Radio SIM Syndrome and a Huge Hole in the Sky

“It’s addictive”, he said.

Sim Syndrome

Back in my younger days, when I played video games a whole lot more there was a very popular PC game called The SIMS. It’s still around, in some form, or many forms as there were a lot of add-on packs you could get.

The point of this game on the surface, was to play a simulated person, including eating, sleeping, dressing, going to work, practicing social skills, making and entertaining friends, feeding pets and practically every aspect of real life.

But I quickly figured out that the actual goal was for this game to completely dominate your real life with the game to the point that you became a junkie, spending all your time at the computer trying to keep up with all of the needs of your Sim’s virtual life.

You would obsess over the game, buy every game pack and upgrade, and hardly find time to eat or sleep in your real life or go to work,

It was ingenious, druglike, and practically malevolent.

Once I figured out the REAL goal of the game was not actually for you to have fun and relax, but for you to spend all your time and money working, running on a hamster wheel for the game company and getting nothing of real value, I was OUT of there like a shot.

Radio Addiction

Some days, Ham Radio can be almost that addicting and I have to remind myself to stop and eat, feed the cat, and do the laundry.

The big difference however, with radio, is that there are real people at the other end of the QSO, and they are much more interesting to interact with than simulated characters with needlessly detailed and laborious lives.

This explains why I spent about 6 hours on the radio today!

In that time I made 39 contacts (Number 40 got away, unfortunately!)

Every time I was tempted to get up and go make dinner, fetch the mail, or do something else, just one more station from a state I rarely would pop up for me to chase. It’s SIM syndrome all over again– but substantially more satisfying.

The QSL cards and emails and awards leave me with meaningful memories of people I encountered, discovery of the places they live and the hobbies they enjoy, the professions they have followed and their adorable pets.

Not to mention the observations of the atmosphere and propagation in various circumstances and extremely interesting to a science lover.

No video game can ever have enough detail to provide that kind of satisfaction.

Ida, Sucking all the Electrical Potential Out of The Western Sky

The last two days working radio has been interesting in another way.

As Hurricane Ida pummeled Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to differing degrees, I expected to see no signal propagation into those states at all.

But quite the opposite happened.

For two days on 20m there has been a strange hole in the sky on the whole western side of the United States where hardly a signal has touched down, at least from me.

Normally California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and even Arizona all propagate, at least sporadically. I usually hear those states fairly well, and they can hear me too.

But the last two days there has been silence, hours of it, from the western skies on 20m.

All the signals I can hear, and the stations that can hear me are now east of the center of the country.

August 30, 2021 – 20m Propagation map – Look at the huge hole in my incoming and outgoing radio signal propagation on the western half of the US!
August 31, 2021 – Second day of almost no propagation on the entire western half of the country on 20m band. I can’t hear any signals out of those states either!
A little later on the second day of the western radio propagation black hole – I turned the radar overlay on. You can see where the remnants of Ida are sitting, right in the middle of the area of the country with good propagation.

I don’t know what causes this specifically, but I suspect that it’s Ida, changing the propagation over huge areas, and hundreds of miles further than it’s winds and rain’s destructive influence.

It’s as if the storm gathered up all of the electrical potential from the atmosphere and sucked it all towards itself, leaving the west with none.

Electricity has a magnetic quality about it and attracts itself– or maybe it’s some other phenomenon I don’t know anything about.

It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve seen, and completely the reverse of what I expected to happen.