Cretan Blog – November 2012

Greetings from a now very quiet Crete. The vast majority of the tourists have left and we now just have the odd independent traveller wandering about… The roads are quiet, most of the Tavernas have shut down, the beaches are empty and with the tourist season finished, the one and only bank in Elounda switches back to ‘winter trading’ and only opens on a Tuesday and a Thursday. The ‘Hole in the Wall’ still operates of course but can be empty by the end of the weekend.

The later part of October and early November is quite a busy one for the locals as important things happen – the most important being the making of Raki, the local firewater. This really starts at the end of September when the first of the grapes are harvested and after pressing, the left over must-resin is then distilled to make Raki. These days those who make it have to be licensed by the Government, however, looking down the valley from the Kritsa house early in the morning, one can see the tell-tale signs of smoke rising from ‘illegal, family’ stills tucked away in the olive groves.
The big event of October was ‘Oxi Day’ on the 28th. This is when the Greeks said NO (Oxi in Greek) to the Italian/German demands in WW11 for the Greeks to capitulate but the Italians invaded anyway without waiting for an answer. Perhaps they wanted to get their towels on the sun-beds first.

Now we have had some decent rain, we can have bonfires again.
Out here it is illegal to have an ‘open’ fire between May and October because of the risk of wild-fires. This applies to all of Greece and even so every so often a fire will start and do considerable damage. At least 30% of the island of Chios was severely burnt in August.
Some of you may remember that during the late 80’s and early 90’s there were some horrific fires across Greece with loss of life, damage to property and to thousands of olive trees and thus people’s livelihoods. A few months ago, an ex-president of Turkey and an ex-Prime Minister of Greece, who just happened to be friends outside politics, were talking and it came to light that most of the serious wild-fires during that time were started deliberately by the Turkish Secret Service! Is it any wonder that the people on the other side of the Aegean cannot be trusted?

Our month started off well when the XYL hit a kerb while trying to park the car and damaged the front nearside wheel by putting a large V shape in it. Driving round these narrow winding roads with one of those limited speed safety wheels on is not the most confidence building thing in the world!

Radio Stuff:
Have you heard of ‘Castles and Stately Homes on the Air’, or CASHOTA?
Their initials are very apt as they seem to want CASH for every QSO they have.
GB4C has been running recently and they want 2 IRCs for a direct card, even if you live in the UK. Don’t have any IRCs? Don’t worry; they will also accept two dollars in cash just to put a second class stamp on an envelope for you and send you a card, even if you live down the road in Loughton. Good Eh?
I, and a lot of my friends, do not like the current trend of asking for direct QSLs only as this smacks of making money, and yes I know it is only a small amount, but it does seem that a lot of people are trying to cash in and make a few bucks out of the people who, in this case, want a GB QSL card.
Why did they not use the RSGB QSL Buro?
Probably because they did not want to pay out a couple of years subs just to send and receive QSL cards.

Is it me or do all ‘On The Air’ (OTA) groups try and make themselves more important than they really are?
You have the, awful, IOTA (Islands), CASHOTA (Castles), SOTA (Summits), DOTA (Distilleries), ROTA (Railways), BIWOTA (British Inland Waterways) and pretty soon we will have PUTOTA (Public Toilets) and PABOTA (Park Benches) if things keep going the way they are.
Not one of these OTAs project a good ‘front’ to Amateur Radio and, if truth were known, put more people off taking up the hobby than wanting to join it.

November RadComic arrived and contained much about the forthcoming EGM. I read a lot of the stuff but they do make rather boring, probably hoping that most people will just scan the main bits and miss all the important stuff. By the way, did you know that no Member has a right to check the finances or books? This does seem rather odd as the basic reason for all this kafuffle over the past couple of years has been because no one was checking the finances!
I see that the December issue of RadComic will be with Members before the 19th of November. Now, how stupid is that? The publication dates get earlier and earlier and so you would think that with the EGM on 17th, publication would be held up for at least a week or so while a report was written up for the magazine. Not very much joined up thinking at Abbey Court then . . .
[At the time of writing the above, I had just written to the RSGB General Manager about a couple of the things including the publication date and I have received a reply and so will do a Blog Update in a couple of days time when I have studied his answer.]

I seem to recall that the RSGB were to make big changes to their web site from September 23rd so as to make it more welcoming to newcomers and those who may be interested in taking up the hobby.
As of today (31st October) nothing has changed and the site looks as boring as it has ever done. This subject was brought up with Norman at the Club Meeting back at the end of April where he just gave the ‘standard’ RSGB answer that it was ‘going to change’. Anyone want to guess when?

I also see that HRD is on special offer at $69.95 as they cannot sell it at full price.
Surprise surprise!

Avian Happenings:
Highlight of October has to be a visit from a striking looking bird a few weeks ago. The Blue Tits were busy picking off all the midges they could when a male Golden Oriole arrived and sat in the Almond tree watching what they were up to. A really beautiful bird, vivid yellow, black wings and a pink bill. He stayed long enough for us to get the binoculars and view him ‘close up’ before he flew up towards the old mills. We hope he visits again . . .

