Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Birthday, USA!




We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

Happy Independence Day!


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

Thursday, July 03, 2014

QRP Club Forum

I don't know why, but I've never been a big fan of checking out Amateur Radio forums. Whether it's the forums on eHam or QRZ, for some reason, I never got "into it". I always preferred perusing and reading the various QRP e-mail reflectors.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail invitation from Nicola IZ5ZCO, to check out his QRP Club Forum.  When I got there, I liked what I saw.  The atmosphere is friendly and international - an international society of QRPers, as it were.  But .... like all forums, I guess it could use more activity. You should check it out - you might like it!  Here's the URL: http://www.qrpclub.org/qrp

I just posted something about the EARCHI antenna that we used this weekend, as it's always good to share.


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

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

OK ..... Wait ...... What?

Wow! It was hot here today! It got up into the upper 90s (36C) today and I was loving it! Well, maybe not "loving" it, but I wasn't hating it or wishing it away. I was in my element as I went out to the Jeep and proceeded to try a little QRP.

I wasn't hearing too much on 15 Meters and everyone on 17 Meters seemed to be involved in a ragchew, so I proceeded down to the good ol' standby - the 20 Meter QRP Watering Hole.  It was there that I heard a station calling CQ rather slowly.  I set the KX3's keyer for about 13 WPM and waited for him to sign.  I am guessing that this person is a relatively new Ham because of the slower code speed and because he had a 2X3 callsign and the prefix was KK. I think in the #2 call district we're still at KD as a newly issued prefix.

I sent his call twice followed by mine, three times.  He had a decent 579 signal, and he gave me a 549.  OK, not the strongest, but in my book, a 549 signal is decent enough to have a ragchew with.  After the preliminaries, I thought we were going to get into the heart of a nice chat. That's when I got, "BANDS SEEM TO BE UNSTABLE. YOU ARE UP AND DOWN. 73 DE KKXXXX". Just like that, he was gone.

OK .... wait a second ..... what just happened?


It seems to me that one of the attributes of short wave communications is QSB, i.e. fading.  It's a rare conversation where it doesn't occur, even mildly. It's something you learn to adapt to and overcome in all but the severest cases, as you build up your skills. I feel bad for this guy, because if you're going to limit yourself to only 599 signals, you're going to miss out on a lot of fun. And you're not going to develop yourself as an experienced operator, either.

The antennas are unplugged tonight. As a result of the hot weather and a cool (not cold) front moving through, we are getting some hellacious thunderstorms.  No hail, but the downpours have been heavy and even though the rains have stopped for now, it's still lightning. A lot.

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Field Day 2014 - Wow!

That's all I can say - wow!  A magnificent time was had at the first Field Day for the South Plainfield Radio Club.  I posted the following to QRP-L, and I'll insert some other thoughts at the end.

The South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club operated Field Day in Spring Lake Park in South Plainfield, NJ. We used Club call NJ2SP, and ran as 2A (Battery). The "2A" were two Elecraft KX3s. The CW station ran to a EARCHI antenna (53 foot radiator, 9:1 UNUN, 25 foot length of coax). The elevated end of the EARCHI was about 30-35 foot up in a tree. The SSB station used a G5RV, about the same height between two trees.

Our operating position behind our club banner. 
And if you look closely (click on the picture for a bigger image) you can see the EARCHI antenna sloping upward and away towards the tree it was anchored in.

The EARCHI antenna was a resounding success. The KX3's internal tuner handled it exceedingly well on all bands. We made just a tad over 270 CW QSOs, with our best DX being Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

Dave W2OIL and Marv K2VHW working on deploying G5RV feedline.

The G5RV worked exceeding well, also. The KX3 again tuned without a hiccup. The SSB team completed just over 100 SSB QSOs - these guys are all QRO ops and they were skeptical about completing even a single QRP SSB QSO. They ended up surprising themselves, and they ended up being quite amazed at what they were able to accomplish. Yes, it was not as easy as using 100W rigs, but even in keeping with the ARRL's 5 Watt limit for the battery category, they were quite pleased.

