Run, Bella, run!

K4WBF carton QSL by N2ESTCraig, K4WBF, likes to mix up his QSLs a little, changing them up periodically. He also loves his Italian greyhound Bella, who he says is his official DX spotter.

I wanted to do something different from earlier cards. A previous, excellent QSL by Jeff, K1NSS, showed Bella at the operating position, literally spotting DX like a running rabbit on the rig’s digital read-out. Funny stuff.

Me, I had a more direct connection with greyhounds: I used to keep them and even lure-course them. (That’s running a greyhound in a broken pattern, much the way a real rabbit would run, in an open field.) A sight hound running is truly a thing of beauty, so that’s what I wanted to illustrate on K4WBF’s QSL. That, and headphones on a greyhound, of course.

If you’re interested in having your own custom QSL, drop me a line at N2EST@hamtoons.net. If you’re interested in adopting a retired racing greyhound — the full-size version of Bella, an Italian greyhound — visit this website.

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Now Roasting 3 Pigs

NR3P cartoon QSL by N2ESTHave funny phonetics for your call sign? Paul, NR3P, does. He goes by “Now Roasting 3 Pigs” on the air and wanted it visualized on his QSL.

His idea was to have three Angry Birds-style porkers on a spit, being rotated over simmering vacuum tubes. It’s the kind of image we cartoonists love to draw. I was only too happy to oblige.

One part of his QSL commission puzzled me, though: Paul wanted an alligator dressed to the nines doing the cooking.

So I asked him: Why a gator?

Paul explained that because hams benefit from propagation, he wanted the cooking done by a “proper gator.”

I’ll let you supply the rimshot.

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Meet Hamlet

Hamlet ham radio comic strip for Jan. 2017Meet Hamlet. He’s a small ham.

I’ve long wanted to create a ham-radio comic strip but for years couldn’t find a hook. After all, there’s nothing intrinsically funny about electronics. Electronics do what they do.

But people? That’s another story.

Over the years I’ve found some of the funniest stuff in the culture of ham-radio clubs. Why? People run them — and people are funny.

I’ve been carrying the Hamlet character around in my back pocket for the last few decades. Originally created for a radio textbook that I ended up not being able to illustrate because of scheduling problems, Hamlet has been waiting for the right outlet. I hope this strip is it.

If you like what you see — if it makes you laugh because it looks like your club — drop me a line and let me know. There are more where this came from.

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Radio at the Rainbow Bridge

N7AGF cartoon QSL by N2ESTAlex, N7AGF, had recently moved to La Conner, Washington, and wanted a QSL that reflected the mountains around him. I took it one better and made the Rainbow Bridge — a reddish-orange arch that crosses Swinomish Channel — the card’s centerpiece. Alex’s call sign arches to match the bridge below it.

This QSL is one of relatively few cards where I played it straight and kept it less cartoony. The one reference to radio is near the bottom edge (hint: look for the boat with the antenna).

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Little Ralphie was a ham

 

 “A Christmas Story” — the holiday classic movie about little Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun — is shown non-stop on TV this time of year. Did you know Ralphie eventually became an amateur-radio operator?

It’s true: the late Jean Shepherd, the author and voice behind the movie, became a ham in his teens and stayed licensed throughout his life. He was a fixture on New York broadcast radio, and his semi-autobiographical essays, published mostly in Playboy magazine, became the basis for the much-loved movie.

Shepherd was a hardcore CW operator, so much so that the American Radio Relay League had him introduce this code-practice tape circa 1980, produced several years before “A Christmas Story” premiered in theaters in 1983. You can hear it above. Enjoy  — and Merry Christmas!

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Blue Ridge: mountains, trains and trout

KW4ZQ cartoon QSL by N2ESTI put Hamtoons on hiatus a few months ago to take a full-time job editing a newspaper in the north Georgia mountains. Sadly, the job didn’t work out — that’s why Hamtoons is back — but the move from Atlanta did. The people here are wonderful, the scenery is beautiful, the air is clean and the traffic is almost non-existent. I seldom miss Atlanta these days.

I eventually started attending meetings of the Fannin County Amateur Radio Group in Blue Ridge, Ga., a start-up club devoted primarily to emergency communications. That’s where I met Chuck, KW4ZQ, a new ham who went straight for his Extra and got it in one test session.

Chuck wanted a QSL that reflected everything good about Fannin County, which has turned into a major tourist destination over the last few decades. That meant the card had to have mountains, lots of mountains. The area also is known for its fishing — Fannin County bills itself as the Trout Capital of Georgia — and the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which carries visitors from downtown Blue Ridge to nearby McCaysville, where I live. Chuck sketched out his idea, and with a few tweaks I managed to incorporate all three elements into his QSL card.

Blue Ridge and Fannin County are great places live or vacation. Feel free to visit us — or, at the very least, give KW4ZQ a shout if you hear him on the air. I’m sure he’ll be glad to send you a QSL.

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How fast is your CW?

N2EST cartoon for Gordon West Extra class study guideHere’s another cartoon I drew for Gordon West’s latest Extra-class license guide, shared for the CW enthusiasts among us.

Maybe 10 percent of my QSOs are CW these days (the rest are PSK31), and I can cruise along at up to 20 wpm as long as copy is good and I don’t have to write everything down. (Tip: You can speed up your CW if you read more in your head and learn to listen as if it were just another person talking.)

I thought I was fast — and compared to a lot of licensees, I suppose I am — but realized just how slow I really was when I worked Field Day with the CW old timers at the Alford Memorial Radio Club. Those guys copy 35-wpm-plus like it was nothing. I tried to help log and was left in the dust every time.

My goal for next year: Work enough CW that I can keep up with the Old Timers. What’s yours?

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BAM!

WA7BAM ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTBruce, WA7BAM, wanted a cartoon QSL, and the approach was obvious: Emphasize the suffix, which looked like something out of the old Batman TV show. (They’re actually his initials.)

This was an easy one. I’d hand-lettered comic books for about a decade for publishers including Marvel, Dark Horse, and others, so I knew the look. The font I used for “BAM!” was drawn in the style of the original “Mad” logo from the 1950s before “Mad” became a magazine. Bruce’s name and QTH info are also hand-lettered.

At this point in my life, it’s almost impossible for me to write in anything but those block-style letters seen in comic-book word balloons. It’s good to know that all those years of nuns rapping my knuckles to improve my handwriting did some good.

Chasing waterfalls

Gordon West illustration 05Here’s yet another cartoon I drew for Gordon West’s latest Extra-class license guide. This one with a bare-bones PSK31 set-up is near to my heart, because that’s basically my station. My shack is in the living room, where PSK31 and other digital modes are perfect because they make no noise. My XYL Gail, N2ART, can watch TV while I’m on the air.

When I returned to the air a few years ago, I took the budget route: a used Icom IC-718 transceiver paired with a new SignaLink USB interface and a ground-mounted Hustler 6BTV vertical antenna. The monitor in the cartoon is actually nicer than what I really use, an old Windows laptop headed for the junk heap because the keyboard and mousepad had given out. All I had to spend was $10 for a cheap USB keyboard and mouse. With a particle-board platform to support the laptop above the rig, I was in business. Total cost, including coax and a few other doodads, was well less than $1,000. (My actual station is pictured here.)

While this set-up won’t dominate any pile-ups, I still have fun with it, talking all over the country and all over the world. Who says ham radio has to be obscenely expensive? Not me.

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