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WHY WAS MY SCORE REDUCED? -or- 50 WAYS TO MISCOPY A CALL! Remember the 'leopard in the dark' I mentioned last month? Let's discuss big cats for a moment. Of all the big cats, the leopard is the most dangerous of all. Joy Adamson, of 'Born Free' fame, reports in her writings that lions and cheetahs can be all but implicitly trusted under the proper circumstances. A leopard, on the other hand, can never be trusted. You must be constantly on your guard when working with leopards, as they can turn on you without warning and for no apparent reason. Even more dangerous is a leopard in the dark. Leopards have been known to go into a darkened room, kill a person, drag them out of the room, drag them out of the room, and never be noticed by other occupants of the room. Miscopied calls are like leopards in the dark--you never know where they might be or when they will 'get you'. You have to watch for them vigilant- ly! With the new 'work RVHFG members for Rochester Cup credit' rule, I had more of a chance to examine people's logs than any other contest chairman before me. And I was appalled by what I found! After you operate VHF contests for a while, you find that a certain group of people can be expected to be on the air in any given contest. After a few contests, you begin to remember these calls. Furthermore, if you use the W2HPF logging program, you will see these calls come up time and time again if you use the database feature. Many of these calls belong to hams we have contact with on a regular basis. And, yet, corruptions of these very calls appear in our contest logs. (I say 'our' because I have been 'taken' by miscopied calls, too!) Contests can be long and boring and tiring. Or, they can be very fast and exciting when an opening happens our way. Each of these conditions produces different types of logging errors. A lot of these won't be caught until you filter through your log ler through your log later, but you can take steps to see to it they don't happen to begin with. Here are a few of these: 1.) Use phonetics with your call. When you are tired, or in a hurry, or trying to pick a weak call out of the noise, it is easy to confuse one letter with another. There are a few local calls that are especially prone to this problem, as they are made up of letters that sound like other letters. A good example of this is the call of Pete Fournia, WA2BPQ. I saw a number of versions of this call in people's logs, such as WA2VBQ. This is a real easy error to make, and is preventable by using phonetics. And, when using phonetics, make sure you are using standard phonetics. The use of other phonetics may be easier to pronounce, or sound 'cute', but doesn't facilitate communications. Nearly everyone will recognize the standard phonetics, but may be confused by the nonstandard phonetics. Using my own call as an example, I have heard many operators give it as November Sugar Nine Echo in multiop efforts. This rolls off the tongue nicely, but the cor- rect and recognized phonetics would be November Sierra Nine Echo. 2.) If you use paper logs, take extra care to make your log legible. It is really easy . It is really easy to write some letters in such a way that they are easily confused with other letters. For me person- ally, I have problems with D's and O's, and U's and V's. I have adopted a way of drawing D's and V's that leaves no doubt as to which is which. For you, it may be other letters. such as N's and W's. Computer logging fixes this problem! 3.) Use scratch paper. As you hear a station, write the call (and grid) down on a sheet of paper. Use a different sheet for each band if you can. Do this even if you computer log. I have saved many a broken Q by finding missing information on the scratch paper. I have also resolved many illegible calls by comparing the scratch paper with the log! 4.) Use a dupe sheet. This can be in addition to or in place of scratch paper. You may discover copying errors even before you end the QSO this way. Now, the contest is finally over. A few days have gone by, and you are finally sitting down to submit your log. A lot of people just make a quick count of their Q's and grids, fill out the summary sheet out, and submit their entry. This is not the way to go! Take some time to go over your log CAREFULLY! It is also a good idea to transcribe a paper log transcribe a paper log onto new forms, or process it with a post-contest computer log processor. DON'T send in your chick- en-scratch originals. DON'T just make photocopies of your logs. This can make an barely readable log even more unreadable. In any case, KEEP YOUR ORIGINAL LOG! Computer users are advised to backup their original log files before they do any post-contest processing. Let's look at some of the things you can look for when examining your log: 1.) Double-check the counts. It is really easy to be off by one or two Q's when counting Q's on several pages of sloppy logs. Make sure you have thoroughly duped your log before counting. Double-check the grid squares worked for proper count and avoid- ance of duplicate claimed grids. This can be challenging with the proliferation of rovers these days. 2.) Dupe-check your log. The importance of this cannot be emphasized enough. It only takes a 2% score adjustment to get your log disqualified. Unmarked dupes will get you there faster than anything else, as they can be detected without reference to other logs. This is another good reason to go with computer logging! 