Monday, July 09, 2018

That ol' Summertime Classic

That's how I think of it, anyway ..... right up there with BBQs, lemonade, ice cold beer, pretzels, watermelon, ice cream and swimming pools ..... The 2018 Flight of the Bumblebees has been announced!  Thanks to Rich Fisher for putting this on from year to year, this event, along with QRP To The Field has gotten me "into" portable QRP operations more than anything else.



OK, so maybe I'm an Amateur Radio and QRP nerd, but what is more sublime than sitting somewhere in a nice shady spot on a hot summer day, making contact after contact with QRP friends around the USA and the rest of the world? The breeze in your face, the Bumblebees buzzing, the bands hooping with CW?

That's right ....... nothing!

This year, the last Sunday in July falls on July 29th and the contest runs from 1700 to 2100 UTC. So grab your radio, a hunka wire and make like a bee and get out to the field and pollinate those frequency bands! Get out of that musty ol' shack and enjoy the beautiful weather and sunshine. These are the things I dream about while I'm shoveling the pile of frozen over, rock hard slush that the snow plow leaves at the end of my driveway after every big snowfall.

For the rules, please go to http://arsqrp.blogspot.com/

For the roster, please go to https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1OzR8FvgVX9J2U0BsjPPg7uzqbuv4C93IAmf7hr8_5GY/edit#gid=0

72 de Larry W2LJ - Bumblebee # 12
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

New offerings

The heat wave across the United States sizzles - and it must have something to do with QRP kits, because they're coming forth like rabbits!

First, from the 4 Sates QRP Group - The Murania


This is an AM Broadcast band radio - just like we used to have back in the 50s and 60s.  Remember when you used to have one of these? We'd sneak them to bed with us and listen to ball games or Jean Shepherd K2ORS on WWOR Radio out of New York City.

It's described as perfect for the 1st time kit builder. The price is a modest $35. This would be a great kit for youngsters or scouts, because unlike a lot of Amateur Radio kits - this is something that can be used immediately after they've finished building it.  The details are at http://4sqrp.com/Murania.php

The other offering is a Simple RF Probe Kit from the QRPGuys:


Coming in at $10 - this is a great item to have on your workbench for troubleshooting RF circuits. No RF output?  Go back to the beginning stages and see where the output stops. Trouble has to be there! For details - https://qrpguys.com/qrpguys-simple-rf-probe

You can always get one of these to have on hand if you have trouble with your Muriana - although, like most 4 States kits, I doubt you'll encounter any problems.

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Independence Day - 2018


Thank you to our Founders!

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

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Amateur Radio Curmudgeon - Reality or Myth?

So I had a conversation with Jeff KE9V on Twitter this afternoon.  It resulted when I saw the following tweet that he posted:


I have to admit, what struck me was the line, "just to annoy that one curmudgeon at the radio club who always tells others HOW to have fun".


Curmudgeon? Really?  A little background. As you know I live in New Jersey - in the Northeast, the USA's Home of Nasty. Driving on any of our roads, you're more likely to see "the bird" or the "five finger salute" as a stop sign or a traffic cone. Think of Frank Barrone from "Everybody Loves Raymond". That's an example of typical here in New York and New Jersey.

But yet, not in the Amateur Radio world. At least not that I've experienced, in the five or six local clubs of which I have been a member at one time or another during my Ham Radio career. So I answered: "Damn! In 40 years of Amateur Radio, I've never once ran into that fabled "curmudgeon" who actually tried to tell me HOW to have fun, other than by encouraging me to get on the air. For the most part, all of the experienced Hams I have ever met have been kind and enthusiastic."

And Jeff could not believe that. But to be totally honest with you - as God is my witness, with my hand on the Bible, I have NEVER run into anyone who told me (or anyone else that I've been near) HOW to have fun in Amateur Radio, or that something I was doing "wasn't REAL Amateur Radio".

I've encountered inebriated Hams on local repeaters. I've encountered "know-it-alls" who would tell you "THAT'S not how you make a dipole!", but would then show you how to.  I've even had Hams joke about my first few attempts at my homebrewed wire antennas. But I have never, and I mean NEVER, have I had a Ham tell me that something I was doing "was not REAL Ham Radio", or "That HAS to be done this way."

