Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Neat photo found on Facebook


This is an aerial view of the summit of Mt. Prospect, which is up in the Adirondacks right beside Lake George. I usually operate in the QRP ARCI Summer Homebrew Sprint from up there. It's not a SOTA peak, but the view is fantastic!

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

Change of heart

Kind of.

I have been approached (privately) by several people, asking me to reconsider yanking my blog from AmateurRadio.com.

Matt W1MST and I have come up with a solution where SOME of my posts will be mirrored there. I will determine which ones, and I will add a "AmateurRadio.com" tag to the selected posts so that he, or his software will know which can be used. (This should NOT be one of them.  If this appears there, then we have some work to do.)

The ones that I feel are not worthy of enough "general interest" will not be posted there. So please check here from time to time, as there will undoubtedly be more content here than there. Particularly posts dedicated strictly to QRP and anything that I deem to be possibly too "annoying", as it was so adroitly put to me by the original quibbler(s).

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ol' Sol slowing down?

Looks like we're headed directly for a period of minimal solar activity:



And here's a related article from the Helsinki Times:

http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/themes/themes/science-and-technology/11590-hundred-year-period-of-increased-solar-activity-coming-to-end.html

The video was brought to my attention by Don K2DSV.  IF the hypothesis of the video is correct, lower ionospheric activity would be the least of our worries.

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

Getting there

As opposed to probably a majority of you, I am SO far behind the times from a technological point of view.  I still do a majority of my logging with paper and pencil before I manually enter the information to my logging software.

When it comes to QRP Sprints or the Fox Hunts, most of my compatriots use N1MM or some such program.  Again, I still use paper and pencil. I feel that I am lucky to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Operating a radio and trying to computer log simultaneously during a Sprint or a Hunt used to send shivers up and down my spine.

But I am getting better.  As long as I am not furiously trying to keep up with a pileup of QSOs in the midst of a frenzy during a Sprint or a Hunt, I have trained myself to log and operate at the same time (See? You CAN teach old dogs new tricks!). I recently purchased a small keyboard for my Nexus 7, so that I can log during casual portable ops without the need for pencil and paper. It cost me all of 8 smackers on eBay.


That's Ham Log that I keep on there, which in and of itself is a great piece of logging software for Android. The problem was that it's always been a pain in the butt to use the Nexus touchpad keyboard, which caused me to "one-finger" type, and slowed me down, holding me back.  So for the longest time, I was doing the same thing - logging on paper and entering the data later, at my leisure (which makes no sense). This "tactile feel" keyboard brings a lot of familiarity and works a whole lot better for me, and now I am actually able to use the Nexus 7 for logging in real time (sometimes).  I know that it's pathetic, but while I am able to use this setup for general QSOing, the melee of contests or Fox Hunts drives me back to the security of "old technology".

I guess the next step will be to install the KX3 Companion app.  Boy, that will be like Star Trek for me!

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

Think I wlll meet the deadline

I have imposed a deadline for myself with regards to Skeeter Hunt results. I want to have both the "scorecard" and the soapbox published to the Skeeter Hunt website this coming Sunday, after the log submissions deadline.

The "scorecard" itself is a piece of cake.  It's simply an Excel spreadsheet that I have composed, with formulas that do all the menial calculating chores for me.  I simply plug in the values and the spreadsheet calculates the final score for me. I will upload the completed spreadsheet to Google Sheets and it will be available for all to see on the Web, once it's completed. This was a good exercise for me, as I was very weak with regards to using formulas in Excel. I'm still no expert by any means, but I know a lot more than I used to, which was practically nil.

The soapbox page is another animal.  That is "simple" HTML composition, but it's more time intensive. I have about one half of the soapbox comments and pictures placed on the unpublished Web page.  At the rate I am going, if I can add about 5 more soapbox comments to the page each evening, over the next 4 or 5 evenings, it will be ready for publishing on time.

All this leads me to a worrisome discovery.  This year we had a record number of Skeeters sign up.  But I am lagging behind in receiving log summaries. Last year I received a total of 71 summaries. As of this minute, I have only received 54. I guess a "Que Sera, Sera" attitude is in order, but I sure would love to see more log summaries submitted.

