Calling CQ

I have been an amateur radio operator for many years and of all my interests, this one is the hardest to fathom. Why in an age of instant global communication would anyone want to play around with good old fashioned and not too reliable radio? “Ham” radio, as it is widely known, undoubtedly has many facets and technical challenges but I’m also discovering it satisfies a deeper need.

I’m almost obsessive about it. I’m either fixing up 30-year-old radios or building antennas from scrap or plumbing supplies from the local hardware store. With the exception of a Chinese handheld VHF radio I have never bought anything new. Some enthusiasts spend thousands on radios but unless you have a good antenna you’re wasting your time.

With this in mind, my latest antenna project grew out of 100’ of chicken wire and scrap aluminum tubing from my decommissioned swimming pool. In fact, the whole contraption sits over what used to be the pool. The structure is anchored by a huge electrical insulator and rises to a giddy vertical 45’. Thankfully it is slim and tidy enough to be barely visible to neighbours. After several weeks of head scratching and tinkering it now works like a charm.

Living in a relatively sparsely populated corner of North America, I find it difficult to be heard above my southern neighbours. Like the vehicles they drive, their stations tend to be rather large and consume huge amounts of energy. When an exotic call wafts in from another continent, a chorus of replies reverberates through the aether shaking the planet to its very core as one station tries to outgun another. I don’t have an amplifier and put out no more power than it takes to run a light bulb so my chances of being heard are very, very slim.

For instance, the other evening I heard a Spanish station calling CQ – the term is a hang over from the days of Morse Code that is an invitation for a response. Before I could even pick up the microphone “Carlos” was being pounced on. The exchanges are so predictable. “Fine business Carlos!  Great signal into Kansas my good friend!” A typical exchange lasts about 30 seconds, a new call sign gets added to a log book and they’re off to find another victim.

So I’m learning to poke around the short-wave bands and sniff-out the weaker, interesting stuff that get’s passed over by the big guns. I twirled the tuning dial and came across a quiet spot in the band. Through the gentle hiss came a faint voice. “CQ, CQ, CQ, this is Golf Three Oscar Mike Golf pedestrian mobile.”

“Pedestrian mobile from the UK? Wow!

I called him and to my surprise he immediately answered.  After the obligatory exchange of names and signal reports I ask, “So where the hell are you?”

“Actually I’m on Blackpool Beach and I’m running fifty watts from my backpack rig into a fifteen foot whip antenna.”

“Wow that’s incredible…and what’s the weather doing?”

“Oh it’s cold and just starting to rain.”

I smiled to myself; as much as I still love my homeland I’m glad I’m in the sunny BC Okanagan. This is really awesome I thought, we’re five-thousand miles apart and we are talking with a few hundred dollars of electronics and in my case, repurposed swimming pool hardware.

After a few minutes we end our chat and I wish him “Seven three and good DX” and really hope he makes lots more contacts.

One thing I am learning in life is that the loudest voices often have little of interest to say. It also dawned on me that my obsession with antennas and radio has a deeper meaning. Maybe it is a reflection of a desire not only to communicate my humanity to others but also to listen for that most important voice of all – the small quiet one within. Like the short wave bands, there’s so much noise in my head that I need to find a quiet spot and just listen.

Baya Exotica

Sunset in Baya Exotica.

The grey haired man approaching with the wheelbarrow smiled and said, “Hi.” We were on a secluded forest trail and a wheelbarrow didn’t seem too out of place, even though it contained what I believed to be a guitar in a black case. After all, this was Baya Exotica. I turned a few seconds after we passed and looked back. He strode purposefully across the planks that spanned a small creek, his tall body flickered in the sunlight permeating the lush spring foliage. Suddenly he veered off the path and descended a steep dirt track down to the rocky foreshore.

An hour later, as the Vancouver Island’s mountains cast their long shadows deep into the bay, I heard a lonesome melody wafting on the breeze accompanied by a guitar. Not unusual I mused. Only last night I had been entertained by a djembe beating out a jungle rhythm. It appeared to be coming from a group ashore huddled around a fire. And earlier today I was shaken by wild buglings, eerily bounced around by mighty cliffs surrounding the bay, that seemed to come from nowhere. Who are these wonderful people? Where do they come from? Thank goodness there are still some left!

