Sunday, October 21, 2018

Pacificon Hamfest - 2018

by Alan Canton (K6AAI)

It was good to attend Pacificon again. I always enjoy reporting on it.

I missed it last year and to be honest given what I saw this year, it does not look like I missed much. Of course I'm only speaking about the vendor exhibits. I did not attend any of the seminars or other functions.

Since not many (or any!) new radios are released each year, if you only attend every other year to see 'what's out there,' you really won't miss much, if my experience this year is valid.

There were two irritations that did not change from two years ago.

The first was the abysmal parking situation. The Marriott in San Ramon has a large parking lot, but not near large enough to accommodate the cars for both hotel guests and Pacificon visitors. I was told there was an off-site parking area with a shuttle bus but I never saw a sign for it. People were parked on the grass, in red zones, etc. Those who knew the situation knew to park around the corner at the Target shopping center and make the walk to the hotel.

The second commonality from the last time I attended was the abysmal prices for food... at least compared to the quality of it. I don't know if it is a money-grab by the hotel or if they split some of it with the Mount Diablo Radio Club who hosts on the show.

* * *

For the third year in a row, Kenwood didn't see fit to support the show. They did not exhibit. I'm a Kenwood 'guy,' all my radios are Kenwood so their decision to pass on Pacificon was disappointing to me.

Being a good reporter, I asked people about it. Everyone noticed the absence of Kenwood. I heard these comments from hams I spoke with about the issue:
"If Kenwood won't support the ham community, perhaps we should not support Kenwood."
"I guess we're not good enough for Kenwood. What arrogance!"
"It looks like Kenwood is a silent key."
Kenwood didn't make any friends this weekend, that's for sure. ICOM and Elecraft and Flex and Yaesu took space, sent reps and had lots and lots of people at their booths asking questions, turning knobs, looking at waterfalls, and thinking about buying a new radio.

* * *

About the only 'buzz' besides the Kenwood no-show was the price-drop for the mega-popular ICOM 7300 transceiver now selling for around $970 depending on what vendor you buy from. A few people commented that maybe ICOM was clearing out old inventory to make way for an upgrade to the model. (I'd love to see them add D-Star to it but that would probably cannibalize some of their other products.)

* * *

Elecraft had the entire 'back wall' of the main exhibit hall and at times it was two-people-deep to see their equipment... and seeing their equipment is a real treat. The fit and finish of their products is top-notch. Their equipment is made on-shore and no one has a better reputation for quality and service. When I win the lottery I will build out an Elecraft station.

* * *

I had a nice talk with an author selling his "Fast Track" books on passing the various ham license tests. He and I agreed that the Extra exam is way harder than it has to be. I shared with him a short piece of wrote about 'gaming' the exam that has received many favorable comments.

* * *

A very interesting line of products for QRP is from QRPworks . I didn't know much about QRP before talking with these guys. I just returned from a week on the Mendocino coast overlooking the ocean and it would have been nice to have had a QRP rig with a wire antenna and a battery so I could sit out on the deck overlooking the Pacific and maybe work Asia if there was any skip at all.

* * *

There were several antenna companies that exhibited. One that I had not seen before was N6BT I don't know much about their products but they claim to be the "next generation" of antennas. (I guess "antenna hype" never ends!)

* * *

Also exhibiting was Elk who were selling their portable 2M/440 antennas like Canadian marijuana. I really like this product and am going to get one when I get my new HT (probably the ICOM 51A.)

* * *

Finally, there was a company called Mastwerks that plans to sell high-end antenna masts. It is a spin-off from Buddipole. They had one sample there but had no other info. The Buddipole people were at the next booth so I guess Buddipole took the extra space to get some eyeballs on their new company.

* * *

As I said above, I enjoyed attending the show even though I'd seen most of it before. As with many shows I attend (mostly in the book publishing and web design biz as I own Adams-Blake Publishing and NewMedia Create talking with the attendees and often meeting up with people I have only spoken with but have never met is the best part.

If you have the opportunity to attend Pacificon you will see and meet radio voices you know well but have never had a F2F with. I urge you to go... maybe not every single year, but at least every once in a while.

Alan Canton
Fair Oaks, CA

"I am often asked how radio works. 
Well, you see, wire telegraphy is like a very long cat. 
You yank his tail in New York and he meows in Los Angeles. 
Do you understand this? 
Now, radio is exactly the same, except that there is no cat." 
  - Attributed to Albert Einstein

Thursday, June 21, 2018

BEA Diary 2018

By Alan Canton...  with editorial assistance from Mayapriya Long and Alice Walker
[Note: Click on any pix to see it enlarged.]

Is silence golden? If so, then this year's BEA could pay off the national debt!

My guess is that this year the amount of floor space sold was about 30% LESS than last year... and last year was less than the year before. A bunch of large publishers decided to pull out and the venerable IBPA decided not to buy space this year... a decision I disagreed with and terminated my membership with them.

I'm a big supporter of BEA. I think the industry NEEDS a large and vibrant trade show, especially with the reported resurgence of small bookstores I keep hearing about. It is also important to vendors.