 Power source for the laptops

Power source for the CW station

We operated on solar charged batteries all weekend without a hitch. The energy hogs for the weekend were the two laptops that we used for logging. The Field Day rules state that since we were not using the laptops for rig control, we could have powered them from mains (which we did not have) or a generator (which we had, but didn't use). In keeping with our self imposed "severe emergency capability" theme in order to make this a drill as much as possible, we also powered them off a deep cycle battery using an inverter. We needed to switch the laptops over to a fresh battery somewhere in the mid morning hours, Sunday.

SPARC's first Field day was an outstanding and unqualified success, and I think we 'busted' the myth that Field Day has to be QRO to be fun.

~~~~~~~~~

The EARCHI worked great and way better than I dared hope for. With less exceptions than I can count on one hand, I was able to work everyone that I tried to.  Being on an energy budget because of the batteries and wanting them to last all weekend if possible, I didn't try calling CQ or running a frequency (it was S&P all weekend).  I will reserve that for FOBB and the Skeeter Hunt, which are only four hour events. I can afford to be a little "battery foolish" during those, and I expect the EARCHI to work just as well during those two events.

Our publicity table.

The other Godsend of the weekend? That Joplin ARC antenna launcher kit that I purchased and built up. We were able to place antenna lines pretty much exactly where we wanted with hardly any effort at all.  That thing is one of the greatest things since sliced bread! One or two of the guys were skeptical about being able to place an antenna line so easily and accurately with such little effort. The old saying is "That seeing is believing". They're believers now!

The VHF/UHF antennas for our GOTA station.

Protection from South Plainfield's Finest!

We had wonderful support from our Mayor, Town Council, Office of Emergency Management and our Police Department.  They even parked a car by our site for the overnight, to act as a deterrent against any potential mischief makers!

Tim AB2ZK making SSB QSOs in the dead of night.

Marv K2VHW taking a late night turn at the CW station.

Dawn breaking over South Plainfield on Sunday morning.

Field Day aftermath. 
After being awake for 24+ hours, I fell asleep while waiting for the Mayor to show up late Sunday morning. I woke up in time for his visit, though!

Being in the park, we had a lot of curious people come by.  We answered any and all questions and we handed out quite a bit of ARRL printed material about Amateur Radio. An encouraging sign was that several parents came by and wanted more information for their tech minded offspring.

Squeezing out some last minute QSOs as Field Day draws to a close. Tim AB2ZK on phone, W2LJ on CW.

The moral of the story is that Field Day is fun!  It doesn't have to be elaborate to be a success. With two wire antennas and two QRP rigs anchored at 5 Watts, we had a blast.  Oh, and we made the local paper, too!  http://tinyurl.com/ls56z6u  Some of the details were not exactly reported accurately, but it was good exposure for Amateur Radio nonetheless!

In closing, I'll answer a question that was posed to me by a member of the visiting public, the way I wanted to answer it. A woman asked me if it was a bit extreme staying awake throughout the 24 hours of Field Day. Of course, I gave her the answer of "In the event of an emergency or a natural disaster, sleep may very well be a luxury, ......." Yadda, yadda, yadda.

What I wanted to say was any of the following:

1) It's Field Day! Sleep is overrated!
2) Heck no Lady! Field Day is fun!

Or I could've gotten all Clint Eastwood and said:
3) Ma'am? I'll sleep when I'm dead!

One final, last added mention.  Last year, Marv K2VHW introduced me to Deep Woods Off moist towelettes.  They are a must for the Field Day Go Package. They worked extremely well, and I was not bothered by a single "Skeeter" (pesky little fellows, I should have had them pound brass!) all night long.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This is Amateur Radio Week

in South Plainfield!


Field Day is two days away and the weather here is supposed to be gorgeous! Psyched!

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not bad!

36 intrepid souls have signed up for the 2014 NJQRP Skeeter hunt since the opening bell rang early yesterday morning. And I am proud to say that one of our Skeeters this year is Mr. NJQRP himself.  George N2APB sent an e-mail and was assigned Skeeter #29.

I also see that several of my fellow QRP Polar Bears have signed up for numbers, too.  These guys are fantastic and are never ones to miss the opportunity for an outdoor QRP adventure. Thank you fellow Polar Bears - grrrrrrrrrrr. Will be looking to join you in swatting Skeeters from bear hide this August.

I'd like to take this opportunity to "borrow" and old New Jersey slogan.  This was an advertisement that ran back in the days when Tom Kean was governor and it was designed to increase tourism in NJ.  It went like this, "New Jersey and you ..... prefect together."