Here in Baya Exotica it didn’t seem to matter that Rainbird was surrounded by a collection of decaying vessels, some already half sunk and one in particular a hazard to navigation. Others were works in progress, or more appropriately, works in regress. With boats, as with other material things in life, entropy always wins.

I had felt the need to be back on the water. This time I was alone except for Maio my faithful Portuguese Water Dog. First Mate, Juliana, departed this world last December. She had fought many battles in her life but she was never going to beat the cancer that invaded her body.

Rainbird was as much her boat as mine and I wondered how I would fare. Would the memories held in her cedar hull be too painful to endure? I’ll admit to being fearful a few days earlier, when I untied Rainbird from her dock and headed out into the brisk southeasterly breeze. But the wind and the sunshine soon worked their magic and quickly settled my mind.

I was heading for Baya Exotica. I love its eccentric charm and always marvel at the surrounding hills and forest, which hold lush hay meadows. With unseasonal spring warmth and sunshine, everything was bursting into life. Birdsong permeated the air. Eagles and ospreys soared and swooped. Seals went leisurely about their business.

I was crossing a meadow with Maio; no houses, no people, no noise. We stood in the brilliant sunshine, feeling fully part of our surroundings. I had to remind myself that it really doesn’t get better than this.

Juliana’s vision and determination to get back in touch with nature led her to Rainbird. She has now gone, but for me, Rainbird is helping me do what Juliana had wanted for us both.

Wild as this image may seem, it actually originated as a reflection in a creek. The "sky" is the creek bed viewed through flowing water. The image was flipped horizontally and the colour enhanced. Taken on location in Baya Exotica.

Wild as this image may seem, it actually originated as a reflection in a creek. The “sky” is the creek bed viewed through flowing water. The image was flipped horizontally and the colour enhanced. Taken on location in Baya Exotica.

New For 2013

This is part of Coldstream, my rural community in the BC Okanagan. I took this photograph this afternoon while returning from a couple of hours of invigorating snow shoeing in -10C!

This is part of Coldstream, my rural community in the BC Okanagan. I took this photograph this afternoon while returning from a couple of hours of invigorating snow shoeing in -10C!

Thank you for all your support in 2012!

As we head into 2013 I’m making a few changes.

I have moved my photographic site to Zenfolio as they have some great features at very competitive rates. My photographic blog can also be found on the Zenfolio site, while Above and Beyond will remain the same, covering my journalistic material.

Over the past few weeks I have taken on the Canadian winter with my camera to reveal the seasonal beauty of the Okanagan Valley. You can view the spectacular results here.

For those of you interested in wooden boats and sailing, Pacific Wooden Boats is my nautical, simple living blog.

With three blogs, a book in the works, and a substantial photography site I’m looking forward to a busy year!

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful 2013.

Me and my Portuguese Water Dog, Maio

Me and my Portuguese Water Dog, Maio out for our daily walk.

Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics – A Book You Cannot Afford To Ignore

Review by David Skelhon

Every now and then, a really trans-formative book comes along – one that challenges beliefs and opens readers to new ideas. Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein is one of those books.

Charles Eisenstein explains that we are experiencing the death throws of an economic system that has brought us some great benefits but at terrible cost. Many of us have been born into this system and know no other. We have been taught a story about money which we have unconsciously internalised without questioning its ethics or consequences.

One result of adopting this story is the need for endless growth originating from a money system that is based on debt and interest. It is a system that breeds artificial scarcity, because to put it simply, there is never enough money in the system to repay the interest on the cumulative debt.

It is a system that can only seem to work if there is economic growth and that ultimately entails the conversion of more and more “gifts” from the Earth – the sacred commonwealth of all humans and indeed all life – into private and corporate ownership for profit. When growth slows, the system collapses, because all the debt can never be repaid – there is never enough money in the system to allow for that, so there will always be losers. It also leads to a “more for you is less for me” culture.

Eisenstein also talks about the innate and insatiable human tendency to hoard money, rather than allow it to flow freely. This is being brought sharply into focus as the divide between rich and poor deepens and the ultimate outcome is exploitation, environmental degradation, war and human misery. He postulates what would happen if we went to a system of zero or negative interest. This actually is not a new concept and has sound roots in history and other cultures, and may form part of the solution.

