General License Exam

As I said in a previous post, I got my Technician License to fly drones (quadcopters) and didn’t really learn much in the process, I just memorized the answers. But once I decided to get a General License I decided I really wanted to learn something.

I started with the ARRL General Class License Manual and read it cover-to-cover. While doing that I attended the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo where I met Michael Burnette, AF7KB in a chat room who wrote The Fastrack to Your General Class Ham Radio License and he recommended his book to me which I immediately bought on Audible!

Yes! A technical book in audio book format! Michael is a great author and a great narrator. The audio book is fantastic and I highly recommend it to hams that listen to audio books. I was able to listen to it at 2 times speed to speed up the process, it takes more concentration to follow at that speed, but I think I actually learned more because I had to concentrate to follow him. I also bought the Kindle version of the book so I could see the figures, photos, and illustrations as they were being described in the audiobook. I ended up also reading the Kindle version cover-to-cover.

I also bought the Patrick Maloney LLC Ham Study app for iOS and used that to take many practice tests.

Between the practice tests in the Ham Study app and on the Fast Track to Your Ham Radio License website I got my average score up to 80% or so and completed around 20 tests without failing (I failed plenty before I got to that point.)

I used the Find an Amateur Radio License Exam Session search to find a local test in my area, right now there are many “in-person” testing sites listed that are not actually open, but I found one about 45 minutes from my house in Dallas Georgia hosted by the Silver Comet Amateur Radio Society.

We tested on Tuesday night in a picnic pavilion at the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. It was a great location, with COVID I really like that we did the testing outside. John, W4TXA, the president of the society and his team, did a great job of overseeing the testing and kept everything on track.

I passed the General Exam and then took a shot at the Extra Exam which I did not pass, but that’s OK, I am very excited to now be able to talk on the HF bands.

Ham Radio

In 2015 I earned my technician ham radio license so that I could legally fly my drones via a First-Person View (FPV) camera that used the ham radio bands to transmit. I bought a study aid for my iPhone and spent a week or two doing practice tests until I was passing them pretty easy. I didn’t read any books, go to a class, or even talk to anyone else about it at the time.

I took the test locally and passed. I spent a couple of years drone racing and goofing off in parks and a couple of flying fields, but I spent a lot more time fixing than I did flying, so I don’t really fly anymore. I bought a Baofeng UV-5R and upgraded its antenna, but did not make any contacts with it, so it just sat on a bookshelf collecting dust.

Now, 5 years later, I have decided I want to really dive into ham radio, get my general license and maybe even an extra license. But this time I am actually going to learn something!

I have bought the ARRL General Class License Manual, the Ham Test Prep: General appThe Fast Track to Your General Class Ham Radio License audio and Kindle books, joined ARRL, and am listening to a lot of podcasts and watching a lot of YouTube videos. More importantly I am taking my time and digesting the information and learning more than just the test answers.

It has been a lot of fun so far, there is so much to learn and it brings together a lot of geeky things that I really like. I am spending a lot of time on local VHF repeaters listening to advice and rag chewing, I have even taken part in a handful of local Nets where ham radio clubs meet to check-in and discuss various topics.

My plan is to take the General test in late September or early October, I won’t have the money to buy an HF radio and antenna until then, so no need to rush.

Sleeving Gaming Cards

I have recently gotten deep into card games, not collectable card games like Magic the Gathering, although I have done that in the past, but games like Legendary and Munchkin, and Dresden Files where there are a lot of cards, a lot of shuffling, and generally the potential for rough handling.

With my Legendary game there are a handful of cards that get used at the beginning of every game, so they see a lot more use than any other cards in the game. After just 5 solo games I could already see those cards taking a beating and showing signs of wear. A big part of the fun of these card games is not knowing what card is coming up next, so having cards that stand out is not a good thing.

With some of my existing games I have used the Ultra Pro Deck Protector Sleeves, they work well. They provide plenty of protection, shuffle well, and handling is ok. They are a bit too slippery for my taste and are quite a bit larger than the card which contributes to a large stack of cards not staying stacked very well. Also, they get expensive when you want to protect thousands of cards. Ultra Pro also has more expensive sleeves that address the slipperiness issue, but the price is well out of the range I would spend for anything other than the most valuable of cards.

Then there are “penny” sleeves. I have never tried these, after reading a lot of reviews I decided that they weren’t worth the trouble.

My research brought me to Board Game Geek (BGG) and the Card Sleeve Sizes for Games post. Wow, so much information to digest. After reading many, many, comments there I decided on KMC Perfect Fit Sleeves.

For my Legendary Marvel collection, I needed around 5,000 sleeves. I ordered the KMC Perfect Fit Sleeves from Amazon and they arrived in a couple of days. A $120 just for sleeves, are you kidding me? I could have bought 5 expansion sets with that money! (Ultra Pro Matte Sleeves would have cost over $250.)

I love these sleeves so much. The cards slide into them easily, they fit perfectly with very little extra space, have just the right amount of slipperiness for shuffling and stickiness for large stacks to stay together, they are very clear and when a card is sitting on a table it is hard to tell it even has a sleeve on it.

As an added bonus, for cards that are super valuable or will be used by someone who is abusive with their cards you can use the KMC Perfect Fit Sleeves as inner sleeves and Ultra Pro sleeves as outer sleeves to double protect your cards.

If you have decided to sleeve your cards I highly recommend KMC Perfect Fit Sleeves.

Legendary Leagues

I have really gotten into Upper Deck’s Legendary Marvel card game, as previous posts have shown, and a big part of that are the challenges provided by Legendary Leagues.

Here is the description from their website:
“The Legendary League Series are unofficial leagues for competitive solo play of Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game and Legendary: Villains. It was started on BoardGameGeek.com with the Marvel Legendary base set by Jesse Olivier in 2013, DarthEd has run the hero league since season 2, and Travelsized has run the leagues that feature the Villains sets as well as the Starter Leagues. In each league, individuals will be competing against each other in solo play in multiple scoring categories in order to see who is the most Legendary!”

What I get from Legendary Leagues is new challenges every month to play solo but with other people playing the same challenge. Then we discuss the challenges on the Board Gaming Geek forums. In one of my early games I mis-understood the rules of one of the cards and the guys in the forums were great in explaining the correct way to play. Overall the people on BGG are great, but the folks in the Legendary League forums are fantastic and always there to help.

I have yet to come out in first place in one of the challenges, but I recently came in 5th out of 20+ which made me very happy as I tend to choose heroes based on how much I like the character instead of based on optimizing my chance to win.