack was particularly well up in this part of sacred history, having checked Admiral Drury’s remarks on Sodom: ‘Abraham, sir,’ said Holles, his pasty, spotted face turning a nasty variegated purple. ‘Why, Abraham was…’
But no more emerged, other than a murmur of ‘bosom’.
‘Mr Peters?’
Mr Peters expressed his conviction that Abraham was a very good man; perhaps a corn-chandler, since one said ‘Abraham and his seed for ever’.
‘Mr Forshaw?’
‘Abraham, sir?’ said Forshaw, whose spirits had recovered with their usual speed. ‘Oh, he was only an ordinary wicked Jew.’
Jack fixed him with his eye. Was Forshaw making game of him? Probably, judging from the extreme innocence of his face. ‘Bonden,’ he called, and his coxswain, who was waiting outside the door with sailcloth and rope-yarn to learn the young gentlemen to make foxes, walked in. ‘Bonden, seize Mr Forshaw to the gun, and knot me that rope’s end.’

There were no rope’s ends for me while studying for my exam.

For those of you not in the know, sometimes you have to figure things out in rectangular and sometimes in polar coordinates.  Phase angles of circuits containing resistance, inductive and/or capacitive reactance mean using polar coordinates, which means using trig.

Then there was this from The Yellow Admiral:

But for the time being he was to attend to the young gentlemen. They were gathering there on the quarterdeck behind him, accompanied by the schoolmaster, and although some were furtively giggling, treading on one another’s toes, most were decently apprehensive.
‘Very well, gentlemen, let us begin,’ said Jack in their direction, and he led the way into the fore-cabin. Here they showed up their day’s workings, which, as there had been no noon observation the day before, were necessarily the product of dead reckoning, and they differed little, except in neatness.
Both Walkinshaw and Jack were perfectly at home with the mathematics of navigation and it was difficult for either to understand how very deeply ignorant it was possible for the young and feather-brained to be, particularly those young men who had spent most of their school-time ashore learning Latin and in some cases Greek and even a little Hebrew – possibly some French. This occurred to Jack with some force in the silence that followed his commendation of the neat and his giving back the workings; and out of this silence he said to a dwarfish twelve-year-old, the son of one of his former lieutenants, ‘Mr Thomson, what is meant by a sine?’
He glanced round the general blankness and went on, ‘Each of you take a piece of paper and write down what is meant by a sine. Mr Weller’ – this to a boy who had been to a nautical academy at Wapping – ‘you are whispering to your neighbour. Jump up to the masthead and stay there until you are told to come down. But before you go, gather the papers and show them to me.’
It was difficult to tell whether the schoolmaster or his pupils felt the more distressed as the Captain looked through the undeniable proof of such very complete ignorance of the first elements. ‘Very well,’ he said at last, ‘we shall have to start again with the ABC. Pass the word for my joiner.’ The joiner appeared, brushing chips from his apron. ‘Hemmings,’ said Jack, ‘run me up a blackboard, will you? A flat dead paint that will take chalk handsomely, and let me have it by this time tomorrow.’ To the youngsters he said, ‘I shall write definitions and draw diagrams, and you will get them by heart.’ He was not in the best of moods, and his absolute determination, together with his bulk and his immense authority on board, was singularly impressive. They filed out in silence, looking grave.
The next morning the blackboard was present, fixed by thumbscrews within easy reach of the Captain’s hand, and from it the boys were taught, with words and diagrams, the nature of sine, cosine, tangent, cotangent, secant and cosecant, the relations between them, and their value in helping to find your position in a prodigious ocean, no shore, no landmark for ten thousand miles. All these things were to be found in Robinson’s Elements of Navigation which, together with the Requisite Tables and Nautical Almanac, lay in their sea-chests, a necessary part of their equipment; and Mr Walkinshaw had tried to lead the youngsters through them. But nothing came anywhere near the concentrated forceful instructions of Jove himself; and after what seemed an anxious eternity to the midshipmen’s berth but which in fact lasted no more than a few of the Bellona’s usual patrols from Douarnenez Bay to the Black Rocks in hazy, sometimes foggy weather in which they saw nothing at all and sometimes with such light airs that on occasion they lacked even steerage-way and the Captain had all the time in the world for trigonometry.

It is right after this, if you will recall, that Stephen laments that the marsupials he brought on board, namely, wombats, were pining because they missed their filth.

But I digress.


Before you ask, were I to have had my rig aboard Capt. Aubrey’s ship in international waters, I would have had to obtain his authorization to operate.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Ham Radio, O'Brian Tags and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. MWindsor says:

    CONGRATS, Father! I’m very happy that it all worked out for you.

    Post something if you’re going to be on the radio today or tomorrow. Maybe we can recreate the Zed Net.

    You’ve almost inspired me to try Morse Code again…almost.


  2. FB, OM.
    Morse next. Hope to work you on the >>>>>expanded<<<<< band privileges you have.
    When you're ready to set up a stable station…will be happy to pull wires and stand up aluminum.

    73 de WB0YLE

  3. Bryan D. Boyle says: When you’re ready to set up a stable station

    That’s next. We have the space at the parish. It’s time to get working on it.

  4. acardnal says:

    Congratulations Father Z! Your hardwork paid off. Well done Fr Badass.