It's very important to me that these results get published on time this coming Sunday.  You folks are kind enough to participate, and I know how much you like to see results.  I do myself!  It's not so important for me to see where I place, I want to see how my friends did, what their setup looked like, and I like to read about the fun they had.  The results and soapbox are a crucial part of any of these "special" QRP events, in my most humble opinion.  No one wants to make an effort and then wait months or more to see how things stacked up.

So, God willing and the creek don't rise, you'll see the finished results this Sunday at www.qsl.net/w2lj
I am just hoping I get a few more log summaries and soapbox comments before then.

And then the final phase will begin, which is the certificates.  I have to give myself more time for those, but hopefully, everyone who will qualify for one will have it by the end of September.

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

Conditions

It's evident that we are now on the down side of the peak of Cycle 24.  For the most part, I have had superb conditions for working DX during my lunch time QRP sessions for the past 17 months. DX has been plentiful, with good signals and decent RSTs on both ends. 17, 15 and sometimes even 12 Meters have been happy hunting grounds.  There have even been smatterings of openings on 10 Meters, which is not often the case during the 1700-1800 UTC weekday time frame.

I still hear DX signals on 17 Meters, but they're not as strong or as plentiful as they were. 15 Meters is nowhere near as nice as it was just a few months ago.  It wasn't so long ago that I was working three or four different DX stations during my lunch break - and it seemed like all areas of the world were open at the same time! I think that the days of working the world "with 5 Watts to a wet string" are just about over - as far as Cycle 24 is concerned, anyway.

With band conditions changing, it seems that lately, more and more of my lunch QSOs have been domestic - not that there's anything wrong with that!  Today, I was saved from being shut out at lunchtime by Jim K4AHO, who answered my CQ on 20 Meters.  We had a nice chat that was not only 2X QRP, but was also 2X KX3.  Jim was using a dipole and I was using the Buddistick, of course.  QSB was a bit of a nuisance. At the fading's worst, Jim was 459, and at best he was 579 (which he was for most of the QSO).

In addition to the declining ionospheric conditions, the weather here in New Jersey this Summer has been less "Summer-y" than I was looking forward to.  Take this morning for instance. When I woke up this morning, the thermometer was displaying an outdoor temperature of 52F (11C).  Very strange for August 18th.  That's almost unheard of, any other year. On the whole, it's been an average to dry Summer and the temperatures have been down and the humidity has been way down compared to the past three or four Summers.  The number of days that we have reached or have gone above 90F (32C), can be counted on both hands. There have not been many hazy, humid, hot days (The Dog Days of Summer) this year at all.

The weather people on TV have been saying that we are experiencing is an "average" Summer for this part of the country. The past few have been hotter than normal, so that's why this one feels so strangly cool. After the Winter we had last year, I was really looking forward to the heat.  I guess there's still time for us to get some hot days, but I saw on the AccuWeather.com website that the Northeast and the upper Midwest are supposed to experience a Polar Vortex in mid September, bringing along temperatures closer to what we might expect in mid to late November. Brrrrrr.


The other day, while walking my beagle Harold, I noticed the oak trees in the neighborhood are already shedding their acorns. That's not a great sign as the trees did the same thing around this time last year and we had a terrible Winter.  Normally, the acorns don't start falling until mid to late September around these parts.  The squirrels will have extra time to store up food for the Winter, and we'll probably have another long, cold one.  Oh well, at least conditions on 160 and 80 Meters will probably be good. You always have to look for the silver lining and try not to think about the heating bill!

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

Skeeter Hunt Log Summaries

So far, I have received Skeeter summaries from the following:

WD4EXI
N4EWT
W3ATB
WA1GWH
K4ARQ
NA3V
WD8RIF
WB8ENE
N0YET
N2JJF
KB1PBA
K1SWL
K4YND
KQ2RP
K0ALN
WA4PIG
K0RGI
VE3XT
K2ULR
N4KGL
WA8REI
AD4S
K4UPG
WI2W
N1LT
W1PID
K2WO
K2AL
WB3GCK
WH6LE
WD4MSM
NQ2W
K2TD
AB4QL
N1ABS
AI4SV
W3BBO
K3RLL
AB9CA
WV0H
K7TQ
W4MPS
WA0ITP
N0SS
KX0R