The author makes it clear that he does not think that money is the root of all evil, rather the problem is in the way we have chosen to use it – the story we have taught ourselves – that is responsible for the misery we are creating. Money plays a vital and necessary role in the complex human interactions of the modern world but he believes we need to change that story.

Certainly, conspiracy theorists my be disappointed by this book because Eisenstein – whilst he acknowledges that they may have some basis and bad things do happen out there – realises that much good energy can be wasted pursuing them. Rather, he encourages the reader to look at things that can be done at the local level to facilitate a return to a kinder, more gift based system where the sacred gifts of the Earth – our birthrights – are respected.

The author is under no illusion that these changes are going to happen overnight, and there possibly will be years of pain before we put our house in order, but the real magic of the book is that it leaves the reader with the impression that these changes must and will happen. Indeed, the process is already underway and ultimately our very survival depends on it.

Sacred Economics is not a cold, factual, academic work – it is non-the-less well researched and referenced. Its real power comes from Eisenstein’s from-the-heart honesty. I found that it resonated with me and more importantly, challenged me at the same time, exposing long held beliefs about money and wealth that I discovered I could well do without. Its twenty-four chapters are not light reading but I consider the concepts so important that I have no doubt I will be dipping back into it again and again.

I will leave the last words to Eisenstein; “A primary goal of this book is to align the logic of the mind with the knowing of the heart: to illuminate not only what is possible but how to get there.”

The book is available in paperback or as an eBook  In keeping with the author’s philosophy, it can also be read on-line for free.

Talking To An Alien

The air was electric and there was a foul buzzing in my head. The last thing I remember about being upright was that my feet decided that they wanted to follow their own separate paths at which point the voice in my head uttered. “Oh my God!”

Blackness comes, the world spins beneath my feet and next thing my bones are bouncing off the dusty gravel, and with a loud ‘huff’, the air is blown from my lungs.

Blackness everywhere and an overwhelming silence but for the whooshing of blood through my head.

Then comes an irritating, chirpy voice – not the sort of voice you want to hear in a time of bodily crises.

“You’re OK – just stay calm. The electromagnetic field from my ship just happened to spike your central nervous system creating what you humans would call a seizure. Really, really sorry about that!”

Is this for real? Am I actually still alive? I try to move but my limbs appear to be disconnected from my motor centre. “Hell I’m paralysed!”

“Nope, just stunned. Just relax and normal service will be resumed in err…a few minutes.”

“Very pleased to hear it! So what the hell is going on? I’m out for a walk in the park and suddenly I feel that I have been hit over the head with a baseball bat!”

“Yep, just the field from my ship and as I said, you’ll get over it.”

I am starting to feel sensations cutting in, pain in my left wrist, the texture of moist sand and gravel on my bare arms and legs, and what feels like gritty sand in my mouth and nose.

The blackness dissolves and a light appears in my head, gradually brightening to a dazzle. My brain forces my eyelids to part, and before me, just above the dirt I see withered brown blades of grass against a blue sky embedded with fluffy clouds. But wait, camouflaged against the grass, six inches from my eyes, there’s a stick-like insect looking straight at me. From my new level of humility it seems like a terrifying apparition – but is it? It looks too darn real!

“Good, you’re starting to recover. Thankfully I didn’t kill you because that would be really bad karma.”

Now I’m beginning to think my brain is as bruised as my body. “You’re hallucinating you idiot!” I try to get up, but my mind still isn’t connected to my body.

“Just a few more minutes and you’ll be on your way!”

Oh God, its lips…err mouth parts, are moving and those tear shaped eyes are looking straight at me…almost looks like a miniature ‘grey’.

“I’m no grey! Don’t insult my intelligence!”

Oh God he can read my mind! “Sorry, this is all very new to me and I’m having a really hard time believing what I’m seeing.”

“That’s somewhat surprising, as I was under the impression that humans lost their abilities to discern fact from fiction a long time ago and believe pretty well all that they see or hear!”

“What or who the hell are you anyway?”

“Let’s keep it simple and just call me ‘John’ and imagine I’m from a distant star system where evolution has taken a somewhat different path. I’m actually here on vacation – what you humans would probably call adventure tourism but on a galactic scale.”