If I may, this kind of sums up the whole idea and intent behind the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

"QRP and the great outdoors ..... perfect together!"

Join us and see for yourself.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
2014 Skeeter #13

MONDAY MORNING IMPORTANT UPDATE:  Argggghhhhh!  I went to my spam file this morning and found about 20 Skeeter Number requests that were sent over the weekend. I didn't know they were there, and I didn't even think to check there until this morning!  So if you sent me an e-mail request over the weekend and still haven't heard from me .....you will tonight. I promise!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer - it's finally here!

After a long, cold Sprinter (that's what you get when Winter seems to last endlessly into Spring), Summer is finally here! Yay! And as promised, as of today, numbers are being assigned for the 2014 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt.

The Hunt will be held on Sunday August 10th this year - and right now, the best place to see the rules is at  http://w2lj.blogspot.com/p/njqrp-skeeter-hunt.html. I am trying to get the QSL.NET page updated with the new bonus points rules, but the server seems to be down right now.

Yes - bonus points this year for gathering enough letters from callsigns to spell out the word "SKEETER". 100 extra points will be added to your score if you accomplish this feat. In any event, the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is a grand time and folks seem to enjoy themselves a lot, so send me an email (w2lj@arrl.net) and reserve your Skeeter number today.

Today was also the Raritan Valley Radio Club annual hamfest, which is held at Piscataway High School, in Piscataway, NJ.  The weather was absolutely beautiful - perfect for a hamfest!  It was sunny and it got up into the high 70s.  Very nice, but yet not exasperatingly hot. And as you can see from the two quick photos that I snapped with my phone, there was not a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, it was perfect sunburn weather. Reporting time for the hamfest workers was 5:00 AM and as I was driving to the hamfest site, I had realized I had forgotten to bring sunscreen.  I discovered the hard way that there are NOT a lot of places open at 5:00 AM where you can buy sunscreen!

There were plenty of vendors and lots of buyers. The ARRL had a presence with the appearance of Bill Hudzik W2UDT, our section Vice Director. (Psst!  It helps that he's a club member!) We also had a VE Exam session, where three people earned their Technician licenses, and we also had one upgrade to General and one upgrade to Extra.



In the top photo, you can see the huge mast sticking up from an old broadcast van that Brian N2MPM had acquired. Running up the mast was a PAR END-FEDZ antenna that Alan W2AEW using to make QRP contacts.  If you follow this blog, you know that I have mentioned Alan's YouTube videos in the past. He does an excellent job producing videos on how to use test equipment and other neat technical tutorials. If you haven't subscribed to his YouTube channel, then you are cheating yourself. After you read this go over and subscribe - it's definitely worth it.

Here's a video he took of today's festivities:


Pulling off a hamfest like this is a huge undertaking. Thanks to the direction of our two Hamfest Committee Chairmen, Drew W2OU and Rich W2PQ and all the members of the RVRC, this comes off flawlessly - year after year.

In between my duties of assisting with the parking and placement of the vendors, and being the lead in administering the VE session, I did get a chance to look at the various wares on the tables.  I purchased some BNC to PL259 adapters and some large alligator clips that we will to connect to batteries that we will be using next weekend during Field Day. Not a big spender much to the discontent of the vendors, but much to the delight of my wife.  ;-)

I've been up way too long and am making way too many typos - even more than I usually make, so it's off to the sack for W2LJ. (Thank God for spellcheck.)

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to sedn the very least!
Skeeter #13 for 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Does it get any better?

I suppose it can.  I suppose one could make DXCC Honor Roll, or perhaps get elected to the QRP Hall of Fame, or perhaps invent some cool, new piece of QRP equipment that the world will beat a path to your door for (and make you some $$$ in the process!).

But for a Ham an' Egger like me, the best is just getting on the air making contacts - ANY kind of contacts.  DX quickies, ragchews - whatever.  It's all good. And today was another comparatively good lunchtime QRP session.  I worked RZ1OA, Vlad in Russia, and I worked XE1XR, David in Mexico. Two good, solid DX contacts.

The best QSO was the last one, and it was not a DX contact. In fact, the miles covered were only about 650. But it was exciting, fun and satisfying nonetheless.