In fact, it's been just the opposite. Some of the most experienced Hams that I have had the privilege to know have been the most supportive and enthusiastic.  Take Jules WV2O (SK). He was a dedicated CW man. He was a Morse operator in the Merchant Marines. He didn't even know what a microphone was. In fact, I'm pretty sure he didn't own one. He had a really stereotypical gruff exterior that might have scared some people away.  He was exactly the type you might expect to say, "Pffft! If it ain't CW, it ain't Ham Radio!" But in fact, he was just the opposite! He encouraged all new licensees to experiment and find out what worked best for them. He certainly was an advocate for CW; but he never discouraged anyone from trying anything that might bring them joy.

And all the Hams I have had the privilege to know have been pretty much the same. Oh, they might make a comment about a new mode with something like, "I don't think that's for me" or something like that; but I have never, ever heard the words "That isn't Ham Radio" or insinuations to that effect.

Maybe I've been lucky. Maybe living in New Jersey gives me a thicker skin. We have a saying here in NJ, when we hear something we don't like, we say "consider the source." So maybe we just don't pay attention to or really even hear negative comments about how we enjoy our hobby. Maybe we ARE just different up here.

So I'll keep on searching for "The Curmudgeon" and while I'm looking for him, maybe I'll find Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

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

Monday, July 02, 2018

Not holding my tongue

This is part of what I had in mind last week when I said I was holding my tongue.  Today, I am not. This appeared on the Facebook on the 13 Colonies Special Event page. It's a darn shame that anything like this even need to be posted!


From organizing and running something as simple as the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt, I can only estimate the planning, and blood, sweat and tears that go into running the 13 Colonies event.  That it is so popular is a testament to the work of the organizers.

In addition to the on-air activity, comes the necessary log checking, QSL printing, QSL sending, certificate sending and everything else. But some people seem to forget that this is NOT the livelihood of the people behind the scenes. THEY ARE VOLUNTEERS. They are doing this because the love Amateur Radio, they love the United States and they love the Independence Day holiday.

Are they perfect?  No. No one is perfect. I am sure they make their share of mistakes. And I'm sure the amount of mistakes made are insignificant to all they get correct. But in an event like this, some people need to take a deep breath and take a step backward, instead of whining, yelling or screaming.  This is not worth sending your blood pressure into the stratosphere, for either the organizers or the participants. In the grand scheme of life, this is small potatoes, folks.

So just enjoy the event for what it is and let's all play nice and have a good time. Shall we?

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

WOW !!!!!!

Is all I can say!

After watching this video sent to me by Marc W4MPS, which shows the WQ4RP 2018 Field Day effort, I feel like Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World.

We are not worthy! We are not worthy!

This, folks, is how QRP Field Day is meant to be done!


I'm sure glad they were 4A Battery and not 3A Battery, SPARC would have ended up WAY DOWN in the standings! Talk about getting your butt womped!

Thanks, Marc - that is one heckuva EXCELLENT video - so glad you shared it!

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Field Day - then and now

I don't mean this post to seem vain; or "all about W2LJ," but I was looking at Field Day pictures on my USB thumb drive and I was just kind of taken aback.

Field Day in the 80s and 90s with the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club:







Field Day with the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club - current day:




Where'd the skinny guy with all that dark hair go?  Although you can't tell because of the SPARC hat, I've gone completely gray.  I've added on quite the few pounds and the last picture show why - W2LJ is not one to miss a meal! But in all fairness, I've lost about 15 pounds in the last few months in an effort to lose some of the excess weight. It's a start; but I still have a long way to go!
  
Some 20 - 30 years later, in my mind I still feel like the skinny guy with the dark hair. But now, joints hurt that never used to hurt before. I definitely can't move around as fast as I used to and I've lost so much flexibility that it's very frustrating at times.

It's at times like these that I fondly remember my Mom always telling me, "Larry .... don't get old." and my answer always was, "Can't do much about that, Ma!"

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Holding my tongue

A couple years back, when I was interviewed for "QSO Today" by Eric 4Z1UG, he asked me what were some of the things I learned from doing this blog. I answered "Humility" as that was the topmost thing I could think of. And right after that was "Respecting other's opinions".

I learned both those lessons the hard way. When I started this blog some 13 years ago,  I was much younger and a lot less thoughtful and a lot more arrogant. There were times when I was brash, thoughtless and I acted like I couldn't care less if I offended anyone by what I was writing at the time. Folks called me upon it in the comments from time to time; and I took their words of advice or more properly, admonishment, to heart.

It's easy to be brash, snotty and snarky while pecking away at the keyboard. After all, you're by yourself with no one looking over your shoulder while you're typing - it's so anonymous.  However, I didn't want to earn the reputation as someone who a) inserts foot in mouth before speaking, or b) thinks he knows-it-all.

But I have to tell you, boy-oh-boy, would I really like to let loose one of these days.  Over the past few weeks, I've read things from various sources and in various places on line that were either flat out wrong, misleading, frustrating, inanely stupid or just plain "Horse Hocky" as Col. Potter would exclaim on M*A*S*H. Just gets the ol' boiler bubbling.

But as the quote goes "discretion is the better part of valor" - so I'll hold my tongue ....... for now. We're having problems as it is in Hawaii, with one volcano. We don't need another.

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


Monday, June 25, 2018

That wasn't good - that was great!

180 degree opposites! As much as I feared that I wasn't into Field Day this year, that's how much it turned out to be a truly great experience! Just as I thought, as soon as I gathered together with my fellow South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club members, that's just how quickly the adrenaline got to flowing and the fun and excitement began. And thanks be to God, we never got any of the rain or thunderstorms that were predicted for Saturday.

In addition to the gratification that you get from doing a job well done, some added satisfaction came from a lot of the public that came by and visited our enhanced information booth this year. In addition to the normal ARRL informational handouts, we added some multimedia. We set up a 24" TV which was hooked up to my laptop which was running a continuous loop of a video about Amateur Radio.


We had chairs set up so that people could sit down in the shade of the canopy to watch the entire 30 minute video if they wanted to and more than just a few people did. One woman that I spoke to, in order to ask if she needed any more information about our hobby exclaimed to me, "This is great! I learned so much today! More people should come by to watch this." So in that regard, we did what I think was a pretty good job of creating public awareness for the benefits of Amateur Radio.

Marv K2VHW set up some code keys and code practice oscillators in the info tent for people to try. One man brought his nephew along with him to visit our setup and the youngster really got a kick out of the keys. Marv showed him how to use them and he had fun trying to use Morse Code.


The next day, his uncle came back to visit again to tell us that his nephew got such a kick out of Morse Code and Amateur Radio in general, that he spent hours with his friends on the telephone Saturday evening, telling them all about what he saw and did.  That's called "planting the seed", my friends.

This was SPARC's fifth Field Day and you could tell that we are beginning to get into a routine and really know what we're doing now. I think that "they" would call us a "well oiled machine" - thanks mostly to KD2FSI, W2OIL and KC2YRC and Phil KD2HPG who designed and built our HF tower. We started setup at 10:00 AM and were pretty much finished by Noon. Some final incidental "finishing touches" were taken care of and we were absolutely ready by 1:00 PM with an hour to go.  


As always, Ron N2LCZ had our mini logging computer network up and running flawlessly. He was even able to tap into our Wifi account through the help of a wireless router that Bill W2AOF brought along, so that we had full internet access on site ........ in the middle of Spring Lake Park. It was awesome!






Antennas went up as smoothly as a hot knife through butter and with the help of Dave W2OIL and Dan KC2YRC, I was able to get the W3EDP antenna up even higher this year. We had it as high in two trees as we could get it and it sloped from about 40 feet high in a maple to about 30 or 35 feet at the other end in a pine tree, where it terminated. While the W3EDP was my main stay on 40 and 20 Meters, I was able to make at least one contact on all bands, 160 through 10 Meters with it.  However, for 80 Meters, Dave KD2FSI had me hooked up to his 80/40 Meter Inverted Vee and that wire was simply magnificent. With 5 Watts, I was able to work absolutely everyone that I was able to hear on 80 Meters.


While we had a generator going to run the info booth, all the computers were run off solar power charged batteries, so that we could explain to people about how easy it is to make use of alternative sources of power. We had two solar arrays up and running. These were purchased through Harbor Freight and it was amazing (to me at least) that they supplied ample power even under the overcast conditions that we had.


When "go time" came at 2:00 PM, we got down to the serious business of making contacts. Through the entire 24 hour period, I can honestly say that we had all the radios occupied for at least 90% of the time. Dave KD2FSI and I forsook our customary "middle of the night" 10 winks of sleep this year. The group is probably tired of hearing it from me, but once again I was telling them that "these contacts aren't going to make themselves" and it showed, as we reached our highest number of QSOs this year.  We also had our share of guest operators, including some new Hams from the area who got their first taste of HF thanks to Field Day. Their excitement was palpable.





And even one of our Town Council members took a turn behind a radio, while our Mayor and some other members spent some time talking and visiting with us. SPARC is really dedicated to making Field Day more than just making contacts. We really try to make this a fun weekend "Amateur Radio Awareness Event".






 But we also "put our money where our mouths were" and got down to the busy task of making contacts. Our classification was 3A Battery, so by ARRL definition, we were limited to 5 Watts output - true QRP.  We made well over 300 CW contacts and came somewhere around 175 phone contacts for the weekend, with a goodly amount of digital contacts thrown in for good measure, courtesy of Dave, KD2FSI.









KD2HPF getting "artsy" with a photo of yours truly!

So when 3:30 PM on Sunday came around and all was torn down and put away for storage until next year, I came home tired (no, make that exhausted), but yet thoroughly pleased and happy. I had just spent 24+ hours with people I absolutely enjoy being with, doing something that I absolutely love and enjoy doing. How can you possibly ask for anything more than that?

One final shot of SPARC Field Day 2018.


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

Special thanks to Mario KD2HPF for a lot of fantastic photos of the weekend.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Field Day Quandry

OK, heresy of heresies ...... I am not stoked for Field Day this year.


It's been a really tough couple of weeks here at work as the result of things I'd rather not elaborate about.  Nothing terrible, or job threatening - just a tough situation right now. I know, we all go through these, and I shouldn't feel sorry for myself. It's just that it's so exhausting!

As a result, I'd much rather loaf and nap the weekend away. Add to all this that our local forecast is for general wetness and thunderstorms for Saturday, it looks like we may be in for a repeat of Field Day 2015.  That was the Field Day that we got so soaked, that I was amazed we all didn't come down with pneumonia.

But I will be there at 10:00 AM tomorrow for setup, with a smile on my face, ready to get to work and get down to business.  I'm sure that once my earbuds fill with Morse and my fingers start tapping out those all too familiar dits and dahs, that I will find myself being happy about being in my element.

Hope to hear you! For your part, I hope you will keep an ear out for NJ2SP (our club call). We'll be operating 3A (Battery) NNJ again this year - so we'll be QRP. Yay!

Hoping we don't get soaked or zapped, I remain faithfully "yours truly".

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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wow!

Them Skeeter numbers are going fast!

Today is the First Day of Summer and we already have 59 Skeeters ready to take flight on August 19th.


I'm glad to see we have a lot of regulars coming back - tried and true Skeeters who have been there since our first run back in 2012. And even more exciting is seeing new calls and names that are making 2018 their first "go".

Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a totally green newbie, it matters not!  The NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is meant to be more fun than anything else. Yes, there are certificates to be had for getting the high scores (and yes, I still have to get the 2017 certificates mailed - my first act of business after Field Day), but even more important is getting outside with your gear and participating. And even if you can't get outside, there is still the fun to be had spending an enjoyable afternoon making contacts with other QRPers.

Remember,, there is a SSB category for those of you who have a disdain for dits and dahs - so no excuses!

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

You know you're a Ham when ........

So I'm driving to work this morning; and when you commute to work every day, you get a real good chance to look at the behinds of cars that are in front of you.  As I come to a red light and come to a stop, I notice the car in front of me has one of those vinyl decals on his rear window.  It looked like this - but you have to picture in your mind's eye that this was all surrounded by the entire darkness (blackness) of his tinted rear window.


So I immediately start thinking ....... "A A" 

What the heck does "A A" stand for?  "Alcoholics Anonymous"?  "American Airlines? "Associate in Arts"? "Alcoa Aluminum"?

Then it struck me - the owner of the car was of Norwegian descent !  That's the flag of Norway in reverse and not "A A".

I guess that's when you realize you've either been at this Morse Code thing too long; or maybe you just need that first cup of coffee of the day.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It's getting to be that time!

The NJQRP Club is announcing the 7th Annual " Skeeter Hunt", which will be held on Sunday, August 19th. As in the past, It will be a four hour sprint - from 17:00 UTC to 21:00 UTC (1:00 TO 5:00 PM EDT).


QRP stations who wish to be designated as "Skeeters" can get a Skeeter number by requesting one by sending an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net  Skeeter numbers will be issued from June 21st (the First Day of Summer) through the day before the event. You do NOT have to be a portable station to be a Skeeter - home stations can be Skeeters if they so desire.

You can send your e-mail requests in now, if you want to; but the Skeeter Hunt roster will not be published until the first day of Summer. We have to have something to look forward to, no?

As in past years - Skeeter numbers are not issued for life. They change each year. This gives everyone an even shot at getting the much coveted lower numbers. The only exception to that rule is that I assign myself lucky number 13, each year.

This year's theme will be "Water - the breeding ground for Skeeters!"  Operate near any sizable body of water - lake, ocean, creek, river, bayou, stream, brook, pond, etc, for an extra 100 bonus points.

The rules can always be found at http://www.qsl.net/w2lj/  The rules are not cumbersome, this is meant to be an easy going, friendly little operating event where everybody gets to have an enjoyable day behind the radio.

So get out of your shack for the day; and into the fresh air and sunshine, and spread your wings and fill the airwaves with "Skeeters"!

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

A neat little app

I ran across this the other day, while I was in the Google Play store and I did a search under Morse Code:


The name of the app is Morse Notifer Free.  There is also a Morse Notifier Pro, which you can pay for; but I chose to download and install the free version. What the app does is to let your smartphone ring using Morse Code instead of the usual bells, whistles, or tunes.

While the app does a whole lot of stuff, the feature I like the most is the SMS text message notification.  When a text message comes through, the phone will not only notify you that you have a message - but also who is sending it.  For instance, when my wife texts me, I hear "Message Marianne" come out of my phone.  On the other hand, if someone is texting me that I don't know - or if I haven't associated a name to the number, the phone will let me know that.  For instance, if I get a Nixle alert the phone will send "Message Unknown 88877".

Another neat feature that I like is there's an hourly chime.  At the top of the hour, your phone will et you know that its "TIME 1000" in Morse. It uses the 24 hour system so when it's 5:00 PM, the phone sends "TIME 1700".

Another neat feature is that Morse Notifier can set the vibrator of your phone to send in Morse. So when you've silenced the phone, you can feel the Morse instead of  hearing it. It takes a little getting used to; but once you realize what it is, you pick up on it pretty fast.

Here's a link to the instruction sheet if you might be interested - http://100dof.com/software/morsenotifier/manual_morse_notifier.pdf

I haven't fully explored all the possibilities, but it's neat to hear morse Code come out of your smartphone instead of the standard stuff.  One caveat, I believe, but am not certain, that this app is for Android phones, only.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Hoot Owl Fun

With a much improved right leg, I was able to get down to the basement shack quite easily for the Hoot Owl Shoot Out this past Sunday evening. It was nice to get on the air after being absent for quite a while. I made seven contacts in the allotted hour, two with good ol' reliable Don W2JEK on both 40 and 80 Meters.

The QSO with Don on 80 was the only one had there. The rest were all accomplished on 40 Meters. I heard some very faint signals on 20 Meters at the very beginning of the event, but nothing that was copyable.

Given the crummy band conditions and the fact that we're in the armpit of the solar cycle, one hour was probably plenty for the shootout. But I wish there had been another hour. Even though there was a lot of calling CQ between sparse replies, I still had a ton of fun.

When you're away from the hobby for a while due to circumstances that are kind of beyond your control, it's a blast when you can finally get back into it. We (it would probably better to say "I") take Amateur Radio for granted, knowing that we can go to our shacks at just about any time and jump on the air.  When you can't for one reason or another, it's like that line from that song from the 60's - "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got 'till it's gone?"

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