If you don't see your call there, I need to hear from you! Remember, log summaries are due NO LATER than 12:00 Midnight Saturday August 23/Sunday August 24.  At that time, results are frozen and we will go with what has been received. Summaries follow this example:

Larry - W2LJ - NJ
Skeeter #4 - All CW
Skeeter QSOs - 23
Non-Skeeter QSOs - 5
DX QSOs - (if any)
S/P/Cs - 18
Station Class Multiplier X4
"SKEETER" Bonus - 100 points (and here is where you would list the callsigns of the stations you worked that qualify you for the bonus points),

I'm trying to keep current with this and am composing the Soapbox now so I can post the results as quickly as I can after next weekend.

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

Patience pays off

How many times have you heard that? How many times have you been able to practice it? If you're like me, you know it .... you believe it ..... but find it oh, so hard to put into practice. Last night was a case in point where I toughed it out (yeah, like it was really tough) and was rewarded.

In particular, I am talking about the 20 Meter QRP Foxhunt.  The two Foxes were Jim N0UR in Minnesota and Dave N1IX in New Hampshire.  I managed to work Jim N0UR rather quickly and easily, pretty early into the 90 minute hunt.  Minnesota has always been a pretty easy hop from New Jersey. The challenge on the other hand would be working Dave N1IX. The distance between New Jersey and New Hampshire is rather short for 20 Meters, especially when you can hear European Hams coming in rather loudly on the same band. One one shoulder sat the little devil, telling me "You're never going to work him. New Hampshire is too close".

The angel on the other shoulder was saying "Have patience, you'll work him".

The little devil countered, "You've had a long day, you're tired, it's late. Go to bed."

The little angel whispered, "Good things come to those who wait".

With about 11 minutes remaining in the hunt, I was finally able to hear Dave. I knew where he was (from locating the pack trying to work him) and I could JUST BARELY make him out, calling "CQ FOX". But he was ESP, maybe sub-ESP. I thought for sure it was going to be a one-fer for the night. The mattress and pillow were calling my name. However, it seems the angel won the war.

Then with about four minutes to go, and my butt still in the chair, Dave became about 579. I could not believe my ears!  For 86 minutes, almost nothing and now he was as clear as a bell!  With two minutes to go, he got up to 599 and we made the exchange and I bagged both pelts for the night.

There must have been a nice, big airplane in the sky on the way to, or out of Boston; half way between NH and NJ that must have re-directed our radio waves to each other!  :-)

It's so easy to give up and succumb to the temptation of going to bed, or watching TV, or perhaps reading a book instead of staying in the chair, waiting, and getting the QSO done and in the log.  I wonder if this experience will remain in my memory banks long enough for the next time I'm in a pileup and I'm tempted to cave in and call it quits early.

Knowing human nature and knowing me ...... I'm not so sure!    ;-)

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


Thursday, August 14, 2014

SP3RN

Father Maximilian Kolbe SP3RN died on this date in 1941.


Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest who died as prisoner 16670 in Auschwitz, on August 14, 1941. When a prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape.

One of the 10 selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry: "My wife! My children! I will never see them again!" At this Father Kolbe stepped forward and asked to die in his place - his request was granted.

As the ten condemned men were led off to the death Block of Building 13, Father Kolbe supported a fellow prisoner who could hardly walk. No one would emerge alive - Father Kolbe was the last to die, when he was given an injection of carbolic acid to stop his heart.

Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.  He is the only canonized saint to have held an amateur radio license, with the call sign SP3RN.

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

So long for now ..... sort of!

So long for now, sort of!

I have decided to ask Matt W1MST, the Editor at AmateurRadio.com to end the mirroring of this blog there.  I know this may appear to be kind of sudden, but actually, this has been a decision that I have been trying to discern since this past Easter.

The content of this blog is mostly about QRP and CW as you all know. So actually, I do cater to a rather small niche in the Amateur Radio world, and the things of which I write are not of interest to everyone - or even a large portion of everyone.  In addition, I have also been known to throw in random posts here and there that are of a religious or political nature, when the mood strikes me.  And I also regale my readers with my wacky sense of humor now and then.  They say that writers should write about what they know best, and that's what I try to do - and at this stage of my life, I'm not going to change that.