With the reduction in tourist activity and disturbance generally, our Buzzards and Vultures have returned to the hills opposite. This is really good to see and we await the return of our Golden Eagle to complete the trio.

I see that the Christmas Bash is set for Sunday 13th January and all being well I will be there. The XYL has already started a list of what I should pick up while in the UK so it looks like I will arrive with an empty suitcase and return with an overweight one!


Dick. SV0XBN/9

Update – 3rd November
This is just an update to my note  about writing to the RSGB. I received an answer to my comments from the RSGB General Manager within a couple of days of sending them. The first acknowledgement was on a Saturday which I found surprising but showed at least that someone at the RSGB looked at email over the weekends.

The first comment in my letter was the fact that I now have my RadComic sent to a UK address as delivery to Crete was either slow or not at all. His answer to this was to ‘upgrade’ me to ‘Standard’ delivery so I would now get my RadComic, sent to me in Crete within 5 working days.

This worried me on two counts: 1 – he did not read my letter fully when I said I already have RadComic delivered to a UK address, and 2 – if I am now ‘upgraded’ to a ‘Standard’ delivery service, what the hell was I on before when it took over three weeks to get here? I assume that most Members living abroad who receive their magazine a month after publication and on this ‘never never’ service will only get a quicker delivery if they complain. One assumes that the ‘never never’ service is a lot cheaper . . .

My next comment was about the benefits of the RSGB that I and other overseas do not use, such as the QSL Buro. He replied thus:
“..Your point about the limited benefit to you, and other overseas members, of RSGB membership is noted. When I lived abroad I also used the QSL bureau (which I found more reliable than the Greek equivalent) but that is a matter of choice..”
His point about using the Greek QSL Buro is not quite valid as when he had the call SV0XBA, he knew he would be returning to the UK and would not be living in Greece all the time.

My main comment was about a downloadable version of RadCom, somewhat like the ARRL now offers with QST. His answer covers a lot of stuff including things I had not thought of with a .pdf version such as advertising. I also commented that my input to the Strategy thing was not acknowledged. This was answered thus:
“..Every submission was seen by each board member but it was never the intention to reply to each contributor and I apologise if this was not made clear to you at the time. This does not mean that your points were ignored, however..”

The answer to the question about RadCom on the internet was:
“..The issue of an electronic version of RadCom continues to be something that is under active consideration – indeed we are discussing it again at a meeting tomorrow [30th Oct]. We are certainly watching closely the experience of the ARRL in this regard.
You can of course, read RadCom on-line at the moment albeit not yet in fully downloadable form. When we reach that position, the pricing structure of any online-only offering is something we will have to consider very carefully.
Unlike the ARRL we do not charge a premium for overseas members who receive their printed magazine. The ARRL has, however, provided an overseas membership which includes a CD copy of QST instead of the printed paper at the same rate enjoyed by domestic members. Their new electronic offering is, in fact, replacing the CD.
For the domestic customer in the US, the electronic version is an additional benefit, not a replacement for the paper copy.

There are 2 main issues:
The technical issue is not one of providing a fully downloadable version of RadCom, but providing it in a way that it cannot be “pirated” and forwarded. The technology for achieving this is still evolving and, at the moment, is expensive. Once we solve this problem, we will need to provide the electronic version to all members (like the ARRL does) and make it available on a number of platforms, such as tablets.
Advertising Revenue
The revenue obtained from the advertisements in RadCom represents 11% of the Society’s total income. At the moment, advertisers value highly the opportunity to appear in the printed magazine, and the indications are that this interest will not be sustained if we move to a digital offering. This attitude may change, but we need to proceed with caution..”

My last comment was about the publication date of December RadCom being received by Members before the EGM so that no EGM details or reports could be included.  His answer is as follows:
“..Publication Dates
In common with every publisher in the World we publish our magazines so that that most have received it as the month in question starts. Magazine publication dates are set several years in advance and cannot for practical reasons be varied greatly. To have delayed the December issue to accommodate the EGM result would have resulted in RadCom appearing well into the month for some members (particularly overseas members) and domestically would have also impacted on the January edition which is produced earlier than normal in December.

It is clear that, in the current age, RadCom is not the most effective vehicle for conveying news quickly, and we will be turning more and more to our website. In effect, therefore, all those with an interest in the outcome of the EGM will have been able to read about it online and we shall be providing a full report as soon as we can after 17th November..”

I cannot believe that all publishers agree publication dates years in advance. There was nothing to stop the December edition being published on or around the 21st of November so as to include a basic EGM report, even if this was a ‘flyer’ in the cellophane cover. The magazine would still have been with most Members by December 1st.

So there you have it. Some answers to my questions. I have to accept what the General Manager has said in good faith but I still feel that the basic issue of an electronic RadCom is being delayed purposefully. Those who wish to receive RadCom via the internet should be able to have it watermarked and sent to them direct by email, similarly to the way FISTS and others do with their magazines.


Dick. SV0XBN/9

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