“OK John, so what brings you to this God forsaken planet!”

“Oh please don’t ever call this planet God forsaken…it’s very upsetting to hear that.

“Look, Earth is actually one of the jewels in the crown of this galaxy so to speak…the unadulterated parts are still incredibly beautiful! I just want to come back and see it again whilst there is something left to see, before it possibly gets completely screwed up. Oh dear, lets see…excuse me for being corny but that catchy song from your youth that passed me 30 light years out puts it very succinctly…’Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, pave paradise and put up a parking lot’.

“As a matter of a fact, do you ever wonder why there are all these ‘ships’ visiting Earth at the moment? Some like me found out about Earth on the Cosmonet, the Lonely Star Guide to be exact and just like me they are here to soak up this wonderful, complex manifestation of the Creator.

“That said, there are also a lot of looky-lous hanging out here, and to be frank, some pretty nasty entities just thirsting for blood.”

“What exactly do you mean by nasty entities?”

“Well take a look around you, all these wars, environmental pillage, malnutrition, starvation and the extinction of countless species. Do you really think man could wreak all this havoc on his own? Humanity isn’t necessarily evil, but he can make decisions that are evil then turn a blind eye to the consequences. Has it ever occurred to you that there are evil entities from another dimension that egg you on?”

“Now you are asking me to suspend my critical thinking to believe something I can’t see, to take a blind leap of faith! Why should I believe you?”

“Do you believe that the atom is a building block of matter? “

“Yes, of course I do!”

“Have you ever seen an atom?”

“No but it’s been proven a long time ago, and that’s the best explanation for how the world works!”

“My point exactly, although I do have an advantage over you in that I can see the workings of some other dimensions and regrettably they aren’t always pretty. But that’s the nature of the duality of consciousness, the Yin and the Yang as you call it, the light and the dark, good and evil. Actually it’s what makes us grow, it keeps us on our toes and makes life an adventure! It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe that evil entities exist and try to manipulate this dimension; suffice to say that humans are in the driving seat and they always can say no to evil.”

“So I guess you think we are screwing it up, causing all this global warming and pollution?”

“Look, you can warm the planet to a small degree with carbon dioxide but on a cosmic scale it’s like pissing into the solar wind. You have no idea what Sun is capable of, Sun has been around billions of years and you have been watching Sun for an insignificantly irrelevant 60 of them – so you really don’t know anything.”

“What do you actually mean by Sun?”

“You just haven’t grasped it have you? Your ancestors were smart! They revered Sun! Sun has consciousness like any other star, because you do know all matter is a manifestation of intelligent consciousness, just like you or I, don’t you?”

“So are you actually saying the Sun is a conscious being?”

“Well, sort of, but a proper understanding is still some way ahead of humanity, but any way you look at Sun, Sun gives you life. Sun, as far as you are concerned, is the Light. Your Bible talks of the Sun Of God, and man’s purpose on Earth, all major religions would probably agree, is to gain enlightenment. Get it! All you need to know always is and has been hidden in plain view. It’s embedded in your languages, myths, artifacts and sacred sites. Just bare in mind that some heads of consciousness are smarter than others!

“Look, I’ve some good advice for you. Forget what you learnt about history at school or what most mainstream religion tells you. A lot of it is just plain wrong and sadly some of it deliberately misleading. The idea that man went from cave man to astronaut in 40,000 some years is ridiculous. Sure, there has been a linear progression of what you know as civilisation but that’s not the whole story. The Earth is subjected to cyclical variations of life-force energies, cosmic catastrophes and just plain human stupidity. Think of civilisation as a slow linear progression modulated by a more rapid cyclical pattern. Great civilisations on Earth, come and go, roughly in synchronisation with the Earth’s 25,000 year precessional wobble. Your science hasn’t yet figured out the cosmic causal mechanism but if you stick around long enough you will.”

“You mentioned you were here before – when was that?”

“The last time I was here was 14,000 Earth years ago, just before the last ice age came to a catastrophic end, and with it the last Golden Age of Man. Back then, most of the northern lands were covered with miles of ice, and the sea levels were about 600 feet lower then they are today, revealing vast areas of the continental shelves. The climate was actually quite stable and your ancestors were primarily a coastal, seafaring people living incredibly rich and fulfilling lives.”

