Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What a Ham I am (Part 4): Have you hugged your Elmer today?


Back in the days when I worked outside the home for pay, my job took me to offices with no windows behind closed doors.  These secure modules lay beyond the ken of public scrutiny and of the regular policing of an on-site manager. In such environs, the workplace morphed into a cross between a Snake Pit and Never Neverland.  And if you were not in clique, you might as well just hang it up.

One of my friends was a target of the office bullies in such an environ.  His "cooler" co-workers called him, Elmer mainly for his resemblance to Elmer Fudd.  And it was an insult wrapped in the cloak of a jest.  All of us who have watched Bugs Bunny cartoons know that Elmer Fudd was not all that bright.  He could not even outsmart a rabbit.

Oh, what wonderful co-workers we were to each other back then!

I told his coworkers, they really paid my friend a high compliment calling him Elmer.  An Elmer was a wise person, a mentor, who helps novices and the experienced - like them perhaps?  I still wonder if that comment went over their heads.

That's what an Elmer really means in the world of ham radio - the Luke Skywalker's Obi-Wan Kenobi.  And Elmers helped me get to the next level.

To get a license or upgrade, an Elmer is good thing to have

In an earlier blog, I wrote how after 25 years as a tech plus, I finally made the plunge and took the test and graduated to general.  Check out: What a Ham I am (Part 1) - moving on up!

There are many tools to prepare a hobbyist to learn the material and study for the test to qualify for the license.  One resource is this question pool, online courtesy of the ARRL, which lists the questions and the answers for the various tests.

Some taking the test said they printed out question pool and all the answers and read them over a few times immediately before the test so they had the right choices memorized.

But did they understand what they were reading?

No doubt some did.  And some were very good hams.  But I suspect some knew how to black out the right letter in the multiple choice form, but did not know ham radio from green eggs and ham.

That's why Elmers are so important as they help us less experienced get to the next levels - knowing more than just picking the right choices on the test.  They can get the right equipment configured to get on the air within the bounds set by the FCC.

There are different levels of knowledge.

And all these levels are in the hobby.

First - rote learning. 

It's one level of understanding - how we learn to read and write.  Memorization.  We can pick the right boxes, but may have no understanding what it means.

It's a quantum leap from picking the right answers on a pencil paper test to understanding the principles behind it.

Next - understanding of the theory. 

This is where I am at.  In school, I liked Electricity and Magnetism (EM) and ham radio depends on it.  Here is a sample of my EM - The Scotsman who beat Einstein

In my post above, I actually did something like the derivation in my article for homework, but I classify myself as a bad ham.  I am really not all that practical.

Final - getting it to work right

It is another quantum leap from understanding the principles of EM to having the practical wisdom of getting a station on the air and working properly within the realm of physics and the FCC requirements.

This is why Elmers are so needed.  My OM is one of them.  He has not only the theory down, but the practical wisdom to make it happen, such as described in these articles:  Tech Talk.

"Elmers" are important in many aspects of life beyond a hobby.  And they have the wisdom not found in a text book and can pass down lessons learned to the next generation. As for me, I would not be in this hobby without an Elmer.

So have you hugged your Elmer today? 

(OMs  may express your appreciation to your OM Elmer(s) in other ways.)
I need to hug mine - my OM - and it is good that I am his XYL.

Pssst!  For the secret code for  - OM/XYL - check out Ham Speak


Previous Posts of this series:

What a Ham I am (Part 1) - moving on up!

What a Ham I am (Part 2) - When lightening strikes

What a Ham I am (Part 3) - Hams make Contact


Photos from everystockphoto.comDr. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov

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