After working the two DX stations, I decided to go to on down to 20 Meters to listen perhaps for some SOTA stations.  That's when I heard a weak, but very copyable KC8JNL calling CQ right at the QRP Watering Hole.  I answered and hooked up with Pat who lives in Rothbury, MI.  Not as distant as Russia or Mexico - definitely.  But this QSO was exciting in and of itself, because Pat was using a Rockmite at QRPp power levels.  There was some vicious QSB, and I didn't quite copy Pat's power output level. Having my own 20 Meter Rockmite, I knew it had to be under 1 Watt.  Pat gave me a 559 and I gave him a 459 in turn.  The QSO would have been Q5 copy both ways if it weren't for the QSB.  But even with the fading, I knew what Pat was saying to me, and from his answers, I had a good idea that he was making me out just as well.

QRP to QRP, or QRP to QRPp, or even QRPp to QRPp QSOs get my wonderment juices all fired up.  That we can effectively hold a conversation using such little power is still an amazement to me after 36 years in this hobby.  It's truly like .... can it get ANY better than this?  (My apologies for speaking like a teen - having two, it tends to rub off). I talked with Pat and Vlad and David today, all while enjoying the sunshine and the 80F (27C) temperatures that we are having here today. No wires, no cell towers, no infrastructure of any real sort ..... not much more than two guys shooting a bunch of electrons out of some wire or aluminum - hoping that they'll bounce around to and fro, and eventually be picked up by a like minded enthusiast - somewhere.

Magic. Pure magic.

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

It was the coax!

After being stuck inside during lunchtime last week, due to workload and/or weather, I was finally able to get out today.  This was the first opportunity (if you don't count the weekend) that I had to try out the tri-magmount with the Buddistick since changing out the coax. Well, it was the coax that was giving me fits.  With the new coax, the KX3 tuned the antenna in mere seconds and once it tuned, it stayed tuned. No phantom jumping SWR values, everything behaved nicely.

For my efforts, I was able to work W1AW/5 in Arkansas on a different band, Don K2DSV who is a fellow K2ETS Club member, as well as XE2ST, Fernando in Nogales, Mexico.  So I am considering the surgery that I performed on the antenna base to be an unqualified success.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about a posting on KB6NU's blog about how "New Hams are Different" and the responses that Dan has received.  I think that times have greatly changed, or maybe that's just my perception.  When I was a Novice back in the late 70s, and joined a local club (which is no longer in existence - and this may be the reason why) there was a kind of a "keep your mouth shut if you're a Newbie" mentality going on.  New callsigns appearing at meetings or on the repeaters weren't welcomed all that enthusiastically (as a result, that may be why I'm not real big into VHF/UHF to this very day).  I guess there was kind of a "pay your dues" mentality, back then.  For better or worse, that was the way it was. But guess what? I survived, more or less.  ;-)

I really believe that I saw that change in the mid 90s, though.  I joined a couple new clubs and was welcomed.  Even though I was licensed for quite a while by then, I was still a neophyte compared to the established "Old Timers" who were a large part of the membership, and I was a comparative stranger, to boot. But in both cases, I was welcomed warmly - I was not shunned, I was not looked down upon, I was accepted into the groups without question.

And that's the way it should be.  I currently belong to three active local clubs - the K2ETS Electronic Testing Society of NJ, the W2QW Raritan Valley Radio Club as well as the NJ2SP South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club (which I helped to establish).  Since SPARC is so new, I am going to leave it out of the mix for this discussion, but the same philosophy holds there, as well.  In both K2ETS and W2QW, newcomers are welcomed enthusiastically and with open arms.  There's no "we vs. they" mentality when it comes to new members. Everyone is encouraged to participate, and everyone is listened to. Your age, your gender, your level of experience is really of no matter.

I really don't see any wide gulfs when it comes to "new" vs. "old" technologies, either.  Those who primarily operate HF only seem to peacefully co-exist with those who like to experiment and build and toy around with Arduinos, Raspeberry Pi's and the digital voice and data modes.  In fact, I see a lot of the groups co-mingling and getting pointers, answers to questions and operating tips from each other.  Just the way it should be.

Newcomers are welcomed for their new ideas and enthusiasm while "Old Timers" are respected for their experience and built up wealth of tribal knowledge - again, just as it should be.  Guess I've been very fortunate to not be involved with "cliquey" organizations. Hopefully, that is becoming everyone else's experience as well.

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

Summer - a reminder!