“So what happened to them?”

“Well, I was long gone, but according to the Lonely Star Guide, the Earth started to warm and the ice sheets began to melt, flooding the lower lands as the sea level began to rise.”

“If these Golden Age humans were so smart why didn’t they just move to higher ground?”

“Unfortunately for them, they were hit by a double whammy, just as things were starting to get a little toasty on Earth a comet exploded above what you call North America, obliterating lots of life and filling the atmosphere with dust which blocked out Sun. Things chilled instantly and the ice came back for another 1,000 years – your scientists call it the Younger Dryas period. If you think current climate change is rapid, I can assure you that you haven’t seen anything like what happened back then! That’s why woolly mammoths, sabre toothed tigers and other large mammals became extinct – and man almost met the same fate.

“When the Earth warmed again, any remnants of civilisation disappeared beneath the oceans – sometimes whole cities were inundated in a matter of days as ice dams broke releasing huge freshwater lakes into the oceans. That’s why you don’t see much evidence on land today. If you looked under the oceans, it would be a whole different story.

“From then on it was all down hill, but having survived the bottom of the Great Cycle – what you call the Dark Ages – humanity is now on the upswing. Just take care you don’t screw it up. And there’s plenty of evidence if you look for it. The ancient Hindu scriptures, the fall of man in the Christian Bible – every ancient culture records distant catastrophes and falls from Golden Ages.”

“But aren’t they just myths from superstitious God-fearing, primitive peoples? Where is the solid evidence?”

“Some of the evidence is very solid indeed. It is set in stone! Do you really believe that monuments like the pyramids at Giza were built by slaves using copper chisels? You could hardly achieve that accuracy and perfection today – even with all your modern tools and equipment. And there are pyramids all around the world, Peru, Mexico, China and they are encoded with mathematical messages and the builders were well aware of their global nature and significance.

“From your level it is impossible for you to understand how these spiritually advanced humans thought and lived their lives. They understood the underlying intelligence behind everything and their humble place in it. They built these huge stone structures, encoded with this information, so that one day, their spiritually impoverished descendents, languishing at the bottom of the Great Cycle, the Great Year, the Yuga Cycle, the Precession Of The Equinoxes – call it what you will depending on your culture – might regain some of this lost knowledge and take it forward into the next cycle. And remember that many of these structures were built after the Golden Age, in a time when much knowledge had already been lost!”

“So how come these Golden Age humans were so smart?”

“Ah! Good question! Again, I’ll have to keep it simple. Suffice to say that they had access to levels of consciousness inaccessible to all but a few humans today. Physically they were similar to you but spiritually, they operated at a level which you would consider God like. Indeed they were the Gods!”

“So tell me John, just how are we going to get ourselves out of the mess we are in and regain our heritage?”

“I see it’s already happening. Technology, and in particular your internet is spreading ideas – not all of them good I might add! You need to re-learn the lost art of critical thinking. But corrupt institutions will crumble as age-old weapons of mass deception are revealed, along with the evil intent of those behind them. When that happens, the mental and spiritual shackles will be off and the hard path to enlightenment can continue.

“Anyway, that’s enough – I shouldn’t give too much away, that would make it too easy and besides there’s lots of fun to be had in the search for the ‘Holy Grail’ so to speak. It’s more about the journey than the destination!”

“Oh please don’t stop – this is getting really, really interesting and I still have lots of questions!”

“Nope, I should be on my way, before some hill-billy spots my ship and nails it to his garden fence thinking it’s just another Chevy wheel trim.

“But just a final few words of advice; never believe all your mind tells you – it lies constantly. Once you have figured that out you’re half way to enlightenment. And remember, there are dark forces out there often masquerading as the Light. Learn to recognize them and give ‘em the middle finger, so to speak!

“Oh…and remember to give thanks to Sun and be grateful you are on this beautiful planet having the wildest ride of your dreams.”

My eyelids are becoming very, very heavy and the light fades. “John! Are you still there?”

Silence but for the pounding of blood in my ears.

Suddenly, I feel a strong hand shake my shoulder. A mans voice, full of concern, asks: “Are you OK? You took quite a tumble! I saw you trip and fall flat on your face. Let’s see if we can get you back on your feet.”

Copyright David Skelhon, 2012