When was the last time that you did something, immediately took a step back and thought, "I can't believe I just did that"? If you're like me, those things are pretty regular occurrences. Sometimes it seems like they happen daily. But every now and then I make a blunder that's just way beyond stupid.
I made that kind of mistake during the CQ WW CW contest last weekend.
Prior to the contest, I did what every good contester should do, I made sure that N1MM logger was up to date, I downloaded the latest country files, made sure that the key assignments were correct and worked properly. Made sure that I knew how to switch back and forth between radios if I wanted to swap mid-contest. Made sure they communicated. I did all the things you were supposed to do.
Then I went one step further.
I decided to check how I did in the last CQ WW CW contest. To do that, I had to open a database that resided on a flash drive. OK, check. Took a brief look and made a mental note of the goal I had to shoot for. I was ready.
And so, a couple of days later, the contest began. It was going oh so nicely, I felt loud, even with my 100 watts. I was searching and pouncing...but something didn't seem quite right. N1MM seemed a little slow sometimes. But I pushed on.
Around 200 QSO's later the keyboard had become almost unresponsive. When I hit F4 it might send my call, it might not. When I hit the reply message, it might go, it might not. What could be going on? RF? Not likely. It wasn't doing this when I started. Could it be the WinKeyer acting up? Maybe. So I unplugged and replugged the keyer...no change. I stopped everything, shut down N1MM, restarted...same behavior.
I recalled that I added more memory to my computer a couple of weeks before, could that be it? I really didn't believe so, everything had worked great since. So I shut down N1MM again and did a total reboot. This was getting frustrating. Not to mention that I'd botched some QSO's by not being able to answer people...my paddle didn't even respond.
When the computer came back up there was no change. Getting angry, I started to focus on the keyer. I pulled the USB cable from the back of the computer and started to move it to a front port. I yanked the USB flash drive out and plugged the keyer in. As I raised up, I hit my head on the bottom of the keyboard tray. Now, I was really mad. Without even looking at the screen, I turned the knob on the rig and found a station to call...nothing. No response. I glanced at the screen and my jaw dropped. N1MM had performed an illegal operation and had to shut down. I'll be darned, it HAD to be that upgrade that I did to N1MM, I was thinking.
I restarted N1MM and that's when my eyes just about popped out of my head. No contest. No log. Nothing. Frantically I opened the database...still no log. I was in a panic. I tried recreating the contest, but it started over. Oh NO!
What now? I couldn't possibly continue like that, I'd be forever calling people that I'd already worked, and pissing folks off left and right. I messed with it for another half hour, getting madder and madder. Finally I gave up and walked away. I went upstairs, slumped down on the coach and told my wife what happened. She didn't understand but at least she was sympathetic. I declared the contest to be over and asked her what she wanted to do. She looked at me and told me to relax and then go look at things again when I was thinking more clearly.
I took her advice. After I'd cooled down, I walked back downstairs to the shack and started poking around again. I tried a few things and had no luck. I was just about to shut everything off when I had a religious moment.
The USB key! I quickly checked the flash drive and opened the database that I'd looked at a couple of days earlier when I'd checked last year's score. I couldn't believe it. There was the contest log!! I'd inadvertently created the new contest in the database that was on the USB drive. When I'd yanked it, I caused N1MM to crash.
Don't let this happen to you.
At any rate, that snafu sort of took the life out of the contest for me, but I operated a few more hours and a little bit on Saturday and Sunday.
I ended up working 4 new countries for me and as of today, all had replied over LOTW so I'm really happy about that. And I'm glad that I listened to my wife and took a step back to cool down. But, it was such a stupid mistake that it sort of sucked the life out of the contest for me. I wasn't really into it after that. Hopefully I've learned an important lesson.