Summer 2014 starts this coming Saturday at 6:51 EDT.  After this dreadfully long Winter that seems to have lasted into Spring, I just can't wait! At that bleary eyed time of the morning, I will be busy, helping out at the annual Raritan Valley Radio Club W2QW Hamfest.

But Saturday, being the first day of Summer, is also the day that I will entertain requests for Skeeter Hunt numbers for 2014.  So please feel free to send e-mails to w2lj@arrl.net, and as soon as I can, I will get back to you with your official NJQRP Skeeter Hunt number!


And I can tell you one thing that is 100% certain.  With the Winter of 2013/2014 still vividly fresh in the ol' memory banks of W2LJ ..... no matter how hot or how humid it might be for this year's Skeeter Hunt, I for one, will not complain!

72 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New portable paddle

I decided that I wanted to try something new paddle-wise for my lunchtime QRP portable operations. The main criteria was that it had to be on the inexpensive side. That seems to be my main criteria these days where a lot of things are concerned. Besides working well, it would also be nice if  the paddle was light in weight.

Palm paddles would probably be the ultimate, but are way too expensive and would not fit within my meager budget right now. I needed to keep it under $50 if at all  possible.  That really narrows down the possibilities, let me tell you. I have a Whiterook MK-33 single lever paddle.  It works well and it also fits the bill, but it tends to get a bit sloppy around the 22-23 WPM mark.

I had a Bulldog paddle back when I had my K1 and I liked it. However, I included it as part of the K1 package when I sold that radio to raise money for my KX3. So, relying on my memory, I decided to give another Bulldog a try.  I went to the Website: http://www.amateurradioproducts.com/, only to find out that they no longer manufacture the model I had.  Mine was the one on a small triangular wooden base that had three tiny suction cups.


They have several different models now, and I decided to go with the BD6, the Mini-Iambic.  It arrived on Saturday through the mail, and tonight was the first chance I had to try it out.


I have to admit that I was skeptical when I opened up the package that it came in.  It is indeed 'mini" - in fact, it gets lost in the middle of the 1.5 inch fender washer that serves as a base! But as usual, it turns out that looks are quite deceiving. This little paddle is smooth and is great to use just as it is, no adjustments were required, although  the accompanying instruction sheet tells you how to go about that, if needed.  I worked both W1AW/5 and W1AW/0 tonight at about the 21 WPM range. The paddles acquitted themselves nicely there. Then I turned up the speed a notch to work EV1R and LZ1WR and C6ATT. Even at the speed where the Whiterook goes kaflooey on me, the Bulldog stays sharp, smooth and flawless and had great feel to it. The fact that it was only $35 was icing on the cake. I will definitely bring these along for Field Day. They may be too small for some of our guest operators, but they work great for me!

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


Monday, June 09, 2014

Town Council Meeting

I attended the Town Council meeting in South Plainfield, NJ. Our mayor issued a proclamation declaring June 23rd through June 29th as Amateur Radio Week in South Plainfield. Most of the members of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club were on hand, and we had our picture taken with the mayor.

One of our members, Wayne N2LRE has the actual printed proclamation, and he is going to scan it, and when I get an image, I will post it here. (Got it! You can see it below ......)

Here is an aerial view of the park:


The red mark shows the gazebo from where we will be operating.  The tree directly to the left of the gazebo is about 75 feet away. This will be the support for the EARCHI end fed antenna for the CW station. The trees "above" the gazebo are almost exactly 100 feet apart and will support the full sized G5RV, which will be used by the SSB station.


We have invited the mayor and members of the Town Council to come out and visit the site on Sunday morning, as this was the time most convenient for them.  We have also invited several officials from the Hudson Division to come by and visit us also. In addition, I have spoken to one or two of the Scout Leaders in town and have invited them to bring their troops by for some "hands on" radio experience.


Due to the effort put forth by my fellow members of SPARC, what was proposed as a "Field Day on the Fly" operation is taking shape rather well and is coming together very nicely. We're looking forward to not only having a lot of fun, but also to presenting a very favorable view of Amateur Radio to any and all passers-by.

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

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Museum Ships Weekend

Is THIS weekend!  Booyah! See how many you can work - you can get a certificate for working 15 or more. The link down below has all the official intel.



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