I read that attendance was up by 2% over last year, with some 7,000+ people in the room. In some part of the hall it was crowded, but to be honest, it did not feel like there was a 'crush' of people on either day. 

We came with a new service...

While the aisles were not as empty as the opening picture throughout the hall, there was no doubt that attendance way down compared to the BookExpo shows of years ago when upward to 20,000+ people would jam the place.

Anyway, there were not that many exhibits of great interest to me this year as in the past years, so this missive will be (probably thankfully) shorter than previous versions of this electronic fish-wrap. 

One of the strangest books I saw was Alphabodies. By using the female figure to create universal graphics of the English alphabet directed under the female gaze, the project allows the viewer to celebrate the human body in a space free from the stereotypical taboos often imposed by society. 

Alphabodies: very interesting but not sure it will sel
I always admire the single author with a single book who comes to BEA in the hope that lightening will strike and that his book will be discovered. A Hero Dreams won a Ben Franklin award and that means something. 

Author Mark Ristau and his novel
A pioneer in organizing freelancers into a network for mutual support and advancement, the Editorial Freelancers Association is now recognized throughout the publishing industry as the source for professional editorial assistance. It sounds like a worthwhile group to me.

Cindi Powell of EFA
Another organization that I was not very familiar with is PEN America. They write: "PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible."

Elly Brinkely of Pen America
Me, My Dog and a Sheep is a new illustrated children’s book that tells the story of a tenderhearted boy and a good-natured dog who must overcome unique challenges together when the dog is suddenly struck with an illness that could leave him paralyzed. I'm not sure where the sheep fits in! I love it when authors tie merchandise to their book. Every author should do so. (We build great ecom sites...

I believe this is the publicist for the book
Unlike previous years there was not a lot of high-tech stuff at the show. But I found one item that is terrific. It is an app that has music and sound that syncs with your voice while you read a book to kids. I can't explain it well... just see the video on the Novel Effect website. 

Carmela Orsini (left) and Melody  Fuize of Novel Effect. This is very cool tech!
There are always giveaway items at BEA and this year's most favored was a rubber duck given by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They publish a bunch of books on children's health issues. Everyone wanted a blue rubber duck!

Sara Hoerdeman with the best promotional item of BEA 2018
I have no idea who Blackstone Publishing is... never heard of them before and no one wanted to bother talking to me.. but they had one of the largest booths of the show (which was not saying much since most were downsized from years ago.) 

No one wanted to talk to me
Everyone loves Workman Publishing and each year they build a most imaginative large booth. If I were ever to go to work for a publisher it would be Workman. They are terrific.

Great list from a great publisher
Each BEA has tech stuff of dubious merit. I think this was about the dumbest idea I've seen in a while... but I bet it will sell. Their pitch: "The Freewrite by Astrohaus is a distraction-free writing instrument designed to help the modern writer get in a flow state and stay there." $500 for a... typewriter? C'mon man!

It will sell... lots of dumb ideas do!
There are always celebrities at BEA hawking their new book. One was former Secretary of State John Kerry. In Every Day is Extra John Kerry tells the story of his remarkable American life—from son of a diplomat to decorated Vietnam veteran, five-term United States senator, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and Secretary of State for four years—a revealing memoir by a witness to some of the most important events of our recent history.

Sorry for the bad pix... no flash was allowed.
A huge line that ran around the building was for Sally Field who was doing an in-booth signing. Her new book, In Piecesis her account of a challenging and lonely childhood, the craft that helped her find her voice, and a powerful emotional legacy that shaped her journey as a daughter and a mother.

Sally Field (Yeah, we really do like her!)
There wasn't much in the way of interesting sidelines this year... and the only one that I saw that had much in the way of sales potential was eco-dough. eco-kids® is a line of art supplies that gives children the tools to create using non-toxic, natural ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging.

They say you can eat it... like the paste we ate in 1st grade
I've seen lots of dogs and cats and birds and even a goldfish as 'authors' at BEA but I can't remember seeing a little kid. According to the publicist, John Humphreys (John John) author of Be Amazing, is a "motivator, educator, actor, model, science kid, magician, pianist, singer, and all around happy Earthling." 

The youngest author I've ever seen at BEA
There are always a ton of kid-books at BEA and this year was no exception. I thought that Piggy and Pug was the best of a whole bunch of really good child-lit tomes. Also Anne Wheaton wins the award for the author who looks most like her poster!

Anne Wheaton, author
Do you remember that I said that not nearly as much booth space had been sold this year as in previous years? Well, in previous years all this space would have been publisher booths teeming with people. 


So what is the colophon here? I don't know. I just don't. Even though there were fewer publishers and even though I didn't see any breakout books, it was still a very good show from the standpoint of a book buyer, librarian, or a major exhibitor. But the booths in the marginal areas of the floor just didn't get the traffic that they got when there were 3X the number of attendees.