3.) Recognize and fix the most common mental errors made in copying. Here is a list of the more frequently encountered er- rors: A.) WRONG CALL. Most easily recognized by being associated with a grid that doesn't make sense. This error is often found with a second wrong call just after the first (You filp-flopped two calls), or a call you know you worked but can't find in the log. Both of these errors occur most often when you work several stations in quick succession and then write them down. The scratch paper can help out a lot here. B.) WRONG GRID. This has the same causes as 'wrong call' above, but are often harder to resolve. This is where comparison with other bands helps, or using a database or last years' log to discern what grid is really the correct one. C.) WRONG PREFIX. This is really easy to do. Again, an error likely to 'catch' you when you are busy. You write down the cor- rect call suffix, but you get the wrong prefix. A good example of this might be KA2ZNC vs WA2ZNC. This is where memory of common calls, a database, last years' log or even a copy of the RARA directory can come in handy. If a call 'just doesn't sound right', take a moment and check it out. Another thing I sometimes noticed was the wrong-prefix call followed a few Q's later by the correct call, and credit taken for both! Just for grins, I cross-checked a couple of these, and found the other station just had the first station logged once. So, this was a double error: The first operator miscopied the call and called it a new Q, and the second operator didn't catch the dupe! D.) WRONG CALL AREA. This is similar to the 'wrong prefix error' above, but the call area is incorrectly copied. This can be impossible to catch, unless you recognize the rest of the call and the grid, or you worked the same station on another band. The 'search partial' feature or Jeff's software can help you find these. Just as with the wrong prefix error, I often found the wrong and right version of the same call, within a few Q's of each other, worked for credit on the same band! E.) DYSLEXIC TRANSPOSITION. This is a real easy mental error to make, and often you cannot catch yourself making this kind of error because it is the result of a 'bad circuit' in your brain! This is the kind of error I make most frequently! A good example of this kind of error would be N2KSX vs N2KXS. The S and the X got reversed, and you didn't even realize it! (To make it even more confusing, there was a N2KSX on along with N2KXS, but the former station was in Buffalo (FN03) and worked by just two stations. The other station was in FN12 and worked by most every- one!) You find this error by carefully checking each call. The 'search partial' feature in the W2HPF software helps here, too. F.) TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR. I saw a few botched calls in comput- er log listings that at first didn't make a lot of sense until I looked at my computer keyboard while analyzing these logs. The wrong letter was invariably located on the keyboard next to the correct one. The best one of these, seen in more than one log, was N2IXW, instead of N2IZW. In almost every case of this ob- served, it was a case of not quite reaching the correct key, and the key actually struck was closer to the center of the keyboard. With computer logging, the best way to avoid this is develop the discipline of reading the call before pressing 'enter'! G.) MISCOPIED CALL. This is the one class of error that is not easily detected, nor is it generally fixable. You simply miscopied the call, and correctly entered the wrong call in your log. The excitement of working a rare grid, or digging one out of the noise, can cause this one. This is where we need to develop discipline as operators. Make the effort to get the call and the report right. Just don't THINK that was FN23, KNOW that it was FN23 the other operator was sending. The only way to get good at this is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Pass some traffic. Be a net control operator for a local net. Work some low-band con- tests. (I have noticed that some of the newer control ops on the Monroe County FM net will miscopy call after call. As time goes by, they will improve at this.) One particularly amusing incident of this type that I saw was a log with N2WK/R, FN13 listed. Wayne assures me he did not operate mobile at any time in the contest! I discussed this with the operator who listed it, and we deter- mined that the call listed should have been N2WVK/R! The last thing I want to mention is that as we get older, our mental facilities tend to weaken. (This is an objective observa- tion, and is not aimed at any particular individual(s)!) I no- ticed that the number of errors tended to increase with the age of the operator. Weak signal operating apparently puts quite a demand on the 'grey matter DSP' in our heads, and could prove to be a good way of measuring mental function! (Yet another way hams can carryprove to be a good way of measuring mental function! (Yet another way hams can carry out basic research!) In any case, as you get older, be more on the alert for these sorts of things. If you know the 'leopard' is coming, prepare to meet him. If you are older and catch a number of these errors, spend a little more time while operating to make sure you got it right the first time. The aging of our minds as we get older can be compensated for by our expe- rience as operators, IF we know what to watch for. Therefore, our older operators can be our BEST operators, and it behooves us 'young pups' to listen carefully when they offer advice! I am sure you can think of other ways log errors can creep into your log. This is by no means complete! But, I would like to see each and every VHFer who reads this publication take the time to make sure his or her log is really 'ready to submit' when the finally submit it! No one likes having their score reduced, or worse yet, being disqualified. Score reductions and disqualifica- tions can become a thing of the past if we will all take the time to CHECK OVER OUR LOGS! Next month, the topic will be 'the mindset of the contester'. We will look at the psychological and strategic aspects of preparing to contest. But, in the meantime, remember that THE MOST Imber that THE MOST IMPOR- TANT PART OF YOUR STATION IS YOU!