Back in October I picked up a Baofeng UV-5R. It's an inexpensive HT (handie-talkie) transceiver that's both enjoyed and disparaged by the amateur radio community. Some dismiss it as "cheap Chinese crap" while others consider it a decent introductory radio, assuming a few modifications are made. Probably the first and most necessary accessory is a new antenna. The almost-worthless antenna that it comes with won't be worth more than a meat skewer for camping, so I procured a 15.6" Nagoya whip antenna. There are some other accessories you could get if you wanted, but this was enough to get me started.
What I didn't realize was that I live in a small, quiet area without much radio traffic going on. This caused the radio to sit in the closet until recently because I was only able to pick up the National Weather Service on 162.500 MHz. That's great, but I'd rather just check Accuweather more local weather happenings.
I don't remember what got into my head, but for some reason I dug the UV-5R out of the closet recently and, after reading about J-pole antennas, decided to try my hand at building one. The overall concept and construction is pretty simple. It's a J shape made out of 1/2" copper pipe soldered together and a 16g piece of solid copper wire strung between the J and soldered into a female SO-239 coax connector. There's 50 feet of coax there to get me wherever I need to go. That strings onto my radio with an SO-239 to SMA female connector. It feels kind of jerry rigged right now, but I think that's in the spirit of amateur radio.
If I toss the antenna up onto the porch room roof (which I can climb out to from the bedroom window), I can tell that I'm receiving many more frequencies than with the whip antenna. While most of it is still jarbled static, I can clearly get some police/ems frequencies. That's mostly boring, but it's still an improvement, so I'll take it for what it's worth. Here's what the setup looks like in action: