Tuesday, December 01, 2020

2020 - what's next?

 I suppose you've all heard this from other sources by now; but yesterday, November 30th was the last day for Universal Radio - a popular Amateur Radio store here in the USA. The owners, Fred and Barbara Osterman have decided to retire, The brick and mortar store closed with EOB yesterday, but I've read where Universal Radio will remain online for just a little while longer in order to sell whatever existing stock may be left. 

I've ordered from Universal Radio several times in my Ham Radio career. Never had a problem, they always provided quick service at a great price. They will be missed.

In the "One Door Closes, Another Door Opens" department, it was announced that "Radio Shack" had been bought by Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV). There are no plans for any physical neighborhood stores, such as the ones many of us grew up with. This will be an Internet enterprise exclusively. Plans are to make Radio Shack a seller of consumer electronics - phones, computers, etc. They probably won't delve into parts like the old Radio Shack, so it's probably still a good idea to look for your PL-259s elsewhere.

CQ WWDX CW was this past weekend, as you all know. I did not participate much except to turn on the radio and listen ...... mostly. It was good to hear 15 Meters open. When I tuned in, the band was open mainly to the Caribbean and South America. I did work HC2CRG in Ecuador with 5 Watts. Even though I've been in this hobby for 42 years now, it still amazes me that my RF can traverse from NJ to such far away places that I have never been to or seen.


On the flip side, I tried for close to an hour to work John K4BAI, who was operating as PJ4A in Bonaire. What a bittersweet experience! He was 20 over 9 here in NJ and I could just not make myself heard! Even when there was an ebb in his pileup, I would send my call only to get another CQ as a response. The W3EDP and the HF9V yielded the same result - nada.  I suppose if I turned on the KXPA100 and cranked it up to about 90 Watts, I could have worked him in a NY minute- but that just went against my QRP grain. I've worked Bonaire and Curacao many times before - it was never a case of it being an ATNO. I just wanted to give a friend another QSO for his total.

Being satisfied with having worked Ecuador, which was more distant, I turned off the radio before becoming too frustrated. That's part of the QRP game - learning when to hold 'em and knowing when to fold 'em.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

 Once again, here in the States United, it is Thanksgiving Day, a day set aside to do as the name implies - give thanks. It's been a crazy, insane year. If one wanted to, one could just concentrate on all of that and end up being quite discontent. That would just be a continuation of the insanity.


Instead, I choose to concentrate on the good stuff, the stuff I am most grateful for.

Family - my awesome wife Marianne, my wonderful kids Joseph and Cara. I have a fantastic sister, two rockin' brothers-in-law, a great sister-in-law, and a top notch nephew. There are more cousins than I can count and there are so many friends. Friends I see all the time and so many friends I have never seen face to face but still hold their friendship close to my heart. And of course, there are you dear readers, who I am so grateful for and also hold closely. Thank you for being here - and joining me in these Amateur Radio adventures.

We have a warm home, food to eat, cars to get us where we need to be. None of it is fancy or exorbitant by any stretch of the imagination, but we are quite fortunate to have what we have. Marianne and I are still both working - and even though our jobs often exceed our Daily Recommended Allowance for stress - we are thankful for them.

Our health is relatively good - we have the every day aches and pains of growing older, and that's okay.

In all, God has blessed us with so much and He has been more generous and gracious to me than I rightly deserve. Thank You, Lord ....... for everything!

So let me take this opportunity to wish all of you - no matter where you live on this blue marble that we call home a Very Happy Thanksgiving Day. May the Lord be with all of you always and continue to shower His blessings upon you.


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Windy!

Sunday night we had a cold front come through. We had a severe thunderstorm watch in effect until 8:45 PM but none materialized. We did get some, brief heavy rain. The major effect was gusty winds. It was windy all night and you could hear it howling past the second floor windows of our house. When I awoke in the morning, my weather station informed me that we had some gusts between 25 and 30 MPH.

Good test for new mast for the W3EDP.  It did not come down - the mast or the antenna.

BUT ......... there's always a "but", isn't there?

When I let Harold out of the house Monday morning to do what dogs do, I noticed the wire was lower than where I had left it Sunday afternoon. In anticipation of putting another mast section up next weekend, I did not attach the anchor end of the antenna rope to the fence on the opposite side of the lawn securely enough. Well, actually I did as the wire didn't come totally loose to the point of laying down on the ground. A hastily tied secondary knot intended to take up some anchor rope slack slipped and the wire is now drooping. In fact, the wind blew the wire downward onto the roof of the addition at the back of the house where it snagged on a shingle edge. Drat!

This happened once before when the antenna was up in Ol' Mapley and a limb snapped causing the wire to "free up" from a meandering route amongst twigs and branches a bit.  I will do what I did last time (quite successfully). I will use the Jackite as my extended hand and I will gently move the wire away from the shingle, up over a small vent pipe and back up into free space - all without my feet leaving good Ol' Mom Earth.

Did I ever mention how deathly phobic I am of ladders?  Great for being a Ham, huh?  I fell off the top of a 6 foot ladder back when I was in 2nd Grade. That experience left me avoiding ladders like the plague if at all possible. My palms get sweaty just thinking about them. I will climb one if it's absolutely necessary. It's not something that's near and dear to my heart, though.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Back in business!

 


The rain held off! The day started off sunny in the very early morning, but by lunchtime it had become very overcast. Fortunately there was no rain. It was a bit breezy, but that didn't interfere with getting the W3EDP resurrected.

I ended up using 5 mast sections and the apex is up at about 25 feet right now. I may add another section next weekend, which would bring the apex up to about 30 feet, I haven't definitely decided on that.

As you can see, the mast is secured to a chain link fence post. I don't want my neighbors (who are really super people) getting upset as the antenna is no longer really stealthy. So I'm going to go at this slowly for now.

After hooking the W3EDP back up to the KX3, it was like old times, The KX3 was still able to match it on all bands within seconds. It is very enjoyable and very reassuring to have my wire antenna back.

I was going to give it a re-inaugural workout in the Flying Pigs Run For The Bacon tonight, but I am sitting in front of the TV which is tuned to NASA TV.  The launch of the Falcon 9 space vehicle has my full attention.  Well almost _ I am writing this as I watch.

I did have a nice rag chew with WB9ICH on 30 Meters this afternoon. It was a "Larry to Larry" QSO, which is always neat. I guess those of you out there with more common names run into that a lot more than I do.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

This is all that left of Ol' Mapley

 


Just a stump of its former self.

From what I understand, the tree was infested with ants, carpenter and other kinds. The arborist said it was only a matter of time before the tree either died, or succumbed to a wind storm. You can see the HF9V coax in the photo. It was kind of like a "belt" around the trunk. Now I'll have to coil it up and hang it from the fence.

I did not get the chance to re-install the W3EDP due to some frustrating reasons that I'd rather not go into here. Suffice it to say, a good part of my day got eaten up by doing something I hate doing - waiting in line. When I got home, I had to run some garden fencing across the gap left by the missing trunk, so Harold, our Beagle, won't be able wander into the neighbor's yard. After that, I bagged seven bags of leaves in the front yard that fell during a two day rain storm, Thursday and Friday.

Tomorrow WAS supposed to be sunny, but now the forecast has changed to rain. Maybe, just maybe I can get something done with the W3EDP before the rain starts in the afternoon. We'll see. I did attach the bottom mast piece to one of the chain link fence posts with about a bajillion cable ties. I manhandled it to see if it would move or shift around. That bottom section is going NOWHERE.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, November 06, 2020

Fox hunting

 The 2020 - 2021 QRP Fox Hunt season began this week. Tuesday evening was the 40 Meter Hunt, and I was not able to hear either Fox. I'm not sure if it was because of bad propagation; or that my noise level on 40 Meters seemed to be through the roof, for some reason.

I fared much better last night during the 80 Meter Hunt. I worked Jim N0UR in Minnesota only 8 minutes into the game. Steve WX2S was another matter. Being only some 20 miles from me, one might think he'd be a cinch via groundwave, right? It ended up that I didn't work him until about the "twenty minute to go" mark, when he switched from split to simplex operating. It was only then that I was able to catch his attention - most likely because the other Hounds didn't notice the change and were still calling 1 kHz up.

In all, I was pleased with the performance of the HF9V on 80 Meters. I'm still waiting for my neighbor's cousin's tree service to come and take down Ol' Mapley.  What was that commercial from the 70s? "Any day now .... any day now." I think I'll be putting my W3EDP back up in the snow.

This weekend is the SKCC Weekend Sprint. I'll try and get on and work a few more as I make my way towards Tribune status. 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Election night 2020

 I guess just everybody around the globe knows that the US Presidential Election is today. I feel really strongly about this and want to share this - because I feel it's important.

No matter what happens today - no matter who wins this election - the sun will rise tomorrow, the earth will keep spinning. There's more to life than politics. Take time to smell the flowers, enjoy sunrises and sunsets, talk with friends, share time with family. Pet your dog or cat. Get on the radio! Live again ........ and the best part of all? NO MORE POLITICAL COMMERCIALS! (At least for now).

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, November 02, 2020

Going back to basics - and purer QRP operating.

 I noticed something Friday night during the Zombie Shuffle.

I decided to unhook the HF9V from the KXPA100 and connect it directly to the KX3. After all, it was a QRP event and anything over 5 Watts wasn't kosher - so what did I need the amp for? Signals were noticeably louder and again, there was noticeably less background  noise on 40 Meters. This, even though the KXPA100 was being totally bypassed.

I am not getting rid of the KXPA100 by any stretch of the imagination - so any of you who might be out there and are hot for one - don't start salivating. But I am going to take it out of line for the time being and will use it only if I need to work an ATNO DX entity or a special Special Event Station - where QRP just doesn't seem to be getting through. I mean, that's the only reason I got it, anyway. It's easy enough to put back in line in less than a minute, if need be. Just move both the computer cable back and antenna connections back to the amp - that's it ..... easy peasy.

Moving the USB cable from the back of the KXPA100 directly to the KX3, allows my logging program to still recognizes what frequency I am on.  Isn't that something? I guess I've gotten so lazy that I prefer the radio telling the computer what band and frequency I'm on rather than typing it in! LOL! And I remember the days when there was ONLY paper logging. How spoiled I've become!

I plan to purchase a DAIWA antenna switch so that I can still choose between the HF9V and the W3EDP (whenever I get THAT back up). I have an MFJ switch ..... but it leaves a lot to be desired. Strangely, it's the only MFJ product I've ever purchased that I was not satisfied with, 

Unfortunately, ANT1 and ANT2 function on the KX3 doesn't work without the amp, but that's a convenience I can learn to live without. I guess the extra relays and antenna jumper connections do make a difference, especially when you're dealing with receiving less than 20 over 9 signals. The purer the connection, the better.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP  - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Guest operator

I had a guest in the shack last night for the Zombie Shuffle


Bonesy and I had a good time last night. I had a bit of trepidation of having only the vertical as my antenna weapon of choice, but it turned out to be less of a hindrance than I thought. In all, I worked 11 stations, three of which were bonus stations. 

80 Meters turned out to be the money band. I had a few QSOs on 40 Meters, but most were accomplished on 80 Meters. I listened on 20 Meters for a few minutes, only to hear a few ESP signals. I quickly decided to not waste any time there. Where signals were good, QSB was BAD last night. Several signals that started out at close to 599 would disappear in seconds. It made for quite the challenging, but fun evening.

I had planned to stay on longer than I did, but around 8:30 PM local time, somebody in the neighborhood turned something "on" and my noise level rose to over S9. So I shut it down for the night and headed upstairs to catch a bit of TV before bed.

Not my best outing by any means, but as hideous as band conditions have been for the longest while, I was pleasantly surprised. Kudos and thanks to Paul NA5N and his wife Jan N0QT for another SPOOKtacular event - it was a ton of fun and is one of the hallmarks of the QRP year.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Zombie Shuffle is tonight!

 


And here are some updates from Paul, NA5N:

The 2020 23rd annual QRP Zombie Shuffle is almost upon us.

Friday, October 30, 2020, 1600-midnight your local time

Rules: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/ZOMBIE/pg.htm


The Zombie Shuffle past 3 years has been met with awful bands, solar flux  only 62-65 and Kp 3-4 noise.  Yuck.

GOOD NEWS

The sun is slowly waking up for our next solar cycle with some improvements seen on the bands.  Today, and tomorrow for the Shuffle, the solar flux will be 88 and the Kp index only 1-2 for hopefully better bands and propagation than the past few years.  So, get on the air.

BONUS STATIONS

Quite a few stations volunteered to be Bonus Stations, and a few were invited.  Thanks to all.  I tried to distribute the Bonus Stations in different areas across the country, including "out west," for better variety and to help improve your SPC count.  A bonus station will send "2020" for their Zombie number, which in itself is like bonus points, plus their bonus station multiplier.  Most Bonus stations will also send some goofy or scary name of their choice for an extra measure of Zombie fun.   Some of the names chosen are quite interesting and unique, so copy the OP name carefully.

Below is a list of the Bonus stations and the SPC to help you find them:

AR      WA5BDU

CA      KE1B

GA      K4BAI

IA      WØPWE

ID      KU7Y

ID      K7TQ

IN      AB9CA

MA      KE1L

MD      W3KC

NE      N5SEZ

NM      NA5N

NM      K8TE   (Note 1)

ONT     VE3MGY (Note 2)

PA      K3SWZ

PA      W3BQC  (Note 3)

TN      AC6ZM

TX      WB6BKL

WA      WU7H

WA      NB5M


Note 1: K8TE is the New Mexico ARRL Section Manager, who requested a Zombie number to participate.  He will be QRP.

Note 2: Last year's top scorer and official "MGY" (Titanic) station

Note 3: Club station, WA3WSJ OP, Boschveldt, PA QRP Club

If you've been QRT during the solar minimum, or a bit rusty or new to CW, the QRP Zombie Shuffle is for you.  Code speeds are modest around 18wpm, but Zombies will slow to your speed (QRS) if needed.  Very informal to make some QSOs regardless of your operating skills and to have some on-the-air fun.  Notice the scoring, the sum of all the Zombie numbers you work, is based more on serendipity than skill.

Hope to work many of you. Don't forget to snap a photo or selfie to submit.

72, Paul NA5N

Socorro, NM

Zombie name: "Kilroy" as in "Kilroy was here"

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilroy_was_here

Rig: Ten Tec Argo at 5W

Ant: 5BTV vertical, 36 radials, or 130 ft. long terminated folded dipole

Key: 1938 McElroy bug, weighted to 16 wpm.

Thanks for organizing this for yet another year, Paul! I hope to hear a lot of you on the air tonight as well. I am down to just the HF9V for the evening. Ol' Mapley is still not down, it's been quite the wet week here in Central New Jersey.

72 de Larry W2LJ - Zombie # 858

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Eureka!

 While cleaning out the shack on Sunday, I found some treasure buried in a corner. I had forgotten that I still have about eight of these (just like in the photo):

The photo is from eBay, mine were purchased at the Sussex Hamfest years ago.  I still have these safely tucked away in the basement and they will provide the solution to raising the W3EDP again, once the Ol' Mapley is gone.

I have aluminum ones holding up my weather station and the VHF-UHF J-Pole as well as serving as the mast for the FAR end of the W3EDP. I have no doubt that the remaining sections that I have will also do a great job supporting a wire that weighs next to nothing. I'll strap one to one of the chain link fence posts with a gazillion cable ties and that will in turn support its brethren and the W3EDP. 

Actually, this is not so much a support as much as it is a pivot point. The wire leaves the house, goes to the mid support (which is a dog bone insulator tied in place on one end with dacron rope - the wire goes through the other hole) and routes the wire to the right roughly about  70 - 80 degrees to the end support mast. I should only lose a few feet in height from where the W3EDP was at in the tree.

Money saved ....... a good thing!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

I am officially W3EDP-less.

 The W3EDP came down this morning. It was a little more difficult than I had thought it would be. It was really up there! Unless the entire tree came down that wire wasn't coning down on its own.

I began by undoing where the balun was hanging by the house. That was easy enough. Then I loosened the anchor point at the other end. Lastly, I untied the center support that was holding the wire in the tree. I thought once I loosened that, it would just fall to the earth. 

That didn't happen.

The dacron rope must be wrapped around some limb pretty well. It came down some, but not nearly enough. I ended up pulling the wire through that dogbone insulator that was up there and got it down that way. The center insulator and rope that are still up there are disposable as far as I'm concerned

Now I'm looking at masts to take  the place of the tree once it's down. Perhaps something from DX Engineering or perhaps the MFJ-1904. It doesn't have to be super heavy duty - it just needs to hold an insulator so I can "right angle" the wire to the other side of the back yard.

After that was done,  I straightened out the shack, which is something I've been meaning to do for a while.  I got rid of the large garbage bags of "crap", and got things organized and stowed away. 

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP = When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Saying goodbye to an old friend

 


It's time to say goodbye to the maple tree in the back yard - my trusty antenna support over the last 22 years. My neighbor came by today to tell me that his cousin, who has a tree service business will be by sometime this week to take it down.

Unfortunately, it's time. The trunk has carpenter ant damage and the tree is not the most healthy. The trunk is hollow in places and were we to get another Sandy type of storm, it would most definitely go horizontal. So tomorrow, the W3EDP will come down as well as the VHF/UHF J-pole, so that will not get damaged when the crane is moved into my neighbor's driveway.

Once the tree is down, some sort of mast will go up in that corner of the back yard to take place of Ol' Mapley.  For the foreseeable future, I will have only the Butternut HF9V and perhaps the AlexLoop for the time being.

Good bye, ol' friend - thanks for holding up my wire antennas!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

This is the stuff I dream of

 A good Amateur Radio friend, Marc W4MPS recently activated a POTA site. Here's a video he published:


Wow! What a beautiful setting! And beside the superb radio operating by Marc, how about that dronesmanship? Eh? Don't those aerial views just add to the beauty of it all?

I would love to travel out West and activate parks like this. Being able to take in the natural beauty of God's creation AND have fun on the radio at the same time - what could possibly be better than that!

This reminds me of another time and another place in a totally different circumstance. Marc helped the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club activate our local Spring Lake Park back in 2015 for Field Day. Marc was in New Jersey visiting his daughter and he stopped by to give our  CW effort some much needed assistance. The view was nowhere as spectacular and the weather left a lot to be desired.


You can see by the jackets and ponchos being worn that the weather was less than deluxe for that Field Day. Actually, after it was over, we all wondered how it was that none of us came down with pneumonia. It was chilly for late June, and very damp and wet. The funny thing was, that after Field Day weekend, that year we did not get another wet weekend until well into Autumn!

Thanks, Marc, for sharing your video. Make sure to take us along on any further adventures!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Making a comeback?

 The "Run for the Bacon" Sprints, a monthly event held on the 3rd Sunday of the month, and sponsored by the Flying Pigs Amateur Radio Club Inc, have been on the contest scene for years. But like a lot of things over the years, participation has dwindled.

In an effort to correct that course, the Sprint time has changed to a little bit earlier start as a means to increase participation. For example, on the East Coast, the old time was from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM local time. For someone who has to get up early to go to work the next day, that's a big hurdle.

The time has been changed - to a start a couple hours earlier. In my case, it's now from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, much more appealing. In fact, the RFTB is occurring tonight and I just may jump into the fray. It's getting darker earlier so contacts on 80 Meters should be a real possibility.

For the details, please visit - http://qrpcontest.com/pigrun/

Hope to hear you on the air tonight!

73 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!