I want to be optimistic about the chances for survival, but I just can't seem to accumulate the metrics to base such a prediction on. I could see the BEA trade show canceled and only the open-to-the-public (for a price) BookCon continuing. It will all depend on if the major publishers continue to get value from BEA and, of course, continue to buy floor space.

But I don't know. This was the 21st consecutive BEA that I've attended and it was easy to wax nostalgic about "back in the day." 

When walking through the empty areas I kept hearing the lyrics from an old song from the 1960s...

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.


Thanks for reading this... a lot of work went into it and I hope your time was well spent. Below are Diaries of previous shows, should you be interested.

* * *

You MAY (and are encouraged to) share the link to this piece or reprint any part of it without prior permission so long as you use the following attribution:

Alan N. Canton, Managing Partner
NewMedia Create
"Websites for authors, publishers, and small businesses at an affordable price"
Fair Oaks, CA

* * *

Per usual, if you have comments or corrections, please send them to bea-diary at adams-blake dot com

Monday, January 22, 2018

How I Chose My New Amateur (Ham) Radio Vanity Callsign

After you have been granted an amateur (i.e. 'ham') radio FCC callsign you have the option to exchange it for a different one that is available and allowed for your license class.

I was assigned KM6AAI ...[ kilo mike six alpha alpha india.] I liked it but I wanted a shorter call by dropping the 'M' and perhaps getting a 'better' suffix. (I'm always amazed that the FCC gave out [kilo six alpha sierra sierra] and [whiskey four tango india tango])!!!

While studying for my Extra exam I did three months of "on and off" research on what vanity call to "reward' myself with upon passing.

I wanted a 1x2 [K6_ _] but given how few come up for grabs and the competition for them, at my age I figured I would not get one in this life!!! So I decided I wanted a 1x3 ... [K6_ _ _]. I thought about a 2x2 [K _6_ _] but I find them hard to 'copy' as well as remember.

My goal was to find a callsign letter-combo that upon hearing was easy to remember as well as one that (subjectively) rolled off the tongue.

While my method was not scientific by any means, after talking to hams and non-hams and doing some testing I learned a lot of things. In no particular order, here are my findings.

I learned that people remembered a letter followed by a number [K6] better than two letters followed by a number [KM6], which reinforced my intent to get a 1x3 and and not the 2x2.

Given five sets of 3 letters (like what might be heard in a DX pileup) I found that my test group of people remembered the combinations with double letters [AAX] or where all 3 were the same [BBB] better than any other grouping EXCEPT if the 3 letters form a known word like CAT or DOG or GOD or GUN or BAT, etc.

All of the 'K6' three-letter common words [map, cop, etc] as well as the three-single-letter options [BBB, GGG] were taken so I had to look for a combination of double-letters followed by a third letter that would tend to stand out and be easily remembered.

I found that the better remembered groups were those that were easy to pronounce phonetically... they rolled off the tongue. Combos like [GGK... golf, golf, kilo] did not work as well as something like [AAL... alpha, alpha, lima].

I found that letters that were vowels or phonetics ending in vowels tended to sound better and be remembered better than harder consonants... 'alpha' worked better than 'hotel.'

I found that the double-letter pair coming first was better remembered than if the pair came last. [AAF ... alpha, alpha, foxtrot] was recalled more often than [FAA... foxtrot, alpha, alpha] because often people didn't hear the final letter of a double letter combo. They hear [FA] and not [FAA].

I learned that when the final syllable of the third letter rhymed or sounded like the final syllable of the combo pair, retention was increased.... like in [delta delta alpha].... all three end in an 'ah' sound.... [charlie, charlie, yankee]... all have an 'eee' sound. The combo of  [golf, golf, uniform] didn't work as well.

I also learned that phonetics that had the emphasis on the first syllable (echo) were better remembered than when the emphasis was in the middle (november, sierra) or at the end (quebec, hotel).

While it was a very minor issue, I found that a two-syllable final letter phonetic like "echo" was more often remembered than a three-syllable third letter like [sierra ...see-air-ahh]. (There are only 2 one-syllable letters... golf, mike.)

I liked the sound of 'india' and while it is a three-syllable word, it gets slurred and often sounds like a two-syllable phonetic...  'in-jah.' It helped that 'india' is a well-known country.

I also liked the sound of 'lima.' While 'lima' is a city (in Peru and Ohio,) few people had ever heard of it. Perhaps if 'L' was phonetically 'lie-mah' (like the bean) it might work better than 'lee-mah!')

I gathered a lot of data. The argument can be made that it was just random and I won't dispute that. But random data is better (at some level) than a SWAG (

So at the end of the day... I decided to drop the 'M' and  keep the suffix that the FCC had given me...[alpha, alpha, india] which was as good as I could get. Everything better was taken.

The above was MY methodology.

YMMV!! (



Alan Canton
Fair Oaks, CA

"I am often asked how radio works.
Well, you see, wire telegraphy is like a very long cat.
You yank his tail in New York and he meows in Los Angeles.
Do you understand this?
Now, radio is exactly the same, except that there is no cat."
  - Attributed to Albert Einstein