  5. pledbet424 says:

    Congrats. That’s a nice old key. I know you like nice things from Italy, so try a Begali when you are serious about CW.

  6. Mike Morrow says:

    Other common “surplus” straight keys are from WW2 (and later) US military or naval service. The first and third listed below are very serviceable when properly mounted on a base. All three are common ebay items.

    US Army: J-37 – Used operationally in ground and aircraft service.
    US Army: J-38 – Used for Morse training only.
    US Navy: Cxx-26003 – Used operationally in ship and aircraft service.

    Modern commercially-made iambic keys (like the models made by Begali mentioned above) are much much more expensive and require an iambic keyer in the transceiver, or an external keyer unit between key and transceiver. Before purchase of any commercial transceiver for which use of an iambic key is anticipated, one should verify that the transceiver’s iambic keyer is capable of selecting between iambic Mode A and iambic Mode B. If one has become accustomed to one mode, the other mode will be almost impossible to use. Unfortunately, most Asian-origin transceivers allow Mode B only. Elecraft radios, all made in the USA, allow mode selection in all models.

    Modern QRP transceivers like Elecraft’s KX2 and KX3 models are very serviceable anywhere when combined with an effective antenna. The 13-0unce KX2 in particular is appropriate for a ham who spends a lot of time in a lot of places “on the go”.

    The mystique of Morse can become addictive. Unfortunately the interesting Morse activity disappeared in July 1999 with the closure of commercial maritime ship and coastal Morse stations. Since then, the only regular users of Morse have been a small minority of the ham population.

  7. Charivari Rob says:

    “I am now extra.”

    That’s a phrase that sound like if you fend it into Google Translate or Babelfish, changed it into Russian or something and back to English, the Heisenberg Idiom Uncertainty Compensator would render it:

    “I have been made redundant.”

  8. bobk says:

    Good for you. A Ham in the Extraordinary Form. What else?

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Congratulations Fr. Z!

    Those formulas must have been written in the ablative case- something worthwhile is going on, but a textbook would be handy.

  10. acardnal says:

    Perfect comment. LOL

  11. MikeJH says:

    Congratulations from a Saint Agnes parishioner.
    Mike, W0YZM

  12. Ed the Roman says:

    I haven’t done impedances in a long time. Took a second to remember the phase shifts.

  13. acardnal says:

    RE phase shifts: I have never forgotten the nmemonic I learned in USAF tech school: “ELI the ICE man” meaning voltage leads current in an inductor and current leads voltage in a capacitor.

  14. crownvic says:

    That just brought back a flood of memories from my AC electrical theory class… Congrats Fr. Z.

  15. Mike Morrow says:

    I neglected by oversight to congratulate the upgrade to EXTRA class. It was 12 years of college and military time after I got my ADVANCED before I earned EXTRA in 1980.

    W9FRZ writes: Before you ask, were I to have had my rig aboard Capt. Aubrey’s ship in international waters, I would have had to obtain his authorization to operate.

    You would also have had to obtain authorization from the radio licensing authority of the country of the ship’s registry. Were the ship of, say, Netherlands registry, you would sign as PA/W9FRZ/MM, just as if you operated from the Netherlands (except for the /MM)…thousands of miles away.

    [The Netherlands?!? After that nasty business with the Waakzaamheid, I think not! But thanks for the greetings.]

  16. jameeka says:

    Congratulations, Father Z! also for actually using college physics.
    Those excerpts were so hilarious I finally decided to start reading Master and Commander (had on my shelf for a zillion years).
    Now I know where you get some of your expressions…..

  17. acardnal says:

    Fr. Z, I’m curious if you found the ARRL books or Gordon West’s books more useful for prep study? I think I saw both of them on your Wish List at one time.

  18. acardnal says: ARRL books or Gordon West’s books more useful for prep study?

    From my Tech through my Extra, I used the ARRL books (sent by readers, btw… thanks!) Someone who is interested in getting into this – a great skill for TEOTWAWKI and it’s fun – I’ll add links for the Tech (entry) level. It’s been awhile, but when I received the ARRL Tech exam books, I took the others off the list. Then I stuck with that series.

    And… in case anyone out there wants to be helpful.


  19. LarryW2LJ says:

    Most heartiest congrats, Fr. Z! Extremely happy and proud that you passed.

    If I may pass on a word to those of your followers who want to upgrade – this is something that I am NOT a fan of- but it seems to have a high success rate.


    I prefer the old school method of actually learning the material in order to know the answers to questions – but there are folks out there who know the material inside and out, but test terribly. So the above site may be useful. It shows the questions with the correct answers only. Kind of like a Bash book from the 80s’ (those of you out there will know what I mean). I would not recommend this site as the ONLY course of study; but it might prove useful as a supplement to those of you take the time to actually learn the rules and theory – a confidence builder, so to speak.

  20. bohemian says:

    Congratulations, Father–
    FB on getting the extra in 2 years. I’m taking my Extra tomorrow, after 35+ years as Advanced. I’d ask you to say a prayer for me passing the test, but, as that is kind of frivolous, I’ll ask that you say a prayer for my soul instead! BTW, I used Hamtest Online.

    Frank. WA4STX

  21. cl00bie says:

    That looks like my straight key. I was playing with it and the key popped out with the cross. I thought I had broke it until I realized you spin the little side nuts to get the proper tension.

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