That's fine for people who actually come to w2lj.blogspot.com looking for that kind of thing.  They know what they're in for when they walk through my door. But to be foisted upon folks coming to a "general interest" Amateur Radio site?  I think maybe not so much.

So, AmateurRadio.com readers, if you like my ramblings - please feel free to come to w2lj.blogspot.com at anytime, 24/7/365.  The door is always open and you'll always be welcome. And per chance, should you not like what you see there - you're always free to "change the channel".

My thanks to Matt W1MST and AmateurRadio.com for the continued support over the past few years. Matt has been a most gracious host, ever since he asked my permission to mirror this blog over there. Certainly, the service he offers to the Amateur Radio community is a treasure. I will continue to keep the link to AmateurRadio.com active and open in my blog roll.  I hope you'll feel free to bounce back and forth between us.

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not often

that I link to an article written for eHam, but here's a really good one written by Ron KA3J:

http://www.eham.net/articles/32380

It regards Technicians (or any new Hams for that matter, CW and QRP - relevant topics for this blog!) And just to let you know how good it is, up to this point in time, Ron has not been heckled in the commbox!

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Radical, but I kinda like it!

Posted by Bobby AK4JA (who I've worked - fantastic op!) on QRP-L today. Provocative? Yes. Controversial? Yes. True? No, but I kinda like it anyway:

"QRP - a real man's mode , not for sissies and certainly not for selfish, impatient , ego-maniacs - Man up, grow a set and go QRP if you dare!"

Not trying to start a QRO vs QRP war, but I enjoyed the humor. And it makes for a good battle cry. Definitely better than "Life is too short for $200 finals" or whatever some guys like to bandy about. And no, I won't be changing my tag line.

Hey, Bobby! I think this would make a good T-shirt!  Something on the order of this:


Hee hee!  Is that a challenge, or what ?

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

Special Event Alert

This coming weekend is International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend. Here's an article I caught online:

http://www.thedailynewsonline.com/news/article_4b4d8e82-21ea-11e4-9326-001a4bcf887a.html

I've had the opportunity to work various lighthouses and lightships the world over throughout the years and it's always been fun.  Back when the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club was in its hey-day, we activated the Twin Lights Lighthouse in Atlantic Highlands, NJ.


That was a few years back, and my memory is fuzzy on the details.  We did a lot of special event stations as a club, and I don't think this activation was actually connected to ILLW.  It may have been, but I don't recall it being so. 

New Jersey is home to eleven lighthouses. They are:
I'm not sure how many, if any, will be activated for ILLW Weekend.  Even though the Skeeter Hunt falls the weekend before ILLW Weekend, maybe next year we can make lighthouses part of the theme and do some "pre-activations".  What say?

Here's a little video "advertising" a Spanish lighthouse that will be activated this coming weekend. The link was provided by fellow ETS clubmember, Don K2DSV.  This definitely gets the juices flowing, thinking about all the exotic lighthouses that will be on the air this coming weekend.



A special thanks to Paul VA3PAW. He posted to QRP-L a link to all the ILLW Stations that plan to be active this coming weekend.

http://www.illw.net/index.php/entrants-list-2014

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday, at this time, the bands were humming (relatively) with Skeeters, WES'ers, and WAE'ers, just to name a few. 24 hours later, during a later lunch break ....... not much of anything.  This is where I was picked up by RBN:


The one QSO that I did have was with HA3NU on 15 Meters. Other than that single contact, I spent most of my time calling CQ on 20, 17 and 15 Meters, interested to see where my signal would be picked up. Not as productive a lunch time QRP break as I would have hoped for.

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

Some Skeeter Hunt video

from Tim, W3ATB.  Not only a beautiful location, but an answer to those new to portable QRP ops who are wondering, "How do they do it?"



Thanks, Tim and I'm glad you enjoyed yourself! THAT is the whole point of this event - for folks to get out and enjoy themselves (Skeeter bites, and all!).

Oh ..... I also added Tim's blog to the blogroll. Make sure to check it out!

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014

2014 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt

First off, I don't know who was hunting who. I thought I was hunting Skeeters, but I think they had other ideas - and I was the hunted:


And that was nothing compared to my legs! I didn't think the little buggers would be so active during the day, so I didn't bring my OFF wipes with me. I'll remember this for next year!

I set up in my favorite park here in South Plainfield - Cotton Street Park.  There are plenty of 50 - 60 foot trees which just beg to have wire strung through them. It's a quiet park and there's not the overwhelming amount of traffic that Spring Lake Park (our Field Day site) gets. There were people walking through and playing, but no one came over to investigate what I was doing. I guess I've become a fixture - "Hey, it's that crazy guy with the radio again!"


Off to the right, you can see the coax going up , up , up.  Here's a better shot:


Today, I ended up using the PAR END FEDZ. I stayed on 20 and 40 Meters only, so it turned out to be the ideal antenna for the event.  The antenna launcher worked flawlessly again, and I would dare say that the end of the wire was up at the 60-65 foot level.  I don't know if it was just me, but there was bad QSB and it seemed like one second, a station would be 599 and ESP the next second. As far as stations worked per band,  I ended up with almost a 50/50 split between 20 and 40 Meters. I listened briefly on 15 Meters, but it seemed like it was dead.


The equipment was the usual, but you might take notice of the new paddles. That's a set of Pico Palm paddles that I recently bought from Rick K7MW.  The magnets hold the paddles securely to the Velamints tin that I use to store my earbuds.  They worked flawlessly!  If there were any CW mistakes (and there were) it was my fault, not the paddles.  They feel and work just as nicely as any full sized set of paddles.

I ended up working 40 different stations. 34 Skeeters, 6 Non- Skeeters, no DX, 19 different S/P/Cs, and I did work enough stations to spell out "SKEETER" for the 100 point bonus.  I ended up with 5,876 points. The loudest stations I heard were K3RLL, KX9X, N0SS and WA0ITP.  I worked my bud, Bob W3BBO and he was about 569. Later in the day, I heard him again on the same band, this time working WB3T. Bob's signal had increased to an honest 589/599.  The bands seemed a little crazy today.

I'd like to thank not only the stations I worked, but ALL of you who participated.  This is so much fun for me - not only the event itself, but the planning and the corresponding back and forth with all of you. You guys really make this event worthwhile. My mailbox is already filling up with log summaries and I will work on those during the coming evenings.

There WILL be a Skeeter Hunt in 2015!  Hey, what better way is there to spend a beautiful Summer day than by being outside with your radio, making contacts with all your friends?

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

As if I needed

to remind anyone, but I will, anyway. THIS coming Sunday is the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt! And there is still time to sign up for a Skeeter number - all the way until 0400 UTC on Sunday morning.

We have 140 Skeeter's so far, warming up their wings and ready to take flight. Please consider joining in on the fun.

All the rules can be found at www.QSL.net/w2lj or, you can just click on the Skeeter Hunt page tab above.

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


Sunday, August 03, 2014

That happened only once before.

I was in the pileup to work W1AW/0 in South Dakota today. I already have them in the log, but I can't seem to resist a good pileup these days. Anyway, after I worked them, instead of the normal "TU 73", I got "W2LJ QRP?"

I answered "YES QRP 73 DE W2LJ" and I got a dit dit in reply.

I guess it was somebody who knows of me. The only other time that  happened was when I worked W1AW/1 in New Hampshire, but I knew going in that Dave N1IX was the operator. Dave is a superb op and fellow Fox hunter.

It would be interesting to know who was behind the key. It sure makes you do a double take when you work a station and the operator is familiar with you, but yet you have no idea as to whom you may have worked.

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

Saturday, August 02, 2014

New header photo

That's Apollo 15.  This is the anniversary as the mission lasted from July 26th to August 7th, 1971.  This was the first mission that employed the Lunar Rover.  There were a total of four EVAs or Extra Vehicular Activities. There were three moonwalks by Dave Scott and Jim Irwin and a deep space spacewalk by Command Module Pilot Al Worden as he retrieved film from a bay in the spacecraft, while the the spacecraft was between the moon and the earth.

Not an Amateur Radio related post, but I've always loved this photograph.

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